Mining Company Sued for Human Rights Abuse in Peru

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LONDON, United Kingdom-The high court in London is going to hear testimony from subsistence farmers from Peru who claim that they were detained and severely tortured after a protest at a British-owned mine. The multi-million pound suit was filed against Monterrico Metals for damages arising from the alleged torture.

The allegations of torture stem from a protest in 2005. By law mine construction is allowed only with consent of two-thirds of the local population. Local farmers were protesting because construction began without local consent. Protesters were confronted by police at the mine.

Under the direction of mine managers, the police fired teargas at protesters. Twenty-eight of the protesters say that they were detained, hooded with hands tied behind their backs, beaten with sticks, and whipped. Detainees claim that noxious substances were sprayed in their faces before they were hooded, beaten with sticks and whipped. Two of the protesters were women who say they were sexually assaulted and threatened with rape.

Three protesters were shot and wounded by police, and the protesters claim one of those shot was left to bleed to death at the mine site. A postmortem examination found that he took about thirty-six hours to die.

A journalist who was apprehended with the protesters was given photographs of the arrest that were taken by a Monterrico supervisor. The photographs show bloodied protesters with their hands bound other show groups of blindfolded or hooded protesters being removed from police property. Some of the photographs show grinning police officers waving the female protesters’ underwear. Melanio Garcia, a protester is photographed in one picture alive, though severely injured and then in another photograph he is shown dead thirty hours later.

Richard Meeran, a lawyer with Leigh Day, the London law firm bringing the case, has obtained an injunction freezing five million pounds of Monterrico’s assets in the UK.

Monterrico claims that the arrests occurred because a protester shot a police officer. All claims of abuse are said to be “without merit.” Monterrico further says that it had no control over the police operation. However, lawyers for the protesters have taken statements from eyewitnesses alleging that the mine’s manager was directing the police, and say that two of the corporation’s executives had been in the area shortly before and after the police operation.

Monterrico is building Peru’s second largest copper mine at Rio Blanco in the Northwestern region of Peru. Monterrico has been in conflict with local farmers since its arrival in the region in 2001. The mining concession covers 18,858 acres, much of it covered by forest that collects rainwater and feeds it into rivers flowing into the agricultural basins below. Farmers and environmentalists fear that mining would lead to pollution and depletion of rivers, damage eco-systems, and endanger farmlands.

For more information, please see:

Telegraph-Claims Police Tortured Peruvian Protesters Outside British-Owned Mine-19 October 2009

The Guardian-Abuse Claims Against Peru Police Guarding British Firm Monterrico-18 October 2009

The Guardian-British Mining Company Faces Damages Claim After Allegations of Torture in Peru-18 October 2009

New Compensation Opportunity for Pinochet’s Victims

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO,Chile-President Michelle Bachelet created a new agency this week to protect human rights in Chile. A special committee from the institution will investigate claims for compensation based on Pinochet-era abuses.

The National Human Rights Institute will be able to recommend charges in cases where human rights are found to have been violated. Leaders of the National Human Rights Institute can be removed only by the Supreme Court, giving the institute “considerable independence.”

An official tally estimates that over 28,000 people suffered under the Pinochet government. In 2003, thousands of people received government compensation after proving they or their relatives went missing, were executed, or tortured under the Pinochet regime. Those who failed in their claims will now have a second chance to prove their case.

The agency will be given six months to build on the work of the 2003 investigative efforts. It is unclear whether torturers will be publicly identified, something that victims and their families have lobbied for. Furthermore, under the new law, victims have no right to effect prosecutions- only to seek compensation.

Estimates of Pinochet-era abuses include 3,197 political killings by the government. Of those, 1,192 people were disappeared, less than eight percent located or identified after twenty years of democracy.

President Bachelet stated that Chile needs the agency to defend its democratic institutions and prevent a repeat of Chile’s “painful history.”  Batchulet stated that the goal is to “promote a culture of peace and education about human rights principles in present and future generations.”

