French Police Arrest Senior ETA Leaders

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Suspected ETA members arrested in Thursdays raid. (Photo courtesy of 2Space)
Suspected ETA members Alejandro Zobaran Arriola (L, top row), Mikel Oroz Torrea (R, top row). (Photo courtesy of 2Space)

MADRID, Spain – On Thursday, March 10, French police stormed a cottage near the Belgian border and arrested four suspected members of the outlawed Basque separatist group, ETA. Among the individuals captured were ETA’s military chief and its chief explosives expert. The raid occurred two months after ETA’s senior leadership declared a formal cease fire on January 10.

During the raid, French police and members of the RAID, a French anti-terror unit descended on the village of Willencourt and arrested, Alejandro Zobaran Arriola, the suspected military chief of ETA.  He is responsible for coordinating the shooting and bombing campaigns that are carried out by ETA fighters. Along with Mr. Arriola, Mikel Oroz Torrea, who is suspected of being ETA’s top explosives expert, was also arrested. During the offensive, police seized two firearms along with forged documents.

The planning for Thursday operation began last month when the cottage owner tipped off authorities to the four suspects. The landlord contacted police after he grew suspicious of their nighttime activities. After the tip was received, local police officials determined the suspect’s car had a fake license plate. This prompted local law enforcement to contact the French anti-terror police to investigate further.

The arrests on Thursday are the second major blow to the ETA organization in the last two weeks. On March 1, Spanish police arrested four suspects in northern Spain who are allegedly connected to armed terrorist group. Spanish and French authorities have been working together to hunt down and capture members of this organization who often try to avoid detection by moving back and forth between the border regions of Spain and France,

ETA’s leadership declared a “permanent and general” cease fire on January 10, 2011. The last terrorist attack by ETA agents was carried out in August 2009. Over the past 50 years, ETA has killed more than 850 people during their struggle to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.

Notwithstanding the January 10 self-imposed cease fire, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has called for the total disbandment of ETA. Along with the most recent arrests, dozens of other ETA members have been arrested throughout Europe. Spanish officials believe this campaign has crippled the organization’s top leadership.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — ‘Eta military chief’ Arriola arrested in France – 11 March 2011

Daily Mail — ETA terror chief snared in daring police raid on French town – 11 March 2011

Irish Times — French police arrest senior Eta activists – 11 March 2011

Washington Post — French police arrest 4 Basque ETA suspects – 11 March 2011

ICC to investigate Gadhafi for crimes against humanity

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, on Tuesday night in Tripoli, is under investigation by the ICC (Photo Courtesy of New York Times).
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, on Tuesday night in Tripoli, is under investigation by the ICC (Photo Courtesy of New York Times).

TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been put on notice that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will investigate him for alleged crimes against humanity.

The United Nations Security Council this week adopted a unanimous resolution that referred Gadhafi and some of his sons, closest advisors and commanders to the ICC, which will investigate Gadhafi’s regime and its violent response to the anti-government protests that began in Libya on Feb. 15. The protests are aimed at overthrowing Gadhafi from a forty-one year regime.

It is the first time that the ICC, which was created in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, has investigated an event as it is ongoing, and the second time it has investigated a sitting head of state. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has been indicted on three counts of genocide by the court.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made clear that though at this stage Gadhafi and his regime are only under investigation, “If their troops commit crimes, they could be made criminally responsible.

“The allegations are that peaceful demonstrators were attacked by security forces. During the coming weeks, the office will investigate who are the most responsible for the most serious incidents, for the most serious crimes committed in Libya,” Moreno-Ocampo said.

The decision of the UN sends a strong message to Libya and Gadhafi that violence against peaceful protestors will not be tolerated. Allegations against Gadhafi include security forces killing unarmed protesters, airstrikes on civilians and forced displacement.

Since the referral of the investigation, the ICC has already identified alleged war crimes committed by Gadhafi and his regime, including the shooting of protestors in Benghazi on February 15. Eight other atrocities have been identified.

Currently Gadhafi is in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, one of the few places where his supporters and forces maintain control. He has repeatedly vowed to fight to the death to retain his power.

The international community is quickly deciding how best to respond to the crippling situation. Mass casualties, threats of hunger and a refugee crisis are increasing the urgency for a foreign response. The White House has not proposed any imminent action. A “no-fly” zone was proposed earlier this week, but President Barack Obama’s national security aides cautioned that such a plan would likely have a limited impact.

Moreno-Ocampo has vowed that the investigation will move swiftly.

“No one has the authority to attack and massacre civilians. We have a mandate to do justice and we will do it.”

