Response to Violence in Hyderabad

By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HYDERABAD, India – The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has been facing extensive violence and disorder in its streets, as continual rioting has plagued its streets since Saturday.  The riots allegedly began as a result of an agitated skirmish over decorations for the celebration of the Hindu deity Hanuman’s birthday.  Hindus and Muslims both committed violent acts towards one another as the Hyderabad streets dissolved into chaos.   Communal tensions between the two religious groups are not new to the state of Andhra Pradesh, which has an approximately 60:40 Hindu-to-Muslim population ratio.

It seems that greater friction between Hindus and Muslims has manifested since the Indian government began discussing splitting the Andhra Pradesh state.  However, the riots that began on Saturday represented an instance in which the streets of Hyderabad were consumed in violent action.  There have been myriad reports of people setting buildings aflame, damaging vehicles on the street and turning the Andhra Pradesh streets essentially to a war zone.  Also, about five mosques and one Hindu temple were damaged in the streets

Approximately one-hundred people have been arrested in connection to the rioting thus far.  While there has only been one reported death, a man who was stabbed to death in the riots, scores more have been injured to varying degrees.  The continual activity and disturbance on the Hyderabad streets would have made it difficult to deliver assistance to those who have sustained injuries.

The police have allegedly been looking into possible catalysts for the extensive violence.  However, cooperation from Indian nationals has been difficult to attain.  In order to crack down on the raging communities in the Muslim-majority Old Hyderabad, where the riots spiraled out of control, the police stations in various parts of the city have been subject to a curfew.  Fluctuations in the terms of the curfew have occurred over the week, including relaxations to allow women and older women to wander.

Both Hindu and Muslim groups claim that the government has done a poor job in quelling the riots, declaring that there was actually a Congressional interest in allowing the riots to continue.  These allegations, however, have yet to be confirmed or substantiated.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Curfew follows Hyderabad riots – 30 March 2010

HinduJagruti – Jihadi Riots in Hyderabad… – 31 March 2010

SifyNews – Shoot-at-sight orders issued in Hyderabad… – 30 March 2010

Hateful Speech and Actions Directed at Minority Congressmen

By Stephen Kopko

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States-The recently passed health care reform bill has been a cause of contention and disagreement for a great period of time.  This tension rose to new heights in the days leading up to the vote.  Opponents protesting the bill used violent and abusive language while they engaged in civil protests on Capitol Hill.  This language was directed at minority members of Congress.

While they were walking into the House of Representatives for a procedural vote on the health care reform bill, African American Congressmen were heckled and called racial slurs by some protestors.  Congressman John Lewis and Congressman Andre Carson were called racial epithets as the proceeded to the House Chamber for the vote.  Congressman Lewis is a prominent civil rights leader who demonstrated against the segregationist policies of the 1960’s with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Congressman Lewis previously had his skull fractured during the civil rights struggle during the crossing of the Pettus Bridge in Alabama in 1965.  After being called the racial slurs, Congressman Lewis stated, “I haven’t heard anything like this in 40, 45 years.”

Another African American Congressman faced hateful speech and actions as he proceeded to the health care vote.  Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver was spat on by a protestor as he walked to the Capitol.  The protestor was arrested by Capitol Police but Congressman Cleaver did not press charges. In a statement issued by his office, the Congressman stated that the protests were “not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans.”  Nevertheless, the Congressman stated that he was disappointed in the behavior of certain protestors.

Some protestors also directed their attacks at Congressman Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.  As Congressman Frank walked between the House office buildings he was called anti-gay slurs.  Congressman Frank is one of the few openly homosexual members of Congress.

Democratic and Republican leaders condemned the abusive language and actions of the protestors.  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the actions of those protestors “despicable” and stated; “America always has room for open and spirited debate, and the hateful actions of some should not cast doubt on the good motives of the majority, on both sides of this arguments.”  House Minority Leader John Boehner called the language and actions “reprehensible.”

