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.

ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS

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.

IMPACT ON ISRAEL

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.”

FOREIGN RESPONSE

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

UN SPECIALIST INVESTIGATES HIGH RATES OF RAPE AND ASSAULT IN INDIAN COUNTRY

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

New Human Rights Investigatons Shed Light on Allende’s 1973 Death

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Allendes death was originally ruled a suicide.  (Photo courtesy of BBC)
Allende's death was originally ruled a suicide. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

SANTIAGO, Chile—The first official investigation into former President Salvador Allende’s death has begun. A Chilean judge opened the investigation decades after Allende died in 1973 in the midst of a military coup led by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s subsequent dictatorship lasted 17 long years.

The judge’s order is just one of numerous investigations into 726 human rights violations that have yet to be prosecuted. Beatriz Pedrals, judicial prosecutor of the appeals court, explained that these inquiries into human rights crimes will seek “uniformity of criteria; in other words, what has not been investigated, the courts will investigate. This will finally establish what happened.” Judge Mario Carroza, in charge of Allende’s death inquiry, calls his obligation, “more than an important duty.”

Allende, a Socialist president, was democratically elected and then found dead at age 65 by armed forces who had captured the presidential palace. The military troops had attacked the palace for hours using firearms and bombs dropped by air force jets. In a radio broadcast he made as his palace was under attack, Allende predicted: “I will not resign. Placed in this historic juncture, I will pay with my life the loyalty of the people.”

At first, the results of an autopsy pointed to suicide. Allende apparently died from a bullet that was fired into his mouth from a short distance away. The autopsy report surmised that the gunshot wound “could have been made by himself.” But since 1973, many of the deceased president’s supporters have disagreed with the autopsy’s findings, suggesting instead that Allende was murdered by soldiers or snipers. Three years ago, an expert who examined the autopsy report concluded that Allende may have sustained injuries from two separate weapons.

According to Alicia Lira, president of the Association of Relatives of Politically Executed Persons, “Allende was murdered.” During Pinochet’s notorious military dictatorship, 3,000 people vanished or were murdered, and 50,000 were tortured or held captive. Pinochet, 91, died of a heart attack in 2006 while under investigation for a myriad of human rights abuses.

For more information, please see:

Radio Cadena Agramonte-Investigation of Allende Death in Chilean Political Spotlight-29 January 2011

NY Times-Chilean Judge Orders Investigation Into Allende’s Death-27 January 2011

BBC-Inquiry into 1973 death of Chile’s Salvador Allende-27 January 2011

Sonawane’s Murder: Hundreds of Thousands Protest In India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

MUMBAI, India – Thousands of government workers in India have continued to protest against the brutal killing of an official in the western state of Maharashtra. Yashwant Sonawane was burnt to death while investigating a fuel racket.

Mr. Sonawane had apparently tried to prevent a criminal gang from stealing fuel on the Nashik-Manmad highway some 200km (124 miles) from Mumbai, when he was attacked and burnt alive after being doused by kerosene.

Image courtesy of the Times of India
Image courtesy of the Times of India

The killing has drawn people’s attention to the issue of corruption, which has been a major concern in the country in recent months after a series of scams, says the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi.

Nine people have been arrested in connection with Tuesday’s murder which has shocked people across India.

The government has blamed the so-called fuel mafia – criminals who steal petrol and mix it with kerosene before selling it, for the murder.

State police have turned their attention toward an oil adulteration mafia within Maharashtra today raiding 200 places and arresting around 180 people after an official was burnt alive while the Centre unveiled steps to reduce scope for diversion of subsidized kerosene. Additional Director General (Law & Order) K.P. Raghuvanshi said in Mumbai.

Hundreds of thousands of government officials are refusing to work in protest at the killing. They held a meeting in the state capital, Mumbai (Bombay), to mourn Mr. Sonawane and demanded that they be given adequate protection while carrying out their duties.

“We will attend office but not work,” GD Kulthe, secretary of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, told the BBC. “We are going to present a memorandum demanding strict action against all involved and better protection for government officers.”

The new Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy unveiled steps including re-introduction of a chemical marker in kerosene in six months to eliminate the scope for adulteration of diesel using this subsidized fuel.  He also suggested that states use GPS-based vehicular tracking system for trucks transporting petrol and diesel to track the movement, any route deviations being taken or long stoppages.

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said the ‘might’ of the oil mafia is increasing day by day.

“Those who are involved will not be spared and will be given the highest punishment,” he said in Mumbai.