For more information, please see:

AP – Officials: No-fly zone may have limited impact – 9 March 2011

Arutz Sheva – Int’l Criminal Court at The Hague to Probe Libya War Crimes – 3 March 2011

CNN – Gadhafi faces investigation for crimes against humanity – 3 March 2011

Haaretz – ICC probing Gadhafi, inner circle for crimes against humanity – 3 March 2011

Telegraph – Libya: Col Gaddafi to face ICC war crimes probe – 3 March 2011

Human Rights Watch – UN: Security Council Refers Libya to ICC – 27 February 2011

22 Oil Workers Released After FARC Kidnapping

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia—According to Colombian officials, all but one of 23 abducted oil workers have been released by leftist rebel soldiers.  The workers are Colombian contractors who were taken against their will on Monday while working in an isolated jungle area.  They had been employed by a Canadian oil company named Talisman Energy.  The one remaining oil worker is still being held by the rebels, who are suspected guerrillas from the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).  Colombian authorities are concerned that the last hostage is being kept for use later as a human shield.

Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera reported that the kidnapped workers were released early on Tuesday morning.  They had been taken captive the previous day while searching for crude in Vichada, an eastern province of the country.  Reports have concluded that the FARC unit that probably abducted the workers was relatively small and that the workers were kidnapped from their own camp.

President Manuel Santos has initiated a military operation in order to combat kidnappings in Colombia.  In the mission, codenamed Minotaur, the Colombian army, air force, and marines have been searching Vichada province in hopes of rescuing the final hostage.  President Santos considers this operation strong evidence that his military will soon triumph over hostage takers.  “We are not going to rest until all hostages are freed and the country is free of kidnapping,” Santos vowed.  He speculated that the FARC rebels were holding onto the last hostage to use as a human shield to repel military raids.

Talisman Energy has announced that each of the contractors was working for a firm called South American Exploration that conducts seismic studies in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.  The company also reported that all of the hostages taken on Monday were Colombian citizens and the majority of them were members of local indigenous groups.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post-22 abducted oil workers freed in Colombia-8 March 2011

Guardian-Colombian troops rescue 22 kidnapped oil workers-8 March 2011

Wall Street Journal-Colombia Rebels Free 22 Oil Workers-8 March 2011

International Women’s Day – The Fight Against Sexual Violence Must Not Falter

The ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada is pleased to share with you this Special Edition Newsletter on the 100th occasion of International Women’s Day.

Every year, millions of women and girls continue to bear the brunt of today’s wars. This International Women’s Day, the ICRC calls on States and other entities not to relent in their efforts to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence that harm the lives and dignity of countless women in conflict zones around the world every year.

In this Special Edition Newsletter, we take a deeper look at this important issue. We begin by sharing an interview with ICRC’s advisor on women and war, Nadine Puechguirbal, who reminds us it is wrong to consider sexual violence against women in armed conflict as inevitable.

Next, we look at how dance and theatre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are reinforcing the message that rape victims need the support of friends and families as they reintegrate into their communities.

Finally, we feature the story of one woman in Colombia who has overcome the trauma of sexual violence and armed conflict and rebuilt a life for herself and her children with the help of ICRC.

As always, please write us with your thoughts and feedback.

Kind regards,

The ICRC Washington Delegation

Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Cruel, Unacceptable and Preventable

Nadine Puechguirbal, the ICRC’s adviser on women and war, talks about sexual violence in conflict, how it can be reduced and what the ICRC is doing to help victims rebuild their lives.
Is it possible to prevent sexual violence occurring in armed conflict?

Yes, definitely. It is very important not to see sexual violence as an inevitable aspect of armed conflict. States bear the primary responsibility for preventing sexual violence, and  widespread rape and other forms of sexual violence thrive in a climate of impunity. Potential perpetrators would think twice if they knew that their acts of unspeakable cruelty would not go unpunished. Sadly, they know all too often that they will “get away with it.”
Sexual violence committed in connection with armed conflict is a war crime prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the first andsecond Additional Protocols of 1977 and the Statute of the International Criminal Court. States have an obligation to prosecute anyone accused of sexual violence and to punish the perpetrators. To do so, they must have suitable domestic legislation and other measures in place. Arms bearers must obey the rules, whether they belong to government armed forces, organized non-State armed groups or peacekeeping forces.

Aid agencies can also help prevent sexual violence. For instance, women are often attacked while collecting water or firewood away from their villages. The less firewood they need, the less they are exposed to attack while collecting it. So if aid agencies provide food that needs less cooking, and stoves that burn less wood, they immediately reduce women’s exposure. But whatever we do, it is essential to consult the women about measures for protecting them and their children.

How does sexual violence affect the life of the victim?

Rape can have severe physical consequences, such as infertility, incontinence and sexually transmitted infections like HIV/Aids. Victims also suffer psychologically, as they may experience shame, humiliation and guilt, leading to severe depression and even suicide.
An additional burden is the fear of stigmatization. Many women are rejected by their families and communities after being raped. The blame for the perceived loss of honor often falls on the woman instead of on the rapist, especially if the woman has already attained puberty. The situation is even worse for women who become pregnant as a result of rape; not only may the rape be seen as “soiling” the line of descent, but a child born of rape may be abandoned or killed, and in many cases the victim or her family will seek an abortion by methods that involve serious risks to her health.
What type of help do the victims of sexual violence most need?

They need appropriate medical attention as soon as possible, both to treat their injuries and to stop them getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. But effective response goes beyond medical care, and includes psychological care and economic support.

