Human Rights Abuses Continue in Colombia

Human Rights Abuses Continue in Colombia

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Bloodshed continues in Colombia.  (Photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Bloodshed continues in Colombia. (Photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)

BOGOTA, Colombia—Despite recent victories over the country’s most powerful rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia remains a nation plagued by violence and human rights abuses.

Last month, Colombians rejoiced after learning that armed forces killed a high-ranking FARC commander, “Mono Jojoy.”  President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office on August 7 of this year, announced, “This is the beginning of the end for the FARC.”

But military wins have come at a high cost in Colombia.  Colombian armed forces have become increasingly infamous for frequent, and often unreported, human rights abuses with impunity.  Concerned human rights organizations have discovered evidence of torture, rape, looting, displacements and restricted freedom of movement against innocent civilians.  About 2,300 extrajudicial executions have also been uncovered.

Many believe that the government’s tunnel-vision focus on the FARC has allowed military abuses to go unchecked, while allowing other, smaller rebel paramilitary groups to run rampant.  It is even thought that many Colombian troops work with illegal groups to engage in drug trafficking and human rights violations.

A Colombian soldier has recently been accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl on October 2 of this year near a site where three children were murdered this month.  The soldier had disappeared from his military camp when both the sexual abuse and murders had taken place; he also fits the description of the offender given by the abused girl.  Incidents such as these remain alarmingly commonplace.

Colombia has admitted for the first time that 50,000 of its citizens have been “forcibly disappeared.”  The Colombian Commission of Jurists reported that the vast majority of those who vanished were activists who were kidnapped and killed by government soldiers or right-wing paramilitaries.

On Thursday, human rights groups issued a report announcing that over 22 activists were killed in the first 75 days of President Santos’ presidency.  The report, a 21-page document, explores the details behind several activists’ deaths, including indigenous leaders, a human rights worker, trade unionists, and community educators.  These murders only represent “registered cases,” and many other similar cases are believed to exist.

Maria Paulina Riveros, the director of human rights in the Ministry of Interior and Justice, vowed to investigate the murders “immediately,” and said, “Obviously we recognize that there continue to be very serious threats against human rights defenders; we say that progress is about to open the way to relevant consultation.”

For more information, please see:

Tribune Magazine-Finally, Colombia admits that 50,000 have ‘disappeared’-29 October 2010

Colombia Reports-Army faces further child abuse accusations-29 October 2010

Colombia Reports-22 activists killed in Santos’ first 75 days-29 October 2010

Miami Herald-A fleeting chance to end the war-29 October 2010

Kosovo Continues to Allow Re-Admission of Deportees Despite Concerns of Human Rights Abuse

By Ricardo Zamora

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Several human rights groups are urging European countries to halt the deportation of displaced Roma and other minorities into Kosovo where they face discrimination and human rights violations.

In a report released today, Human Rights Watch reports that deportees face numerous hardships upon return to Kosovo including lack of proper healthcare, difficulties in integrating into society, and a lack of education for their children.  The deportees also have difficulty obtaining identity documents, employment, and social welfare services.

While now independent despite Belgrade’s claim of sovereignty over it, Kosovo is plagued by poverty, unemployment, and crime.  Hostility among ethnic groups creates an environment with a high potential for violence.

“Europe is sending Kosovo’s most vulnerable people back to discrimination, exclusion, poverty, and displacement,” said Wanda Troszczynska-van Genderen, Western Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch.  “If Europe’s leaders are serious about improving the plight of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians, they should suspend the deportations to Kosovo and ensure adequate support to those who have already been sent back.”

The report notes that over 50,000 minorities have been deported back into Kosovo since 1999 and expresses concerns over a significant rise in that number.  The report explicitly voices concerns over some 12,000 people facing deportation in Germany alone.

But a recent policy shift on deportations to Kosovo by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where almost 40% of the refugees are living, suggests that reform is possible.  A September decree issued by the state’s Interior Ministry recognized the need for special protection of these minority groups, requires individual screenings prior to deportation, and recommends not deporting school-age children.  While decree does not completely disallow deportations, Human Rights Watch says that it is a positive step toward reform and gives hope to many of the 12,000 people currently at risk of deportation.

Nevertheless, concern stems from the Kosovo government who, seeking international recognition and under pressure from Europe, has signed readmission agreements with Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Norway.