For more information, please see:

Brunei News-New Claims of Compensation Arise from Pinochet Era-24 November 2009

Taiwan News-Chile Creates Human Rights Watchdog Agency-24 November 2009

Radio Netherlands-Pinochet’s Victims Get Second Chance to Claim-24 November 2009

Temporary Camps For Those Displaced in Burkina Faso Floods Are Set to Expire

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — The Burkina Faso government says thousands of flood-displaced families have till November 30th to leave temporary camps that were set up throughout the capital Ouagadougou.

In September severe flooding in Ouagadougou claimed more than 14 lives and left over 150,000 people homeless. Over 10 inches of rainfall was reported on the capital city, the heaviest 12-hour period since 1953. In reaction to the floods, the government, along with the UN and aid agencies, set up temporary housing throughout the capital for those left homeless.

“It will be difficult to leave and relocate at this point,” said Jean Baptiste Bambara, one of some 14,000 displaced people the UN estimates are living at the 18 sites. “Many people do not have homes to go to and living with relatives would place too great a burden.”

The government has designated 15,000 plots of land where displaced families are to relocate, and will give cash and materials to help people rent or build homes, according to officials. “Naturally the deadline will not be the same [for those without any options],” said Housing and Urbanism Minister Vincent Dabilgou. But he said people can live in tents at the new designated sites as they await construction of new homes.

The government is to provide 50,000 CFA francs (US$114) to those who were renting and 280,000 CFA francs in money and building materials to people who lost their own houses to the flooding.

Displaced resident Bambara echoed many other displaced people in saying that the amounts are insufficient. “Many flood victims do not work; the government must help us with more money.”

The government says the project as planned will require about 8 billion CFA francs ($18 million). The money is coming from the government as well as private and public donors to a national fund set up to help flood victims.

The World Food Programme will provide food aid to people upon their departure from the camps, Annalisa Conte, WFP head in Burkina Faso, told IRIN. “We will give a ration that will cover two months of their food needs – cereals, beans, vegetable oil, sugar and fortified food blend for the children.”

Burkina Faso is a landlocked West African country considered to be one of the poorest countries in the world and is ranked 174 of 177 according to the Human Development Index. Burkina Faso has almost half of its population under the poverty line. For every 3.4 children, one will die by the age of 10. These alarming figures have been exacerbated due to the effects of September’s floods.

For more information, please see:

IRIN – Coping With Urban Flood-Displaced – 26 November 2009

Lawrentian – Speaker Brings the Reality of Poverty in Burkina Faso to LU – 13 November 2009

PRNewswire- Barcelona FC Inaugurates a New XICS in Burkina Faso to Offer Comprehensive Attention to More Than 100 Children – 16 November 2009

Reliefweb – IDB Delivers First Batch of Emergency Relief to Flood Victims in Burkina Faso – 09 November 2009

War Crime Trial Against Serbian Nationalist To Resume

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – The trial for Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj has been scheduled to begin again in January.  This comes after the trial was suspended last year after the prosecution raised questions regarding the reliability of witnesses.

Seselj is charged with the torture and killing of non-Serbians, including Bosnians and Croatians from to 1993 while the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS).  Seeslj was also a supporter and friend of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milsoevic.  The war crimes for which he has been charged were allegedly committed by volunteers recruited by the SRS.

After a number of witnesses for the prosecution declared that they wished to testify on behalf of Seselj, instead of the prosecution, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia relinquished authority over the case which originally began in November of 2007.  The court was concerned at the time there may have been witness intimidation.  The case was then transferred to The Hague.

Although the would not go into further detail, the judges overseeing the case stated that “new facts have emerged which need to be taken into account.”  The court has also taken additional measures to ensure the “efficient protection of the security of the victims and witnesses.”  The protected witnesses will now be called to give testimony directly to the court, rather than allowing them to be called by either party.  The trial is scheduled to begin again on January 12, 2010.

