By Erica Laster                                                                                                                  Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
HOUSTON, United States – Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative and Cuban exile Luis Posada Carilles is set to go on trial this week in Texas. The United States has charged Posada with perjury and immigration fraud for lying to immigration officials and has been accused of orchestrating terrorist attacks on commercial airlines, tourist attractions and the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. Posada has been recognized by Fidel Castro as “the most dangerous terrorist in the Western hemisphere.”
Cuban community members protest Posadas innocence near an El Paso courthouse. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
Cuban community members protest Posada's innocence near an El Paso courthouse. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Originally trained by the CIA as an explosives expert, Posada has been the target of federal investigations for attacks dating back 30 years. Unable to indict Posada on terrorist charges, some believe the perjury counts are similar to Al Capone indictment on tax evasion.

Posada enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963 at the behest of the C.I.A., training in demolition, intelligence and propoganda before quitting after one year to become a paid C.I.A. operative in 1965. Quickly finding more lucrative positions, Posada associated himself with the Venezuelan intelligence service from 1967-1974 before starting a private security agency. Arrested in 1976 for the bombing of a commercial Cuban airliner, he remained in a Venezuelan prison until his escape in 1985, again serving the United States government.

In various interviews with the New York times, Posada admitted to orchestrating the 1997 Havana bombings in which an Italian businessman tourist died. Posada showed no remorse despite revealing the only intent was to scare tourists in an effort to destroy Cuban tourism. “I sleep like a baby,” he stated.

In a 1998 interview with the Times, Posada stated, “The C.I.A. taught us everything – everything. They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb trained us in acts of sabotage.” His 2000 Panamanian conviction for the attempted assasination of Fidel Castro resulted in his serving four years in prison before a pardon was issued by former President Moscoso.

While the charges the 82 year old faces in Texas do not appear to be on a level as serious as terrorism, prosecutors must prove Posada’s involvement in the terrorist attacks for a court to find him guilty of perjury.

For More Information Please Visit:

CNN – Posada, Anti-Castro Exile And Former CIA Operative, Goes On Trial – 10 January 2011

NY Times – Terror Accusations, But Perjury Charges – 9 January 2011

Washington Post – Fidel Castro’s Nemesis Goes On Trial In Texas – 10 January 2011

























WWII-era Nazi Mass Grave Believed To Be Found In Austria

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

The old hospital cemetery in Hall is thought to contain 220 disabled victims killed by Nazis. Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.
The old hospital cemetery in Hall is thought to contain 220 disabled victims killed by Nazis. Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.

HALL, Austria – A mass grave discovered at a mental hospital in the Tyrol Province is thought to contain up to 220 disabled victims of the Nazi euthanasia program.  The remains of people buried between 1942 and 1945 were discovered while the hospital was excavating part of their land for new buildings. Construction was immediately halted to allow for an investigation and identification of the dead.  Exhumations will begin in March.

A group of historians led by Oliver Seifert recently found a map that outlines a former cemetery at the hospital.  Seifert said at a press conference, “At this stage we can’t say that all 220 people were victims of the Nazi euthanasia programme but one of the central questions we will be looking into is how they died.”

He went on to note that documents discovered recently during a reorganization of the hospital archives show that the death rate of Hall patients went up considerably towards the end of the war. Previously there had been no documentation supporting the idea that patients at the Hall hospital were murdered during the Nazi program, though it’s believed that 360 patients from Hall were taken to other institutions to be killed.

According to the Guardian UK, Christian Haring, deputy medical director of the hospital, said authorities were working on the theory that the cemetery was built at a time when the hospital in Hall was considered as a possible site for an official Nazi euthanasia center.  “It’s quite possible that the hospital cemetery was laid out in October 1942 with a view to using Hall for euthanasia,” he said.  He added that patients died in significant numbers, with 30 deaths registered in March 1945 alone.

The hospital put out a global appeal for anyone who believes their relatives might be one of the victims buried there to contact the hospital.  It also asked for possible witnesses to come forward with any information that might be useful.

“Every memory has the potential to help us in researching the history of this cemetery,” a spokesman said.

Nazi-controlled Germany annexed Austria in 1938.  In 1939, Adolph Hitler officially instituted a euthanasia program where those patients deemed “incurable” could be granted “mercy-killing.”  Midwives and doctors were required to report all newborns born with severe disabilities or hereditary diseases such as “idiocy and Down’s syndrome, microcephaly, hydrocephaly, malformations of all kinds, especially of limbs, head, and spinal column; and paralysis.”

