U.N.: Attack on Ivory Coast Market “A War Crime”

Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Damage from a 81mm shell fired into Abodo neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of
Damage from a shell fired into the Abodo neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Defenceweb).

 ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – On Thursday, March 17, at least six mortar shells were fired into Abodo, a neighborhood in northern Abidjan. The attack killed between 25 and 30 people and wounded more than 40. The United Nations (U.N.) mission in Ivory Coast claims the attack may qualify as “a crime against humanity.” The U.N. believes this attack was carried out by forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. Numerous international observers believe the once stable West African nation is heading towards civil war.

On Friday, a statement from the United Nations mission to Ivory Coast claimed nearly 100 people were killed or wounded when at least six 81 mm shells were fired into the Abodo district. The statement also noted that “such an act, perpetrated against civilians, could constitute a crime against humanity.” One of the shells hit the Saika Kone market where shoppers had congregated. The U.N. believes the shells were fired from a military base in Abodo and the perpetrators of the attack had been aiming for the market area. Abodo, a northern suburb in Abidjan is controlled by militias loyal to Mr. Gbagbo’s rival, Alassane Ouattara.

According to U.N. human rights chief  Navi Pillay, members of her office went to the scene of the attack and collected physical evidence. Specifically, her investigators noted “”shelling impacts were visible throughout the market and at least three houses were destroyed.”  Ms. Pillay also explained that her “mission collected photographic evidence of the damage caused as well as physical evidence of shell remains.”

Mr. Gbabgo has denied any involvement in the incident. In response to the U.N. statement, Ahoua Don Mello, a spokesman for Mr. Gbagbo’s government, told the AFP news agency the accusations were part of a larger conspiracy by the U.N. and France to oust Mr. Gbabgo and install Mr. Ouattara as president. Further, Mr. Gbabgo claimed that since forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara took control of the neighborhood, his security forces have not had access to Abodo.

International observers claim that this incident is another example of pro-Gbagbo forces firing upon innocent civilians.  The United Nations claims over 400 people have been killed since the disputed presidential election. Prior to the election, Ivory Coast was a peaceful nation prospering from its role as the world’s largest cocoa producer.

For more information, please see:

ABC NEWS — UN Condemns Mortar Attack on Ivory Coast Market – 19 March 2011
2011

New York Times — Ivory Coast: Attack on Market May Be War Crime, U.N. Says – 18 March 2011

Press TV — Dozens killed in Ivory Coast violence – 18 March 2011

Reuters — UPDATE 4-Gbagbo forces kill at least 25 in Abidjan attacks-U.N. – 17 March 2011

RTT News — UN Condemns Mortar Attack On Ivory Coast Market – 18 March 2011

UPI — U.N. wants ‘scale up’ in Ivory Coast – 19 March 2011

Protesters Demand New Government As Wages Fall in Swaziland

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Protesters March Peacefully on Swazilands Capital Friday; Photo Courtesy of Reuters
Protesters March Peacefully on Swaziland's Capital Friday; Photo Courtesy of Reuters

MBABANE, SwazilandAs many as ten thousand students, nurses, teachers and other Swazi workers marched through the Swaziland capital of Mbabane on Friday, peacefully protesting the country’s unstable economy.  The protesters are calling for an end to Swaziland’s government which is the last absolute monarchy in Africa, led by King Mswati III.  Swaziland is currently suffering a sharp economic downturn which has caused a majority of wages to drop as much as 60 percent.  Additionally, the International Monetary Fund has denied recent loan requests from the country, stating that Swaziland’s government needs to cut public spending before it can be considered for more loans.

In a statement to the state-run newspaper, Mswati said “We need to work even harder and sacrifice even more today for a better tomorrow. The storms shall pass for sure.”  The protesters who gathered Friday say that suggesting they give up even more in order for conditions to improve is ‘laughable’.  Many are attacking Mswati’s actions, citing his lavish lifestyle, as the factors that have bankrupted the small South African country.  Mswati has been in power for 25 years and despite the fact that his worth is estimated at $100 million USD, average wages in Swaziland are less than $1.  He has lived for years with multiple wives who have separate palaces and it is reported the king has a fleet of luxury cars for his personal use.

It appears the government’s plans to celebrate Mswati’s upcoming coronation anniversary, in combination with the economic slump, prompted Friday’s protest.  Signs in the crowd read “Why Cut Salaries, Cut Corrupt Government” and “Down With Celebrations”.  In a country where political parties are illegal and past demonstrations have resulted in police intervention, Friday’s protest marked the largest gathering of its kind in Swaziland in recent years.

