Jewish Cemetery Vandalized in Strasbourg On Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jewish Cemetery Vandalized in Strasbourg On Holocaust Remembrance Day

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – A Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism on Wednesday.

Jewish cemetery3
Photo: One of the desecrated tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Strausbourg. [Source: Ynet]
According to The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), an umbrella group of Jewish organizations throughout France, there was extensive damage done to a number of the tombs in the Cronenbourg cemetery.  In addition to swastikas being drawn on 18 gravestones, the German words “juden ruas”, or “Jews out”, were written on one of the tombs.  Another 13 tombs were overturned.

After learning of the desecration, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that he “firmly condemns this unbearable act, the expression of odious racism.”  A member of the Israeli Knesset, Shlomo Molla, who was in Strasbourg attending events marking Remembrance Day, commented on the tomb’s vandalism.  “It was a horrible sight, which probably stemmed from the rising anti-Semitism [in] Europe.”

The fact that the vandalism occurred on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is believed by some to be more than a coincidence.  Laurent Schmoll, a leader in Strasbourg’s Jewish community, noted that the vandalism occurred “at the moment we celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, and I think there has to be a link.”

This is not the first time that Strasbourg’s Jewish cemeteries has been targeted by anti-Semitic messages.  Similar acts in previous years have occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Strasbourg, a city home to approximately 17,000 Jews.

For more information, please see:

AP – Jewish cemetery desecrated in eastern France – 27 January 2010

JTA – French Jewish cemetery vandalized – 27 January 2010

YNET – Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg desecrated – 27 January 2010

Papuan Human Rights Activist Dies at Age 61

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

MANOKWARI, West Papua – Papuan human rights activist, Viktor Kaisiepo, passed away in his home town of Amersfoort, in the Netherlands, at the age of 61.

Kaisiepo was a spokesperson for the West Papua People’s Front, which is a federation of Papuan organizations in the Netherlands.

Kaisiepo was born in Dutch New Guinea. His family left for the Netherlands when Dutch New Guinea was handed over to Indonesia in 1962.

Kaisiepo’s father was a well-known activist for Papuan independence. Viktor Kaisiepo followed his father’s footsteps, and also became one of the most well regarded activists for Papuan independence.

Kaisiepo frequently lobbied the United Nations to promote the rights of his people as well as the rights of other indigenous peoples.

He devoted his life to the right to self-determination of the Indonesian province of Papua.

Kaisiepo became a familiar face to the indigenous activists throughout the world, representing the indigenous peoples of Papua at various international conferences.

He was the Executive Director of the Foundation Papua Lobby, and a member of Presidium Dewan Papua and represented the organization in Europe, the United States, and at the United Nations. Since 2003, he served as a consultant to the Word Bank Grants Facility for Indigenous Peoples.

He also co-founded and held positions in various NGOs, including: the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO), an international organizations with 110 millions members whose aim is to achieve recognition and improvement for peoples through peaceful means; the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in the Tropical Forests; the secretariat of Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP); and served as a Human Rights Defender in 1985 for the United Nations.
Kaisiepo will be remembered as one of the most influential human rights activists.

For more information, please see:

Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Papuan activist Kaisiepo dies – 31 January 2010

Radio New Zealand International – Papuan activist Kaisiepo dies aged 61 – 31 January 2010

Solomon Star – Papuan activist Kaisiepo dies aged 61 – 31 January 2010

Cultural Survival – “We’ve Gained a Lot”: Viktor Kaisiepo Discusses the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People

First People’s Worldwide – Board Bios

China Responding With Rules to Combat Forced Eviction

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Chinese authorities are reacting and trying to calm angered people threatened to be evicted from their homes. For decades now, China has engaged in heavy urban development, causing millions of citizens to relocate. Many are left homeless, sometimes with inadequate or no compensation as crews move in to decimate certain areas. In turn, some regions have implemented rules that are designed to curb abuses by developers and demolition crews which have been the cause of poverty, unrest and deaths.

The draft rules were issued by the state council, China’s cabinet, on January 29. The regulations aim to ban developers and demolition crews from forcing people out through violence or by shutting off their access to essentials such as water or electricity. They would also demand that compensation be set at market price and that where homes are judged “old and dangerous,” 90% of residents would have to agree to the specified project or development. The rules also require that demolitions would be halted if occupants brought lawsuits. These rules are far more interactive and cognizant to the needs of citizens, who at present, have no say thereby allowing developers to go ahead even when challenged.

