United Nations Condemns Iran’s Human Rights Violations

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – On November 20 the United Nations rebuked Iran for numerous human rights violations. The violations allegedly took place in the wake of the disputed presidential election. The UN’s condemnation came int he form of a draft resolution approved by members of the UN committee on human rights. The resolution passed by a vote of seventy four to forty eight with fifty nine countries abstaining.

A resolution condemning Iran for their treatment of their own citizens is not rare for the UN. However, the current resolution expressed particular concern for the increase of human rights violations that followed President Mahomoud Ahmedinejad’s disputed re-election. Those who abstained from the vote were reportedly concerned with singling out specific countries for condemnation.

In a similar vote last year, Iran garnered slightly more support. Among those who removed their support from Iran was Saudi Arabia, who had voted “no” in 2008. This decision appears to be linked to Saudi Arabia’s displeasure with Iranian support for a Shi’ite rebellion in Yemen. The rebellion has reportedly spilled over onto Saudi territory.

The resolution expressed “particular concern at the response of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran following the Presidential election of 12 June 2009 and the concurrent rise in human rights violations.” Among the violations listed by the UN were “harassment, intimidation and persecution, including by arbitrary arrest, detention or disappearance, of opposition members, journalists and other media representatives, bloggers, lawyers, clerics, human rights defenders, academics, (and) students.”

Iran’s disputed election lead to street rallies that broke out after the vote. Protesters claimed that Ahmedinejad’s re-election came as a result of a rigged vote. Four thousand individuals were arrested. Among them were one hundred forty senior reformers and journalists who were later shown on television in mass trials. They were charged with seeking an overthrow of the regime.

Iran’s UN ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, protested against the measure. He alleged that the resolution, introduced by Canada, showed the country’s “ill intentions.” He also criticized bringing such resolutions to the assembly as they have “created an atmosphere of confrontation and polarization.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – UN Blasts Iran’s Human Rights Violations – 21 November 2009

BBC – UN Condemns Iran’s Response to Post-Election Unrest – 21 November 2009

New York Times – In Draft Resolution, United Nations Rebukes Iran For Rights Violations Since Election – 20 November 2009

Reuters – UN Panel Condemns Iran For Post-Election Crackdown – 20 November 2009

Youth Separatists Linked to ETA Arrested in Basque Region

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain – On Thursday Spanish police arrested 36 members of Segi, a youth group with ties to ETA across the Basque and Navarre regions.

These arrests were part of a larger investigation coordinated by Supreme Court Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska and the Spanish government targeting the separatist movement in the region.  The youth suspects, including suspected leaders of Segi have allegedly been involved with militant activities associated with the larger goals of ETA.  According to Spanish officials, Segi followers have also been involved in acts of vandalism and attacks on government buildings, banks and opposing political parties.  Segi was outlawed by the Spanish government in 2007.  In addition to documents and computers, explosive-making materials were also confiscated in the police raids that included 46 houses.

There has been a ceasefire in place between ETA (meaning Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or “Basque Homeland and Liberty”) and the Spanish central government since 2007.  ETA, which was founded in 1959 to achieve independence for the mountainous region along the border between France and Spain, has been listed as a terrorist organization by the Spain, as well as the United States and the European Union.  It has been weakened in recent years, however, by the increased efforts of law enforcement in France and Spain.

According to Christian Aguerre, a former journalist who has covered the ETA movement, stated that despite these efforts, it would be difficult to ever completely eradicate the Basque separatist movement since the nationalist ideals will always draw in new members.  However, waning support for ETA was evident in the recent elections, when a non-nationalist party gained power in the Basque region parliament for the first time in decades.

For more information, please see:

BARCELONA REPORTER – 34 Basque separatists suspected supporters of ETA detained – 24 November 2009

CANADIAN PRESS – Spanish police arrest 34 suspected ETA supporters – 24 November 2009

CNN – Dozens arrested over ‘Basque separatist ties’ – 24 November 2009

EITB – Basque operation against Segi: 36 arrests made – 24 November 2009

IOL – 36 arrested over ETA-link youth group – 24 November 2009

VOICE OF AMERICA – Spanish Police Arrest Suspected ETA Members – 24 November 2009

More than 300 West Papuans Repatriated to Jayapura

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – More than 300 West Papuans living in Papua New Guinea (PNG) were repatriated to Jayapura under a joint program organized by the governments of PNG and Indonesia.

