Mothers of U.S. Hikers Held in Tehran Plea for Release During Visit

Mothers of U.S. Hikers Held in Tehran Plea for Release During Visit

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

U.S. hikers held in Tehran visiting with their mothers for the first time in ten months. [Source: Al Jazeera]
TEHRAN, Iran — Following an emotional reunion in Tehran last week, the mothers of three hikers captured last July while hiking in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region have returned home, after failing to win the hikers’ release.

The American trio, Shane Bauer, twenty seven, Sarah Shourd, thirty one, and Joshua Fattal, twenty seven, have been held at Tehran’s Evin prison for the past ten months after they unintentionally crossed over the Iran border during a hiking trip. They have not yet been publicly charged, but Iran has accused them of espionage.

The reunion was a carefully orchestrated event that took place at the Esteghlal Hotel in Tehran. Reporters at the news conference were instructed not to ask any questions. The hikers told of their time in prison, noting that they were well fed and well taken care of. Ms. Shourd expressed her loneliness, as she spends twenty three hours per day alone, while the other two prisoners share a room.

The mothers called for their children’s release as a “humanitarian gesture.” Added Cindy Hickey, Mr. Bauer’s mother, “It would be a good gesture for the world to see Iran doing.”

The mothers were permitted to visit with their children for ten hours over two days before leaving on Friday. The visit came after months of pressing Iranian authorities for visas. They have unsuccessfully attempted to initiate talks with Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Tehran to free the hikers, but Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last December that the trio would stand trial.
The hikers’ imprisonment has exacerbated tensions between the United States and Iran. While Iran has hinted of releasing the prisoners in exchange for the release of Iranian prisoners, the U.S. State Department has rejected any such notion of a prisoner exchange.

The fate of the hikers remains to be seen. “We don’t understand why we’ve been kept here,” Ms. Shourd said. “We thought we’d be kept here for a matter of days, and it’s been nine and a half months. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would still be in prison.”

For more information, please see:

Lebanon: Twelve Charged in Lynching Death of Egyptian Murder Suspect

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Photo: Villagers watching and filming the lynching of Mohammed Msalla. [Source: BBC]
Villagers watching and filming the lynching of Mohammed Muslem. [Source: AP]

KETERMEYA, Lebanon – Twelve men have been charged with murder after last month’s lynching of Mohammed Muslem, an Egyptian national living in the south-eastern Lebanese village of Ketermaya. Muslem was suspected in the quadruple-murder of an elderly couple and their two young granddaughters last month. The victims were the mother and father of local school teacher Rana Abu Merhi, as well as her two young daughters aged nine and seven.

Muslem, a village butcher, was a neighbor of the slain family. He had a prior criminal record and was a suspect in the rape of a thirteen year old girl in Ketermaya earlier this year.

He was arrested hours after the murder and confessed to the crime after spending the night in custody. The next morning, as a thousands of villagers gathered for the funeral of the slain family members, a police car carrying Muslem and six policemen passed the procession. The villagers overwhelmed the police car, dragged Muslem out of the car, and beat him.

The police were able to get Muslem back into the car and managed to take him to the local hospital. However, the the mob followed and dragged him back into the streets. Villagers say that the policemen disappeared after Muslem was dropped off at the hospital.

Muslem was stripped to his underwear and socks, paraded through the streets, and hoisted onto an electrical pole with a butcher’s hook.

The mob was eventually dispersed by Lebanese troops, who took away Muslem’s body when they arrived. The incident was filmed and footage of the lynching went online almost immediately, to the horror of many Lebanese citizens. 

Muslems lynching caused outrage in Egypt, where he was buried in early May. [Source: AFP]
Muslem’s funeral in Egypt. His lynching resulted in outrage among Egyptians. [Source: AFP]


The lynching has called into question the efficacy of law and order in Lebanon, a country with a reputation as one of the most progressive and liberal countries in the Arab world. In particular, the decision of the police officers involved to take Muslem to the murder site during the funeral procession, and to leave him unguarded at the hospital, have been criticized. Questions also remain as to how the crowd was informed of Muslem’s confession.

One young resident of Ketermaya told the BBC that he thought the policemen brought Muslem back because they wanted justice as well. Outside of a Ketermaya shop hung with graphic photos of the murdered children a signed is displayed reading: “We would like to thank the authorities for allowing justice to take place.”

Omar Nashabe, law editor of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar and criminal justice expert, said:

“The police seem to have acted like a judge. Violation of the presumption of innocence is a continuous problem in Lebanon, but this is just one side of the Ketermaya incident.” Nashabe added: “They killed an innocent man, a man who was not proven guilty by a court of law, who never had an opportunity to defend himself.”

