Human Rights Watch Hopes for Justice in Sri Lanka

By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Human Rights Watch recently released a statement pleading for holding accountable many of the perpetrators of human rights violations in Sri Lanka.  The prominent and influential organization pressed that the thousands of Sri Lankan nationals who have been denied human rights and legal recourse should finally attain their just deserts.  The group further asserts that President Rajapaksa’s first term saw myriad violations of international humanitarian laws, and is pushing for more transparent policies and the proper imposition of accountability during Rajapaksa’s new term.The Sri Lankan government has been ravaged by guerilla warfare against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam for over a quarter-century.  The United Nations itself has described Sri Lanka’s war, in which the government ultimately prevailed in the spring of 2009, as a “bloodbath”.  The war caused over 7,000 civilian casualties and has been the cause of many more human rights violations.

Discrimination against some Tamil nationals has forced many to flee to Australia to seek asylum.  However, many of those who tried to flee to Australia and Christmas Island were intercepted by Indonesian Border Control.  The Australian government employed the assistance of Indonesia to mitigate the influx of Tamil refugees into Christmas Island, which has become a haven for refugees of war-torn nations, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The Sri Lankan government’s establishment of refugee camps for Internally Displaced Persons subsequent to its victory over the Tamil Tigers faced its own plethora of human rights violations claims.  The derisory condition of the camps, along with the lack of adequate food, clothing, and shelter supplies drew the attention of many human rights groups and provoked pressure from the international community.  The Sri Lankan government only recently allowed Sri Lankan nationals housed in refugee camps to return to their own homes.  The Sri Lankan government claimed that prolonged holding was necessary to identify and remove Tamil Tigers among the civilian population.

The Sri Lankan government’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN and human rights groups further perpetuated suspicions and criticisms concerning Sri Lanka’s treatment of enemy combatants as well as its own citizens.  Human Rights Watch hopes that accountability will be able to prevent new violations and offer justice to victims of Sri Lanka’s past impunity.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Sri Lanka Refugees on Hunger Strike – 06 October 2009

BBC News – Sri Lanka Tamil refugee camps ‘to be opened next month’ – 21 November 2009

Human Rights Watch – Sri Lanka: President’s New Term Time for Accountability – 26 January 2010

Four More Sentenced to Death for Xinjiang Riots

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A court in China sentenced four more people to death in connection to their part in last year’s ethnic riots in the western Xinjiang region. A fifth person was also given the death penalty, but  was granted a two-year reprieve. and he is expected to see his sentence reduced to life in prison. In addition to sentencing five individuals to death, eight others were given various jail sentences.

The group appeared before the Urumqi Intermediate Court. The sentences for the defendants are said to be carried out immediately. They were charged with “extremely serious crimes,” reported state-run Xinjiang Daily newspaper. The thirteen defendants were charged with the “violent crimes of attacking, smashing, looting and burning”, a Chinese term that refers to violent rioting.

The verdicts bring the number of people who have been sentenced to death for involvement in the riots to about two dozen, including nine who have already been executed.

The verdicts were handed down on Monday, January 25, by a court in the regional capital Urumqi – the site of the violence in July 2009 where Muslim Uighurs and China’s Han ethnic majority fought in turmoil. The occurence left nearly 200 dead and over 1,600 injured.

On July 5 violence began as Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority ethnic group, protested the deaths of Uighur factory workers in an earlier brawl in southern China. The protest became a riot as gatherers clashed with police in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi. The crowd scattered and fled throughout the city, attacking majority Han Chinese and burning cars. Nearly 200 people, mostly Hans, were killed, according to the government. Two days later, Uighurs were targeted in revenge attacks, promulgating the incident.

All of the thirteen sentenced this week are believed to be Uighurs, according to local sources.

For More Information, please see:

CNN – Four sentenced to death over Urumqi riots – January 26, 2010

New York TimesChina: Four Sentenced to Die for Xinjiang Rioting – January 28, 2010

Al JazeeraFour sentenced to die in Xinjiang – January 27, 2010

Yemeni Fighters Leave Saudi Arabia

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NAA, Yemen – Fighting between Saudi forces and Houthi fighters on the border with Yemen has ended, Saudi officials have said. Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, said on Wednesday that his forces had achieved a “clear victory over the enemy” on the Yemen-Saudi border.

