Yemen Refuses To Extradite Cleric If Captured

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.

Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.

“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.

“Because of his recent terrorist activity, Awlaki is now wanted by the Yemeni government. Hence, he must be tried … in his homeland but never by other governments,” Qirbi was quoted as telling Kuwait’s al-Dar newspaper.

U.S. officials said in April President Barack Obama’s administration had authorized operations to capture or kill U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki — a leading figure linked to al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing, which claimed responsibility for a failed bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December.

On Christmas Eve, the United States launched an armed drone attack on a compound in Yemen where Mr. al-Awlaki was thought to be staying. The attack missed him.

Mr. al-Awlaki is the spiritual leader of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The group is thought to have several thousand armed followers and operates in areas of Yemen that are not under the full control of the San’a government.

Awlaki has said he had contacts with a Nigerian suspect in the attempted bombing of the transatlantic passenger plane and with a U.S. army psychiatrist accused of shooting dead 13 people at a military base in Texas in November.

Andy Johnson, a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview that Mr. al-Awlaki is like Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, because of his success in radicalizing recruits.

“Awlaki clearly is a driving force in the effort to recruit and radicalize people to carry out jihadist or extremist attacks,” said Mr. Johnson, who is now director of national security programs for the think tank Third Way.

Mr. al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was in e-mail contact with Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged in the killings of 13 people and woundings of 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Times – Yemen Refuses To Let U.S. Try Cleric – 12 May 201

Reuters – Yemen Says Will Not Turn Over Militant Cleric To U.S. – 12 May 2010

Jawa Report – Yemen Refuses To Extradite Awlaki – 12 May 2010

Egypt Extends Emergency Law

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has issued a decree renewing the country’s emergency laws for a further two years.

Parliament approved the law while opponents protested outside amid rows of riot police. The government sought to defuse criticism by emphasizing that the measure would cover only terrorism and drug-related crimes. But critics accused authorities of making cosmetic changes to a 29-year-old system that gives police sweeping discretionary powers against political opponents.

The decision has led to criticism from political opponents and human rights groups, who say the laws stifle political freedom in the country.

“The new law is very ambiguous and can easily be manipulated,” said Hafez abu Seada, secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. “The law still persecutes freedoms like gathering in public, which doesn’t fall under terrorism. We will also still have military tribunals and the government’s right to issue military orders.”

Extension of the emergency law, which was passed in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, comes as the government is under widespread pressure. Public anger is high, protests over low wages and for constitutional revisions are increasing, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei is enlivening the opposition with his new National Front for Change.

President Hosni Mubarak, 82 and in frail health, has yet to strike the right tone or inspire policies to calm the furor. Renewing the emergency law, but narrowing its powers, allows the ruling National Democratic Party to claim support for press freedom and human rights while simultaneously keeping mechanisms in place to combat dissent before this year’s parliamentary elections.

“We do not deny that we still have issues, but we are working to resolve them,” said Moufid Shehab, minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs, acknowledging violations of civil liberties under the emergency law. “We aspire to one day have an end to emergency law.”

Shehab said the two-year extension, which passed by a wide majority, was needed to counter terrorism. He suggested that cases against bloggers and activists who have been jailed in recent years under the act for crimes unrelated to terrorism may be reviewed. The extension also will prohibit security forces from shutting newspapers and confiscating property. But security forces can still rely on an array of other laws to silence critics.

Shebab said the new emergency law means: “No trial, no indictment unless it’s a terrorist act.”

The government had promised to repeal the emergency law once it passed an anti-terrorism act, which has been bottled up in parliament for years. Emergency law has allowed authorities to detain suspects for long periods without formal charges. It has been used frequently against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opponents of the regime, many of whom have been tortured.

The opposition fears the law will be used to crack down on regime opponents ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. Egypt is also to hold presidential elections in 2011.

For more information, please see:

ABC – Egypt Extends Controversial Emergency Law – 12 May 2010

BBC – Egypt Renews Tough Emergency Laws – 12 May 2010

LA Times – Egypt Extends Emergency Rule – 12 May 2010

Body of Missing Ukrainian Yeshiva Student Found

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – The body of a missing Jewish student from a Kiev Chabad yeshiva, who had been missing for over two weeks, was found yesterday.