More than 70,000 people were killed by the Nazis for being disabled during the official program, though there is evidence that German physicians continued after the official program ended in 1941, killing a total of about 275,000 disabled under the euthanasia program.

During the program, forms were sent to institutions in Germany and Austria, and when they were returned each patient had a plus or minus sign next to their name, marking them for life or death.

For more information, please see:

CNN – World War II-era Nazi mass grave thought found – 6 Jan. 2011

BBC – Nazi-era graves to be dug up in Austria – 5 Jan. 2011

SCOTSMAN NEWS  – Austria: Graves of missing Nazi eugenics victims found – 5 Jan. 2011

TELEGRAPH – Nazi-era mass grave discovered in Austria – 4 Jan. 2011

GUARDIAN – Remains in Austrian hospital graveyard may be Nazi euthanasia victims – 4 Jan. 2011

Cordoba To Finalize FARC Hostage Release

 By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
Five Hostages Captured by the FARC (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Five Hostages Captured by the FARC (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)

BRASILIA, Brazil – Former Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba is in Brazil to finalize negotiations with the FARC to release five hostages, including three policemen and two politicians. According to Carlos Lozano, director of the communist magazine Voz, and a member of Cordoba’s peace group “Colombians for Peace,” all of the parties involved, including the Colombian Government and the FARC, have approved the final logistics of the release.

While Cordoba has been working on this release for some time, there were several sticking points between the interested parties about the exact protocals to be used. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Brazilian Government could not come to an agreement about which helicopters would be used. Brazil has a history of providing helicopters and flight crews for previous release missions.

The January release makes good on a promise from the FARC, who explicitly pledged to have the hostages home by the end of the month; however, the release was derailed earlier this month due to bad weather. The deal involves the exchange of hostages held by guerrillas with guerrillas held in Colombian and American prisons. The Colombian government has always opposed such a deal, demanding the guerrillas release their hostages unilaterally.

Cordoba’s involvement with the mission was crucial. The FARC announced that it planned to release the five hostages as an expression of support to Cordoba, who was banned from Congress because of ties to the rebels. Cordoba is hopeful for future relations with the FARC, stating that the next step will be a “humanitarian accord” resulting in the release of all hostages held by the guerrillas.

The hostages are expected the be released on five different locations in Colombia in the second half of this month.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – Cordoba in Brazil to Finalize Logistics FARC Hostage Release – 11 January 2011

Colombia Reports – FARC Hostage Release by Bad Weather – 3 January 2011

Colombia Reports – 5 FARC Hostages Home in January – 1 January 2011


Kim orders shooting of North Korean refugees

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, Republic of Korea — North Korean border guards shot five refugees to death and wounded two others after chasing them across the frontier into China last month, according to a South Korean newspaper.

The incident took place near Hyesan, the North’s northeastern city, on December when the refugees crossed the frozen Yalu river which separates the border with China, Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, quoting a source in China.

It said North Korean border guards followed the refugees and opened fire on the Chinese side. After the shooting, the guards dragged the bodies and the wounded back across the border with the acquiescence of Chinese authorities.

According to Chosun Ilbo, such shooting by the North Korean guards after the refugees had already crossed the river has never occurred before.

It is alleged that Kim Jong-Un, son and heir apparent to leader Kim Jong-Il, has given orders to soldiers to shoot anyone who tries to cross the border without permission.

The South’s National Intelligence Service declined to comment on the report.

Open Radio for North Korea, a South Korea based radio station which broadcasts into the North, said Kim Jong-Un on January 3 called for a major crackdown on North Korean escapees currently dwelling in China.

The directive was in response to an official complaint from Chinese security authorities that the refugees are a burden on security, the radio quoted an informed source as saying.

Kim Jong-Un, the new leader of North who is believed to have also ordered an attack on Yeonpyeong Island of South On November 23, 2010, which killed two South Korean soldiers and two civilians, has denounced the refugees for undermining the communist state’s ideological foundations, it added.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans who fled hunger and poverty under the dictatorship are believed to be struggling and suffering in China as illegal immigrants, as a large number of women are sexually trafficked. If these refugees are found in China, they are repatriated to North Korea for probable harsh punishment, many of them forced into concentration camps where they could even face execution.

