Increased Killings and Abductions in the “Liberated” Eastern Province of Sri Lanka

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan government to address the increase in killings and abductions that have occurred in recent weeks in the Eastern Province.  The Tamil Makkal Vidulthalai (TMVP) has allegedly been behind the acts of violence.

The TMVP is a political group formed when Colonal Karuna, former leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), broke away in 2004.

“The Sri Lankan government says that the ‘liberated’ East is an example of democracy in action and a model for areas recaptured from the LTTE,” stated Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.  “But killings and abductions are rife, and there is total impunity for horrific abuses.”

Human Rights Watch cites to at least 30 extrajudicial killings and 30 abductions in the Eastern Province since September.  Moreover, journalists reporting on the security situation have been the target of threats and attacks.  Finally, investigations reveal several cases of forcible recruitment of children by the TMVP.

For those who have fallen victim to disappearances, the government states that most are fabrications to discredit it and that alleged victims did not disappear but have gone abroad, or eloped.

Adams said, “Far from being a reformed and responsible party ready for government, the TMVP is still actively involved in serious human rights abuses.”  He further stated, “Instead of holding the group accountable, the Rajapakse government has provided unqualified support.  The government needs to open independent investigations into all serious human rights violations and hold perpetrators accountable.”

With the “liberation” of the East, the Sri Lankan government is currently engaged in the seizing of the stronghold of Kilinochchi, located in the North, from the rebel Tigers.  The recapture of the last LTTE controlled territory will end a decades long war that began as the LTTE’s struggle for their own Tiger homeland.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Murder, Abductions Rise in ‘Liberated’ Sri Lanka: Rights Group – 25 November 2008

BBC News – A Fearful End to Sri Lanka’s War? – 22 November 2008

Human Rights Watch – Sri Lanka:  Human Rights Situation Deteriorating in the East – 24 November 2008

Labor Rights Lawyer Jailed in the Philippines

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines – Remegio Saladero, Jr., a well-respected activist lawyer, was suddenly arrested on October 23rd on multiple murder charges. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the arrest as politically motivated. Saladero is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party.

Saladero was arrested at his law office in Antipolo City in Rizal province. The police showed a warrant for a two-year-old murder in the Oriental Mindoro province. Philippines police also confiscated Saladero’s personal belongings.  Saladero was detained in the Calapan City jail and denied legal counsel while he was being interrogated for six hours.

Saladero has represented suspect groups and individuals including members of the NPA, which include Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), an alliance of trade unions.  He is also on the board of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center.

In recent years, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has faced international criticism for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of leftist activists, journalists, lawyers, and clergy conducted by the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces.

In responding to the international criticism, local and international human rights activists say that the Philippines government is just changing its tactics to convict perpetrators for serious crimes. Saladero’s case bears many similarities to previous cases where the courts subsequently declared the arrests illegal. Recently, the courts declared the arrest and detention of the “Tagavtay Five” unlawful, who were activists and lawyers for farmer’s rights.  Police had accused members of being part the NPA.

Under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, it is codified international law that everyone has the right to promote and protect human rights. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, calls for the immediate release of Saladero and said, “It’s not just Saladero’s rights that are undermined, but the rights of all Filipinos ever in need of a lawyer.”

For more information, please see:

ABS-CBN News – Labor Lawyer in Police Custody Unreachable – 18 October 2008

Human Rights Watch – Philippines: Continuing Harassment of Leftist Activists – 15 October 2008

Reuters – Philippines: Free Labor Rights Lawyer – 28 October 2008

Concern Over Water Hygiene in Pacific Region

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

MELBOURNE, Australia – Oxfam in Papua New Guinea has told the Sanitation and Water Conference being held in Melbourne that they are having trouble meeting the challenge of delivering adequate sanitation and water programs to remote communities in the Pacific region.  The conference was organized as part of the International Year of Sanitation and includes representatives from various United Nations agencies, aid agencies, and the World Bank.

It is reported at the conference that one in three people living in rural and remote communities do not have access to water hygiene and sanitation facilities.  Pauline Komolong, a water engineer for Oxfam, said “Some of the challenges are such things as the terrain where it’s impossible getting there; sometimes you walk across gushing rivers, climb mountains and when you are transporting materials sometimes it takes a long time because of all the logistics that are involved.”

