Former Anti-Drug Police Chief Arrested on Drug Charges

Former Anti-Drug Police Chief Arrested on Drug Charges

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Sanabria was arrested at Washingtons request. (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)
Sanabria was arrested at Washington's request. (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

LA PAZ, Bolivia—A fourth senior officer in Bolivia was arrested Thursday to the embarrassment of President Evo Morales.  The former head of Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police was arrested in Panama at Washington’s request and will be facing drug charges in the United States.

Rene Sanabria, a retired police general, has been charged in the U.S. with allegedly running a cocaine trafficking ring.  According to a U.S. official, Sanabria had his first federal court appearance on Friday in Miami, Florida.  Three other senior officers have been arrested as well.

Sanabria was once a senior official at the Interior Ministry and the top man at the FELCN counter-narcotics police from 2007-2008.  In 2009 he was appointed chief of the Center of Intelligence and Information Generation.

Felipe Caceres, Bolivia’s deputy minister for social defense, expressed satisfaction about the arrests and said, “In the coming days we are going to arrest everyone (involved) and bring them to justice.”  According to Caceres, Sanabria operated an intelligence center comprised of 15 officials, most of them police officers.

President Morales has said that he has zero tolerance for cocaine trafficking.  Three years ago he expelled American counter-narcotics agents from the country, saying they incited his opponents.  Morales was once a coca growers union leader and has promoted traditional uses of coca during his presidency.

Morales’ opponents, such as opposition legislator Andres Ortega, have called the arrests “a very clear signal that drug trafficking has deeply infiltrated the Interior Ministry.”

Bolivia is the world’s third largest cocaine producer; Colombia and Peru rank first and second.  The United Nations has reported that Bolivia’s coca cultivation was 119 square miles in 2009. U.S. and Colombian officials have reported that without the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s help, traffickers from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere operate with impunity in Bolivia.

For more information, please see:

Daily Mail-Former head of Bolivia’s drugs police is sent to U.S. to face cocaine trafficking charges-28 February 2011 Bolivian drug chief Rene Sanabria arrested-28 February 2011

Canadian Press-Former Bolivian counterdrug police chief arrested as alleged head of narco ring-27 February 2011


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                        Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Concern surrounds the safety of human rights activists after Josefina Reyes Salazar was shot dead earlier this year.  On Friday, three more relatives of the slain activist were found dead near a gas station in Ciudad Juarez.  This brings the total number of Salazar’s relatives found slain to 5.  Salazar was a widely known activist and protester of human rights abuses by the Mexican military who have been deployed to fight crime. 

Activists remember Josefina Reyes Salazaar.  Photo courtesy of
Activists remember Josefina Reyes Salazaar. Photo courtesy of

Amnesty International has urged greater protection for activists since the murders.  A participant in the “Forum on Militarization and Repression,” Salazar aided in examining reports of citizens who claimed human rights violations were committed by members of the Mexican military. 

According to an eyewitness, in early January 2010, Salazar was seized outside of a shop in the town of Guadalupe by a group of armed gunmen.  One of them reportedly stated “You think you are tough because you are with the organizations.”  After Salazar fought back to avoid being abducted, she was shot in the head.

Authorities believe another female activist, Cipriana Jurado, is also at risk.

Since 2007, violence linked to drugs and organized crime has increased dramatically.  President Calderon has dispatched over 50,000 units of federal police and military personnel to secure the safety of all citizens and contain the violence.  Ciudad Juarez has remained among the most heavily infected areas.

This past February 15, the home Josefina Salazar’s mother was torched and burned down by unkkown assailants.  

On Friday, Elijah and Malena Reyes Salazar, Louise Ornelas Soto were murdered. The victims had been missing a total of 18 days before their bodies were found at a gas station in Juarez.  Two other relatives, including Salazar’s brother were also murdered following Salazar’s death. 

Social activist Malu Garcia has also been the victim of violent attacks.  Unknown assailants burned Garcia’s house while she attend a protest against abuses being committed by the Mexican military in Ciudad Juarez. 

Amnesty International believes members of the Coordination of Civil Society Organizations,  a local Ciudad Juarez group composed of activists and supporters of investigation into abuses, may also be targets of various gangs and attacks.

“The authorities must ensure that Cipriana Jurado, and other human rights defenders with the Coordination of Civil Society Organization in Ciudad Juárez, receive immediate and effective protection,” stated Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International’s deputy director of the Americas Programme.

