Doubts Abound After Mideast Summit at U.N.

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Water Reporter, Middle East

 

NEW YORK, United States – A day after the leaders of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, many on all sides have expressed doubts that the meeting will result in productive peace negotiations.

 

On September 23, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Despite efforts by U.S. Mideast Envoy George Mitchell, the Obama Administration was unable to secure an agreement by Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiators have demanded a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to any peace talks.

 

President Obama has begun to change tack in his efforts to restart peace negotiations, now focusing on the status of Jerusalem, the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and the borders of a future Palestinian state. One international observer characterized President Obama’s efforts at the U.N. as completely unproductive.

 

“We’re in a corner,” said Zakaria al Qak, the foreign affairs director at Al-Quds University. “Obama is running out of steam. He was expected to set the direction in the first six months. But now it’s the politics of no choice, of deadlock.”

 

The Israeli Prime Minister appeared to be more optimistic about the possibility of progress.

 

“The president said let’s come and resume the peace process without preconditions. As you know I have been saying that for nearly six months,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu to Israeli television.

 

Other Israelis seemed more downbeat.

 

“This is a mood of resignation, of quiet despair that there is really [no] way out of the conflict,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of Israeli pro-peace group J Street.

 

Many Palestinians have considered President Obama’s insistence on moving forward with peace talks as backing off from the President’s call for a settlement freeze. Hamas, the ruling Palestinian party in the Gaza Strip, condemned President Obama’s call to resume the peace talks without an agreement on a settlement freeze.

 

One Palestinian put a positive gloss on the situation:

 

“It is clear that Obama will not accept failure of his political investment in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict,” wrote columnist Talal Okal in the newspaper al-Ayyam.

 

For more information, please see:

 

Ha’aretz – Netanyahu: No Peace Until Palestinians Accept Israel as Jewish State – 24 September 2009

 

Jerusalem Post – Hamas Slams Obama for Backing Down on Demand for Settlement Freeze – 24 September 2009

 

Reuters – All-round Pessimism After Dud Middle East “Summit” – 24 September 2009

 

Ha’aretz – Obama Tells UN: We Do Not Accept Israeli Settlements – 23 September 2009

 

New York Times – White House Pivots on Mideast Peace Bid – 23 September 2009

 

 

Restoring an Image

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia– Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi finds himself in an unfamiliar and unwanted position. At a time where the African continent is becoming more and more synonymous with political corruption and human rights violations, Zenawi is slowly becoming one of the faces of this image. During President Obama’s speech in Ghana, he expresses his intolerance for African rulers who try and manipulate the political process. President Obama has made it clear that he will not support governments who perpetuate “strongmanship”.

Zenawi, once lauded by the Western World as a progressive and democratic African leader is now amongst the many African rulers President Obama was speaking of in his speech regarding political corruption. In 1991 Zenawi took reigns of the Ethiopian government after 17 years of a military dictatorship. Over the years he has relied on his reputation to sustain the support of the American government. However the worlds regard for him began to decline in 2005, during Ethiopia’s government elections.

In 2005 after allegedly “fixing” the election results for his bid to remain Prime Minister wide rage and protest by Ethiopians erupted. During these protests Ethiopian law enforcement, in an attempt to break up the protests, fired gun shots into the crowd killing 40 protesters. Subsequent protests occurred with similar responses by law enforcement. This incident marked the beginning of the altered view many countries such as Great Britain and the United states had of Zenawi role as a “Democratic” ruler.

In what some call an insincere attempt to restore his image as a progressive African ruler Zenawi will be heading an African Climate change summit. More importantly his image will rest on how he facilitates the government elections in 2010. Many are concerned that Zenawis political party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (“EPRDF) will again try and intimidate other parties participating in the election, which will only do more damage to his image.

For more information please see:

All Africa – Ethiopia: 2010 Election and Zenawis New Game – 24 September 2009

NY Times – Mr. Good Governance Goes Bad – 27 November 2005

UNASUR Fails to Reach Consensus on Arms Deals

By Ryan C. Kossler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Quito, Ecuador – South American defense officials were unable to come to an agreement on Tuesday, September 15 when they convened to attempt to defuse regional tension caused by many of the South American countries recent arms deals.  The UNASUR group of nations is seeking transparency in the region’s recent defense deals due to the exacerbation of mistrust amongst the nations.

Colombia’s recent military pact with the United States has caused extreme tension in the region, and was one of the main topics discussed during the UNASUR gathering.  After the meeting, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said “we regret the attitude of Colombia, the intransigence of Colombia, which does not want to make transparent its pact concerning military bases.

