Radical Cleric Receives 15 year sentence from Indonesian Court

By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Radical Islamic cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced last Thursday for his support of a terror training camp uncovered in 2010 in the Aceh province of northern Sumatra.  Although prosecutors sought life imprisonment, the court handed down a sentence of fifteen years.

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir voicing his opposition to the guilty verdict. (Photo courtesy of The Jakarta Globe).
Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir voicing his opposition to the guilty verdict. (Photo courtesy of The Jakarta Globe)

While Bashir, now 72, was found guilty of inciting terrorism, he was acquitted on the charge of funding terrorist activities.  According to The Washington Post, the judges believed the evidence was not substantial enough to establish that Bashir knew the money he had raised went towards purchasing guns for the training camp.

Still, Bashir has refused to accept the ruling. The Jakarta Globe reported that immediately after the verdict was read Bashir declared “this verdict is unfair because this is based on laws that are made by infidels, not based on sharia.  It is haram (forbidden) for me to accept the ruling.” His lawyers immediately stated that an appeal would be filed.

This is the third time in the past eight years that Bashir has been charged with activities connected to terrorism; the first two attempts to convict were ultimately unsuccessful.  In 2005, Bashir had been convicted of conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bomb attacks, which killed over 200 people. Yet after serving only 26 months, Bashir’s conviction was overturned.

Anti-terror police detained Bashir, who has been arrested repeatedly over the years, in August 2010 for his connection to the training camp. The training camp brought together radical militants from several jihadi groups.  It was believed they were planning a violent overthrow of the government and the mass murder of moderate Muslims and non-Muslim peoples. Although Bashir denied his involvement with the camp, he stated that it was legal under the laws of Islam.

According to the BBC News report, Bashir has repeatedly stated that the allegations against him were “engineered by America.” For years both the United States and Australia have been urging the Indonesian authorities to take a harder stance against Bashir.  However, the Indonesian authorities were hesitant to do so for fear of antagonizing Islamic radicals.  Last Thursday’s ruling indicates a new determination to tackle the extremist movement within Indonesia.

More than 3,000-armed police were sent to the courthouse where hundreds of Bashir’s supporters were gathered after authorities were alerted to bomb scares and threats of violence.  Although supporters cried foul when the guilty sentence was handed down, the crowd dispersed peacefully.

Bashir has been a part of the radical Islamic movement in Indonesia for over four decades.  He has been jailed and released on numerous occasions.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Indonesia jails cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir for 15 years – June 16, 2011

The Jakarta Globe – Bashir Sentenced to 15 Years – June 16, 2011

NY Times – Indonesia Sentences Radical Cleric to 15 Years – June 16, 2011

Radio New Zealand – Indonesian militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been found guilty of terrorism charges and jailed for 15 years – June 16, 2011

The Washington Post – Spiritual leader of Bali bombers gets 15 years on terror charge linked to new militant camp – June 16, 2011

OTP Weekly Briefing Issue #92: OTP Public Notice–Victims Of Violence Committed Since The 2010 Presidential Election In Côte D’ivoire Have 30 Days To Make Representations To Icc On The Opening Of An Investigation By The Prosecutor

OTP Weekly Briefing_15-20 June 2011 #92

QADHAFI REGIME PLACES LANDMINES AMIDST ESCALATION, CIVILIANS CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE

by Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya–After a visit to the Nafusa Mountains, Human Rights Watch officials claim that the Libyan government forces have placed more than 150 antipersonnel landmines in at least one location. Nafusa Mountains, which lie to the south of Tripoli, have been the site of rebel advances against the government’s troops.