During the protest, Mario Masuku, head of the banned opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) stated, “Swaziland cannot remain an island of dictatorship in the sea of democracy. . .Royalty has squandered the economy. . .We want a government by the people.”  The protesters marched to Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini’s office and gave him a petition which called for the resignation of Dlamini and his cabinet.  The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has been working with the unions and the Swazi government during wage negotiations, has issued a statement commending Friday’s protesters.  Cosatu is not only calling for sanctions against the Swazi royal family for greed and corruption but is also planning to organize multiple events and rallies over the coming weeks in an effort to stand in solidarity with Swazi workers.  “Let these actions serve as a clear statement to the world, to SADC [South African Development Community] and to our own government that merely standing by and watching Mswati is an act of accomplice in the persecution of the people of Swaziland.”

For more information, please see;

BBCSwaziland: Protest at Pay Freeze While King Celebrates18 March, 2011

AFPWork harder, Don’t Protest Swazi King Says: Media19 March, 2011

UPISwaziland Protesters Demand New Government19 March, 2011

Mail & GuardianCosatu to Intensify Role in Swazi Protests19 March, 2011

Chechen Women Must Follow Dress Code Or Face Abuse

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

GROZNY, Russia — A human rights group recently released a report detailing the enforcement of an Islamic dress code in Chechnya, and the resulting abuse women suffer if they do not comply with the dress code. The report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and entitled “You Dress According to Their Rules: Enforcement of an Islamic Dress Code for Women in Chechnya” can be read in full here.

The report is 40 pages long and details the violence, harassment, and threats women in Chechnya face if they do not follow the Islamic dress code. HRW interviewed dozens of women for the report, each of whom had either been a victim themselves or witnessed attacks or harassment against women for not complying with the compulsory dress code. The interviews reveal that women are attacked with paint gun pellets by men thought to be Chechen law enforcement. The men also hand out leaflets claiming the paintball shootings were preventative and if women still refuse to wear head scarves and dress modestly, then more “persuasive” methods would be used.

One of the victims interviewed, identified as Louiza, said she and a friend were attacked while walking down a street in Grozny. They weren’t wearing head scarves. They were wearing skirts a little below the knee and blouses with sleeves a bit above the elbow. Louiza reported that a car pulled up with its side window rolled down and a gun barrel pointed at them. According to the HRW report, Louiza said “I thought the gun was real and when I heard the shots I thought, ‘This is death.’ I felt something hitting me in the chest and was sort of thrown against the wall of a building. The sting was awful, as if my breasts were being pierced with a red-hot needle, but I wasn’t fainting or anything and suddenly noticed some strange green splattering on the wall and this huge green stain was also expanding on my blouse. So, I understood it was paint.” Louiza said the men in the car were wearing the military-style black uniform law enforcement officials wear and she added that “[i]t’s only at home that I could examine the bruise and it was so huge and ugly. Since then, I don’t dare leave home without a headscarf.”

Another victim reported that while walking down a street in Grozny with friends and not wearing head scarves, men in military-style black uniforms shot paintballs at them and screamed, “Cover your hair, harlots!” The woman said that male bystanders watching the incident applauded the attack and claimed it served the women right. The HRW report goes on to detail other incidents like this one.

The dress code is part of a “virtue campaign” started in 2006 by Kremlin-backed Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. The campaign began with local authorities prohibiting women from working in the public sector if their heads weren’t covered. This enforcement is prohibited by Russian law, but is still strictly enforced in Chechnya. Also, education authorities began requiring women attending schools and universities wear head scarves. The requirement of wearing a head scarf was eventually applied to other public places.

According to HRW, this virtue campaign violates “freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the right to personal autonomy and expression, guaranteed by Russia’s constitution and international human rights obligations.” HRW has urged that the Kremlin should make it absolutely clear that Chechen women are free to dress however they choose and that any attacks or harassment should be fully investigated. Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has instructed Chechen authorities to investigate the paintball attacks, but nothing else has been done to further the investigations.

Kadyrov, who rules with the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has actually explained publicly that women must be forced to dress modestly in order to prevent men from having to do their duty and kill them. “A woman should know her place,” Kadyrov said in an interview last July. “[In Chechnya] man is the master. Here, if a woman does not behave properly, her husband, father, and brothers are responsible. According to our tradition, if a woman fools around, her family members are obliged to kill her…. As president, I cannot allow them to kill. Therefore, let women not dress indecently.”

For more information, please see:

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR — Report: Chechen women attacked with paintball guns for ‘immodest’ dress — 11 March 2011

AP — HRW: Chechen women abused if refuse to cover head — 10 March 2011

HRW — Russia: Chechnya Enforcing Islamic Dress Code — 10 March 2011

Three Senior Officials Convicted For Deadly Clash With Indians

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

The indigenous peoples protest that sparked the bloody clash with police in June 2009. (photo courtesy of Living in Peru)
The indigenous people's protest that sparked the bloody clash with police in June 2009. (photo courtesy of Living in Peru)

LIMA, Peru – A Peruvian military court has imposed suspended prison sentences for three senior police and army officers in connection with the deaths of 24 cops and 10 civilians during the June 2009 protests in the Amazonian town of Bagua. The conflict, which came to be known as “Baguazo,” was Lima’s deadliest class in a decade.

