Egyptian protesters plan ‘March of Millions;’ military is deployed to the streets

Egyptian protesters plan ‘March of Millions;’ military is deployed to the streets

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Protesters gathered at dusk on Monday night in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egypt protests (Photo Courtesy of New York Times/Getty Images).
Protesters gathered at dusk on Monday night in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egypt protests. (Photo Courtesy of New York Times/Getty Images).

CAIRO, Egypt – In anticipation of Tuesday’s “March of Millions” in Cairo and Alexandria, the Egyptian government has restricted travel and communications, shut down the rail service and increased the military presence around the city.

A spokesman on state television addressed the people of Egypt on Monday, saying, “The presence of the armed forces in the Egyptian streets is for your benefit to protect your safety and peace. Your armed forces will not use violence against this great people, who have always played a significant role in every moment of Egypt’s great history.”

Demonstrations erupted in Egypt on January 14, when anti-government activists took to the streets to protest President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly thirty-year rule. On Monday, Mubarak appointed a new government, including Vice President Omar Suleiman, who promised to engage in constitutional and legislative reform discussions with the protest’s leaders. It was the first time since 1981 that Mubarak has filled the post of vice president.

Mubarak named General Mahmoud Wagdy as the new interior minister and former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister. Mubarak’s new appointments, made in an attempt to defuse the uprising, have been deemed by some to be, “too little, too late.” Angry demonstrators are continuing to call for Mubarak to surrender power.

Though Mubarak has not indicated any plans to step down, protestors have tossed around names of possible future leaders, including Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The scenes in Cairo and Alexandria remained chaotic all day Monday, even after a curfew order was imposed at 3 p.m. (8 a.m. ET). Protestors continued to gather in Tahrir Square, one of the focal points of the protests.

Human Rights Watch confirmed eighty deaths from two hospitals in Cairo, thirty-six deaths in Alexandria, and thirteen deaths in Suez.


The toll on Egypt’s economy has been staggering. Essential supplies are running low and gas stations are closing because they have run out of fuel. State television reported that the crisis had cost the country an estimated sixty-nine billion Egyptian pounds (nearly twelve billion dollars), setting its economy back six months.

On a broader level, the crisis has exposed the defects in Egypt’s strong, yet fragile, economy. Such problems as debt, poverty and soaring unemployment have become exposed amidst the uprising.

Moreover, much of Egypt’s economic stability hinges on foreign investors, tourists and overseas companies, all of which have retreated in the wake of the protests.

Most devastating could be the closure of the Suez Canal, which would drastically drive up oil prices. On Monday, world oil prices topped one hundred dollars a barrel.


World leaders have been careful to refrain from calls for Mubarak to step down, focusing instead on calls for stability and an orderly transition to democracy.

This is in part because Egypt has long been considered a stable region in an often unstable Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he feared a radical Islamist takeover in Cairo. British Foreign Minister William Hague said, “We certainly don’t want Egypt to fall into the hands of extremists. We want an orderly transition to free and fair elections.”

Israeli officials have been in strategy sessions since the protests started, as the country’s military and economy rely heavily on its relationship with Egypt. Netanyahu has ordered his government to remain silent on the events in Egypt while the protests continue.

Egypt is Israel’s strongest ally in the region, and Mubarak has been a staunch supporter of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Officials have stated that a breakdown in Egypt could effectively end the peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Dan Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, said that were Israel to lose Egypt as its ally, “the threats become much more realistic than before.”


As countries scrambled to fly their citizens out of Egypt, chaos erupted at Cairo’s main airport. The airport was poorly staffed, as curfews and traffic deterioration made it nearly impossible for employees to get to work. At one point on Monday, the airport departure board stopped announcing flight times, which only further agitated the crowd. When it was announced that the Danish, German, Chinese, British and Canadian governments had sent planes to evacuate their citizens, passengers stampeded to the gates. Shouting matches and even fistfights were commonplace, as thousands of stranded passengers piled into the airport to await a flight out.

The State Department said that more than five hundred Americans had departed on five flights.

The European Union foreign ministers urged a peaceful transition to democracy, while President Barack Obama called officials in Britain, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia over the weekend to express the White House’s desire for restraint and an orderly transition.

Finnish foreign minister Alex Stubb said, “It is values versus interests. On the values side we want democracy, freedom and human rights. On the interest side we don’t know what we will get. We want stability – we don’t know what is stable – is it the current regime? The E.U.’s current answer is ‘no.’”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tread lightly when asked whether the current administration still backs Mubarak.

“We have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy. And we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition,” Clinton said.

“I also believe that this is in Egypt’s long-term interests. It’s in the interest of the partnership that the United States has had with Egypt.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it was not Washington’s place to support or oppose the possible removal of Mubarak.

Daniel Korski, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, explained the serious predicament that the E.U. and U.S. face.

