Tamil Tiger Leader Sworn into Sri Lankan Parliament

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Former Tamil Tiger leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, more widely known as Colonel Karuna, was appointed as Member of Parliament by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday.  President Rajapaksa made the appointment with the advice of Karuna’s brother and Sri Lankan Secretary of Defense, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Karuna stated, “Tamil people can now have the faith of solving their own problems through parliamentary democracy. We should forget the bitter past experiences and work to win the trust of the Tamils.”

Karuna faces opposition from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).  The JVP has filed a Fundamental Rights petition against the appointment calling it “immoral” and suing him in the Supreme Court to have him removed.  The JVP alleges that the vacancy Karuna took belongs to them because it opened up when one of their politicians won a powerful provincial post in August.

Karuna’s new appointment also meets serious protests from human rights activists.  After recently having been arrested in the United Kingdom for carrying a false passport and serving jail time, human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers have called for authorities there to investigate and prosecute Karuna for his past international war crimes.  Authorities in the UK replied stating that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Karuna served as the eastern commander for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought against the government and killed hundreds of police officers.  The Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP),the paramilitary group of which Karuna led after his leadership of the Tamil Tigers, has been accused of abducting children to serve as soldiers, torture and extortion. The TVMP was a group that split from the LTTE and was loyal to Karuna.

For more information, please see:

BBCSinhala – MP Karuna:  “Travesty of Justice” – 7 October 2008

Reuters – Breakaway Tiger Leader Sworn into Sri Lanka Parliament – 7 October 2008

Tamil Sydney – Sri Lanka Bestow Democratic Decoration to a War Lord – War Criminal Karuna Becomes Nationalist MP – 8 October 2008

Iraqi Prime Minister Vows to Find Culprits Behind Parliament Member Assassination

By Nykoel Dinardo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki vowed, in a statement on October 9, that the perpetrators of the bomb attack that killed Parliament Member Saleh al-Ogaili would be brought to justice.  Al-Ogaili was killed Thursday in a bombing that also killed two of Al-Ogaili’s bodyguards and injured three others.

Iraqi police state that the bomb that killed Al-Ogaili was attached to a motorcycle and went off when the MP’s motorcade drove past.  Al-Ogaili died in the hospital soon after the attack due to severe head wounds.  He was buried on October 10 in the city of Al-Najaf.  The MP is known for being radically anti-American, and a member of the Sadrist party.   Following his assassination, several anti-American protests have been held.

It has also drawn a response from both the Iraqi and the American governments.   The US military has denied any involvement in the attack.  The commander of US forces in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, , and US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, have both condemned the attack.

The Iraqi government has taken a very strong stance in response to this attack.  Prime Minister Al-Maliki traveled to Al-Najaf where he made a public statement vowing to find those involved in this attack.   Al-Maliki said in his statement that the government “reaffirm[s their] determination to get at the hotbeds of terrorism and crime, and arrest and prosecute the killers and bring them to justice.”

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani also made a statement on October 10, condemning those responsible and calling on the people of Iraq to come together against such crimes.  He declared,”All Iraqis, including its political powers, are called on to be unified to ward off all the attempts of planting fight and alienation among Iraqis’ components.”  He also called Al-Ogaili a martyr, and said that those who committed the crime are enemies of the Iraqis.  

For more information, please see:

The Australian – Bomb Kills Anti-US politician Saleh Al-Ogayly In Iraq – 11 October 2008

AFP – Anger Against US Mount As Iraq Shiites Bury Slain MP – 10 October 2008

Xinhua – Iraqi President Condemns Assassination of Shiite Lawmaker – 10 October 2008

BBC – Iraqi MP Killed By Roadside Bomb – 9 October 2008

BBC – Iraq PM Vows to Find MP’s Killers – 9 October 2008

The New York Times – Roadside Bomb in Baghdad Kills Shiite Legislator – 9 October 2008

Ethnic Violence in India’s Assam

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

GUWAHATI, India – In the northeast state of Assam, India, violence erupted between Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh and Bodo tribal groups on Friday resulting in almost 50 people dead, 500 homes set on fire, and more than 85,000 displaced and seeking housing in government relief camps.  Twenty-one thousand paramilitary officers were deployed to the three districts that have been affected in addition to the already-imposed curfews and shoot-on-sight orders.  More than 15 of the killings were done in police firings.

