US Imposes Sanctions Against Syrian Officials For Human Rights Violations

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrians protested in cities and towns across Syria to stage a “Day of Rage” in opposition to the government’s crackdown on the opposition.  The United States imposed sanctions on officials responsible for human rights violations in Syria.  The new sanctions in the executive order signed by President Obama on Friday builds on the sanctions that were imposed on Syria beginning in 2004 and calls on the United Nations human rights officials to investigate Syria for violations of international law.

The order named Maher al-Assad, brother of President Bashar al-Assad and an army commander, as one of the parties responsible for the incidents in Daraa.  It also named Assad’s cousin, Atif Najib, who was the head of the Political Security Directorate for Daraa in March, when a large number of protesters were killed by security forces.

Another party named in the sanctions order is the Iranian Quds Force, as being involved in providing “material support to the Syrian government related to cracking down on unrest in Syria”.

According to human rights groups, at least twelve people were killed as security forces fired on protesters in two cities – Latakia, and Homs.  In Daraa, a southern town, shots fired on protesters allegedly caused some casualties.  The protesters gathered in the streets after leaving noontime prayer at the mosques.

In Homs, the protesters were shouting “leave, leave” to President Assad.  The protests began in March as a democratic movement but have recently turned into more of a rebellion.

In response to demonstrations that occurred a week ago, Syria sent tanks into Daraa.  Water, electricity and communications have been cut off there.  According to human rights groups, at least thirty-eight individuals have died, although that number may in fact be much higher.  On the other hand, state television reported that four army soldiers have been killed.  The government has depicted the demonstrations as a rebellion by armed Islamist extremists.

The UN Human Rights Council approved the United States’ statement condemning the violence in Syria.  China, Russia, and several African countries voted against this statement primarily because these nations oppose taking action similar to that which was done in Libya with Muammar Qaddafi.

For more information please see:
Christian Science Monitor – UN Council Issues Tepid Rebuke of Syria – 29 April 2011

Reuters – White House Calls on Syria Leader to Change Course – 29 April 2011

Washington Post – Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters; U.S. Imposes Sanctions – 29 April 29, 2011

U.S. Ambassador alleges that Qaddafi soldiers given Viagra and ordered to rape

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

TRIPOLI, Libya – In a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice raised the issue of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi issuing Viagra to troops, a claim that was first reported by British tabloids.

One diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that when Rice raised the issue in the meeting, no one responded.

The reports underscore Qaddafi’s campaign of sexual violence used to silence and terrorize communities that have supported rebels.

One diplomat said that Rice “spoke of reports of soldiers getting Viagra and raping [and] of Qaddafi’s soldiers targeting children, and other atrocities.” Some diplomats questioned Rice’s allegations, saying that she did not offer any proof of the allegations.

An April 24 article in the New York Times spoke of an electrician who fled Libya for Tunisia and who had heard rumors that “loyalist forces had orders to kill everyone in the city, and that soldiers had been given Viagra and explicit orders to rape.”

The British tabloids that broke the Viagra stories also spoke of children as young as eight who have been raped in front of their families.

Michael Mahrt, of Save the Children, said, “Children told us they have witnessed horrendous scenes. They described things happening to other children but they may have actually happened to them and they are just too upset to talk about it – it’s a coping mechanism.”

On the same day of the Security Council meeting, CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan, who suffered a brutal sexual assault in Cairo in February that lasted nearly forty minutes, returned to work and spoke for the first time of her attack, noting that when it comes to sexual violence in areas of armed conflict, victims have only their word.

In countries such as Libya and Egypt, rape is heavily stigmatized, and those who have been assaulted or raped often do not come forward.

Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence during armed conflict, who was appointed last year by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, issued a statement last week highlighting that reports of rape in Libya have been “brutally silenced.”

It would constitute a war crime if it is true that Qaddafi’s troops are being encouraged by their commanders to engage in rape.