“These agreements, and the absence of screening by Kosovo prior to (return) open the door to ever greater numbers of deportations, create a real risk of human rights abuse, and escalate crisis conditions for deportees, their families, and the broader Kosovo community,” the Human Rights Watch report warned.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Kosovo: Europe Returning Roma to Face Hardship – October 28, 2010

The Star – Roma Forced Back To Dire Poverty, Deprivation – October 28, 2010

WAZ – Human Rights Watch Denounces Roma Deportations to Kosovo – October 28, 2010

China’s Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Missing Again

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – “President Obama, as the father of two girls yourself, please ask President Hu Jintao of China to tell this daughter where her father is…If the Chinese government has murdered my father, I beg President Obama to ask President Hu to let us bury him.” These are the desperate words from the daughter of China’s leading Human Rights attorney, whose profession has become another example of how China silences critics.

Human Rights attorney has become a case of chinese politics
Human Rights lawyer becomes a case of chinese politics

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mr. Gao hasn’t had the privilege of courts and jails but has simply disappeared, without any official word on the circumstances of what his family and most observers believe to be his detention by the government.

In 2009, in the article “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” which was published on the Internet, Gao Zhisheng described the atrocious torture inflicted on him by police during his imprisonment in 2007, including cruel beatings, shocking his gentiles with electric batons, damaging his eyes by blowing cigarette smoke into them for hours, inserting toothpicks into his penis, etc. Gao’s exposé shocked the international community. (Epoch Times)

The teenage daughter, Grace Geng, one of China’s most respected human rights advocates has pleaded to President Barack Obama for help finding answers to questions few can answer.

Grace Geng, her mother and brother finally fled China with her mother last year, and are now living in the United States.

In an open letter to the president, saying her father had been tortured and she too had been beaten by police and barred from going to school, 17 year-old Grace, wrote a letter published by the Wall Street Journal with the words: “Six months ago last week the Chinese government kidnapped my father. He was abducted for exercising his right to freedom of speech.”

In what has been five years of tracked oppression by the hands of the world’s leading economy, Gao Zhisheng, since: 2005: authorities have closed down Gao Zhisheng’s law practice; Dec 2006: Convicted of subversion and sentenced to house arrest; Sept 2007: Says he was tortured during a period of detention; Jan 2009: Disappears; last seen accompanied by security officials; Mar 2010: Reappeared for a month before disappearing again.

Accompanied by Beijing lawyers Teng Biao and Li Heping, Gao Zhisheng’s eldest brother Gao Zhiyi recently reported the case to Xiaoguan Police Station in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, but police refused to register the case or take a written statement. (BBC)

In an interview with Sound of Hope Radio Network, Li Heping said that communist authorities often illegally torture petitioners, political dissidents, and rights defenders. Citizens are arrested for seeking redress of grievances. Lawyers who defend them are also implicated and persecuted.

Mr. Gao’s circumstance alongside Liu Xiaobo’s, the jailed academic awarded the Nobel Peace Prize months ago, are patterns of the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing persecution of human rights defenders in China.

Li Heping worries that the Chinese people cannot do anything about the communist state’s illegal practices. “Another way to put it is that this is the regime’s scoundrel way. What can you do about it?” 

For more information, please see:

Wall Street Journal – Again, Where Is Gao Zhisheng? – 28 October 2010

BBC – Daughter pleads for missing China lawyer Gao Zhisheng – 28 October 2010

The Epoch Times – Beijing Police Refuse to Register Gao Zhisheng’s Missing Case – 24 October 2010

PNG Police Kills Underage Detainee

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – A Papua New Guinea (PNG)policeman shot a 15 year old boy who had been held in police custody. The police was arrested immediately and was charged for willful murder.

The Post Courier newspaper reports Micah Anaiwe, provincial police commander, as saying, the policeman is alleged to have gone into a cell and shot the underage suspect many times. The teenager was in police custody after he stabbed a supermarket manager during a robbery in the Oro province town.

According to reports, the the policeman was under the influence and had allegedly been drinking with owners of the supermarket before the shooting took place.

This is the second time a shooting by a police officer of a suspect in custody has happened in the province.
Just last month, a suspect arrested by two police officers was taken to a nearby stream and shot.

Superintendent Dominic Kakas says PNG’s Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, takes such matters very seriously and investigation will be underway.

“We’ve done our level best to try and win back public confidence. He’s taken on a number of initiatives to also improve policing and so on and this sort of like sets back a lot of positive developments that have taken place.”

Beginning of this year, there has been an investigation by the United Nation that there is a high incidence of police brutality and torture at PNG police cells, and the government was urged to address the issue and improve the situation.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand – PNG Police Commissioner concerned at shooting in custody – 27 October 2010

Radio New Zealand – PNG policeman arrested following fatal shooting of jailed child – 27 October 2010

Radio Australia – PNG Policeman kills detainee in cell – 26 October 2010