Imprisoned Ex-Leader of Taiwan Requests U.S. Intervention

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TAIPEI, Taiwan– Earlier this month, the Taiwan High Court sentenced the country’s ex-leader Chen Shui-bian to life in prison for money laundering, embezzling state funds, accepting bribes and committing forgery.  This week, the same court rejected Chen’s petition for release on bail as Chen supporters demanded that the appellate court uphold Chen’s human rights.

One local newspaper said, “Let this be a warning to all political parties, politicians, government officials and businessmen.  The Chen family deserves no sympathy for the heavy sentence.  We should respect the court’s decision.” 

Chen shui bian

Taiwan’s Ex-President Chen Shui-bian.  Courtesy of Reuters. 

Chen, however, has petitioned the U.S. to intervene and restore his civil and human rights.  The Taiwan Civil Rights Litigation Organization is sponsoring a legal action for Chen and is demanding his immediate release.

Chen claims that under the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Taiwan was not awarded to Republic of China; therefore, still remains under U.S. Military Government.  Accordingly, Chen plans on using international law and U.S. constitutional law to resolve his legal problems.

 Free chen shui bianChen’s supporters.  Courtesy of Start Telegram.

 Calling Chen’s trial unfair and invalid, Taipei Director of Democratic Progressive Party Huang Ching-lin said he supports Chen’s theory. 

Furthermore, some Taiwanese media also expressed concern for Chen’s case, especially for his lengthy detention during trial.  One daily paper said, “There was a widespread belief that this was hardly a fair trial.  The flawed process has affected the healthy developments in our country’s democracy and our international image.”

However, Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Lee Hung-chun commented that Chen must be “mentally ill after spending so much time in detention.”

Chen has been in custody since December and continues to argue that he is innocent, claiming that he is a victim of Beijing’s political conspiracy.  Chen said his corruption trial was a “political revenge for his lifelong push to declare formal independence from China.”

Chen’s wife also received a life sentence, while his son and daughter received shorter sentences.
 

For more information, please see:

AFP – Taiwan media divided over ex-leader’s life sentence – 11 September 2009

Asia News – Ex President Chen SHui-bian to stay in prison – 25 September 2009

China Post – High court decides to detain Chen Shui-bian – 25 September 2009

Taipei Times – Chen asks US court to intervene to free him – 24 September 2009

Indian Journalist and Activist Arrested and Tortured

By Megan E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, India– Jiten Yumnam a journalist, also an anti-Tipaimukh dam and rights activist, remains captured and at risk after being tortured while in Custody in India.

Jiten and seven others (Chungset Koireng, Likmabam Tompok Singh, Shamjet Sabano Nanbo Singh, Irom Brojen Singh, Amom Soken Singh, Toarem Ramanda Singh and Thiyam Dinesh Singh) were arrested in areas surrounding Manipur on September 14. This is based on assertions by the, Asian Human Rights Commission, a Hong Kong-based regional rights organization, which issued a statement on Thursday, September 24. The statement indicated that, “We have obtained court documents which show Jiten and seven others accused and were arrested on mere suspicion and unsubstantiated allegations.” 

Jiten was active in an international campaign against police officers who murdered a young man and a pregnant woman in the Manipur capital this July. In the present matter, the police claimed to have received information that the detained congregated on September 14 to plan further protests against the extrajudicial executions of civilians to intensify the pressure on security forces. Investigation officer, Ibomche Singh, sought a 20-day custody of the eight. Although the police claimed the detained had confessed to the charges during interrogation, when questioned before a court, the protesters denied confessing, and said they had been badly tortured. The court recorded this and agreed to extended police custody until 29 September.

Jiten and the seven other activists arrested, were reported taken into custody without explanation, and it is believed by some sources that cases against them were fabricated using the National Security Act, 1980. The Act is widely misused by the government to lengthily detain human rights defenders and political activists, and there is concern that this will be applied to Jiten and the other activists presently captured.

