Human Rights Watch Recommends Imposing Sanctions on Syria

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – On Sunday security forces and secret police raided a town on the western coast of Syria and allegedly fired on protesters without warning.  In Jableh, witnesses say that security forces began firing on small groups of protesters, as they started to gather in the streets.  One man was killed.

Protestors continued to gather in the streets, spurred on by the violence.  As they chanted, calling for the end of the regime, snipers fired from the roofs of nearby buildings.

On Saturday in the there were also reports that security forces fired shots at people who were paying their respects to protesters that had been killed.  The incident left at least ten people dead.  In addition, many police officers have been injured during the attacks on protesters.

These demonstrations have been going on for several weeks, with protesters calling for the government to end the state of emergency and martial law and for the release of political prisoners.

In the meantime, Human Rights Watch has recommended that the United Nations set up an international inquiry into the incident which left many peaceful protesters dead  and other human rights violations that have occurred in Syria. The organization also suggested imposing sanctions on Syrian officials who are responsible for the attacks on peaceful protesters as well as the detention and torture of some protesters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as the president of the European Parliament and US President Barack Obama have condemned the violence and have called on the Syrian government to stop using violence against protesters.

The Canadian government has also expressed concern over the use of violence against protesters in Syria.

Human Rights Watch officials stated, “President Bashar al-Asad’s promises of reform mean nothing while his security forces are free to kill peaceful protesters. The Obama administration and the EU should push for meaningful sanctions that will persuade President Asad to end the shootings and restore human rights.”

For more information please see:
CNN – Security Forces Open Fire on Syrian protesters; at least 1 dead – 24 April 2011

Human Rights Watch – Syria: World Should Impose Sanctions on Leadership – 24 April 2011

Montreal Gazette – Canada ‘deeply concerned’ by Syria crackdown – 24 April 2011

Peace Negotiations Watch, Volume X, Number 17

PEACE NEGOTIATIONS WATCH

Friday, April 22, 2011
Volume X, Number 17

In this issue:

CONFLICT UPDATES

Bosnia
Burma
Cyprus
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Egypt
Kenya
Kosovo
Kyrgyzstan
Libya
Nagorno-Karabakh
Nepal
Philippines
Sudan: Darfur
Sudan: Southern Sudan
Tanzania
Zimbabwe

Bosnia

War Crimes Prosecutor: Bosnia Needs Independent Judiciary to Continue Work
Bernama.com, April 13, 2011
While on a fact finding mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz noted that reconciliation is impossible without justice.  Brammertz also stated that an independent judiciary is necessary to ensure the proper resolution of war crimes trials after the mandate for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ends.

Bosnian Serb MPs Approve Vote on Scrapping State Court
BalkanInsight.com, April 14, 2011
The Republika Srpska (RS) National Assembly approved a proposal to hold a referendum to gauge voter support for legislation enacted by the High Representative, especially the laws relating to Bosnia’s war crimes court.  RS President Milorad Dodik justified the referendum by saying that the state war crimes court has improperly found more Serbs guilty than Bosniaks or Croats.  The President of the state court called the referendum catastrophic, while the Office of the High Representative said the referendum is irresponsible and would violate the Dayton peace agreement.  The Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina emphasized that a referendum in one part of the state cannot have a binding effect on state institutions. Serbia commented that it supports the RS and its democratic decisions, but that an agreement from all three ethnic groups is necessary for peace and stability.

Bosnian Croats Form National Assembly
Balkan Insight, April 19, 2011
On April 20, the two main Bosnian-Croat parties, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the HDZ 1990, will establish the Croat National Assembly (HNS) to represent the Croat population in Bosnia’s Bosniak-Croat entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the Federation’s new government was formed in March, the HDZ and HDZ 1990 were not included.

Burma

European Union Relaxes Curbs on Burmese Ministers
Financial Times, April 12, 2011
On April 12, the Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU) decided to relax sanctions against Burmese officials for the first time since they were first imposed in 1996.  The Council suspended travel and financial restrictions on twenty-two members of the new civilian government of Burma, who have not served in the military at all or for at least a decade.  This move marks a more flexible policy towards Burma despite the highly criticized elections of last November, and seems in line with the US policy of engagement evidenced by the appointment of a special envoy.

Human Rights Abuses Reported in Shan State Clashes
The Irrawaddy, April 12, 2011
Junta forces and the ceasefire group Shan State Army-North, which has continuously refused to join the regime’s border guard force, have been engaged in violent conflict in Shan State since March 13. Thailand-based organization Shan Human Rights Foundation reported numerous human rights abuses in Shan State during these clashes, including sexual violence, torture, arbitrary killings, and forced relocation.

Experts Keep Spotlight on Burma’s Nuclear Aspirations
The Irrawaddy, April 12, 2011
During a conference on Burma’s relationship with North and South Korea, American experts expressed concerns over the Burmese regime’s intentions to develop nuclear technology. Some experts explained that leaked reports, despite their apparent credibility, were still unclear as to whether North Korea is helping or will help the regime’s nuclear efforts. However, the experts noted that there would not be compulsory inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency at this early stage.

Cyprus

United Nations Envoy Upbeat About Cyprus Peace
Voice of America, April 14, 2011
The United Nations (UN) appointed Cyprus mediator, Alexander Downer, believes the differences between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots are not beyond resolution and can be overcome with political courage.  While property and natural resources remain the biggest issues, according to Downer, there has been significant progress in power sharing agreements.

Turkish, Greek Envoys Agree on International Deals Under United Cyprus
World Bulletin, April 15, 2011
Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders decided that agreements signed by either side with third countries prior to a Cyprus settlement would remain in force in a new united Cypriot state as long as the agreements did not violate the settlement deal.  The agreement was reached over a working dinner on April 14 hosted by the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim.

Turkish Cypriots Renews Call for a Timetable on Reunification
World Bulletin, April 16, 2011
Turkish Cypriot president called upon his Greek counterpart to make a timetable to sign an agreement.  The Turkish Cypriots stated their efforts for a fair solution would be based on facts, but that they would not settle on any plan that risks Turkish Cypriots’ freedom, sovereignty, or economic and social structure.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Witness Insists Thomas Lubanga Was Not a Military Leader
AllAfrica.com, April 4, 2011
Bede Djobaka Lambi Longa, a militia leader and witness in the Thomas Lubanga trial, insisted over four days of testimony that Lubanga was not a military leader, and that the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) was not a military group.  International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Olivia Struyven is attempting to show that Lubanga was a political and military leader, arguing that the UPC was involved in a mutiny from another armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Longa insisted that there was no institutional connection, but that some individuals had been involved in both.

UN ‘Encouraged’ by Congolose Participation in Voter Registration Drive
Voice of America, April 20, 2011
The UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has reported strong participation in the voter registration drive ahead of national elections scheduled for late November.  A MONUSCO spokesman says that while the mission has received reports of attacks on civilians and humanitarian convoys in certain regions, it has not witnessed attacks on civilians registering to vote.  Furthermore, the spokesman said that MONUSCO plans to provide increased security to those areas that have experienced recent attacks.

Egypt

Mubarak Headed for Military Hospital, Then to Jail
The Daily News Egypt, April 15, 2011
As part of the probe over the crackdown on protesters earlier this year, prosecutors submitted Hosni Mubarak to questioning, during which he suffered from a heart attack on April 12.  Egypt’s state prosecutor decided on Friday to transfer the deposed president to a military hospital and then to prison when his health improves.  Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa were placed in custody this week over their alleged involvement in the death of protesters.

Egypt to Reconsider Protester Sentences
The Egyptian Gazette, April 15, 2011
After the mother of a sentenced protester appealed to Egypt’s transitional military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces decided to grant her son a new trial and to review the status of all the recently-sentenced youth.  However, critics said that the re-trials will only benefit the protesters if they occur in a civilian rather than in a military court, a detail on which was not clear in the Supreme Council’s statement. Meanwhile, the military continues to deny allegations and criticism regarding the use of violence against protesters and detainees.

Egypt’s Ex-Premier Charged with Corruption
Associated Press, April 17, 2011
Following protestors’ demands that Mubarak and other officials of his Cabinet be tried for corruption, rights abuses, and other crimes, the attorney general for public funds charged Mubarak’s former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, ex-Finance Minister Yousef Boutros Ghali, and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly with corruption.  The present case concerns a deal with a businessman from Germany, also charged with corruption. The trial date still has not yet been set.

