TRINIDAD PRIME MINISTER MOVES FOR STRONGER DEATH PENALTY ENFORCEMENT

By Erica Laster
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – In an effort to deter crime, the People’s Partnership Coalition of Trinidad is discussing legislation which would resume executions of criminals.  The Trinidad and Tobago Humanist society strongly opposes the position, noting that the death penalty has not reduced crime in any country employing the measure.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar.  Photo courtesy of Dominican News.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar. Photo courtesy of Dominican News.

3,335 murders were committed in Trinidad and Tobago from 2002-2010 according to figures produced by the government.  No countries have shown a reduction in crime due to the use or existence of the death penalty.  TTHS called attention to the fact that “One notable comparison is between Canada, where the death penalty was abolished in 1976, and the U.S., where it was reinstated that same year after a ten-year moratorium. American homicide rates rose after the 1976 reinstatement, while Canadian homicide rates declined after its abolition.”

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar is a strong supporter of the new legislation.  “Mothers have lost their sons and daughters, children are left motherless and fatherless. Homes left without incomes, families destroyed and forced into poverty and worse,” she argued.  Bissessar believes the death penalty is the solution to many of these problems.

Bissessar contends that criminals have been using Trinidad’s laws in order to gain more time and avoid the death penalty.

The 1994 Pratt and Morgan case, decided by the London based Privy Council, mandates that convicted killers in Trinidad receive the death penalty by hanging within 5 years of being sentenced.  The appeals process has allowed many convicted killers to use loopholes to avoid this law.  Their right to seek further review by International governing bodies of which Trinidad is a member despite exceeding the 5 year deadline was upheld by the Privy Council in 1999.

As the highest court for many Caribbean countries, some have complained that the Privy Council impedes their ability to carry out the death penalty in accordance with their laws.

The proposed legislation provides that the murder of certain judiciary members and government officials carries a mandatory death sentence.  Further, it indicates the circumstances under which a person may receive a conviction for involuntary homicide.

No execution has been carried out in Trinidad since 1999.

For More Information Please Visit:

IPS News – Trinidad Aims To Bypass Privy Council On Death Penalty – 20 January 2011

MSNBC – Trinidad PM Wants Better Death Penalty Enforcement – 15 January 2011

Dominican News – New Moves To Implement Death Penalty In Trinidad – 22 January 2011

Chile, Peru Integration To Decrease Poverty

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Perus President Alan Garcia and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera at the residence of the Peruvian Embassy to Chile (photo courtesy of www.andina.com)
Peru's President Alan Garcia and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera at the residence of the Peruvian Embassy to Chile (photo courtesy of www.andina.com)

SANTIAGO, Chile – Chilean President Sebastian Piñera and Peruvian President Alan Garcia agreed on Wednesday to downplay Lima’s suit against Santiago over maritime boundaries in favor of economic integration to combat poverty and underdevelopment.  On Wednesday, Piñera received his Peruvian counterpart at La Moneda palace on a visit that came just two months after the Chilean leader’s trip to Lima.

To reporters, Garcia acknowledged that during the meeting with Piñera, the pair discussed the case that his country brought in 2008 before the International Court of Justice at The Hague to adjust the maritime border with Chile in Peru’s favor.

The leaders agreed that their countries will respect the ruling of the ICJ. They also stated that the lawsuit must not obstruct the rest of the common agenda and emphasized that the two nations are presently going through their best period in terms of bilateral relations. Garcia stated “Peru should never fall into the condition of an international pariah” by not accepting the ICJ ruling.

The Chilean leader said that the two countries “are not only at the best moment of their relations, but have a world of possibilities” before them, among which he cited bilateral trade, which in 2010 reached $3 billion for the first time. The presidents also discussed the important flow of cross-border investment, which has seen Chilean investors pour some $9 billion into Peru since 1990, compared with $3 billion in Peruvian investments in Chile.

