Human Smuggling to be Addressed by Australia and Sri Lanka

Human Smuggling to be Addressed by Australia and Sri Lanka

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia – Three Indonesian nationals have been charged with attempting to smuggle more than fifty asylum seekers into Australia.

Last week, the Australian federal police first charged two Indonesian men, aged 32 and 18, with people smuggling.  Another Indonesian, aged 19, was subsequently charged with the same offense, bringing five or more non-citizens into the country.

In October, the HMAS Bathurst was stopped by officials off the northwest coast of Western Australia, which led to the discovery of these three men.

People smuggling has been an ongoing concern of the Australian government.   Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has taken it up with his counterpart in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

While at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, Rudd met with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to discuss current problems in the Pacific region surrounding refugees and people smuggling.

Sri Lanka and Australia have agreed to continue to work together to combat the problem. Australia promises to continue to provide support to Sri Lanka to address the situation.

Providing housing for displaced individuals has become a huge problem, as a large number of individuals are awaiting resettlement from camps in Sri Lanka.  Recent reports indicate that these individuals are approximately 130,000 in number.

Rudd says, “It is a huge problem in terms of the adequate provision of housing to accommodate the basic life needs of internally displaced persons.”

A report released last week on the Arabic news network Al Jazeera claimed to expose the people smugglers’ methods in bringing asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia.

The asylum seekers are hidden below deck on board the smugglers’ boats.  The people smugglers allegedly will pretend to be in danger so that the Australian authorities will pick them up and bring them to one of several immigration detention facilities.

Despite multiple arrests for people smuggling, one man admits that he ‘has no fear’ and will bribe Indonesian police to get out of jail.

The trial for one of the three Indonesian men charged with human smuggling began last week at the Perth Magistrates Court and continues today.

If convicted of people smuggling, the individuals face a maximum penalty of twenty years in jail or a $220,000 fine.

For more information please see:
Daily Mirror – Australian PM discusses issue with Sri Lankan counterpart at CHOGM – 01 December 2009

Big Pond News – Rudd talks on refugees at CHOGM – 30 November 2009

Herald Sun – Teen Indonesian charged with people smuggling – 27 November 2009

Jakarta Post – Indonesians face 20-year sentence for alleged smuggling – 27 November 2009

Sydney Morning Herald – Report exposes people smuggling methods – 23 November 2009

Gaza Fishermen Shelled by Israeli Navy

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East


AL SHUDANIYYA, Gaza – The Israeli navy reportedly shelled several Palestinian fishing boats near the Gaza coast, according a report by the International Middle East Media Center on November 29. No injuries were reported.


An Israeli army spokesperson said that the boats had “violated security boundaries off the coast of the Gaza Strip… out of the permitted fishing zone.”


This incident was the latest in a series between the Israeli navy and Palestinian fishermen. Earlier in November, one Palestinian fisherman was moderately injured after being shot in the stomach by Israeli naval officers while fishing off of the Gaza city of Rafah.


The 1993 Oslo Peace Accords set a Palestinian fishing range of nearly twenty nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. Since 1993, however, the Israeli navy has reduced the allowable fishing zone to three nautical miles. After the shooting near Rafah in November, Israel told CNN that it has made the zone smaller as a security precaution, in an effort to cut down on weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, as well as to prevent attacks by Hamas from sea. Since the fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas last winter, the Israeli navy has imposed a formal blockade on the region.  The Gaza Strip lies along the Mediterranean Sea, and is approximately twice the size of the United States capital, Washington D.C.


The restricted zone poses serious problems for the nearly 3,500 Palestinian fishermen forced to stay within an area of seventy-five square miles. The Israeli blockade has made it difficult for Gaza fishermen to repair their nets and equipment. Additionally, it is often difficult for fisherman to tell whether they are in the shifting boundaries.


The fishing zone is severely overfished, and the small daily catches contribute to the persistent economic depression in the Gaza Strip.


“Once we risked going a little further as there were no fish,” said one fishing captain. “We tried to cross the border a little but the Israeli navy came and started shooting at us… we had to leave the area.”


For more information, please see:


Press TV – Israeli Navy Shells Palestinian Fishing Boats – 30 November 2009


International Middle East Media Center – Israeli Navy Shells Palestinian Fishing Boats – 29 November 2009


CNN – Fishermen Trawl Under Israeli Navy Scrutiny – 10 November 2009


Ma’an News Agency – Ministry: Gaza Fisherman Shot by Israeli Navy – 4 November 2009

Canadian Prime Minister to Visit China Amidst Human Rights Concerns

November 2009

30 November 2009

Canadian Prime Minister to Visit China Amidst Human Rights Concerns

By William Miller

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit China on Wednesday, December 2 for the first time in his four year administration. Harper’s administration has been critical of China’s human rights record and until recently has ignored relations with the country. Economic concerns are now compelling him to improve relations with the emerging super power. Although Harper has said this will not affect Canadian values, some fear that Canada will become too soft on human rights issues in China.

China has a poor international image on human rights. Beijing has long claimed that they are trying to establish a democratic society, but arbitrary arrests, torture, oppression, and pervasive internet censorship are still common place. China also consistently defends other countries with equally bad human rights agendas.

Harper’s administration initially took a harsh view on China’s human rights record and did little to promote economic relations with the country. Harper himself has said he would not sell out Canadian values for the almighty dollar when referring to China. Members of his own cabinet have called China “a godless, totalitarian country with nuclear weapons aimed at us.”

Recently, however, Canada has been looking to improve economic relations with China as China is now projected to be the strongest economy in the world by 2050. Canadian Ministers have been more willing China in the last year including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon who has visited the country three times. Liberal politicians once in the minority are now being called on more often for their expertise in establishing relations with China.