The conflict has arisen from a history of the local tribes’ fear of being overrun by Muslim immigrants. Almost half of Assam’s population are Muslim settlers.  Analysts claim that the clashes were sparked by a student movement campaigning ainst the immigrants.

Despite the history of tension between Muslims and Bodo tribes, state officials blame the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) for fueling the violence.  NDFB is a Christian rebel group that wants independence and secession from India.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, a minister supervising security and relief measures, says that the NDFB has implemented a plan of “ethnic cleansing” in order to “drive out all the non-Bodos from the area.”  Moreover, in 2005, the NDFB entered into a ceasefire with the Indian government in New Delhi, though it has never renounced its independence struggle.  It claims that the government has neglected their welfare, ignored development of the region and flooded it with immigrants.

Sarma stated that four cadres of the NDFB were arrested on Sunday for firing at the police with machine guns in one of the districts and that if NDFB members continue to engage in violence, then the government might have to reconsider the ceasefire agreement.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Troops Sent to Quell Tribal Clashes in India’s Assam – 6 October 2008

Assam Tribune – Death Toll 40:  80,000 Displaced:  500 Houses Burnt – 6 October 2008

Reuters – More Die as Clashes Continue in India’s Troubled Assam – 7 October 2008

Fourth Journalist Gunned Down in Thailand

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – On October 5th, another regional journalist was gunned down in Thailand. Wallop Bounsampop was the editor of Den Siam, a local newspaper in Chonburi province in the south of Bangkok. Wallop is the fourth journalist to be murdered this year.

Wallop was murdered in a motorcyle drive-by shooting when he was helping his wife at a local restruant. Two men on a motorcyle dorve by and shot at Wallop five times hitting him twice and killing him instantly.

Wallop was an active member of the district council, and he was reporting on corruption of local politicians. Some allege his murder was linked to the controversial articles written about his opponents who are scheduled to run against him in elections next month.

Only a month earlier, Jaruek Rangcharoen, a regional correspondent for the Bangkok-based Matichon Daily, was gunned down in the central province of Suphanburi. Like Wallop, Rangcharoen was reporting on local politicians. Rangcharoen’s case is still unresolved. However, police said they have a few witnesses that could lead to descriptions to key suspects.

The string on voilence against journalist in Thailand has led to a public outcry. Reporters without Borders said, “We call on the police and judicial authorities to give themselves the means to deal with it,” and “If no real progress is made in solving these four cases, more journalists are likely to be killed at a time when Thailand is still embroiled in a political crisis.”

For more information, please see:

Guardian – Fourth Thai Journalist Murdered – 8 October 2008

Interesting Times – Murder of Journalist Raise Death Toll to 4 in 2008 in Thailand – 8 October 2008

Reporters without Borders – Local Newspaper Editor Gunned Down, Fourth Journalist Murdered This Year – 7 October 2008

Fiji’s 2006 Coup Declared Legal: Ousted Prime Minister Speaks Out

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s ousted prime minister is speaking out against the judicial decision made yesterday legitimizing the 2006 military coup of Fiji’s Federal Government.

Yesterday, a three judge court dismissed former prime minister, Laisenia Qarase’s request to have the 2006 military coup declared illegal. Mr. Qarase is now calling that decision a “miscarriage of justice.”

“It will encourage future coups. I think the impartiality of our judiciary is completely gone,” Mr. Qarase said. He added, “The judgement indicates that they (the judges) were selective in the evidence they used. . . Our case was about the legality of what happened. There was no mention of that at all.”

Meanwhile, Fiji’s interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is looking ahead, calling now for support to aid Fiji’s plans for new elections. Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum has also encouraged Fijians to unite under the common goal of restoring democracy to Fiji.

