Peacekeepers Pulling Out of Chad

Peacekeepers Pulling Out of Chad

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Blue Helmets Pulling Out Soon
Blue helmets pulling out soon (Photo Courtesy of AP)

N’DJAMENA, ChadThe United Nations Security Counsel on Tuesday authorized the gradual withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers in Chad and the Central African Republic.  

The pullout comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees have flooded the two nations as a result of the war in Darfur.  Despite a number of successful nation building endeavors, the U.N. will withdrawal the 3,300 troops stationed in Chad and the Central African Republic by the end of the year.

Although the peacekeepers have played a significant role in protecting civilians and refugees, Idriss Déby, President of Chad, has consistently criticized the United Nations’ role in the country.  Despite protest from a number of diplomats and international organizations, the United Nations contends that it has no authority to maintain a presence in a country without its permission.

The unanimous decision was supported by Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon who recommended the withdrawal in a report earlier this week.  Mr. Moon contends that the decision will make the governments of Chad and Central African Republic responsible for the protection of its citizens and will facilitate development.  Critics of the decision however, embrace a more pessimistic view.  Representatives for Amnesty International stated that the decision is “premature and dangerous” as the region remains volatile and susceptible to violent unrest.

The safety and wellbeing of the 450,000 refugees currently living in Chad is just one concern of critics.  The U.N. office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that nearly two million people are dealing with food shortages as a result of drought in the region.  Others worry that the withdrawal will create a power vacuum, opening the unstable countries to bandits and rebels.

Despite the troop withdrawal, the U.N. has vowed to continue to support the development of Chad and the Central African Republic by contributing humanitarian aid and political support.  During the remaining months, the peacekeepers will continue to secure the resettlement of Sudanese refugees and elevate tensions.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press –UN Agrees to Pull UN Peacekeeping Force from Chad – 25 May 2010

Twenty-one Miners Killed in Gas Blast at Colliery in Southwest China

By Kwangmin Ahn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China — Twenty-one miners were killed in a gas blast at a colliery in southwest China on Thursday.

There were thirty-one miners underground at the time of the blast.  Ten workers escaped to safety and all miners known to have been in the pit were accounted for, but search and rescue work was continuing in case there were other unregistered miners working at the time of the blast.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.  The mine is a small colliery run by a local township government with an annual production capacity of about 150,000 tons.

China’s vast coal mining industry is notoriously accident-prone.  Although safety conditions have improved in the last several years, China’s mining industry is by far the world’s deadliest, with accidents and blasts killing more than 2,600 coal miners last year due mainly to lax regulation, corruption, and inefficiency.

The rash of deadly mine accidents caused by poor safety standards and supervision has been traced to China’s rush for commodities to fuel its growing economy.

In March, a flood at the vast, unfinished Wangjialing mine in the northern province of Shanxi left 153 workers trapped underground, but 115 were recovered alive in a rare rescue success for the industry. The head of China’s work safety watchdog said last month that the flood “could completely have been avoided.”  The agency said managers had ignored water leaks noted by workers in the days leading up to the disaster.  A landslide of sludge triggered by the collapse of a mine dam buried a village in Xiangfen county, Shanxi province, on September 8, 2008.

Accidents are particularly common in China’s coal sector. Safety concerns are widely ignored as China tries to satisfy surging demand for the fuel — the source of about seventy percent of the country’s energy.

Recent developments in other mining cases include criminal sentencing.  On Friday, a Chinese court sentenced two policemen to up to five years in jail for taking bribes from the owner of an iron mine, where an accident killed 277 people two years ago. The Fangshan District People’s Court in Beijing sentenced Han Chunxi, 39, the former county police chief, to five years in prison for taking $5,859 in bribes from the mine owner. The court found that he had ordered his subordinates to stop inspections of the mine and abetted the use of mining explosives.

The flood in Shanxi was seen as embarrassing for the government, which has touted a reform program partly aimed at improving safety and shutting dangerous mines.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Blast rips through China coal mine – 14 May 2010

AFP – China coal mine gas blast kills 21– 13 May 2010

Two U.S. Tourists Kidnapped Yemen

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – Two American tourists have been kidnapped by armed tribesmen near Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, officials say.

