Senate Blocks Closing of Guantanamo

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – The United States Senate voted 90-6 against the $80 million spending bill that would have financed the closure of Guantanamo Bay by January 2010, as well as the transfer of the 240 detainees that remain there. The vote came just one day before President Barack Obama was scheduled to outline his plan for the transfer of the 240 terrorism suspects detained at the facility located in Cuba.

Obama had requested the $80 million last month, an amount necessary for the Pentagon and Justice Department to close the detention facility, which is known by international human rights groups for its use of harsh interrogation techniques and detention of suspects without trial. The funds were requested without an immediate and detailed plan of action for the transfer of the detainees and without a definitive answer on whether the detainees would be transferred to U.S. soil. Republicans have criticized Obama’s quest to shut down Guantanamo, saying that human rights abuses that have occurred at the facility are a thing of the past.

The 90-6 vote followed testimony to Congress by FBI Director Robert Mueller who stated: “The concerns we have about individuals who may support terrorism being in the United States run from concerns about providing financing to terrorists, [and] radicalizing others … [as well as] the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.”

Similarly, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said: “The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s neighborhoods.  The American people don’t want these detainees held at a military base or federal prison in their backyard either.”

In spite of the vote, Democrats remain hopeful that President Obama will devise a detailed plan that meets the objectives of both Democrats and Republicans. “The president’s very capable of putting together a plan that I think will win the approval of a majority of members of Congress,” said Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. “I can’t imagine that he won’t.”

Fiji Lawyers Concerned After Police Seize Computers with Confidential Client Information

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

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s police have seized the computers of three prominent lawyers which may contain confidential client information belonging to ousted members of Fiji’s federal government.

The President of the Fiji Law Society, Dorsami Naidu, confirmed that those computers were taken from a police station in Suva, Fiji’s capital city.

Jon Apted, Richard Naidu and Tevita Fa’s computers were seized allegedly because of their suspected involvement with an anti-government blog site.

Recently, the interim government imposed emergency regulations on the media which forces journalists to cast the government in a positive light. All published material must first go through the Ministry of Information, Major Neumi Leweni.

But the lawyers are concerned about the confidential client information contained on those computers. Tevita Fa is also the lawyer for the ousted prime minister, Laisenia Qarase. Fa is concerned that the interim government may have access to his clients’ information.

“There’s a lot of confidential matters. I mean anyone who goes to a solicitor relies on confidentiality and there may be a lot of information and other data and there’s no guarantee that the police will not abuse their powers of search in this case,” Fa said.

Meanwhile, Fiji police have not confirmed that they have seized any of the lawyers’ property.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji police seize computers of three prominent lawyers – 20 May 2009

ABC, Radio Australia News – Fijian lawyers questioned by police – 20 May 2009

ABC, Radio Australia News – Grassroots crime rising as Fiji law in limbo – 20 May 2009

Human Rights Watch Releases Report Claiming Migrant Workers in UAE Are Mistreated

By Nykoel Dinardo
Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

NEW YORK, New York – On May 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled The Island of Happiness: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.  The report claims that migrant workers hired to help build Saadiyat Island of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are being mistreated. 

Saadiyat Island is a 27 square kilometre island off the coast of Abu Dhabi.  In May 2009, the UAE intended to break ground on huge construction projects to take place on the island, including 27 hotels, outposts of the Guggenheim and the Louvre, and a campus of New York University.  Hundreds of migrants workers have been hired to work on these projects, as well as others, including the leveling of the island itself before construction can begin.  However, according to HRW, these workers are facing harsh, unreasonable work conditions, poor housing and health conditions, and have no legal remedies to address these problems.

Many migrant workers get to the UAE through employments agencies.  These agencies often charge outrageous fees, in some cases equaling as much as four times a year’s wages.  Migrant works borrow money from family in some cases, but often they borrow money from high interest rate loan companies.  By the time the workers arrive in the country where they want to work, they are already in so much debt that they are forced to accept any work conditions in order to work a wage high enough to pay off their loans.  Although hiring workers through these agencies is illegal under UAE law, there is little enforcement. 

Because workers have no power to negotiate their contracts, they are forced to work twelve hours days in temperatures over 100 degrees Farenheit, with high humidity.  After a long day of work, a worker takes home an average of $8 US per day.  According to HRW, the average salary of a foreign worker is $2575 US; however the average per capita income is $30,000 US.  HRW states that many companies cut costs by keeping overtime wages below the legal requirements.