“I think the message to everybody … is that we need to move ahead with the government that is in place,” Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Professor Bill Hodge, a constitutional law expert from Auckland University, says that now that Fiji has declared the legitimacy of the 2006 coup, countries in opposition to that coup must now be prepared to recognize Fiji’s interim administration.

“I would think New Zealand, the United States, UK, will all come around and must come around to recognize a regime in Fiji,” Mr. Hodge said.

Mr. Qarase, on the other hand, says he will consult his lawyers and decide whether further action needs to be taken.

For more information, please see:
The Age, Australia – Ex-PM hits Fiji court ruling – 10 October 2008

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

Radio Netherlands –  Fiji’s 2006 coup declared legal – 09 October 2008

ABC News – Bainimarama blocking Fiji elections, says Smith – 09 October 2008

TVNZ – Fijian court dismisses coup case – 09 October 2008

Israeli Police on Heightened Alert Following Jewish-Arab Clashes

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

Wwwreuterscom
(Reuters)

ACRE, Israel – In the evening of October 8, clashes between Jewish Israelis and Israeli Arabs broke out in the port city of Acre (Akko) in northern Israel.  The riots began when a group of Jewish youths attacked an Israeli Arab for driving his car on Yom Kippur.  According to police, there was provocation as the motorist, Taufik Jamal, intentionally drove his car through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur and had the radio turned up.  Yom Kippur is the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, during which it is considered offensive to drive in much of Israel.

However, according to Jamal he was picking his daughter up from a relative’s house.  Even though it was Yom Kippur and driving is generally banned, he drove to get his daughter since it was late.  According to Jamal he drove slowly and had the radio off.  When he arrived at the his relative’s house, a group of Jewish youths began throwing stones at his 18 year old son and his son’s friend; hitting them in the face and chest.

Jamal states that he called the police, who attempted to sneak the three men out of the neighborhood.  When they were spotted by the youths, Jamal, his son, his son’s friend, and the police officers were forced to flee.  Jamal told Yedioth News, “Only now do I understand that they wanted to lynch us like the terrorists lynched the Jewish soldiers in Ramallah.”

“Rumors then spread out, namely from mosques, claiming that the motorist had been killed, prompting several hundred Arabs to take to the streets,” Mickey Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said.  Violence escalated as Jewish Israelis and Israeli Arabs clashed in the streets, throwing rocks and chanting slogans at each other.  Witnesses and police report that several hundred people were involved in the riots and that nearly 100 cars have been damaged and 30 stores vandalized.

Violence and high tensions in Acre continued into October 9 and October 10.  500 extra police officers were deployed to assist the 200-strong local force, and maintain peace in the city.  Police set up road blocks to separate the two groups.  The police have also used tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons to disperse crowds.  Rosenfeld reports that 12 people have been detained and two protesters and one police officer were lightly injured.

Police are not only on high alert in Acre but also in other mixed areas where Jewish Israelis and Israeli Arabs live together, especially in the Old City in Jerusalem.  Acre has a high population of Israeli Arabs with one third of its 50,000 residents being Israeli Arabs.  Around 20 percent of Israel’s population are Arabs, most are descendants of Arabs who stayed in Israel after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.  While they have full rights as citizens, Israeli Arabs (who also call themselves Israeli Palestinians) often complain of discrimination.

Avi Dichter, the Public Security Minister, said that he would ensure the instigators of the riots were arrested and blamed MPs on both sides for making inflammatory comments, with leaders from both communities accusing the other of carrying out a pogrom.  In addition, Israel  Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen called on public figures and local leaders not to fan the flames of violence.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Israeli Town Hit by Third Day of Jewish-Arab Clashes – 10 October 2008

Al Jazeera – Israeli on Alert After Acre Clashes – 10 October 2008

BBC – Israeli City ‘Calm’ After Riots – 10 October 2008

Jerusalem Post – Acre Clashes Briefly Renewed as Jews Enter Eastern Quarter – 10 October 2008

Times – Yom Kippur Riots Erupt in Acre After Arab Drives Car Through Jewish Area – 10 October 2008