The allegations of witness intimidation is not the first hurdle in the nearly six years since Seselj’s surrender to authorities in February of 2003.  This past July Seselj was convicted to contempt of court for publicly releasing the name of a witness whose identity was being kept secret by the court.  He was sentenced to a year and half in jail that violation.  In 2006, he commenced a hunger strike after a court failed to agree to demands his made regarding his legal representation.  Seselj has since decided to represent himself at trial.

For more information, please see:

AP – Serb nationalist’s war crimes trial to resume – 25 November 2009

JAVNO – Serb leader’s war crimes trial set to resume – 25 November 2009

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Suspended Seselj War Crime Trail To Resume – 25 November 2009

SETIMES – Seselj’s Hague trial to resume in January – 25 November 2009

ADNKRONOS – Netherlands: War Crimes trial of Serbian leader to resume – 24 November 2009

Human Rights Activist Calls for the Return of ICRC

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAYAPURA, Indonesia – Human rights activist, Paula Makabori, claims that the beating of the West Papuan political prisoner, Buchtar Tabuni, in Jayapura warrants the need for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to re-enter the region.

In West Papua, there have been a number of cases where democracy activists are arrested, intimidated, and face police raid. These democracy activists are claimed to have been against state emergency law and subversion articles. Tabuni is one of these activists who is said to be a “clear example of how freedom of expression and democracy are still restricted to Papuans.”

Tabuni was arrested earlier this year for his protest against the launching of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua in London. There were many reports that he was beaten and mistreated by the police and prison officials since he was arrested.

Tabuni claims that he did nothing more than express his opinion. He is regarded by many as “someone who struggles for the aspirations of the Papuan people.”

Tabuni was sentenced to prison for three years for provocation at Abepura, the notorious prison located in Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura.

It has now been discovered that Tabuni suffers from bad head injuries resulting from many assaults by five Indonesian security force officials at the Abepura prison. Many activists fear that he is being denied medical treatment.

Makabori, who is a representative of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights, says that the ICRC, which was forced by Jakarta to shut its office back in April 2009, has “a role to play.”

Makabori stated: “With all the maltreatments of West Papuan political prisoners, especially those activists and student activists in Abepura and police prison, I think Indonesia’s government has to go give free access to International Red Cross to come back to West Papua to advocate these situations and also give the right treatment to all those political prisoners.”

TAPOL, a UK-based NGO which seeks to promote peace, human rights and democracy in Indonesia, states that criminalizing those who have engaged in legitimate and peaceful activities is a violation of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Carmel Budiardjo, the founder of TAPOL, stated: “There is no justification to charge these men with [subversion]. The charges should be dropped and the men released.”

For more information, please see:
Free West Papua – Beating claims prompt calls for ICRC to return to Papua – 27 November 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Beating claims prompt calls for ICRC to return to Papua – 27 November 2009

InfoPapua – Social-Political Analysis – The Continuing Violence in Papua – 05 September 2009

West Papua Action – 15 Papuans face serious charges for peaceful demonstration – 04 August 2009

Ipahr’s West Papua blog – West Papua: Buchtar Tabuni on trial for subversion – 18 February 2009

China’s Tainted Milk Scandal Culprits Executed

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – The dairy farmer and milk salesman who sold more than three million pounds of contaminated baby formula in China were executed on Tuesday.

Six babies died from drinking milk contaminated with melamine, which is a chemical used in manufacturing plastic and fertilizers, and more than 300,000 children were made ill.

Milk scandalFamilies in line at a hospital in Hebei Province for ultrasonic scan to detect health problems related to drinking tainted milk.  Courtesy of AP.

Melamine is an industrial chemical with high levels of nitrogen, and can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

The Chinese officials are hoping that the severe punishment imposed on the milk producers will bring some consolation and assurance to the angry public and milk importers, in addition to brining closure to one of the country’s worst food scandals.

Much of the tainted milk ended up in baby formula sold by Sanlu Group, a major dairy company in Northeast China.  Since the scandal broke, the company has been taken over by a state-controlled company.

