Summer Camp in Gaza Destroyed by Extremists

Summer Camp in Gaza Destroyed by Extremists

By Dallas Steele,
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

The burnt remains of the summer camp (Photo Courtesy of
The burnt remains of the summer camp (Photo Courtesy of

GAZA CITY, Gaza – A children’s summer camp in Gaza was burned to the ground by a group of masked men on Sunday. The men broke in to the camp, tied and beat up a security guard, and burned the tents and plastic swimming pools that had been set up for the camp. While no one was injured by the fire, the summer camp, sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), was due to open mere hours before its destruction occurred.

A group of suspects was arrested by Hamas leaders in Gaza on Tuesday, but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the destruction of the camp. It is widely believed, however, that the attack was carried out by a band of Islamic extremists who are opposed to summer camps that allow boys and girls to mingle. John Ging, UNRWA’s Gaza director, has told reporters that the attack was committed by people with an “extremist mentality.”

The ruined summer camp is one of the largest of the several UNRWA camps across the occupied Palestinian territory. After destroying the camp, the masked militants left behind three bullets and a letter addressed to the United Nations warning them to stop sponsoring the summer camps.

Ging has reportedly remained defiant and vowed to not allow such acts to intimidate UNRWA. Furthermore, he pledged to not only continue all other camps in Gaza as planned, but to also repair the damaged camp.

The attack comes as a major loss for children in the area as nearly 250,000 campers are known to attend every summer. Additionally, many parents now fear for the safety of their children from similar attacks in the future.

It is speculated that the recent attack is another in a handful of attacks executed by small, radical groups looking to impose Islamic law in Gaza, something Hamas has yet to do since its takeover of the territory in June 2007.

For more information, please see:

CNN — Gaza summer camp burned, witnesses say — 23 May 2010

Al Jazeera — Gaza children’s camp destroyed — 23 May 2010

Yahoo! News — Hamas makes arrest over torching of UN summer camp — 25 May 2010

Bahrain Bans Al Jazeera

By Warren Popp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Al Jazeera faces indefinite ban in Bahrain (Source: Al Jazeera)
Al Jazeera faces an indefinite ban in Bahrain. (Source: Al Jazeera)

MANAMA, Bahrain — On May 18, Bahrain banned Qatari-based Al Jazeera from operating within Bahrain for an indefinite period of time, and barred a broadcast crew from traveling to Bahrain to interview former UN Climate Chief Yvo De Boer. According to the official Bahrain News Agency, the ban was imposed for “breaching the professional media norms and flouting the laws regulating the press and publishing.”

In response to the ban, Al Jazeera claims it was “surprised and puzzeled” by the decision. They also expressed regret that the decision was never officially conveyed to them, and said its editorial line and professional policy in reporting on the news and on issues has not changed. Al Jazeera reiterated that it continues to adhere to its motto, “Equal opportunity for opinions and counter opinions.”

It is still unclear what precipitated this sudden ban, especially given that Al Jazeera does not even have a bureau office in Bahrain. According to Tunisian journalist Habib Toumi, the Information Minister claimed the ban was imposed because Al Jazeera was deliberately attempting to harm Bahrain and that it was demonstrating a bias towards Israel. Claims of bias towards Israel have caused the banning of Al Jazeera’s broadcasts in several Arab countries in the past.

Israel also had a major clash with Al Jazeera last year, imposing sanctions on the broadcaster after Qatar closed the Israeli trade office in opposition to Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded by calling the station a hostile entity and to sought to close its offices in Israel. However, Isreal’s High Court of Justice prevented this action, and instead chose chose to limit the network’s activity in Israel and Palestine.

The Bahraini ban may also have been the result of Al Jazeera’s recent programs on poverty and the treatment of Asian laborers, which are purportedly sensitive matters in Bahrain. Other observers believe that it is simply a reflection of persistent tensions between Bahrain and Qatar since the settlement of a dispute over the Hawar Islands in 2001.

In the statement announcing the ban, Bahrain’s Culture and Information Ministry said, “The decision to freeze the activities of the office will be maintained until the ministry and the channel agree on a memorandum of understanding protecting the rights of both sides on the basis of reciprocity in exercising press and media work in both countries.”

According to Gulf Daily News, Bahrain Journalists Association deputy chairman Faisal Abdulla Shaikh said that he believes it is in everyone’s best interests that the dispute be resolved immediately. Watchdog groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have also condemned the decision. Reporters Without Borders stated its concern regarding the ban, and they “urge the culture and information ministry to rescind this decision.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Bahrain Blocks Al Jazeera Team – 19 May 2010

Bahrain New Agency – Bahrain-based Al Jazeera Office Temporarily Frozen s Age – 18 May 2010

Gulf Daily News – Call to Resolve Al Jazeera Row – 25 May 2010

GlobalVoices – Bahrain: Why was Al Jazeera’s Office Shut Down? – 19 May 2010

Guardian News – Bahrain Suspends Al-Jazeera Operations and Bars TV Crew – 19 May 2010 – Bahrain Suspends Al-Jazeera for ‘Flouting Press Laws’ – 19 May 2010

Habib Toumi – Bahrain Defends Decision to Freeze Al Jazeera’s Activities as Reporters Without Borders Urges Manama to Reconsider its Move – 20 May 2010

Innocent People or Armed Insurgents? Night Raids in Afghanistan

By David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NANGARHAR, Afghanistan – Investigation into questionable night raids continues as the death toll rises over the past week.  The US military has been conducting night raids on several targeted villages in Afghanistan. These raids are night efforts to catch and put a stop to the villages harboring Al-Queda operatives.  Night raids or “sneak attacks” by US troops have been demonized by casualties’ bereaved families, for they are often premised on faulty evidence.