Libya is already under investigation by the International Criminal Court for Qaddafi and his regime’s suppression and crackdown of anti-government protesters.

For more information, please see:

New York Magazine – U.S. Ambassador Alleges Qaddafi Issuing Troops Viagra – 29 April 2011

AFP – Viagra allegations raised amid Libya divisions at UN – 28 April 2011

New York Times – CBS Reporter Recounts a ‘Merciless’ Assault – 28 April 2011

Reuters – U.S. says Gaddafi troops raping, issued Viagra: envoys – 28 April 2011

Daily Mail – Fuelled ‘by Viagra’, Gaddafi’s troops use rape as a weapon of war with children as young as EIGHT among the victims – 25 April 2011

New York Times – Berber Rebels in Libya’s West Face Long Odds Against Qaddafi – 24 April 2011

Impunity Watch Symposium Keynote Senator Romeo Dallaire (1/4)

On Friday April 8, 2011, the Impunity Watch Law Journal of Syracuse University College of Law hosted its annual symposium entitled, Humans as Commodities: Child Soldiers. The symposium addressed the use of child soldiers in armed conflict. It looked at the chilling realities facing child soldiers, the root causes of the phenomena, and explored the persistent human rights dilemma facing the international community.

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to ensure that States do not use individuals under eighteen years of age in combat, and to explicitly forbid non-state and guerrilla forces from recruiting anyone under eighteen for any purpose. Other provisions of international law have banned the use of soldiers under age fifteen since the 1970s. In spite of these and other international efforts, there are an estimated 250,000-300,000 child soldiers across the globe, actively fighting in at least thirty countries. Almost half of all armed organizations in the world use child soldiers and almost all of those soldiers see combat.

U.N. team arrives in Tripoli to investigate alleged human rights abuses

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

TRIPOLI, Libya – A United Nations team appointed to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Libya has arrived in Tripoli.

The team, selected by the United Nations Human Rights Council, will travel to prisons, hospitals, and certain regions where suspected human rights abuses have occurred to determine the scope of atrocities that took place in the wake of Moammar Qaddafi’s suppression of and violence against government protestors in February.

The U.N. recommended an inquiry into alleged abuses in Libya in February, when a resolution was unanimously adopted in a special session held in Geneva. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, urging the Libyan government to take action to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable, said at the time, “Although reports are still patchy and hard to verify, one thing is painfully clear; in brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protestors.”

The team is being led by Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian legal expert, who indicated that his team would engage the Libyan government to assist with the investigation. The government has said it will cooperate. Bassiouni said his team planned to ask the government about “the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and civilian areas, civilian casualties, torture and the use of mercenaries.” Bassiouni also intends to raise the issue of foreign journalists being held in Libya. He said he has even given the Libyan government “a list of all the foreign journalists who are in detention.”

In the last week, reports have emerged that Qaddafi’s forces are indiscriminately shelling the city of Misrata, and that three people in Misrata were killed by missiles.

In addition to the U.N., Western governments and some Arab states have accused Qaddafi of ordering his forces to kill hundreds of civilians who protested his four-decade rule.

Libyan officials have denied killing civilians, saying instead that they have been forced to act against al Qaeda sympathizers trying to seize control of the country.

In addition to Bassiouni, the other members of the team include Asma Khader, a Jordanian-Palestinian lawyer and human rights advocate, and Philippe Kirsch, a Canadian lawyer who was the International Criminal Court’s first president.

Khader said the team would look into sexual crimes, including the case of Libyan woman Eman al-Obaidi who became well known after accusing militiamen of gang-raping her.

The team is expected to present their findings in June.

In addition to this investigation, the UN Security Council has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Libya on possible charges of war crimes.