Colombian officials say that the military pact with the United States is aimed at combating drug trafficking and that it sought the assistance of the United States because its neighbors are not doing their part to help the country combat the insurgency.  Under the military pact, U.S. forces will have access to up to seven Colombian military bases.

Venezuela’s recent arms deal with Russia was also on the table, however, Venezuela said that it would share information about its weapons deal. Venezuela said that its recent weapons purchases are for defense purposes only, however, have not provided any more information.  Venezuela accused Colombia of shrouding its military pact with the United States in secrecy. Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said “we have seen neither the bold nor the fine print of the accord and of course this generates worries.”

The secrecy is a cause for worry among other countries in the region as well.  Ecuadorian officials have stated that any cross boarder military attacks on insurgents by Colombia will be met with equal military force.

Along with Colombia’s military pact with the United States, and Venezuela’s weapons deal with Russia, many other countries in the region are increasing their weapons defenses.  Ecuador and Chile recently purchased new equipment in order to strengthen each of their air forces respectively, Chile is planning a weapons deal with Russia, similar to the one that Venezuela recently entered, and Bolivia is planning on purchasing new fighter planes and helicopters from France and Russia.  It appears that if tensions remain unchecked, an arms race may be inevitable, if it has not already begun, and the already troubled region may become even more troubled.

For more information, please see:

The Spectator – South American Spat – 24 September 2009

AP – Brazil’s Lula defends South America arms buildup – 18 September 2009

Reuters – South American Officials Fail to Reach Arms Deal – 15 September 2009

Gambian President Threatens to Kill Those Who Dare to Help

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BANJUL, Gambia– In Monday’s television broadcast Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, announced that he would kill “anyone who wants to destabilize this country.” Jammeh’s “exact words” in his television broadcast were, “If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it. We are not going to condone people posing as human rights defenders to the detriment of the country. If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assured that your security, and personal safety would not be guaranteed by my Government. We are ready to kill saboteurs.”

In response to Jammeh’s remarks, activists from non-governmental human rights organizations launched a campaign to have the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is currently headquartered in the Gambian capital, Banjul, removed from the country entirely. Jammeh’s threat “leads us to fear for the safety, security, and lives of ourselves and our colleagues who have to work with the… Commission,” the petition says.

Jammeh, who has ruled since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has been repeatedly attacked by human rights campaigners for his repressive attitude, particularly towards the media. He came under fire earlier this month from press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which urged Jammeh to “loosen the vice” on the media after six journalists who criticized him were jailed. The journalists spent just under a month in prison after publishing critical comments of Jammeh. They were originally given two-year jail sentences but were freed two weeks ago after receiving a presidential pardon. Despite freeing the journalists, Jammeh has kept up pressure on the media by warning journalists they could still be prosecuted for being “disrespectful”.

The President never explained what might have triggered his latest outburst, but insisted in no uncertain terms that Gambians, and non Gambians arrested on saboteur related charges would be murdered. Jammeh said his administration would no longer condone what he calls “human rights activists” in the country. The President also expressed his belief that taking people to court is a waste of time. “From now on, we will kill anyone trying to sabotage this country. Don’t be fooled by Human Rights Groups. They cannot save you from dying.” the President threatened.
For more information, please see:

Freedom Newspaper – Jammeh Threatens To Kill Saboteurs – 21 September 2009

Sydney Morning Herald – Gambia president threatens death to troublemakers – September 22, 2009

All Africa – Jammeh Threatens to Kill Human Rights Defenders – 24 September 2009

Newstime Africa – Yahya Jammeh Threatens To Kill Human Rights Workers in the Gambia– September 24th 2009

Political Unrest in Honduras After the Surprise Appearance of Deposed President Zelaya

By Brenda Lopez Romero

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – After a surprise return of the deposed President Jose Manuel Zelaya, the current Honduran government implemented a nationwide curfew.

Honudrus.zelaya3

Honduran troops surround the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Tuesday (PHOTO: CNN) Zelaya was ousted on June 28, and despite international political, diplomatic and economic isolation, the interim President Roberto Micheletti has unwaveringly resisted said pressure to allow Zelaya to return to power. Micheletti contends that there was no coup, but rather a constitutional transfer of power. Zelaya faces charges of violating the constitution relating to a proposed referendum to allow a second consecutive term for presidency that was at the center of his ouster.  Zelaya’s term ends in January and he would not have benefited from any referendum adopted by the constitutional assembly.