World Vision estimated in 2004 that in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 100 million people were living without safe water and 185 million were living without adequate sanitation.

For more information, please see:
Radio Australia – UN highlights the cost of lack of sanitation – 29 October 2008
Fiji Times Online – Water hygiene an issue – 29 October 2008
Islands Business – Struggle in Pacific to deliver water services – 29 October 2008

Protests Against Indian Rule in Kashmir on Anniversary

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia


SRINAGAR, India
– On the 61st anniversary of Indian rule in the Kashmir region, separatists took part in a general strike that shut down the area’s shops, businesses, and government offices.  The Indian government deployed thousands of troops in riot gear to patrol the region, and prohibited any gatherings of any more than 5 people.

On Sunday, shots were fired at protesters, killing one and wounding twenty.  A student was killed when shots were fired at a crowd who were throwing stones.  People had taken to the streets, chanting pro-freedom slogans.

The recent ban on protests was aimed to stop Kashmiri lawyers’ plan to form a human chain to protest the presence of Indian rule in the city.  Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, a key separatist leader, said, “It’s an irony that even forming a human chain is a threat to the Indian state.  This was supposed to be a symbolic protest reminding the world that India has militarily occupied this place.”

The area’s strike was called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, a coalition of Muslim separatist leaders and representatives of businesses, lawyers and government employees. The group demands Muslim-majority Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan.  There were reports that police detained several separatists and lawyers who were expected to lead rallies on the anniversary.

Also on Sunday, Indian troops shot and killed five militants during a gun battle in the forests of Kishtiwar district.  “The five were members of Hizbul Mujahideen,” said an army statement, referring to the region’s most powerful group fighting for Indian Kashmir to join with Pakistan.

Anti-Indian sentiment is strong in Kashmir, which remains divided between India and Pakistan. The countries both claim the region and have fought two wars over its control.  Militant separatist groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 to end Indian rule. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.

For more information, please see:

AP – Protests Against Indian Rule Shuts Down Kashmir – 27 October 2008

Reuters – India Deploys Extra Troops to Halt Kashmir Protests – 27 October 2008

Voice of America – Indian Troops in Kashmir to Block Anniversary Protests – 27 October 2008

Australia Sends More Troops to the Solomon Islands

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SYDNEY, Australia – An additional 140 Australian reserve soldiers will be deployed to the Solomon Islands to join Operation ANODE, the Australian Defense Force, which is part of the larger Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI).  The soldiers will help maintain peace and stability in the Solomon Islands along with help the local government improve law and order according to the Australian federal government.

The soldiers are from South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia and will have a four-month deployment. During their deployment they will carry out street patrols with the Australian Federal Police. The soldiers will also be involved in a number of community outreach initiatives that are a part of RAMSI.

Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said, “Their contribution in Solomon Islands is made all the more exceptional by the fact that their civilian employers have released them to provide military service to a neighbor in need.”

Since 2006, the Australian Defense Force has deployed 5 Army Reserve Company groups adding up to more than 700 part-time soldiers.

RAMSI started on 24 July 2003 with a mandate unanimously approved by the Solomon Islands National Parliament “to help the Solomon Islands Government restore law and order, strenghten government institutions, reduce corruption, and re-invigorate the economy.”  Fifteen countries contribute personnel to the mission, including police officers, military, and civilians.

For more information, please see:

Solomon Star News – More Aussie troops heading for here – 27 October 2008

Islands Business – More troops deployed to Solomons – 27 October 2008

Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands

China’s Prominent Human Rights Activist Wins the Sakharov Prize

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

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BEIJING, China – China’s prominent human rights activist, Hu Jia, was awarded the Sakharov prize, the European Union’s highest human rights honor.  Hu is known for his campaign for civil rights, the environment and AIDS victims.  He was convicted last April of inciting subversion, and is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence in China.

Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, also an activist, can visit him only when prison officials allow it.  She lives under house arrest with their infant daughter, and reporters are prevented from visiting their home by guards who block the entrance to the apartment building.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering called Hu Jia “one of the real defenders of human rights in the People’s Republic of China.”  Poettering told the EU assembly that “by awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia, the European Parliament is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who defend human rights in China.”

The U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid also said that the U.S. hopes Beijing will move to free Hu Jia from prison, after the European Parliament awarded him a human rights prize.  “We hope that the recognition the European Parliament has given Hu Jia by awarding him the prestigious Sakharov Prize will demonstrate to China’s leaders the enormous esteem the international community holds for his important work as a human rights defender and that China will release him immediately,” said Gordon Duguid.

However, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Liu Jianchao, expressed strong dissatisfaction that such an award had gone to a “jailed criminal” in disregard of China’s repeated representations on the issue.  He says it was “a gross interference in China’s domestic affairs.”  In a letter sent to the President of EU assembly earlier this week, China’s ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe, said giving the award to Hu would “inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations.”

Hu was also named as a possible winner of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, prompting Beijing to issue a warning that the prize should go to the “right person.”

For more information, please see:

ABC – Europe Awards Jailed Chinese Dissident – 23 October 2008

AFP – US presses China to free EU prize-winning dissident – 23 October 2008

AP – EU honours jailed Chinese dissident Hu despite Beijing pressure – 23 October 2008

BBC –  Hu Jia wins European rights prize – 23 October 2008

Reuters – China bridles as dissident wins top EU rights prize – 23 October 200

Fiji Interim PM Threatens to Remain in Power

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – In anticipation of Monday’s meeting, Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister has announced that if political leaders do not embrace his vision of change, he will not step down from power.

Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, meets today for the first time with representatives from 14 of Fiji’s political parties to discuss Fiji’s future. Bainimarama has warned that he will only entertain proposals from political leaders but will not tolerate the politics of Fiji’s past.

“They should come with proposals on the way forward, not demands! If they show politics of the past in their demands then Monday is not for them and neither will I hand over leadership,” Bainimarama said.

In 2006, the Interim Prime Minister led a military takeover of Fiji’s Federal Government. Earlier this month, the High Court in Fiji ruled that the 2006 coup was legitimate. Ousted Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, has challenged that decision, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.”

But the Interim Prime Minister insists that he knows what is best for Fiji. Bainimarama has announced that he will not abdicate power until he is certain that Fiji’s politicians have reformed from their old ways.

“I’m not going to give up leadership of the country until the political parties are ready to show good governance. Because that’s the gist of the PR I am receiving from some political parties. That is, they want to revert to the politics of the past after elections,” Bainimarama said today.

Meanwhile, Qarase’s Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party (SDL) is happy that Bainimarama wants to talk, but remains committed to pressing the issue of Democratic elections. Both SDL and Fiji’s Labor party have insisted that Bainimarama set a firm date for elections to replace the current military government.

But the Interim Prime Minister has clearly stated that now is not the time to discuss a date for the elections.

For more information, please see:
FijiLive – Change your politics or I stay: Fiji PM – 27 October 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corp Ltd – Set a firm date for polls: Chaudhry – 27 October 2008

FijiVillage – Parties To Meet Interim PM Today – 27 October 2008

FijiVillage – NFP Confirms Participation in Political Dialogue – 27 October 2008

FijiLive – Fiji Leader’s Dialogue to determine future – 26 October 2008

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji interim regime urges cooperation now that coup has been declared legal – 09 October 2008

Afghan Journalist Jailed for Advocating Women’s Rights

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


KABUL, Afghanistan
– Twenty-three year old journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh was sentenced by Afghanistan’s appellate court to 20 years for circulating an Internet article about women’s rights under Islam.  This new sentence overturned a death sentence he received in January by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-sharif.

Under Islamic law, blasphemy is a capital crime, punishable by death.  This 20 year sentence demonstrates Afghanistan’s drift toward a more radically conservative Islam and how fragile the judiciary really is.  Moreover, according to Human Rights Watch, it illustrates Afghanistan’s lack of respect for individual liberties.  As Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated, “Kambakhsh’s case demonstrates how fragile freedom of expression is in many parts of Afghanistan, and the lack of progress that has been made in establishing a professional judiciary.” He further stated, “It is an embarrassment to the Karzai government, which has failed to take judicial reform seriously and allows a brutal and conservative security service to do whatever it wants.”

