Dual Vehicle Bombings Kill Scores in Baghdad

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On October 27, at least ninety-nine individuals were killed in Baghdad as a result of a double suicide vehicle bombing. Reports have come forth that the death toll is greater than one hundred individuals and could still be rising. In addition to the dead, some figures state that over five hundred people were wounded by the dual bombings; other totals put the number closer to seven hundred.

The bombings took place in the heart of the Iraqi capital near the justice ministry and the headquarters of the Baghdad provincial administration. The buildings are located near the Tigris River and the high security “Green Zone.” The attack drew comparisons to the August 19 attack where one hundred individuals were killed by the truck bombing of two ministry buildings.

The number of individuals hurt by the explosion put a strain on local emergency services. The bombs destroyed dozens of vehicles, in addition to smashing the water pipes in the area. The streets were covered with debris and the bodies of those injured in the attack, forcing the authorities to close off the streets leading to the bomb site. Civilian vehicles were forced to supplement the emergency efforts on hand and help take injured individuals to the local hospital.

The bombs came from two truck bombs and represent the deadliest attack in Iraq since October 2007. The attacks come only three months after the United States ceded control of the cities to local Iraqi authorities. Among the dead were twenty-four school age children who were nearby when the trucks exploded. The children’s school bus ran into by one of trucks as they were trying to leave the Ministry of Justice.

While immediate credit for the attack wasn’t claimed, speculation after the explosions was that the attack was done by al Qaeda or remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime. On October 27, the Islamic State of Iraq, a group alleged to be associated with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the bombings. On a web posting, the group claimed that the bombers were “martyrs who had targeted the dens of infidelity.”

For more information, please see:

Telegraph – Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Iraq’s Worst Suicide Bomb Attack In Two Years – 27 October 2009

Al Jazeera – Scores Die In Iraq Car Bombings – 26 October 2009

AFP – Twin Suicide Vehicle Bombings Kill 99 In Baghdad – 25 October 2009

BBC – Twin Baghdad Blasts Kill Scores – 25 October 2009

Telegraph – Baghdad Blasts: 132 People Killed In Worst Attack In Two Years – 25 October 2009

Detained Publisher is Freed

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka- A court in Sri Lanka has released the Tamil publisher of a monthly magazine after he was detained in March 2008 under anti-terrorism laws.

Vetribel Jaseeharan, a publisher for North Eastern Monthly, and his wife Vadivel Valarmathi, were charged with conspiracy to discredit the government.  He and his wife were detained for articles they published in their magazine.  They were acquitted of all charges.  

The judge stated that a confession where Jaseeharan admitted to supporting the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels was gained while under duress and that the medical records presented showed signs he had been tortured.  A court official said, “The attorney general withdrew the charges as the judge noted that the confession was not made voluntarily.”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were a rebel group in Sri Lanka who had been fighting the government for the last two decades, with armed uprising beginning in 1983.  Government troops finally defeated the Tamil Tigers in May, when the Tigers finally laid down their guns, ending a long civil war.  International press groups however, say that Sri Lankan Journalists are still burdened with major restrictions on reporting. 

J.S. Tissainayagam, a reporter for the North Eastern Monthly, and the man who wrote the two articles which Jaseeharan and his wife published, was in August sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The found him guilty of “causing communal disharmony”, “racial hatred” and raising money for “terrorism” through his writings about the victimized Tamils during the war.  The international Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest organization of journalists condemned the judgment, which in addition sentenced Tissainayagam to hard labor while in prison. 

The court stated that the only offense of Jaseeharan was to publish the articles written by Tissainayagam.  

Several Sri Lankan reporters have been killed in recent years by unidentified groups.  Lasantha Wickrematunga, a leading anti-establishment editor was among the many victims, he was shot dead near his office.  Government figures show that nine journalists were killed and another 27 assaulted in the past three years, with activists stating that more than a dozen journalists have been killed.