Furthermore, HRW claims that companies are also preventing workers from getting better jobs by illegally confiscating their passports.  These companies threaten workers with deportation should they look for a better job.  Although this practice is illegal, HRW says that the workers they interviewed explained that the practice is universal on Saadiyat Island.  Migrant workers are also unable to get representation from outside groups because the UAE does not recognize non-governmental organizations that may aid the workers.

HRW has asked the UAE to reconsider its labor laws and to improve enforcement.  They also ask the UAE to implement programs to improve workers’ awareness; they explain that, as long as workers are unaware of their rights, workers will be taken advantage of by companies.

For more information, please see:

Financial Times – Plight of Abu Dhabi Workers – 20 May 2009

Human Rights Watch – The Island of Happiness – 19 May 2009

Human Rights Watch – UAE:  Exploited Workers Building ‘Island of Happiness’ – 19 May 2009

Telegraph – Workers on Luxury Island ‘Exploited and Abused’ – 19 May 2009

United Press International – Rights Group Blasts Abu Dhabi Project – 19 May 2009

Canada May Be Last to Recognize Indigenous Rights

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

NEW YORK CITY, United States – The government of Canada continues to oppose the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), as over 2,000 participants from around the world gather at the UN Headquarters to discuss Indigenous rights.

Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia have opposed the Declaration since its creation in 2007. Australia recently reversed its position and John Key, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, has said he will consider reversing New Zealand’s opposition. UN leaders are in contact with President Barak Obama about possibly reversing the Bush Administration’s opposition to the Declaration.  Canada’s intransigence was the primary topic of concern at a press briefing this week.

The Canadian government claims that the Declaration conflicts with the Canadian Constitution because it favors Indigenous rights over non-Indigenous rights. Victoria Tuali-Corpuz, the chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights, called Canada’s reasoning “invalid”.  Officials expressed surprise at Canada’s position considering its “advanced” policy regarding Indigenous people.  Furthermore, Canada has been active on other international human declarations, like the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Discussions at the conference included complaints from Indigenous people that Canadian mining companies do not respect their rights.  Participants addressed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, calling on Canada to “establish clear legal norms . . . to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations.”

The Declaration includes provisions recognizing Indigenous human rights to self-determination, land, natural resources, and compensation for rights violated. DRIP is not legally binding, but the outlines of the declaration are to be referenced when a country enacts new laws and policies.  According to Tauli-Corpuz, “More attention needs to be focused on the trans-boundary human rights obligations of countries which are hosting extractive corporations and creating problems for indigenous people.” The text of the Declaration is available here.

Rights Group Urging Bangladesh to Stop Extrajudicial Killings

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – The latest report by the Human Rights Watch called on the Bangladesh government to take urgent action “to end impunity for human rights abuses and to establish rule of law.”  According to the report, although extrajudicial killings have decreased since a new government took power in January 2009, Bangladesh security forces routinely engage in unlawful killings.

Detainees are subjected to severe beatings, sexual violence and electrical shocks, but Bangladesh’s Constitution allows the parliament to pass laws that shield law enforcement officers and members of armed forces from prosecution.  Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said Bangladesh’s Constitution is in violation of international legal standards.  He also added that as a party to UN human rights conventions, Bangladesh’s “existing culture of impunity has to be torn down.”

Over the past five years, Bangladesh’s elite crime fighting force known as the Rapid Action Battalion, along with the police, are reported to be responsible for over 1,000 deaths, and have become a symbol of abuse and impunity.  “If you are a soldier, a member of the Rapid Action Battalion or the intelligence services, or a police officer, you can get away with murder in Bangladesh,” said Adams, “But those who kill or torture should be behind bars with other violent criminals.”

Faruk Khan, a senior member of the Cabinet, said that the Bangladesh government does not support extrajudicial killings and that proper action will be taken against those found guilty.