Support from the victim’s family is crucial for recovery, and families need to provide a safe and understanding environment. Communities also have a fundamental role in the aftermath of sexual violence. Community leaders should play their part in promoting acceptance of victims and in stressing to members of the community that the victim is not to blame for what has happened and, above all, is not to be stigmatized.
What is the ICRC doing?

The ICRC attempts to prevent sexual violence by training armed forces and armed groups in international humanitarian law (IHL), with special emphasis on the prohibition of rape and other forms of sexual violence. The ICRC also promotes inclusion of this prohibition in national legislation and in the internal regulations and manuals of armed forces and groups. To help States meet their obligations under IHL, the ICRC makes representations to the authorities (when victims agree), providing details of alleged violations and urging proper investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.

The ICRC has also set up programmes to support victims of sexual violence, covering medical, psychological, social and economic issues. The most innovative step has probably been to establish ICRC-supported counseling centres (maisons d’ecoute) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where victims of sexual violence can meet members of the community trained in psychosocial support by the ICRC. This gives them a chance to talk about their trauma, define their needs, and find ways of improving their situation.

To read the full text of Ms. Puechguirbal’s interview click here.

Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Tradition Opposes Exclusion

In the provinces of North and South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC has recently seen a decline in the number of victims of sexual violence rejected by their families or communities, with a clear majority reporting no such consequences. Likely reasons for this are the efforts of the psychosocial assistants who are encouraging families and communities to accept the victims, the awareness-raising programme and the involvement of community leaders.

-Nadine  Puechguirbal, ICRC advisor on women and war

In the DRC, maisons d’ecouteprovide a safe space where victims of sexual violence can receive psycho-social support, but they also to act as a mediator between the victims and their families to encourage relatives and society to accept them on the grounds of custom.

Theatre and dance in the battle against sexual violence

A young woman falls to the ground weeping at the entrance to her house. “On my way back from market, I was attacked by strangers who threatened me with a weapon.” Her husband feels humiliated by what has happened to his wife, and throws her out.

It is a common scene in eastern Congo, an area torn for years by armed conflict. In this case, however, the scene is part of a theatrical production, and the young woman weeping is an actress. The play has been put on to raise awareness in the community, to change how victims of sexual violence are perceived, and to fight against exclusion. The event was organized, with help from the ICRC, by the maison d’écoute in Irangui (north of Bukavu).

Nearly one thousand spectators of all ages crowded around a stage improvised on a soccer field. They are from nine neighboring villages. Some of them have walked for hours through the bush to see the production. Local mwamis (traditional chiefs) address the audience between a scene from the play and a traditional dance.

“This conflict is a disaster,” says mwami Misikami Nzbiro, “we have to overcome its consequences and heal our wounds, otherwise we’ll pass on nothing but suffering to future generations.”

Though the gathering is a novelty in the region, the old people still remember back when, a few decades ago, it was the custom for people to get together for events that combined dancing, acting, and wise words from the traditional chiefs. “It is part of our ancient traditions to get together, dance and talk things over in order to overcome a traumatic experience, although our customs have been much weakened by decades of conflict,” says Mbila Mikindo, a psycho-social worker who counsels people who have suffered sexual violence. “The support of the traditional chiefs is essential in our battle to end the social exclusion of victims of sexual violence.”

Visit the ICRC website to see photos from the performance or watch a video about the maisons d’écoute.

Colombia: Rebuilding a Shattered Life

In Colombia, many of the over 3 million displaced people are women, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence from both non-State armed groups and the army. The armed conflict raging in Nariño, a province in south-western Colombia considered a key corridor for the trafficking of arms and precursor chemicals, has made life extremely difficult for the area’s inhabitants.

Sandra used to live in Nariño’s lush countryside. “I was living happily with my husband and four children. We had a home of our own and some animals,” said Sandra. “I sold ice cream and ready meals, and my husband worked in a mine. Our life was comfortable and we were on good terms with all of our neighbors.”

Sandra’s world fell apart one evening in September when armed men burst into her home and raped her. Her husband disappeared and she grabbed her children and fled, leaving all her possessions behind. A few months later, her husband’s remains were discovered in a mass grave. “Thank God, my children and I managed to escape with our lives. But when we arrived in Pasto, we were lost and terrified. I felt very much alone.”

Her voice filling with emotion, Sandra recalled that, when she first came to the city, an acquaintance put her up. Living conditions were rudimentary. “I had to prepare food on a wood stove and my children and I slept on the floor,” she said. “My children were unhappy, they wanted to go back home and they didn’t understand why we couldn’t. They wanted to buy things that we used to have but I had no money to give them.”

In spite of the difficulties she faced, Sandra knew that she had to fight; she had to go on living, if only for the sake of her children. In the beginning, she hoped that her husband would return and the family would be safely reunited, but that was not to be. “I went to the Red Cross and people there were very helpful. They gave us psychological and financial support. Thanks to them, I was able to follow a course in food preparation and set up a hot-dog stand.”

Sandra knows that she must make the most of the training she received and the hot-dog stand. She intends to work seven days a week in order to give her children the best possible life. Keeping busy is also a form of therapy for her.

