Serbian Court Convicts Bosnian Officer of Attacks that Killed 50 Soldiers

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia – On Monday a Serbian court convicted Bosnian security officer Ilija Jurisic of ordering an attack that killed approximately 50 soldiers in 1992.  Jurisic was sentenced to 12 years in prison for war crimes.

The War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court for War Crimes concluded that Jurisic, a citizen of both of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had ordered the attack on a column of Serbian soldiers as they withdrew from the Bosnian town of Tuzla in May, 1992.  This decision, which found improper battlefield conduct, killed 50 Yugoslavian soldiers while injuring another 44.

Bosnian officials have claimed that it was the Yugoslavian soldiers that first fired in this event.  Jurisic’s lawyer has labeled the court’s verdict ‘scandalous’.

Jurisic’s trial has strained already fragile relations between Bosnia’s Muslim and Serbian populations.  The Bosnian war, which continued the breakup of the old Yugoslavia, began in 1992 after Croats and Muslims in Bosnia voted to split off from the Serbian-led Yugoslavia.  Fighting came to an end in 1995 through the Dayton Accords.  Since he capture by Serbian authorities, Bosnia has demanded Jurisic’s release from a trial that it believes is politically motivated.

Jurisic maintained throughout the trial that he was innocent of the charges.  Prior to the start of the trial in February of 2008, Jurisic was detained for two and a half years.  He had been arrested by Serbian authorities while on a business trip in Belgrade.

Following the Serbian court’s verdict there were protests on Tuesday involving thousands of ethnic Bosnians in Tuzla.

For more information, please see:

B92 – Protests in Tuzla over Jurisic verdict – 29 September 2009

BALKANINSIGHT – Jurisic Sentenced to 12 Years – 29 September 2009

BLIC Online – Jurisic sentenced to 12 years in prison – 29 September 2009

SETIMES – Serbia sentences Bosnian for war crimes – 29 September 2009

AP – Bosnian jailed in Serbia for war crimes – 28 September 2009

REUTERS – Serbia jails Bosnian Croat for 1992 war crimes – 28 September 2009

Pakistan Releases Iranian Detainees

By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MASHKHEL, Iran – The Pakistani government recently released the eleven alleged members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) whom border police detained for illegal entry into Pakistan.   Although the Pakistan initially identified the arrested individuals as members of the IRG, they later confirmed their status as security guards.  It is unknown how this reclassification informed the government’s decision to release the prisoners. 

Pakistani border control was patrolling the area for drug-dealers crossing into Pakistan.  Suspecting the eleven men were drug-dealers, border control pursued them after they crossed the Pakistani border.  Pakistan’s border police arrested the men in the Baluchistan province. 

Pakistan and Iran do not have a general history of hostility concerning borders.  However, last week’s suicide-bomb attack in the Mashkhel region of the Pakistan-Iran border, which left over 50 dead, incensed tensions between the neighboring nations.  Furthermore, the small insurgency operations occurring along the southwestern border region over the past decade caused an increase in patrolling activity. 

A Sunni Muslim group known has Jundallah, or God’s Soldiers, claimed responsibility for the suicide-bomb attack in Mashkhel.   The Iranian government criticized the Pakistani government for unreasonably detaining members of the IRG.  Military personnel asserted that it is the protocol of the Iranian law enforcement to chase suspects into Pakistani borders has there been actually been an instance of drug-dealers fleeing from Iran into Pakistan. 

Iranian personnel stated that the Pakistani border control’s brazen actions represent counterintuitive acts of hostility in a time when both nations face insurgent attacks.  They also pleaded that Pakistan be more cooperative with Iran instead of committing wrongful acts against them.  The regions constituting the border between Pakistan and Iran signify a zone of neutrality between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.  Considering the interaction between the two groups at the borders, Iranians have voiced a concern that the recent friction between the two states may compromise the rare peace among members of the two opposing groups. 