The remains of Aryeh Leib Mizenson, 25, who had disappeared on April 20, were found in the Ukrainian capital.  The police had to used DNA testing to determine the identity of the body, which was found dismembered.

Antisemitic sentiment within the active Ukrainian neo-Nazi community is suspected to have played a role in Mizenson’s death.  Local law enforcement officials have detained a member of a local neo-Nazi gang in connection with his death.  The fact that the day of his disappearance, April 20, is the anniversary of Adolph Hitler’s death, is not believed to be a coincidence.  Acts of violence against Jewish targets have been carried out by neo-Nazi groups in the past in the area.

Yaakov Zilberman, a leading member of Kiev’s Jewish community believes that antisemitism played a role in the killing.  “Many Jews here are confronted by groups of skin-heads wearing Nazi uniforms at metro stations in central Kiev.  The skin-heads walk around without fear in the center of town and no one says a word.”

The chief Ukrainian rabbi, who was out of the country at the time that Misenzon’s body was found, announced that he would return to Ukraine for the student’s funeral.

Law enforcement officials have requested that the Misenzon’s family delay his burial until the investigation can be completed.

For more information, please see:

HAARETZ – Body of Ukrainian Jew missing since Hitler’s birthday found in Kiev – 9 May 2010

INDYPOSTED – Dismembered Body of Ukrainian Jew Found In Kiev – 9 May 2010

JERUSALEM POST – Yeshiva student murdered in Ukraine – 9 May 2010

YNEWSNET – Jewish man murdered in Kiev; Chabad: Anti-Semites did it – 9 May, 2010

Brazil Supreme Court Upholds Amnesty for Torture, Disappearance

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA,Brazil-International human rights groups are vehemently opposing the Brazilian Supreme Court’s decision not to reinterpret a 1979 law giving amnesty to members of the former military government responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape. Instead, the Court held that such acts were political acts and therefore deserved amnesty.

While Argentine, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay have prosecuted individuals accused of human rights violations during military dictatorships, Brazil has not. Rights groups argue that the amnesty law puts Brazil in breach of conventional and customary international law that does not allow amnesty for crimes of torture and extrajudicial executions.

Tim Cahill of Amnesty International commented that “in a country that sees thousands of extra-judicial killings every year at the hands of security officials and where many more are tortured in police stations and prisons, this ruling clearly signals that in Brazil nobody is held responsible when the state kills and tortures its own citizens.”

Amnesty International also called on Brazil to come into conformity with the rulings of the Inter American Court of Human Rights, which has stressed that ” all amnesty provisions  . . . designed to eliminate responsibility are inadmissible, because they are intended to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and forced disappearance, all prohibited because they violate rights recognized by international human rights law.”

The Court voted in a 7-2 majority that the law should remain intact because it had been approved by society as a whole, including the bar association, armed forced, and political exiles. Thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, or disappeared in Brazil under military rule form 1964-1985.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International-Brazil Court Upholds Law that Protects Torturers-30 April 2010

AP-Brazil’s Top Court-Amnesty Law Will Not Change-30 April 2010

NY TIMES-Brazil: No Change to Amnesty Law-30 April 2010

Time Square Bombing Suspect Linked To Yemeni Cleric

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

WASHINGTON DC, USA – The Pakistani-American man accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square has told investigators that he drew inspiration from Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric whose militant online lectures have been a catalyst for several recent attacks and plots, an American official said Thursday.

The would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was inspired by the violent rhetoric of Mr. Awlaki, said the official, who would speak of the investigation only on condition of anonymity. “He listened to him, and he did it,” the official said, referring to Saturday’s attempted bombing on a busy street in Times Square.

New evidence is deepening a notion, albeit still unverified, that the failed car bombing in Times Square was not the work of one disgruntled young man, but inspired by a global extremist network stretching from Yemen to Pakistan, united by the Internet and a common radical vision of faith.

According to one account, Shahzad told investigators that he actually met with Awlaki – as well as Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and even Abdulmutallah, who tried to blow up a Northwest airliner landing in Detroit on Christmas Day. Investigators are skeptical, reports the New York Daily News, saying Shahzad claims to know most of the biggest players in the world of radical Islam. They have yet to verify his statements.

If true, Shahzad’s apparent susceptibility to Awlaki’s sermons, coupled with an ability to travel to Pakistan for training, and then back to the US with an American passport, offers a disturbing portrait of a virtual jihadi highway, linking mentality to means and money.