Nonetheless, Honduras’ Supreme Court held the ballot initiative was illegal and Congress had decreed Zelaya couldn’t hold it.

On Monday, Zelaya’s appearance, in the Brazilian Embassy in the capital of Tegucigalpa, took everyone by surprise, including the Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim. As a result, Micheletti issued a nationwide curfew for that same day in order to halt violence that erupted with the return of the country’s deposed president.
Honduras media reported that the government will announce today, on radio and television, that the curfew will be lifted at six in the morning on Thursday; thus, businesses, schools, and the government will return to normal operating hours.

The curfew was ignored by Zelaya supporters who assembled outside the Brazilian Embassy. The Micheletti administration stated, on television broadcast Tuesday, that 2,500 demonstrators were dispersed without deaths. But Marcial Torres, a journalist for La Tribuna newspaper, said a doctor had informed him of at least eighty people that were admitted in an area hospital with injuries. Today, the Police announced that two men were killed in the disturbance. Police and soldiers maintained a security perimeter around the Brazilian embassy, disbanding pro-Zelaya supporters, whom remains confined inside the embassy.

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The streets of Tegucigalpa (PHOTO: La Prensa)

“The country is paralyzed,” with a “tense calm” in the nearly deserted streets of the capital, Torres said. The tension is fueled by uncertainty of how events will develop between a steadfast Micheletti and his potential response to Zelaya, who stated he returned for “homeland, restitution or death.”

All businesses, schools, and universities were closed. Additionally, all four of Honduras’ international airports in and outbound flights were canceled Tuesday and remain closed.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed to reporters in Washington, that Micheletti’s government isolated the embassy by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building, and Nunes Amorim, noted this action was a “very serious” move by Micheletti that violated international law.

The Brazilian foreign minister said he spoke with Zelaya and asked him not to use inflammatory language.  Kelly as well reported, “The United States calls on all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence in Honduras and place individuals at risk or harm. We urge that all parties refrain from actions that would lead to further unrest.” U.S. diplomats and Brazil remained in contact with both sides in the conflict and support dialogue. Food delivered on Tuesday was believed to have been brought by the Americans, Torres said. However, Micheletti said in an interview with local network Televicentro, that Zelaya’s sudden appearance would not revive negotiations. Micheletti insisted in a letter to Brazilian authorities that they either give Zelaya asylum or turn him over to Honduran authorities.
Honudrus.zelaya2

A looted store in the capital (PHOTO:  The Associated Press)
On Wednesday, when the curfew was temporarily lifted hungry Hondurans went through looted stores and lined up for food. Lila Armendia, a thirty-eight year-old seamstress has been unable to work and said it was “like being in jail.” Many Hondurans feel caught in the middle of a fight between two leaders — neither of whom they support said Edie Eguigure, fourty-seven, waiting in a long line to buy food for his family: “It’s time for Micheletti and Zelaya to sit down to negotiate to end this problem that is affecting more than anything the poorest of the poor.”

Micheletti vowed Monday night to stay in power despite Zelaya’s return.

Zelaya did not provide details on how he got into the country except that it was a fifteen to sixteen hour trip he journeyed “with the help of Hondurans.”

For more information, please see:

The Associated Press – Curfew-trapped Hondurans seek food amid crisis, 23 September 2009

La Prensa – Policía informa de 2 muertos tras los disturbios, 23 Septiembre 2009

La Prensa – Toque de queda se suspenderá a las 6:00 a.m – 23 Septiembre 2009

CNN – Honduran military uses tear gas on ousted leader’s supporters, 22 September 2009

Militant Group Blasts Pakistan Market

By Alok Bhatt
 Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KOHAT, Pakistan – An immense suicide-blast in the northwestern town of Kohat took the lives of over 30 civilians and wounded 80 others.  The explosion ravaged an urban market area in a predominantly Shia region located approximately 40 miles south of Peshawar.  Victims and witnesses believed the attack to have been perpetrated by an extremist Sunni group.  Sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias have historically afflicted northwestern Pakistan since al-Qaida and other extremist Muslim groups occupied its surrounding areas.  This recent attack represents only one of many indiscriminate assaults on Shia civilians.  Just one day prior, a bomb detonated in a Kohat bazaar left six wounded, but fortunately caused no fatalities.  An August 30th bombing in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan killed 14 police recruits.  The repeated attacks upon northwest Pakistan demonstrate the extremist Sunni objective to eradicate the Shia Muslim minority.  The geographic proximity of northwest Pakistan to Afghanistan makes the region especially susceptible to insurgencies by Taliban forces and other militant extremist organizations.  

