Female Suicide Bombers Kill 57 in Iraq; No Charges to be Brought For Reporter’s Death; Egyptian Ferry Owner Acquitted

Female Suicide Bombers Kill 57 in Iraq; No Charges to be Brought For Reporter’s Death; Egyptian Ferry Owner Acquitted

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On July 28, four female suicide bombers attacked a Shiite pilgrimage in Baghdad and a Kuridsh protest rally in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.  57 people were killed and nearly 300 other were injured as a result of the blasts.

In Baghdad, three of the suicide bombers detonated their explosives in three different locations within 30 minutes of each other.  The Baghdad attacks left 32 dead and wounded 102 others.  The attackers targeted Shiite pilgrims taking part in an annual march to one of their holiest shrines.

In Kirkuk, another suicide bomber detonated her explosives in the middle of a crowd attending a Kurdish political protest.  After the explosion, gunmen fired into the crowd.  The attack killed 25 people and wounded 185 others.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – 4 Female Bombers Strike in Iraq, Killing 57 – 28 July 2008

CNN – Female Suicide Bombers Target Pilgrims, Rally – 28 July 2008

Los Angeles Times – Female Suicide Bombers in Baghdad and Kirkuk Kill 57, Injure 280 – 28 July 2008


LONDON, England – On July 28, the Crown Prosecution Service has said that there is insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the death of Terry Lloyd, a British journalist who was killed in Iraq in 2003.

Lloyd, who was working for Britain’s Independent Television News, was shot by an American weapon when his four-man team was caught in crossfire between U.S. and Iraqi forces on the outskirts of Basra.
A 2006 British inquest ruled that U.S. forces unlawfully killed Lloyd while he lay in the back of an ambulance.  The Crown Prosecution Service said it was impossible to determine who fired the bullet that killed Lloyd.

The Pentagon completed an investigation into Lloyd’s death in May of 2003 and “determined that U.S. forces followed the applicable rules of engagement.”  ITN said it was disappointed by the decision and accused U.S. authorities of being uncooperative.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – UK: No Prosecution Over Journalist Death in Iraq – 28 July 2008

BBC – No Charges Over Reporter’s Death – 28 July 2008

Telegraph – No-One to be Charged Over Shooting of ITN Reporter Terry Lloyd in Iraq – 28 July 2008


CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian court acquitted the owner of a ferry that sank in the Red Sea two years ago, killing more than 1000 people.  The ship’s owner, Mamdouh Ismail, and his son, Amr Ismail, were cleared of negligence and corruption charges.

Mamdouh is a member of the Egyptian parliament’s upper house and Amr was a top executive in the ferry company.  The two fled Egypt after the sinking and opposition papers accused government officials of helping them escape.  They were tried absentia in Egypt.

The ferry sank in February 2006 after a fire broke out on board.  The ship was traveling from Saudi Arabia to Egypt and most of the victims were Egyptian workers returning home.  The slow rescue operation by the Egyptian government led many of the victims’ families to openly criticize Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  The ferry incident is only the latest example in long standing charges that the Mubarak government has abetted corruption by wealthy businessmen close to the regime.

For more information, please see:
AFP – Outrage over 2006 Egyptian Ferry Disaster Acquittals – 27 July 2008

Associated Press – Owner of Sunken Egyptian Ferry Acquitted – 27 July 2008

BBC – Anger at Egyptian Ferry Verdict – 27 July 2008

UPDATE: Chaudhry’s Future in Interim Government Uncertain; Winters Proposes Pacific Court ; Fiji Law Society President Wants New Leaders

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

SUVA, Fiji — The Fiji military council is reported to be once again calling for the ouster of Fiji’s interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry, but no official comment has been released by either the military or the interim government concerning the reasoning.  The speculation rose to the point where rumors were circulated among Fiji’s political circles that Chaudhry had been sacked.  Interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama, however, was clear that the finance minister had not been asked to resign.

Previously Chaudhry was under pressure to leave government due to allegations from the Fiji Times of inconsistencies in his taxes (an interim government investigation cleared him of any wrong doing).  The current tensions are reported to arise regarding differences of opinion regarding a proposed taxation on bottled water.

