Pakistan Cleric Granted Bail

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the bail release of a hard-line cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz Wednesday.

In 2007, Pakistani soldiers raided a mosque in Islamabad because dozens of heavily armed Al-Qaeda militants were inside and refused to surrender.  Aziz was arrested when Pakistani soldiers besieged the mosque while he attempted to sneak out dressed in a burqa.  As a result of the raid, about 102 people were killed.

Subsequently, suicide bombings and other attacks on the government ensued.  This has left more than 1,700 people dead.

Aziz faces 27 various charges including abetting terrorists and illegally occupying a building.  He was granted bail by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in exchange for 500,000 rupees (approximately $6,214).  Aziz’s lawyer, Shaukat Siddiqui, stated that the only case left before the court was the charge of abetment.  He said that the court noted that “bail cannot be withheld on mere charges of abetment.”  He added, “It observed that there is no such material which should deprive him bail.”  Pending his release, he was moved out of prison and was detained in a house in Rawalpindi.

Aziz was released from house arrest last Thursday.  He vows to lead a campaign for Islamic law without violence.

“God willing, the day is not far away when Islam will be enforced in the whole of Pakistan,” Aziz said. “Our struggle has always been peaceful, and we will continue this struggle for the enforcement of Islamic laws in the country.”

“He’s learned no lessons, nothing’s changed as far as his agenda is concerned,” said Zafar Hilaly, a political analyst and former ambassador. “It’s troubling. His supporters will take a lot of heart, as will extremists, who think they’re on a roll.”

According to BBC News, the release of Aziz demonstrates President Asif Ali Zardari’s struggle to control militancy in the northwest part of Pakistan.  It is also an example of Pakistan’s history of failure to prosecute militants.  Critics say the difficulty in holding perpetrators responsible lies in the cooperation between radicals and national security forces.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Granted Bail: Lawyer – 15 April 2009

Associated Press – Pakistan Grants Bail to Hard-Line Red Mocleric – 15 April 2009

Associated Press – Radical Pakistani Cleric Released on Bail – 17 April 2009

BBC News – Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Bailed – 15 April 2009

Los Angeles Times – Militant Pakistani Cleric Out on Bail Remains Defiant – 17 April 2009

‘Yellow Shirt’ Protest Leader Shot in Thailand

Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – Sondhi Limthongkul, the founder of Thailand’s “yellow shirt” protest movement was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt. The attacked occurred just days after the Thai military began a crack down on rioting protesters from the “red shirt” protesters.

The attack happened just hours before the government met for a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the recent violence due to political turmoil and measures undertaken to boost Thailand’s economy.

Sondhi is a media tycoon who owns the pro-government TV channel ASTV. Bangkok police spokesman, Suporn Pansua said Sondhi was on his way to work before dawn when at least two men in a pick-up truck ambushed his car and opened fire with an M-16 and AK-47 machine guns.

The tires and vehicle was sprayed with bullets, 84 bullet shells were found on the road near the attack in Western Bangkok. Suporn said, “Considering the nature of the attack and the weapons used, we believe it was carried out by people with expertise… We believe the attack was meant to take lives.” The driver and another passenger were seriously wounded.

Sondhi supports the current government, People’s Alliance for Democracy. Sondhi was responsible for the protests movements that shut down the airport last year to oppose the previous government. Chaiwan Charoenchoktawee, Vajira Hospital director, said that Sondhi is in stable condition after the surgery that removed a bullet from his skull.

The yellow shirts immediately labeled Sondhi’s attack as politically motivated, a claim that is under investigation by the police. Red shirt protesters have expressed anger that several of their leaders were arrested while Sondhi and his alliance were never prosecuted over the airport seizures last year.

After the attack, security moved quickly to protect Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Prime Minister had imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok since Sunday. Before this week’s riots, Abhisit’s vehicle was attacked twice by red shirt protesters. Abhisits told the media that he had decided “not to revoke the emergency degree… We have to make sure peace and order truly returns.”  For the 6th day in a row, the Thai capital remains under emergency rule.