Among those receiving suspended sentences are retired police Generals Luis Murguruza and Javier Uribe and army General Raul Silva Alban, who were convicted of dereliction of duty. In addition to their prison sentences, the men also were ordered to pay fines.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Aidesep), who organized the original demonstration in 2009, touted the verdicts as confirmation that official misconduct can no longer be “swept under the rug.”

There is; however, still controversy surrounding the confrontation. Alberto Pizango, leader of Aidesep, was critical of President Alan Garcia’s decision to shield his Cabinet ministers from any accountability, in contrast to the actions of the military court. Although then-Premier Yehude Simon and the rest of the Cabinet resigned after the Baguazo, no member of the government has faced any judicial consequences.

The events leading up to the Baguazo began in April 2009, when indigenous people were opposed to laws giving Lima power to grant mining, logging and drilling concessions on Indian lands without consulting residents disrupted transport links and seized control of oil-industry installations, effectively shutting down a pipeline that carries crude oil from the Amazon interior to Peru’s northern coast.

The clashes began in June 2009 when police tried to clear a road blocked by thousands of indigenous people an quickly became bloody.

For more information, please see:

Peruvian Times –Indigenous Leaders Criticize Sentence of Bagua Conflict – 17 March 2011

Latin American Herald Tribune – Peru Police, Army Brass Convicted of Deadly Clash with Indians – 15 March 2011

Living in Peru – Police and Military Receive Sentences Two Years After Bagua Violence – 15 March 2011

Attacks on Civilians Continue in Libya Despite UN Resolution

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya – Government forces continue to advance on rebel strongholds in Libya Friday despite declaring an immediate ceasefire to hostilities with civilian opposition.  Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa declared that “Libya has decided an immediate ceasefire and an immediate halt to military operations.”  The announcement came shortly after the passage of a UN Security Council resolution calling for the end to the government’s violent suppression of civilians and threatening military enforcement if the resolution’s conditions are not met.  Rebel forces however, say that Colonel Gaddafi is “bluffing” and report facing bombing raids and attacks from Libyan troops in a number of cities.   

UN Security Council votes to take all necessary measures to protect Libyan citizens (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)
UN Security Council votes to take "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan citizens (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Security Council Resolution 1973, passed on Thursday, condemns the suppression of Libyan citizens by the Gaddafi regime and authorizes the international community to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilian populations in Libya.  In particular, the resolution authorizes the international community to establish no-fly zones and initiate an arms embargo.  The creation of no-fly zones over Libyan airspace would require the destruction of Libyan air defense systems.  While the resolution states that international forces will not be deployed on the ground, it notes that Libyan military forces may be legitimate targets of international enforcement efforts if they fail to halt operations against civilians.  In conjunction with Res. 1973, the UN also ratcheted up economic sanctions against the government and froze Libyan assets.

The Resolution also condemns the government’s deployment of mercenaries to subdue civilian resistance.  The regime has actively recruited mercenaries from surrounding countries and tribal regions.  Advertisements for pro-Qaddafi fighters have been launched in a number of countries including Kenya and Ginuea.  Reports indicate that mercenaries are offered up to $2500 per day to fight for the Libyan government.  Manpavan Joth Kaur, commentator for S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), expresses that mercenaries are particularly “dangerous and brutal because they are monetarily-motivated and lack personal or cultural ties with the local people. Their earnings are guaranteed on unconditional loyalty to their recruiters.” 

The International Criminal Court has warned that the government’s indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations constitute “war crimes.”  The United Nations estimates that over 1000 people have been killed and an additional 300,000 have fled Libya since clashes began a month ago.  A coordinated international humanitarian aid effort has been organized to assist those displaced by the crisis.

To read the full text of Resolution 1973 click here.

To watch President Obama’s remarks about Res. 1973 click here

For more information please see:

Sydney Morning Herald – Rebels say Libyan Govt Ceasefire a Bluff – Mar. 19, 2011

ABC News – How Would a No-Fly Zone Work Over Libya? – Mar. 18, 2011

Bloomberg – Libya’s Qaddafi Under Threat from Allied Military Forces – Mar. 18, 2011

RSIS Commentaries – “Mercenaries” in Libya: Impact of Legal Impunity – Mar. 17, 2011

UPI – Gadhafi’s Mercenaries Trigger Terror Alarm – Mar. 17 2011

Former Presidential Candidate Flees Belarus

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Opposition Leader Ales Mikhalevich. (Photo courtesy of Guardian).
Opposition Leader Ales Mikhalevich. (Photo courtesy of Guardian).

 MINSK, Belarus –  Fearing another round of interrogation and detention, Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich has fled the country. Mr. Mikhalevich spent nearly three months in a prison cell following the December 9, 2010 elections. He claims he was tortured while in custody of the Belarus state security forces (KGB). Mr. Mikhalevich and several hundred other members of the opposition were arrested after protesting the December election results where Mr. Alyaksandr Lukashenka was elect president.

