Mexican Authorities Discover 72 Bodies In Mass Graves

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                     Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – 11 suspects have been arrested in connection with the discovery of 72 bodies in eight mass graves located in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas on Friday.  This is the second time in eight months that authorities have uncovered mass graves believed to be the work of drug cartels in the area.  While the bodies have not yet been identified, they are believed to be the passengers of a migrant worker bus which went missing in early March.  

Mexicans march in protest against the governments inability to protect its citizens in the drug war.
Mexicans march in protest against the government's inability to protect its citizens in the drug war.

Amnesty International has called on the Mexican authorities to investigate.

In late March, a bus transporting migrant workers was reportedly hijacked and all of the passengers kidnapped by an unknown group.   After investigating the incident, authorities were led to the town of San Fernando in Tamaulipas where 11 suspects were arrested.  Along with the suspects, the state attorney general’s office confirmed the rescue of 5 hostages at the scene. 

According to transportation companies and surviving passengers, armed gunmen regularly stop vehicles heading towards the United States border.  After pointing out specific male passengers on the buses, they are then taken away. Criminal gangs have been thought to target transit companies and vehicles carrying migrant workers to force them to carry drugs. Kidnapping and ransom have been identified as other possible motives.

The victims’ nationalities have not yet been identified.

President Felipe Calderon’s office issued a statement regarding the discovery of the gravesites.

“These reprehensible acts underline the cowardice and the total lack of scruples of the criminal organizations, which generate violence in our country, and especially in the state of Tamaulipas.”

Despite the Administration’s condemnation of the mass murders, Amnesty International criticized Mexico’s inability to protect not only its citizens, but people passing through the country.  Amnesty International Researcher Rupert Knox stated that “The mass graves found yesterday once again show the Mexican government’s failure to deal with the country’s public security crisis and reduce criminal violence which has left many populations vulnerable to attacks, abductions and killings.” 

Knox further pointed out that, “All too often such human rights crimes have gone unpunished, leaving criminal gangs and officials acting in collusion with them free to target vulnerable communities, such as irregular migrants.”

The U.S. State Department issued a human rights report on Mexico based on cases from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.  The report noted Mexico’s military and police participation in and inability to control “unlawful killings by security forces; kidnappings; physical abuse; poor and overcrowded prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency that engendered impunity within the judicial system; confessions coerced through torture.”

Photo Courtesy of the Washington Post.  For More Information Please Visit:

CNN – More Bodies Discovered IN Mass Graves In Mexico – 8 April 2011

CNN – 59 Bodies Found In Mexico Mass Graves – 7 April 2011

Washington Post – More Missing Found In Mexico’s Mass Graves – 8 April 2011

Ex-Argentine General Jailed For Torture

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Former Argentine general Eduardo Cabanillas has been sentenced to life in prison for running a detention center in the 1970’s linked to  “Operation Condor.” “Operation Condor” was a 1970’s plot by right-wing South American dictatorships to coordinate repression of leftists in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay. According to reports, an estimated 30,000 people were killed or disappeared under the Argentine dictatorship.

Cabanillas operated Automotores Orletti, a secret prison that was disguised as a car repair shop. Prosecutors estimate that 300 people passed through this secret detention center. Cabanillas was found guilty of five counts of murder, 29 counts of “illegal detentions” and 29 counts of torture. In addition to Cabanillas, the court sentenced former military intelligence agent Raul Guglielminetti to 20 years in prison and ex-intelligence officers Honorio Martinez Ruiz and Eduardo Ruffo to 25 years in prison.

According to one family member of a victim, “justice has been done. But we are still looking for the baby of my militant friend and colleague Alicia Chuburu, kidnapped when she was seven months pregnant.” Uruguayan human rights activist Sara Mendez praised the sentences. According to Mendez, “this ruling is the product of 30 years of struggle to sentence the culprits.”

Those who survived time in the detention center say that prisoners were bound and blindfolded, then  were given electric shocks and hoisted up by pulleys and submerged head-first in water in what was known as “the submarine.” It is said that running car engines in the garage covered the detainees’ screams.

