PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch has been found guilty of crimes against humanity by Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes tribunal. Duch, 67, whose full name is Kaing Guek Eav, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The man who ran a notorious torture prison where more than 14,000 people died during the Khmer Rouge regime was found guilty of war crimes Monday and sentenced to 35 years in prison — with 5 years taken off that sentence for time served. The verdict against Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, also convicted him of crimes against humanity, murder and torture. Duch ran Tuol Sleng prison, where “enemies” of the Khmer Rouge regime were sent.
At least 1.7 million people — nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population — died under the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia. But prosecutors said the former maths teacher ordered the use of brutal torture methods to extract “confessions” from detainees – including pulling out toenails and administering electric shocks – and approved all the executions.
A meticulous record-keeper, Duch built up a huge archive of photos, confessions and other evidence documenting those held at Tuol Sleng.
Despite acknowledging the role he played at Tuol Sleng, codenamed “S-21”, he insisted that he had only been following orders from his superiors, and on the trial’s final day in November shocked many by asking to be acquitted.
Wearing a blue shirt, the former Khmer Rouge jailer looked pensive and slumped in his chair as proceedings were held behind a floor-to-ceiling bullet-proof screen which separated the public gallery from the rest of the court.
“I can’t accept this,” Saodi Ouch, 46, told the Associated Press news agency. “My family died… my older sister, my older brother. I’m the only one left.”
Some said they wanted a tougher sentence. “There is no justice. I wanted life imprisonment for Duch,” said Hong Sovath, whose father was killed in Tuol Sleng. Many called the War crimes tribunal efforts a “shame” and “slap in the face” to survivors.
The group’s top leader, “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, died in 1998. The other Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial are “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, the minister of social affairs.
By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
CARACAS, Venezuela—Public debate in Venezuela is again in jeopardy after the creation of a new governmental office. The office, formed by controversial President Hugo Chavez, may silence opposition in a country already stifled under censorship.
The Center for Situational Studies of the Nation (Centro de Estudio Situacional de la Nacion) emerged after Chavez issued a presidential decree on June 1 of this year. The Center was given a high degree of discretion and can limit public dissemination of “information, facts or circumstance[s]” that it determines should be “reserved, classified or of limited release.”
The Center, a part of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, has been given the power to “compile, process and analyze” information from governmental entities and civil society “regarding any aspect of national interest.”
Chavez recently launched criminal investigations into human rights organizations working in the country and accused such groups of being funded by the United States. Any information considered capable of compromising “the security and defense of the nation” will now be subject to criminal prosecution under the Venezuelan National Security Law.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, has been critical of the Center. The group’s director of the Americas, Jose Miguel Vivanco, called attention to Venezuela’s official efforts to silence critics and human rights defenders. He said that Chavez “has created a new tool for controlling public debate in Venezuela. The new decree would allow the president to block the discussion of topics that are inconvenient for his government, blatantly violating the rights of expression and to information, which are at the heart of a democratic society.”
Human Rights Watch believes that the Center may lead to more restrictive legislation. A broad clause in Chavez’s decree states that laws or other norms determined by the government may grant the Center even more expansive powers to block information sharing. The American Convention on Human Rights, of which Venezuela is a party, prohibits censorship of this kind.
Chavez has shut down several independent media outlets, and recently took control of the last remaining opposition TV station, Globovision. He now has plans to disrupt Vale TV, a Catholic channel which the Archdiocese of Caracas has operated since 1998. “I have ordered a review [into Vale TV] so that we can repossess the channel and put it at the service of the nation,” Chavez said. Vale TV, a non-profit station, issued a statement saying “editorial independence” and “plurality” is at stake.
JAKARTA, Indonesia – The U.S. military has decided to lift a decade-long ban on engagement with Indonesia’s Komanda Pasukan Khusus (Kopassas), a special forces unit that has been accused of humans rights abuses.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a visit to Jakarta on Thursday, said after meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that a limited program of engagement with the group would be permitted after the Obama administration concluded that the group has demonstrated a commitment to human rights.
“I was pleased to be able to tell the president that as a result of Indonesian military reforms over the past decade, the ongoing professionalization of the [Indonesian armed forces], and recent actions taken by the ministry of defense to address human rights issues,” Gates told reporters after meeting with Yudhoyono, “the United States will begin a gradual, limited program of security cooperation activities with the Indonesian army special forces.”
