JAWS Claims Samoan Journalists Harassed

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

APIA, Samoa – The Journalists Associations of Western Samoa (JAWS) has expressed concerns over attacks and threats on media personnel outside of the Court.  According to the group a camera man and a news reporter were attacked and two reporters were threatened.  JAWS claimed that more journalists continue to be threatened during major trials, though the statement did not give the details of who was attacked or why.

JAWS strongly condemned the violence in their statement.  They said they “wish to reiterate that we will not tolerate the harassment of local journalists in the pursuit of truth.”  The group continued, “Journalists play an important role in any society; the media is the fourth estate of democracy and it is essentially the eyes and ears of society.”  “By hindering the work of Journalists members of the public are inadvertently infringing upon the people’s right to know and be informed.”

“JAWS reiterates that media freedom is integral to democracy.”

For more information, please see:
Samoa Observer – Journalists harassed, JAWS claim – 28 March 2009

Islands Business – Journalists harassed in Samoa, JAWS claim – 30 March 2009

Inadequate Healthcare Responsible for High Maternal Mortality Rate in Haiti

29 March 2009

Inadequate Healthcare Responsible for High Maternal Mortality Rate in Haiti

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti has long been noted as the leader in maternal mortality rates in the Western Hemisphere, with 670 women dying from pregnancy-related factors for every 100,000 live births in Haiti in 2006. One of the major players in this phenomenon? Complete lack of, or (if the mother is fortunate enough to be admitted to a hospital), inadequate health care.

With a maternal death rate that comes nowhere near the United States’ (11 deaths for every 100,000 live births), Haiti is under attack from the international medical community to provide better services in their maternity wards. Wendy Lai of Doctors Without Borders (Holland) calls the situation “embarrassing to the Western world…[T]hese are preventable deaths.” According to Jacqueline Ramon, a maternity ward nurse at Port-Au-Prince’s General Hospital, women still must pay for all other childbirth-related costs – such as medical supplies, food and transportation – leading many to turn to untrained midwives who use traditional medicine.

Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard physician, expressed frustration at Haiti’s blatant denial of adequate health care to low-income pregnant women: “It’s never, ever going to work unless we say some things are not meant to be sold, and safe motherhood is one of them.” Farmer added that in rural towns where his nonprofit organization Partners in Health provides free health care, the maternal mortality rate is less than one-tenth the national average.

Comprehensive health care for all pregnant women in Haiti would cost about $40 million annually, a drop in the bucket for a basic human right.
For more information, please see:

San Francisco Chronicle – Childbirth Dangerous Business for Haiti’s Poor – 22 March 2009

Medical News Today – AP/Washington Times Examines Factors Behind High Maternal Mortality in Haiti – 19 March 2009

Washington Times – Childbirth Danger Rampant in Haiti – 17 March 2009

Marshall Islands Chief Judge Chides Government for Illegal Detention of Prisoners

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

Majuro, MARSHALL ISLANDS – Marshall Islands Chief Justice Carl Ingram has criticized police and government forces for the second time in as many monthsover the unlawful detention of a prisoner.  During an assault hearing, Justice Ingram learned that the defendant, Bai Lanej, had been held in a Majuro prison for thirteen months before coming before receiving a hearing.  Lanej, who was arrested in February 2008 on charges of aggravated assault, has been sitting in prison until this week.  Under Marshall Island law, a person must be given a hearing within twenty-four hours of being arrested or be released.  In response to the Lanej’s treatment, Justice Ingram ordered him released on his own recognizance until the case is resolved.

This is not the first time that Justice Ingram has had harsh words for the government over treatment of prisoners, last month he discovered that a prisoner was held for a month after his release date without advising the court.
Speaking of the situations in the Marshall Islands, Justice Ingram said, ““If the Ministry of Justice does not take action immediately to correct this situation, the Court will do as much as it can consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the Republic.”
The United States’ State Department issued a report last month, finding that the prison conditions in Majuro did not comply with international standards.  Among the deficiencies reported were inadequate lighting, poor ventilation, poor sanitation and a lack of separate facilities for female and juvenile prisoners.
For more information, please see:
Marshall Islands Journal – Lanej left to rot in jail – 27 March 2009
Radio New Zealand International – Marshall Islands Chief Justice angered by treatment of some prisoners – 27 March 2009

Turkmenistan Should Follow UN Recommendations

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TURKMENISTAN – Human Rights Watch calls upon the government of Turkmenistan to reform human rights in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council.

