Sri Lanka Rejects Human Rights Probe

By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government continues to reject calls to probe for human rights violations amidst allegations that an unprecedented number of civilians perished in the battle against Tamil separatists.

Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said “those who give various civilian casualty figures and call for these probes must have ulterior motives.” He further went onto say that the government was conducting its own analysis but declined to give any figures. “Our officials knew how many people were in the (war zone) area and we are taking a tally on the number of people now in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.”

Several groups such as Amnesty International have been calling for independent probes but are being met with resistance. Amnesty also urged the United Nations to reveal its own estimates of civilian casualties. Sam Zarifi, the group’s Asia Pacific director accused both sides of human rights violations and war crimes and repeated a request for an independent and international probe.

Last week Sri Lankan officials managed to garner enough South Asian support at the Geneva council session to pass a resolution describing the conflict as “a domestic matter that doesn’t warrant outside interference.” In a following controversial development, the council supported the Sri Lankan government’s decision to provide international NGOs and human rights agencies with limited access “as may be appropriate” to refugee camps.

Undoubtedly these developments have frustrated international organizations that are now unable to accurately assess the human rights violation in Sri Lanka and therefore are unable to respond appropriately.

It makes one wonder, when civilian victims are at issue, shouldn’t one accept all the aid and support available?

For more information, please see:

The Nation – Sri Lanka Rejects Probe after Crushing Tigers – June 01, 2009

Guardian – UN Rejects Call for Human Rights Inquiry – May 28, 2009

Straits Time – Sri Lanka Rejects Rights Probe – May 31, 2009

Press Trust of India – Sri Lanka Rejects Demands for Probe – May 31, 2009

Canadian Jewish Congress Presents Human Rights Award Amid Community Opposition to the Organization

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
TORONTO, Canada – The Canadian Jewish Congress‘ 90th Assembly will meet today to discuss policy issues such as human rights, Darfur, hate, security and anti-semitism.  Speakers include four of Canada’s five major party leaders and Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom. The headlining event will be the Saul Hayes Human Rights Award, which will be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The CJC has decided to award Harper for his vigorous condemnation of anti-semitism and his strong support of Israel. The award goes to a leader who has exhibited distinguished service to the cause of human rights.

The CJC was founded in 1919 in order for persecuted Jewish minority to gain political strength through collective action. The group has evolved into what some consider “the epitome of political power,” as evidenced by the meeting of leaders today. However, the CJC has become more divided than it was in the past, according to historians and local activists. This is particularly true among those who question Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Critics of the CJC claim that it is increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices when it comes to Middle Eastern politics.

Some community members regret what they consider to be a focus on the state of Israel, when the original organization focused on human rights issues.  Toronto artist Reena Katz, an activist associated with Israel Apartheid Week, an international movement opposed to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians claims to have been “blacklisted” by the CJC. The CJC withdraw its affiliation with the Koffler Centre for the Arts after her exhibit was shown there.

Critics of the CJC say that it has “become the establishment” and make a point that the most prominent members are not activists or agitators, but business people and philanthropists. Others complain that the organization is no longer grass-roots, but instead operates top-down and stifles debate.

Regardless of the criticism, few in Canadian politics can ignore the organization, which claims to present a unified voice for Canadian Jews. This is evident by the high level government attendance to the CJC’s 90th anniversary celebration this weekend. According to CJC chief executive, Bernie Farber, the CJC has “a brand name that is the most significant ethnocultural organization in Canada.”

IBA’s Human Rights Institute Criticizes Fiji Interim Regime’s Raid on Law Society

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

SUVA, Fiji – The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute has condemned the Fiji Military’s break-in of the Fiji Law Offices and removal of confidential files.

Fiji’s interim government issued a decree last week which stated that the Chief Registrar of the Court would take over the Law Society’s job of issuing practicing certificates to attorneys.

Following that decree, the interim regime ordered the military to raid the Law Society Offices, and take files relating to complaints about Law Society members.

Mark Ellis, IBA’s executive director, has called the interim government’s actions a “gross invasion of the rule of law,” and is concerned that such actions hurt the law profession’s independence in Fiji.

Mr. Ellis also says that the raid on the Law Society Offices is just one of many questionable actions the interim government has taken since the 2006 military coup of Fiji’s federal government. He called the latest break-in the “death knell” to the independence of Fiji’s legal profession.