Yedioth News – Akko Riots: Police Ordered on Heightened Alert – 10 October 2008

Associated Press – Clashes Erupt in Mixed Arab-Jewish City in Israel – 9 October 2008

Reuters – Jews and Arabs Clash in Northern Israeli City – 9 October 2008

Yedioth News – Arab Motorist: I Narrowly Escaped Lynch in Akko – 9 October 2008

Dutch Authorities Fail to Arrest Minister Ami Ayalon

By Yasmine S. Hakimian
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Authorities in the Netherlands failed to arrest the Minister-without-Portfolio, Ami Ayalon, while he was visiting the Netherlands in May. Khalid al-Shami, a Palestinian man, submitted an application to the Dutch authorities for his arrest. Khalid al-Shami alleges he was tortured from 1999 to 2000 while he was held for 50 days in an Israeli jail. During the alleged torture, Ami Ayalon was the director of the Shin Bet (the Israeli General Security Services – GSS), which investigates individuals suspected of committing crimes against Israel’s security.

Al-Shami was arrested by Israeli soldiers and taken to Ashkelon prison on December 31, 1999. He was interrogated for 20 days, in time blocks between 20 to 40 hours. Al-Shami was alone in a two by two meter cell for two to three hours between each interrogation session. He further alleges being subjected to low temperatures and tied to a small chair by his hands and feet for lengthy periods of time.

After 20 days, Al-Shami appeared before a military court without any legal representation. The court extended his arrest by 30 days. During this additional confinement, Al-Shami claims he was forced to make a written confession. Al-Shami has incurred serious life-long injuries from the torture.

Al-Shami is seeking justice abroad since the Israeli authorities have failed to act on his allegations, even though torture is routinely sanctioned in Israel. For years the Israeli judicial system has failed to pursue Ayalon. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) with London-based Hickman and Rose Solicitors has collected files of evidence for victims like Al-Shami. PCHR has provided Al-Shami’s lawyers with his evidence file.

Under Article 6 and Article 7 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture any State Party whom a person alleges to have committed torture should be arrested and prosecuted (or extradited for trial elsewhere). In May the BFKW law firm filed a torture complaint with the Dutch prosecution authorities on behalf of Al-Shami.

Dutch authorities had a duty and ample opportunity to arrest Ayalon and establish jurisdiction. Dutch authorities failed to arrest Ayalon even though they established a prima facie case against him and discovered he was not immune from prosecution. Furthermore, the initial torture complaint was marked as urgent. The College of Procurators-General did not decide Ayalon lacked immunity until May 21. Ayalon left the Netherlands on May 20 and as a result, it was too late to arrest him.

The failure to arrest Ayalon will be the subject of a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal. On October 6, Al-Shami applied to the Court of Appeal in The Hague. Through an extradition request or an international arrest warrant, the order requires the Prosecutor to start a criminal investigation into Ayalon.

For more information, please see:

Adnkronos International – Netherlands: Rights Group Demands Arrest of Israeli on Torture Claims – 7 October 2008

Electronic Intifada – Palestinian Torture Victim Seeks Justice in the Netherlands– 7 October 2008

Jerusalem Post – Dutch Lawyers Seek Arrest of Minister Ami Ayalon – 7 October 2008

Ma’an News Agency – Holland Says Israeli Minister Ami Ayalon Persona Non Grata – 7 October 2008

Sumound – Dutch Lawyers Seek Ex-Israeli Spy Chief’s Arrest for Torture – 7 October 2008

Malaysian Blogger Goes on Trial

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – On October 6th, Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin went on trial for “sedition.” Petra is a well known journalist and blogger for Malaysia Today. His article, Let’s Send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell, published earlier this year, accused the Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, of murdering a young Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Petra’s article claims Razak and his wife plotted Altantuya’s murder after she demanded money from Razak to end their extramarital affair. Currently, two police officers, a think-tank director, and close friend of Razak are on trial for collaborating the murder of Altantuya.

Petra has been in jail since September 12th under the Internal Security Act (ISA).  Under the ISA, Petra has to serve a two year sentence for “insulting a political leader” and “insulting Islam.”