“They did not withdraw. They have been forced out,” said Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defense and aviation for military affairs. Prince Khaled’s statement was the first response from a Senior official after Yemeni rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi announced Monday the voluntary withdrawal of his fighters.

Saudi ground forces and warplanes have pounded Houthi militants since the rebels killed a Saudi border guard and infiltrated a string of villages in early November. The fighting which led to fear of wider regional chaos, drew the kingdom into a sporadic 5-year old conflict between insurgents and Yemeni government

The leader of the Houthi rebel group said that his fighters were withdrawing from Saudi Arabia after three months of fighting along the border. Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi offered a ceasefire in a message posted on the Internet on Monday January 24, saying he wanted to prevent further civilian casualties.

Houthi forces entered Saudi Arabia in November after making accusation that the government in Riyadh was aiding the Yemeni in their campaign against the rebels. Fighting between members of the minority Shi’ite Zaydi sect and the state has occurred sporadically since 2004. The rebels accuse the Yemeni government of social, economic and religious marginalization.

Western powers and Yemen’s neighbors fear the growing chaos in the impoverished Arab country could allow al-Qaeda to strengthen its operations there, spreading instability across the region and beyond

For more information, please see:

Arab News – ‘Infiltrators Chased Out of Country’ – 28 January 2010

Al-Jazeera – Saudi-Houthi Border Fighting Ends – 27 Wednesday 2010

Los Angeles Times – Saudis Say Fighting with Yemen Insurgents Ceased – 28 January 2010

BBC News – Saudi Troops ‘Forced Yemen Rebels from Their Soil’ – 27 January 2010

Reuters – Saudi Says Achieved Victory Over Yemen Rebels – 28 January 2010

Thousands Continue to Seek Salvation in DRC as Insecurity Persists

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Military operations and banditry have forced more than 15,000 people to flee their homes over the past two months in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s troubled North Kivu province.

Since December, the UN refugee agency has registered 15,508 newly displaced people at dozens of UNHRC -run sites for internally displaced people (IDP), where they seek shelter and safety.

According to the fleeing families, the situation is difficult and unsafe in their villages in the western part of North Kivu. They say military operations and violence conducted by numerous armed groups are forcing civilians to seek safety elsewhere.

The United Nations Human Rights Counsel (UNHCR) registered the new caseload of internally displaced people in and around Kitchanga, in a large area to the north-west of Goma, the capital of the province. This latest wave of displacement brings the total number of IDPs in the UNHCR-run sites to 116,000. UNHCR is currently managing 47 IDP camps in the region, providing protection and assistance.

“We estimate that so far we have registered only a part of the recently displaced population and that many more could be sheltering with host families or hiding in the woods fearing to return to their homes. These IDPs cannot be accessed due to insecurity and impassable roads,” a UNHCR spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Fierce fighting has persisted in eastern DRC, particularly in North and South Kivu, where Hutu militants blamed for the Rwandan genocide of 1994 have fled. Last year the Congolese Government launched several offensives targeting the group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), with logistical support from the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUC).

The FDLR and the national army, the FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo), are blamed for human-rights abuses in North and South Kivu, including attacking civilians, looting property, burning homes, widespread rape and sexual violence.

At least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in eastern DRC since 1996, according to the UN. Across the country, an estimated 2.1 million people have been displaced by conflict, including about 538,880 in South Kivu Province and 1,130,000 in North Kivu.

For more information, please see:

IRIN – DRC: IDPs Hiding in North Kivu Forests – 27 January 2010

UN News – UN Agency Assisting Thousands Uprooted by Insecurity in Eastern Region – 26 January 2010

Reuters – Violence Displaces 15,000 Congolese Civilians Over Past Two Months – 26 Jan 2010

Back to Back Days of Bombings Rock Baghdad

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On January 25 a series of bombings unleashed minutes apart destroyed landmark Baghdad hotels that cater to foreigners. The triple bombing killed thirty six people and wounded over seventy. Iraqi officials noted that similar attacks took place in August, October and December. The following day a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad. The bombing caused the collapse of a building that belonged to the criminal investigation department of the interior ministry. Eighteen people were killed with another eighty injured.