Kenya

Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission Launches Public Hearings
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, April 11, 2011
The Kenyan Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) commenced its public hearings in Garissa, in Kenya’s North Eastern province.  The TJRC will conduct both public and private hearings during which victims, perpetrators, and experts will provide testimony relating to gross violations of human rights.  The TJRC will also conduct individual, thematic, and event hearings, which will focus on individual and broad instances of human rights violations.  In November, the TJRC is expected to present a report to President Kibaki that documents the Commission’s work and findings, as well as provide recommendations on how to address past and future violations.

Kenya Court Acquits International Suspect of Graft Charges
Associated Press, April 12, 2011
Former Education Minister William Ruto was acquitted of corruption charges after the prosecution failed to prove that Ruto and two others defrauded Kenya’s Pipeline Corporation by selling protected forest land.  The acquittal came a day after Ruto returned from the ICC.

Ocampo Goes to War Over Hague Witnesses
Daily Nation, April 14, 2011
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is seeking to appeal a decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber that requires him to share the evidence and information he has compiled with the lawyers for Kenya’s post-election violence suspects.  The defense lawyers argue that they will fight the appeal because this information is necessary in order to adequately prepare their case.

Kosovo

Court in Kosovo’s North to Reopen on April 18th
Southeast European Times, April 12, 2011
Three years after being forced out of the area, the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo is sending local judges and prosecutors back to work at the District Court of Mitrovica North.  The District Court is located in the Serb-dominated area of the city.  The return of the Albanian court employees is expected to spark Serb protests challenging the legitimacy of the court unless Serbia’s constitution is recognized.  There will be heavy security in and around the court as the judges and prosecutors return to work.

Kosovo Election Body Criticized Over Annulled Polls
Balkan Insight, April 13, 2011
The EU Election Expert Mission to Kosovo issued a report questioning the legality of Kosovo’s Central Election Commission’s (CEC) annulment of December election results without ordering rerun elections.  The CEC held new elections in most polling stations where it detected electoral fraud, but it cancelled results in four polling stations without requiring a second round.  According to the EU report, the CEC has not clarified the legal basis for this inconsistency, despite numerous requests.  The CEC maintains, however, that it has authority to decide on such annulments without further explanations.

Kosovo, Serbia Resume Talks in Brussels
Balkan Insight, April 15, 2011
The third round of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia began this week under EU mediation.  This round of negotiations will address freedom of movement issues, including license plates, personal identification cards, passports, and drivers licenses.  So far the negotiations have covered land registry books, birth and death certificate registries, telecommunications, customs seals, electric energy, and the Central European Free Trade Agreement presidency.  Both parties disagree on whether the talks will eventually address the controversial status of Kosovo.  Negotiations are expected to finish this year or early next year.

Kyrgyzstan

Supporters of Ousted President ‘Seek Revenge,’ Kyrgyz Prime Minister Warns
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 7, 2011
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev, speaking at a commemoration service for those who died in last year’s clashes that led to the ouster of the-president Kurmbanek Bakiev, warned that supporters of Bakiev would hold protests and seek Bakiev’s return in the upcoming days.  Atambaev urged unity amongst Kyrgyz parliamentarians, accusing some of supporting Bakiev and criminal gangs, against the interest of Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament to Probe Corruption Allegations Against Resigned Deputy Prime Minister

The Associated Press, April 14, 2011
One day after deputy prime minister Omurbek Babanov resigned amidst allegations of corruption, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament announced the creation of a commission to investigate the charges against him.  These charges originated from the former prosecutor-general, who was fired in early April.  The corruption charges represent the latest manifestation of increasing tensions and controversies between the three parties that make up Kyrgyzstan’s ruling coalition.

Libya

Rights Group: Gadhafi Forces Firing Cluster Munitions
CNN, April 15, 2011
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Gadhafi’s forces fired cluster munitions into residential areas.  The government denies the charge.  However, HRW reported it had seen cluster munitions explode over a neighborhood in Misrata on April 14 and interviewed witnesses to two other such attacks.  HRW inspected debris from an attack, including a submunition that appeared to be from a Spanish-produced MAT-120 mortar projectile.  The weapon opens mid-air and releases twenty-one submunitions that disperse across large areas. The submunitions explode on contact and disintegrate into molten metal that can pierce armor.  Most states have banned the use of such weapons because of the high risk they pose to civilians.

Libyan Rebels Say They Are Being Sent Weapons
The New York Times, April 16, 2011
On Saturday, Libyan rebel military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes revealed rebel forces had begun to receive weapons from states who support the opposition.  Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, confirmed Younes’ statement.  France, Italy, and Qatar are likely to be among the states providing arms as all three have recognized the opposition as the legitimate government of Libya.  However, Qatar is the only state to announce that its government would arm the rebels.  Meanwhile, Libyan rebels said they would welcome both weapons and training from foreign states, but emphasized that foreign armies are unwelcome.  Gheriani indicated that rebels have already opened professional training centers to learn how to use advanced weaponry and have set up training camps to provide instruction to volunteers before heading to the front line.

Troubling Reports Emerge from the Raging Battle for Misrata
CNN, April 17, 2011
War rages unabated in Misrata despite talks of peace.  Just one day after HRW said its members saw cluster munitions explode over the city, residents reported that forces loyal to Gadhafi are using bombs that look like perfume bottles.  Photos suggest that the bombs were fired from grenade launchers and either did not explode or were deliberately placed in populated areas.  Opposition Council members reported that people have lost limbs and children have been killed with the devices.  Doctors Without Borders reports that the intense fighting has prevented many from obtaining medical assistance and has overwhelmed clinics and hospitals with the dead and injured.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan Hinders Resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
News.am, April 13, 2011
According to Bako Sahakyan, the President of the Artsakh Republic, Azerbaijan is pursuing policies that hinder the peace efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Sahakyan cites ceasefire violations, distortion of public events, and politicization of humanitarian issues as some of Azerbaijan’s counterproductive activities.  In particular, Sahakyan stresses that Azerbaijan’s continual speculation surrounding the Minsk Group’s field assessment of the region as a contributor to the rising tensions between the mediators.

PACE Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh Unacceptable
News.Am, April 18, 2011
David Harutyunyan, head of the Armenian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), declared the existence of PACE’s Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabahh unacceptable. Azerbaijan has worked towards restoring the activities of the subcommittee, but Armenia believes the subcommittee is counter-productive, citing the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group as the only feasible format for a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Nepal

Nepal: New Energy Minister Gokarna Bista is Stabbed
BBC News, April 12, 2011
Gokarna Bista was stabbed close to his house only a few hours after being appointed minister of energy.  The next day, April 12, he was in critical but stable condition. Although the reason for his attack and the identity of the attackers are unknown, the police are currently detaining over fifty people for interrogation.  This incident is the most recent of a series of high profile crimes in Kathmandu, which some say may signal a degradation of security in Nepal.

Ministers Sworn In
Nepali Times, April 13, 2011
Prime Minister Khanal appointed twelve new ministers from his party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), eleven of which took the oath of office on Wednesday.  Four federal ministers and seven state ministers were present at the president’s office.  The newly appointed energy minister could not be present, as he was in the hospital recovering from a recent attack.  The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Madhesi Forum have not yet named their ministerial candidates.  The Maoists continue to claim the Home Ministry as per the seven point agreement.

Constitutional Committee Sub Panel Seeks Term Extension
The Himalayan Times, April 16, 2011
The term of the sub-committee of the Constituent Assembly’s Constitutional Committee expired on April 14.  Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of the sub-committee tasked with the resolution of the remaining contentious constitutional issues, decided to request an extension until May 14.  Meanwhile, the work of the Constitutional Committee has stalled due to minority parties’ decision to disrupt its meeting until all parties address the concerns of minority communities in Nepal.


Philippines

Filipino Rebels Agree to Stop Using Child Soldiers
New York Times, April 8, 2011
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines agreed to cooperate with the UN to eliminate the usage of child soldiers in the New People’s Army (NPA).  Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that the UN will monitor the NPA’s compliance.  Although the NPA claims that they do not use child soldiers, Coomaraswamy reports that at least 600 combatants are younger than age eighteen.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Disowns Terror Suspect
AbsCbn.com, April 13, 2011
Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), denied that suspected terrorist Abi Pamanay had any connections to MILF.  The Philippine military alleged that Pamanay, who was recently arrested, was a member of MILF.  Iqbal reiterated that MILF condemns terrorism and reaffirmed MILF’s desire to work with the government toward a draft peace agreement.