Children in Tripoli wander the remains of a house struck by an errant NATO missile.(Photo Courtesy of NYT)
Children in Tripoli wander the remains of a house struck by an errant NATO missile. (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

Human Rights Watch reported on six total locations in Libya where regime forces had lain five different types of landmines. Steve Goose, arms director for the advocacy group, shared these sentiments concerning the landmines:

“These antipersonnel landmines pose a huge threat to civilians. More than 150 countries have banned landmines, but Libya continues to defy this global trend. We hope the rebels will respect their promise not to use landmines and will destroy all mines in their possession. The use of antipersonnel mines in the Libya conflict is endangering civilians and will continue to do so after the fighting has stopped.”

The type of landmines found in the Nafusa Mountains are a Brazilian-manufactured antipersonnel mine, known as the T-AB-1. These mines were placed about 10 miles north of the town of Zintan in a location called Khusha, apparently to defend government positions resting further north. The T-AB-1 has a low metal content and is very difficult to detect once placed, especially by civilians who may just be passing through the mountains.

When the Libyan government placed these landmines has yet to be confirmed. Rebels discovered the mines around 1 June 2011 and removed 169 of them, with Human Rights Watch inspecting the disassembled mines.

Civilians in the Nafusa Mountains have reported that they have been driven from their homes, their livestock killed, and their wells poisoned by the regime. Unfortunately, civilians have not just been feeling the heat from the Qadhafi regime. On 18 June 2011, NATO mistakenly destroyed a house in the Libyan capital, killing several residents, and acknowledged responsibility for the deaths. This marked this first time that NATO has admitted to causing multiple civilian casualties.

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, expressed these thoughts about the NATO strike that took Libyan civilian lives.

“NATO is endangering its credibility; we cannot risk killing civilians. We cannot continue our shortcomings in the way we communicate with the public, which does not keep up with the daily propaganda of Qadhafi.”

It is blatantly evident that the ongoing conflict in Libya is costing its civilians their homes, access to basic resources, and even their lives. While NATO attempts to get control of the situation through its bombings, the civilians of Libya seem to be the only ones paying the price. It is a classic case of escalation: Qadhafi attacks his own population; NATO bombs to get Qadhafi’s attention; Qadhafi regime places landmines.

But those primarily affected have absolutely nothing to do with the escalating. They are simply trying to live their lives in peace.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian-Libya: Gaddafi regime accused of laying landmines-21 June 2011

Human Rights Watch-Libya: Government Using Landmines in Nafusa Mountains-21 June 2011

News24-Army laying mines near Tripoli-21 June 2011

Al-Jazeera-Libyan civilian deaths ‘sap NATO credibility’-20 June 2011

New York Times-NATO Admits Missile Hit a Civilian Home in Tripoli-19 June 2011

The UAE tries activists to head off Arab Spring

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For over two months the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been holding five political activists in “preventative custody” without trial or official charges.

On June 14 a closed-door trial was finally begun in the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court for charges of undermining the public order and endangering national security.  There was virtually no pronouncement in the local press.   The trial is scheduled to resume in July.

The accused include Ahmad Mansoor, a well-known political blogger who runs the online forum Al-Hiwar al-Emarati,  Nasser bin Ghaith, a financial analyst, writer, and economics lecturer, as well as activists Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis, and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.  They have all been detained without bail since April.

The main commonality between the five men is that they are all signers of a petition that circulated in March, calling for constitutional and parliamentary changes.

The petition contains two main propositions – to expand the right to vote in the Federal National Council (FNC) and to create within the FNC a right to legislate.

In the last election only 7,000 of the confederation’s 800,000 people were allowed to vote.  In the upcoming election this number is expected to grow to around 80,000, but that is still only ten percent of the population.  Currently, the power of the FNC is restricted to advising the UAE hereditary rulers.

The UAE is a confederation of seven Middle Eastern states, each ruled by an emir.  It is best known internationally for its skylines and its economic and cultural ambitions.  It is home to the world’s largest skyscraper, and many famous universities.

None of the emirates is ruled democratically, and the UAE has been ranked, by human rights watchdog agency Freedom House, among the world’s “not free” countries.   Freedom House’s 2011 report notes, among other things, that the UAE have banned political parties, that public meetings can only be held with governmental permission, and that journalists routinely censor their stories.  Such actions have led organizations like Human Rights Watch to question UAE citizen’s abilities to peacefully dissent.