The January 25 bombings targeted hotels that served foreign journalists and expatriate businessmen. The hotels were to seen house observers of the March 7 parliamentary elections. Iraqi officials suggest that the attack was aimed at affecting international opinion regarding the country’s security. Hazim al-Nuami, a Baghdad-based political analyst, said, “the messages is that Iraq can’t provide security for foreigners.”

The first bomb struck the Ishtar Sheraton at 3:28pm. Three minutes later the second bomb hit the Babylon Hotel. The final bombing took place at 3:37pm and hit the Hamra Hotel. The bombs cut through traffic during rush hour and took off the facade of one hotel. The blasts shook the Iraqi capital and shattered windows miles away from he hotel. Gunfire echoed through the streets as security forces tried to cordon off the bombing scene.

The January 26 bombing claimed the lives of five policemen and thirteen civilians. The attacker was able to evade the tight security that surrounds the central neighborhood of Karrada. Checkpoints are located at all entrances into the neighborhood. Additionally, police conduct regular security searches. Major General Qassim Atta, a spokesman for the Iraqi military in Baghdad, confirmed that the attacker targeted the forensics institute. Atta also said that, “at 10:45am a suicide bomber races his vehicle towards his vehicle towards the institute. The building collapsed soon after the explosion.”

Security officials believe that the bombing was directly related to the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid, more commonly known as Chemical Ali. Majid was executed the day before the bombing of the forensics institute that played a major role in his prosecution. During his trial, Iraqi courts heard testimony that military assaults ordered by Majid were responsible for the deaths of close to one hundred eighty thousand people.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Car Bomb Rocks Iraqi Capital – 26 January 2010

BBC News – Iraq Crime Lab Car Bomber Kills Many in Baghdad – 26 January 2010

Guardian – Suicide Car Bomber Strikes Baghdad Police Forensics Office – 26 January 2010

New York Times – Baghdad Blasts Shatter Sense of Security in Capital – 25 January 2010

Charles Taylor Trial Resumes

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk

THE HAGUE, Netherlands-Last week saw updates in the trial of Charles Taylor for war crimes against humanity.  Last week Taylor denied having any knowledge of rebel Commander, Sam Bockarie’s, public calls to kill sierra Leoneans.  Taylor has long claimed that when he became president of Liberia in 1997, the Economic Community of West African States made him the “point-person” for peace in Sierra Leone.  Lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis, used his self-proclaimed status as the “point person” to prove he was aware of Sam Bockarie’s threats to kill Sierra Leoneans.

Taylor however still denied having any knowledge of these public statements by Bockarie. Prosecutors have argued throughout the trial that although Taylor was never present in Sierra Leone when RUF rebels committed crimes in the country, he was still aware of their actions and gave them his support to commit such crimes.

Taylor also denied allegations that during his time as Liberian President the Liberian judiciary was not independent.  Prosecutors have put together testimony by former lawyers in Liberia who have claimed that there was a “strong influence of the government on the judiciary.”  Taylor dismissed these allegations as “totally incorrect.” He further said, “the judiciary was rotten, I agree with the contents, but I met it this way, and I am trying to fix it.” This is a conference where Liberians are trying to solve historical problems.”  During his direct examination, Taylor said he brought good governance to Liberia and that he respected the fundamental human rights of his citizens.

Prosecutors are now trying to establish that he was not a good president for Liberia. They allege that as “leader of Liberia’s rebel group the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Taylor was involved in the commission of atrocities against the people of Liberia and that when he became president, his system of governance did not reflect a democratic society.” Taylor has dismissed these accounts as untrue.

For more information, please see:

Charles Taylor Trial – Charles taylor Did Not Have Knowledge of Rebel Commander’s Public Calls To Kill Sierra Leoneans – 19 January 2010

Charles Taylor Trial –Charles Taylor Denies Allegations The Liberian Judiciary Was Not Independent Under his Presidency-19 January 2010

Charles Taylor Trial – Charles Taylor Denies Sending Fighters – 20 January 2009

Back to Back Days of Bombings Rock Baghdad

By Bobby Rajabi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On January 25 a series of bombings unleashed minutes apart destroyed landmark Baghdad hotels that cater to foreigners. The triple bombing killed thirty six people and wounded over seventy. Iraqi officials noted that similar attacks took place in August, October and December. The following day a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad. The bombing caused the collapse of a building that belonged to the criminal investigation department of the interior ministry. Eighteen people were killed with another eighty injured.