Thieving Generals Come Under Fire
Strategy Page, April 18, 2011
Tensions are increasing between the government and the communist NPA as both are resorting to violent tactics to achieve their aims. While the government has made destroying the NPA movement its main goal, NPA is dedicated to establishing a communist dictatorship in the Philippines.  NPA is further attempting to negotiate an amnesty agreement that would allow all NPA members to continue as a political party.

Sudan: Darfur

Clashes Erupt in Darfur as Peace Talks Stall
Reuters, April 12, 2011
Clashes between the government and rebels have increased after peace talks stalled over plans to hold a referendum this year.  Soldiers on both sides have been killed and there are reports of heavy casualties.  Rebels claim the government inappropriately declared a unilateral referendum outside of the negotiation process.

Dr. Ghazi and Gambari Review the Administrative Referendum in Darfur
All Africa, April 13, 2011
President Advisor Ghazi Salahuddin and UNAMID Joint Representative Ibrahim Gambari met to review increased cooperation between UNAMID and the government. The two officials also discussed the government’s preparations for an administrative referendum in Darfur, and the African Union Peace and Security Council’s (AUPSC) recent meeting, affirming the support for the Darfur peace process expressed there.

African Union’s Criticisms to Darfur Mediator are Unjustified
Sudan Tribune, April 15, 2011
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Liberation and Equality Movement (LJM) released a statement commending the Doha negotiations­—a reaction to the AUPSC remarks.  The AUPSC blamed mediator Djibril Bassole for blocking efforts by former South African President Thabo Mbeki to gather stakeholders in Darfur for a political process dialogue.  JEM and LJM support the proposed dialogue but view it as premature if held before a peace deal is reached in Doha, the state of emergency law is repealed, or a suitable atmosphere is created for consultations among different stakeholders.


Sudan: Southern Sudan

800 Civilians Killed This Year in Southern Sudan, UN Says
The New York Times
, April 13, 2011
On April 13, Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in Southern Sudan, said that more than 800 civilians have been killed in Southern Sudan since January.  Grande added that this figure does not include the number of soldiers who have died in fighting, or the continuing standoff in Abyei.  According to Grande, 93,000 civilians have fled their homes since the referendum in early January, including more than 40,000 who have been displaced within the last month.

North and South Sudan Agree to Withdraw ‘All Unauthorized Forces’ from Abyei
Sudan Tribune, April 14, 2011
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) announced that the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) reached an agreement on April 13 to withdraw “all unauthorized forces” from the Abyei region and to form a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) to monitor the implementation of the agreement.  UNMIS welcomed the resolution between the parties and expressed willingness to provide assistance to the newly formed JTC.

Sudan Forces ‘Kill Over Twenty People’ in South Kordofan
AFP, April 14, 2011
On April 14, Deputy Governor of South Kordofan, Abdelaziz al-Hilu said that Sudanese paramilitary forces killed more than twenty people and burned between 300 and 500 houses in an attack on El-Faid Um Abdullah village in South Kordofan state.  The violence comes in the lead up to highly contested gubernatorial and state assembly elections in South Kordofan, where Deputy Governor and SPLM party member Hilu will be challenging Governor Ahmed Harun of the NCP.  Hilu accused Harun, who is wanted by the ICC for war crimes in Darfur, of carrying out the attack in an attempt to create insecurity and to prevent the elections from taking place on May 5.

Tanzania

Tanzania Ruling Party Leaders Quits Amid Infighting
Reuters, April 12, 2011
President Jakaya Kikwete of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party called for major reforms in the party following the 2010 general election.  He cited a lack of ethics in the party’s leadership as a major cause of CCM’s losses.  Several party leaders, including those responsible for CCM’s day-to-day operations, resigned and were replaced.  Activists and opposition leaders have criticized CCM for not addressing corruption, and several senior members of the party are confronting allegations of graft.

MPs Laud Constitutional Review Extension
Daily News, April 16, 2011
National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda extended deliberations on the Constitutional Review Bill of 2011 to allow the appropriate committees more time to work on the document, and to allow more Tanzanians to participate in the process.  She characterized the move as a signal that the CCM government is paying attention to the public’s concern. Critics claim that the constitutional review process has been rushed, and that the public has been surprised and confused by the process.

Zimbabwe

Mugabe Says to Proceed with Foreign Firm Takeovers
Reuters, April 14, 2011
Speaking at the funeral of a government official, Robert Mugabe reaffirmed his plan to ensure that foreign companies would be managed and controlled by Zimbabwean majority ownership.  Mugabe’s plan to have all foreign companies, including mining firms, transfer at least fifty-one percent of their stock to indigenous owners has been opposed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party.  The mixed message from the coalition government has continued to confuse and discourage foreign investors.

Zimbabwe Police Arrest Priest, Government Minister
The Associated Press, April 15, 2011
Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, a co-minister of the national healing commission, and Marko Mkandla, a Roman Catholic priest were arrested and detained by police for holding a gathering that police had not authorized.  The two men were holding a memorial service in western Zimbabwe for victims of massacres after independence in the 1980s.  An estimated 20,000 civilians were killed when troops loyal to President Mugabe crushed an armed uprising in western Zimbabwe that ended in 1987.  Mugabe and his security chiefs never publicly acknowledged the killings.

Peace Negotiations Watch is a weekly publication detailing current events relating to conflict and peace processes in selected countries.  It is prepared by the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and made possible by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ploughshares Fund.

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Amnesty Pressures Bahrain’s Allies to End Human Rights Crisis

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – Amnesty International has called on the allies of Bahrain to address the ongoing human rights crisis in that nation, in particular, the Bahraini government’s attempts to suppress peaceful demonstrations.  Bahrain: A Human Rights Crisis claims that those governments who have a close relationship with Bahrain must pressure the authorities there to end the crackdown on opposition forces.

A director of Amnesty International stated that “[North American and European governments] must be much more robust in pressing the Bahraini authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations.”

Since March of this year, protestors have been calling for the reform of the government.  On March 16, the Bahraini government attempted to suppress the protests by using shotguns, rubber bullets, tear gas, and in some instances, live ammunition.  The use of such weapons could not be justified.

Over five hundred people have been arrested in the past month.  Most of those arrested were Shi’a Muslim protestors.  Even now, no one knows where many of these protestors are located.  Some of those who have been detained were also tortured following their arrests. Four detainees died while in custody.

Among the detainees are medical doctors and nurses.  Although the exact reasons for their arrests are unknown, these individuals may have been arrested as a result of treating protestors, playing an active role in demonstrations, and criticizing the government.  In addition, protestors have also been fired from their jobs in government service and state institutions, including teachers and university lecturers.  These dismissals have been justified as breaches of their employment contracts.

The human rights organization states in its paper that “Bahrainis need to see their government acting decisively and transparently to reverse this downward trend and begin a process of rebuilding trust and confidence in its institutions.”.

For more information please see:
Al Jazeera – Rights Groups Slam Bahraini Crackdown – 23 April 2011

Boston Globe – Medical Workers Missing in Bahrain – 23 April 23, 2011

Amnesty International – Bahrain: International Pressure Needed Now to Halt Spiralling Human Rights Crisis – 21 April 2011

Amnesty International – Bahrain: A Human Rights Crisis – 21 April 2011

Syrian Forces Attack Mourners at Funeral, Killing Six

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria –Security forces open fire on mourners gathered in the suburbs of Damascus, to pay their respects to friends and family lost in the bloodiest day since the outbreaks of protests in Syria.  Six were shot dead.  Over one hundred people were killed Friday when security forces advanced on civilian protesters in the country’s capital.  This comes just days after President Bashar al-Assad issued a ban on public demonstrations.

Tens of thousands were reported to have attended Friday’s funerals for the fallen.  Security forces attempted to deter the gathering by firing on those traveling to the event.  “There were was a heavy volley of gunfire in our direct as we approached Ezra to join the funerals of martyrs” commented one Syrian.  Reports confirm that at least three civilians will killed by snipers on their way to the funeral.

