73 Dead in Jamaican Slum as Government Searches for Suspected Drug Trafficker

73 Dead in Jamaican Slum as Government Searches for Suspected Drug Trafficker

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

(Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
(Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

KINGSTON, Jamaica-Seventy-three people have reportedly been killed and five hundred arrested during Jamaican police efforts to capture Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Coke is a well known leader in the Kingston slums, who is wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges. Authorities intend to extradite Coke to the United States.

Amnesty International called for a thorough investigation into the violence and deaths. The rights group recognized that while authorities have a responsibility to ensure order, the current extraordinary powers exerted by the Jamaican security forces could lead to human rights violations.

A state of emergency has been declared in parts of Kingston. Amnesty pointed out that even in officially declared states of emergency, international law requires Jamaica to guarantee the rights of those detained, including having their detention reviewed by an independent tribunal. Over five hundred people have been detained in the search for Coke. The circumstances of the seventy three deaths have not been explained by authorities.

The Jamaican prime minister, Bruch Golding has not yet visited his constituents in the affected area. Residents complain about arbitrary arrests and say that they do not feel safe. Coke and other slum leaders, known as “dons” are thought to occupy a void created by a lack of government services in Jamaica’s slums. There is already speculation that the government will not be able to occupy the void in authority after the dons are officially deposed.

Up to this point Jamaican slums have operated under an arrangement where politicians and dons share power. The dons provide security through extortion and control of the drug trade. They then channel some resources through the neighborhoods to build support for certain political leaders by ensuring the loyalty of their voters.

Coke is accused with trafficking cocaine and marijuana into the United States’ East Coast, allegedly causing “gangland” conflicts that have killed thousands. The government has asked at least ten other dons, like Coke to surrender in efforts to combat gang violence.

For more information, please see:

AFP-Drug Suspect Still in Jamaica: Police Chief-31 May 2010

NY Times-Jamaica Strains to Fill Void After Ejecting Gang Bosses-31 May 2010

Voice of America-Unrest Death Toll Reaches 73-31 May 2010

Rome Statute Review Conference to Challenge Negative Perceptions

By Celeste Little
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda- Monday, May 31 begins a two week conference in Kampala, Uganda to review the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court hosted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The conference will be attended by representatives of state parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in the Hague, the Netherlands. Fifteen hundred to two thousand delegates are expected to attend.

The Rome Statute is a treaty that established the International Criminal Court, its functions, jurisdiction, and structure in Rome, Italy on July 17, 1998 and was implemented on July 1, 2002. There are 110 states which are party to the statute and  there are 38 states which have signed and not ratified the treaty. The seven countries that voted against the treaty are Iraq, Israel, Libya, China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.

The ICC is defined by the Rome Statute, as a permanent tribunal to prosecute the most serious international crimes. The statute requires its own review, and in turn a review of the ICC, every seven years and the upcoming conference in Uganda is the first time since 2002 that the statute has been reviewed.

One of the two primary focuses of this year’s conference is to make changes to Article 125 of the statute, which deals with the crime of aggression, it’s definition, and the use of certain weapons to constitute war crimes. The second major focus is stocktaking, where non-governmental organizations and other key parties will discuss the impact of the Rome statute on four pertinent areas–the impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and their communities, cooperation, complementarity and peace and justice.

Currently, the ICC is prosecuting suspected war criminals in several situations. In the situation in Uganda, the top five members of the Lords Resistance are being prosecuted for war crimes. And in it’s prosecution of war criminals related to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the individuals being prosecuted is the alleged founder of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), Thomas Lubanga Dylo, who is being prosecuted for war crimes including “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities” according to the ICC arrest warrant.

The Sudanese president, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir is being prosecuted for war crimes which amount genocide.  In the Central African Republic, the alleged president and commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, is being prosecuted for war crimes which include murder, rape, torture, pillaging, and outrages upon personal dignity and crimes against humanity,  including murder, rape, and torture. Furthermore, the situation in Kenya was recently opened for investigation.