For more information, please see:

The Independent – Ex-General Gets Life for Junta Prison Atrocities – 2 April 2011

Inquirer – Ex-General gets Life Sentence for Operation Condor Role – 1 April 2011

Press TV – Ex-Argentine Torture Officials Face Jail – 1 April 2011

RTT News – Former Argentine General Jailed for ‘Dirty War’ Crimes – 1 April 2011

London’s High Court Denies Liability for 1950’s Human Rights Violations in Kenya

by Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

The four Kenyans suing the British Government; Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The four Kenyans suing the British Government; Photo courtesy of Getty Images

LONDON, England– Four Kenyans appeared in London’s High Court this week to demand an apology and damages from the British government for human rights abuses they suffered during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950’s and 60’s.  The four, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, are now in their 70’s and 80’s but claim that they were victimized by British colonial officials in detention camps between 1952-1961.  The High Court has dismissed the case citing that since an independent Kenyan government was formed in 1963, all power and liability shifted from the British colonial government to the new government at that time.  The judge also stated that the claim had expired and that the British government could not be held liable for the actions of the colonial forces in the camps since it had not authorized their methods.

Some are claiming High Court’s ruling is merely a manipulation of the law to avoid responsibility.  Others claim the British government has engaged in a cover-up to hide the actions of British officials during Kenya’s revolt.  The Foreign Office at Her Majesty’s Government Communications Centre (HGCC) at first denied any documents relating to the Kenyan detention camps existed.  In January, an internal investigation revealed thousands of documents detailing the abuses and torture perpetrated at the camps.  The claimant’s expert witness, David Anderson, Professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford, testified to the High Court that the documents reveal not only the extent of the abuses at the camps but also the efforts of British officials to hide these human rights violations.

Professor Anderson said the documents show letters from Kenyan officials admitting violations of international law and conventions against the use of forced labor.  In one such letter uncovered by Professor Anderson, Kenyan Attorney General Eric Griffiths-Jones wrote of the violations, “If, therefore, we are going to sin, we must sin quietly.”  The files also show legislative efforts to hide and minimize legal liability for the colonial officials involved.  Said Professor Anderson, “They reveal that changes to legislation. . .were commonly made retrospectively in order to ‘cover’ practices that were already ‘normal’ within camps and detention [centers].”

Despite the High Court’s ruling, the Kenyans, who flew 4,000 miles to appear in court this week, said they will not give up their fight for recognition.  They plan to continue in their suit against the British government for the “unspeakable” acts of torture and abuse they suffered in the camps.  Of the four, Mutua and Nzili were castrated, Nyingi was severely beaten during an event at one of the prisons where 11 other men were clubbed to death and Mara, who was 15 at the time she was taken, was subjected to beatings and multiple rapes.  Mutua, now 78, says that castration that left him unable to have children, continues to negatively affect his life.  “Being a man without a family, without a wife, is so shameful and I live under shame even with my peers.”

Kenya’s Human Rights Watch, which is supporting the suit, says of the 110,000 Kenyans who were in the camps, 90,000 were subject to execution, torture or permanent disfigurement.  The group hopes this case will lead to the exposure of other human rights abuses committed by the British government in as many as 37 other former colonies.  The Foreign Office has admitted that in its search for the Kenya documents, 2,000 more boxes from the 1950’s and 60’s have been uncovered relating to colonial actions in countries such as Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, Nigeria and Northern Rhodesia.  Caroline Elkins, author of The Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya and Harvard professor, said of the case, “The government is fighting this Kenyan case hard because [it’s] the tip of an iceberg. . . .I can’t imagine the Foreign Office wants more cases like this to go to trial.”

For more information, please see;

BBCMau Mau Case: UK Government Cannot be Held Liable– 7 April, 2011

Daily NationMau Mau 11 Clubbed to Death, Court Told– 8 April, 2011

The Australian– Britain Reveals its “Quiet Sins” in Kenya– 8 April, 2011

The Canadian Press– Britain Admits Torture in Kenya in 1950’s  but Says  Has No Responsibility for Survivors– 8 April, 2011

Guardian UKTorture and Killing in Kenya- Britain’s Double Standards– 8 April, 2011

Northern Ireland Constable killed in Terrorist Attack, Suspects Detained

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Security forces protect the scene of a car bomb attack that killed a 25-year old policeman. (Photo courtesy of SkyNews).
Security forces protect the scene of a car bomb attack that killed a 25-year old policeman. (Photo courtesy of SkyNews).