Milk scandal 2 Zhang Yujun at his trial last December.  Courtesy of China Daily/Reuters.

Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping were the only men to be executed among those convicted of lacing milk formula with melamine.  Additionally, 19 others were also convicted received lesser sentences.

The milk contamination struck a core with the Chinese public because although China claimed swift response to eliminating problems in food safety, this tainted milk scandal was only one in a series of product recalls and other disclosures of inadequate public health safeguards.

Despite Beijing’s efforts to regulate small and illegally run operations, a UN report said that many of China’s small businesses pose the greatest food safety hazard.  These small enterprises are often accused of injecting chemicals and additives into the food chain.

Nevertheless, China has been cooperating with U.S. officials to tighten its food safety regulations.  U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, said that “Chinese suppliers…are now on notice…that it is a mistake to depend on good intentions and a few final inspections to ensure compliance with safety requirements.”

However, the outrage over the tainted milk scandal has not yet subsided.  There are allegations that the Chinese government prevented the news from breaking until after the Beijing Olympics. 

The cover-up allegations have never been publicly investigated, and the authorities have harassed or detained parents who are pursuing lawsuits or demanding higher compensation.
For more information, please see:

AP – China executes 2 for role in tainted milk scandal – 25 November 2009

Guardian – China executes two for tainted milk scandal – 24 November 2009

NYT – 2 Executed in China for Selling Tainted Milk – 24 November 2009

Christmas Island Asylum-seekers May Face Criminal Charges

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia – Last week a fight between approximately 150 Sri Lankan Tamils and Afghan asylum-seekers broke out at Australia’s immigration detention facility on Christmas Island.

The two groups attacked each other with tree branches, pool cues and broom handles.  The fighting ended with injuries for some thirty-seven asylum seekers who required medical treatment.  Three individuals were flown to Perth to receive treatment for broken bones.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans believes that the violence may be a result of frustrations amongst the Sri Lankan asylum over being held in custody.

“There hasn’t been too many problems but there has been some increased tension I think around the Sri Lankans, in particular being a bit concerned as we have had some people removed back to Sri Lanka – found not to be refugees, and obviously the spotlight on the groups that were intercepted in Indonesia,” Evans said.

Advocates for refugees claim that the facility’s overcrowded and cramped conditions created the outburst.  This combined with the slow pace of detainee processing is believed to be a significant factor in the fighting at Christmas Island.

Those individuals deemed responsible for the brawl have criminal charges brought against them.

Prime Minister Rudd noted that this may affect the status of certain refugee applications.  Whether or not a detainee may be granted a visa depends in part on whether the individual has committed a serious offense.

Approximately 1,000 asylum seekers are currently housed at Christmas Island.  The government plans to increase the facility’s capacity to 1,400 inmates.

Over the past year, many immigrants, particularly those from Sri Lanka, have tried to enter Australia.  Most of the immigrants are taken to Christmas Island to have their refugee status applications processed.

Australia takes in 13,000 refugees each year through official humanitarian programs.  A majority of asylum seekers, who arrive by boat, are eventually found to be in need of protection and may settle permanently in Australia.

Opposition officials in the government claim the Prime Minister administration has been ineffective in controlling the country’s borders.  Rudd claims that all asylum seekers will receive humane treatment but promises to take a hard-line approach to criminal gangs involved in people smuggling.

For more information please see:
Bloomberg – Australia to send team to Process Lankan Migrants, Herald Says – 24 November 2009

Monsters & Critics – Charges may follow asylum-seeker brawl, Australian Minister says – 23 November 2009

Voice of America – Australia Investigates Brawl Among Asylum Seekers in Camp – 23 November 2009

Mississippi Governor Draws Criticism Over Proposal

26 November 2009

Mississippi Governor Draws Criticism Over Proposal

By Stephen Kopko

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MISSISSIPPI, United States – Governor Haley Barbour has proposed to merge three of Mississippi’s historically black colleges into one beginning in the year 2011. The merger is part of the Governor’s plan to decrease costs amidst new budget negotiations.

