Prisoners in Papua New Guinea Attempt Jailbreak for Not Being Fed

Prisoners in Papua New Guinea Attempt Jailbreak for Not Being Fed

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

MOUNT HAGEN, Papua New Guinea – Prisoners at a Papua New Guinea jail attempted to escape because they were not fed for two consecutive days. Prison guards successfully stopped the 487 prisoners from escaping. The prison break would have been the country’s biggest mass break-out in history.

The Baisu prison, located near Mount Hagen in the Western Highland Province of Papua New Guinea, only has capacity for 300 inmates, yet it holds 800 inmates.  A warder stated that the prison is extremely overcrowded and the facilities are “rundown.” The 800 inmates were starving and left without food because a contract with the prison’s food suppliers had expired.

The chief superintendent of Baisu jail, Simon Sobaim, explained that the prisoners had nothing to eat since Sunday, October 18 because of a dispute between rival food suppliers over the contract with the prison.

As a result of the lack of food, three of the inmates fell ill. Fellow inmates were furious and demanded that the ill inmates be taken to the hospital. Soon after, 487 of the prisoners attempted to escape the prison on Tuesday afternoon.

The inmates were able to get pass three layers of fencing. Many of the watch towers at the prison had been pulled down because they were rotten and in extremely poor condition. Thus, the prisoners were able to pass the fencing more easily. The prison guards had to fire shots at the escapees to stop them, but no one was killed.

Sobaim stated that this incident “would not have happened had the ongoing ration problem been resolved.” The police commissioner has asked the former contractor to return to feed the inmates, and will continue to supply food until the dispute over the contract is resolved.

A representative of the prisoners stated that the next time the prisoners “were made to go hungry, they would simply walk out and risk being shot dead.” The representative further stated that “while they were lawbreakers, they had a right under the law to be fed.”

For more information, please see:
The National – Jail Drama – 21 October, 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Prisoners in PNG attempt to escape jail for not being fed – 21 October, 2009

The Timaru Herald – PNG’s biggest ever prison break prevented – 21 October, 2009

Times Online – Prison guards thwart mass breakout in Papua New Guinea – 21 October, 2009

UPI Asia – Hungry Papua inmates’ jailbreak foiled – 21 October, 2009

Yemen Sentences Houthi Fighters to Death

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – A Yemeni court has sentenced 10 Huthi fighters to death and has jailed at least five others after a trial in the capital Sa’na. The fighters were sentenced to death on Tuesday for “associating with an armed group for criminal purposes, creating an organized terrorist group and resistance to the authorities.” The official SABA news agency reported the sentences given convicted members of the Huthi insurgency in the country’s north came one day after Huthu leader Al-Mohatwari was sentenced to death and 10 of this followers received jail terms ranging from 8 to 10 years.

The fighters were captured during clashes in Bani Husheish located about 30 kilometers from Sa’na between March and June 2008. A defense lawyer speaking to the AFP stated appeals had been lodged  on behalf of two members of the group, but that the 13 others refused to appeal on the grounds that they did not recognize the courts legitimacy.

Battles between Yemeni forces and Huti rebels have raged intermittently for five years. Operation Scorched earth was launched by the Yemeni government this seen and has seen a fierce escalation of hostilities in the region. Human Rights Watch has accused both the Yemeni government and rebel forces of endangering civilian life during the fighting.

For more information please see:

UPI – 10 Yemen Insurgents Draw Death Sentences – 21 October 2009

CNN – Yemen ‘Rebels’ Given Death Penalty – 21 October 2009

Al Jazeera – Yemen Fighters Sentenced to Death – 21 October 2009

Uruguay Court Declares Military Amnesty Unconstitutional

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay-The Supreme Court held that a law providing amnesty to military officials accused of murders, disappearances, and other human rights violations during the eleven year dictatorship is unconstitutional. The ruling comes just days before Uruguay goes to the polls in a national plebiscite to determine if the amnesty law should be overturned, as a part of the national elections.

The Supreme Court ruling was in the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, a twenty-four year old literature professor and social activist who kidnapped, taken to a military base, and turned up dead on June 29, 1974. Sabalsagaray’s death was declared a suicide at the time, despite clear signs of torture.

A challenge to the law in the late 1980’s was upheld by the Supreme Court in a split decision. The government refused to change the law, despite pressure from the victim’s family.  The new ruling found that the amnesty law violated Uruguay’s separation of powers and was not passed by the required super-majority.

The ruling of the Supreme Court is tied to the facts of the case and therefore, the precedent coming out of the decision is unclear. A plebiscite, to be held on Sunday of this week, will determine whether the law is officially overturned. Current polls show the laws not being overturned, though there is hope that the Supreme Court ruling will turn the tide. A simple majority vote would overturn the amnesty law.

Amnesty laws were considered as key to enabling transitions from dictatorship to democracy in South America, but have been subject to increasing scrutiny. The Uruguay amnesty law was passed by a congressional majority in 1986 and reaffirmed in 1989 with fifty-four percent of the vote in a plebiscite. One argument for the law is that it balances against another amnesty law on the books for leftist guerrillas accused of attacks.

The amnesty law applies only to crimes committed in Uruguay. Individuals have been accused of rights violations in other countries as a part of Operation Condor, a joint campaign by military regimes to remove leftist movements in the Southern Cone. Former Dictator, Juan B. Bordaberry is currently under preventive detention in a case involving the murders of four Uruguayans in Argentina.

