Immigration Judge Bribed Refugee for Sex

Immigration Judge Bribed Refugee for Sex

By William Miller

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

TORONTO, Canada – Steve Ellis an immigration judge in Canada is on trial for offering to approve a refugee claimant’s application if she would have sex with him. Ji Hye Kim, the refugee claimant said Ellis told her he would only approve her application if she would have an intimate relationship with him at a coffee shop where Kim worked.

Ellis was the adjudicator who reviewed Kim’s application when she applied in 2006. She was seeking asylum to escape her abusive father and creditors who had threatened her in South Korea. While Ellis was adjudicating Kim’s case he approached her at the coffee shop where she worked and asked her if he could meet her privately to discuss her case.

Brad Tripp, now Kim’s husband was suspicious when she told him about the judge’s request. At Tripp’s suggestion, Kim agreed to carry a concealed digital recorder to the meeting. Tripp also filmed her encounter with Ellis from a distance. While testifying at Ellis’s trial, Tripp said “I felt that we needed to record this meeting to protect Ji Hye’s rights to a fair hearing.”

At the meeting Ellis told her that he was going to reject her application but would be willing to reconsider if Kim agreed to have a casual intimate relationship with him. He also told her that he was married and did not want any commitment from her.

Speaking through an interpreter Kim said “Mr. Ellis had the power to decide about my application of refugee claim. I had to kind of decide between the status of my refugee claim and the relationship between Mr. Ellis and me.”

Ellis was a Toronto City Councilor before being appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2000.  He is also a non-practicing attorney. He is currently out on bail and has been suspended from his job at the Immigration and Refugee Board

For more information, please see:

Toronto Star – Boyfriend Devised Plan to Film Refugee Judge – 25 February 2010

AFP – Canadian Judge Accused of Seeking Sex From Refugee – 23 February 2010

Canadian Press – Adjudicator Accused of Sex Bribery Seen on Video Meeting With Refugee Claimant – 23 February 2010

Demonstrators Protest Possible Legislation Protecting Berlusconi from Prosecution

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe Desk

ROME, Italy – On Saturday, tens of thousands of Italians gathered to demonstrate against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and his perceived attempts to evade prosecution. Legislation is currently being discussed in the Italian Parliament which would, in effect, prevent Berlusconi from going to trial. Protesters, accusing the Italian Prime Minister of seeking to undermine the legal system, marched through the streets carrying banners reading: “Enough, the law is the same for everyone.”

Demonstrators at a rally against Berlusconi on February 27, 2010. The sign reads: Berlusconi - small man, big corruptor. [Source: AP]

Berlusconi, on trial in two corruption cases, says that he is the victim of political persecution, and has recently compared the judiciary to the Taliban. On Friday, he said to a crowd in Turin: “If the prosecutors don’t like a law then they challenge it and it gets rejected by the courts…we are in the hands of this band of Taliban.”

The Italian National Association of Magistrates responded by condemning Berlusconi’s speech as “an intolerable escalation of insults and aggression.”

Angelo Bonelli, head of the Italian Green Party, said: “We are starved of legality…today, the real Taliban is Berlusconi who wants to tie the hands of the magistrates.”

Berlusconi, a former media tycoon, is currently on trial for allegedly paying British attorney David Mills $600,000 to provide false testimony during the 1990’s, and for alleged tax fraud. Mills was Berlusconi’s former tax attorney. On Thursday the Supreme Court in Rome ruled that even though Mills was found guilty last year of taking the bribe and sentenced to four and a half years in prison, the case should be dropped because it had timed out under the ten year statute of limitations.

On Saturday, a court in Milan adjourned Berlusconi’s trial until March 26. Berlusconi’s attorneys requested that the trial be suspended further until details on the Mills ruling were published. It is customary for Italian courts to delay publishing such judgements until two or three months after the cases are finished. The judges refused to delay further, saying: “the trial cannot be suspended for an undetermined amount of time.”

Italian law places a ten-year limit for prosecution of judiciary corruption crimes. The terms for Berlusconi’s trial are set to expire in early 2011.

For more information, please see:

AP – Berlusconi trial adjourned for a month – 27 February 2010

BBC – Silvio Berlusconi ‘avoiding justice’, demonstrators say – 27 February 2010

Telegraph – Court Insists Silvio Berlusconi’s bribery trial continue next month – 27 February 2010

BBC – Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi attacks ‘Taliban’ judiciary – 26 February 2010

Artists in China Beaten for Development

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A group of artists in one of Beijing’s best-known of art districts, the 798 factory complex, were beaten by an unidentified group who tried to evict them from their studios.
Left, Liu Wei, Liu Yi, Wu Yuren, Zhang Jun and Sun Yuan . The men are among the artists protesting the demolition of their homes and studios in the northern part of Beijing. Image courtesy of The New York Times.

This week, sixteen artists said they were beaten with bricks and batons by thugs trying to evict them from their studios. In response, more than a dozen of them mounted an unusual public protest in the center of Beijing to express their concern and voice their opinion against the demolition of art zones and the attacks.

In the early hours of the morning, it was reported that about 100 men wearing black coats and white masks were armed with wooden and iron bars and entered the Zhengyang art zone. The mob is said to have beaten resident artists with bricks and batons in an attempt to try and evict them from their studios.

