Politicians Pressure UN and UK to Stop Using Fijian Troops

Politicians Pressure UN and UK to Stop Using Fijian Troops

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

WELLINGTON, New Zealand– New Zealand politicians are criticizing the United Nations for using Fiji’s troops for peacekeeping, claiming they are propping up the military regime.  Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, said the UN was assisting the military regime that has stripped citizens of rights and shut down freedom of speech.  Mr. McCully explained, “They sustain the interim regime both in terms of credibility and in terms of cash.”

Foreign affairs spokesman of the Green Party, Keith Locke, said, “The UN is helping fund Fiji’s military rulers by continuing to recruit Fijian military personnel for peacekeeping missions.”  Mr. Locke said there are 282 Fijian troops currently involved in peacekeeping missions, a number that has remained about the same since before the coup in 2006.

Mr. Locke continued, “It is deeply ironic that Fiji is involved in rebuilding Iraq.  Fiji’s military is more about destroying democracy than restoring it.”

He has also called on New Zealand to pressure other nations, such as the United States and Britain, to act on the issue.  Many former Fijian soldiers work for the United Kingdom and United States private security firms, and there are more than 2,000 Fijians serving with the British Army.

Phil Goff, New Zealand Opposition leader and former minister of foreign affairs and defense, also wants to pressure Britain and the United Nations to stop employing Fijian soldiers.  Mr. Goff says that after the latest developments in Fiji more pressure must be applied.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate to have Fijian peacekeepers trying to bring good governance in other countries in the world when the Fiji [military] has overthrown democratic governance in Fiji.  If the UN made that decision to send the Fijian peacekeepers home immediately that would impact very seriously on the military,” Mr. Goff said.

Mr. Goff says the same should apply to the Fijians in the British military.

For more information, please see:

3 News – NZ politicians criticise UN for using Fiji troops – 15 April 2009

New Zealand Press Association – NZ Politicians Criticise UN For Using Fiji Troops – 15 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – NZ opposition leader calls for UK and UN  to stop employing Fiji soldiers – 20 April 2009

U.S. Sponsors Torture Training in Uganda

19 April 2009

U.S. Sponsors Torture Training in Uganda

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – A recently-released Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled “Open Secret: Illegal Detention and Torture by the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force in Uganda” details U.S.-sponsorship and involvement in providing torture training to Ugandan security agents. The most recent incident of U.S. involvement happened in December 2008, under the Bush Administration.

The HRW report notes the lack of initative from foreign partners to address the serious human rights violations occurring in Uganda. It also argues that “[t]he Ugandan government’s use of unlawful detention and torture against terrorism and treason suspects violates domestic and international human rights law. And its unwillingness to take action against those responsible, particularly JATT (the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force), is a dereliction of the government’s international legal obligations.”

In contravention to domestic law, the Leahy Amendment (a provision of U.S. appropriations legislation prohibiting U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity), the U.S. provided $5 million in training to Uganda agents. Ugandan officials subsequently punched, whipped, caned, and used electric shock on hundreds of suspects. A HRW interview with Uganda’s chief of military intelligence, Brigadier James Mugira, confirmed that Ugandan agents received training from the U.S.

The HRW report concludes: “Given the oft-cited allegations of torture and illegal detention by JATT and CMI (the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence in Uganda) by local and international human rights organizations, and by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, it is unclear how these individuals could have been eligible for U.S. funded training.”

Human Rights Watch is a major New York-based organization that documents human rights abuses around the world.
For more information, please see:

Black Star NewsU.S. Provided Torture Training to Uganda – Report – 19 April 2009

Human Rights Watch – Open Secret: Illegal Detention and Torture by the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force in Uganda – 8 April 2009

Human Rights Watch – Open Secret: Role of Uganda’s Foreign Partners in the Military and Security Sector – 8 April 2009

New Judges to be Appointed Today for Fiji Courts

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

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s interim government will begin appointing new judges today after Fiji President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, abrogated Fiji’s constitution and dismissed judicial members on April 10th.