If Petra is found guilty of sedition, he can be incarcerated for another three years. “They are penalizing him twice… It’s double jeopardy,” Marina, Petra’s wife, told reporters of the Associated Press.

Many supporters showed up outside the district court, wearing T-shirts that bore the slogan “Free RPK.” The Worldwide Press Freedom Organization said the Malaysian government is using the judiciary for their own means, “The government is abusing the law in order to silence critical voices and to gag free expression.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Malaysia Writer in Sedition Trial – 6 October 2008

Malaysia Today – Suffering the ISA – 8 October 2008

Reporters without Borders – Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin Goes on Trial for “Sedition” – 6 October 2008

Kuwait Urged to Ratify International Criminal Court Statute

By Nykoel Dinardo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NEW YORK, New York – The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, CICC, has named Kuwait as its target country for October 2008.  CICC is urging Kuwait to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the treaty which created the first international court capable of trying individuals for crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.  In a letter to Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait on October 1, CICC asked that ratification is made a priority.

According to the CICC, Kuwait has a growing number of human rights organizations; ratifying the Rome Statute would solidify Kuwait’s dedication to international justice.  There are currently over 300 active Coalition member organizations throughout the Gulf region.

There is also a movement within Kuwait.  The Kuwaiti Coalition for the International Criminal Court has made a draft ratification proposal to submit to the Kuwaiti legislature.  Last year, the Kuwait Bar Association (KBA) hosted a meeting about the ICC and the Gulf States.   At the meeting, members of the International Criminal Bar came to give lectures and encourage members of the KBA to become more involved.

Currently, 108 countries have ratified the Rome Statute.  However, in the CICC’s Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA), there are only 3 member states, Jordan, Djibouti, and the Comoros Islands.  Eleven MENA countries have signed the treaty and the CICC hopes to encourage each of these countries to become full ratifying members.

In a statement to the KBA, Hussain Al-Hereti, the Secretary of the National Assembly, encouraged Kuwait to become a member of the ICC.  However, he explained that at least one Kuwaiti parliament member is worried that ratifying will open Kuwaiti Amir to trial in the ICC.  Al-Hereti said that this should not be a concern as the Amir will never commit a war crime so would not be tried.

For more information, please see:

Kuwait Times – Kuwait Urged to Ratify ICC Treaty – 9 October 2008

Coalition for the International Criminal Court – Global Coalition Urges Kuwait to Ratify ICC Treaty – 12 November 2007

Kuwait Times – Lawyers Urge Kuwait to Become ICC Member – 26 March 2007

Coalition for the International Criminal Court –  Issues and Campaigns: Kuwait

Coalition for the International Criminal Court – List of Ratifying Parties

BRIEF: Yemen Arrests Group of “Israel-linked” Militants

SANA’A, Yemen – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on October 6, a series of arrests made to “dismantle a terrorist cell” that is linked to Israeli Intelligence.  Saleh stated that the group “operated under the ‘slogan of Islam’.”  However, he gave no details on the arrests or on the allegation that the group is linked to Israel. Saleh indicated that information supporting the allegations would be released when those arrested are tried.  He stated, “Details of the trial will be announced later. You will hear about what goes on in the proceedings.”

Israel has responded to the arrests by stating that Yemen’s allegations have no foundation.  Igal Palmor, a spokeman for Israel’s foreign ministry, stated that the accusation was “totally ridiculous.”  In an interview with AFP, he said that, “To believe that Israel would create Islamist cells in Yemen is really far-fetched. This is yet another victory for the proponents of conspiracy theories.”

Saleh stated that the arrests took place on October 1, but sources in the government indicate that the group that the President was referring to is the six-member group known as Islamic Jihad arrested in September.  Islamic Jihad is associated with al-Qaeda and claimed the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen last month.  A total of 50 people have been arrested in connection with the Embassy attack so far.

