Fiji Suspends Talks with Working Group; Fiji Media Wary of Regulation; Newspaper Publishers’ Removal Overdue, FHRC Says

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

SUVA, Fiji –Despite calls from the Pacific Island Forum not to do so, Fiji has suspended suspended talks with the Forum Joint Working Group.  After the suspension the Ministry of Information acting deputy secretary, Major Neumi Leweni, was unequivocal that talks had not been terminated, only that they were suspended for the moment.  The suspension arose after the government of New Zealand imposed a travel ban against businessman Robin Storck soon after his appointment as chief executive of Fijian Holdings Limited.  New Zealand has been categorical in imposing travel bans against anyone associated with the interim government; however, when pulling out of the Working Group, interim Prime Minister Bainimarama credited the “hypocritical” stance of New Zealand and Australia.

The other members of the working group have expressed their hope that the dialogue with Fiji will renew and a path to return Fiji to democracy will be charted.  The chairman of the group. Tonga’s Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele. has called on Bainimarama to return to the table for next month’s scheduled meeting, despite his absence from the meeting this past week.  Without Fiji’s presence in the working group, Sevele said, there isn’t much point for continuing to meet.  Sevele went on to say that, while he hoped Fiji would return, he was sure that they will have conditions for coming back.”

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters has said that the travel bans will not be relaxed from their current configuration.

For more information, please see:
Fijilive — Travel bans remain, NZ tells Fiji — 29 June 2008

Fijilive — Pacific Forum chair pushes Fiji to rejoin — 29 June 2008

Fiji Times — Remain engaged in dialogue, Fiji urged — 26 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — New Zealand Foreign Minister hoping for re-engagement with Fiji regime next month — 26 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Chair of Pacific Forum says Fiji must be encouraged to return to dialogue — 26 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Uncertainty over Fiji/Forum meeting after Fiji boycott — 26 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji’s interim Prime Minister suspends talks with Forum Joint Working Group — 22 June 2008

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SUVA, Fiji — Daryl Tarte, the chairman of the Fiji Media Council, says that the media in Fiji is under severe threat of governmental regulation.  Speaking at the launch of the Media and Developement Book this week, Tarte said that statutory regulation would harm Fiji’s media and that it would be better to have the media regulate itself.  The Fiji Media Council recently met with the interim PM, but Tarte said that he is looking forward to another meeting.

Perhaps worrying to those who oppose governmental media regulation, on 22 June members of the Fiji police began investigating an interview done for Close Up program to determine whether or not inciteful comments were made by  Suva Lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry and Close Up Show Host, Anish Chand.  The Fiji Police said that they received credible information that the tape contained inciteful comments, but have not yet taken either Chaudhry or Chand in for questioning.  The tape containing the interview was not played prior to the police seizure, but neither has it been returned to the television station, despite requests that it be.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times — Police keep tape — 27 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Media Council says media independence threatened — 24 June 2008

Fiji Times — Media faces State wrath — 24 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Media Council Chair says media faces threat of regulation — 23 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji police probe Fiji TV programme — 23 June 2008

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SUVA, Fiji
— The Fiji Human Rights Commission created a report, which was leaked to the Sunday Star Times, which dealt with the recent deportations of newspaper publishers Evan Hannah and Russell Hunter.  According to the report, the deportation of the two men was not only appropriate, but actually long overdue.  In finding that none of Hannah or Hunter’s rights were breached, it went on to saw that both men, as well as New Zealand High Commissioner in Fiji Michael Green, were making persistent attacks on the administration of Justice in Fiji.  According to the report, although Green was made persona non grata in Fiji last year, he continues to interfere in Fiji’s internal affairs.

The New Zealand government has denied any attempts to infiltrate the Fijian government or to interfere with the administration of justice.

The report was commissioned after ousted opposition leader Mick Beddoes filed a complaint with the FHRC.

Opposition leaders in Fiji have condemned the findings in the report.  Beddoes told Radio Fiji that the substance of the report was in large part irrelevant to what he had originally asked about.  He also said, “I’m deeply concerned that someone who must administer matters concerning the rights of people in this country has such an obvious leaning toward a particular political party and to the government.”

For more information, please see
:
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Military looks into FHRC report — 25 June 2008

Fiji Times — Commission report irrelevant: Beddoes — 25 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Editor of Fiji Times expresses renewed concern over Human Rights Commission — 22 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji’s ousted opposition leader says report into deportation backs backs move of military regime — 22 June 2008

Fijilive — NZ diplomat interfering in Govt, Fiji claims — 22 june 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji’s Human Rights Commission claims interim regime right to deport publishers — 20 June 2008

Center for Torture Victims Opens in Bahrain; Donors Pledge $242 Million to Support Palestinian Security; Summit on Jewish Arab Refugees

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By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – Bahrain is set to open a rehabilitation center for torture victims on June 26, World Torture Day.  Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) put forward the idea and has coordinated its efforts with a variety of local, regional, and international organizations, with substantial NGO participation.

According to BHRWS regional and international director Faisal Fulad, “This center will be run by the NGOs and will be linked to the International Red Cross. The UN Human Rights Council and civil societies in the region will also coordinate with the rehabilitation center.”

The center, the Bahrain Rehabilitation Center for Torture Survivors (BRCTS) will take up the cases of political prisoners, activists, migrant workers and women who are victims of torture.  The center will provide legal consultants to the victims, whether Bahraini or non-Bahrainis, who are victims of torture.

Additionally, a center for torture victims opened in Lebanon in November 2007.  While, only operational for a few months, center specialists say that positive results are already visible.  The Centre Nassim provides assistance to torture victims from the Lebanese civil war, which ended in 1990, as well as victims of more recent torture.  At the center, torture victims receive legal and financial advice, and medical treatment for the physical and mental effects of torture.