Beside the loss of life and severe injury to survivors, the suicide-attack caused catastrophic damage to Shia-owned kiosks, restaurants, the Hikmat Ali Hotel, and a number of vehicles along the market road.  Witnesses recalled seeing a bearded man drive into the market in a van then detonate his cargo of explosives, destroying himself and the immediate area.  The impact of the blast collapsed the roofs of surrounding buildings, trapping many victims beneath heavy dust and rubble.  Onlookers came to the aid of those pinned under the wreckage until machinery arrived on the scene to lift and clear the debris.  Media footage showed survivors emerging from the target zone covered in blood and bandages.

 

 


A lesser-known Sunni extremist group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Almi claimed responsibility for the Korat bomb attacks.  It declared the blast an act of vengeance for their religious leader, Maulana M. Amin, who was killed in June.  

The Pakistan military has been engaging in military offensives against extremist groups in northwest Pakistan since April.  While the strikes have been proving effective against militant groups, officials admit the frustration and difficulty of trying to eliminate suicide-bomb attacks.  However, with the aid of U.S. military strikes, Pakistan’s armed forces will continues to beat back insurgent attacks to avoid attacks in urban areas.   

 For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Deadly blast in Pakistan market – 18 September 2009

BBC News – Carnage in Pakistan Market Attack – 18 September 2009

MSNBC – At least 29 die as blast hits Pakistan hotel – 18 September 2009

U.N. Denounces Enslavement of Indigenous Guarani

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

EL GRAN CHACO, Paraguay and Bolivia – The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issueshas expressed grave concern in two recently released reports over findings of forced labor of indigenous people in the Chaco regions of Paraguay and Bolivia.  The report also cited findings of abuses related to land rights, child labor, freedom of association and discrimination. Permanent Forum Chairperson Victoria Tauli-Corpuz even found that “in some areas, those seeking to defend their rights were the target of systematic violence and threats.”

Three Permanent Forum members were in the investigatory mission along with experts from several UN agencies.  The reports recommend that the governments of Bolivia and Paraguay take steps to address forced labor beyond what is already in place.  This should include increased presence of state institutions in forced labor areas to ensure the enforcement of domestic and international labor law, security and legal services, social services and rural development.

Evo Morales has stated his intent to aid the tens of thousands of ethnic Guarani who live in eastern Bolivia by creating a 390,000-acre reservation. Guarani leaders in Bolivia have expressed optimism about positive progress under Morales’ government. However, land owners in the area have vowed to resist any attempts of land reform.

The Permanent Forum was clear in stating that “all efforts to address the situation of indigenous peoples of the Chaco region must  . . . include restoration of territorial and land rights for indigenous peoples, and the promotion and application of the principle of non-discrimination in all spheres of life of indigenous peoples.”

Reports over the last four decades by researchers and non-governmental organizations have made similar findings regarding the indigenous people of the Chaco region, who live in a state “reminiscent of slavery.” Most land in the Chaco region is owned by non-indigenous people, who government and international observers say force landless indigenous families into labor.  Many people are paid only in food and clothing, or live in debt bondage.

For more information, please see:

Indian Country Today – Permanent Forum Wants Forced Labor Stopped – 17 September 2009

The Scoop – Forced Labour Of Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia – 1 September 2009

The Business Age – Chaco Indigenous People Suffer Forced Labor, Abuse: U.N. – 31 August 2009

United Press International – U.N.: Protect Chaco Indigenous People – 31 August 2009

Bombings Leave Somalia Between a Rock And a Hard Place

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – At least 21 people have died following the dual suicide car bombing at the African Union (AU) peacekeeper’s main base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu Thursday September 17th. Witnesses said the bombers entered the compound using two vehicles with United Nations markings and packed with explosives. Twelve Burundian, five Ugandan and four Somali soldiers are confirmed dead while 26 others who were injured seriously, were evacuated to Nairobi for treatment. Among the dead was Maj. Gen. Juvenal Niyonguruza, the Burundian deputy force commander. Thursday’s attack brings the total number of peacekeepers killed to 35 with Maj.-Gen Niyoyunguriza the highest ranking officer to be killed so far.