“We have not come across any politician’s name in our investigation. Allegations about NCP leaders being involved have not come to me. If I am given proof, I will take stern action,” Patil said.

Ravindra Dhongade, president of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, said, “We have not announced the protest as a strike but we are shunning work to register our protest against this gruesome act which has shaken the government employees.”

The government servants have demanded better protection, a comprehensive probe and strictest possible punishment for Sonawane’s killers.

“Such people should be hanged till death,” said a distraught Maharashtra Government employee. Some others went as far as saying that the killers should also be burnt alive because death sentence would not be enough for the people who have committed such a heinous crime.

More raids are expected in the days to come and the challenge is to maintain the momentum triggered by this mass protest.

Fore more information, please see:

BBC – Indian official Sonawane’s murder prompts mass protest – 27 January 2011

Deccan Chronice – Crackdown against ‘mighty’ oil mafia; 180 held – 27 January 2011

IBN Live – Govt employees protest Sonawane’s murder – 27 January 2011

Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Photo of Mr. David Kote. (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News).
Photo of Mr. David Kato. (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News).

KAMPALA, Uganda – On Wednesday, January 26, a prominent gay rights activist was found murdered in his home on the outskirts of Kampala.  The activist, Mr. David Kato was thrown into the international spotlight when Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper, identified him as a homosexual by publishing his name and picture. Above the picture was the caption “Hang Them”. The newspaper article as well as Mr. Kato’s murder has drawn widespread condemnation along with calls for a thorough investigation.  Statements condemning the murder have come from officials in the United States as well as human rights group like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Ugandan security forces have already arrested one suspect and continue to look for additional perpetrators. Investigators believe that the killing took place around noon on January 26, when an intruder entered Mr. Kato’s residence and struck him in the head with a hammer. In Uganda, being killed by an iron instrument like a hammer or tire iron is called “iron-bar killings”. The police have speculated that Mr. Kato’s roommate could have committed this crime however they are unable to locate him. Additionally, the police have noted this crime could be tied in with a series of murders that have taken place in Mr. Kato’s neighborhood.

After the newspaper article was published, Mr. Kato began to receive death threats. Police officials in Kampala have speculated that the murder is related to a theft or burglary and not related to the publication of the article.

In response to the publishing of his picture, Mr. Kato sued the newspaper and had recently won a court battle. The victory provided Mr. Kato with an injunction that prevented the Rolling Stone newspaper from publishing the names and photographs of other prominent homosexuals in Uganda.  It was exactly three weeks after the court ruled in Mr. Kato’s favor that he was found bludgeoned to death.

Homosexual acts are forbidden in Uganda. If a citizen is charged with a homosexual act, the punishment is a prison term up to 14 years. A member of the Ugandan Parliament had recently proposed a law that would make the penalties for committing homosexual acts even more severe. In some cases, the punishment would be death.

For more information:

AFP — Uganda gay rights activist murdered: lawyer – 27 January 2011

BBC – Uganda gay rights activist David Kato killed – 27 January 2011

Bloomberg — Ugandan Gay-Rights Activist Kato Beaten to Death by Unknown Attackers – 27 January 2011

Daily Monitor– Police mounts hunt for killers of Ugandan gay rights activist – 27 January 2011

Indian Express — Ugandan gay rights activist killed — 27 January 2011

IMPUNITY WATCH PRESENTATION OF NECTALI RODENZO (4/5)

Continuation of Video…

IMPUNITY WATCH PRESENTATION OF NECTALI RODENZO (4/5) from Impunity Watch on Vimeo.

November 9, 2010. Impunity Watch Law Journal and the International Law Society hosted Nectali Rodenzo, a lawyer and Co-Coordinator of the National Front of Lawyers in Resistance to the Coup in Honduras. Rodenzo shared his experiences of the 2009 Honduran military coup, its context and aftermath, and how it relates to the human rights situation on the ground in Honduras today.

Bloody Egyptian protests continue despite massive police presence

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Protesters clash with riot policemen in Cairo (Photo Courtesy of MSNBC).
Protesters clash with riot policemen in Cairo (Photo Courtesy of MSNBC).

CAIRO, Egypt – Protestors were beat with fists and sticks, sprayed with tear gas, killed by police and burned to death, amidst unprecedented anti-government demonstrations in Cairo.

Activists took to the streets yesterday, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly thirty-year rule and a solution to such issues as poverty, rising prices and high unemployment.

