Royce-McGovern Introduce Legislation on Sudan’s Involvement with the Lord’s Resistance Army

March 3, 2011

Royce: Audra McGeorge
(202) 340-8147
McGovern: Michael Mershon(202) 225-6101

Royce-McGovern Introduce Legislation on Sudan’s Involvement with the Lord’s Resistance Army
Certification Must Come to Congress before Sudan can be Removed from Terrorism List

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who have collaborated on past legislation on Africa, today introduced the “Sudan Cessation of Support for the Lord’s Resistance Army Certification Act of 2011.”

This legislation requires the Obama Administration to certify to Congress that the Sudanese government is “no longer engaged in training, harboring, supplying, financing, or supporting in any way the Lord’s Resistance Army, its leader Joseph Kony, or his top commanders” before Sudan could be removed from the state sponsor of terrorism list.

“Last year, bipartisan legislation was signed into law requiring the Administration to devise a strategy to end the LRA’s atrocities.  The strategy promises to ensure the LRA ‘receives no support or safe haven.’  I view this legislation as part of that effort,” said Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

Historically, Sudan has backed the LRA with arms and supplies, making Khartoum the only documented state-supporter of the group, which is on the State Department’s “Terrorist Exclusion List.”  Joseph Kony, its leader, has been named a “specially designated global terrorist.”

“I’m very pleased to continue this important, bipartisan effort with Ed Royce,” Rep. McGovern said.  “The LRA and the Sudanese government need to know that the U.S. Congress – and the world – are watching.”

For over two decades, the LRA has terrorized northern Uganda and central Africa. Its followers have mutilated, abducted and forced individuals into sexual servitude, forcing as many as 65,000 children to fight as part of the rebel force.  Last Congress, McGovern and Royce led efforts in the House to pass the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which was signed into law on May 24, 2010.

The “Sudan Cessation of Support for the Lord’s Resistance Army Certification Act of 2011” is supported by Resolve, Enough and Invisible Children, advocacy groups dedicated to ending the LRA’s atrocities.

International Community Condemns Deadly Protests in Syria

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DERA’A, Syria – Syrian military troops opened fire on protestors who were demonstrating peacefully, killing a number of them.  This prompted tens of thousands of protestors in cities and towns around Syria to gather to challenge the government.

Since the protests began a week ago in the southern portion of Syria, 38 people have been killed by government forces and many more were killed on Friday.  Because the government refused to let reporters into the country, exact details about the incident are difficult to obtain.

Protestors apparently set fire to a statue of President Bashar al-Assad’s father, former President Hafez al-Assad.  Security forces then fired into the crowd and threw tear gas canisters.

A spokeswoman for the President stated that the government had not ordered the troops to fire on the protesters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the Syrian authorities’ actions and called upon them to refrain from the use of violence.  In a statement issued on March 23, he also stated that those responsible must be held accountable.

The U.S. has also expressed concern over the situation in Syria.  “We urge on the government of Syria what we have urged on the governments in other regions: that they pursue a peaceful course here, that they participate in a political dialogue with their people, because that is the better path,” stated White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Human rights organizations have also condemned the manner in which authorities responded to the protestors.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated, “The Syrian authorities must cease the use of excessive force to crush protests and immediately release all of those detained for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.”

Authorities also closed roads to the town of Dera’a and detained as many as 93 people, including a man who had been appointed as a community leader to negotiate with the authorities.  Recent reports indicate that almost all of these people, ranging in age from 14 to 45 and including students and journalists, have been released.

On Thursday, the government of Syria stated that it would consider reforms, including a possible end to the emergency law, which were passed in 1963.  This law permits the government to override the constitution and penal code statutes and also allows authorities to make preventive arrests.

According to a representative of Amnesty International, it is questionable as to whether the government will keep their promises to reform the law.  “The government has made similar statements before, yet the repressive state of emergency has endured with little tolerance for dissenting views for nearly half a century.”

Amnesty further called upon the Syrian government to stop the use of excessive force and to allow peaceful protestors to assemble freely.

For more information please see:
AFP – US condemns new Syria violence – 25 March 2011

Amnesty International – Syria Death Toll Climbs As Protests Spread – 25 March 2011

UN News Centre – Syria: UN human rights office voices concerns about situation – 25 March 2011

Amnesty International – Spiralling Syria Death Toll Reports ‘Disturbing’ – 24 March 2011

UN Secretary-General – Secretary-General Condemns Violence in Southern Syria, Urges Investigation – 23 March 2011

Students Sew Lips Shut During Hunger Strike

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela—A hunger strike in Venezuela has escalated as four university students sewed their lips together while demonstrating to demand more funding for public universities.