For more information, please see:

AP – Gunmen attack Thai ‘yellow shirt’ protest leader – 17 April 2009

BBC – Thai ‘yellow shirt’ leader shot17 April 2009

LA Times – Thailand extends state of emergency17 April 2009

Obama Administration will not Prosecute C.I.A. Operatives that Conducted Controversial Interrogations of Terrorist Suspects

17 April 2009

Obama Administration will not Prosecute C.I.A. Operatives that Conducted Controversial Interrogations of Terrorist Suspects

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

After the September 11th attacks, C.I.A. operatives were allowed to utilize heightened interrogation methods. Just yesterday President Obama officially announced that his administration would not prosecute C.I.A. operatives for carrying out these controversial interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects.

Also, the Justice Department began releasing a number of detailed memos detailing the harsh techniques used against Al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons. The interrogation methods were closely guarded secrets by the Bush administration. Yesterday’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some Obama officials have said used illegal torture.

The documents are expected to include Justice Department memos from 2002 and 2005 authorizing the C.I.A. to employ a number of aggressive techniques. The Bush administration memos authorized keeping detainees naked, in painful standing positions, and in cold cells for long periods of time. Other techniques included depriving them of solid food and slapping them. Sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling and threats to a detainee’s family were also utilized.

Among the anticipated documents are detailed 2005 memos by Stephen G. Bradbury, who acted as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and authorized the C.I.A. techniques. The documents gave legal support for using a combination of coercive techniques and concluded that the C.I.A.’s methods were not “cruel, inhuman or degrading” under international law.

Another document expected to be released this afternoon is a Justice Department memo written August 1, 2002. The memo, written by John C. Yoo and signed by Jay S. Bybee, two Justice Department officials at the time, is a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques.

For more information, please see:

MSNBC – CIA employees won’t be tried for waterboarding – 17 April 2009

The New York Times – Obama Releases Interrogation Memos, Says C.I.A. Operatives Won’t Be Prosecuted – 16 April 2009

The Washington Post – On Interrogation Policies, Another Delicate Compromise From Obama – 16 April 2009

Vietnam Bans News Articles that Criticize China

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese newspaper was shut down for 3 months over controversial articles over a territorial dispute between Vietnam and China. State media, the Thanh Nien (Young People) reported that the Ministry of Information and Communication in Vietnam shutdown the biweekly Du Lich (Tourism) for “serious violations” of Vietnam’s press law.

During the Vietnamese New Year, Du Lich ran its Lunar New Year edition, which published a series of articles supporting anti-Chinese protesters, praising them for their “pure patriotism.”

Vietnam and China have fought wars over the disputed territory of the Spratly Islands in the three archipelagos in the South China Sea. The islands are largely uninhabited and the surrounding waters have rich natural resources such as oil, natural gases, and fishing. Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have all claim sovereignty over the Spratlys.

China had announced to create a symbolic administrative region called Sansha to manage the disputed territory. In late 2007, thousands of university students held demonstrations in front of the Chinese diplomatic mission in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Authorities in Vietnam accused Du Lich of publishing false information that incites violence and hatred among nations. However, the report did not specify the information at issue.

Vietnam wants to maintain friendly relations with China even though the government opposes its policy. The Spratly Islands dispute invoked nationalism in Vietnam. Thousands of protestors took the streets to protest China’s policy. However, Vietnam’s communist government generally prohibits public protests of any kind.

Communist Vietnam maintains tight control over its local media. The shutdown of the newspaper took effect Tuesday and the ministry also ordered the newspaper to reshuffle its leadership. Vietnam authorities and the ministry were not available for comment on Thursday.

Nguyen Trung Dan told the BBC that the newspaper only reflected “the people’s wishes.” Dan said, “Being a Vietnamese, I did not think twice when I approved those articles. Isn’t it a good thing to encourage patriotism among the public?”

AP – Vietnam suspends newspaper over China reporting– 16 April 2009

BBC – Vietnam paper banned over China – 15 April 2009
Scotsman – Authorities shut down paper – 16 April 2009

Japanese Court Dismisses War Reparation Claims Brought by Chinese

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan
– A Japanese high court turned down two damages suit filed by Chinese nationals.  According to Kyodo News reported, one case is brought by eight Chinese who were forced to work as laborers at a copper mine in Japan during World War II.  The other lawsuit filed by a Chinese woman who was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army.

