Methodist Church Leaders Silenced as World Leaders Condemn Fiji Interim PM’s Actions

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

SUVA, Fiji – A Fiji court has stopped two Fiji Methodist Church Ministers and the paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa from holding meetings for at least the next 21 days, after they were arrested for defying Emergency Regulations set up by the interim government.

In April, Fiji Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, implemented emergency regulations which makes it illegal for groups that have anti-government views to organize.

Matelita Ragogo, a reporter for Radio New Zealand International, said, “In the next 21 days, they are not allowed to have any meetings, they are not allowed to be seen in public or conduct anything that might be construed to be a meeting. They had to surrender all their travel documents, and Ro Teimumu in particular, she is not to publish any other material pertaining to the annual conference of the Methodist church.”

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key have condemned the arrests of the Methodist Church leaders, saying those actions are indicative of the type of power the interim regime has held over the Fijian people since the military coup in 2006.

“We absolutely condemn what has occurred. It does show a consistent course of conduct so far as Commander Bainimarama and the interim military is concerned. This is just another very regrettable example of the regime further isolating itself from the international community and further stepping back from democracy and civil and human rights,” Mr. Smith said.

Ro Teimumu, Reverend Ame Tugaue, who is the church president, and the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, who is the secretary general, are awaiting their court appearances in three weeks.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Charges silence Fiji church conference organisers – 23 July 2009

Taiwan News – Australian FM condemns Fiji church arrests – 23 July 2009

Stuff.co.nz – Wave of Fiji arrests alarms Key – 23 July 2009

Plan to Evacuate Outposts Approved Amid Increasing International Pressure

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East Desk

JERUSALEM, Israel– The news agency Ha’aretz broke the news on July 21 that Israeli leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had created a plan to swiftly evacuate twenty-three illegal outposts on the west bank.

The term “outpost” was initially defined in a report by lawyer Talia Sasson as a piece of land “lying a significant distance from an existing settlement and established with disregard to the law.” The government commissioned her study in 2005, in which 105 communities were identified as outposts. An estimated 8,000 settlers live at the outposts set to be evacuated.

No official date for the evacuation has been released, although the leaked information says that the evacuations will be very quick. Although the source of the information is anonymous, the report comes from the same reporter to whom former prime minister Ariel Sharon released plans to withdraw troops and settlers from the Gaza strip in 2005. Netanyahu’s officials have declined to comment on the plans, but soldiers executed a military exercise in preparation for riots and protests that are expected to occur with the evacuation. Moreover, the security administration designed the plan with Netanyahu’s knowledge and approval. This plan would comply with an agreement that was made with President George W. Bush to remove the outposts built after March 2001.

The last such evacuation attempt happened in 2006 with an outpost known as Amona. However, ultranationalist protesters flooded Amona, and violent protests broke out. More than 300 were injured in the struggle and Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, cited excessive violence and police brutality in the action. Furthermore, when three illegal structures at outposts in the West Bank were evacuated on July 21, and settlers torched Palestinian olive groves, threw stones at Palestinian Cars, and blocked roads. The displaced settlers have threatened a larger “price tag” for further evacuations.

The proposed evacuations will happen very quickly and simultaneously to minimize the chance of failure. It is hoped that violence will be significantly decreased if there is no time for protesters to travel to the evacuation. Additionally, with all of the evacuations occurring simultaneously and at an unannounced time, there will be no time for planning, so it will be difficult for protesters to gather in significant numbers at all of the locations.

There has been increasing pressure from the international community for the peace process to restart in Israel. Earlier in 2009, US President Barack Obama told Israel that the settlement expansion needed to stop in order for peace to occur, and other leaders are now supporting this message. Most recently Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have issued statements encouraging Israel to halt further settlement expansion.

For more information, please see:

Sydney Morning Herald – Plan to Evacuate Settler Outposts – 22 July 2009

Y-Net – UN Secretary General: Israel Must Halt Settlement Building – 22 July 2009

Christian Science Monitor – Is Israel Serious About Closing 23 Fringe Settlements? – 21 July 2009

Haaretz – Ex-envoy to US: Israel ‘totally committed’ to Razing Outposts – 21 July 2009

Jerusalem Post – Russia Calls on Israel to Halt Construction in East Jerusalem – 21 July 2009

The Washington Post – Israel to Evacuate all Outposts in a Day: Report – 21 July 2009

Fiji Police Arrest Church Leaders

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s interim Prime Minister has confirmed that several Methodist church leaders were taken into police custody and will appear in court Thursday afternoon.