Mr. Mikhalevich was released from custody on February 19 and then fled the country on March 14. In a recent blog post Mr. Mikhalevich claimed he was safe and beyond the reach of Belarusian state security forces, however he did not reveal his exact location. Prior to fleeing the country, Mr. Mikhalevich described his time at the KGB detention center including claims he was tortured. Specifically, he claims he was placed in a cold room, stripped, and hung by his hands for several hours. Furthermore, he was forced to sign a document claiming he would collaborate with the KGB in order to be released. The KGB has denied Mr. Mikhalevich’s accusations including his claims of torture.

The December 9 presidential election brought Mr. Lukashenka back to power in a vote that was seen by many international observers as flawed. Following the election, the Belarus government cracked down on opposition figures and jailed over 700 opposition supporters including seven presidential candidates. Included in these figures are Andrey Sannikau and Mikalay Statkevich, both former presidential candidates who are still in custody. Additionally, Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, another former presidential candidate, has been placed under house arrest. All three individuals have been charged with organizing mass disturbances and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In a 31-page report released on Monday, March 14, Human Rights Watch describes the brutal crackdown on opposition groups and human rights abuses taking place in Belarus. The report claims individuals in custody for protesting election day results have not had access to defense counsel and have not been able to call their own witnesses. Additionally, offices for human rights organizations have been raided and the Belarus government is putting pressure on lawyers representing defendants’ accused of criminal charges relating to post-election protests.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Belarus politician ‘flees torture’   — 14 March 2011

Human Rights Watch – Shattering Hopes – 14 March 2011

New York Times — Former Presidential Candidate, Claiming Abuse, Flees Belarus – 14 March 2011

Radio Free Europe — ‘Fleeing’ Belarusian Opposition Figure Says Doing Fine – 16 March 2011

Peruvian War Criminal Arrested in UK

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

A Peruvian death squad in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)
A Peruvian death squad in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

Tiverton, UNITED KINGDOM–A Peruvian man has been arrested after becoming a suspect in alleged human rights abuses.  The man is a yet-unnamed political exile who has been living in the quiet town of Tiverton, England, after claiming asylum.  He is suspected of being involved in state-supported death squads, torturing and executing more than 100 people in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s.  The death squads he is suspected of being associated with used to target leftist rebel movements, including the infamous Shining Path.  A change in UK anti-war crimes laws has made the arrest of the man possible.

Metropolitan Police officers from an anti-terrorist squad arrested the suspect Tuesday morning at a residence in Devon.  The address and a business location were searched.  A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police stated:  “A 46-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of torture and crimes against humanity and has been detained at Exeter police station to be interviewed.”  The suspect has since been released on bail and will return to a central London police station in July.

Civil conflicts in the man’s native country of Peru were common between 1980 and 2000; during those years, about 70,000 people vanished.  A Maoist guerrilla group called Shining Path was responsible for destructive military campaigns in 1980.  Approximately half of the deaths and disappearances that took place during this period have been attributed to organizations like Shining Path.

The United Kingdom has been seen as a hiding place for alleged war criminals because of a lack of prosecutions and arrests.  The arrest of this suspect Tuesday came after an alteration in the law last year.  The new version of the law extends the historical cut-off point from 2001 to 1991 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.

Nick Donovan, one of many who worked to change the law, said, “Before the recent change in UK law many of the dozens of British residents suspected of crimes against humanity couldn’t be prosecuted for crimes committed in the 1990s.  It’s great to see the new law being used already.  Obviously this man is innocent until proven guilty, but if this arrest leads to a successful prosecution it will be a great day for the families of the victims.”

For more information, please see:

CNN-British police make arrest linked to Peru abuses-17 March 2011

Daily Mail-Peruvian ‘war criminal’ is arrested . . . in Tiverton-17 March 2011

Independent-Peruvian ‘war criminal’ found in Tiverton-17 March 2011

Sri Lankan War Crimes Investigation: Senate Resolution Passed

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – An independent mechanism was requested by the United States to investigate alleged War crimes and crimes against humanity caused by the Sri Lankan military as their civil war drew to a close.

US State Department plays ‘ultimate savior of genocidal Colombo’
US State Department plays ‘ultimate savior of genocidal Colombo’

A resolution was passed by the United States Senate calling on the current Sri Lankan administration and the international community to support the United Nations in putting plans together, holding Sri Lanka to an international standard of accountability against human right violations.

Senator Robert Casey presented the resolution as sympathetic to the Tamil cause.

As we approach the two-year anniversary for the end of the 26-year conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka, a “Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)” was established by the Sri Lanka Government.

This LLRC was established to determine who bears responsibility for incidents that occurred between February 2002 and May 2009. The LLRC also recommends agencies to proactively prevent recurrences of a similar nature in the future, while promoting national unity for all communities.

Panels of Human Rights and International Law experts have been appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in counseling the Sri Lankan Government toward human rights accountability.