Evidence shows that Jiten was in need and requested medical attention, however, the detained were examined only once by a doctor despite having been previously tortured.  According to one source, neither the victim nor his family have been told of the charges against him. Unverified reports have suggested that he and seven other persons arrested on the same day will be charged with offenses punishable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

For more information, please see:

News from Bangladesh – India anti-dam activists at risk in custody – September 28, 2009 

South Asia Media – India anti-dam activists at risk – September 27, 2009 

Asia Human Rights Commission – INDIA: A detained human rights defender is at risk of false charges and torture  – September 18, 2009

Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon: When Will Changes Be Made?

By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon– The latest figures show that there are nearly four hundred thousand Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.  Of that number, fifty-three percent live in twelve refugee camps scattered throughout the country.  The existence of these camps, however, does not mean that the refugees are living in suitable conditions.

Lebanese law forbids Palestinian refugees from working in seventy-two different professions.  These prohibitions include various private sector careers such as engineering, medicine, and law, as well as all public sector jobs.  Furthermore, there are a number of low skilled professions such as guarding buildings and trash collecting which are also subject to the prohibition.  As for the remaining low skilled positions, Palestinian refugees are required to obtain work permits and very few of these permits have been issued.

Aside from the professional prohibitions, a recent Lebanese law forbids Palestinians from buying and owning property.  Even Lebanese women married to a Palestinian man are forbidden from giving their children any property as an inheritance.  In addition, the new law obstructs renovation work at the camps by prohibiting the entry of any building equipment.  As a result, many of these camps lack many basic services such as electricity, water, and sewage systems.

In response to these conditions, the Lebanese argue that the refugees are temporarily in the camps and for them to normalize the situation with the Palestinians.  They are concerned that this would lead to an unwanted sense of permanent settlement.  Currently, it is estimated that nearly forty percent of 15 to 24 year-olds in the camps are unemployed.  Not only that, but chronic health failure is reported in just under twenty percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, a rate higher than that of Palestinian refugees in both Syria and Jordan.

In light of recent political developments in the region, the sentiment seems to be that the right of return for Palestinians is not a realistic possibility in the immediate future. As a result, many continue to feel that Lebanese law needs to reflect the ongoing struggle being faced by Palestinian refugees.

For more information, please see:

China View- Lebanese President Rejects “Any Form” of Palestinian Settlement of Refugees– 26 September 2009

The Daily Star- Sleiman Voices Hopes for Lebanese Seat on Security Council– 26 September 2009

The Palestinian Chronicle- Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: From Deprivation to Violence– 18 September 2009

Taylor Denied More Allegations in Court

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Charles Taylor remains on the stand in the International Criminal Court (ICC) defending his actions during the Sierra Leonean civil war.  He continues to defend himself against the allegations that he armed and supported Sierra Leonean rebels who killed and mutilated thousands.

This week Taylor denied allegations that he ordered an attack by Sierra Leonean rebels on Guinea to oust President Lansana Conte in 2000.

“No I did not, no I did not,” he said.  “We were being attacked by LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) from Guinea but I was equally busy with other issues that were not war-like.  It was in my best interest to attack Guinea but why not use Liberians for that?”

Taylor also denied having any knowledge of a planned rebel attack on Sierra Leone in 1991 and called those allegations “lies.”  He was responding to allegations brought in 2008 by a prosecution witness who said that Taylor took part in a plan with the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) rebels to invade Sierra Leone.

“It’s a lie,” said Taylor responding to the witness’ account that he saw Taylor and RUF leader Foday Sankoh together in Voinjama, Liberia making plans to attack Sierra Leone.  “I had not even gone from Kakata to Gbangha and so I would not have moved to Voinjama.  There is no way you can get to Voinjama except you go through Gbangha.”  He added, “May be he saw a ghost of someone looking like Charles Taylor, its all a lie.”

Allegations that Taylor gave Sankoh $20,000 as payment for safekeeping diamonds have also been denied.

“If I wanted to send money for Sankoh, I would have done so through the Liberian Foreign Minister who was in Lome,”Taylor said.  “It would have been a good gesture just like Eyadema (former Togolese President) and Obasanjo (former Nigerian President) did give him money, but I did not.”

The trial will resume on Tuesday, as the ICC will be observing a holiday on Monday.