“The enemies of Chile and Peru are the same: poverty, the poor quality of education and underdevelopment,” said Piñera. On Wednesday, Piñera is scheduled to visit the Chilean Congress, which meets in the coastal city of Valparaiso.

For more information, please see:

Andina – President Garcia Heads Back to Lima After Fruitful Visit to Chile – 20 January 2011

Andina – Chile, Peru Integration to Contribute to Growth – 19 January 2011

Latin American Herald Tribune – Leaders of Chile and Peru Embrace Integration – 19 January 2011

Protest by Self-Immolation Becoming Popular in Middle East and Africa

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The self-immolation of a 26-year-old Tunisian last week not only sparked protests against the Tunisian government, precipitating the overthrow of President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali, but has also sparked a series of public suicides throughout the Middle East and Africa.  Reports indicate that self-immolations have occurred in a number of Middle Eastern and African states including; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria.  Now many fear that anti-government protests in Yemen may escalate and produce a new round of self-immolations. 

Families Grieve after Man Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Saudi Government
Families Grieve after Man Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Saudi Government - Photo Courtesy of Gulf News Daily

The latest incident of suicide by fire occurred in Saudi Arabia and is the first reported case of self-immolation ever in the country.  While the motives of the 60-year-old Saudi resident who set himself ablaze remains unclear, reports suggest that the man sought to protest the country’s restrictive citizenship process.   Commenting on the latest act of public suicide, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheik Abdel Aziz Al Sheikh condemned suicide as a form of protest or an escape from harsh living conditions stating that suicide is a “great sin” prohibited by Islam.    According to the Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, the highest institute of learning in Sunni Islam, “Sharia Law states that Islam categorically forbids suicide for any reason and does not accept the separation of souls from bodies as an expression of stress, anger or protests.”

Although these incidents of self-immolation remain isolated, they are symbolic of the growing resentment of Arab populations against their respective governments in the region.  The use of this tactic raises further questions about strict governmental regulation of expression which makes it difficult, if not punishable, to engage in anti-government expression in some Middle Eastern and African nations.  For those who engage in in the act, suicide may be the method [of resistance] of last resort.    Despite the government’s strong rhetoric condemning suicide, Saudi officials warned that more incidents of self-immolation are likely to occur in the near future.   

For more information please see:

Malaysia Sun – First Incident of Public Suicide by Fire Reported in Saudi Arabia – Jan. 23, 2011

Gulf News Daily – Saudi Man Sets Himself Ablaze – Jan. 23, 2011

Associated Press – Saudi Man Dies After Setting Himself on Fire – Jan. 22, 2011

BBC News Middle East – Man Dies After Setting himself on Fire in Saudi Arabia – Jan. 22, 2011

Straits Times – Saudi Mufti Brands Suicide Protests as ‘Great Sin’ – Jan. 21, 2011

Former Rwandan Mayor on Trial in Germany for Genocide

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Rwabukombe facing reporters in the Frankfurt court this week (Photo Courtesy of the AP)
Rwabukombe facing reporters in the Frankfurt court this week (Photo Courtesy of the AP)


FRANKFURT, Germany- Onesphore Rwabukombe, a former Rwandan mayor, is on trial in Frankfurt, Germany, accused of ordering three Tutsi massacres that resulted in over 3,000 deaths during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Rwabukombe has been charged with genocide, murder and incitement to genocide before the German court.  In a statement of the charges, prosecutor Christian Ritscher read aloud in court, “Between April 11 and 15, 1994 the accused ordered and coordinated three massacres in which a total of at least 3,730 members of the Tutsi minority who had sought refuge in church buildings were killed.”  Rwabukombe, who has been living in Germany since at least 2002, was arrested last summer and could face life in prison if convicted.

