Iranian Scholar, Journalist, and Human Rights Activist Sentenced to One-Year in Prison

By Alyxandra Stanczak
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Photo of Emadeddin Baghi. (Image by Payvan News).
Photo of Emadeddin Baghi. (Image by Payvan News).

TEHRAN, Iran – On Thursday, July 29, 2010, Emadeddin Baghi, acclaimed author and human rights activist, was sentenced to one year in prison for “acting against [Iran’s] national security through the spreading of propaganda against the regime,” “disclosing classified documents about [Iran’s] prisons,” “visiting political prisoners’ families and providing them with financial and legal help,” and “having relations with human rights organizations abroad.”  Along with his jail sentence, Baghi was sentenced to a five-year ban from political and media activities.

Considered to be a highly influential human rights activist in Iran, Baghi won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for his campaign against the death penalty. Additionally, Baghi is an award-winning author and journalist. Six of Baghi’s twenty five books are banned in Iran. His efforts in Iran have largely focused on founding and heading the Association for the Defense of Detainee Rights.

Baghi was arrested on December 28, 2009 and released on bail June 23, 2010 after 180 days in jail awaiting his trial. Before his release, Baghi spent 150 of his 180 days in solitary confinement. After his first arrest in 2000 which led to a two-year prison sentence, Baghi has spent over four-and-a-half years out of the past ten years in prison.

In addition to Baghi’s one-year sentence, he now faces charges for an interview he participated in with the late Cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was extremely influential in the reformist movement and spoke out publically against the controversial reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Baghi is one of many human rights activists in Iran targeted by Teheran. Other human rights activists have been arrested, detained, and charged in Iran, including seven members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Saeed Kalanaki, Saeed Jalalifar, Shiva Nazar Ahari, Koohyar Goodarzi, Saeed Haeri, Parisa Kakayi and Mehrdad Rahimi.

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Europe – Iranian Journalist, Rights Activist Given Prison Term – 29 July 2010

Eurasia Review – Award-Winning Iranian Journalist Receives Jail Term – 26 July 2010

RTT News – Acclaimed Human Rights Activist Sentenced in Iran to One Year – 26 July 2010

Sydney Morning Herald – Iran jails award-winning journalist – 26 July 2010

Amnesty International – Prisoner of Conscience – 7 January 2010

Peace Negotiations Watch

PEACE NEGOTIATIONS WATCH

Friday, July 30, 2010
Volume IX, Number 27

In this issue:

CONFLICT UPDATES

Afghanistan
Burma
Cameroon: Southern Cameroons
Cyprus
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Georgia
Kashmir
Kenya
Kyrgyzstan
Nagorno Karabakh
Nepal
Philippines
Somaliland
Sudan: Darfur
Sudan: Southern Sudan
Tanzania
Thailand
Uganda
Zimbabwe

Afghanistan

UN Security Council Hails International Conference on Afghanistan

Xinhua, July 24, 2010
The United Nations (UN) Security Council released a statement congratulating the Afghan government on the recent international conference in Kabul, which included national governmental, regional, and international representatives.  The representatives met and discussed strengthening regional and international cooperation, Afghan leadership and governance, security, and economic growth.  The UN Security Council stated that the conference is another step in the political, economic, and security improvement process in Afghanistan, as well as the peace process.

Burma

ASEAN Urges Burma to Hold Free, Fair Election

The Irrawaddy, July 19, 2010
Foreign ministers of nine of the ten states forming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a rather unusual stand on the eve of their annual conference by urging Burma, the tenth member, to hold free and fair election and offering to send observers to the elections.  Such a statement from states known for their strict policy of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, often leading to overlooking violations of human rights, demonstrates the deep concern of ASEAN members regarding Burma.

Burma Upgrades Military With North Korean Advice

The Irrawaddy, July 23, 2010
Following North Korean advice, Burma recently upgraded its military equipment to improve the rapid deployment of its forces, providing increasing evidence of existing ties between Burma and North Korea.  Other instances illustrating the increasingly close ties between Burma and North Korea include a memorandum of understanding regarding joint military exercises between the two armies, North Korean assistance in defense matters, and the recent rumors regarding the import of nuclear weapons.  The Burmese military is also seeking North Korea’s input on the upgrade of its people’s militias, which are part of the regime’s “People’s War Strategy.”

India Welcomes Burma Military Leader

CNN, July 25, 2010
Indian officials welcomed the top leader of the Burmese Junta on July 25.  General Than Shwe’s five-day visit aims to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties between both states.  Bilateral trade between both states has reached almost one billion dollars in the past few years, with several Indian companies investing in Burma’s energy sector.  The visit comes several days after the United States (U.S.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India and neighboring countries to pressure Burma to comply with UN human rights resolutions and nonproliferation agreements.

Cameroon: Southern Cameroons

Prisoners? What Prisoners? Asks Cameroon Minister

Radio France International, July 12, 2010
Cameroonian Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary refused to confirm or deny whether members of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) are currently imprisoned in Cameroon.  The SCNC alleges that fifty of its members are currently detained without trial.  Bakary asserted that the Government of Cameroon will not negotiate with the SCNC as long as it advocates for secession from Cameroon.

Cyprus

Proposals on Famagusta

Famagusta Gazette, July 19, 2010
During a public speech, Greek Cypriot President Christofias presented a three-part proposal to revive peace negotiations.  In hopes of facilitating a quicker dialogue between Greek and Turkish Cyprus, the first part of the proposal seeks to combine three divisive topics, including property, territory and immigration, into one.  The second seeks to implement UN Security Council Resolution 550, and to give the UN administrative power over the fenced-off areas of Varosha in Famagusta.  The third looks to convene an international conference to address internal issues in Cyprus.  Christofias contended that the package of proposals is balanced and is in the interest of the international community.

Turkey and Northern Cyprus Sign Long-Awaited Water Deal

Hurriyet, July 21, 2010
On July 19, Turkey and Northern Cyprus signed a 450 million dollar water project agreement.  The water deal envisions the construction of an undersea pipeline between Turkey and Cyprus which would be capable of delivering seventy-five meters of water.  The agreement is aimed at enhancing the lives of Turkish Cypriots, but Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek suggested that the water would benefit the entire island of Cyprus should a lasting peace be achieved.

Christofias’ Proposals Not Serious

Cyprus Mail, July 25, 2010
Turkish Cypriot Kudret Ozersay, the Special Representative for Turkish Cyprus at UN-sponsored talks, accused Greek Cypriot President Christofias of pitching a package of proposals that he knew was unfeasible and repetitive.  Ozersay explained that two of the proposals mirrored past ideas that Turkish Cyprus had already rejected and that the third proposal was not politically practical.  Ozersay also reaffirmed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s commitment to the UN framework for negotiation.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo:Militia Leader Ordered Back To Jail

The New York Times, July 23, 2010
After the International Criminal Court (ICC) suspended the trial of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga on July 8 due to what the judges termedthe prosecutor’s abuse of process and ordered his release, the ICC appellate judges’ panel halted his release.  They stated that his release might prevent the trial from resuming in the future.  Lubanga plead not guilty and was standing trial for charges of using children under 15 years old to fight for his Union of Congolese Patriots militia during the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 1999-2003 war.

