Japan Becomes First in Asia to Ratify Disappearances Convention

Japan Becomes First in Asia to Ratify Disappearances Convention

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

UNITED NATIONS– Japan ratified a UN human rights treaty on ending impunity for enforced disappearances.  The Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN submitted its ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (“Disappearances Convention”) to the Secretary-General’s office on July 23, 2009.  Japan is the first country in Asia and the 12th country in the world to ratify the Convention.

Primer_afad_cover (Source: Asia Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances)

The Disappearances Convention’s goal is to prevent enforced disappearance, find the truth when this crime occurs, and to punish those responsible for the crime while providing reparations to the victims and their families.  The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, and it is the product of long and arduous efforts by families, NGOs and governments to address the problem of enforced disappearance through international law.
Christopher Hall of Amnesty International said, “The Disappearances Convention is one of the strongest human rights treaties ever adopted by the United Nations.  In the past, the perpetrators of this crime…were unlikely to be held accountable for their conduct…the Disappearances Convention is an important tool for the international community to half this trend.”
Amnesty International added that Japan must now take steps to fulfill its obligation under the Convention by enacting or amending any legislation necessary to implement the Convention.  Hall also said taking these steps will ensure that perpetrators are held responsible, and by doing so, “Japan will set an important example for the world – and other Asian countries – to follow.”
The Japanese government released a statement via its Foreign Ministry website saying that the ratification of the Convention is “meaningful in showing the international community the strong intention of Japan to oppose enforced disappearances….”
The Disappearances Convention prescribes that enforced disappearances, including abductions in the international community, is a punishable crime.  As of July 24, 2009, among the 81 countries listed as signatories, 12 countries (including Japan) have ratified the Convention.  To enter into force, the Convention must be ratified by 20 countries.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Japan commits to ending impunity for enforced disappearances – 28 July 2009

Diplomacy Monitor – Deposit of the Instrument of Ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – 24 July 2009

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – 20 December 2006



New Attack On Freeport Mine

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia
– Three more people were wounded by gunfire Wednesday at the world’s largest gold mine, the latest ambush targeting employees of U.S. conglomerate Freeport in Indonesia’s underdeveloped Papua province.

Freeport said in a statement that several employees and their security detail were fired upon Wednesday while driving along the road where the previous shootings occurred to help a broken down vehicle. A mechanic and two policemen were shot, it said.

National police spokesman Nanan Sukarna said the attack was carried out by unidentified gunmen and that the three injuries were caused by shrapnel. The culprits escaped.

Two other policemen died Wednesday when their car flipped “while driving at high speed through a dangerous area” a few miles (kilometers) away, said local police chief Lt. Col. Godhelp Mansnembra.

It is the sixth attack by an unidentified gunman on the Phoenix, Ariz.-based company in under two weeks and the road targeted by the shootings, which links the Grasberg mining complex with the town of Timika, has been declared off limits unless employees travel with security. In the same area, a 29-year-old Australian, an Indonesian security guard working for Freeport, and a policeman died in ambushes earlier this month. In the same area, two American teachers and their Indonesian colleague were killed in a 2002 attack.

The series of attacks, which have killed two people and wounded dozens since they began July 11, comes as Indonesia recovers from twin suicide bombings in the capital, Jakarta, that killed seven people and wounded dozens, including two Freeport executives.

Wednesday’s attack comes a day after authorities said they rounded up 15 suspects allegedly behind the recent killings. Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson said Tuesday that six of them had been charged, including a man who apparently acknowledged being a sniper.

Papua is home to a four-decade-old, low-level insurgency against the government, and members of the Free Papua Movement who see Freeport as a symbol of outside rule and were initially blamed by authorities for the latest violence.

However, some experts believe the shootings resulted from a rivalry between the police and military over multimillion-dollar illegal gold mining or protection businesses at the mine. Others blame criminal gangs.

It is difficult to get accurate information out of Papua, a remote and highly militarized area that is off limits to foreign journalists.

Freeport has been targeted with arson, roadside bombs and blockades since production began in the 1970s during the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship. It is also regularly the focus of protests by local residents who feel they are not benefiting from the depletion of Papua’s natural resources.

For more information, please see:
CBS News – Freeport’s Workers Again Under Attack In Indonesia – 24 July 2009

Jakarta Post – Shooting incident hits Freeport again – 25 July 2009

Jakarta Post – Freeport employees back in work – 25 July 2009

Christians Executed in North Korea

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea– North Korea publicly executed a woman for distributing Bibles in a northern town close to the Chinese-North Korean border.  In addition to distributing Bibles, Ri Hyon Ok, a 33-year old mother of three, was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and for organizing dissents.  South Korea and human rights groups were unable to verify the allegations against Ri, but her parents, husband and children have been sent to a prison camp.