Investigators are not yet sure where that money came from. They are looking to question a courier who allegedly funneled money to Shahzad to pay for the SUV used in the attack, as well as the improvised explosives. But the source country remains unknown, the Associated Press reports.

As a result, the United States is likely to push Pakistan to press harder against militant enclaves in that country’s North Waziristan region, deemed the epicenter of the network behind the failed bombing. But that is likely to strain an already threadbare relationship between Washington and Islamabad, experts warn.

For more information, please see:

CSM – US-Born Cleric Inspired Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad – 7 May 2010

New York Times – Times Sq. Bomb Suspect Is Linked To Militant Cleric – 6 May 2010

AOL News – Times Square Suspect Reportedly Inspired By Radical Cleric – 7 May 2010

Lithuanian Appeals Court Says Baltic Pride 2010 Can Proceed

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

VILNIUS, Lithuania – On Friday May 7, a Lithuanian appellate court approved a gay pride parade scheduled for Saturday May 8 in the country’s capital of Vilnius.

The Supreme Administration Court of Lithuania, located in Vilnius, overturned a decision earlier in the week by a lower court in anticipation of Saturday’s parade. The Baltic Pride Parade 2010 is expected to draw hundreds of Lithuanian participants, as well as persons from other countries.

That decision, on Wednesday May 5, banned the protest in anticipation of violence.  The lower court’s decision was based on its determination that national and local authorities would be unable to guarantee the safety of the participants in the parade.  More than a thousand protesters and opponents of the parade are now expected to attend.

After the decision, a number of human rights groups protested what they perceived to be an intolerable disregard for gay rights, but did not expect a reversal on appeal.  Those human rights group accused the lower court judge and the Lithuanian Attorney General of masking homophobia with illegitimate public safety concerns.

However, the Supreme Administration Court, perhaps surprisingly, held that the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression trump safety concerns.  The Court declared that “those who share unpopular points of view or are members of minority groups” must be protected.

The Court also ruled that the lower court decision ban on the parade would have violated multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This decision was surprising to many Lithuanians, given the country’s spotty record of protecting the rights of its gay citizens.  It was especially unexpected given the people of Lithuania’s, and its government’s, overwhelmingly negative attitudes towards gay rights issues.

73 percent of respondents to a recent poll opposed the planned parade in Vilnius.  Also, more than 80 percent of Lithuanians consider homosexuality to be a disease according to a 2006 poll.  Moreover, the Lithuanian government has been criticized by human rights groups and the European Union, of which Lithuania is a member, for endemic disregard for sexual minorities within the country.

No major gay pride event has been permitted in the country since its inception in 1991, so Saturday’s parade will be the country’s first ever. Moreover, the Lithuanian Parliament in 2009 tried to pass a bill that would prevent public officials and educators from providing information about homosexuality from children.  The bill ultimately failed, but nevertheless showed the officially sanctioned disinformation plaguing the former Soviet republic.

For more information, please see:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL – Lithuania’s Baltic Pride March Gets Green Light – 7 May 2010

ASSOCIATED PRESS – Lithuanian court reverses ban on gay pride parade – 7 May 2010

CARE2 – Lithuania’s Gay Pride Gets a Boost as Baltic Pride 2010 March is Reinstated – 7 May 2010

Taiwan Executes Four Inmates

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Despite talks of abolishing the capital punishment system, Taiwan has executed four men.  These executions, whereby the inmates were shot by a firing squad, were Taiwan’s first since December 2005. 

Although death penalty is a sensitive issue in Taiwan, it is widely supported by the Taiwanese public.  In fact, the former justice minister resigned in March because the Minister refused to sign death warrants for prisoners. 

However, a human rights group called the Foundation for Judicial Reform condemned the recent executions saying, “We are shocked and angered . . . the justice ministry sped up the executions in a reckless process despite concerns over capital punishment.”

This Taiwanese rights group is claiming that the Justice Ministry purposely hastened the process for the four inmates who were executed. 

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Catherine Baber said, “These executions cast a dark shadow on the country’s human rights record and blatantly contradict the Justice Minister’s previously declared intention to abolish the death penalty.”