For more information, please see:

MSNBC-Health bill opponents heckle top Dems-22 March 2010

FOX News-Tea Party Leader, GOP Condemn Racial Slurs Hurled at Black Lawmakers-21 March 2010

NY Times-Spitting and Slurs Directed at Lawmakers-20 March 2010

Somali’s Protest the Destruction of Sacred Tombs

By Jared Kleinman

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Hundreds of Somalis took to the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, protesting against Al-Shabaab militants this Monday.

The protests began a few days after Al-Shabaab fighters, led by their commanders, began a destruction of the graves of revered religious leaders from the Sufi branch of Islam in the capital. This was only the nation’s second public demonstration against Al-Shabaab.
 
The protesters were mostly women and children, along with traditional warriors wearing white clothes, armed with spears and wooden shields.  The protesters chanted anti-Al-Shabaab slogans including ‘death to the monster’ and waving the Somali flag in the mainly government-held areas of Mogadishu. Some of the demonstrators carried posters with slogan such as “Down and defeat to Al-Shabaab,” observers said. They also carried slogans to support the transitional government such as “Support Peace and Government.”

The demonstration was staged in a government-controlled area of the city and was guarded by government forces, according to Yusuf Mohamed, who works for Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu.

“People were really disturbed by the move of Al-Shabaab to destroy the tombs of the revered sheikhs of Ahlu Sunna” said Mohyadin Hassan Afrah, who leads a civil society umbrella group in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab follows the strict Saudi Arabian-inspired Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, rather than the Sufi Islam of many Somalis. “We call for a holy war against them,” said Sheikh Abdulkadir Somow, from the Sufi Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama group, which recently signed a deal with the government in neighboring Ethiopia.

Al-Shabaab argues that graves were being worshipped and that it is un-Islamic. Ali Mohamed Husein, the head of al-Shabaab explained to reporters his disapproval of people worshipping the remains of the dead bodies in tombs. “That is why we want to eradicate them, because there is nothing to worship or to ask help from but Allah.”

Al-Shabaab, which is in the list of Washington’s most wanted foreign terrorist group, is fighting the UN-backed government in a bid to overrun the Horn of African nation and subject it to strict version of Sharia Law.

Somalia has not had an affective government since warlords overthrew long time dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

For more information, please see:

Africa News – Hundreds Kick Against Al-Shabaab – 30 March 2010

Garrowe Online – Mogadishu residents protest against Al-Shabaab – 30 Mar 2010

CNN – Hundreds protest against Al-Shabaab in Somalia – 29 March 2010

Bombing Kills 13 In Helmand Market

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan- An explosion in a village market in the south Afghan province oh Helmand has left at least 13 Afghan dead and injured 43.

The attack occurred in Babji, near Lashkar Gah, a volatile city with a significant Taliban presence about 25 miles to the north.  The attack targeted farmers and other Afghans who were in line to receive fertilizer and seeds from the Nato-backed Food Zone program, which is designed to persuade farmers to switch from poppy cultivation, the most profitable crop in Helmand to wheat and other crops.  The area is close to Marjah, the focus of a major offensive against the Taliban.

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor, said 45 people were wounded, including eight children and a policeman.  The province is a focus of the Taliban insurgency against the American-led coalition in Afghanistan. “The Taliban and narcotics smugglers were behind this attack, said Mr. Ahmadi.  He added ” This was an attempt at intimidating people and stopping the process of development and peace-building in the province.”

Col. Kamaluddin Khan, the acting Helmand provincial police chief, said the bomb was hidden on a bicycle, but the district governor of Gerehk, Haji Abdul Ahad Khan blamed a suicide bomber on a motorcycle.

The blast was centered around a busy shopping area known as the Wednesday bazaar, a weekly market for villagers from the area surrounding Gerehk who come to sell livestock, food and other goods and to buy their own supplies.

The international Security Assistance Force (ISAF) international peacekeepers said they had sent a patrol to the scene to help the Afghan authorities.  An ISAF official, speaking anonymously said the bomb had probably been a crudely made improvised explosive device.  In recent years the Taliban have issued statements instructing their fighters to reduce the number of civilian deaths.