The arrests follow several ongoing tussles over the past few months between the interim government and the church as to whether its annual conference can go ahead. Fiji’s military government has already banned the meeting once, accusing the church of being too political and setting conditions for future talks.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Neumi Leweni said Wednesday that the overnight arrests followed the Methodist Church leaders’ decision to include “political issues” in the program for the church’s annual conference rather than promoting “spiritual development.”

“This was a clear breach of the Public Emergency Regulation and also not a matter for the church to discuss,” Leweni said. Under the regulation, meetings and protests are banned. Leweni said the church leaders would be released when investigations were completed, but the conference was canceled.

Among those arrested was former president of the Fiji Methodist Church, Reverend Manasa Lasaro; General Secretary, Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu; the Secretary for Pastoral Ministry, Tomasi Kanailagi; and the Church’s Finance Secretary Viliame Gonelevu. The general secretary was taken in on Tuesday night and others were detained the next morning.

The country’s most senior female High Chief, Rewa Province’s Ro Teimumu Kepa, was also taken into custody, allegedly for a letter outlining her intention to allow the church to hold the conference in her province next month.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama says both Ro Teimumu and the church leaders breached the conditions of the permit given to them when the standing committee met seven days ago.

The Methodist Church in Fiji has said that eight of its senior members are being held by police for questioning.

For more information, please see:
BBC – Fiji police hold church leaders – 22 July 2009

Associated Press – Methodists arrested amid Fiji military crackdown – 22 July 2009

New Zealand International Radio – Fiji’s interim leader confirms Methodist leaders in court this afternoon – 22 July 2009

New Zealand International Radio –
People of Fiji’s Rewa province fear for detained high chief’s safety – 22 July 2009

Explosion in Lebanon May Indicate “Severe Violations” of UN Resolution by Hezbollah

By Nykoel Dinardo
Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

United Nations – On July 14, an explosion in Southern Lebanon triggered a slew of accusations that Hezbollah has been and is still violating UN Resolution 1701 by gathering and storing arms.  Resolution 1701, which was signed in 2006, led to a halt in firing between Hezbollah and Israel following a 34 day armed conflict.  It imposed a strict embargo on weapons to Lebanese or foreign militias in Lebanon. 

According to Israeli military officials, the explosion in Lebanon was composed of “a new stock of short range missiles” and that those weapons were the property of Hezbollah.  Israeli Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi explained to journalists on July 15 that he believed the building also contained mortars, shells, rockets and other ammunition as well.  The explosion collapsed a two-story building on the outskirts of the village of Khirbet Silim, twelve miles from the Israeli border.  The cause of the explosion is still unclear.  No one was injured in the blast.  However, many residents in the area were panicked as the explosion took place on the third anniversary of the 2006 war. 

Israeli officials asked for an official UN investigation.  Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev asked the UN to take action and at least begin an investigation citing this incident, and two others, that she claims are “severe violations” of Resolution 1701.  The UN sent an envoy of soldiers serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.  However, demonstrations at the site of the explosion turned violent when UN soldiers arrived.  Fourteen soldiers were injured and several UN vehicles were damages.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams has spoken out since this incident calling for restraint.  Williams said that the UN needs to “lower the temperature, to try and address the issues and not see any escalation” of the situation.  In a statement to the press on July 20 explained that “clearly there were violations of 1701” and he has been meeting with several Lebanese officials to address the problem.  He called on both Lebanon and Israel to renew their commitment to the Resolution and exercise restraint during this period.

For more information, please see:

United Nations – Top UN Envoy Urges Restraint After Recent Incident in Southern Lebanon – 21 July 2009

Associated Press – Israel to Lebanon: Stop Border Violations – 20 July 2009

CNN – Lebanon: Crowd Attack U.N. Peacekeepers – 20 July 2009

AFP – Israel Demands Tougher UN Action Against Hezbollah Arms – 16 July 2009

New York Times – Israel Sees Evidence of Hezbollah’s Rearming in Explosion – 15 July 2009

Ynet – Explosion in Hezbollah Arms Cache Stirs Panic in South Lebanon – 14 July 2009

China’s “All-Out Attack” Against Lawyers

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW YORK, United States – The Chinese government has closed down a legal aid center in Beijing and has disbarred 53 lawyers in an all-out effort to silence the country’s human rights defenders.