For more information, please see:

AHN – Bahrain Set to Have Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims – 24 June 2008

BBC – Helping Lebanon’s Torture Victims – 24 June 2008

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BERLIN, Germany – On June 23, more than 40 states attended a conference on the Middle East in Berlin.  Those in attendance included members of the Middle East Quartet: the US, EU, Russia and the UN.

At the Berlin conference donor states committed $242 million for security projects in the West Bank.  The money will be passed to the Palestinian Authority over a period of three years.  The money will fund projects with aims of putting more trained police officers on the streets, rebuilding courthouses, and training judges.  For example, the European Union Police Mission in the Palestinian Territories, which trains police officers, will be expanded with help from these funds.

Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy, stated that a functioning criminal justice system was “fundamental for a two-state solution.”  “There will never be a two-state solution just by people sitting in a room negotiating … a state will only be created when people take the action to create the reality that allows a state to be credible.”

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad agreed that better security was important to the creation of a Palestinian state, but also argued that these improvements must be accompanied by accompanied by other measures such as an immediate freeze on new Israeli settlements and the dismantling of Israeli checkpoints.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Donors Agree $242m for Palestinians – 25 June 2008

AFP – Berlin Conference Pledges Security Aid for Palestinians – 24 June 2008

Associated Press – Countries Commit $242M to Strengthen Palestinians – 24 June 2008

Human Rights Watch – Occupied Palestinian Territories: Donors Should Press Security Forces to End Abuse – 23 June 2008

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LONDON, United Kingdom – June 23 marked a three day summit, organized by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), to highlight the rights violations endured by hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews.  JJAC is an international coalition of 77 organizations from 20 countries.

This is the inaugural summit organized by the JJAC and serves dual purposes: first, to put the issue of Arab Jewish refugees on the international agenda; second, to record testimony from individual refugees and others affected by Arab states’ discriminatory policies and practices.

The group estimates that over 900,000 Jews have been forced to leave their homes in Arab countries since the creation of Israel in 1948.  600,000 absorbed by the new Israeli state and others immigrated to the US, UK, and France.  Advocates state that the scale and extent of the violation of Arab Jews’ rights is equivalent to the plight of the Palestinian refugees, which receives more international attention.

According to the BBC Arab Affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, the issue is extremely controversial as the number of refugees and the reason for leaving remains disputed.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Lyn Julius: Recognising the Plight of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries – 25 June 2008

BBC – London Summit on Jewish Refugees – 23 June 2008

Ha’aretz – Mideast Jewish Refugees Launch Campaign for International Recognition – 22 June 2008

Gaza Rocket Attack Threatens Cease-Fire

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

TEL AVIV, Israel – On June 24, the Islamic Jihad fired several rockets into the southern Israeli town of Sderot. While there were no causalities, the rockets did cause damage to residences.

In claiming the rocket attack, the Islamic Jihad stated that the attack was in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of two members in the West Bank, which was not included in the Hamas-Israeli agreement. The Islamic Jihad also stated that the attack was exceptional and in response to a specific action.

This is the first challenge of the five-day old ceasefire effective in Gaza. In response to the “clear and grave violation” of the cease-fire agreement, Israel has closed its border crossings with Gaza. The crossings were to have opened at 8am on June 25.

Israeli military liaison official Peter Lerner said they would stay closed until further notice. “Any reopening will be in accordance with security considerations,” he told Reuters.

In addition, the International Middle East Media Center reports that Palestinian medical authorities confirmed that Salem Abu Raida, 80, was wounded with several live bullets in the shoulder fired by Israeli soldiers manning the borders. When he was injured, he was standing outside of his home, located close to the Israel-Gaza border. The incident occurred less than 24 hours after the rocket attack.

Not only does the rocket attack challenge the viability of the cease-fire agreement, but it also challenges the authority of the parties involved; especially Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

Hamas must prove to Israel and the international community that it has control over Gaza in order to be included in future negotiations. However, it is also necessary for Hamas not to be seen as supporting the Israeli government. For example, Hamas’ reaction to the rocket attack was a cautious one: they condemned the Israeli killings in the West Bank, but at the same time, they called on Palestinians “to exercise self-restraint and continue observing the agreement.”

In addition, Prime Minister Olmert is facing a Knesset vote which would dissolve his government, bringing new elections, on June 25. Many analysts saw a successful cease-fire agreement as Olmert’s last chance to remain in office.

One minister in Olmert’s government stated, “If he thought that making peace was going to save him, he learnt a serious lesson — that you need two people to make peace, and not one desperate man… I think his time is up; the break in the truce was the last straw. The Knesset will not give him another break.”

For more information, please see:

International Middle East Media Center – Israeli Army Wounds an Elderly Palestinian in Southern Gaza – 25 June 2008

Reuters – Israel Closes Gaza Crossings after Rocket Attack – 25 June 2008

Times (London) – Ehud Olmert’s Leadership Faces Final Hours as Rocket Attack Threatens Ceasefire – 25 June 2008

Al Jazeera – Violence Threatens Gaza Truce – 24 June 2008

The Christian Science Monitor – Gaza Rockets Strain Israel-Hamas Truce – 24 June 2008

Marianas Islands’ Governor to Sue U.S. Over Immigration Law; Public Employee Union in Solomons May Strike Friday; UPDATE: $6 Million Needed to End Blackouts in Saipan

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — Northern Mariana Islands Governor, Benigno R. Fitial, is preparing to sue the U.S. Federal government over labor provisions in the federal immigration law.