For more information, please see:

Fiji Times — Military keeps cards close to chest — 26 July 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Speculation in Fiji over Chaudhry’s continued role as interim finance minister — 24 July 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji interim PM says Chaudhry stays despite differences over tax — 24 July 2008

NADI, Fiji — Addressing the Fiji Law Society, former Fiji High Court justice Gerard Winters said that the Pacific should consider creating a Pacific Court to offer legal analysis and hear certain cases.  He said that such a court, which could be based in Vanuatu, would serve as the paramount court for hearing cases arising out of Fiji.  Such a court, he explained, such a court is workable because of the close bonds that exist among Pacific nations.

Professor Brian Opeskin, of the University of the South Pacific, thought that the idea should be encouraged.  “I think this is just another mechanism that can be considered in order to try and make the region a strong one that can ensure the rule of law across the region and to avoid problems of political instability and problems with law and order that we have seen arise from time to time across the region,” he said.  “So the idea of strengthening judicial services including through the court is certainly a good one that needs to be explored.”

Dr. Shaista Shameem, chairperson of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, is not as optimistic that the planned court is workable.  Noting that the idea is about 30 years old, she said that Pacific countries are too legally and socially diverse for such a court to function.  “It [would require] acceptance by member states and at present this seems somewhat remote since there is no common human rights or legal identity or mechanism that everyone can agree with, beyond just New Zealand and its dependencies in the Pacific.”

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Academic backs call for Pacific Court — 21 July 2008

Fiji Times — Legal plan ‘now new’ — 20 July 2008

Fijilive — Pacific Court notion revisited — 19 July 2008
SUVA, Fiji — Fiji’s interim Prime Minister has said in recent weeks that the electoral and social reforms needed in Fiji are unlikely to be realized before next March’s election deadline and as such democratic elections will probably not be held as promised.  These comments have sparked controversy from multiple corners, among them the president of the Fiji Law Society, Isireli Fa.  Fa told the Fiji Times that it was “misguided” that electoral reforms were needed before elections could take place.  He went on to stress that any proposed reforms must be imposed by Parliament, not the ruling party, or else any reform would be “illegitimate and [would] bring more problems than it solves.”

Fa also expressed his belief that the Fiji Law Society needs to ensure that the country is governed by the rule of law.  To this end, he wants to see a new cadre of leaders emerge from the next election.  Radio New Zealand International reports that according to Fa the current government is weighed down by the baggage of the colonial period.  He believes that the way forward is for both current groups to refrain from contesting the results of the next election.  “What we should see is new leaders from within the party who could carry the party forward into policies and thinking that’s in line with a multi-racial government and a multi-racial constitution, as opposed to leaders who still hang on to nationalistic principles.”

Fa’s comments have not been well received by the sitting political leaders.  The national leader of the deposed SDL party, Peceli Kinivuwai, said that the rules of citizenship are very clear in the Constitution and that anyone of voting age should be allowed to stand for elections.

For more information, please see
Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Law Society calls for new leaders to emerge — 21 July 2008

Fijilive — Anyone can stand for elections: SDL — 20 July 2008

Fiji Times — Law society pushes for rule of law — 17 July 2008

Israel Approves West Bank Settlements; Poverty Rates Increase in Gaza, Despite Truce; HRW: Syria Needs to Investigate Prison Deaths

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

JERUSALEM – On July 24, Israeli officials revived plans to construct a new settlement in the occupied West Bank.  Two years ago, Israel was prevented from constructing a new settlement, Maskiyot, in the Jordan Valley, due to US pressure.  The decision to begin construction is significant because of the promises made by Israel in the Annapolis conference late last year.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of undermining US-backed peace talks with the latest settlement plan.  “This is destroying the process of a two-state solution,” Erekat said. “I hope the Americans will make the Israelis revoke the decision. I think they can make the Israelis do this.”