Georgia

EU Launching Talks on Closer Ties With Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia

Radio Free Europe, July 15, 2010
The European Union (EU) has announced the beginning of talks with Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia for formal association agreements on political and economic issues.  EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said that talks on association agreements usually take between one and four years, and include the possibility of visa-free travel and free-trade regimes.

Abkhazia Does U-Turn Over Geneva Talks

Radio Free Europe, July 24, 2010
Prime Minister of Abkhazia Sergei Shamba announced that Abkhazia would send a delegation to attend the next round of mediation.  Abkhaz presidential-administration head, Nadir Bitiyev, said previously that Abkhazia would not attend the next round of talks because international mediators were unwilling to pressure Georgia to sign an agreement on the non-resumption of hostilities.

Separatist Abkhazia, S. Ossetia Leaders Meet With Venezuela’s Chavez

Radio Free Europe, July 24, 2010
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with separatist leaders Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia in Caracas on July 23 to discuss the development of cooperation between Venezuela and the two regions.  Venezuela is the fourth country, along with Russia, Nicaragua, and the island state of Nauru, to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent.  Venezuelan officials signed a series of agreements establishing foreign diplomatic relations and other potential future cooperation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Kashmir

US Rejects Pak’s Request to Mediate in Talks with India to Resolve Kashmir, Water Issues

TheIndian, July 20, 2010
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated during a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that the U.S. will not mediate between Pakistan and India on the issues of Kashmir and water rights.  Regarding the water dispute, Clinton stated that each country should efficiently manage its own water resources before asking for more from the other country.  Clinton also commented that Pakistan and India, the two countries involved in the disputes, must resolve the issues themselves, and that the U.S. encourages both governments to continue their recently renewed talks and engagement.

Water Dispute Increases India-Pakistan Tension

The New York Times, July 20, 2010
A water dispute between India and Pakistan continues after Pakistan’s May filing with the international arbitration court against India’s planned hydroelectric dams.  With both countries’ populations expanding, India is currently building one of several planned large hydroelectric dams to help maintain and increase India’s energy resources.  Pakistan fears the dams will increase India’s control of Pakistan’s water resources for agricultural use, which makes up a large percentage of Pakistan’s employment and economy.  The water dispute is a sticking point in the negotiations and renewal of peace talks between Pakistan and India, which once focused squarely on Kashmir.

Kenya

Kenyan MP Ditches Bill after Defecting

Capital News, July 20, 2010
Member of Parliament (MP) Jamieck Kamau said he will not go forward with a bill in Parliament to postpone the referendum on the Proposed Constitution.  Mr. Kamau indicated that the President told him the contentious portions of the document would be dealt with after the new Constitution is passed.

Poll Chaos Witnesses Flown Out

Daily Nation, July 20, 2010
Earlier this month, the ICC flew out three key eye-witnesses to the post-election violence of 2007.  The ICC decided to take the witnesses under its protection because the government had not dedicated enough funding to its witness protection program.  The Kenya National Commission for Human Rights said that threats against eye-witnesses have been on the rise.

Police are County’s Most Corrupt Institution – Index

Daily Nation, July 22, 2010
According to the Transparency International Bribery Index, which reviews levels of bribery in government institutions of five East African states, the Kenyan police are the most corrupt institution in the state and the third most corrupt state body in the region.  Kenya was ranked the third most corrupt state overall.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Interim Gov’t Amends Election Law

Xinhua, July 21, 2010
Kyrgyzstan’s caretaker government amended Kyrgyzstan’s election laws by presidentially signed decree.  The changes bring Parliament’s seat count to 120 from 90.  Further changes include: limiting each party to no more 65 seats; setting 21 as the minimum age for candidate eligibility; and announcing the upcoming parliamentary election date 90 days before the election.  The decree also requires Kyrgyz citizens to present validated documents of residency in addition to proof of a registered permanent residence.

South Kyrgyzstan Forces May Have Used Torture: UN Rights

AFP, July 21, 2010
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay stated that acquired information shows that military and police forces in Kyrgyzstan have used torture, ill-treatment, and illegal and indiscriminate detention in response to June’s ethnic violence.  The ill-treatment has been mainly of Uzbek men and threatens the peace process, said Pillay.

Kyrgyz Police Detain Ex-President’s Brother

The Associated Press, July 22, 2010
Kyrgyz police detained the brother of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Wednesday night outside of Jalal-Abad, where June’s ethnic violence occurred.  He was arrested on charges of contributing to and inciting the ethnic violence, which left hundreds of Uzbeks dead and resulted in over 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons.  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced that they would send an international police force to Kyrgyzstan’s southern region to advise local police.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Obama Pick for U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan on the Defensive at Senate Hearings

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, July 22, 2010
The U.S. nominee for Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and as the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group.  His selection has upset many Armenian officials and diaspora groups.  At his July 22 nomination hearing, U.S. senators questioned Bryza intensively about his delayed condemnation of Azeri troops’ attack on UNESCO-protected gravesites in Julfa, his inability to efficiently deliver funds to assist Nagorno-Karabakh, and his role in the dismissal of former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans.

Too Early for a Karabakh Referendum – EU Envoy

News.az, July 26, 2010
EU Special Envoy on the South Caucasus Peter Semneby indicated that a referendum would be inappropriate at this stage in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace negotiations.  Semneby encouraged the parties to adhere to the Minsk Group principles for resolving the conflict.

Samvel Nikoyan Draws Similarities Between Kosovo and Karabakh Issues

PanArmenian.net,July 26, 2010
The decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia was lawful may have implications for the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.  Armenian Vice Speaker of Parliament Samvel Nikoyan and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannisian have both highlighted the similarities between the situations in Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nepal

No Winner in Nepal Run-Off Election

The Hindu, July 23, 2010
Neither candidate for the prime ministerial post obtained a majority of the votes in the July 23rd run-off election.  The two candidates, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN-Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress Vice-President Ram Chandra Paudel, failed to win by majority principally because the members of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-UML) and several Madhesi parties refrained from voting.  Another prime ministerial election is planned to take place on August 2.

“UML Won’t Partake in Prime Ministerial Run-Off Until Consensus Government Ensured”

NepalNews, July 23, 2010
CPN-UML leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari declared that his party would not vote in the second prime ministerial election without assurance that it would result in “a national consensus government.”  Adhikari insisted that his party had withdrawn the candidacy of Jhala Nath Khanal for the sake of such national consensus because, although Khanal would have obtained a majority of votes in the election, he had failed to achieve a two-thirds majority.

Madhesi Parties Set Conditions for Support as House Prepares for Prime Ministerial Run-Off

NepalNews, July 23, 2010
The Unified Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), an alliance of Madhes-based parties, revealed three main conditions its constituents have set for their support in the prime ministerial election, without officially pledging their support to any of the candidates.  First, the UDMF insisted that the future government should comply with past agreements regarding the autonomy and right to self-determination of the Madhesi province, and should not set up the State Restructuring Commission without consulting Madhesi parties.  Second, the UDMF called for the drafting of the new Constitution to be completed within the Constituent Assembly’s tenure.  Finally, with regard to the peace process, the UDMF proposed a schedule for the integration of People Liberation Army (PLA) fighters, the dismantling of Young Communist League (YCL) camps, and the return of seized properties.

