Justice Is Served As Human Rights Activist and Leader Is Released

Justice Is Served As Human Rights Activist and Leader Is Released

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku issued a permanent stay of prosecution on Monday in the case of the prominent human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and eight other defendants facing charges of plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe’s government. Mukoko had been illegally abducted, beaten, and tortured in jail, by Zimbabwe’s security forces last year. Chidyausiku ruled that Mukoko and her co-accused could not be tried now, or in the future, because their constitutional rights had been violated.

Last year in December Mukoko, the leader of Zimbabwe Peace Project, was abducted from her Norton home in the early hours of the morning, wearing nothing but her night clothes. For weeks police claimed they did not have her in custody, only for the then State Security Minister, Didymus Mutasa, to admit in court papers that he had sanctioned the abductions as a matter of state security. Mukoko spent more than a month in several secret locations where she was tortured by state security agents to force her to confess to an anti-government plot. Her captors accused her of recruiting and attempting to recruit people, including a police officer, to undergo military training in Botswana so they could topple Mugabe’s government.

Monday’s ruling sets a precedent for other human rights and opposition activists who face similar charges and were subjected to the same conditions. They have applied to the same court to have their charges dropped but are awaiting rulings. “This is really a positive thing for activists and civil society but I hope the state will comply with the ruling because in the past they (the state) have re-arrested people on fresh trumped up charges,” John Makumbe, a political analyst and Mugabe critic, said. Innocent Gonese, a member of parliament from Tsvangirai’s party, said the judgment could be “the beginning of good things to come, politically,” but added that scores of other party activists remain jailed or face charges.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project director said she would be going home to rest and thanked everyone who had supported her during her ordeal. Mukoko also vowed to continue her activism work.

For more information, please see:

SW Radio Africa – Terror Charges Dropped Against Mukoko And 8 Others – 28 September 2009

CNN – Zimbabwe court bars activist Mukoko’s prosecution – 28 September 2009

Reuters – Zimbabwe Court Rules Activist Can’t Be Prosecuted – 28 September 2009

AP – Terror charges dropped against Zimbabwe activist – 28 September 2009

Iraq Struck By Multiple Bombings

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On September 28, a number of Iraqis died as a result of a number of bombings that took place throughout the country. While the exact number of dead has not been confirmed, estimates range between thirteen and eighteen dead as a result of the first major acts of violence in the country that followed the end of Ramadan. There had been somewhat of a pause in violence in the country since the Muslim holy month ended. Additionally, at least fifty five people were injured as a result of the bombings.

The deadliest bomb went off twenty miles west of the city of Ramadi, capital of the Anbar province.  It killed a number of Iraqi security forces members. The Anbar province and its capital were bases for insurgents after the United States invasion in 2003. A suicide attacker was able to blow up a water tanker that was packed with explosives at the headquarters of a quick response unit located on the highway. The explosion killed seven police officers and wounded ten others. The explosion also damaged a number of nearby buildings.

Another bomb went off in Diwaniyah, a city located one hundred miles south of Baghdad. The bomb went off in a minibus. Three passengers were killed while two others wounded.

Two bombs exploded in western Baghdad. The bombs went off in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood and killed three people. Among those killed was the commander of the army battalion. The first blast was a roadside bomb that did not kill anyone but injured one individual. The second bomb was attached to a parked motorcycle vehicle and accounted for the three deaths. Overall the Baghdad bombings wounded twenty-eight individuals.

A bomb also went off in the city of Mosul. This northern city is an area where it is believed that insurgents have regrouped after being forced out of Baghdad. A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle exploded and killed two officers.