Despite the massive police presence and response, powerful security forces, and international calls to avoid violence, more than two thousand demonstrators continued to march on a major downtown boulevard along the Nile on Wednesday night, marking the second day of protests.

Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, chanters shouted, “Mubarek, Saudi Arabia awaits you. Out! Out! Revolution until victory,” and “Down with Hosni Mubarek, down with the tyrant. We don’t want you!”

On Tuesday, at least four people died and one hundred security personnel were injured. In anticipation of continued riots on Wednesday, thousands of policemen in riot gear gathered in major areas such as intersections and squares, outside the state television building and at Mubarek’s National Democratic Party headquarters. The largest protest took place in Tahrir Square.

The Interior Ministry urged “citizens to renounce attempts to bid and trade their problems and not lose sight of the consequences of provocation for those who attempt to try to open the door to a state of chaos or portray the situation in the country this way.”

The size and strength of the protest was in part fueled by activists’ use of social networking sites. A Facebook group listed places around Cairo where demonstrations would take place and posted, “All of Egypt must move, at one time.” By Tuesday night, Twitter had shut down, and Facebook was partially blocked by Wednesday afternoon.

The demonstrations come in a presidential election year. Mubarek, who is eighty-two years old, has not said whether he intends to run for another six-year term. Some think that his son, Gamal, will succeed him, a thought that both father and son deny.

The United States has taken a careful stance on the situation, as Egypt is a strong ally. Both White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that all parties should refrain from violence. Clinton called on authorities not to block social media sites.

Clinton added that Washington believed that the Egyptian government was “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Egypt protests: Police disperse Cairo crowds – 26 January 2011

CNN – Protesters in Egypt greeted by a police crackdown – 26 January 2011

Guardian – Egypt protests are breaking new ground – 25 January 2011

NPR – Egypt says it will smash further political protests – 26 January 2011

Reuters – Egypt’s protests deepen uncertainty over leadership – 26 January 2011

New “False Positive” Allegation Investigated

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Colombian Army Remove Body After Clash (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Colombian Army Remove Body After Clash (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to Colombian media reports, authorities will investigate the case of an indigenous man found dead wearing a guerrilla uniform. Local community leaders claim that the situation is a “false positive” killing by the army.

Anderson Daugua, an indigenous villager, was found shot to death and “strangely” dressed in FARC clothing. Locals in the area say that Daugua was not part of the rebel group.

The body was reportedly found after a battle over the weekend between the Colombian army and the FARC in a rural area of Caloto. The battle left seven guerrillas and two military officers dead.

Rodrigo Rivera, Colombia’s Defense Minister, claims that Daugua was killed by members of FARC, who then staged the man in FARC clothing to make his death look like the army had executed the man and dressed him up as a guerrilla to increase the body count in combat.

Rivera told members of the press that the FARC staged the apparent false positive to discredit the Colombian military forces. “If we weren’t even able to collect our own dead and wounded, who would have had the time to dress someone up. I trust in the professionalism, decency and heroism of our armed forces. Of course our people know how these narco-terrorists of the FARC use lies to intent to disinform,” the Minister said.

The term “false positive” refers to a scandal in which some members of the armed forces were revealed to have murdered civilians and dressed them in guerrilla uniforms to increase kill counts.  There are currently hundreds of investigations ongoing to resolve these murders. Earlier this month, Colombian officials brought accusations against four members of the military, claiming that they had engaged in these “false positive” murders in 2002.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – FARC Faked “False Positive” Killing: Gov’t – 25 January 2011

Colombia Reports – Authorities Investigate New “False Positive” Allegations – 24 January 2011

Latin America News Dispatch – Colombian Major and Four Soldiers Accused in “False Positive” Murders – 4 January 2011

The cost of love in Pakistan: electrocution by family


A teenage Pakistani girl was electrocuted by her family for marrying out of Caste (Photo courtesy of Rantrave)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A teenage girl in Pakistan was electrocuted by her family members for falling in love with a man who comes from a lower caste, police said on Sunday.

Elders and relatives of Saima Bibi, 17, had a meeting with a village council, or panchayat, and came to conclude that an appropriate punishment for Saima for tarnishing the family name was death. Her guilt was falling in love with a man the family did not approve of.

“There are signs of torture and burns on her neck, back and hands which are most probably caused by electrocution,” said Zahoor Rabbani, the police from Bahawalpur district in east Pakistan where Saima was killed.