Last Friday, Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau officials raided and closed a nongovernmental legal research center, Open Constitution Initiative (OCI).  OCI takes on “officially sensitive” cases for groups and individuals whose fight for justice is hindered by China’s political system.

The officials claimed that OCI was closed down for failure to pay taxes and for improper registration, but OCI believes that the forced closure was politically motivated.  Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said, “The attack on OCI marks a new low in the Chinese government’s campaign against human rights defenders.  This is precisely the kind of organization whose work the government should value….”

Among the 53 lawyers who were disbarred included an eminent civil rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who has represented high-profile Tibetan monks and victims of slave labor rings.  Other lawyers, whose works include representing HIV/AIDS patients and peasants in land disputes, have been taken by the police, handcuffed and beaten.  There are also reports of law firms being forced to close.

China attack rights lawyers Chinese petitioners whose legal channels have been frustrated (Source: AP)

The Beijing Justice Bureau announced that lawyers’ licenses were revoked because the individuals had failed to apply for re-registration.  However, critics argue that the Chinese government is intentionally removing means through which Chinese citizens can obtain legal assistance.  Furthermore, Beijing Bureau of Legal Affairs issued a notice to lawyers telling them to be “cautious” in defending suspects linked to the recent riots in Urumqi. 

Tang Jitian, whose license has been revoked and is under house arrest, said, “Some authorities don’t like those lawyers who speak for the people.  They think we are enemies…What police and the authorities are doing is destroying Chinese law.”

Human Rights in China and its executive director Sharon Hom also voiced their concerns saying, “This suppression will inevitably lead to…creating greater disadvantages for already persecuted groups and greater social instability.”

Human Rights Watch is urging the Chinese government to make a choice since “eliminating legal aid, banning legal research, and hobbling lawyers” will only hurt the Chinese society.

For more information, please see:

Guardian – China accused of ‘all-out attack’ on lawyers – 8 June 2009

The Huffington Post – China’s Civil Rights Lawyers: The New Enemies of the State – 20 July 2009

Human Rights Watch – China: Cease Attacks on Rights Lawyers – 17 July 2009

Watered Down Version of the Nakba Law Leaves Committee

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel– A bill that would deny government funding to state-supported groups that give monetary support to activity that is deemed “detrimental to the state” was passed through a ministerial committee on July 19. The bill was introduced by Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

Many Palestinians fear that this bill will effectively limit their speech, because supporting “armed struggle or terrorist acts” against Israel or “rejecting Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people” are examples of activities that would qualify as “detrimental to the state.”

This bill is a diluted version of a bill that was abandoned in June, after it was deemed to stringent. The original bill was also introduced by Lieberman and the Yisrael Beitenu party. The first bill would have made it a crime to observe “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” on Israel’s Independence Day. Nakba is the Palestinian recognition of the creation of Israel. The holiday is designed to recognizethe “catastrophe” that Israel’s creation was for many Palestinian citizens.

The original bill would have also forced sixteen year-old Israelis and new citizens to take a loyalty oath in order to receive an ID card. The Loyalty oath required each citizen to pledge loyalty to the “State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.”

The loyalty oath provision was removed from the newer version, and instead of an explicit banning of the celebration of Nakba, funding restrictions have been imposed. While much less harsh, many Arab citizens of Israel are still very offended by the withholding of government funds for what they see as free speech.

For more information please see,

AFP – Israel Committee Passes Softened Naqba Bill – 19 July 2009

Haaretz – Revised Bill Would Ban Funding Nakba Events – 19 July 2009

Jerusalem Post – ‘Softer’ Version of Nakba Bill to be Approved – 19 July 2009

Reuters- Bill Outlawing anti-Israel Protest Nears Approval– 19 July 2009

Impunity Watch – Israel ‘Loyalty Oath’ Bill Voted Down in Committee – 1 June 2009

China Claims Riots Premeditated by Uighurs

By Alishba I. Kassim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – China says it has accumulated evidence that the riots in Urumqi that ended up killing nearly 200 people were part of a coordinated attack.

Security officials were quoted on Monday in the state-run press as saying that surveillance videos showed women in Islamic robes and head coverings issuing orders to rioters. One woman is said to have given out clubs for the attack. “Such dressing is very rare in Uqumqi, but these kind of women were seen many times at different locations on surveillance cameras that day.”