Meanwhile, Fji’s interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has called IBA’s concerns “misplaced,” arguing that they are only shared by a few lawyers in Fiji.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International –  IBA criticises Fiji regime for raid on Law Society – 29 May 2009

The Australian – Fiji’s ‘junta judges’ – 29 May 2009

FijiVillage – BA concerns misplaced-AG – 29 May 2009

Internationally Recognized Advocate for Migrant Human Rights on the US-Mexico Border Dies at 72

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
CHULA VISTA, California – Roberto Martinez, a committed advocate for migrant rights on the US- Mexico border died on May 20th from complications of diabetes. Martinez appeared at marches, spoke on behalf of migrants, cataloged human rights abuses, and testified before Congress on the impact of increased militarization at the border.

Martinez’s career in advocacy began when he led efforts in demanding police action to violence against immigrants.  He has consistently fought for government accountability for failed immigration policies. As the director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, Martinez was instrumental in developing a human rights methodology, which is now widely regarded as a best practice by human rights organizations on the US-Mexico border.

The media often attacked Martinez’s convictions. Martinez received death threats, was arrested during the course of his work, and hate groups targeted his family. His wife, nine children, and their families survive him.

Martinez was the first US citizen to be honored as an International Human Rights Monitor by Human Rights Watch for his pioneering human rights advocacy in border communities. Recently Roberto received the prestigious Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government. This is the highest honor granted to a non-Mexican national for their service to Mexicans abroad. He was also the recipient of the Quezacoalt Award, presented by the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights.

Christian Ramirez, the national coordinator for the American Friend’s Service Committee reflected on Martinez’s death, saying “It’s going to be a terrible loss . . . for the whole border community. Voices like his are urgently needed at the border.”

Cook Islands Group Rejects Affirmative Action

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

AVARUA, Cook Islands – A Cook Islands political group says using affirmative action to get more women into parliament is wrong.

The Group for Political Change was responding to a two-day conference held this week in the Cook Islands aimed at developing a temporary measure, such as reserving seats for women, to increase women’s parliamentary representation to 30 percent. At the moment, women hold three out of the 24 seats.

The two-day conference was a joint initiative between the International Development Law Organization, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the Gender and Development Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Participants in the conference claim that increasing the number of women in the Cook Islands Parliament is an important first step toward gender balance in government.

A founding member of the Group for Political Change, Elizabeth Ponga, says the Cook Islands society would definitely benefit from having more women MPs but that using affirmative action and bypassing the democratic process to vault women into parliament are wrong.

Ponga speculated that with a democratic political system it will only be a matter of time before there are more women in Cook Islands politics.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – Cook Islands take first official step towards more women MPs – 30 May 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Cook Islands activists say affirmative parliamentary action for women wrong – 30 May 2009

Global Recession Hinders Human Rights in Central Asia

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – When Central Asian countries did not answer questions from Amnesty International over the past year, experts concluded that governments in those countries have set aside human rights over economic issues.

However, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth said, “You cannot separate human rights out from other…problems that exist, because human rights…rests at the base of the solution for problems, whether it is political, or whether it is economic.”

Consequently, in its annual report, Amnesty International found that the largest number of human rights issues are unresolved in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.   All dissent is suppressed in both countries, and while human rights activists are able to work in other Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, such is impossible in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Further, although death penalty was abolished in Uzbekistan in January 2009, no one knows how many people were actually executed or are serving life imprisonment, leaving surviving family members wondering whether or not their loved ones are alive.  Moreover, Uzbek refugees are often forced to return to their homeland where they risk human rights violations, and human rights activists working in Uzbekistan are harassed and persecuted.

Uzbekistan Protesters in Uzbekistan (Source: Front Line)

Impunity by the Turkmenistani government is prevalent as well.  In both countries, justice fails because there is no system to ensure rule of law in that there are obstacles, such as difficulty in obtaining a lawyer, failure of prosecutors to pursue investigations, low penalty for convicted officials, and fear of reprisals by the victims.

Some attribute the reason for repression to the fact that countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are still strongly depended on Russia, and Central Asian countries have adopted the worst from its neighbors.