In a pre-recorded statement, Fitial argued that the U.S. is imposing a new immigration law that violates the document set up between the two countries describing the U.S. and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) political relationship, or the “Covenant.” By its terms, the Covenant ensures CNMI the right to self-government, and provides that the U.S. promote the CNMI’s economic growth and development.

Fitial’s main concern is that the new immigration law will violate the U.S.’s commitment to the CNMI through the Covenant. The current cap on foreign workers allowed in CNMI has hurt major construction projects, and many foreign investors have backed out of projects due to the uncertainty of CNMI’s workforce.

The new immigration law calls for 20,000 foreign workers in CNMI to obtain federal visas by at least December 31, 2014. At present, very few foreign workers hold U.S. working visas, and the fear is that these workers will no longer qualify once the federalization law is in place.

“Let me be clear. We do not question the authority of the Congress to apply the existing federal immigration laws that apply to every other part of the United States except American Samoa. We agreed to that in the Covenant. Our complaint focuses on the labor provisions of the legislation, which are not, and never have been part of the federal immigration laws,” Fitial said.

Fitial plans on suing unless his attorneys in a U.S. based firm advise him otherwise.

For more information, please see:
Pacific Magazine — Governor To Challenge Washington Takeover In Courts — 25 June 2008

Saipan Tribune — Fitial poised to sue US govt — 25 June 2008

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands — Public servants are planning a nation-wide strike Friday in response to dissatisfaction with Prime Minister, Derek Sikua’s government.

A Solomon Islands Public Employees Union (SIPEU) is behind the proposed strike. According to a SIPEU representative, the Union is upset with the Government ministers’ performance. The Union is demanding a 49 percent wage increase, and has given the government 14 days to address their concerns.

Paul Belande, general secretary to SIPEU, confirmed that public servants will walk off their jobs this Friday in a nationwide strike.

“[T]he current government miserably failed to fulfill some of its planned obligations which we, the workers, will feel and know if a certain government is not actively driving things forward,” Belande said.

Some sources have said workers will walk off their jobs Thursday. If demands are not met, a full strike will take place Friday.

For more information, please see:
Solomon Star News — Gov’t workers say they’ll walk off jobs Friday — 25 June 2008

Solomon Star News — Govt Workers Planning National Strike, Newspaper Reports — 20 June 2008

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SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — An international leasing firm will put in a bid for $6 million to end electricity outages that have plagued Saipan.

Aggreko, an International firm from the Netherlands, will provide 15 units of one-megawatt generators, personnel, and materials as part of a one-year contract for $6 million. In return, the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC) will run the generators on its own diesel fuel.

Poorly maintained generators and finance troubles have plagued the CUC, and by extension has troubled residents for some time. The new generators will arrive from Singapore in roughly 26 days and should provide a stable source of electricity to residents.

For more information, please see:
Saipan Tribune — $6M Deal To Lease Power Generators For Saipan — 24 June 2008

Iranian Student Alleges Sexual Harassment and is Arrested; Female Suicide Bomber Kills 15 in Iraq; 2 US Soldiers Killed as Iraqi Councilmen Opens Fire

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ZANJAN, Iran – A female student who alleged that she was molested by the vice-chancellor of the university has been arrested.  It is unclear what charges she is being charged with, but the prosecutor in the case has been quoted as saying that publicizing certain crimes is worse than the crimes themselves.

After the initial allegations were made, large demonstrations broke out all over the university’s campus.  Sit-ins were staged and students grabbed the vice-chancellor and handed him over to authorities.  The woman alleged that the vice-chancellor harassed her after she went to discuss a problem with him.  Both the victim and the vice-chancellor are currently in custody.

For more information, please see:
AKI – Iran: University Protests Over Sexual Abuse – 20 June 2008

BBC – ‘Harassed’ Iran Student Arrested – 20 June 2008

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BAQUBA, Iraq – A female suicide bomber killed 15 people and wounded 39 others at a government building in the northern Iraqi city of Baquba.  Among those dead are eight police officers, two women and one child.

The attacker stepped out of a car and walked toward a group of police officers and detonated the explosives she was wearing.  The attack marks the second time this year that a suicide bomber apparently intent on killing police officers attacked the crowded downtown area of Baquba.

The attack also follows a recent trend of increased use of women as suicide bombers.  Female suicide bombers have carried out at least 21 suicide attacks this year in Iraq, up from eight in all of 2007.

For more information, please see:
Washington Post – At Least 15 Killed by Female Bomber in Iraq – 23 June 2008

BBC – Suicide Bombing Rocks Iraqi City – 22 June 2008

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BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi council member Raed Hmood Ajil opened fire on U.S. soldiers after a meeting in a town just south of Baghdad.  Two U.S. soldiers were killed and three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.

The councilmen came out of his car with an assault rifle and shot at American soldiers until he was killed by return fire.  The attack occurred after U.S. soldiers and Iraqi officials had attended a ceremony to open a new park.

For more information, please see:
Washington Post – Two U.S. Soldiers Killed as Iraqi Council Member Opens Fire After Meeting – 24 June 2008

CNN – Iraqi Councilman Kills U.S. Soldiers – 23 June 2008

US Diplomat Will Travel to Syria to Discuss Iraqi Refugees; Egypt Deports Hundreds of Eritrean Refugees; Two Settlers Arrested in Connection to Videotaped West Bank Assault

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – US Ambassador James Foley, the US Department of State’s coordinator for Iraqi refugees, will visit Syria from June 23-26.  His visit to Syria is part of a trip to four Middle Eastern countries in an effort to increase the number of refugees going to the US.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that nearly 1 in 10 Iraqis are either internally displaced or has fled the country.  An estimated 2.3 million are refugees, with nearly 1.5 million refugees live in Syria and 500,000 in Jordan.  In 2007, some 52,000 Iraqis applied for refugee status, making them the largest applicant group.