However, not all Iranians plead to the sensibilities of the people.  A senior commander of the IRG recently stated his desire to meet Pakistan militants within Pakistan’s borders with the IRG.  Also, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad publicly announced that some members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency have been colluding with the Jundallah to perpetrate many of the suicide bombings. 

While the strife continues between the Iran and Pakistan, the fate of each states’ respective civilians lies in the cross-fire.  Until both nations recognize their common cause against insurgency in the area, it seems peace will not settle in the border regions.

 

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Pakistan Frees Iranian Guards – 27 October 2009

CBS News – Pakistan Frees 11 Iran Security Officers – 27 October 2009

VOA News – Pakistan Frees 11 Iranian Guards Arrested Near SW Border – 27 October 2009

After Years of Poor Prison Conditions, the UN Human Rights Council Reports that Vanuatu is Finally Taking Steps to Improve the Situation

by Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT VILA, Vanuatu – Since the 1990s, Vanuatu has been criticized by the international community for its reckless treatment of prison inmates and its disregard for human rights. After years of pressure from the international community, Vanuatu is finally taking steps to improve its prison conditions.

According to various reports in the years of 1995-1998, the prison conditions in Vanuatu were especially degrading, and posed serious international human rights violations. The Ombudsman of Vanuatu investigated the prison conditions during this time period, and found them severely unsatisfactory. The Ombudsman requested further inspection and new construction for the prisons. However, because of the severe lack of funding, Vanuatu disregarded many of the complaints.

These reports stated only some of the horrible incidents that were happening within the prisons of Vanuatu, such as overcrowding, earthquake damage and rain water seepage, leaks, and dangerous electrical wiring.

Amnesty International was also prompted to report on the severe prison conditions in 1998, and described it as “men held in conditions amounting to cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in decaying, overcrowded former colonial prison.” A delegate for Amnesty International visited one of the prisons and found that several hundred prisoners were held in a prison built for only 63 people.

During a mass arrest, military and police officers abused their powers and assaulted numerous prisoners. They faced criminal charges of international assault for beating and kicking the prisoners. Approximately 500 officers were arrested and faced prosecution. The effect of this event was massive. There was widespread rioting and looting. Amnesty International reported that the criminal prosecution of the human rights abusers sent “an important signal that ill-treatment of prisoners must not be tolerated, that police and prison officers are not above the law, and that national emergencies do not excuse officers’ taking the law into their own hands.”

In April 2006, a report from Marc Neil-Jones, a publisher of the Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper, reported that human rights abuse was still present in the prisons of Vanuatu. Mr. Neil-Jones was jailed for five hours for a mere traffic offense, and witnessed other inmates chained in shackles. Some inmates told Mr. Neil-Jones that they had been chained for eight months.

However, recently this year in May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review met with the Vice Chairperson of the Vanuatu UPR Committee to help work towards improving the conditions. Vanuatu invited the United Nations to assist it in meeting its human rights obligations, and also extended an open invitation to the international community to help continue its efforts in reaching its goals of realizing human rights.

Several recommendations were suggested to Vanuatu during the meeting. In general, these recommendations included: continually working on improving the structural conditions of prisons, conducting more investigations, taking measures to reduce discrimination, implementing more training for law enforcement officials, and combatting corruption.

More recently, on September 28, 2009 the UN Human Rights Council has been told that Vanuatu has taken further positive steps to improve conditions in prisons. Members of the international community and sponsors for Vanuatu, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Amnesty International, expressed their support for Vanuatu’s progress.

Specifically, Vanuatu has now enforced a separation of minors and adults in its correctional facilities. Vanuatu hopes that this small but important step will reduce not only the overcrowding of the facilities, but also reduce the conflict and tension between inmates.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – Vanuatu improving prison conditions, UN told – 28 September, 2009

Amnesty International – Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Vanuatu – 25 September, 2009

Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review – Universal Periodic Review for 12 May 2009 – 12 May, 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Amnesty urged to inspect Vanuatu prison conditions – 3 April, 2006

Amnesty International – Dangerous prison conditions prompt Amnesty International report – 28 September, 1998

Digested Reports of the Vanuatu Office of the Ombudsman – Report on prison conditions and mismanagement of prison budget – 16 September, 1999

Malaysian Court Upholds Woman’s Caning

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA– An Islamic court of appeals in Malaysia on Monday upheld the sentence of six strokes of the cane which will be given to a Muslim woman.  She was caught drinking beer in public at a resort.  She was caught by Islamic enforcement officers.