This is the third time Rwabukombe has appeared before the German courts since 2008, being released both previous times after the court decided their was a lack of evidence.  This time, prosecutors plan to call approximately 50 witnesses.  Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga stated his support of the trial, telling AFP, “We are grateful to Germany.”  As the former mayor of Muvumba in northeastern Rwanda, Rwabukombe is charged with being the chief organizer of these crimes and ordering those below him to threaten any Tutsis seeking shelter with the deaths of their families.  Some of the refugees turned away by Rwabukombe’s men were later murdered.

While many of the Rwandans suspected of carrying out the genocide in 1994 that resulted in the murder of at least 800,000 are living in European countries, this is Germany’s first trial of a Rwandan suspect.  Rwandan courts have conducted some trials and a special court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, exists in Tanzania to try suspects.  Elsewhere, several European countries have conducted Rwandan genocide related trials but with a large number of suspects living all over Europe, many countries are not taking the steps to bring these people to justice.  However, recently Interpol issued almost 100 ‘red notices’ for the arrests of Rwandans living in Europe suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide.  Said Jurgen Schurr, representative for the London-based human rights group Redress, “These trials [. . .] send the important signal that these countries do not accept to provide a safe haven to suspects of such crimes.”

For more information, please see;

VOANews.com- Germany Opens First Rwanda Genocide Trial– 18 Jan., 2011

AFP- Rwandan Genocide Trial Opens in Germany– 18 Jan., 2011

BBC News- Rwandan Mayor Rwabukombe Tried For Genocide in Germany– 18 Jan., 2011

Kenyan Policemen Suspended after Highway Shooting

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity watch Reporter, Africa

Kenyan Police Officer ordering suspects to the ground. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas City Star).
Kenyan police officers ordering suspects to the ground. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas City Star).

NAIROBI, Kenya – Three Kenyan police officers have been suspended after the Daily Nation newspaper published photos of the officers shooting and killing three unarmed suspects at point blank range. Kenya’s interior minister ordered the chief of police to suspend the three individuals and called for a complete investigation. Critics of the Kenyan government claim this incident is just another example of the security forces committing brazen acts of violence without any repercussions.

This particular incident occurred Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. on Lang’ata Road, a busy highway that runs through central Nairobi. The shooting was witnessed by several people who were walking alongside the highway as well as motorists who were driving along the highway. One witness used a camera to capture the incident in a series of photographs.

According to witnesses, the officers, who were dressed in plain clothes, pulled over the suspects’ vehicle, ordered them out of the vehicle and onto the pavement.  The suspects were subsequently searched where it was discovered that one had a pistol tucked into his waist band.  The three police officers then shot and killed the three suspects at close range.

Initially the Kenyan police claimed that the suspects were armed and had fired upon the officers. However, several witnesses claimed the suspects had surrendered and exited their vehicle with their hands in the air. Furthermore this explanation of a shootout given by the police department was retracted after the Daily Nation published the photographs taken by a witness. According to these photos, it appears security forces had control of the situation, and the suspects were not resisting arrest.

This incident has gained international attention and sparked fears the Kenyan government is continuing to use security forces to carry out extrajudicial killings. Kenyans are especially sensitive to this issue given their tenuous relationship with the police in recent years. During presidential elections three years ago, an estimated 1,200 people were killed, including several hundred who allegedly were killed by the police.

Amnesty International has condemned the killings, claiming these types of crimes have occurred with great frequency in Kenya. Supporting this assertion, in 2009, the United Nations released a report which found police executions in Kenya were organized and widespread.

For more information:

BBC – Kenyan police suspended after Nairobi shooting —  20 January 2011

Daily Nation — Three officers interdicted over Nairobi killings – 19 January 2011

New York Times — Photos of Shot Kenyans Spur Calls for Police Reform – 20 January 2011

The Guardian — Three Kenyan policemen suspended over shooting of three suspects – 20 January 2011

The Right to Health Care Challenged In India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

CHHATTISGARH, India – The right to health care is challenged as a misguided press began looking into claims by Kalluir, Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, whom accused international humanitarian organization’s Medicines Sans Frontières (MSF), or doctors without borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of “facilitating” treatment to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and promised to investigate both agencies.