The January 25 bombings targeted hotels that served foreign journalists and expatriate businessmen. The hotels were to seen house observers of the March 7 parliamentary elections. Iraqi officials suggest that the attack was aimed at affecting international opinion regarding the country’s security. Hazim al-Nuami, a Baghdad-based political analyst, said, “the messages is that Iraq can’t provide security for foreigners.”

The first bomb struck the Ishtar Sheraton at 3:28pm. Three minutes later the second bomb hit the Babylon Hotel. The final bombing took place at 3:37pm and hit the Hamra Hotel. The bombs cut through traffic during rush hour and took off the facade of one hotel. The blasts shook the Iraqi capital and shattered windows miles away from he hotel. Gunfire echoed through the streets as security forces tried to cordon off the bombing scene.

The January 26 bombing claimed the lives of five policemen and thirteen civilians. The attacker was able to evade the tight security that surrounds the central neighborhood of Karrada. Checkpoints are located at all entrances into the neighborhood. Additionally, police conduct regular security searches. Major General Qassim Atta, a spokesman for the Iraqi military in Baghdad, confirmed that the attacker targeted the forensics institute. Atta also said that, “at 10:45am a suicide bomber races his vehicle towards his vehicle towards the institute. The building collapsed soon after the explosion.”

Security officials believe that the bombing was directly related to the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid, more commonly known as Chemical Ali. Majid was executed the day before the bombing of the forensics institute that played a major role in his prosecution. During his trial, Iraqi courts heard testimony that military assaults ordered by Majid were responsible for the deaths of close to one hundred eighty thousand people.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Car Bomb Rocks Iraqi Capital – 26 January 2010

BBC News – Iraq Crime Lab Car Bomber Kills Many in Baghdad – 26 January 2010

Guardian – Suicide Car Bomber Strikes Baghdad Police Forensics Office – 26 January 2010

New York Times – Baghdad Blasts Shatter Sense of Security in Capital – 25 January 2010

Suicide Car Bomb Hits Afghan Capital

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan- A suicide bomber blew himself up near a U.S. military base in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, were six civilians were wounded, according to an Afghan security official.

Despite significant increases in foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan last year reached its worst levels since the war began in 2001.  The latest attack occurred a week ago after brazen assaults in Kabul killed five people.  The bomb struck on a road leading from the city center near the main entrance to Camp Phoenix, a base used by U.S. forces.

Abdulghaffar Sayedzadah, a spokesman for Kabul’s criminal investigation unit, said six Afghan civilians and eight American soldiers were wounded.  Mr. Sayedzadah said most of the civilians had been working nearby, but could not confirm if the base was the intended target of the attacker.  U.S. and NATO forces said they investigated the explosion outside of the main gates, and initial reports indicated the cause of the explosion was a car bomb.  NATO’s international security assistance force (ISAF) said “Initial reports indicate the cause of the explosion was a vehicle-borne IED,” referring to an improvised explosive device in a car.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a man claiming to be a Taliban spokesman, said in a text message the attacker was a member of the Islamist group.  He said the target had been a convoy of foreign troops.

The attack comes on the same day Afghan officials said an attack in Kabul on January 18 was carried out by fighters smuggled from Pakistan.  Officials released video footage of a man arrested in connection with the attacks who stated that the Haqqani network, a group of Afghan fighters based in Pakistan, were behind the attacks on civilian and government buildings near the presidential palace.

These attacks, said to be the most co-ordinated offensive on the capital since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, took place while President Hamid Karzai was swearing in some of his cabinet members.

At least five were killed and about 38 wounded in the protracted gun battles that followed.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera.net- Suicide Attack Hits Afghan Capital– 26 January 2010

Reuters- Suicide Car Bomb Near US Base In Kabul Wounds 6– 26 January 2010

Forbes.Com- Blast Near US Military Base In Afghan Capital– 26 January 2010

Palestinian Election Date Passes, Rights Group Alleges Violation of Human Rights

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Failure to hold Palestinian parliamentary elections by the date set in an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation document is a violation of Palestinians’ right to democratic elections, according to the Al-Marsad Center for Human Rights. The human rights organization, based out of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, issued a statement on January 25, saying that the mandate for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) had expired, and called upon Hamas to sign the reconciliation agreement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to set a date for elections in June, the date called for by the reconciliation document.