Yudhoyono promised that Indonesian Military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or TNI) reforms would continue and that there would be no repeat of the abuses that once took place.
According to Human Rights Watch, Kopassus members have engaged in serious human rights abuses, including carrying out abductions, forming deadly militia forces in East Timor in 1999, engaging in arbitrary detention of civilians in Papua, and abducting and killing Papuan activist and leader Theys H. Eluay in 2001.
The U.S. government severed all aid to the Indonesian military in 1999 because of the widespread human rights violations.
Human rights groups have expressed concern with the recent decision.
“The Obama administration has just failed a key test. This is not the way to encourage reform with a military that has yet to demonstrate a genuine commitment to accountability for serious human rights abuses. This decision rewards Kopassus for its intransigence over abuses and effectively betrays those in Indonesia who have fought for decades for accountability and justice,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in response to Thursday’s decision.
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Gates that outlined recommendations on how to approach continued engagement with the Indonesian military, urging the Obama administration to focus on a relationship that would both protect human rights in Indonesia and further national security objectives in the United States. However, as the letter noted, “without the necessary reforms in place, such assistance may facilitate continued violations of human rights in Indonesia and reinforce impunity.” The letter detailed past and recent human rights violations.
The decision comes in the development of the U.S.’s attempt to strengthen ties with Indonesia. President Obama has planned two trips to Indonesia this year. Both had to be cancelled in the wake of important domestic events: the health care reform bill and the Gulf oil spill.
Pentagon officials have indicated that the relationship will develop slowly, and that no cash aid will be delivered. Gates noted that members of Congress had been briefed on the decision and response was positive.
Indonesian officials also welcomed the announcement. “This is a positive start,” said Djoko Suyanto, Indonesia’s commander-in-chief, adding, “we will prepare ourselves.”
Last Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s three judge panel upheld the conviction and 97 year sentence of Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Chuckie Taylor. Emmanuel is the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and is notorious for leading a violent paramilitary unit, Anti-Terrorism Union, ordering the torture of dozen’s of his father’s political opponents between 1997and 2003.
The panel also affirmed the constitutionality of the Torture Act, a 1994 law allowing prosecution for torture acts committed overseas. Emmanuel’s attorney’s argued that the torture law was broader than the Convention Against Torture treaty which authorized his prosecution. Attorney’s also claimed the provision making use of a firearm during the crime an additional violation should not apply to overseas actions. The criminalization of foreign government actions they argued, was outside the jurisdiction of the United States. The panel held that Congress’s power to criminalize torturous acts was “a valid exercise of congressional authority,” under the Torture Act, rejecting all of the arguments.
United States Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus wrote that “The facts of this case are riddled with extraordinary cruelty and evil.” Emmanuel, now 33, a Boston born United States citizen was convicted in 2008. His convictions included the use of gruesome techniques including electric shocks, cigarette burnings, the use of scalding water, shoveling biting ants onto prisoners and using water filled holes on torture victims. Five Liberian torture victims sued Emmanuel after his criminal trial, winning $22.4 million in damages. Emmanuel blasted his charges “deceptive propaganda,” claiming the U.S. was using him as a “poster boy for human rights abuse.”
Associated Press reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tracked Emmanuel for years for possible illegal arms violations. After attempting to get a passport by using a fake name for his father on the application, Emmanuel was arrested at a Miami airport in February of 2006. Emmanuel pled guilty later that September. Emmanuel’s father remains on trial for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. His father is facing 11 counts of violations of the Geneva Convention, crimes against humanity and efforts to terrorize the civilian population of Sierra Leone.
By Elizabeth Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
JERUSALEM, Israel – An Arab man has been sentenced to jail time by a Jerusalem District Court for holding himself out to be a single Jewish bachelor to a Jewish woman he had consensual sex with.
According to the woman, thirty-year-old Sabbar Kashur introduced himself as a single Jew looking for a serious relationship. The two then had sex in a nearby building. When the woman later discovered that Kashur was not Jewish, she filed a police complaint which ultimately let to charges of rape and indecent assault.
Prosecutors acknowledged that the sex was consensual, but accused Kashur of ‘rape by deceit.’
Judge Zvi Segal said, in the verdict, that the court had the duty to protect the public from sophisticated criminals who could deceive innocent victims. “If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated.”
The standard for ‘rape by deception,’ according to High Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, is whether an ordinary person would expect such a woman to have sex with a man without the false identity he created. Rubinstein stated that a conviction of rape should be imposed whenever a “person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him.”