Odhikar, a Bangladeshi rights group, said 14 people have been killed so far in 2009.  Human Rights Watch is pushing for the Bangladesh government to set up witness protection programs and prosecute or take action against those who try to hinder prosecution.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Rights group slams Bangladesh state ‘murders’ – 19 May 2009

Associated Press – Watchdog: End Bangladesh’s extra-judicial killings – 18 May 2009

Human Rights Watch – Bangladesh: Executions, Torture by Security Forces Go Unpunished – 18 May 2009

Reuters – Rights group urges Bangladesh to end unlawful killings – 18 May 2009

Mexican Army Continues Human Rights Abuses in its Domestic Policing Role

By Nima Nayebi
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – In an effort to curtail drug-related violence, the Mexican army has been engaged in domestic policing, but a lack of training and accountability has led to allegations of rampant human rights violations according to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

President Felipe Calderón initially recruited the army in the effort as part of a 2006 emergency plan. Since then more than 1,230 reported cases of human rights violations have prompted Mexican human rights organizations to ask the U.S. to halt American military aid to Mexico. While abuses include disappearances, killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions, none of the military investigations and trials has led to the conviction of accused soldiers. According to Raúl Benítez, defense specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, part of the problem is that “[h]aving military officers commit abuses is seen as the lesser evil. People just want the army to protect them from the narcos.”

The HRW report details seventeen graphic cases of abuse in 2007 and 2008 involving more than seventy individuals. HRW recommends that civilian courts, rather than military tribunals, hear military abuse cases to ensure proper prosecution and deterrence. The Mexican Interior Department has promised to study the report, but has stressed that military court rulings may be appealed in civilian courts.

Mexico_drug_war

Journalists Prohibited from Swat Valley Pakistan

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PAKISTAN – Journalists are fleeing the northwest region known as the Swat Valley due to fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistan military.  A military-imposed curfew has caused most newspapers to stop publishing.  Human rights groups urge the Pakistani government to provide journalists with security to remain in the area and with permits so that they can report past curfew.

“Journalists love the thrill of working in ‘conflict zones’ where they can cover events which change the course of history,” says Mazhar Abbas, the former Secretary General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). “Sadly, this no longer holds true for Pakistani journalists required to cover the war in the Swat Valley where they face dire security threats,” Abbas continues. “Every other day, there is news of journalists being killed or kidnapped, or threats to their families in the war-torn areas.”

The latest military offensive has killed more than 1,000 alleged militants.  The recent fighting began in early May but has continued in Lower Dir and Buner districts since last month.  At least one million civilians have been displaced, 1,000 of which are currently in relief camps.  The military plans to attack Mingora, one of the main towns in the Swat Valley.  Mingora is believed to house at least 4,000 Taliban.

Yet there is no way to verify claims since these places have become too dangerous for journalists.

Reporters Without Borders stated that due to the lack of media presence “the Swat Valley has become a lawless area. . .  This situation is unacceptable and must be remedied by the government at once.”

Despite the devastation, the presence of military forces in the Swat Valley has restored hope to those who reside there. Afzal Khan Lala, who is known for his resistance to the Taliban in Swat, said, “The ongoing military operation has given people hope because [this military operation] is different from the past — it is restoring people’s confidence [in their government and the army].”  He continues, “In my opinion, if the operation moves forward the same way, it will not take months to [restore peace to Swat].”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Pakistan: Offensive Kills 1,000+ Alleged Militants – 17 May 2009

Committee to Protect Journalists – Briefing: Pakistani Journalists Face Taliban, Military Threats – 30 April 2009

Index on Censorship – Pakistan: Journalism is First Casualty – 15 May 2009

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – Swat Braces for Key Battle as Displacement Crisis Peaks – 15 May 2009

Reporters Without Borders – Journalists Flee Swat Valley En Masse – 12 May 2009

Violence Against Chinese Businesses Continues in PNG

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

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – For the third straight day, protesters in Papua New Guinea have attacked and pillaged Chinese run businesses.

On Wednesday, Chinese-owned stores were targeted in the capital city of Port Moresby. Protesters attacked more stores yesterday in Lae. On Friday morning, police intervened, sending tear gas out into the crowd to stop the riot.

The violence has led many Chinese-owned stores and nationals to hire extra police and guards to protect their shops. The Chinese embassy went so far as to encourage Chinese-owned businesses to close their businesses while the violence continues.

Local resentment of Chinese-owned businesses has grown as an increasing number of Chinese immigrants move to Papua New Guinea to start their businesses.