Philippines

Government Reviewing Peace Process Before Talks

Reuters, July 16, 2010
The government of President Benigno Aquino expects to hold informal talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by October 2010.  In preparation, the government is reviewing the peace process that has been facilitated by Malaysia since 2001.  Norway and the EU will soon join Malaysia on the monitoring team in Mindanao.  Norway continues to facilitate talks between the government and the Maoist National Democratic Front (NDF).  President Aquino has linked the need for peace to economic development, and aims to return 25,000 displaced persons to Mindanao before the end of his first 100 days in office.

General Mabanta Vows that Military Operations Against Insurgents Will Comply With the Law

PhilStar, July 26, 2010
The new Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Civil Relations Service (CRS), Brigadier General Jose Mabanta Jr., has said that all military operations against insurgents will comply with existing laws.  Mabanta promised that all operations would be documented and all searches would be initiated under warrants.  His statement came in response to complaints that allege extra-judicial killings and other violations of human rights on the part of the AFP.  Mabanta is working under a three-year deadline to end the insurgency.

Somaliland

Somaliland Clashes Displace Thousands

All Africa, July 23, 2010
Several thousand people in northern Somalia have been displaced in recent weeks by clashes between Somaliland troops and a new rebel group, Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC).  The rebel group wishes to liberate these three regions from the government of Somaliland.  During campaigns before the June election, President Silanyo pledged to start negotiations with the SCC.

Inauguration of President-Elect Silaanyo to be Attended by Djibouti and Kenyan Delegations

Somaliland Press, July 25, 2010
The inauguration of President-Elect Silaanyo will be attended by delegations from Djibouti and Kenya, only a week after a former Kenyan minister called for the administration to recognize Somaliland as a country.

Sudan: Darfur

Darfur Rebels and U.N. to Sign Deal to Protect Children

Reuters, July 20, 2010
Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signed a deal with UNICEF on Wednesday to protect children from being used as solders in the Darfur conflict, and from sexual violence.  Both rebel forces and government-sponsored groups have reportedly recruited children to fight during the course of the Darfur conflict, though the agreement did not specifically mention such recruitment.  UNICEF will have access to JEM locations to verify compliance.

LJM and Sudanese Government Agree to a Ceasefire

AFP, July 22, 2010
Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), the only rebel group that is currently party to the peace process, signed a ceasefire that follows the March framework.  Qatari mediators continue to extend an invitation to the other rebel groups to re-join the negotiating table.

Sudan Softens Stance on Adding More Darfur Rebel Groups to the Negotiations

Sudan Tribune, July 22, 2010
A spokesperson for the Sudanese government’s delegation to the Doha peace talks says the government is making “real efforts” to bring the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and JEM to the talks.  Regarding the progress of the talks, he named the security arrangement committee and the justice and compensation committee as the only two committees that have not achieved progress thus far in Doha.

Sudan Summons UNICEF Representative to Protest JEM Pact

Sudan Tribune, July 25, 2010
The Sudanese foreign ministry conveyed a strong disagreement to a recent deal UNICEF signed with the JEM and demanded that UNICEF back away from the agreement.  The agreement signed this week allows the UN to access JEM bases to check that child soldiers are not recruited.

Sudan: Southern Sudan

Sudan’s Peace Partners to Begin Post-Referendum Negotiations Next Week

Sudan Tribune, July 23, 2010
Vice President of Southern Sudan Riek Machar has announced that negotiations on post-referendum issues are expected to begin on July 27 in Khartoum between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).  The NCP and SPLM have signed an agreement on the guiding principles for the negotiations and have recommitted themselves to the January 2011 referendum.  The negotiations will include issues concerning oil production, transport, marketing, assets, debts, security, international treaties, and currency.

Sudanese Opposition Reject Meeting with Bashir to Discuss Referendum

Sudan Tribune, July 25, 2010
Several opposition parties have rejected a meeting invitation from President Bashir to discuss the upcoming referendum in Southern Sudan.  Eight opposition parties released a statement accusing President Bashir of trying to stall the referendum process.  Deputy Secretary General of the SPLM Yasir Arman said that opposition leaders believed that the meeting should also cover other issues such as the crisis in Darfur, economic conditions, democratic transformation, and political freedom.

African Union Drops Resolution Barring Arrest of Sudanese President in Continent

Sudan Tribune, July 26, 2010
Delegates at the African Union summit in Uganda have agreed to remove draft language from a resolution that would have instructed member states not to cooperate with the ICC.  At the opening of the summit, Malawian President Mutharika said that the ICC arrest warrant for President Bashir was “undermining African solidarity.”  The non-cooperation wording was removed from the draft resolution after South Africa and Botswana opposed its inclusion.  Chad, an ICC member state, chose not to arrest President Bashir during his recent visit to the state.

Tanzania

CHADEMA Announces Candidate for October Presidential Elections

The Citizen, July 22, 2010
The Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) has named Dr. Willibrod Slaa as its presidential candidate for the general election to be held October 31.  Many believe that Dr. Slaa will pose a healthy challenge to President Kikwete.  Dr. Slaa’s signature issue is the battle against official corruption.

Transparency International Lists Tanzanian Police Force among Top Ten Most Corrupt in East Africa

The Citizen, July 23, 2010
Transparency International’s East African Bribery Index (EABI) 2010 includes Tanzania’s Judiciary and Police Force among the ten most corrupt institutions in East Africa.  The report called the National Police Force the most corrupt institution in Tanzania, and the fifth most corrupt in the region.  The report found that nearly forty-one per cent of its interactions with the public were characterized by an expectation of or demand for bribery, and almost sixty-five per cent resulted in payment of a bribe.

Kikwete in Kampala for AU Summit

Daily News, July 25, 2010
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete arrived in Kampala on Sunday afternoon to attend the 15th African Union (AU) Summit.  The Summit will address maternal, infant and child health.  Kikwete is scheduled to facilitate a progress report on the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) launched in September 2009.

Thailand

Thai Government Lifts Emergency in More Provinces

Reuters, July 20, 2010
The Thai government said it was lifting the state of emergency in three provinces, but that it would remain in effect in sixteen others.  A government spokesman said that signs of unrest in the sixteen provinces justified keeping the state of emergency in effect, but that for the other three provinces there are no signs of unrest, and the government has enough forces to maintain peace.  The state of emergency, which came in the aftermath of violent protests earlier this year, gives the government power to ban most political gatherings, detain suspects without charges, and censor the media.

Thailand’s Democrat Wins First Local Election After Red Shirt Rally

Xinhua, July 25, 2010
According to an unofficial tally by the Election Commission, the elite-backed Democrat Party candidate won the by-election for a vacant seat in Parliament for Bangkok’s Constituency 6.  The opposition Puea Thai Party accepted the result and defeat of its candidate, who is a Red Shirt leader detained on terrorism charges after the protests.  The turnout rate in the election, the first after recent protests, was approximately fifty percent.

One Dead, 10 Wounded in Bangkok Bomb Blast
AFP, July 25, 2010
A bomb exploded on Sunday at a bus stop in central Bangkok, killing one person and wounding ten.  The explosion occurred just hours after the parliamentary by-election, where initial results indicated that the Red Shirt candidate lost to the ruling Democrat Party’s candidate.  The site of the blast is in the same area occupied by the Red Shirts during their protest in May.

