21 Years Later, Former Colombian Spy Chief Charged In Killing

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

Former Colombian Spy Chief Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez (photo courtesy of www.elcolombiano.com)
Former Colombian Spy Chief Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez (photo courtesy of www.elcolombiano.com)

 BOGOTA, Colombia – Former head of Colombia’s DAS security agency and retired military general Miguel Maza Marquez was arrested for the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.  The arrest comes days after Colombian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for the 73-year-old Maza Marquez.  Maza Marquez is officially charged with murder for terrorist purposes and a crime against humanity.

Maza Marquez had beens arrested last December in connection with the assassination; however, he was released in April after the prosecution failed to meet the indictment deadline. Prosecutors began to revive the case in September.

Daniel Suarez, Maza Marquez’ attorney, told Caracol Radio that Maza Marquez “has no interest in evading justice” and would “immediately” turn himself in following the indictment.  Maza Marquez has steadfastly asserted his innocence.

The DAS domestic security agency that Maza Marquez was in charge of provides bodyguards for politicians, human rights activists and others, including Galan.  Prosecutors in the case claim that Maza Marquez made changes to Galan’s security detail mere hours before the candidate was killed at a campaign rally in the Bogota suburb of Soacha on August 18, 1989.

Former officials with the demobilized AUC paramilitary federation have said in sworn statements that Maza Marquez played a central role in Galan’s murder.  According to the prosecution, additional evidence “points to the participation of several state servants who, like the retired general, learned in advance of the attack being planned against the presidential candidate and, instead of averting it, aided in its commission.”

Galan’s presidential campaign was a crusade against Pablo Escobar and other drug lords who essentially controlled Colombia through violence, killing hundreds of judges, journalists and police in a bid to avoid extradition.  It is theorized that the assassination was carried out primarily due to instigation from politicians and drug kingpins.

Galan was the favorite to win the election and would have likely been elected President had it not been for his untimely death.

For more information, please see:

www.poliblogger.com – Arrest Warrant Issued for ex-DAS Chief in Galan Assassination – 27 November 2010

Latin American Herald Tribune – Colombia Charges Former Spy Chief in 1989 Assassination – 26 November 2010

Washington Post – Colombian ex-Police Chief Charged in Killing – 25 November 2010

Forces Seize Gang-Held Slum–Bystanders Pay A Price

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Police took the gang-run slum by force. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
Police took the gang-run slum by force. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil—After a week of combat between drug gangs and Brazilian security forces, over 45 people have been left dead.  Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva has lauded the operation as the beginning of the end for Rio’s notorious drug gangs, stating confidently:  “We will win this war.”

The military operation against the gangs took place in the favela (shantytown or slum) called Complexo do Alemao in Rio.  The favela had been a virtual stronghold for drug gangs, with little police presence for decades.  The mission culminated on Sunday when approximately 2,600 armed officers and paratroopers swarmed on the favela.  Armored vehicles and helicopters were in tow.

Officers seized weapons and drugs, especially marijuana and cocaine.  They also arrested over 40 suspected gang members, including important leaders.  Eliseu de Souza was one of these, found guilty of the 2002 torture and killing of journalist Tim Lopes.  Officers canvassed the favela’s 13 neighborhoods and tracked suspects into the sewers.

This week’s series of violent clashes are part of Brazil’s plan to make Rio safer for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  Yet many human rights defenders are critical, accusing the nation of being too tough in the approach.

“The police so far this week in operations in other communities have killed over 50 people, including in a tragic accident a 14-year-old girl,” Patrick Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty International, said.  “And one has to remember that this community has a long history of these very militarized campaigns by the police, and in 2007 the police did a huge operation, stormed the community and shot dead 19 people, and then left.”

Many innocent residents of the favela were caught in crossfire during the police operations.  Health officials have reported that the age range of those wounded was from 2 to 81.

Jose Pereira, a 33-year-old bricklayer, took a bullet in the leg.  “They fight,” he said, “but we’re the ones who suffer, the residents.  How am I going to work now [with my injury]?  I have three children.  How are they going to eat?”