Foley’s Middle East tour includes stops in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and the purpose is to increase the number of Iraqis traveling to the US in order to reach President Bush’s goal of accepting 12,000 Iraqis by the end of September.

“He will assess the needs of Iraqi refugees in these countries and look at ways to enhance programs that provide assistance to refugees and help resettle the most vulnerable in third countries,” said Kurtis Cooper, a Department of State spokesman.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – US Diplomat to visit Syria on Iraqi Refugees – 20 June 2008

Reuters – Refugees of Shattered East Account for 50% of World-s Refugees – 20 June 2008

Bainimarama and Qarase Meet Again; UPDATE: Questions Arise Over Evan Hannah’s Removal Order; New Independent Chair of PCPP Appointed

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

SUVA, Fiji — On Tuesday interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and ousted PM Lasenia Qarase met for the second time to discuss the way forward for Fiji.  While the two have been trading barbs with one another about the future of Fiji since the military coup a year and a half ago, a statement issued after the talk emphasized “the great importance of constructive forward-looking dialogue, including the efforts that are now needed aimed at healing and reconciliation at the national level.”

The primary topics of the talk was the People’s Charter, a road map for change and a plan for reconciling the division of the nation.  Observers described the talk as candid.

Also present in the talks were Methodist Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop Petero Mataca.  Fiji Times reports that the four leaders urged that civic, community and religious organizations would need to work together to move Fiji forward.

While no specific time line was established for another meeting, the Fiji Times reports that another meeting is expected.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Village — Rev Ratabacaca impressed with Interim PM, Qarase Meet — 18 June 2008

Fiji Times — Peace talks — 18 June 2008

Pacific Magazine — Bainimarama and Qarase Meet Again, in Suva — 18 June 2008

Fiji Times — Ousted PM questions reference terms — 18 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Bainimarama and Qarase meet to focus on moving Fiji  forward — 17 June 2008

Fiji Village — Interim PM, Qarase Meet — 17 June 2008

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SUVA, Fiji — A dispute arose as Tuesday in the Court of Appeal in the deportation case of Evan Hannah.  Jon Apted, Hannah’s lawyer, said that neither he nor his client had even seen the deportation order that was issued in the case and that the document had never been presented before the court.  Solicitor General Christopher Pryde explained that the reason for this was that the Immigration Minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, only issued an “oral order”.

The controversy did not stop there.  While the permanent Immigration Secretary did eventually generate a form securing Hannah’s deportation, Apted argues that the interim government did not follow the law in issuing the order.  Under the Immigration Act of 2003, a person can only be deported seven days after service of a removal order.  Solicitor General Pryde says that Hannah was eligible for immediate deportation and that the interim government had simply used the wrong form.

Evan Hannah was expelled from Fiji by the interim government in April of this year.  According to Immigration Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau, Hannah’s deportation was based on his opinion that Hannah was a threat to Fiji’s national security.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times — Lawyer disputes order — 18 June 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Wrong form issued — 17 June 2008

Fiji Village — Hannah Lawyer Yet to Sight Deportation Order — 17 June 2008

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SUVA, Fiji — Fiji President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, announced this week that Sela Molisa will be the new chairperson of the independent monitoring group for the People’s Charter for Progress and Peace.

The role of the chairman is to monitor the activities of the People’s Charter and provide reports to the President about its progress.  Specifically, Molisa is meant to report on the transparency, robustness and integrity of the process of the People’s Charter.

Radio New Zealand International reports that Molisa was surprised to have been headhunted for this role.  He did not apply for the role and was reportedly shocked to have it offered to him.

Molisa is taking over for Geert van der Linden who resigned as chair last month.

For more information, please see
:
Radio New Zealand International — Newly appointed Fiji People’s Charter Monitoring Group chair prepared for difficult role — 13 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Vanuatu MP appointed chair of Independent  Monitoring Group on Fiji charter — 13 June 2008

Hamas Confirms “Truce” with Israel

By Laura Zuber

Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza – On June 17, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, confirmed at a news conference that militant groups had agreed a truce with Israel. In addition, Hossam Zaki, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “Both sides have pledged to halt all hostilities and all military activities against each other.”

Israeli officials have yet to confirm that a truce has been reached with Hamas. But, security sources said an accord is in the offing. Defense Ministry official Major General (res.) Amos Gilad left Tuesday for Cairo to conclude the final agreement. While, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, stopped short of announcing an official agreement, he stressed the importance of making all possible efforts toward achieving calm.

According to the detailed time table released by Hamas, the six month cease-fire will occur in a series of stages. First, all violence should end beginning at 6am June 18. Then, if the cease-fire holds, then Israel will gradually relax the border blockade and begin to allow more supplies into Gaza. After two weeks of peace, the Israel and Hamas will begin discussing opening the Rafah border crossing, from Gaza into Egypt, and the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told the BBC: “I am confident that everybody will abide by what we’ve agreed. All the groups which went to Cairo gave their okay to the ceasefire… If anybody does anything, they will be doing it on their own.”

Despite the renewed optimism for lasting peace, there is a fair amount of skepticism. In the past seven days, IDF operations have resulted in the deaths of 20 Palestinians in Gaza. For example, two IDF operations in and near Khan Younis killed six Palestinians. Also, according to Israeli military, over 90 rockets and mortar shells have been fired by Palestinian militants into Israel.

In related news, on June 16, the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk addressed the UN Human Rights Council. In his address, Falk expressed concern that his role would be biased and asked the UN to expand his mandate to include investigating human rights violations carried out by Palestinians, as well.