The rioting broke out several hours after police allegedly calmed a crowd of thousands of protesting Uighurs, a Turkic minority. The Uighurs were speaking out against the discrimination they face by the Chinese authorities. Authorities claim that “gangs” of Uighurs attacked the Han majority of China at random, and rampaged through Urumqi, a city of 2.3 million. The state-run media sources claim the attacks began simultaneously at 50 different locations throughout the city.

The Chinese government has been insisting that the riots were planned, and are now presenting evidence after being criticized internationally for not stopping the violence. Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based “terrorism expert” said, “It is true that there is significant radicalization of a tiny segment of the Uighur community, but the Chinese government has not as yet presented convincing evidence that this was a coordinated attack.”

The Uighurs used to be a majority in northwestern China, but have now become a minority having lost jobs and influence due to a heavy influx of the Han population. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress, said, the Chinese government is “obscuring the truth in order to conceal a mass killing of Uighurs by Chinese security forces.”

For more information, please see:

Los Angeles Times – China Says it has Evidence Riots were Planned – July 20, 2009  

The New York Times – China Says its Forces Killed 12 – July 20, 2009 

The Wall Street Journal – Uighurs Lose Economic Ground to Han – July 20, 2009  

BRIEF: Solomon Islands to Include Public in Anti-Corruption Workshops

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – The Solomon Island’s government has announced it will hold several workshops through its Anti-Corruption Taskforce in order to include the public in finding a solution to corruption.

According to Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister, Dr. Derek Sikua, the greatest challenge to political stability is corruption. Dr. Sikua says that corruption threatens the health of the country’s essential services such as its health care, education, and the legal system.

The workshops, intended to address such concerns, will be funded by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Dr. Sikua and RAMSI Special Coordinator, Graeme Wilson, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which states RAMSI’s support in conducting the workshops.

Dr. Sikua says the workshops will seek help from both the public and private sectors, as well as NGOs, in determining the government’s approach to dealing with corruption.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Public in Solomons to be consulted over fight against corruption – 19 July 2009

UN Condemns Jakarta Hotel Bombings

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 Jakarta blast                                    Jakarta’s Marriott hotel after the blast (Source: AFP)

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Nine people were killed in Friday’s suicide bombing attacks in Jakarta’s Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels.  As Indonesian officials get closer to identifying the mastermind behind the blasts, the UN Security Council released a statement voicing outrage and sympathy.

The 15-member Security Council offered “deep…condolences to the victims of these heinous acts of terrorism and to their families, and to the people and Government of Indonesia.”

The bombings in two luxury, American hotels came at a time when Indonesia was enjoying great stability, including a peaceful presidential election just weeks ago.  Officials believe that the goal of the attacks was to embarrass the Indonesian government.

 Jakarta blast2 Noordin Mohamed (Source: BBC)
The country’s anti-terror chief told reporters he believes that Noordin Mohamed is behind the bombings.  Noordin is the key financier for Jemaah Islamiah, a militant group linked to Al-Qaeda and responsible for numerous bombings in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombing.  Indonesian police said they are sure this is the work of Noordin considering the target, location and the contents of the bomb.  The bombs used in Friday’s attacks contained nails and bolts, contents identical to the bombs Jemaah Islamiah uses.

The Security Council stressed that perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the attacks must be brought to justice, adding that governments must take all measures to right terrorism by fulfilling their obligations under international human rights and refugee and humanitarian law.

The Council members also said, “The Security Council reaffirms that…any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono, condemning the attacks as “cruel and inhuman,” said a terrorist group is responsible for the attacks and vowed to find the perpetrators.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Fugitive linked to Jakarta blasts – 18 July 2009

The Hindu – UNSC deplores hotel bombings in Indonesia – 18 July 2009

MSNBC – Cops eye fugitive terrorist in Indonesia blasts – 18 July 2009

UPDATE: Suicide Bombers Responsible For Indonesian Blasts

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania


JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Suicide bombers struck the JW Marriott hotel and close-by Ritz-Carlton, two luxury hotels popular with businessmen and diplomats, in Jakarta’s main business district during early Friday morning.

Police said eight people died, revising down an earlier count of nine, and over 60 were injured. On Saturday it seemed the toll had been raised again to nine, including the two suicide bombers. Seven foreigners were among those killed in the blasts.

The casualties included citizens of Indonesia, the United States, Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Britain, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.