Uganda

Army Rescues 10 From LRA

The New Vision, July 22, 2010
The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) reported that it rescued eight women and two children from Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR).  The UDPF sent 150 soldiers to search for and arrest LRA leader Joseph Kony in the CAR.  Maj. Victor Opera, the UDPF 4th division intelligence officer, estimates that 200 LRA rebels are currently hiding in the Congo.

Ugandans Edgy Over US Move Against LRA

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, July 22, 2010
In May 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill that requires producing a strategy regarding the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict by November.  Many Ugandans, while thankful for U.S. support, are worried that it could lead to increased violence and civilian deaths.  Ugandans are skeptical because none of the LRA leaders for whom the ICC issued arrest warrants five years ago have been apprehended, and the ICC relies on cooperation from states to execute the arrest warrants.  Although the U.S. strategy is currently uncertain, it will likely attempt to respond to humanitarian needs while also providing military, economic, and intelligence support to eradicate the LRA rebels.

Uganda President Calls for Africa to Fight Terror

Huffington Post, July 25, 2010
At last week’s AU summit in Kampala, Uganda, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged the African leaders present to work with Uganda to eradicate terrorists from the continent.  Al-Shabab, a Somali militant group associated with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the July 11 bombings in Kampala.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who attended the AU summit, pledged continued U.S. support for peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.  Holder also said an FBI forensic team is assisting Ugandan officials with the ongoing investigation.

Zimbabwe

Mugabe’s Party Sees Possible 2011 Zimbabwe Elections

Reuters, July 20, 2010
Analysts believe Zimbabwe’s next elections could be two years away, despite President Robert Mugabe’s more optimistic prognostications.  Supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai, currently Mugabe’s political rival in the power-sharing government, publicly say they will be ready for elections in 2011, but privately believe that further electoral and other political issues will need to be resolved first.

Civic Groups Warn of Potential Political Violence in 2011

Voice of America, July 23, 2010
Civic groups have warned the AU that Zimbabwe’s next elections could be violent without sweeping electoral reforms.  President Mugabe’s party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), says it is ready for the ballots, hoping that it will end the current unity government and allow for a one-party outright winner.

Peace Negotiations Watch is a weekly publication detailing current events relating to conflict and peace processes in selected countries.  It is prepared by the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and made possible by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ploughshares Fund

France Orders The Closure Of 300 Gypsy Camps

By Tristan Simoneau
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

A gypsy camp in Vaulx en Velin, east of Lyon. (Photo courtesy of the AFP)
Photo: A gypsy camp in Vaulx en Velin, east of Lyon. [Source: AFP]

PARIS, France – On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered authorities to expel Gypsy illegal immigrants and dismantle their camps.  This announcement comes after last week’s riot in the town of Saint Aignan where dozens of Gypsies armed with crude weapons attacked a police station and burned cars after police shot dead a Gypsy during a car chase.  In response to the violence in Saint Aignan, Sarkozy stated that some members of the migrating minorities pose security “problems.”

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said that 300 illegal camps housing Gypsies would be shut down and foreign Gypsies violating the law would be immediately deported to their “home” nations.  Hortefeux stated that “tax inspectors will be sent to inspect the households of the inhabitants of these illicit and illegal camps.”  He also insisted that Wednesday’s measures “are not meant to stigmatize any community, regardless of who they are, but to punish illegal behavior.”

Sarkozy has pushed for a change in France’s immigration law to make such expulsion easier “for reasons of public order.”  He has stated that illegal Gypsy camps “will be systematically evacuated,” calling them sources of trafficking, exploitation of children and prostitution.

Sarkozy’s new “war on crime” was also spurred by separate riots, not linked to the Gypsy minority, in a poor suburb of Grenoble, southeastern France.  The Gypsy Rights Association responded by saying, “as happens too often in history, Gypsies are once more being made scapegoats by a ruling class tangled up in political and financial scandals.”  During World War II approximately 1 million Gypsies were rounded up throughout Europe and executed.  The Association also warned that legal action will be taken for incitement to racial hatred.

Many gypsies live in slums in suburbs such as Aubervilliers on the outskirts of Paris.  There are two main Gypsy populations in France.  The firs, called “traveling folk”, which include several hundred thousand French citizens who have lived in France for centuries, and were traditionally nomadic.  The second is made up of recent immigrants who come mostly from Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, usually illegally, and are often seen begging on the streets of French cities.  Sarkozy’s recent orders targeted the second group, though the violence in Saint Aignan was in a community of “traveling folk” established in the region for years.

For more information, please see:

THE CONNEXION – Crackdown on gypsy camps for 3 months – 29 July 2010

DAILY MAIL – Sarkozy accused of racism for ordering closure of 300 illegal gypsy camps and expulsion of Roma after riot – 29 July 2010

AFP – France vows to tear down Gypsy camps – 28 July 2010

CBS NEWS – France’s Sarkozy Orders Illegal Gypsies Expelled – 28 July 2010

TOP MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKER KILLED: U.S. CLOSES BORDER CONSULATE

FBI Website photo of Nacho Coronel or Ignacio Coronel Villareal
FBI Website photo of "Nacho Coronel" or Ignacio Coronel Villareal

By Erica Laster                    Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – In a raid on a drug trafficking house in a wealthy suburb of Guadalajara Thursday night, soldiers shot and killed Ignacio Coronel Villareal (Nacho Coronel), a top Mexican drug cartel leader.  His death comes the same day as the United States embassy in Mexico City announced the closure of the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, a city located across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The consulate will close beginning today and remain closed “until the security review is completed.”  The consulates’ closure comes amid rising concerns over border violence between the cities.  This past March, a vehicle containing a U.S. employee at the consulate, a Mexican citizen with ties to the consulate and the employees’ husband was gunned down, killing all three after leaving a children’s party.  Mexico and the United State’s bordering states have seen a rise in unchecked violence and death in the past 4 years.

Nacho Coronel was wanted in the U.S. with a $5 million reward offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for any information leading to his arrest. A 12 count indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed accusations that Nacho and 42 others imported almost 200 metric tons of cocaine and heroin into the U.S.  An estimated $5.8 billion in proceeds were returned to Mexico from drug sales in Canada and the U.S.  Known as the “King of Crystal,” the FBI believed that Coronel was “the forerunner in producing massive amounts of methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories in Mexico, then smuggling it into the U.S.”

Mexico based security consultant, Alberto Islas, told reporters that as the “most sophisticated drug dealer in terms of logistics and money laundering,” Nacho Coronel’s death would probably result in a momentary “dip” in supplies to the U.S.

Nacho’s right hand man, Francisco Quinonez, was also arrested by soldiers in Thursday night’s raid.  Quinonez alone accompanied Coronel to his mansion in the western city of Guadalajara.  General Ruiz Villegas told reporters that Coronel opened fire on military soldiers, wounding one and killing another in his attempt to escape.

While his death deals a heavy blow to his Sinaloa cartel, it signals a massive victory for Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Some weary Mexicans have balked at President Calderon’s policies. Many more have accused him of being allied with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a fugitive since his escape from prison in 2000, and the previous leader of Sinaloa cartel.

