Nigerian Islamist Radical Group Leader Killed

Nigerian Islamist Radical Group Leader Killed

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – The leader of the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram,  Mohammed Yusuf, was killed yesterday in a shoot-out with security forces.

“He has been killed.  You can come and see his body at the state police command headquarters,” said Isa Azare, spokesman for the Maiduguri police command.  It was reported that Yusuf’s bullet-riddled body was shown to journalists by police and displayed on state television shortly after his death.

Human rights activists have begun to allege that Yusuf had been executed and warned of revenge attacks, although police say that he died in a shoot-out.

The Nigerian information minister, Dora Akunyili, said that the Nigerian government does not “condone extrajudicial killings,” but then added, “what’s important is that he has been taken out of the way, to stop him [from] using people to cause mayhem.”

Last week during security driven raids, in search of the radical leader, it was rumored that Yusuf had fled town and was heading either to Chad or Cameroon.  However, he was finally taken into custody yesterday afternoon.  The attack resulted in heavy casualties, mostly on the side of the fundamentalists.  Police officials report that he was hiding in a goat pen at his parents-in-law’s house.

Governor Ali Modu Sheriff declared the capture of Yusuf and other remaining members of the sect to be a victory.  He also promised to come up with a bill to regulate religious sermons within the state.  Until such governmental action is implimented, the military will begin what they call “show-of-force” in Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, and Yobe to assure the civilian population of their preparedness to curtail any activities of the Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram have been in existence as far back as 1995, but have existed under many different names. This radical Islamist sect is commonly referred to as the “Nigerian Taliban.”

Nigeria map (source: Al Jazeera)

Al Jazeera – Nigeria’s Boko Haram Cheif ‘Killed – 31 July 2009

BBC – Nigeria Row Over Militant Killing – 31 July 2009

Reuters – Hundreds of Bodies in Streets After Nigeria Unrest – 31 July 2009

This Day – Boko Haram Leader Killed – 31 July 2009

Times Online – Radical Islamic Leader Mohammed Yusuf Shot Dead By Nigerian Security Forces – 31 July 2009

Impunity Watch – Over 100 Civilians Freed From Captivity in Nigeria – 29 July 2009

Fiji Faces Commonwealth Suspension

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji will likely be suspended from the Commonwealth bloc, New Zealand said Wednesday — a day after Fiji’s military ruler strengthened his grip on power by replacing the ailing president with a stronger ally.

Commonwealth ministers will consider this week whether to suspend Fiji from the 53-nation group after the military-led government delayed elections until 2014, rather than 2009 as had earlier been promised. Suspension from the Commonwealth would see Fiji lose access to the body’s $7.5 billion aid budget and further isolate the government.

At its last meeting in March, a Commonwealth committee warned Fiji it would be thrown out unless it made progress toward restoring democracy.

Since then, self-appointed Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a December 2006 coup, has rejected international demands to restore civilian government by the end of the year. His ally, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, in April abrogated the constitution, fired the judiciary, censored the media and reappointed the military government for five years.

Bainimarama announced Tuesday Iloilo will retire on July 30. Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will serve as acting president until the Cabinet and chief justice decide on a replacement. Observers in Fiji say Iloilo’s replacement by Nailatikau, a former army commander who helped guide Bainimarama’s rise to military power, only underscores the regime’s dominance and could strengthen it.

With no constitution in place, the president has absolute power and rules by decree, but is widely viewed as answering to Bainimarama.

Bainimarama says he wants to change the electoral system in the ethnically divided nation before holding a ballot. Under the present system, people in some constituencies can only vote for candidates from their ethnic community.

The 944,000-strong population is made up of 57 percent indigenous Fijians and 38 percent ethnic Indians, according to U.S. government data. Three of the nation’s four coups in the past 22 years were sparked by ethnic tensions.

In the latest crackdown on freedom of speech, the government banned Fijian Methodists from holding their annual conference, saying it was too political and might encourage anti-government sentiment.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will meet in London July 31, according to a statement. The Commonwealth is largely composed of countries with historic links to Britain and includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

For more information, please see:
Associated Press – Fiji faces possible suspension from Commonwealth – 30 July 2009

Associated Press – President of military-led Fiji plans to step down – 29 July 2009

Bloomberg –  Commonwealth to Consider Suspending Fiji Over Election Delay – 29 July 2009

The New Zealand Herald – Fiji may face full suspension – 29 July 2009

Commonwealth Gives Fiji September 1 Deadline

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Commonwealth will suspend Fiji on September 1 unless the South Pacific island nation re-activates a multi-party political forum intended to pave the way for a credible national election by October 2010.

After a seven-hour meeting, ministers agreed that Fiji must commit by September 1 to holding elections by October next year or face full suspension from the Commonwealth. “The group noted that Fiji’s situation with regard to fundamental Commonwealth values had deteriorated strikingly since March,” the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group said in a statement.

In March, the Commonwealth gave Fiji a six-month deadline to restore democracy, three years after military leader Bainimarama overthrew the elected government.