“Should they back the protests, support what has been a friendly regime or sit uncomfortably on the fence, talking about the need to show restraint and start reforms but stand back from actually supporting regime change in case the transition becomes violent or the outcome problematic?”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Egypt protesters step up pressure – 31 January 2011

BBC – Cracks in Egypt’s fragile economy have been exposed – 31 January 2011

CNN – Mubarak’s VP promises swift reform; military won’t fire on protests – 31 January 2011

Independent – Egypt’s opposition calls for one million on streets – 31 January 2011

Independent – Cairo airport a scene of chaos as foreigners flee – 31 January 2011

New York Times – E.U. Calls for Orderly Transition in Egypt – 31 January 2011

New York Times – Government Offers Talks With Protesters After Army Says It Will Not Fire – 31 January 2011

Reuters – Mubarak shuffles cabinet but protesters say “Go!” – 31 January 2011

New York Times – Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt – 30 January 2011

New York Times – Israel Shaken as Turbulence Rocks an Ally – 30 January 2011

10 Month Sentence For Soldiers Found Guilty of Torture

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity  Watch; Asia

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Sentenced to less than a year by a military tribunal, were three Indonesian soldiers, whom being caught on videotape, tortured two men in the country’s restless Papua Province, a remote site of sporadic fighting between separatist rebels and Jakarta. This was a grave disappointment for angry human rights activists who have denounced the legal proceedings as a farce for soldiers tried for human rights violations.

Light sentences against three soldeirs found guilty of torturing Papuan civilians
Light sentences against three soldeirs found guilty of torturing Papuan civilians

Presiding judge, Lt. Col. Adil Karo-Karo found the three soldiers guilty on charges of insubordination for failing to inform their superiors that they had detained and tortured the two Papuan civilians, Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telangga Gire, on May 27 last year.

The release of the video outraged activists and residents in the province and prompted an uncharacteristic admission of wrongdoing by the military, which has long been accused of brutality in Papua.

The 10-minutes of torture caught on video, taken on a cellphone, incited international horror when it was displayed on YouTube in October.

The video captured Tunaliwor being burned on the genitals with a smoldering stick, soldiers at a military post kicking and suffocating Mr. Kiwo, and soldiers holding a knife to the face of Mr. Gire. Mr. Kiwo said he was further tortured over a period of three days.

The harshest sentence, 10 months in jail, was received by the commander of a military checkpoint near Gurage village in Puncak Jaya district, where the torture took place, Sgt. Irwan Rizkiyanto.

“Although this court-martial has concluded, there is hope for a torture charge given the need to try these soldiers at an independent human rights tribunal,” Poengky told the Jakarta Globe.

The government ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1999, but activists say this has remained a paper measure. “The government and the House of Representatives must amend the law on military tribunals, which has been a major obstacle in prosecuting military officials under civilian law.”

The Military Criminal Code and its Code of Conduct so far also do not recognize torture as one of the punishable crimes within military tribunal.

Elaine Pearson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, highlighted irregularities in the court-martial.

“There were six men depicted in the video but only three were brought to trial,” she told the Globe.

The pursuit of insubordination charges, rather than those of torture, in the second trial and the focus on a small number of low-level perpetrators appears to be aimed at denying the existence of widespread abuses in Papua, Ms. Pearson said.

“If they had been prosecuted for torture, then that requires complete evidence,” Colonel Priyatna said. “If we couldn’t come up with the evidence at the hearings, then our worry is they could have been freed.”

Local and international rights groups have long accused the Indonesian police and military of human rights violations in Papua despite Indonesia’s overall transition to democracy after the 1998 ouster of the dictator Suharto. Since then, Indonesia has become a democracy.

For more information, please see:

Jakarta Global – Anger at Light Sentence for Papua Torture – 25 January 2011

New York Times – Indonesian Military Trial Angers Activists – 24 January 2011

Voice of America News – Indonesian Soldiers Charged With Torture Sentences to Prison – 24 January 2011


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                       Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

CHEROKEE, United States – On Friday, Rashica Manjoo stopped in Cherokee, North Carolina to discuss action to be taken against those that physically and sexually assault Native American women. As the special rapporteur for the United Nations on violence against women, Manjoo plans to report her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Matilda Black Bear discusses her experience with domestic violence and the unavailability of support for women.  Photo courtesy of Indian Law.
Matilda Black Bear discusses her experience with domestic violence and the unavailability of support for women. Photo courtesy of Indian Law.

According to the Department of Justice, one out of every three Native American women are raped during their lifetime.  Three of four will become the victims of a physical assault.

Matilda Black Bear, a 64-year-old Cherokee native, is more than familiar with violence against women.  Over 30 years ago at the age of 26, Matilda entered into a relationship with a man that quickly turned violent.  “In the ’70s there were no services for victims, let alone any laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” recalls Tillie. “I went to the police and to the judges and they didn’t know what to do with me.”

The Indian Civil Rights Act limits tribal courts sentencing authority over Indians who have been accused of sexual and domestic violence against women.  Further, non-Indians are protected from sentencing by Indian Nations which are prohibited from exercising jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders.

Terri Henry, Councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians believes, “The right to be safe and live free from violence is a human right that many in this country take for granted—but not Native women, who are beaten and raped at rates higher than any other population of women in the United States.”