The blasts are a severe blow for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who was re-elected earlier this month in a landslide victory on the back of restoring peace and strong growth to a country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Police have not said who they believe is responsible for the blasts, but suspicion has fallen on remnants of Jemaah Islamiah, the militant Islamist group responsible for a string of attacks in Indonesia in the first half of the decade.

Police said on Friday the bombers had checked in to the Marriott as paying guests on Wednesday and had assembled the bombs in their room. A third bomb was found and defused in a laptop computer bag on the 18th floor.

The Obama administration on Friday said the suicide bombings of the luxury American hotels in the Indonesian capital were proof of the need to remain vigilant against terror groups.

“These attacks make it clear that extremists remain committed to murdering innocent men, women and children of any faith in all countries,” the White House said in a statement.

For more information, please see:
The Associated Press – Administration: Jakarta bombing reminder of threat – 17 July 2009

ReutersSeven foreigners were killed in Jakarta hotel bombs – media – 17 July 2009

The Washington Post –  Suicide bombers kill 8 at Jakarta Marriott, Ritz – 17 July 2009

Water Use by Turkey, Syria, Iraq Drying Up Euphrates

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JUBAISH, Iraq – Oil may be the most notoriously fought over commodity in the Middle East, but there is one resource that can surpass “black gold” in its necessity and ability to provoke conflict:  water.

As the Middle East is in the grip of a drought that has lasted over two years, Iraq’s Euphrates River, one of the boundaries of region known as the Cradle of Civilization, has begun to shrink.  But the drought is only one cause; water policies by Iraq’s neighboring countries have exasperated the crisis.  There are at least seven dams in the Euphrates’ headwaters in Turkey and Syria, and there are no water treaties between the three nations.  Turkey has recently agreed to increase water flow by 60 percent during July and August, which will cover about half of what is needed for Iraq’s famed Anbar rice crop.  This allotment, however, is not a permanent agreement; Turkey has also consistently refused to sign international agreements on water use, such as the 1997 UN Convention on the Law on Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

While Iraq’s government often blames Turkey and Syria, Turkish officials say that Iraq’s almost nonexistent water management policies are the real culprit, and that the current finger-pointing is election-year posturing.  Iraq’s canal and irrigation systems have been notoriously leaky for centuries, and poor drainage leaves fields so salty, local farmers scrape off white mounds of salt at the edges of drainage piles.

Iraq’s marsh Arabs are perhaps most at risk from the effects of a dwindling Euphrates.  The marshes at the meeting point of the Tigris and Euphrates was intentionally flooded in 2003 in an attempt to revive the dying culture, but many marsh Arabs believe that if their crops and livestock do not survive this year’s season, the few marsh Arabs who remain will be forced to leave their ancestral homes in search of more viable economic opportunities.

For more information, please see:

Today’s Zaman – Ankara Deflects Criticism From Iraq Over Water Usage – 17 July 2009

Foreign Policy – What Iraq Needs More Than Oil – 16 July 2009

New York Times – Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates Dwindles – 13 July 2009

Israeli Soldiers Tell How Israel Used Human Shields in Gaza

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
 

GAZA CITY, Gaza – A human rights group founded by Israeli veterans has published testimonies from former soldiers, all of whom report that they were ordered to protect Israeli military lives at any cost.

The veterans are part of Breaking the Silence, a group funded by the EU and several European countries. The soldiers describe that they were given orders to use Palestinian civilians as human shields, as well as deliberate targeting of civilian structures.

One soldier related that in pre-invasion briefings, his officers told him to shoot first, ask questions later. The soldier said the officer told the soldiers that “[i]f you’re not sure, kill. Fire power was insane.”

Another soldier said he felt like “a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants… A 20-year-old kid should not be doing such things to people.”

Several soldiers also described how the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) used white phosphorus, a substance banned by international law. One soldier described walking on the beach in Gaza and finding an area covered in glazed sand, melted by white phosphorus.

A military spokesman has questioned the credibility of Breaking the Silence, calling the veterans’ testimony “defaming and slandering the IDF commanders,” but also said the military would investigate the allegations.

For more information, please see:

The Times – Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers ‘Used Human Shields’ in Gaza– 16 July 2009

BBC News – Breaking Silence on Gaza Abuses– 15 July 2009

Huffington Post – Breaking the Silence: Former Israeli Soldiers Call Gaza War Reckless– 15 July 2009

UPDATE: Israel Supposedly to Open Settlement Freeze

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 
JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – Israeli officials have signaled they would be open to a three- to six-month halt to settlement expansion as part of a U.S.-backed peace deal with the Palestinians.