For insurgents and the security forces alike, protecting civilians the protection of civilians is the prize of the war for Afghanistan.  However the  bomb appears to have been placed and detonated at a time when a maximum number of civilian casualties could be expected, according to correspondents.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, said on his visit to Afghanistan that the operation in Marjah was moving forward successfully.  Adm Mullen said Kandahar would be the main focus in the coming summer months.

He added that Kandahar would be a greater challenge than Helman. “Kandahar is not Marjah, we understand that..It is a much bigger challenge and in that regard has much greater potential to achieve this goal of reversing the momentum.”

For more information, please see:
New York Times- Afgan Bomb Aims at Anti-Opium Aid– 31 March 2010
Reuters- Bomb Attack Kills At Least 8 Afghans– 31 March 2010

Belgian Parliamentary Committee Votes to Ban Face-Covering Islamic Veils

Photo: If the Belgian parliament approves the home affairs committees resolution, women in Belgium could face fines and imprisonment for wearing the burka and the niqab. Source: John Moore/Getty Images
A Belgian parliamentary committee has unanimously voted to prohibit the wearing of the burqa and the niqab in public. Source: John Moore/Getty Images

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The Belgian parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee has unanimously approved a draft law calling for the prohibition of the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils, such as the niqab and the burqa, in public. If the proposed law is passed individuals could face fines of up to €25 or seven days in prison for wearing the burqa or the niqab.

The measure, which has the backing of all five parties in the ruling coaltion, still needs to be approved by the parliament before becoming law and is likely to be voted upon by April 22, 2010. If approved, Belgium would be the first European country to implement such a ban.

Support for the measure has transcended both party and linguistic lines in Belgium. Daniel Bacquelaine, the liberal MP who proposed the bill, told channel RTL in Brussels:

“A person cannot claim the right to see another person without being seen himself . . . I think there is also an aspect related to human dignity — the women’s imprisonment under a burqa is not acceptable in a civilized society.”

Denis Ducarme of the Belgian center-right Refomist Movement said: “This is a very strong signal that is being sent to Islamists . . . I am proud that Belgium would be the first country in Europe which dares to legislate on this sensitive matter”.

Several districts in Belgium have already banned such veils under old local laws designed to prohibit people from fully masking their faces during carnival.

There are roughly 500,000 Muslims living in Belgium, and, according to the Belgian Muslim Council, only a couple dozen Muslim women in Belgium actually wear the face-covering veils. Bacquelaine has admitted that there is no current problem with the face-covering veils, but said: “We have to act as of today to avoid [its] development.”

The proposal has raised the alarm among those who see such regulation as an attack on civil liberties. Isabelle Praile, the vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, remarked that such a law could set a dangerous precedent. She was quoted by AFP news agency as saying:

“Today it’s the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini-skirts . . . The wearing of a full-face veil is part of [an] individual’s freedoms.”

Guy Harpigny, a Catholic bishop in the southern Belgian town of Tournai, said: “Does the state really have the right to regulate the symbols of  personal beliefs?

Measures to ban face-covering veils have also been considered, as of late, in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: “The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women . . . The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws.”

The headscarf has already been banned in French schools on the grounds that it is to ‘conspicuous’ of a religious symbol to be allowed in secular state schools. No nation-wide ban on the headscarf in the classroom has yet been passed in Belgium, but last year the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in Belgium passed a law banning the wearing of Muslim head scarves in state-run schools.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders – a far right politician who received considerable support in recent local elections – has campaigned for Muslim veil bans, and has warned of the “Islamification” of Dutch society.

The debate over face-covering veils has not been confined to Europe. Last week the Canadian province of Quebec introduced a parliamentary measure which would prohibit those in public service employment from wearing facial coverings.  The measure has received overwhelming public support.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Belgian politicians back veil ban – 31 March 2010

BBC – Belgian committee votes for full Islamic veil ban – 31 March 2010

The Guardian – Belgium moves towards public ban on burqa and niqab – 31 March 2010

Radio Free Europe – Belgian Parliamentary Panel Approves Draft Law Banning Full Veil in Public – 31 March 2010

Vanuatu Government Promises to Take Action Against Police Force

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT VILA, Vanuatu – The Vanuatu government promises that it will take action following the serious allegations made against the police paramilitary unit, the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF).