For information, please see:

International New 24/7- Tamil Reporter Jailed for 20 Years on Terror Charges – 31 August 2009

BBC NEWS- Detained Tamil Publisher is Freed  – 26 October 2009

Khaleej Times- Sri Lanka Frees Publisher Held for 19 Months – 26 October 2009

The Peninsula- Colombo Frees Publisher Held for 19 Months -27 October 2009

Global Security.Org- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Israeli Police Clash with Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 

JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – Israeli police clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on October 25. The incident was the latest in a recent series of tension-building confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians at the holy site.

 

In recent weeks, Palestinian demonstrators have taken to the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, protesting the Israeli presence in the area and rumors that Israelis were conducting archaeological investigations underneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Jews know the site as the Temple Mount, and they believe it was the site of King Solomon’s temple. Muslims call the site Haram al-Sharif, and believe it was the site where the Prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven.

 

Though it remains unclear what was the catalyst for this most recent clash, early on the morning on October 25, Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who reportedly returned with stun grenades. Israeli police subsequently stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound two times.

 

As many as thirty Palestinians and nine Israeli police were injured, while twenty-one Palestinians were reportedly arrested. A journalist working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was also reportedly taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem to be treated for a broken jaw. Hatem Abdul Qader, the lead official in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority, was among those arrested. Qader was subsequently banned from the Old City for three weeks.

 

One local observer told Australia’s The Age that he watched the day’s events unfold from the Lion’s Gate to the Old City.

 

“I believe there was provocation on both sides,” said Mohammed Khan, a 21-year-old Palestinian. “The Israeli police knew that Palestinian people want to protest the occupation, so they come in large numbers …But many Palestinians see this as offensive, so they start throwing stones and then violence spread.”

 

The Israeli police reported that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was re-opened on the following day, though the re-opening was certainly not a resolution to the tension in Jerusalem’s Old City. A right-wing Israeli group called for Jewish mobilization to construct a third Jewish temple on the site. On the other end of the spectrum, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, called for Palestinians to abandon the peace process and respond to any Israeli violence with violence in kind.

 

For more information, please see:

 

The Age (Australia) – Israelis and Palestinians Clash on Temple Mount – 27 October 2009

 

Al Jazeera – Meshaal Urges Arab Action on Aqsa – 26 October 2009

 

Ma’an News Agency – PA Official Banned from Jerusalem After Demonstration – 26 October 2009

 

Ha’aretz – Israel Police Battle Arab Rioters on Temple Mount; PA Official Arrested – 25 October 2009

 

New York Times – Israeli Police Clash with Palestinians at Sacred Compound in Jerusalem – 25 October 2009

EU Imposes Sanctions on Guinea

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk

BRUSSELS, Belgium-Today, the European Union (EU) imposed a sanction on Guinea. The sanctions include an arms embargo, and a visa-ban restricting travel into Europe by members of the Guinean military junta.  These restrictive measures come in response to a massacre of Guinean demonstrators that took place on September 28.

Roughly 160 people were killed, and another few hundred were either wounded or raped resulting from a military response to a September 28 demonstration. Witnesses said, “Soldiers opened fire on demonstrators, stabbed people with bayonets, and gang raped women and little girls.” The demonstrators gathered because they were angered by news that Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara planned to stand for President next year.

Camara was just an unknown captain prior to the military coup that took place last year.  At that time the country was going through difficult times after the death of their long time leader Lasana Conte.  Camara promised genuine democracy along with a safe transition period, and most importantly that he would not only conduct presidential elections but he would not stand in them.

Camara gained popularity early as a result of his unorthodox style of rule which included, forcing national guard soldiers to apologize publicly for roughing up a general, and cracking down on drug trafficking. However, over the course of the past year it has been clear that he does not plan on honoring his promise of a genuine democracy. It is rumored that he plans on doing whatever he can to hold on to his power. News of his plans leaked to the public, which resulted in the demonstration.

The EU is not the only group that has sanctioned Guinea. The West African regional group ECOWAS had already imposed an arms embargo on Guinea who is the largest exporter of raw materials used to make aluminum.