Complexo do Alemao has a population of about 65,000 who inhabit only 18,000 dwellings—mostly tin-roofed brick shacks.  Fifteen percent of these residents live without any access to proper sewage.  Since the violence began last week, electricity has been lost and many residents have lost the food they kept in their refrigerators.  When asked about the police’s capture of the favela, one mother said, “No, it’s not worth it.  Before, we lived our lives, [the gangs] lived theirs.”

Despite the problems that police operations have created in the favela, many are hopeful that the drug traffickers are on their way out and that a more peaceful time is to come.

“I hope this will be the rebirth of this community,” a grandmother expressed after the violence ceased.  “Things had to change.  We have to hope.”

For more information, please see:

BBC-Brazil’s Lula hails Rio police operation-29 November 2010

Washington Post-Rio slum dwellers caught in battle to pacify city-29 November 2010

Reuters-Analysis: Rio raids a critical step for Brazil’s economy-29 November 2010

AMNESTY PUSHES FOR JUSTICE FOR NICARAGUAN RAPE VICTIMS: TWO THIRDS OF VICTIMS UNDER AGE 17

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                          Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – While abortion continues to be illegal in Nicaragua, the use of 9 year olds to advocate for its use in the country is not. According to reports by Nicaraguan police, more than two thirds of the countries rape victims from 1998-2008 had not reached the age of 17.  Various tactics and measures used as solutions to resulting sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies result in stigmatization and further trauma.

Current Nicaraguan President Ortegas stepdaughter accused him of rape in 1998.  Authorities never prosecuted him.  Photo courtesy of BBC News.
Current Nicaraguan President Ortega's stepdaughter accused him of rape in 1998. Authorities never prosecuted him. Photo courtesy of BBC News.

Amnesty reported that one mother attempted to file a complaint regarding her daughter’s rape by her step father.  Despite her report, authorities charged her with complicity and placed her in jail for 12 years for her failure to report the crime earlier.

Authorities never took action to arrest the step father.

Esther Major, a Nicaraguan research for Amnesty recognizes that “Young vitimcs of rape and sexual abuse demand that their right to be free from sexual violence is protected by the Nicaraguan government, and that they are supported so they can overcome the physical and psychological trauma caused by such acts of violence.”

Nicaragua’s abortion law demands that rape victims who become pregnant face imprisonment if they refuse to have the baby.    Many other victims are pressured into delivering the baby or giving the baby up for adoption.  Of the  14,000 cases reported in ten of the last 12 years, the main perpetrators were those in positions of power or relatives of the victims.

The result of inaction taken by authorities is silence from the victims.

Daniel Ortega, the current President of Nicaragua,  was accused of rape by his step-daughter in 1998.  Zoilamerica Narvaez reported the abuse to the authorities, indicating that Ortega molested her from the age of 11 to the age of 22.

As a member of parliament, Ortega maintained immunity from prosecution and the case was never brought to trial.

For More Information Please Visit:

Free Republic – Pregnant 9 year Old Victim Being Used To Push Abortion Legalization – 20 April 2010

Amnesty International – Nicaragua Must Put An End To Rape And Sexual Abuse Of Girls – 25 November 2010

BBC News – Nicaragua Accused Of Failing Rape Victims – 24 November 2010

North Korea Fires at South, killing civilians


North Korea fired artillery shells onto the South Korean island, killing two civilians (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – On Tuesday November 23, North Korea attacked a populated South Korean island near its border, killing two marines and two civilians while injuring dozens of people. Such a provocation was “one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War,” according to Ban Ki moon, the current secretary general at the United nations.

North fired dozens of shells at a South Korean island called Yeonpyeong, which marked the first time since the war that North struck at land-based targets. The rockets destroyed homes and workplaces of civilians who were later placed under temporary asylum homes in the mainland Korea. President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea promised to return a “stern” and “strenuous retaliation” if any further provocation ensued.

The attacked island is situated in a disputed area where a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, was sunk in March, killing 46 sailors. An international investigative report blamed North Korea for torpedoing the naval vessel, an accusation which North still denies.