Vanuatu Coroner, Justice Nevil Dawson, criticized the VMF in a report into the death of a prisoner that was in custody of the VMF. Dawson stated that the VMF had an “unacceptable culture of violence, regarded itself above the law, [and] frequently resorted to intimidation of opponents.” Dawson urged the government to “rein the policy agency in.”

Dr. Andrew Ladley, a professor at Wellington’s Victoria University and who has been closely involved in constitutional and electoral matters in the Pacific, says that Vanuatu could face a major crisis if an investigation into the VMF is not tackled properly.

Ladley says that without a properly run investigation, the VMF will act with no account for the consequences of their actions and the situation will only get worse. He urges for politicians to contemplate taking action and be aware of the VMF’s ability to intimidate.

Ladley stated: “I would imagine, including from reading [Dawson’s] report, that it’s perfectly plain that that kind of pre-emptive intimidation will be very high on the minds of the people most likely to be called to account. Which is why the situation is so dangerous. This is potentially a very big crisis looming for Vanuatu, if it isn’t tackled properly.”

The Vanuatu government is yet to make an official comment, but the Deputy Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, says that the Vanutu government intends to outline their response.

Kilman stated in response to Dawson’s report: “Suffice to say that it is an important finding. It definitely has got some serious allegations in there, which the Government’s intention is to ensure it addresses the issue.”

Transparency International says that the Government has to go much further in its initial comments on Dawson’s report.

Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson from Transparency International says that “accepting change is necessary and is a good first step, but [the government] needs to go much further.

She stated: “What is very regrettable is that there hasn’t been yet a strong position by the government, saying that we will ensure that those accused of murder are prosecuted, that the people who actually threaten the judge will be prosecuted.”

However, despite many suggestions for the government to take action against the VMF, the Vanuatu Government has partly defended the activities of the VMF.

Don Wiseman, a news reporter in Vanuatu, reported: “[The government] will review internal security practices and the need to harmonize that with human rights particularly when people are being detained and the right to innocence until proven guilty. But the government says circumstances at the time, that is, following a mass prison escape, required the law enforcement agencies to take urgent steps to recapture the detainees. The government is promising to improve interrogation procedures and better training for police staff. It will also implement legislation that clearly prescribes the functions of the VMF and its role in the country’s internal security. And it is reassuring citizens, visitors, and investors that law enforcement must equate with the right to protection under the law.”

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Vanuatu government defends VMF activities in face of criticism – 31 March 2010

Radio New Zealand International – Vanuatu govt urged to go further on coroner’s VMF recommendations – 31 March 2010

Radio New Zealand International – Vanuatu government promises action over coroner report into VMF – 29 March 2010

Pacific News – VMF actions could spark Vanuatu crisis, warns academic – 18 March 2010

Islands Business – VMF actions could spark Vanuatu crisis, warns academic – 17 March 2010

Calls for New Sanctions Against Iran Intensify

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – There has been an increase in concern regarding Iran’s nuclear program from other countries in the United Nations. Countries such as France and the United States have made it known that they feel that the best method to deal with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is to impose new sanctions against the country. Turkey, however, is arguing that new sanctions would be a mistake and the best method to dealing with Iran is diplomacy.

The leaders of the United States and France have vowed to push for new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. President Obama, after the meeting, commented that they planned on having sanctions in place “within weeks.” President Sarkozy also commented, promising that “all necessary efforts to make sure Europe as a whole engaged in the sanctions regime.”

The United States and France are not alone with their arguments in favor of new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In ensuring that all of Europe remains in involved in the new sanctions discussion, Sarkovy has ensured the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Sarkozy also explained that “the time has come to take decisions” on Iran’s nuclear program. He argued that simply punishing Iran isn’t enough; the Islamic Republic must be stopped from continuing on their “mad race.”