China, violating the UN treaty, treats North Korean refugees as economic migrants rather than refugees, a policy criticised by rights groups.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Report: N. Korea kills five refugees inside China – 11 January 2011

The Straits Times – N. Korea Kills Five Refugees Inside China – 11 January 2011

International Herald Tribune – Low Profile of an Heir Reinforces a Mystery – 7 January 2011

FARC Vows to Step Up Violence in 2011

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Canos New Years video was released on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Cano's New Year's video was released on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)

BOGOTA, Colombia—The top-ranking leader of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has announced that the paramilitary group will become more persistent in the year ahead, increasing its activities.  The FARC is known for guerrilla-style violence throughout Colombia, and many Colombians live in fear of the organization’s notorious operations.

Alfonso Cano, the FARC’s number one man, released a New Year’s video on Friday containing statements about the group’s activities.  The video was uploaded on YouTube and also the website of a Swedish news agency called Anncol.  Anncol has been known as a conduit for FARC messages in the past.

Cano’s video included an ominous promise:  “In 2011, we’ll redouble our activities in every sense, [drawing on] our convictions, the care that comes with experience and the valor of all our fallen fighters.”  In the 12-minute long video, Cano went on to ask legislators to focus on laws that would return land stolen from farmers by paramilitaries and pay reparations to those who have suffered under Colombia’s numerous internal clashes.  Cano is seen in front of the camera reading his words off an out-of-date Macbook Pro laptop.  The FARC leader opined that if issues like these were taken “seriously” by lawmakers, it would be a step towards “solving the conflict” that has been rampant in Colombia.

Cano inherited the top position in 2008 when the FARC’s founder, Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, died of natural causes.  In Friday’s video, Cano vowed to “fight for a political solution to the conflict,” but that until such a solution is found, the FARC will “develop the guerrilla war.”

Already in the new year, the FARC is thought to have been responsible for three attacks in Neiva, the capital of Huila province.  At least one person has been injured in these events; homes have sustained damages and electricity has been suspended in some areas.

On Friday, members of the FARC descended on San Vicente del Caguan, a town in the south of the country, planning to capture and occupy a police station.  Five guerrillas, three soldiers and one bystander, an 11-year-old girl, died in the incident.

The FARC has been waging war against the Colombian government since 1964 and includes between 7,000 and 11,000 paramilitary soldiers in its ranks.  At least 19 soldiers and police officers are currently being held hostage by the FARC.

For more information, please see:

Latin American Herald Tribune-Colombia’s FARC to Step Up Activities in 2011-8 January 2011

Colombia Reports-FARC to ‘redouble actions’ in 2011-8 January 2011

AFP-Colombia rebel attack leaves nine dead-7 January 2011

Two Tongan candidates question November election results

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – After the historic November 2010 general elections in Tonga, which marked a transition away from the 165-year rule of the monarchy, two unsuccessful candidates are alleging fraud in the election results.

According to the Tongan Supreme Court, a candidate of the Vava’u 14 constituency, Siale Fifita alleges that the winner overspent the permitted amount on the campaign, carried out election propaganda beyond the cut-off date and used bribery.

According to Mr Tuita, supreme court registrar, says a businessman, Siosaia Moehau who was just four votes behind the winner of the Tongatapu 6 constituency is convinced he won the seat as he thinks there were a number of irregularities.

“Some of the grounds stated are: voting twice, which is false impersonation; another one was lack of police control; and the other grounds is voting after declaration of the ballots; and the last but not least is voting after 4pm, that was when the voting was supposed to have ceased.”

In November 2010, general elections under a new electoral law were held in Tonga, which determined the composition of the 2010 Tongan Legislative Assembly – a first popularly-elected parliament. For the first time in the nation’s history, a party formed by a pro-democracy movement emerged as the biggest winner in the election.

Four years prior to the election, anger over government’s forced political reforms led to riots in the Capital, Nuku’alofa. During the riots, gangs targeted businesses run by ethnic Chinese people. Hundreds were injured and eight people were killed as much of the town was burned down. Tonga suffers high unemployment and a quarter of its population live below the poverty line.

The November election drew 89% of the 42,000 registered voters to cast ballots, according to election officials. King George Tupou V called the election “the greatest and most historic day of our kingdom”.