In December 2008, under Universal Periodic Review, the Turkmen government rejected various recommendations.  These recommendations included the release of political prisoners, undergo a review of past cases of political imprisonment, and lift arbitrary travel bans on human rights activists.

Since the review in December 2008, Turkmenistan has not taken any active steps to carry out the recommendations.  It only listed programs, reports, and legislation in a February 2009 statement.

Human Rights Watch believes that more direct and immediate action can relieve some human rights problems.  “The Turkmen government can resolve quite a few human rights problems immediately, since they require nothing but political will. . . .  Releasing political prisoners and granting access to independent human rights monitors are steps authorities can and should take right away, to demonstrate a true commitment to reform.

March 19, 2009 was Turkmenistan’s final session before the Human Rights Council, which took place in Geneva.  Human Rights Watch believes that Turkmenistan should “demonstrate the political will” and adopt the recommendations.

“Today’s session in Geneva is a golden opportunity for Turkmenistan’s leadership to show it is ready to make a genuine commitment to reform,” said Maria Lisitsyna, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.  “The countless victims of human rights abuse in Turkmenistan deserve nothing less.”

Human Rights Watch considers Turkmenistan “one of the most repressive countries in the world.”  Human Rights Watch cites that the Turkmen government has banned human rights monitors from entering the country for the past ten years.  In addition, journalists and other private activists are not able to work freely and receive pressure from the government.  Therefore, the UN is one of the only means to investigate Turkmen human rights practices.

“The Turkmen government should treat external scrutiny of its human rights record not as a threat, but as an essential component of an accountable government,” said Lisitsyna.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Turkmenistan: Amnesty International Urges Turkmenistan to Fully Implement Recommendations Made Under the Universal Periodic Review – 20 March 2009

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan: Commit to Human Rights Reform – 19 March 2009

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – HRW Urges Turkmenistan to Expedite Human Rights Reforms – 20 March 2009

Pakistani Terrorist in Mumbai Attacks on Trial in India

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MUMBAI, India – The trial of gunman Mohammed Ajmal Kasab for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai has begun on Monday in India.  He is the only gunman charged.

Kasab was captured on the first day of the attacks and has been held in jail until his trial.

The proceeding was conducted over a video link from prison.  Kasab was not brought into the court room for security reasons.  The jail barrack in which Kasab stays has been bomb proofed.

Judge M.L. Tahiliyani asked Kasab to identify himself and where he was from.  Kasab replied that he was from Faridkot, in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said that that Kasab was smiling as the charges were being read to him.  Kasab also asked for legal counsel and accepted a court appointed advocate.  Nikam said, “Kasab and his co-conspirators informed the court that they are not in a position to engage any lawyer, therefore they would be provided an advocate through legal aid committee.”

Kasab is charged with twelve criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India.  He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Pakistani officials have acknowledged that Kasab is Pakistani and that attacks were plotted on their soil.  Pakistan announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects.

India blamed the Pakistani Islamic militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, for the attacks last year and say that most are from Pakistan.  The relations between India and Pakistan has worsened because it blames Pakistan for not clamping down on terrorism.

As a result of the three day attacks, about 164 people were dead.  Nine other attackers were killed.  The terrorists targeted luxury hotels and a Jewish community center.

The next hearing is set for March 30, where Judge Tahilyani will appoint counsel for Kasab.

For more information, please see:

Associate Press – Trial Opens for Gunman in Mumbai Attacks – 23 March 2009

Express India – Court to Decide Kasab’s Lawyer From Legal Panel on March 30 – 24 March 2009

Times of India – Bomb-proof Jail Within Jail for High-Profile Kasab Trial – 19 March 2009

Voice of America – Mumbai Terror Strike Gunmen Faces Trial in India – 23 March 2009

Colonel Driti Threatens Critics of Interim Government

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji– Republic of Fiji Military Forces’ Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti, has said the Fiji Times should be closed down.  In a statement he said, “The Fiji Times in particular is the most non-cooperative and biased newspaper in the country.”  Colonel Pita Driti went to say it “should be closed down immediately.”  He has also disagreed with the Fiji Media Council’s advice to political parties and stakeholders to take their grievances to the media.

The Fiji Times Editor, Netani Rika, has said it is unfortunate for Colonel Driti to make the statement, “The Fiji Times has always covered positive and not-so positive incidents and issues involving the arm and the interim administration.”  Mr. Rika went on to say, “If Colonel Driti provides us with particular issues which have not been covered, I will be happy to address these individually.”