The initial hunger strike began on February 23; it was started by five students and quickly grew to about 55 protesters.  The hunger strikers argue that Venezuelan universities are in danger of shutting down and that the government should give satisfactory funding to keep them in operation.

Administrators from various universities in the country have announced that by early next month, over two dozen public universities may be financially unable to continue operating cafeterias or buying supplies.

Government officials have responded by denying the claims.  They have stated that the protesting students are being influenced by President Hugo Chavez’s political opponents.

During a program televised in Bolivar state, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said: “If they want to walk naked through the street, let them do it.  If they want to sew whatever they want to sew, let them sew it, but . . . we’re going to keep working for our homeland.”  Maduro went on to attribute the hunger strike to the Venezuelan right wing, which “continues with its madness.”

One protester, 18-year-old Gabriela Torrijos, took the hunger strike to an alarming level on Friday as she and other students demonstrated near the United Nations Development Program office in Caracas.  Torrijos, a political science student at the Central University of Venezuela, sewed the left corner of her mouth shut.  Following her example, three other students partially stitched their mouths shut as well.

Enduring the pain of the improvised stitching, Torrijos told the Associated Press, “After seeing my friends take this action, I did it in solidarity with them.”

28-year-old Villca Fernandez had a more sever reaction to his stitching: his face ballooned out and remained puffy for three days.  He said he had not eaten solid food for 30 days and would not resume regular eating habits until the government increased the universities’ budgets.  “I’m willing to die for my university,” he declared.  “I’m willing to die for my country.”

On Tuesday, President Chavez stated that he would increase students’ stipends and review universities’ budgets.  The striking students, however, have not yet taken those promises seriously.

For more information, please see:

Press Association-Students stitch lips in protest-26 March 2011

AP-4 Venezuelan students partially sew lips together demanding university funding-25 March 2011

Seattle Times-Venezuelan students stitch lips in protest-25 March 2011

Jerusalem Bombing Kills One, Injures Dozens Amid Escalating Tension

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – A bomb planted near West Jerusalem’s Central Bus station was detonated, killing one person, and injuring three dozen others, earlier this week.  The attack has been described as the “worst attack in Jerusalem in four years” and has prompted international criticism.

The bomb, weighing between two and four pounds and packed with ball bearings to increase damage, detonated just as two buses arrived at the bus station.  The U.S. State Department has announced that six Americans were injured.  Some of the victims were as young as 15.

Investigators believe the attack was the work of Palestinian terrorists, though no one has taken responsibility as of yet. Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian organization, and the Popular Resistance Committees, another militant group that is close to Hamas, praised it.

The bombing came as the tension between Israelis and Palestinians has escalated.  In the last week, stray fire from the response of Israeli troops to a rocket attack killed a sixty year old man and three Palestinian children.  The Israeli Air Force also killed four members of Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian organization, in Gaza.  According to the Israeli military, these men planned to launch rockets at Israel.

These recent bouts of violence may have discouraged any prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, “We will act vigorously, responsibly and prudently in order to maintain the quiet and the security that have prevailed here over the past two years.”

The Palestinian Authority has also denounced the bombing, as well as Israel’s actions in Gaza.  On Wednesday Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated, “I condemn this terrorist operation in the strongest terms, regardless of which party stands behind it.”

Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, characterized the attack as “cowardly” and noted that residents should continue to live their daily lives such that it gives the impression that terrorists cannot win in the end.  “It’s important to return to our regular routines as quickly as possible. When terror attempts to disrupt our way of life, the best solution is to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Events in Jerusalem will not be cancelled and Jerusalem will not stop running.”

Human Rights Watch has called the bombing of civilians “a despicable crime that should be promptly investigated and prosecuted”.

For more information please see:
The Epoch Times – Israel Promises ‘Tough Reaction’ for Jerusalem Bombing – 25 March 2011

ABC News – British Woman Killed, Six Americans Injured in Jerusalem Bombing, Palestinian Terrorists Blamed – 24 March 2011

Human Rights Watch – Israel: Jerusalem Bombing an Indefensible Attack on Civilians – 24 March 2011

Globes – Bomb Explodes near Jerusalem bus – 23 March 2011

The Epoch Times – Jerusalem Bomb Kills One, Injures Dozens More – 23 March 2011

New York Times – Jerusalem Blast Raises Fears of Growing Violence – 23 March 2011

U.S. War Crimes of Korean War 2/2

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – The Pentagon’s interest in No Gun Ri was released in January 2001. The Pentagon’s conclusion and investigation acknowledged the killing of civilians at No Gun Ri by US forces, but it limited its conclusion, interpreting the “killings that took place as accidental attacks, an unfortunate tragedy inherent to war” reported BBCs Jeremy Williams.