Amid expectations and concerns for this new democratic nation, this election petitions came to light.

However, the Supervisor of Elections in Tonga, Pita Vuki, says it is common for one or two unsuccessful candidates to file petitions after an election as the Electoral Act permits.

“It’s quite normal for any candidates to file a petition if they feel there was something wrong in the conduct of elections or any behavior of any other candidates.”

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand – Tonga Supreme Court receives election petitions – 10 January 2011

BBC News – Strong showing for Tonga democrats in election – 26 November 2010

Radio New Zealand – Two failed Tongan candidates question election results – 10 January 2011


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                      Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

ACAPULCO, Mexico – Acapulco, a popular resort city in Mexico, has been able to boast a number of tourists in previous years.  However, a statement by Guerrero State Public Security office has confirmed the discovery of 15 headless bodies on a highway next to a popular shopping center in the city.   Police were alerted to their presence after following a trail of burning vehicles to the corpses.  The victims ranged in age from 25-30 and were all male.

An Acapulco Police Officer confronts armed gunman in attack on Saturday, January 8. Photo courtesy of CNN.
An Acapulco Police Officer confronts armed gunman in attack on Saturday, January 8. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Authorities believe the slayings to be drug related after discovering a number of hand written notes with the bodies.  Handwritten signs bore the signatures of “El Chapo’s People.”  Director of Investigative Police for Guerrero State, Fernando Monreal Levya confirmed the belief that this is a reference used by the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Saturday’s discovery is the largest decapitation group found in recent years.

Violence has increased in the resort city of Acapulco in recent years due to the high prevalence of drug trafficking. 

This past Saturday, two police officers and ten civilians were also killed in the city.  The police officers were a casualty of an armed attack on a police post in the Emiliano Zapata district of Acapulco.  Six of those civilians were discovered shot with their feet and hands bound inside of a local taxi.  The body of a town mayor was also discovered in northern Mexico on Saturday.

“We are coordinating with federal forces and local police to reinforce security in Acapulco and investigating to try to establish the motive and perpetrators of these incidents,” stated Director Monreal.  Over 30,196 people have lost their lives in drug related violence since 2006 offensive began against Mexican cartels to stem the flow of drugs and murders.

Associated Press – 27 Deaths, Including 14 Decapitated, Rock Acapulco – 9 January 2011

New York Times –Bodies Found Beheaded In Assaults In Acapulco, Mexico – 8 January 2011

CBS News – 14 Headless Bodies Found In Mexico Resort City – 8 January 2011

CNN – 15 Headless Bodies Found In Acapulco – 8 January 2011

Crackdown On Opposition In Belarus Continues

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MINSK, Belarus – Following the crackdown after the December 2010 elections in Belarus, reported here, an EU human rights watchdog was recently expelled from Belarus.  Additionally, a local human rights organization’s office was raided by police and the director detained, in addition to police raids of several activists’ homes.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has maintained an office in Minsk since 1998 in order to provide assistance to the government in Belarus in developing civil society and the economy.  A positive report by the OSCE on the conduct of the election was to be an essential factor in determining whether Belarus will receive EU financial aid.  However, the OSCE called the recent elections “flawed” and accused the government of fraud, in addition to criticizing the police crackdown on opposition supporters following the election.

Last week, many believe as a result of the election criticism, the OSCE was asked to leave Belarus.  Andrei Savinykh, Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement that “an evaluation of the results achieved by the OSCE mission in Minsk shows that the mission has fulfilled its mandate.”

This contention, however, has been strongly denied.  The chairman of the OSCE, Audronius Azubalis, responded by saying, “[i]ts mandate has not been completed,” and  “[t]here is an important job for the O.S.C.E. to continue in Belarus.”

On Wednesday, police raided the office of the Belarus Helsinki Committee, which is according to the Associated Press “an independent group whose name refers to the principles of the 1975 Helsinki Accords that were the precursor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”  The police seized computers from the Helsinki Committee office and detained the director, Oleg Gulak.

The Belarussian police on Thursday conducted raids on the homes of several political activists.  They seized computers, phones, cameras, memory cards, and printed material such as organization member lists.

These events are all part of a continuing crackdown that followed election day, when almost 700 opposition supporters were arrested following mass demonstrations which were broken up by a violent police shutdown.  Most of the people arrested faced 5 to 15 days in jail, followed by firing from their work or expulsion from school.  The opposition presidential candidates that have been charged face up to 15 years in jail.