For more information, please see:

CharlesTaylorTrial.org – Taylor Denies Giving Money to Rebel Leader or Safekeeping Diamonds – 24 September 2009

CharlesTaylorTrial.org – ‘I Did Not Know of Any Prior Plans for the Invasion of Sierra Leone in 1991,” Taylor Says – 23 September 2009

CharlesTaylorTrial.org – Taylor Did Not Order the RUF to Attack Guinea – 22 September 2009

Fiji Prime Minister Stands Ground Refusing to Restore Democracy

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Yesterday, Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, addressed the United Nations in New York in the wake of the European Union’s decision to extend its trade sanctions on Fiji until March 2010.  The international community has urged Fiji’s government to rethink its position.

The EU refuses to provide Fiji with any development aid until it demonstrates a commitment to return to a democratic state. This aid was aimed at improving Fiji’s economy by assisting, for one, the sugar industry.  Poverty levels in Fiji’s rural communities continue to rise, and its people are extremely discontented.

According to a professor from the School of Economics at the University of the South Pacific, Wadan Narsey, the EU’s decision is indicative of the international community’s increasing concern about the situation in Fiji.

“For the European Union to say that they are going to continue with these sanctions for another six months ought to be taken very seriously by this military government that they have got to rethink their strategy forward,” Narsey said.

Fiji’s government refuses to hold elections until 2014.  This timeline is unacceptable, according to Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary General for the Commonwealth of Nations, who met with Prime Minister Bainimarama in New York on September 25th.

Sharma also reiterated the Commonwealth members’ disapproval of the human rights situation in Fiji.  He further stated that the Government should rescind the Public Emergency Regulation, an act extending a broad range of powers to the government, including the power to censor the media.  The pair was unable to reach an agreement.

On September 26th, Bainimarama addressed the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly international community.  He plans to put a new constitution into place by September 13th.  “The basis for the new constitution will be the ideals and principles formulated by the People’s Charter for Change and Progress, a document prepared following widespread consultation with, and input from, the people of Fiji”.

The Prime Minister claims that Fiji’s history shows a great deal of “mismanagement, corruption and nepotism”.   He requested that the international community have patience as Fiji attempts to overcome its past.

He further expressed his disappointment with the UN’s decision to exclude Fiji troops from participating in peacekeeping operations.  Although he did not explicitly mention Australia or New Zealand, it is no secret that these countries are Fiji’s strongest critics.

In December 2006 Bainimarama staged the fourth coup in Fiji since 1987. The Commonwealth suspended Fiji’s membership on September 1.
For more information, please see:
Fiji Village – PM calls for patience and understanding – 27 September 2009

Radio New Zealand News – No agreement between Commonwealth and Fiji – 27 September 2009

TVNZ – Fiji urged to change election plans – 27 September 2009

Xinhua News – Fiji asks critics to have patience during the reform period – 27 September 2009

ABC News – Bainimarama to address UN General Assembly – 26 September 2009

The Associated Press – Fiji stung by exclusion from new UN peacekeeping – 26 September 2009

UN News Centre – At UN, Fijian regime asks critics to have patience during reform period – 26 September 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Fiji regime urged to rethink its stance as EU sanctions continue – 25 September 2009

Abuse of Children’s Human Rights in South Korea

By Megan E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea-A report by the South Korean government’s Ministry of Labour, confirmed that 131 buildings in Sungdong-Gu, Seoul were condemned and slated for removal of asbestos. Parents of local children who attended a nearby nursery school were not informed the operation was underway or the asbestos health threat.

According to a report by World Health Organization(WHO), asbestos has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic to humans. It is reported that asbestos-containing materials are still in place in many buildings and exposure continues during maintenance, alteration, removal and demolition. Asbestos can lead to development of cancer which may stay latent for decades. While many developing countries have been banning asbestos since the early 1990s, the government of Korea banned it only in 2009. As most of the current buildings contain asbestos, their demolition exposes residents and workers to asbestos.

