Caning of Malaysian Model Delayed

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia– Caning of a Malaysian model and mother of two, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, who would have been the first women in Southeast Asia to be caned for drinking beer in public, has been delayed.  Malaysia’s Islamic court postponed the caning until after Ramadan saying that the punishment was too harsh.

Kartika was arrested by Islamic morality police in December 2007 for drinking beer at a beach resort.  60% of Malaysia’s population of 27 million are Muslims, and they are prohibited from drinking alcohol.  If found guilty of violating this Islamic law, such offense is punishable by up to three years in prison and caning. 

Malaysia also has a dual-track justice system where Islamic courts operate alongside civil courts.  Malays are subject to Islamic laws while Chinese and Indian minorities are not.  Further, caning is used as a supplementary punishment for about 40 crimes in Malaysia, but caning is not a punishment for drinking alcohol in public in Malaysia’s civil courts.

Malaysia caning women Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno (Source: AFP)

Had the sentence been carried out, Kartika would have received six strokes with a rattan cane in addition to a $1,400 fine.

This case and Kartika’s plight has drawn widespread international attention regarding the use of Islamic laws in addition to raising questions as to whether radical Islam was starting to grow in a traditionally moderate Muslim country.

However, Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil of Women, Family and Community Development, who was once concerned that Kartika’s sentence “projected a ‘cruel image’ of Malaysia,” said, “I am impressed with, and commend, the chief judge’s wisdom for making the order of revision.” 

Malaysia’s prime minister is urging Kartika to appeal since she is unique in that she has chosen to go through with her sentence.  However, she has told reporters that she will not file an appeal.  Her family is refusing to comment. 
 

For more information, please see:

AP – Malaysian court puts caning of woman on hold – 25 August 2009

BBC – Malaysia to review caning woman – 25 August 2009

CNN – Malaysia postpones woman’s caning – 25 August 2009

Rebel Groups in Darfur Establish a Unified Front

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

DARFUR, Sudan – Four prominent Darfur rebel groups have agreed to establish a unified front after a U.S.-sponsored negotiation in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa over the weekend.

Although the four factions: the United Resistance Front (URF), the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdulwahid, the Sudan Liberation Movement – Unity, and the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdulshafi have not yet agreed on specific ways to facilitate peace within the groups, they have agreed on a road map to unify their struggle and engage in peace talks.

The U.S. special envoy to Darfur, Scott Gration mediated the agreement between the factions and was present during the signing.  He called rebel unity a prerequisite for political talks on stopping the war that has lasted for over six years, killing an estimated 300,000 people.

“It’s a remarkable achievement,” said Gration.  “What I’ve seen with these groups is that they are working so hard to ensure that we learn from past attempts to reunify, to get peace; and this time to make it lasting and durable,” he continued.

Map_of_Sudan_Darfur_and_Neighbours_eng_0 The rebel factions have created a committee in order to continue to deal with the remaining issues which have been the cause of conflict between the groups.  One major issue that remains is that of leadership.  Initially they planned to elect their “unity leadership” in Addis Ababa, although there is no concrete final agreement on the leadership post as of yet.

Even though the peace talks are a step in the right direction, Ahmed Abdulshafi Toba, chairman of Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdulshafi said the unity talks do not include a ceasefire.  Also, one of the main rebel groups, Justice for Equality and Movement (JEM) did not take part in the unity talks due to their previous disagreements with U.S. envoy Gration.

There are currently 30 different rebel groups in Sudan fighting for their cut in the oil industry and for fair representation in the national political system.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Sudan: U.S., Africa Step Up Darfur Peace Drive – 24 August 2009

Daily Nation – Darfur Rebel Factions Unite for Peace Talks – 24 August 2009

VOA – Four Darfur Rebel Groups Reach Unity Deal – 23 August 2009

AFP – US Envoy Pledges to Help Darfur Rebels Unite – 22 August 2009

Civilians Killed in Mogadishu During Ramadan

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – At least five civilians were killed in the Somali capital during an exchange of fire that broke out on Saturday night.

The fighting occurred in southern Mogadishu’s Hodan and Holwadag neighborhoods between rebels and government forces, who were backed by African peacekeepers. Some of Saturday’s fighting was centered on a strategic road linking the capital with the town of Afgoye.  Each side of the conflict accused the other of starting the fighting.