For more information, please see:

BBC – UN team to start probe of human rights abuses – 27 April 2011

Reuters – U.N. investigators in Libya to probe rights abuses – 27 April 2011

Reuters – UN rights investigators to start probe in Libya – 8 April 2011

UN News Centre – UN rights council recommends suspending Libya, orders inquiry into abuses – 25 February 2011

[LA Times] Manning and Mohammed Cases: Tilting the Scales of Justice

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Manning and Mohammed cases: Tilting the scales of justice

President Obama and Atty. Gen. Holder are improperly putting pressure on those who will judge the Bradley Manning and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed cases.

By Morris Davis

April 27, 2011

“Command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice.”

Robinson O. Everett, former chief judge of what is now the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, wrote those powerful words in 1986. They underscore the importance of banning the power inherent in command from military courtrooms. Congress wrote such a ban into the Uniform Code of Military Justice more than 60 year ago, recognizing that true justice requires the unbiased application of the law to the facts on scales that are not tipped by the fingers of extrajudicial forces.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking a trove of documents to WikiLeaks, faces serious court-martial charges, including aiding the enemy. If convicted, Manning could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Under one of the most fundamental of all rights, he is presumed innocent until legal and competent evidence overcomes that presumption beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Now a video is circulating of President Obama, the commander in chief of the armed forces, in conversation at a California fundraiser last week. “He broke the law,” Obama says of Manning. No need to secure a courtroom or endure a protracted trial; the commander in chief rendered his extrajudicial verdict. And military justice meets its mortal enemy once again.

In 1949, Gerald Ford, then a congressman from Michigan, described his firsthand experience with command influence when he served as a Navy officer in World War II. He said: “Too often a court-martial board does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.” Instead, he recalled military jurors retiring to the deliberation room to ponder, “What does the Old Man [the commander] want us to do?”

When the jurors retire to the deliberation room at the Manning court-martial, they will not have to speculate on the answer; arguably the most important “Old Man” of them all has spoken, and he said Manning is guilty.

The military commissions that will try the Guantanamo detainees are not governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they are governed instead by rules set down in the Military Commissions Act. I was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo in 2006 when Congress began work on the law. I met with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who led the effort, and I told them that senior government officials were trying to meddle in the commissions, particularly after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other “high-value detainees” were transferred to Guantanamo from CIA sites. After five years of failed effort and not a single trial completed, and with skepticism about the fairness of the commissions growing, we needed to preserve the integrity of the project with statutory protection similar to the prohibition on command influence in courts-martial. The senators agreed, and language I drafted was included in the Military Commissions Act.

The behavior of this administration gives an inkling of why it was necessary. In November 2009, Obama defended his decision to prosecute Mohammed in federal court (a decision he subsequently abandoned), saying no one would question it “when [Mohammed is] convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.” Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. made similar remarks, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won. I don’t expect that we will have a contrary result.”

All participants in the military commissions are accountable to the commander in chief. Many, in addition to their status as uniformed military reserve officers, are career employees of the Department of Justice. When the attorney general says that only a guilty verdict is acceptable, and the commander in chief endorses the death penalty for an accused who has not been convicted, they undermine confidence in justice by injecting the appearance of undue influence.

Will the attorneys and the judges exercise independent professional judgment, or will independence bend to the express will of their superiors? Will the officers on the board at Mohammed’s military commission deliberate over the law and evidence, or will they just do what the administration expects them to do? Will we be able to tell now that the administration has made its position public?

Pandering, hubris and contempt for “quaint” legal principles are as unacceptable in the current administration as they were in the last. It is the notorious cases with unsympathetic defendants such as Manning and Mohammed where America’s example speaks loudest. These trials will say as much about us as it does about them.

When the judicial process becomes a stage for political theater — when justice appears to be scripted rather than blind — we have lost sight of the values we purport to be fighting to defend.

Morris Davis is a retired Air Force colonel. He was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay from 2005 to 2007. He is the executive director of the Crimes of War Project in Washington.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-davis-guilty-20110427,0,3736847.story

DOCUMENTS DETAILING INFORMATION ON GUANTANAMO DETAINEES LEAKED

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                        Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Newly released Wikileaks documents reinforce human rights activist’s beliefs that Guantanamo Bay detainees receive improper and abusive treatment at the hands of U.S. government officials.  Still more of the documents indicate that many of the detainee cases may be based upon flawed evidence.  The documents’ release only serves to further fuel the controversy over the inadequate system used to hold detainees and the inability of the government to close the prison permanently.