While such a sentiment has widely been hailed as progress, it falls short of what the U.S. Obama Administration had called for. Such a freeze would not include any construction already underway, nor expansion in East Jerusalem, according to Israeli officials speaking in advance of the meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. envoy George Mitchell at the end of June. Ehud Barak refused to publically address the possibility of a temporary freeze ahead of his meeting, but said that the issue of settlements is merely one among many to be addressed in the peace process.

Members of the international community continue to call for a complete halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. On July 6, the executive arm of the European Union (EU) renewed its condemnation of Israeli settlements, saying that continued Israeli expansion is strangling the fledgling Palestinian economy, stunting Palestinian independence and forcing the Palestinian Authority to rely on foreign aid. In addition to the cost to Palestinians, the EU said that European taxpayers had paid approximately 280 million U.S. dollars so far this year in aid to the Palestinian Authority.

For more information, please see:

Ma’an News Agency – European Commission: Settlements Strangling Palestinian Economy– 6 July 2009

Ha’aretz – Barak: Progress in Talks with U.S. Over Settlements, But Still a Way to Go– 30 June 2009

New York Times – Israel Said to be Open to Settlement Freeze– 28 June 2009

Six Killed in Central Jakarta Hotel Blasts

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania


JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Six people were killed in nearly simultaneous explosions at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the Marriott Hotel in central Jakarta on Friday, Indonesian police said.

The explosions rocked the Indonesian capital around 8 a.m., blowing out windows, and scattering debris on to surrounding streets.

According to witnesses, Marriott blast was the first followed by one directly across the road at the Ritz-Carlton.

Police are yet to confirm if the blasts were caused by bombs and there were no immediate claims of responsibility, but the sequence of the explosions bears the hallmarks of similar al-Qaeda attacks.

Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant Islamic organization, has been blamed for a series of attacks between 2002 and 2005 that killed more than 240 people, most of them foreign tourists on the island of Bali. The group was blamed for a previous blast at the Jakarta Marriott in 2003 that killed 13 people.

There have not been any major bomb blasts in Indonesia for several years, and this month the country’s presidential election passed off peacefully. Despite allegations of electoral fraud by Yudhoyono’s opponents, independent observers declared the election largely free and fair.

After the explosions, the Indonesian rupiah fell 0.7 percent to 10,200 per dollar, prompting state banks to sell dollars to support the currency, traders said. The stock market has not opened yet.

For more information, please see:
The Associated Press – AP News Alert – 17 July 2009

Bloomberg –  Indonesia Says Explosions Hit Jakarta Ritz, Marriott – 17 July 2009

Fox News – 6 Dead, 29 Injured in Bomb Explosions at Hotels in Indonesia – 17 July 2009

Reuters – Six killed in central Jakarta hotel blasts: police – 17 July 2009

Poet Appeals Three Year Jail Term for His Poetry

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt– Mounir Hanna Said Marzouk was a civil servant in Egypt, and wrote satyrical verses for his friends and colleagues. He had only been writing for two years. None of his writing had ever been published, and it was only after a colleague found his work offensive to the President that Marzouk was reported to the authorities.

Marzouk insists that his poems are not meant to be offensive to the president, they are meant only to reflect daily life in Egypt.  In spite of his intentions Marzouk was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds for his poems on June 27. This is the maximum penalty that exists for the crime of publicly insulting the president, which carries a penalty from 24 hours imprisonment to three years imprisonment.

The Arab Network for Human Rights is appealing his verdict, based on Marzouk’s lack of access to representation at his first trial. Marzouk and his family did not hire a lawyer, because none of his poems mention Mubarek by name. There are also many satirical poems available in Egypt and on the Internet by much more well-established poets than Marzouk.

Much of the attention came to Marzouk’s case after his brother wrote a clemency plea to the local newspapers for his brother. Although none of his brother’s verses were published in the paper, it brought his brother’s case international attention, and representation. The final verdict is expected to come down this Saturday, July 18.

For more information, please see:

Afrik – Egypt’s Dangerous Poetry: Civil Servant Imprisoned for Writing a Poem – 15 July 2009

AFP – Ode to Egypt President Lands Clerk in Jail – 14 July 2009

BBC – Egyptian Jailed for Insult Poem – 14 July 2009  

LA Times – Egypt: Poet Accused of Mubarek Awaits Final Verdict – 14 July 2009