Despite Assad’s recent move to end decades of emergency rule, the government has attempted to reassert control and order of the public through violent reprisals.  Now some analysts are beginning to suggest that the imposition of martial law is near.

Government officials have failed to take responsibility for authorizing the use of force against peaceful protesters, instead alleging that violence is the product of disgruntled armed criminal gangs.   One official dismissed reports of civilian casualties stating that the deaths were mere fabrications, made up by gangs carrying bottles of fake blood. Other officials insist that security forces had only used water cannons and tear gas to disband protests.

Human rights groups have widely condemned the Syrian government for violations of international law. The government’s restrictions on access to foreign journalists have made it difficult to get real time information about the crisis and formulate an accurate assessment of those dead in Syria.  Syrian human rights activists estimate that over 200 people have been killed since March 16th.

In the face of violent crackdowns, anti-government momentum remains strong and the public resilient.   Calls for the end of the Assad regime continue to ring out in city squares throughout the country as protesters make clear they are willing to risk their lives for the future of their country.  And protests have not been in vain.  Numerous concessions, albright limited, have been given to citizens.  In addition, a number of governing officials have resigned from their posts, surcoming to pressure from civilian ousters.  Two more officials of the country’s defunct Parliament resigned after Friday’s massacres.

But there is little indication that the President will soften his positions.  As Assad attempts to cling to power, the risk that full blown civil conflict could ignite within Syria continues to rise.  Whether the international community will react as it did in Libya remains to be seen but one thing remains clear; the situation in Syria will likely get worse before it gets better.

For more information, please see:

Sydney Morning Herald – Outrage at Massacre of 88 Protesters – Apr. 24, 2011

BBC Middle East – Syria Protests: Security Forces “Fire on Mourners” – Apr. 23, 2011

New York Times – Syrian Security Forces Fire on Mourners in Several Towns – Apr. 23, 2011

Ynet – Syria Buries Scores of Dead Amid Growing Unrest – Apr. 23, 2011

Corruption Cripples Karachi From the Inside Out

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

KARACHI, Pakistan – The city of lights is becoming more like a jungle to local residents who fear the city has been overrun with predators: extortionists, drug lords, weapon dealers, the land mafia…the list goes on. Criminals guard their turf and have allegedly formed links with political parties, making controlling the violence difficult, if not impossible says the Tribune.

Within Karachi, an annual billion dollars in revenue province, political rivalry, sectarian tension, ethnic hatred, and a bloody chase of a multi-billion rupee pie are the ongoing explanation for the increased violence.

Nasrullah Khan, Station House Officer of Mauripur Police Station battles targeted killing on a daily basis and has survived numerous shootouts as a result.

“The police is combating crime efficiently,” he claims, “which is evident from the numerous arrests and the seizure of illegal arms, the courts are overflowing with trials and the  jails are overcrowded with all the people we have arrested.”

The statistics Nasrullah offers tell one story, but there are other numbers as well, and they tell a different story.

Targeted killings for the month of March are 135. This number is twenty more than two months ago were January witnessed 105 people killed.

According to the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, target killings in the city have risen by 175 per cent from 2009 to 2010. Last year 748 people lost their lives on the violent streets of Karachi. Only 447 of them were political activists.

“This is indeed a turf war,” says Nasrullah Khan. “There is a battle for drugs, for weapons, for confiscation of land, for extortion, for dominance — ultimately it’s a battle to own Karachi.”

But adding to the turmoil is a sluggish judicial process where the police and prosecutors lack the ability to produce evidence or witnesses before the court.

Despite the confession of nine target killing suspects, they were acquitted by the court because of a lack of evidence and witness testimony. Only to be let loose without any surveillance so they often continue committing crime without any fear.

Reports indicate that on May 12th a message was sent to political parties to strengthen their militant wings or find themselves on the receiving end of political violence. Lacking alternatives, party workers chose to arm themselves or align with ‘sympathetic’ criminal groups for protection.

Politics in this case are unquestionable the “Muttahida Qaumi Movement” or MQM and the “Awami National Party” or ANP share the coalition government in Sindh with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party or PPP.

They share the responsibility of governance and maintenance of the law and ultimate order.

ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan says that no single political party should be allowed to dominate the city. He stressed “that the Pashtun presence in Karachi was a reality, as was the existence of other ethnicities.”

The ANP chief says that “elements” intending to destabilize the city were feeding on political strife and that neither the MQM nor the ANP were solely responsible for target killing.

Interviews with the International Herald report that the ANP and MQM now apparently seem to be in agreement that peaceful co-existence is the solution to Karachi’s problems.

The citizens pay the price for this targeted violence.

Citizens are targeted for their ethnicity, their sect, their politics…and sometimes, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The father of a victim says, “the Katchi community is fed-up of the PAC and has decided to gang up against them under the banner of the Katchi Rabta Committee” or KRC.

Uzair Jan Baloch, chief of the now-defunct People’s Aman Committee or PAC, refutes the allegations leveled against him. “I am a victim of gang wars myself. My father was abducted in front of my eyes fifteen years ago. His dead body was found in Jahanabad in a sack.”

“I am a social activist and the Aman Committee is a social welfare outfit,” claims Baloch.

To back up his claims, Uzair Baloch shows Sabin Agha of the Tribune, three applications from the residents of Lyari for financial assistance.

One is a request for payment of a student’s school fees in Australia, the other two also ask for monetary help due to lack of income and the absence of a breadwinner. Baloch claims he took care of all three applications.

Administrative neglect over the years have left Lyari so impoverished that it is not surprising that people find their saviors in people like Uzair Baloch or Rehman Dakait.

Citizens believe that as long as political parties feel the need to maintain militant wings and ally themselves with criminals, the slightest spark will continue to set this city ablaze.

Police have lost credibility in the eyes of the people, the law enforcement agencies suffer from endemic lawlessness and rampant corruption, ironically the same problem Karachi faces.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Welcome to the Jungle – 17 April 2011

Xinhua News (China) – Tension grips Pakistan coastal city Karachi as target killing continues – 15 April 2011

Hindustan Times – Fresh Political violence kill 10 in Karachi-17 April 2011

The News (International) – No PPP man named in Joint Team report on Karachi target killings – 11 April 2011

Al-Bashir Claims Limited Responsibility, Calls Ocampo a Liar

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan; Photo courtesy of the AFP
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan; Photo courtesy of the AFP

In an interview today, Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir claimed limited responsibility for the atrocities in his country while blaming the International Criminal Court (ICC), its chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, “Western” states and cited the UN figures of death and displacement as exaggerated.  During the interview, al-Bashir said, “Of course, I am the president so I am responsible about everything happening in the country. . . .Everything happening, it is a responsibility.  But what happened in Darfur, first of all, it was a traditional conflict taking place from the colonial days.”  He said that his troops had not executed any attacks on the people in Darfur despite claims that his troops have committed ground and air strikes against thousands of civilians.

In addition, al-Bashir called Ocampo a liar who is using the ICC to promote his own political agenda.  “It is a political issue and double standards, because there are obvious crimes like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, but [they] did not find their way to the international criminal court. . .He [Ocampo] is now working on a big campaign to add more lies,” al-Bashir said during the interview.  Al-Bashir was the first head of state indicted by the court in March 2009 and has yet to be arrested.  Since Sudan is not a signatory member of the ICC, they have no obligation to turn him over to the court.

During the course of the interview, al-Bashir also said the UN had grossly exaggerated the numbers of those killed and displaced by the conflict in Sudan, specifically in Darfur.  The UN reports that in the last 8 years, 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and another 2.7 million displaced.  Al-Bashir claims the numbers are 10,000 and 70,000 respectively.  Refuting al-Bashir’s claims, John Prendergast, co-founder of the anti-genocide organization Enough Project, stated, “In my eight trips to Darfur since 2003, the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that a government-sponsored counter-insurgency targeted non-Arab civilian populations by destroying their dwellings, their food stocks, their livestock, their water sources and anything else that would sustain life in Darfur.”

Al-Bashir also criticized the military intervention in Libya, saying “The resources of Libya like petrol make it important to other countries like France, Britain and Europe in general.”  He has stated that he will support the succession of South Sudan after this year’s referendum in which an overwhelming majority of southern Sudanese voted for it.  However, he has been accused most recently of funding southern generals who are organizing a rebellion against the coming split.  After accusing western countries of pushing for a regime change in Sudan for the last 20 years, he claimed they were trying to satisfy a personal vendetta against him.