Although skirmishes between the two Koreas are not uncommon, their tense relations have worsened in the recent months especially after the Cheonan incident. To make matters worse, just last week, an American nuclear scientist who visited the North said he had been shown a secret and modern nuclear enrichment facility.

According to Andrei Lankov, a North Korean expert and an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, “they [North Korea] want to direct attention to themselves, to say: ‘Look we are here, we are dangerous and we cannot just be ignored,’” The U.S. position had been to engage in talks when there was a prospect of democratization in the North, he said. “Now the chances for democratization are virtually zero, so they have nothing to talk about.”

Many analysts view the continuing provocation by the North as their desperate plea to capture world’s attention as the totalitarian regime goes through the transfer of power from Kim Jong-il to his 3rd son, Kim Jong-un. Such a hard-line stance, they believe, will enhance the military credentials of Kim Jong-un and garner a unified support for his rising to the new leadership. Others link it to the need for food aid, which has been largely denied by South Korea ever since President Lee took office two years ago, and strangled by international and United States sanctions.

The attack on Yeonpyeong came as 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called Safeguarding the Nation. This exercise, which had been announced well in advance to the North, has been criticized by Pyongyang as “simulating an invasion of the North” and “a means to provoke a war.”

Many regard China as a key player in easing the tension between two Koreas. China, arguably North Korea’s sole trading partner and political ally, tries to prevent a collapse of the North Korean regime, which has potential to send a flood of refugees over its border. Whether this latest exchange of artilleries will escalate into a full-blown confrontation remains to be seen.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Crisis Status’ in South Korea After North Shells Island – 23 November 2010

Bloomberg Businessweek – N. Korea Attack on South Kills Two, Sets Homes Ablaze – 23 November 2010

Bloomberg – UN Chief Ban Ki-moon Condemns North Korea’s Attack on South – 23 November 2010

The Wall Street Journal – China Faces Pivotal Test – 24 November 2010

Rebels Storm Town in Central African Republic

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter,  Africa
Central African Republic Soldiers. (Photo Courtesy of News 352).
Central African Republic Soldiers. (Photo Courtesy of News 352).

BANGUI, Central African Republic – On November 24, rebels from the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) stormed a village in northeastern Central African Republic (C.A.R.) killing at least four government soldiers and causing widespread panic. The town of Birao, which is located near the border of Chad and Sudan, is presently under the CPJP’s control. CPJP rebels took control of the town after upending government forces that had been stationed in Birao to protect the population. Reports from the region claim the C.A.R. military is planning a counterattack to retake control of the town.

The CPJP rebels have seized control of the military’s command post in Birao as well as the local airport. It has been reported that many of the residents have fled the town and are hiding in the bush. C.A.R. military officials claim that government soldiers decided to withdraw from the town instead of standing and fighting the CPJP rebels because there was a high risk of civilian casualties. It is suspected that Chadian rebels who have fled from the Darfur region of Sudan assisted the CPJP with this assault. Rebel attacks frequently occur in this region of Africa. Specifically, this area of C.A.R. has been plagued by violence including inter-ethnic hostilities, thievery, and cross border attacks.

The rebel attack on Birao has drawn condemnation from world leaders including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. The United Nations is particularly concerned with this development because only two weeks ago control of Birao was handed over to C.A.R. government soldiers from United Nations peacekeepers. The peacekeeping forces are a part of the UN Mission to Central African Republic and Chad, also known as MINURCAT. MINURCAT was setup in 2007 to help protect civilians in both CAR and Chad and to provide humanitarian relief when both countries were experiencing instability.

The handover of Birao came after an agreement was reached between C.A.R., Chad, and the United Nations in May 2010. During this meeting, the government of Chad pushed to have the MINURCAT mission wind down and for government forces from Chad and C.A.R. to step up to and take over security operations. The MINURCAT mission is scheduled to end on December 31, 2010.