Chancellor Merkel has indicated that if the United Nations Security Council cannot agree on the sanctions to be imposed on Iran, Germany is willing to pursue its own sanctions against the Islamic Republic and invites like-minded nations to join them in doing so.

Turkey, unlike many of its fellow United Nations members, is not in favor of additional sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on March 29 that economic sanctions against Iran would do more harm than good. Erdogan made his case to Merkel during a visit to Germany. He later told reporters that “the best route (to solving the nuclear issue with Iran) is diplomacy.”

Turkey currently serves as a non-permanent member of the UN security council and Erdogan indicated that no firm decision has been made by the country as of yet.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Obama Pushes Speedy Iran Sanctions – 31 March 2010

BBC – US and France Vow to Push For New Sanctions On Iran – 30 March 2010

Reuters – Turkey Makes Case Against Sanctions on Iran – 29 March 2010

Yemen Urges Donors To Honor Pledges

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’DA, Yemen – Yemen told international donors at a meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday that it urgently needs to receive their pledged financial aid to combat poverty and unemployment.

“The need is increasingly urgent for the mobilization of (financial) resources” promised at a London conference in 2006, Deputy Planning Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah told the Friends of Yemen meeting.

He said the billions promised were needed to “reduce poverty and unemployment” in Yemen, a poor neighbor of the oil-rich Gulf Arab monarchies. “The government has undertaken reforms … but the road is still long and requires a combination of efforts to meet the challenges that hinder development and undermine the foundations of security and stability,” he added. Abdullah emphasized the importance of the active partnership between Yemen and the international community to make available the amount needed, in addition to coordination and consultation in this respect.

Representatives from about 20 Arab and Western countries met for the workshop co-chaired by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts and Germany to address economy and good governance issues in Yemen.

The Yemeni government made a similar request last month, during a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh. Gulf countries pledged roughly $3.2 billion, almost none of which has been delivered — much like the billions promised during a similar international conference in London in 2006. GCC countries have met just 15 percent of their 2006 promises, according to Abdullah, who said the Yemeni government hopes they will deliver another 15 percent this year.

Khaled Ghanem al-Ghaith, the UAE’s deputy foreign minister, said Gulf countries would meet their commitments to Sana’a, but also seemed to link foreign aid to tougher military actions against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Yemeni government receives takes in 70 percent of its annual budget through oil revenues, and the country’s reserves are declining rapidly.

For more information, please see:

The Majlis – Yemen To World: We Still Need $44 Billion – March 30 2010

Yemen Post – Yemen Says Needs $44 Billion As Friends Meet In Abu Dhabi – March 30 2010

AFP – Yemen Urges Donors To Honor Aid Pledges – 30 March 2010

SABA NET – Yemen Needs $44 Bin To Implement 4th Five Year Plan, Says Sharaf – March 30 2010

Yemen Urges Donors To Honor Pledges

By Ahmad Shihadah

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’DA, Yemen – Yemen told international donors at a meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday that it urgently needs to receive their pledged financial aid to combat poverty and unemployment.

“The need is increasingly urgent for the mobilisation of (financial) resources” promised at a London conference in 2006, Deputy Planning Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah told the Friends of Yemen meeting.

He said the billions promised were needed to “reduce poverty and unemployment” in Yemen, a poor neighbour of the oil-rich Gulf Arab monarchies.”The government has undertaken reforms … but the road is still long and requires a combination of efforts to meet the challenges that hinder development and undermine the foundations of security and stability,” he added. Abdullah emphasized the importance of the active partnership between Yemen and the international community to make available the amount needed, in addition to coordination and consultation in this respect.

Representatives from about 20 Arab and Western countries met for the workshop co-chaired by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts and Germany to address economy and good governance issues in Yemen.

The Yemeni government made a similar request last month, during a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh. Gulf countries pledged roughly $3.2 billion, almost none of which has been delivered — much like the billions promised during a similar international conference in London in 2006. GCC countries have met just 15 percent of their 2006 promises, according to Abdullah, who said the Yemeni government hopes they will deliver another 15 percent this year.