No Gun Ri filmed in 2006 to spread the anti-US mythology surrounding the tragedy that happened at No Gun Ri
No Gun Ri filmed in 2006 to spread the anti-US mythology surrounding the tragedy that happened at No Gun Ri

Air Force Colonel Turner Rogers wrote a memo the day before killings at No Gun Ri. The memo stated, “[t]he Army has requested we blitz all civilian refugee parties that are noted approaching our positions.”

The memo went on to confirm the instructions which were acted upon. The memo concluded that, “[t]o date, we have complied with the army request in this respect”.

After 50 years, “the only major American investigation into the killing of refugees focused exclusively on the activities of the US Army over a small geographic area during one month of a conflict that lasted three years”, stated BBC reported Jeremy Williams.

Bruce Cumings, Department of History chair at the University of Chicago, wrote the book “The Korean War”  which depicts how little the U.S. knew about who it was fighting, why it was fighting, and even how it was fighting.

Though the North Koreans had a reputation for viciousness, according to Cumings, U.S. soldiers actually engaged in more civilian massacres. This included dropping over half a million tons of bombs and thousands of tons of napalm, more than was loosed on the entire Pacific theater in World War II.

Hanson Baldwin, the military correspondent for The New York Times was interviewed by Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, described “North Koreans as locusts, like Nazis, like vermin, who come shrieking on. I mean, this is really hard stuff to read in an era when you don’t get away with that kind of thinking anymore.”

Cumings adds, “Rapes were extremely common. Koreans in the South will still say that that was one of the worst things of the war, [acknowledging] how many American soldiers were raping Korean women.”

Cumings believed that Douglas MacArthur, the General who commanded U.S. forces in Korea was prejudiced against Asians and badly underestimated their fighting capabilities.

He went on to say that, “[o]n the day the North Koreans invaded the South in force on June 25, 1950, MacArthur boasted, according to Cummings, ‘’I can beat these guys with one hand tied behind my back’. This stated even after the CIA had warned MacArthur that 200,000 Chinese troops were crossing the border into North Korea, MacArthur said, “I’ll take care of it, don’t worry about it, Chinamen can’t fight.”

In the end it was the Chinese who advanced U.S. forces, clearing them out of Korea in as little as two weeks.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with investigating wartime atrocities has found that American troops killed groups of South Korean civilians on 138 separate occasions during the Korean War. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is led by operations President Lee.

“We welcome the efforts of the Republic of Korea to investigate abuses of human rights and efforts to correct any possible inaccuracy in the historical record,” said Mark C. Toner, a State Department spokesman.

Lee Chang-geun, 77, whose parents were among an estimated 300 South Korean soldiers, railway officials, students and other civilians killed on July 11, 1950, when American aircraft bombed the train station in Iri, a southern town many miles behind the front line said:

“I want to ask the Americans: Is it O.K. to bomb civilians by mistake?” Mr. Lee said. “I want to ask: Just because their military came to help South Korea, is it O.K. to kill South Korean civilians and keep mum about it?”

An estimated 855 refugees were killed, including 200 crammed inside a cave and suffocated by fires set off by air attacks; 100 huddled on a beach and shelled by an American ship; and 35 attacked by American aircraft in Kyongju, a town behind the lines in the south, reported Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times.

“They have so far uncovered just a tip of the iceberg,” said Oh Won-rok, 70, who said his father was killed without trial by the South Korean police in July 1950. “So many victims did not come forward [during tribunal hearings], out of fear he said.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Kill ’em All: The American Military in Korea – 17 February 2011

Global Research – The Korean War: The “Unknown War”. The Coverup of US War Crimes – 16 March 2011

New York Times – Korean War Panel Finds U.S. Attacks on Civilians – 9 July 2009

Former Ukrainian President Charged in Journalist’s Murder

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Mr. Kuchma leaving the Kiev prosecutor general’s office. (Photo courtesy of AFP).
Mr. Kuchma leaving the Kiev prosecutor general’s office. (Photo courtesy of AFP).