The Chinese plaintiffs in both cases were seeking apologies and financial damages from the Japanese government for the acts of slavery during World War II.   The suit, filed by eight plaintiffs in 2004, sought US$1.9 million dollars from Japan’s government and Mitsubishi Materials.  Six out of the eight plaintiffs have died and were represented by relatives.  Plaintiffs’ statement states they were among 241 Chinese were forced to work under harsh conditions at the copper mine while no wages were paid.

The other suit was filed by an eighty-three-year-old Chinese woman, Chen Jinyu, on behalf of all Chinese sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II.  Chen arrived in Japan to attend the second trial at the Japanese High Court, but she left with disappointments.

Japanese High Court Presiding Judge, Watanabe Hitoshi, says that the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique does not give the individual right to claim war reparations from Japanese government.  China renounced any attempts to seek war compensation from Japan in the agreement. However, the Japanese court did recognize the female plaintiffs were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the wrongful conducts and brutal behaviors by Japanese troops.  The plaintiffs pledged to appeal to the Japanese Supreme Court.

For more information, please see
:

Market Watch – Lawsuit from WWII sex slaves dismissed – 27 March 2009

StraitTimes – Court rejects WWII claim – 27 March 2009

XinHua – Japanese high court turns down lawsuit by Chinese forced laborers during WWII – 37 March 2009

XinHua – Tokyo court rejects damages suit filed by WWII Chinese sex slaves – 27 March 2009

Pacific Islands Forum Chair Calls Fiji Military Regime a Threat

Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Pacific Islands Forum chairman has stated that Fiji’s military regime is a threat to the region’s stability and must return to democratic rule as soon as possible.

Toke Talagi, Forum chairperson and Niuean Premier, has recommended that Pacific leaders force Fiji to set a date for elections ahead of the previously imposed May 1st deadline.

In addition, Talagi has condemned the recent abrogation of Fiji’s constitution and the reappointment of several Fiji ministers including interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Talagi says that such action is in contradiction to the Court of Appeal’s ruling last week, declaring the 2006 military coup led by Bainimarama illegal.

According to Talagi, Fiji’s military regime now poses a serious threat to the region’s stability.

“It is our belief that Fiji poses a real threat in terms of the stability of the region and we’d like Fiji to go back to democratic rule as quickly as possible. This is not withstanding the fact that the military regime has influenced the president to state that they won’t hold elections for the next five years,” Talagi said.

If the Pacific Islands Forum suspends Fiji from the group, Talagi says the Forum will still support the people of Fiji and offer what assistance it can.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji military actions threaten regional stability, says Pacific Forum chair – 15 April 2009

ABC News – Pacific Islands Forum head says Fijian expulsion likely – April 15 2009

Sydney Morning Herald – Pacific bloc leader attacks Bainimarama – 15 April 2009

China’s Human Rights Action Plan

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – China issued a human rights action plan, promising to improve the protection of civil liberties.  “China has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human-rights situation,” the plan acknowledges.  The two-year plan promised broader access to social security, health care and education.  It also calls for measures to discourage forced confessions by torture and the mistreatment of detainees.  Furthermore, the death penalty will be “strictly controlled and prudently applied,” the plan states, and that defendants will be entitled fair trials.  According to the document, the plan’s drafters asked for input from Chinese government ministries, domestic colleges and nongovernmental human-rights organizations.

China’s action is welcomed by many International rights groups.  A research manager for the Dui Hua Foundation, Joshua Rosenzweig says, “the plan was notable because it seemed to have more input from academics, activists and other elements of civil society than the government’s previous human rights reports.”  He also said issuing a plan with benchmarks, instead of a report summing up past progress, was also an “important step.”

The deputy program director for Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International, Roseann Rife, said the plan is a step forward for the Chinese government.  She thinks it is also good there are some concrete benchmarks with 2010 as a deadline.  Nevertheless, she indicated, there are very serious abuses omitted from the plan such as abuses for people who challenge the authorities in China.  She says the plan is more like a “right of urban and rural residents to a basic standard of living.”

However, some groups think the plan is too vague and dodged key issues such as curbs on freedom of speech and of religion.  Phelim Kine, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, called the plan “a grab bag of policy prescriptions and existing laws and regulations and commitments to human rights which are already out there.” He said the plan failed to address real issues, including illegal detentions and curbs on freedom of religion and speech.