Wikileaks publishes documents detailing detainee interrogations
Wikileaks publishes documents detailing detainee interrogations

The newly released documents span two administrations ranging from 2002-2009.  Jay Carney, White House spokesman, emphasized the fact that readers must realize much of the content is attributable to the Bush Administration.  “A detainee assessment brief in 2006 may or may not be reflective of the administration or the government’s view of that particular detainee in 2011,” Carney stated.

The documents detail the number of inmates that have been transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since inception and the level of threat that each detainee poses to national security upon release.  These are referred to as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DAB’s), the documents indicate that 604 inmates have been released while 172 remain in Guantanamo Bay as inmates.

The Brief’s further contain photographs of the detainees and suspected terrorists and details of more than 700 detainee interrogations.

“These documents are remarkable because they show just how questionable the government’s basis has been for detaining hundreds of people, in some cases indefinitely, at Guantanamo,” stated Hina Shamsi, ACLU’s National Security Project Director.

Shamsi further stated that the assessments provided are not only one-sided, but confirm torture allegations and speculations on the part of detainees and human rights activists fighting to end the process of indefinite detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement which indicates their belief that the documents “provide more public detail on the many innocent men at Guantanamo, many of whom remained and remain there long after the government knew they were innocent.”

According to the Washington Post, U.S. officials responded by criticizing news and media outlets decision to publicize the leaked documents considering that they contain “sensitive information.”  The files were released by European and American newspapers. 

Photo courtesy of digitaltrends.com.  For More Information Please Visit:

Washington Post – Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility – 23 April 2011

ABC News – WikiLeaks Guantanamo Files Reveal Faces, Lives of ‘Enemy Combatants’ – 25 April 2011

Washington Post – Guantanamo Documents Revive Debate – 25 April 2011

Washington Post – Leaked Gitmo documents provide fresh information on background of terror suspects – 25 April 2011

GCR2P Open Statement on the Situation in Syria

 

 

 

 

Open Statement on the Situation in Syria

www.globalr2p.org

26 April, 2011

The Syrian government must immediately cease attacks on unarmed civilians protesting peacefully. The government’s response to protests that began in mid-March has become increasingly violent with security forces carrying out a deadly crackdown in response to the 22 April “Great Friday” demonstrations. Hundreds are dead and thousands wounded with many more arbitrarily arrested, tortured and disappeared, acts which may rise to the level of crimes against humanity, one of the four crimes that states committed themselves to protect populations from in adopting the responsibility to protect in 2005. Pursuant to this commitment, the Syrian government bears the primary responsibility to halt and avert the commission of atrocities, an obligation that it is currently failing to fulfill.

The situation is deteriorating and the risk of further atrocities is significant. Over 350 individuals have allegedly been killed since the protests began, at least 120 since Friday alone. The security forces have shown no restraint, using live fire ammunition against unarmed protesters. In the southern city of Deraa they are relying on tanks and other heavy weaponry to respond to demonstrations. Reports have emerged from that city of the shelling of residential neighborhoods and the use of snipers targeting those trying to assist the wounded. Foreign reporters have been banned from entering the country and there are reports that telephone service has been cut in certain cities making it difficult to get information out and leading to fears about what the government plans to do hidden from the attention of the world.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other government officials have argued that the unrest is being instigated by “armed groups.” By characterizing unarmed civilians, including children, the elderly, medical professionals seeking to reach the wounded and those participating in funeral processions, as armed militants the threat of atrocities is dramatically heightened. In addition, recent statements have blamed a “conspiracy” of “Salafists,” adherents to the Salafi sect of Islam, for the protests and resulting violence, which suggests an attempt to stoke sectarian division and to portray the protesters as violent extremists. The government’s history of silencing opposition raises serious concerns that the regime is willing to do whatever is necessary to retain power.