In 2006, President Calderon sent approximately 45,000 soldiers to reclaim areas of the country heavily controlled by drug traffickers. More than half that number, a staggering 26,000, have died since then in drug-related violence.

Photo Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

For More Information Please Visit:

Wall Street Journal Top Mexican Trafficker Killed In Raid – 30 July 2010

MSNBC US Consulate In Ciudad Juarez Closes For Security – 30 July 2010

Reuters U.S. Closes Consulate in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez – 29 July 2010

[Campaign for International Justice] Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Accountability Must be Paramount as UN Considers Investigations on Gaza Conflict

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI Index MDE 15/017/2010

26 July 2010

Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Accountability must be paramount as UN considers investigations on Gaza conflict

Amnesty International has reiterated its urgent call for accountability for alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by the parties to the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel as the UN Secretary-General prepares to assess domestic investigations.

Between 27 December 2008 and the 18 January 2009, around 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the 22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel – three of the Israelis and the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were civilians. In September 2009 a UN-mandated Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone published its findings (the Goldstone Report) which concluded that both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups had committed grave violations of international law, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the conflict. The UN General Assembly resolution of 2 November 2009 (A/Res/64/10) endorsed the Report of the Fact Finding Mission and, in line with the Report’s recommendations, called on the Israeli government and the Palestinian side to undertake “independent, credible” investigations in conformity with international standards into the serious violations reported by the Mission. The General Assembly also asked the UN Secretary-General to report back to it with an assessment of the Israeli and Palestinian investigations after three months. After an initial assessment on 4 February 2010, the General Assembly, in a second resolution passed on 26 February 2010, requested that the Secretary General evaluate the investigations again within a further five months.

As this five-month period draws to a close, Amnesty International continues to be concerned about the limited extent of the domestic investigations, which have so far failed to be conducted consistently with international law and standards requiring prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations. The organization is also concerned that neither of the parties have demonstrated a genuine commitment to ensure that if those investigations produce sufficient admissible evidence, each suspect will be prosecuted in a fair trial without the possibility of the death penalty and that full reparations will be provided to the victims. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the establishment of an independent committee of experts to assist the Secretary General in his assessment of the domestic investigations. On 25 March 2010 the Human Rights Council established separately a Committee of Experts which will report to the Council in its 15thsession in September 2010.

If the respective parties fail to conduct investigations that meet international law and standards, Amnesty International considers that the international community will need to assume the responsibility to ensure justice, truth and full reparations to the victims. If so, one means to achieve this would be for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

A year and a half after the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel ended, the victims have yet to obtain justice, truth or full reparations; the perpetrators on both sides have yet to be held to account.

The international community must not fail in its duty to ensure that these objectives are achieved if the parties to the conflict show that they are unable or unwilling to achieve them.

Amnesty International continues to be concerned that the independence and impartiality of the Israeli investigations is severely compromised by the fact that all these investigations have been carried out by army commanders or by the military police. In addition, these inquiries are overseen by the Military Advocate General (MAG), whose office cannot be considered a disinterested party as it provided legal advice to Israeli forces on their choice of targets and tactics during the 22-day conflict.

The Israeli authorities have periodically released some, but only partial, information about their investigations. This lack of transparency has impeded independent scrutiny of these investigations. According to the Israeli authorities, criminal investigations by the military police were opened into 47 incidents. Around 100 other incidents involving alleged violations of the laws of war by the Israeli forces during its 22-day military offensive in Gaza however, were considered only in operational debriefings – which the Israeli military terms “command investigations”. The army commanders conducting these debriefings do not have the necessary expertise to investigate alleged crimes under international law, and cannot be considered independent. Also, problematically, these debriefings are confidential. If a commander should decide to refer an incident for criminal investigation, self-incriminatory testimony given by soldiers in the debriefing would not be admissible in court. Further, when the debriefings are closed without being referred for criminal investigation – as has been the case in the vast majority of cases thus far – it is not possible for independent experts to review the proceedings or the evidence behind the decision not to open a criminal investigation.

To date, just one case considered by the Israeli inquiries has yielded a criminal charge, trial and conviction. This relates to a case of looting in which an Israeli soldier stole a Palestinian’s credit card. Criminal charges have been filed in two additional cases which have yet to be concluded – one concerns the alleged use of a nine-year-old boy as a “human shield” by two Israeli soldiers and the other the killing of two women for which one Israeli soldier has been charged with manslaughter. According to the latest official update on investigations (published on 19 July by the Israeli government) the military police are still investigating allegations against Israeli forces relating to the al-Sammouni family, concerning not only a large number of civilian fatalities and injuries but also the denial of medical and humanitarian access to wounded family members.

The latest official update also states that the Military Advocate General decided in three additional incidents to employ disciplinary measures rather than take legal action against members of the Israeli military. These incidents include another case of a Palestinian civilian being used as a “human shield”; a missile strike on the Ibrahim al-Maqadma Mosque which resulted in a large number of civilian casualties; and the Israeli forces’ shelling on 15 January 2009 of the main compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza City in which hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Some of the incidents the Israeli military has decided do not warrant criminal investigation are cases which appear to have been serious violations of international humanitarian law and which Amnesty International maintains require effective, independent investigation. These include Israeli attacks on UN facilities, civilian property and infrastructure, attacks on medical facilities and personnel, and incidents in which large numbers of civilians were killed and injured as a result of reckless conduct, disregard for civilian lives and consistent failure on the part of Israeli forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects.

Despite enduring concerns expressed by Amnesty International over Israel’s extensive use of white phosphorus in Gaza, the Israeli government’s January 2010 update contends that there are “no grounds to take disciplinary or other measures for the IDF’s [Israeli Defence Force] use of weapons containing phosphorous”. This is despite the fact that throughout Israel’s 22-day military operation in Gaza Israeli forces repeatedly fired artillery shells containing white phosphorus into densely populated residential areas, causing death and injuries to civilians. The July update reports that after the shelling of the UNRWA compound “the IDF immediately imposed revised restrictions on the use of smoke-screening munitions containing white phosphorous near sensitive sites (including the requirement of a several hundred meters buffer zone). These restrictions were in place through the remainder of the Gaza Operation.” But Amnesty International notes with concern that these restrictions failed to prevent white phosphorus shells causing further deaths and injuries to civilians in Gaza (including in an UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya, struck by white phosphorus shells on 17 January 2009).

In a potentially positive development, the July update states that Israel’s Chief of General Staff has “ordered the establishment of a clear doctrine and orders on the issue of various munitions which contain white phosphorous” and that “the IDF is in the process of establishing permanent restrictions on the use of munitions containing white phosphorus in urban areas.” The nature and extent of these restrictions are not clearly explained. Given the inadequacy of the restrictions the Israeli authorities say they implemented in the last few days of their military operation in Gaza in 2008/9, Amnesty International considers that they must immediately prohibit absolutely the use of such weapons in densely populated residential areas.

Other Israeli attacks which resulted in civilian injuries and deaths have been dismissed as “operational errors” and the soldiers involved have not been criminally charged or disciplined.