Colonel Pita has also threatened to exclude the SDL, National Federation Party, and certain NGOs from future political leaders’ meetings if they do not curtail their public criticism of the interim government.  He said the President’s Political Dialogue Forum, “is one that is designated for the sensitivity of having parties drawn carefully towards a common end, state, or vision.”  He went on to say, “the verbal attacks by the two parties will only be a clear indication of the non-adherence and non-alignment to the Forum’s guidelines, its themes, and its strive to take Fiji forward.”

Colonel Pita added that the military coup in 2000 happened to “prevent Fiji falling into the abyss of lawlessness and disorder with mass genocides, ethnic cleansing, and battle between warlords, let alone civil war now that is a national security angle that I am speaking from on behalf of the military as the final bastion of law and order.”

Ousted Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes responded to the statement, saying it reflects little faith in Fiji’s citizens.  Mr. Beddoes said “it is the participants of coups and treason who destroy what we have built, and have such little faith in the good will of our people who would never consider such horrendous possibilities occurring in Fiji.”

For more information, please see:

Fiji Times – Military threatens to lock out critics – 25 March 2009

Fiji Times – Closure Threat – 26 March 2009

Fiji Times – Criticism is inciting: Driti – 27 March 2009

Fiji Times – Driti lacks faith in majority’s goodwill: Beddoes – 28 March 2009

Canada Ignores Mexican Violence in Providing Refugee Statu

27 March 2009

Canada Ignores Mexican Violence in Providing Refugee Status

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – The Canadian government is prohibiting the entry of Mexicans  seeking refuge and safety in Canada as a result of violence.

Part of the difficulty for refugee applicants is that Immigration and Refugee Board judges Mexico as a country that is able to protect its citizens.  As such, the Canadian government doesn’t believe that Mexicans are genuine refugee cases, or fleeing from genuine persecution in Mexico. Instead, the Canadian government suggests claimants can simply relocate to another part of Mexico.

Instead, the Canadian authorities assert that Mexican refugee claimants are economic migrants to Canada. This is unrealistic.  Mexico is plagued by violence, lack of protection from the authorities, corruption, and drugs. It is unconscionable that the Canadian government is prejudging asylum claims from Mexico.

More than 8,000 deaths have been linked to drug-related violence in Mexico over the past year.  The situation has also alarmed the United States government. The Obama administration sent 500 federal agents to assist the Mexican officers.

There is a high rejection rate for Mexican claimants – 90 per cent.  Some of the people rejected have received direct threats for different reasons.  They were either caught in the middle of drug cartels when they are trying to control an area, or they saw a crime or corruption. The Immigration and Refugee Board need to look closely at the nature of the claims because there are serious human rights concerns with respect to people coming from Mexico.

Because Mexicans do not require a visa to enter Canada, they are exempt from a Canada-U.S. treaty that requires refugees to make a claim in the first country they enter – called the Safe Third Country agreement. This makes the entire process for Mexican refugees easier. In cases of serious threat, this exemption is a matter of great concern.

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Canada ignores drug violence in Mexican refugee cases: advocates – 27 March 2009

Financial Post – How do you abuse a refugee system with no rules? – 26 March 2009

The Canadian Press – Canada ignoring refugees from Mexican violence: advocates – 27 March 2009

Fiji Police Investigation Brings Criticism

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

SUVA, Fiji — Following this week’s bombing of prominent members of the Fijian media, the police have begun an investigation into the violence that has sparked criticism from a Fiji women’s awareness group.  FemLink Pacific.
Organization representative Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, says that the police needs to do more than “look for foot prints in the sand.”  This is the time when the people of our country need to be feeling safe to be able to say, this is what I feel is the way forward, this is what I would like to see happen,” Rolls said.  “But with this kind of environment, people aren’t going to be comfortable to speak.”  She went onto say that these attacks are only a manifestation of a violent climate that has been in place since the 2006 coup.
Criticism has also been leveled against the police for their reaction to the attacks themselves.  After the explosions, the government issued a statement stating that the Fiji Times, whose editor in chief had been the target of a bomb, had been giving unbalanced coverage of the investigation.  In response the chairman of Fiji’s Media Council, Daryl Tarte, “The media in Fiji, just as in Australia, is entitled to be be partisan if they want to be. It’s probably more dangerous to be partisan in Fiji than it is in Australia but the fact is that I think most media in Fiji are trying to report as objectively and in a balanced way as they can. It is very dangerous for them not to do so. And the examples of the recent attacks on the editor of the Fiji Times is evidence of this”
Police spokesperson, Atunasai Sokomuri, defends the police saying that they are doing the best that they can.  “It’ll take time as all these incidents are happening late at night and in the early hours of the morning. So we are just pleading with members of the public just to bear with us because Fiji police is trying to do its best in investigating all these cases.”  After calls for him to do so, interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has also come out to condemn the firebombings and denies rumors that his government was in anyway involved in the attack.


