Over 100 Civilians Freed From Captivity in Nigeria

Over 100 Civilians Freed From Captivity in Nigeria

By Jennifer M. Haralambides

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Security forces in Nigeria have recently freed around 200 women and children who were being held captive during a crackdown on the radical Islamic sect responsible for the violence that has been sweeping the country, killing over 150 people.

The leader of the radical group involved in the violence, the Boko Haram, is Mohammed Yusuf.  Security forces and soldiers surrounded parts of a compound that houses the leader in the city of Maiduguri, destroying buildings including a small mosque.  During this raid they did not find the leader, his whereabouts are still unknown.

In search of his Yusuf’s followers, joint military and armed forces went from house to house arresting more than 100 people.  A major obstacle the troops face is that there are sill civilians in some of the neighborhoods, and troops need to be careful.   Human rights activists have counted at least 10 new bodies of those who have fallen victim to this religious clash.

Recently, police declared that they have freed over 180 women and children whose husbands were among Yusuf’s followers.  Some of the men had been found with home-made guns and explosives believed to be planning attacks.

“These people have been organized and are penetrating our society and procuring arms and gathering information on how to make explosions and bombs to force their view on the rest of Nigerians,” said President Umaru Yar’Adua.

The Boko Haram, which translates to, “Western education is a sin,” in the Hausa language which is spoken across Nigeria is said to be modeled on the Taliban movement, and is sometimes called the “Nigerian Taliban.”  Its followers wear long beards and read or black headscarves and recognize only their own interpretations of sharia law.

For more information, please see:
AFP – Nigeria Fighting Rages as Death Toll Passes 300 – 29 July 2009

BBC – Captives Freed in Nigerian City – 29 July 2009

Reuters – Nigeria Hunts Islamic Sect, Women and Children Freed – 29 July 2009

Human Rights Watch Calls for Tunisia to End Activist’s Banishment

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NEW YORK, United States – On July 28 Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Tunisian Minister of Justice Béchir Tekkari and Minister of Interior Rafeek Belhaj encouraging the end of Tunisian activist Abdallah Zouari’s exile.

Zouari was convicted on charges of plotting to overthrow the state in a mass trial of the leaders and members of the Islamist Nahdha movement. He was sentenced to eleven years jail time plus five years “complimentary sentence” of post-release “administrative control.” Such administrative detainments are common in Tunisia and are typically executed by local police while the person lives in their own neighborhood or city.

After Zouari’s release from prison in June 2002, he was exiled to the Zarzis area in the southern governorate of Medenine, about 500 km from where his family lives in the capital of Tunisia. Aside from a thirteen- month stint in prison, Zouari has served the additional five year complementary sentence in Zarzis. In June of 2007, when the complementary sentence should have ended, an extra twenty-six months of banishment were added to his sentence without explanation.

 He served both the regular and the “complementary term” of his sentence and at the end of the complementary sentence the local authorities extended his confinement to the village for 26 months without reason on June 5 2007. This extension will run out in less than a week, Human Rights Watch has preemptively asked that Zouari be allowed to go free unless the Tunisian government can show real cause for continued detainment. When Zouari asked the chief of police who explained Zouari’s extended detainment to him, the officer merely said that the orders, “came from above.”

As the end of the 26 month extension is quickly approaching, Human Rights Watch has written a letter demanding that Tunisia show cause for further detainment. While Human Rights Watch did not agree with the legitimacy of the initial sentence, they are even more opposed to the arbitrary continuation of Zouari’s sentence.

For more information please see;

Human Rights Watch – Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009

Media Line – Rights Group Calls for End to Tunisian’s Exile – 28 July 2009

Reuter’s – Alert Net: Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009

Arabic News – Journalist Abdahlla Zouari’s Internal Exile Extended by 26 Months – 12 June 2007

Rivals Challenge Indonesia Election Results

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri launched a Constitutional Court challenge Tuesday to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s landslide re-election victory.

Megawati received 26.79 percent of votes in the July 8 poll and Kalla 12.41 percent, while Yudhoyono received 60.8 percent, according to the final count released by the General Election Commission Saturday.

But Megawati believes she has won 35.09 percent compared to 48.70 percent for Yudhoyono, close enough to force the pair to contest a run-off in September, her chief legal adviser Gayus Lumbuun said.

“A lot of foul play in the election has meant people in this country have not been able to use their constitutional rights,” Firman Jaya Daeli, a member of Megawati’s camp, told reporters.

Megawati claims millions of voters — out of around 170 million who eligible in the world’s third-biggest democracy — were disenfranchised by inaccurate voter lists and insufficient polling booths in key districts.

Both defeated candidates had alleged that the voter lists were flawed in the run-up to the elections, amid claims that duplicate names and those of dead people were appearing on the electoral rolls.