West Papuans have had a long history of hardship, which has forced them to scatter throughout PNG and other Melanesian countries, such as Indonesia. Many of these West Papuans suffered gross human rights violations because of ill treatment by the Indonesian government, and disregard from the PNG government.

However, a bilateral approach between the Indonesian government and PNG to repatriate West Papuans has given hope to the West Papuan refugees.

Earlier this month, three PNG politicians joined an international campaign to support West Papuans allegedly persecuted by Indonesian authorities. The international campaign yielded a charter that calls for the United Nations to “restore the right of the indigenous people of West Papua to self-determination.”

Now, more than 300 West Papuans were repatriated to Jayapura under the bilateral approach of the Indonesian government and PNG.

On the first trip, the Indonesian Air Force lifted a total of 142 men, women, and children out of Wewak’s Boram Airport to Indonesia. Those boarded on the aircraft consisted of refugees from Manus, Bulolo, Goroka, Lae, Madang and Wewak.

On the second trip out of Port Moresby, 170 West Papuans from the Southern Region and Lae were boarded. Many of them were from Kiunga and Daru.

PNG Foreign Affairs officials, who were in Wewak to coordinate the first departure of the West Papuans, said that the West Papuans volunteered to be repatriated. More than 700 were listed for repatriation, but only 312 decided to leave while others decided to remain in PNG.

The joint program is funded by the Indonesian government. This program aims to repatriate West Papuans who were willing to return to their country of origin.

A West Papuan named Roby Merauje said he was willing to go home, but was still uncertain about his future. He stated that the West Papuans volunteered to return to Jayapura because of the better living conditions.

For more information, please see:
Islands Business – Over 300 West Papuans go back home – 24 November 2009

Pacific Islands News Association – Over 300 West Papuans go back home – 24 November 2009

InfoPapua – United Nations must relook West Papuan cause – 21 November 2009

Impunity Watch – PNG Politicians Join International Campaign to Support West Papuans – 16 November 2009

Rebel Leaders Accused of War Crimes and Human Rights Violations Begin Trial Tuesday

By Jennifer M. Haralambides
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The trial against two former Congolese rebel leaders accused of authroizing the attack on civilians, the rape of women, and the enlistment of child soldiers in “the greatest armed conflict” since Word War II is set to begin tomorrow.

Germain Katanga, 31, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, 39, are to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) tomorrow.  They are accused of an attack on the village of Borgoro in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) northeastern region.

Katanga is a senior commander from the group known as the Force de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI).  Ngudjolo is a former commander of the rebel National Integrationalist Front (FNI).

The men are faced with ten counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Katanga and Ngudjolo are both of Lendu ethnicity, and the the Bogoro residents were mostly Hema.  Chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampy described that “[t]he women of the Hema community were raped before they were killed.  They pillaged the entire village.  They kept some women as sex slaves.”

“This specific attack was part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population in Ituri,” continued Moreno-Ocampy.  This attack is said to have killed over 200 people in February 2003.

Defense council reports that both of the accused men have denied the charges against them.  The men have been described as relieved and happy the trial will begin on Tuesday.  Both men have also wished to express their sympathies to the victims.

“The victims have the right to know the truth and the defense has the right to a fair trial, so we are all seeking the same thing.  We are all seeking the truth,” says Katanga’s lawyer, Andreas O’Shea.

Jean-Pierre Kilenda, defense council for Ngudjolo said, “At no time did he [Ngudjolo] concoct a criminal scheme to raze Bogoro village.  He disputes the fact that he was ever the supreme commander of the FNI.”

The defense council also contends that the war in these regions had its roots in the Rwanda conflict.  He believes the international community failed to prevent a genocide there and allowed armed groups to take control, supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Victims of these horrible events can participate in the trial by expressing their views and concerns, provided it is done in a manner consistent with the rights of the accused and a fair trial.  Ten child soldiers will be among these 345 people authorized to take part in the trial.

This is the second trial to be held at the ICC with regard to the situation in the DRC.  The first was that of Thomas Lubanga Dyllo, a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers, whose trial began in January 2009.

The DRC’s information minister, Lambert Mende, says that the countries official radio and TV stations will provide live coverage of tomorrow’s trial.

