Papuan Refugees Return to Indonesia Amid Accusations of Propaganda

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania


JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Two West Papuan refugees were discovered in Jakarta today after they went missing from their home in Australia two weeks ago. Supporters of the Papuan separatist movement have raised concerns over whether the Indonesian government coerced the refugees’ return for “propaganda purposes.”

In 2006, Yunus Wanggai, age 43, and his daughter Anike, age 7 made the dangerous sail from Merauke, Indonesia to Cape York, Australia. Mr. Wanggai and his daughter were among several separatists who claim they were victims of persecution by the Indonesian government. The Australian government granted Mr. Wanggai and his daughter refugee status, and before returning to Indonesia, they were on the path to receiving permanent Australian residency.

Mr. Wanggai’s wife, Siti, did not go to Australia but instead fled to Papua New Guinea before continuing to Vanuatu. Ms. Wanggai is awaiting Australia’s decision whether to grant her refugee status, but in the meantime, must remain in Papua with a sick older daughter. Mr. Wanggai decided to return to Indonesia because his wife had to stay behind.

“I miss my family. I want to be together with my family again,” Mr. Wanggai said today after arriving in Indonesia.

Political instability and public protests have long marked Papua’s history. Once a Dutch colony on New Guinea’s western end, Papua became Indonesia’s largest province in 1969. Violence erupted in 2003 after President Megawati Sukarnoputri separated Papua into three provinces: Central Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Tengah), Papua (or East Irian Jaya, Irian Jaya Timur), and West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat). But the establishment of the central province was declared unconstitutional by Indonesian courts as a violation of Papua’s Special Autonomy status.

The separation has divided Papuans who protest the Indonesian military for allegedly violating human rights. Many Papuans complain that the money earned from Papua’s natural resources mostly ends up profiting Jakarta. As a result, many Papuans have been campaigning peacefully for independence from Indonesia.

After a two week disappearance, members of Australia’s West Papuan independence movement are concerned that the Indonesian government coerced Mr. Wanggai to return to Indonesia for “propaganda purposes.” The Indonesian government denies all claims, however, that any sort of intelligence operation was conducted.

Nick Chesterfield, a Melbourne-based Papuan activist said, “We still have concerns about the manner which they were repatriated, the secrecy surrounding it, and that there was pressure brought to brought to bear on them.”

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Concern over two Papuan refugees missing in Australia – 28 November 2008

ABC News – Indonesia denies intelligence operation in Aust – 29 November 2008

Sydney Morning Herald – Papuan asylum seekers return to Indonesia – 30 November 2008

The Age, Australia – Indonesian refugees return to their homeland – 30 November 2008

Update: UN Mission to Fiji Completed

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji– The United Nations sent a three-person mission to Fiji from November 23 to November 28.  The members were led by Tamrat Samuel from the Department of Political Affairs and included Professor Yash Ghai, a senior expert adviser, and Tamara Murer, from the Department of Political Affairs.

The purpose of the mission was to explore ways the UN can support a political dialogue with Fiji in its efforts to restore democratic order to Fiji after the 2006 coup.  The mission held discussions with interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, other Interim Government officials, political party leaders, civil society leaders and academics, as well as diplomatic representatives in Suva.  Discussions were also held with the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum and with the visiting mission of the Commonwealth.

This mission has reiterated the UN’s desire to see a speedy return to parliamentary democracy in Fiji through an early election.  This follows Bainimarama’s announcement at the General Assembly in September that he did not believe Fiji will be able to hold parliamentary elections by next March, as previously scheduled.

The mission found an earnest desire among Fijian interlocuters for a return to an elected government.  They also found a willingness to discuss the electoral system and was encouraged by the strong desire to find a political solution to these problems through dialogue and consensus.