As regards the Palestinian side, the information available to Amnesty International indicates that the Hamas de facto administration has failed to mount any credible investigations into the alleged war crimes and other serious violations of international law committed by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. Documents submitted to a UN official in Gaza on 2 February 2010 by the Ministry of Justice indicated that Hamas had: 1) established a 12-person governmental committee (headed by the Hamas de facto Minister of Justice) to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Report; 2) established a three-person independent international committee of experts in international law to guarantee the transparency and impartiality of the steps taken by the government; 3) commissioned the public prosecutor in Gaza to investigate all alleged violations of international law reported to him. However, these documents focus on alleged violations by the Israeli military and fail to address adequately the firing of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into southern Israel which killed three civilians and injured others during the conflict.

The Goldstone Report found that “these attacks constitute indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel and that, where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into a civilian population, they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population. These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity” (A/HRC/12/48, paragraph 108).

In respect to the firing of indiscriminate rockets and mortars, the response from Hamas stated: “All Palestinian armed groups have published declarations that they did not target civilians but rather that they targeted military targets but tried to avoid civilian targets”. This contradicts statements made by armed groups, including Hamas’ military wing, before and during the conflict in which they claimed responsibility for rocket attacks, which they stated were directed at civilian towns and which killed or injured civilians and damaged civilian homes.

Armed groups have an obligation to respect applicable international humanitarian law. The firing of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 killed three Israeli civilians and caused further civilian injuries and damage to civilian property. Whether these attacks were intended to hit military or civilian objects, the use of unguided projectiles which could not be directed at specific targets, placed the civilian population at risk and violated international humanitarian law.

Since February 2010, Amnesty International has received no further information that would indicate that Hamas is undertaking credible investigations into alleged violations by Palestinian actors during the conflict, or that there are any attempts by Hamas to charge and prosecute those responsible.

As the Palestinian Authority (PA) was not a party to the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, Amnesty International has not called on them to conduct investigations. The PA did establish a Committee of Investigation in January 2010 however and made preliminary submissions to the UN Secretary General on 29 January 2010. On 12 July 2010, the Committee’s report was submitted to the UN.

Iran: Lawyer in Stoning Case Missing

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Mohammed Mostafei, the Attorney for Sakihned
Mohammad Mostafaei, the Attorney for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in 2009.

TEHERAN, Iran – Mohammad Mostafaei the human rights attorney who represented Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the mother of two whose death by stoning sentence was stayed after international outcry over her case, has gone missing.  Amnesty International reported that Mostafaei was called in on Saturday for questioning at Teheran’s Evin prison and appears to have gone missing after his release.

Mostafaei’s collegues have said that they believe he is currently in hiding.

Iranian authorities have detained Mostafaei’s wife, Fereshteh Halimi, and brother-in-law, Farhad Halimi, in order to pressure Mostafaei to turn himself in. The two currently remain in detention and have not been allowed access to their lawyer, according to Amnesty International.

Mostafaei, an open critic of the Iranian judicial system, has defended many political prisoners, juvenile offenders, and individuals sentenced to death by stoning. His blog helped to generate much of the international outrage over Ashtiani’s stoning sentence. 

The last message posted on Mostafaei’s blog was on Friday July 23 when he said: “Today I was again contacted after being interrogated, I was summoned through a telephone call. I don’t know what the problem is this time. At any rate, tomorrow I have to go to the Evin prosecutor’s office. Maybe they will arrest me, I don’t know.”

Earlier this month Iranian officials said that Ashtiani would not be executed by stoning, but said that she could still face execution by hanging for her conviction of adultery.

Shadi Sadr, a well-known women’s rights advocate forced to leave Iran several months ago, worked with Mostafaei in the past on behalf of women sentenced to death by stoning.  She says that she believes the regime is reacting to the “international sensitivity” by placing pressure on Mostafaei.

Sadr added that the Iranian government’s reaction embodies the plight of human rights advocates in Iran in general.

She says that Mostafaei “worked within the framework of the laws of the Islamic republic, he never crossed the red lines set by the Islamic republic. This case just shows the increasing pressure on human rights activists and how red lines and limitations are becoming every day tighter and tighter.”

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, said: “Mohammad Mostafaei is a thorn in the side of the Iranian authorities and we fear that he is being persecuted in an attempt to stop him carrying out his professional activities.”

According to the BBC, the Iranian government has also put pressure on another attorney involved in Ashtiani’s case, as well as Ashtiani’s son, who has fervently campaigned for her release.

For more information, please see:

AP – Amnesty: Lawyer in Iranian stoning case missing – 28 July 2010

BBC – Lawyer in Iran stoning case ‘missing’ – 28 July 2010

Radio Free Europe – Iranian Authorities Pressure Prominent Lawyer By Holding Family Members ‘Hostage’ – 27 July 2010

Independent Autopsy Called for Opposition Leader Murdered in Rwanda

President Kagame is slated to win Rwandas next presidential election.
President Kagame is slated to win Rwanda's next presidential election; Photo courtesy of Reuters

by Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter
Africa Desk

Kigali, RWANDA– The Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling for an independent autopsy of André Kagwa Rwisereka, whose body was found near his home in southern Rwanda July 14th, his head nearly decapitated just weeks before Rwanda’s next presidential election.  Rwisereka was vice president of the Democratic Green Party, the main opposition to current Rwandan president Paul Kagame.  The police have an unidentified suspect in custody and several different motives have been put forward as an explanation for Rwisereka’s murder.  While the police have stated that he may have been the target of a mugging or killed by an individual he was in a financial dispute with, Rwisereka’s colleagues in the Democratic Green Party say he had been receiving death threats since February because of his views opposing the current government.

HRW believes Rwisereka’s murder to be suspicious not only because of the timing of  but also beacuse this is the second controversial political figure to be murdered this month.  In June, Lt. General Faustin Kyumba Nyamwasa was wounded with a gunshot.  Within weeks, Jean-Leonard Rugambage, a journalist investigating the shooting of Nyamwasa was shot dead outside his home in Kigali.  Many have claimed all three incidents can be tied to Kagame’s government but the president, who is expected to win in the next election, adamantly denies these allegations, saying, “Nobody has asked the Rwandans … it’s as if they don’t matter in the eyes of the human rights people. It’s our own decisions in the end.”

For more information, please see;

Radio France Interntionale – First Day of Rwanda Political Campaign Opens with Funeral – 22 July 2010

CNN World – Independent Probe of Rwanda Politician’s Death Urged – 21 July 2010

BBC News – Rwanda: Call For Independent Autopsy of Murdered Critic – 21 July 2010

AFP – Independent Probe into Rwanda Murder Demanded – 21 July 2010

Chile Rejects Catholic Church’s Call To Pardon Human Rights Abusers

Anti-Pinochet Protestors in Chile (Photo Courtesy of Center for American Prgoress)
Anti-Pinochet Protesters in Chile (Photo Courtesy of Center for American Progress)

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, ChileThe Roman Catholic Church recently called on conservative Chilean President Sebastian Piñera to pardon long-serving human rights violators. 

Specifically, The Chilean Bishops’ Conference urged President Piñera to show clemency to prisoners who showed repentance from human rights violations that occurred during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.  Many of the longest-serving prisoners are elderly and ill, including ex-military officials who were directly responsible for abuses.  The proposed pardon would have pardoned 60 individuals.  The Church’s actions come while Chile is set to commemorate 200 years of Chilean independence.

The Church set specific parameters for those that they seek to be pardoned: individuals who are over 70 years old, have served at least half of their sentence, and who are ill.