“[w]e are also prepared to dispatch it by our national radio and national television.  So that every Congolese in Kinshasa and all the eleven provinces and Ituri where the atrocities have been committed can follow it and see that we are very committed to punish everybody who violates human rights in our country,” said  Mende

For more information, please see:

AFP – ICC Trial of Congolese Militiamen to Reveal “The Truth” – 23 November 2009

ReliefWeb – DR Congo: Press Conference on the Opening Tomorrow of the Second Trial Before The International Criminal Court – 23 November 2009

Reuters – PREVIEW-Congolese Warlords to Stand Trial at World Court – 23 November 2009

VOA – DRC Government to Broadcast Live ICC Trial – 23 November 2009

UN News Centre – International Criminal Court Trial of Two Former Congolese Leaders Opens Tomorrow – 23 November 2009

Rockets Exchanged Between Gaza and Israel Depite Hamas Truce

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza – Israel reported that Palestinians fired rockets into Southern Israel on November 21. The Israeli military responded with air strikes in the early morning of November 22.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, had announced soon after the initial Palestinian attack that it had reached a truce with all Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Since the rocket launch, several militant factions in Gaza have denied responsibility for the attack. An Israeli military spokesperson said that the homemade Qassam rocket landed in Southern Israel’s Negev Desert, and caused no damage or casualties.  The Israeli raids left eight Palestinians injured, one seriously.

The attack damaged the credibility of Hamas’s announcement of a truce among militant groups on November 21. A Hamas spokesperson said that the truce was an effort to reduce retaliatory attacks by Israel and to give Gazans opportunities to continue to rebuild their homes. Much of the Gaza Strip remains in rubble after last winter’s military offensive by Israel, known as Operation Cast Lead. As well as damage to the Gazan infrastructure, approximately 1,400 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis were killed during the three-week offensive during December 2008 and January 2009.

Israel’s air raids were the most comprehensive single-night military action by Israel since last winter’s offensive. An Israeli spokesperson said the raids were aimed at two rocket-building facilities in Gaza. Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, 270 rockets were launched from Gaza into Southern Israel, compared with over 3,300 launched in 2008.

Despite Hamas’s announcement of a truce, many locals fear the exchange of hostilities is a signal of escalating tensions between Gaza and Israel. Hamas political advisor Ahmed Yusuf said that his party has “no interest” in military engagement with Israel, preferring to focus instead on reconstruction. Yusuf added the caveat that Hamas would respond to any attacks by Israel.

“If the Israelis target us, people will react,” said Yusuf. “It’s a normal thing. And [Hamas] can’t stop anyone from fighting back against Israeli attacks.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Gaza Groups Deny Rocket Ceasefire – 23 November 2009

Ha’aretz – Gaza Rocket Hits Israel, Despite Hamas Moratorium on Qassams – 23 November 2009

Ma’an News Agency – Israel: Gaza Projectile Falls – 23 November 2009

Christian Science Monitor – Israel Air Strikes in Gaza: Will Hamas Rocket Truce Hold? – 22 November 2009

New York Times – Israeli Aircraft Strike Gaza Targets – 22 November 2009

Canadians Protest War in Afghanistan, NATO

23 November 2009

Canadians Protest War in Afghanistan, NATO

By William Miller

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

HALIFAX, Canada – 200 protestors gathered in Cornwallis Park on Saturday to urge Canada to pull its troops out of Afghanistan and to withdrawal from NATO.  Among the protestors included the Halifax Peace Coalition, students, union members, human rights activists, Muslims, and Quakers.

The park is across the street from the Westin Hotel. The international Security Forum was being held there last weekend. Military leaders intended to discuss the possibility of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

Police were present to insure that none of the protestors attempted to enter the hotel. Only to protestors did and were escorted away without incident. The majority of interaction between protestors and police was friendly conversation.

Malali Joya , the youngest person elected to the New Afghan Parliament in 2005 spoke at the protest. She told protestors Afghanistan is not yet liberated and is controlled by corrupt officials. She said that Canada and other countries should pull their troops out of Afghanistan and allow the afghan people to run their own country.

“They pushed us of the frying pan and into the fire” she said

Joya further commented that western media was spreading propaganda about the war and that Canadian bombs had killed civilians. She said that civilians are caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and occupation forces.