Ann Bayevsky of Hudson Institute has criticized the United Nations for its failure to address the problem saying, “They [UN Human Rights Council] just eradicated human rights investigations in [Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan] because human rights abusers hold the balance of power.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Amnesty: Recession Leading to Repression – 28 May 2009

Amnesty International – Amnesty International Report 2009 Europe and Central Asia – 28 May 2009

Human Rights Watch – Uzbekistan: Stop Detention, Harassment of Activists – 29 May 2009

Trend News – Amnesty International: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan leading black list of Central Asia countries – 29 May 2009

Voice of America – Amnesty International Scores Russian Human Rights Record – 28 May 2009

Voice of America – UN Body Criticized for Not Fighting for Human Rights – 22 May 2009

Mexican Journalists Covering Government Corruption and Drug Trade Kidnapped and Murdered

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

DURANGO, Mexico – Mexican crime journalist Eliseo Barron Laguna was found dead, with signs of torture on Tuesday, May 26.  He is the second journalist killed in the state of Durango in less than a month. Carlos Ortega was shot dead as he was investigating police corruption in Durango. The next day Fidel Perez Sanchez, a crime reporter in Vera Cruz was reported missing. Mexico’s war on drugs and public corruption has made journalism increasingly dangerous.

The State Prosecutor’s office for Durango reported that armed men barged into Barron Laguna’s home late on Monday, beat him in front of his wife and daughter, and kidnapped him.  Laguna has been a reporter for the publication La Opinion de Torreon for 11 years.  His last article was about police corruption.

Traffickers have been known to harass journalists who report on drug gangs and attacks on the media have increased since Calderon launched his army-backed assault on the drug cartels at the end of 2006. Drug-related violence has killed 2,300 people in Mexico this year.

Mexico is considered the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists, after Iraq. Ten journalists have been killed this year alone, and at least eight have been killed for reasons directly related to their work. Most of the targeted journalists covered organized crime or  the government.

Research by The Committee To Protect  Journalists (CPJ) found that local and state authorities in Mexico have been ineffective at solving press-related cases and at times have been complicit in the crimes. The text of the CPJ report can be found here.

A bill imposing penalties for crimes against “journalistic activity” has stalled in the Mexican Senate. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for a swift and efficient prosecution and resolution to the cases of murder and kidnapping of journalists. So far the police have made no arrests related to these recent killings and have made no public determination that the killings were related to the individuals’ work as journalists.

Israel Continues to Allow Settlement Expansion Despite International Protest

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – An Israeli government spokesman said on May 28 that Israel must be allowed to expand its settlements in the West Bank, echoing the sentiments of Israeli’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to his cabinet on May 24.  Mark Regev, speaking on May 27, said that any final arrangements regarding West Bank settlements would have to be part of any agreement with the Palestinians, but that until such an agreement is reached, Israeli settlements would be allowed to expand to compensate for “natural growth.”

Approximately 500,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements inside the West Bank and in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem, areas which were captured by Israeli in 1967 and which many Palestinians believe will be the basis of a future Palestinian state.  While the Israeli government has condemned the twenty-two settlements, deeming them to be illegal, the organization Peace Now estimates that fifty such settlements have been built since 2001 and Israeli settlements currently take up approximately 40% of the land in the West Bank. 

Under international law, such settlements are illegal because they are on land that Palestinians claim form their independent state.  In the U.S.-supported roadmap peace plan, Israel must stop all settlement activity, and specifically included natural growth.

On May 27, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that construction of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank must immediately stop.  During his meeting with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on May 28, U.S. president Barack Obama repeated his call for a freeze on settlement construction, and said that he expected to hear a response from Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly.  Middle East experts have called the Obama Administration’s response to the current settlement expansion the strongest on the issue from the U.S. in years. 

For more information, please see:

Irish Times – Israel to Allow Expansion in Settlements – 29 May 2009

New York Times – Obama Calls for Swift Move Toward Mideast Peace Talks  – 28 May 2009

BBC News – No Exception in Israeli Settlement:  Clinton – 28 May 2009

New York Times – Israel Insists on Some Construction in West Bank Settlements – 28 May 2009

Al-Jazeera – Netanyahu:  Settlements to Expand – 25 May 2009

Palestine Monitor – Obama’s Logic vs. Netanyahu’s Rhetoric – 20 May 2009

No “Impunity” in Nepal?

By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KATHMANDU, Nepal – In the primary Nepali dictionary, there is no word for impunity. This is particularly relevant today as Nepal is the process of formulating a new constitution. Previous constitutions have not dealt with human rights extensively, nor addressed specific areas of impunity. Local human rights groups have been urging the government to promote accountability and acknowledge and address the widespread human rights violations in the country’s new constitution by guaranteeing important rights.