For more information, please see:

AFP — C.African rebels control key town after deadly assault – 25 November 2010

BBC Africa — Central African Republic rebels seize Birao town – 26 November 2010

Spero News — Ban deplores rebel attack in north-east Central African Republic – 27 November 2010

Voice of America — Rebels Control Central African Republic Town – 25 November 2010

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 5, Issue 17 — November 22, 2010

Volume 5, Issue 17 – November 22, 2010

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Democratic Republic of the Congo (ICC)

Kenya

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Special Court for Sierra Leone

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Iraqi High Tribunal

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

United States

TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

REPORTS

UN Reports

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

General

WORTH READING

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. If you do not want to receive future issues of War Crimes Prosecution Watch, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “unsubscribe” in the subject line.

Chilean Bishop And Human Rights Advocate Dies

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Chilean Bishop Sergio Valech Aldunate (photo courtesy of http://mundoclaraboya.blogspot.com)
Chilean Bishop Sergio Valech Aldunate (photo courtesy of http://mundoclaraboya.blogspot.com)

SANTIAGO, Chile – Chilean Catholic Bishop and staunch human rights advocate Sergio Valech Aldunate recently passed away after battling lung cancer; he was 83 years old.  Aldunate was particularly outspoken against human rights violations during the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship.

Aldunate was ordained in 1953 and named a bishop by Pope Paul VI in 1973.  Between 1987 and 1992, Aldunate headed the Chilean church’s Solidarity Vicariate, an institution created after Pinochet’s 1973 coup.  The purpose of the Solidarity Vicariate was to speak up for the victims of the military regime.

The vicariate was eventually  abolished in 1992;however, Aldunate then established and headed a foundation that conserved its archives and made them available for investigations.

The Bishop was also chosen by then-President Ricardo Lagos to lead a commission probing politically motivated detentions and torture under the Pinochet government.  It is estimated that Pinochet’s regime was responsible for over 3,000 civilian deaths and 28,000 cases of torture.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of public mourning and appreciation.  Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said that Aldunate was “the voice of the voiceless during the dark night of the dictatorship. He turned into a rights defender, and was a man who saved many lives.”  Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Archbishop of Santiago stated that “[Aldunate] was an example of simple life, very poor, not wanting anything for himself… an exemplary Chilean…  He was always in the frontline for the reconciliation of his homeland.”

The online La Nacion newspaper called Aldunate “the most important figure of the cause of human rights during the military regime.”

The Bishop’s funeral was celebrated on Friday in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago; the same place Aldunate was consecrated at in 1973.

For more information, please see:

Independent Catholic News – Chile Bids Farewell to Bishop Valech – 25 November 2010

Fox News Latino – Chilean Bishop who Defended Human Rights Dies – 24 November 2010

Latin American Herald Tribune – Chilean Bishop who Defended Human Rights Dies – 24 November 2010

AUTHORITIES DISCOVER UNDERGROUND TUNNEL USED TO TRANSPORT DRUGS FROM MEXICO TO THE UNITED STATES

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                             Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
 
SAN DIEGO, United States – Thursday morning, authorities discovered a half mile underground tunnel running from a Mexican residence in Tijuana to a warehouse in San Diego, California.  Of the 75 drug tunnels found to date, this one, 90 feet deep and equipped with rail tracks and carts, appeared to be the most sophisticated.  Several suspects and truck drivers were arrested at the scene and approximately 20 tons of marijuana have been seized. 
Authorities discover 75th tunnel used to transport drugs from Tijuana to California.  Photo Courtesy of the New York Times. Authorities discover 75th tunnel used to transport drugs from Tijuana to California. Photo Courtesy of the New York Times.

U.S. agents found one truck filled with over 27,000 600 pound packages of marijuana.   The tractor trailer received the load and traveled 60 miles north to Temecula, California, a border checkpoint where authorities finally arrested the driver.  Miguel Unzueta, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent indicated that “this is obviously not a Mom and Pop operation.  This is a major significant drug cartel working.”  Authorities also arrested the driver of a second box truck following the trailer which was filled with $13,500 in cash.  While they are now in federal custody, both drivers are United States citizens.

In the last four years, U.S. authorities have found 75 underground tunnels used to transport tons of marijuana and cash back and forth over the border undetected.  The most recent tunnel came equipped with both a lighting and ventilation system.  According to Unzueta, its sophistication as electrical outlets ran throughout the wood and cinderblock enforced tunnel. 