Toney Seed editor of Shunpiking Magazine also spoke at the protest. He said that the talks of peace at the conference where part of “a well orchestrated disinformation campaign” to disguise a military Champaign under the guise of a human rights mission.

133 Canadian troops had died since Canada first became involved in the conflict. Support for Canada’s involvement in the war has dropped in the county to below 50 per cent. A recent poll found that 45 percent of Canadians supported Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. That number has dropped from 59 per cent in 2006. Prime Minister Steven Harper has said Canada will end its involvement in Afghanistan by 2011.

For more information, please see:

Chronicle Herald – Bring Soldiers Home, Anti-war Activists Urge – 22 November 2009

Globe and Mail – Time Running Out in Afghanistan: Hillier – 21 November 2009

Halifax Media Co-op – Canada Out of Afghanistan – 21 November 2009

Theme for World AIDS Day ‘Strikes at the Heart’ for Pacific Islanders

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

NOUMEA, New Caledonia – Scheduled for December 1st, the theme for World AIDS Day 2009 has been announced: “Universal Access and Human Rights.” This theme “strikes at the heart” of what perhaps is the single largest challenge faced by people living in the Pacific Island countries.

Under the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care. These rights have been recognized has fundamental human rights.

These leaders emphasize that the protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV. By promoting individual human rights, leaders hope to prevent the spread of HIV.

Michel Sidib, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), stated: “Achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support is a human rights imperative. It is essential that the global response to the AIDS epidemic is grounded in human rights and that discrimination and punitive laws against those most affected by HIV are removed.”

Many countries still have laws and policies that impede access to HIV services and criminalize those most vulnerable to HIV. Many of these laws discriminate people who are infected with HIV and prevent them from moving freely and from working.

An example of such a country is New Caledonia, home to a Fiji native named Pita.

Pita faces the most difficult challenge that many other Pacific Islanders face today. Pita is a 30-year-old male who tested positive for HIV three years ago.

When explaining the hardships that he faces, Pita stated: “Life hasn’t been rosy. Even in the hospital, I experienced how people living with HIV are constantly discriminated against and stigmatized. To this day, such discrimination stops me from revealing my positive status to anyone.”

When the theme for the World AIDS Day theme was announced, Pita expressed how the theme “focuses on issues close to [his] heart.”

“To me being HIV positive doesn’t mean others should point the finger. As humans we still have equal rights to live. The World AIDS Day campaign is a call to those in power throughout the Pacific to work together to revise laws, activities and cultural practices that discriminate against people living with HIV and those living on the edge.”

Other leaders that support the campaign include Dr. Jimmy Rodgers, who is the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

“The everyday increase in discrimination against our fellow human beings just because they seem different is the not the Pacific way. Whether a colleague or someone we encounter is a member of a sexual minority, a sex worker or a person living with HIV should make no difference. Every person has equal rights and should be embraced with the same level of respect.”

Currently, only a few Pacific Islands have laws that specifically protect the rights of people living with HIV. These countries include Papua New Guinea, French Territories, and Pohnpei State. Fiji is in the process of drafting a regulation specific to HIV, while other countries, such as Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, are considering amending their Public Health Acts or developing other comprehensive legislation.

Most countries still have laws that discriminate against men who have sex with men and against sex workers.

For more information, please see:
Islands Business – Universal Access ad Human RIghts is the international theme for World AIDS Day 2009 – 20 November 2009

Pacific Islands News Association – Universal Access and Human Rights is the international theme for World AIDS Day 2009 – 20 November 2009

Trading Markets – Universal Access and Human Rights is the international theme for World AIDS Day 2009 – 20 November 2009

Zibb – Universal Access and Human Rights is the international theme for World AIDS Day 2009 – 20 November 2009

Avert – World AIDS Day 2009: Universal Access and Human Rights – 06 November 2009

Caleidoscop – 2009 World AIDS Day Theme Launched – Universal access and human rights – 03 November 2009

Saudi Forces Clash With Yemeni Rebels

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – According to Huthi rebels, Saudi Arabian forces have carried out an incursion into Yemeni territory using tanks, artillery and aircraft. The statement from the Yemen-based group said that the attacks on Monday were taking place in the border districts of Malahiz and Shada provinces.