Under the Governor’s plan, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State would be merged into Jackson State, the state’s largest historically black college. Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley state are located approximately one hundred miles from Jackson State. Their campuses would remain but under new names.

Governor cited many different reasons for merging the three colleges into one. Mississippi has eight colleges and universities for approximately two million, nine hundred thousand people. Barbour stated that the residents of Mississippi can not afford that many institutions of higher education. According to Barbour, the merger would save Mississippi around thirty five million dollars. The savings would come from cuts to administrative costs and eliminating academic duplication.

Many groups and state legislators are opposed to the Governor’s plan. The presidents of the historically black colleges are unanimously opposed to the proposal. Jackson State University president Dr. Ronald Mason stated that “Mississippi needs historically black colleges because we traditionally serve the underserved.” Some Mississippi state legislators stated that they will not support the proposal. They believe that all Mississippi universities should be subject to the same scrutiny in regards to cuts or mergers.  Representative Adrienne Wooten said, “I only know there are certain universities that are having to come forward and prove why they should remain open.”

The Obama administration has also questioned Barbour’s proposal. John S. WIlson, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities believed that cost savings should not be a goal. According to Wilson, the goal of the state should be improving the campuses’ capacity to educate more students. Wilson also believed that the Governor’s proposal may hurt the White House’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

For more information, please see:

MSNBC – Proposal to Merge Black Schools Draws Fire – 22 November 2009

WJTV, Jackson, MS. – School Chiefs Oppose Merging Black Universities – 18 November 2009

AFRO – Proposal to Merge HBCUs Draws Fire – November 2009

Men Indicted for Alleged Ties to Hezbollah

By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania– On Tuesday, four men were indicted by a grand jury in Philadelphia for an alleged plot to support Lebanese based Hezbollah through a number of illegal practices, including providing the group with hundreds of weapons.

The indictment filed Tuesday says two suspects sought to provide over a thousand machine guns to Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon.  The indictment states that two of the alleged plotters were to purchase the weapons in Philadelphia and then ship them to a port city in Syria where they would eventually be distributed to Hezbollah.  The two other indicted men were accused of trying to raise funds for the terrorist group with fake passports and counterfeit cash said U.S. Attorney Michael Levy.  According to Levy, “They were selling counterfeit visas.  They were trying to sell counterfeit U.S. currency as a way of raising money for Hezbollah.”  The FBI has said that an undercover agent thwarted the plotter’s plans.

In a released statement, Levy noted that the indicted men were seeking to support Hezbollah with some serious firepower.  He added that “the purchase of stolen goods- or what they believed were stolen goods- was a way of raising money by selling those items.  The purchase of machine guns is clearly buying military weapons, which can only be used in warfare.”

In addition to the four men indicted, eight others were charged with lesser offenses related to schemes to traffic in stolen or counterfeit goods.  In all, federal authorities have said that thirteen suspects are in custody, while eleven more were being sought in connection with the alleged plot to aid Hezbollah.

The indictment comes just a day after officials say they broke up a similar plot.  That plot was disrupted when undercover meetings in Philadelphia unearthed plans to send machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.  Said Levy, “We have, in this case, charged a number of people who are basically part of a supply stream for a terrorist organization.  But this is just part of an ongoing fight we’re going to have for a long time.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press- Feds: Philadelphia Plot to Buy Weapons for Hezbollah– 25 November 2009

Fox News- Grand Jury Indicts Four Men for Alleged Plot to Support Hezbollah– 25 November 2009

KYW Newsradio- Four Indicted in Philadelphia in Alleged Plot to Support Terrorists– 24 November 2009

Colombian Ex-General Jailed for Role in 1997 Massacre

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia-Jaime Uscategui, a retired general, was sentenced to forty years in prison on Wednesday for his involvement in a massacre by right wing paramilitaries. A court ruled that Uscategui, who was a commander of the eighth brigade in 1997, was complicit in the murder of forty-nine civilians by paramilitaries.