Unlike most Middle Eastern countries the UAE have avoided much of the activism and opposition incited by the Arab Spring.  The countries are prosperous and well run, with most of the population remaining loyal to their traditional leaders.

Examples of instability in the Middle East brought on by the Arab Spring revolutions have proved ample reason for tighter crackdowns on subversive activity.  The UAE is attempting to stop the problem before it starts.  It is sending the message to any activists operating within its borders that anti-government actions will not be tolerated.

For more information, please see:

The Jerusalem Post – In Arab Spring chill, UAE tries bloggers – 20 June 2011

Agence France-Presse – Blogger tried for criticizing UAE government – 15 June 2011

Agence France-Presse – UAE urged to release 5 activists on trial – 15 June 2011

Committee to Protect Journalists – Beyond the Amina hoax: Real cases in the Middle East – 15 June 2011

Committee to Protect Journalists – UAE intent on punishing online dissent – 14 June 2011

Cell Phone Videos of Rape by Gadhafi Soldiers Emerge in Libya

by Reta Raymond
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

TRIPOLI, Libya –  Rebel forces in Libya recently produced a cell phone video to CNN depicting a woman being raped and sodomized by a man that the rebels believe is one of Gadhafi’s soldiers. The video has not been authenticated independently. While the man seen in the video is not dressed in uniform, both he and the cameraman have a distinct Tripoli accent. Much of the fighting between Gadhafi’s forces and the resistance has taken place in Tripoli, supporting the allegation that the men in the video are Gadhafi’s soldiers. Rebel forces claim they have confiscated numerous cell phone videos of women being raped and tortured.

Iman al-Obedi was the first to report that she had been raped by Gadhafi's soldiers. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

Rebel spokesman Abdullah al-Kabeira says rape has been “used as a weapon of war, because it [is] systematic.” However, the Libyan government has vigorously denied the allegations of rape used as a war tactic, as Prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi stated “th[ese], like the other mercenaries lies, are false.”On 26 March, Libyan law student Iman al-Obeidi reported to international journalists at a hotel in Tripoli that she had been raped by soldiers from Gadhafi’s regime. Investigations have since been initiated by the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) at the Hague, to determine whether the use of rape in Libya’s conflict warrants a war crimes tribunal.

The ICC also believes that drugs, such as Viagra, were provided to troops to encourage rape. ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that the investigation was still ongoing, but “the victims are coming forward.” Libyan psychologist Siham Serewa found that 5 percent of the 50,000 surveyed refugees in camps report they had been raped.

Additionally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has expressed her concern. Clinton stated “Gadhafi’s security forces and other groups in the region are trying to divide the people by using violence against women and rape as tools of war, and the United States condemns this in the strongest possible terms.”

In Libya rape is particularly effective because both the woman, her family and sometimes an entire village are dishonored by the rape. Those women who are impregnated by their rapist are sometimes subject to “honor killings” by their fathers. Hana Elgadi, an aid worker, says that the killings are motivated by a sense of  love for their daughters, stating “[The fathers] believe they are saving the girl.”  The shame imposed on the family by society is so great that rebel forces have allegedly destroyed the confiscated rape videos to protect the victims and their families.

For more information, please see;

BBC Libya rape victims face ‘honor killings’ – 14 June, 2011

BBC Libya:  Clinton condemns rape as a weapon of war – 17 June, 2011

CNN Libyan rebels say captured cell phone videos show rape, torture – 17 June, 2011

CNNLibyan government denies rape allegations – 18 June, 2011

FORMER LEGAL ADVISOR OF MOTHERS OF PLAZA DE MAYO ON TRIAL FOR MONEY LAUNDERING

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Former financial manager and legal advisor of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Sergio Schoklender, was fired late last week and has been banned from leaving the country after being accused of money laundering and embezzlement from the Mothers’ government-donated funds.