Khaled Ghanem al-Ghaith, the UAE’s deputy foreign minister, said Gulf countries would meet their commitments to Sana’a, but also seemed to link foreign aid to tougher military actions against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Yemeni government receives takes in 70 percent of its annual budget through oil revenues, and the country’s reserves are declining rapidly.

For more information, please see:

The Majlis – Yemen To World: We Still Need $44 Billion – March 30 2010

Yemen Post – Yemen Says Needs $44 Billion As Friends Meet In Abu Dhabi – March 30 2010

AFP – Yemen Urges Donors To Honor Aid Pledges – 30 March 2010

SABA NET – Yemen Needs $44 Bin To Implement 4th Five Year Plan, Says Sharaf – March 30 2010

UAE Sentences Seventeen to Death from India

By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates– Seventeen laborers from India were sentenced to death on Sunday for killing a Pakistani man during a fight that broke out in Sharjah, an Emirate just north of Dubai, in January 2009.  The death took place after a dispute over control of an illegal alcohol business.

Approximately fifty people were involved in the deadly attack in which the Pakistani man was stabbed several times.

According to court officials, it is the largest number of defendants sentenced to death at one time in the Emirates.  The death sentence comes just a week after Sharjah Police arrested a gang of eighteen Indians allegedly involved in the illegal alcohol trade on suspicion of kidnapping and killing rivals.

In the court session held on Sunday, a panel of judges ruled that the seventeen men, ranging in age from 22 to 30, had all played a role in killing the Pakistani man through a combination of stabbing him and beating him with metal bars.  The police report has said that the Pakistani man died from his injuries before police arrived at the scene.  Blood tests taken shortly after their arrests showed that the defendants had been drinking alcohol.

The federal penal code in the UAE says that a death sentence automatically goes to appeal.  If the appellate court upholds the verdict, the case will then be referred to the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.  If the three judges there uphold the verdict, federal prosecutors will then submit an execution order.

A police spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the judge’s decision to issue the death sentence would undoubtedly send a strong message to bootleg gangs who start disputes with rival gangs that lead to instances of violence.

The spokesperson said that “Almost every week a case of bootlegging is now reported from Sajjia and other industrial areas.  All cases involve the use of alcohol that is illegal in the emirate.  A serious warning needs to be passed to these workers to stop the habit.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Death Penalty for Indians in UAE– 29 March 2010

The National- Seventeen Sentenced to Death for ‘Bootleg’ Murder– 29 March 2010

Indian Express- 17 Indians get Death Penalty in UAE for killing Pak National– 29 March 2010

UN Immunity for Srebrenica Massacre Upheld

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A Dutch appellate court ruled today that the United Nations has immunity against claims brought by family members of genocide victims for failure to protect Bosnians during the notorious Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

Mothers of Srebrenica, the victims’ rights group suing on behalf of family members of the victims, brought the claim in 2007. The allegation was that Dutch troops sent by the UN to protect the Srebrenica safe haven in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War failed to protect the 8,000 some Muslim boys and men killed during the massacre.

Mothers of Srebrenica argued that the UN and Netherlands should be held responsible, particularly emphasizing UN responsibility for failing to adequately assess the forces necessary to prevent genocide. In fact, the United Nations has admitted error in handling the Srebrenica episode, confessing in 1999 that it expected the small force of 100 troops to be effective in preventing genocide.

In holding that the UN had immunity from prosecution, the court affirmed a 2008 Dutch trial court decision that held that “in international law and practice, the absolute immunity of the UN is the norm and is respected.” The court on Tuesday emphasized that UN immunity is a principle implied in both the UN’s founding conventions and in essential for UN peacekeeping missions going forward.

The decision indicates that the court was sympathetic to the fact “that the mothers and their relatives have suffered atrocities”, but noted that the interests in favor UN immunity outweighed the interests in redressing these wrongs. The court said that the victims can seek further redress against the Netherlands, however.