For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji police defend home-bombing investigation amid public criticism – 27 March 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji Media Council says balanced media coverage more crucial now than ever – 27 March 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji women’s group criticises police handing of home bombings – 27 March 2009

President Obama Announces New Plan for War in Afghanistan

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


AFGHANISTAN
– United States President Obama declared that an extra 4,000 troops would be sent to Afghanistan in an effort to fight against the Taliban and al-Quaeda.

Obama said, “I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Quaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

This announcement followed an Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review that occurred soon after he took the oath of office.

Obama warned that the same terrorists behind the September 11, 2001 attacks were plotting another attack on the United States from Pakistani soil.

He further stressed that Afghanistan was in peril of falling into the hands of Islamic militants.  He said that “[i]f the Afghanistan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Quaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists.”

Therefore, the main goal is to rebuild civilian infrastructure within Afghanistan.  The 4,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan is to train and support the Afghan police and army.  In addition, more troops are needed from NATO allies.  In sum, Obama hopes to build the Afghan army to 134,000 and the police to 82,000.  Agricultural specialists, engineers and lawyers would also be sent to the country.

The Afghan government fully supports Obama’s policy.  Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada  stated that “the recognition of the regional aspect of the problem in Afghanistan and specifically recognition that the al-Quaeda threat is mainly emanating from Pakistan.”

However, Obama recognized that the plan could not be carried out alone.  Obama is focused on utilizing allies “to confront our common enemy.”  He said that the existence of al Quaeda and the Taliban pose an international security threat, especially to the nations that border Afghanistan.

“Together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region,” he said.  This contact group is set to include “our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China.”

Although there has been tension between the U.S. and Iran, Obama hopes to strengthen their diplomatic ties.

“We see Iran as an important player related to Afghanistan.  We see this as a very productive area for engagement in the future.”

Iran foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said, “We will participate in the Afghanistan meeting.  At what level, I don’t know yet, but we will participate.”

The U.S. further seeks help from the Pakistani government to put pressure on al-Quaeda.  In exchange, Obama is asking Congress to pass a bill that would authorize the tripling of spending in Pakistan to $1.5 billion each year over the next five years.  The money will be spent to help rebuild schools, hospitals and roads.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Obama Proposes Afghan Contact Group Including Iran – 27 March 2009

Associated Press – Obama: Taliban and al-Quaida Must Be Stopped – 27 March 2009

BBC – U.S. Rethinks Afghanistan Strategy – 27 March 2009

Boston Globe – Obama Plans More Afghan Reinforcements – 26 March 2009

China Blocks YouTube

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –  YouTube, a Google-owned popular video sharing site, is blocked by the Chinese government since Monday.  According to Reuters, Chinese traffic to the site saw a sharp decline on Monday and almost all the traffic had stopped by Tuesday.  Google did not explain why Chinese authorities were barring access to YouTube.  “We do not know the reason for the blockage, and we’re working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users in China.”  However, Chinese authorities are known for blocking websites they deem politically unacceptable or offensive.

Many people speculated it is because of footages that a Tibetan exile group posted on YouTube. The videos show protesters being beaten, kicked and choked allegedly by Chinese police officers in March 2008 riots. The Tibetan government-in-exile says the footage shows the Chinese government’s “brutality”.  But a Chinese government official said video footage is “a lie” because many of the images and voices in the video had been pieced together from different sources.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang, told reporters: “Many people have a false impression that the Chinese government fears the Internet. In fact it is just the opposite.”
He cites that China has the world’s largest online population and 100m blogs.  “China’s internet is open enough, but also needs to be regulated by law in order to prevent the spread of harmful information and for national security”, he added.  However,  Qing Gang did not did not directly comment on whether YouTube had been blocked in China.