Abeer Baker, an attorney with Adalah, an organization that advocates for Arab rights in Israel, said of the legal standard: “In this case, the ruling seems to say that if a ‘reasonable’ Jewish woman knew a man was an Arab, then she would not make love to him.”
Baker called this a “dangerous precedent,” and said it opened the door to allowing the Israeli government to interfere in the private lives of citizens.
Kashur has been under house arrest for nearly two years since the incident occurred. He said that he first met the woman, who was in her late twenties, when he was leaving a grocery store in downtown Jerusalem and she asked him about his motorcycle. He told the woman his nickname, which was ‘Dudu,’ a common Jewish nickname for Daniel. He said:
“I said my name is Dudu because that’s how everybody knows me. My wife even calls me that.”
Kashur asserts that the verdict is racist, and his lawyers are contemplating an appeal of his sentence. He said:
“For two years I’ve been under house arrest for nothing . . . If I were Jewish they wouldn’t even have questioned me. That’s not called rape. I didn’t rape her in the forest and throw her away naked. She agreed to everything that happened.”
The High Court of Justice set a precedent for rape by deception in 2008 when they convicted Zvi Sleiman, a Jewish man who impersonated a senior official in the Housing Ministry whose wife worked in the National Insurance Institute. He told the women he deceived that he could get them a better apartment and higher insurance payments if they slept with him.
The High Court also convicted a man on three counts of fraud for telling a woman he was a neurosurgeon in order to persuade her to have sex with him.
Elkana Laist of the Public Defender’s Office said that the Jerusalem District Court’s conviction had gone too far, “opening the door to a rape conviction every time a person lies regarding the details of his identity.” She added: “Every time the court thinks a reasonable woman would not have had sex with a man based on that representation, the man will be charged with rape. That approach is not accepted around the world either.”
Laist also said that the decision is paternalistic to women and problematic in application. “It means that every time a man tells a woman he loves her, based on which she sleeps with him, he could be convicted of rape.”
Dana Pugach, head of the Noga Center for Victims of Crime, said, however, that she had no problem with the verdict.
“We all have different characteristics, and it is a person’s right to have sexual relations with a person knowing the facts about those characteristics. I see no difference between impersonating a Jew if you are an Arab and a wealthy pilot when you are penniless, if those are relevant characteristics to the decision to have sex.”
A 2007 poll conducted by Israel’s Geocartography Institute found that more than fifty percent of Israeli Jews thought marrying an Arab was “equal to national treason.”
Intermarriage between Arabs and Jews is actually forbidden in Israel, and, in the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, a vigilante group patrolled the streets for more than a decade looking for mixed couples. Another settlement, Petah Tikva, has established a team of pyschologists and counsellors to “rescue” Jewish women from relationships with Arab men.
Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, asked whether the “rape by deception” law would have been applied differently in the case of an Arab woman deceived into having sex with a Jewish man.
“Would he have been convicted of rape?” Levy asked. “The answer is: of course not.”
By Patrick Vanderpool Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – On July 15, Argentina became just the tenth nation in the entire world, and the first in Latin America, to legalize gay marriage. Legislators, backed by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, passed the same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 33-27 in the Senate after a 14 hour debate. The Senate’s vote comes about a month after the marriage equality bill was passed by Argentina’s lower legislative house, the Chamber of Deputies.
The bill will allow gay and lesbian couples the same marriage responsibilities and protections that heterosexuals are afforded. In addition to marriage equality, the bill will also offer homosexual couples the same adoption and social security rights as heterosexual couples.
While on a visit to China, President Fernandez de Kirchner said, “It’s a positive step which defends the rights of minorities in Argentina.”
The Catholic Church was among the most outspoken leaders of the public campaign against the bill, going as far as to sanction clerics who supported the bill. Buenos Aires’ archbishop described the bill as “a plan to destroy God’s plan” and a move to “deceive the children of God.” Although 90 percent of people living in Argentina describe themselves as Catholic, the bill was met with public support.
Norma Morandini, a member of President Fernandez de Kirchner’s party, compared Argentina’s discrimination of gays to the cruelty of past dictators, saying “what defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance.”
News of the bill’s passing has spurred public outcry for other Latin American countries to follow suit and legalize gay marriage. Ratified in 1999, Venezuela has what many people consider as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. Currently, the Venezuelan Government is embroiled in a public war of words with the Catholic Church in an effort to limit the conservative institution’s role in politics. Many believe that pushing forward with a same-sex marriage bill similar to Argentina’s would challenge the conservative establishment.