In July of 1997, over 100 armed members of a right wing paramilitary groups entered the village of Mapiripzán, despite being officially banned from activity. The paramilitaries commenced a five-day killing spree, where civilians were tortured and murdered.

The military failed to stop the massacre or stop the paramilitaries at one of the many checkpoints on their way into the village. A pair of chartered planes full of right wing gunmen landed and were dispatched to oversee the mass killings form Uscategui’s area.

During the five-day massacre, the town’s judge, Ivan Cortes, repeatedly called Uscategui for help, with no response. Bodies were “hacked up and many were thrown into a river.” Hundreds of suspected leftist rebel sympathizers were killed during the 1990s.

The court overruled an earlier acquittal, finding that Uscategui abandoned the people and had knowledge that some of his officers were collaborating with paramilitaries. The forty year sentence is the highest ever to be imposed in Colombia on an officer of Uscategui’s ranking. Uscategui was also ordered to pay a fine of 10 million pesos.

The killings were committed predominantly by the Self Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU), a paramilitary group organized by landowners. Another former army general, Rito Alejo del Rio, is in jail until a civilian court tries him on charges of murder for death squad killings during the mid-1990s.

Uscategui was initially arrested in 1999 and tried by a military court, where he was sentenced to forty months in prison for “omission.” A battalion commander who did not stop the Mapiripán massacre was convicted of murder in 2007 and sentenced to forty years in prison.

For more information, please see:

AP-Court Convicts Ex-General in Colombian Massacre-26 November 2009

The Guardian-Former Colombian General Jailed for Rule in Maripiripán Massacre-26 November 2009

BBC-Colombia Jails Death Squad General Over Massacre

Witnesses Are Threatened in Congolese Warlord Trial

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Witnesses testifying against two Congolese warlords at the International Criminal Court have been threatened and the court does not have the resources to fully protect them, a senior investigator testified Wednesday.

The investigator spoke on the second day of the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, who are accused of planning and directing a February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) northeastern Ituri region. Hundreds of people were killed and many women forced into sexual slavery in that February 24th, 2003 attack.

Prosecutors plan to call 26 witnesses to testify and 21 of them will be given protective measures in court to shield their identity to try to prevent possible retaliation. The investigator testified Wednesday as the first witness to outline how her team built its case against Katanga and Ngudjolo. Her identity also was shielded.

Investigators and prosecutors at the tribunal give witnesses advice on how to protect themselves but the unidentified investigator and first witness said sometimes “these quite simply have been not enough.” She did not elaborate on whether any witnesses had suffered physical harm, but her comments showed the difficulties of building cases in conflict zones.

Katanga, the alleged commander of the group known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), faces three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes for a deadly assault on the village of Bogoro, in the province of Ituri. Ngudjolo, the alleged former commander of the rebel National Integrationalist Front (FNI), faces three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes, and is alleged to have played a key role in designing and carrying out the Bogoro attack.

Among those crimes, the two men are accused of using children under the age of 15 in active hostilities, including as bodyguards and combatants, during the deadly assault on Bogoro. Ten child soldiers will be among the 345 people authorized to take part in the trial.

Katanga and Ngudjolo both have pleaded not guilty to three counts of crimes against humanity and seven war crimes including murder, rape, pillage, sexual slavery and using child soldiers in the slaughter. Defense attorneys have denied the two men were involved in the attack on Bogoro and instead blamed Ugandan forces that had been occupying Congo’s mineral-rich Ituri region where the village was located.