Their Yemeni driver, who was also seized, later reportedly made a call to the AFP news agency, saying the attackers were demanding the release of a jailed fellow tribesman.

The US said the kidnapping of the US nationals – a man and a woman – was “not believed to be terrorism related”. Yemen’s tribes frequently kidnap people to gain leverage in rows with Sa’na.

The Americans were seized by armed men in the Bani Mansour district 70km (45 miles) west of the capital, their driver told AFP. The driver, who identified himself as Ali al-Arashi, said the kidnappers were “calling for the release of a fellow tribesman held by authorities in Sa’na.”

This is the latest kidnapping before this took place last week when two Chinese workers were taken in the Shawba governorate in the South of Yemen, then released two days later.

There has been unfortunately a bit of a side business in what are called ‘tourist kidnappings’ where, for whatever reason, a certain tribe has a particular grievance with the Yemeni government and uses the presence of foreigners for leverage,” he said.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in recent years; most are released unharmed. Two Chinese oil workers were freed this month after being kidnapped in the south-east of the country. In another region, however, a German married couple, their infant son and a British man are still missing after being kidnapped almost a year ago.

Last week the family’s two young daughters were located in a disputed border region by the Saudi Arabian armed forces.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Two American Tourists Kidnapped By Tribesman In Yemen – 24 May 2010

The New York Times – Two Americans Kidnapped In Yemen – 24 May 2010

AP – Gunmen Kidnap 2 American Tourists In Yemen – 24 May 2010

Raids Against Rights Activists and Opposition Continue Throughout Belarus

By Yoohwan Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MINSK, Belarus – Nationwide raids against human rights and opposition activists continue throughout Belarus as police and state officials searched offices and homes in Minsk, Hrodna, Brest, and Homel.  The raids are a part of President Alexander Lukashenko’s ongoing crackdown against rights activists, opposition organizations, and independent news media.  Many organizations have reported that the police have detained several members, and have confiscated office equipment and published materials during these raids.

Police raid activists offices in Belarus.  [Source: Charter 97]Photo: Police raid activist’s offices in Belarus. [Source: Charter 97]

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, an independent rights group, said that Belarusian authorities detained several dozen opposition activists beginning on Tuesday, May 18.  Most of the detained activists were released after questioning, but some activists have been arrested.  Those arrested have been accused of spreading false information, under Article 250 of the Criminal Code of Belarus.

Vladimir Nekliaev, a proclaimed opponent of the upcoming presidential election and the leader of the Speak the Truth opposition group, was arrested on charges of spreading false information.  State officials searched Speak the Truth’s offices and its members’ homes for two consecutive days – May 18 and May 19.

The organization’s founder, Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, recently announced he may run against incumbent Lukashenko in the upcoming presidential election, which will be held either at the end of this year or the beginning of 2011.  According to Nyaklyayew, the organization’s goal is to “prompt Belarusian society to realize the real state of affairs in the country where there is little room for truth but where there are a lot of lies.”

Andrei Dmitriyev, an activist of the opposition United Civil Party, and Sergei Voznyak, the editor of the opposition newspaper Tovarishch were also both arrested after police raided their offices.  They were charged with spreading false information.

Following reports of the arrests, European Union officials expressed serious concern.  “We are very concerned about the news.  We’ll ask for explanations,” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU’s policy chief.

In a statement made by European Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek, he urged for democratic reform in Belarus.  “I call on the Belarus authorities to stop immediately all repression and intimidation of civil society groups and to get back on the way to democratization.”

The Interior Ministry of Belarus has declined to comment.

For more information, please see:

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY – Nationwide Raids Against Belarusian Rights Activists Continue – 20 May 2010

EARTH TIMES – EU ‘very concerned’ about Belarus opposition crackdown – 19 May 2010

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS – 2 opposition activists, journalist arrested in Belarus – 19 May 2010

WORLD BULLETIN – Belarus police detains opposition journalist, activist – 19 May 2010

CHARTER 97 – Wreaking havoc in oppositionists’ flats all over Belarus: computers and leaflets confiscated – 18 May 2010