In defense, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice released a statement saying that the prisoners were “put to death according to the laws as the four were convicted of grave offenses,” adding that the executed inmates “did not request Constitutional interpretations of their cases.”  Taiwan reserve capital punishment for serious offenses, such as aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery.

Nevertheless Baber said, “The world was looking to the Taiwanese authorities to choose human rights, and to show leadership on the path towards abolishing the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific.  [The] executions extinguished that hope.”

Along with Amnesty International, Taiwanese Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) also expressed its “shock and anger.”  TAEDP often raises the question of legality over executions, and with regards to the recent executions, TAEDP’s Executive Director Lin Hsin-yi said that the executions were “furtively and hastily” carried out without notice to the inmates’ families.

49 Taiwanese were put to death between 2000 and 2005.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Taiwan rights groups lash out at executions – 1 May 2010

BBC – Taiwan conducts rare executions – 1 May 2010

Focus Taiwan – Rights groups condemn Taiwan’s executions – 1 May 2010

Thank the Mothers in your Life with a Gift to Support Women

Courtesy of Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Thank the Mothers in Your Life with a truly special gift this year for Mother’s Day by making a donation in her name to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. With any size gift, you can thank her and show your support for women in Iran and worldwide.

Your gift will help IHRDC collect evidence of violations of women’s rights in Iran .

Soon after the 1979 revolution, women sought to change the discriminatory laws enacted by the fledgling Islamic Republic. Over the last 30 years, the movement has developed into one of the most sophisticated civil movements in Iran . Activists have demanded equal rights for women in marriage; equal rights to divorce; an end to the practice of polygamy and temporary marriage; the right to pass on nationality to their children; equal dieh (compensation for bodily injury or death); equal inheritance rights; equal testimonial rights; and the removal of all laws that discriminate against women,  including stoning sentences issued in cases of adultery.

Women’s rights activists were targeted leading up to and following the June 12, 2009 presidential election in a concerted effort to cripple the movement. Prominent activists were forced into exile or imprisoned. Defense attorney Shadi Sadr was imprisoned and forced into exile. Writer and activist Aida Saadat was also forced to leave after being beaten in a Tehran street on her way home from a lengthy interrogation. The Iranian government continues to threaten, arrest and imprison not only veteran activists but less prominent supporters. Women’s rights activists remain in prison. Others are now fleeing Iran .

The women of Iran and the rest of the world deserve better. Help them by making a donation using the button below.

Visit our website at: www.iranhrdc.org

Thank the Mothers in Your Life with a truly special gift this year for Mother’s Day by making a donation in her name to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. With any size gift, you can thank her and show your support for women in Iran and worldwide.

Your gift will help IHRDC collect evidence of violations of women’s rights in Iran .

Soon after the 1979 revolution, women sought to change the discriminatory laws enacted by the fledgling Islamic Republic. Over the last 30 years, the movement has developed into one of the most sophisticated civil movements in Iran . Activists have demanded equal rights for women in marriage; equal rights to divorce; an end to the practice of polygamy and temporary marriage; the right to pass on nationality to their children; equal dieh (compensation for bodily injury or death); equal inheritance rights; equal testimonial rights; and the removal of all laws that discriminate against women,  including stoning sentences issued in cases of adultery.

Women’s rights activists were targeted leading up to and following the June 12, 2009 presidential election in a concerted effort to cripple the movement. Prominent activists were forced into exile or imprisoned. Defense attorney Shadi Sadr was imprisoned and forced into exile. Writer and activist Aida Saadat was also forced to leave after being beaten in a Tehran street on her way home from a lengthy interrogation. The Iranian government continues to threaten, arrest and imprison not only veteran activists but less prominent supporters. Women’s rights activists remain in prison. Others are now fleeing Iran .

The women of Iran and the rest of the world deserve better. Help them by making a donation using the button below.

Visit our website at:

www.iranhrdc.org.

Heavy Rain In Yemen Kills Seven

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – At least seven people were killed in a Sa’na shanty town in the worst flooding to hit the Yemeni capital in over a decade, officials said on Thursday.

Witnesses said water streamed down from nearby mountains on Wednesday evening after torrential rain into a low-lying residential area of eastern Sa’na with no drainage system, flooding hundreds of homes.

“A flood suddenly appeared and invaded the houses,” said Jamil Mohamed, a resident of the flooded shanty town.