Scandal hits Argentinas mothers of the disappeared (Photo courtesy of The Guardian). Scandal hits Argentina’s mothers of the disappeared (Photo courtesy of The Guardian).

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo are a group of women who, for the past 30 years, have been pressuring the Argentinean government to release information about their sons and daughters who were among the estimated 30,000 people abducted during Argentina’s military regime (1976-1983). As a form of silent protest, the Mothers silently marched in front of Argentina’s national congress every Thursday wearing white head scarves with the names of their missing children embroidered.

Suspicions arose after the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, uncovered Schoklender’s life of luxury on a relatively low government salary. According to Clarin, Schoklender acquired a 19-room mansion, sports cars and a yacht on a $16,000 a year salary.

Schoklender and his brother are suspected of using their titles as financial and legal advisors to steal from public funds given to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo by the Kirchner administration. Over the years, the Kirchner administration has transferred anywhere from $150 to $300 million into the Mothers’ funds to build low-income housing.

The Federal Justice Ministry and Argentina’s Congress are seizing documents and computers from Schoklender’s office as part of their investigation. In an eight-page document presented to the presiding Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide, the head of the Plaza de Mayo Association, Hebe de Bonafini, accused the Schoklender brothers of “[operating] as an illegal association through fraudulent administration and false documentation.”

Schoklender, however, denies any wrongdoing and has given Judge Oyarbide financial documents such as bank statements and receipts that he says will prove his innocence.

As an advocate and supporter of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, President Christina Kirchner’s close ties to the association and its leaders could have negative political consequences for her as she faces re-election in October.

For more information, please see:

Buenos Aires Herald — Schoklender denies raiding Mothers of Plaza de Mayo offices —15 June 2011

The Wall Street Journal — Mothers on the March Again in Argentina— Into Scandal —15 June 2011

The Guardian UK — Scandal hits Argentina’s Mothers of the disappeared —12 June 2011

ABC News — Corruption scandal hits Argentina’s Mothers group —9 June 2011

 

Activists Arrested for Feeding the Homeless in Florida

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

ORLANDO, United States – In the past three weeks, city officials have arrested twelve members of the activist group, Food Not Bombs, for their defiance of a local ordinance.  The ordinance restricts groups to feeding 25 or more people no more than twice per year in each Orlando park.  According to ABC News, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has gone so far as to call the group, “Food Terrorists.”  Orlando Food Not Bombs says that they will continue to feed the homeless despite the ordinance.

Members of “Food Not Bombs” serving homeless in Orlando. (Photo Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

Food Not Bombs is an international organization known for protests against war, poverty, and environmental destruction, as reported by ABC News.  Recently the group has made it a point to serve the homeless of Orlando with healthy, vegan meals.

According to the Huffington Post, the city passed the ordinance in 2006 after residents complained.  The twice a day feedings became “disruptive” and would often leave a mess.  Food Not Bombs questioned the constitutionality of the ordinance in 2008 and won; the federal district court held that their actions were protected speech.  However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, holding that the limitations were not unduly burdensome.

Authorities most recently arrested four activists for serving pancakes and donuts to the homeless in Lake Eola Park, in downtown Orlando.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, the law brings a penalty of 60 days in jail, or a $500 fine, or both.

In an interview with The Orlando Sentinel, Eric Montanez, a member of Food Not Bombs said, “We feel like the park is where the people should be,” and “the real issue is that the city just doesn’t want the homeless here.”

Cathy Jackson, the executive director of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida disagrees.  According to her interview with ABC News, there are about seven shelters within a mile and a half of Lake Eola Park.  She and Mayor Dyer believe that Food Not Bombs is creating more of a publicity stunt than providing a helpful service.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, Food Not Bombs publicized the event online and the media were encouraged to attend.