KIEV, Ukraine -On Thursday the prosecutor general’s office in Kiev charged former President Leonid Kuchma in connection with the 2000 murder of a leading opposition journalist, Georgy Gongadze. When asked by reporters Mr. Kuchma did not comment on the charges against him, however, the prosecutor general’s office said the charges relate to an abuse of power in connection with the journalist’s death. Mr. Kuchma claimed he had not read all the charges against him but did proclaim his innocence.

Leonid Kuchma served as president of Ukraine between 1994 and 2005. Mr. Gongadze was the founder of Ukrainska Pravda or Ukrainian Truth, a website that investigated and exposed corruption at the highest levels of the Ukrainian government. Mr. Gongadze’s reporting exposed corruption in the Kuchma administration through a series of feature articles. His reporting was especially embarrassing to Mr. Kuchma’s government.

In 2000, Mr. Gongadze was abducted and then later found beheaded.  In September 2000, Mr. Gongadze’s decapitated corpse was found in a wooded area outside of Kiev. News of his death led to widespread public protests against the government.

On Tuesday Yuriy Boychenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office said “Investigators have today charged Kuchma…on exceeding his authority, which led to the death of Mr. Gongadze.” There is still confusion over whether Mr. Kuchma will be charged with ordering the murder of Mr. Gongadze or with playing an indirect role in the events that led to his death. Furthermore, Mr. Boychenko also claimed “This is the preliminary charge. Further investigation is ahead. It is too early to say what the final charges will be. “

The prosecutor’s office has interviewed Mr. Kuchma over the last two days and plans to continue questioning him on Monday, March 28.  Believing Mr. Kuchma to be a potential flight risk, the prosecutor’s office has banned him from leaving the country. Additionally, the Kiev prosecutor has claimed that a secret audio recording by Mykola Melnychenko, a former presidential body guard, implicates Mr. Kuchma in the death of Mr. Gongadze. Specifically, a voice on the audio tape similar to Mr. Kuchma’s suggests that Mr. Gongadze should be “kidnapped by Chechens.”

Today’s charges against Mr. Kuchma are derived from an investigation last year which found evidence linking Mr. Gongadze’s death to senior law enforcement officials in Mr. Kuchma’s government. The prosecution claimed that one of the primary suspects in carrying out the murder of Mr. Gongadze was Yuri Kravchenko, a former Interior Minister and high ranking official in President Kuchma’s government.

For more information, please see:

BBC —Ukraine Gongadze murder: Ex-President Kuchma charged – 24 March 2011

Financial Times – Ukraine’s ex-president charged over murder –24 March 2011

RTT – Ukraine Ex-President Arraigned In Journalist’s Murder – 24 March 2011

Voice of America — Former President Charged in 2000 Murder of Ukrainian Journalist –24 March 2011

Uganda police beat and torture detainees, according to report

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda – A special unit of Uganda’s police force routinely engages in brutal torture of prisoners, according to a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.

Thirteen months of research and testimony from more than one hundred interviews with former detainees, their families and members of the police unit exposed a unit that carries out torture, extortion and sometimes, extrajudicial killings, which are deliberate unlawful killings by security forces.

The R.R.U., created by President Yoweri Museveni in 2002 as an ad hoc security entity, was renamed the Rapid Response Unit in 2007. The unit makes arrests for crimes ranging from petty offenses to terrorism. Last year, it assisted the United States investigate terrorist attacks in Kampala during the World Cup, in which seventy people died.

A Human Rights Watch researcher in Uganda, Maria Burnett, said, “In cases we looked at by R.R.U., suspects were beaten until they confessed, paraded before journalists and dubbed hard-core criminals and then put on trial before military officers.”

The report stated that the R.R.U. frequently beats detainees with batons, glass bottles and metal pipes. In some cases, officers inserted pins under detainees’ fingernails. “I cannot recall the number of times they pierced my nails. My nails were destroyed. They were black, swollen, and painful. The needles were inserted under the nail, on both my hands and feet. They pierced every nail,” said a former female R.R.U. detainee charged with counterfeiting.

Though suspects in Uganda have the legal right to counsel, the report noted that “in practice, defendants do not receive a state-provided lawyer until their case is at trial and often spend years in detention before they ever meet a lawyer.” However, the absence of a lawyer during a suspect’s interrogation allows rampant torture to persist.

The report offered recommendations to various groups, including the Ugandan president and government, the police force, and other concerned governments, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Uganda said that it would continue to encourage Uganda police forces to respect human rights and the rule of law.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Ugandan police use torture, Human Rights Watch reports – 23 March 2011

Human Rights Watch – Uganda: Torture, Extortion, Killings by Police Unit – 23 March 2011

New York Times – Rights Group Accuses Ugandan Police of Torture and Killings – 23 March 2011

China’s censorship reaches a new level

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia

Google has accused the Chinese government of interfering with Gmail’s services (Photo courtesy of Reuters).