One Guinean official has said that the EU’s decision to sanction Guinea may have been counter-productive at a time where the military junta is seeking to end the crisis. He further said, “ at a time when the two parties are moving slowly but surely towards a resolution of this crisis through AU-backed mediation, we think the EU should have aided us in this direction.” He also said, “much as the imposition of these sanctions by the EU is understandable, this is not however the solution to the crisis in Guinea.”

For more information please see:

All Africa – Europe Imposes Sanctions on Junta – 27 October 2009

AP – EU Imposes Sanctions on Guinea’s Leaders – 27 October 2009

BBC – Guineas Erratic Military Ruler – 27 October 2009

BBC – EU Imposes Arms Embargo On Guinea – 27 October 2009

Reuters – EU Agrees Sanctions On Guinea Over Crackdown – 27 October 2009

Gaston Flosse Alleges French Violated European Human Rights Convention

By Cindy Trinh

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania


PAPEETE, French Polynesia – French Polynesia’s veteran politician, Gaston Flosse, alleges that French authorities violated the European Human Rights Convention when French investigators detained his partner, Pascale Haiti.


In September of 2009, investigators detained Haiti to question her about the corruption probe of the Office of Post of Telecommunications (OPT). The case involves the misuse of $2 million through the OPT. Flosse is alleged to be the leader of the corruption probe.


Haiti was detained in Paris, France. Flosse stated that he believes the detainment of people close to him was merely a tactic to scare him.


Another person detained in link to the probe of the OPT was a computer technician, who was jailed in Tahiti for suspicion of destroying evidence. The technician was kept awake for two days straight and not allowed to sleep during the questioning.


In early October 2009, investigators searched the offices of the Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party at the assembly to further inquire about the OPT corruption probe.


On October 26, Flosse has stated to the Depeche de Tahiti newspaper that the French authorities violated the European Human Rights Convention when the investigators detained Haiti in Paris, France.


Flosse stated that he is “repulsed by the prolonged jailing of fellow suspects.”


Many of the alleged co-conspirators have been transferred to Tahiti, and are held in prison for months.


Flosse rejects all claims of corruption and continues to assert his innocence.


For more information, please see:

Pacific Islands Report – Tahiti Politician Accuses France of Human Rights Abuses – 26 October, 2009


Radio New Zealand International – Flosse alleges French human rights abuse – 26 October, 2009


Islands Business – French Polynesia’s Tahoeraa assembly offices searched – 9 October, 2009


Radio Australia News – French Polynesia bans Flosse for one year – 25 September, 2009


Radio New Zealand International – Partner of French Polynesia’s Flosse detained in Paris – 24 September, 2009

Zimbabwe Talks End With “No Deal”

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – The former opposition leader, Mogan Tsvangirai, who has temporarily withdrawn from the unity government, and President Robert Mugabe recently held a four-hour meeting for the first time since the split.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai met with Mugabe for the first time since the prime minister pulled out of the unity government on October 16th.   Tsvangirai cited a lack of co-operation as the main reason for the split.  He also claims that Mugabe’s persistent human rights abuses support his reason for withdrawal from the unity government.

Sources say that these two leaders remain “poles apart” regarding the key unity government issues.

“The principals met.  Sadly and tragically the stalemate continues . . . we are poles apart on fundamental issues,” said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

Although Mugabe’s spokesman said that that this was going to be a “regular Monday meeting,” Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi said, “This is not a regular meeting.  The meeting will discuss the issue of disengagement and the other outstanding issues related to the Global Political Agreement.”

After the meeting the leaders did not make any comments on how it went.  But Maridadi said that Tsvangirai would issue a statement this coming Tuesday.

Tsvangirai’s movement, which was in opposition in Zimbabwe for many years, may be meeting in Harare later this week with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to try to break the deadlock between the two groups.

The MDC leader said that he will only resume cooperation in the unity government once all the outstanding issues regarding the Global Political Agreement are resolved.  These issues include wrangles over key posts and a crackdown on his supporters.