The Government of Sri Lanka must “allow humanitarian organizations, aid agencies, journalists, and international human rights groups’ greater freedom of movement, including in internally-displaced persons camps” and make strides in establishing a democracy rule of law.

The growing global voice of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees domiciled in the U.S. and European nations has created outcry for Sri Lanka to face an international commission and for alleged violations of international humanitarian laws.

The Sri Lankan Government claims no civilian were lost during military advances against Tamil separatists.

But, global rights group Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch possess evidence that an estimated 40,000 noncombatants lost their lives during the months of conflict.

The Sri Lankan military projects blame on the Tamil strike forces for their alleged use of nearly “300,000 civilians as human shields”.

Assistant secretary Blake told AFP in an interview “The point I would make is now here we are almost two years after the end of the war and still these kinds of challenges to, particularly to press freedoms and media freedoms continue. It’s a bit unusual and a bit counter-intuitive. Again, the LTTE is no longer a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s important to say that if Sri Lanka is not willing to meet international standards regarding these matters, there would be pressure to appoint an international commission to look into these things, ” says Blake.

This process has become more common in recent weeks as the United Nations Security Council recently passed a resolution unanimously against Libya and the referral of Moammar Qadhafi to the International Criminal Court to impartially investigate suspected war crimes as well as strong arm abuses against his people.

Senate Resolution 84 is a simple resolution, and “although it is non-binding, it does express the concerns of American lawmakers that the government of Sri Lanka provide a credible and fair mechanism of ensuring accountability for possible violations of human rights during the war,” a US Embassy official told the Daily Mirror.

For more information, please see:

Hindustan Times – US call for probe in Lanka – 3 March 2011

Asian Tribune – US Senate/ State Department in consensus to bring Sri Lanka under global scrutiny for alleged war crimes – 3 March 2011

– US call for independent mechanism – 3 March 2011

Colombo Page  – US Senate resolution expressing support for reconciliation in Sri Lanka introduced – 2 March 2011

Tamil Net – US Senate Resolution calls for accountability for Sri Lanka war crimes – 2 March 2011

Times Online – US Senate resolution backs Lanka war crimes panel – 2 March 2011

MANHUNT CONTINUES FOR CANADIAN FUGITIVES INVOLVED IN NYC TERROR PLOT

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                   Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

TORONTO, Canada – Two Canadian fugitives are now facing conspiracy, instruction and training to carry out terrorist activity charges in Canada, authorities announced at a news conference in Winnipeg Tuesday.  Two  of three other New York co-conspirators, including one, Najibullah Zazi, pled guilty to the bombing attempt carried out on behalf of al Qaeda in 2009.  Maiwand Yar and  FeridImam are now the subjects of an international manhunt which some believe includes the CIA.

Maiwand Yar, left, and Ferid Imam, are the subjects of an international manhunt.  Photo courtesy of CNN.
Maiwand Yar, left, and FeridImam, are the subjects of an international manhunt. Photo courtesy of CNN.

A former student at the University of Manitoba, Imam, 30, has been identified as a weapons instructor known as “Youseff.” 

Authorities indicated that both Imam and Yar left Canada for Pakistan in 2007.  Authorities believe they planned to receive training in scouting, the use of firearms, guerrilla warfare and the use of explosives. Their goal was to join insurgents in committing terrorist attacks on NATO forces currently stationed in Afghanistan.  

Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner Bill Robinson indicated that “This extensive and thorough national security investigation has provided us with the evidence we require to lay criminal charges.”

A second indictment from the Eastern District of New York, unsealed on Tuesday, revealed charges that Imam received military training from al Qaedasubjects and provided material support to the known terrorist group  “including currency, lodging, training, safehouses, communications equipment, personnel and transportation.”

Imam is also accused of training the three New Yorkers involved and caught in the New York City plot.  Authorities further believe that in 2008, Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin were trained and supported by Imam during a trip to northern Pakistan.  The three former high school classmates returned to the United States with orders from al-Qaeda to commit terrorist attacks in the United States, specifically as suicide bombers.

At the command of al-Qaeda leaders, Zazi, an airport driver from Denver, traveled to New York to carry out orders in 2009.  He was later arrested after fleeing to Colorado.   Zazi and Ahmedzay pled guilty to all charges while Medunjanin alone has pled not guilty.

Unable to locate and arrest the two missing fugitives, Canadian authorities charged Zaxi and Yar, issuing their indictment in absentia.  “We continue to work with Canadian border services and domestic and international security partners on this matter,” says assistant commissioner Robinson.

Gilles Michaud, a second commissioner of the RCMP acknowledged that authorities have no credible leads regarding the fugitives’ locations.  “There’s been no proof of life for more than a year,” he stated.

Canadian authorities and counter-terrorismofficials have become increasingly concerned about the radicalization of such men from North America and Europe.  “There is no set criteria. It affects all walks of life. These were well-educated, young individuals with no past criminal history and supportive families,” Michaud stated.

The investigation is ongoing.