While the demolition occurred in Sungdong-Gu, an area designated to be re-developed, 120 children, all under the age of five, continued to go to school while surrounding buildings underwent asbestos removal. The children were exposed to the toxic matter for seven months. Many children began to experience sicknesses, such as skin inflammation, coughs, phlegm, pneumonia, conjunctivitis. Once parents learned that asbestos was being removed, they made visits to the Seoul City administration, the Sungdong-Gu administration and the Ministry of Labour to make a civil appeal, however, their effort were thwarted by officials who brushed their concern aside. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), various government authorities continuously avoided calls from parents as they tried to investigate the situation.

After attempting to get an affirmative response as to what was being done at the construction site, civilians began conducting independently commissioned tests. Civilians used the Citizen’s Institute for Environmental Studies and the Institute of Specialized Analysis for Asbestos (ISAA) to test the area, and seven tests have been conducted since April. ISAA, which is authorized by the Ministry of Labour, concluded that nine out of eighteen sites investigated had levels of asbestos beyond the standard – including the area around the nursery school

Consequently, part of the demolition has been stopped, and in May, officials promised to have the school re-located. As of September 15, no steps to relocate the school had yet been taken. The local administration refused to acknowledge the ISAA investigations, and continues to maintain that the levels of asbestos in the area were safe, and presently only one demolition site has been stopped in the Wang-ship-li area after intense pressure from parents and environmental groups continued. Parents still express concern over the remaining demolition as those sites are still near the unmoved school where the children continue to attend.

For more information, please see:

Asian Human Rights Commission – South Korean Government Violated 120 Children’s Human Rights – September 25, 2009

World Trade Organization – Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases 

Global Post – The Deadly Air They Breathed – July 24, 2009 

Freed Prisoners tell stories of torture

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Burma– Around the various jails in Burma, about 120 political prisoners have been released, as part of the Burmese military regime’s amnesty granted to 7,114 prisoners, on humanitarian grounds.  However, many of the detainees have given reports of torture that they experienced during interrogation. The physical and mental injuries caused during this time period were either not adequately or not treated at all during their time in prison, causing some of them lifelong damage. 

Ko Myo Yan Naung Thein, a technical institute student, was assaulted and taken from a March during September 2007.  While in Sittwe Prison, Thein reportedly suffered injuries to his nerves during torture under interrogation and did not get adequate treatment. He said “I was blind folded and was taken somewhere.  As soon as I reached the interrogation centre, they all started kicking me.” He is now unable to walk.  

Ko Moe Kyaw Thu, a former student leader had been imprisoned since 1992.  In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) he said that after his arrest he was taken to Rangoon where a military intelligence unit hooded and repeatedly assaulted him, denied him water and refused access to restrooms. Thu stated “ I was kept in a closed dark room. Sometimes, the prison authorities slapped and tortured me without asking any questions.  But sometimes they questioned me the whole night without giving me any food.”  In addition he also stated that he was often tied and given electric shocks.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has stated that cases of ill-treatment in the prisons across Burma are wide-spread but the situation has worsened since 2005 when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s prison visits were halted.  Between 1999 and 2005, the ICRC carried out regular visits to detainees in prisons and labor camps, but suspended it because of the government’s failure to respect its internationally-recognized conditions.

The AHRC is calling for the ICRC prison visits to be implemented, noting there is no reason for the government of Burma to object to the visits since the agency is bound by confidentiality and the visits cost nothing to the government.

For information, please see:

Asian Human Rights Commission- Burma: Released prisoners tell stories of torture; ICRC role needed– 24 September 2009

Mizzima- ICRC should revisit Burmese Jails: AHRC– 25 September 2009

Human Right Watch- Burma: Surge in Political Prisoners– 16 September 2009

Former Head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Threatened in Peru

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, former president of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been the victim of intensified threats and harassment in recent days.  Peru’s National Coordinator for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are calling on the Peruvian government to investigate the threats and ensure Lerner’s safety.

On September 5, 2009, Lerner reported that his dogs were poisoned and died at his home in Lima.  This week, he received anonymous phone calls at his house and at his office at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the Catholic University of Peru.  The caller left a message saying, “What we did to your dogs, we will do to you.”

Peru’s Ombudsman, Beatriz Merino, stated that she is in “complete solidarity” with Lerner.  She said that the threats should be strongly denounced by the state because they demonstrate an intolerance of advocacy for human rights and democracy.