Currently, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 is limited to investigating Israeli violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This has caused Israel and others to argue that the Human Rights Council is biased and one-sided.

Falk stated that “the idea of investigating violations of international humanitarian law only make sense if all the relevant parties are included.” Also, that attention has been diverted from Israel’s human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories by those who argue his role is one-sided and biased. “One exposes the real character of the occupation much more effectively if one responds to that criticism, which I think is in any event a fair criticism.”

Falk’s appointment as the new Special Rapporteur was controversial. In 2007, Israel responded angrily when Falk compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with Nazi atrocities against Jews during the Holocaust. At the June 16 meeting of the Human Rights Council, Israel expressed concern as to whether Falk fulfilled the requirement that the Special Rapporteur be independent, impartial and objective.

For more information, please see:

Guardian – Israel and Hamas Agree Ceasefire as Air Strike Kill Six Palestinian Fighters – 18 June 2008

Ha’aretz – Hamas, Egypt Back Gaza Truce, Israel yet to Confirm Deal – 18 June 2008

Al Jazeera – Israel-Hamas Truce Announced – 17 June 2008

BBC – Israel and Hamas ‘Agree Truce’ – 17 June 2008

Human Rights Tribune – Thunderclaps over Palestine – 17 June 2008

International Herald Tribune – New UN Rights Expert Wants to Investigate Palestinian Abuses as well as Israel’s – 16 June 2008

ReliefWeb – High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteur on Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories Address Council – 16 June 2008

Opposition in Solomons Pushes Accountability After Woman’s Death; Niue Donor Funds Were Misused; Foreign Workers in Saipan Rally for Better Treatment

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

HONIARA, Solomon Islands — Opposition leader, Manasseh Sogavare, says that a law should be changed to discourage government impunity and encourage transparency and accountability. Sogavare’s recommendation follows the death of a woman who was hit by two Samoan officers reportedly intoxicated while driving.

On Friday, the two officers for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) struck and killed Hilda Ilabae, a trainee nurse. Members of RAMSI offered their condolences to Ms. Ilabae’s family, and transport and supplies for the burial was provided.

Sogavare’s criticism is that under the Facilitation Act, RAMSI is not held accountable under the Solomons law.  Sogavare said, “. . .right now they [RAMSI] are in fact quite a privileged group of people in the whole of our country. They can break our laws and get away with it. There is a procedure that outlines that they can be dealt with in their own country but there is no assurance, there is no guarantee that that will happen.”

For more information, please see:
Pacific Magazine — RAMSI Commander, Official Bury Solomon Islander Killed In Accident — 16 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Solomons opposition queries RAMSI immunity after fatal road incident — 16 June 2008

Solomon Times Online — Prime Minister of Samoa Apologizes for Death of Young Nurse — 16 June 2008

ABC, Radio Australia — Regret from RAMSI over death of woman in Honiara — 16 June 2008

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ALOFI, Niue — A financial report to the Niue government has revealed that donor funds were misused in order to supplement government funds. As a result, the misallocation of funds has caused many special projects to go unfinished.

Treasury officials found that roughly $650,000 has prevented the use of donor funds through the creation of “separate bank accounts.” The report recommends increasing government revenue by more rigorously pursuing tax defaulters and adjusting the collection of import duties. Officials have also reported that revenue from port charges is down due to other expenditures.

The Niue Government has halted the flow of imported goods until full, realistic appraisals of their value are made.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Officials say Niue using donor funds to prop up Government finances — 16 June 2008

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SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands — Last week, U.S. federal officials were on hand in Saipan to address rallying foreign workers’ concerns.

The rally was meant to address the need for improved immigration statuses as well as $6.1 million in back claims for unpaid wages and damages owed to hundreds of aliens. The Human Dignity Movement encouraged workers to gather at the American Memorial Park in order to help bring these immigration issues to light.

Among the requests, Jerry Custodio, president to the Human Dignity Movement, has asked, “federal officials for fair protection and treatment, justice to long-term workers, payment of unpaid wages in Labor administrative orders and for improved immigration status.”

For more information, please see:
Saipan Tribune — Foreign Workers To Rally For Better Status — 10 June 2008

Iranian Police Crackdown on “Un-Iranian” Dress; Suicide Bomber Strikes Soccer Fans in Baghdad; Japanese Student Kidnapped in Iran Released

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian police have begun a new campaign against violations of the state enforced dress code.  The police are arresting women whose headscarves do not fully cover their hair or if their clothes do not hide their figure.  Men are also being stopped if their hairstyles are deemed inappropriate.

After Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, a dress code was imposed requiring women to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise the shape of their bodies.  Violating these rules can result in lashes, fines or imprisonment.

Police have closed dozens of stores and hairdressers in an attempt to stop the selling of potentially inappropriate clothes and hairstyles.  The crackdown is an annual attempt by the government to curb dress code violations at the beginning of the summer, when women are more likely to wear lighter clothes as the temperature rises.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Iranian Police Crack Down on Dress Code Violations – 16 June 2008

BBC – New Iranian Dress Code Crackdown – 16 June 2008

Reuters – Iran Police Start Wider Crackdown on Un-Islamic Dress – 16 June 2008

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BAGHDAD, Iraq – A female suicide bomber targeted soccer fans in a café north of Baghdad on June 14.  The fans were celebrating Iraq’s World Cup qualifying win when the suicide bomber attacked.

The explosion injured 34 people including seven policemen.  More injuries were prevented because a policeman spotted the woman holding a detonator and yelled for the crowd to disperse.