The city allows groups to obtain 2 permits per year for each of the 42 parks in Orlando, allowing 84 feedings a year.  The Huffington Post reports that there are at least 10 other groups who proceed with legal feedings in the Orlando area.

However, Theresa McDonald, a homeless woman who uses a wheelchair says that she relies on Food Not Bombs because she cannot afford even the minimal prices charged by the shelters, and it is difficult for her to move from park to park, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Food Not Bombs will again challenge the ordinance, and plans to continue serving food in the meantime.

For more information, please visit:

Huffington Post — Orlando Activists Arrested For Feeding Homeless in Defiance of City Ordinance — 10 June 2011

ABC News — Arrested for Feeding the Homeless in Violation of New Orlando Law — 9 June 2011

Associated Press — 4 More Homeless Activists Arrested in Orlando — 6 June 2011

Orlando Sentinel — Anti-Poverty Group Defies Ban on Feeding Homeless in Orlando’s Parks — 18 May 2011

Orlando Food Not Bombs — Text of Orlando’s Anti-Homeless Feeding Ordinance — 2006

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 6, Issue 6 — June 20, 2011

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is prepared by the International Justice Practice of the Public International Law & Policy Group and the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Libya

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Special Court for Sierra Leone

EUROPE

European Court of Human Rights

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

Gender-Based Violence

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. For more information about War Crimes Prosecution Watch, please contact warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org.

Human Rights Council: Report Of The International Commission of Inquiry To Investigate All Alleged Violations Of International Human Rights Law In The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Report of the International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international hu…

U.N. passes resolution to combat LGBT discrimination

By Greg Hall
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

GENEVA, Switzerland – The United Nations narrowly passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity by a slim margin, with twenty-three countries in favor and nineteen opposed. The resolution is intended to combat discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people. It establishes a formal UN process to document human rights abuses against these groups.

The U.N. resolution passed this week is a victory for the LGBT community. (Photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle)
The U.N. resolution passed this week is a victory for the LGBT community. (Photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

Proponents of the resolution argue that the endorsement vindicates a continuing international movement to end infringements on human rights based on sexual orientation. “This represents an historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. Furthermore, proponents argue that the resolution demonstrates the universality of human rights.

Opponents question the legal aspects of the resolution. “We are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation,” said Pakistan’s Zamir Akram. In addition, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan said the resolution had “nothing to do with fundamental human rights.” A diplomat from the African state of Mauritania called the resolution “an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right.”

Asked what good the U.N. resolution would do in countries that opposed the resolution, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer said it was a signal “that there are many people in the international community who stand with them and who support them, and that change will come. It’s an historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone,” he said. “One of the things that this resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone.”

The resolution requests that the High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up. It is believed that a great number of crimes against gay, lesbian, and transgender people are concealed or minimized. The resolution seeks to bring to light these atrocities and human rights abuses.

For more information, please see:

Detroit Free Press – U.S. calls first UN gay rights resolution historic – 18 June 2011

The New Civil Rights Movement – Will the UN’s historic human rights resolution reduce ‘corrective’ rape? – 18 June 2011

Huffington Post – U.N. Gay rights protection resolution passes, hailed as ‘historic moment’ – 17 June 2011

IGLHRC – Historic decision at the United Nations: Human Rights Council passes first-ever on sexual orientation and gender identity – 17 June 2011

The Slatest – U.N. endorses gay rights for first time – 17 June 2011

Impunity Watch Symposium Keynote Senator Romeo Dallaire (4/5)

Impunity Watch Symposium Keynote Senator Romeo Dallaire (4/5) from Impunity Watch on Vimeo.

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

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

Saudi Women Hit the Road to Protest Driving Ban

by Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Friday, between 30 and 40 women in Saudi Arabia took to the streets of the kingdom’s major cities as drivers in protest against a long-standing prohibition against women drivers, the only one of its kind in the world.  No arrests were made, though some women received threats of beatings or damage to their cars.  This was the first time such an action had taken place since November 1990, when 47 women drove around Riyadh.