 

As the expiration date for PLC members’ terms passed, the two major Palestinian parties argued about what the PLC’s next move should be. Hamas declared that their members’ mandate only ends when new parliamentarians have been sworn in, and are therefore allowed to remain in office until new elections are held. Fatah argued that the PLC’s mandate was legally over.

 

The PLC is the main legislative branch of the Palestinian territorial government, and is based in the West Bank. Hamas took control of the PLC in a landslide election in January 2006, replacing Fatah as the dominant party in the PLC. Since the Hamas take-over, however, the PLC has been largely unable to function, as Israel arrested most of the Hamas representatives after Hamas militants led a cross-border raid into Israel and captured an Israeli citizen. Both Hamas and Fatah representatives have been arrested by opposing parties, as long-standing animosity between the factions have grown stronger in the past few years.

 

Al-Marsad said in its statement that the current PLC should be regarded as a “caretaker council with limited powers,” and that “[n]ot holding elections on their legal and constitutional day is a serious violation of the right of the Palestinian citizens to practice their right to political participation through voting.”

 

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Central Council met in Ramallah in December 2009 and asked the Palestinian president and legislature to continue in office until elections are held. Hamas has not recognized the Central Council’s decision.

 

For more information, please see:

 

Ha’aretz – Fatah and Hamas No Nearer to Unity as Palestinian Parliament’s Term Ends – 25 January 2010

 

Ma’an News Agency – Rights Org: Failure to Hold Elections Violates Palestinian Rights – 25 January 2010

 

Palestinian News Network – Human Rights Organization: Position Paper on Elections – 25 January 2010

 

Ynet News – Palestinian Parliament’s Term Expires – 24 January 2010

Group Faces 10-15 Years in Prison for Dancing

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANDUNG, Indonesia – Less than one year ago, Indonesia enacted an “anti-pornography” law, which bans public displays of flesh. Over the New Year’s holiday, four woman as well as a manager and an event organizer at a bar in a trendy Indonesian city could be the first to be charged under this new statute.

The arrest on New Year’s Eve at a party held at Belair Coyote Bar and Restaurant in Bandung, Indonesia for “sexy dancing” raises concerns and worries that the law may be the prelude to the imposition of wider restrictions. The law was introduced with the strong backing of the country’s small but influential Islamist political parties. Opponents of the statute said the parties’ real intention was to use the law to spread orthodox Islam in Indonesia by controlling artistic and cultural expression. The law, critics warned, also threatens the country’s rich pre-Islamic cultures, which have long coexisted with Indonesia’s traditionally moderate brand of Islam.

Despite the existence of the 441-page anti-pornography law, there is debate about whether to charge the women with a criminal law or the more severe anti-pornography law. Punishment under the anti-pornography law can be as severe as having to serve up to 10 years in prison for the dancers. Further, under the anti-pornography law, the manager and organizer could face as much as 15 years in prison.

Commenting on the incident, a police spokesperson said the dancers had been wearing skimpy clothing. Under the new law, all bodily movements deemed obscene or a threat to public morality give rise to an action to be prosecuted under the anti pornography statute.

The law has prompted protests across Indonesia amid fears it could threaten local traditions such as Bali temple dances or penis sheaths traditionally worn by the aboriginal Papua tribes.

It is unclear whether the women and bar personnel will be convicted, but authorities are pushing to prosecute.

For More Information, please see:

The Star – Indonesia group condemns case against “sexy” dancersJanuary 6, 2010

Jakarta GlobeBandung Sexy Dancers Busted for ‘Stirring Desires’ – January 5, 2010 

The New York Times – Arrests for a Revealing Dance Pit Flesh Against Faith – January 24, 2010

EU Court Finds UK Provision of Anti-Terrorism Statute In Violation of Human Rights Convention

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights ruled last week that a provision of a United Kingdom anti-terrorism law violated an article of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Court ruled that sections 44-47 of the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act 2000, which gave police the authority to ‘stop and search’ any person without ‘reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing,’ violated a section of the Convention that ensures privacy for the individual and the family.  Under those sections, the police have been able to require an individual to remove certain articles of clothing and all objects from their pockets, as long that the officer believed that person may have objects that could potentially be used in a terrorist act.  Failure to adhere to such a request requested possibly in a fine or possible imprisonment.  In striking down this authority, the Court noted that rather than providing an objective test for which the police could use to determine when the search authority, the power could be applied based on the “‘professional intuition’ of the police officer.”