The incident prompted Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yusuf Raza Gilani, who took “serious notice” of the “the sad incident of the killing of a girl by electric current on the orders of the panchayat”, to order police to immediately submit a report, according to his office.

However, such news is nothing new. Saima’s death is known as an honor killing in Pakistan, which is commonly practiced in rural areas where, under tribal customs for generations, getting married without family approval or having sex outside marriage is deemed a serious slight to the nor of the family or the tribe.

Hundreds of people, most of them women, are brutally killed in Pakistan in the name of “honor” every year. Notably, the majority of these victims come from poor, rural families.

According to Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission’s latest report, nearly 650 women were killed in that way in 2009. These women, if accused of fornication, are stigmatized as a “kari”, or “black woman,” and punishment by death of such women was justified under tribal customs.

Saima fell in love with her neighbor, Dilawar, and was in hiding in Karachi, one of Pakistan’s biggest cities for more than a month. When her relatives located her and persuaded her to return to her home on the false promise that they will approve of her marriage.

“Her father, uncles and other relatives later refused to fulfil her wish because they said the boy comes from a lower caste,” said Rabbani.

When she refused to marry another man chosen by the family, Saima was brutally murdered by her own family members.

Rabbani said Saima’s father and her uncle had been detailed after police raided her village home.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Pakistani girl ‘electrocuted’ in honour killing – 23 January 2011

All Voices – Pakistani Girl Saima Bibi was Brutally Electrocuted to Death by her Family Members – 24 January 2011

The China Post – Pakistani girl ‘electrocuted’ in honor killing – 24 January 2011

Botswana’s Bushmen Denied Access to Water

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Bushmen Mother and children in the Kalahari Reserve before eviction to a resettlement camp (Photo courtesy of Fiona Watson/Survival International)
Bushmen Mother and children in the Kalahari Reserve before eviction to a resettlement camp (Photo courtesy of Fiona Watson/Survival International)


Botswana’s Central Kalahari Bushmen are once again being forced from their ancestral lands as the country’s courts decide this week whether the Bushmen should have access to a local water supply.  Kalahari Bushmen are an indigenous hunter-gatherer people of the desert interior of Botswana.  They were evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2002 and allowed to return in 2006 after Botswana’s High Court declared their forced removal unconstitutional.  Since 2006, the government has banned the Bushmen from hunting in the reserve and denied them access to the only local well by sealing it, a well the Bushmen claim they have been using for decades.  Bushmen have to walk long distances, often outside the reserve, in order to collect water.

The government claims that allowing the Bushmen to draw from the well would be incompatible with the goals of the Central Kalahari reserve.  However, since the bushmen returned to the reserve, Botswana’s government has allowed the company, Wilderness Safaris, to build a safari resort complete with a pool, on the reserve.  Additionally, on the same day the Bushmen appealed the water decision in court last week, Botswana granted Gem Diamonds a 3 billion dollar contract to mine in the reserve.  Gem Diamonds and the government claim they have the consent of the Bushmen whose land they will be on.  Survival International, an advocacy group for tribal people, has been helping the Bushmen represent themselves in court.  On Wednesday, Survival Director Stephen Corry said, “How can people who are denied water to force them out of the reserve possibly be in a position to give their free and informed consent?”

Botswana’s actions regarding the Bushmen are drawing criticism from several organizations, including the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N.  A U.N. official on indigenous people went so far as to say the conditions in the Kalahari Reserve are ‘harsh and dangerous’.  Survival International has increased its efforts to improve the life of the Bushmen.  The group is encouraging the international community to boycott Botswana tourism and diamonds until the Bushmen’s land rights are recognized by the government.  In a statement to Survival International, one Bushmen said:

We are still hoping, not to be given anything, but simply for justice and our rights. The government hopes that by denying us water, it will force us from the reserve once more[. . .] It must know[n] by now that we are determined to live with our ancestors on the land we have known since time began.

For more information, please see;

CNN- Leaked Cable: U.S. Envoy Criticized Botswana on Bushmen– 21 Jan., 2011

The Botswana Gazette- Survival Protesters Target International Tourism Fair in Madrid– 23 Jan., 2011

Africanews.com- Kalahari Bushmen to Fight Court Ruling– 18 Jan., 2011

Independent Media Centre Australia- Botswana Approves$3BN Mine as Bushmen Water Case Gets Underway– 19 Jan., 2011

Mail & Guardian Online- ‘Thirsty’ Bushmen Go to Appeal Court– 21 Jan., 2011

Indigenous Residents Used as “Human Shields”

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia—Eight people were killed in a clash between Colombian military forces and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC). The deadly conflict took place in Cauca, which is a province located in the southwestern part of the country. Cauca has been plagued with violence and human rights violations by frequent invasions by the FARC’s guerrillas. The Colombian army released information about the most recent clash between the FARC and the military on Sunday.