Hashem Ahelbarra, Al-Jazeera’s correpondent in northern Yemen, said Saudi Arabia’s incursion could be a rescue operation. Witnesses from the northern border town of Razah told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the Saudis began the offensive on Monday, but a Yemeni official denied that a Saudi assault was taking place. “These are allegations and lies that the rebels often repeat to expand the scope of the conflict, and also to give themselves more importance than they really have,” he told AFP.

The Saudi military is trying to enforce a buffer zone around the border, but has denied crossing into Yemen. The Saudi media has reported that three soldiers had been killed in the raids, and said the military claimed to have stopped a rebel plan to seize the Yemeni port town of Midi. Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz Saudi, Saudi Arabia;s interior minister, said on Monday that “other countries should not interfere” in Yemen’s affairs. “We condemn any interference in Yemen, and any action is to be be taken by Yemenis themselves,” said the minister.

The Huthis pushed through the border and took over a mountainous region of Saudi Arabia on November 3rd. The incursion was wiped out by Saudi airstrikes days after it happened. The Saudi and Yemeni governments have been bombarding them in an attempt to drive them back from the border.

For more information, please see:

Agence France-Presse – Yemen Rebels Accuse Saudi of Launching Major Attack – November 23 2009

Al-Jazeera – Saudi Forces ‘Fighting in Yemen’ – November 23 2009

BBC – ‘Saudi Casualties’ in Border Fight with Rebels – November 23 2009

Chinese Activist Sentenced for State Secret Laws

 

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –  After helping families whose children died during the earthquake in Sichuan in May last year, Huang Qi, a veteran dissident, was sentenced to three years in prison. He was arrested after raising awareness about poorly built schools which collapsed and killed thousands of children during China‘s massive earthquake last year. Huang was taken by the police in Chengdu in June 2008 and has been held in custody ever since. 

The verdict was delivered at the close of a 10-minute hearing at Wuhou District People’s Court in the city of Chengdu. Very few details about the charge were released, although activist’s wife and mother were allowed to enter the court to hear the sentence, and were present when Huang was given the maximum jail term for this crime. 

There is great concern that Huang was imprisoned for illegally holding state secrets in what some believe is an attempt by the Chinese government to squelch such information. Amnesty International said Huang was a victim of China’s “vague” state secrets laws, and that he should be released immediately. “The Chinese government is penalizing someone who is trying to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

Huang-Qi_649379a Photograph of Huang Qi. Image Courtesy of Times Online.  

The government linked its charge against Huang in connection to the human rights Web site he founded. He was detained in 2008 after he made several posts on his blog that criticized the government’s response to the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province a month earlier and killed about 90,000 people.  

According to one news source, Huang had also spoken to foreign media outlets about parents’ accusations that their children had been crushed in badly built schools. The government has attempted to quash such complaints, fearing the contentious issue could undermine the admiration and goodwill it earned for the massive rescue effort it led, boosted by volunteers and international aid.

Zeng, Huang’s wife, said the Wuhou district court in the western city of Chengdu gave no details about the state secrets charge, an ill-defined accusation often used by Communist leaders to clamp down on dissent and imprison activists. As a result of the charge, authorities were able to bar Huang from seeing his lawyer, and forbid the photocopying of court documents, according to Amnesty International. 

This current bout with authorities is not the only time that Huang has been imprisoned for voicing his opinion. He previously served a five-year sentence for “inciting the subversion of state power” in connection with material published on his website.  

Huang is not the only activity to investigate the Sichuan schools issue and is also not the only one to be prosecuted for his actions – or words.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – China activist Huang Qi sentenced to three years  – November 23, 2009 

Yahoo! World News – China activist who spoke out on quake gets 3 years – November 23, 2009 

ABC News – China Activist Who Spoke out on Quake Gets 3 Years  – November 23, 2009 

The Guardian – China jails earthquake activist – November 23, 2009

UN Condemns Latest Rebel Attacks in CAR

By Kylie M Tsudama
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda – The UN has urged the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and Sudan to protect civilians, especially women and children, by sharing information with the UN.  There has been an upsurge of attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group, in these countries.

“The (15) members of the Security Council strongly condemned the continued and recently increasing attacks carried out by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic and Sudan,” said a statement by the Security Council.

According to Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, who holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, the LRA’s attacks “have resulted in the death, abduction and displacement of thousands of civilians.”  He also encouraged the regional governments’ full cooperation with the United Nations in order to protect civilians.