The Pinochet regime, which lasted from 1973-1990, saw more than 3,000 Chileans killed at the military’s hands.  In a letter sent to President Piñera, the Bishops’ Conference stated that not all human rights violators shared equal responsibility.  The letter provoked a great deal of public outcry from family members representing those who were killed and tortured on Pinochet’s watch.  The victims’ families called the request a setback for justice and fairness.

Despite the effort, the Chilean President has refused to offer a pardon stating, “I have reached the conclusion that it would not be prudent or convenient in the current circumstances to promote a new law of general pardon.”

President Piñera was, however, receptive to the Church’s proposal for improving the country’s prison system, according to the President of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference.  The measures include improving facilities and building more jails to curb overpopulation.

While President Piñera closed the door to a broad sweeping pardon, he did leave the option open for the government to consider pardons on an individualized basis.  However, Piñera also said that no pardons would be considered for those who violated serious crimes, including murder and torture.

Mireya Garcia, vice president of the Group of Relatives of the Detainees and Disappeared, expressed concerns over this case-by-case evaluation.  Garcia fears that people who are sentenced under different categories, but who committed human rights violations, might be incorrectly pardoned.

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director for Human Rights Watch, applauded President Piñera’s decision.  Vivanco stated that the Church simply did not offer any compelling reason why these human rights abusers should be pardoned.

Merco Press – Piñera Rejects Bishops’ Plea To Pardon Military Involved In Human Rights Abuses – 26 July 2010

NPR – Chile Rejects Pardons Proposed By Catholic Church – 25 July 2010

New York Times – Chile Rejects Church Call To Pardon Officials – 25 July 2010

Egyptian police brutality trial begins

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Defendants Salah and Suleiman stand in cages as they attend their first court hearing.
Defendants Salah and Suleiman stand in cages as they attend their first court hearing. (Photo Courtesy of BBC.)

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Two policemen accused of beating twenty-eight year old Khalid Said to death outside a café in Alexandria in June attended the first court hearing in their trial, which was postponed until September 25.

Mahmoud Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman have been accused of use of excessive force and unlawful arrest. They stood in cages during yesterday’s hearing in an Alexandria criminal court.

The case that has sparked international outrage began when the two plainclothes officers dragged Said out of an Internet café and brutally beat him to death in front of witnesses. Autopsies showed that Said died from asphyxiation after swallowing a packet of drugs. Yet, skepticism of the autopsy results surfaced after gruesome images of Said’s badly beaten and bruised face circulated over the Internet.

Said was allegedly targeted by the officers after he posted a video of them splitting the spoils of a drug bust.

If convicted, Salah and Suleiman could face between three and fifteen years in prison.

In addition to inciting protests and demonstrations throughout Egypt, the killing has highlighted the problem of Egyptian police brutality, which has been blamed on Egypt’s emergency law. The law, which has been in place for three decades, permits officers to arrest people without charge and detain them indefinitely. Though prosecution of public officers is rare, as Al Jazeera reports, activists say that this case could prove to be a turning point in this aspect of Egypt’s history.

A major concern as the case resumes is witness protection. Amnesty International reported that a friend of Said who was collecting information on the case was attacked and threatened by attackers armed with knives.

“The Egyptian authorities must ensure that the witnesses to the assault on Khaled Mohammed Said are provided with all possible protection both to ensure their own safety and as a means of encouraging other witnesses to come forward,” said Malcolm Smart, the director of Amnesty’s International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Said’s lawyers and family have said that they are seeking to upgrade the charges against Salah and Suleiman to murder.

“If we succeed in that, I think this will be the turning point. If not, I think [torture and brutality] will be the normal and systematic practice and they will consider all the pressure of the public nothing,” said Hafez Abu Saeda, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and one of the family’s attorneys. “This will be a message to the police officers: You are protected from any punishment, you are free to do what you want to do.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Egypt police trial adjourned – 27 July 2010

BBC – Egypt police in brutality trial over Khaled Said death – 27 July 2010

Christian Science Monitor – Khalid Said case: Is Egypt cracking down on police brutality? – 27 July 2010

CNN – Egyptian police brutality case postponed two months – 27 July 2010

Guardian – Egyptian policemen go on trial over death of activist Khaled Said – 27 July 2010

Los Angeles Times – EGYPT: Police accused of beating Khaled Saied to death appear in court – 27 July 2010

Chad Must Arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir During Visit

21 July 2010

Amnesty International has called on the Chadian authorities to arrest wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and surrender him to the International Criminal Court, after it was reported that he arrived in Chad on Wednesday to attend a meeting of regional leaders.

“Chad should not shield President al-Bashir from international justice”, said Christopher Hall, Amnesty International’s senior legal advisor. “His visit to Chad is an opportunity to enforce the arrest warrant and send a message that justice will prevail.”

An arrest warrant for President Omar al Bashir was issued by the ICC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

If it were not to arrest him, Chad would violate its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which it ratified in November 2006.

President al-Bashir has arrived in Chad to take part in a meeting of leaders and heads of state of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), which will start in Chad on Thursday 22 July 2010.

Amnesty International has called on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for crimes under international law committed in Sudan.

For more information, please see:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/chad-must-arrest-sudanese-president-omar-al-bashir-during-visit-2010-07-21

Cambodia Urged to Follow Khmer Rouge Conviction with More Prosecutions

26 July 2010

Amnesty International has urged a special court to redouble its efforts to prosecute Khmer Rouge-era criminals, following the landmark conviction on Monday of a notorious prison camp commander of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Achieving a conviction in Case 001, the first case to be heard by Cambodia’s Extraordinary Chambers, is a historic moment but still only the first step towards justice for the almost two million who died as a result of the massive crimes committed under Khmer Rouge rule,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific programme.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a special joint international-Cambodian court, on Monday convicted Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for his role in mass executions, torture and other crimes. He will serve 19 years out of a 35-year sentence.

Of the 14,000 people believed to have been imprisoned at the S-21 Security Office (also known as Tuol Sleng) headed by Duch in Phnom Penh from 1975-1979, only some 12 survived. The rest were tortured to death or executed.

Amnesty International expressed concern that beyond this case, only a few suspects have been identified for possible prosecution by the Extraordinary Chambers.

“This falls short of fulfilling the Extraordinary Chambers’ mandate to prosecute those most responsible for grave crimes committed under Khmer Rouge rule,” said Donna Guest.

“Identifying only five or ten people as allegedly responsible for the massive atrocities does not do enough to satisfy the justice that Cambodians deserve and are entitled to under international law.”

A decision on whether to indict five people charged in the second case, Case 002, will be made later this year. Duch is also named in Case 002 and the others accused are former leading Khmer Rouge politicians: head of state Khieu Samphan; Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; Minister of Social Affairs Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea, a senior Communist Party of Kampuchea officer known as “Brother No 2”.

Cases 003 and 004 were filed by the Office of the Co-Prosecutors in September 2009 despite strong opposition by the Cambodian Co-Prosecutor, naming five suspects on 40 incidents of murder, torture, unlawful detention, forced labour and persecution. On filing these cases, the acting International Co-Prosecutor stated that no more cases would be pursued by the Office.