OMAGH, Northern Ireland -On Saturday, April 2, Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed when a bomb that had been placed under his vehicle exploded. Kerr, a Catholic officer, had completed his police training only three weeks before the attack.  Three individuals have been detained and authorities believe a weapons cache recently discovered is related to the bombing.  Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is widely believed the bombing was carried out by radical elements of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) seeking to disrupt the Catholic-Protestant peace process.

During the afternoon of April 2, an explosive device detonated in the Highfield Close area of Omagh. The bomb, attached to Mr. Kerr’s car, exploded as he was backing out of his driveway heading into work. Neighbors heard the explosion and tried rescue Mr. Kerr but were unable to save him. Police believe the bomb had been planted the night before.

On Wednesday, April 7, Scottish police arrested a 26 year-old suspect after a weapons cache was uncovered in Coalisland, Northern Ireland. The PSNI claim the weapons were found in a stolen vehicle and included: four rifles, ammunition, timer power units, detonators, incendiary bombs, components for rocket launchers and other explosive devices, and a quantity of explosives, possibly Semtex. The suspect is believed to have been working in Scotland when he was arrested but authorities have not given any details on the link between the weapons found and the suspect who was detained.

More recently two other suspects, a 33 year-old and a 40 year-old, both from Omagh have been detained by police. The 40 year-old was picked up on Thursday, and the 33 year-old suspect was taken into custody on early Friday.  Police plan on questioning them for the next five days. The names of all three suspects have not been released to the public.

Mr. Kerr is the second member of the of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to be killed since PSNI was created from the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 2001 as part of the peace process between Catholics and Protestants. The other murder occurred in 2009.

Sectarian tensions are especially pronounced in the formerly Protestant-dominated PSNI due to an influx of Catholic officers. Since 2001, the percentage of Catholic officers has increased from 9 to 30 percent. This has led radical elements of the IRA to target these officers because their participation in the police force shows complicity with both Protestants and the United Kingdom, both sworn enemies of this group.

In 2005, most members of the IRA laid down their arms and denounced violence but a small fraction continue to fight. Since 2005 dozens of bombs have been set under police officers’ cars but few have detonated with such tragic consequences. Strikingly, most of the bombs planted did not detonate, while those that have exploded mostly wounded but did not kill their intended target.

Both the location and target of this attack are symbolic. In August 1998, Omagh was the site of the worst bombing in Northern Ireland. That attack killed 29 people and left hundreds injured when a car bomb exploded in a shopping district.  The 1998 attack was carried out by a group called the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), an off shoot of the IRA.

The August 1998 attack was the deadliest incident of the Troubles, the name given to the three decades of violence between Protestants and Catholics. During the three decades, more than 3,500 people were killed. One of the major points of contention was Catholics wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland while Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. The sectarian violence was halted by an April 1998 peace agreement.

For more information, please see:

AFP — Third arrest in N.Ireland police murder probe– 07 April 2011

AFP — N. Ireland policeman killed in car bomb attack – 02 April 2011

BBC —Policeman killed in Omagh car bomb attack – 02 April 2011

CBC News — Car bomb kills N. Ireland policeman –02 April 2011

SKY NEWS — Second Arrest In Omagh PC Murder Probe – 07 April 2011

The Daily Mail —‘He had only just joined’: Catholic police recruit, 25, killed after being targeted by booby trap car bombers at his home in Omagh – 02 April 2011

Time —Tragic But Not Troubled: The Murder of a Northern Irish Policeman—02 April 2011

China: World Pressure To Release Dissidents

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – Ai WeiWei, the brain behind the birds-nest stadium which was the centerpiece of Beijing’s Olympic Games, and outspoken activist was detained by police at Beijing airport in a widening crackdown on resistance across the country.