One unnamed youth told PNG newspaper, The National, “Who is allowing these Asians to come into our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New Guineans?” He added, “They are ripping us off and investing their money in their country.”

The turmoil started after 100 anti-Chinese protesters turned a demonstration into a violent brawl. The demonstrators began looting Chinese businesses, but the police did little to stop the protest.

Port Moresby police chief, Fred Yakasa, claims that the police were not responsible for the protest. Mr. Yakasa says that the violence was due to “hooligans” and not the protesters generally.

“There is nothing to worry about, as we will continue our patrols and increase presence on the streets,” Mr. Yakasa said.

Meanwhile, in Lae, hundreds of protesters attacked Chinese nationals and Chinese-owned stores, resulting in one unconfirmed death and many serious injuries.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – More violence in Papua New Guinea directed at Chinese businesses – 15 May 2009

The Age – Looting, attacks target Chinese in PNG -15 May 2009

ABC News – Violent stoushes close PNG mine – May 11 2009

New Zealand Group and Australian PM Criticize Fiji Media Regulations

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Commonwealth Press Union’s media freedom committee has passed a resolution criticizing the interim regime’s indefinite extension of censorship in Fiji.

The committee represents major media organizations in New Zealand.  Tim Pankhurst, the committee chairman, says they are aware Fiji’s interim regime is unlikely to take notice of the resolution.  Mr. Pankhurst says the committee felt it was important to condemn the actions and to stand with the journalists in Fiji who are working under the emergency regulations.

Mr. Pankhurst believes it is important to raise awareness of the regulations in Fiji to New Zealanders.

“We decided on the motion of deploring because we felt the best role that we can serve right now is to make New Zealanders aware that what’s happening continually in Fiji is not some kind of happy little coup in paradise.  Real freedoms that we take for granted are being denied and abused there,” Pankhurst said.

He also urged New Zealanders to consider what is happening in Fiji when making travel and business decisions.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has sent an opinion editorial to Fiji’s media outlets explaining why the country’s military backed regime has been suspended from the the Pacific Islands Forum.  In the piece, Mr. Rudd said Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s actions have damaged Fiji’s international standing and the reputation of its military.  The piece was provided to local media outlets this past week and has not appeared in any of Fiji’s media outlets.

The Executive Director of Fijian Civil Society Group, the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum, Reverend Aquile Yabaki, says Rudd’s statement should be available to everyone, “It’s a statement from the Australian Prime Minister.  We need to hear it.  We want to hear it.”

For more information, please see:
Pacific Islands Report – Australian PM Sends Opinion Piece to Fiji Media – 15 May 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Commonwealth Press Union passes resolution deploring Fiji censorship – 15 May 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Commonwealth Press Union says resolution unlikely to move Fiji’s interim govt – 15 May 2009

Hearing to Investigate Kyrgyz Defendants’ Allegations of Torture

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch, Reporter


KYRGYZSTAN
– A hearing took place at Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to investigate allegations of torture on Thursday.  Thirty-two defendants were arrested in October for protesting the government’s decision to prohibit the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr.  The police arrested them, claiming they were Islamic “extremists.”  The defendants stood trial in the Osh Province a month later.  Many claimed they were tortured while in police custody.

“The prosecutor’s office should have started an investigation into the torture allegations a long time ago,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Torture is a common problem in Kyrgyzstan, and the Supreme Court hearing is a chance for the authorities to make clear that the abusers can no longer get away with it.”

The Osh Province Court found the defendants guilty of charges including incitement to cause or participate in mass unrest, separatism, attempted overthrow of the constitutional order, and spreading ethnic or religious strife.  They were sentenced between nine and twenty years in prison.

The Kyrgyz Human Rights Council requested ombudsman Tursunbek Akun to conduct an independent investigation. “The gross violation of the basic right to a free trial, the mass repression of ordinary citizens, torture, and blackmail by the law-enforcement agencies could undermine confidence in the state and trigger anger against its representatives and increase radicalism in the region,” the council said.

On February 20, 2009, the ombudsman declared his intention to have the rulings reviewed.  “Torture was widely used to get testimony. There were just four actual supporters of the Khizb ut-Takhrir party (among the accused) and the rest were placed in the same category. I plan to draw public attention to this,” he said.