For More Information Please Visit

CNN – Canadians Facing Terror Charges in 2009 N.Y. Subway Plot – 15 March 2011

Washington Post – Canadian Fugitive Charged With Foiled Al-Qaida Plot Vs NYC Subways; More Charges In Canada – 15 March 2011

Toronto Sun – Ex-Winnipeggers Accused of Terrorism – 15 March 2011

Huffington Post – Ferid Imam, Canadian Fugitive Charged In NYC Subway Plot

Six Years Later, Laptop in Peru May Hold Key to Teen’s Presumed Murder in Aruba

By Mario A. Flores
Senior Desk Officer, South America

LIMA, Peru — Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in teen Natalee Holloway’s 2005 suspect disappearance in Aruba may soon attempt to enter a plea of guilty by temporary insanity to his confessed murder of a young woman in Peru.

Holloway’s presumed murder has gone unresolved for more than five years. Van der Sloot, the person last seen with her, remains the only suspect. The teen’s disappearance occurred during a high school graduation trip to the Dutch island, where van der Sloot’s late father had been a prominent judge.

Van der Sloot was questioned repeatedly by Aruban authorities. He was twice arrested but released and never charged for lack of evidence.

At one point, Dutch crime reporters got a series of sensational “confessions” from van der Sloot, which he later denied, disproved or dismissed as lies. And last year, Van der Sloot was indicted in the United States on charges of extorting $25,000 from Holloway’s parents in exchange for revealing how Holloway died and the location of her body.

In June of 2010, van der Sloot was arrested in Chile in connection with the murder of Stephany Flores in Peru. Her body was found in his hotel room in Lima after he escaped to Chile. Van der Sloot apparently killed the young Peruvian student five years to the day after Holloway disappeared.

Chilean authorities extradited van der Sloot to Peru, where he subsequently confessed that he killed Flores in a rage when she found material regarding Holloway on his laptop. His defense team recently said that the homicide of Flores was a crime of passion provoked when the young woman began digging through van der Sloot’s laptop.

Oscar Gonzalez, Peru’s police chief of the Division of High Technology Investigations said that the laptop found in the possession of van der Sloot contained “additional information that could be of interest” to the Holloway case. This week, the FBI is sending agents to Peru to examine the laptop hoping that it will shed light into Holloway’s disappearance, considering that it may have prompted van der Sloot to slain Flores.

In the meantime, Maximo Altez, van der Sloot’s attorney, said that his client is considering pleading guilty to killing the young Peruvian woman and argue temporary insanity in a bid to significantly shorten his sentence. Temporary insanity or “violent emotion” is a plea specific to Peru, where van der Sloot could spend just 20 months in jail if the court accepts the argument.

Michael Griffith, senior partner at the International Legal Defense Counsel, stated that even in the unlikely event that van der Sloot gets a lesser sentence, he is going to be extradited to the United States on the outstanding warrant in Alabama for his alleged extortion in the Holloway case. There, van der Sloot would probably face a five-to-10-year sentence for the alleged extortion, according to Griffith.

However, Griffith believes that the chance a judge accepts the temporary insanity plea is slim. “This is such a big case in Peru that I don’t see them accepting a violent emotion insanity defense,” he said. “It would get the populace in an uproar.” As things stand, Van der Sloot is accused of first-degree murder, and faces a 15- to 35-year sentence if his plea is not accepted.

For more information, please see:

Daily Mail – FBI flies to Peru to scour Dutch murder suspect’s laptop in bid to end mother’s five-year agony over missing Natalee Holloway – 15 March 2011

Living in Peru – Peru police hands over copy of disc from van der Sloot’s laptop to FBI – 15 March 2011

AOL News – Expert: Van der Sloot Free in 5 Years? ‘So What? – 8 March 2011

Saudi Arabia Sends 1000 Troops to Bahrain to Quell Unrest

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia announced Monday a decision to send 1000 troops to Bahrain to assist local forces in stabilizing the country amid protests.  For weeks, Bahrain has been the site of large anti-government demonstrations.  Bahraini security forces have taken aggressive action to end protests, resulting in the death of a number of civilians and injury of dozens more.  The inability of police forces to end opposition rallies prompted Bahraini officials to request troops from neighboring countries.  The Saudi troops are only part of a deployment by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a six member regional group comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to stabilize Bahrain.  An additional 500 troops have been sent by the UAE.

Saudi Forces Move into Bahrain to Support Bahraini Security Forces (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)
Saudi Forces Move into Bahrain to Support Bahraini Security Forces (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

The move represents an attempt by Saudi Arabia to strengthen and project its power in the region.  One analyst contends that the Kingdom’s decision to send troops may have been influenced by its desire to contain Iran.  Saudi Arabia has increasingly asserted its influence in the region, offering foreign assistance to Yemen, Lebanon and Syria in recent years.

