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
Peru's President Alan Garcia and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera at the residence of the Peruvian Embassy to Chile (photo courtesy of

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; 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