According to Human Rights Watch, “law enforcement officials poured hot and cold water on them, beat them on the soles of their feet, and semi-suffocated them using plastic bags or gas masks. Detainees also had to stand in their underwear in a cold room with their feet in water for up to three days, were not allowed to use sanitary facilities, and did not receive needed medical treatment.”

Human rights organizations view the Supreme Court hearing as an opportunity to further investigate the torture allegations to ensure justice.

For more information, please see:

Central Asian Online – Kyrgyzstan Ombudsman Seeks Further Investigation of Nookat Events – 02 February 2009

Human Rights Watch – Kyrgyzstan: Investigate Torture Allegations – 13 May 2009

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – Kyrgyz High Court Hearing Appeal by Religious Extremists – 15 May 2009

Regulations on Fiji Media Will Continue Says Interim Government

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

SUVA, Fiji – Government censorship of the media in Fiji will continue, says Permanent Secretary for Information, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni.

Mr. Leweni says the regulations will remain in place until journalists learn to follow directives from the Ministry of Information. According to regulations, journalists must first submit any reports on the government to the Ministry of Information for review.

Fiji’s interim government installed these regulations on April 10th, following the subrogation of the Constitution and the dismissal of all judicial members. Mr. Leweni says news outlets cannot expect to return to their old style of reporting prior to April 10th.

Mr. Leweni also says that the regulations have yielded “good” results, and if he were in charge, he would extend that censorship for another five years.

But such regulations have already caused one Fiji based news outlet to temporarily relocate. PACNEWS, operated by two local journalists, Makereta Komai and Pita Ligaiula, says deciding to leave Fiji was not easy.

“We would want to be in Fiji as it is in the center of the Pacific but our work as an independent news agency is becoming increasingly more difficult,” said Joseph Ealadona, the board chair of the Pacific Islands News Association news service.

He blames the media for these regulations, saying that harsher control would not be necessary if the media was not always so critical of the government. Mr Leweni claims that journalists have been irresponsible and “sensationalized” government actions.

The interim government has officially extended the regulations 30 days after May 10th.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Censorship of Fiji media could continue indefinitely, says regime – 13 May 2009

Fiji Times Online – Pacific news service to leave Fiji – 13 May 2009

Atrocities continue in Sri Lanka

By Oscar J. Barbosa
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka, Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, called for an immediate ceasefire between the Sri Lankan Government and the revel Tamil forces.  The calling is due to an indiscriminate shelling of the Tamil coastal strip, where the Tamil Tigers have taken as the last stronghold. The region is inhabited by thousands of civilians cut in the crossfire, dying by the hundreds.

A temporal medical facility was attacked with a mortar bomb destroying the only functioning medical facility in the war zone. Due to the attack, 49 patients and bystanders were killed and 50 others were wounded.  The facility had also been attacked on May 2nd, when 64 civilians died.

The figures compiled by the United Nations showed that nearly 6,500 civilians had been killed over the last three months. The casualties’ calculations cannot be verified due to the government position of restricting doctors, aid workers, or foreigners into the war zone.  It is clear that at least 50,000 remain trapped in hell-like conditions.

As the fighting continues, there is an unclear global position in regards to the civil unrest.  Foreign ministers from Britain and France have flown to Sri Lanka to urge restraint and a halt to the bombings. Additionally, the Temils living in London, Toronto and in Tamil Nadu (India), have outspoken and lead demonstrations to demand an international intervention. The UN Security Council failed to take on the issue due to Russia, China, Japan and Vietnam’s block arguing that the fighting was an internal matter.

Priyanth Nallaratnam, a Tamil living in Toronto and participant of the protests said that:  “If the Prime Minister keeps on ignoring this, his ignorance of the community’s plight is just going to fuel the people even more, […] the Prime Minister [should] call for a ceasefire, expel the Sri Lankan ambassador, impose sanctions, send food aid and maybe deploy peacekeepers, among a long list of desired actions.”

Japan has also been pressured by Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, Amnesty International, and Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The four human rights groups urged Japan to support a formal action on the situation as a member of the UN.

The communication of the Human Rights groups, sent to the Japanese prime minister said that ” Japan, a powerful player on the humanitarian stage and the largest international donor to Sri Lanka, has an important role to play in saving countless civilian lives.” The letter also said that Japan had an important role to play to implement aid policies that ensure sustainable peace, human rights and development in Sri Lanka.