Shia leaders within Bahrain have criticized Saudi Arabia’s decision saying that foreign intervention amounts to a declaration of war.  Both governments contend that troops have been sent to help protect government facilities from attack and “to look at ways to help [to] defuse the tension in Bahrain.”  Sheik Abdullah, foreign minister of the UAE told reporters “There are other Gulf countries which are going to participate to support the Bahrain government, and to get calm and order in Bahrain.”  Saudi Arabia has also set up a $20 billion fund to finance new incentives promised to citizens by the government in Bahrain.

Officials in Saudi Arabia have linked the maintenance of stability in Bahrain with its own security, fearing that the success of protests in Bahrain could spark similar rallies at home.  The Saudi government has warned its citizens not to protest and has taken measures to neutralize opposition.  Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the country’s interior minister and half-brother of the King, welcomed the decision to send troops saying that “Some evil people wanted to spread chaos in the kingdom and called for demonstrations that have dishonorable goals.”

The Saudi government’s decision has put the United States in a precarious position as the U.S. walks a fine line between supporting freedom, democracy and social reform on the one hand, and the interests of its regional allies on the other.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney urged the government of Bahrain to exercise constraint but noted that Saudi Arabia’s intervention is not an invasion.  Protesters in Bahrain continue to hold the capital’s main square despite clashes with security forces.  Dialogue between the government and opposition forces however, remains absent. 

For more information, please see:

BBC Middle East – Gulf States Send Forces to Bahrain Following Protests – Mar. 14, 2011

Financial Times – Saudi intervention Raises Gulf Stakes – Mar. 14, 2011

Guardian – Saudi Arabia Polices the Region as Trouble Stirs at Home – Mar. 14, 2011

New York Times – Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest – Mar. 14, 2011

Montenegro Arrests Man Suspected Of War Crimes

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Police in Montenegro recently arrested a man suspected of committing war crimes during the 1991-1992 armed conflict in in the Balkans. The Montenegrin police arrested Ivo Menzalin at the airport in Podgorica after he flew in from Belgrade. He agreed to surrender himself voluntarily.

Menzalin is suspected of torturing Croat prisoners in a detention camp in Morinj, a village on the coast in Montenegro, during the conflict that resulted when Croatia split from Serb-led Yugoslavia. About 300 civilians and prisoners of war from the Dubrovnik region were held in the Morinj camp.

In May 2010, the High Court in Podgorica sentenced six low-ranking soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army for war crimes, including Menzalin. Along with the five others convicted, Menzalin was convicted of torturing, inhumane treatment of, and infliction of bodily harm on 169 prisoners of war and civilians in the Morinj camp.

Menzalin, a cook at the Morinj camp, was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison. The court ordered his arrest. Menzalin’s defense attorney appealed, and the conviction was recently overturned by a higher court. A new trial has been ordered to begin in March, in which Menzalin, now in custody, will be tried again for war crimes, including torture and inhumane treatment of Croatian civilians and prisoners of war.

For more information, please see:

AP — Montenegro war crimes supect arrested — 3 March 2011

B92 — The arrest for war crimes — 3 March 2011

SOUTHEAST EUROPE TIMES — Montenegrin police arrest war crimes suspect — 2 March 2011

BALKAN INSIGHT — Montenegro Sentences Six for War Crimes — 17 May 2010

REUTERS — Montenegro sentences soldiers for Dubrovnik torture — 15 May 2010

Charles Taylor trial closes

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – The three-year long trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who was indicted while in office in 2003 for large-scale atrocities committed in Sierra Leone, came to an end this week.

In closing arguments, the defense argued that Taylor had been a victim of politically motivated selective prosecution and that rebel groups were solely responsible for committing the atrocities.  The prosecution contends that Taylor used the rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), among others, as proxy groups to gain control over Sierra Leone to exploit its mineral resources, giving the rebel groups weapons in exchange for “blood diamonds.”

The RUF engaged in a ten-year spree of terror in Sierra Leone, using rape and murder as weapons to terrorize the population. The group became notorious for slicing off human limbs.

Taylor has denied the charges against him, including murder, rape and using child soldiers during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

The prosecution painted Taylor as a charismatic figure apt to fool those around him into thinking he was a peacemaker, rather than a leader responsible for terrorizing a nation. In response to defense counsel’s contention that documentary evidence failed to establish Taylor’s guilt, the prosecution indicated that the documents merely showed Taylor’s public denial of his involvement with RUF. In private, the prosecution stated, Taylor engaged in arms deals to gain access to diamonds.

The defense focused its rebuttal on denying the existence of joint criminal enterprises between Taylor and the various rebel groups.

At the conclusion of trial on Friday, the judges had received testimony from one hundred and fifteen witness and one thousand ninety-seven exhibits. It is expected to be months before a verdict is rendered.

If convicted, Taylor would serve his sentence in the United Kingdom.