In response to al-Bashir’s numerous claims, Louise Arbour, a former UN high commissioner for human rights and Hague war crimes prosecutor, said, “’The crimes committed against millions of civilians in Darfur cannot simply be shrugged off. If Bashir wants to argue that he was not responsible for the atrocities, he should go to The Hague and make his case there.”

For more information, please see;

BBCSudan’s Bashir Accepts ‘Responsibility for Darfur War21 April, 2011

Sydney Morning HeraldPresident Accepts Responsibility for Darfur Slaughter22 April, 2011

The IndependentSudan: President Concedes Blame for Genocide21 April, 2011

The TelegraphSudan’s President Accepts Responsibility for Darfur Conflict21 April, 2011

New Legislation Requires Syrians to Obtain Government Approval Before Demonstrating

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

HOMS, Syria – Leaders in the international community have spoken out against the Syrian government and has called upon it put an end to the arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture of civilians.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the violence in Syria at a news conference today.

The most recent reports of violence among civilians are from the Syrian city of Homs.  However, journalists have not been allowed access to the city, which has made it difficult to determine what exactly is happening.  Activists have reported that more than twenty pro-democracy protestors have been shot and killed by military forces.

In Homs, demonstrators have been protesting since Monday, calling for the “downfall of the regime”.  Military forces were deployed and government officials ordered the protestors to disperse.  These demonstrations have continued, even though the government has ratified legislation that ended the state of emergency that has been in effect in Syria for the past forty-eight years.  The newly-elected cabinet also approved legislation that requires Syrians to obtain approval from the government before holding a demonstration.

Secretary of State Clinton has suggested that Syria allow “free movement and free access” and that it “stop the arbitrary arrest, detentions and torture of prisoners.”  The people of Syria have raised issue and seek lasting reform, which Clinton thinks the government needs to address.

In another city, Banias, where civilians were shot and killed last week, the chief of the security police was fired.  According to local residents, Amjad Abbas was observed beating a villager along with several other officers.

Reports indicate that more than two hundred people have been killed since the uprisings, inspired by Egypt and Tunisia, began over a month ago.  Various rights groups are seeking independent investigations into the acts of military forces during this time.

The state of emergency has been in effect since 1963, when the Baath Party performed a coup and seized power.  Security forces were allowed to suppress dissent because gatherings of more than five people were prohibited.  The new law which requires demonstrators to obtain permission did not clarify whether ending the state of emergency would create a less restrictive government.

While the new law is viewed as a positive sign, the U.S. State Department stated that it’s up to the Syrian people to ensure that it is sufficient and that real change happens.

For more information please see:
Reuters – Clinton Says Syria Must Stop Detention, Torture – 20 April 2011

Reuters – Protest Erupts in Syria’s Homs Despite New Law – 20 April 2011

The Christian Science Monitor – End of Emergency Rule in Syria Unlikely to Quell Protests or Stop Arrests – 20 April 2011

Second Russian Official Speaks Out About Pressure On Judge During Trial

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia — A former Russian court official said in an interview on Friday that the judge in charge of last year’s high profile trial of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky openly admitted the verdict would be dictated to him by others. This was the second official associated with the case to speak out about pressure put on the judge during the trial.

Igor Kravchenko, who was an administrator at the Moscow court until he was let go for allowing Khodorkovsky’s lawyers to bring a jar of crude oil into the courtroom as part of testimony, was interviewed by a Russian independent newspaper. In the interview, published on Friday, Kravchenko claims that Judge Viktor Danilkin admitted that he was not the one really in charge of Khodorkovsky’s fate. Kravchenko said in the interview, “[a]bout the process this is what [Judge Danilkin] said: ‘In principle, I don’t decide this. Whatever they say, that’s what will be.”

Judge Danilkin has said this is not true, and a Moscow courts spokeswoman has reassured Russian news media that Judge Danilkin wrote the verdict himself and urged reporters not to “suck news out of your finger, but analyze the process on the basis of facts and data which were presented in the trial.”

But Kravchenko is not the first Russian court official to make such claims. Natalya Vasilyeva, a former assistant to Judge Danilkin and court spokeswoman, gave an interview in February 2010 claiming that Judge Danilkin was forced to hand out a guilty verdict. Vasilyeva said in a TV interview, “Danilkin began to write the verdict. I suspect that what was in that verdict did not suit his higher ups, and therefore he received another verdict, which he had to read.” Kravchenko has said that what Vasilyeva said is true and only what most people involved the case already knew.

Khodorkovsky was already serving an eight year sentence on similar charges when the trial with Judge Danilkin took place. Many in the international community viewed the original sentence for tax fraud, handed down in 2005, as punishment for challenging then-President Vladimir Putin, and for his intent to sell energy assets to US companies. It was in light of his approaching release that government officials charged Khodorkovsky with embezzlement last year.

Khodorkovsky was held for months last year in pre-trial detention, despite legislation recently passed and aimed at keeping people accused of economic crimes free until trial. Russia’s Supreme Court actually ruled on appeal that the pre-trial detention was illegal, but it has no practical effect since Khodorkovsky is already serving the second sentence handed down by Judge Danilkin.

Khodorkovsky’s lawyer suggested the ruling was a superficial way to demonstrate reforms in Russia are working. “The situation is so crazy and so lacking in practical consequences that it was possible [for the court] to completely painlessly demonstrate that sometimes in Russia, even in this case, there are reasonable rulings,” he said.

As a result of the second trial, Khodorkovsky will be in prison until 2017, Judge Danilkin having sentenced him to six years for multibillion-dollar theft and money-laundering. During the trial Judge Danilkin was often called to Moscow City Court for meetings and demands of senior officials, according to Kravchenko. He also claimed that when senior officials were pleased with the judge, their approval was shown through bonuses for Danilkin and his employees, and when the senior officials weren’t happy with the judge, then his budget shrank.


Fore more information, please see:

MOSCOW TIMES — 2nd Court Official Sees Yukos Pressure — 18 April 2011

AP — Ex-Khodorkovsky court official criticizes judge — 15 April 2011

NY TIMES — Bosses Pressed Russian Judge, Official Says — 15 April 2011

Bhutanese Refugees Have Renewed Hope In Returning Home

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

KATHMANDU, Nepal – After nine years of waiting, Bhutanese refugees by the thousands are still living in miserable conditions in Nepal, India, and elsewhere. They have survived this long with hope of being able to return to their homeland. Their hopes have been reignited, as on Saturday Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said they would have to prove again that they were bona fide Bhutan citizens, but the conversation alone is progress.

Some 108,000 Bhutanese of Nepali-origin were forced to flee the country after Druk Government stripped them of their citizenship and forcefully evicted them from Bhutan in a manner of ethnic cleansing.

Prime Minister made these unfortunate remarks after talks with Nepal’s Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal due to regional as well as bilateral concerns and issues.

Over 105,000 Bhutanese refugees waste away in closed camps within Nepal since their eviction in the 1990s and almost 30,000 more living in India  and all over the world including Syracuse, New York. These refugees remain yet hopeful, as Thinley agreed to resume talks to allow them their return home.

The issue of repatriation for Bhutanese refugees has continued to be a foreign relations concern since their forced displacement.

A large number of Bhutanese refugees continue to live in seven camps within eastern Nepal, and have done so for over 18 years.

The two leaders held discussions regarding the bilateral relations and upcoming summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Thinley told reporters after the meeting. Bhutan is the current chair of the SAARC.

Thinley also said that consensus has been forged to hold dialogues which further strengthen the five-decade long relationship between the two countries.

In a separate interview the Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s foreign affairs advisor Milan Tuladhar also said consensus was forged regarding the issue of Bhutanese refugees’ repatriation through dialogues.

Ministerial Joint Committee talks have been delayed since 2003 with Nepal to resolve the lingering Bhutanese refugee problem, reports Kosh R. Koirala of the Asian Tribune.

“The date for the talks will be settled through diplomatic channels,” said Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s foreign affairs advisor Milan Tuladhar.

Frustration has risen as the Bhutanese side had not shown any interests to resume talks after an angry mob of refugees tried to manhandle the Bhutanese members of the Joint Verification Team (JVT) on December 22, 2003 reports Koirala, Asian Tribune.