For more information, please see:

Pacific Magazine – Three-Person UN Team Completes Fiji Mission – 28 November 2008

Scoop World – Ban Dispatches UN Team To Fiji – 25 November 2008

UN Report Reveals Increased Violence Against Children in Afghanistan

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


KABUL, Afghanistan –
As a result of UNICEF’s report on violence against Afghan Children, the United Nations (UN) said that violations of children’s rights are rising on account of war in Afghanistan, especially with respect to deaths of children in civilian casualties, recruitment of children to armed groups, and sexual abuse.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “the report focuses on grave violations perpetrated against children in Afghanistan and identifies parties to the conflict, both state and non-state actors, who commit grave abuses against children.”  He continued, “In particular, the report highlights the fact that children have been recruited and utilized (as fighters) by state and non-state armed groups.”

Ban also said that although the Afghan government demobilized 7,444 child soldiers in 2003, there has not been any monitoring of children who are vulnerable to democracy.

One case that the report documents is that of children utilized by the Taliban as suicide bombers.  Children as young as 12 years old are forced or tricked into performing these acts.  The government have also been having children serve on their police forces, such as the Afghan Auxiliary Police and the Afghan National Police.  Ban insists that the age of young soldiers be verified in order to protect children in accordance with human rights laws.

Children are also victims as a result of militant attacks on civilian targets.  Children are being inadvertently killed during battle between U.S. and NATO and Afghan forces.  The U.N. insists that all rules of war are followed, especially with respect to children.

Violence against children also occurs in the form of sexual abuse.  Ban states that “Boys [are] kept cloistered and used for sexual and harmful social entertainment by warlords and other armed group leaders.”  The U.N. urges the Afghan government to take action by legislating against sexual violence.

For more information, please see:

AP – UN: Afghan Children Being Recruited as Fighters – 25 November 2008

Reuters – Violence Against Afghan Children Rising: U.N. – 23 November 2008

UN News Centre – Afghan Conflict Claiming More Child Casualties as Insurgency Spreads – UN report – 21 November 2008

Free Trade Agreement Between Canada and Colombia Risks Making Human Rights Situation Worse

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008. Earlier this year in a study of the proposed Canada/Colombia trade deal, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade called on the government to ensure that an independent human rights impact assessment be carried out and that the results of that assessment be dealt with before the free trade deal is signed, ratified or implemented.

Amnesty International and  the Canadian Council for International Co-operation are  concerned that Prime Minister Harper has ignored this recommendation and decided to proceed without due diligence with regard to human rights.

Past human rights violations in Colombia have included the use of excessive force by state security forces against a mobilization of Indigenous people expressing opposition to free trade agreements and other policies they believe impact negatively on their rights.

Also, threats and attacks against land rights activists, particularly in areas of economic interest have taken place throughout 2008. There has also been an increase of threats and attacks on trade unionists – more than 40 people have been killed this year.

President Uribe and other senior officials have continuously demonized trade unions, indigenous organizations and other groups that are speaking out about violations of human rights, suggesting links with guerrillas. Such statements have led to threats and violence, including killings.  Following the release of critical reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in October, President Uribe publicly accused AI of “fanaticism” and “dogmatism” and the Americas Director of Human Rights Watch of being a “supporter” and an “accomplice” of FARC guerrillas. President Uribe has also demonized members of the Supreme Court investigating links between politicians from the ruling coalition and paramilitaries.

Going ahead with the Canada/Colombia free trade deal without meaningful action to address these concerns risks making the human rights situation much worse.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International Canada – Public Statement Signing Free Trade Pact with Colombia Presents Grave Human Rights Concerns – 24 November 2008

Reuters – Canada and Colombia Sign Free-Trade Agreement – 22 November 2008

Ottawa Citizen – Canada and Colobia Sign Free-Trade Pact – 22 November 2008

India: Widespread Torture by Police

By  Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DEHLI, India –Chunchun Kumar is an ordinary citizen from Bihar’s Nawada district and while he was drinking tea with his friends, a group of drunken policemen vandalized the tea house and brutally beat Kumar and his friends. The six police officers were beating up a temple priest at a village temple before going to the teashop. According to Kumar, he and his friends were beaten “black and blue” before the police started shooting at them. Kumar was shot in the abdomen.