For more information, please see:

Philadelphia Inquirer – After 3-year trial, Liberian awaits war-crimes verdict – 12 March 2011

BBC – Charles Taylor’s Sierra Leone war crimes trial closes – 11 March 2011

Radio Netherlands – Charles Taylor trial concluded – 11 March 2011

Charles Taylor Trial – Defense Concludes Closing Arguments, Attacks Credibility of Prosecution Witnesses – 10 March 2011

Stateless Demonstrators Detained in Kuwait

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – Human rights groups have called for the immediate release of stateless persons arrested during anti-government protests in Kuwait on Friday.  Roughly 100,000 stateless Arabs, known locally as “bedoons” or ”bidoons,” live in Kuwait and are deprived of many civil rights available to Kuwaiti nationals. In particular, bedoons are not afforded basic rights to health care, education and employment. In 2000, the government launched a large scale security crackdown against bedoons and continues to suppress bedoon dissidents who seek rights and recognition.  Although some officials have drafted bills designed to secure civil rights for the stateless population, the Parliament has continuously blocked attempts to debate such legislation. 

Riot Police Retaliate Against Stateless Protesters
(Riot Police Retaliate Against Stateless Protesters - Photo Courtesy of Kuwait Times)

Friday’s peaceful protests in the country’s capital were met with a violent response from riot police who used teargas and water cannons to disperse protestors.  Despite the participation of Kuwaiti citizens in the rallies, bedoons were singled out for arrest and detention.  The independent Human Rights Association has demand the “release of all those arrested during the events on March 11 without delay and without pressing charges against them.”  Fueled by successful oustings in North Africa and the mass mobilization of Arabs throughout the Middle East, bedoons have been increasingly vocal about their desire for civil rights in recent weeks. 

Bedoons have been stateless for over fifty years and demands for equality have historically fallen on deaf ears.  Today, the government continues to justify the suppression of stateless persons as a means to secure Kuwait from “illegal residents.”  As non-citizens, bedoons are also prohibited from possessing a driver’s license, receiving birth and death certificates and having marriage contracts attested by representatives of the State.  Despite warnings by the government to not engage in anti-government protests, hundreds of Kuwaiti’s continue to take to the streets of Kuwait City, Sulabiya and oil-rich Al-Ahmadi. 

For more information please see:

Ahram Online – Kuwait Urged to Free Stateless Detainees – Mar. 12, 2011

Kuwait Times – Bedoons State Protest for Citizenship – Mar. 12, 2011

Agence France Presse – Kuwaiti Stateless Protest for Citizenship – Mar. 11, 2011

Los Angeles Times – Kuwait: Riot Police Break Up Protests by Stateless Arabs – Mar. 11, 2011

Reuters Africa – Riot Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Kuwait Rally – Mar. 11, 2011

UNHCR: Nearly 500,000 Refugees Flee Violence in Ivory Coast

By Daniel M. Austin 
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Ivorians fleeing to eastern Liberia. (Photo courtesy of PressTV).
Ivorians fleeing to eastern Liberia. (Photo courtesy of PressTV).

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) claims nearly half a million people from Ivory Coast have been displaced by violence surrounding the November 2010 presidential election. The UNHCR figure reflects those individuals who are displaced within Ivory Coast as well as citizens who have fled the country. The UNHRC continues to press the international community for financial assistance to deal with this on-going crisis.

According to figures released by UNHCR, the number of refugees has increased to over 450,000 people. It is estimated that 88,000 people have crossed the border from Ivory Coast into neighboring Liberia, with half of them making the journey within the past two weeks.  In addition to those citizens who fled the country, another 200,000 to 300,000 people are displaced around the capital of Abidjan, while another 70,000 are displaced in the western part of the country. According to UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, the Council has identified over 20 sites around the capital, Abidjan where displace people are gathering. The UNHRC continues to monitor these sites and is assessing their needs. It is already clear refugees in these camps are in desperate need of food and other humanitarian supplies, such as medicine.

The UNHCR is concerned with the international community’s lack of response to the deteriorating security situation in Ivory Coast as well as the widening humanitarian crisis. Reports from Ivory Coast claim the number of refugees as well as violence between the two political factions is increasing. The UNHRC claims that international attention has been diverted from the events in West Africa to the political upheaval occurring in North Africa.

According to Ms. Fleming, the response from donor nations to help finance the humanitarian effort in Ivory Coast is failing. The UNHRC established a goal of $46 million but has only received $5 million in donations. As violent conflict between supporters of the sitting President, Mr. Laurent Gbabgo and the President-elect Mr. Ouattara continues to intensify, the UNHRC is contemplating another push for donations. Ms. Fleming has urged donor nations to be more reactive to the humanitarian crisis taking place in Ivory Coast.

For more information, please see:

Albuquerque Express — Ivory Coast descending into chaos as 450,000 flee violence – 12 March 2011

BBC Africa — Ivory Coast crisis: ‘Nearly 450,000 refugees’ – 11 March 2011

Times Live – 75, 000 refugees have fled Ivory Coast – 12 March 2011

Voice of America — UN: Nearly Half-Million People Displaced in Ivory Coast – 11 March 2011