Al-Shabaab, the Islamist movement opposing Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), has vowed to step up suicide attacks against foreign forces operating in the country. The Al-Shabaab group said these attacks were revenge for a US raid on Monday in which Kenyan-born al-Qaeda suspect Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed. Earlier on Thursday, Al-Shabaab demanded that France ensure that AU forces are pulled out of Somalia. This was one of several demands issued by the group for the release of a French security adviser captured in July.

Al-Shabaab and its allies control most of southern and central Somalia, while the government, helped by the AU force, just runs parts of Mogadishu. Representative for Somalia, Mr Nicholas Bwakira, has urged the international community to play a bigger role in bringing the Somali instability to an end. “We need more superior weapons, human capacity and technical ability to wipe out the insurgents,” Mr Bwakira said. “Their presence in this country is not wanted,” he added.

The AU peace keepers were deployed in 2007 to guard the Presidential Palace, airport and seaport. Years of fighting and anarchy have left some three million people, more than half of the country’s population, dependent on humanitarian aid, with nearly 300,000 refugees crammed into a few square kilometers at the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya alone. Al-Shabaab wants foreign peacekeepers out of the country while Somalia’s TFG wants more foreign support. Should the AU forces leave, thousands of Somali’s will suffer with out the AU’s humanitarian aid. Should the AU forces stay and maintain their foreign fortification against the Al-Shabaab insurgents, Al-Shabaab will continue its attacks.

For more information, please see:

The East African – AU Troops Sitting Ducks – 21 September 2009

Impunity Watch – Somali Rebels Seek Foreign Reinforcements – 20 September 2009

Daily Nation – Death Toll from Militia Attack on AU Base Rises to 21 – 19 September 2009

BBC – AU urges more weapons for Somalia – 18 September 2009

BBC – Suicide blasts hit Somalia base – 17 September 2009

Tongan Government Votes Down International Discrimination Law Leaving Women Concerned

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – Last week, the Tongan government rejected the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  In a vote of 18 to 1, with four abstentions, the Legislative Assembly refused to ratify the convention because it goes against Tongan culture.

The government claims there is no need to change the position of Tongan women in society because under the current way of life, they are “respected and cherished”.  Ratifying the convention would disturb Tongan traditions by paving the way for the legalization of abortion, the promotion of same-sex marriages, and the granting of land ownership rights to women.

Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement which said that “the Tongan way of life is not solely based on the rights and responsibilities, freedom and obligations of the individual, but also emphasize its rights to the extended family and the whole community.”

Instead, the parliament’s actions will preserve the Tongan way of life by addressing women’s issues on its own.

Women activists were less than thrilled with the government’s explanation and refusal to adopt CEDAW.  A representative from the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC), an NGO that advocates on behalf of victims of abuse, expressed concern over the government’s lack of recognition of domestic violence.  In a country where women are held in high regard, the Tongan government has refused to pass an act aimed at preserving women’s rights.

The Ministry of Police reported the murders of four women in domestic disputes in 2009, as well as three rapes in August alone.  Further, TNCWC claims that over 200 women subjected to such violence seek help each year.

Contrary to the government’s suggestion that CEDAW’s provisions necessitate a complete revamping of Tongan law, the 132 year old constitution upholds basic human rights and freedoms.  However, it continues to discriminate against women and fails to afford them protection. Tonga has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as, the Pacific Island Forum’s Pacific Plan, and remains heavily involved in the promotion of human rights in the region.

Yesterday, an UN health advisor and a spokesperson for the New Zealand Labour Party criticized Tonga during a parliamentary hearing on Pacific maternal health in Wellington, New Zealand.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – NZ Pacific MP critical of Tonga’s move not to ratify UN Convention – 22 September 2009

Matangi Tonga – Tongan parliament blatantly ignores women’s rights – 19 September 2009

ABC Radio Australia – Tonga rejects convention on discrimination against women – 18 September 2009

Matangi Tonga – Tongan parliament decides not to ratify CEDAW – 18 September 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Tongan women disgusted with government for snubbing CEDAW – 18 September 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Tonga not to ratify CEDAW – 17 September 2009

Iranian Rally Leads to Violence

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – On September 18, thousands of opposition supporters came to blows with Iranian security forces at a mass rally sponsored by the Mahmoud Ahmedinejad-led government. The supporters of the opposition held up signs in favor of the former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi, who lost the controversy-filled June presidential election to Ahmedinejad.

Ahmedinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had both warned supporters of the opposition that any demonstrations would not be tolerated. The Islamic Republic threatened that there would be a crackdown on any opposition at the annual rally. The clash between the two sides is viewed a clear defiance against the orders of the sitting President and the Islamic Republic, whose authority has come into question since the disputed June election.

Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets on the Islamic Republic’s annual al-Quds day rally. The yearly assembly is held on the final Friday of Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established the day as an annual international day of support for all Muslims to support Palestinians against the state of Israel.

The rally began peacefully, but tensions escalated as the march continued. Over one hundred thousand Iranians took the streets in Tehran for the yearly rally. Opposition supporters used the day to stage their first government protest in two months. The clash between the two sides led to multiple arrests and the use of violence by both sides. Opposition supporters threw stones and Iranian police used tear gas.

Reports have come through saying that Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami, another opposition leader, were attacked when the clash when opposition protesters clashed with government forces. It is alleged that attempts to beat former President Khatami after his turban was knocked off were stopped by opposition supporters. According to reports, the former President was not hurt during the day of clashes. Witnesses have come forward to say that opposition supporters held hardliners back from Moussavi as he attempted to get away in a car.

Ahmedinejad also used Friday’s rally in order to repeat his famous claims that the Holocaust was a myth. The Iranian President alleged that it was used as a “false pretext” to create the state of Israel and claimed that it was both a national and religious duty for Iranians to confront the “Zionist regime.” Despite his strong comments about Israel, Ahmednejad’s problems in his own country remain as chants of “resign” could be heard from the crowd.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Iran Opposition Chiefs Attacked as Mass Protests Hit Regime – 18 September 2009

Al Jazeera – Iranians Rally on ‘al-Quds Day’ – 18 September 2009

BBC – Clashes Erupt at Iran Mass Rally – 18 September 2009

New York Times – Despite Warning, Thousands Rally in Iran – 18 September 2009

Opposition Protesters Clash In Belarus Clash With Police

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MINSK, Belarus – On Wednesday police arrested 30 activists who were involved in a peaceful opposition rally in central square of Belarus’s capital city, Minsk.  Approximately 50 people had gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Viktor Gonchar and Anatoly Krasovsky, political opposition leaders.

After surrounding the group of protesters, who were made up primarily of students, riot police pushed those who had gathered out of the square.  During the incident a number of protesters were hit by the police, who used clubs to arrest those that did not leave the square.  The police also attempted to prevent the journalists at the scene from taking pictures.  Some photographers, who were recording the incident, were beaten by the police.  They were threatened by police if they did not delete what they had recorded.  Among those arrested was Mikalai Statkevich, a leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party.

In recent months the European Union has called upon Belarus to improve its protection of basic democratic freedom.  The president of the EU issued a statement on Thursday, urging Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to “refrain from the use of force in dealing with peaceful demonstrations and to ensure that representatives of independent media are able to perform their tasks without interference.”  Lukashenko, who has held the office since 1994, has been accused of ruling Belarus in an authoritarian manner.  In recent years Lukashenko has been labeled by the United States as “Europe’s last dictator.”

Wednesday’s incident involving protesters and state police comes on the heels of other recent protests in the capital city.  On September 9, 20 people were detained by police while protesting the close military relationship that Belarus has developed with Russia.

The whereabouts of Gonchar and Krasovksy are still unknown.  The state investigation into their disappearance was closed in 2003.

For more information, please see:

BELARUS NEWS – EU expresses concern over police crackdown on demonstration in Minsk – 18 Septemeber 2009

DEMOCRATIC BELARUS – Belarus Police Beat, Detain 36 Opposition Protestors – 17 September 2009

EARTHTIMES – Belarus cops smash ‘disappeared’ person memorial march – 17 September 2009

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Belarus: Police break up protest, make arrests – 17 September 2009

AFP – Belarus police beat, detain 30 opposition – 16 September 2009

REUTERS – Belarus police break up anti-Russia protest – 9 September 2009

Italy Sends Migrants Back to Abusive Conditions

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Rome, Italy – Italy and Libya are two countries facing scrutiny by human rights activist world wide, specifically Human Rights Watch (HRW).  In May of 2009 the two countries came to an agreement that they would work together in reducing the amount of migrant workers who flee Libya to seek asylum in Italy, via sailing through the Mediterranean Sea.  The agreement included instituting a practice of towing boats found in international waters back to Libya without evaluating the conditions and circumstances of those on the boats.  What has resulted in response to the “interdiction program” is thousands of individuals have been sent back to unfavorable living conditions in Libya.  According to one migrant worker who was able to find refuge in Italy, the migrant workers are treated horrendously.  Many are beaten, forced to live in unsanitary quarters, while women are sexually assaulted by law enforcement.  Many of these workers come from different parts of the Central East Region of Africa including Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.