His wife told Agence France Press on Monday that police in Beijing had refused to disclose why they detained the artist, the internationally acclaimed artist, has now been missing for over a week.

A supporter of prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei holds a picture of him at Weiweis art studio in Shanghai Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria/Files
A supporter of prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei holds a picture of him at Weiwei's art studio in Shanghai Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria/Files

Ai Weiwei’s believes firmly in the freedom of speech and the right to speak up on behalf of others who have been brutally silenced for their efforts to change society for the better.

His public comments, activities and art are some of the loudest, most flagrantly defiant forms of speech in China today, in a time where government controls on the Internet and traditional media limit freedom in their civil society.

Citizens urge their government to treat their people with respect as a matter of basic justice and humanity.

More than 20 dissidents and activists have been held in the past weeks reports Human Rights Watch.

China’s authorities appear on edge over calls for a so-called Jasmine Revolution, partly inspired by pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.

The artist was stopped while passing through security checks for a flight to Hong Kong with an assistant, Jennifer Ng.

Ms. Ng was allowed to continue on her journey to Hong Kong only after the documents of both were searched thoroughly.

She told the BBC that Ai Weiwei was taken away by border guards.

A few hours later, more than 40 police officers raided the artist’s Beijing studio.

Dozens of items were confiscated, said another assistant, and several people were taken to a nearby police station, although they were released a few hours later.

Some of his work has political connotations, he tried to gather the names of every school child who died during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

This is a sensitive subject as many schools fell down in the earthquake, leading to claims that they were poorly built.

The Chinese government has made it a point to arrest activists who bring this issue up, says the BBC’s Michael Bristow in Beijing.

France, Germany and the United States have called for the immediate release of a Chinese artist and dissident, detained in China.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on China for an “urgent explanation” of his fate.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said the country was “very concerned” about his disappearance.

“We hope he will be released as soon as possible,” Bernard Valero said, adding that the French government was following events “very closely”.

Human rights group Amnesty International said Mr Ai’s arrest showed that “China’s time for open dissent has come to an end”.

The detention adds to the lengthening list of dissidents held in a security crackdown by a government determined to snuff out any hint of challenges to its power as it approaches a leadership transition in late 2012.

Under Chinese law, the authorities must inform relatives within 24 hours when someone is brought in for questioning and 48 hours if he or she is arrested. However, the rule is often disregarded.

For more information,  please see:

Human Rights Watch – China: Arrests, Disappearances Require International Response – 31 March 2011

BBC – Concern mounts over missing Chinese artist Ai Weiwei – 5 April 2011

The West Australian – “No information” in disappearance of China dissident – 4 April 2011

Asia News – China West protests “disappearance” of renowned artist Ai Weiwei, but another 200 are also detained – 5 April 2011

UN To Begin Investigating Human Rights Violations In Libya

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GENEVA, Switzerland – United Nations investigators have announced that next week they would begin an inquiry into alleged human rights violations that have been committed by both sides of the conflict in Libya.  They will look into abuses both by Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalists and the opposition forces as well as those by any foreign parties to the conflict. Evidence resulting from this investigation will be shared with the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The team of investigators, led by war crimes expert Cherif Bassiouni, will visit hospitals and prisons, and will be talking to civilians, combatants and anyone else who may provide information.  Bassiouni, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, stated that the work “will be done with complete impartiality”.

The U.N. team is comprised of three investigators – Bassiouni, Phillippe Kirsch, and Asma Khader.  Kirsch is a Canadian former judge of the International Criminal Court, and Khader is a Jordanian lawyer, who is also an expert in sex crimes.  Khader claims the team will look into rapes, including the case of Eman al-Obaidi, a Libyan woman who accused government militia of raping her.

These investigators will be cooperating with the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  The ICC is looking to see whether Gaddafi, his sons and his advisors have committed war crimes. He claims that well before the revolution spread from Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan authorities considered killing unarmed protestors.

Actions by foreign powers will also be investigated. For instance, the Libyan government claims that civilians, including children, have been killed by NATO airstrikes.