For more information please visit:

Amnesty International – Mexico Urged to Protect Activists After Campaigner Shot Dead – 6 January 2010

CNN –3 More Relatives of Slain Activist Found Dead in Mexico – 25 February 2010

Washington Post – Suspect Arrested in Shootings Outside Mexico City – 17 February 2010

Banned Cluster Bombing Adds to Heated Border Tensions

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia – A day after the United Nations security council urged the two sides to exercise restraint, there have been further clashes on the disputed border with Cambodia and Thailand.

Thailand, Cambodia trade accusations of cluster-bomb use
Thailand, Cambodia trade accusations of cluster-bomb use

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the current head of the Council, called on both sides “to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation”.

On Monday, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Thailand’s Kasit Piromya appeared before the United Nations Security Council to set out their respective positions.

Sunai Pasuk, a representative for Human Rights Watch in Thailand, says the U.N. will provide a forum for debate over the clashes, and could help determine human rights violations.

“But the basis for conflict resolution is still within bilateral process,” noted Sunai. “A presentation at the U.N. Security Council will be an opportunity to both Thailand and Cambodia to further allegations of human rights violations to international laws as the use of cluster ammunitions can only be resolved with independent observation of the affected area.”

“Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully,” she said.

Both countries have accused the other of using banned cluster bombs in the fighting.

The conflict had intensified around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

The temple is home to four days of clashes this month in which 11 people died.

Both sides have claimed the UN statement supports their position. Cambodia went into the meeting calling for a permanent ceasefire, and Thailand, which regards the dispute as a purely bilateral issue, welcomed the UN’s decision not to become more actively involved.

In 1962 the grounds of the temple itself were awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice, but it is the 4.6 sq km of nearby territory, a main access route, and remains in dispute.

Thailand has blamed the UN decision to list the temple as a World Heritage site in 2008 for inflaming the current tensions.

The armies of both governments remain on alert as thousands on both sides were forced to flee their homes.

In Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says the temple should be de-listed as a United Nations Scientific and Educations Organization World Heritage site.

Mr. Abhisit says doing so and scrapping a proposed Cambodian management plan would defuse the border conflict. However, Cambodia is expected to oppose the idea.

By the time the armies of Thailand and Cambodia end their battle for Preah Vihear, an 11th century temple on the border between the two countries, there may be nothing left to fight over, as many reports have it.

For weeks, there have been protesting in Bangkok, espousing hate speech against Cambodians and issuing a set of extremist demands that include a Thai boycott off the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and the use of military force to evict Cambodian villagers from the disputed area.

It isn’t clear yet whether the U.N. Security Council will take up the conflict, and if it does, how quickly it will proceed.

For more information, please see:

TIME – Thailand and Cambodia’s Battle for an Ancient Temple – 7 February 2011

Voice of America – Thailand, Cambodia Border Fight Moves to UN – 11 February 2011

Financial Times – Thailand accuses Cambodia of fresh attack – 15 February 2011

U.N. Sanctions Libyan Officials and Calls for ICC Investigation

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

U.N. Security Council votes for sanctioning Libya. (Photo courtesy of Montreal Gazette).
U.N. Security Council votes for sanctioning Libya. (Photo courtesy of Montreal Gazette).

NEW YORK CITY, United States of America – On Saturday, members of the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, members of his immediate family, and high ranking officials in his regime for their role in the violent crackdown on government protesters. The council also approved a measure to investigate possible international war crimes and crimes against humanity for the unlawful killing of civilians over the last few weeks.

Contained in the resolution are several key provisions which ban international travel for Libyan government officials as well as a directive to freeze the assets of Libya’s leaders. Specifically, this declaration is directed at Mr. el-Qaddafi, his four sons, his daughter, and 10 prominent government officials.  Furthermore, this resolution provides for an arms embargo against the Libyan government.

According to the United States representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, this resolution sends a “clear warning to the Libyan government that it must stop the killing.” The United Nations estimates that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in attacks throughout the country since the uprising began.

Initially, Security Council members disagreed about whether to refer Mr. el-Qaddafi and other officials to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. However, the atmosphere changed when the Libyan delegation and its U.N. representative Abdurrahman Shalgam sent a letter to the Security Council president, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil supporting the war crimes investigation by the ICC. Mr. Shalgam’s voice was crucial in helping this portion of the resolution pass.

