JAWS Claims Samoan Journalists Harassed

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