Nepal has been home to rampant human rights violations against men, women, and children throughout its history. Although Nepal is party to several international treatises on human rights, the country is slow to act upon them.

Newly elected Prime Minister Madhav Kumar opined that the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal is insignificant. He further accused the OHCHR of “paying attention to political events and neglecting major human rights violations.” He also only extended its tenure for three months even though three years were requested.

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Kedernath Upadhaya, in response commented that the rights body alone cannot guarantee human rights without the help of the government and political parties. The Chairman’s comment is particularly relevant on the eve of writing a new Nepali constitution. The situation in Nepal, as of now, looks bleak since there is a marked communication barrier between human rights agencies, the government, and local political parties.

Perhaps they can start with introducing the word impunity into their dictionaries and their constitution.

For more information, please see:

KantipurOnline – OHCHR Insignificant in Nepal – May 27, 2009

Gulf News –  Amnesty International Report on Asia – May 28, 2009

Republica – OHCHR in Nepal Extended by Three Months – May 29, 2009

Asia Foundation – Impunity in Nepal – September 1999

Egyptian Dissident Continues to Speak Out After Sentence is Overturned

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Saad Eddin Ibrahim in 2003
Iw picture 528 CAIRO, Egypt – Saad Eddin Ibrahim was convicted on the charge of damaging Egypt’s reputation for speaking out against current President Hosni Mubarak and his regime in August of 2008. The conviction was founded Ibrahim’s vocal opposition of Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Ibrahim suggested in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that the United States withhold aid until Cairo took steps to end the smuggling of arms into the Gaza strip, and to rein in police abuses.

On May 25, Judge Ashraf Sheta overturned Ibrahim’s two-year sentence. The decision comes just days before President Obama is scheduled to speak in Cairo, and there is speculation that this decision was motivated by Obama’s visit. Ibrahim is hesitant to believe this, and has praised the Egyptian appellate court for their independent decision.

Ibrahim has been living in the United States in exile, and would like to return to Egypt to see his wife and family. He is hesitant to return while he still faces charges of spying, and treason. If convicted he could be sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. His lawyers are advising that Ibrahim remain in the United States until the charges have been resolved.

The complaints filed against Ibrahim have all been brought by members of the NDP. Ibrahim believes that this is a way for the government to try to intimidate him without directly criticizing or sanctioning him. While visiting Egypt previously there have also been attempts on Ibrahim’s life, which he thinks might have had some government involvement.

In spite of all of this, Ibrahim plans on continuing to speak out. He sees it as his duty to be a critic, because the country needs critics. Ibrahim wants to be a free voice to speak on behalf of those who are oppressed, and hopes to shed light on the problems within his nation.

For more information, please see:

The Media Line – Egyptian Dissident: Obama Should Listen to People, Not Officials – 27 May 2009

The Media Line – Egyptian Dissident ‘Will Not Stop Criticizing Regime – 26 May 2009

AFP – Egypt Court Overturns Dissident’s Jail Term – 25 May 2009

Al Arabiya News Channel – Egypt Court Acquits Leading Rights Activist – 25 May 2009

BBC News – Egypt Quashes Saad Eddin Ibrahim Jail Term – 25 May 2009

PNG Wants to Eradicate Chinese “Bad Apples”

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT MORESBY, Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea’s Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister, Sam Abal, has called on the Chinese government to help eradicate “bad apples” from breaking PNG’s laws.

“[We need] cooperation from the Chinese government to help us to separate the general Chinese and those who do wrong,” Abal said.

The Minister said that corruption, not just in immigration, is paralyzing PNG’s systems while resentment over growing Chinese dominance of businesses and their growing involvement in crime has built up over the years.

The Minister claimed that people are angry with foreigners, who do not have proper work permits and do not speak English, for coming in and running most of the small shops which Papua New Guineans should be doing.

The statements follow a wave of anti-Chinese violence and looting of Asian-run businesses in the country that began May 10th and killed four. The PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has apologized to the Chinese community for the violence and looting.

The Prime Minister also admitted that corruption in PNG’s police force, as well as the labor and immigration departments, were factors behind the unrest.