The issue of permitting women to drive is a controversial one that cuts across all strata of Saudi society.  It returned to prominence following the late May arrest of Manal al-Sharif, who was also jailed for nine days, force to sign a pledge not to drive again, and banned from talking to the media as punishment for the infraction.  Prior to her arrest, she had posted footage of herself driving on YouTube and started a Facebook page calling for the protest.  The campaign, titled “Women2Drive,” calls for continued action “until a royal decree allowing women to drive is issued.”

But the possibility of obtaining that decree is unclear.  The issue is considered a religious one, with no written law in place.  Clerics claim the ban prevents vice by preventing public socialization between the sexes.  According to Dr. Mishal al-Ali, Director of the Saudi Arabian Shura Council’s Commission for Human Rights, no legal or religious impediment exists.  Wajeha al-Huwaider, a noted Saudi feminist who filmed Sharif’s video, agreed with Dr. al-Ali.  “Driving is a basic simple right,” she said.  “Denying it is hurting the image of the country.  Even if the ban has nothing to do with religion, it is also hurting the image of Islam.”

Because they cannot drive, women must instead hire drivers to take them where they need to go or rely on a male chaperone, which would make the clerics’ claim hypocritical.  Additionally, a driver costs approximately $600 per month plus expenses for their coming to and remaining in Saudi Arabia.  Such a price is as significant drain on monthly wages.

Despite this situation, the future seems bright for this small, but shocking protest.  Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, a more liberal member of the royal family, supported the protest.  “Bravo to the women!  Why should women drive in the countryside and not in the cities?” Waleed Abu Alkhair’s wife was one of the women who drove in the protest.  He supported the cause, saying “We want women to keep fighting this fight and to be free.  It will help to liberate the entire society.”  The cause was also closely followed on Women2Drive’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The Twitter page was at one point trending at a rate of 100 tweets per minute.

But for now, the situation remains unchanged.  King Abdullah has promised reform, but he has been reluctant to act due to the political consequences he will likely face for doing so.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera — Saudi women defy ban to take driver’s seat — 17 June 2011

Arab News — Saudi women drive home a point, again — 17 June 2011

The Guardian — Saudi Arabia women test driving ban — 17 June 2011

New York Times — In a scattered protest, Saudi women take the wheel — 17 June 2011

Dar Al Hayat — A renewed file and a partially opened door — 6 June 2011

Asharq Alawsat — Saudi Arabia: Arrest of female driver sparks debate — 24 May 2011

Impunity Watch Symposium Keynote Senator Romeo Dallaire (3/5)

Impunity Watch Symposium Keynote Senator Romeo Dallaire (3/5) from Impunity Watch on Vimeo.

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

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

President of Sudan to visit China later this month

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – China has invited Sudanese President Omar al- Bashir to visit the country June 27 through June 30. Following his election to presidential office in 1993, Omar al-Bashir and the Government of Sudan have committed genocide in Darfur which has resulted in over two million displaced persons, another 275,000 refugees and approximately 400,000 deaths.

Sudanese leader, Omar al-Bashir, is scheduled to visit China later this month (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).
Sudanese leader, Omar al-Bashir, is scheduled to visit China later this month (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al-Bashir’s alleged contribution and orchestration of human rights violations in Darfur have led to two arrest warrants being issued against him in 2009 and 2010 by the International Criminal Court. Al-Bashir is facing a total of ten counts comprised of five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide.

Al-Bashir is visiting China on the invitation of President Hu Jintao who is highly vested in Sudanese oil production. Two-thirds of the oil produced in Sudan goes to China making Sudan China’s third largest African trading partner and placing China in a position to encourage Sudan’s future success as a nation. Chinese spokesman, Hong Lei, stated that the meeting is intended to conduct talks in efforts to promote peace and stability in Sudan.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland commented on al-Bashir’s visit to China by stating that “China makes its own national decisions” but that they hope China will use the leaders visit as an opportunity to “make strong points to him about the future of his country and the importance of peace.”