The new settlement would be the first in a decade and would contribute to a wave of building going on across the West Bank, as Israel adds thousands of new homes to existing settlements despite international calls to halt construction.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that he was “deeply concerned” about the construction plan, adding that it would violate international law.  Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of civilians to occupied lands.

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star – Israel Set to Build More Illegal Settlements in Occupied West Bank – 25 July 2008

Independent – Israel Relaunches Plan for West Bank Settlement in Snub to US – 25 July 2008

Washington Post – Revived Israeli Plan for New Homes in West Bank Sparks Outcry – 25 July 2008

International Herald Tribune – West Bank Construction Wins Approval in Israel – 24 July 2008


GAZA CITY, Gaza – On July 23, UN Relief Works Agency released a report stating that over half of the population in Gaza from falling below the poverty line.  “The number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line [has] continued to grow, reaching 51.8 per cent in 2007 despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance,” the report said.

Salem Ajluni, an economist with UNRWA and author of the report, stated that Gaza has historically been more vulnerable to difficult economic conditions for a number of reasons, especially due to the fact that two thirds of the territory are refugees and dispossessed of their property.  He also stated that the economic conditions were worsened because of the economic blockade imposed on the territory.

The report stated, “Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development.”

In addition, the report noted that economic conditions continue to decline, despite the truce declared one month ago.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – UN: Poverty Worsening in Gaza – 24 July 2008

ReliefWeb – OPT: More than Half of Gaza Households Slump Below the Poverty Line: Youth Hardest Hit by Unemployment – 24 July 2008

UNRWA – Prolonged Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Socio-Economic Developments in 2007 – 23 July 2008

Xinhua – Gaza Poverty Mounts Despite Hamas-Israel Truce – 23 July 2008


NEW YORK CITY, United States – Human Rights Watch called on Syria to investigate the deadly shooting of inmates by military police at Sednaya prison.  According to reports from inmates, the riot occurred when Islamists protested against an “aggressive search” by prison guards.  In the process of quelling the riot, prison guards fired on the inmates killing an unknown number.

HRW called on Syria to investigate the July 5 riot and to publish the findings.  HRW also called on the government to immediately publish the names of those killed and injured in the incident.  “We still don’t know how the prison standoff ended, or the number and names of those killed and wounded,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East Director.

Even two weeks after the incident, the Syrian government has not released an official statement.  The official state news agency, SNA, printed a short statement on July 6, which stated “a number of prisoners…incited chaos and breached public order in the prison and attacked other fellow prisoners…during an inspection by the prison administration.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Syria Urged to Probe Prison Riot Deaths – 22 July 2008

Human Rights Watch – Syria: Investigate Sednaya Prison Deaths – 22 July 2008

Reuters – Rights Group Calls for Syria Prison Riot Inquiry – 22 July 2008

French Minister Blames Political Process for French Polanisia Instability; Tonga Passes Legislation to Encourage Reforms; Outgoing Vanuatu MP Challenges Constitutionality of Electoral Law

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PAPEETE, Tahiti —  Despite political elections in March, a junior French oversea territories minister is attributing political instability in French Polynesia to the “quarrels and personal ambitions among local leaders” reports Radio New Zealand International.

Jego Yves, the junior French oversea territories minister, says that for the political system to change reforms must start with politicians in Papeete. According to Yves, the key politicians in the capital city are responsible for destabilizing the political system largely because they force local mayors into making deals.

In addition, Yves criticizes the electoral process because he feels the system is corrupt from within. If the two past two elections have not produced better results, says Yves, then new elections are not the answer.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — French minister blames Tahiti politics for instability — 24 July 2008


NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA — Tonga’s Parliament has passed new legislation which seeks to promote greater reforms within the executive and legislature.

The new bill sets up a nine member Commission. Five of those members will be appointed by cabinet including one from the Nobles and People’s Representatives, and the remaining two from the Judicial Services Commission.

The Commission’s job will be to recommend reforms and changes to help facilitate the relationship between the executive and legislature. The Commission will have ten months in order to submit their recommendations to the Privy Council and Legislative Assembly. Among its appointed powers, the Commission can call a national Constitution Convention within seven months of appointment.