This comes after many within European circles had hoped the election in Belarus would be conducted in concert with EU ideas of freedom and democracy, and had been prepared to reward such actions.  As Reuters phrased it, “Brussels had dangled the prospect of financial aid if the election demonstrated at least a veneer of democracy.”

A closer Belarussian relationship with the EU seems unlikely now.  As Guido Westerwelle, German Foreign Minister,  said in a statement, “[t]he decision to shut down the OSCE office is a further setback for the rule of law and human rights in Belarus.  With its authoritarian course, the government in Minsk is leading the country further away from European freedom values.”

For more information, please see:

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Activists In Belarus Fear School Expulsions, Firings – 7 Jan. 2011

NAVINY – New KGB raids over post-election protest – 6 Jan. 2011

NEW YORK TIMES – Belarus: Police Raid Rights Group Office – 5 Jan. 2011

AP – Belarusian human rights group reports police raid – 5 Jan. 2011

NEW YORK TIMES – Belarus Ejects European Watchdog Agency – 1 Jan. 2011

REUTERS – Belarus throws out EU watchdog after election – 1 Jan. 2011

BBC – Belarus closes down OSCE office after poll criticism – 31 Dec. 2010

Political Unrest in Northern Tanzania

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Mr. Willibrod Slaa, Secretary General of the Chadema Party. (Photo courtesy of BBC).
Mr. Willibrod Slaa, Secretary General of the Chadema Party. (Photo courtesy of Reuters).

ARUSHA, Tanzania – On Thursday, January 6, Tanzanian security forces shot and killed two anti-government protesters at a political rally in the northern city of Arusha. Along with killing two protesters, security forces also arrested nearly fifty people including ten prominent anti-government leaders who belonged to the Chadema party, one of the nation’s main opposition groups.  The leaders were taken to a police station, charged with unlawful assembly and then released after making bail. 

The arrests came after members of the Chadema party began an unauthorized march protesting the most recent mayoral election in Arusha. Security forces had permitted the Chadema party to hold a meeting in the city; however, when the meeting turned into a protest march, the police stepped in and prevented the march from continuing. During the police intervention several leaders of the Chadema party were arrested and detained. Reacting to the arrest of their party leaders, several marchers attempted to storm the police station where their leaders were held. In the process, security forces shot into the gathering crowd, killing two people. Eventually security forces regained control of the police station and sealed off the area. The rest of the city was unaffected by this incident and continues to operate normally.

The clashes that took place in Arusha stem from political strife between the ruling CCM party and the Chadema party.  The Chadema party, which has a strong presence in Arusha, believes the mayoral election was rigged to favor Tanzania’s ruling CCM party.

Among the opposition leaders arrested were Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbowe and Secretary General of the Chadema party Willibrod Slaa. Mr.Slaa,  the leader of the Chadema party, had made an unsuccessful run for president of Tanzania in 2010. He ran against the sitting president Mr. Jakaya Kikwete, a member of the CCM party. The election, which was held on October 31, was plagued by low voter turnout, corruption, and numerous allegations of voter fraud.  After his victory, Mr. Kikwete promised to curb the power of opposition groups like the Chadema party.  Coincidentally the arrest of Mr. Slaa occurred several days after he made comments calling for Mr. Kikwete to step down because of a scandal involving energy contracts.

For more information, please see:

 AFP — Police kill least two at Tanzania protest – 7 January 2011

The Citizen – 2 Killed, Dozens hurt in Chadema protests – 6 January 2011

BBC Africa — Tanzania police kill two in Arusha at Chadema protest – 6 January 2011

Reuters – Tanzanian police kill two rioters, seize leaders -6 January 2011

Renowned Chinese Dissident Dies

Dissident Li Hong, healthy prior to incarceration in 2007, suddenly fell ill and died last week at the age of 52. (Photo Courtesy of The Epoch Times)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Chinese dissident writer Li Hong passed away on December 31, 2010 at the age of 52. Mr. Li Hong was the founding editor of the popular Zhejiang News and also former chief-editor of the Chinese literary and news website Aegean Sea. At the time of his death, he was in his hospital bed, surrounded by a number of domestic security police.

Following Li’s death, Chinese authorities prevented other dissidents and human rights activists from attending his funeral, and also censored news of his death. This is due to Li’s long history of activism, which the communist government regarded to be “dangerous.”