The case decided by the ECHR was brought In 2003 by British citizens Kevin Gillian and Pennie Quinton, who were stopped and searched by London police while traveling to an arms demonstration protest.  Both Gillian and Quinton sought judicial review in the UK legal system, appealing their claim to the nation’s high court, the Law Lords, but their claims was eventually dismissed.  Following the Court’s decision, Quinton indicated that he was pleased with the court’s ruling.  “There has to be a balance between private life and security.”  He also noted that “the Court has shown that section 44 is an invasion of people’s right to liberty and privacy.  Hopefully the government will have to put a fairer law in place to protect us.”

Until the court ruling earlier this month, the use of the authority by police in the United Kingdom had become more common.  While approximately 33,177 people were stopped in 2004, the police had used the authority 117,200 times in 2008.  Prior to the ruling, the Metropolitan Police had already indicated that the use of the authority would be reduced as a result of its growing controversial nature.

The Court noted that “the absence of any obligation on the part of the officer to show a reasonable suspicion made it almost impossible to prove that the power had been improperly exercised.”  Additionally, there lacked any safeguards against abuse of the authority.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has indicated that the government was disappointed with the Human Rights Court’s ruling.  “We are considering the judgment and will seek to appeal.”

For more information, please see:

IRISH TIMES – Strasbourg court rules against UK ‘stop and search’ powers – 25 January 2010

CNN – Britain to fight ruling on police searches – 13 January 2010

BBC – Stop-and-search powers ruled illegal by European court – 12 January 2010

THE GUARDIAN – Stop and search powers illegal, European court rules – 12 January 2010

Taiwan Attempts to Combat Discrimination

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Despite Taiwan’s status as one of the world’s freest countries, the 2010 report by Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights watchdog, downgraded Taiwan’s score on civil liberties.

For example, Tu Sheng-hsiung, an owner of a hot pot restaurant in Taiwan, hung up a sign prohibiting Korean customers from eating at his restaurant.  This move was sparked by Tu’s anger and disapproval of a Korean athlete’s behavior at the recent East Asian Games held in Hong Kong where a Taiwanese taekwondo player was knocked unconscious due to South Korean player’s illegal action.

Although Tu argues that his move has gained wide support, Taiwanese lawmakers have been pushing for an anti-discrimination legislation which, if ratified, would make Tu’s act punishable.

Taiwan’s legislators are attempting to combat discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, mental or physical disabilities, and gender or sexual orientation.

Under this anti-discrimination bill drafted by the Chinese Nationalist Party, employers will be required to provide equal salary package for all employees and business owners will not be allowed to discriminate against customers.

The draft rules also forbid use of discriminatory words, such as “pigs” or “Taiwan dogs,” between Taiwanese and those from mainland China.

Although the bill’s intent is laudable, many have voiced concerns, especially because civic groups have been excluded in terms of enforcing the law if the bill is implemented.

Taiwan’s Labor Rights Association Director Wang Chuan-ping opined that enforcing this bill would be difficult.  She reasoned, “It would be hard to define what ‘discrimination’ is at work because employers can always come up with an excuse to avoid being charged after firing or refusing to hire someone based on ethnicity or sex.”

Wu Jia-zhen, director of a Taiwanese NGO, commented that several anti-discrimination clauses already exist in other laws, such as Taiwan’s Immigration Act and the Act for Gender Equality in Employment.

She pointed out that having the specific anti-discrimination clause in these laws have had little effect in combating inequality.  Wu blamed the attitudes of public servants for the ineffectiveness of anti-discriminatory laws adding that such laws can only be effective if people’s attitudes change.

Nevertheless, the drafters of the bill claim that the “new law will enhance…broader protection of equal rights.”