This investigation was approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council on February 25.  The Council claims that attacks on civilians and arrests, as well as the detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators, may qualify as crimes against humanity.  According to Bassiouni, the Council’s mandate stipulates that all violations be reported, no matter who has committed the crimes.  Some say this may or may not reach the level of criminal accountability necessary to prosecute in the ICC. But Moreno-Ocampo is “100% certain” that the investigation into the government’s attacks on Libyan demonstrators will lead to charges of crimes against humanity.

For more information please see:
The Canadian Press – UN Says Its Libya Human Rights Abuses Investigation Will Cover All sides Involved in Fight – 08 April 2011

The Jerusalem Post – UN Rights Investigators to Start Probe in Libya – 08 April 2011

Reuters – UN Rights Investigators to Start Probe in Libya – 08 April 2011 

Obama Makes Promises in El Salvador

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Presidents Obama and Funes.
Presidents Obama and Funes.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—On a recent visit to El Salvador, U.S. President Barack Obama promised $200 million to aid the Central American nation in its war on drug trafficking and gang violence.  According to President Obama, this funding would go towards fighting the underlying causes of trafficking and gang membership, such as poverty and various social elements.  In addition to the $200 million promise, Obama also vowed to undertake new steps to increase trade and economic collaboration within El Salvador and Central America.

President Obama also announced the creation of the Central American Citizen’s Security Partnership after discussing the matter with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes.  The Partnership is expected to fortify the court system within the country with the cooperation of countries like Chile, Colombia and Mexico.  The two leaders also discussed immigration, as two to three million Salvadorans live and work within the U.S.  Obama praised Funes’ “courageous work to overcome old divisions in Salvadoran society,” and said, “The U.S. wants to be a partner in this process.  We want El Salvador to be successful.”

Obama was accompanied by his wife and daughters on his trip.  He visited the National Cathedral in the capital, San Salvador, and saw the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a defender of the poor who was assassinated in 1980 after celebrating Mass.

Obama’s visit to El Salvador was the last of many visits to different Latin American countries, such as Chile and Brazil.  The visit was cut shorter than expected, as the president had to return to Washington early in order to handle the critical events taking place in Libya.

Though Obama’s promises have given many Salvadorans hope, some radical Salvadorans have been wary of the U.S.’s motives.  One student leader, using the alias “Ana Maria,” commented, “Obama is visiting El Salvador so that the U.S. can continue trying to control the Latin American region. . . .  [T]he reinforcement of the anti-narcotics division here [is] there to put down our social movements.  They are all part of maintaining a military position here—and we will continue to oppose it!”

The U.S. State Department lists El Salvador as one of the 10 most violent countries in the world.  It is estimated that last year there were almost 4,000 homicides in the country.

For more information, please see:

Axis of Logic-Dispatch from El Salvador: Obama’s Drug War Feels Eerily Familiar-5 April 2011

BBC-Obama pledges anti-drug funding on El Salvador visit-23 March 2011

AFP-Obama visits violence-plagued El Salvador-22 March 2011

Amnesty International Slams Yemen For Attacks on Protesters

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANAA, Yemen – Amnesty International released a report today on the human rights violations that have occurred over the last few months in Yemen. The report discusses the recent attacks on and repression of protesters, who do not support the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and who strive to eliminate the corruption and unemployment.

The most violent of these attacks occurred on March 18, when snipers fired on protesters in Sana’a, killing fifty-two people and injuring hundreds more. Protesters have since called this incident “Bloody Friday”.  Witnesses stated that most of those who were killed were shot in the head or the chest and died on site.

According to Amnesty, Yemen’s response to these attacks is “woefully inadequate”.  Although the government stated that it would investigate these attacks (and others), little information has been made available to the public as to whether any police force members are under being investigated. Furthermore, the impartiality and independence of the investigating authorities has been called into question.

As these attacks continue, Amnesty expressed its concern for the torture, unlawful killing, and other human rights violations occurring in Yemen. In addition, supporters of secession in the southern portion of the country have been held without trial, are unable to challenge the legality of their detentions, and are forbidden from speaking with their families.