Argentina’s first legal gay marriage is set to be held on August 13 between Ernesto Rodriguez Larrese and Alejandro Vanelli. Maria Rachid, who leads the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Federation, said she expected around 100 same-sex couples to wed around the same date.
Courtesy of the International Committee of the Red Cross
This month the ICRC announced three awardees of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal, given in honor of their exceptional courage and devotion in caring for the victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Click to learn more and meet these individuals.
Also, the Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada welcomes the ICRC’s new executive management team, led by Director-General Yves Daccord. Read on to learn more about the people who will guide the ICRC for at least the next four years. We also share some insight into Mr. Daccord’s thinking about the future in a short interview.
Next, in response to a reader’s inquiry, they look at the question of diversity at the ICRC. Did you know that while the ICRC was once an organization staffed exclusively by Swiss nationals, today their staff members represent more than 128 nationalities?
And lastly, they share the latest ICRC video that encourages you to “become part of the action.” Watch it and find out more. It is available on the website as well as on YouTube.
By Warren Popp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq – On Sunday, at least forty-seven people were killed in two coordinated suicide attacks. The first occurred as the victims were waiting in line to get paid by the Iraqi government at an army office in western Baghdad, and the second occurred in al Qaim, a city in the Anbar Province in western Iraq. Most of those killed in the attacks were Sahwa militiamen, members of what is often called the Awakening movement. The Awakening movement is made up of former Sunni insurgents who joined with the United States and Iraqi forces to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq—a shift in allegiance that many see as a key turning point in the direction of the war.
The recent attacks are part of an increase in what appear to be revenge attacks against members of the Awakening movement and their families, largely carried out by elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The attacks are generally viewed as payback for what has been viewed by many as a significant role played by the Awakening movement in fighting al-Qaeda throughout central Iraq.
The Awakening movement complains that the Shiite-led Iraqi government, which they allege has always viewed them with suspicion, neglects them and also fails to protect them and their families from revenge attacks. They claim that the government has failed to fulfill its promises to integrate twenty percent of the roughly ninety-two thousand Awakening members in the regular security forces, to find jobs for others, and to keep paying their salaries on time—the victims of the most recent attacks reportedly had not been paid in five months, and it is reported that the monthly salaries of Awakening members have been cut from the three hundred dollars when they were under United States leadership, to one hundred dollars under Iraqi government control.
According to the Awakening commander of Baghdad’s Radwaniya district, “The [Iraqi] army has good relations with us and is cooperative, but there is no support from the government.” He further claimed, “I used to command 1,240 men, each one an important part of a security net, and now I command 400 only. The rest have become either porters or cleaners or are simply paid a monthly salary and stay at home.” The poor treatment by the government is cited as the reason many people leave both the Awakening and their new low-level jobs in civil ministries. Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reports that many Awakening leaders have recently been arrested for crimes they allegedly committed when they were insurgents, and that other Awakening members have been assassinated.
The Christian Science Monitor cites numerous examples of such assassinations: In December, two roadside bombs in December killed two Awakening commanders; in March, men broke into the house of a Awakening militiaman, shooting him and his wife; in June, an Awakening member’s house was blown up on the outskirts of Fallujah; last month, gunmen raided the home of a man who belonged to a tribe that has been vocal in its anti-Al Qaeda views, killing five of his family members; and just last week, an Awakening leader was brutally slain along with his wife and children in his South Baghdad home. There have also been frequent attacks of police officers, which have had their houses blown up and have witnessed family members being killed by gunmen.
Many Awakening members describe themselves as caught between radicals seeking revenge against them, and a government that appears just as likely to arrest them as give them their paychecks. Senior tribal leader, Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman, who is associated with the Awakening movement, said on Al Arabiya television, “The sons of the Awakening are paying with their blood . . . We haven’t seen the government, politicians or the Americans finding a solution to this problem.”
By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga—Two teenagers in Tonga have been spared a whipping sentence that would have given each six lashes with a rod. The Court of Appeal overturned the sentence this week on the grounds that it would be considered “cruel and unusual.”
Timote Fangupo and Penisimani Fa’aoa, both now 17, were first imprisoned for crimes they committed when they were 15. They served time for housebreaking and theft, and escaped from prison three times.
