Goldstone Questions Findings of UN Report

By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – Richard Goldstone, author of the infamous “Goldstone Report” condemning Israel for committing war crimes during its 2008-2009 offensive against Hamas, told news agencies Saturday that the study’s findings may be inaccurate. New investigations conducted by the Israeli government into alleged violations of international law by members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) challenge the report’s conclusions that indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the IDF was a part of a state sanctioned policy of retribution. Commenting on the findings of Israel’s investigation, Goldstone announced “If I had known what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

Richard Goldstone led UNHRC investigation into Israeli military practices (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Richard Goldstone led UNHRC investigation into Israeli military practices (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

In 2009, Goldstone was appointed chairman of a U.N fact-finding mission created by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law by Israel. The 575 page report documented various counterinsurgency strategies and detention methods and concluded that Israel had committed “actions amounting to war crimes.”

Despite quick endorsement of the report by the UNHRC, Israel strongly rejected the findings as unsubstantiated and biased against the Jewish state. Now Israel is calling for the U.N. to formally cancel the findings of the report. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Goldstone’s retraction noting “[t]he fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all.” Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesperson for Hamas, however, demanded the implementation of the report despite Goldstone’s reservations.

Goldstone explained that the study’s conclusions may have been affected by Israel’s initial lack of cooperation with the UN investigation. The lack of cooperation between the investigative body and the government of Israel made it difficult contends Goldstone, to verify U.N. data and contextualize the use of specific uses of force. Goldstone further noted that since the publication of the report, Israel has taken steps to limit the use of dangerous weapons, like white phosphorus, in civilian areas.

While the evidence provided by the government of Israel suggests that certain individual members of the military may in fact be guilty of misconduct, there is no indication that the government deliberately targeted civilians for attack and detention. Government officials assured the international community that those individually responsible for violations of international law would be brought to justice but expressed that the damage from the report “has already been done.”

For more information please see:

Jerusalem Post – Moshe Ya’alon Urges UN to Retract Goldstone Report – Apr. 3, 2011

Jewish Telegraph Agency – Israel Launching Drive to Void Goldstone Report – Apr. 3, 2011 – Soldiers: Goldstone Damage Already Done – Apr. 3, 2011

CNN World News – Author of Israel-Hamas Report: Would Reconsider Findings – Apr. 2, 2011

India’s Sex Preference Fears Female Feticide Growth

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – The “Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act” banned Prenatal sex determination India in 1994. The acts prevention of female feticide, which according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, “has its roots in India’s long history of strong patriarchal influence in all spheres of life”, has been ineffective since its implementation in 1996.

Despite the banning on doctors revealing the sex of unborn children, poor implementation of the PNDT Act reflect low convictions of medical professionals found guilty, showing a lack of governmental concern.

The 2011 census recorded staggering decrease in the percentage of girls among India’s preschoolers. For every 1,000 boys aged up to 6 years old, the report counted 914 girls, a drop from 927 a decade ago.

The current ratio is the lowest ratio since India gained independence in 1947, said the preliminary census.

It’s illegal in India to abort a child just because of its sex, but such abortions happen, often aided by illegal clinics; reports Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN.

Explaining the fallout of the decreasing sex ratio, Dr. BP Mishra, psychologist in Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, said, “Less number of girls in society could cause fights among communities over marriages. When there are a lot of unmarried men around, it would also lead to prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases.”

The skewed sex ratio in Punjab and Harvana could have wider and more permanent social effects like rise in exploitation of women, higher crime rate, an increase in sexual diseases and depression among youth, she said.

Sociologists and psychologists in Punjab and Haryana said if the sex ratio continues to drop it will lead to chaos in society.

Dr. Mishra added that if the sex ratio continues to fall, the situation would be like “jungle raj” or survival of the fittest. “Being a biological need, the desire for sex is like hunger or thirst. If this desire is not fulfilled, it would lead to unnatural sex encounters,” he said.

“The reasons for high number of incidence of female feticide in India include a deep-rooted traditional son preference, continued practice of dowry and concern for safety of the girl child and exploitation and abuse of women and girl children,” India’s Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told Parliament last month.

Dean of faculty of social sciences in Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), Rohtak, professor Khazan Singh Sangwan pointed out that marriage would be difficult for those youngsters who don’t have land, employment or businesses.

“In the absence of a job, land, occupation and even marriage this section will opt for crime. Jobless youths will try to bring brides from outside the community and state. Such situation may lead to human trafficking on a large scale,” he said.

Some Indian states have announced incentives for the birth of baby girls and have criminalized sex-selective abortions in an effort to try to restore balance, she said.

Tirath also stressed that socio-economic empowerment of women is essential to help them make informed decisions and change their mind sets.

“If this condition persists, there will be inter-caste marriages that may help in diluting the caste identity and prove helpful for national integration also.” MDU professor Khazan Singh.