For more information, please see:

AFP – China pledges to improve human rights – 14 April 2009

AP – China releases first human rights action plan – 14 April 2009

New York Times – China Releases Human Rights Plan – 14 April 2009

Reuters – China sets human rights agenda for sensitive year – 13 April 2009

Wall Street Journal – Beijing Issues Plan to Improve Rights – 14 April 2009

Thai Protesters Stops Asian Summit

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – On April 11th 2009, the anti-government protesters have effectively blocked leaders from meeting at the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) summit at the seaside resort of Pattaya. The Thai government has declared a state of emergency after the 10-nation ASEAN summit was abruptly canceled.

Leaders from Australia, China, Japan, India, South Korea, and New Zealand were supposed to attend the meeting. However, despite increased security forces placed by the Thai government due to widespread demonstrations in Bangkok, protesters breached security forces by breaking through glass doors.

Moments before the protesters breached security, Panitan Wattanayagorn said he was confident that the meeting would proceed, “The ASEAN summit was slightly delayed this morning due to certain safety reasons in certain locations. Not in the hotel, not in the meeting places but in the surrounding areas far away from the meeting places… Although at the meeting places there are some demonstrations but the authorities and the agencies in-charge are able to put the situation under control.”

Thailand is the current leader of the ASEAN regional economic bloc and the cancellation of the ASEAN summit was an embarrassment for the new Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. Last December, a similar summit was also postponed due to Thailand’s political turmoil.

Last year the protesters occupied government buildings and closed down major airports, putting an effective block to the country’s tourism industry. The new government has been informing to the public and the international community that the country’s political uncertainty was a thing of the past.

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General, who was scheduled to attend the meeting, said in a statement he regretted the postponement of the ASEAN summit but hoped for a return to normalcy and to settle the differences through peaceful means.
The summit was to discuss the region’s economic concerns including trade, food and security.  Regional leaders were also expected to sign an ASEAN investment pact with China and discuss security on the Korean Peninsula.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Thai protests cancel Asian summit– 11 April 2009

Reuters – Asian summit effectively cancelled – 11 April 2009

VOA – Protests Force Thailand to Cancel ASEAN Summit – 11 April 2009

Reporters Deported After Censorship Strengthening in Fiji

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Fiji interim regime has ordered the reporter of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sean Dorney, to leave Fiji immediately because they are unhappy with his reporting.  Mr. Dorney was contacted by information ministry officials after he reported the absence of political news from newspapers which have been subjected to new censorship since the constitution was abrogated.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith has urged Mr. Dorney not to take any unnecessary risks.  Mr. Smith said, “He should follow the request or the instruction of the Fiji authorities however so obnoxious he might regard those to be, because they are impinging upon his capacity to do his job as a journalist.”  Mr. Dorney has said he much prefers to be on a plane than in the military barracks.

The government has also arrested and begun proceedings to deport a television journalist, Edwin Nand.  Mr. Nand’s detention is based upon Fiji TV’s transmission of reports of the detention and deportation of Mr. Dorney to overseas news services.  The interim regime says such transmissions are now illegal.  A New Zealand television reporter and cameraman are also facing deportation.

Journalists in Fiji have been told not to publish or broadcast stories that present the reinstatement of the military government in a negative light, and police censors are now in newsrooms across Suva to check on the stories intended to be run.  The Permanent Secretary for Information has been given almost total control over what is printed or broadcast in Fiji.  The penalty under the Emergency Regulations for not obeying may be an order to cease all activities and operations.

Commodore Bainimarama says he hopes everyone will follow the restrictions.

For more information, please see:
Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Fiji virtually a military dictatorship: Rudd – 12 April 2009

Austalian Broadcasting Corporation – Fiji cops backlash over media crackdown – 13 April 2009

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Fiji begins process to deport ABC’s Dorney – 13 April 2009

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Fijian journalist arrested as Dorney awaits deportation – 13 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Austalian reporter to be deported from Fiji – 13 April 2009

Military Cracks Down on Thailand Protesters

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – More than 70 people were injured as Thai soldiers and protesters clash at a major road junction near the landmark Victory Monument in Bangkok.  The Thai army began removing anti-government protesters blocking the centre of the capital. Alastair Leithead, BBC’s correspondent in Thailand, reported that the capital is tense with a stand-off between the troops and the protesters.