Prime Minister Khanal´s request comes at a time when a significant number of Bhutanese refugees have opted for repatriation with full dignity.

Although the government has maintained that it wants to respect the rights of those wishing to return to their homeland over 44,000 refugees have already left for third country settlement in eight countries, a program spearheaded by the United States.

For more information, please see:

The Times of India – Bhutan dashes refugees’ home-coming dreams – 16 April 2011

Xinhua News (China) – Nepal, Bhutan agree to resolve refugees issue through dialogue – 15 April 2011

Asian Tribune – Bhutan agrees to resume bilateral talks to resolve refugee problem –  16 April 2011

South Asian News Agency – Bhutan resumes talks on refugees – 16 April 2011

Update: France’s Controversial Face Veil Ban Takes Effect

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France–A controversial ban on full-face veils recently took effect in France. The law banning the veils in public was passed last fall amidst criticism that it violates freedom of expression and freedom of religion values, as well as takes away women’s right choose for themselves. The law imposes a fine of 150 euros for women violating the law, and fine of 30,000 errors for any men who force their wives to wear a full-face veil.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have argued that France’s burqa ban violates European human rights law. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination in Europe, responded when the ban was first passed by the French government, “[a] complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs.”

Police in France imposed the fine on the first day the law took effect. Two women wearing the full-face veil were arrested in Paris for an unauthorized protest of the new law. In a unique approach, Rachid Nekkaz, an activist with the group Hands Off My Constitution, wore a mask while carrying a check for the 150-euro fine on the day the law went into effect lat week. According to CCN, Nekkaz’s group auctioned one of his homes to raise the money needed to pay the fines of any woman arrested for wearing the forbidden veils.

Some critics of the law have complained that in addition to possible human rights violations, the full-face veil ban affects only a tiny population. An estimated 2,000 or less women wear the full-face veils in a country with a Muslim population of 3.5 million. Jonathan Laurence, an associate professor of political science at Boston College and the author of an upcoming book, “The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims” says that the law is “an unnecessary confrontation…[t]his is not an epidemic.”

The Open Society Foundations recently published a report, Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France, which is aimed at dispelling some of the myths and misrepresentations found in the debate over the veil ban in France. The report examines the the decision of the 32 women who choose to wear the veil, their experiences in public, and how they feel about the legislation. The report details the verbal and even physical abuse they’ve been subjected to as a result of the debate surrounding the veil banning, as well as being accused of “shaming” the entire Muslim community and “dirtying the religion.”

The French Constitutional Council has stated that the law does not prevent the free exercise of religion and thus conforms to the constitution. The ban enjoys the support of the majority of the French people. A Washington think-tank conducted a survey and found the ban had drawn the widest support in France where 82% of people polled approved the ban, versus for example the US where 2/3 of Americans polled opposed a ban.

When the ban was first passed, Amnesty International spoke out about letting majority public opinion restrict human rights. “As a general rule, the rights to freedom of religion and expression entail that all people should be free to choose what – and what not – to wear. These rights cannot be restricted simply because some – even a majority – find a form of dress objectionable or offensive.”

For more information, please see:

GUARDIAN — France’s false ‘battle of the veil’ — 18 April 2011

HUFFINGTON POST — French Burqa Ban Sets a Dangerous Precedent — 14 April 2011

CNN — 2 arrested as France’s ban on burqas, niqabs takes effect — 12 April 2011

BBC — France issues first fine for woman in Islamic veil — 12 April 2011

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL — France votes to ban full-face veils — 13 July 2010

Nigeria’s Election Results Prompt Riots; Thousands Flee

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Post-election riots grip many states across Nigeria; Photo courtesy of the AFP
Post-election riots grip many states across Nigeria; Photo courtesy of the AFP

ABUJA, Nigeria– Despite observers asseritions that Nigeria’s latest election is the most free and fair in its 12 year democratic history, violent riots have spread across the northern states.  Over 16,000 have been displaced and hundreds are being treated for injuries related to the clashes.  While it is presumed that many have died since the election results were announced, the government is refusing to release any numbers out of fear that it will increase the conflict.

On Saturday, incumbent president Jonathan Goodluck, a Christian from the oil rich southern delta region, was announced the winner, garnering 57% of the vote.  His nearest rival in the polls, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the northern region, lost by 10 million votes.  By Sunday morning rioters began retaliating against what they saw as a rigged election.  In the north, of which most of the population is Muslim, crowds set fire to tires and set up barricades against security forces.  Heavy gunfire could be heard throughout many towns and homes that displayed Goodluck election posters have been burned.

Those fleeing the violence have resorted to sleeping in police barracks and gathering at hotels.  One man told reporters at a hotel in Kano, “Friends lost homes; I saw people who were killed.” and another woman added “I was at my place of work and I just saw people running, houses burnt.”  Umar Mairiga of the Nigerian Red Cross said, “The damage is immense. A lot of buildings have been torched- houses, businesses, and religious centers.”  Many of the rioters have been heard shouting “Only Buhari!” as they run through towns.  Buhari has responded, telling BBC reporters “I must emphasise that what is happening is not ethnic, religious or regional.”

Tens of thousands have died in Nigeria over the last ten years due to ethnic and religious conflict and elections have notoriously resulted in violence.  Even though observers have said that Saturday’s election was a positive step for the country, bombings and shootings overshadowed the last few months of preparations.  The election itself had to be postponed as election materials and procedures were mishandled.

Several irregularities have been noted in this most recent election.  The Civil Society Election Situation Room observation group reported that there had been underage voting in several states as well as intimidation at the polling centers.  The Independent Nigerian Election Council, charged with managing the process, has been accused of “ineffective” oversight.  To date, Goodluck’s majority People’s Democratic Party, is the only party to recognize and sign the results.  As the election results continue to be challenged, the Red Cross estimates that many more will be displaced by the ongoing violence.

For more information, please see;

BBCNigeria Election: Thousands Flee After Riots– 19 April, 2011

CNNWidespread Election Violence Erupts in Nigeria– 19 April, 2011

Bloomberg BusinessweekNigerian Leader Wins Presidential Poll Amid Riots– 18 April, 2011

Boston GlobeAmid Rioting, Nigeria’s President Declared Election Winner– 19 April, 2011

Peace Negotiations Watch, Volume X, Number 16

PEACE NEGOTIATIONS WATCH

Friday, April 15, 2011
Volume X, Number 16

In this issue:

CONFLICT UPDATES

Afghanistan
Bosnia
Burma
Egypt
Georgia
Kashmir
Kenya
Kosovo
Nepal
Piracy
Sudan: Darfur
Sudan: Southern Sudan
Tanzania
Thailand
Uganda
Zimbabwe

Afghanistan

Turkey Says It Is Ready to Host a Taliban Office as Part of Efforts to End Afghan War

The Associated Press, April 12, 2011
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that Turkey would be willing to host a political office for the Taliban in order to assist with talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.  Afghan officials report that Turkey has already taken steps to establish the office, which would create a safe location from which Taliban members interested in negotiating peace could meet with other actors.  Turkey is the only Muslim member of NATO, and contributes noncombat troops to NATO’s Afghan operation.

Afghan Opposition Cautions US on Taliban Peace Talks
AFP, April 13, 2011
Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s main opposition leader, warned the United States (US) that talks with the Taliban would not improve the situation on the ground.  Abdullah argued that President Hamid Karzai and his government are the biggest problems Afghanistan faces, and that talks between the Karzai government and the Taliban would sideline other actors and draw focus away from the political process.

Bosnia

Serb Leader Blames Former US Ambassador of “Ignoring Facts”
Adnkronos International, April 7, 2011
Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, has recently commented on WikiLeaks cables published by Reuters on April 6, 2011.  In these cables, a former US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) vehemently criticized Dodik for undermining reform efforts in BiH and advocating for Bosnian Serb autonomy.  Dodik responded that these statements are not an accurate depiction of the situation in BiH and that foreign ambassadors should stop interfering in BiH’s affairs.

EC President Urges Bosnia to Form Government and Introduce EU Standards
Associated Press, April 8, 2011
On a recent political tour of the Balkans, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged BiH to form a state government and implement reforms necessary for accession to the European Union (EU).  Barroso stressed that the EU will help BiH both politically and financially towards EU integration, but that greater cooperation among Bosnian leaders was essential.