“Things are not always easy, but we are managing,” said Sandra. “I’ve decided to settle here in the city. I want my children to have everything they need, I want to set a good example for them, and I want them to understand that, although we can’t live the way we used to, we still have each other – and that’s what really counts.”

When asked what she would say to other women who had undergone similar experiences, she replied: “I would tell them that all is not lost. I would tell them to see their suffering as a challenge to overcome, to put the past behind them and look to the future. Every day, I do my utmost to make sure that my children have a better life and new opportunities. I’m sure that any woman who has suffered what I did is capable of overcoming the past, provided she seizes every chance she is given.”

China cracks down on foreign journalists

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia

Foreign journalists seeking to cover a potential protest in Shanghai were detained by police officers (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

BEIJING, China – As the anti-government protests continue to spread and topple incumbent dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East, Chinese officials have begun to crack down on foreign journalists.

On Sunday, about a dozen foreign journalists were detained for two hours in an underground room in Shanghai attempting to cover a protest. Apparently, these journalists showed up to the Peace Cinema near People’s Square to capture images of possible protests when they saw messages on several anonymous Internet sites urging Chinese citizens to conduct a “strolling” protest against the government.

This incident is noteworthy considering the recent pattern of government crack downs on foreign journalists. Only a week ago foreign journalists were reported to being physically harassed by security officers – one videographer even being hospitalized. In response to accusations of violent police actions, China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, denied the police taking any part in beating foreign reporters. He stressed repeatedly that China follows “the rule of law.”

“Foreign journalists should respect and abide by China’s laws and regulations… Beijing is a very big city with a large population. It is important to maintain normal order,” said Jiang, foreign ministry spokeswoman. Although the minister’s denial contradicts eyewitnesses and video accounts, no official investigation is known to be underway.

In Beijing and other major cities, at least a dozen other foreign journalists reported private intrusion, as they were visited in their homes by government officials who repeatedly warned not to cause trouble.

Following the recent controversial events, China announced new restrictions on foreign journalists working in China. Under the new rules, foreign journalists must now have prior government permission to interview anyone in a public area, essentially repealing the loosened reporting policy implemented at the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to showcase China’s more tolerant face to the world.

Such intimidation of foreign journalists is a notable shift for the communist regime a sign of the government’s fear of any antigovernment revolts like those that have swept the Middle East and North Africa in the past month.

David Bandurski, a professor at the University of hong Kong who heads the China Media Project said: “They have gone into control mode once again. What we are seeing now, in the short term, is China is closing in on itself, because it doesn’t have another answer or response.”

“Intimidation of journalists is the classic response. It is not necessarily entirely new, but it is something we have not seen for a long time,” Bandursky added.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Even With Protests Averted, China Turns to Intimidation of Foreign Journalists – 6 March 2011

The Washington Post – Amid fears of unrest, China imposes new restrictions on foreign journalists – 7 March 2011

Tibetan Review – China to expel foreign journalists who cover protests – 4 March 2011


By Erica Laster
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACÁN, Guatemala – Guatemalan mine activists have been threatened, beaten, shot and kidnapped for protesting continued mining activities at the Marlin Mine in the San Miguel Ixtahuacán municipality.  Samplings of water, blood and urine of local residents revealed the presence of toxic metals and many groups are concerned with the health effects on local indigenous communities.  The Marlin Mine, used for gold mining, is owned by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, a subsidiary of Goldcorp, a Vancouver based company.

Indigenous residents peacefully protest the governments failure to suspend Goldcorps mine activities pending further health investigations.
Indigenous residents peacefully protest the government's failure to suspend Goldcorp's mine activities pending further health investigations.

Physicians for Human Rights and the University of Michigan conducted a study early in 2010, sampling the blood and urine of residents of local Indigenous communities near the mine.  The study revealed the presence of elevated levels of copper, zinc, mercury, arsenic and lead in the sample of people living in close proximity to the Vancouver owned mine.  Following the release of the studies results, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the Marlin Mine to cease operations on May 21, 2010.

The Guatemalan government announced its decision to suspend mine operations in 2010, but has failed to take action.

In mid 2010, Kristen Genovese, senior attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) expressed her approval of the government to suspend the mine’s operations.  “We applaud the decision of the Government of Guatemala to honor its international human rights obligations and suspend operations at the Marlin mine.”

The government, has of yet, failed to enforce suspension of the mine’s activities.

On February 28, some 200 Indigenous people protesting the government’s failure to suspend mine operations set up a blockade around the mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, restricting the main routes frequently used by employees and owners of the company to gain access to the mine. The protests lasted approximately 12 hours.  Led by the Front in Defense of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (FREDEMI), the protestors boarded the buses to return home when they were attacked, beaten, robbed and shot.

Two of the protests leaders granted protective measures by the Presidential Human Rights Commission, Miguel Bamaca and Aniseto Lopez, were singled out.