According to a 92 page report by HRW the details of the experiences of migrant workers in Libya are revealed.  The agreement between Libya and Italy stems from a treaty signed by the two countries in August of 2008. This treaty is known as, “the Treaty of Friendship, Partnership, and Cooperation between the Italian Republic and Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiria” or simply, “the Friendship Pact.”  The Friendship Pact called for intensifying cooperation in fighting terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.  The transfer of boats holding migrant workers to Libya by the Italians are one of the acts that fall under the goals of the Friendship Pact.

The issue however is that Italy is violating the international legal principle of non-refoulement, when it interdicts boats and sends them back to Libya without any evaluation of the circumstances regarding those on the boats.  Refoulement is the forced return of people to places where their lives and freedom could be threatened or subject to torture and degrading treatment.  Here many are sent back to Libya only to return to inhumane conditions.  HRW is urging the government of Italy to stop “summarily returning” boats containing migrants to Libya.  The HRW is also encouraging the European Union, who is currently working on an agreement with Libya, to include an end to the inhumane treatment of migrants in Libya.

For more information please see:

All Africa – Libya: Migrants Returned to Face Abuse – 21 September 2009

HRW – Migrants Describe Forced Returns, Abuse – 21 September 2009

IPS – Migrants Returned to Face Abuse – 21 September 2009

UN Report Finds War Crimes in Gaza Conflict

21 September 2009

UN Report Finds War Crimes in Gaza Conflict

By Mario A. Flores
Special Features Editor, Impunity Watch Journal

New York, United States – Justice Richard Goldstone, Head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, concluded Tuesday that both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, raising the prospect that officials may seek persecution in the International Criminal Court.

From December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, the Israeli army launched a major ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, called Operation Cast Lead in response to Hamas rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot. Goldstone’s report found that Israel’s use of disproportionate force in Gaza resulted in the death of about 1,400 Palestinians, of which 926 were civilians including 313 children and 116 women. On the Israeli side, 13 people were killed, including 3 civilians.

The report also described the firing of rockets by Hamas at Israeli towns and villages as a war crime.

The Golstone Report proposed a series of non-binding recommendations to Israel and the Palestinians, such as:

1. Recommendations to Israel:

a. Israel should immediately cease the border closures and restrictions of passage through border crossings and allow passage of goods into Gaza.

b. Israel should cease restrictions on sea access for Palestinian fishermen and allow fishing activities within 20 nautical miles of shore.

c. Israel should review the rules of engagement, standard operating procedures and open fire regulations. It should avail itself of international and local experts, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, to ensure compliance with international law.

d. Israel should allow freedom of movement for Palestinians within the territories and between Gaza and the West Bank.

e. Israel should release prisoners detained in connection with the occupation.

f. Israel should stop interfering with national political processes in the territories.

g. Israel should cease actions inside Israel aimed at limiting criticism by the public concerning Israeli policy and military operations in Gaza.

h. The government should refrain from acts of reprisal against Israelis and Palestinians who testified before the committee.

i. Israel should reiterate its commitment not to harm UN premises and personnel.

2. Recommendations to Palestinian armed groups:

a. Palestinian armed groups should respect international law.

b. The groups holding Gilad Schalit should release him or at least recognize his status as a POW.

3. To responsible Palestinian Authorities (PA):

a. The PA should instruct security forces under its command to abide by human rights norms and investigate all allegations of serious human rights violations.

b. The PA and Gaza authorities should immediately release all political detainees.

c. The PA and Gaza authorities should continue to enable free and independent operation of NGOs.

For additional information, please see:

The New York Times – U.N. Study Is Called Unfair to Israel – 18 September 2009

The Examiner – War crimes: Goldstone led UN commission critical of Israel – 20 September 2009

ABC News – Both sides culpable in Gaza War: UN report – 16 September 2009

Indonesia Passes a New Bylaw that Endorses Stoning and Caning as Punishment for Adultery and Homosexuality

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Last week, Indonesia endorsed a new bylaw which authorizes stoning and caning as punishment for adultery and homosexuality, as well as, several other acts mentioned in the Islamic Criminal Code.

The bylaw, which is being described as “cruel” and “harsh,” is under heavy criticism. The Indonesian central government has even admitted that the law poses a violation to the country’s constitution.