Critics have said that the ICC has only prosecuted crimes committed in Africa, which evidences that it is a primarily European court, targeting Africans. The ICC has considered this negative perception in choosing to hold the review conference in Uganda as well as the revue the conference would bring to the country.

The ICC is launching a YouTube series of videos which will cover the review conference, for those who are interested in further education regarding the discussions that will occur during these next two weeks.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America– Uganda Hosts Review of Rome Statute Conference— 30 May 2010

AFP-ICC Seeks More Teeth at Kampala Meet-29 May 2010

Daily Nation-Nation Meets in Kampala to Chart Future of Hague Court-29 May 2010

Four Police Officers Lynched in Bolivia

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

POTOSI, Bolivia — In a public meeting, members of five indigenous communities in northern Potosi, Bolivia, admitted to lynching four police officers on Sunday.  Responding to accounts that the officers were tortured and killed, indigenous leaders described them as “thieves disguised as police.”  The leaders said they would not hand over the bodies until the police conduct an investigation into the alleged “murder” by police of several area residents that took place months ago.  They also accuse the police of stealing seven cars from their community and voted to retain the bodies until those cars are returned.

The BBC reported that Potosi Police Chief Orlando Avila said his officers could not enter the area because “there were sharp shooters stationed all along the highway” threatening to kill anyone trying to retrieve the bodies.  Avila estimated that about 10,000 people were mobilized to prevent authorities from entering.

Members of the indigenous clans accused the four hanged officers of charging between $200 and $1,000 to ignore the smuggling of cars from neighboring Chile.  At a local meeting on Wednesday, one indigenous leader announced, “Brothers, we did not kill police officers, we killed thieves disguised as police officers.”

The slain officers belonged to a unit responsible for tackling car theft in neighboring Oruro province.  They may have been in Potosi on a search to recover stolen vehicles.  Many indigenous residents believe the officers were in Potosi to extort car smugglers.  It is also possible that the indigenous members who killed them mistook them for criminals in a route commonly used by smugglers.

Avila said he wants to arrange a meeting with indigenous leaders to begin an investigation of the lynching.  Bolivia’s deputy minister for public safety, Gen. Miguel Vazquez, said that the government’s current priority is “to calm” the population in Uncia.

The indigenous communities of Aymara and Quechua Indians are called the Ayllus Guerreros, or Warrior Clans, because of a 200-year history of  bloody conflicts over land.  Each of the five clans has about 8,000 to 10,000 residents in the area where the officers were lynched.  Clashes among these groups have been blamed for about 10,000 deaths since 1830.  The most recent violence occurred nine years ago, resulting in 57 deaths.

For more information, please see:

Latin American Herald Tribune–Bolivian Indians: Lynched Men Were Thieves, Not Police–28 May 2010

BBC–Indigenous Group Lynches Four Policemen in Bolivia–27 May 2010

UPI–4 Police Officers Lynched in Bolivia–27 May 2010

Mosque Attacks: 80 Pakistani Worshippers Murdered

By David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says it warned of a possible attack, urging the government “to provide fool proof security to the Ahmadi community.”

Unknown gunmen have launched simultaneous raids on two mosques of the minority Ahmadi Islamic sect in Lahore, killing more than 80 people, Pakistani police say. The attackers fired guns and threw grenades at worshippers during Friday prayers. Three militants later blew themselves up with suicide vests. Pakistani forces have secured both buildings, but are still searching for militants who fled the scene.

At least 80 killed, more than 70 wounded in joint Mosque Attacks
At least 80 killed, more than 70 wounded in joint Mosque Attacks

Lahore has been the scene of a string of brazen attacks. It is unclear who carried out the attacks, but suspicion has fallen on the Pakistani Taliban, Ali Dayan Hassan of Human Rights Watch told the BBC. Mr Hassan said the worshippers were “easy targets” for militant Sunni groups who consider the Ahmadis to be infidels.