After alerting Mexican authorities of the tunnel, Mexican military discovered an entrance beneath the kitchen floor of a residence.  Investigators on both sides believe the Sinaloa Cartel, a major Mexican Cartel known for its violence, kidnappings and murders, to be behind the tunnel.

Drug Enforcement Administration agent Ralph Partridge reported that between this and the last tunnel found on November 2, the marijuana seized amounted to the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette for each of California’s 37 million residents. Assistant United States Attorney Alana Robinsons noted that while these tunnels are being used to distribute marijuana, “these transborder tunnels pose a significant threat to our national security as well.”

For more information please visit:

CNN – ‘Sophisticated’ border tunnel leads to seizure of tons of pot – 26 November 2010

NY Times – Drug Tunnel Is Found At Border – 26 November 2010

Washington Post – Sophisticated Drug Tunnel Found In San Diego – 25 November 2010

Anti-Chavez TV Boss Seeking Asylum from US

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela—The president of a pro-opposition Venezuelan television network who has been in exile from his country is now seeking asylum in the United States.  According to that president, the procedure for obtaining political asylum is nearing completion.

Sixty-seven year old Guillermo Zuloaga, the owner of the Globovision television channel, escaped from Venezuela back in June of this year in order to evade arrest by authorities.  The authorities claim that Zuloaga was involved in the illegal sales of automobiles and have subsequently seized his property.

In an interview on Wednesday, Zuloaga told CNN’s Spanish language channel that the criminal charges against him were pretexts and that the true reason he was sought by Venezuelan officials is because he is being politically persecuted.  Zuloaga had had a falling out with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez earlier in the year as Globovision remained a voice of opposition.

President Chavez spoke at a government event on Wednesday which was broadcast on state television.  During his speech, Chavez denied that Zuloaga was being oppressed for political reasons.  Chavez labeled Zuloaga a “bandit” and opined that he was in cahoots with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Zuloaga said that although he would like to live again in Venezuela, Chavez’s government there is authoritarian and rules by intimidation by controlling the justice system.  He denied that he had been involved in a 100 million dollar plot to assassinate President Chavez, calling those allegations a “smokescreen.”

During a speech in Washington, Zuloaga declared to Chavez:  “President, I do not want you dead.  I want you healthy so as to see you when you stand before Venezuelans, and perhaps beyond our borders, for your government’s bad rule and the vast fortune you have wasted.”

Globovision remains on air despite its criticism of the government.  Chavez has attempted to interfere with the network but as of yet has been unable to completely silence it.

The National Journalists’ Association (CNP) has spoken out against Chavez’s threats against Globovision.  Earlier this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it remains concerned about Venezuela’s use of punitive power of the state to silence voices of opposition.

For more information, please see:

RTT-Venezuela’s Globovision TV Network Boss Seeks US Asylum-26 November 2010

Voice of America-Venezuelan TV Executive Seeks Asylum in US-25 November 2010

Mail Online-Venezuelan TV boss stokes row with Chavez after denying being behind $100m assassination plot-25 November 2010

Obama’s Strategy to Disarm and Defeat the LRA

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter,  Africa

Lords Resistance Army Commander Joseph Kony. (Photo Courtesy of Central African Studies).
Lord's Resistance Army Commander Joseph Kony. (Photo Courtesy of Central African Studies).

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – On November 24, President Barack Obama presented the United States Congress with a comprehensive strategy to disarm and destroy Uganda’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is a rebel group that has terrorized innocent civilians in central Africa for more than two decades. Specifically, the rebel group has attacked isolated villages across southern Sudan, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), and western Uganda.President Obama’s strategy aims to decapitate the leadership of LRA, and provide support and logistics to communities affected by the rebel group’s actions. 

President Obama’s letter to Congress lays out four specific goals: protect civilians, apprehend or destroy the senior commanders of LRA including Mr. Joseph Kony, encourage current LRA members to lay down their arms and disband, and provide humanitarian aid to villagers who have been affected by the LRA’s violence. Mr. Kony, leader of the LRA, is wanted by the International Criminal Court and lives a transient existence crossing between Sudan and Central Africa Republic to evade capture.