BBC – Yemen Seizes “Israel-linked” Cell – 7 October 2008

TVNZ – Yemen Arrests “Israel” Militants – 7 October 2008

AFP – Yemen says “Israel-linked” Terror Cell Dismantled – 6 October 2008

Jerusalem Post – Yemen Nabs “Israel-linked” Terror Cell – 6 October 2008

China Warns the Nobel Peace Prize Should Go To the “Right People”

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


BEIJING, China
– Two Chinese dissidents, Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia, are top candidates of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo’s International Peace Research Institute’s decision to honor Hu or Gao may increase tensions between the West and China.

China’s foreign ministry suggested Tuesday that it hopes Chinese human rights activists will not win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  “For the past few years we see that many people in the world have dedicated themselves to world peace and scientific and human progress and have been properly awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize,” he said.  “However,” Qin added, “some of the prizes went against Mr. Nobel’s initial purpose. We hope the Nobel Prize should be awarded to the right people.” The award went to the Dalai Lama 19 years ago, against strong objections from Beijing.

Gao, born in 1964, is a lawyer who has protested the treatment of members of the Falun Gong movement.  Hu, 35, has been outspoken on environmental and AIDS matters and more recently has criticized the treatment of Gao.

They were both arrested and jailed before the Beijing Olympics to keep them out of the public eye.  Gao was arrested in August 2006, convicted in a one-day trial and placed under house arrest. He was convicted because of nine articles posted on foreign Web sites, state media reported at the time. Gao has been beaten, harassed and given a suspended jail sentence in the last few years.  He was also reportedly targeted by an assassination attempt.  Hu was convicted last April of inciting subversion, and is now serving a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence.  Hu’s wife has been placed under house arrest.

Peace researcher Stein Toennesson, director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, said the prize committee might pick a Chinese activist “in view of the fact that the Olympic Games did not bring the improvement many had hoped for, but instead led to a number of strict security measures.”  According to a BBC Asia analyst, Andre Vornic, the Nobel committee is unlikely to be swayed by crude pressure, he says. If anything, a perception of bullying could further stack the odds in favor of China’s jailed dissidents.

For more information, please see:

AP – China suggests Nobel should not go to activist – 07 October 2008

BBC – China makes Nobel prize warning – 07 October 2008

Bloomberg – Nobel Peace Prize May Go to Chinese Activist, Angering Beijing – 06 October 2008

Voice of America – China Warns Against Awarding Nobel Prize to Dissident – 07 October 2008

Cover-Up in Chinese Milk Scandal

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia


BEIJING, China
– Recent reports from the state media allege that the Sula Group, the company at the center of the milk scandal in China, asked governmental authorities to help cover-up the extent of the problem, making them aware of the danger months ago.

Shijiazhuang city government spokesman Wang Jianguo said they had been asked by the Sanlu Group for help in “managing” the media response to the case when first told of the issue on August 2nd.  Government officials were told six days before the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

China admitted that the Shijiazhuang city government was aware of the tainted milk problems but refused to release any warnings because China was in the middle of hosting the Olympics.  Recently, Beijing fired several Shijiazhuang officials, including the city’s Communist Party chief, for the attempted cover-up.

In the letter from the Sanlu Group to city officials, the group stated, “Please can the government increase control and coordination of the media, to create a good environment for the recall of the company’s problem products.  This is to avoid whipping up the issue and creating a negative influence in society.”

Reporters Without Borders has also released reports that Beijing ordered news of the tainted milk scandal to remain quiet during the Olympics.  Reporters Without Borders wrote, “Several Chinese journalists have said that it is becoming more and more obvious that the authorities in July prevented an investigation into the toxic milk coming out so as not to tarnish China’s image before the Olympics.”

Chito Sta. Romana, chief of the ABC News Bureau in China, stated the scandal was proof of a “failure of the Chinese system of governance.”  He added, “It’s the result of the greed that has been unleashed on Chinese society by the economic reforms [and is proof] of the failure of the system of governance,” he said at a Sulo Hotel press forum in Quezon City.

China’s latest food safety problem arises out of the illegal addition of the industrial chemical melamine to milk to cheat in quality tests.  Thus far, 53,000 children have gotten sick from the tainted milk and four have died.  