Advocating strict implementation of PNDT, Khajan Singh said, “Cases of female feticide should be treated like murders. The person who opts for female foeticide should be punished but doctors should be held more responsible for this crime because they are supposed to follow certain ethics.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – India combats sex-selective abortion as gender ration loses balance – 2 April 2011

The Times of India – Skewed sex ration may lead to social chaos in Punjab & Haryana: Experts – 3 April 2011

The Times of India – National policy needed to tackle declining sex-ration: NGOs – 3 April 2011

Global Post – India Census | Boys and Girls – 31 March 2011

Libyan Woman Still Missing a Week After Accusing Soldiers of Rape

by Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Eman al-Obeidy dragged from Tripoli hotel in front of reporters; Photo courtesy NYT
Eman al-Obeidy dragged from Tripoli hotel in front of reporters; Photo courtesy NYT

TRIPOLI, Lybia– Last week, 29 year old Libyan lawyer Eman al-Obeidy ran into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli and accused 15 Libyan soldiers of gang-raping her over a period of two days.  At the hotel, where numerous foreign journalists were having breakfast, al-Obeidy showed them bruises on her face, thighs and blood on her inner thighs.  She also had what appeared to be rope burns on her wrists and ankles and shouted to the journalists, “Look at what Gadhafi’s brigades did to me. . .My honor was violated by them.”  One hotel staffer pulled out a knife and call her a traitor while another attempted to throw a dark table cloth over her head.  A government official at the hotel pulled out a gun.  A scuffle ensued when government supporters attempted to take the journalists reporting equipment.  Several reporters were kicked and pushed to the ground and one reporter’s camera was taken and smashed.  As security dragged al-Obeidy from the hotel she yelled “If you don’t see me tomorrow, then that’s it.”

Since this incident, al-Obeidy has not been seen or heard from by anyone including her sister with whom she lives, despite the government reporting they released her on Sunday.  Immediately following her claims, government spokespersons first called her mentally ill and drunk, later saying she was a prostitute.  The government is now saying that she is in fact mentally fit to stand  trial.  Government spokesman Mousa Ibrahim says they will investigate her claims but since her appearance at the hotel, the soldiers have filed slander suits against al-Obeidy.

Al-Obeidy’s claims highlight UN peacekeeper Patrick Cammaert assertion that “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern wars.”  In a country like Lybia, women who are raped are considered to have lost their honor and children born to rape victims lack full legal status.  In 2006, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that Lybia sent rape victims to ‘rehabilitation centers’ where they were imprisoned and sometimes raped by the center’s staff as punishment for bringing shame on Lybia.  Mona Eltahawy, a journalist on Muslim and Arab concerns, said of al-Obeidy’s public claims, “No one would do that unless they were raped, and especially in a conservative society.”  More recently, medical examiners have reported finding condoms and the drug Viagra in the pockets of dead Libyan soldiers, saying it is proof that soldiers are carrying out sexual assaults.

Al-Obeidy’s situation also highlights the difficulty war-rape victims have in bringing charges before the courts.  In the days following the hotel incident, lawyers and human rights activists tried to contact al-Obeidy’s sister at her home but were turned away by security forces outside of the home.  Al-Obeidy’s mother, Aisha Ahmad, says she received a phone the day after her daughter was dragged from the Tripoli hotel from a man offering Ahmad and al-Obiedy money to drop the charges against the soldiers.  Ahmad refused the money.

Ibrahim, who has claimed that journalists will be allowed to interview al-Obeidy in the coming days, said he did not know where she is, stating on Thursday, “The only place she will be other than her family house [is in a shelter]. . .Maybe she is there.”  Al-Obeidy’s family is holding out hope that she will return to them safely and have promised to support her.  In al-Obeidy’s home-town of Tobruk the family held a religious ceremony at the local mosque to show the support of the whole community.  Al-Obiedy’s mother, who says she has not been able to eat or sleep in the week since her daughter went missing, said of Gadhafi, “If I were to see his face, I would strangle him.”

For more information, please see;

Huffington PostWar’s Brutal Tactics– 31 March, 2011

NPRReports Emerging of Rape By Libyan Soldiers– 31 March, 2011

CNNHow One Voice Can Tell the Story of an Entire Movement– 1 April, 2011

The Globe and MailRape Case Underscores Gadhafi’s Brutality– 30 March, 2011

CNNAlleged Rape Victim to Meet With Journalists, Libyan Government Says– 1 April, 2011

Minority Christian Group persecuted in Vietnam

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia

Reports say the Vietnamese government has intensified its repression of Christians (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam has increased repression of minority Christians, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports released on Thursday. Some of the signs of repression includes, but is not limited to, closing small informal churches, compelling collective renunciations of faith, arresting worshipers, torturing and preventing them to seek asylum abroad.

In Vietnam, all religious groups are required to register with the government according to its law.

Vietnam’s indigenous minority Christian community located in the country’s Central highland provinces, known as the Montagnards or “Dega Protestants”, is unregistered and outside the control of the official Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government doubts that these Dega Protestants are a legitimate religious group but rather a politically motivated group fighting for a Montagnard independence movement.

The Montagnards, however, are claiming their legitimacy and press for religious freedom and land rights, prompting the government crackdown, according to a report by the US-based HRW.