Lopez was reportedly taken to the office of the local mayor of Ixtahuacán, beaten, robbed of his documents and threatened. Bamaca was allegedly taken to a location known as Siete Platos and beaten by members of the Mejia family who have ties to illegal criminal activities and other neighbors who are employed by the Vancouver based company.  While Bamaca and Lopez survived the assault with serious injuries, 50 other protestors were taken hostage and are being held by members of the San Jose Ixcaniche community.

Requests have been submitted to the Ministry of the Interior to protect the families of Bamaca and Lopez.

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Media Corp.  For More Information Please Visit:

Amnesty International – Guatemalan Mine Activists Beaten And Threatened – 3 March 2011

Vancouver Media Co-Op – Indigenous Protesters Blockading Mine – 28 February 2011

Climate Connections (UN) – Indigenous Protesters Blockading Mine Owned by Vancouver-based Goldcorp Assaulted, Taken Hostage in Guatemala – 1 March 2011

Upside Down World – Guatemala To Suspend Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine – 29 June 2010

Kyrgyzstan Post-Ethnic Revolution Reform

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – The efforts to achieve “inter-ethnic reconciliation and integration” following the violent events in Southern Kyrgyzstan last June, when over 435 people dead and nearly 2,500 others injured between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities during an inter-ethnic conflict, has been difficult.

People display a Kyrgyz national flag in front of the government building in Bishkek on Thursday. (EPA)
People display a Kyrgyz national flag in front of the government building in Bishkek on Thursday. (EPA)

The European Union has praised Kyrgyzstan’s reform agenda for stabilization and democratization, describing it as “ambitious”. Further reforms are critical to stability in southern Kyrgyzstan as the situation in the volatile region is “not optimistic,” chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Thursday.

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis vowed to help Kyrgyzstan bolster its stability, security and parliamentary system during his March 2-3 trip to Osh and Bishkek.

“It is essential to strengthen dialogue between the ethnic communities. The OSCE supports Kyrgyzstan in meeting these challenges, in particular ready to support a national consultative mechanism on police reform and criminal justice.”

“Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to restore stability after last year’s tragic events are commendable, I encourage the government to continue reforms, particularly ahead of the forthcoming presidential election,” he concluded.

“We must address acute security concerns, including threats to border security. But ensuring long-term security in the country also requires reform of the police and judiciary, policies to promote economic stability and respect for the rights of all members of society,” Azubalis said..

“The efforts of state-building in Kyrgyzstan and of bolstering its democracy and economy should draw on the citizenship of its people – and not simply their ethnicity,” said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

The OSCE is also determined to continue co-operating with Kyrgyzstan in battling trans-national threats like terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and unsecure borders, by coordinating with international partners like the UN and European Union, said Ažubalis.

Kyrgyzstan President Roza Otunbayeva has played a key role in two revolutions.

Roza Otunbayeva inspired the protest movement; often considered a philosopher and diplomat, she took the helm of the country and guided it through a difficult and dangerous transition period, declaring war on corruption, the clan system, nationalism and religious extremism.

Her first vistory was ridding the country of its then leader, President Akayev in 2005. Five years later President Bakiyev‎ was removed by a similar popular revolution.

A year ago a number of opposition parties came together, united in aversion to Bakiyev‎‘s corrupt regime. Realizing then the need to move toward a parliamentary form of government.

“Recent events in North Africa allow us to see things in a different light. It’s clear that these types of people, who allegedly order mass killings, should be punished”, said Otunbayeva referring to Bakiyev and his family tree of corruption being the center of all atrocities that took place within the countries recent history.

“A society influenced by criminality has no future. So one needs a clear and strong plan of action. The people will always support authorities or leaders who really want to clean up the country,” said Otunbayeva.

For more information, please see:

XINHUA news – Reforms critical to Kyrgyzstan’s stability: OCSE chairman – 4 March 2011

Europolitics – EU Praises Kyrgyzstan Reform Agenda – 1 March 2011

Central Asia Online – OSCE to help Kyrgyz stability, security, parliament – 3 March 2011

Euro News – Kyrgyzstan: Politics post revolution – 4 March 2011

UNHCR: Pro-Regime Fighters Limit Libya-Tunisia Border Crossings

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Civilians crossing the Libya-Tunisia border. (Photo courtesy of Sky News).
Civilians crossing the Libya-Tunisia border. (Photo courtesy of Sky News).

GENEVA, Switzerland – According to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the number of civilians crossing the border from Libya to Tunisia has dropped dramatically since Wednesday March 2. The UNHCR suspects that refugees trying to flee the violence in Libya are either being harassed or prevented entirely from crossing into Tunisia by heavily armed pro-government mercenaries loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. In response to continuing violence in Libya, several nations have mobilized aircraft and naval assets to assist in evacuating refugees and to support a humanitarian mission in both Tunisia and Libya.

The UNHCR claims that on Wednesday, March 2 as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people were crossing the border between Egypt and Libya. However by Thursday, March 3, the number had dropped to 2,000 people. Civilians that have made it across the border claim mercenaries robbed them of their mobile phones, laptops, cameras and money. Along with their valuables being stolen, the UNHCR claims that those who did cross the border appeared frightened and did not want to speak with U.N. representatives. Additionally, there has been claims that government forces have been confiscating electronics equipment like cameras so images of the violent clashes between rebels and pro-government forces cannot reach the outside world.