Advocates have expressed the need to push for greater jurisdiction, services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, funding and federal support. 

This past Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of the Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force.  In an attempt to change the rates at which Native American women experience violence in their communities, the Task Force has been directed to complete a trial manual and discuss “best practices” for prosecuting those accused of violence against women in Indian Country.

Holder stated that, “The creation of the Violence Against Women Tribal Prosecution Task Force has been a priority for me since my visit with tribal leaders last year, and I believe it is a critical step in our work to improve public safety and strengthen coordination and collaboration concerning prosecution strategies with tribal communities.”

Citizen-Times – UN Studies Domestic Violence in Cherokee – 29 January 2011

Indian Law – UN Expert Investigates Violence Against Indian Women – 28 January 2011

Cherokee One Feather – DOJ Attempting to Combat Violence Against Indian Women – 25 January 2011

Update: Political Standoff in Ivory Coast Continues

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Mr. Ban Ki-moon address the AU Conference. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).
Mr. Ban Ki-moon address the AU Conference. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).

 ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – On Saturday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on African nations to support the people of Ivory Coast as the political conflict between former President Laurent Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara drags on.  Furthermore, the Secretary General noted that a recount of the voting would be a “grave injustice and set an unfortunate precedent.” Additionally, he stressed the importance of Mr. Gbagbo handing over power in a peaceful and ordered manner.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon commented on the political stalemate in Ivory Coast while delivering remarks at the 16th Annual African Union (AU) summit. During this conference, members of the pan-African body formed a committee that would help to bring the political crisis to an end. Specifically, the AU is going to set up a panel of five African leaders who will help broker an end to the crisis by drawing up a settlement that will be binding on both presidential candidates. The panel will be led by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Members at the conference are striving for a peaceful solution but have not ruled out using force to remove Mr. Gbagbo.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon comments come at a time when African leaders appear split on how to resolve the crisis in Ivory Coast. Some African leaders, like Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni claim there was a rush to declare Mr. Ouattara the new president while other leaders believe that a vote recount is appropriate before any action is taken to oust Mr. Gbagbo.

The United Nations, the African Union, and several other world powers recognize Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the November election and believe Mr. Gbagbo should cede power peacefully. Since the election results were announced, Mr. Gbagbo has clung to power by claiming the election was plagued by fraud and the results are unreliable. Since the voting ended there have been numerous protests as well as violent clashes between supporters of the two candidates.  Mr. Ouattara remains holed-up in a hotel on the outskirts of the capital Abidjan while Mr. Gbagbo continues to control the country’s security forces and the state run media. The hotel remains guarded by U.N. peacekeepers.

For more information, please see:

AFP — Ivory Coast ballot recount ‘grave injustice’: Ban – 30 January 2011

BBC Africa – UN’s Ban urges solidarity over Ivorian election crisis – 30 January 2011

KBC News — UN supports Africa’s mediation efforts in Ivory Coast – 30 January 2011

Reuters Africa — UN chief urges Africa to be firm against Gbagbo—30 January 2011

Rights Group Claims Chavez Is Using Judiciary Against Foes

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – According to a prominent human rights organization, President Hugo Chavez is using Venezuela’s judiciary to persecute his political opponents and to crack down on media critics and curtail the power of labor unions. In its annual report, Human Rights Watch condemned what it called “the Venezuelan government’s domination of the judiciary and its weakening of democratic checks and balances” last year.

The human rights group also posed warnings that Chavez’s control over judges and prosecutors has led to “a precarious human rights situation.” According to the New York based organization, “judges may face reprisals if they rule against government interests,” citing Judge Maria Afiuni’s arrest shortly after she ordered the release of a high-profile banker who opposed Chavez’s government.

Chavez  was critical of Afiuni’s decision to free Eligio Cedeno, who was accused of corruption and fled to Florida soon after his release in late 2009. Chavez demanded that Afiuni, who is facing charges of abuse of authority and “favoring evasion of justice,” receive the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Chavez adamantly denies having undue influence over the courts, insisting that the legal system remains autonomous and free from political influence. Other members of the president’s ruling party echoed Chavez’ sentiments about the Venezuelan judiciary, taking issue with the allegations in Human Rights Watch’s report.

According to Silvio Mora, a pro-Chavez lawmaker, “[e]very single one of the branches of government are independent: the judicial branch, the legislative branch and the executive branch.” In the same interview, Mora also claimed that “[e]veryone enjoys total freedom here.”

The accusations about Venezuela’s judiciary come a year after Chavez tightened control over that branch of the government. Many have criticized the move, comparing Chavez to Perez Jimenez, former military dictator of Venezuela, saying that both attempted to silence the news media, used the judiciary to jail adversaries and violated basic freedoms such as protest rights.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Rights Group: Chavez Using Judiciary Against Foes – 25 January 2011

Associated Press – Chavez Supporters, Foes Stage Anniversary Rallies – 23 January 2011

NPR – Venezuela’s Chavez Tightens Grip on Judiciary – 27 April 2010