Residents of the neighborhoods say that the fighting has died down since Saturday, although the hard-line Islamist rebel leader Hasan Dahir Aweys has vowed to intensify the war against the Somali government and the African peacekeepers.  He declared his intentions to continue the violence during Ramadan, against President Sheikh Sharif Ahmand’s call for a ceasefire during the holy month.

“We will not accept that ceasefire call.  This holy month will be a triumphant time for mujahideen and we will fight the enemy,” said Aweys.

The radical leader also accused African Peacekeepers of having recently deployed additional troops in the capital city.

“They deployed more troops to worsen the security situation in Somalia, but we will never stop fighting them until they leave our soil alone,” continued Aweys.

President Ahmed’s United Nations-backed government is viewed as the countries best hope for a return to stability after almost 20 years of conflict, although it holds only small pockets of the capital and parts of the south.

Aweys claims there are efforts under way to unify his group, Hizb Al-Islam and the al-Qaeda inspired rebel faction known as the Shebab.  Both groups are the two main factions in the insurgency bent on taking over President Ahmed and ousting the African Union forces from the country.

This violence follows Friday’s battles between the same groups, where more than 20 people were killed in Mogadishu.  So far, thousands of civilians have been killed and more than a million driven from their homes from the fighting that has taken place over the past two years.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Six Civilians Killed in Somali Capital – 23 August 2009

BBC – ‘Several Dead’ in Somali Clashes – 23 August 2009

Reuters – Somali Insurgents Reject Ramadan Ceasefire Call – 23 August 2009

VOA – 5 Killed in Mogadishu Fighting – 23 August 2009

Interim PM Says Fiji Will Try to Avoid Suspension

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

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s interim prime minister says he will try to avoid suspension from the Commonwealth after it threatened to remove Fiji from the group if the interim government did not take steps to hold democratic elections.

The Commonwealth threatened to suspend Fiji from the group after the country’s interim PM, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, refused to restore democracy by May 2009 as originally promised. The Commonwealth has given Bainimarama until September 1st to hold elections.

In response, Bainimarama says he wrote a letter to the Commonwealth, in which he expressed his desire to hold elections sooner. He also insists that representatives from the Commonwealth visit Fiji to get a “better picture” of the political situation.

Meanwhile, Sir Paul Reeves, a co-architect of Fiji’s abrogated 1997 Constitution, was supposed to have hosted a Commonwealth team earlier this month, but that time proved inconvenient for the interim government.

The interim government proposed an alternative date of August 29th, but the Commonwealth declined because of its proximity to the September 1st ultimatum.

Bainimarama has yet to set a date for the review.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Broadcast Limited – Fiji’s Presidency and parliamentary systems to be reviewed – 23 August 2009

Radio Australia News – Fiji’s interim PM aims to avert suspension from Commonwealth – 22 August 2009

China View –  Fiji awaits Commonwealth word on suspension – 21 August 2009

More allegations of police torture in Manipur

By Michael E Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Manipur, India–  Another allegation of police violence has arisen after the family members of an NGO activist accused the police of third violent treatment.

Jiten Yumnam, an activist of the All Manipur United Clubs Organization (AMUCO) and a member of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) were arrested by the Manipur Police at the Imphal Airport on Monday.  Yumnam was on his way to a United Nations meeting on climate change being held in Bangkok when state police charged him with supporting and aiding insurgency in the northeastern region.  Kiran Mala, his wife said “We don’t even know why he has been arrested.”

NGO members and family member of Yumnam allege that the police inflicted third degree torture on Yumnam by subjecting him to electric shocks to his private parts, which left him impaired.  These allegations of torture have been denied by the police. Superintendent of police of West Imphal L. Keilun has denied the allegation, stating “There is no evidence of such an attack.  If there is proof then strict action will be taken.  But I don’t think that the police can do such things.”

This however is not an isolated event where the police have overstepped their boundaries, in July police shot and killed a young man, Chungkham Sanjit and a pregnant passer-by Rubina Devi.  Police claimed that Sanjit was killed in a genuine encounter and Devi was killed by Sanjit.  Photos of the encounter published by a Dehli based magazine show that Sanjit was dragged inside a pharmacy and killed in cold blood.  Dr. Sukendu Debbarma, Convener in a press note stated that the Manipur government, has tried to subdue voices of protest against the killing of Sanjit instead of acting against its Commandos quickly and decisively.