The Maoist rebels are active across a large swathe of India
The Maoist rebels are active across a large swathe of India

The CPI (Maoist) Formed in 2004 is a guerilla organization committed to overthrowing the Union government through an armed revolution.

“Investigations have shown that these medicines have been prescribed by MSF doctors,” Kalluri said. “They even carry out surgeries for those (Maoists) wounded in encounters with the police”.

“They come in the name of helping the poor, but these foreign doctors treat the Maoists. If they want to work for the poor, surely they can work elsewhere,” said SRP Kalluri.

However, Director-General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said no such investigation was under way. “The ICRC is still in the process of signing an agreement with the government to operate in Chhattisgarh,” he said.

“We are not investigating either organization for supporting the Maoists,” he said, attributing Mr. Kalluri’s comments to confusion among the local press.

MSF’s India head Martin Sloot said the organization offers medical support to people who have limited access to healthcare, with support from the Chhattisgarh government.

“These allegations, as I understand them, are not true. MSF has worked in Chhattisgarh for quite some time. We are very transparent, and provide medical care to the entire population,” said Martin Sloot, who heads the MSF mission in India.

“We are not a political organization, we are medical organization. We believe in the principles of impartiality and neutrality, and that healthcare is a right,” said Mr. Sloot said, adding that MSF did not allow armed people into its health centers.

“I am surprised by the comments,” said Yahia Alibi, Deputy Regional Head of the ICRC. “We do not operate in Dantewada, but are running one primary health center in Kutru, Bijapur, with the full support of the local administration and the police.”

Both MSF and ICRC have won Nobel Peace Prize for their work in providing humanitarian assistance to people caught in situations of armed conflict.

The rebels are believed to be active in more than two-thirds of the country. They say they are fighting for the rights of the rural poor.

A government offensive against the rebels widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began last October.  It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
For more information, please see:

BBC – Red Cross and MSF accused of helping India Maoists – 21 January 2011

Times of India – Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross treat Maoists: Dantewada – 20 January 2011

The Hindu – MSF and Red Cross aiding  Maoists: Dantewada police – 21 January 2011

Vatican Letter Warned Irish Bishops Not To Report Child Abuse

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe


DUBLIN, Ireland
— A newly revealed 1997 document shows that the Vatican warned Irish Bishops against mandatory reporting of suspected child-abuse cases by priests to the police. Victims groups are calling this letter the “smoking gun” they’ve been looking for to prove that the Vatican engaged in a culture of cover-up.

The document does appear to contradict repeated claims from the Vatican over the years that church leaders in Rome did not seek to steer the actions of local bishops in suspected child-abuse cases by priests, nor did they hamper criminal investigations into child abuse.

The letter, obtained by the Irish Broadcaster RTE, was sent by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, who was serving as Pope John Paul II’s chief representative to Ireland at the time. The letter was a response to a new policy instituted by Irish Bishops to deal with sexual abuse of children by priests. The policy included mandatory reporting of suspected abusers to the police.

The Storero letter, a copy of which the New York Times has made available on their website, stated that the proposed policy of mandatory reporting “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.”  The letter stresses “the need for the policy to conform to the canonical norms presently in force.” The letter goes on to state that by following non-canonical procedures, Bishops “could invalidate the acts of the same Bishops who are attempting to put a stop to these problems” and the “results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities.”

A spokesman for the Vatican, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the letter’s authenticity, but stressed that it was outdated, saying it referred to a “situation that [they’ve] now moved beyond.” Lombardi indicated that the approach to sexual abuse cases changed in 2001 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the time led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was put in charge of such cases.

According to the Associated Press, today the Vatican instructs bishops worldwide to report crimes to the police — in a legally non-binding lay guide on its Web site. This advice is not included in the official legal advice provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was updated last summer. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues to stress the secrecy of canon law.