BEIJING, China– One Beijing entrepreneur called his fiancee to discuss restaurant choices during which he used the word “protest’ as he quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The second time he said the word “protest,” his phone cut off, according to the New York Times article.

Using the word “protest” in any context, whether through cell phone, text messages, or other electronic devices, it is reported that people’s services get cut off instantly. In the advent of a jasmine revolution sweeping the middle east and North Africa, Chinese government was swift in heightening its censorship level to the current state.

The report said a number of evidence in the past few weeks showed that Chinese authorities were resolute to censor and police cellphone calls, electronic messages, e-mail and access to the Internet in order to quell any hint of antigovernment movement.

“The hard-liners have won the field, and now we are seeing exactly how they want to run the place,” said Russell Leigh Moses, an analyst in Beijing on China’s leadership. “I think the gloves are coming off.”

In addition, a host of other evidence suggests that the government’s computers are equipped to intercept incoming data and compare it with an ever-growing list of banned keywords or Web sites. For example, for six months or more, the censors have prevented Google searches of the English word “freedom.”

According to Peking University professor Hu Yong, the newest technology and social media have not only helped citizens spread information amongst each other on outside events, but also the government in censoring what it perceived to be new threats. “The technology is improving and the range of sensitive terms is expanding because the depth and breadth of things they [government] must manage just keeps on growing,” Mr. Hu said.

China’s censorship has been in effect ever more strictly since the 2008 Olympics, with what first appeared to be temporary ban on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter now considered permanent. Now, Google might be its next target.

On Sunday, Google accused the Chinese government of disabling its Gmail service within the country, and of wrongfully blaming the interruption on technical errors by Google. According to a Mar 4 online article of People’s Daily, China’s main communist daily, Google was accused as being “a tool of the United States government.” Like Facebook and Twitter, the article was reported to have said, Google has “played a role in manufacturing social disorder” and sought to involve itself in other nations’ politics.

Internet expert Bill Bishop suspects that the regime’s grip could only tighten in the months to come, in order to control the transition of power as the Communist Party expects to see a new leader next year. “There’s a lot more they can do,” Bishop said, “but they’ve been holding back.”

For more information, please see:

Tibetan Review – ‘Protest’ a no-no word in China – 23 March 2011

The New York Times – China Tightens Censorship of Electronic Communications – 21 March 2011

Switched – China Ramps Up Online Censorship, To No One’s Surprise – 22 March 2011

South Dakota Gov. Signs Law Requiring 3-Day Wait for Abortion

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

Governor Daugaard Refused to Give Interviews After Signing Law; Photo Courtesy AP
Governor Daugaard Refused to Give Interviews After Signing Law; Photo Courtesy AP

PIERRE, South Dakota, US– South Dakota’s Republican governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law today that will require a woman seeking an abortion in the state to wait 72 hours.  During that 72 hours, the law requires the woman submit to two separate physician visits and counseling at a pregnancy help center, many of which focus on encouraging women to give birth and keep their child.  The law, which imposes the longest wait period for abortions in the nation, also mandates screening for unnamed mental and physical ‘risk factors’ during the wait period.  Governor Daugaard did not give any interviews after signing the law but did release a prepared statement in which he said, “I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives. . .I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”

Planned Parenthood, partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, has already stated they will be challenging the constitutionality of the bill in the courts.  Kathi Di Nicola, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota said, “It’s not going to do one thing to reduce unintended pregnancy or reduce abortion. . .We know women think carefully and consider all their options before making a decision like this.”  Supporters of the law say Planned Parenthood, which operates the only clinic that offers abortion services in the state, does not provide adequate counseling before performing the procedure.

The state plans to publish a list of approved pregnancy help centers when the law goes into effect in July.  Republican Representative Roger Hunt, one of the bills main supporters, said “Women need to just be reminded of the fact there is a natural, legal relationship between them and their child.”  However, many claim the pregnancy help centers do not counsel women on all their options and are aimed primarily at dissuading a woman from choosing abortion.  The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League’s policy director, Donna Crane, stated in response to the law, “We think this is among the most dangerous times for the right to choose since Roe v. Wade.”