The North East People’s Initiatives has condemned the arrest of Yumnam, demanding his immediate and unconditional release.  They have also demanded an “immediate disbanding” of the Manipur Police Commandos, stating they “have been given impunity in all crimes they have committed against the people of Manipur.” 

For information, please see:

Times Now- Manipur protests over ‘fake encounter’– 4 August 2009

The Morung Express- Demand for unconditional release of Jiten Yumnam– 19 September 2009

Asian New International- Another Allegation of police torture surfaces in Manipur-20 September 2009

Times Now- Another police brutality in Imphal– 20 Septmeber 2009

Nigerian Militants Surrender Weapons as Part of Amnesty Plan

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

YENAGOA, Nigeria – Rocket launchers, gunboats, guns and bullets were surrendered by a top militant commander and nearly 1,000 of his followers on Saturday.

The government’s amnesty plan began two weeks ago and this was the biggest move since the program’s inception.

Militants in Yenagoa, capital of the Bayelsa state, cheered and danced as they turned their weapons over to the government.

Ebikabowei “Boyloaf” Victor Ben, state commander for MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, and 25 commanders under his leadership delivered weapons to the police.

MEND, the largest armed group in the region, has said that it will not participate in the program as a group but that Boyloaf was free to surrender.  MEND has announced that it will end its ceasefire on September 15.  It has also suspended talks about an amnesty program with the government.

“In the midst of such sheer deceit, MEND will be compelled to resume with ferocious attacks on the oil industry at the end of our ceasefire on September 15, 2009,” the group said in a statement.

The event at the peace park had a red carpet laid out for dignitaries.  There were covered bleachers surrounding the park.  Boyloaf came wearing a hat that read “Bayelsa Peace Day” and spoke to the crowd.

“We have kept to our word to follow the part of peace.  The government should on its own part keep to the bargain of promises made,” he said.  He also apologized to the families who have suffered losses from the struggle.

Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, the spokeswoman for the presidential panel on amnesty, has said that the administration learned from past mistakes and the government would not pay for surrendered weapons this time.

“Instead, we are asking the boys what they want – to further their education, learn a trade, or take a microloan for a small business,” she said.

Officials admit that so far participation is disappointing.

“They are still worried about their safety, but they are now seeing the government means very well for them and that we will ensure their safety,” said Koripamo-Agary.

President Umaru Yar’Adua offered unconditional pardons to all militants who participate in the program.

For more information, please see:

AP – Nigerian Militants Give Up Weapons to Police – 22 August 2009

BBC – Nigeria Rebels Hand Over Weapons – 22 August 2009

Reuters UK – Nigerian Militant Group to End Ceasefire on Sept. 15 – 22 August 2009

VOA – Nigeria’s Amnesty Program Makes Slow Progress – 21 August 2009

Reuters – Nigeria Oil Militants Disarm Slowly – 20 August 2009

Impunity Watch – Nigerian Government Released 60 Day Amnesty Plan – 27 June 2009

Colombia’s Supreme Court Besieged by Death Threats

By Mario A. Flores
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — The President of Colombia’s Supreme Court, Augusto Ibañez, said that several justices of the Court received death threats late this week.

The presiding justice of the Criminal Division, Julio Enrique Socha Salamanca, reported that he received a letter containing intimidation and threats to his office. The letter also listed threats against an assistant judge.

Socha Salamanca immediately notified law enforcement and ordered tighter security for each of the judges and their staff.

The authorities disclosed that they had also discovered intimidation schemes against other judges of the Supreme Court, a former peace commissioner and two political leaders.

The Director of the National Police, Oscar Naranjo, confirmed that a number of Supreme Court judges and politicians have been threatened. Naranjo said the police are taking the necessary steps to safeguard the security of those in danger.

The plot involves threats to the lives of chief judge Ibañez, judge Jaime Arrubla Paucar, former peace commissioner Victor G. Ricardo, presidential candidate German Vargas Lleras and one of his staunchest supporters, Senator Rodrigo Lara Restrepo.

The Police are dealing with the threats “with utmost prudence and greatest responsibility, without underestimating them, but without causing panic, verifying all information provided,” Naranjo added. It is not known who sent the threat messages or who is behind intimidation attempts.

Judge Socha said that he planned to meet next week with President Alvaro Uribe to discuss the threats.

Supreme Court justice, Jaime Arrubla, said in an interview that several of his colleagues believed they were being followed.

“We don’t exactly know where they [the threats] come from, we only know that they exist, unfortunately they are intensifying,” Arrubla said. “It appears they want to besiege us.”