On 21 April President Assad lifted the emergency law – in place since 1963 – that suspended constitutional protections including banning free assembly and granting the state expanded powers to arrest and detain individuals. While this is a positive step the fact that it was immediately replaced with a law requiring government permission for demonstrations calls into question the Assad government’s sincere commitment to reform. Since the lifting of the law protesters, opposition figures and activists continue to be targeted, arrested or disappeared. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights has referred to the conduct of the government as “paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protesters.”

Key figures within Syria, including several members of parliament representing the city of Deraa, have recognized that violence is not an acceptable response to peaceful protests and have resigned in protest against the government’s actions. The government must uphold its responsibility to protect and ensure that security forces stop targeting unarmed civilians and act in accordance with their obligations under international law. There must also be, as Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon demanded on 22 April, “an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings” with those responsible held accountable.

UN member states must speak with one voice in condemning the violence and calling on the Syrian government to halt attacks on civilians. The UN Security Council must, in their 26 April meeting, address the situation and consider the imposition of targeted economic sanctions and travel bans on those individuals known to be inciting, ordering or perpetrating atrocities against civilians. The European Union should similarly enact such sanctions. The UN Human Rights Council, which Syria seeks to join, should hold an emergency session to discuss the situation and issue a strong statement making clear that such violence is unacceptable. Regional actors must add their calls for restraint.

The risks to civilians are clear. It is crucial that, in keeping with the responsibility to protect, UN member states use all available leverage to encourage the Syrian government to end the violent crackdown. Action today will save lives, prevent the situation from spinning out of control, and send a clear message to others contemplating a similar response to peaceful protests.

 

 

 

 

 

Chad Votes as Opposition Calls for Boycott

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

President Deby has been in power for over 20 years; Photo courtesy of the AFP
President Deby has been in power for over 20 years; Photo courtesy of the AFP

N’DJAMENA, Chad– On Monday, Chad held presidential elections amid cries of voter fraud and an organized boycott by several opposition candidates.  Though the results won’t be announced for another week, incumbent president Idriss Deby is almost certain to win after many of the candidates pulled themselves from the race.  Deby faced just two opponents in the election after the withdrawal, a lawyer, Nadji Madou, and a former agriculture minister, Albert Pahimi Padackey, both relatively unknown and not expected to win.

Opposition leaders Abdelkader Wadal Kamougue, Ngarledjy Yorongar and Saleh Kebzabo have stated the elections are fraudulent due to the sale of voter cards.  The cards, left over from a February legislative poll, could be found for sale before the election in the capital city markets.  Since the cards were not designed for Monday’s election they are not official election material and use of them would constitute fraud.  The opposition leaders called upon Deby to print new cards but were ignored.  In calling for the boycott, Kamougue said, “We cannot possibly sanction this masquerade.”  While the reaction of some was split, voter Djibrine Ibet, said “There is no point in voting in an election whose result is known in advance in any case. . .What hope is there when the party in power refuses to print new election cards because they are afraid of losing?”

On Saturday, Kamougue, Yorongar and Kebzabo held a rally with over 1,000 people in attendance.  During the rally, a statement was read that appealed to the voters; “To vote on April 25 is to commit suicide. It is to self-destruct. . .[This is an a]ppeal to the people of Chad not to vote on April 25.”  Some voters told reporters on election day that the fraudulent polls amounted to robbery.  Monday’s election has long been under suspicion after some results from the February legislative vote were invalidated due to ‘irregularities’.  In addition, this most recent election was delayed for three weeks and as voters turned out on Monday, witnesses in the capital of N’Djamena said that polling stations opened late and were lacking voting materials.