Despite the drop in violence from 2006 and 2007, roadside bombs and attempted assassinations are frequent occurrences. The primary targets for insurgents are Iraqi security forces, who are expected to take complete control of the country after all United States combat forces leave in August 2010.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – Bombings Across Iraq Kill 15, Wound Dozens – 29 September 2009

AFP – Eighteen Killed, Dozens Wounded In Iraq Attacks – 28 September 2009

BBC – Iraq Hit By Deadly Bomb Attacks – 28 September 2009

New York Times – Holy Month Ends, And Violence Rises Again In Iraq – 28 September 2009

Reuters – Iraq Bomb Attacks End Ramadan Relative Lull – 28 September 2009

Immigration and Nationality Act Leads to Civil and Human Rights Abuses and Violations

By Brenda Lopez Romero

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized more local police enforcement to use section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. 287(g) allows state and local authorities to have some of their officers trained to enforce immigration laws. Many advocates believed that the Obama administration would end this program, because they believe that 287(g) is arbitrary and punitive. Civil and human rights organizations argue that this program leads to multiple violations of the law and the Constitution because it is so susceptible to abuse by law enforcement officials.

In the beginning of this year, the Government Accountability Office found that the program lacked internal controls, with the result that 287(g) officers were detaining traffic-offenders rather than genuinely criminal aliens.

Advocates argue that the program makes immigrant communities less safe, including those that are U.S. citizens and legal residents, due to the strained relationship between local police authorities and the people. In fact, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona is now being investigated by the Justice Department on allegations that include racial profiling and due process violations.


(PHOTO: The Economist)
Another strong supporter of “tough” immigration enforcement includes the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group in part for its support of xenophobic hate speech.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, expects immigration work to restart in Congress in 2010. “As of right now, I have not been convinced that comprehensive immigration reform cannot move in 2010, so it needs to move,” Saenz said. “If that is not possible, then I’m interested in discussing this idea of down payments with a commitment to fulfill the obligation through comprehensive immigration reform that is not postponed indefinitely.”

“Part of President Obama’s mandate coming in, particularly in the high levels of support that he received from Latino voters in critical states, I think a significant part of his mandate was about comprehensive immigration reform,” Saenz said. However, Saenz is convinced that a good start is ending 287(g), a statute that has in effect created unsafe communities, and has essentially condoned civil rights abuses.

In New York, a multilingual religious group of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Yoruba that took part in the prayer service and made a call for justice for hardworking, taxpaying communities, because “the need for comprehensive immigration reform remains as pressing as ever,” the religious leaders said in a written statement. “Our communities continue to suffer because of raids, anti-immigrant press, hate crimes against the immigrant community, and a broken immigration system that keeps at least twelve million people undocumented.” Reverend Donna Schaper stated that “this is un-American” and that family values did not stop at the borders.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics prove the claims that hate crimes are an increasing nationwide problem, particularly assaults against Latinos.

For more information, please see:

The Associated Press – AP Interview: Leader Has Back-Up Immigration Plan – 26 September  2009

The Economist – The Continuing Crackdown – 17 September 2009

The NY Daily News – Anti-Immigration Group FAIR Mars Smart Reform Push by Faith Groups – 17 September 2009

Educators Bear the Brunt of “Shocking” Level of Political Violence in Colombia

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

PARIS, France – Education International, a global union federation, released a report today finding that Colombian teachers face the highest rates of political violence against teachers in the world. The detailed report, entitled Colombia’s Classroom Wars details incidences of murder, disappearances, torture, death threats, forced displacement, arbitrary detention, and other violations of human rights..

The Colombian National Trade Union School reported that 816 Colombian trade unionists were killed between 1999 and 2005. That represents more than half of the 1,175 trade unionists killed during that period worldwide. The Education International report points out that many violations go unreported because the environment is so politicized and dangerous. As a result, the estimates of human rights violations are thought to be conservative.

Over half of the trade unionists murdered in Colombia are teachers. Teachers working in rural areas are seen as community leaders, which can bring them into conflict with powerful local, national, and international interests. For example, teachers in Arauca, an oil-rich region, campaigned for multinational oil companies to finance social investment.