It is the belief of this human rights organization that Yemen must deal with its “heavy legacy of impunity”.  The government should ensure that security forces do not use force against demonstrators who do not threaten their lives or the lives of others.  It should also provide detainees with access to their lawyers and families and should take steps to make sure that peaceful protesters are not tortured.

Amnesty made several recommendations to the international community, in particular, that authorities must be held responsible for the recent attacks on protesters, ninety-four of whom have been killed to date.  It suggested that President Saleh not be granted immunity by way of a political deal for these incidents.

The organization further seeks the suspension of the sale and transfer of weapons and arms to the security forces in Yemen, as they may be used in attempts to control the demonstrations.  The United States is the largest supplier of military and security equipment to Yemen.  Other countries involved in the sale of arms to Yemen include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, France, Turkey, and the Ukraine.

For more information please see:
Amnesty International – Moment of Truth for Yemen – 05 April 2011

Amnesty International USA – Amnesty International Warns Against Political Deals to Give President Immunity for Brutality Against Protesters in Exchange for Handing Over Power – 05 April 2011

Monsters & Critics – Amnesty International urges external inquiry into Yemen – 06 April 2011

At Least 12 Dead in Yemen After Government Loyalists Attack Demonstrators

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANAA, Yemen – Yemen security forces and government loyalists attacked demonstrators in two cities yesterday, killing at least a dozen, and wounding many more.  These attacks are the deadliest since March 18, when supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh shot and killed at least fifty-two protesters.  As a result of this incident, many of the President’s top allies turned against him.

In Taiz, a city in southern Yemen, unarmed protesters were targeted by police forces, armed with guns and tear gas.  Government loyalists fired on the demonstrators from rooftops and on the street, when the protesters attempted to march on President Saleh’s palace.  Thousands of individuals, inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, organized a sit-in, which has lasted for more than six weeks.   It is their wish that President Saleh leave office.

According to one government official, a clash between government supporters and protestors prompted the security forces to intervene.  The official claimed that the police only fired shots into the air.

Hospitals in Taiz have reported that they are running out of supplies and the equipment necessary to deal with the escalating violence.

Reports of the violence in Taiz have spread to other portions of the country, including Sanaa, where protesters marched on the city in response to the attacks.  At least five people were hurt by supporters, who threw stones at them.

In Hudaydah, a port city on the Red Sea, police also fired guns and tear gas on demonstrators, wounding at least 250 or as many as 400.  These protesters had tried to march on the presidential palace but the police prevented them from doing so.

The attacks have been condemned by the international community, particularly the United States.  The U.S. Department of State has described the violence as “appalling”.

President Saleh, who has been in power for thirty-two years, may step down but only after elections are held.  His term will expire in 2013.  Saleh claims he will discuss transitioning power to a new provisional government “according to the Constitution”.

For more information please see:
Al Jazeera – Protesters shot dead in southern Yemen – 4 April 2011

New York Times – Clashes Escalate in Yemen; at least 12 Are Killed – 4 April 2011

Voice of America – US Calls Violence Against Protesters in Yemen ‘Appalling’ – 4 April 2011

Washington Post – Yemen Security Forces Kill Protesters – 4 April 2011

Soldiers Convicted Of Rights Abuses Jailed In “Hotels”

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to Semana magazine, the military prison at Tolemaida base in Colombia is more of a resort than a jail with “privileges and comforts worthy of a hotel.” This particular prison is home to over 200 soldiers convicted of crimes against humanity. According to official prison records, 269 military and ex-military officials are held at the prison.

In January, a controversy arose when many of the prison’s privileges came to be known by the public. According to some reports, Major Juan Carlos Rodriguez, sentenced to 12 years for being security chief for the kingpin of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, is among the most privileged inmates.  The reports also illustrate that Major Cesar Maldonado, sentenced to 25 years for his part in the 2000 attempted assassination of Congressman Wilson Borja, is privy to special privileges.

Semena said that the prison “looks more like a club for rest and recreation than a maximum security prison,” adding that many of the prisoners are permitted to come and go from the prison at their own whim. The magazine’s report further alleges that the prisoners “have businesses in and out of the jail and instead of being locked in cells they live in cabanas.”