Lerner has been the victim of threats and harassment since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report in 2003. In addition to presiding over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Lerner is the vice president of a high level commission creating a Museum of Memory, which will focus on human rights abuses in Peru.  That commission is headed by renowned writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2001 to investigate massacres, forced disappearances, terrorist attacks, and violence against women committed in the 1980s and 1990s by the Peruvian government and two rebel groups. The commission held meetings, collected testimonies, and did forensic investigations. It also made recommendations for reparations and institutional reforms.  An estimated 69,280 people were killed during that period.  The formal work of the commission ended with the 2003 publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.

The Americas director of Human Rights Watch stated that “this is still a delicate time for human rights defenders in Peru, given the longstanding lack of action to stem abuse.”  He called the conviction of former President Alberto Fujimori a “fragile gain”, saying that “the government needs to show clearly that harassment and threats against human rights defenders are not permissible.”

For more information, please see:

Derechos Humanos Peru – Solidaridad Con Salomon Lerner – 25 September 2009

El Comerio – La Defensoría Exhortó a Interior Dar Protección a Salomón Lerner – 25 September 2009

Human Rights Watch – Peru: Investigate Threats Against Rights Defender – 25 September 2009

Los Andes – Salomón Lerner, Ex Presidente de la CVR Recibe Amenazas– 25 September 2009

International Criminal Court Upholds Charges Against Congolese Militia Leader

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Yesterday the appeal chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled to uphold charges against Germain Katanga, commander of a Congolese militia, and a trial against him may proceed.

Earlier this year Katanga challenged the admissibility of the case before the ICC saying that the case should be dropped because he is also under investigation by authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).  He argued that the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he faces in the ICC could not be upheld because he is being tried for the same crimes in the DR Congo and the ICC case violated complementarity.  The appeals court chose to uphold the trial court’s decision to hear the case.

“The appeals chamber is convinced that the (trial) court decided rightly that the case against the accused can be heard,” said Judge Daniel Ntanda Nsereko.

DR Congo Justice Minister Emmanuel-Janvier Luzolo and other officials took part in the hearing at the ICC and insisted to the court that all charges in the DR Congo had been dropped.  They believed that the appropriate place to try Katanga was in the ICC.

“The DRC has made it clear that it wished for him to be prosecuted before the ICC,” Nsereko said.

Katanga is the former leader of the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI).  He is being tried with fellow defendant Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, who is the former leader of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) rebel group.  They are both facing trial for murder, rape, and other atrocities committed in February 2003 when their forces jointly attacked Bogoro in Ituri, a mineral-rich village in northeastern DR Congo.  Katanga is also accused of using women as sex slaves and enlisting child soldiers.  He faces three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes.

The joint trial is set to begin on November 24, a postponement from the original start date of September 24 because of the lost appeal and the prosecution’s need for more time to prepare its 1,000 pages of evidence and witness details.

So far, the ICC has issued four arrest warrants for war crimes in the DR Congo.  The other two men accused are Thomas Lubanga, ex-militia chief who is currently on trial in The Hague, and Bosco Ntaganda who is still at large.

For more information, please see:

AFP – DR Congo Warlord to be Tried at War Crimes Trial – 25 September 2009

ICC – Appeals Chamber Upholds the Decision on the Admissibility of the Case Against Germain Katanga – 25 September 2009

Jurist – ICC Upholds Charges Against Accused DRC Rebel Leader – 25 September 2009

UN News Centre – Trial of Congolese Militia Leader Can Proceed, International Criminal Court Rules – 25 September 2009

Panama Dismantles a Protest Camp Site of Naso People as They Seek Protection of Their Land and Human Rights

By Brenda Lopez Romero

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PANAMA CITY, Panama – An Indigenous group of Panama, Naso, established a permanent camp site (“street sit-in”) in front of the Cathedral Plaza of San Felipe, until yesterday when it was dismantled by police units under the direction of the Ministry of Government and Justice.