Liu Yi, victim to the attack, described how a man grabbed his mobile phone as he rang the police. “When I tried to get it back, he got four or five people with sticks and iron bars to beat me. I fell down and he got other guys to watch over me so I couldn’t get away.”

The cost of Chinese expansion and demolition is the driving out of other sectors of society to make way for capitalistic growth. Though many are affected by development, artists are one segment of Chinese society in particular who have been forced to bear the brunt of development.

798 studio  demolished
The Red T art gallery in Beijing's 798 art district, demolished by the owner to make way for a car park. Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Contemporary artists in China face a difficult challenge in that they struggle to freely identify themselves as artists and have an even greater challenge in finding spaces to work. In 798 factory complex, studios have been replaced by commercial galleries, large institutions, shops and cafes, especially in the last decade. One of the causes of this is that foreign investors have taken an interest in contemporary Chinese art, which as inflated the cost of works abroad, but this has translated into soaring rents for artists in Beijing and elsewhere in China.

Some artists have signed contracts for periods of up to 30 years, and have spent a lot of time and resources on improving the studios. These artists are now threatened in 798 factory complex and other areas, such as Zhengyang and 008 zone, that their studios will be demolished by landlords and developers who are moving in.

One such artist, Wu Yuren, commented, “[People] assumed we would leave like cowards. They didn’t expect us to resist.”

In discussing the recent attacks, another artist said, “For artists it is very hard to believe the next place they rent will be safe. We all believe that as an international city [Beijing’s] development cannot be restricted to the economy. Culture and the arts are vital parts of its identity.”

Initially, officials played a minor role in the resolution of the attacks, as calls to the police reportedly went unanswered. However, in officials announced that the action of the artists is against the law, and that authorities consider the artists as “victims of a brutal assault.”

Artists were told that security facilities will be installed by March 4.

For more information, please see:

Beijing Today Artists Protest Demolition Threats – 25 February 2010

The New York TimesEvicted Artists Protest After Attack in Beijing – 25 February 2010

The Wall Street Journal Artists Protest Demolition Threats -23 February 2010

The GuardianBeijing artists say development is driving them out – 24 February 2010

Religious Clashes in Liberia

By Kylie M Tsudama

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MONROVIA, Liberia – In the midst of violence, the United Nations has sent peacekeepers to the northern Liberia village of Voinjama in Lofa County, where the government has imposed a curfew.

Clashes were sparked by the death of a Christian student in the Konean village near Voinjoma.  Her body was found “with body parts extracted” near a mosque.

“A few days ago a girl named Korpu Kamara went missing and were on a search for her, but yesterday she was found dead with bullet (wounds) on her body,” said Joseph Wulu.

Following the discovery, students in Konean went on a rampage and destroyed a mosque.

“In reaction the Muslims of Voinjama went on a rampage and burned down churches, including the Catholic mission,” Wulu said.

Media reports that two mosques, one church, and other properties have been burned down.  Witnesses have identified the Catholic, Baptist, and Episcopal churches in the area as those that have been burned down.  Additionally, a doctor at Talawayon hospital in Voinjama reported that four people died and another eighteen were being treated for injuries.

The outbreak of violence is said to have been a clash between Muslims and Christians.  This is the third violent outbreak between the two communities this year.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) dispatched police and military personnel to help the Liberia National Police.  UNMIL called on “all the peace committees and local security committees to take the appropriate measures to contain the situation and act according to their designated objectives.”

Since 2003, UNMIL has had peacekeepers stationed in Liberia tasked with restoring peace.  Last year the UN Security Council extended the mandate in order for UNMIL to be authorized to assist Liberia with its 2011 elections.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – Curfew in North Liberia After Religious Clashes – 27 February 2010

AFP – UN Peacekeepers Sent to Probe Religious Clashes in Liberia – 26 February 2010

UN News Centre – UN Blue Helmets Sent to Scene of Violence in North-West Liberia – 26 February 2010

Congress Fails to Pass Unemployment Extension

By Stephen Kopko

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States-The United States Senate failed to pass an extension in unemployment benefits which are set to expire today. This failure has the potential to impact many United States citizens that depend on the benefits while they are trying to find jobs. 

The United States government offers unemployment benefits of money as well as health insurance to those who lose their jobs and meet certain criteria.  A person can receive up to ninety-nine weeks of unemployment benefits during their lifetime.  There are three tiers to the program.  The tier affected by the Senate’s failure was the final tier of unemployment benefits, the extended benefits protection program.  Those who qualify for extended benefits receive cash and health insurance for thirteen to twenty weeks after they have exhausted the other two tiers of insurance.  The failure of the Senate to appropriate funds for the program can impact thousands of people that depend on the program to survive.  According to the Department of Labor, approximately four-hundred thousand people will be affected in the first two weeks of March if funding is not passed.  If funding is not passed until May, three million people would be affected. The unemployment extension program costs approximately ten billion dollars.

The program’s funding was held up by Senator Jim Bunning.  Senator Bunning’s main contention for halting debate on funding for the program and not allowing it to go forward to vote is the cost of the program.  He believed that