For more information, please see:

AFP – China Vows to Clean Up Dairy Industry, More Children Ill – 6 October 2008

Inquirer.net – China Cover-Up More Damaging—Journalist – 5 October 2008

Reuters – China Milk Scandal Firm Asked for Cover-Up Help – 1 October 2008

IDF Commander Speaks Out Against Israeli Settler Violence

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East


SAMUA, West Bank
– Major General Gadi Shamni, the Israeli military commander in the occupied West Bank, said settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers was on the rise.  On October 2, Shamni gave an interview with Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, where he criticized the increase of violence by Israeli settlers in West Bank.

“There has been a rise in Jewish violence in Judea and Samaria. In the past, only a few dozen individuals took part in such activity, but today that number has grown into the hundreds. That’s a very significant change. These hundreds are engaged in conspiratorial actions against Palestinians and the security forces. It’s a very grave phenomenon,” said Shamni.  He added that the radical behavior among right-wing extremists has grown in light of “the backing of part of the leadership, both rabbinical and public, whether in explicit statements or tacitly.”

A recent UN report recorded 222 acts of settler violence in the first half of 2008 compared with 291 in all of 2007.  Such acts include a September 13 attack by a large group of settlers in the village of Asira al-Qibliya.  During the attack settler hurled stones, firedshots and vandalized property.  Three Palestinians were said to be shot and wounded.  Settlers said that the act was in response to an earlier stabbing of an Israeli boy by a Palestinian.

Also in September, an attempt by soldiers to confiscate construction material at an unauthorized outpost ended in a violent confrontation.   One Israeli army officer suffered a broken hand.  A second was bitten by a dog handled by a settler.  Also, in Hebron, an officer was attacked after trying to prevent Jewish children from hurling stones at Palestinians.

In addition, left-wing Israelis have become targets.  On September 25, Ze’ev Sternhell, an outspoken critic of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, was injured when a pipe bomb exploded outside his front door.  In the investigation following the attack, police found a leaflet offering a one million shekel reward to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement organization.

Sarit Michaeli, a spokesman for B’Tselem, said the recent attention to settler violence is the result of the fact that Israeli security forces are becoming targets of attacks.  “The problem traditionally has been that the army often washes its hands of law enforcement with the settlers, or even assists them. We hear commanders say that it is their job to fight Palestinian terror, not to deal with settler violence. That understanding of their responsibilities contradicts international law. As an occupying force, they must protect the safety and welfare of the Palestinian population.”

In response to the increase in settler violence, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has urged tougher penalties for settlers who attack Palestinian property.  However, the vast majority of attacks on Palestinians go unreported.  In addition, human rights group Yesh Din stated that less than one in 10 reported attacks on Palestinians leads to an indictment and most reported attacks end in acquittals.

In related news, prominent settler leader, Daniela Weiss, was detained on October 2 for attacking police officers near the settlement of Kedumim, of which she is local council head.  The confrontation followed an evacuation of Shvut Ami, an illegal West Bank outpost, by a combined force of police and the Israel Defense Forces.  According to witnesses, shortly after the outpost was evacuated, activists came to the area and confronted the police.  During the clashes, a Palestinian-owned olive grove was set on fire.

For more information, please see:

Chicago Tribune – West Bank on Edge as Young Radicals Settle In – 4 October 2008

The Electronic Intifada – Israel’s Army and Settlers Fall Out – 3 October 2008

Telegraph – Jewish Terrorism Threatens Israel – 3 October 2008

AFP – Israeli Commander Says Settler Violence Rising – 2 October 2008

Ha’aretz – IDF West Bank Commander: Rightist Violence Encouraged by Settler Leaders – 2 October 2008

Ha’aretz – Settler Leader Detained After Clashing with Police During Outpost Evacuation – 2 October 2008

Ma’an News Agency – Israel: Settler Attacks on Palestinians, Israeli Soldiers Increasing – 2 October 2008

Turkey Launches Retaliatory Airstrikes Against PKK

By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ISTANBUL, Turkey – On October 5, Turkey launched air strikes against Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq.  The air strikes were in response to a PKK cross-border ambush on October 3, marking the deadliest PKK strike against the Turkish military this year.