Kumar and the villagers complained to the police authorities. India police acknowledged the incident. Bihar Anil Sinha, the director general of police said, “Two of the policemen who were inebriated vandalized the tea shop and began firing despite protests from their other colleagues. They were arrested and, although they have been released on bail, they are facing criminal charges.”

Activist say that torture is rampant in India, especially among the poorer societies. Henri Tiphagne of People’s Watch, a nongovernmental organization, said, “The problem of torture is very serious. Today we have around 1.8 million cases of police torture in India.” Tiphagne added, the victims of torture “are generally the (low-caste) Dalits, the tribals and the Muslims. And torture is used by those who are in power, those who possess, the landlords and the companies who put pressure on the police to carry out torture.”

However, Anil Sinha denied that police torture was widespread in India, “It’s a kind of stereotype being dished out by the NGOs and activists. And because police have a bad reputation, so people take such allegations to be correct. We do not condone any human rights violations by police in any manner, and such cases are rare. We have a mechanism in place to deal with such cases and penalize the guilty.”

According to Meenkshi Ganuly of Human Rights Watch, almost all the police stations in India are guilty of torture.

Kashmir Singh was a Pakistani prisoner held captive in Indian prisons for 14 years. In 2005, Singh and five other Pakistani prisoners were released as a sign of good-will from the Indian government. However, Singh has lost his kidney and mental stability due to torture during his years in captivity. Sigh’s sister said, “It had shocked us, as Pakistanis were never treated like this. This does not mean, we want the Indians being subjected to the inhuman treatment, but our government must prevail on India to review its torturous policy.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – The Wrong Side of Law – 18 November 2008

The News – Pakistanis Subject to Brutality in Indian Jails – 27 November 2008

Wikio – India: On the Wrong Side of Law – 19 November 2008

Fiji Interim Official Denies Threatening IBA

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The International Bar Association claims that Fiji’s interim attorney general threatened the group of lawyers planning to conduct a review of Fiji’s justice system.

According to the IBA, Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s interim-attorney-general sent a letter to the IBA on Monday which made clear that the interim government would not welcome the group and would take “appropriate steps” if IBA delegates came to Fiji.

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum has denied the IBA’s claims, calling the organization ‘biased.”  In addition, the interim attorney general has accused the IBA of being condescending in its correspondence with the interim government.

But this would not be the first time Fiji’s interim government has barred the IBA from conducting a review of Fiji’s justice system.  Last February, a delegation of senior lawyers from Australia and Malaysia were turned away during a scheduled visit.

The London-based IBA represents nearly 30,000 attorneys around the world. The group had planned for senior Australian and Malaysian jurists to travel to Fiji in December to perform an in-country review of the justice system. Delegates would review the law since the interim government assumed control during a 2006 military coup of the federal government.

Last month, a High Court in Fiji legitimized the 2006 takeover. Fiji’s ousted prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has challenged that judgment, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.” An appeal of that decision is scheduled to be heard in March 2009.

Mark Ellis, director of the IBA, says that the threatening letter reflects Fiji’s political instability:

“The threat made by the attorney-general against the delegation is unacceptable in a free and democratic society and reflects badly on the state of affairs in Fiji.”

Mr. Ellis says that the IBA will conduct their review, even if it means finding alternative methods.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji interim AG denies claims he threatened IBA group – 26 November 2008

AFP – Fiji blocks International Bar Association visit – 26 November 2008

ABC News – Fiji bans International Bar Association members – 26 November 2008

The Age, Australia – Fiji’s A-G ‘threatening lawyers’ group’ – 26 November 2008

FijiLive – Interim AG Rejects IBA Suggestions – 26 November 2008

Malaysia Court Acquits Labor Activist Irene Fernandez


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
– Irene Fernandez, the director of the human rights group Tenaganita, a prominent labor activist, was acquitted by a Malaysian court on Monday. “I’m so happy that finally truth and justice prevailed,” Fernandez told The Associated Press. “I should never have been charged in the first place.”