Another dissident writer Chen Shuqing reported to The Epoch Times that police contacted Chen on the evening of Li’s death and told him not to leave Hangzhou for Ningbo. Chen, fearing if something had happened to Li in Ningbo, asked the police if anything was wrong with Li, but did not hear anything back.

“Quite a few others in Hangzhou have also received such warnings not to go to Ningbo,” Chen said.

Li Hong, born in Zhang Jianhong, was renowned for his writing career, which included poetry and plays. Li was charged in January 2007 with “inciting subversion against the state” and tried off the record in the Ningbo Municipal Intermediate Court. Li refused to plead guilty on any of his charge throughout the trial.

According Li Jiangiang, Li Hong’s lawyer, the charges were based on 62 articles he had written, most of which were regarding reports about live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, and his support for human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng’s hunger strike.

“Li Hong, a freelance scholar who does not practice Falun Gong, stood up at the first moment to condemn these crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is believed that as a scholar in China Li Hong touched the CCP’s sensitive spot: the CCP fears the public’s awareness and condemnation of its live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners,” the New Epoch Weekly editorialized in January 2007.

Although healthy and hale prior to incarceration, Li’s health rapidly deteriorated and was soon diagnosed in August 2007 with muscular dystrophy. The Chinese authorities denied Li’s family’s repeated requests for medical parole, until June 2010, when his body was completely paralyzed and was not able to speak.

Li was then released for medical treatment on June 5 and was taken directly to the Ningbo Number Two People’s Hospital for intensive care, where he stayed until he died last week.

Zhu Yufu, Li’s colleague and one of the founders of Chinese Democratic Party formed in 1998, said with anger, “The authorities have killed Li Hong! It is yet another crime of theirs. Now they are frightened and are trying very hard to cover up the truth. They are keeping us from attending his funeral and expressing our condolences.

“Because Li Hong persisted and refused to compromise, they hated him and wanted him to die.”

For more information, please see:

The Epoch Times – Renowned Dissident Writer Li Hong Dies, Authorities Prevent Funeral – 4 Jan 2011

Human Rights in China – Human Rights in China Mourns the Passing of Dissident-Writer Li Hong – 7 
January 2011

Chinese Human Rights Defenders – Dissident Writer Li Hong Passes Away – 3 Jan 2011

Mass Rape Attack in DR Congo Over New Years

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch, Africa

HIV Positive Congolese Rape Survivors in Luvungi (Photo Courtesy Unjin Lee and AFROl News)
HIV Positive Congolese Rape Survivors in Luvungi (Photo Courtesy Unjin Lee and AFROl News)

FIZI, South Kivu, DR Congo– On New Year’s Day, approximately thirty-three women were raped during an attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the small town of Fizi, located in the eastern region of South Kivu.  The organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that at their hospital in Fizi, fourteen women were treated on January 3rd, and another nineteen the following day.  Two more individuals were transferred to Baraka Hospital, 32 km to the south.  One had been beaten in the head with a rock and the other was suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.  Annemarie Loof, an official with MSF, said of the attack, “Women had been restrained with ropes or beaten unconscious with the butt of a gun before being attacked, some in front of their children.”

Violence between the residents of Fizi and the Congolese army (FARDC) had been escalating in the days before the attack after a boy in Fizi was fatally shot during an argument with two soldiers.  Later, residents of the town beat one of the soldiers to death.  Despite these clashes with the FARDC, none of the reporting agencies have confirmed who carried out the New Year’s Day attack.  In a statement made to Reuters AlertNet, Katrien Coppens, the  operations manager for MSF DRC stated, “Unfortunately it is a feature of the war in DRC but … this massive scale (of rape) in one day in a relatively small town is very shocking.”

Rape is a common weapon of war in the DR Congo and according to the U.N., 15,000 women were raped in Eastern Congo in 2009.  During that same year, MSF provided medical and psychological care for 5,600 rape victims in the North and South Kivu region.  As high as these numbers are, MSF and other humanitarian groups believe many more cases are unreported.  Last September the U.N. harshly criticized the Congolese government for failing to prevent a mass rape that took place between July 30 and August 2 and left 303 civilian victims in the Walikale region of Congo’s North Kivu province.  This attack, carried out by Rwandan and Congolese soldiers, occurred within a mile of a U.N. peacekeeper base.  The International Medical Corps. reported that during an attack on the town of Luvungi and five neighbouring villages, husbands were forced to watch their family members being raped while some victims were dragged into the forest.  After this most recent attack in Fizi, many fear the Congolese government is not doing enough to end war rape.  In the MSF report on Fizi, Loof said, “MSF is extremely concerned about the current situation in and around Fizi.  People are fleeing the area fearing further violent attacks.”