The significance of this ruling means that the woman, Kartika Sari Dewo Shukarno, a former model and nurse and a 32-year old mother of two, is set to become the first woman to be caned under the country’s religious laws that apply only to Muslims. Analysts have stated that the government fears that the punishment could damage Malaysia’s reputation abroad.  Malaysia uses a two-track legal system; where the majority Malays are subject to Islamic law, while the Chinese and Indian minorities are not.

After being arrested for drinking beer in a beachfront hotel in December 2007, she was originally told she would receive six strokes of a rattan cane during the last weeks of August.  This was delayed until after Ramadan and after a further review the ruling was subsequently upheld earlier in the week. 

Women’s minister Shahrizat Jalil, the chief judge of Pahang state appeals court called the verdict excessive, stating that it projected a “cruel image” of Malaysia.  “The overriding view was that the sentence meted out was too harsh and is not commensurate with the offense,” she told reporters.

The Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Shukarno to appeal.  However, Shukarno’s case previously garnered widespread media attention after she refused to appeal her sentence.  Shukarno asked that her punishment be carried out in public, saying that she wanted serve as an example to other Muslims.  This has triggered a debate over the use of Islamic laws in the moderate Muslim country, where the country’s majority Malay-Muslims make up 55% of the country’s 27 million population.

It is now in the hands of Pahang Islamic Religious Department to carry out the sentence.  A thin stick is used for the caning since the punishment is less about pain than it is about symbolism and humiliation.  No date has yet been set for the caning.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Malaysia To Review Caning Woman 25 August 2009

BBC News- Malaysia Upholds Woman’s Caning 28 September 2009

USA Today- Court Uphold Caning of Malaysian Woman For Drinking Beer 28 September 2009

Digital City-Court Upholds Caning of Woman For Drinking Beer 28 September 28, 2009

Saudis To Permit Israeli Use Of Airspace In The Event Of Iran Attack

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – As Iran continued missile tests, Saudi officials in a closed door London meeting with British Intelligence chief John Scarlett and his Israeli counterpart Meir, agreed to give logistical support to Israel in the event it decides it decides to attack Iran. During the meeting it was agreed that Saudi Arabian air space would be available for Israeli airplanes to launch a hit-and-run operations against Iran. The Israeli offense and possible Iranian retaliatory strikes could result in the death of as many as 6 million people.

The alleged Iranian nuclear plant is located inside of a mountain near the ancient city of Qom and was discovered by British and Saudi officials. Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh perceive the site as a major threat. British Foreign Secretary David Milliband, acknowledged the danger of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and did not rule out military action but insisted “we are 100% focused on a diplomatic solution.” Further condemnations came from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama urging Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to comply with weapons inspectors or face more sanctions.

Iran insists that the tests were part of Sacred Defense Week’s annual military exercises to commemorate Iran’s with Iraq in the 1980s. They further stress that their nuclear work is for peaceful power generation.

Officials from Iran and the United States are set to meet next Thursday in what are the highest-level talks between the two sides in three decades. Also joining the talks are the members of the UN Security Council including – Britain, France, Russia and China as well as Germany. According to State department spokesmen P.J. Crowley the main question to be answered at the meeting is whether Iran is prepared to seriously address the concerns of the international community.

For More Information Please See:

Arab Monitor – Saudi Arabia said to make available its airspace for Israeli fighter jets – 28 September 2009

Israel News Agency – Israel, Saudi Arabia, US, UK join forces as Iran fires nuclear capable missiles – 28 September 2009

The Daily Express (UK) – Saudis will let Israel bomb Iran nuclear site – 27 September 2009

CNN – Thursday meeting with Iran to test Obama ‘engagement policy’ – 29 September 2009