The whipping sentences, accompanied by a 13-year prison term, were set late last year by Justice Shuster, a British Commonwealth High Court Judge who had been appointed to Tonga in 2008.
The whipping punishment had not been used in Tonga in 30 years. The Appeal Court took modern global trends into account when deciding which course to take in this case. Their judgment stated that, “interpreted in the light of international conventions and decisions of this Court it might be argued that the whipping provision is now unconstitutional.”
The Appeal Court acknowledged that international attitudes toward corporal punishment had changed over the past 20 years, saying, “A number of countries have adopted or amended constitutions to prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. Tonga has not amended its constitution.”
The Court cited the UN’s Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights, all of which have spoken out against whipping or flogging.
Also noted by the Justices was the controversy concerning whether it is ethical for a physician to certify offenders as being fit for whipping. The judgment mentioned that medical ethics may “prevent a doctor from participating in the infliction” of such a punishment.
The Court concluded that the whipping punishment would be excessive, and that the sentencing judge had committed error by taking certain prejudicial factors into account: “There had been assaults on prison staff in ‘Eua and the burning of the prison in Tongatapu. There is no suggestion that either of the appellants had anything at all to do with either of these incidents; indeed, their offending and their imprisonment is on the island of Vava’u.”
Instead of enduring the whipping, the teenage appellants will now serve prison sentences totaling six years.
Tonga’s Human Rights and Democracy Movement congratulated the Appeal Court for overturning the sentence. The Movement’s director, Po’oi Pohiva, said, “Such punishment should no longer be seen given the international laws that uphold and promote the dignity of the human person.”
By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BRASILIA, Brazil—A conference on issues affecting women in Latin America and the Caribbean was held this week in Brazil with hopes of achieving equality between men and women. Members called on regional governments to ensure women’s autonomy and economic empowerment.
The eleventh session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Over 800 delegates were present, representing more than 30 nations. The theme chosen for the conference was “What kind of State? What kind of equality?”
ECLAC presented a position paper, the Brasilia Consensus, detailing past accomplishments and future challenges in the realm of gender equality. The document announced that women in Latin America and the Caribbean are burdened by a heavier overall workload than men, much of which is unpaid domestic labor. Women in the workplace are still discriminated against and receive lower wages than their male counterparts. The paper proposed a social covenant that would balance workloads more evenly between men and women and facilitate women’s access to paid jobs.
“It will not be possible to achieve equality for women in the workplace until the burden of unpaid and care work, which they have historically shouldered, has been resolved,” said ECLAC’s executive secretary, Alicia Barcena. “This calls for the establishment of a new virtuous equation that encompasses the State, the market and the family.”
ECLAC’s data from 2008 reports that 31.6% of women over age 15 —but only 10.4% of men– had no income of their own. 8.3% of women were unemployed, while only 5.7% of men were in similar circumstances.
Other goals mentioned in the Brasilia Consensus included women’s increased participation in political processes, access to new technologies, and the elimination of all violence against women. For women suffering as victims of violence, the Consensus demanded justice and free legal assistance.
Members of the conference promised solidarity with earthquake-ravaged Haiti and Chile, agreeing to aid in reconstruction and work for gender equality in those countries.
A delegation from the conference was received Wednesday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and handed the Brazilian leader a copy of the Brasilia Consensus. The same day, the new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was introduced.
By Tristan Simoneau Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
Photo: Cars burn during rioting in Belfast on July 12th. [Source: CNN]
BELFAST, Northern Ireland – On July 11th, riots erupted in Belfast when a Protestant march passed through areas mainly populated by Catholics. Despite the calm in the region since a 1998 peace deal, violence still often breaks out around July 12th as Catholics try to prevent marches. Known as The Twelfth, the holiday has been marred by violence and has been a continuing source of tension between Catholics and Protestants. The date marks Prince William of Orange’s victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The month of July is the height of the “marching season”, a six-month period in which the pro-British Protestant fraternal organization, the Orange Order, takes to the streets to celebrate the ascension of William of Orange to the British throne. The past decade has seen a gradual decrease of tension between the groups, until this year.