The report finds that political violence disproportionately affects teachers in Colombia because they represent the majority of unionization in the country. Findings of the report indicate that due to repression, and the massive growth in the informal sector, trade union representation is extremely low in Colombia. The majority of state employees are unionized and the biggest trade union in Colombia is the FECODE – the National Teacher’s Federation. FEDCODE has a strong presence and leadership in the Colombian Labor Federation.

Education International attributes the majority of the assassinations to right-wing paramilitary organizations with links to the Colombian state. People responsible for the assassinations “committed their crimes with impunity.” Dr. Mario Novelli, of the University of Amsterdam prepared the report and will present it at a UNESCO – sponsored seminar today in Paris. Dr. Novelli argues that “the violation of the political and civil rights of educators in Colombia by state and state-supported paramilitary organizations is carried out precisely with the intention of silencing the very organizations and individuals that are actively defending the economic, social, and cultural rights of their members and the broader Colombian society.”

Colombian labor union leaders spoke at the ALF-CIO meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this month. They expressly stated that the government and employers are responsible for violence against unionized workers. They argued that violence against unions rises to the level of governmental policy, saying that the government “uses its own agencies to murder trade unionists.”

Two U.S. corporations have been accused of being involved in anti-union “death squads.” The Organization of American States said that 3,000 automatic weapons and 2.5 million bullets were shipped through Chiquita Brands International’s private port and picked up by death squad operatives. Drummond Coal executives are currently being investigated for allegedly conspiring with paramilitaries to kill three union activists. Trade unionists in Colombia are hoping that violence against trade unions will be considered as the United States and Canada negotiate a Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

Dr. Novelli traces the violence to “a highly unequal development model favoring a small minority of wealthy elites at the expense of the vast majority of the population.” Novelli and Education International are urging the international community and labor movements around the world to call on governments to hold Colombia accountable for crimes; to stop giving financial support to the Colombian military; and to prioritize improvement of human rights in Colombia over the interests of foreign-based corporations.

For more information, please see:

Agencia Latinoamericana de Información – Colombian Teachers Face Highest Rate of Political Violence – 29 September 2009

Education International – Colombian Teachers Face Highest Rate of Political Violence – 29 September 2009

People’s Weekly World – Trade Unions to Colombia: Stop Murdering Labor Activists – 24 September 2009

Former Mayor Denies Rwanda Genocide Charges

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ARUSHA, Tanzania – After 15 years of being on the run from Rwandan authorities, former Mayor of the small Rwanda town of Kivumu, Gregoire Ndahimana, was finally arrested this past August.  Much talk has been made about the eventual detainment of a man who is alleged to have been the primary executor of a plan leading to the deaths of 2000 Tutsi’s in a small church in Kivumu, Rwanda.  After fleeing Rwanda for the neighboring country of the DR Congo many in Rwanda feared Ndahimana, and many others involved in the Genocide who also fled to the Congo, would never be brought to justice.

In a surprise move thought to be an encouraging sign of reconciliation between Rwanda and the Congo, the Congolese deported Ndahimana to Arusha, Tanzania where the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda is located, and where he will be tried.  Ndahimana’s deportation is hoped to lead to both countries releasing rebels who have fled to each respective country.  The Congolese specifically hope for the transfer of Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda who is believed to be currently under house arrest in Rwanda.

On the verge of trial, Ndahimana claims his innocence and denies any involvement in the genocide and denies all charges brought against him.  As prosecutors continue their investigation and prepare their case, many are hoping new witnesses will step forward. In hopes to encourage the forwarding of information regarding Ndahimana’s case, a five million dollar reward has been offered by the United States, and has yet to be collected.

If Ndahimana is convicted it will be a huge victory for many invested in the situation because he is thought to be one of the last major offenders involved in the 1994 genocide.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Ex Mayor Denies Genocide Charges – 29 September 2009

MSN-UK – Accused Denies 1994 Rwanda Genocide – 28 September 2009

BBC – DR Congo Deports Genocide Suspect – 20 September 2009