Irene Fernandez was arrested in 1996 for claiming that police tortured illegal immigrants in detention, but remained free on bail while fighting her case.  She was convicted and sentenced to one year in 2003 but appealed.  Fernandez’s 1995 report was compiled from interviews with more than 300 former detainees.  The report alleged that illegal immigrants died in Malaysian camps from malnutrition and torture. The government confirmed 98 detainees had died, but said they succumbed to diseases contracted in their homelands.

Irene Fernandez was convicted, and sentenced one year in prison in 2003, but she appealed.
Prosecutor Shamsul Sulaiman said the prosecution decided not to oppose the appeal because typed records from earlier court proceedings contained “systemic errors.”  The errors occurred when a court official typed up the judge’s handwritten notes, Shamsul said.

The appeal process, which did not start until April 1, 2008, has seen a series of postponements. The hearing was postponed until May 12 when it was discovered that 1,700 pages of the record, including witness statements, were missing.  The case was again postponed on August 5 when it was discovered a computer virus had wiped out some newly typed notes. In October, Fernandez’s defense lawyer said that he had received almost 9,000 pages of handwritten and typed notes, but that portions were “incomprehensible.”

“Irene Fernandez and her organization documented the government’s sadistic and humiliating treatment of migrants,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Human Rights Watch has also documented such treatment.”

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Malaysian activist acquitted after 12 years of legal battles – 24 November 2008

AP – Malaysia labor activist acquitted after long fight – 24 November 2008

HRW – Malaysia: Drop Case Against Labor Activist – 21 November 2008

Recuters – Malaysia court acquits activist after marathon case – 24 November 2008

President Ortega Accused by International Community of Undemocratic Practices in Nicaraguan Elections

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – President Daniel Ortega has been accused of ‘undermining democracy’ in the recent mayoral elections held in Nicaragua amid allegations of fraud after refusing to allow international and local observers at the election polls.

Ortega’s party, the Sandinistas, were awarded 105 of the 146 mayoral seats in the November 9 elections, earning 19 more seats in the national government with the Liberal Constitution Party taking 37 seats and other parties winning the remaining 4. Opposition leaders claim to have lost as many as 50 seats because of corruption, and have demanded a recount of the votes as retribution: “We demand the total revision of all the electoral ballots and the voting acts in the country, with the presence of credible national and international observers,” said Liberal party boss and convict Arnoldo Aleman.

Representatives in the United States have also voiced concerns about the electoral fraud allegations. Republican U.S. congressmen Frank Wolf and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have sent letters to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an organization providing poor countries with funding, calling for the suspension of $175 million in aid “until it is adequately demonstrated that the Nicaraguan government is committed to demonstrating progress in ruling justly, investing in people and economic freedom.” European countries are also considering suspending aid to Nicaragua.

Ortega has stated that the proposed new elections and a voter recount is “illegal,” according to the Associated Press.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Sandinista Fervor Turns Sour for Former Comrades of Nicaragua’s President – 23 November 2008

The Wall Street Journal – Election Fraud in Nicaragua – 24 November 2008

Finding Dulcinea – Nicaraguan Elections Marred by Corruption Dispute and Violence – 25 November 2008

U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Arguments for Release of Uighurs

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, U.S. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was scheduled to hear arguments Monday from the Bush administration and lawyers for the detainees. The case comes as President-elect Barack Obama is pledging to quickly shut down the facility.

Last month U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina ordered the immediate release of 17 Uighurs, Turkic Muslims, into the United States because they were no longer considered enemy combatants. He criticized the Bush administration for a detention that “crossed the constitutional threshold into infinitum.” The Bush administration sued to block Urbina’s order, citing security concerns over weapons training the Uighurs received at camps in Afghanistan.  The administration claims that they cannot find another country to accept them. Solicitor General Gregory Garre wrote in court filings this past week, “This appeal raises questions of diplomatic relations and national security that are for the political branches, not the judiciary, to resolve.”