For more information, please see;

MSF- Press Release: MSF Treats Victims of Mass Rape on New Year’s Day in DRC– 6 Jan., 2011

CNN- Women Raped in Mass Attack in Congo, Humanitarian Group Says– 7 Jan., 2011

Reuters AlertNet- Gunmen Carry Out New Year Gang-Rape in Congo-MSF– 7 Jan., 2011 More Than 30 Women Raped and Beaten in DR Congo Attack– 7 Jan., 2011

Hungary Faces Criticism Over Restrictive New Media Law

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary has recently come under fire for a new media law, effective January 1, 2011, which greatly expands the state’s power to monitor and penalize media outlets by imposing heavy fines for media coverage that violates “public interest, public morals or order.” Critics of the new law worry that too much in it remains undefined and can be used to silence public debate or media coverage that is critical of the government.  Criticism of the new law by media watchdogs and European governments has been particularly sharp given that Hungary assumed the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union on January 1.

If television channels violate the new law, they could receive a fine up to 200 million forints ($950,000), daily publications could receive fines up to 25 million forints ($119,000), and weekly publications could receive fines up to 10 million forints ($48,000).  The new law is administered by the newly created National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).

One of the first acts of the NMHH was to begin proceedings against a radio station for playing two songs by the rapper Ice-T, which contain obscenities, before 9 PM, saying that the songs “could influence the development of minors in a negative way”.  The radio station responded in a letter saying that few of those under 16, in a country where most people do not possess advanced foreign languages skills, understand lyrics “written in slang, full of words and expressions missing from their curriculum, after one hearing, in a musical environment.”

It has been reported that all five members of the media authority, the NMHH, are members of or are linked to the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. However, the Public Administration and Justice Ministry said in a statement on their website on Monday that Members of the NMHH “have no ties, either formal or informal, with the ruling political parties.”

In late December Hungarian Prime Minister Orban took a strong stance against any criticism of the new law.  “We are not even thinking in our wildest dreams about making amendments to the law,” he said in an interview with the Hungarian private television channel Hir TV.  “I am not inclined to react with wobbly knees to debates in parliament or Western reactions.  There is not a single passage in the law that does not correspond to the media law in E.U. countries.”

This Thursday, Orban acknowledged that Hungary’s six month presidency of the European Union got off to a “bad start,” as well as further acknowledging that Hungary might be open to the possibility of amending the new media law if the European Union requires it.  However, Orban claims other countries have comparable laws to Hungary’s new media law, though experts say Hungary’s law goes further than others and represents the worst practices in Europe.  As a result, Orban says, Hungary will only institute changes to the media law if other EU countries make similar changes.

For more information, please see:

ASSOCIATED PRESS – Hungary willing to consider changes to media law – 6 January 2011

BBC – Hungary PM ‘ready to change’ media law if EU demands – 6 January 2011

BBC – Hungary plunges into EU hot water in steering role – 6 January 2011

NEW YORK TIMES – Hungarian Leader Takes On Foreign Critics – 6 January 2011

BBC – Hungary rejects Western media law attacks – 3 January 2011

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Ice-T Lyrics Draw Media Council’s Ire – 3 January 2011

BBC – Under fire Hungary media watchdog raises concerns – 2 January 2011

NEW YORK TIMES – Hungary Waves Off Criticism Over Media Law – 25 Decuary 2010

Over 10,000 Flee Ethnic Tension in East India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia

GUWAHATI, India – Local police reports show that four people have been killed and more than 10,000 are left homeless after ethnic clashes between two rival tribes in India’s northeast in the past 24 hours.

The victims were travelling in a bus from Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills in western Meghalaya, towards Assam, police said.

Chandra Prakash Dahal stands over the derbies. Three cows and four goats were killed when his cowshed was gutted in fire
Chandra Prakash Dahal stands over the derbies. Three cows and four goats were killed when his cowshed was gutted in fire

Police say the violence was sparked on New Year’s Eve after Garos were accused of failing to adhere to a Rabha strike. Clashes escalated and eight villages were burnt down.

