Human Rights Watch Recommends Imposing Sanctions on Syria

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


Friday, April 22, 2011
Volume X, Number 17

In this issue:


Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sudan: Darfur
Sudan: Southern Sudan


War Crimes Prosecutor: Bosnia Needs Independent Judiciary to Continue Work, 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, 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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Azerbaijan Hinders Resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, 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: 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.


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, 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 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.


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