The same three-judge panel that agreed to temporarily halt the Uighurs’ release in late October will hear oral arguments on Monday. The one Democrat on the panel, Judge Judith W. Rogers, wrote a dissent arguing for the Uighurs’ immediate release. She believes that the government could point to no evidence of dangerousness. The U.N. is aligned with Judge Rogers, stating “It is our view that the United States is under international law obliged immediately to release the Uighur detainees of Guantanamo.”

The Bush administration maintains that detainees should stay at Guantanamo, as 20 percent of the 250 remaining prisoners fear torture or persecution if they return to their home countries.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press- Court to hear case of Uighurs held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

CBC- U.S. Appeal court to hear case of Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

Boston Globe- Court mulls early release of Uighurs from Gitmo– 24 November 2008

AFP Says Presence Still Needed in Solomon Islands

By Sarah E. Treptow

Impunity Watch Reporter, OceaniaSolomon  Islands

HONIARA, Solomon Islands– The Australian Federal Police (AFP), who led the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in 2003, have warned that an international presence is still needed to keep the Solomon Islands secure.  RAMSI was set up after an outbreak of community violence in the Solomon Islands in 2003.

Assistant Commissioner Frank Prendergast told a parliamentary hearing, “The mission faces ongoing challenges.  While the achievements of RAMSI have been substantial, our work is far from over and our achievements do not represent at this stage an enduring state of rule of law.”  Mr. Prendergast said that while the mission has restored law and order to the Solomon Islands, the order would not be able to be maintained without RAMSI’s presence.

Mr. Prendergast continued, “As evident from the RAMSI People’s survey, public confidence in the institutions remains low and there exists collective fears of a return to inter-communal violence should RAMSI withdraw.”  He added, “More importantly, the underlying causes of the conflict remain and the economic outlook is likely to contribute to instability.”

The AFP plans to remain in the Solomon Islands for at least another five years, in which time they plan to develop the local police force and other public institutions.

For more information, please see:

Islands Business – Presence still needed: AFP – 24 November 2008

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Presence still needed in Solomons: AFP – 21 November 2008

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia PYONGYANG, North Korea – The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee has passed a resolution urging North Korea to improve its human rights conditions on Friday. 51 countries cosponsored the resolution, including South Korea, which is the first cosponsor. The resolution expressed “very serious concern” at rights violations in North Korea, including the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, the “all-pervasive and severe restrictions” on freedom of thought and religion, and violations of workers’ rights. However, North Korea strongly rejected the U.N. resolution. The North Korean delegation to the UN criticized the nonbinding resolution, characterizing it as politicization and double standards in dealing with human rights. According to the North Korea’s official news agency, a foreign ministry spokesman, Pak Dok Hun said, the DPRK (North Korea) resolutely rejects the resolution. He said it is based on “false and fabricated” data, adding that the hardline communist country would “firmly” stick to its system and ideology. Pak also says the resolution was “a provocation to the North’s dignity,” and South Korea “will face the dearest price” for its “treacherous act.” South Korea’s co-sponsored triggered anger from Pyongyang and worsened cross-border relations. Secretive North Korea said on Monday it would all but seal its border with the South a week before heading into talks with its neighbor and other regional powers which are pressing it to give up nuclear weapons. North Korea’s KCNA news agency said the border closure was the first step “to be taken in connection with the evermore undisguised anti-DPRK (North Korea) confrontational racket of the south Korean puppet authorities.” The tension between South and North Korean has been escalating since President Lee Myung-bak took office in February. President Lee promises to invest heavily in the impoverished North on condition it moves to end development of an atomic arsenal. For more information, please see: AP – Report: North Korea rejects UN rights resolution – 22 November 2008 Jurist – North Korea protests proposed UN General Assembly rights resolution – 22 November 2008 KBS – UN Committee Passes Resolution on NK Human Rights – 22 November 2008 International Herald Tribune – North Korea rejects UN human rights resolution – 24 November 2008 Washington Post – North Korea prepares to shut border with South – 24 November 2008

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea – The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee has passed a resolution urging North Korea to improve its human rights conditions on Friday. 51 countries cosponsored the resolution, including South Korea, which is the first cosponsor.  The resolution expressed “very serious concern” at rights violations in North Korea, including the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, the “all-pervasive and severe restrictions” on freedom of thought and religion, and violations of workers’ rights.