The Islamic Criminal Code forbids a number of acts, including alcohol consumption, gambling, adultery between unmarried and married couples, and homosexuality. The bylaw was passed September 15th in Indonesia’s devoutly Muslim Aceh province, by the Aceh Provincial House of Representatives. The law, which further extends the Sharia code already in force, was passed by the regional parliament in aims to discipline behavior that is considered morally unacceptable.

The law specifically authorizes punishment for adultery and homosexuality. Under the new law, those who are unmarried and commit adultery will be punished with 100 cane lashes, and those who are married and commit adultery will be stoned to death. Those who perform homosexual or lesbian acts will be punished with 100 cane lashes and a fine of 1,000 grams of gold or imprisonment of up to 100 months. Also, those who commit rape or consume alcohol will be punished with up to 200 cane lashes performed in public.

Amnesty International has demanded that the Indonesian government repeal the bylaw.

Sam Zarifi, from Amnesty International, said, “[s]toning to death is particularly cruel and constitutes torture, which is absolutely forbidden under all circumstances in international law.”

The Indonesian central government has also admitted that the law poses a violation to the country’s constitution.

It is well known that Aceh has endorsed strict punishment in the past. However, legalizing the stoning to death of married persons who commit adultery has posed more serious matters of international human rights, and Amnesty International contends that the bylaw has gone beyond the threshold of acceptability.

Amnesty International urged Aceh’s legislature to repeal the law, to conform with international human rights law and standards, and also to conform with the provisions of the Indonesian Constitution. However, Bustanul Arifin, secretary of Aceh parliament’s special committee for drafting the law, defended the endorsement of the law, stating that “it is time now for people to understand the real meaning of Sharia.”

For more information, please see:
Foreign Policy – Indonesia’s harsh new laws – 18 September 2009

Amnesty International – Indonesia Must Repeal “Cruel” New Stoning and Caning Law – 17 September 2009

Telegraph News – MPs pass law to stone to death adulterers in Indonesian province – 15 September 2009

Tension Mounts in India-China Relations Over the Arrival of the Dalai Lama

By Megan E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ARUNACHAL PRADESH, India – What was previously an area of tension has become an even more hotly contested subject as protesters, civilians, and diplomats alike assert claims over Arunachal Pradesh. Most recently, the Dalai Lama’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh, scheduled for mid-November, has sparked major controversy after China opposed the visit.

In the past few weeks as the date of the Dalai Lama’s trip nears, Delhi newspapers and television have been filled with stories about the People’s Liberation Army crossing the Himalayas to inscribe Chinese characters onto rocks, helicopter raids to drop food on hapless farmers, and exchange fire with Indian soldiers. Unfriendly relations between China and Indian began in June over the territory. On one side China asserts ownership over Arunachal Pradesh, while on the other side India claims the region as its own. The reaction was ignited by India’s announcement that it would be sending 60,000 troops to bolster tens of thousands of soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh.

In India, the Kashmir state government, apparently, said its territory was being taken “inch by inch” through such military incursions. The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-kilometer undivided border with China. Foreign ministries in both countries, however, seem to be playing down the reports, though there are still concerns that if the situation is left unchecked, things could spiral out of control.

Chinese troops overran Indian positions in the Himalayas in 1962 before retreating. Since then, both sides have tried to engage in discussions to resolve the territorial problem. After more than a dozen rounds of such talks, virtually no progress has been made as China continues to claim India’s Arunachal Pradesh, and also occupy a portion of territory in Kashmir which India regards as its own.

Despite the tension, excitement among the people persists as the date of the Dalai Lama’s visit to the mountainous state approaches. Reacting to China’s objection, India’s Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna said Wednesday: “Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India, and the Dalai Lama is free to go anywhere in India.”

China is concerned that a visit to Arunachal Pradesh could now draw further attention to China’s treatment of Tibetan activists and the Dalai Lama’s calls for cultural and religious freedoms and autonomy. Bhaskar Roy, a New Delhi-based China expert said, “[T]he timing of his trip is significant. It comes while the debate over his visit to Taiwan is still hot.”

For more information, please see:

Washington Post –China opposes Dalai Lama trip to disputed India state – September 11, 2009

Yahoo! News – After Taiwan, Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh – September 11, 2009

 The Guardian – Himalayan conflict centres on Tibet – September 17, 2009

MSNBC World News – Buddhist monks pray for safe Dalai Lama visit – September 17, 2009