It is uncertain whether or not the international community will take action amidst intensive fighting with high collateral civilian casualties.

For more information, please see:

Zeenews – Human Rights groups ask Japan to flex muscle on Lanka – 12 May 2009
Posted Toronto – Tamils warn of more traffic chaos in new protest tomorrow – 12 May 2009
Times Online – Slaughter in Sri Lanka – 12 May 2009
The Independent – Forty-nine killed after hospital attacked in Sri Lanka – 12 May 2009

Junta Allows Doctor Visit to the Detained Opposition Leader

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar – After an American man allegedly sneaked into the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s home last week, Junta took her physician for questioning, according to the National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win.  Last week, an American man named John Willian Yeattaw swam 1 1/4 miles across Inya Lake to detained Suu Kyi’s home and “secretly entered the house”, according state-run press.  Myanmar authorities arrested the man.

Nyan Win says that the physician arrived at Sun Kyi’s house for her routine monthly checkup but was barred from entering.  Later, the authorities took doctor Tin Myo Win from his home for questioning, and have not returned since. “We don’t know where he was kept or why he was questioned,” Nyan Win said.

Human Rights groups have accused Junta of denying Suu Kyi adequate medical care.  Finally, Junta allowed a doctor to make a visit to Suu Kyi on Monday. Tin Myo Win’s assistant doctor, Dr. Pyone Moe Ei was granted a medical visit on Monday afternoon to Suu Kyi’s home, where she is under house arrest.  Suu Kyi was found to be suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure. A medical assistant has placed Ms Suu Kyi on an intravenous drip, and her health has improved since.  The doctor issued an appeal for Suu Kyi to be allowed further treatment for her condition.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the 63-year-old Nobel laureate, one of the world’s most famous political prisoners.  She has been living under house arrest without trial for 13 of the past 19 years.  Suu Kyi’s party won a victory in Myanmar’s 1990′ elections.  But military authorities ignored the results, and many party members are now in prison, in exile or in hiding.

For more information, please see:

AP – Myanmar arrests US man for entering Suu Kyi home – 07 May 2009

AP – Doctor of Myanmar’s Suu Kyi questioned by police – 09 May 2009

BBC – Burma’s Suu Kyi ‘in poor health’ – 09 May 2009

Times – Burma’s Most Famous Political Prisoner Gets a Surprise Visitor – 08 May 2009

United Press International – Doctor allowed access to Aung San Suu Kyi – 11 May 2009

USA – American arrested for allegedly sneaking into Burmese activist’s home – 07 May 2009

Washington Post – Myanmar junta allows doctor to see ailing Suu Kyi – 11 May 2009

Dr. Henry T. King, Jr. – Nuremberg Prosecutor – Leaves Legal Legacy and Vision for Future

By Sarah Benczik
Impunity Watch Editor-in-Chief

New York, USA – Friends and colleagues today mourn the death of Dr. Henry T. King, Jr., who passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.

Dr. King perhaps is most famous for prosecuting Nazis alongside John H. Jackson during the Nuremberg Trials.  He was a recent graduate of Yale Law and only 25 years old when he was hired as the youngest Nuremberg Prosecutor.  He led the prosecution of Luftwaffe Field Marshall Erhard Milch, deputy head of the Luftwaffe under Hermann Goering, and interrogated many other significant Nuremberg defendants, including Albert Speer.

Dr. Henry King’s legal career reached far beyond his time spent prosecuting Nazis.  He went on to
work as corporate counsel for TRW Inc., eventually becoming chief corporate international counsel, and later served as counsel to the law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey.  He served as director of the Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Eisenhower Administration and as General Counsel of the U.S. Foreign Economic Aid Program.  During the 1980s, as Chairman of the Canada-United States Law Institute, Dr. King played an integral role in facilitating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  He was also actively engaged in the American Bar Association (ABA): he was chairman of the ABA Section on International Law and Practice, U.S. chairman of a joint working group, organized by the American, Canadian, and Mexican bar associations, on the settlement of international disputes, and joined the ABA’s special task force on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

Dr. King became a professor at Case Western Reserve University, where he taught International Business and International Arbitration.  As a scholar, he published more than 70 articles on international business transactions, international arbitration, and Nuremberg related topics.  He also authored a book – The Two Worlds of Albert Speer – based on his Nuremberg experiences.