20 women have carried out suicide bombings in Iraq this year, many more than in previous years.  Only eight women carried out suicide bombings in Iraq in all of 2007.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Female Suicide Bomber Strikes Soccer Fans; 34 Hurt – 14 June 2008

CNN – Female Suicide Bomber Strikes Soccer Fans in Iraq – 14 June 2008

International Herald Tribune – Iraq: Female Suicide Bomber Strikes Soccer Fans Near Café North of Baghdad, Wounding 34 – 14 June 2008

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TEHRAN, Iran – Japanese tourist Satoshi Nakamura, 23, was kidnapped while traveling in Iran last year.  He was released on June 14, eight months after he had been taken hostage while traveling alone in Iran’s dangerous southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Iran’s Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi was quoted as saying drug smugglers and armed bandits were responsible for the kidnapping.  Iran has historically blamed kidnapping of foreigners on criminals and drug smugglers and foreigners are urged to be cautious when traveling there.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Nakamura was in good spirits when they spoke with him.  No further details, including whether a ransom was paid, have been released.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Kidnapped Japanese Tourist Freed in Iran After 8 Months – 15 June 2008

Reuters – Freed Japanese Arrives in Iran’s Capital – 15 June 2008

Associated Press – Japanese Tourist, Seized by Bandits in Iran, Freed – 14 June 2008

BBC – Japanese Captive Freed in Iran – 14 June 2008

Arab Rights Groups Call for Saudi Activist’s Release; Iran Executes Juvenile Offender; Settler Attack Caught on Film

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – On June 12, 30 Arab human rights groups issued a joint statement to the Saudi government to release Dr Matruk al-Faleh. Faleh is a prominent reformist who was arrested on May 19.

In the joint statement, the groups expressed concern over Faleh health. According to Faleh’s wife, he has been on a hunger strike since his arrest in mid-May. In addition, Faleh suffers from diabetes and hypertension.

The human rights groups called upon the Saudi government to “end to their arbitrary practices targeting Saudi activists who aspire to effect democratic reform in the kingdom.”

The reason for Faleh’s arrest is unclear, although the human rights groups believe that it is linked to Faleh’s representation of reformist Abdullah al-Hamed and a statement Faleh wrote after visiting him, which was critical of conditions in the jail.

In August 2005, King Abdullah pardoned and released Faleh after he spent 17 months in prison for advocating a constitutional monarchy.

For more information, please see:

Middle East Times – Arab Rights Groups Urge Saudi to Free Jailed Reformist – 12 June 2008

AFP – Saudi Activists Appeal to King Over Jailed Reformist – 5 June 2008

Washington Post – Saudi Critic Jailed After Decrying Justice System – 21 May 2008

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SANANDAJ PRISON, Iran – On June 10, Iran ignored international pleas and executed a juvenile offender, Mohammad Hassanzadeh, aged 17. Hassanzadeh was convicted for a murder he committed when he was 15 years old and is the second juvenile offender that Iran has executed this year.

Amnesty International criticized Iran: “This latest execution of a juvenile offender is yet another blatant violation by the Iranian authorities of their international obligations under the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child not to sentence to death those under the age of 18 at the time of the offence.”

Also on June 10, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, head of Iran’s Judiciary, granted a one month reprieve to two other juvenile offenders; Behnoud Shojaee, and Mohammad Feda’i. Shojaee and Feda’i were convicted of separate incidences of premeditated murder. According to letter written by Feda’i, he was beaten by prison authorities until he agreed to sign a confession without knowledge of its content.

According to Amnesty International, there are 85 juvenile offenders sentenced to death in Iran. In 2007, Iran executed at least 335 individuals, seven of which were juvenile offenders.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Iran Executes Juvenile Offender – 12 June 2008

Jerusalem Post – 2 Iranian Kids Reprieved from Execution – 12 June 2008

Amnesty International – Kurdish Boy Executed in Iran – 11 June 2008

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HEBRON, West Bank – On June 9, Thamam al Nawaja (58 years old), her husband (70), and their nephew, were assaulted by four masked men. Nawaja had been herding her goats near the Jewish settlement of Susia, near Hebron.

“The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land,” said Nawaja. “They don’t want us to stay on our land. But we won’t leave. We’ll die here. It’s ours.” When her family refused to leave, the men began attacking Nawaja and her family. Nawaja was badly injured and transported to an Israeli hospital, where she stayed for three days. Her husband and nephew were transported to a hospital in Hebron.

The incident was filmed on a camera distributed by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, as part of their “Shooting Back” project. The objective of the project is to provide video evidence, instead of an oral statement, of an assault to the Israeli police.

Oren Yakobovich, who leads the “Shooting Back” project, states “When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened. They now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon.”

The Yesh Din human rights organization commented that Palestinians have filed six complaints about assault in the last three months. Two have been closed on grounds that the perpetrator was unknown.

For more information, please see:

BBC – ´Jewish Settler Attack´ on Film – 12 June 2008

Ha’aretz – Three Palestinian Sheperds Tell Police: We were attacked by masked settlers in Hebron Hills – 10 June 2008

Fiji’s Instability Necessitates Moving Crime Headquarters; EU Bans Fiji’s Fish Due to Poor Monitoring; American Report Chides Fiji’s Inaction to Prevent Human Trafficking

By Ryan L. Maness

Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Fiji

SUVA, Fiji — Bob Debus, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs, has closed the office of the Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (PTCCC) that was located in Suva and will reopen it in Apia, Somoa.  The PTCCC, which is an organization design to investigate transnational crime in the Pacific, closed its office in Fiji due to Fiji’s political instability.