‘In recent months, the Vietnamese government has increased its harassment of peaceful ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands, targeting members of unregistered house churches,’ the report said.

In some instances, police officers destroy the churches of unauthorized groups and detain or imprison the members of church on charges of violating national security. There have been reports of torture by these church members. One man who was sentenced to five years in prison described how the police beat him in the face.

“Blood came out of my ears and my nose. I went crazy from this. It was so painful, and also the build-up made me very afraid and tense,” he said.

This unidentified man remains partially deaf as a result of the beating, while other prisoners and detainees also express similar experiences of torture.

Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director based in New York, called for immediate recognition of these independent religious groups by the Vietnamese government to allow them to practice their beliefs.

“Montagnards face harsh persecution in Vietnam, particularly those who worship in independent house churches, because the authorities don’t tolerate religious activity outside their sight or control,” he said.

“The Vietnamese government has been steadily tightening the screws on independent Montagnard religious groups, claiming they are using religion to incite unrest.”

He added: “Freedom of religion does not mean freedom for state-sanctioned religions only.”

For more information, please see:

Christian Today – Human Rights Watch condemns repression of Christians in Vietnam – 31 March 2011

Straights Times – Vietnam steps up repression of Christian group – 31 March 2011

The New York Times – Vietnam Persecutes Christian Minority, Report Says – 31 March 2011

China Orders Lethal Injection For Drug Smuggling

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

MANILA, PhilippinesAppeals have been abandoned in China as three Philippine citizens are executed after drug smuggling conviction.

The two women and one man, Elizabeth Batain, 38, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32, and Ramon Credo, 42 were arrested on separate occasions carrying packages containing at least 8lb (4kg) of heroin.

Activists and supporters light candles with slogans during an overnight vigil in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday March 29, 2011.f
Activists and supporters light candles with slogans during an overnight vigil in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday March 29, 2011.f

They were the first Filipinos to be executed in China for drug trafficking, Philippine officials said.

The families of two of the prisoners had sent open letters appealing for leniency, arguing they had been conned by others.

China’s foreign ministry considers drug trafficking to be a serious offence and that justice had been served.

The three Philippine nationals were executed by lethal injection on Wednesday.

China normally does not announce executions. Amnesty International says China is the world’s biggest executioner, with thousands of convicts killed every year. The Philippines has abolished the death penalty.

Edwin Lacierda, Philippine presidential spokesman, issued a statement after receiving news of the executions: “Their deaths are a vivid lesson in the tragic toll the drug trade takes on entire families.”

He said the government will act strongly to battle drug organizations. “We are resolved to ensure that the chain of victimization, as pushers entrap and destroy lives in pursuit of their trade, will be broken,” he said.

Prayer vigils and special masses were organized in Manila and other cities in the days before the executions were carried out, in the hope of a “miracle” reprieve for the three convicts; reports Jaime FlorCruz, CNN.

“No miracles happened,” wrote Rodel Rodis, a lawyer based in San Francisco, in his posting on Facebook. Rodis opposed the executions, saying “they are human beings with families and they were just dupes of drug syndicates.”

Ramon Tulfo, a prominent multi-media commentator in Manila, had a different view. “We have a lot of things to cry over, so let’s not waste our tears on three convicted criminals who brought shame to our country,” Tulfo wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “If we continue to plead for (their lives), we might give the impression that our country is a haven of drug mules. Let’s allow the Chinese people to carry out their harsh antidrug trafficking law, as we would expect them to carry out ours in case Chinese (are) caught trying to smuggle drugs into our country.”

The three Filipinos were originally scheduled for execution on February 20, but China agreed to postpone the executions after Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay traveled to Beijing to plead on their behalf.

The three had not been told they would be executed Wednesday, although their sentences were publicized early in the day, Philippine Consul Noel Novicio said.

“They gave us only one hour (with her). They have no mercy,” Ordinario-Villanueva’s sister, Maylene Ordinario, said in a text message from Xiamen to her family in the Philippines.

Jayson Ordinario, Ordinario-Villanueva’s younger brother, said last week that his sister was hired as a cellphone dealer in Xiamen and was tricked into carrying a bag that had a secret compartment loaded with heroin, allegedly by her job recruiter.

Aquino urged Filipinos to remain calm, he said while the three were convicted of drug trafficking, they could also be considered victims of unscrupulous recruiters and drug traffickers, and of a society unable to provide enough jobs at home.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a situation where people are not pressured to resort to these things, where they can find enough gainful employment in the Philippines,” he added.

Around 10 percent of the Philippines’ 94 million people work abroad to escape a lifestyle of poverty and unemployment.

For more information, please see:

TIME – China Executes 3 Filipino Drug Mules – 30 March 2011

BBC – China executes three Filipinos for drugs smuggling – 30 March 2011

CNN – China executes three Filipinos for drug smuggling – 30 March 2011

The Washington Post – Philippines says China executes 3 Filipinos convicted of drug smuggling despite appeals – 30 March 2011