The prosecution says more than 1,000 fighters of Katanga’s Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI) and Ngudjolo’s Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) entered Bogoro on February 24th six years ago “with one communicated and agreed goal: to erase the village”.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. This particular trial is expected to take several months.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Congo massacre witnesses were threatened – 25 November 2009

AFP- ICC Trial of Congolese Militiamen to Reveal ‘The Truth’ – 24 November 2009

PressTV – Congo Warlords Stand Trial – 24 November 2009

Reuters- Congo Warlords in the Dock At Hague Court – 23 November 2009

AllAfrica – International Criminal Court Trial of Two Former Leaders Opens Tomorrow – 23 November 2009

Opposing Demonstrators March in Nicaragu

25 November 2009

Opposing Demonstrators March in Nicaragu

By Brenda Lopez Romero
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America desk

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Last Saturday afternoon, estimates of over 40,000 people demonstrated against and for the government and the bid for reelection President Daniel Ortega.  Local press reported that at least one person died and unknown number was injured when the opposing demonstrators meet each other on the streets.

Nic against(PHOTO: Courtney of Voice of America)

Rafael Anibal Luna Ruiz, Sandinista supporter, died in the northern city of Ciudad Dario from wounds when he was hit with stones thrown by Liberal supporters.  The secretary of the Liberal opposition party reported that three of its members were injured when two buses were attacked by alleged Sandinista stone-throwers and indicated she would file a complaint with the police.

The opposition is party members of the Sandinista and Liberal groups.  They marched to support their position in favor or against Ortega.  The Liberal party demonstrators say they protest the harassment of the current Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan Supreme Court order that will permit Ortega to run for reelection in 2011.  Dora Maria Tellez, former Ortega organizer but now lead the opposition said, “the only way for the government to change, as it has been shown in all these years, is for the people to go to the streets.”   On the other side Sandinistas marched to celebrate the judicial victory and their party’s election victory in the midst of allegations of fraud.  Sandinista supporter insist the Ortega government is acting on country’s behalf.

Ortega served as president from 1985-90, after leading the guerrilla movement that ousted Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.  Then, he had three unsuccessful campaigns until he won the presidency again in 2006.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America News – Thousands March in Rival Nicaraguan Rallies – 25 November 2009

CNN – Thousands march for, against Nicaraguan government – 22 November 2009

Latin America Tribune Herald – One Dead, Several Injured in Nicaragua Protests – 22 November 2009

Iraqi Parliament Amends Election Law

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On November 22 the Iraqi parliament amended an election law that governs the general elections scheduled for January 2010. An earlier version of the law was previously vetoed by Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi. The amended law, however, fails to address the concerns of Vice President Hashemi.

Hashemi claims that the version of the law passed on November 8 failed to give sufficient voice to Iraqis living abroad. Many of those living abroad are Sunnis. The amendment passed by the Iraqi parliament on November 22 called for Iraqis living abroad to have their vote counted toward their home province. The law also increased the number of member of parliaments elected by the Kurdish region of Iraq.

The changes made differ from Hashemi’s request. The Iraqi vice president request that the new law create seats allocated for voters outside of Iraq. It is expected that Hashemi will veto the law again and send it back to the parliament. Analysts say that even if a law is eventually approved, it now appears unlikely that it will happen in time for elections to be held by the end of January, as required by the Iraqi constitution.

Sunni government officials do not agree with the amendments plan to add seats to the Kurdish-run province. Osama al-Nujefi, a Sunni parliamentarian, said that the amendment would have the effect of stealing seats from Northern provinces where Sunni’s have a strong presence and giving them to the Kurds. According to Nujeifi, the taking of seats would be done in “an illegitimate way.”

A veto by Hashemi would serve as a second veto of the law. Under Iraqi law, if a second veto is used, Iraqi parliamentarians can overturn it with a sixty percent majority vote in the two hundred seventy five seat assembly. An alliance of Shi’ite and Kurdish members would pass threshold with thirty votes to spare.

The United States has linked the pace of troop withdrawal from Iraq to the elections planned for January a hopes to take a more active role in ensuring that they take place on time. Christopher Hill, the US Ambassador to Iraq, has warned against “slippage” in staging the country’s election. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the US will present “a number of ideas” with the goal of ending the stalemate.