A new decree has established the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the High Court and other courts as necessary. This decree has made it possible for a chief justice to be sworn in, as well as other judiciary members.

In addition, Fiji’s President has been given the power to establish the appointment of the Chief Magistrate, Master of the High Court, and other officers.

But there is growing concern over the new court system’s independence.

The new decree has eliminated the President of the Law Society from the group that decides the judicial appointments.

The head of the Law Society, Dorsami Naidu, believes that this decree will make it more likely that interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama will choose judges who are only sympathetic to his position.

For more information, please see:
Fijilive – Fiji courts take shape today – 20 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – New judges to be appointed in Fiji – 20 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji’s interim government will today begin to appoint country’s new judges – 19 April 2009

Rights Group Demands Media Presence in Sri Lanka Stronghold

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka
– Reporters Without Borders demands that the media be allowed to enter the northern part of Sri Lanka where the military and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are in the midst of a 20 year battle.  Because of the stronghold, tens of thousands of civilians are trapped between forces.  More than 2,000 are believed to have died.  Yet no confirmations on this estimation exist since journalists and humanitarian aid are prohibited from the area.

“With a major humanitarian crisis and war crimes clearly taking place, the government must heed the international community’s calls for a ceasefire and for better access for humanitarian workers and journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is a disgrace that this war is being waged without independent journalists present. And by preventing thousands of innocent civilians from moving freely, the Tamil Tiger rebels bear a large share of the responsibility for these crimes.”

It added, “By limiting media coverage to guided tours with the purpose of confirming military victories, the armed forces are preventing the press from doing its job and are disregarding the public’s right to be informed in an independent manner.”

The government said that only nine journalists had been killed and 27 had been assaulted over the past three years.  Private activists state that over twelve have been killed.  Human rights groups cite to Sri Lanka as the third most dangerous place for journalists.

The United Nations estimates there are still 100,000 civilians trapped.  Since the beginning of the war in 1983, government security forces have contained the Tigers to the coastal jungle of the Vanni,located  in the northeastern region.

The government has been accused of violating international human rights laws by shooting in their safety zones, even schools and hospitals.  On the other hand, the Tigers have been claimed to prevent civilians from leaving, using them as human shields and forcing them, including children, into their ranks.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Sri Lankan Media Ban “A Disgrace”: Rights Group – 11 April 2009

Reporters Without Borders – Call for Journalists to be Let into Area Where “A Major Humanitarian Crisis” is Unfolding With No Media Presence – 10 April 2009

Reuters – Short Sri Lanka Truce Over, Doors Open to Final Fight – 15 April 2009

Interim Regime Decrees Retirement Age is 55

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The re-confirmed interim regime has decreed that Fiji’s retirement age is now 55.  The regime has ordered that any public servant over the age of 55 who is still working must retire by April 30, 2009.  The age applies to everyone in the civil service, the Fiji Police Force, and the Fiji Prisons Service.  The decree exempts top civil servants such as the Commander of the Military Forces, the Commissioner of Police and Auditor General, who shall retire at 65.

New Zealand Public Service Association national secretary, Richard Wagstaff, has said it is a “deplorable” move that discriminates against age and breaches fundamental human rights.

The retirement age in Fiji has always been left at 60, though Bainimarama had ordered the age reduced to 55 soon after the coup in December of 2006.  The decision was taken to court where the reduction to 55 was upheld.  The Court of Appeals then stayed the decision, effectively keeping the age at 60.  This new decree wipes out that Court of Appeals decision.  The decree also abolished the Public Service Appeal Board.

The government claims the decree was made to cut Government spending in Fiji’s rapidly shrinking economy.

For more information, please see:
Islands Business – Retirement reset at 55 and appeals scrapped – 15 April 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji regime decrees retirement age is 55 – 15 April 2009

Fijilive – Fiji retirement age fixed on 55 – 16 April 2009

The New Zealand Herald – Fiji slashes retirement age in bid to cut costs – 17 April 2009