On Saturday, Mugabe was quoted in the state-run Herald newspaper vowing not to give in to the MDC demands, “We will not do that.  They can go to any summit, any part of the world to appeal.  That will not happen,” he was quoted.

A splinter faction from the MDC said that at the very least – the latest talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai are a step in the right direction regardless of whether or not a resolution was reached.

“At least now they are talking.  These people were not talking.  We are hopeful that a solution will be found eventually,” said spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Zimbabwe Leaders “Poles Apart” as Unity Talks Stall – 26 October 2009

AP – Zimbabwe Leaders in Split Unity Government Meet – 26 October 2009

BBC – Zimbabwe Talks End “Without Deal” – 26 October 2009

VOA – Top-Level Meeting Fails to Resolve Deadlock in Zimbabwe Unity Government – 26 October 2009

Migrant Workers Abused in South Korea

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – A report issued by Amnesty International documented how migrant workers in South Korea are beaten, sexually exploited and denied wages.

South Korea was among the first Asian countries to give legal recognition of rights to migrant workers, and granted these workers the same status as Korean workers in terms of equal labor rights, wages and benefits.  South Korea also implemented Employment Permit System (EPS) to protect migrant workers’ rights.

As of September 2008, an estimated 220,000 migrant workers were working in South Korea.   However, despite the EPS, South Korea failed to sufficiently monitor work sites, including properly investigating cases of inadequate medical treatment and unfair dismissals.

SK migrant workers Migrant workers protesting in South Korea.  Courtesy of Asia Resource Monitor Center.

The report said migrant workers are at greater risk for industrial accidents because the workers handle heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals without protective gear or being properly trained.

Amnesty’s report also told tales of migrant workers who were being forced to work night shifts and long hours, and cases of employers withholding their paychecks.

Roseann Rife of Amnesty said “Despite the advances of the EPS system, the cycle of abuse and mistreatment continues as…migrant workers find themselves at the mercy of employers…who mistreat them knowing their victims have few legal rights and are unable to access justice….”

The report pointed out that women in particular are at risk.  Female workers are recruited as entertainers in towns that house U.S. military camps where they face sexual exploitation.

One female Filipino singer told Amnesty, “I was forced to fill drinks quota…The Korean club owner tried to force me to have sex with the customers by threatening to send me back to the Philippines….”

“These women are double victims, first they are trafficked and then they become ‘illegal’ migrants under South Korean law when they attempt to escape…,” said Rife.

One researcher, Norma Kang Muico, criticized the South Korean government’s narrow definition of human trafficking saying, “[According] to UN Protocols to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, trafficking…involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of…coercion….”  South Korea singed the Protocol in 2008.

Muico stated, “Migrant workers are not criminals and they have…[the] right to pursue happiness….”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Migrant workers face abuse in SKorea: Amnesty – 21 October 2009

Amnesty International – MIGRANT WORKERS TREATED AS ‘DISPOSABLE LABOUR’ IN SOUTH KOREA – 21 October 2009

The Korea Times – Amnesty Raps Korea Over Plight of Female Workers – 21 October 2009

Taiwan in Wake of China’s Press Freedom

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TAIPAI, Taiwan –  As efforts to enforce ties with former diplomatic rival, China, there is concern that the media in Taiwan may be hampered. Awareness of the shift in content gained prevalence after press freedom index, published by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, revealed that Taiwan fell 23 spots to number 59 in 2009.

The index, based on questionnaires completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts, reflects press freedom violations that took place between September 2008 and August 2009. While Reporters Without Borders said Taiwan’s press freedom was not in danger, it attributed the downgrading partly to the ruling party‘s attempt to interfere in the media.

Head of Reporters Without Borders Asia desk, Vincent Brossel, stated, “The state must take action to improve records and prevent restrictions, violence or any sort of obstacle to the media freedom.”

Concerns over Taiwan press freedom amid China thaw 

Local journalists in Taipai work on covering a story in October 2009. Photograph Curtesy of Yahoo! World News.