 Although the United States is not sending soldiers to fight the LRA, the initiative is going to provide logistical, economic, political, and military support to countries where the LRA is operating.

 This is not the United States first attempt at trying to destroy the LRA. In 2008, the U.S. made a concerted effort to defeat the LRA through a Ugandan-led operation called Lightning Thunder. The operation flushed out members of the LRA, which were based in the Garamba National Park. However, this government led operation did not capture many LRA members. Instead many of members slipped through the government’s dragnet and crossed from southern Uganda into DR Congo. While in DR Congo, the LRA began a reign of terror that included attacking remote villages and churches.

 Uganda has been fighting the LRA for over twenty years. The LRA was initially established to overthrow the Ugandan government and install a theocracy based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.  The LRA is known to take children from their families and employ them as child soldiers or sex slaves. Furthermore, the group is known for its brutality of raping, killing, and mutilating the villagers they attack.

 For more information, please see:

AFP — Obama presents plan to disarm Uganda’s LRA rebels—25 November 2010

 BBC Africa — Barack Obama’s plan to defeat Ugandan LRA rebels – 25 November 2010

 The Guardian — US reveals plan to disarm LRA fighters – 25 November 2010

 VOANEWS — Obama Presents Plan to Help Disarm LRA in Uganda –25 November 2010

Hunger-Striking Chilean Women Meet Accord With Government

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

33 Women Protest End of Jobs Bill in Chile (photo courtesy of www.plenglish.com)
33 Women Protest End of Jobs Bill in Chile (photo courtesy of www.plenglish.com)

SANTIAGO, Chile – Last week, 33 Chilean women collectively entered a mine to protest the end of a jobs bill, which created thousands of jobs for citizens to rebuild infrastructure following a devastating earthquake.  Initially, regional officials vowed to have open dialogue with the protesters to peacefully end the demonstration.  Making good on their promise, government officials have reached an agreement with the hunger-striking women, bringing the ordeal to an end.

The women, who occupied the Chiflon del Diablo mine in Lota, were demanding reinstatement of the jobs bill; however, it was initially unclear whether this would be something that the government could realistically do.  Bio Bio’s regional governor Jacqueline van Rysselberghe reported that the women have given up their hunger strike after government officials promised to find them public-works jobs in the local municipalities.

In addition to the public-works jobs, the agreement includes job training for the women.  The agreement will also have ramifications that extend beyond the 33 women participating in the demonstration.  According to van Rysselberghe, 2,000 new jobs will be created to help those who lost their job with the ending of the jobs bill.

It is estimated that the February earthquake caused $30 billion in damage.  The jobs bill was created to put Chileans to work rebuilding homes and infrastructure.  It is also estimated that the legislature’s failure to reauthorize the jobs bill resulted in upwards of 12,000 people losing their government-created jobs.

It cannot be doubted that the 33 women made significant strides in helping those who lost their jobs; however, with only 2,000 new jobs being created, many Chileans are still left without a means of employment.

For more information, please see:

Latin American Herald Tribune – Jobless Hunger-Strikers Reach Accord with Chilean Governmen – 23 November 2010

Presna Latina – Chile: Women Abandon Hunger Strike – 23 November 2010

Monstersandcritics.com – Chilean Authorities Willing to Talk to 33 Hunger-Strikers in Mine – 19 November 2010

Nuremberg Trials Museum Opens To The Public

By Ricardo Zamora
Impunity Watch Reporter Europe

NUREMBERG, Germany – An exhibit commemorating the Nuremburg trials opened its doors to the public on Sunday.  The display is located at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, the building where several Nazis were sentenced to death between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946.

The exhibit, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the trials, features original documents and archival material including photo, video and audio displays.  Also on display are the original docks and seats where countless Nazi leaders such as Hermann Goering and Marin Bormann sat to face charges.

One of the major attractions is the famed Court Room 600, the room where some of the most significant trials were held 65 years ago.  The well-preserved and still-functioning court is open to the public when it is not presently in use.