Al-Bashir’s invitation to China comes a month before South Sudan is set to split from North Sudan and coincides with a report by the United Nations announcing that the violence on the border of north and south Sudan is currently increasing.

Just as Amnesty International had strongly opposed al-Bashir’s visit to Malaysia, which was subsequently cancelled by al-Bashir, the human rights organization also strongly opposes the leader’s visit to China.

Although China is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and therefore not required to arrest al-Bashir, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council which referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor resulting in a resolution encouraging all states to cooperate with the ICC.

Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International, Catherine Baber, has stated that China should not allow al-Bashir to visit the country or should arrest him upon entry because if “China welcomes Omar Al-Bashir it will become a safe haven for alleged perpetrators of genocide.”

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Is Omar Hassan al-Bashir Up to Genocide Again? – 18 June 2011

Business week – China Invites Sudan Leader Accused of War Crimes – 17 June 2011

China Daily – Sudan Leader to Pay Visit – 17 June 2011

Amnesty international – China Must Arrest Sudanese President – 16 June 2011

Forbes – China Invites Sudan Leader Accused of War Crimes – 16 June 2011

International Criminal Court – Darfur, Sudan – 12 July 2010

Call for Ceasefire and Delivery of Humanitarian Aid in Sudan

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

SOUTH KORDOFAN, Sudan – On Wednesday, June 15, 2011, President Barack Obama appealed to Sudan to enact a ceasefire after 64 people were killed in air strikes conducted by Sudanese government forces.  Thousands were displaced after an upsurge of fighting in the South Korforfan region.  Reports place the number of displaced around  60,000.

Clashes in Sudan began on June 5, 2011, after northern forces attempted to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group.  During the Second Civil War that started in 1983, those belonging to this group fought for Southern Sudan.  On Monday, Peter Gadet, a former southern general turned military commander, led rebels on an attack that killed 29 people in the state of Warrap.  In previous weeks heavily armed cattle raiders engaged in battles in Lakes, killing at least 71 people.

In the past month, clashes occurred in Abyei and South Kordanfan, raising fears that north-south conflicts will reignite.  The civil war between the north and south, which endured for decades and killed approximately two million people, ended in 2005 with a peace agreement.   Under the agreement, residence of southern Sudan could vote on whether to secede from the Muslim and Arabic-speaking north.  In January, 99% of southern Sudanese voters favored independence.  The South will become independent on July 9, 2011.

With independence, the South will gain control of 75% of the daily oil production in Sudan.  Sudan currently produces 490,000 barrels of oil daily.  Companies from China, Malaysia, and India are the primary producers of Sudan’s oil.

The United Nations describes Tuesday’s violence as an “intensive bombing campaign.”  The UN also reported facing difficulties delivering aid to refugees because Sudanese authorities are blocking aid efforts.   UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba stated “we need the cooperation and the support of the government to allow us safe passage wherever we need to go.”  Human Rights Watch also reports witnessing house-to-house searches and “widespread abuse” in Southern Kordofan by the Sudanese government.

Calling for a ceasefire, President Obama stated “There is no military solution.  The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan must live up to their responsibilities.”  He continued by stating that “The government of Sudan must prevent a further escalation of this crisis by ceasing its military actions immediately, including aerial bombardments, forced displacement and campaigns of intimidation” to prevent a return to civil war.

Southern Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin welcomed President Obama’s comments and noted that rather than force, the situation called for a well-planned disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Almost 100 killed in south Sudan clashes – 15 June 2011

BBC – Sudan: Barack Obama calls for ceasefire – 15 June 2011

Bloomberg – Sudanese Fighting Displaces 60,000 in Southern Kordofan State, UN Says – 15 June 2011

Reuters – UPDATE 1-Obama calls for ceasefire in Sudan – 15 June 2011