Victims groups and activists believe that this letter proves that the Vatican did practice a policy of cover up by instructing local bishops not to report suspected abusers to the criminal authorities. “The Vatican is at the root of this problem,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of Amnesty International. “Any suggestion that they have not deliberately and willfully been instructing bishops not to report priests to appropriate civil authorities is now proven to be ridiculous.”

Joelle Casteix, a director of U.S. advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the Storero letter was the “smoking gun” they’ve been looking for, and would likely be used in the future by victims’ lawyers seeking to hold the Vatican responsible.

“In the mid 1990s, Irish bishops wanted to start telling law enforcement about horrific child sex crimes,” the group, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement. “Top Vatican bureaucrats told them no. That’s what this newly released letter shows. We can’t help but wonder how many other similar documents — in which the Vatican thwarts local efforts to combat abuse — remain hidden in church records across the world.”

For more information, please see:

BBC — Vatican officials told Irish not to report child abuse — 19 Jan. 2011

CNN — Irish abuse victims ‘disgusted’ at Vatican letter — 19 Jan. 2011

AP — Vatican Warned Irish Bishops Not to Report Abuse — 18 Jan. 2011

NYT — Vatican Letter Warned Bishops on Abuse Policy — 18 Jan. 2011

Rights groups urge no repatriation of North Koreans to Hu

Obama is pressed to raise NK refugee issue with Hu (Photo Courtesy of White House/Pete Souza)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA – Human Rights groups, including The North Korean Freedom Coalition (NKFC), are urging President Barack Obama to press China to stop repatriating North Korean refugees captured in China. President Hu Jintao of China met with President Obama on Wednesday and this has created a lot of hype amongst the media and public.

While most of discussion between two leaders is expected to revolve around setting a new course in economic cooperation and political reconciliation, human rights groups point to North Korean refugees over whom China has tremendous power and control.

“We urgently request that during your meetings . . . with President Hu Jintao… that you request China to end its current policy of repatriating North Korean refugees back to North Korea,” Suzanne Scholte, chairwoman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said in an open letter to Obama. “We believe that ending this policy of repatriation would have a very positive effect for China and North Korea.”

However, it is unclear, thus far, how much of concern has been expressed by President Obama on North Korean refugees. His primary agenda regarding North Korea is the North’s recent development of its nuclear weapons programs and its latest provocation against South Korea.

China has failed to join the international community in condemning North Korea on two series of attacks it carried against South Korea last year; sinking of the naval ship, Cheonan, in March, which took the lives of 46 marines, and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November, killing two civilians and two soldiers.

It is estimated that up to 400,000 North Korean refugees are hiding in China trying to find their way to another country, mostly South Korea. China, however, in violation of the 1951 U.N. Convention that requires countries to grant asylum to foreign refugees, and under a secret agreement with North Korea, treats defectors as economic immigrants rather than refugees, and repatriate them when caught in their soil.

Those repatriated to the North are subject to “a minimum of five years of labor correction” or “indefinite terms of imprisonment and forced labor, confiscation of property or death,” according to a U.S. State Department report released last year. According to Scholte, many female refugees are subject to becoming victims of human trafficking and sold as sexual slaves among chinese men.

“It is China’s repatriation policy that has created an environment in China that has led to human beings being bought and sold, as over 80 percent of North Korean females are trafficked . . . These women are our mothers, or sisters, and our daughters who are being bought and sold like animals just because they went to China to try to feed their starving children and families in North Korea,” said Scholte.


South Korea has taken in more the 20,000 North Koreans since the end of the Korean War (1950-53), while the United States have been accepting about 100 North Korean refugees under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.