Among those in attendance for the grand opening was 90 year-old Benjamin Ferencz, one of the original U.S. prosecutors at the trials.  In 1943, Ferencz, then 23 and  fresh out of Harvard Law School, began gathering evidence of Nazi crimes as the concentration camps were liberated.  Just four years later he found himself chief prosecutor at the trial of 22 Nazis.

Ferencz noted, “When I left Germany for the first time after World War II and left Nuremberg, my biggest regret was that I never heard from any German saying ‘I’m sorry.’  I would never have believed that I would come back 60 years later and would hear a completely difference voice and a different plan in the same country.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, also in attendance, expressed how the trials set a precedent for the development of international law.  Indeed, not only were the trials the first to establish the legal precedent of crimes against humanity, they also made way for the International Criminal Court.

“Because a lot was risked here in Nuremberg – politically, legally and personally – international law was able to develop and rules could be set out for future cases,” Westerwelle said.

In his closing remarks Ferencz emphasized that prevention is the goal, not punishment.  “By the time you are punishing you have failed,” he warned.  Before stepping down, Ferencz left the audience with a final question: “How far have we come?”

For more information please see:

CBC – Nuremberg Trials Explored in Museum Exhibit – November 22, 2010

DEUTSCHE WELLE – How Far Have We Come? Nuremberg Trials Museum Opens – November 21, 2010

RIANOVOSTI – Museum on Nuremberg Trials Opens Doors in Germany – November 21, 2010

Strike Continues at World’s No. 3 Copper Mine

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
 

A sign calls the mine Champion of the Labor Exploitation.  (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
A sign calls the mine "Champion of the Labor Exploitation". (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

IQUIQUE, Chile—On Tuesday, a strike at the world’s third largest copper mine entered its nineteenth day. As of yet, production at that mine has not been substantially altered, according to a company spokesperson.

Workers have been on strike at the Dona Ines de Collahuasi mine and have refused to return to work until the mining company meets their demands and continues to negotiate. Labor leaders dispute the company’s claims that production at the mine has not been disrupted. They say that only 20% of production has been maintained during the strike.

Labor leaders also deny the company’s statement that 120 workers stopped striking and returned to work at the mine. The leaders declare, instead, that a much smaller number of miners, about 36, have broken the strike so far. There is a Chilean labor law that states that if half of the workers break a strike, then the strike must end at that moment. The miners that went back to work were responding favorably to an offer that the mining company presented to them last week.

Bernardita Fernandez, a spokesperson for the Collahuasi mine, expressed little worry about the strike’s implications, saying, “the company will meet all of its commercial obligations” even as the strike marches on. Fernandez has remarked that negotiations between the workers and the company have not been resumed this week. According to the company, collective talks had to be discontinued because the union was “intransigent”; therefore, only negotiations with individual workers will be pursued.

The 1,430 remaining strikers have been given a deadline of late Tuesday night to accept or decline the company’s most recent wage and benefits offer. This offer includes a signing bonus of roughly $30,000 per worker. The union representing the workers has announced that wage talks will have to continue because most of the strikers will reject the company’s offer.

“We are strong and united,” said Manuel Munoz, a union leader. “Right now they are just trying to break up our movement and that’s suicide. They have to discuss a new offer with us to resolve this conflict.”

Most of the striking miners have been living in tents in the port city of Iquique while the strike continues.

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg Businessweek-Collahuasi Union Says Company Must Resume Talks-23 November 2010

Reuters-Chile’s Collahuasi strike faces crucial test-23 November 2010

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Iranian Woman May Avoid Stoning Sentence After All

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – The head of Iran’s High Human Rights Council announced today that Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, an Iranian women sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery, “could be saved.”  It appears that the judiciary’s latest review of Ashtiani’s case precipitated the announcement although no details about its review were provided.  Ashtiani’s case has drawn significant international criticism from numerous governments and human rights organizations urging Iran to set aside the stoning verdict.

Ashtiani’s sentence has been stayed since July, pending the resolution of the judiciary’s final review.  She has been on death row for four years and has already dodged one death sentence.  In 2006, Ashtiani was found guilty for her involvement in the murder of her husband and received a sentence of death by hanging.  This sentence was reduced however, to a 10 year prison term.   