Deby has been in control of Chad since 1990 when he took power from Hissene Habre in a military coup.  Since then he has been elected to four terms and resisted multiple coup attempts by rebels.  The rebels entered the capital in 2008 before being forced from the city with the help of French military forces.  Since then, Deby has reached a peace agreement with Sudan and the rebel groups that were located primarily in the Darfur region of Sudan that borders Chad.

Deby has brought changes to Chad, which consistently ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries, but some doubt the change is positive.  In 2003, a 4 billion dollar pipeline was completed which allowed Chad to start producing oil.  The World bank funded this project on the condition that the profits be used to build up impoverished Chadians.  The agreement has since been abandoned after it was found that the government used the money elsewhere.

In response to the boycott, Deby called upon the 4.8 eligible voters in Chad to “fulfill their civic duty” and further stated that the only reason his opponents withdrew was because they knew they had no chance of winning.  Speaking out against the vote, a coalition of rebel groups joined the boycott, calling Deby the “Sultan of Chad”.

For more information, please see;

BBC- Chad Opposition Boycotts Presidential Election25 April, 2011

ReutersChad Leader Poised to Win Vote Boycotted By Rivals25 April, 2011

ICChad President Set for Re-election as Rivals Boycott25 April, 2011

AFPVoting Begins in Chad Presidential Election24 April, 2011

AFPChad Votes as Opposition Boycotts Poll25 April, 2011

VOAChad President Expected to Win  Opposition-Boycotted Election23 April, 2011

War Crimes Prosecution Watch; Vol. 6, Issue 2

Masthead

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Libya

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia
TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world.

Protesters in Yemen Close to Ousting President Saleh

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen – After weeks of unrest precipitated by pro-reform protests throughout the country, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tenure may soon come to an end. Saleh, who has served as Yemen’s President since 1978, announced his intention Friday, to step down as the country’s leader as part of a peace deal between the government and opposition forces brokered by neighboring nations. The deal however, has yet to be signed and Saleh insists that the opposition accept its terms before any final transition of leadership takes place.

Peace negotiations were led by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of six regional oil-producing nations. GCC nations reacted quickly to increased violence within Yemen seeking to prevent a possible spillover effect into their own countries. Dozens of Yemeni civilians have been killed in government led crackdowns since protests began over a month ago.

The finalization of an agreement has been warmly welcomed by anti-government protesters. The agreement stipulates that Saleh be given 30 days to vacate his position however, the deal also provides Saleh and regime officials with complete domestic immunity. One official noted that the issue of immunity was critical to reaching any deal but once this issue had been resolved, the agreement would be finalized without reservations.

Commenting on the prospect of resigning, President Saleh noted “Civil war will not only affect Yemen, but also the whole region and the international security.” The President however, did not waste any opportunity to blame protesters, targeting the youth, for destabilizing the country. “They are the masters of corruption, thieves of lands, and murderers. All their officials and grassroots are rogues, for they lied in this crisis without feeling shame before the Yemeni people who have matured.” While the President announced that is “ready to quit,” he affirmed that any transition must be by free election as required by the constitution.

According to the terms of the peace deal however, Yemen’s vice-president would assume power after Saleh’s final 30 days expired and would have seven days to formulate a unity government. That government may incorporate the President’s General People’s Congress party. Despite approval of the agreement by government opponents, protesters in the streets note that they will continue to demand reform until Saleh is finally removed. At least two were killed Monday, when protesters were again met with violent resistance.

For more information please see:

Al-Jazeera – Deaths Reported in Fresh Yemen Protests – Apr. 25, 2011

CNN World – Yemen’s Embattled President Agrees to Exit, Officials say – Apr. 23, 2011

Reuters – Yemen’s Saleh to Quit but Activists say Protests go on – Apr. 23, 2011

Yemen News Agency – Opposition Dragging Nation into Civil War says President Saleh – Apr. 23, 2011

Yemen Post – Opposition Welcomes Power Deal in Yemen Also – Apr. 23, 2011

HONDURAN AUTHORITIES CONTINUE REGIME OF VIOLENCE: FROM PEACEFUL PROTEST TO SEDITION

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Fear rises in Honduras as governmental abuse and oppression grows.  Journalists, activists and independent citizens are under the control of the government and military which continues to impose limits on speech as well as preventing citizens from conducting peaceful demonstrations against the Post-coup regime.  The past year has been plagued with an increase in disappearances and murders of journalists, students, homosexuals and even teachers.