“Progress on the third and fourth cases could be undermined by political interference from Cambodian officials who openly oppose more prosecutions, and by disagreements between the Cambodian and International Co-Investigating Judges,” said Donna Guest.

Amnesty International called for the Co-Investigating Judges to complete their work on the existing cases and for the Co-Prosecutors to review their overall strategy in order to fully implement their legal mandate.

Amnesty International also urged the Cambodian government and the United Nations (UN) to ensure that all the efforts already put into the Extraordinary Chambers will provide a lasting legacy to strengthen the national justice system and the rule of law.

The Extraordinary Chambers’ mandate, as set out in the Agreement between the UN and the government of Cambodia, and in the Law establishing the Chambers, is to “bring to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian laws related to crimes, international humanitarian law and custom and international conventions recognized by Cambodia,” committed during the Khmer Rouge period.

Twenty-two civil parties, including former detainees and relatives of victims of the atrocities committed at the notorious S-21 Security Office, gave testimony at Duch’s trial. The Extraordinary Chambers reports that more than 31,000 people visited the court to observe the trial hearings.

Duch was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment, reduced by five years because the Extraordinary Chambers found that he had been illegally detained by the Cambodian Military Court, and a further 11 years’ reduction for time already served.

Cambodia still has a weak national justice system that fails to provide justice for large sections of the population.

The lack of effective rule of law perpetuates serious human rights abuses, such as violence against women, including sexual violence, and forced evictions of thousands of people living in poverty across Cambodia.

For more information, please see:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/cambodia-urged-follow-khmer-rouge-conviction-more-prosecutions-2010-07-26

Human Rights Council Announces Flotilla Fact-Finding Mission, Israel Rejects Mission’s Mandate

By Warren Popp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

The Human Rights Council held an urgent debate on Israels flotilla raid during its last session. (Photo by Warren Popp)
The Human Rights Council held an urgent debate on Israel's flotilla raid during its last session. (Photo by Warren Popp)

GENEVA, Switzerland – On the twenty-third of July, the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, announced the appointment of three independent experts to an international fact-finding mission to “investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.” The May thirty-first raid on the flotilla resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, including one with joint American citizenship, the injury of dozens of other activists, and the injury of several Israeli commandos.

The “independent international fact-finding mission” was established to implement a Human Rights Council Resolution, which was passed during an urgent debate on the Israeli raid on the second of June 2010. The Council deplored “the loss of life of innocent civilians” during the debate.

The Mission is expected to travel to Israel, Turkey, and Gaza in August to conduct their investigation, and will report their findings to the Council  during their next session, which is scheduled to begin on the twelfth of September.

In announcing the appointment of the experts to the panel, Ambassador Phuangketkeow said: “The expertise, independence and impartiality of the members of the mission will be devoted to clarifying the events which took place that day and their legality. We call upon all parties to fully cooperate with the mission and hope that this mission will contribute to peace in the region and justice for the victims.”

While Israel has not officially responded to the Council’s request for cooperation with the mission, as expected, Israel did not respond favourably to the announcement of the mission’s formation. A senior Israeli official told AFP, on condition of anonymity, “This panel of experts is not intending to look for the truth but to satisfy the non-democratic countries which control the Human Rights Council, who have an automatic anti-Israeli majority.” This is a common criticism of the Council voiced by observers and non-governmental organizations.

The Jerusalem Post quotes the IDF Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi as saying, “My personal opinion is that more probes into the flotilla are out of line.”

The Israeli military recently completed its own internal investigation into the probe, finding that the killings of activists were justified, but admitting that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) made some mistakes in their preparation for the raid. In addition to the military investigation, Israel has set up a panel, the Tirkel Committee, to investigate the incident, and to decide whether the raid was in compliance with international law.

It has also been reported that Israel is seriously considering cooperating with the work of an international panel proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which will include both Turkish and Israeli participation. Israel has reportedly been in consultations with the Secretary-General over the panel’s composition, and has stipulated that, in return for its cooperation, the panel should begin its work only after the Tirkel Committee completes its work, and that the panel’s findings should take precedence over all other international probes into the raid.

The Christian Science Monitor claims, “Beyond the flotilla affair, Israel wants to court the UN chief as a way of limiting the influence of the international body’s Human Rights council.” The Monitor quotes an Israeli government official as saying, “You have to distinguish between the two.” “The human rights council makes no pretense to be objective. It has a persistent and consistent anti-Israel obsession…. The same cannot be said of the secretary general. In Israel we hold him in the highest esteem.”

The three independent experts on the newly appointed Human Rights Council fact-minding mission are, Judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, Queen’s Counsel (Trinidad and Tobago), who served as a Judge of the International Criminal Court from 2003 to 2007; Sir Desmond de Silva, Queen’s Counsel (United Kingdom), who served as Chief Prosecutor of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2005 at the level of an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations; and Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia), who was a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from 2005 to 2008, and has been serving on the Gender Equality Task Force of the United Nations Development Programme since 2007.

For more information, please see:

The Christian Science Monitor – Israel Signals New Cooperation with UN Over Gaza Flotilla – 26 July 2010

AFP – Israel Slams UN Council’s Gaza Flotilla Probe – 25 July 2010

Jerusalem Post – Gaza Flotilla Probes are Out of Line – 25 July 2010

Al Arabiya News – UN Forum Names Team to Probe Israel Ship Raid – 23 July 2010

Arab News – UN Names Team to Probe Israel’s Ship Raid – 23 July 2010

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Press Release: United Nations Human Rights Council Panel to Investigate Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla Established – 23 July 2010

Argentina: Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

By Ricardo Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – On July 15th, the Argentinian Senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.  Gay rights supporters prevailed with a 33-27 majority after 14 hours of debate.  The decision was announced to hundreds of supporters waiting outside the Senate.

The bill became law when President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, a gay rights supporter, signed it on July 21st.  “Today we are a society that is a little more egalitarian than last week,” Fernandez said at the signing.

Approximately 70% of Argentinians support same-sex marriage.  However, as in other cultures, Argentina remains divided on the issue.  The Examiner reports that while opponents of the bill proposed a “union bill” as a compromise, it omitted several rights that were provided by the Senate bill.

The Associate Press stated that the “union bill” would have limited rights, including the right to adopt children or pursue in-vitro fertilization.  It added that civil servants could unilaterally object to registering homosexual couples in a same-sex union.

The new bill grants same-sex couples the full legal protections and responsibilities given to heterosexual couples in marriage.  Those rights include the ability to inherit property and to jointly adopt children.

Mexico City was the first region in South America to legalize same-sex marriages. Argentina may be the second, but it is the first country to do so.  Argentina’s first gay marriage is scheduled for August 13 between two partners who have lived together for 34 years.  Mexico City has promised the couple a free honeymoon to Mexico.

The Catholic Church is a major voice of opposition.  ABC reports that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called gay marriage in Argentina “a loss for everyone,” saying “children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother.

The passing of the bill has worsened the Fernandez administration’s already strained relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.

For more information, please see:

Time – International Gay Marriage – 22 July 2010

Associated Press – Argentina’s Gay Marriage Law Signed by President – 21 July 2010

ABC – Mexico City Promises a Free Honeymoon to Argentina’s First Married Gay Couple –  17 July 2010

The Examiner – Argentina’s Senate Passes Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill – 16 July 2010