For more information, please see:

The China Post – Lawmakers push for law to combat discrimination – 4 January 2010

Taipei Times – Groups question discrimination bill – 23 January 2010

Taiwan News – Freedom House downgrades Taiwan’s civil liberties rating – 13 January 2010

Brazil Extradites “Operation Condor” Suspect

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil-Brazil extradited a former Uruguayan army officer on Saturday to Argentina for the 1976 disappearance of an Argentine citizen. The extradition of Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini, ordered on Tuesday, was delayed until Saturday because the officer’s lawyers argued that he needed to remain hospitalized due to poor health.

Cordero is thought to be involved in the disappearance of Argentine and Uruguayan citizens as a part of Operation Condor. Operation Condor was a collaboration between military dictatorships that ruled many countries in South America in the 1970s and 1980s. South American military regimes secretly cooperated in the torture and disappearances of each others’ citizens with CIA assistance.

Cordero was arrested in February of 2007 in Brazil near the border with Uruguay, where authorities believe he had been living since 2004. Since February, Cordero has been living under house arrest at that location, where he has a home. Cordero tried to avoid extradition by arguing that he was protected under a law in Brazil granting amnesty to Brazilian soldiers acting under that country’s military government.

Argentina, however has no amnesty law. Cordero is specifically suspected of being responsible for the disappearance of Adalberto Soba in Argentina. Uruguay unsuccessfully sought extradition, but because the crimes were committed in Argentina, Brazil only agreed to extradite Cordero to Argentina.

The head of a Brazilian organization called Justice and Human Rights said Cordero was believed to be third in command of a unit charged with “disappearances, torture, and murders.”

For more information, please see:

AFP-Operation Condor Suspect Extradited to Argentina-24 January 2010

BBC News-Brazil Returns Operation Condor Suspect to Argentina-24 January 2010

Washington Post-Brazil Extradites Uruguay Officer in Condor Case-23 January 2010

Position Open at the Public International Law & Policy Group for Chief of Party, Uganda

The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which operates as a global pro bono law firm providing free legal assistance to states and governments involved in conflicts. To facilitate the utilization of this legal assistance, PILPG also provides policy formulation advice and training on matters related to conflict resolution. To date, PILPG has advised over two dozen states and governments on the legal aspects of peace negotiations and post-conflict constitution drafting, and over two dozen states and War Crimes Tribunals in Europe, Asia and Africa concerning the protection of human rights, self-determination, and the prosecution of war crimes.

PILPG’s Uganda project is designed to build the capacity the Government of Uganda to draft legislation that supports the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms and creates a sustainable domestic War Crimes Division that meets international fair trial standards.  As part of this effort, PILPG is training the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys for the War Crimes Division, providing assistance to the Ugandan government officials on the creation of an International Criminal Court (ICC) Liaison Office to effectively manage communication with the ICC, preparations for the ICC Review Conference in Kampala, and the design of a national strategy for dissemination of information regarding the creation of transitional justice mechanisms.  PILPG’s legal assistance is intended to support the implementation of the Juba Peace Accords, in particular the establishment of a special division within the Ugandan High Court to try top Lord’s Resistance Army commanders for war crimes, thus meeting the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) regime of complementarity.

PILPG is working with Ugandan government officials, members of the judiciary, and legislators, as well as civil society to draft legal memoranda on key issues, engage in consultations and roundtables with officials, and facilitate capacity building and technical assistance workshops to support the development and implementation of key aspects of the Juba agreements on Accountability and Reconciliation.

Role of the Chief of Party

PILPG is seeking a professional with seven to ten years experience in the field of international law, with particular expertise in international criminal law, transitional justice, and rule of law, to serve as the Chief of Party for its Uganda project.  The Chief of Party is based in Kampala, Uganda and works under the supervision of the Project Director of the Uganda project.

Program Responsibilities

  • Build and maintain relationships with PILPG clients, including Uganda government officials, parliamentarians, judges, and civil society leaders.
  • Maintain relationships and respond to requests made by USAID Mission personnel.
  • Assist in the facilitation of workshops and trainings on war crimes prosecution and justice and reconciliation mechanisms.
  • Direct, manage, and undertake international criminal law and transitional justice research.
  • Oversee the drafting of legal memoranda for PILPG’s Ugandan clients.
  • Supervise the work of pro bono law firms and research associates providing legal assistance on the Uganda project.
  • Coordinate closely with PILPG’s Washington, DC office on the overall strategy and development of the project.
  • Develop and maintain strong partnerships with civil society, NGOs, and INGOs and other development organizations operating in the region.
  • Provide regular briefings to PILPG’s Washington, DC office on political developments and implementation of the program.