South Dakota has been at the heart of heated political debate about abortion in recent years.  In 2006 and 2008, lawmakers passed legislation that would ban abortions in the state and both times the ballot initiatives were defeated by at least a 10 point margin.  Jan Nicolay, co-chair of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, says this new law is an invasion of privacy, infringes on the doctor-patient relationship and will cost tax payers.  “Now, despite the fact that South Dakotans have repeatedly spoken on issues of government interference in private decisions, we will once more be pulled into a protracted legal battle that will potentially cost the state millions in tax dollars.”

For more information, please see;

APSD Governor Signs 3-Day Wait for Abortion Into Law– 22 March, 2011

Christian Science MonitorSouth Dakota Anti-abortion Law Breaks New Ground– 22 March, 2011

ReutersSouth Dakota Law Requires 3-Day Abortion Wait 22 march, 2011

Djibouti Bans Election Observer Group Less Than a Month Before Vote

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Protesters at the Feb. 18 Djibouti Anti-Government Rally; Photo Courtesy AFP
Protesters at the Feb. 18 Djibouti Anti-Government Rally; Photo Courtesy AFP

DJIBOUTI- Djibouti’s government has ousted Democracy International (DI), a United States based election observation and reporting agency, less than a month before the upcoming presidential election on April 8.  Foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf told the Financial Times that DI had failed to maintain political neutrality by supporting opposition parties against the incumbent president Ismael Guelleh.  In declaring DI ‘illegal’ earlier this month, Youssouf said the government hopes to avoid the “chaos and upheaval” seen in the protests and demonstrations of other African and Middle East countries in the last several months.

The head of DI’s operation in Djibouti, Chris Hennemeyer, has denied the group was involved in any illegal activity and asserts DI was only trying to help resolve disputes between Guelleh’s administration and opposition groups when protests began in February.  That protest, which took place on February 18 of this year, attracted approximately 6,000 anti-government supporters.  That rally ended violently when police fired on the crowd, many of whom were throwing rocks.  Dozens were injured and at least one protesters was killed.  Another opposition rally was scheduled for March 4 but did not take place after security forces filled the streets making it impossible for people to gather.

Much of the discontent is aimed at Guelleh himself.  Guelleh’s family has maintained exclusive political control of Djibouti since its independence in 1977 and he has been president since 1999.  In March 2010, Guelleh amended the constitution to remove the two term limit, which would have forced him from office this year, giving himself two more six-year terms.  Opposition leaders are boycotting the upcoming election, saying Guelleh’s actions are illegal and the polls will be rigged.  Many have demanded his resignation and as fears of violent demonstrations escalate, individuals within the opposition movements have been arrested.  Four leaders of one such group were arrested and held for several hours last Friday.  After being released, the group leaders said, “We warn the illegal candidate [Guelleh] against his irresponsible actions at the risk of seeing radicalization of our actions, which have up to now been peaceful. . .The opposition can no longer continue to respect the law when the ruling power itself tramples on it.”

Guelleh’s administration has extended invitations to the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League to observe Djibouti’s April 8 elections and insists they will be fair and free.  However, it is unlikely any of these groups will be able to set up an adequate system to monitor the elections in time.  Hennemeyer said he does not know what will happen in Djibouti, stating “I don’t see Djibouti moving backward, but I’m not sure I see it moving forward in a democratic sense either.”

For more information, please see;

Bloomberg– Djibouti Bans a US-Backed Democracy Advocacy Group One-Month Before Vote15 March, 2011

Sify NewsDjibouti Evicts US Vote Group Ahead of Election21 March, 2011

Financial TimesElection Observers Quit Djibouti15 March, 2011

Thousands Of Flood Victims Not Receiving Necessary Aid

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Colombia following heavy rains and flooding in 2010 (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Colombia following heavy rains and flooding in 2010 (photo courtesy of Colombia Reports)

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to a Colombian radio report, aid, including food, for nearly 40,000 families impacted by last year’s flooding will soon perish. A local chamber of commerce has suspended delivery to victims due to apparent cost overruns in aid spending, causing the food to spoil.

The suspension order came after Sandra Morelli, Colombia’s comptroller general, warned that some of the food products, along with hygiene kits, might be being bought at unnecessarily high prices. Gustavo Marin Rincon, the owner of the site where the aid is being stored has asked the chamber of commerce to lift the suspension, at least temporarily. Rincon fears that any delay in delivering supplies could risk worsening the humanitarian situation in the region.

According to Morelli, the department has seen a 39% excess in the price of basic necessities, such as food and toiletry kits, to the region to help flood victims. Recently, research into corrupt practices found significant differences in the costs of goods as recorded in the contracts and those for the goods which were actually included in the food and bathroom kits.