 Those who are critical of the change in media coverage, as well as journalists, observe that the recent Reporters Without Borders index report is a warning of how far the island is prepared to go to appease its giant Chinese neighbor and influence.

Skeptics note that, Taiwan’s government, which took office in May 2008, pledged a more pro-Beijing stance to strengthen political and trade relations.  A cabinet spokeswoman, Su Jun-pin, however, stated, “We did not see any media being pressured for criticizing the government when it was not doing enough. The government humbly accepted the criticism.”

There is further concern shared by journalists and media experts. One commentator said, “It all comes down to business, as public and private sectors aim to cash in on China’s rising economic clout.” Another from the National Chung Cheng University stated, “We see political considerations weighing on the handling of news as the government makes the development of cross-strait ties its priority.”

Regardless of the extent of China’s political or economic clout, the fear by media personnel is that beyond kowtowing and broadcasting stories China wants transmitted, journalists will be forced to report their coverage as a one-sided story – hampering press freedom.

For more information, please see:

TaiPai Times – Taiwan slides 23 places in global press freedom index – October 21, 2009 

Yahoo! World News – Concerns over Taiwan press freedom amid China thaw – October 25, 2009 

Radio Taiwan International – Taiwan to write to NGO to clarify falling press freedom – October 22, 2009

Kenya Recruiting Soldiers in Somalia

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the Kenyan government to immediately stop the recruitment of Somalis in refugee camps.

Hundreds of Somali men and boys in the Dabaab refugee camp have been recruited to fight for an armed force in Somalia.

The Dabaab camps in northwest Kenya, near the Somali border, are the largest concentration of refugees in the world with over 280,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.  These camps have been ripe for recruiters looking to enlist young refugees.  These recruiters have been claiming that they are recruiting on behalf of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to put together a new force to fight in Somalia.

“Permitting recruitment of fighters in refugee camps undermines the very purpose of the camps – to be a place of refuge from the conflict.  Kenyan authorities need to immediately put a stop to this recruitment drive targeting Somali refugees,” said Georgette Gagnon, the Africa director for HRW.

Many of the refugees are fleeing the conflict between the TFG and armed opposition groups, including al-Shabaab.  Originally Kenyan military spokesman Bogita Ongeri sait that this was all “propaganda.”

Recruiters for this new force have used deceitful practices, promising exorbitant pay and telling enlistees that they are backed by the UN and the international community.  They have also encouraged young recruits to lie about their age and to join without telling their families.

Kenyan authorities, including the foreign minister, deny that there is a recruitment drive in refugee camps.  Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke said, “We never recruited in Kenya.”

“We are not involved in any such operation,” said Ongeri.

On Friday, a Somali general said that 1,500 young men are receiving military training in Kenya, a contradiction from the country’s original position denying that recruitment is taking place.

General Yusuf Dhumal, Commander of Somali military forces, said that Somalia and Kenya are working together to recruit.  He said that the 1,500 that have been recruited are being trained to fight Islamist rebels.  The recruitment is part of Somalia’s plan to build a strong army to defend the country.

Ongeri said that they are in line with all international agreements.

“The Kenyan military has not done anything outside the UN and AU frameworks of assisting Somalia as a country to achieve peace and tranquility.  Kenya was to chip in my training the Somali police.  We will continue to train them,” he said.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has called on the international community to support the TFG and help Somalis achieve a stable and peaceful nation.  He also asked the international community to fulfill $214 million United States dollars in pledges to support the Somali peace process.

We’re not saying the Kenyan government should not fear the seepage [of violence],” said Letta Tayler, researcher for HRW.  “But what we’re saying is: play by the rules.”