Shiite Muslims have borne the brunt of individual suicide bombings and targeted killings for years in Sunni-majority Pakistan, though Christians and Ahmadis have also faced violence. The long-standing sectarian violence in the country has been exacerbated by the rise of the Sunni extremist Taliban and al-Qaida movements.

Pakistan’s Geo TV channel said the Punjab province branch of the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility; however, repeated attempts by the Associated Press to reach the group were not successful. The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have played a role in the failed car bomb attempt in New York City’s Times Square earlier this month.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province where the attacks took place, had several remarks following the events, alluding to the fact that that they call themselves Muslims but believe that Muhammad was not the final prophet. This view contradicts a central Islamic belief. Ahmadis are reviled as heretics by mainstream Muslims for their belief that their sect’s founder was a savior foretold by the Quran, Islam’s holy book. The group has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, but never before in such a large-scale, sophisticated fashion. The group, which is thought to number between 3 million and 4 million people in the country, endures “the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination” among Pakistan’s religious minorities, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

For more information, please see:

CNN World – At least 80 killed in Lahore attacks – 28 May 2010

Al Jazeera English – Death in Pakistan mosques raids – 28 May 2010

The Huffington Post – Pakistan Mosque Attacks: At Least 80 Killed – 28 May 2010

Image Courtesy of Boston.com

Behind The Coal Mine Disaster In Russia

By Tristan Simoneau
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MEZHDURECHENSK, Russia – Two weeks ago, in western Siberia, twin methane explosions destroyed Russia’s largest coal mine.  At least 67 miners were killed and 23 are still missing.  The mine is owned by the Raspadskaya Coal Company, which is mainly controlled by the powerful steel giant Evraz, who owns a 40 percent stake in the Raspadskaya mine.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressing a commission  investigating the Raspadskaya coal mine disaster
Photo: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressing a commission investigating the Raspadskaya coal mine disaster [Source: Christian Science Monitor]

It is still unclear how the methane was allowed to build to such dangerous levels despite the mine being equipped with modern sensors.  Government officials have said the explosions were likely a result of an enormous underground burst of gas, a so called “mystery of nature” as one expert described.  However, many Russian miners have offered another explanation for this disaster.  Mining companies often link workers’ pay to the amount of coal that is extracted.  It is possible that in order to increase their potential earnings, miners covered the methane sensors with wet rags.  Miners earn a base monthly salary of approximately $830 a month, which can rise to $1,164 if they meet their production quotas.

The deputy chairman of the Russian Coal Miners’ Trade Union stated that this policy motivated workers to block sensors which led to an explosion in 2007 that killed 110 at another site where Evraz owns a large stake.  In a commentary that ran in “The Moscow Times” on May 19th, political analyst Yulia Latynina wrote that “Evraz must pay Putin’s bureaucrats large bribes and kickbacks to stay in operation.  These ‘corruption taxes’ are built into production costs at Raspadskaya, which may translate into lower wages and thus the need for miners to circumvent safety regulations in order to earn bonuses.”

Most Russians learned about the mining accident from one of the three big nationwide TV channels which are either state-run or controlled by Kremlin-friendly business interests.  What many people were not made aware of was that on the night of May 15th, at least 300 miners and supporters in Mezhdurechensk, the Siberian mining town where the tragedy occurred, staged a protest.  A key railway line was blocked in the protest that called the response by the government uncaring and inadequate.  Raspadskaya miner Sergei Krasilnikov said the reason for this protest is that locals are bitter about the lack of coverage in the national media.  He stated that “the protests began precisely because there was no information about the accident and no one knew what was actually going on.”

The Kremlin may have control over through the TV networks but increasingly the youth of Russia are turning to the internet, making it possible to achieve more objective viewpoints on disasters such as the Raspadskaya tragedy.

For more information, please see:

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR – After Russian Coal Mine Disaster, Questions about TV Censorship – 25 May 2010

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Black Hole: Russian Mining Tragedy Stirs Old Questions of Class, Privilege – 22 May 2010

THE NEW YORK TIMES – Putin Suggests Human Error in Mine Disaster – 11 May 2010