For information, please see:

AFP – US Warns Against Iraq Election ‘Slippage’ – 24 November 2009

AP – Iraq Election Law Faces Second Veto – 24 November 2009

Al Jazeera – Iraqi MPs Amend Election Law – 23 November 2009

BBC – Iraq Parliament Passes Amended Election Law – 23 November 2009

Katanga and Ngudjolo Plead Not Guilty In First Day Of Trial

By: Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk

THE HAGUE, Netherlands-Today marked the first day of the human rights and war crimes trial of two Congolese militia leaders, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo.  Katanga and Ngudjolo both plead not guilty to charges stemming from an accusation that they directed an attack on the village of Bogoro in 2003, in which more than 200 people were killed. The specific charges the two face include, ordering attacks on civilians, sexual slavery, rape, and enlisting child soldiers. Today both Katanga and Ngudjolo denied the allegations and expressed sympathy for the victims.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo opened the case against the two defendants, alleging they tried to wipe out the entire village of Bogorao. Ocampo used the prosecution’s opening to give a graphic illustration of the horrors that took place in the village of Bogorao. During the course of the attack he said, “some villagers were shot dead in their sleep, some cut up by machetes to save bullets. Others were burned alive after their houses were set on fire by the attackers. “He described the defendants, Katanga and Ngudjolo, as the top commanders of the troops that killed, raped, and pillaged. He further alleged in his opening, “they used children as soldiers, they killed more than 200 civilians in a few hours, they raped women; girls and the elderly, they looted the entire village and they transformed women into sex slaves.

Katanga’s defense attorney claimed that Katanga was “merely defending his own people” and had no part in the Bogoro attack. Ngudjolo’s defense attorney also said that Ngudjolo had not been involved in the attack at Bogoro, and that he had a “clear conscience”.

For more information please see:

AP – 2 Warlords Plead Innocent In Congo Massacre Trial – 24 November 2009

BBC – Congo Warlords Deny Atrocities – 24 November 2009

VOA – Rebel Leaders Plead Not Guilty In Congo Massacre Trial – 24 November 2009

Department of Education Investigating Military College

24 November 2009

Department of Education Investigating Military College

By Stephen Kopko

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

VIRGINIA, United States – For the past sixteen months the federal Department of Education has been investigating allegations that policies and procedures at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) are discriminatory. The probe began over a year ago and will determine whether certain practices are sexist and hostile to women.

The Virginia Military Institute was founded in 1839 as an all male higher educational facility that is partially supported by government money. It is known for its highly regimented and military atmosphere. In 1996, the United States Supreme Court ruled that VMI had to admit females into the school or it would lose its government support. In 1997 VMI admitted its first female students.

The recent investigation of VMI’s policies and procedures centers around a range of issues. The complaint asserts that there is an overall hostile environment to women, that the physical standards are unfair to women, and that the promotion and tenure polices discriminate against women. The Department of Education also is investigating whether the school’s marriage and parenthood policies discriminate against women. Currently, VMI expects those cadets that marry or become pregnant to resign from the school. Promoting this policy, the school wrote that “the responsibilities of parenthood are deemed to begin upon a cadets learning that a child has been conceived.” In regards to the allegations of discriminatory promotion practices, VMI stated that it takes in account teaching ability, scholarly engagement, professional citizenship and contributions to the development of the cadets.

Since VMI admitted women, one hundred and fifty nine females have graduated from the institution. Also, about twenty two percent of current full and part time faculty are female. This past year VMI dropped its fitness requirement of five pull-ups to one pull-up for women. VMI received one hundred and sixty nine female applications this year and admitted fifty females.

Some women at the institution were surprised by the investigation. Senior cadet Elizabeth Dobbins stated that there “was no male model here.” She believed that the school was so open that any mistreatment would be noticed. Professor Mary Ann Dellinger also stated that there was no discrimination in promotion practices. The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education awarded VMI its top honor for recruitment this past June.

For more information, please see:

Inside Higher Ed – Education Department Probes Allegations About VMI – 24 November 2009

MSNBC – Virginia Military Institute Faces Sexism Accusations – 22 November 2009

Roanoke Times – VMI is Subject of Sexism Probe – 8 August 2009