Troubles in PNG began on May 10th when workers clashed with management at the Chinese-run Ramu nickel mine in Madang Province, on the northeast coast, after a PNG worker was injured by a tractor.

In the same week in Port Moresby, Noel Anjo Kolae organized and led an anti-Chinese protest that ended in violence and looting, sparking similar attacks across PNG.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – PNG government calls for Chinese help in weeding out bad apples26 May 2009

The Age – Anti-Asian tensions simmer in PNG26 May 2009

Journalist on Filipino Military “Hit List”

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines – A freelance journalist Carlos Conde, who regularly writes for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, has been named as an enemy target in a list titled “order of battle” compiled by the Filipino Army.  The list names individuals who are not doing anything illegal, but are nevertheless killed with impunity.

Carols conde

“Why my name is included in the ‘order of battle’ is a mystery,” said Conde.  “[T]his [list] has caused anxiety and fear in my family, because, as we all know, an ‘order of battle’ in the Philippines is a veritable hit list.”

Carols H. Conde (Source: Asia Sentinel)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said that the Filipino government’s failure to end the culture of impunity against journalists and the media has given the country a reputation for being one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.

Since President Gloria Arroyo took power in 2001, more than 60 journalists have been killed.  Six out of the seven journalists killed in the Philippines in 2008 were murdered, and two journalists escaped murder attempts in February of this year.  Most recently, on May 20, 2009, a journalist was shot and wounded in Zamboanga Sibugay, a southern province of the Philippines.  The Committee to Protect Journalist released a report in March stating that 24 murder cases of journalists remain unsolved in the Philippines, which is one of the world’s highest number of media killings.

“The Government of Gloria Arroyo-Macapagal (sic) must accept responsibility not just for its silence on impunity against journalists but for actively encouraging suspicion and violence against the Philippines media community,” said IFJ’s Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

Conde suspects that his time as one of the coordinators of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, during which he staged local campaigns protesting against murders of journalists, may be the reason for his inclusion in the hit list.  Media rights activist groups are urging the Filipino government to immediately clarify this situation.
For more information, please see:

Asia Sentinel – A Filipino Journalist and a Hit List – 19 May 2009

Committee to Protect Journalists – Philippine Journalist alleges he is on military ‘hit list’ – 20 May 2009

GMA News – Gov’t urged to explain journalist’s inclusion in Army ‘hit list’ – 28 May 2009

Reporters Without Borders – A journalist on army target list, another shot, possibly by soldier – 22 May 2009

Fiji Law Society Raided

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Over the weekend, the offices of the Fiji Law Society were raided, files were removed, and the Society’s president was informed that the government will take over licensing lawyers and the handling of any complaints, including its own against the lawyers.

Society president, Dorsami Naidu, told Radio New Zealand the new chief registrar, Ana Rokomokoti, and men in plain clothes demanded entry to the society’s Suva offices. They then took confidential files relating to complaints against law society members, and the chief registrar told staff a decree had been issued effectively deregulating the society. The society was told it would no longer be in charge of licensing lawyers, and membership would no longer be compulsory.

One staff member was threatened with arrest.

The raid follows the military regime’s reappointment of judges last Friday, six weeks after firing them all.

Those reinstated included two High Court justices who previously ruled that the military’s 2006 coup was legal.

All practicing certificates will expire on June 30.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand – New Zealand Law Society – New Zealand Law Society says Fiji’s regime further threatening independence of legal system – 25 May 2009

The New Zealand Herald – Law Society says Fiji raid ‘serious development’ – 25 May 2009

The New Lawyer – Fiji law society attack angers Aus lawyers – 25 May 2009

Evidence of Human Rights Abuses Uncovered in Northern Burma

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KACHIN, Burma – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) found new evidence of human rights violations in Burma.  CSW said they heard horrifying, first-hand testimonies of rape, religious discrimination, land confiscation, and human trafficking of ethnic minorities in Kachin State of northern Burma.

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said ethnic Kachin people, especially women, live in constant fear of the Burmese soldiers, yet no one dares to intervene.  Rogers also said that despite the ceasefire between the ruling junta and the Kachin Independent Organization, people of Kachin continue to suffer severe restriction, discrimination, and military impunity.