Police use truck to spray teargas at peaceful protesters
Police use truck to spray teargas at peaceful protesters

With a homicide rate that is four times that of Mexico, Honduras currently maintains a spot as the country with the highest homicide rate in the Western hemisphere.

On April 1, 2011, Honduran teachers and students orchestrated a strike across the country to protest the repression inherent in the government.  Their attempts to free 18 teachers arrested and detained for sedition were unsuccessful.  Teachers protesting the illegal detainment, privatization of public school education and the oppression by the regime were beaten, shot with tear gas and illegally detained by police and military personnel. 

Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco condemned the violence, indicating that “Human Rights Watch recognizes that Honduran police have a duty to respond to protesters who engage in violence and prosecute those who break the law. But they also have an obligation to respect the basic rights of demonstrators.”

Protests by public school teachers have been ongoing since Mid March of 2011.  Each one ending more violently than the first.  President Lobo has been blamed as the source of the violence. 

“If President Lobo is committed to law and order, he should ensure that alleged brutality by the police is thoroughly investigated and that those responsible are prosecuted and held accountable,” Vivanco said.  Human Rights Watch called on the immediate and thorough investigation of the use of excessive force by Honduran authorities.  Further, Honduran authorities have been asked to prosecute anyone deemed responsible for the violence. 

Allegations of targeted violence against the media have also been made.  According to C-Libre, a popular Honduran newspaper, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters directly at journalists and cameramen, injuring those who merely came to record the protests. 

Gerardo Torres of Honduras’ National Front of Popular Resistance claimed that the money received from the United States to combat such issues as drug trafficking has been used indiscriminately. 

“All the money is spent on weapons, propaganda and controlling the mass media,” Torres is quoted as saying. “There are no civil rights in Honduras.”
The Honduran homicide rate has increased 39% in the last two years. 

Photo courtesy of Honduras Human Rights. For more information please visit:  

Honduras Human Rights – Honduras: Probe Charges of Police Brutality – 8 April 2011

Honduras Human Rights – Endless Repression By Military Back Regime – 1 April 2011

Latin Dispatch – Honduran Government Responsible for Murders and Human Rights Abuses – 14 April 2011

Update: Nigeria’s Post-Election Violence Intensifies

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Aftermath of election violence in Zonkwa locate din the northern state of Kaduna; Photo courtesy of the AP
Aftermath of election violence in Zonkwa locate din the northern state of Kaduna; Photo courtesy of the AP

ABUJA, Nigeria– Though observers at first lauded Nigeria’s presidential election on April 16, the country is experiencing growing violence in the aftermath, with upwards of 40,000 displaced in the last two weeks and an estimated 500 killed.  Because the government refuses to release any confirmed numbers, it is difficult to verify how many have died.  However, across the north as the post-election violence ebbed over Easter, many towns held mass burials.  The rioting started shortly after the election in which the northern Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari lost to the southern Christian incumbent Jonathan Goodluck by a 57% to 31% margin.  Shehu Seni, who leads the Civil Rights Congress in northern Nigeria, said the death toll could reach 1,000 before the violence stops.

While the primary conflict appears to be between Muslims and Christians, analysts believe the conflict is more indicative of the stark economic differences between the two halves of the country.  The south is an oil rich delta region and the north is largely struggling, where many live on less than $2 a day.  The conflict is further complicated by the fact that the population of many areas is a mix of economically, religious and ethnically diverse people.  This conflict is also mirrored by Nigeria’s long history of civil unrest; the last presidential election four years ago left 300 dead.  Goodluck stated last week “These acts of mayhem are sad reminders of the events which plunged our country into 30 months of an unfortunate civil war,” referring to the 1967 civil war during which an estimated 3 million were killed.