On Friday, the United Nations estimated that nearly 200,000 people have already fled the fighting in Libya. As the violence continues, several nations have committed airplanes and naval vessels to help evacuate stranded migrants and provide humanitarian supplies to the civilians massing at the Libya-Tunisia border. The United States has dispatched two planes to this border area to deliver humanitarian supplies such as water, blankets, and plastic sheets. A Pentagon spokesman claims that after the humanitarian supplies are delivered, the aircraft will be used to shuttle migrants from Tunisia to Egypt.

European nations are also taking an active role in helping to ferry migrants and deliver badly needed supplies. The French government has sent several planes to the Tunisian resort island of Djerba to pick up refugees and transport them to Egypt. Furthermore, the Italian government has sent aircraft and was planning to send a cargo ship full of supplies to the rebel controlled city of Benghazi.

According to United Nations spokesperson, Valorie Amos, food and supply lines are going to become more stressed as the conflict drags on. In particular, she claims that in rebel controlled regions food, medicine, and fuel supplies will begin run out in less than 15 days.

For more information, please see:

AFP — Pro-regime forces man Libyan-Tunisia border: UNHCR – 4 March 2011

Al Masry AlYoum —UNHCR fears civilians may be prevented from fleeing Libya – 4 March 2011

UN News Centre — UN refugee agency ‘very concerned’ civilians being prevented from fleeing Libya – 4 March 2011

Wall Street Journal – Libyan Evacuations Slow, Raising U.N. Fears—5March 2011

Battle Looms As Colombia’s High Court Considers Same-Sex Adoption

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Colombias Constitutional Court is set to rule on adoption rights for same-sex couples (photo courtesy of
Colombia's Constitutional Court is set to rule on adoption rights for same-sex couples (photo courtesy of

BOGOTA, Colombia – Last week, Colombia’s Constitutional Court announced that it needs more time to rule on the legality of same-sex couples adopting children. The court was asked to analyze the case of a lesbian couple who want one partner to be recognized as the legal guardian of the other partner’s child. According to Juan Carlos Henao, President of the Constitutional Court, many of the magistrate judges have asked for more time to study this case.

According to media reports, the Colombian ambassador to the Vatican has voiced his opposition to the same-sex adoption issue. Ambassador Cesar Mauricio Velasquez has been quoted as saying that “the criteria of a family is man, woman and child.” Velasquez also said that allowing gays to adopt children would oblige a “change of the concept of family in Colombia.”

The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has also come out publicly opposing same-sex adoption rights, calling on the Constitutional Court to reject the case. According to the Bishops’ Conference, “the rights of children should be placed above the affective and emotional needs of same-sex couples.”

The Bishops’ Conference claims that the purpose of adoption is to “replace what was lost, namely, the child’s biological mother and father, and the child is given a substitute mother and father so he can have a new home.” Although the bishops are affiliated with the Catholic church, they claim that faith has nothing to do with their stance against same-sex adoption rights. Rather, the bishops claim this is a matter of “natural law” and “anthropology.”

A recent poll carried out in Colombia showed that “82 percent of Colombians do not support the adoption of children by same-sex couples,” a statistic that the bishops have been quick to rely on. Bishop Juan Vicent Cordoba claims that children who are raised in same-sex households will face “great difficulties.” Although he does not provide proof of such difficulties, Cordoba says that these children are more likely to “grow up to become homosexuals, bisexuals or they will have identity problems that will affect their ability to sustain a relationship.”

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – Colombian Ambassador to Vatican Opposes Gay Adoption – 3 March 2011

Colombia Reports – Court Needs More Time for Gay Adoption Ruling – 2 March 2011

Catholic News Agency – Colombian Bishops Stress Protection of Adopted Children – 26 February 2011

Several Woman Killed During Attack on Ivory Coast Protest

by Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Women Collect Sandals Left by Protesters Who Fled the Shooting (Photo courtesy of BBC)
Women Collect Sandals Left by Protesters Who Fled the Shooting (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Video of Attack on Ivory Coast Protesters- Warning: Content is graphic, viewer discretion is advised (Video courtesy of CNN)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast– In the midst of a protest held today by over 5,000 women in the Ivory Coast capital city of Abidjan in the southern district of Abobo, tanks entered the area and began shooting on the crowd, killing at least six women and injuring dozens more.  As the video from CNN shows, the women were engaging in a peaceful demonstration that included chants and singing and according to observers, they appeared to be unarmed.  The women gathered to protest the ongoing violence that has occurred since President Laurent Gbagbo lost the election in December and has refused to leave office.  Gbagbo has denied responsibility for the attacks and says his security and military forces were not in the area today, despite the fact that one tank was emblazoned with the word ‘Police’.

One of the protesters gave an account to BBC after the shooting, telling the reporter that she saw eight women killed during the attack, including a pregnant woman.  She said as she ran, another woman next to her was shot in the head.  “We have no idea why they shot at us. . . I don’t know how I managed to get away unharmed. . . .Only God knows how I escaped the killing.”  The street quickly cleared as clothes, bags and shoes were left, abandoned by the women trying to escape the gunfire.