The LRA guerilla group first appeared in northern Uganda in 1988 and has since expanded into these three other countries.  LRA Chief Joseph Kony is wanted by the The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).  The rebels are known for mutilating and murdering civilians and kidnapping children for fighting and sexual slavery.

The UN Security Council has called on MONUC (UN Mission in the DRC), UNMIS (in the Sudan), MINURCAT (in Chad and the CAR), UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur), and BONUCA (United Nations Peace-Building Office in the CAR) to coordinate strategies for civilian protection.

On Tuesday the Ugandan army killed Lt. Col. Okello Ogutti, a commander of the LRA.

“Okutti used to be the overall commander for LRA operations in Pader district, and he was a senior commander among the groups currently in CAR,” said Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, the Defense and Army spokesman for Uganda.  Although they killed Ogutti, he added, “Our unique ideology is that while the targeting of LRA commanders continues, the door for Joseph Kony to sign a peace agreement is still open.”

Currently, Ugandan special forces are seeking out LRA rebels within the DRC, the CAR, and Sudan.

The Security Council has demanded “that the LRA immediately cease all attacks on civilians, and urged them to surrender, assembly [sic] and disarm, as required by the Final Peace Agreement.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Ugandan Troops Kill Top Rebel in Centr.Africa – 20 November 2009

AllAfrica – America Moves to Make Life Harder for Kony Rebels – 19 November 2009

AFP – UN Condemns Rebel LRA Attacks in Africa – 18 November 2009

Taiwan News – UN Condemns Upsurge in Ugandan Rebel Attacks – 18 November 2009

Australia Must End Discriminatory Practices Against Aborigines

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia – In a visit to the Australian region of Utopia last week, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan urged Australia to rescind its laws, putting an end to discrimination against Aboriginal people.

Khan estimates that approximately 45,000 Aboriginal people have been affected by certain measures, in particular, those that allow land confiscation and interference with income payments.

After a report revealed large amounts of abuse and violence in these communities, the government enacted discriminatory practices as part of the 2007 Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

Critics of NTER, including Amnesty International, believe that it imposes harsh measures on all Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory.  One such practice is “compulsory income management”, which stipulates that individuals shall receive half of their welfare payments in the form of the Basics card, a “virtual payment” which can only be spent in particular shops on certain goods.

Amnesty claims that Australia has breached its international obligations on human and indigenous rights by imposing these measures, which have left the Aborigines feeling stigmatized and lacking the flexibility to manage their own lives.

“Disempowered, robbed of their dignity, threatened with the loss of their identity and attacked on their own ancestral lands”, Khan is shocked by these human rights violations.

In her statement, Khan said “[i]ndigenous people . . . deserve the same respect, safety and protection as does any Australian . . . but this will not be achieved in a sustained manner under the Emergency Response which is stigmatizing and disempowering an already marginalized people and which is in violation of Australia’s international obligations.”

Khan found the existence of human rights violations within one of the world’s most developed nations to be “inexcusable” and “morally outrageous.”

Individuals living in these communities are subject to chronic violence, housing problems, and health issues.  Alcohol and substance abuse are also rampant.

Australia’s Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, indicated that Australia would put forth legislation to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory.

The government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and Northern Territory anti-discrimination legislation, which allowed it to enact NTER and intervene into the affairs of Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.  In doing so, the government contributed to worsening poverty levels in Aboriginal communities.

The Secretary General of Amnesty has called on Australians to put an end to this disparity.

For more information please see:
New Tang Dynasty Television – Amnesty Cracks Down on Australia – 21 November 2009

Associated Press – Amnesty boss urges equality for poor Aborigines – 18 November 2009

Amnesty International – Australia: Government must overturn law which discriminates against aboriginal people – 18 November 2009

ABC News – Shocking Conditions in Utopia: Amnesty – 16 November 2009

Canadian Official Claims Canada Indifferent to Torture of Transferred Detainees

22 November 2009

Canadian Official Claims Canada Indifferent to Torture of Transferred Detainees

By William Miller,

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

Canadian-diplomat-Richard-001
Richard Colvin Testified that Canada was ignoring the torture of detainies transfered to Afganistan custody before a Parlimentary Comittee on Wednesday (PHOTO: Guardian)

OTTAWA, Canada – Richard Colvin, former second in command at Canada’s Embassy in Kabul Afghanistan, testified before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday November 18 that Canada transferred numerous Afghan detainees to afghan authorities despite knowing that they would likely be subjected to torture. Colvin further testified that many of the detainees where not involved in the insurgency.
Colvin implicated Canadian government departments including the Department of Foreign Affairs and international trade the department of defense and the Privy Council headed by the Prime Minister. All had received reports regarding the torture of transferred detainees over an 18 month period from 2006 to 2007 but failed to act on them. It was internationally known that Prisoners transferred to Afghan authorities were being tortured. Both NATO and the United Nations have previously raised concerns of abuse by officials in Afghanistan.