Human rights groups have been showing concern that Canada will now begin to overlook the pervasive human rights issues in China. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong based human rights organization sent a letter to Harper urging him to push the human rights agenda during his visit. Although they support Canadian relations with China, they have stressed that Canada should not forget their values on the subject of human rights. Demonstrations are also scheduled in both Montreal and Ottawa to urge Harper to stand up for human rights in China and Tibet during his visit.

For more information, please see:

Globe and Mail – A More Sophisticated Engagement With China – 30 November 2009

Toronto Star – Will Values Be Baggage as Harper Heads to China? – 30 November 2009

Canadian Press – Harpers long, Winding Road To China – 29 November 2009

Canada Views – Ottowa and Montreal Rise Up For Tibet – 29 November 2009

Democrats Demand the Immediate Endorsement of Report on Democratic Reforms in Tonga

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – Democrats in Tonga demand that the Tongan government immediately endorse a report on democratic reforms to ensure that no more violence ensues in the country.
Starting in late 2006, massive rioting in the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, caused significant damages in the immediate area. The Tongan people were protesting the lack of democratic reforms. Most of the district was destroyed.

In 2008, King George Tupou V stated that he would relinquish the monarchy power in hopes to introduce democratic reforms.

In early 2009, Tonga’s Commission for Reform announced that it would start holding public consultations and hearing petitions on democratic reform. Former chief justice Gordon Ward was the chair of the Commission, and wanted to determine the nature of political reforms to be put in place by 2010.

Although the public in Tonga remained somewhat skeptic, this was an important step in the process that would allow democratic reform to take place.

Currently, what is now known as the People’s Committee for Political Reform, has recommended a “popularly elected parliament and reducing the monarchy to a largely ceremonial role.”

Akillisi Pohiva and his co-chair on the People’s Committee for Political Reform, Uliti Uata, stated that they are willing to accept the Constitutional and Electoral Commission’s report and recommends that the Tongan government accept the report as well.

They contend that it is important for “every sector of society [to] embrace[] the report in full so that the reform process remains peaceful.”

They also stated that it would be a “token of respect to King George Tupou V for his role as the architect of peaceful political change.”

Pohiva and Uata fear that if the reforms are not supported that more violence will occur. The riots that happened three years ago erupted because of the opposition to the government, and they fear that this may occur again if these reforms are not accepted.

For more information, please see:
Pacific Islands News Association – Tonga democrats want immediate acceptance of report on reform – 01 December 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Tonga democrats want immediate acceptance of report on reform – 30 November 2009

BBC News – Timeline: Tonga – 16 November 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Tonga Commission for Reform beings public consultations – 15 January 2009

Ex-Judge Accused of Bribery Commits Suicide

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – An ex-judge, Wu Xiaoqing, who had been charged with taking bribes from gangsters, was arrested and committed suicide in his cell in central China.

WuPhoto courtesy of China Daily

Wu was found dead by his cellmates who alerted guards that he appeared dead. Officials said the former judge left a suicide note, but neither the detention house nor the police would disclose the contents of the letter. Wu, age 57, hung himself using the drawstring from his underwear five months following his arrest for corruption.

Wu, who was the ex-director of the enforcement bureau of the local municipal court, was arrested in June on suspicion of taking in more than half a million dollars in bribes from 1998 to 2008, according to a spokesman surnamed Li. Li, speaking for the Chongqing city government office, would give only his surname.

Wu’s arrest was part of a continuing crackdown on anti-corruption in sprawling Chongqing. The initiative has nabbed approximately 1,500 suspects — gangsters, prominent businessmen and 14 high-ranking government and police officials, according to China Daily newspaper. The ex-director of the enforcement bureau of the municipal higher people’s court and president of a local court college was seized in June as part of an anti-corruption initiative.

China in recent years has adopted a dual approach that combined both prevention and punishment to address the country’s wide spread corruption. As part of the anti-corruption initiative, officials from the National Peoples Congress have called for tougher penalties for officials with big assets from unidentified sources. Officials who cannot give the source of their assets could be jailed for up to 10 years, instead of the current five years. According to Li Shishi, director of the NPC Standing Committee’s Legal Affairs Commission “We consider it necessary to impose severe punishment on officials abusing their power for personal gains.” However, the range of punishment for charges of corruption or bribery are not uniformly applied.  A typical penalty range that is often referred to notes that the sentence for accepting bribes for amounts between 5,000 and 50,000 yuan is often one to 10 years in prison, five years to life for 50,000 to 100,000 yuan, and for bribes of more than 100,000 yuan the penalty can be 10 years in jail to the death sentence.  

Six gang members in the city have been sentenced to death for crimes including murder and blackmail. China has a mixed record of cracking down on corruption, but when the country does, the punishment is often severe. For instance, two years ago, the director of China’s food and drug agency was executed for approving deadly fake medicine in exchange for cash.

The most senior official to be subjected to China’s harsh bribery punishment for his recent corruption charges was Shanghai’s former Communist Party chief, Chen Liangy. Chen was sentenced last year to 18 years in prison for his role in a pension fund scandal. In addition to investigations of other public officials, Hu Yanyu, a partner at Zhibo Law Firm from 2001 to 2008 and Wu’s alleged mistress, are also being investigated along with at least 10 other lawyers, said Zhou Litai, a Chongqing-based lawyer.

For more information, please see:

CBS World News – Ex-judge Facing Corruption Charges Commits Suicide In Central China – November 30, 2009 

China Daily – Accused ex-judge found hanged in cell – November 30, 2009 

China Service News – Senior judge handed over to judicial organs over bribery allegations – November 30, 2009 

Yahoo! World News – Ex-judge facing China bribery charges kills self – November 30, 2009