Several civil rights groups criticize the Chinese government for blocking YouTube. The Global Network Initiative said the blocking of YouTube in China is “inconsistent with the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression”. Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology made a similar statement: ” China’s actions fail to live up to international norms. Anytime a country limits or takes down content online , it must be forthright and specific about its actions and do so only in narrowly defined circumstances consistent with international human rights and the rule of law.”

For more information:

AP – YouTube blocked in China; official says video fake – 24 March 2009

AFP – YouTube confirms website blocked in China – 24 March 2009

BBC – China criticised over YouTube – 25 March 2009

BBC – China says Tibet video is ‘a lie’ – 25 March 2009

CNN – YouTube blocked in China – 25 March 2009

Reuters – “Unafraid” China apparently fears YouTube – 24 March 2009

Wall Street Journal – China’s YouTube Block: A Tibet Connection? – 25 March 2009

Impunity Watch Annual Symposium: ‘American Warlord’ the Prosecution of Chucky Taylor

March 2009

24 March 2009

Impunity Watch Annual Symposium: ‘American Warlord’ the Prosecution of Chucky Taylor


Impunity Watch is hosting a symposium to discuss the legal and political ramifications of Chucky Taylor’s war crimes prosecution. The discussion will feature Johnny Dwyer of Rolling Stone Magazine, who wrote an article for that magazine about Chucky Taylor, Professor Evan Criddle of the Syracuse University College of Law and Doctor Nancy Snow of the Newhouse School. The symposium will be held on April 3rd from 12:00 pm until 2:00 pm at the Syracuse University College of Law in room 201. This event is free and open to the public. We encourage everyone who is able to come and attend.

Two American Jouranlists Detained by North Korean Authority

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korean government had detained two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, for “illegally intruding” into the North Korea through its border with China.  They are reporters for Current TV, a San Francisco-based media founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

According to a Seoul-based Christian group, the two journalists were working on a story on North Korean refugees, who try to escape the country by crossing the river into China.  The two journalists planned to interview women forced by human traffickers to strip for online customers and meet with children of defectors.  They were arrested while filming North Korea from the middle of the frozen Tumen River, along North Korea’s border with China.  “The two were said to have ignored warnings from North Korean guards to stop filming,” the fourth person escaped arrest said.

Human rights activist and Protestant pastor, Chun Kiwon, who heads a missionary group providing assistance to North Korean defectors, said the two journalists had met him in Seoul to ask for his advice on their mission.  He says that they told him that they were going to do a program on North Koreans who have fled the North.

In recent years, tens of thousands of North Koreans have streamed across the border into China.  North Korea border guards have crossed the border to pursuit North Koreans or to rob Chinese towns, coal mines and businesses in area.  China often ignores foreign journalists trying to report on North Korea from the border, but North Korean guards often react angrily to reporters trying to film or photograph them.

The U.S. State Department already contacted North Korea and China to secure the release of the two journalists.  The spokesperson Robert Wood told reporters Friday, “There is a lot of diplomacy going on. There have been a number of contacts made.”

For more information, please see
:

AFP – North Korea confirms two Americans detained – 21 March 2009

AP – Detained reporters drawn to NKorean refugee story – 21 March 2009

BBC – N Korea confirms reporters held – 21 March 2009

New York Times – N. Korea Says It Is Holding Reporters – 22 March 2009

Voice of America – Report: Detained US Reporters Likely in Pyongyang – 22 March 2009

British Court Says US Asked Detainee to Drop Torture Claim

23 March 2009

British Court Says US Asked Detainee to Drop Torture Claim

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
LONDON, U.K.- A British court says U.S. authorities asked a Guantanamo Bay detainee to drop allegations of torture in exchange for his freedom. A ruling by two British High Court judges published Monday says the U.S. offered Binyam Mohamed a plea bargain deal in October. Mohamed refused the deal and the U.S. dropped all charges against him later last year. He was released last month.
Mohamed is an Ethiopian who moved to Britain when he was a teenager. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and claims he was tortured both there and in Morocco. He was transferred to Guantanamo in 2004. Mohamed alleges that he was tortured and interrogated during more than six years in detention as a terror suspect. He says his ordeal included rendition to Morocco where he was held and cut with a scalpel on his chest and penis.
Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Mr Mohamed for four years, said after the release: “The facts revealed today reflect the way the US government has consistently tried to cover up the truth of Binyam Mohamed’s torture.He was being told he would never leave Guantanamo Bay unless he promised never to discuss his torture, and never sue either the Americans or the British to force disclosure of his mistreatment. Gradually the truth is leaking out, and the governments on both sides of the Atlantic should pause to consider whether they should continue to fight to keep this torture evidence secret.”
Then-U.S. military prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld is quoted in the ruling as saying Mohamed would be given a date for his release if he agreed to the terms. Vandeveld, who has since resigned, had said Mohamed would need to plead guilty to two charges in exchange for a three-year sentence and to testify against other suspects, according to the court documents.
For more information, please see:
Associated Press- Court says US asked detainee to drop torture claim– 23 March 2009
Press Association- “Torture evidence” details released- 23 March 2009

Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief’s House Bombed, Newspaper Will Continue to Speak Out

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Kerosene bombs aimed at the homes of two high-profile Fiji men were designed to kill, report police.  The bombings are believed to be linked to a series of attacks against individuals who have spoken out against Fiji’s interim government.  Bombs were thrown at the homes of a former senior army officer, Colonel Sakiusa Raivoce, and the Fiji Times editor-in-chief, Netani Rika.  Mr. Rika said three home-made bombs in beer bottles filled with kerosene were thrown at his house windows in Nasese, marking the second attack on his property in less than two weeks.

Fiji’s Rewa Provincial council is asking those involved in the politically motivated vandalism to consider the consequences of their actions.  The Rewa High Chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa, said, “We’ve heard that some are saying they’re just carrying out orders.  But these orders have been given to people who are supposed to have brains and they should think twice about the orders that are given to them and think of the consequences that might happen.”  She says the freedom to speak out is provided for in the Fiji constitution, a document the miliary and interim government say is still intact.

Mr. Rika has said the attacks will not stop the Fiji Times from speaking out against the interim government.  He said, “There is a time to speak out and I think there’s a time to speak out responsibly.  I think we have done that, we will continute to do that.  It’s unfortunate that the people who have different views do not use the newspaper to make these views known and continue to move around under the cover of darkness to attack innocent people.”

The interim government will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether or not security should be provided for these civilian targets.  Interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau has said police will not be provided for security unless it is specifically requested or if it is deemed absolutely necessary.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Molotov cocktail attacks in Fiji on homes of high profile individuals – 22 March 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Rewa Council in Fiji urges politically motivated vandals to consider consequences – 23 March 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji Times editor vows to continue his work – 23 March 2009

Fiji Times – State in conflict over security concerns – 23 March 2009

American Soldier Seeks Asylum in Germany

22 March 2009

American Soldier Seeks Asylum in Germany

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Andre Shepherd, an American Iraq veteran who has been in hiding in Germany since April 2007 after walking off the American army base in Katterbach, is seeking political asylum in Germany. “I could no longer support this illegal war in Iraq with a clear conscience…It has been proved that Saddam Hussein was not a direct threat to the United States and the war is simply being waged in order for the U.S. to gain access to raw materials in the Middle East,” said the 31-year-old Apache helicopter mechanic.

Shepherd’s case rests on a European Union law guaranteeing asylum to soldiers who are likely to face prosecution for desertion of military service that violates international law. Despite such a high likelihood of prosecution in their home country, over 25,000 other American soldiers have abandoned their military bases in opposition to the war in Iraq. Rudi Friedrich, a member of Iraq Veterans Against The War, weighs in on Shepherd’s asylum situation: “For us it’s quite clear that this war is wrong and contravenes human rights – which is why anyone who refuses to take part in this war, and is threatened with punishment and prison as a result, should be protected. That is exactly what the asylum laws here guarantee.”

Shepherd is the first Iraq veteran to apply for asylum in Europe, and there are widespread fears that a positive outcome in his petition for asylum may encourage the 60,000 American soldiers based in Germany to follow his tracks. Some argue that granting asylum to Shepherd would strain U.S.-German relations by recognizing the Iraq war as illegal. Wolfgang Bosbach, Christian Democrat politician, voiced concern with granting asylum to American soldiers: “A soldier deserting the army because his conscience no longer allows him to carry out his military duties is clearly not a reason for him to be granted political asylum here.”

The German immigration office will determine the outcome of Shepherd’s request within the next few months.

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For more information, please see:

BBC – Asylum Dilemma For U.S. Deserter – 19 March 2009

Short News – U.S. Iraq Veteran Seeks Asylum in Germany – 19 March 2009

France 24 – U.S. Army Deserter Seeks Asylum – 18 March 2009