Panama
Naso protesting at their camp site (PHOTO: The Star of Panama)Luis Gamarra, activist for Indigenous rights, gave an interview where he indicated that the Director of the National Police, Gustavo Perez, approached the camp site to request they abandon the camp site, because it gave the place and the city a negative image. Perez stated he had orders from the Ministry of Government and Justice and that in exchange for the abandonment, on Wednesday, there would be a negotiation meeting to hear their grievances. The director of Indigenous Policy also placed pressure on the group to leave the camp site on the condition of a meeting.

However, on Wednesday, the meeting was canceled and postponed to Thursday. The Wednesday timeline to abandon the camp site by the Naso, however, was not postponed, and the National Police started the dismantling of their camp site.

Panama2

Naso marching (PHOTO: The Star of Panama)The Naso people argue that their Indigenous rights are being trampled by the Government. The claim includes disrespect of their ancestral rights, an end to Ganader Bocas activities on their lands, and a suspension of concessions to hydroelectric plants that are encroaching on their land.  The United Nations has stated that Panama has violated the rights of indigenous peoples by allowing concessions to AES Changuinola to build a hydroelectric plant without the consent of the communities living nearby, and for forcibly removing Naso residents from their land.

Furthermore, the Naso want the legislation “Comarca Naso” (demarcation of their lands), that is pending in the Commission of Indigenous Affairs in the National Assembly of Representatives, to be debated openly and inclusive of the Naso people. The Environmental Defender Law Center is bringing a case against the Government for its failure to grant all its Indigenous peoples the right to their traditional lands. Pursuant to the Panama Constituion and the American Convention on Human Rights, which Panama ratified, Indigenous peoples of Panama are entitled to a legal mechanism to be able to hold land title.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) has on two occasions found Panama in violation of human rights. The Court will, again, consider claims regarding violations of twelve articles of the American Convention of Human Rights

The Naso people have being waiting for the legislation “Comarca Naso” since early 2005. Gamarra warned that if the Government continues to turn deaf ears to their demands “this would reach extreme consequences.”

For more information, please see:

La Estrella de Panamá – Pueblo Naso en pie de guerra, 25 Septiembre 2009

AFP – Indígenas panameños caminan 500 km para pedir fin a proyectos energéticos, 17 Septiembre 2009

La Prensa – Denuncian operativos contra los nasos en Bocas, 5 Abril 2009

Iraqi Prisoner Possibly Killed in Revenge by British Soldiers

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LONDON, United Kingdom – Baha Mousa, an Iraqi detainee who died in the custody of British soldiers, may have been killed in an act of revenge. The allegation came from Baha Mousa’s father, a police officer in Basra. Daoud Mousa claims that his negative comments and allegations about British soldiers led to his son being treated more poorly than other prisoners and ultimately dying in the hands of British military forces.

Baha Mousa, a father of two children, was arrested in September 2003 during a raid of hotel in Basra by British soldiers. The soldiers were in search of supporters of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Mousa was arrested along with nine other individuals. Guns were found with them and the men were held for possibly being insurgents. . Daoud Mousa arrived in time to see that his son and the other detainees on the ground and the hotel surrounded by military vehicles.

Daoud Mousa believes that what he saw next led to the violent treatment that his son received. After arriving at the hotel, the elder Mousa alleges that he saw a British soldier stuff bank notes in his pocket from the hotel’s safe. He informed the soldier’s superior of this, hoping that this would procure his son’s release. Daoud Mousa pointed out his son to the soldiers, but believes that this action may have led to the soldiers punishing Baha.

Baha Mousa was taken to the detainment center at the Battle Main Group camp. Two days later he was dead. An examination of Baha’s body after his death showed that he suffered asphyxiation and had at minimum ninety three injuries all around his body. Among those injuries were a broken nose and a number of broken ribs. Witnesses have come forth and said that the soldiers took particular joy in abusing civilians. They told of an incident where the soldiers attempted the coordinate the screams of detainees in order to create music.