However, North Korea strongly rejected the U.N. resolution.  The North Korean delegation to the UN criticized the nonbinding resolution, characterizing it as politicization and double standards in dealing with human rights.  According to the North Korea’s official news agency, a foreign ministry spokesman, Pak Dok Hun said, the DPRK (North Korea) resolutely rejects the resolution.  He said it is based on “false and fabricated” data, adding that the hardline communist country would “firmly” stick to its system and ideology.  Pak also says the resolution was “a provocation to the North’s dignity,” and South Korea “will face the dearest price” for its “treacherous act.”

South Korea’s co-sponsored triggered anger from Pyongyang and worsened cross-border relations. Secretive North Korea said on Monday it would all but seal its border with the South a week before heading into talks with its neighbor and other regional powers which are pressing it to give up nuclear weapons. North Korea’s KCNA news agency said the border closure was the first step “to be taken in connection with the evermore undisguised anti-DPRK (North Korea) confrontational racket of the south Korean puppet authorities.”  The tension between South and North Korean has been escalating since President Lee Myung-bak took office in February. President Lee promises to invest heavily in the impoverished North on condition it moves to end development of an atomic arsenal.

For more information, please see:

AP – Report: North Korea rejects UN rights resolution – 22 November 2008

Jurist – North Korea protests proposed UN General Assembly rights resolution – 22 November 2008

KBS – UN Committee Passes Resolution on NK Human Rights – 22 November 2008

International Herald Tribune – North Korea rejects UN human rights resolution – 24 November 2008

Washington Post – North Korea prepares to shut border with South – 24 November 2008

UN to Examine Political Situation in Fiji

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – United Nations Delegates arrived in Fiji today to begin a five day fact finding mission in hopes of facilitating Fiji’s uncertain path to establishing a more democratic and accountable government.

The UN discussions will focus on the political turmoil currently plaguing Fiji’s interim government. Last month, a Fiji High Court legitimized a 2006 military coup of Fiji’s Federal Government. The ousted SDL Party has expressed growing concerns that the interim government will not make good on its promise to restore democracy. Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has yet to relinquish power or hold democratic elections.

UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon dispatched the UN team which arrived in Fiji on Sunday. UN Political Affairs official, Tamrat Samuel was chosen to head the team.

The Fiji Times reports that the aim of the UN dispatch is to find “a mutually agreeable way forward on the political situation in Fiji.”

For more information, please see:
ABC Radio Australia – UN, Commonwealth to dispatch missions to Fiji – 21 November 2008

ABC Radio Australia – UN officials on research visit to Fiji – 24 November 2008

Radio New Zealand International – Party hails UN visit – 24 November 2008

Police Target Transgender Community in Bangalore, India

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGALORE, India – Police evicted more than 100 working class transgender people, also known as hijras, last week. Human Rights Watch and other groups believe that these acts are part of a bigger scheme by police to actively cleanse Bangalore of transgenders, basing their campaign on incidents reported in national newspapers. The news reported that a gang of hijras kidnapped children, castrated them and forced them into prostitution. Police allegedly arrested the perpetrators.

“Of course, all reports of child abuse should be thoroughly investigated,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch. “But authorities are also responsible for sorting out fact from prejudice – and there is no excuse for targeting an entire community for retaliation.”

Following the news stories, the police inspector of Bangalore issued a notice to about 40 homeowners requiring them to evict all hijras occupying their homes. The police targeted the Dasarahalli neighborhood, a place known for having a large number of hijra inhabitants. Almost 100 hijra residents lost their homes, some lost their security deposits, and some lost their belongings.