Of the seven people who died, some drowned and others were killed by falling electricity pylons, officials said. Two more people were hurt and in hospital.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh toured the affected areas of the capital, the defense ministry’s online newspaper said.

Western countries and neighbor Saudi Arabia fear impoverished Yemen, fighting Shi’ite rebels in the north and southern separatism, may turn into a failed state from which al Qaeda could intensify attacks on the region and beyond.

The country shot to the top of Western security concerns after a Yemen-based al Qaeda wing claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound passenger plane in December.

In the capital, where many streets remained flooded, rescue operations continued and more than 250 people were evacuated from their homes and taken to shelter in schools. More rain was forecast for Thursday but was not expected to be as heavy.

There has been unusually heavy rainfall across the Arabian peninsula this week, with two people killed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Monday.

In 2008, severe flooding killed approximately 180 people. Aid agencies said 10,000 people were made homeless.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Seven Die In Worst Floods In Yemen Capital In Decade – 6 May 2010

BBC – Seven Yemenis Die In Heavy Rains – 6 May 2010

Middle East Online – Heavy Rainfall Kills Seven In Yemen – 6 May 2010

Latest Darfur Clashes Bring Heightened Insecurity and Humanitarian Concerns

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KHARTOUM, Sudan— The joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur has urged the Government and one of the leading insurgent groups in the western Sudanese region to stop fighting in response to the recent eruption of clashes between the two sides despite a peace process intended to end the conflict.

The latest fighting between Government troops and forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) resulted in an unknown number of casualties and displaced people, the mission (known as UNAMID) reported.

The recent clashes have led to displacements in eastern Jebel Marra in South Darfur and North Darfur states, and in western Jebel Marra and the Jebel Moon region in West Darfur state, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on 2 March, stressing that accurate information from the ground was very scarce because of lack of access.

OCHA spokesman Sam Hendricks said media reports about the number of casualties in the recent fighting were unreliable. “There is no way to find about casualties. There is no access to areas affected by the fighting,” he said.

The insecurity caused by these clashes has also prompted humanitarian agencies to suspend activities in some areas.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Army, Abdel Wahid Nour faction (SLA-Nour), which refuses to join peace talks with the Sudanese government until a full cessation of hostilities is implemented, has accused government forces of attacking its positions east of Jebel Marra.

“There were random air attacks on villages,” Al-Sadeq Al-Zein Rokero, an official with SLM-Nour faction, said. “The situation is very tragic. This may be the most violent attack by the Sudanese armed forces.”

Sudan’s army spokesman, Al Sawarmi Khaled, denies that there has been any government military action. “The armed forces are present in the area to preserve order. They did not clash with Abdel Wahid’s forces.”

The US State Department cast doubt on this denial in a statement expressing extreme concern “about reports that Government of Sudan forces are conducting offensive operations against … [SLA-Nour] positions in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur that have reportedly caused significant civilian casualties, displacement, and the evacuation of humanitarian organizations”.

The statement called on both parties “to refrain from further violence and to allow the Joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur access to Jebel Marra to assess the humanitarian situation and restore stability”.

Estimates indicate that the conflict has resulted in the deaths of some 300,000 people. At least 4.7 million residents of Darfur have been have been affected by the conflict, with a majority of them living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighbouring Chad.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Sudan Tribal Clash ‘leaves 26 dead’ – 6 May 2010

UN News – UN Urges Calm in Darfur as Fresh Clashes Erupt Despite Peace Process – 4 May 2010

IRIN – No Access After Darfur Clashes – 3 March 2010

 

Settlers Accused of Burning West Bank Mosque

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LUBBAN ASH-SHARQIYA, West Bank – Arsonists set fire to a mosque in a town ten kilometers south of Nablus on May 4. The mosque was largely destroyed by the attack, and Israeli settlers are widely suspected of setting the mosque on fire.

Israeli forces are continuing to investigate the arson, and said they have not yet found any evidence linking the attack to settlers. Still, the mayor of Lubban Ash-Sharqiya told journalists that local residents had seen the settlers in the village streets before the attack. Lubban Ash-Sharqiya is near three Israeli settlers: Eli, Maaleh Levona, and Shiloh.

