PA Forces Raid Hamas Office in West Bank

PA Forces Raid Hamas Office in West Bank

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

HEBRON, West Bank
– On September 22, security forces from the Palestinian Authority (PA) raided the Hebron offices of Samira al-Halayka, a legislator from Hamas’s Change and Reform bloc.  According to al-Halayka, computers and documents were confiscated by the PA.  A security official in Hebron stated that the officers confiscated leaflets and other documents that he said incited violence against the Palestinian Authority.  In addition, al-Halayka’s guard was detained, but then later released.

This raid was conducted as part of a larger crack-down against Hamas in the West Bank.  Over the weekend, PA security officers, loyal to Fatah and President Abbas, arrested fifteen members of Hamas.  Hamas also claims that the PA shut down four organizations, which were purely charitable.  Earlier in the month, on September 11, Hamas reported that PA security forces arrested 11 of its members and supporters.

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in summer 2007.  In addition to violent confrontations, this tension has resulted in politically-motivated arrests against each others members.  Politically-motivated arrests are such an issue of contention that the two sides agreed to form a national committee aimed at ending the practice.

The heightened tension between the two factions has led to rumors of a Palestinian civil war.  Last week, ten Palestinian West Bank security chiefs met in Beit El with Israeli military and police officers.  Fatah officers openly called for “joint action with Israel against the common enemy – Hamas,” and expressed their “willingness to take care of the Hamas mosques and institutions using information provided by Israel.”

In addition, Hamas leaders, including former Interior Minister, Said Siam, stated that following January 9, 2009, Abbas will not be the legal Palestinian President.  Following the January 2005 presidential elections, which Hamas boycotted, the basic law was amended so that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in the same year.  However, Hamas argues that following the January 2006 parliamentary election, it annulled this part of the law.

“There is nothing in the Palestinian constitution saying that the president has the right to extend his presidential term for an extra year. According to the constitution, the presidential term is four years only,” said Siam.

For more information, please see:
Ha’aretz – PA Security Forces Raid West Bank Office of Hamas Legislator – 22 September 2008

International Middle East Media Center – P.A. Forces Arrest Five Hamas Member in the West Bank – 22 September 2008

Reuters – Palestinian Authority Raids Hamas West Bank Office – 22 September 2008

Xinhua – Hamas Official: Abbas not to be Legal President After Jan. 9 – 22 September 2008

Yedioth – Palestinians Headed to Civil War – 22 September 2008

Xinhua – Pro-Abbas Forces Arrest 11 Hamas Members in West Bank – 11 September 2008

Turkey: New Wave of Detentions in Ergenekon Investigation

By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 ISTANBUL, Turkey – On September 18, a Turkish court ordered the arrest of six people in connection with the controversial Ergenekon investigation.  On Sunday, four members of Ergenekon were released from custody.  However, alleged members of the organization remain in Turkish military prison.

The Ergenekon organization was formed in the 1990s in order to combat what they considered to be the potential erosion of Turkish sovereignty, in light of Turkey’s growing ties to the European Union, and to combat the threat that they considered the ruling AKP party posed to secularism.  The AKP party has a pro-Islamist platform and considers the hard-line secularist Ergenekon organization to be the main obstacle in their hopes of reforming secular Turkish society. 

The Ergenekon investigation began in June 2007 after Turkish authorities discovered grenades in a house in the Umraniye district of Istanbul.  According to Turkish authorities, the purpose of the alleged crackdown on Ergenekon is to prevent a possible military coup from overthrowing the ruling AKP government.  Over 100 people, including Turkish politicians, journalists, intellectuals, actors and retired generals, suspected of being members of Ergenekon have been detained by Turkish authorities in connection with the ongoing investigation.

Reports are circulating alleging that the Ergenekon investigation is a farce, with the primary goal of implicating as many hard-line secularists as possible, limiting the threat to AKP.  Each wave of arrests and detentions have coincided with a domestic news cycle that was damaging to the AKP.  In addition, unsubstantiated reports have linked the Ergenekon to numerous terrorists attacks that were carried out in Turkey over the past 15 years.

The detainees have been charged with multiple counts including “forming an armed terrorist organization, being a member of a terrorist organization, and aiding the organization.”  The 2,455 page Ergenekon indictment, filed in Istanbul’s 13th Serious Crimes Court on July 25, allegedly contains a mixture of fact, rumor, speculation and misinformation.  47 individuals named in the indictment continue to be held in Turkish prisons.

For more information, please see:

Bianet – One of the Ergenekon Generals Released, Eleven New Arrests – 23 September 2008

Hot News Turkey – 5 Army Members Arrested, Ret. Gen. Freed in Turkey’s Ergenekon Probe – 23 September 2008

Hot News Turkey – Turkish Court Arrests 6 in Ergenekon Investigation – 22 September 2008

Eurasian Daily Monitor – Fact, Fantasy, and Farce As More Are Detained in Ergenekon Probe – 22 September 2008

22 September 2008

CNMI Officials Say U.S. Proposal Harms Locals’ Rights

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By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands – Local Island officials are speaking out against a U.S. proposal to create a national marine monument in the Northern Mariana Islands. Government officials claim that such a preserve would greatly inhibit locals’ rights to use the islands and their waters for their own economic benefit.