For more information, please see:

Yonhap News – Obama urged to ask Hu to stop repatriating N. Korean refugees: rights group – 12 January 2011

The Korea Times – Obama pressed to raise NK refugee plight with Hu – 12 January 2011

The New York Times – U.S. Warning to China Sends Ripples to the Koreas – 20 January 2011

[Campaign for International Justice] Job advertisement: Policy, Research & Campaign Manager – Make International Justice Real

Amnesty International is looking for a Policy, Research and Campaign
Manager to focus on the strategic development and operational delivery
of its Make International Justice and Human Rights Real campaign. The
campaign builds upon almost two decades of work by the organization to
build a system of international justice that can step in when national
authorities fail to investigate and prosecute crimes under
international law: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes,
torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

Salary: £47,496 per annum
Location: Central London
Contract duration: Fixed term contract of two years in duration
Job Reference: LPP/LPT/PRCM
Closing date: 2 February 2011

About the role
Providing strategic direction, operational leadership, research and
policy development, legal advice and multi-disciplinary coordination
across different stakeholders inside and outside the organization will
be central in driving the Make International Justice Real campaign.
You will direct the implementation of the campaign strategy, including
setting priorities, managing the day-to-day work of a dedicated
campaign team and ensuring a high quality of all campaign outputs. You
will also take a lead in developing the campaign and ensuring
effective participation of Amnesty International sections, structures
and partners in the campaign, both in the global North and South.

About you
You will have a proven track record in developing campaign strategies
at an international level, as well as an excellent understanding of
strategic campaign methodologies, power analysis and other campaign
development tools.  An experienced project manager, you will be used
to dealing with a number of stakeholders across various regions of the
world.  As well as experience of managing people, including at a
distance, excellent analytical skills, interpersonal, communication
and organisational skills are essential. You will have experience of
planning, organizing and prioritising work under pressure and to
deadlines and an understanding of undertaking legal research or policy
analysis on issues related to international justice is also important.

About us
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people standing up
for human rights. We are independent and impartial and our campaigning
is based on accurate and timely research. Our network extends to more
than two million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries
around the world. Each one of us is outraged by human rights abuses
but inspired by hope for a better world – and together we work to
improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.

For more information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/jobs_all/vacant-positions

[Amnesty International] Croatia Politician Must Face Inquiry Over War Crimes Claims

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

17 January 2011

AI Index: PRE01/017/2011

Croatia politician must face inquiry over war crimes claims

Amnesty International has renewed its call on the Croatian authorities
to investigate claims that a senior politician failed to prevent war
crimes committed by Croatian forces during the 1991-1995 war.

Vladimir Šeks, currently Deputy Parliament Speaker, who was a leading
political figure in the Eastern Slavonija region in 1991, faces fresh
claims that he failed to stop grave abuses perpetrated by forces under
his command.

On 13 January, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a Croatian
non-governmental organization (NGO), submitted new testimony from a
witness claiming that Vladimir Šeks had failed to investigate her
report of a crime allegedly committed by his subordinates in 1991. The
NGO provided statements by five other witnesses related to other
crimes allegedly committed in Eastern Slavonija at that time.

“The allegations against Vladimir Šeks must be investigated. It is
well documented that during the war he was in a position of political
command, as the Head of Crisis Headquarters in Eastern Slavonija, and
that his subordinates committed crimes with impunity,” Nicola
Duckworth said.

“He must not be allowed to misuse his power as an influential
political figure in order to block the justice process.”

Croatian forces under Vladimir Šeks’ command are said to have tortured
civilians during the conflict that followed the disintegration of the
former state of Yugoslavia.

In its report, Behind the Wall of Silence: Prosecution of War Crimes
in Croatia<http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR64/003/2010/en>,
published in December 2010 Amnesty International expressed its concern
that a number of high profile Croatian military and political leaders
have to date still managed to evade investigation for alleged war
crimes.

Following publication, one of the people named in the report –
Tomislav Merčep – was arrested and an investigation against him opened
by the Croatian State Prosecutor’s Office.