Hijra victims stated that claims by the police are unfounded and the reported kidnappings are being used as justification for the evictions. Police say that it is the homeowners that are evicting their tenants. However, the leading national newspaper, The Hindu, obtained a copy of the eviction notice served upon the hijra tenants by the police.

“Because of prevailing myths that hijras habitually kidnap young boys, reports of the arrest of two hijras on criminal charges are a convenient excuse to target the entire community without arousing public outcry,” said Nath.

Last month, police arrested five hijras in Bangalore and charged them with extortion. The hijras were beaten and sexually abused. Forty-one human rights defenders were also arrested for protesting their arrest.

On October 20th, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Bangalore was quoted by a national newspaper, Daily News and Analysis, as calling for a “drive against the city’s eunuch menace.” “Eunuch” is a derogatory term for hijras.

For more information, please see:

The Hindu – Hijras Face Further Harassment – 13 November 2008

Human Rights Watch – India:  Stop ‘Social Cleansing’ in Bangalore – 18 November 2008

Times of India – Conflicts Surface Over Sex-Change Racket – 12 November 2008

UN & Commonwealth Sending Officials to Fiji

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji– The United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon is sending what he is calling an exploratory mission to Fiji this week.  The mission will be headed by Tamrat Samuel from the UN’s Department of Political Affairs in New York.  Moon said in a statement that he has conveyed to the interim Fiji Government that there is a mutually agreeable way forward with the political situation that came out of the military coup in 2006.

While in Suva, the UN will meet a broad range of national stakeholders and international actors.

The Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma has announced that they will be sending senior Commonwealth political official Juliet Solomon.  Solomon will be visiting Fiji in response to a request from the interim prime minister for support in facilitating a dialogue forum.  Ms. Solomon will hold consultations with the interim government, political parties, civil society, international partners and other stakeholders.  The Commonwealth is especially interested in working with the Pacific Islands Forum and the UN in helping Fiji find a political future.

Fiji is currently suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth following the military coup in 2006.
For more information, please see:

Radio Australia – UN, Commonwealth to dispatch missions to Fiji – 21 November 2008

Radio New Zealand International – UN sends official to Fiji – 21 November 2008

Pacific Magazine – UN Secretary General Sends Envoy to Check On Fiji – 21 November 2008

Commonwealth Secretariat – Commonwealth Visit to Fiji Islands – 20 November 2008

Amnesty Urges Sri Lanka to Allow Aid

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka –
Amnesty International urged the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to allow aid to the more than 300,000 people displaced by the fighting in the northern Wanni region.

“More than 300,000 people face the next few months crowded together in temporary shelters, surrounded by mud, with no promise of regular access to food or adequate sanitation. Our information indicates that the situation in Wanni is rapidly becoming critical, despite that government’s statements that it is coping,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

Nearly two-thirds of the civilian population in the Wanni region have been displaced by the conflict. Amnesty International states that the need for shelter is increased by the approaching of the monsoon season. Only 2,100 temporary shelters have been provided, leaving more than 20,000 families without shelter.

Amnesty International urges the government to allow additional aid by human rights groups since it believes that the government lacks the capacity to uphold international human rights standards and to ensure that the support is provided to protect the lives of the civilians. Moreover, the Tigers are called upon to ensure the freedom of movement to safer places.

On Thursday, the Sri Lanka government rejected the charges of humanitarian aid blockage to the people in Wanni. Presidential Secretariat said that the government is satisfied that the maximum assistance is being provided considering the circumstances dealing with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Tigers have been at war with the government in order to achieve their goal of a separate homeland for the LTTE. The battle taking place in the Wanni region has lasted for several weeks now, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The civilians are trapped because of both the fear they have of the government and the restriction of movement from the Tigers who currently occupy the territory. The government hopes to end the war with the Tigers by taking back this region.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Amnesty in Urgent Sri Lanka Plea – 19 November 2008

Colombo Page –  Sri Lanka Government Rejects Amnesty International Report of Aid Blockage – 20 November 2008

TamilNet – Amnesty Urges Sri Lanka to End Policy of Blocking Humanitarian Aid– 19 November 2008