Ashtiani has already suffered 100 lashes as punishment for her crime.  Reports indicated that she has also been beaten up and tortured on a number of occasions.  Some fear that she may be tried a second time for the murder of her husband despite already being found guilty of complicity in his death.  If she is found guilty, she may again be sentenced to death. 

Since 1983, stoning has been the traditional punishment for the crime of adultery under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.  Although the government has imposed a moratorium on the use of this punishment, the government has yet to officially abandon the practice and courts continue to issue stoning sentences.  According to Farshad Hoseini, head of the International Committee against Execution, at least 150 people have been stoned to death in Iran since 1980.  The majority of the victims were women.   Although the government denies any correlation between today’s announcement and the political pressure it has faced from this case, it seems likely that the international community’s efforts are a significant factor in the process to commute Ashtiani’s sentence.

For more information, please see:

Agence France Presse – Iran Stoning woman’s Life ‘Could be Spared’ – 22 Nov. 2010

Jerusalem Post –Life of Woman in Iran Stoning Case May be Saved – 22 Nov. 2010

National Post – Iran’s Stone-Age Justice system – 19 Nov. 2010

CBS News – Case of Sakineh Ashtiani Reflects Iran’s internal Divisions – 18 Nov. 2010

DEATH TOLL RISES TO 1,186: HAITIAN GOVERNMENT’s RESPONSE INADEQUATE TO EASILY TREATABLE CHOLERA OUTBREAK

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                              Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – “Cholera is an extremely simple disease to cure,” comments Nigel Fisher, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.  Human rights groups are viewing the recent outbreak of cholera as a foreseeable health risk and the failure to counteract it a human right which the government has the responsibility to prevent and control.  The outbreak has claimed approximately 1, 186 lives In Haiti, with over 50,000 people seeking medical attention.

Haitians continue to receive inadequate treatment as poor living conditions increase the rapid spread of Cholera. Photo courtesy of france24.com.
Haitians continue to receive inadequate treatment as poor living conditions increase the rapid spread of Cholera. Photo courtesy of france24.com.

Easily treatable, the United Nations has blasted the international response and the lack of donor contributions to curb the disease. The United Nations recently appealed for a contribution totaling $164 million to counter the cholera outbreak in Haiti.  Only ten percent of the funds needed to curb the disease have been pledged.

Fear among Haiti’s sick has led to protests and violent responses in some provinces of Haiti.

Many Haitians suspect that Nepalese Peacekeeping forces are responsible for the outbreak.  With most forces camped alongside the river, river communities were the first to be hit, leading many to suspect the disease was brought to Haiti by soldiers in the country.   Last Monday, 7 peacekeepers of the United Nations were injured by protesters at Cap-Haitien, a northern city suffering from the epidemic.  The national police and the U.N. were forced to use teargas on hundreds of protesters attempting to burn a police station and a peacekeeping base.

Several other protests took place Thursday in Port-Au-Prince.  At first peaceful, the demonstration turned violent as protesters were hit with tear gas.  Young men overturned dumpsters, set fire to vehicles in the area and threw Molotov cocktails at posters of Presidential candidate, Jude Celestin.  Endorsed by the outgoing President Preval, many Haitians believe this is a sign that the November 28 elections will not be fairly decided.

One protester, Pierre Allodor, claims “The Haitian government is never do nothing for us. And we know the international government is still spending a lot of money for the Haitian people. But Preval, with his government, he still keeps their money to take back to the United States to buy some house.”

Unsanitary living conditions, poverty and a broken health care system were only exacerbated by the January earthquake.  Doctors Without Borders head of mission, Stefano Zannini, says “There is no time left for meetings and debate .”  With over 18,000 Haitians hospitalized from the disease, “the time for action is now.”

For More Information Please Visit:

Washington Post – 7 U.N. Troops Hurt, Attacked By Haitians Blaming Foreigners For Cholera Epidemic – 15 November 2010

CNN – U.N. Blasts Global Response To Haiti Cholera Outbreak As Inadequate – 20 November 2010

CNN – Anti-U.N. Protests Erupt In Haitian Capital – 18 November 2010

Human Rights Watch – Why Democracies Don’t Get Cholera – 25 October 2010