Earlier, the Thai army opened fire and shot tear gas at the crowd while the protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at the military. Today’s incident is the first major clash after weeks of mass protests.

Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency after protesters stopped a major Asian summit in Pattaya.

The collapse of the summit severely embarrassed Vejjajjva and he vowed to restore order. Groups of more than five people are banned and media can be censored during a state of emergency. During a press conference, Vejjajjva asked for public co-operation to end the crisis, “In the next three to four days, the government will keep working to return peace and order to the country,” he said. Vejjajjva also added, “I can confirm that the government and security agencies are still unified.”

The protesters mostly back ousted Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Shinawatra, who is in self-imposed exile abroad, has called for a ‘revolution’ against the current government. “Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution … And when it is necessary, I will come back to the country” he said in a message shown on giant screens near the prime minister’s office.

According to witnesses, the Associate Press news agency says “The soldiers fired hundreds of rounds from their M-16 automatic rifles as they advanced, though it was unclear whether they were firing at, or over, the protesters.”

Col Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a military spokesperson, said about 400 soldiers had moved against some 300 protesters. Kaewkumnerd accused the protesters of using cars to run over soldiers as well as throwing tear gas and smoke bombs as the soldiers first. In response, Kaewkumnerd said the Thai army first fired a warning shot into the air. However, after the situation did not improve, the soldiers then fired live rounds. “We will start with soft measures and proceed to harder ones … We will avoid loss of life as instructed by the government.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Thai soldiers spray gunfire, tear gas at protest– 12 April 2009

BBC – Thai troops crack down on protest – 13 April 2009

New York Times – Protesters in Thailand Challenge Premier– 12 April 2009

New York TImes – Picture of Protester

Human Rights Watch Urges Investigation of Philippine Death Squads

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


MANILA, Philippines
– Human Rights Watch calls upon the government of the Philippines to investigate and hold accountable members of the “Death Squad” for extrajudicial killings in Davao City on the southeastern island of Mindanao.

Supplementing this announcement is a 103 page report, “You Can Die Any Time: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao.”  This report reveals the involvement of local officials in targeted killings of drug dealers, petty criminals and street children.  Human Rights Watch investigated 28 cases and interviewed more than 50 people including victims’ families, witnesses, local and government officials, and journalists.

Human Rights Watch identified a pattern of the killings that took place.  Typically, two or three Death Squad members arrive on unmarked motorcycles.  They wear baggy shirts in order to conceal their weapons, usually a knife or .45 caliber handgun.  They wear baseball caps, doing little to cover their faces.  They attack at any time, frequently during the day.  They do not fear witnesses, often threatening them that they would be next if they talked to the police.  Notably, when an attack occurs, the police arrive late, so that perpetrators have a chance to escape.  Police are also known to fail to collect obvious evidence and to follow up in their investigations.

Local officials generally have a list of persons who are engaging in criminal activities.  Local level officials warn the people that if they do not stop, they will be killed.

Most members are former communist New Army insurgents or those who were formerly on the “list” to avoid getting killed.  They are then trained by police officers who provide them with weapons and information about their victims.

“The hundreds of targeted killings in Davao City in recent years are clearly not random events but the result of planned hits by a ‘death squad’ that involves police officers and local officials,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.  “The police consistently fail to bring the perpetrators to justice, while the local government cheers from the sidelines.”

Director General, Jesus Verzosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, denies any involvement in the death squads.  He said, “We acknowledge that human rights organizations documenting the series of alleged vigilante killings in Davao city are well-intentioned, but we completely disagree with their pronouncements that these cases were state-sponsored.  He added that charges, “should be backed by evidence so taht appropriate cases may be pursued and filed before the courts of law.”

Mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, defends the existence of death squads, stating that their presence serves as a deterrent to crime and ensures that the community is safe.

The Philippine government, under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been accused of inaction and even supporting targeted killings.  President Arroyo had appointed Duterte as her consultant on peace and order in 2003.

“Arroyo has been taking security advice from someone who openly advocates murder to bring peace and prosperity,” said Roth.  “But this needs to stop.  The Arroyo government should send a clear message to local officials and the police that the killings of petty criminals, drug users, and street children will not be tolerated.”