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – Police confirms threats against Supreme Court judges and politicians – 21 August 2009

The Latin American Herald Tribune – Colombian Police Probe Threats Against Judges, Politicos – 21 April 2009

Colombia Reports –  Supreme Court judges receive death threats – 20 August 2009

Japanese Women Face Gender Inequality

 

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan– The United Nations has reported that the world’s second largest economy, Japan, is ranked 54th in terms of gender equality.

UN’s Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is urging Japan to take stronger remedial measures to eliminate gender inequality, because the country’s efforts thus far have been “insufficient.”

The Committee reported that Japan has failed to address problems affecting women identified in a 2003 report and also listed provisions in Japan’s Civil Code concerning unequal treatment towards women in the labor market.  The report also criticized the low representation of Japanese women in high-level elected offices.

Japan gender inequalityUN urges Japan to do more to eliminate gender bias (Source: AP)

The UN is recommending that Japan raise the legal age for marriage for women from 16 to 18 in line with men, abolish the six-month waiting period before remarriage required for women but not for men, and allow a choice of surnames for married couples.  Furthermore, the Committee advised that Japan repeal laws that discriminate against children born out of wedlock and to impose harsher punishment for rape.

The report also reminded Japan that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Japan is a party, is binding.  The Committee’s report said Japan should recognize the Convention as “the most pertinent, broad and legally binding international instrument in the sphere of the elimination against women.”

Fortunately, Japan’s Cabinet has acknowledged that change is needed.  In the general election coming up next week, issues that were traditionally categorized as “women’s affairs” have become mainstream election issues. 

Ikuko Tanioka, the president of Chukyo Women’s University, said, “Parliament can no longer be run according to the armchair logic of old men.”  A professor at Japan Women’s University, Machiko Osawa, also added, “So much needs to change…[w]e need equal pay for equal work, pension reform, daycare reform and infinitely better support for working mothers…the underlying problem for Japan is still one of attitude.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Japanese women ‘still not equal’ – 21 August 2009

The Japan Times – Do more to ban gender bias, U.N. panel urges – 21 August 2009

Times Online – ‘We don’t count the women’ – gender inequality in Japanese companies – 8 August 2009

Somali Fighting Killed More than 20

By Dahee Nam
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – At least 20 people have been killed in heavy fighting between Somali Islamist insurgents and government forces in the capital city of Mogadishu.  Most of the dead were civilians, witnesses said.

Heavy battles broke out after Islamist insurgents launched a pre-dawn raid Friday against government forces and African Union (AU) peacekeepers in the southern part of the capital.  The clashes soon spread to neighboring districts.

“Hundreds of well-armed insurgents came to our district with minibuses and pick-up trucks and immediately they started firing towards the government troops and an AU base,” a local resident told the BBC.

Mortars from both sides slammed into the city’s main market as traders were setting up their stalls for the day, causing severe civilian casualty.

According to the city’s ambulance services, at least 20 dead and 40 wounded people were taken to the town’s various hospitals.  The toll was expected to increase as the fighting continued through the morning.

“Everyone is traumatized by the bombs because they’re hitting heavily populated parts of town,” local resident Ibrahim Moalim said.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said the raid was to retaliate against the AU troops for rolling into rebel-controlled areas earlier this week.  The AU said the patrol was a routine military exercise, but the Islamist insurgents regarded it as provocative.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Nine Civilians Killed by Mortar Bombs in Mogadishu – 21 August 2009

AP – 24 Dead in Somalia Violence, Witnesses Say – 21 August 2009

BBC – Somali Insurgents in Deadly Raid – 21 August 2009

Reuters – Fighting Kills 22 in Somali Capital Mogadishu – 21 August 2009

Threat of Forced Recruitment by Rebels Has Colombian Indians Fleeing

By Mario A. Flores
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that over 100 indigenous families have fled their jungle reserves in Colombia’s southeastern province so far this year, in fear that armed groups will snatch their children for use as soldiers.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is on an aggressive recruitment campaign to replenish their dwindling ranks. The FARC have been weakened by a series of defeats at the hands of government forces in the past two years, prompting record numbers of guerrilla fighters to desert.

The terrorist group, financed largely by drug-trafficking proceeds, has waged a four-decade war against the Colombian army in a bid to take power. Recently, the threat of rebels forcibly taking away children to join their ranks has caused increasing numbers of people to flee their homes.