If a country is fully suspended, it loses access to Commonwealth advice and technical assistance. Commonwealth member states are encouraged to take further steps such as limiting government-to-government contacts. Full suspension from the Commonwealth would also mean Fiji athletes would not be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games next year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who represented New Zealand at the meeting, said he was not optimistic that the new deadline would bring about a change of heart for the Fiji regime. “The economic situation in Fiji has been deteriorating. There’s got to be a point where the regime decides it’s time to re-engage with the international community and accept some help. I hope this is the time but I’m not holding my breath,” McCully said.

Bainimarama has already said that the Commonwealth could go ahead if it wanted to suspend Fiji.

The Commonwealth groups 53 countries, mainly former British colonies. Fiji is already suspended from its meetings and the Commonwealth threatened in March to fully suspend Fiji at a September ministerial meeting if it did not make progress in restoring democracy.

Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum last May.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – CMAG gives Fiji till September to restore democracy or face full suspension – 31 July 2009

Radio New Zealand International – NZ’s foreign minister says Commonwealth has sent Fiji a clear message – 31 July 2009

New Zealand Herald – ‘Clear ultimation’ given to Fiji – 1 August 2009

Reuters Canada – Commonwealth sets September 1 ultimatum for Fiji – 31 July 2009

Protests in Iran Re-Ignite at End of Mourning Period

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – Forty days have passed since Neda Agha-Soltan was killed during a post-election protest on the streets of Iran, and as the traditional mourning period draws to a close, those who question the validity of the June 12 presidential election are once again taking to the streets.

On July 30, hundreds of protestors gathered at the grave of Neda, a 26-year-old music student whose death was captured by a fellow protestor’s mobile phone camera and was watched by millions worldwide on YouTube. Police reportedly prevented Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading reformist presidential candidate, from staying at the graveside service. Mehdi Karroubi, another reformist candidate, was also at the service.

As the mourning period ends, several people arrested during the protests are preparing to go on trial beginning August 1, under numerous charges such as attacks on government and military offices, vandalism, arson, and “contacts with enemies.” Many international human rights groups question the validity of such trials, especially considering reports that the Iranian government has repeatedly arrested and intimidated human rights lawyers.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division reported that on July 15, plainclothes policemen seized human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr while she was walking to Friday prayers. On July 21, security forces reportedly made a threatening phone call to Mohammed Seifzadeh, another leading human rights lawyer, telling him they would “take steps” to prevent him from continuing to represent defendants. At least four other human rights lawyers have been arrested in Iran since June 12, and the head of the Iranian Judiciary has revised the regulations governing the Iranian Bar Association, severely restricting its members’ independence.

International human rights groups have called for Iranian authorities to end the threats against lawyers and to release those arrested. On July 25, several international cities hosted a global day of support for those killed and arrested since the election nearly two months ago.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Iranian Police Clash with Mourners– 30 July 2009

Human Rights Watch – Iran: Stop Arresting, Intimidating Rights Lawyers– 26 July 2009

United for Iran – A Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the People of Iran– 25 July 2009

Amnesty International USA – Global Day of Support for Iran’s Victims of Human Rights Abuse– 24 July 2009

Human Rights Watch – Iran: Halt Moves to Curtail Lawyers– 16 July 2009

US Threatens Sanctions for Eritrea Over Somalia Rebels

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter,  Africa

WASHINGTON DC, United States – United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told a congressional committee that the United States is “deeply concerned and very frustrated” with Eritrea’s behavior in Somalia.

Eritrea is accused of arming, supporting, and funding al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, and of helping to destabilize the country and the surrounding region with a direct impact on US security.

“It is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it, and nor will other members of the Security Council,” Rice said to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rice told the UN that Eritrea’s contributions to Somali rebels would not be tolerated and that the Obama administration is committed to international peacekeeping operations.  The US supports reforms that will save money, strengthen oversight, and prevent fraud and abuse, including a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation by peacekeepers.

The United States is contributing $2.2 billion of the United Nations’ $7.8 billion UN peacekeeping budget for 2009.

Eritrea is running out of time before the UN Security Council intervenes and faces possible sanctions if it does not change its behavior.

US UN Ambassador Susan  Rice_VOA “As I said in New York, there is a very short window for Eritrea to signal, through its actions, that it wishes a better relationship with the United States and the wider international community. If we do not see signs of that signal in short order, I can assure you that we will be taking appropriate steps with partners in Africa and the Security Council to take cognizance of Eritrea’s actions both in Somalia and the wider region,” said Rice.  “We will continue to discuss with colleagues in the Security Council appropriate measures, including potentially sanctions, against Eritrea for its actions in Somalia.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed during her visit to the region next week.

For more information, please see:

BBC – US Threatens Eritrea Over Somalia – 30 July 2009

Al Jazeera – US Threatens Eritrea with Sanctions – 29 July 2009

Reuters – U.S.’s UN Envoy Warns Eritrea Over Somalia Rebels – 29 July 2009

VOA – UN Ambassador Says US Committed to Peacekeeping – 29 July 2009