Kalla has also challenged the results at the Constitutional Court. He said his challenge was about protecting the future of democracy in a country that emerged from 32 years of dictatorship only 11 years ago.

“The principle is that this nation must progress properly, honestly and democratically, because the democratic process must be implemented correctly and fairly,” Kalla said

Supporters of Kalla have alleged that electoral lists contained around 20 million duplicate names.

Election Supervisory Body chief Nur Hidayat Sardini said that “there were many violations,” but said the polls were “considered a success.”

President Yudhoyono was elected president in 2004 and Indonesians have, correspondents say, been impressed by his ability to manage the economy and clamp down on corruption.

Many see President Yudhoyono as someone who has turned the economy around and brought much-needed stability and security to the country.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Indonesia poll result challenged – 25 July 2009

Reuters – Indonesia president’s rivals cry foul after poll win – 25 July 2009

AFP – Megawati challenges Indonesia vote result – 28 July 2009

Libya Asks for Return of Terminally Ill Lockerbie Bomber

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LONDON, United Kingdom– Libyan authorities have formally asked Scotland for the compassionate release of Abdel Basset al Megrahi. Megrahi is the former Libyan agent that was sentenced to life in 2001 for the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

A Scottish government spokeswoman confirmed the application for compassionate release on July 25. Libya has been bringing up al Megrahi often in official conversations with Great Britain. Earlier in July Megrahi’s fate was brought up by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The British government has deferred the issue to Scotland, which has a separate legal system from Britain. Now Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will consider whether or not to grant the application.

Al Megrahi is currently appealing his conviction for the second time, but the hearing is not expected to conclude until next year. Fifty- seven year old al Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal testicular cancer last year. His doctors do not believe that he would live to the end of the appeal.

The Lockerbie bombing resulted in the deaths of all 259 people on board the London to New York flight, as well as eleven people on the ground. Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2005, and agreed to pay 2.7 billion dollars in compensation to the victim’s families. This gesture helped to restore relations between Libya and the west. This announcement shifted public perspective on al Megrahi. Originally al Megrahi was perceived as being solely responsible for the bombing and after Libya claimed reponsibility, al Megrahi  was viewed more as an agent of Libya following his orders. Even some relatives of victims of the bombings support sending al Megrahi home, doubting both his guilt and the conviction.

Ultimately the decision to release al Megrahi lies with the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who has ninety days to make his decision. It is expected MacAskill will make his decision in the first week of August. Last year he released three prisoners on compassionate requests, although typically only people with three months to live or less are released.

For more information please see,

The Guardian – Sick Lockerbie Bomber Pleads for Release – 26 July 2009

AFP – Lockerbie Bomber asks for Compassionate Release – 25 July 2009

BBC – Ill Megrahi Seeks Prison Release – 25 July 2009

The Herald – Megrahi Requests Release from Jail on Compassionate Grounds – 25 July 2009

Reuters – Libya asks for Lockerbie Bomber to be Freed – 25 July 2009

HIV Affected Families in Cambodia Told to Relocate


By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TUOL SAMBO, Cambodia – In June 2009, the Cambodian government forcibly relocated 20 HIV-affected families to substandard housing at Tuol Sambo, a remote site 24 kilometers from the city. On July 23, the government moved another 20 HIV-affected families to the site.

The green sheds that are now home to these families in Tuol Sambo are referred to as the “AIDS village.” The sheds lack running water and adequate sanitation according to Human Rights Watch. “By bundling people living with HIV together into second-rate housing, far from medical facilities, support services, and jobs, the government has created a de facto AIDS colony,” said Shiba Phurailatpam of the Asia-Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. She further commented, “It’s hard to understand how a government that has received international recognition for its HIV-prevention efforts could so callously ignore the basic rights of people with HIV.”

Dozens of humanitarian agencies and regional groups sent a joint letter to Cambodia’s prime minister and health minister, asking the leaders to urgently address the unsanitary conditions in Tuol Sambo.

The joint letter stressed that conditions in Tuol Sambo do not meet the international standards for even temporary emergency housing. “The housing conditions in Tuol Sambo pose serious health risks for families living there… People living with HIV have compromised immune systems and are especially vulnerable. For them, these substandard conditions can mean a death sentence,” said Rebecca Shleifer, health and human rights advocate at Human Rights Watch.

The letter called on the Cambodian government to initiate a fair and open process with regards to housing services and to stop exposing HIV-affected families to further stigma and discrimination. “People living with HIV – like all others – need adequate living conditions that do not threaten their health and a way to earn a livelihood, so that they can provide for themselves and their families,” said Kevin Moody of The Global Network of People living with HIV.

The letter was delivered July 27. Many members of human rights agencies and health organizations eagerly await a response.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Cambodia: Aids Colony Violates Rights – July 27, 2009

Phnom Penh Post – Final HIV Families Withdraw – July   27, 2009