In relation to the alleged responsibility of Vladimir Šeks, the
Amnesty international report documented allegations about the
potential command responsibility of Vladimir Šeks for crimes committed
in the town of Osijek in 1991. The allegations are based on publicly
available information such as court judgments and court testimonies of
several witnesses.

“According to the Geneva Conventions, which Croatia is a party to,
military and civilian superiors may be criminally responsible for the
acts of their subordinates if they knew, or had information that such
crimes under international law were committed or were about to be
committed.”

“The wounds of the war in Croatia are still open. Accountability for
war crimes and redress for the victims and their families irrespective
of ethnic origin, accompanied by a frank and informed debate in the
public sphere will help Croatia move forward,” said Nicola Duckworth,
Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

Background

Vladimir Šeks has been a member of the Croatian Parliament since the
country’s independence in 1991 as a representative of the Croatian
Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica – HDZ). He held
several senior positions including the posts of the Speaker of the
Parliament (December 2003-January 2008), Vice-Speaker of the
Parliament (from January 2008 until present), Deputy Prime Minister
(1992-1995) and the State Prosecutor (April – August 1992).

Public Document
****************************************
Campaign for International Justice
Amnesty International
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 0DW
United Kingdom
www.amnesty.org/en/international-justice<http://www.amnesty.org/en/international-justice>
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amnesty-Internationals-Campaign-for-International-Justice/135454306496834
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Cmpn4IntJustice

Please reply to ijp@amnesty.org

Soldiers accused of mass rapes to be tried

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

The Congolese army is often implicated in the regions mass rapes.
The Congolese army is often implicated in the region's mass rapes (Photo Courtesty of Al Jazeera).

FIZI, Democratic Republic of Congo – An army commander and seven other soldiers were accused and arrested yesterday for their alleged involvement in mass rapes that occurred in the eastern town of Fizi, in South Kivu province, on the evening of January 1.

Fifty women came forward to report the rapes. According to Madnodge Mounoubai, a spokesman for MONUSCO, the United Nations’ mission in DRC, the attacks were committed after a drunken soldier in a bar fired at a civilian; angry residents then killed the soldier.

“After he got killed, his colleagues heard that he was killed and they came and went on a rampage in the village. They started to loot the village, to loot the stores and to rape the women,” Mounoubai said.

A report sent to Fizi by MONUSCO accused Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware of directing the attack. Locals claimed to have witnessed him order the attack. Kibibi has denied the allegations.

Médécins Sans Frontières said women had been restrained by ropes or beaten with rifle butts before being attacked.  MSF also said that it had treated more than thirty women for injuries they suffered during the attacks.

The arrested soldiers will be put on trial as early as next week. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the ten detained soldiers would be tried in a Fizi court.

Rape has become a frequent weapon of war in eastern Congo, used by soldiers to intimidate and break down community structure. It is often blamed on Congo’s regular army.

Amnesty International said that the Fizi rapes constitute “another telling example of the consequences of the virtual impunity the Congolese forces benefit from.

“The failure to hold the Congolese army to account when they fail to carry out their protection role or commit crimes themselves in turn encourages further violations.”

Last summer, rebel forces in eastern Congo raped hundreds of people. According to Amnesty, which welcomed the arrests in the Fizi rapes, “more often than not investigations in the DRC are never brought to a conclusion. A recent example of this is the investigation into the mass rapes that occurred in Walikale, North Kivu, in August 2010 which have now stalled.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Troops held over DR Congo mass rape – 19 January 2011

Guardian – Congolese army commander accused of directing mass rape – 19 January 2011

IPS – Soldiers accused of rape arrested – 19 January 2011

Reuters – Congo to try government troops accused of rape – 19 January 2011

Telegraph – DR Congo mass rape suspects arrested – 19 January 2011

FORMER HAITIAN DICTATOR, ‘Baby Doc’ DUVALIER, ARRESTED AFTER SURPRISE RETURN FROM EXILE

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                   Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – After living in exile in France for over 25 years, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned to Haiti Sunday, receiving an unexpected welcoming committee: heavily armed police.  Duvalier was charged and arrested at the Karibe hotel Tuesday, just two days after his arrival back to his homeland.  Succeeding his father in 1971, the former dictator faces possible charges stemming back to the torture and murder of thousands of Haitians during his 15 year rule. 

Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier reutrns to Haiti, waving to supporters, after 25 years in exile.
Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier reutrns to Haiti, waving to supporters, after 25 years in exile. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

In the midst of a questionable election, Haitian citizens are poised for answers, questioning the reason for his return amid such turmoil in the country.   “Everybody is in a wait-and-see mode, nothing is clear, and this is very frustrating, especially for the people living in the tents,” said Michele Pierre Louis, former prime minister to current President Rene Preval.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were forced to flee the country in fear of Duvalier’s corrupt administration. Duvalier associate, Henry Robert Sterlin, indicated that the former dictator returned because he missed Haiti and was moved by the January earthquake’s anniversary.  While a press conference was scheduled, it was quickly cancelled due to the hotel’s inability to handle the overwhelming crowd.

Part of a familial rule which lasted thirty years, Duvalier assumed power after the death of his father at the age of 19.   

Human rights organizations have called for justice for the crimes he committed.  Michele Montas, Haitian journalist and former spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general declared, “We have enough proof. There are enough people who can testify. And what I will do is go to a public prosecutor, and there is a public prosecutor that could actually accommodate our complaints.”

Government sources indicate that a judge may take up to 30 days to determine whether the accusations Duvalier faces have any merit in order to move forward with the case.

For More Information Please Visit:

CNN – Charges Filed Against ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier in Haiti – 18 January 2011

CNN – Baby Doc Duvalier Returns to Haiti in Surprise Move – 16 January 2011

Washington Post – Duvalier’s Return Adds to Haiti’s Political Turmoil – 17 January 2011

Correa Pushes Reforms, Tells Citizens to “Trust in the Government”

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

QUITO, Ecuador—President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has proposed new constitutional reforms that many see as an effort by the unpopular leader to draw support.  Correa submitted ten questions to the Constitutional Court, including reforms targeting crime and the economy.

Correa is attempting to appear tough on crime in a country that has been swamped by criminals.  One of Correa’s sought reforms would alter a preventative detention law that allows detainees to be let go if they have not gone to trial within one year.  He also desires to revoke measures currently taken to protect suspects accused of serious crimes.  Another proposal would prohibit bullfighting and gambling.

“These people have come to kill and rob, and we must respond to that reality,” Correa announced to gain support for his proposals.  He added that he wanted to discourage “corruption and incompetence.”

Furthermore, Correa would like to decrease the number of justices on the Judiciary Council (there are currently nine.)

Carlos Vera, an ex-television anchorman, has spearheaded an effort to overturn the president’s mandate.  1.579 million signatures would be needed to have Vera’s request examined, and Vera said he has already acquired 79 percent.  Vera has objected to Correa’s proposals, citing similarities to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “authoritarian” ruling style.  Correa and Chavez are political allies.

Correa is in the midst of a four year term and may run for office again in 2013.  In September, 2010, a violent police uprising occurred that Correa (and many others) viewed as a thwarted coup.  Analysts theorize that Correa’s present proposed referendum is an effort to regain power and legitimacy.  Three of the president’s predecessors were thrown out of office before completing their terms.

Correa made a televised address to defend his reforms.  “Trust in the government,” he appealed to citizens, before saying he would resort to referendums “as many times as necessary” to obtain his reforms.

The Constitutional Court will need to verify the legality of Correa’s submitted questions before they can be sent to the Electoral Council for approval.

For more information, please see:

CNN-Ecuador president pushes for referendum-18 January 2011

AFP-Ecuador’s Correa seeks judicial, economic reforms-18 January 2011

Wall Street Journal-Ecuador President Sends to Constitutional Court Referendum Questions-17 January 2011