In a letter to President Bush, John B. Joyner, Ph.D., director of the Coastal Resources Management Office, Sylvan O. Igisomar, director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, Frank M. Rabauliman, director of the Division of Environmental Quality, Ray Mafnas, senior policy advisor to the governor, and local community leaders like Lino M. Olopai, expressed their deep concerns for their people’s own autonomy:

“We remember being disposed of the area waters first by Spain, then Germany, followed by Japan, and now America? We beg your consideration so we, Pacific Island Americans, might avoid the never forgiven property plight of the Native Americans and the property infamy of the Japanese Americans.”

Island officials compare the U.S. designation protecting CNMI waters to recent actions taken by Russia against Georgia and China against Tibet.

In addition, the group wrote to President Bush, “You have said repeatedly that it is the role of government to protect the rights of the minority, not to abuse them just because the government may have the power to do so.”

On Thursday, the Senate  adopted House Joint Resolution 16-13 which asks President Bush to reject the marine monument proposal.

For more information, please see:
Mariana Variety –  Gov’t urges Bush to reject monument proposal – 22 September 2008

Pacific Magazine – Island Officials Say U.S. Move Would ‘Trammel’ Local Rights – 22 September 2008

Dissident Websites in Myanmar are Under Cyber Attacks

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar – Shortly before the anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and last year’s Buddhist-monk-led Saffron Revolution, two leading dissident websites in Myanmar have been shut down by a sophisticated cyber attack. The websites, run by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and the Irrawaddy news magazine, are operated by exiles outside Myanmar.  These websites are one of the few remaining sources of reliable news for people in Myanmar, however both were disabled on Wednesday.

Irrawaddy said Thai web host I-NET had confirmed on Wednesday its site had been under “distributed denial-of-service” assault.  Aung Zaw, editor-in-chief of the Irrawaddy online magazine, says his staff is gathering evidence and believes it will be able to identify the attackers.  He believes that the junta is behind the attack, just as it was behind the shutdown of Internet access in Burma during last year’s uprising.  Myanmar’s military junta has launched a series of crippling cyberspace attacks on dissident websites on the first anniversary of major protest marches by Buddhist monks, the Irrawaddy websites said on Friday.

DVB’s Thailand bureau chief, Toe Zaw Latt, said the agency’s website was only a small part of its reporting operations, and two major sources of news inside Myanmar, its radio and satellite television stations, both remained up and running.  The Internet inside Myanmar had also been running slower than its normal snail’s pace this week and Internet cafes had come under unusually tight surveillance, the Irrawaddy said.  Security was also tight on the streets of Yangon, with some vehicle checkpoints, one diplomat said.

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia – Cyber-Attacks on Burmese Web Sites – 19 September 2008

Reuters – Myanmar junta takes out critical websites – dissidents – 19 September 2008

Wall Street Journal – The Generals Go Cyber? – 19 September 2008

Tutu Reports to the United Nations on a Possible Israeli War Crime

By Yasmine S. Hakimian
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza – On September 18, South African archbishop, Desmond Tutu, argued that Israel may have committed a war crime when it attacked Beit Hanoun in Gaza two years ago. Israel has repeatedly explained the shelling resulted from a flawed artillery firing system. The Israeli military claims their private investigation of the shelling uncovered a technical error. Mr. Tutu is critical of the explanation in his report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Israel’s shelling of Beit Hanoun killed 19 people. In his report to the UN, Mr. Tutu asks Israel to pay compensation to the victims. The report includes horrific accounts from several people who survived the shelling. The victims speak of dead people lying in the streets, local hospitals being overwhelmed, and of victims paying guards at Israeli checkpoints to receive treatment.

Defying the standards for international humanitarian law, Mr. Tutu claims the shelling shows a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life. As a result, he is concerned that a war crime may have occurred.

In his report, Mr. Tutu asked for an independent investigation into the shelling. He argued that the largely secret internal investigation performed by the Israeli military is legally and morally unacceptable.

Even as a UN special advisor, Mr. Tutu never received a report from the Israeli investigation. Mr. Tutu protested that without a well-founded explanation from the military and no independent investigation, no one has been held accountable for the shelling.

He explained the shelling has greatly increased the suffering of Gazans who are entitled to protection and support from Israel. Residents of Gaza have been stripped of their right to life through the killings that occurred in Beit Hanoun and the lack of an appropriate investigation into the deaths. 

At the presentation, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Abu-Koash, said the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court should be contacted about Mr. Tutu’s report. In disagreement, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Aharon Leshno Yaar, said nothing can be gained by rehashing the shelling now as a thorough investigation was performed and the results were shared with the UN.

According to Barnaby Philips, a reporter for Al Jazeera, “there is no relief in sight for Gazans and little indication that Tutu’s report can alter the grim facts of the Beit Hanoun killings.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Tutu Urges Israel ‘War Crime’ Probe – 19 September 2008

Jerusalem Post – Tutu: Israel May Have Committed War Crime – 16 September 2008 

BBC – Israel Raid ‘Could be a War Crime’ – 15 September 2008

Ha’aretz – Archbishop Tutu to UN: Israel May Have Committed War Crime – 15 September 2008

Ynet – Tutu Says Israel May Have Committed War Crime – 15 September 2008