PINA Pushes for Strong Stand on Censorship

PINA Pushes for Strong Stand on Censorship

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Pacific Islands News Association(PINA) has asked the Pacific Islands Forum to take a stand and demand that the Fiji military regime respect media freedom.

PINA has condemned the regime’s recent actions in censoring news produced by the regional news service, PacnewsPacnews no longer carries any stories of the Fiji crisis.  They also want a strong regional stand on what they have called “the ongoing flagrant abuse of democratic rights in Fiji.”

PINA President, Joseph Ealedona, says the group is calling upon Fiji President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, to restore media freedom for the sake of the Fiji people. Mr. Ealedona says the people are reluctant to criticize the regime due to the military’s intimidation.  Mr. Ealedona wants the region to focus on the Fiji ban during May’s Media and Press Freedom day.

Mr. Ealedona has also said it is very important that the regional body stays in Fiji despite the censorship.

“I think it is very important that PINA remains there and does not show to the interim regime that we are running away.  The media in Fiji needs PINA there.  As far as the situation continues like that we will remain there,” Mr. Ealedona said.

Last week, PINA journalist Pita Ligaiula was detained overnight for unfavorable reports.  A source has also reported that PINA has received threatening phone calls.  For now, radio transmitters that broadcast international services remain switched off, access to internet cafes has been limited, and interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has hinted that censorship will continue.

For more information, please see:
Nine MSN – UN ‘utterly hypocritical’ over Fiji – 22 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – PINA calls for strong stand against Fiji censorship – 24 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – PINA chief says it is important to stay in Fiji despite pressure from regime – 24 April 2009

Human Rights Watch Urges Pakistan to Go Back on Peace Deal with Taliban

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –  Human Rights Watch calls upon the Pakistani government to withdraw its peace deal implementing Islamic Sharia law in the Swat Valley, located in the northwestern region of the country.  Human Rights Watch cites to violence among women and other basic rights.

President Asif Ali Zardari signed an ordinance on April 13, 2009 which imposed Sharia law and giving the Taliban complete control of the Swat Valley region.  This came about by way of the peace deal made on Februrary 15.  The parliament unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance.  Pakistani military have since moved out of the region.

“The Taliban are taking Swat back to the Dark Ages and the Pakistani government is now complicit in their horrific abuses,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.  “Tossing out the rights of the people in the tribal areas reflects abysmally on both the government and the Pakistani military’s ability to protect Pakistan’s citizens.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the Taliban have implemented their authority by summary executions, such as beheading, public whippings, and intimidation.

“The government defends this ordinance by saying that the officials implementing the law are still appointed by the provincial government and that they will respect the rights of women and others,” said Hasan.  “But the reality is that any official in the Swat who does not follow the dictates of the Taliban may be signing his or her own death warrant.”

Critics of the peace deal fear that the country is in danger of being taken over by the Taliban.

“They are now threatening to get out of Swat and take other areas into their custody.  So we’ve got to avoid that situation,” said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sufi Mohammad, leader of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Mohammad, a Taliban affiliate stated, “We hate democracy.  We want occupation of Islam in the entire world.  Islam does not permit democracy or election.”

“It is mind boggling that any elected, rights-respecting government would seek to partner with and cede control to entities and individuals to brazen in their rejection of human rights and constitutional rule,” said Hasan.  “Instead of being feted as allies, Sufi Mohammad and his allies should be held accountable for their crimes.”

For more information, please see:

Daily Times – TTP Says Osama Welcome in Swat: Taliban Reject Peace Accord – 22 April 2009

Human Rights Watch – Paksitan: Swat Deal Grave Threat to Rights – 15 April 2009

Reuters – Opposition Grows to Pakistan’s Taliban Pact – 22 April 2009

Human Rights Groups Call for Torture Prosecutions of U.S. Officials

23 April 2009

Human Rights Groups Call for Torture Prosecutions of U.S. Officials

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – A complete unclassified version of a report released by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday found that Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney gave explicit permission to use interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, a technique that Obama has recently classified as ‘torture.’ The report, titled “Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” can be found here.

The report reveals that Rice, as national security adviser at the time, gave permission to the CIA to use waterboarding techniques as early as July 2002, despite her testimony that says otherwise. Rice went on to become secretary of state. The extensive 232-page report is said to undercut the claim of then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was the work of “a few bad apples.” The report notes: “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.” With the release of this once-classified information under the Obama administration, the door is open for possible prosecution of members of the Bush administration.

The revelations against Rice, Cheney, and others in the Bush administration come just one day after Attorney General Eric Holder publicly stated “We are going to follow the evidence, follow the law and take that where it leads. No one is above the law.” Human rights groups have demanded that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate since Obama has noted it is ultimately up to Holder to decide whether to proceed with prosecutions of those in the Bush administration who provided legal justification for torture.

Blind Human Rights Activist’s Wife Beaten

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Nine men attacked Ms. Yuan Weijing, the wife of imprisoned blind activist Chen Guangcheng, as she was leaving to visit her family.  They punched and kicked her as they forced her back to her house.  The men are thought to be hired by local officials.

Yuan Weijing has been under house arrest for the past three years and seven months.  Her husband, Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught blind attorney, had been involved in investigation of forced abortions and sterilizations cases in China.  He was arrested in June 2006 on charges of “destruction of property” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic”.  The Chinese court sentenced him in prison to four years and three months.

According to Yuan, she has experienced constant harassment by local authorities.  During the past three years and seven months, local authorities hired over 30 people to watch her, even when she was farming in the field.  Not only they have prevented her from meeting journalists and lawyers, she was also prohibited from international traveling.  In 2007, the local government prevented her from travel to the Philippines to accept the Magsaysay award on behalf of her husband.  The couple’s children are not permitted to enroll at school.

According to Yuan, she has been able to visit her husband only one time on December 31, 2008 since Chen’s imprisonment.   She says that Chen has had diarrhea since July 2008, but received no treatment.

Amnesty International called to stop the continuing harassment and attacks on Yang Weijing. Roseann Rife, the deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Programme, says that
“The continued virtual house arrest of Yuan Weijing is illegal. While national authorities are touting the new National Human Rights Action Plan, we see local authorities flagrantly violating the law in this case.”

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Wife of Chinese human rights activist beaten – 21 April 2009

Epoch Times – Blind Chinese Activist’s Wife Under House Arrest For Over Three Years – 21 April 2009

Time – Chen Guangcheng – 30 April 2006

Human Rights Watch – Chronology of Chen Guangcheng’s Case – 18 July 2006

Amnesty International Warns of Further Human Rights Abuse in Fiji

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Amnesty International says Fiji’s military regime has threatened the lives of two lawyers, and will continue to commit other human rights abuses unless the government’s power is checked.

Amnesty researcher for the Pacific region, Apolosi Bose, performed a two week fact-finding mission in Fiji. Bose found that two judges were verbally threatened on their cell phones when they tried to go to work after the abrogation of Fiji’s Constitution on April 10th.

Bose says that people are too afraid to criticize the government since the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, did away with the constitution, fired the judiciary, and censored the media.

“People received death threats on that day. There was a warning from people who were linked to the military or to the government, you know don’t do anything, we are now on a path for success and nothing you can do can will ever stop us,” Bose said.

Bose believes that, unless the military regime’s power is limited, further abuse will take place.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Amnesty International fears further abuses in Fiji – 22 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Amnesty fears for Fiji human rights as clampdown muzzles media – 22 April 2009