As a separation of powers measure, the bill has stipulated that a member of the Commission will not be allowed to serve in the Legislative Assembly or cabinet.

For more information, please see:
Pacific News – New Constitution bill in Tonga paves the way for political reforms – 24 July 2008

PORT VILA, Vanuatu — Outgoing Vanuatu member of Parliament and Chairman to the Melanesian Progressive Party, Barak Sope, is claiming that an electoral law gives certain politicians an unfair advantage.

Sobe is challenging the constitutionality of Peoples Representation Act No. 33 or 2007. The Act, Sobe says, allows people not within the constituencies of Port Vila and Luganville to vote in two municipal constituencies.

In addition, Sobe claims the legislation allows chiefs and landowners to decide where people residing on their property can vote. Sobe has secured legal representation, and maintains that if his constitutional challenge is successful, a restraining order against the electoral office will ensue, effectively delaying elections until the matter is resolved.

The elections are scheduled for September 2, but may be delayed if Sobe’s constitutional challenge is successful.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Vanuatu elections could be delayed by constitutional challenge — 24 July 2008

Albany Student Detained in Iran; Five Injured Near Obama’s Jerusalem Hotel; Nine Face Stoning in Iran

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – A University of Albany public health student and as his brother have been arrested by Iranian security.  Kamiar Alaei is enrolled in Albany’s doctorate public health program and is known internationally for his work with HIV/AIDS prevention.

On June 22, security forces detained Kamiar’s brother, Arash Alaei, and held him overnight at an undisclosed location.  The next morning, the security forces escorted him to his home where they arrested Kamiar and seized documents and materials belonging to the brothers.

The Iranian government has yet to announce why the brothers were detained or whether any charges will be brought against them.  According to Human Rights Watch, the authorities have also not provided the brothers with access to counsel.

The brothers are credited with convincing the Iranian government of confronting HIV/AIDS prevention.  The accomplishment is that much more remarkable given Iran’s reputation for considering such topics as sex, drugs and the HIV/AIDS disease as taboo subjects.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Iran Urged to Free HIV Pioneers – 22 July 2008

Times Union – UAlbany Student Detained in Iran – 22 July 2008

Human Rights News – Iran: Release Detained HIV/AIDS Experts – 21 July 2008


JERUSALEM, Israel – In July 22, a man driving a bulldozer went on a rampage, ramming his construction vehicle into several cars and buses near the hotel where U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is scheduled to stay later that day.

Eleven people were injured in the attack, including one serious injury.  The man, whom police have identified as a 22-year-old Palestinian with a criminal record, smashed into cars until a civilian witness and police shot and killed the bulldozer driver.  Police described the incident as a terrorist attack.

This is the second bulldozer attack in Jerusalem this month.  On July 2, a Palestinian construction worker rammed his vehicle into several cars.  Three people were killed before police shot and killed him.

Obama, who is scheduled to stay at the hotel tonight, strongly condemned the attack.

For more information, please see:
CNN – Attack Injures 5 Near Obama’s Jerusalem Hotel – 22 July 2008

Reuters – Bulldozer Attack Driver Shot Dead in Jerusalem – 22 July 2008


TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian courts have sentenced eight woman and one man to death by stoning for adultery and other sexual offenses, including prostitution, incest and illegal sex with a student.  Now that the verdict has been rendered, the group can be executed at any time.

Six of the nine were convicted without any witnesses testifying against them and without the presence of lawyers during their confessions.  The group’s lawyers have called on Iran’s judiciary to prevent the stonings from being carried out.

In 2002, Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi imposed a moratorium on stoning.  However, at least three executions by stoning have been reported since the moratorium has been in place.

Under Iran’s strict penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies.  Iran’s penal law dictates that the stones used not be large enough to kill the person immediately.

For more information, please see:
Guardian – Eight Women and a Man Face Stoning in Iran for Adultery – 21 July 2008

Associated Press – Activists: Iranians to be Stoned to Death – 20 July 2008

BBC – Nine Face Stoning Death in Iran – 20 July 2008