Local non-governmental organizations believe there are more than 6,000 child soldiers, with an average age of 12, in the FARC’s ranks. The rebels commonly use children as messengers and cooks and to plant landmines.

“There’s a very clear relationship between forced displacement and recruitment of children by illegal armed groups,” said Marie-Hélène Verney, the UNHCR spokeswoman in Colombia.

“We’re particularly concerned about the increase in forced recruitment of minors during the summer holidays when teachers are not in schools and when kids are pretty much left to their own devices,” said Verney.

Last year, more than 400 families fled their homes in the province of Vaupes, a large Amazon outpost which is home to 27 different indigenous groups, because of threats and the fear of having their children recruited by illegal armies, UNHCR said. Human rights organizations worry that the new violence is pushing even deeper into the Indians’ ancient lands.

The apparent stability in some largely pacified cities like the capital, Bogotá, belies the conflict in remote areas, where Indians find themselves at the mercy of armed groups.

Indigenous children, often living in isolated and far-flung jungle regions where rebels tend to have more power because the military’s presence is weak and sporadic, are particularly at risk of being forcibly recruited.

“Our rulers in Bogotá prefer to ignore that an entire section of the country is surviving, just barely, as if we are in the 16th century, when plunder and killing were the norm,” said Víctor Copete, who runs Chocó Pacífico, a foundation addressing the violence in Chocó, one of the nation’s poorest provinces.

Rebels in some guerrilla-controlled areas have been known to knock from door to door demanding that families hand over a son or daughter to fight.

Rebel groups even hold propaganda meetings in schools, public squares and host parties in areas they control, luring children with false promises of adventure, food, and money.

“Some children join illegal armed groups because they’ve been talked into it. For others it’s about getting new shoes — some don’t know what they’re getting themselves into,” Verney said.

A school teacher in one of the indigenous communities told UNHCR, “These children have no real hope and it makes them terribly vulnerable to other options some unscrupulous people may offer them.”

According to the United Nations, Colombia has about four million internal refugees, second in number only to Sudan, with Indians bearing a disproportionate share of the suffering. The Colombian government puts the figure at around 2.7 million displaced people.

Colombia2_600a

Displaced women from the Embera indigenous ethnic group.
Photo by Moises Saman for The New York Times

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Colombian Indians flee threat of forcible recruitment in rebel ranks – UNHCR – 19 August 2009

IPS – COLOMBIA: Killings of Indians Continued During UN Rapporteur’s Visit – 29 July 2009

The New York Times – Wider Drug War Threatens Colombian Indians – 21 April 2009

The Los Angeles Times – Colombia is asked to probe slayings of Indians in Narino state – 11 February 2009

Zimbabwe Facing Humanitarian Crisis

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – According to the head of medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Rian Van De Braak, cholera will return to Zimbabwe.  The question is when.

“The threat is definitely not over,” he said.  “Everyone expects cholera to be back, at the latest with the nest rainy season [in September or October], because the root causes of the outbreak [in 2008] have not been addressed adequately yet.”

The cholera epidemic first hit Zimbabwe in August 2008 and lasted almost a full year before it was officially declared over in July 2009.

“Although Zimbabwe is not facing armed conflict, humanitarian threats such as food shortages and outbreak of diseases such as cholera pose a significant challenge,” said Agostinho Zacarias, Zimbabwe’s representative from the UN Development Programme.  “The recent [cholera] epidemic resulted in 98,592 cumulative cases, including 4,288 deaths.”

Cholera is a waterborne disease.  The latest epidemic was caused by broken sanitation and water systems.  As a result, more than half of Zimbabweans rely on unsanitary water systems because they have limited or no access to safe water and sanitation systems.  These problems are not likely to be repaired before the next rainy season begins, leaving Zimbabwe vulnerable to another outbreak.

“Several aid agencies are drilling new boreholes in cholera hotspots, which is an important contribution to safe drinking water.  Dealing with those causes before the next rainy season is a race against the clock,” Van De Braak said.  “The dilapidated water and sewage systems are still a major problem.”

In 2008, President Robert Mugabe had banned many NGOs from operation.  This time, however, the aid agencies are prepared for the worst and will “respond immediately” to the next outbreak.

“There is need for Zimbabwe to move from the humanitarian support stage to the recovery stage.  Zimbabwe is no longer a country in crisis but a country in recovery,” he said.                          