The women had gathered to protest Laurent Gbagbo’s presidency, holding signs that called him an assassin and robber of power.  During the protest, many women blew on whistles, joining chants and singing as others danced.  The crowd became silent as the three tanks rolled into view.  With no warning, shots came from the tanks and the women starting fleeing.  Observers rushed to pull the bodies of the slain women from the street as the tanks continued to drive through the area.

Violence has been building in intensity in the capital and the country as a whole since the election results were announced in December of last year.  Gbagbo’s opponent, Alassane Ouattara, won just over 54% of the vote, a result verified by the UN and recognized by the international community.  However, Gbagbo has said that the results, especially from the polls in the north where Ouattara garners the most support, were falsified.  Specific religious and ethnic groups are being targeted due to political party divides in the Ivory Coast.  Gbagbo is the leader of the Christian party, located largely in the southern region and Ouattara is the leader of the Muslim party, located mainly in the north.  Security forces and military troops have been targeting those with Muslim last names as well as those who openly support Ouattara.

As Ouattara attempts to run his cabinet out of a hotel guarded by UN security forces, the African Union in charge of resolving the dispute have declared they are extending their deadline for the second time to March.  The UN has also stated that the escalating violence is making it difficult to continue providing humanitarian aid to people in the Ivory Coast.  Many are fearful that this violence will lead to a renewed civil war as plumes of black smoke from burning tires can be seen each day in the Abidjan skyline.  Even Gbagbo’s supporters are growing weary of the situation.  Said teacher Frank Agny, “I voted Gbagbo, but I don’t understand how a leader of this country can use tanks and break human rights like this. We don’t want war, but only Gbagbo will be to blame if it happens.”

For more information, please see;

BBCIvory Coast: Parts of Abidjan Resemble War Zone– 4 March, 2011

BBC Ivory Coast Eye Witness: Women ‘Slaughtered By Soldiers’– 4 March, 2011

CCNVideo Documents Carnage in Ivory Coast– 4 March, 2011

TIMEIvory Coast Massacre: Army Mows Down Female Protesters– 4 March, 2011

Executions Raise Concern about Human Rights in Iran

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – As protests continue throughout the country, the international community has ratcheted up pressure on Iran due to its excessive use of the death penalty to punish crimes.  This comes after ten people were hanged Wednesday for trafficking narcotics.  Statements from Amnesty International and United Nations representatives condemned the executions, noting that international law reserves the use of the death penalty for only the most serious crimes.   Iran’s death penalty policy has received much scrutiny over the years but the government has yet to succumb to demands to reform the policy.   According to Amnesty International, Iran executed 388 people in 2009 alone and is second only to China in the total number of individuals put to death.

Recent unrest and uprisings in the country have led the government to crack down on opposition groups.  UN rights chief Navi Pillay reported that a wave of arrests of protesters and critics has occurred since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt over a month ago.  Supporters of the government have called for the execution of opposition leaders and anti-regime demonstrators. 

Some argue that these latest executions are being used as a political tool to frighten and deter the citizenry from protesting.  Drewery Dkye of Amnesty International contends that “[t]he Iranian authorities have used the implementation of the death penalty…to convey a message to opponents of the regime to get in line.”   The government denounced critics of its policy noting that it was necessary “to maintain law and order and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.”  One report finds that 89 individuals have been executed since the beginning of the year. 

Now Sweden and the United States are seeking to appoint a special investigator to look into human rights violations committed by Iran.  Iranian activists have applauded this move and have expressed their hope that the United Nations Human Rights Council embraces the proposal.  In addition to drug related crimes, the death penalty is considered a proper punishment in Iran for rape, armed theft and adultery.  While the proposal has received wide support, analysts predict that the resolution will fail under opposition from Russia and China who generally disfavor international quarries into other nation’s affairs.

For more information please see:

Reuters – U.S. and Sweden to Push U.N. Rights Body to Act on Iran – Mar. 4, 2011

Payvand Iran News – Iran Executions Under Scrutiny – Mar. 3, 2011

Agence France Presse – Iran Hangs 10 Drug Traffickers – Mar. 2, 2011

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia – Iran: 10 Drug Dealers Hanged – Mar. 2, 2011

“Jasmine Revolution” Call For Change Hits China

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – The anonymous campaigners behind the so-called “Jasmine rallies”, a reference to the “Jasmine revolution” in Tunisia that sparked unrest across the Arab world, said their movement had support in dozens of cities. Chinese authorities deployed hundreds of policemen, blocked internet services and detained several dissidents by force to thwart ” Egypt-style’ ‘ protests in Beijing and Shanghai on Sunday.

China’s Jasmine Protest Organizers Call For Regular Sunday Strolls (VOA News)
China’s Jasmine Protest Organizers Call For Regular Sunday Strolls (VOA News)

Ambassador Jon Huntsman called the detention and beating of the foreign press “unacceptable and deeply disturbing.” He is urging the Chinese government to hold the perpetrators accountable and respect the rights of foreign journalists in the country.