Colvin Testified that lax reporting systems brought Canada very close to being complicit in the torture. Both Britain and the Netherlands transferred detainees to Afghanistan authority but did so in lesser numbers and kept better records and actively monitored prisoners to safe guard them against torture. Canada allegedly went to great lengths not to address the problem and went so far as refusing to take phone calls from The Red Cross for months when they attempted to warn officials of the torture.

Unlike Britain and the Netherlands, Canada filed no reports on prisoner transfers.  Officials claim that this was done for security reasons but Colvin alleges that it was to guard against the press and the public becoming informed of detainee torture. In 2007 government officials issued reports to their department not to write or record any statements about detainee torture and to sensor those in existence after the Globe and Mail reported on the torture of transferred prisoners.

Harper claims that he sent reports to Canadian Government officials himself over a 17 month period when Canadian Officials where denying that detainees were tortured.

Torture methods used on the prisoners included electric shock, beatings, and exposure to open flames, sleep deprivation and several other methods. Prisoners where often tortured for months at a time. If Calvin’s assertions are verified, Canada could face investigation for war crimes by the International Court.

Officials Colvin named in his testimony include Margrete Bloodworth, former National Security Advisor for Prime Minister Steven Harper, David Sproule, former Ambassador to Afghanistan, and half a dozen other high ranking officials.

For more information, please see:

CBC – A Who’s Who of Officials Named in Richard Colvin,s Testimony – 20 November 2009

Guardian – Canadian Diplomat Alleges Troops in Afghanistan Were Complicit in Torture – 20 November 2009

Ottawa Citizen – Grave Allegations – 20 November 2009

Japan Urged to Help Improve North Korea’s Human Rights

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW YORK, United States – Several nongovernmental organizations have submitted a letter to the prime minister of Japan asking the new Japanese government to take leadership in help improving human rights in North Korea.

2009_Japan_HatoyamaPrime Minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama.  Courtesy of Reuters.

These organizations have also urged Japan to focus on North Korean refugees and the fate of Japanese who migrated to North Korea between 1959 and 1984.

Although Japan has previously raised awareness regarding North Korea’s human rights abuses, for example, the plight of Japanese abductees, the letter to the prime minister encouraged Japan to “play a stronger and more proactive role in promoting and protecting the human rights situations in North Korea.”

To do so, the organizations provided suggestions, such as raising human rights issues with North Korea in the future, pressuring China to protect North Korean refugees, accepting North Korea refugees who have no ties to Japan, and continuing to accept former migrants who return to Japan from North Korea.

Tokyo director of Human Rights Watch Kanae Doi said, “Abuses against North Korea take place right on Japan’s doorstep, but Japan has been largely silent on human rights issues except for abductions of Japanese citizens.” 

Doi added “The new Japanese government should lead the way in raising wider human rights issues with North Korea.”

Between 1950s and 1980s, more than 93,000 Japanese migrated to North Korea as a result of a campaign by pro-North Korean groups which labeled North Korea as “heaven on earth.” 

However, according to North Korean defectors, the North Korean government sent some of those migrants to labor camps where they died of starvation, lack of medical care and physical abuse.  Some migrants who escaped North Korea have resettled in Japan, but the Japanese government does not have a clear policy on their resettlement.

Just last month, Japan, along with the European Union, submitted a resolution to the UN General Assembly in efforts to bring more awareness to the human rights conditions in North Korea.

“Improving human rights conditions in a country such as North Korea is a daunting task, but Japan should not waste this opportunity to help North Koreans both in and outside the country,” said Doi.