Administration

  • Draft materials on the Uganda project for PILPG’s website and annual reports at the request of senior staff.
  • Coordinate closely with the Project Director on the preparation of legal memoranda and other documents required to implement activities.
  • Assist in maintaining PILPG’s financial books related to the Uganda project in accordance with PILPG’s financial policies and procedures manual.
  • Develop quarterly project reports that detail project activities and measure and evaluate project results.
  • Maintain regular communication with the Project Director, as well as the research team, including conducting weekly Skype calls and drafting bi-weekly updates on project activities.
  • Coordinate closely with other PILPG field offices located in Nepal, Kenya, Somaliland, Tanzania, South Sudan on overlapping technical issues.

Educational and Professional Qualifications

  • A law degree.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of public international law, including international humanitarian law, international criminal law, and international human rights law.
  • A minimum of seven to ten years work experience in international law, including experience with international criminal law, post-conflict rule of law, and/or transitional justice.
  • Knowledge of East Africa and the Uganda conflict in particular is highly desirable.
  • Prior overseas field work is preferable.

Communication and Organizational Skills

  • Excellent political judgment and the proven ability to develop and carry out program strategy.
  • Strong analytic and organizational skills.
  • Fluent in English with proven legal writing and editing skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills and able to work closely with multiple team members located across the globe.
  • Ability to manage effectively multiple activities in a fast-paced environment.
  • Responsive, a self-starter, and able to solve problems independently.

How to Apply:

Send resumes, cover letter, and writing sample to brutherford@pilpg.org by Friday, January 29, 2010.  Include in the subject line: Application: Uganda Chief of Party

The Public International Law & Policy Group is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is prepared by the International Justice Practice of the Public International Law & Policy Group and the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Revealing Sri Lanka’s War Crimes

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KOTTE, Sri Lanka- Sri Lanka officials have been unable to dismiss a shocking mobile phone video from last January showing Sri Lankan soldiers executing naked and bound captives.  The government has claimed the video is fake, without providing any evidence that the scene was staged or the footage tampered with.

Phillip Alston, the top United Nations envoy responsible for investigating extralegal executions worldwide has added his voice to those who believe the tape is real.  After commissioning experts in forensic pathology, video analysis, and firearms to review the tape, Mr. Alston said ” You cannot fake the precise sort of reaction which the human body makes when shot at close range by such a weapon.”

Sri Lanka’s public relations team denounced the “bias” of the UN expert, suggesting that he was on a “personal crusade” to force a war crimes investigation over the allegations.  The Sri Lankan authorities possess a list of “biased” organizations that includes anyone who reported critically on the final months of the fighting against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in which over 7,000 civilians died.  Some of these biased organizations include Human Rights Watch, other international human rights and humanitarian groups, the European Union, the BBC and many other media outlets.  The situation for Sri Lankan human rights journalists has been grave, where many have fled the country fearing for their lives.

However the Sri Lankan spin is beginning to fray.  General Sareth Fonseka, who was in charge of last year’s offensive said that the orders to execute surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders in the final days of the war had come directly from the defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaska, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaska.  He later claimed to have misspoken.

The execution captured in the video was an all-too-common occurrence during the 26-year civil war.  Government forces and the Tamil Tigers have been responsible for summary executions and targeted killings for which no one has been punished.

The government’s record of investigating allegations of war crimes by either government forces or the Tamil Tigers has been minimal.  Human Rights Watch and others have reported incidents of indiscriminate shelling of civilians, and the blocking of humanitarian assistance to the trapped population in the war zone. One reason the government locked nearly 300,000 civilians from fleeing the fighting in closed camps was to keep their stories from coming out.

Although the Sri Lankan government still believe that denial is the best policy, their loss in credibility is rising. The European Union is considering ending textile trade benefits to Sri Lanka over its human rights record, while the International Monetary Fund took the step of delaying an emergency loan for months.

For more information, please see:

Guardian.co.uk-  Uncovering Sri Lanka’s War Crimes– 21 January 2010

BBC News- Sri Lanka Rejects UN Execution Video Claims– 8 January 2010

The Times of India- Lanka Execution Video Authentic, Says UN– 8 January 2010