Night rights increase tension between US/NATO forces and Afghan civilians
Night rights increase tension between US/NATO forces and Afghan civilians

The grieving families claim that innocent civilians are being killed under mistaken identity. The US military does not agree.  After nine civilians were killed this week, the US launched criminal investigations.

Col. Wayne Shanks says they had concrete intelligence that a Taliban sub-commander was in the housing compound at the time and was planning an imminent attack on a US base. “It was an urgent need for us to go in and stop the attack to prevent casualties on our side but also innocent casualties,” he said.

Resident Ehassamudion Kushkaki told CNN the U.S. military did not announce their arrival at 1a.m. local time while everyone was sleeping, so two of the nine killed were shooting, thinking they were being attacked by thieves.  The U.S. military insists it announced its arrival and says all of those killed were shooting at the forces.

‘”No charges have been preferred at this time; however, one soldier has been placed in pre-trial confinement,” the military said in a statement”.  The soldier confined also faces illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy claims.

Miles away in London, Fatima Ayud has been campaigning for night raids to stop and offering help to affected families.  Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has sought to minimize the use of night raids, noting past public anger.  Ayud says it’s not enough after, herself being a victim after a raid attack targeted her extended family.

Nasrutullah Arsala, head of Nangarhar provincial council, tells CNN, “There’s no doubt that when these cases happen, the people rise up and the gap between the government and people widens.”  This form of impunity thwarts American efforts and energizes the Taliban resistance.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera English- US opens Afghan deaths probe – 20 May 2010

CNN World – Civilians or fighters? Debate lingers over deaths at housing compound – 25 May 2010

The Huffington Post – US Investigating Afgahan Civilian Deaths – 20 May 2010

Image Courtesy of Army Times

War Crimes Prosecution Watch – Volume 5 – Issue 4 – May 24, 2010

For a link to the e-newsletter, please visit War Crimes Prosecution Watch.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world.

Universal Jurisdiction

Central African Republic & Uganda
Democratic Republic of the Congo (ICC)

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Special Court for Sierra Leone

European Court of Human Rights
Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Special Tribunal for Lebanon

United States

Colombian President Allegedly Knew Of Death Squad

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America


Southern Colombian Paramilitary Group (Photo Courtesy of
Southern Colombian Paramilitary Group (Photo Courtesy of

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to a retired Colombian police major, President Alvaro Uribe’s younger brother, Santiago Uribe, commanded a death squad in the early 1990s that killed nearly fifty people, including petty thieves, suspected guerillas, and their sympathizers. Santiago Uribe allegedly led the right-wing group from the Uribe family’s cattle ranch in the Antioquia state municipality.

Although there is little evidence to support the allegations, the ex-officer, Major Juan Carlos Meneses, stated that Santiago Uribe claimed that Alvaro Uribe, a senator at the time, was aware of the illegal militia.  When recently asked about his knowledge of the death squad after the report was first published in the Washington Post, Alvaro Uribe’s stated “I don’t read international newspapers.”

These accusations are coming shortly before the highly contested May 30 presidential election involving Alvaro Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Carlos Santos.  Alvaro Uribe’s interior minister, Fabio Valencia, has suggested that Meneses’ comments are politically motivated to discredit Santos’ candidacy; a claim which Meneses denies.

Meneses claims that he attended meetings with Santiago Uribe where the group would decide who would be killed.  Additionally, Meneses claimed that Santiago Uribe paid him approximately $700 monthly for a four month period so that Meneses would allow the death squad to operate in the area where Meneses was the top law enforcement officer.  Meneses claims to have personally witnessed at least fifteen men armed with semi-automatic firearms participating in obstacle course training on the Uribe family ranch.

Alvaro Uribe was elected Colombia’s President in 2002 and has since been given significant financial assistance from the U.S. to defeat leftist rebels in the country.  While president, Alvaro Uribe has been criticized by international humanitarian groups for suspected human rights violations.  These violations include Colombian soldiers allegedly murdering more than 1,000 citizens under the guise that they were rebels.

Colombian law enforcement officials have investigated the death squad claims on at least two occasions and have not discovered enough evidence to prosecute Alvaro Uribe; however, Meneses’ claims may be enough to reopen the case.  Meneses claims that he and his family have been forced to leave Colombia and seek asylum in Venezuela after receiving written and telephoned death threats because of the accusations against Santiago and Alvaro Uribe.

Santiago Uribe has been unavailable for comment; however, he denied the allegations in a previous interview with the Washington Post.

For more information, please see:

CBS News – Ex-cop Claims Uribe’s Brother Led Death Squad –  24 May 2010

Time –Ex-cop: Alvaro Uribe’s Brother Led Death Squad24 May 2010

Colombia Reports – Uribe’s brother led paramilitary death squad – 23 May 2010