Still, UNICEF’s Peter Salama says another outbreak is “almost inevitable.”

He said, “There is a deterioration of infrastructure in the country and Zimbabwe has not made progress in improving this infrastructure.  This will expose people to another cholera outbreak again.”

Zimbabwe also suffers from food shortages and an AIDS epidemic, which takes more than 400 lives every day.

For more information, please see:

IRIN – Zimbabwe: Return of Cholera Expected Soon – 20 August 2009

AFP – UN Receives Less Than Half of Promised Aid – 19 August 2009

BBC – Cholera ‘May Return to Zimbabwe’ – 19 August 2009

CNN – U.N. Official: Zimbabwe’s Woes ‘Pose Significant Challenge’ – 19 August 2009

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) – Zimbabwe: Beyond Borders – Beyond the Crisis? – 19 August 2009

Reuters – Zimbabwe: Return of Cholera Expected Soon – 19 August 2009

Pregnant Women in Gaza Suffer Under Blockade

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 

JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – The Israeli blockade on Gaza is having a disastrous effect on the health of pregnant women in the seaside region, according to a recently released study by the World Health Organization (WHO) office based in Jerusalem.

 

According to the WHO’s July 2009 assessment, inadequate infrastructure, a lack of proper equipment, and a shortage in trained medical personnel have all led to a decline in the quality of hospital care provided to new mothers and their babies. The WHO attributes these conditions to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which began in July 2007, when Hamas took control of the government in Gaza.

 

“The Israeli blockade affects the supply of medical equipment and conditions in the maternity wards, and perpetuates the isolation of healthcare professionals, making it difficult to maintain international standards of practice,” said Tony Laurence, head of the WHO West Bank and Gaza Office in Jerusalem.

 

Munir al-Bursh, head of Gaza’s Department of Pharmaceuticals, reported that ten types of medications essential for proper maternal care, such as Prostin gel, which induces labor, are completely out of stock in the territory. One pregnant woman reported sending her husband to search for a needed medication while she was in the delivery room.

 

Pre- and post-natal care also suffers in Gaza. The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported that seventy percent of the nearly 1.5 million Gazans suffer from anemia, including forty-four percent of pregnant women. Additionally, women are typically discharged within two hours after giving birth, due to a lack of beds. In its report, the WHO advocated increasing the in-patient time to six hours. Compounding the problem is a lack of adequately trained midwives. The blockade has isolated midwives working in the Gaza Strip, leading to outdated medical knowledge and stifling the flow of information about medical advances.

 

Israel’s Ministry of Defense has said that medical supplies have priority as imports into Gaza, but that Israel is not obliged to allow anything into the territory aside from basic humanitarian supplies needed for survival.

 

For more information, please see:

 

Ma’an News Agency – Gaza Mothers, Newborns Affected by Israeli Blockade (IRIN) – 20 August 2009

 

Association of International Development Agencies – The Gaza Blockade: Children and Education Fact Sheet – July 2009

 

The Guardian – No Gourmets in Gaza – 16 June 2009

 

VOA News – Conditions for Palestinian Refugees in Gaza Deteriorating – 22 May 2009

 

IslamOnline.net – Blockade Worsens Gaza Malnutrition – 2 June 2008

 

38 Islamists Arrested in Egypt

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt– On August 17, thirty- eight members of the opposition Muslim brotherhood were arrested in Egypt. According to a security official, the total number of Brotherhood members in detention is four-hundred fifty.

Of those arrested on August 17, thirty members of the Muslim Brotherhood were detained in Suez when they had a meeting at a group member’s home. Another eight members were apprehended in the Nile River Delta the same day.  

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood controls almost one fifth of the seats in Egyptian Parliament, even though the party is technically banned under the Egyptian Constitution, which bans political parties based on religious or class affiliation. The Brotherhood won these seats by fielding independent candidates in the 2005 election. Many Egyptians like the party because of the social services that the group provides.  

In 2007 Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian President Mubarak, and the governing National Democratic Party of using the law that bans parties based upon religious or class affiliation to maintain control of the government, holding a virtual monopoly

Also on August 17, the Islam-affiliated party Al-Wasat al-Jadid (the New Center) was rejected for a fourth time in their application to become a legally recognized political party in Egypt. Al-Wasat al-Jadid has also had their application for party status denied in 1996, 1998, and 2006.  The government considers Al-Wasat al-Jadid a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although the party would ban Coptic Christians or women from heading the country, their platform of peaceful rule through Islamic law is popular among many Egyptians who see the ruling National Democratic Party as corrupt.