The battle between the military and the 6th Front of the FARC was sparked on Friday of last week. The site of the clash was a rural area located near Toribio and Caloto, two cities that are notorious for the fact that rebel fighters often target them.

Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera spoke out against the FARC on Saturday from Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca province. Rivera accused the FARC rebels of abusing the indigenous people who reside in these areas. He added that the FARC use these civilians as “human shields” during clashes that occur between the rebel group and the armed forces. Rivera stated that acts such as these are major human rights violations.

Indigenous leaders from Cauca responded to the violence and Rivera’s statements on Sunday, stressing that Colombian soldiers have also used indigenous residents as “human shields.” The leaders told Caracol Radio that indigenous people living in Colombia are often caught in the cross-fire between the FARC and the government.

Indigenous leader Marcos Yule said on the radio that certain communities that have been caught in such fighting have declared “permanent assemblies” that will examine the conflict that is taking place. The assemblies will seek to encourage respect for indigenous individuals’ rights.

Of the eight victims who perished in the weekend’s violence, six were guerrilla fighters (FARC rebels) and two were Colombian soldiers. Approximately thirty guerrillas who were involved in the conflict scattered after the violence; according to the Colombian air force, the guerrillas were redeployed into other areas.

For more information, please see:

People’s Daily-6 guerrillas, 2 soldiers die in latest combat in Colombia-24 January 2011

Latin American Herald Tribune-Six Guerrillas, Two Soldiers Die in Fighting in Colombia-23 January 2011

Coffe Today-Six Guerrillas and Two Soldiers Were Killed in The Battle in Southwest Colombia-23 January 2011

Afghan Children Opium Addictions

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan – Within a little know Afghan province, Aziza, feeds her four-year-old son pure Opium for breakfast.

Afghan child working in an Afghan opium field
Afghan child working in an Afghan opium field

“If I don’t give him opium he doesn’t sleep,” she says. “And he doesn’t let me work.”

Many poor families, like Aziza, born to a family of carpet weavers in Balkh province has no education, no idea of the health risks involved or that opium is addictive.

“We give the children opium whenever they get sick as well,” says Aziza.

“People use opium as drugs or medicine. If a child cries, they give him opium, if they can’t sleep, they use opium, if an infant coughs, they give them opium,” reports CNNs Arwa Damon.

With no real medical care in these parts and the high cost of medicine, all the families out here know is opium.

Opium has become a cycle of addiction passed on through generations. The adults take opium to work longer hours and ease their pain.

“I had to work and raise the children, so I started using drugs,” she says. “We are very poor people, so I used opium. We don’t have anything to eat. That is why we have to work and use drugs to keep our kids quiet.”

The Balkin province is famous for its carpets. It’s so remote there are no real roads. The dirt roads that exist are often blocked by landslides.

The neighboring government-run drug therapy center is a four-hour drive away. But it has just 20 beds and a handful of staff to deal with the epidemic, says CNNs Arwa Damon.

“Opium is nothing new to our villages or districts. It’s an old tradition, something of a religion in some areas,” said Dr. Mohamed Daoud Rated, coordinator of the center. The center is running an outreach program to the areas that are most afflicted.

Most Afghans aren’t aware of the health risks of opium and only a few are beginning to understand the hazards of addiction.

“I was a child when I started using drugs” 35-year-old Nagibe says. She says her sister-in-law first gave her some when she was a young teenage bride, just 14 years old. Her children grew up addicts as well.

She has been clean for four months, hoping to leave the addiction behind, but every day is a struggle.

Three generations of one family, all struggling with a curse that afflicts well over one million Afghans.

A recent surge in opium prices could encourage Afghan farmers to expand cultivation of the narcotic crop and reverse advances in the fight against drug production.

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said, “If this cash bonanza lasts, it could effectively reverse the hard-won gains of recent years.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Afghan infants fed pure opium – 23 January 2011

AOL news – Spike in Opium Prices Threatens Progress in Afghan Drug War – 20 January 2011

Top Wire XS – A Terrible Lullaby for Afghan Babies – 24 January 2011