In one example, the research found that a pound of rolled oats costs about $1.20 according to the contract, but the oats included in the food kits cost just $0.3 per pound. Morelli has also requested that the origin and quality of the products be tested, as many of the products are apparently Chinese and low quality.

Following the floods, which impacted over a million people, the Colombian government claimed that over $500 million would be necessary to aid the flood relief. Since that time, the aid project has been riddled with problems over the distribution of money.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports –Aid Supplies to Flood Victims not Reaching 40,000 Families – 22 March 2011

Colombia Reports – Flood Aid Misused in North Colombia: Comptroller – 14 March 2011

The Korea Herald – Colombia Requests Aid for Rain, Flood Victims – 13 March 2011

UN Rights Expert Urges Dialogue Between Suriname and Indigenous Groups

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

James Anaya is a rights expert with the UN. (Photo courtesy of the UN)
James Anaya is a rights expert with the UN. (Photo courtesy of the UN)

PARAMARIBO, Suriname—According to a human rights expert from the United Nations, Suriname’s government and authorities have not been engaging in enough dialogue with indigenous citizens.  The expert is seeking to encourage necessary dialogue between officials and indigenous groups.  It is hoped that this communication will strengthen indigenous communities’ rights to resources and land in certain forested areas within Suriname.

The UN expert is James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.  Anaya recently ended a four-day visit to Suriname where he attended meetings with indigenous and tribal groups, senior officials in President Desi Bouterse’s government, and UN staff members.  This trip marked the first time an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council ever visited Suriname.

On Thursday, Anaya released a statement in Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital, noting that increased dialogue between indigenous groups and government officials should facilitate “practical steps necessary to move forward with securing indigenous and tribal land rights, in accordance with relevant international treaties to which Suriname is a part.”

The UN expert commented that his visit had been “fruitful and constituted a unique and valuable opportunity for dialogue and consultation.”  He promised to collaborate with both Suriname’s government and the indigenous groups to aid their communication with regards to land and resource rights.  There has been no immediate official comment by Suriname’s government.

Several years ago, the Saramaka indigenous people brought a case against Suriname to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  In 2007, the Court ruled in the Saramaka group’s favor, giving them collective rights to ancestral lands where they had lived for many years.  The Court also granted the indigenous group other rights to resources in the area.

For more information, please see:

Modern Ghana-UN rights expert urges greater dialogue between Suriname and indigenous groups-18 March 2011

Taiwan News-Expert: Suriname, tribal groups must engage more-18 March 2011

UN News Centre-UN rights expert urges greater dialogue between Suriname and indigenous groups-17 March 2011

U.S. War Crimes of Korean War Pt.1/2

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – The US atrocities during the Korean War have emerged casting a shadow over the conduct of US officers and generals in command during the conflict.

The Korean War left Korea, North and South, with several million dead and the UN forces involved in the fighting with over 100,000 casualties.

Novel by Philip D. Chinnery documenting the atrocities during the Korean War
Novel by Philip D. Chinnery documenting the atrocities during the Korean War

Published testimonies, by BBC, of Korean survivors who recall such killings, and the candid accounts of American veterans brave enough to admit involvement open the World to American atrocities once forgotten.

The Korean War began on June 25th 1950 when communist North Korea invaded the South with six army divisions. The United States decided to intervene in the defense of the South and, taking advantage of the Soviet absence from the UN Security Council, proceeded to press for UN resolutions condemning the invasion. A resolution was passed, days later, calling upon member countries to give assistance to South Korea to repulse the attack.

The American troops who were rushed to the front line straight from occupation duty in Tokyo in July 1950 were badly led, undertrained and underprepared and quickly defeated by superior North Korean forces. North Korean guerrilla methods were too advanced for US commanders, reports BBC reporter Jeremy Williams.

The surprise attack from the North produced a refugee crisis were up to two million refugees were running across the battlefield.

Fearing North Korean infiltration, the US leadership panicked. All civilians were seen as the enemy.

As a result, on July 26th the US 8th Army, the highest level of command in Korea, issued orders to stop all Korean civilians. ‘No, repeat, no refugees will be permitted to cross battle lines at any time. Movement of all Koreans in groups will cease immediately’ reports Williams.

The same day US 8th Army delivered its stop refugee order in July 1950, up to 400 South Korean civilians gathered by the bridge were killed by US forces from the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Some were shot above the bridge, on the railroad tracks. Others were strafed by US planes. Local survivors say more were killed under the arches in an ordeal that lasted for three days.