Kambakhsh was studying in Mazar-i-sharif and working as a journalist for the Jahan-e Now Daily, a local newspaper, when he was arrested on October 27, 2007.  He was held for 8 days without being charged before he was handed over to the prosecution.  Since his arest, Kambakhsh was detained in three difference prisons and denied basic legal rights, such as right to legal counsel.  His family reported that he was beaten and tortured into signing a confession.  When he was tried on January 22, 2008, he went in front of the judge and prosecutor without counsel or a hearing and was sentenced to death.  The following day, the prosecutor, Hafaizullah Khaliqvar, condemned all journalists who supported Kambakhsh.

Kambakhsh’s brother, Yaqub Ibrahimi, believed that the arrest of Kambakhsh was a warning against him for his articles on human rights abuses committed by local warlords and militias in northen Afghanistan.  Ibrahimi is a journalist for the Institute for Way and Peace Reporting.  A few days prior to Kambakhsh’s arrest, Ibrahimi was threatened by local armed groups and the National Directoate of Security and his home was searched several times.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Afghanistan:  Overturn Death Sentence of Jailed Journalist – 1 February 2008

Los Angeles Times – Afghan Student Gets 20 Years Instead of Death for Blasphemy – 22 October 2008

Reuters – Afghan Journalist Gets 20 Years Jail for Blasphemy – 21 October 2008

Fiji Law Society Joins Qarase in Appeal

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Fiji Law Society (FLS) has announced they would like to be amicus curiae if ousted Prime Minister Lasenia Qarase appeals the recent High Court decision legalizing the 2006 coup that ousted him from office.

Dorsami Naidu, FLS president, thought the decision would “undermine the rule of law, weaken parliamentary democracy and parliamentary institutions rather than strengthen them.”nbsp; The decision was made in response to a panel held in Australia that expressed grave concern about the long-term ramifications of legalizing the coup.

Qarase has said his party hopes to file their appeal before the end of the month.  The party will also be looking for a new Queen’s Counsel because Nye Perram has been appointed judge to the Federal Courts of Australia.

Iliesa Duvuloco, Nationalist Tako Lavo party leader, claims the fight is not over yet and that he hopes justice will prevail.

For more information, please see:
The Fiji Times Online – FLS to join Qarase appeal – 26 October 2008

Cambodia: FBI Agents are Sent Home in Khim Sambo Case

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Two FBI agents were sent home after investigating the murder of journalist, Khim Sambo, and his 21 year-old son. Months after the death of Sambo and international pressure to solve the case, the United States offered the Cambodian government FBI assistance. However, the two FBI agents, who were helping Cambodian police on the case, pulled-out after 2 weeks of investigation.

The United States government was ambiguous on whether the withdraw was voluntary, but they felt the investigation was not going on the right track. Human rights organizations say the FBI agent’s departure is a negative development in efforts to solve Khim Sambo’s case. John Johnson, the Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, says he’s aware of human rights groups concern of police cover-up.

Sambo and his son were killed back in July. They were on their way back from working-out at an Olympic stadium in central Phnom Penh when a man riding on the back of a motorcycle fired upon them numerous times. Sambo died at the scene and his son died in the hospital the next day.

Brad Adams, the director of the Asia department at Human Rights Watch, said, “As in previous pre-election periods, this killing appears to be intended to send a message not to engage in opposition politics.”

Sambo had been a reporter for the Khmer Conscience, a newspaper affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Most other media in the country is dominated and controlled by the government or ruling party, Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).  Khim Sambo was known for writing about corruption and nepotism in the CPP. Less than two weeks leading up to Sambo’s death, he was reporting on national police chief, Hok Lundy. Sambo described Lundy as “one of the country’s most dangerous men.” According to Sambo’s report, Lundy allegedly went to a casino in Bavat and threatened to arrest the staff when they refused to lend him more credit after he lost his money.