Axel Hagedorn, an attorney for Mothers, felt that the court should have submitted the case to the European Court of Justice for further deliberation. He told the press that the case extends “far beyond the interest of the Mothers of Srebrenica. This case is all about fundamental European rights.” As such, Mr. Hagedorn said that Mothers will appeal the decision seek redress against the UN from the ECJ.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Court: Srebrenica women cannot sue U.N. – 30 March 2010

DUTCH NEWS – Dutch court upholds UN Srebrenica immunity – 30 March 2010

RADIO NETHERLANDS – Dutch court upholds UN, Dutch immunity in Srebrenica case – 30 March 2010

Unsafe Mining Practices in China Leave Over 123 Dead

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – On Sunday, 28 March 2010, more than 123 mine workers died after being trapped underground when a leak in a coalmine caused water to surge into the mine. Reports indicate that there were 261 miners working when water started to flood the coalmine. Only 138 were able to be lifted to safety. Despite efforts by rescuers, the other remaining workers died. The cause of the flooding is still under government investigation.

 Wangjialing mine, located in the Shanxi province, and lies between Xiangning county and the city of Hejin The mine covers an area of around 180 sq km (about 70 sq miles) near the heavily polluted mining hub of Linfen. It is also affiliated to state-owned Huajin Coking Coal Co. Ltd., which is a major government-approved project, expected to produce about 6 million tons of coal a year once in full operation.

Experts reviewing the accident theorize that it could have been the result of workers breaking into the old shafts or pits of derelict mines that had filled with water. David Feickert, a coal mine safety adviser to the Chinese government, stated, “It could be that they broke into old workings, works that were not properly mapped out. That’s a common problem with flooding, and Shanxi is an area where they have very extensive mining, a lot of old mines.”

Accidents like that of Wangjialing are not unique in China. Even though China’s mine safety record has improved in recent years, it is still the world’s worst, with blasts and other accidents remain common. China’s work safety administration indicates that 2,631 people died in coal mine accidents in 2009. The cause is many of these accidents is due to relaxed safety methods and poor training. Further, the demand for coal to fuel the country’s strong economic growth also encourages mine operators to open some especially dangerous mines illegally or flout official rules.

 Many of those who die belong to China’s growing underclass. They are desperately impoverished boys and men from rural villages. There are presently no unions, and regulatory safety checks on mine safety continues to be minimal, placing the many workers who seek employment as miners at high risk.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Flood in unfinished China coal mine – 29 March 2010

New York Times Rescuers Struggle to Free 153 Chinese Miners – 29 March 2010

Associated PressFlood traps 153 coal miners in northern China – 29 March 2010

Mexico: Man Arrested Then Found Dead

By Brenda Lopez Romero
Impunity Watch reporter – North America desk

MONTERREY, Mexico – An alleged drug cartel boss was on the front page of the Mexico’s newspapers.  He was arrested after a shootout between law enforcement and drug cartel hitmen.  The man was photographed alive while being transferred to a truck from Mexican marines helicopter surrounded by masked soldiers.  The following day, a photograph of a man with similar facial features was taken, but the man was dead and wrapped in a blanket on the side of the road.

Courtesy of L.A. Times News
Courtesy of L.A. Times News

A women identified the man in the pictures as her 26-year-old Jose Humberto Marquez Compean

Neither the law enforcement nor the military will say they know how Marquez Compean died. The military indicated they only helped local law enforcement during the operation that lead to the arrest, while the local law enforcement stated they did not seek assistance from the military.   Santa Catarina security chief, Raul Castillo said “I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything.  That’s my position.”

The presumed widow of Marquez Compean demands justice, but resolving drug-related deaths remains an elusive task for law enforcement generally.

Human Rights Watch reported human rights violations by the military in the “war on drugs” such as unpunished torture, killings and arbitrary detentions.   Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, called for social and economic relief to fight the drug cartels as well as the military.