This was only the second time the U.N. Security Council has recommended a member nation be investigated by the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes or crimes against humanity. The quickness with which this resolution was taken up and passed was surprising. Reports from the U.N. Security Council chambers claim the representative are deeply concerned about violence directed at civilians and members were focused on drafting a resolution that effectively deals with this crisis.

Saturday’s resolution comes a day after the United States government unilaterally froze billions of dollars of assets belonging to the Libyan government as well as property belonging to several Libyan officials. According to President Barack Obama, he signed the executive order because the violence and instability has become “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the security of the United States and their foreign policy objectives.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Libya: UN Security Council votes sanctions on Gaddafi—27 February 2011

New York Times — Security Council Calls for War Crimes Inquiry in Libya – 26 February 2011

The Telegraph — We must stand ready to intervene in Libya – 27 February 2011

Voice of America News– UN Security Council Imposes Sanctions on Libyan Leaders – 26 February 2011

Former Serbian Official Convicted For War Crimes In Kosovo

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A former senior Serbian police official was convicted Wednesday by a UN tribunal for his part in the “campaign of terror” against Kosovans in 1999. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Vlastimir Ðorðevic to 27 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

During the conflict in 1999, Ðorðevic was an assistant internal affairs minister and the head of the public security department–the equivalent of chief of police in many countries–as well as a close aid to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Ðorðevic was found guilty of taking part in a “joint criminal enterprise” in 1999 along with officials such as Milosevic in order to change the ethnic balance of Kosovo by engaging in a “widespread campaign of terror and violence.”

This campaign of terror included murdering, deporting, and forcibly transferring ethnic Albanians, many of which were civilians. The court found Ðorðevic to be responsible for the murder of “not less than 724 Kosovo Albanians” who were murdered by Serbian forces. The court found that “[i]n the large majority of cases the victims, including many women and children, were civilians, who were unarmed and not in any way participating in any form of armed conflict.”

Ðorðevic asserted that he had no control over the responsible Serbian forces and instead he oversaw operations geared toward the “terrorists” of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The court rejected these claims, finding that Ðorðevic’s participation in the joint criminal enterprise was “crucial to its success” and that Ðorðevic exercised “effective control” over the Serbian police forces who committed the crimes.

The court cited examples to show that the Serbian police forces’ conduct was not part of any police operation to find and arrest terrorists. In March of 1999, Serbian polices forces shot and burned 114 men and boys. On that same day in another city, the police killed 45 members of one family. Serbian police forces also lined up 19 women and children and shot them.

Ðorðevic was also found responsible for the mass deportation and forcible transfer of over 200,000 Kosovo Albanians, though according to the court that number is a conservative estimate and the true numbers are likely much higher. The presiding judge stated that “Kosovo Albanians left Kosovo because they were specifically ordered to do so by Serbian forces, or because the conduct of Serbian forces caused them to leave, in particular by shelling, shooting, killing and by burning houses and other buildings in their villages, towns and cities.”

Additionally, the court found that Ðorðevic played a “key role” in concealing the killings of Kosovo Albanians. Ðorðevic directed a coordinated operation to remove evidence of the killings committed by Serbian forces by transporting the bodies in trucks and burying them in mass graves. In 2001, 744 individuals were exhumed from a mass grave near Belgrade.

The ICTY has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia from 1991-2001. Proceedings against 125 have concluded. Ðorðevic is the eighth former senior Serbian official to be tried by the tribunal, and the sixth to be convicted.

Following Ðorðevic’s conviction on Wednesday, Amnesty International called on Serbian officials to continue investigating. The Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme said, “Amnesty International welcomes the conviction of Vlastimir Ðorðevic, but calls on the Serbian authorities to redouble their efforts to ensure that all police officers and others suspected of the murder of ethnic Albanians and involvement in the cover-up operation, are brought to justice.”

For more information, please see:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL — Serbia must pursue others after Kosovo murders conviction — 24 Feb. 2011

UN NEWS CENTRE — UN tribunal convicts former Serbian police official for crimes in Kosovo — 23 Feb. 2011

ICTY PRESS RELEASE — Vlastimir Đorđević Convicted for Crimes in Kosovo — 23 Feb. 2011

AFP — Serb police general gets 27 years for Kosovo ‘terror‘ — 23 Feb. 2011

BBC — Serbian police chief jailed over Kosovo murders — 23 Feb. 2011