Although an estimated 30,000 North Koreans are believed to secretly practice Christianity in their homes, the country views religion as a major threat. The government has authorized four state churches (one Catholic, one Russian Orthodox and two Protestant), but North Koreans cannot not attend services or publicly display their religious fervor.  Only the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, and his son, Kim Jong-il, may be worshiped in public.

NK religion Underground North Korean Christians (Source: Cornerstone Ministries)

Ironically, North Korean constitution guarantees religious freedom, and Pyongyang, the country’s capital, was once known as the “Jerusalem of the East” for its predominance of Christianity.  However, in reality, religious observances are extremely restricted, and violators are usually accused of spying or anti-government activities.  The Bible is also among the books banned in North Korea.  A U.S. government report found that an estimated 6,000 North Koreans Christians are jailed in “Prison No. 15” in northern North Korea, and religious prisoners face harsher treatment.

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its report, “What religious practice…exist[s]…(are) tightly controlled and used to advance the government’s political or diplomatic agenda…[A]nyone engaged in clandestine religious practice faces official discrimination, arrest, imprisonment, and possibly execution.”

According to reports by South Korean human rights groups, execution of Christians in North Korean appears to have increased.  In the past year, North Korea has tightened its control over human rights policies, and some believe this may be the result of the government’s means of securing transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son.

For more information, please see:

BBC – North Korea ‘executes Christians’ – 24 July 2009

The Huffington Post – North Korea Executes Christian For Distributing Bible: Rights Group – 24 July 2009

The Philadelphia Inquirer – N. Korea is said to kill Christian – 25 July 2009

Several Church Leaders Released By Fiji Government

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Two detained Methodist leaders were released on bail Friday but warned not to meet.

The Reverend Manasa Lasaro and the Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi, both former Fiji Methodist Church presidents, appeared in court Friday afternoon on charges of contravening the Public Emergency Regulations.

The ministers were among several top clergymen arrested by police because of plans to go ahead with the church’s annual conference in spite of its cancellation by the interim government.

The interim government has banned the conference on the grounds that is is a political maneuvers by the ousted SDL Party but as yet the church has not issued an official statement canceling the event.

The SDL’s member for the Lami Open Constituency, Mere Tuisalolo Samisoni, says the Methodists make up the majority of Fiji’s population and the interim government is wrong to ban the conference.

“The people’s spririt cannot be stopped and that’s what democracy is all about. People’s right to choose, it’s a human right and that right is inalienable and for somebody to come, for a group of elite people to stop it, they cannot stop it. I mean it is the people who will choose to attend it or not,” Samisoni said.

Thursday, the church’s president and general secretary, along with the country’s highest ranking female chief, were also released on bail but prohibited from making public statements.

For more information, please see:
New Zealand International Radio – Church will never back down says Fiji’s SDL Party – 24 July 2009

New Zealand International Radio – Two more Fiji Methodist leaders released but warned not to meet – 24 July 2009

New Zealand International Radio – Fiji’s interim government accused of overstepping mark with church – 24 July 2009

The Christian Post – Fiji Church Leaders Freed, But Warned Not To Meet – 24 July 2009

UN Official Says Tensions Easing on the Israeli-Lebanese Border

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East 

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The tensions that have recently flared up in southern Lebanon have been to ease, according to a senior UN official.

On July 22, Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Fawzi Salloukh. After the meeting, Williams said that the situation is calming down. Williams has also met with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and leaders from Hezbollah, in an effort to assuage concerns regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 36-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

“All… have assured me strongly that active efforts are under way to reduce the tension and restore stability to the area,” said Williams.

Since July 13, the town of Khirbet Silim in Southern Lebanon has been the center of unrest in the past week, when there was an explosion from an alleged Hezbollah arms cache in an abandoned building, reportedly injuring thirty people. As the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) investigated the blast on July 17, fourteen UN peacekeepers were injured as civilians threw rocks and damaged vehicles in protest of the investigation, alleging that UNIFIL had overstepped its operational mandate. On July 22, UNIFIL refused to respond to such allegations, but a spokesperson said UNIFIL was awaiting the official report on the incidents.

Special Coordinator Williams said that the July 17 incident was being investigated thoroughly by both UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces, “to avoid anything like this happening again.”

Southern Lebanon has been the hub of political instability in the country, with Syrian nationals, al-Qaeda agents, and Hezbollah militants all accused of stirring up hostility and attacking UN peacekeepers.

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star – UNIFIL Silent Over Reports of Breaching Mandate – 23 July 2009

UN News Center – Tensions in Southern Lebanon ‘Calming Down’ After Incidents– 22 July 2009

Al-Jazeera – Lebanon Army Arrests ‘Terror Cell’– 21 July 2009