The letter to the prime minster also included topics such as offering food aid to North Korea and including human rights in bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Japan: Press North Korea on Human Rights – 19 November 2009

Human Rights Watch – Joint letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on North Korea – 19 November 2009

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan – Japan-North Korea Relations – May 2004

North Korea Dismisses UN Resolution on Human Rights

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – Earlier this week, the UN adopted a resolution condemning North Korea for its “systematic, widespread, and grave violations” of human rights in a 96 to 19 vote and urged Pyongyang to “respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

This resolution, adopted on Thursday, was co-sponsored by 53 nations and was approved by a special committee of the UN General Assembly.  As a result of this resolution, the UN will be conducting a comprehensive review called Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights conditions in North Korea next month.  All UN member states are subject to UPR.

Some of the human rights abuses mentioned in the resolution include cruel and degrading punishment such as public executions and extrajudicial detentions, which are all prevalent in North Korea.

NK hr conditionsDemonstrators protesting North Korean refugee repatriation.  Courtesy of AFP.

The resolution also expressed concern for fundamental freedoms of children, especially in terms of lack of access to basic economic, social and cultural rights, and the rights of North Korean refugees who seek asylum.

South Korea was a co-sponsor and voted for this resolution.  Its Foreign Ministry released a statement saying they voted in favor because human rights are “universal values that must be handled separately from other matters.”

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the UN resolution for being groundless.  A spokesman for the North’s Central News Agency said the resolution is “nothing but ‘a stereotype political plot’ that forges hostility against the North every year.” 

He added, “As we always did (in the past), we squarely reject the ‘resolution’ that the U.S. and its followers manipulated to harm our ideology and system under the pretext of protecting human rights.”

The UN also pointed out how North Korea continuously refuses to cooperate with UN special agents who monitor human rights in North Korea.

Although this resolution is not binding, it does lay the foundation for UN members to take action against North Korea for its human rights violations.
For more information, please see:

The Korea Times – UN Condemns Human Rights Abuses in North Korea – 20 November 2009

JoongAng Daily – Seoul backs UN vote condemning North – 21 November 2009

Yonhap News – U.N. urges N. Korea to respect all human rights – 20 November 2009

Soy Growers Spray Paraguayan Indigenous with Pesticide

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

DEPARTMENT OF ALTO PARANÁ, Paraguay-217 indigenous Guarani were sprayed with pesticide last week after refusing to vacate their ancestral land. The government confirmed that there were no crops present where the pesticide spraying took place.

A formal eviction of the indigenous people was set for the same day, but a district prosecutor canceled the mandate right before execution. The local government’s refusal to evict the Guarani apparently led the soy growers to take matters into their own hands.

Over fifty men claiming ownership of the land arrived on November 6th and tried to remove the Guarani by force. The people resisted, using their bows and arrows. Later that day, an airplane sprayed pesticide directly above their homes. The pesticide is thought to be the same as that which is regularly used on soy crops. Over 200 people reported sickness and fainting. At least seven people were taken to the hospital. One person remains in critical condition.

Amnesty International has condemned the “use of apparently toxic pesticides to intimidate an indigenous community after they resisted being forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands.” Amnesty International noted the “worrying precedent” set by the Human Rights Commission of the Paraguayan State, who rejected a draft bill returning ancestral lands to another indigenous group, leaving ninety families homeless.

Amnesty International finds that even the most isolated indigenous groups are at risk due to deforestation. Satellite imagery shows that deforestation in the north of Paraguay occurs uninterrupted despite government regulation.

Paraguayan indigenous groups complain that they are not sufficiently protected against private commercial interests. An expert from the University of Maryland stated that the “economics and politics of Paraguay make sustained improvement unlikely.” Paraguayan researchers for Amnesty International say that “indigenous peoples’ lives are being put in jeopardy by those who should protect them,” calling the acts against the Guarani, “predictable.”

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Paraguay to return ancestral lands to two indigenous communities. It is not clear whether that order has been carried out. Amnesty International has urged Paraguay to recognize international human rights standards, which recognize the right to traditional lands as crucial to indigenous peoples because they are a vital element of their sense of identity, livelihood, and way of life.

For more information, please see:

Global Voices-Paraguay:Indigenous Group Sprayed Aerially with Pesticides-12 November 2009

CNN-More than 200 Paraguayan Villagers Thought Sprayed with Pesticide-11 November 2009

Amnesty International-Paraguay Indigenous Community Threatened by Illegal Eviction and Pesticide Attack-10 November 2009