For more information, please see:

Daily Nation – Kenya Admits to Secret Police Training for Somalia – 26 October 2009

CNN – Rights Group Urges Kenya to Stop Military Recruitment of Refugees – 25 October 2009

Bloomberg – Human Rights Accuses Kenya of Recruiting Somali Refugees – 23 October 2009

VOA – Somali General Confirms Kenya Recruiting Soldiers – 23 October 2009

Xinhua – Kenya Urges World to Support – 23 October 2009

HRW – Kenya: Stop Recruitment of Somalis in Refugee Camps – 22 October 2009

Moldovan Presidential Election Postponed

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

CHISINAU, Moldova – The Moldovan presidential elections that were scheduled for October 23 have been postponed by the country’s Constitutional Court.  Since only one party had put forth a candidate, the Court concluded that the election could not go forth.

The political environment of this southeastern European country has been unstable since parliamentary elections were held six months ago.  Following victories by the Communist Party, there were large-scale protests in the capital of Chisinau regarding allegations of election fraud.  Past attempts at holding presidential elections in May and June of 2009 failed, which brought about the most recent election.

As a result of the most recent election, the opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary votes necessary to elect a new president.  This prevented the Communist Party’s candidate from receiving the necessary numbers of votes to take office and forced the dissolution of the parliament.

The Constitutional Court gave a parliamentary commission until November 11 to come to a compromise.  If not, elections may not be held until next year.  The commission has proposed a number of constitutional amendments regarding election law that may resolve future electoral issues.

The only candidate that is currently in the running for the presidency in Marian Lupu.  Lupu, who is the former Communist parliament leader, has become the head of the Democratic Party, which is a part of the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), a four-party political alliance.  The Communist Party has stated that it will not put forth its own candidate nor will it support Lupu.  Due to ambiguity in the Moldovan Constitution, which requires that the election be competitive, it may be the strategy of the Communist Party that by withholding a candidate they can thereby force yet a new round of parliamentary elections.

For more information, please see:

EUROPEAN VOICE – Moldovan election on ice – 23 October 2009

MOLDPRESS – Moldovan presidential election to be held in two weeks – 23 October 2009

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Moldova Postpones Presidential Election – 22 October 2009

RIANOVOSTI – Moldova’s parliament delays presidential election – 22 October 2009

AFP – Official: Moldova presidential vote may be postponed – 19 October 2009

Video Shows ‘Witches’ Beaten in India

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DEOGHAR, India- Five woman in a remote village of Deoghar district in India were paraded naked, beaten and forced to eat human feces by villagers after being branded as witches.  The local police stated the victims were Muslim widows who the local clerics labeled as witches.  Correspondents say abuse of women branded as witches is commonplace, but the rare video of the incident has incited outrage in India.

Uruguayan Dictator Sentenced to 25 Years

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay-Former dictator, Gregorio “Goyo” Alvarez was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison Thursday for thirty-seven homicides committed as a part of “Operation Condor” between 1973-1985. Alvarez was commander-in-chief of the army during the period and de facto president of Uruguay from late 1980 until shortly before the restoration of democracy.

Alvarez was accused of disappearing dozens of Uruguayan political prisoners seized in Argentina and secretly returned home as part of a cooperative effort by South America’s right-wing regimes to crush dissent. Alvarez said that he knew nothing about illegal abductions or forced disappearances. He has been detained by Uruguayan authorities since 2007.

The Court gave Navy Captain Juan Larcebeau twenty years in prison for twenty-nine homicides related to secret prisoner transfers in 1978.  Although the defense can still appeal the ruling, it is being hailed as “a very important step in clarifying” Uruguay’s past. The sentence came after an appeal successfully argued that charges for disappearances can be converted into murder charges, thus warranting heavier sentencing.

The sentence comes just days before a national election that includes a referendum on repealing a law that shielded members and agents of the military regime from prosecution for crimes such as kidnapping, torture and murder. The Supreme Court of Uruguay recently found those laws to be unconstitutional.

The prosecutor in Alvarez’ case persuaded judges that the crimes were not covered by the amnesty law because they stemmed from actions carried out under Plan Condor, a collaboration among various South American regimes to eliminate political enemies. It is estimated that about 150 Uruguayans disappeared in the secret flights from Argentina in the late 1970s and an additional twenty-nine people went missing in Uruguay.  The U.S. intelligence services provided help in “operation condor.