Burma

Villagers fleeing Burma Army troops (Source: AP)

CSW report included an account of a local pastor who was forced by the Burmese military to make a speech at a public rally denouncing human rights campaigners and claiming complete religious freedom.  Furthermore, CSW spoke with a 21-year old student who was raped and strangled by Burma Army soldiers.  The rape victim did file a complaint and requested investigation, but no action was ever taken.  She merely received 100,000 Kyats for medical care, a rice bag, and cooking oil.

“Many rape cases in Kachin State go unreported because victims are afraid and [too] ashamed to report it. There are many more cases we don’t know about,” said Rogers. He added, “No women are safe in Kachin State.”

Kachin Development Networking Group’s Chairman Awng Wa, who works inside Burma, described the current situation by stating that, “You can hear of rape cases everywhere, if there is a military camp set up.  But no one dares to complain because they are afraid that it could create… more repression.”  The Chairman further added, “Land confiscation and forced labor are common too.”

According to Rogers, the Kachin people feel forgotten by the international community.  He said, “It is time that their voices are heard, and that the international community responded to the political, social, humanitarian and environmental disaster in northern…Burma.”
For more information, please see:

Chinland Guardian – CSW: Chin and Kachin Face Brutalities in Burma – 25 May 2009

The Christian Post – CSW Uncovers More Evidence of Human Rights Abuses in Burma – 25 May 2009

Christian Today – SCW uncovers more evidence of human rights abuses in Burma – 25 May 2009

Mizzima News – Junta violations severe in Northern Burma: CSW – 25 May 2009

Demolitions of Palestinian Homes in Jerusalem Continue

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – Despite calls from the United Nations for demolitions of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem to cease, the city continues to demolish what it calls “illegally developed” homes. The deputy mayor, Naomi Tsur, says that all residents of Jerusalem are being treated equally. Tsur insists that all homes built without permit are being destroyed, regardless of their being in east or west Jerusalem.

The Israeli police pounded on the doors and entered homes as if they were executing a raid. One resident was told that she had five minutes to don her scarf, collect her valuables, and get out of the house. One thousand illegally built homes in Jerusalem have been marked for demolition so far this year. Israeli based NGO B’Tselem estimates that that number could double in the next few months.

Amidst the rubble of her home a Palestinian girl gets food from her fridge. Her home in east Jerusalem was demolished on April 22. Image Courtesy of Tara Todraswhitehill/AP
Iw picture memorial day
Many Palestinians whose homes have been demolished admit that they built their home without a permit. Permits are difficult to get, because there is only a limited percentage of land that Palestinians are allowed to build on, and most of this land is already being used. Out of the seventy square kilometers that constitute the west bank and east Jerusalem that were annexed by Israel, only thirteen percent is zoned for Palestinian construction.

Even changes to existing homes, like additions, are subject to Jerusalem’s strict building permit regulations. In Jerusalem’s Old City, a resident has been ordered to demolish a room of his house and to pay a 6,000 shekel fine (1,500 USD). The resident was given 45 days to comply, or he faces a three month jail term. He had already paid an 8,000 shekel fine in 2004 for building the room onto his house.

Jerusalem is allegedly stingy in their granting of building permits. Many Palestinians are denied permits if they submit applications, which discourages many other citizens from even attempting to get the proper permits. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) alleges that the building permit process and the current demolition practices are all part of a plan to remove the Palestinians from Jerusalem.

Mayor Nir Barkat’s administration denies the allegations of the ACRI, and recently announced that 13,500 additional housing units would be allowed in east Jerusalem. These additional units are not an immediate solution, only part of a city plan for the year 2030. The city has a large development plan that will allow a developer to create a large tourist complex near the Old City, and supports a group that buys Palestinian land in east Jerusalem, and relocates the Palestinians to more Arab neighborhoods.

The demolitions and restrictions on Palestinian development in Jerusalem add to the difficulties of the peace process and the proposed two state solution. With mounting pressure from the United States and world wide for peace, Israel will be under more scrutiny for its city planning measures that appear to be discriminatory in effect.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Demolitions build Jerusalem tension – 25 May 2009

Ma’an News Agency – Jerusalem Court orders Palestinian to demolish room of his home – 24 May 2009

BBC News – Jerusalem Mayor ‘stepping up demolitions’ – 19 May 2009

Christian Science Monitor – In Jerusalem, an uptick in demolition orders of Arab homes – 19 May 2009

United Nations Radio – End Palestinian demolitions in Jerusalem, UN tells Israel – 1 May 2009