According to Army chief General Alejandro Navas, “the irregularities have been controlled and corrected, officials in charge of the prison were dismissed and some of the prisoners have been moved elsewhere.” Colombia’s Vice President Angelino Garzon has publicly the prison’s lavish environment. “It should be clear that individuals who have been convicted for serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, should not have any privileges,” said Garzon.

Rodrigo Rivera, Colombia’s Defence Minister, has adamantly stated that measures have already been taken to rectify the problems. In addition, Colombia is launching an extensive investigation into the prison’s conditions. According to Rivera, a full report on the investigation can be expected in three months.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Colombia Investigates Military Jail ‘Special Treatment” – 4 April 2011

Colombia Reports – VP Condemns Luxury Conditions for Jailed Soldiers – 4 April 2011

Latin American Herald Tribune – Colombian Soldiers Convicted of Rights Abuses Live in Posh Prison – 4 April 2011

LACK OF SECURITY IN HAITIAN DISPLACED PERSON CAMPS LEADS TO ESCALATING SEXUAL VIOLENCE

By Erica Laster                                                                                                                     Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Nearly 1 million people remain homeless in Haiti, living in the squalid displacement camps while they await permanent housing.   The lack of patrols, security measures, and simple utilities such as doors, make the camps dangerous for women.  The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti has been accused of avoiding the camp interiors “generally (staying) on the perimetre of camps,” instead of going into the areas where women’s lives are actually at risk, especially at night,” says rape coordinator Annie Gell. 

Cramped displacement camps where nearly 1 million remain homeless pose a security risk for sexual violence against women.
Cramped displacement camps where nearly 1 million remain homeless pose a security risk for sexual violence against women.

Each day, women and young girls fight to survive from rape, attacks or sexual violence into prostitution.  Last week, MADRE (a women’s advocacy group) testified in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’s coordinator of the Rape Accountability and Prevention Project in Port-au-Prince, Annie Gell stressed the need for and lack of security in the displaced persons camps. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights (MCFDF) has been in place since 1994, and continues to address the issue of gender based violence in Haiti. 

Testimony provided to the United Nations stressed the importance of patrolling and security forces among the displaced persons camps in Port-Au-Prince.  According to Gell, there are “More women coming forward to report rapes and GBV.”  While she acknowledged that the large number and size of camps made it difficult to monitor and protect women due to overcrowding, she also emphasized that “a lot of people are moving out of camps because they’re so insecure, so dangerous.”  

In large part, UNPOL’s (trained peacekeeping forces) and the National Haitian Police play a large role in safety.  Gender unit officer, Marie Francoise Vital Metellus, told IPS the UNPOL’s purpose is to patrol camps and assist victims of gender based violence.

Grassroots groups are promoted as the solution to many of these problems.

One such organization is KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), a grassroots Haitian organization which provides support and aid to victims and survivors of rape and sexual violence.  KOFAVIV is one of the many groups which supported the testimony of women activists at a March 25 hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

These groups have been consistently disappointed with the United Nations inability and refusal to work with grassroots organizations to confront the sexual violence prevalent in the camps.  The UN “is not working with the grassroots groups.” Gell is quoted as saying, “We’re (thus) hoping … that the commission will reinforce that the grassroots groups’ voices must be included in planning sessions to end sexual violence.”

This is especially important because of the need for prosecution tools in the country.  In Haiti, suspects actions have no consequences.

Photo Courtesy of Ecosalon.com.  For More Information Please Visit:

IPS – Women Turn Spotlight on Haiti’s Silent Rape Epidemic – 29 March 2011

MADRE – International Human Rights Hearing on Rape Epidemic in Haiti – 23 March 2011

Advocates Testify at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – 25 March 2011

Ex-Congressman Arrested For “FARC Politics”

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – According to media reports. a former congressman was arrested by the Technical Investigation Team of the Prosecutor General’s Office for alleged “FARC politics.” Pedro Nelson Pardo, former representative for Guainia, is accused of having ordered the extortion and corruption of the Colombian electorate during a congressional race in 2002. It is alleged that Pardo had an agreement with the rebel group to carry out this plan.