Justice Minister Ibrahim Najarr responded to criticism of the Lebanese government which emerged in response to the incident, saying “Justice in Lebanon exists. We have judges, we have tribunals, we have credibility.” Najarr also referred to the arrest of those who allegedly participated in the lynching as evidence of law and order in Lebanon.

He told BBC reporter Natalia Antelava that, “After such a savage crime people were angry. This could have happened in any country.”

Antelava asked Najarr: “When was the last time you heard of police delivering a murder suspect to an angry mob?”

Antelava reported that Najarr did not have a reply to the question.

Two policemen involved in the incident have received a ten-day suspension.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Lebanon charges 12 over butcher’s hook lynching – 20 May 2010

BBC – Village mob lynching raises questions for Lebanon – 20 May 2010

UPI – Legal Expert: Lebanon lacks law and order – 20 May 2010

Al Jazeera – Lebanon Makes Arrests Over Lynching – 8 May 2010

Indigenous Right to Water Threatened in Ecuador

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Indigenous communities protest a new water bill in Ecuador. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Indigenous communities protest a new water bill in Ecuador. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

QUITO,EcuadorA controversial water bill has led to unrest as indigenous communities in Ecuador protest what they view as an unconstitutional intrusions into their rights to water. Protests began several weeks ago when the Ecuadorian government released a new bill on water regulation. The initiative includes provisions of water for industries such as mining and agribusiness. Indigenous communities argue that this “privatization” will damage their small farms.

The bill has been postponed for several months and the head of Parliament, Fernando Cordero has proposed a “non-binding pre-legislative consultation” with Ecuador’s indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities make up forty percent on the population. This proposal led to temporary suspension of demonstrations and roadblocks that have been ongoing for the last two weeks in seven provinces.

Consultations with indigenous communities on the impact of industrial projects are required by the Ecuadorian constitution, which has been in effect since 2008. This was meant to align with the International Labor Organization’s Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which requires prior, free and informed consent, and participation by indigenous peoples in the benefits generated by such projects.

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court confirmed that the consultation was mandatory under the constitution, however the incorporation of the results is not required. There are three indigenous associations opposed to the bill: the Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, the National  Federation of PEasant, Indigenous and black Organizations, and the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador. Native leaders demand that the results of the participation be binding.

Modifications proposed by indigenous groups include a  mandated respect for the order of priorities for water use established by the new constitution. This provision establishes that water resources must go first to human consumption, then to irrigation for domestic food production, next to maintaining adequate levels of water in the ecosystems, and finally to non-food productive activities. The interpretation that water use in export-oriented industry is not contemplated in constitution is opposed by the Congress.

Indigenous communities accuse the government of trying to privatize water resources, which the constitution establishes are a national good for public use. Private companies are only allowed to administer supplies of water through government concessions. However, indigenous associations insist that the concession system should be replaced by a permit system which would be subject to discretionary renewal.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera-Ecuador Water Law Sparks Protest-20 May 2010

Alternet-Water Conflict Mounts in Ecuador-20 May 2010

IPS-Native Standoff Over Water Bill On Hold-19 May 2010

Six Somali Pirates Sentenced To Death In Yemen

By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SA’NA, Yemen – Six Somali pirates, captured by Yemeni forces in April last year, were sentenced to death by a Yemen court on Tuesday. Six others were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and together must pay $2 million compensation for hijacking an oil tanker.

Part of Tuesday’s ruling by a criminal court requires the convicted pirates to pay the company that owns the hijacked vessel, Masafi Aden, a sum of 2 million Yemen riyals ($9,200).

The Defense Ministry’s online newspaper said the court would require Masafi Aden to pay a certain portion of the reparations to the Yemeni victims’ families.

On April 26, 2009, they hijacked the Yemeni ship Qana, owned by Adan Refinery Company, near the coast of Yemen. Yemeni forces recaptured the ship and took 12 pirates prisoner, but two crew members were killed in the struggle.

Piracy is a major problem off the coast of Somalia, where gangs of pirates have hijacked dozens of ships in the past few years.

International naval patrols have largely not been able to stop the attacks.

Furthermore, many captured pirates have been released because no country would prosecute them.  Kenya has conducted some pirate trials but recently said its justice system is overburdened.

For more information, please see:

The Epoch Times – Six Somali Pirates Sentenced To Death In Yemen – 19 May 2010

VOA News – Yemen Court Sentences Somali Pirates To Death – 18 May 2010

Reuters – Yemen Court Sentences Six Somali Pirates To Death – 18 May 2010