For more information please see:

Atlanta Journal Constitution – Mexico: Widow IDs slain husband as arrested man – 24 March 2010

L.A. Times News – Mexico: One day troops have him in custody; the next day he’s dead – 24 March 2010

Iran Charges Iranian-American Scholar

Haleh Esfandiari was prevented from returning to the US in December 2006, arrested on May 8, and recently accused of working to disrupt Iranian sovereignty.  Esfandiari, who holds both Iranian and American citizenship, works as the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, in Washington DC.  Part of her job includes planning conferences for Iranian leaders, civil, academic, and governmental, in the US on issues involving Iran.  Last December, while en route to the Tehran airport, her luggage, which held both passports, was confiscated; effectively preventing her from leaving the country.  Since December 2006 and her arrest in early May 2007, Esfandiari was repeatedly interrogated and denied access to legal counsel.  In addition to Dr. Esfandiari, two other Iranian-Americans (Ali Shakeri and Kian Tajbakhsh) are in currently in Iranian prison and a fourth, Parnaz Azima, had her passport confiscated and as a result she is prevented from leaving Iran.

There are various theories as to why Iran is currently detaining four Iran-American citizens.  First,  that the hard-liners in the Iranian government are hoping to derail US-Iranian talks regarding the war in Iraq.  Second, that the Iranian government hopes to use the detainees as leverage to negotiate a prisoner trade to guarantee the release of the five Iranians arrested in northern Iraq in early January 2007.  Regardless to the reason behind Esfandiari’s and the other Iranian-Americans’ detentions, analysts agree that there is no rational basis and that the detainees should be released.

For more information, please see:

CNN:  “Iranian-American political prisoners” 25 May 2007.

Human Rights Watch:  “Iran: Another Iranian-American Scholar Detained” 24 May 2007.

CNN:  “Iran imprisons 4th Iranian-American” 23 May 2007.

NY Times:  “Iran Accuses American of Revolution Plot” 22 May 2007.

BBC:  “Iran accuses US-Iranian scholar” 22 May 2007.

BBC:  “US-Iranian academic detained in Iran” 9 May 2007.

Press Release: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Releases Report on Iran’s 1988 Massacre of Thousands of Political Prisoners

29 August 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2009

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) today released a report documenting and analyzing the Iranian government’s massacre of political prisoners during the summer of 1988. Much of the material presented in the report, Deadly Fatwa: Iran’s 1988 Massacre, is the result of interviews conducted by IHRDC with survivors and family members of victims.

In late July 1988, pursuant to a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian government began systematically interrogating, torturing and summarily executing thousands of political prisoners. The interrogations of prisoners who supported leftist parties began twenty-one years ago today. Although the exact number of victims is not known, thousands of prisoners were tortured and executed over the course of only a few months.

The victims included prisoners who had served their sentences but had refused to recant their political beliefs, prisoners who were serving sentences of imprisonment, people who had been detained for lengthy periods but had not been convicted, and former prisoners who were rearrested. Many families were never informed about the executions and many of the victims were buried in unmarked mass graves. Families who received the remains of their loved ones were not allowed to hold funeral services and, to this day, are forbidden from mourning their loss. The government recently bulldozed a mass grave site at Khavaran Cemetery in Tehran .

The Iranian government has never identified those who were secretly executed and tortured, and has never issued an explanation for this crime. However, many of the men who were responsible for the massacre continue to hold positions of power in the Iranian government.

Deadly Fatwa: Iran ’s 1988 Massacre, is available in English on IHRDC’s website www.iranhrdc.org. A Persian translation of the report will be available this fall.

IHRDC is a nonprofit organization based in New Haven , Connecticut that was founded in 2004 by a group of human rights scholars, activists, and historians. Its staff of human rights lawyers and researchers produce comprehensive and detailed reports on the human rights situation in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The Center’s goal is to encourage an informed dialogue among scholars and the general public in both Iran and abroad. The human rights reports and a database of documents relating to human rights in Iran are available to the public for research and educational purposes on the Center’s website.

For further information, please contact:

Renee C. Redman, IHRDC Executive Director, (203) 772-2218 Ext. 215 rredman@iranhrdc.org