Current Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez has made human rights prosecutions a top priority and courts have detained a number of suspects. Juan Marie Bordaberry, in office from 1973-1976 is awaiting his sentence. “Goyo” Alvarez is considered one of the most representative figures of the military regime in Uruguay.

For more information, please see:

AP-Last Uruguayan Dictator Sentenced to 25 Years-23 October 2009

BBC News-Uruguay’s Ex-ruler Alvarez Jailed-22 October 2009

Latin-American Herald Tribune-Ex-Dictator Sentenced to 25 Years in Uruguay-24 October 2009

Tajikistan Women Beaten, and Regularly Abused

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan- Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Tajikistan of failing to protect their women.  The group says nearly half of Tajikstani women are raped, beaten or abused by their families.  According to Amnesty, Tajikstani women regularly endure humiliation from the hands of loved ones, including their husbands and in-laws, resulting in many committing suicide.

The report urges the authorities to address it as a crime, not to dismiss it as a “private family matter.  The authors of the report say the government should introduce laws and support services to tackle domestic violence.  Andrea Strasser-Camagni, Amnesty International’s Tajikistan expert said “Women in Tajikistan are beaten, abused, and raped in the family but the authorities tend to reflect the societal attitude of blaming the woman for domestic violence.  They see their primary role as mediator, to preserve the family rather than protect the women and to safeguard their rights.”

Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, is the poorest former Soviet Republic.  Strasser Camagni also states that traditional Tajikstani family values, reinforced after the Soviet Union break-up, impose even further discrimination on women by narrowing their role to that of wife and mother, and pushing them to lowest job market sector.

Tajikstani women have limited rights and job opportunities.  Many women drop out of school and enter into marriages that are often polygamous or unregistered.  “Women are being treated as servants or as the in-laws’ family property…They have no-one to turn to, as the policy of the authorities is to urge reconciliation, which…reinforces their position of inferiority” said Strasser-Camagni in a statement.

Up to one million Tajikstani men travel abroad every year looking for seasonal work.  In many cases, they stop sending money or do not return home and leave their wives vulnerable to abuse by their in-laws.  Some men even divorce their wives by text message announcing they have separated.  Because of this many women are driven to commit suicide but relatives regularly cover up these incidents by presenting them as accidents.

Tajikistan has ratified relevant international human rights treaties, but has fallen short of its international obligation to protect women’s rights.

Amnesty International has called upon the Tajikistan government to: introduce effective domestic abuse laws, and carry out a nationwide public awareness campaign to address the practices of unregistered, polygamous, and early marriages.  They have also urged a removal of all barriers to girl’s education and address the root causes of girls dropping out of education.

For information, please see:

Reuters- Tajikistan Fails to Curb Abuse of Women: Amnesty– 23 November 2009

Amnesty International – Tajikistan Women Beaten, Abused and Raped in the Family-24 November 24, 2009

BBC News- Amnesty: Nearly Half of Tajik Women ‘Regularly Abused’– 24 November 2009

MEND Announces Indefinite Cease-Fire

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria – On Sunday MEND declared an “indefinite ceasefire” in order to pursue dialogues with the government regarding the Niger Delta region.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in a statement that because the government has “expressed it readiness to engage in serious and meaningful dialogue with every group or individual towards achieving a lasting peace in the Niger Delta,” they are willing to submit to a cease-fire while the dialogues take place.

Over the past few years, MEND’s attacks have wrecked havoc on the local oil industry.  Oil prices in the world market have been effected from the loss of revenue caused by violence and damage.  Nigeria is the world’s eight-largest oil producer, although its oil production has been reduced by one third since 2006.

Since the beginning of the oil region’s unrest, one of the key demands from MEND as been that the local communities must benefit from the region’s oil wealth.  Once President Umaru Yar’Adua met with MEND leader Henry Okah, for the first time, the announcement came that the rebel group would cease-fire and accept the government offered amnesty.