An official inquiry was ordered by the British government in order to investigate Mousa’s death. The inquiry was told that British soldiers were using techniques that had been banned by the country in 1972. Four soldiers plead guilty to treating civilians inhumanely. Daoud Mousa is not ready to accept an apology, noting that he “will not accept the apology of a criminal.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Iraqi ‘Killed in UK Revenge Attack’ – 24 September 2009

Associated Press – Father: Iraqi Perhaps Slain in UK Revenge Attack– 23 September 2009

BBC – Iraq Detainee Death ‘Was Revenge’ – 23 September 2009

Guardian – Baha Mousa Inquiry:  Father Alleges ‘Revenge’ by UK Troops – 23 September 2009

Telegraph – Baha Mousa Inquiry: Iraqi Civilian Died After ‘Revenge Abuse’ in British Military Custody – 23 September 2009

Polish Parliament Passes Resolution Condemning Soviet Invasion in WWII

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – On Wednesday, the Polish parliament passed a resolution that condemned the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, labeling it a ‘war crime’ and ‘genocide’.  In response the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, indicated that it felt “deep disappointment at the Polish attempt to compare Nazi Germany with the Soviet Union.”

Recent documents given to the Institute of National Remembrance of Warsaw by the Ukrainian government offer new evidence indicating that Soviet police forces (NVKD) were directly responsible for the killing of 350 Poles the Roviensky oblast from 1939 to 1940.  Those were just a fraction of the approximately 20,000 Poles that would be killed in the Katyn forests.  Those killings, known as the Katyn Massacre, and the subsequent deportations of Polish citizens to Soviet internment camps, were the reasons behind the passage of the Polish resolution.

According to the documents from the Ukrainian government, the NVKD’s purpose in committing the killings was in part to eliminate leading members of Polish society, including landowners, military officers, and intellectuals.  At the center of the NVKD’s actions was a coordinated effort to remove the leading citizens of, thereby undermine, Polish society.

The Soviet Union argued that their invasion of Poland in September 1939, following Germany’s invasion of western Poland, was necessary to protect the Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian citizens from the oncoming German forces that were left unprotected by the collapse of the Polish government.  The Russian government has never admitted that the invasion was the result of aggression on the part of the Soviet Union.

For more information, please see:

POLSKIE RADIO – Ukraine exposes Katyn executioners – 25 September 2009

RIA NOVOSTI – Moscow Says Resolution on Soviet ‘aggression’ harms ties – 24 September 2009

EPOCH TIMES – Polish Resolution Names Soviet Invasion as Tyrannical – 23 September 2009

UPI – Poles Accuse Russia of WWII Genocide – 23 September 2009

Turkey’s Refugee Rights Come Under Pressure after Court Ruling

By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

STRASBOURG, France– The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced in a statement on Tuesday that it had ruled against Turkey on charges of trying to deport two Iranian nationals who were recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Iranian nationals, Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia, left Iran and entered a refugee camp in Iraq.  After the camp was closed in Iraq, the two went to Turkey where they were arrested and deported back to Iraq.  Despite the deportation, Abdolkhani and Karimnia immediately returned to Turkey.

Subsequently, they were arrested and convicted of illegal entry into Turkey.  Turkish efforts to have them deported to Iran in June of 2008 were unsuccessful as Iranian authorities refused their admission to the country.  After the Iranian denial of admission, the two refugees requested temporary asylum status but have yet to receive an answer as to their petition.

As part of their domestic law, Turkey imposes limitations on accepting asylum seekers based on their country of origin.  More specifically, Turkish law forbids asylum status to people of non-European origin as refugees.  Despite their domestic law, Turkey is a popular destination for refugee and asylum seekers.

In a publication by the Human Rights Research Association (IHAD), it was reported that over twenty-six hundred refugees were detained last month for violating border regulations and, of that number, 378 were deported.  Many experts believe that these deportations constitute violations of universal human rights principles.  The cases of Abdolkhani and Karimnia are a prime example of these possible violations.  In the statement released Tuesday, the ECHR decided that Turkey would be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights if they made another attempt at deportation of the two individuals.

The ECHR “was struck by the fact that both administrative and judicial authorities had remained totally passive regarding the applicants’ serious allegations of a risk of ill treatment if returned to Iraq or Iran.”  Furthermore, the Court was troubled by Turkey’s failure to consider the applicant’s requests for temporary asylum, to notify them of the reasons for not taking their asylum requests into consideration and for not authorizing them to have legal assistance.