For more information, please see:

GMANews.TV – HRW Report: How Davao City’s Squad Killers Get Away with Murder – 7 April 2009

Human Rights Watch – Philippines: Dismantle ‘Davao Death Squad’ – 6 April 2009

Inquirer Mindanao – Prove It, PNP Chief Dares Rights Groups – 8 April 2009

Bangladesh to Start War Crimes Tribunal

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – On April 9th, 2009 the Bangladeshi government announced that it would create a war crimes tribunal within two weeks to try war crimes committed from the bloody 1971 liberation struggle.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was elected last year, had promised to jump start the tribunal as soon as possible.

The Bangladeshi Law Minister Shafig Ahmed, told the media that the government was in the final stages of putting together the defendant list. “We have begun the process by deciding to appoint the investigating agency, prosecutors, investigation officers and form tribunals in two weeks,” Ahmed said.

The United Nation (UN) promised to aid the tribunal. Last Wednesday, the UN said that some of its top war crimes experts would advise Bangladesh on how to try the defendants accused of murder and rape. Renata Lok Dessallien, head of the United Nations in Bangladesh, told AFP “We have suggested the names of some top international experts who have experience in how war crimes tribunals operate across the globe.”

Dessallien also said the UN would look into whether Bangladeshi law complies with international war crimes law. Dessallien added, “This is the first time Bangladesh is conducting war crimes tribunals and it is important it understands how other countries have held them. There are some countries where mistakes were made and we don’t want Bangladesh to repeat those mistakes.”

“The UN will advise us so that we don’t make any mistakes and so that the process is transparent and does not create any questions” Ahmed said.

The tribunal was welcomed by human rights NGOs like Amnesty International.

During the 1971 war for liberation, Bangladesh was then West Pakistan and fought against East Pakistan to become an independent country. The alleged war criminals sided with West Pakistan and committed murder, rape, and arson. About three million people were killed during the war.

A private investigation that investigated the conflict listed 1,775 people responsible for the atrocities. The private group blamed top Pakistani generals and local Islamists that allied with Pakistan for the atrocities.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Bangladesh war crimes tribunals in two weeks – 9 April 2009

AFP – UN to help Bangladesh war crimes trial planning – 8 April 2009

BBC – Bangladesh to announce war probe – 7 April 2009

Pakistani Judge Holds Hearing to Investigate Taliban Flogging

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
– Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry has ordered a court hearing to investigate the flogging of a 17 year old girl depicted in a video that was shown to the world.  The video was first shown in Pakistan on Thursday, April 2.  The film shows two Taliban members holding a young girl down and a third hitting her with a strap.  She was allegedly punished for “coming out of her house with another man who was not her husband”.  She was given 34 lashes and then taken into a stone building.

Chaudhry condemns what happened and criticized the government for not taking immediate action.  “Before the video became public, what were you doing, why couldn’t you find out what happened?” he asked the attorney general, Sardar Latif Khosa.  Chaudhry was reinstated as Chief Justice after two years of being fired from the bench by President Zardari.

The video was taken by a local with a mobile telephone camera.  It was allegedly filmed a month and a half ago, but only recently released.  Its release coincides with the Sharia peace deal that will be implemented in the near future.

Taliban spokesman Mian Iftikhar said, “We believe there is a conspiracy to sabotage the peace process by airing a video recorded before the deal.”

Samar Minallah, a human rights activist, bought the video in the markets of Swat and distributed it to the media.  In broadcasting the video, Minallah wanted to let the nation know of the types of transgressions happening in the Swat Valley.  “The most fundamental rights are violated every second of every day.  People are being ejected from their houses, courts are closed, 300 schools have been demolished,” she said.

A journalist in the Swat Valley, Ehsan Haqqani, said that it was encouraging for the Supreme Court to take action.  “We were the forgotten people. . . .  The government was only a silent spectator.  Now the Supreme Court is forcing the government to take notice.  That is encouraging for us.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Pakistan to Probe Girl’s Flogging – 3 April 2009

Daily Times – Taliban Flog 17 Year Old Girl for Having Affair – 4 April 2009

The Hindu – Swat Girl Denies She was Flogged – 7 April 2009

International Herald Tribune – Pakistan’s Chief Justice Assails Attorney General Over Taliban Flogging – 6 April 2009

Native Hawaiians Denied Recognition of Aboriginal Lands by U.S. Supreme Court

09 April 2009

Native Hawaiians Denied Recognition of Aboriginal Lands by U.S. Supreme Court

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Hawaiian Supreme Court last week when it decided that the 1993 Official Apology Resolution issued by the Congress to the Native Hawaiians did not constitute recognition of Native Hawaiian rights to their ancestral lands. With this decision, 1.2 million acres of disputed Native Hawaiian lands will be opened for public sale.