Beijing’s Wang Fu Jing street, a busy shopping area was washed repeatedly with high-pressure water hoses to keep people away. The entry to the area was also restricted.

China’s leaders have watched developments in the Arab world nervously, as similar issues were among the root causes of the upheaval there.

Chinese authorities have reacted to these demonstrations by rounding up more than 100 known dissidents and rights advocates, activists said, and blocking references to the “jasmine” rallies on websites and search engines.

“We believe these deeds cannot stop the development of the Chinese Jasmine Revolution,” the organizers said.

On Sunday Premier Wen Jiabao promised action on top public concerns including soaring inflation, runaway economic growth and official corruption in an online chat with Internet users.

Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police had blanketed the city’s Wangfujing shopping street for the second week running, aggressively pushing away foreign reporters with cameras and briefly detaining several.

Bloomberg News said one of its correspondents was kicked and punched by at least five men in plainclothes, believed to be Chinese governmental security personnel. He required medical treatment.

“This type of harassment and intimidation is unacceptable and deeply disturbing,” U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman said in a statement.

The new statement was posted on Facebook, Twitter and other overseas social networking sites officially blocked in China, and came one day after security personnel turned out in force to thwart gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai.

Citizens have been urged to gather for subtle “strolling” demonstrations, but take no overt protest action, each Sunday afternoon at designated locations in cities across China, people protest to highlight public anger with the government.

The latest call urged “all social groups, intellectuals, unemployed college graduates, retired soldiers, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, laid off workers, victims of forced land seizures and building demolitions, and all people suffering from governmental injustice” to take part.

According to the feedback received by various new sources, on Feb. 27, 2011, this movement spread to over 100 cities, largely exceeding  initial expectations of 27 cities, it said, calling for people to “walk” for change again next Sunday.

“We send our salutations to all Chinese citizens supporting and participating in this noble movement!”

For more information, please see:

Vancouver SunOrganizers plan new rallies despite tough weekend clampdown – 1 March 2011

The Times of India – China cracks whip, crushes ‘jasmine’ stir – 28 February 2011

Voice of America – US Ambassador Decries Chinese Abuse of Journalists – 28 February 2011

CTV News – Diplomats criticize harassment of journalists in China – 28 February 2011

A Christian Politician Assassinated in Pakistan

Paramedics transporting the body of Shahbaz Bhatti, only Christian minister in Pakistan, who was shot dead on Thursday (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The only Christian in Pakistan’s government was assassinated on March 2 after pushing for change in laws that mandate death for people who insult Islam.

Shabaz Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was the minority affairs minister and is the second top Pakistani official to be shot to death this year over his opposition to a blasphemy law. Earlier in January, the Punjab Province governer, Salman Taseer was also assassinated by his body guard for the same reason: calling for reforms to the blasphemy law.

The law was first introduced in the 1970s and amended later in 1986 under Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the military leader, to include the death penalty for those who are accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad, the Korean or Islam.

Critics of the law say the law has been used against the minorities ever since. Christians, who make up roughly 5% of Pakistan’s 180 million population, occupy the lower ends of society with menial jobs. Along with Shiite Muslims and other minority Muslim sects, Christians are the most oppressed group and often frequent victims of suicide bombings, kidnappings and homicides.

Recently, there has been a case in which a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, 45, was charged with violating the blasphemy law and faced execution. Bhatti, being an outspoken critic against the law, defended the woman. Now, many are speculating that this may have triggered the extremists’ anger.

Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, called Bhatti’s assassination “a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism and respect for human rights in Pakistan.”

Bhatti was on his way to work in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, when assailants sprayed at least 25 bullets at the Bhatti’s car. A letter that was found at the scene indicated that the killing was done by supporters of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, according to the police.

After Bhatti’s death, Pakistani television aired a video in which a calm and convinced Bhatti purported to keep fighting for the rights of Christians and other minorities, even if it meant dying for the cause.

“When I’m leading this campaign for the abolishment of blasphemy law, and speaking for the oppressed, and the marginalized, persecuted Christians and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me,” Bhatti said. “These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice for my community rather than to compromise.”

For more information, please see:

The International Herald Tribune – Extremists Are Suspected in Killing of Pakistani Minister – 2 March 2011

AFT – Canadian leaders ‘outraged’ by Pakistan minister’s killing – 2 March 2011

The Los Angeles Times – Pakistan’s only Christian Cabinet member assassinated – 3 March 2011

The International Criminal Court and the Situation in Libya

The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis
Moreno-Ocampo, following a unanimous vote by the fifteen members of
the United Nations Security Council to refer the matter to the ICC, is
assessing whether to launch a criminal investigation into events
related to the violence in Libya. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo pledged he would
act “swiftly and impartially” and called upon those with videotapes,
photographs, or other evidence of potential crimes against the
civilian population since February 15th to provide the information to
his office: Information and Evidence Unit, Office of the Prosecutor,
Post Office Box 19519, 2500 CM The Hague, The Netherlands.

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