Sambo’s investigation seems to be stalling. People close to the journalist, who may have information about the murder, have said that they are too afraid to speak to the investigators because they suspect police are involved.

The Press Freedom Organization added a call on the “US authorities to quickly publish the findings of the FBI agents who spent more than two weeks working with the Cambodian investigators on this case.” But the US government has not commented on the return of the FBI agents saying that it is an ongoing investigation.
For more information, please see:

Australia Broadcasting Corporation – FBI Continues to Investigate – 17 October 2008

Reports Without Borders – Who Masterminded Journalist Khim Sambo’s Murder? FBI Pulls Out of Investigation After Press Revelations – 15 October 2008

Human Rights Watch – Cambodia: Murder of Journalist Jolts Run-Up to Election– 16 July 2008

Survey Reports on Freedom of the Press

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

PARIS, France – The non-governmental, international organization Reporters Without Borders has released its annual report of World Press Freedom, in which it ranks 173 countries for the relative freedom of their press. Among the factors the organization uses to gauge the countries are violations that have a direct impact upon journalists including murders, imprisonment, physical attacks, threats of physical attack, censorship, confiscation and harassment.

Of the 20 countries rated as having the most free press, eight are European, but the report finds that the seventh most free press belongs to New Zealand.

While Australia is ranked 29 in the ranking (the same rank it held last year), the report makes specific mention of tensions between the Howard administration and the press.  The report noted “at least 1500 legal decrees and rulings” that made limited press and public accessibility to information.  Specifically mentioned was a provision that journalists “who might interview a person suspected of terrorism, is at risk of up to five years in jail.”  The report referred to Australia’s anti-terror laws “simply outrageous.”

Despite recent deportations of newspaper editors, Fiji ascended the list from last year.  The reports finds Fiji at 79, up from 107 last year.  Despite the marked improvement, Pramod Rae, General Secretary of the National Federation Party, called the ranking an “eye-opener” saying, “There are 79 more steps to climb and the press in Fiji should not throw in the towel now.”

Other countries in the region also moved up the list.  Tonga, which was listed last year at 119, is now listed at 84.  East Timor is ranked at 65, up from 94 last year.

The full list can be found here.

For more information please see:
Fiji Daily Post – Moving Up – 25 October 2008

The Australian – Australia’s press freedom criticised in Reporters Without Borders rankings – 24 October 2008

Fiji Times Online – Fiji ranked 79 for press freedom – 24 October 2008

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji and Tonga move up in World press freedom rankings – 24 October 2008

Fiji Interim PM Will Refuse to Address Coup’s Legality at Next Meeting

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s interim prime minister has announced that his government will not be pushed around by leaders from Fiji’s political parties in Monday’s meeting.

Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says Monday’s meeting will not be about the legality of the interim government. Bainimarama added that leaders interested in merely expressing grievances with the interim government may as well not show.

On October 9, a three judge court ruled that the 2006 military coup of Fiji’s federal government was legal. Ousted Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, is among several advocates pushing for elections in 2009 to restore Fiji to democracy.

But at this year’s 63rd UN General Assembly, Bainimarama told leaders that those elections will not happen as previously planned.

Bainimarama has preemptively told leaders attending Monday’s meeting, that the interim government is in charge and will do whatever it believes is in Fiji’s best interest.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji interim regime stakes out political talk framework – 22 October 2008

UN’s Frustration Towards Myanmar Junta

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YONGANG, Myanmar – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Myanmar’s Government and opposition to increase dialogue in his latest report to the General Assembly.  The report covers Myanmar’s development between 23 October 2007 and 5 September 2008, when the junta faced global condemnation for its crackdown on the biggest opposition protests in almost 20 years.   It also highlights UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari failure to meet with Suu Kyi or win concessions from the regime when he visited Myanmar in August.

In the report, Ban said “it remains a source of frustration that meaningful steps have yet to be taken by the Myanmar authorities in response to the concerns and expectations of the United Nations and the international community.” The main U.N. demands have been for the junta to release political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and start a serious dialogue with the opposition.  However, it is unfortunate that specific suggestions of the United Nations to improve the credibility and inclusiveness of the political process have thus far not been taken up by the government.  Ban continued, “It is unfoHe urges all countries aiming for a solution in Myanmar to “work constructively together” in support of the UN’s efforts.