Amnesty International estimates that ninety-nine percent of political prisoners who were interviewed during the eleven year dictatorship claimed that they had been tortured. During the peak of political strife in Uruguay, the number of political prisoners was estimated to be 7,000.

The America’s Deputy Director of Amnesty International commented, “This law was designed as a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who tortured, killed, and disappeared people in Uruguay . . . now it is time for Uruguay to show that it will not permit impunity for these crimes.”

Brazil and Chile currently have similar dictatorship-era amnesty laws in force.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International-Uruguay Must Annul Law that Protects Police and Military Torture Suspects-20 October 2009

AP-Uruguay Supreme Court Rules Out Dirty War Amnesty-20 October 2009

BBC-Uruguay Dirty War Amnesty Illegal-20 October 2009

Earth Times-Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against Uruguayan Amnesty Law-20 October 2009

Retaliatory Expulsions Have Caused Humanitarian Disaster

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LUANDA, Angola – A rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis among the tens of thousands of people expelled by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighboring Angola is beginning to unfold. Nearly 30,000 Angolans recently expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who are now seeking refuge in overcrowded camps in northern Angola, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Shelter, food, medicine and sanitation facilitation are among the most pressing needs, according to UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic. “The supply of clean water is insufficient,” said Mahecic. “Some of the expelled drink from the nearby contaminated rivers.” Diarrhea and vomiting have been reported among those living in camps, where many are sleeping in the open air.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has expelled more than 20,000 Angolans from its territory this month alone in order to retaliate against Angola’s expulsion of illegal Congolese diamond miners, an Angolan official said. “We hope the expulsion of Angolans from the Congo ends soon,” said Angolan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abreu de Breganha, adding that the recent expulsions were to retaliate for the regular expulsion of thousands of illegal Congolese diamond miners from Angola.

During Angola’s almost three decades of civil war, which ended in 2002, the DRC hosted more than 100,000 Angolan refugees; since then, thousands of undocumented Congolese migrants – mostly thought to be illegal diamond diggers – have been working in Angola.

The ebb and flow of people expelled from both sides of the border has become a common spat between the neighbors. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) there have been six major waves of expulsions since 2003, in which a total of 140,000 Congolese were deported from Angola.

Tit-for-tat expulsions since August 2009 by the governments of Angola and DRC have led to more than 32,000 Angolans being repatriated to Angola, and about 18,800 Congolese nationals being deported from Angola. Following talks on 13 October in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, both countries agreed to “immediately stop the expulsions of citizens of their respective states,” said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative, Bohdan Nahajlo

Nahajlo told IRIN that providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced was becoming a race against time, as the rainy season was closing in and would make the roads from the Angolan capital, Luanda, impassable, and the M’banza Congo airport in Angola’s northern province of Zaire was not an option because it was closed for renovation.

“Besides addressing the immediate humanitarian and protection needs, we should also prepare for a continuous flow of Angolans into the country,” who were crossing the border out of fear, and the hope of being reunited with their families in Angola, warned Nahajlo. A recent UNHCR assessment of Angolan refugees in the DRC found that about 43,000 were willing to be repatriated voluntarily, but “in this atmosphere people will be encouraged to return,” and the refugee agency was expecting a second wave of about 50,000 people, Nahajlo said.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Almost 30,000 Angolans Expelled From Country Need Help – UN Refugee Agency – 20 October 2009

UNNews- Almost 30,000 Angolans expelled from DR Congo need help – UN refugee agency – 20 October 2009

IRIN – Humanitarian crisis now unfolding – 20 October 2009

Reuters – Congo expels over 20,000 Angolans in tit-for-tat – 12 October 2009

Joint Effort Undertaken to End People Smuggling

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia –Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to cooperate on people smuggling after meeting today in Jakarta.

At a meeting following Yudhoyono’s inauguration to a second five-year term, Australia sought Indonesia’s assistance in controlling the number of refugees attempting to enter the country.  The two countries anticipate that asylum seekers will continue to seek refuge in Australia as the year comes to a close.

Cooperation is necessary because people smuggling involves the entire region, not just one or two countries.  Not only must the country of origin be involved, but the transit and destination countries must also be involved in order to settle the problem.

Over the next few weeks, officials from the immigration office, navy and the police will set forth guidelines to deal with boats intercepted in international waters.  The framework will provide a way for the governments to facilitate the resolution of people smuggling issues in the future so that they may avoid doing so on an ad hoc basis.

Officials will report to the President and the Prime Minister at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in Singapore this November.

The countries did not establish the type of assistance that Indonesia would need to prevent people from trying to enter Australia.

There have also been reports that Australia will pay Indonesia incentive payments in order to stop people smuggling, but Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans has dismissed these reports as “speculation”.

The Government claims that Indonesia has used its police, immigration department and other agencies in the past to assist Australia in putting an end to people smuggling.

Evans indicated that Australia would provide funding to the UN’s refugee agency.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s administration and the opposition party have engaged in serious debate over the appropriate measures to address people smuggling.

Currently, there are approximately 255 Sri Lankans being held in Indonesia.  Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that it is up to Indonesia, not Australia, to determine the fate of these individuals.

For more information, please see:
ABC News – Asylum seekers deal temporary: Indonesia – 21 October 2009

The Australian – Asylum-seeker incentive offer ‘speculation’ – 21 October 2009 – Framework Needed by Australia and Indonesia over People Smuggling – 21 October 2009

Bloomberg – Indonesia, Australia Boost Cooperation Against People Smuggling – 20 October 2009