In 1998, Dr. King, along with Whitney Harris and Ben Ferencz (also former Nuremberg Prosecutors), participated in the Rome diplomatic conference to create a permanent international criminal court (now known as the ICC).  The three prosecutors are credited with convincing fellow delegates to include the crime of aggression – along with crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes – within the jurisdiction of the ICC under the Rome Statute.  He was honored by the government of The Netherlands as an official guest of the government for the inauguration of the ICC in March 2003 at The Hague.

Dr. King’s work was fueled by a passion for international cooperation and law, and a vision of a better future.  In his own words through his Case Western University faculty web page, Professor King shared this vision:

“I’m involved in “action” programs in international law and in the teaching of international law because I believe that we live in an increasingly connected international world, which we can make much better and more secure.”

A colleague of Dr. King’s shared a similar anecdote: “At a luncheon session that I attended a few months ago in which Henry reflected on insights gained over the years, he told the standing-room crowd of students that ‘the most important thing is to find some way to leave your mark for the betterment of society and the world.’  Henry left his mark in a big way.”

Dr. King was named a Fellow honoris causa of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law Center for International Legal Education in 2002.  The University of Western Ontario awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws.  In 2004, he was appointed Canada’s Honorary Consul General for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.  He was also a Senior Advisor to the Robert Jackson Center at Jamestown, New York.

Dr. King’s legacy will no doubt continue on through future generations of international legal scholarship.  Impunity Watch shares Professor King’s vision of an interconnected world without legal impunity from the greatest crimes committed in history.   Dr. King served as the master of ceremonies for Impunity Watch’s official web-launch ceremony in October 2007, and we are grateful for and honored by his support for our organization over the years.  The Impunity Watch Executive Board and Staff offer our condolences to his family, and we will continue to honor his legacy by daily working to keep his vision for a better world alive.

NATO Denies Involvement in Civilians’ White Phosphorus Burns

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


KABUL, Afghanistan
– Human rights organizations condemn the use of the chemical white phosphorus by NATO in the battles against the Afghan Taliban.  An 8 year old civilian suffered severe burns to her face and neck on March 14, 2009 in Alahsay district in eastern Kapisa Province.  The girl is currently stationed at a U.S. military base in Bagram where medics found white phosphorus on her face and neck.

“White phosphorus causes horrendous burns and should not be used in civilian areas,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “NATO should immediately make public the results of its investigation into this incident.”

Chemicals such as white phosphorus is typically used to provide light during the night, to create smokescreens to hide military operations or burn buildings. Uses such as these are not prohibited by international treaties.  Yet to prevent future civilian casualties and injuries, human rights groups declare that utilizing such a chemical in densely populated areas violates international humanitarian law, and should be prohibited.

Colonel Gregory Julian, a spokesman for the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that Western forces indeed use the chemical. He stated, “it is used on the battlefield in certain applications. . .  It is used as an incendiary to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment; it’s used for illumination.”

However, the victim’s father, Aziz Rahman stated that a shell fired by NATO forces landed on his home.  “(Western) troops were on the road, the Taliban were on the mountain and we were at the house, sandwiched between them. When the Taliban began retreating, they fired artillery at them, 12 rounds. One hit my house,” he said.

A NATO spokesperson denies allegations that it was NATO forces that caused these injuries.  Officials state that no shots were fired that could have landed on the victim’s home, but never deny that white phosphorus was used.  Instead, they suggest that insurgents may have been responsible.  The international Security Assistance Force released a report indicating that insurgents used white phosphorus on four occasions since December 2007.

Yet, Defense Ministry spokesman Azher Murad said, “I am not aware that the Taliban have used this is any of their attacks.”

NATO is currently conducting investigations into the matter.  Human rights groups call for the immediate release of the results.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Afghan Rights Group Probes Civilians’ Burns, US Militay Denies Using White Phosphorus – 10 May 2009

Human Rights Watch – Afghanistan: NATO Should ‘Come Clean’ on White Phosphorus – 8 May 2009

Reuters – Exclusive: Afghan Girl’s Burns Show Horror of Chemical Strike – 8 May 2009