After Goodluck was announced the winner this month, many Muslim youths in the north began rioting, believing that the polls had been rigged.  There are in fact signs of ballot box tampering, with evidence of unusually large voter turnout and suspected underage voting.  In the months leading up to the election, the Independent Nigerian Election Council in charge of the voting procedures had problems getting election materials and processes in place, resulting in a postponement of the vote until April 16.  So far, Goodlucks’ People’s Democratic Party is the only party to officially recognize and sign the election results.

While a curfew has been imposed, Nigerians fear the violence will only escalate.  Eyo Anthony, a resident in the northern city of Kano where homes and shops had been burned in his neighborhood, said Sunday “Although it has been calm in the past two days I don’t intend to go back to my house… until after the governors’ elections. . .I know how I managed to escape with my family and I don’t want to relive the same experience.”  A Human Right Watch researcher told reporters that the northern state of Kaduna looked like a “war zone” and that not “one building was standing”.  Located within that state, the town of Zonkwa has been hit the hardest, with over 300 reported dead there since April 16.

Initially, gubernatorial elections were planned to take place in the week following the presidential election, but those have been postponed out of fear that those elections will prompt more violence.  Goodluck has denounced the riots but it is unclear what steps he is taking to end the conflict.  Buhari will only state that he objects to the election results and remains silent as Muslims in the north continue to retaliate against Christians and supporters of Goodluck, which some see as an implicit encouragement to his followers.  In the meantime, many residents in the north have fled to police and military barracks as rioters continue to target businesses and religious centers.

For more information, please see;

CNNMass Burials Held in Rural Nigeria24 April, 2011

NYTElection Results Fuels Deadly Clashes in Nigeria24 April, 2011

BBCNigeria Election Violence ‘Left More Than 500 Dead’24 April, 2011

AFP Nigerian Rights Group Says More Than 500 Killed in Unrest24 April, 2011

The Botswana GazetteNigeria- Mass Burials Held Following Violence24 April, 2011

Demobilized Paramilitary Members Pose Problems For Colombian Citizens

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to reports, the Organization of American States has expressed concerns over the terrorizing of Colombia’s civilian population by criminal groups comprised of now-demobilized paramilitary members. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza acknowledged the disappearance of the paramilitary group the Unified Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (“AUC”) as “a political reality,” but emphasized that the OAS is “concerned that the civilian population is still caught in the dynamics imposed by criminal groups post-demobilization.”

Based on the recent OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process report, violence against and displacement of rural Colombian populations is said to be highest in Antioquia, Choco, Nariño and Corodba. Insulza stated that “”it remains imperative to strengthen the economic and community reintegration of villages, ” that are still faced with these demobilization challenges.

The AUC’s demobilization process was carried out from 2003-2006 under former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration. The process is now widely considered to have failed due to the rearming of several paramilitary fighters after the process.

There are several primary reasons for these failures. For example, the Colombian government has failed to offer low and mid-level fighters the same benefits being offered to top AUC leaders. Many of these low and mid-level fighters subsequently went on to join neo-paramilitary organizations. An NGO report from March this year suggested that these criminal groups are present in nearly a third of Colombia.

According to Justice and Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras, as a result of this vast presence, the groups could pose threats to the October 2011 elections. Insulza did not point specifically to the Justice and Peace Law, which forced this demobilization. Rather, Insulza  pointed to the economic and psychological problems of reintegrating former fighters into society due to the current unemployment levels in Colombia and the “stigma” attached to being a former paramilitary.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – Colombian Citizens Continue to be Victims of Demobilized AUC: OAS – 20 April 2011

Colombia Reports – Red Cross Labels Criminal Gangs as Primary Concern – 14 April 2011

Upside Down World – Rising from the Ashes of Demobilization in Colombia – 13 April 2011