On Friday, Okah urged other rebel groups and members of MEND who have shunned the recent government amnesty, to give the peace dialogues a chance.

From the talks between Okah and Yar’Adua, it emerged that there are plans to allot ten percent of the money it makes from the Niger Delta oil to be put back into the oil producing region.  Currently the nine regions in southern Nigeria receive thirteen percent of the oil revenue.

Hundreds of oil workers, including dozens of foreigners have been targets of kidnapping by MEND and other rebel groups.  Their attacks on pipelines and offshore facilities are what caused the intense drop in revenue.  If the government and rebel groups find a way to achieve a middle ground, there may be hope for the region to find peace.

“The successful conclusion of the amnesty deal is the culmination of honest and all inclusive dialogue between the federal government and diverse stake holders in the Niger Delta,” said Information and Communications Minister Dora Akunyili.

“The achievement is unprecedented, not only in the history of Nigeria, but also throughout the world, in places where such internal disorders have occurred,” she added.

Several hundred fighters and civilians have been killed in the Niger Delta since 2006 and the oil out put has dropped from 2.6 million barrels a day to around 1.7 million.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Nigeria Rebel Group MEND Declare “Ceasefire” – 25 October 2009

AP – Nigeria Militant Group Calls Indefinite Cease-Fire – 25 October 2009

BBC – Nigeria Militants Reinstate Truce – 25 October 2009

Reuters – Nigerian Rebels Reinstate Ceasefire in Niger Delta – 25 October 2009

Xinhua News Agency – Nigeria’s Main Militant Group Announces Indefinite Ceasefire – 25 October 2009

Convicted Kenyan Aristocrat Released

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – Thomas Cholmondeley was released from prison on Thursday after serving more than two years.

“He has already left Kamiti [maximum prison].  I understand he is already at the farm,” said Cholmondeley’s lawyer, Fred Ojiambo.

Cholmondeley, the great-grandson of the third Baron Delamere, one of Kenya’s first white settlers, shot and killed Robert Njoya on his family’s estate in Rift Valley ranch.  This shooting was the second time in just over a year that he shot a black man.

He had previously faced murder charges after he killed a Maasai game park ranger in 2005.  Cholmondeley was acquitted, however, for lack of evidence. This time around he denied killing Njoya, saying that he and his friend only shot and killed dogs when they fired at the poachers trespassing on the property.

Cholmondeley’s charge was reduced from murder to manslaughter.  When High Court judge Muga Apondi read the sentence on May 14 he said that the killing was not premeditated and that Cholmondeley showed concern for the victim.  Also, he had already spent 1,097 days in custody.  The prosecution appealed the verdict, saying it was “gross miscarriage of justice” but so far there has been no ruling.

Earlier this year Cholmondeley was sentenced to eight months in prison for shooting Njoya, who he believed to be poaching on his property.

Racial tensions stirred after Njoya’s killing, re-opening wounds of Kenya’s colonial history.  Cholmondeley’s trial was one of the most high-profile in Kenya’s post-independence history.

“It’s now clear that we have two sets of law in Kenya.  My family continues to suffer after the brutal killing of my husband and the bread winner,” said Lucy Sisina, the widow of the ranger Cholmondeley killed in 2005.

Naivasha residents and relatives originally thought Cholmondeley’s May release date was too early and are upset at his even earlier release.  The release has caused some from the local black Kenyan community to believe that a colonial-era two-speed judiciary is still in place in the country.

Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo said that they often release prisoners a few months early if their release date is coming up.

“I can’t believe that he is free,” said Njoya’s wife, Sarah.  “There is nothing I can do.  This is beyond me.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Kenyan Aristocrat Freed From Prison – 24 October 2009

AFP – Kenyan British Aristocrat Freed – 23 October 2009

AP – White Kenyan Aristocrat Released from Prison – 23 October 2009

BBC – Convicted Kenya Aristocrat Freed – 23 October 2009

NY Times – Kenya: Aristocrat Out of Prison – 23 October 2009