Pardo was taken into custody in Cunday in the department of Tolima and will be quickly transported to the Prosecutor General’s Office in Bogota. Pardo will then appear before the Criminal Court after which the court will determine whether or not to award him security protection which is subject to there being charges filed against him.

Pardo’s arrest comes shortly after the Supreme Court of Colombia opened an investigation into former congressman Luis Fernando Almario for his alleged ties to paramilitary groups while in office. In that case, Almario has been implicated in the murder of Colombian politician Diego Turbay Cote. Almario was also detained by law enforcement in February 2008 over accusations of “FARC politics.” He was subsequently released in May 2009. Almario has continuously denied the allegations, claiming that he is “a victim of the [rebels].”

Last year, Colombia’s Inspector General’s Office compiled a list of charges against Senator Piedad Cordoba in relation to allegations that she collaborated with the FARC outside of the parameters of her role as a hostage release negotiator. The investigation flows from evidence allegedly found in dead FARC leader “Raul Reyes” files. The evidence is alleged to support the notion that Cordoba was involved in “FARC politics,” specifically emails that discussed issues that were not elements of Cordoba’s humanitarian aid objective.

These cases illustrate the possibility of a widespread and systematic system of corruption in Colombian politics.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports –Ex-Congressman Captured for “farcpolitics” – 1 April 2011

Colombia Reports –Supreme Court Opens “Parapolitics” Investigation into Ex-Congressman – 24 March 2011

Colombia Reports – “FARC-Politics Charges Announced against Piedad Cordoba – 13 April 2010

Massacre in Ivory Coast Town Leaves Up to 800 Dead

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Forces Loyal to Mr. Ouattara in Duekoue, Ivory Coast. (Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty).
Forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara in Duekoue, Ivory Coast. (Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty).

DUEKOUE, Ivory Coast – The International Committee of the Red Cross (Red Cross) reports that a massacre has taken place in western Ivory Coast. The Red Cross estimates that at least 800 people were killed in this attack while the United Nations claims over 330 people are dead. During the past week violence has increased in many parts of Ivory Coast as followers loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara have captured parts of the country held by forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo.

The massacre took place in the town of Duekoue on March 29 and left hundreds of people dead. According to Red Cross spokeswoman Dorothea Krimitas, the massacre was a result of “inter-communal” violence. The killings came at a time when forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara were sweeping through the region heading towards the city of Abidjan.

There is disagreement about who is responsible for the killings and exactly how many people died. The Red Cross is not sure whether this attack was undertaken by forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara or Mr. Gbagbo. Each side has accused the other of perpetrating the attack. Kelnor Panglun, a Red Cross spokesman who has been to Duekoue said “It’s truly horrific. We don’t have any information about the authors of these killings.” Alternatively, Guillaume Ngefa, the deputy human rights director at the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast claims that 220 people were killed by force loyal to Mr. Ouattara while at least 100 people were killed by forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. On Sunday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Mr. Ouattara to launch an investigation into the attack.

Violence in Ivory Coast has fluctuated since the disputed November election but this past week has seen a spike in the number of people killed and injured. According to the Caritas charity website, between March 27 and 29 at least 1,000 people have been killed or disappeared. Along with these deaths, up to a million people have been forced to flee their homes since the election. This has led to a massive humanitarian crisis for both Ivory Coast and its neighbors. In Liberia, Ivory Coast’s neighbor to the west, up to a 120,000 Ivorians have crossed the border overwhelming U.N. refugee camps that have been set up.

Contributing to the violence and unrest, during the past five days forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara have successfully captured over 80 percent of Ivory Coast. While Mr. Ouattara has made gains, power and legitimacy is slipping away from Mr. Gbagbo. Reports claim several of his military generals have defected to the opposition or fled the country. Moreover, he has lost control of critical infrastructure including the Abidjan airport.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Ivory Coast: UN presses Ouattara over Duekoue massacre – 2 April 2011

CNN – Red Cross: 800 killed in Ivory Coast town – 2 April 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — 800 dead in Ivory Coast massacre – 4 April 2011

The Times of India — UN chief presses Ouattara over Ivory Coast massacre – 3 April 2011