Tensions have been high in the Nablus area since Israeli settlers allegedly vandalized a mosque in nearby Hawara a month ago; the Star of David and the name “Mohammad” was written in Hebrew letters on the walls of the mosque. Earlier this week, an olive orchard in Hawara was set on fire. In December, another mosque in Yasuf, also in the Nablus area, was set on fire and a message in Hebrew was left. Though the Israeli police have begun investigations into these attacks, there have been no arrests.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that such attacks could be irreparably harm the peace process. In a statement released on May 4, Abbas said that such attacks were “criminal,” and that the most recent arson “represented a threat to the efforts to revive the peace process,” because the Israeli army protects illegal settlers.

Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a six-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, radical Israeli settler groups have adopted a “price tag” policy, calling for aggressive action to any action by the Israeli police or military to curb unauthorized settlement expansion or construction. On May 3, Israeli authorities destroyed several structures in the Shavei Shomron settlement, which had been built in violation of the settlement freeze.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post – Mahmoud Abbas Warns Fire at West Bank Mosque Could Imperil Peace Talks – 5 May 2010

Al-Jazeerah – Illegal Israeli Settlers Burn Al-Lubban Mosque in the West Bank – 4 May 2010

Herald Sun – Settlers Torch West Bank Mosque – 4 May 2010

New York Times – Emotions in West Bank Run High After Mosque Fire – 4 May 2010

Italian Police Fine Woman For Wearing a Face-Covering Niqab in Public

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

NOVARA, Italy – Italian police stopped a Muslim woman in the city of Novara in north-western Italy for wearing an Islamic face-covering veil.  The police told AFP that the woman, who was visiting the post office with her husband, was issued a 500 euro fine for wearing the veil. This marks the first application of a by-law instituted by the city in January banning the wearing of clothing preventing immediate identification in public.

Mayor of Novara, Massimo Giordano, said that the by-law was designed to deter women from covering themselves with the veil in public. He said:

“There are still some people that refuse to understand that our community in Novara does not accept and does not want people going around wearing the burka.”

According to the BBC, the city of Novara is run by the anti-immigration Northern League.  The Northern League is a powerful junior coalition partner in Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi’s national government, and currently has a bill before parliament which would outlaw the wearing of Islamic face veils in public.

The twenty-six-year-old woman stopped by police was described as a Tunisian national. After her husband refused to allow her to be identified by male officers, a female police officer was called in to make the identification.

Since 1975, the Italian government has had national anti-terrorism laws which prohibit the wearing of any mask or clothing that makes identification of the wearer impossible.  However, the law permits exceptions for “justified cause”, which has been interpreted by Italian courts to include the wearing of facial coverings for religious purposes – including the wearing of Islamic veils. Novara, and two other municipalities in northern Italy, have used the 1975 laws as the legal basis upon which they have banned Islamic veils.

The Novara by-law reflects similar efforts to ban veils which have been taking place across Western Europe. A ban on wearing masks and veils in public has recently passed the Belgian lower house and is set to go before the Senate. If approved, it would be the first national measure to ban Islamic facial coverings in Europe.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Italy Fines Muslim Woman Over Veil – 4 May 2010

BBC International – Police stop Muslim woman wearing veil in Italy – 3 May 2010

The Guardian – Muslim woman fined for wearing burqa in northern Italy – 3 May 2010

 

Guantanamo Hearing Suggests Khadr was Tortured

Brenda Lopez Romero
Impunity Watch reporter – North America desk

GANTANAMO BAY — Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, Omar Khadr’s military lawyer, was able to get some damaging testimony during his cross-examination of witnesses that indicated Mr. Khadr was abused and mis-treatmented.

An Army master sergeant, “Interrogator #2,” acknowledge that that he was aware of the Army’s field manual that cited as an example of torture “forcing an individual to stand, sit or kneel in abnormal positions for a prolonged period of time.”  Lt. Col. Jackson recounted prior testimony by a medic personnel, Mr. M, that indicated Mr. Khadr’s arms had been shackled at his forehead level.  Then Interrogator #2 stated that “[i]t could be” a similar position to that one stated in the field manual.  What set them apart was that an “air lock technique” forced detainees to stand with their arms’ straight out without being shackled and Mr. Khadr’s hands held at forehead level, not straight out, and was shackled.