Egypt has been cracking down on the Brotherhood, and subsequently, Al-Wasat al-Jadid.  In an interview with CBS news, President Mubarak claimed that the Brotherhood has connections with Lebanese and Palestinian groups Hezbollah and Hamas .

For more information, please see:

AFP- Egypt Police Arrest 38 Islamists – 18 August 2009

Afrique en Lingue- Egypt Rejects Islamist Party – 18 August 2009

AP – Egypt Rejects Request for Moderate Islamic Party – 17 August 2009

Money Biz – Egypt Refuses to Recognize Moderate Muslim Party – 17 August 2009

Teenager Beaten at Camp for Web Addicts

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– Pu Liang, a 14-year old, is in critical condition after being repeatedly beaten at a boot camp in southwest China for Internet addicts.  This comes less than three weeks after a 15-year old was beaten to death at another military-like camp.

Pu is reported to be suffering from kidney failure, which resulted from repeated beatings at the camp where he was being held in solitary confinement.  The boy’s father was quoted in a Chinese newspaper saying, “My son was severely injured after he was beaten three times by the counselor and other students.  All injuries were done by people in the camp.”

The family had paid the camp where Pu was being held 5,000 yuan, which is approximately $730, to treat Pu’s online computer game addiction.  Children at these camps go through rigorous physical exercises and are taught to appreciate other pastimes. 

Wu Yongjing, the man who set up the camp, said, “Physical punishment is an effective way to educate children.”  He further admitted that children are sometimes beaten at his camp.  The camp has been closed and the principal has been arrested.

China internet addiction Internet users in China (Source: BBC)

China has the most Internet users in the world, totaling almost 300 million, and many parents place their children in boot camps to treat their Internet “addiction.”  However, the treatment for Internet addiction remains controversial in China because the rules pertaining to this area are not uniform. 

An expert on Internet addiction at Beijing’s Military General Hospital, Tao Ran, said while “only hospitals and doctors with proper qualifications should provide treatment,” parents send their children to these military-like camps, which are not run by qualified professionals.  Tao added, “Internet addiction is treatable…80[%] of the patients can get away from the addiction.”

China’s Minister of Health has no plans to register or monitor these boot camps.  However, the Chinese officials did ban electro-shock therapy to treat Internet addiction after abuses were reported at Internet addiction camps.

For more information, please see:

AFP – New China web addict attack: state media – 19 August 2009

BBC – China web addict ‘beaten’ at camp – 19 August 2009

CNN – China probe of abuse at Web addiction camp – 19 August 2009

North and South Sudan Sign New Peace Deal

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, Sudan – North and South Sudan signed a deal on Wednesday to implement many of the disputed and neglected items in the 2005 peace accord, therefore making the continuation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement more feasible.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended Sudan’s 22-year civil war, the longest war on the African continent.  This new signed deal will help bolster the 2005 CPA and will result in better cooperation and stronger relations that will hopefully result in a brighter future for Sudan.

The document they signed is the result of months of negotiations between the two sides.  Their hard work has come up with fresh impetus to implement the remaining key issues of the peace deal.  This new agreement covers key areas that both sides will work together on, including upcoming elections (next April), peace efforts in the war-torn region of Darfur, demarcating the north and south border, and power sharing.

This “action plan” witnessed by the United States special envoy Scott Gration, sets out a framework for resolving any of the outstanding issues in the north-south conflict.

Regardless of the recent deal, two major issues still exist where the two sides are divided, although both “remain to be fully worked out,” says Gration.  The bottom line is, this deal does not completely erase the ongoing religious, ethnic, and ideological difference over which the war was fought, it only helps to reduce the violence.

The two major issues are the independence referendum for the south, which is due in 2011, and the disputed census seen as key to the 2010 elections.

Next, Gration will ravel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to resume talks with the leadership of the Darfuri armed movements on unification efforts in support of the to Doha peace process.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Sudan Ex-Foes Sign Deal to Bolseter Peace Accord – 19 August 2009

BBC – Sudanese Foes Sign New Peace Deal – 19 August 2009

Reuters – North, South Sudan Agree on Peace Deal Elements – 19 August 2009

America.gov – Envoy Gration Takes Peace Mission to Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt – 18 August 2009