Burma

Burmese Leader Retires as Army Head
Financial Times, April 4, 2011
Senior-General Than Shwe, leader of the Burmese junta, officially retired as head of the army and handed over powers to President Thein Sein and his new civilian government, sworn in on April 1.  Despite not holding any official title, Than Shwe is widely expected to retain de facto power.  Than Shwe’s strategy appears to consist of placing his loyalists in key positions while still preventing any of them from challenging his leadership.

Burma’s Democratic Parties Welcome U.S. Special Envoy
The Irrawaddy, April 4, 2011
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the National Democratic Force (NDF), the main Burmese opposition parties, have officially welcomed the appointment of Derek Mitchell as Special Envoy to Burma.  The NLD believes that Burma is at a crossroads in its democratic transition and that the U.S. Special Envoy could facilitate dialogue with the new government.  Meanwhile, the NDF said the US Special Envoy will have to think about the effectiveness of economic sanctions.

Thein Sein Urges Decentralization
The Irrawaddy, April 8, 2011
In a national address on April 6, Burma’s President Thein Sein announced a political transition towards a more decentralized system.  However, he did not specify the particular responsibilities that would be devolved to the states and regions.  Thein Sein urged the state and regional ministers to comply with national policy, insisting that ministers would be held accountable for their work.  Opposition leaders are skeptical about the decentralization, pointing out that the Constitution provides for the government’s central control over every important decision.

Egypt

Two Protesters Killed in Egypt’s Tahrir Square
The New York Times, April 9, 2011
Following two days of protests on Tahrir Square in Cairo denouncing the military’s tactics, Egyptian security forces shot at demonstrators to disperse them, killing two people and wounding dozens more.  Human rights groups also reported that forty-two protestors are being detained and interrogated for violating curfews and the recent ban on demonstrations.  Several protest leaders have issued statements calling for dialogue with the military and attempting to prevent future violence.

Egyptian Protesters Defy Military, Return to Tahrir Square
The Washington Post, April 9, 2011
A day after the Egyptian military used force to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square, protesters returned to call for the removal of the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), escalating tensions between democracy activists and the military.  The military used force to disperse peaceful protesters who broke curfew the night before, and threatened to use force again if necessary.  However, some soldiers broke ranks and joined the protesters to demand faster progress on reforms and bringing members of the former regime, including former president Hosni Mubarak, to justice.

Revolutionary Youth Coalition Suspends Dialogue with Military Council
Ahram, April 10, 2011
Egypt’s Revolutionary Youth Coalition (RYC) announced that it would suspend its discussions with the SCAF.  The RYC stated that the discussions would not resume until the SCAF starts an investigation into the military’s use of force to disperse protesters on April 8, and meets other RYC demands.  The RYC also threatened a sit-in if investigations are not started by April 15.

Georgia

Ex-Soviet Georgia Says Bombs Found, Blames Russia
Reuters, March 31, 2011
Two bombs were found outside a municipal building in Tbilisi and one bomb was detected outside a civil registry office in Kutasi, 150 miles west of the capital. Three people arrested on suspicion of planting the bombs claim that they were give the explosives by a Russian military officer.

World Court Refuses Georgia-Russia Case
UPI, April 1, 2011
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that it has no jurisdiction to hear a case dealing with alleged human rights violations by Russians in separatist regions in Georgia. The ICJ found it had no jurisdiction because Georgia never tried to settle its claims through negotiation before bringing the matter to court.

Kashmir

BJP Willing to Talk to Kashmiri Separatists: Rajanth Singh
The Times of India, April 11, 2011
Rajnath Singh, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), expressed his party’s willingness to engage in talks with all parties in Kashmir, including separatists, so long as the talks remained within the framework of the Constitution.  Singh, chairman on BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir parliamentarian study group, reported that BJP does not have its own proposal on peace in Kashmir, but would work with the Indian parliament to develop a plan, considering the views of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmiri Militants Watch Talks but Ready to Fight
Reuters, April 13, 2011
Militant Pakistani Kashmir separatists have expressed their willingness to engage in the talks between India and Pakistan, announced last month, but maintain that they will return to violence if the talks do not progress.  Many separatist militants in Pakistani Kashmir are currently engaged in peaceful occupations and are unable to cross the Line of Control into Indian Kashmir, but have stressed that they are ready to take up arms if necessary.

Kenya

Kiplagat, Mwiraria Summoned by Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission

Capital News, April 5, 2011
Forty-two witnesses have been summoned to appear at the first public hearings of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), including former TJRC Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat.  Kiplagat resigned from the post in November under pressure because of his alleged role in incidents being investigated by the TJRC.

Three Leading Kenyans Appear at International Court
Associated Press, April 8, 2011
Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, and Mohammed Hussein Ali appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday at a hearing to determine whether they understood the charges against them, to read them their rights, and to set a schedule for future pretrial hearings.  The three men were not required to enter pleas.  The other three suspects appeared on Thursday and declared their innocence before the court.  Although the suspects’ lawyers requested the evidence against their clients to prepare a defense, Kenya’s application to drop the cases from the ICC may delay any disclosures.

United Nations Rejects Kenya Request to Defer International Criminal Court Case
Agence France Presse, April 9, 2011
Following a meeting on Kenya’s application to defer the ICC process for one year, the United Nations (UN) Security Council President said that the members of the Security Council could not agree on the issue.  A UN diplomat indicated that this outcome means the Security Council will not consider Kenya’s request further.

Kosovo

Kosovo Elects New President
Reuters, April 7, 2011
Kosovo’s government has elected deputy director of police Atifete Jahjaga as the new President.  The vote followed a surprise agreement between government coalition partners, the Democratic Party of Kosovo and New Kosovo Alliance, and the opposition party Democratic League of Kosovo.  Jahjaga’s election staved off impending collapse of the government and spurred electoral reform.  Jahjaga is not a politician, and will likely not serve the full five-year term.  The parties agreed to amend the Constitution to make the president directly elected by the public within nine months and subsequently hold presidential elections six months later.

Del Ponte Questions EULEX Organ Trade Probe
Balkan Insight, April 7, 2011
According to former Chief Prosecutor for the International Tribunalfor the former Yugoslavia Carla Del Ponte, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) does not have the capacity to objectively and effectively investigate allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo and Albania.  Del Ponte’s comments stem from the recent Marty Report, which implicated several politicians and former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for organ trafficking.  She believes EULEX cannot carry out these investigations because it does not have an effective witness protection program or the authority to conduct investigations outside of Kosovo.  Currently, an independent investigation can only occur pursuant to a UN Security Council resolution.

Nepal

People’s Liberation Army Integration: Dahal Lauds Army Proposal
The Kathmandu Post, April 7, 2011
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal praised the Nepal Army’s integration proposal, indicating that the Maoists were willing to work with the Army on the terms of the proposal.  The proposal would create a separate unit within the Army, half composed of former Maoist combatants and the other half of current security sector personnel.  The International Crisis Group released a report that said that the new unit was a useful political compromise, but would not contribute to the needed security sector reform.

Finance Minister Says Full, Not Supplementary, Budget on May Third
The Himalayan Times, April 7, 2011
Contradicting rumors of a supplementary budget being proposed three months before the end of the fiscal year, Nepal’s Finance Minister Adhikary announced that the Cabinet would be bringing an early full budget for 2011-2012 before Parliament on May 3.  Meanwhile, the government has decided to accept several loans from the World Bank, the European Union, and an Indian bank.

Prime Minister Set to Expand Cabinet April 10
Republica, April 10, 2011
On April 10, Nepal’s Prime Minister was set to expand his eight-minister cabinet, even if it means more ministers will be from his party.  He is also expected to name several Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) ministers.  The Maoists agreed to nominate their ministers after the formation of a high-level mechanism to oversee government operations and the formulation of a code of conduct.  Top leaders of various parties held meetings to resolve disputes regarding power sharing and the budget.

Piracy

Somaliland Warns Will Not Take in Foreign-Seized Pirates
AFP, March 29, 2011
Somaliland inaugurated an UN-funded prison in its capital Hargeisa to serve as a holding site for pirates, but government officials warned that it was not accepting pirates seized by foreign powers.  The UN renovated the prison with the goal of making conditions acceptable for states wishing to repatriate Somali pirates.  Of the 297 detainees currently in the facility, eighty-eight are pirates, all of whom come from Somalia and were seized by Somaliland officials or local people.  The region’s decision will likely be a significant setback in the international community’s attempts to repatriate arrested pirates to east Africa for trial.