Even prior to Tuesday’s decision, Turkey has been in the process of drafting new legislation to address the issue of refugees and asylum seekers.

For more information, please see:

Bianet- ECHR Convicted Turkey for Deportation of Iranian Refugees– 24 September 2009

Today’s Zaman- Court Ruling Puts Pressure on Turkey over Refugee Rights– 24 September 2009

Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights- Abdolkhani and Karimnia v. Turkey– 22 September 2009

Australia Plans to Deport Two Kenyan Women Facing Genital Mutilation in Kenya

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SYDNEY, Australia – Two Kenyan women in Australia are facing deportation after their asylum applications were rejected. The two women, Grace Gichuhi, and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, face possible genital mutilation if they are deported back to Kenya. Many Australians have expressed outrage, and urge the Immigration Minister to intervene and allow the two Kenyans to stay in Australia.

A refugee’s fear of persecution must be based on “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” Because fear of genital mutilation does not fit into one of these categories, the women could be sent home to Kenya.

In parts of Africa, female circumcision is still practiced, and is mainly done for cultural purposes as an initiation into womanhood. In some cases, older women perform the circumcision with a broken glass or a tin lid. In other cases, the female is held down by 10 men, and her clitoris is cut off with a knife.

Both women left Kenya because they feared for the safety of their lives. Grace Gichuhi’s mother was killed for refusing to be circumcised. Grace Gichuhi is 22 years old. Teresia Muturi, only 21 years old, fled from an arranged marriage with a 70-year-old man and angered her family when she refused to be circumcised.

The two women applied for refugee status, but were denied by the immigration department. A spokesman from the immigration department stated that “[u]nder the refugee convention, they weren’t found to engage with Australia’s international obligations.”
An appeal was filed to the Australian Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, but he rejected the appeal. A second appeal was filed, but nothing has yet been determined. Currently, the women have been told by the immigration department to prepare for deportation.

Senator Nick Xenophon urged Chris Evans to grant the women visas to stay in Australia. The Senator expressed opposition to the laws of Australia, stating that “[i]f the laws are changed, these women have a clear case for asylum,” and urged the minister “to exercise discretion to give these two women asylum.”

Senator Nick Xenophon is joined by many political adversaries, lawyers, and refugee groups who also want Chris Evans to intervene.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young believes the women are “prime candidates” for proposing “complementary protection” laws targeted at expanding on existing refugee criteria.

Spokeswoman for Opposition, Sharman Stone, took a different perspective than Sarah Hanson-Young, stating that the existing intervention powers were sufficient to give the two Kenyan women asylum. Sharman Stone contends that the minister is not obligated to adhere strictly to any convention, and can exercise his “own sense of what is right and just and humane.”

Mary Crock, a professor of public law at the University of Sydney, opposed Sharman’s Stone’s view, stating that proposing new “complementary protection” laws that would more certainly give protection to women, such as Grace Gichuhi and Teresia Muturi, is the better choice.

News of the Kenyan women has also raised debate and controversy amongst citizens of the local community. After an article about the two women was published in The Age, an Australian newspaper, concerned readers contacted the newspaper to express their outrage at the situation.

In the online spectrum, Penny Eager, a blogger, wrote to Chris Evans expressing her belief that the “torturous practi[c]e of genital mutilation is abhorrent, and that to deny these women refugee visas is to take a weak stance on this issue.” She further urged Chris Evans to intervene, to not only help the women, but to also “send a clear message to Kenya that Australia does not condone these practi[c]es.”

A Facebook “Causes” page titled “Help save these Women from Genital Mutilation” was created to support the two Kenyans. The Facebook page was launched by Vanessa Muradian, a citizen of Swinburne, to show support for the women’s efforts to remain in Australia.

For more information, please see:

Facebook – Help save these Women from Genital Mutilation

The Age – Huge support for Kenyan fugitives – 23 September, 2009

Global Voices – Australia: Kenyan women refused refugee status – 23 September, 2009

Pocket Carnival – Grace Gichuhi and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi – 22 September, 2009

Embrace Australia – Refugee Girls Face Deportation and Mutilation – 21 September, 2009