Myanmar Junta announced it had overwhelming public support in a May on an army-drafted constitution referendum, which was part of a process meant to culminate in multiparty elections in 2010 and end a nearly 20-year political stalemate.  However, Western countries have condemned the referendum as a sham.  Myanmar appointed a liaison officer to meet with the opposition leader Suu Kyi five times between November and January. The talks, the first since 2003, then stopped.  The UN also remains concerned about ongoing reports of armed conflict, associated human rights abuses, and humanitarian problems in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Kayin and Kayah states.

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg – Myanmar’s Failure to Talk With Suu Kyi Frustrates UN, Ban Says – 21 October 2008

Reuters – U.N.’s Ban frustrated by Myanmar inaction – 20 October 2008

UN News Centre- Enhanced dialogue among all parties vital for Myanmar’s political future – 20 October 2008

Kyrgyzstan Fails to Protect Lesbians, Transgender Men, and Bisexual Women from Violence

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia


BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan
– Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Kyrgyzstan government to protect lesbians, transgender men, and bisexual women from violence.  According to HRW, lesbians, transgender men, and bisexual women face violent abuse, including rape, from family members as well as strangers on the street.

The HRW report documents beatings, forced marriages, psychological and physical abuse endured by the lesbian, transgender men, and bisexual women communities.  “No one should have to confront brutality or danger because of who they are or whom they love,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at HRW.

The violence in Kyrgyzstan occurs with impunity as the government refuses to protect lesbians, transgender men, and bisexual men while allowing the atmosphere of prejudice to continue.  There is a pervasive social prejudice that leaves victims little hope that the government will protect them.  In some instances, the police participate in the abuse and harass organizations that attempt to protect possible victims.  Dittrich stated, “It is time for the government to protect these communities instead of denying they exist.”

The government has also ignored addressing the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. In one case, an official actually endorsed hate and violence. Three years ago, a Ministry of Interior official said of lesbians and gay men at a human rights roundtable, “I would also beat them. Let’s say I walk in a park with my son. And there are two guys walking holding each other’s hands. I would beat them up too.”

Several persons interviewed by HRW recounted their past violent experiences.  One lesbian told how, when she was 15, her girlfriend’s brothers raped her brutally, saying, “This is your punishment for being this way and hanging around our sister.”  Another woman told of an acquaintance that locked her in a room and allowed several men to rape her. The men promised the acquaintance “that they would help her to ‘cure’ me of being a lesbian,” she said.  Another woman told HRW, “One time, these men on the street thought that I was a gay man and wanted to beat me up. I didn’t know which would be better, to say I was [a gay man] or to say, no I’m a lesbian. So I ran. They chased me and I just managed to get inside [my apartment], but they beat at the door for hours.”

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Kyrgyzstan: Protect Lesbians and Transgender Men From Abuse – 6 October 2008

Human Rights Watch – These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan – October 2008

United Press International- Kyrgyzstan Faulted for Human Rights Abuse – 6 October 2008

Bainimarama Wants Elections as Soon as Practicable

By Sarah E. Treptow

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s Interim PM, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama wants to call for elections as soon as practicable.  It is reported that Bainimarama has written to political parties for a meeting next week to set the agenda and terms of reference for a forum for presidential political dialogue.  Political leaders were told the agenda would remain open and flexible but the overall objective would be to move toward constitutional and democratic governance.  Ousted PM, Laisenia Qarase, has welcomed this call for a meeting.

The independent interlocuters named are Dr. Sitiveni Halapua of the Pacific Islands Development program of the East West Centre and Robin Nair who is a member of the President’s Independent Monitoring Group.

As SDL party leader, Qarase has said they will participate though they have reservations over the interlocuters.  Political parties have until Wednesday to respond to the invitation.

For more information, please see:

Fiji Times Online – It’s on – 21 October 2008

Pacific Magazine – Fiji’s Interim PM Wants To Call For Elections – 21 October 2008