If Col. Patrick Parrish, the military judge, hearing Mr. Khadr’s case is convinced that he suffered abuse prior to giving statements during interrogation, then Col. Parrish could be persuaded that Mr. Khadr was unreasonably coerced

Interrogator #2 testified that in Bagram they could play music in loud volume.  Interrogator #2’s also testified that Khdar was “sedated” during an interrogation.

When Lt. Col. Jackson asked if interrogators were allowed to use “stress positions,” Interrogator #2 stated that they were clear to use “safety positions.”

Lt Col. Jackson then asked, “Well, first it was called stress positions, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” Interrogator #2 answered.

Lt. Col. further inquired, “Is there a difference?”

“No, sir,” Interrogator #2 responded.

“Interrogator #1,” the lead interrogator for Khadr, is expected to testify for the defense and it is expected he will acknowledge threatening Khadr with rape.

For more information, please see:

The Miami Herald – Guantánamo hearing: Canadian teen was sedated when first questioned – 4 May 2010

The Star – Khadr questioned by sergeant later court martialed, court told – 4 May 4, 2010

The Washington Independent – Defense Gets Interrogator to Suggest Khadr Was Tortured – 4 May 2010

Somali Pirates Hijack Yemeni Cargo Ship

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ADEN, Yemen – Somali pirates have seized a cargo vessel off the coast of Yemen, and are believed to be holding the crew of nine Yemeni sailors, Yemen’s Defense Ministry website said Tuesday.

Citing sources at the Interior Ministry, the website said the pirates took over the ship after it sailed from Mukalla port en route to Aden. It was carrying various products and a crew of 9 Yemeni sailors was onboard. Meanwhile, the sources said that information had surfaced that the ship was seen at Somali Qarta’a port.

“The ship with the license registration name of Al-Asa’a carrying various merchandise along with nine Yemeni sailors on board has been moved by pirates to Karta area in the northern coast of Somalia,” the report added.

The Gulf of Aden, off the northern coast of Somalia, has the highest risk of piracy in the world. Every year about 25,000 ships use the channel south of Yemen between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Somali Pirates Hijack Yemeni Cargo Ship – 4 May 2010

Saba Net – Somali Pirates Seize Yemeni Ship – 4 May 2010

People’s Daily Online – Yemeni-Owned Commercial Ship Hijacked By Somali Pirates – 4 May 2010

Egypt Convicts 26 In Terror Plot

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian court on Wednesday convicted 26 men of belonging to a Hezbollah cell that was charged with planning to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula, fire on ships passing through the Suez Canal and smuggle weapons, supplies and people through tunnels to the Gaza Strip.

The men’s sentences ranged from life in prison to six months in jail. Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty for several defendants, including Muhammad Youssef Mansour, also known as Sami Shehab, who had been sent by Hezbollah to set up the cell in Egypt.

The prisoners maintained their innocence throughout the trial, saying they were just trying to help Hamas, the Hezbollah ally in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, across the Egyptian border.

But prosecutors argued successfully that the men had spied on ships in the Suez Canal and on tourist sites, with the aim of launching strikes against them.  Those convicted include Egyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Sudanese citizens.  Four were tried in absentia and remain at large.

“The verdict proves only that the case is politically motivated,” defence lawyer Abdul-Monem Abdel-Maqsud told al-Jazeera TV. “It only serves the Zionist entity which has welcomed the trial as it diverts attention away from calls to try their Gaza war criminals.”

The controversial case illuminated one of the Middle East’s great divides: between US-backed Egypt, with its peace treaty with Israel – and Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran. Hezbollah has sought to play it down since the trial began last summer but maintains that its only interest was backing Palestinian resistance to the Jewish state.

No appeal against the sentences is possible but there is already speculation in Cairo about possible presidential pardons as the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, seeks to improve his long-strained relations with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, described the charges as revenge for the organisation’s denunciation of Egypt’s support for the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In December 2008, as Israel carried out its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Nasrallah accused Mubarak of “taking part in the crime” of Israel’s onslaught an called for the overthrow of his regime.

For more information, please see:

Guardian – Egypt Sentences 26 For Plotting Hezbollah Terrorist Campaign – 28 April 2010

VOA – Egypt Convicts 26 Men On Terror Charges – 28 April 2010

The New York Times – 26 In Egypt Are Convicted In Terror Plot – 28 April 2010