According to the SDL party, the opposition party to Fiji’s interim government, the move comes as no surprise.  The SDL’s National Director, Peceli Kinivuwai, said, “I think the member countries who make up the Transnational Crime Centre they also very much champion the rule of law and it would be ironic if they have that Centre here while at the same time we cannot solve our political differences – we still have political instabilities and economic decline.”

Ema Mua, a spokeswoman for Fiji’s police, said that the decision was premature.  According to Mua, while human trafficking must be dealt with, Fiji’s political situation should not affect the work of the center.

For more information, please see:

Fiji Times — Crime office to reopen — 10 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Somoa’s PM opens Pacific Trans-national crime co-ordination centre — 10 June 2008

Fiji Times — New crimes a reality — 09 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji’s main political party says loss of international policing agency, no surprise — 09 June 2008

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SUVA, Fiji — Following an inspection team’s examination of Fiji’s fishing industry last year, the European Union has decided to ban the importation of fish from Fiji.  The EU’s trade adviser in Fiji, Andrea Salviati, said that she believed that the fish carried health risks for the citizens of Europe and that is why the ban was imposed.  According to Salviati “The competent authority at present is not so competent, to fulfill with EU standards…the main issue is to improve the body that they already have.”

Fiji Fish Managing Director, Grahame Southwick, said that the ban is a product of the government’s relationship with the country’s fishing industry.  The ban came after the EU issued a number of warnings to Fiji regarding their fishing practices.

Due to the strength of the European Economy, Radio New Zealand International projects that Fiji could lose thousands of jobs as a result of the ban, laboring a country already hampered with high unemployment.

For more information, please see:

Fiji Village — Fiji Can Make it Back says EU — 10 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — European Union ban could cost thousands of jobs in Fiji fishing industry — 09 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — EU says it has banned Fiji fish exports because processing is poorly monitored — 09 June 2008

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, USA — The American State Department has released an annual report which examines the proliferation of human trafficking in 153 countries around the world and has listed Fiji among tier 3 countries.  Because of their placement in the report, Fiji is in danger of losing aid from the United States.

According to the report (which can be found in relevant part here), Fiji has failed to make a significant effort to eliminate human trafficking since last year’s report.  “Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and a destination country for a small number of women from the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) and India trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation,” the report begins.  The report goes on to say that Fiji’s children are also being exploited by local Fijians or foreign tourists and that Fiji’s government has taken “no action to investigate or prosecute traffickers, assist victims, or participate in public awareness campaigns to prevent trafficking.”

Fiji’s interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that dealing with human trafficking is a priority following the US’s report.  He also called upon other nations with more resources to assist in Fiji’s fight against human trafficking.  However, he was quick to insinuate that Fiji’s presence on the report should not risk its foreign aid. “Shunning us because simply it wasn’t done in the past is not a positive way to deal with the situation,” the interim AG said.

For more information, please see:

Fiji Times — A-G toughens on human trade — 08 June 2008

Pacific Magazine  — Fiji AG Concerned About Human Trafficking — 08 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — U.S. State Department says that Fiji and PNG could lose aid following human trafficking report — 04 June 2008

Yemen Court Sentences 13 “Rebels” to Jail, one to Death; US Marine Cleared Over Haditha Murders; Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills US Soldier, Wounds 20

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANAA, Yemen – A Yemeni court sentenced 13 Zaydi Shiite rebels to up to 10 years in jail on Monday and another to death after convicting them of forming an armed group to attack the state and civilians.  Fighting between the rebels and government forces have continued in Saada since 2004. Last month 15 people were killed by a bombing outside a mosque.

Jafar al-Murhabi was sentenced to death, but no reason has been given for the much tougher sentence he received compared to the other 13 men.  The defendants were convicted of charges relating to plots to attack Yemeni troop transporters and government buildings, and contaminate water supplies to military bases.

Among those sentenced was journalist Abdel Karim al-Khaywani, editor of the opposition newspaper al-Shura.  Khaywani was sentenced to six years but is appealing the conviction.  Yemen’s union of journalists protested the sentence.

“The court sentence against Khaywani is harsh. We reject and condemn it, and it should be revoked,” said the head of the union, Nasr Taha Mostapha.

The sentence comes just days before an event in London at which Khaywani is in line to win a human rights media award.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Death Sentence for Yemen ‘Rebel’ – 9 June 2008

Reuters – Yemen Court Sentences 13 Rebels to Jail, 1 to Death – 9 June 2008

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CAMP PEDELTON, California – A US military jury acquitted Lt. Andrew Grayson of the charges that he helped cover up the killings of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005.  Originally four officers and four enlisted Marines were charged with the murders.  Three of the Marines and two of the officers have had their charges thrown out.  Grayson was the first defendant to go to trial.

Only defendants Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani remain, without a single guilty verdicts or pleas handed down.  The military judge at Wuterich’s preliminary hearing has written that he doubts a conviction is possible because of lack of forensic evidence and unreliable statements by witnesses.  Chessani’s lawyers feel that if their client goes to trial, he too will be found not guilty.

With only two remaining defendants, not a single person has been found responsible for the deaths of the 24 Iraqi civilians.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Marine Cleared over Iraq Killings – 5 June 2008

LA Times – Haditha Case Dwindles with Innocent Verdict – 5 June 2008

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BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide car bomb exploded near an American patrol base on June 8, killing one US solider and wounding 20 other people.  18 of the wounded were American soldiers and two were Iraqi contractors.

Iraqi police said the car bomb targeted a U.S. patrol base in a mostly Sunni Arab residential area in Rashad, about 25 miles southwest of Kirkuk.  The suicide attacker rammed his vehicle into blast walls outside the gates of the U.S. base, Qadir said.