On October 3, members of the PKK raided an army outpost in southeast Turkey along the Iraqi border.  The ensuing fighting resulted in the death of 17 Turkish soldiers, with 20 wounded.

During the October 5 air strikes, launched in retaliation to the recent PKK attack, Turkish fighter jets fired artillery at two rebel groups in the Avasin Basyan region in northern Iraq.  Later that day, Turkish planes fired on PKK hideouts in the Buzul mountains in southeast Turkey, near the location of the PKK’s attack on October 3.  At press time the parties had not released the number of PKK casualties.

The October 3 ambush against Turkish troops came just two days before the Turkish parliament was to vote to extend the governments mandate for cross-border military strikes in northern Iraq.  Under the current mandate authorized one year ago, the Turkish military carried out several air strikes and ground attacks against PKK bases, resulting in the deaths of scores of PKK members.  The current mandate is set to expire on October 17.

While attending a funeral for one of the soldiers killed in Friday’s PKK attack, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated “There are measures to be taken against the (PKK) hideouts.  We are expecting positive action on the ground.”  Senior government officials agreed to meet this week to discuss taking further measures against the PKK.

The Turkish government demands that Iraq do more to diminish PKK capabilities, including denying the PKK infrastructure capabilities, such as roads and access to hospitals.  The government estimates that some 2,000 PKK members are currently based in northern Iraq, from where they stage attacks, mainly targeting the Turkish military.

The Prime Minister and the military have vowed to increase operations to end the PKK’s ability to launch cross-border attacks against Turkey.  In addition, they have rejected suggestions to negotiate with PKK leadership.  According to Erdogan, Turkey “will now conduct its campaign against terrorism even more decisively.”

However, Erdogan announced plans to invest up to $12 billion in southeast Turkey and grant cultural rights to the Kurds, with the goal of diminishing support for the PKK among the Kurdish population.  In the past, the government made similar promises, yet fell short of implementing them.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Turkish Jets Hit Kurdish Rebels in Iraq, Government Mulls Steps – 6 October 2008

Al Jazeera – Turkey Bombs PKK Bases in Iraq – 6 October 2008

CNN – Turkish Airstrikes Target Kurdish Rebels – 6 October 2008

Deutsche Welle – Turkey Steps Up New Campaign Against PKK in Northern Iraq

The Washington Post – Retaliatory Turkish Airstrikes Target Kurdish Rebels in Iraq – 6 October 2008

AFP –Turkey Slams Iraqi Kurds After Rebel Attack Kills 15 Soldiers – 5 October 2008

Hurriyet – Turkey’s PM Erdogan Calls on Action From N. Iraq Over PKK – 5 October 2008

Reuters – Pressure on Turkey to Crush PKK May Hurt U.S., EU Ties – 5 October 2008

The Washington Post – Turkey Launches Airstrikes Against Kurdish Rebels– 5 October 2008

Suva Lawyer Says Fiji’s Interim PM Needs “Bitter Truth”

By Sarah E. Treptow

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry said the interim Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has been receiving the wrong advice from his associates and needs to hear the “bitter truth.”  Mr. Chaudhry said Bainimarama’s close associates are “political misfits,” including PM’s secretary Parmesh Chand, interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and People’s Charter lead advocate John Samy.

Mr. Chaudhry said the worst oversight has been not recalling Parliament to get out of the political impasse.  He highlighted this by saying, “Most importantly, the changes he is seeking requires major constitutional changes. How can that happen without a Parliament in place?” Bainimarama has previously said that before democratic elections can be returned to Fiji, these constitutional changes must take place.

Chaudhry believes Bainimarama’s various actions and inactions have breed uncertainty that has affected investments and jobs for the people of Fiji.  He suggests that Bainimarama get an independent group of advisors that will tell him what he needs to hear.

For more information, please see:

Fijilive – Fiji PM needs “bitter truth”: Chaudhry – 07 October 2008

Fiji TV – Chaudhry launches claims interim PM poorly advised – 29 September 2008