Spanish Navy Delivers Suspected Pirates to the Seychelles
AFP, April 3, 2011
The Spanish Navy handed over to Seychelles authorities eleven pirates who were captured while pursuing a fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.  The Spanish frigate involved in the operation is part of the European Union’s Atalante anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean. The international community is having trouble prosecuting the ever-increasing number of Somali pirates.

Somali Pirate Gets Twenty-Five Year Sentence: Will it Be a Deterrent?
Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 2011
A US federal judge sentenced a Somali man, Jama Idle Ibrahim, to twenty-five years in prison for his role in hijacking a Danish merchant ship in 2008.  The ship and its crew were attacked by a band of Somali pirates and held for seventy-one days until the Danish company that owns the ship paid a $7.1 million ransom. Ibrahim is already serving a thirty-year prison sentence for being part of a group that tried to hijack a US Navy ship by mistake in 2010.  Both sentences will be served concurrently as part of a plea agreement in which Ibrahim pled guilty to both charges and will help prosecutors build cases against other accused pirates.

Sudan: Darfur

Darfur Referendum Row: JEM Stops Talks as LJM Says Peace Process Must Go On
Sudan Tribune, April 5, 2011
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) suspended its participation in negotiations with the Government of Sudan to protest against the presidential decree to hold a referendum on Darfur administrative status.  The Liberation and Equality Movement (LJM) will continue negotiations, disregarding the decree as a measure undertaken outside the Doha forum with which they are not concerned.  The mediators stressed that the decree should not discourage parties from reaching an agreement, urging all to submit final observations and proposed amendments.

US Asks SLM-MM to Join Doha Talks on Darfur
Radio Dabanga, April 7, 2011
US Special Envoy for Darfur Dane Smith requested Minni Minawi’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) to join the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha.  The SLM-MM’s pre-conditions for joining the peace talks include: an independent mediator accepted by the parties; a neutral platform for negotiation with international observation; and a declaration of new principles with the participation of all the armed movements in Darfur.

LJM Negotiators Respond to Mediators on Outstanding Issues
Radio Dabanga, April 8, 2011
LJM negotiators submitted their final position on outstanding issues to the Doha mediation.  LJM reiterated the need for one Darfur regional government and representation in the executive branch through a Darfur appointment to the position of Vice President.  Having delivered its position, it is now waiting for a final document to be prepared by the mediators.

Sudan: Southern Sudan

Rebels and Rumors as Sudan Separation Looms
AFP, April 4, 2011
In the face of impending independence, infighting and violence has increased tensions within South Sudan.  Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting between rebel groups and the Southern army, with accusations of assassination plots against Southern leaders and reported plans for further attacks by rebels fueling the mood of fear and distrust.

South Sudan MPs Say Exclusion Violates Peace Accord
AFP, April 4, 2011
The Sudanese Parliament has followed through with its plan to strip Southern MPs of their positions starting in April.  The MPs protest that this is a violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which they argue is valid until July 9, and should therefore secure their positions in Parliament until that time.

Sudan’s Kiir May Be Relieved from his VP Post Prior to July, Says Parliament Speaker
Sudan Tribune, April 9, 2010
According to the speaker of the Sudanese National Assembly, First Vice President Salva Kiir could be removed from his post by presidential decree prior to the secession of South Sudan in July.  The speaker said that such a decree would be justified because Kiir’s position has become ceremonial and does not have real power.

Tanzania

Constitution Talks Chaos
The Citizen, April 8, 2011
A public forum to discuss the Constitutional Review Bill was organized in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, on April 7.  Opponents of the Bill criticized its “shortcomings,” including a constraint on public officials from talking about the presidency, or the governments of the Union and Zanzibar.  Students and members of civil society gathered around the Parliament to share their views on the bill, but the police refused their entrance due to limited space.  This sparked a violent clash, with students throwing stones and policemen responding with tear gas.

Constitutional Draft Bill Debate Ends in Disarray with Denial of Union
Daily News, April 10, 2011
A public forum to discuss the Constitutional Review Bill was held in Zanzibar on April 9, 2011.  The session ended when a Zanzibari imam led protests against the Bill; the imam tore the bill during the debate amidst shouts from the audience, who spoke out against the bill and unity with mainland Tanzania.  The imam’s actions prompted other people from the audience to wave banners and proclaim slogans advocating Zanzibar independence.

Mbowe Urges “Unity” in Constitutional Bill Debate
Daily News, April 10, 2011
Chairman Freeman Mbowe of Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), the main Tanzanian opposition party, said that the debate on the Constitutional Review Bill has further divided Tanzanians, instead of fostering unity.  Mbowe was dissatisfied that the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar was not included in drafting the Bill and that very few citizens were able to voice their opinion on the Bill.  As a result, Chadema will vote against the Bill in Parliament and will organize a demonstration opposing the Bill in coming days.

Thailand

Thai Armed Forces Deny Coup Rumors
UPI, April 5, 2011
On April 5, Thailand’s supreme military commander Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara denied rumors that the army was preparing a coup, and declared that anyone attempting to lead his soldiers into one would be treated as rebels.  He further re-emphasized that the Thai army supports democracy and thus operates according to Thailand’s constitution.

Thai Military Not Participating In Thai-Cambodia Peace Talks
Voice of America, April 7, 2011
Thailand’s military is not attending the peace talks between Thailand and Cambodia regarding the border dispute that reignited last February.  Members of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission are still meeting without the Thai military.  Experts believe the Thai military’s absence is due to a disagreement between Thailand’s foreign ministry and the military over how to address the border dispute.

Thailand’s Red Shirt Protesters Mark Anniversary of Bloody Clash with Government Forces
The Associated Press, April 10, 2011
Thailand’s opposition Red Shirt movement held a rally commemorating the one-year anniversary of a confrontation between the army and Red Shirt protesters that left twenty civilians dead.  The rally, which remained peaceful, drew about 20,000 supporters to the site of the clash.  Red Shirts have held frequent demonstrations to show their strength and rally supporters for the upcoming elections, as well as to demand more thorough investigations into the deaths during the protests.

Uganda

2010 Human Rights Report: Uganda
Department of State, April 8, 2011
The US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released its annual human rights report on Uganda on April 8, 2011.  The report details Uganda’s unfavorable record regarding various human rights standards, including disrespect for the integrity of the person and the denial of basic civil liberties.  The report implicates the Lord’s Resistance Army as a source of serious human rights problems, as well as the Ugandan police for torturing and arbitrarily detaining innocent citizens.  However, there were no reports of political prisoners over the past year.

Zimbabwe

Mugabe Tries to Heal Rift with Region Over Violence
Reuters, April 6, 2011
In a published article, a spokesman for President Robert Mugabe said that the recent criticism aimed at Zimbabwe from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) resulted only from minor points of disagreement, trying to dispel the notion that Mugabe had fallen out with regional leaders.  The SADC, typically protective of Mugabe’s actions when faced with Western criticism, has recently denounced a spike in political violence in Zimbabwe.  Mugabe, meanwhile, relies heavily on his traditional support bases in the region and strongly desires to retain the support of local governments.

Rights Groups Threaten Street Protests
Reuters, April 7, 2011
Human rights groups have announced that unless harassment against civil society ends, they will stage massive protests against the government.  This threat follows a recent crackdown on civil society members, including arrests at some organizations dedicated to human rights in Zimbabwe.

Allies of Zimbabwe’s President Push for Quick Vote
New York Times, April 8, 2011
President Robert Mugabe’s party is determined to hold the 2012 presidential elections this year.  At eighty-seven, Robert Mugabe has been criticized for his thirty-year dictatorship rule, wavering health, and inability to rule for another five-year term.  South African President Jacob Zuma argued that a free, fair, and credible election is impossible this year because many international monitoring institutions would be unable to mobilize in time. Mugabe maintains that Zimbabwe’s neighbors should not interfere in the country’s affairs.

Peace Negotiations Watch is a weekly publication detailing current events relating to conflict and peace processes in selected countries.  It is prepared by the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and made possible by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ploughshares Fund.

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