On Wednesday, three Garos were stopped by Rabhas and clubbed to death. Eight others were critically wounded, police said. While another was shot by police allegedly trying to control mob tensions between rival villages.

In retaliation, the Rabhas went on a rampage torching several houses belonging to the Garo dominated areas in Torikas, Berubaris, Darakonas, Nebaris and Rongketchis.

Around 40 people from the Rabha community are still missing, according to local villagers.

Government officials said up to 10,000 people, mostly Rabhas, have fled their villages after the attacks, and have taken refuge in nearly a dozen makeshift shelters along both sides of the state border.

“Rabhas living in Meghalaya suffered the most as 200 of their houses were set on fire, forcing  them to our side,” said P.C. Goswami, a senior civil servant in Assam.

On Thursday, thousands of Garos armed with machetes, locally-made guns and spears descended from the East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya into Assam’s Goalpara district and set fire to hundreds of houses in seven Rabha villages around the Krishnai area.

There is a history of tension between the two groups. India’s far-off northeast has for decades been hit by insurgencies and tribal conflicts. The Garo tribe has been protesting about strikes orchestrated by its rival, saying they disrupt movement and day-to-day activities.

Last year, a road blockade by ethnic communities crippled Manipur, another state in the region, for months. The crisis badly hit supplies of food, fuel and life-saving drugs to the state.

The latest round of trouble in Meghalaya and Assam erupted from retaliation to a longstanding demand for an autonomous council by one of the groups.

“India’s remote northeastern states have been withered by 50 years of bloody clashes, and the region is a turbulent mix of languages, races, religions and civilizations, including 400 tribal and sub-tribal groups, many of whom fear loss of identity.

Authorities have imposed an indefinite curfew in Assam’s Goalpara district and Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district where the fighting took place, but tension remained high, police said.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi have both appealed for peace and hundreds of armed policemen and border guards have been sent to the area

The state leader of opposition Conrad K. Sangma, accused the ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government of ‘taking the ethnic clash lightly’.

‘I strongly feel that there is no seriousness on the part of the (Meghalaya) government to sort out the issue in the initial stages to diffuse the simmering tension,’ Conrad said.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Officials: Thousands flee tribal violence in northeast India – 7 January 2011

BCC – Four die in tribal clashes in India’s north-east – 6 January 2011

Reuters – Tribal clashes uproot thousands in NE India – 6 January 2011

220 Brazilian Firms Accused of Slave Labor

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—On Monday, 88 more private firms were accused by the Brazilian government of engaging in slave labor, or forcing laborers to live and work in conditions equivalent to slavery.  The Labor Ministry now lists 220 such firms on Brazil’s registry of worker exploitation.

The accused companies will be punished by steep fines and will be unable to obtain credit at public banks or sell their products to government entities.  The firms will be blacklisted this way for at least two years until they demonstrate that they have brought their practices up to code.

Agricultural firms listed on the registry are believed to have forced workers to live and work in dangerous conditions, threatening their safety, hygiene and health.  There have also been allegations that the agricultural workers have been made to work illegally long hours and receive less than adequate pay.

The majority of the workers who have been trapped in slave labor were recruited from the poorest areas of Brazil.  After the laborers agreed to be relocated in promise of a job, they became imprisoned by employers who demanded money for food, rent, and previously unmentioned services.  The workers become imprisoned in debt bondage and have little choice but to do as their employers order.

The recent influx in slave labor in Brazil is the most severe since records on the matter emerged in 2003.  The 220 firms on the updated list include plantations, sugar mills, coal yards, timber businesses, construction companies and textile factories.

The government blacklist is updated every six months and 14 firms were recently dropped because they improved their operations to meet government standards.

Last year, a government task force rescued almost 5,000 slave laborers after conducting 133 raids on suspected farms in Brazil.  According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, there are roughly 12.3 million workers suffering from similar situations throughout the world.

For more information, please see:

EIN News-Brazil Cracks Down on Farm Slave Labor; 88 Firms Accused-5 January 2011

Sify News-Over 200 Brazil firms found treating workers as slaves-5 January 2011

Fox News-Brazil accuses 220 firms of using slave labor-4 January 2011


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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.