On the night of the 11th, twenty-seven officers were hurt, including three who were shot at close range by a man armed with a shotgun. On July 12th, the day of the march, police had to remove demonstrators who staged a sit-down protest to block the march. Rioting erupted soon afterwards and more than 50 officers were injured. There are reports that on July 13th, four to six shots were fired at police in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne district of Belfast. Many rioters also threw petrol bombs and stones, prompting police to use water cannons to deter the attacks. Now police commanders are saying that the rioting appears to be on the wane after four nights of attacks that have left more than 80 officers wounded. A Belfast deputy commander, Duncan McCausland, said rioting Wednesday night and Thursday morning involved “a substantially smaller group of people.”
Politicians have accused the Irish Republican Army of directing the violence that began Sunday night. British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the behavior of the protestors as “completely unacceptable” and praised the police for their “bravery and restraint.” Cameron said Northern Ireland’s police force is under local control and is no longer taking orders from London. The Prime Minister also stated “there is no excuse for anyone not to cooperate with the police force.”
The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, Matt Baggot, has stated that his force is determined to bring those responsible to justice. Five arrests have been made following the violence.
By Alyxandra Stanczak
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
Photo: Mosaad Abu Fagr, Bedouin activist, was released from detention this past Tuesday. (Image courtesy of Amnesty International)
EL ARISH, Egypt – This past Tuesday, July 13, 2010, Bedouin rights activist and blogger Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, also known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr, was released from Abu Zaabal Prison. Hussein had been detained without trial for approximately three years under Egypt’s Emergency Law.
On the day of Hussein’s release, Ibrahim al-Arjani and Mohamed Isa al-Manai, also activists for Bedouin rights, were released from the same prison. Together, these three activists were accused of organizing protests among the 200,000 Bedouins living in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Bedouins residing in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have faced high unemployment in recent years and continue to face labor inequities. Although the Sinai Peninsula is Egypt’s main region for oil drilling and processing, most oil-related jobs go to workers from the Nile area, instead of local Bedouins.
Bedouins have protested this selective employment, saying that it is tantamount to government discrimination. Protests in the area have led to thousands of arrests since 2004. In addition, Bedouins in the area have not shared in the increased revenue derived from the booming tourism industry in the Sinai Peninsula area.
Hussein, al-Arjani, and al-Manai blogged bout the disparate treatment of Bedouin in Sinai Peninsula before their respective arrests. Hussein was arrested three years ago, charged by the government with the possession of unlicensed firearms, driving a car without a licence, and provoking unrest.
Each time a court issued an order for Hussein’s release in the past three years, the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior would intervene and block his release pursuant to Egypt’s Emergency Law. The Emergency Law, which was been in place since 1981, was renewed for a two-year period in May 2010.
The Emergency Law gives the Egyptian government the power to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court.
By Erica Laster Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Despite being the first country to abolish slavery in the Americas, the recent earthquake leaving Port-Au Prince in ruins has increased fears of a soar in child slavery. Jean-Robert Cadet, a Haitian advocate an author suspects that the number of child slaves will double from its previous number of 300,000 in the country. The 10 Americans caught at the Dominican border with 33 Haitian children in February only serves to fuel these concerns.
ABC News reported that according to UNICEF, there are approximately 300,000 child slaves in Haiti, also known as “restaveks”, a Creole term meaning “stay-with.” Haiti’s restaveks are part of a hundred year system which impoverished families use, sending their children away to wealthier Haitian families, who often subject the children to verbal, physical and sexual abuse the Dissident Voice reports. Poverty forces many Haitian families to sell their children for money or material goods in order to survive. Some however, simply give their children away without payment, an action taken to save on the cost of feeding and caring for their child.
Despite Haiti’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on December 29, 1994, little progress was made in eradicating the problem of child slavery in the country. Now, many people may seek to capitalize on the desperation of families and the inability of children to find and re-unite with their families. With poverty on the rise in this country devastated by an earthquake with quickly depleting resources, these same children may escape to richer countries, but only to serve as slaves.
“Once children enter the family, they become a domestic slave and they are at the mercy of everyone in the house. The only thing worse is if the child is a girl, because there is sexual abuse and the risk of pregnancy once she reaches puberty,” says Jean-Robert Cadet, advocate and author of “Restavek.”
According to Cadet, 80% of the slaves are girls. Cadet himself was given to a Haitian family as a restavek at the age of 4 after the death of his mother. In the 1970’s, the family moved on to the United States.
After killing more than 300,000 people, the earthquake has left countless more homeless, with children at great risk for survival, violence and kidnapping. Cadet leaves for Haiti on Monday to monitor the tent camps of earthquake victims and restavek children’s treatment.