‘The floor under the bridge was a mixture of gravel and sand. People clawed with their bare hands to make holes to hide in,’ recalls survivor Yang Hae Chan. ‘Other people piled up the dead like a barricade, and hid behind the bodies as a shield against the bullets.’

Corroborating the Korean survivors’ testimony are the accounts of 35 veterans of the 7th Cavalry Regiment who recall events at No Gun Ri.

‘There was a lieutenant screaming like a madman, fire on everything, kills ’em all,’ recalls 7th Cavalry veteran Joe Jackman. ‘I didn’t know if they were soldiers or what. Kids, there was kids out there, it didn’t matter what it was, eight to 80, blind, crippled or crazy, they shot ’em all’ said Jackman.

The killings discovered at No Gun Ri mark one of the largest single massacres of civilians by American forces in the 20th century.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Kill ’em All: The American Military in Korea – 17 February 2011

Global Research – The Korean War: The “Unknown War”. The Coverup of US War Crimes – 16 March 2011

New York Times – Korean War Panel Finds U.S. Attacks on Civilians – 9 July 2009


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                    Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MIAMI, United States – Victims of United States syphilis experiments in Guatemala have filed a class action law suit to recover for their resulting illness and infections from 1946 to 1948.  The lawsuit alleges that U.S. public health officials violated both national and international laws by conducting syphilis experiments on prison inmates, orphans and mentally ill citizens of Guatemala.   All of the experiments were funded by the National Institute of Health.

U.S. officials infected Guatemalan prisoners, orphan children and mental health patients with syphilis.  Photo courtesy of CNN.
U.S. officials infected Guatemalan prisoners, orphan children and mental health patients with syphilis. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Filed by victims or direct heirs, the lawsuit claims that the illegal testing was part of a larger scheme to continue the syphilis experiments previously performed on African Americans in the state of Alabama from 1942-1972.  The complaint alleges that “This decision to move to Guatemala was part of a deliberate plan to continue the Tuskegee testing offshore, where it would not be subject to the same level of oversight as in the United States.”

The Tuskegee experiments were a notorious study which involved the medical testing and deliberate failure to inform 400 African American men of their syphilis infection.  Under the guise of receiving medical care for “bad blood,” these poor and uneducated men were promised free meals and burial expenses if they allowed the government to autopsy their bodies after their deaths.

Susan M. Reverby, a writer and professor at Wellesley College began researching for her follow up book on the syphilis experiments, “Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy,” when she uncovered the Guatemalan experiments.  

Reverby immediately alerted the federal government of her findings, despite the usual practice of academics of keeping the content of their work private before publication.  A recent article published in the Journal of Policy History, Reverby states that “Public Health Service researchers did, in fact, deliberately infect poor and vulnerable men and women with syphilis in order to study the disease.”  She further claims that “The mistake of the myth is to set that story in Alabama, when it took place further south, in Guatemala.”

Dr. John Cutler, former assistant surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service (PHS), was discovered to not only have been a researcher in Tuskegee, but the physician responsible for conducting the Guatemalan experiments.

The lawsuit indicates that American doctors along with “The medical team started with inmates in the national penitentiary, using American taxpayer money to hire prostitutes who tested positive for syphilis or gonorrhea to offer sexual services to inmates.”  Requiring an uninfected group to determine error for false positive received from various inmates, the doctors moved to performing blood work on children in orphanages.  Later, mental patients were tested and inoculated with the sexually transmitted disease.

The U.S. doctors convinced the institutions officials to participate using various methods of ‘payment’.  Some received supplies such as refrigerators, while other officials received difficult to obtain medications for diseases such as epilepsy and malaria. In some instances, individual subjects -prison inmates- received compensation in the form of cigarettes.  Inmates receiving prostitutes received women already infected with syphilis.

In October, President Barack Obama created a bioethics panel to look into the studies.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius both issued a public apology.  

The class action lawsuit currently contains 7 plaintiffs despite the 700 subjects that were allegedly victims of the syphilis experiments. 

For More Information Please Visit:

Huffington Post – U.S. Guatemala Syphilis Tests: Attorneys Seek Lawsuit For Thousands Of Victims – 8 March 2011

CNN – Guatemalans Sue U.S. Over Medical Experiments – 16 March 2011

Fox News – Secretly Infected with Syphilis, Guatemalan Victims May Sue U.S – 9 March 2011

The Root – The Guatemala Syphilis Experiments Tuskegee Roots – 2 October 2010