According to an Associated Press tally, at least 4,094 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Iraq Suicide Blast Kills US Soldier, Wounds 18 – 8 June 2008

Reuters – Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills U.S. Soldier, Wounds 18 – 8 June 2008

US Inquiry into Deportation to Syria; Turkish Court Overturns Headscarf Amendments; Israel Eases Restrictions Against Student Exit Permits

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – On May 5, Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner told Congress that he was reopening his investigation into whether the US Justie Department improperly deported Canadian Maher Arar.  Arar was detained in New York in 2002, during a stopover from Tunisia to Canada.  Arar was deported to his native Syria, where he was imprisoned and allegedly tortured.

A Justice Department spokesman, Peter A. Carr, said that its inquiry began in March 2007.  The inquiry examined the role of department lawyers in expelling Arar to Syria.  He was transferred to Syria despite requests to for him to be deported to Canada and fears that he would be subjected to torture if he returned to Syria.

In a report, which was heavily redacted, Skinner said that “the assurances upon which INS based Arar’s removal were ambiguous regarding the source or authority purporting to bind the Syrian government to protect Arar.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – US Officials Reopen Case of Wrongly Detained Terror Suspect – 6 June 2008

New York Times- Justice Dept Investigating Deportation to Syria – 6 June 2008

Reuters – U.S. Probes Deporting of Canadian to Syria – 6 June 2008

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INSTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has accused the country’s highest court of violating the constitution by overturning a government move to lift a ban on Muslim headscarves in universities.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party campaigned for re-election last year on a promise to lift a ban on head scarves, claiming the prohibition violated religious and personal freedoms. Upon victory, the government passed constitutional amendments to lift the ban.

On May 5, the court threw out the amendments Thursday, saying they violated Turkey’s secular principles. The decision, which is final, threw up a heavy legal barrier to any further attempts to lift the ban and has deepened the divide between the Islamic-leaning government and secular institutions.

Bulent Arinc, a top member of the AK Party described the decision as grave.  “It gives me goose pimples… The Constitutional Court has indirectly seized the power of parliament,” said Arinc, a former parliament speaker.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Turkey Headscarf Ruling Condemned – 6 May 2008

Associated Press – Turkish Gov’t Scolds High Court on Head Scarf Ban – 6 May 2008

New York Times – Turkey’s High Court Overturns Headscarf Rule – 6 May 2008

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TEL AVIV, Israel – On June 2, the Israeli Supreme Court heard a petition from Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, representing two Gazan students who had their exit permits denied.  The students were granted Fulbright Fellowships to study abroad in Great Britain and Germany but had their requests to leave Gaza denied by Israel.

In its holding, the court criticized the Israeli government for its almost total ban on student travel.  A member of the court stated that Israel’s policy was harming “any chance of coexistence” between the Jewish state and its neighbors in Gaza.  Also, the court stated that the government should review its policy within the next two weeks.  According to Gisha, if Israel does not relax its travel restrictions against Gazans soon, hundreds of students will miss deadlines to pursue studies abroad.

This decision follows the reinstatement of seven students’ Fulbright Fellowships after they were withdrawn on May 30.  These students’ fellowships were briefly deferred as a result of Israel denying them exit visas.  According to officials in the US State Department, the students’ fellowships were reinstated following US intercession.

Sari Bashi, Gisha director, said, “We hope that Israel will listen to the clear message of Secretary of State Rice’s comments regarding the importance of the right to access education and let all Gaza students leave and study abroad.”

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Israel to loosen Limits on Gaza Scholar – 6 May 2008

Associated Press – 4 Fulbright Students Leave Gaza – 5 June 2008

Reuters – Court Tells Israel to Review Gaza Student Travel – 2 June 2008

Human Rights Groups Call for Justice in Indonesian Occupation of East Timor; Marianas Islands to Suspend Ports Authority

Hayley Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

DILI, East Timor — More than 90 human rights groups have called upon the United Nations to hold Indonesia accountable for war crimes committed during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

The letter was addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and was signed by more than 30 academics in addition to human rights organizations. In the letter, the joint groups asked the UN to “fulfill its long standing commitment to see that justice is done for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in East Timor during Indonesia’s two and a half decade occupation.”

The groups came together to draft the letter just as the bilateral Commission on Truth and Friendship was compiling its report on Indonesia and East Timor. As to the report’s contents, the joint letter said that the issue of war crimes against East Timor cannot be solved with one report.

“The right to know (the truth) and the right to justice are inalienable, and are a bulwark against the culture of impunity represented by [Indonesia’s] Ad Hoc Court and the CTF.”

To read the joint letter, click here

For more information, please see:
The Westender, Brisbane — International Coalition Urges UN to Be Active for Justice for East Timorese — 05 June 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Calls for justice for East Timor — 03 June 2008

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SAIPAN, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands –- The Governor of the Northern Marianas Islands has announced he will suspend the board of the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) in order to avoid financial ruin.

The CPA has been in financial trouble for some time. According to Charles Reyes, spokesman for the Governor’s office, the collapse of the garment industry is largely to blame. The CPA had come close to defaulting on a $20 million airport revenue bond. The suspension was anticipated after Governor Benigno R. Fitial announced last month that the executive branch would assume control of CPA in order to avoid a technical default on the 1998 indenture on its airport bonds.

By the Governor’s request, all members of the CPA board resigned.

“We were technically already in default. However the trustee Bank of Guam didn’t actually technically declare a technical default. However they were about to,” Mr. Reyes said.

Before the CPA’s autonomy is restored, the Governor must select new appointees for the CPA board, subject to the Senate’s confirmation. While Mr. Reyes insists the Governor’s use of emergency powers was necessary, some still question the validity of the suspension.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International — CNMI governor suspends Ports Authority board — 04 June 2008