Despite the named and codified grievances, critics warn of potential loopholes in the rules, and express concern hat enforcement will be difficult because it is at least as important as the changes on paper. Before these rules even entered draft form, academics declared practices by developers as a breach of the constitution. Professors from Peking University said that such unfair practices took place in both cities and the countryside, and that land could be seized in some circumstances.

One professors, Shen Kui, said,: “I’m basically satisfied; this is progress and there are some big changes.” He went on to state that he believed the rules, still in draft form, would take effect within months, and that “the regulations will decrease the new cases where you get violence, but of course it also depends on a change in attitude from local governments … Courts [also] need to be more independent when dealing with these cases.”

What is clear, is that after several highly publicized incidents of individuals setting themselves on fire, China is striving to respond to displacement and forced eviction by developers.

For more information please see:

BBC NewsChina outlines plans to outlaw forced evictions – January 30, 2010

TelegraphChina moves to calm unrest over property seizures – January 29, 2010

Financial TimesChina shakes up rules on land seizures – January 29, 2010

American Defects to North Korea to Join the Military

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – An American crossed into North Korea from China on Monday and is being detained by North Korea for illegally entering the communist country.

The unidentified American is apparently seeking asylum in North Korea and wants to join the North Korean military.

An anonymous source from North Korea said the 28-year old American said he came to North Korea because he “did not want to become a cannon fodder in the capitalist military” and instead “wants to serve in the North Korean military.”

North Korea’s Central News Agency broke the news of this case on Monday.  The news agency reported that the American was arrested for trespassing and that he is currently under investigation.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service unable to confirm the report, and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul had no comment regarding this case.

This is the second case in the past month of Americans being detained by North Korea.  In late December, the North detained an American missionary, Robert Park, for illegally crossing the North Korea-China border.

The U.S. State Department has requested the Swedish government to act an intermediary as the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents U.S. interests in North Korea, because the North and the U.S. have no formal diplomatic relationship.

The State Department spokesman said that the report is being investigated; however, at the present time, there is no information regarding the man’s name or occupation.

The detention of Americans comes at a time when North Korea ignored warnings from both Washington and Seoul and fired live artillery into the sea by the disputed border area between the North and South Korea.

Experts have said that North Korea may use detainees as bargaining chip with the U.S. in negotiations concerning North’s nuclear programs.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – North Korea holding second U.S. citizen, U.S. says – 29 January 2010

Telegraph –American ‘defected’ say North Koreans – 30 January 2010

The Washington Post – Report: Detained American seeks asylum in NKorea – 30 January 2010

2.4 Million Colombians Displaced

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia-A new report by a non-governmental organization released on Wednesday found that in the last twenty-five years, 2.4 million people were displaced under the presidency of Alvaro Uribe. The report was prepared by the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement (Codhes).

According to the report, 2009 saw a twenty four percent drop in displacement relative to 2008. In 2008 there was a record high of 380,863 people forcibly displaced. The head of Codhes stated that “clearly there is progress in some sectors of society, but not for the entire population, which calls into question the entire police of “Democratic Security.”

The report found that people are most affected in the regions of Chaco, Nariño Antioquia, Cordoba, Cauca, Arauca, Valle del cauca, Risadalda, Bolívar, Cesar, Meta, and Guajira. Narña, reportedly has experienced the worst displacement, with fifty-six percent of the total amount of displacement events.

Nariño is located on the border with Ecuador and is home to the majority of Colombian indigenous communities. It has been the sight of constant conflict between the Colombian military and the FARC rebels.

The “Democratic Security” policy went into effect in 2003, and has operated with the objective of widening the territory under the direct control of the central government and denying access of land to illegal armed groups; protecting population centers with the presence of security forces; and fighting the flow of drugs.

The head of Codhes told media that “at the core of the reasons for this forced displacement is the violent appropriation of land, and threats to leave that are issued by paramilitaries and the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia.” He also pointed out that, although the number of Colombians leaving the country has declined, “Colombia is still the country with the highest number of refugees in the world after Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan.”

The “democratic security” policy has been criticized as ignoring the social costs of its implementation and for the fact that Colombian civilians are exposed to danger and human rights abuses.

For more information, please see:

IPS-COLOMBIA:Who Cares About the Victims of Forced Displacement?-29 January 2010

Morning Star-Violence Forces Out 286,000 Colombians-28 January 2010

Colombia Reports-2.4 Million Colombians Displaced Under Uribe Presidency-27 January 2010