In 2002, a Hawaiian state court initially ruled that Hawaii could sell the disputed lands. The case eventually went up to the state’s highest court in 2008, with the Hawaii Supreme Court finding that Native Hawaiians had a claim to the disputed lands. The Court then issued an injunction to prevent the sale of “ceded lands” held in trust until the outstanding aboriginal land claims had been resolved. The Hawaii Supreme Court relied on the 1993 Apology Resolution – an official acknowledgment of the illegality of the U.S. overthrowing of Hawaii’s sovereign government, creation of a provisional government, and annexation of Hawaii as a U.S. territory with the Newlands Resolution – in it’s landmark decision.

The recent Supreme Court’s ruling is extremely dangerous – it accepts the Newlands Resolution as the legal resolution of land disputes, vesting absolute title to the United States over the disputed lands – while ignoring the Congressional Apology which recognized that “the Indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, expressed frustration over the Court’s mishandling of the case: “If the Apology Resolution has no teeth in the court of the conqueror, then how is it that the Newlands Resolution that unilaterally annexed Hawaii does? This (ruling) is a legal fiction to cover up the fact that the U.S. government accepted the stolen lands from the Republic of Hawaii government that confiscated these lands after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Hawaii Supreme Court for “further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

For more information, please see:

Indian Country Today – U.S. Supremes Rule Against Native Hawaiians’ Land Claims – 6 April 2009

Chicago Tribune – Hawaii: Land Sale Upheld – 1 April 2009

Honolulu Star – Ceded Land Ruling Creates Quick Need for Sovereignty – 1 April 2009

New York Times – Supreme Court Backs Hawaii in Land Dispute – 31 March 2009

A 75-year-old Retired Professor Beaten in Cemetery

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Last Saturday marked “Qingming”- grave-sweeping day, when Chinese honor the dead. A 75-year-old retired professor, Sun Wenguang, was beaten for honoring the death of a reformist communist leader Zhao Ziyang on Saturday. Mr. Zhao is a former prime minister and Communist Party general secretary who was purged for supporting the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
In 2005, Mr Zhao died under house arrest.

According to Mr. Sun, a police car followed him when he went to visit a memorial honoring Chinese martyrs on Heroes’ Mountain in Jinan.  When he entered the memorial grounds, he was beaten and “kicked like a football” for more than 10 minutes by a group of five men.

“They were very strong. They did not say a word,” Sun said in a telephone interview from a Jinan hospital.  “They wanted to punish me and let people know that Zhao Ziyang is not allowed to be memorialized,” he claimed.  Mr. Sun suffered three broken ribs and injuries to his hands and legs in the attack.  It was not clear who the men were.

Mr Sun is a retired physics professor from Shandong University.  He spent some times in prison from the 1960s to the 1980s, for criticizing communist leader Mao.  He said he had paid his respects at Zhao Ziyang’s grave every year on the Qingming, but was warned not to do so this year by police and officials from Shandong University.

Human Rights in China condemned the attack on Mr Sun.  “This deplorable act, committed in broad daylight and in clear view of the police… calls into serious question officials’ professed commitment to building a society that puts people first,” said executive director Sharon Hom.

Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based group, says that “Chinese authorities are staging a campaign of terror to intimidate and suppress expressions of commemoration for the 1989 Tiananmen massacre,” the group said in a statement. The attack on Mr. Sun “is part of the overall campaign.”

For more information, please see
:

AP – Professor beaten for honoring ousted China leader – 07 April 2009

BBC – Scholar beaten at Tiananmen grave – 07 April 2009

Human Rights in China – Retired Professor Attacked after Honoring Memory of Late Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang – 06 April 2009

New York Times – China Rights Activist Beaten in Cemetery – 07 April 2009