Malaysian Government holding six members of opposition political party without charge

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia –The Malaysian government is detaining six members of the opposition political party, Parti Sosialis Malaysia which is legally recognized in Malaysia, without charge under Malaysia’s preventative detention laws.

Six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia have been detained without charge under an Emergency Ordinance (Photo Courtesy of Blog for Change).
Six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia have been detained without charge under an Emergency Ordinance (Photo Courtesy of Blog for Change).

The six Parti Sosialis Malaysia members were pre-arrested and continue to be held under the Emergency Ordinance after allegations were made that they were the “main movers” of the pro-democracy rally that took place on July 9. The rally was organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, Bersih, to express a need and desire to reform voting laws and mend corruption in voting.

According to lawyers for the detained six members, the detainees have been held in solitary confinement and continually and aggressively interrogated. The detainees have also been blindfolded while in detention and also while in transportation to meet with their lawyers. In addition, the police have not yet made it clear whether the detainees will be permitted to attend the Habeas corpus hearing that was originally scheduled for July 22 but has been rescheduled for August 5.

Initially, the six opposition party members were charged under Section 122 of the Penal Code after being accused of preparing to wage war against the king. This allegation was based on shirts owned by the six members that had portraits of former Communist Leaders on them.

Although the six members were released on bail on July 2, they were then re-arrested under the Emergency Ordinance.

Malaysia’s Emergency Ordinance permits the police to detain, at their own discretion, any person that they find to be a threat to public order for 60 days. Under the Emergency Ordinance, the home minister is permitted to extend the detention every two years for an additional two years.

Since the six members were detained, over 520 police reports have been filed calling for the release of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia members and the number of police reports being filed is expected to increase. Other forms of protests include candlelight vigils and the circulation of petitions calling for the release of the “PSM6”.

Family members have also filed reports to allege mistreatment of the detainees. Such allegations arise from failure to provide medical attention to those complaining of pain, refusal to provide the food necessary for certain medical conditions and forced lie detector tests.

The six Parti sosialis Malaysia members being detained are: Michaeal Jeyakumar Devaraj,  member of parliament; Sukumaran Munisamy, Central Committee member; Letchumanan Aseer Patham,  Sungai Siput branch secretary; Choo Chon Kai,  international coordinator; Sarasvathy Muthu,  national deputy chairwoman; and Sarat Babu Raman,  youth chairman.

 For more information, please see:

Voices of America –Rights Group Demands Release of Malaysian Rally Oganizers – July 21, 2011

The Malaysia Star – Counsel: PSM 6 Not Detained Over Red Links – July 21, 2011

Free Malaysia Today – 522 Police Reports and Counting – July 20, 2011

Human Rights Watch – Drop Charges against Activists Exercising Basic Rights – 20 July 2011

Free Malaysia Today – ‘PSM 6 Will be Freed if Detention is Political’ – 18 July 2011

Latest Egypt Protest Ends with Violence; Up to 231 Injured

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt The Tahrir Square protests against Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that have been ongoing since July 8 took a violent turn yesterday.  Military forces, supplemented by army loyalists who threw stones and Molotov cocktails, opened fire on demonstrators as they made their way toward the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense in Cairo’s Abbasseya district.  As many as 231 were injured, and two protesters are alleged to have been kidnapped.

Protesters march toward SCAF headquarters in Cairos Abbasaya district on Saturday
Protesters march toward SCAF headquarters at the Ministry of Defense building in Cairo's Abbasaya district on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of AFP Photo)

At least 4,000 people were marching in order to request a clear schedule of plans to fulfill the goals of the revolution that drove former president Hosni Mubarak from power in January.  They are calling for limits on the SCAF’s power and a purge of all government and state institutions, including banks and the media, of corrupt members of the previous regime, among other demands.  But right now, the concern among those present is that the revolution has stalled.

“The military council is against the revolution, and we’re here to put pressure on them to stay with the revolution,” said Ahmed Al-Sharawi, who has been camping out in a traffic circle for over two weeks. “If we go home, the revolution will fail.”

The activists were unable to reach their destination after the army set up barricades of troops, barbed wire, and tanks to block Abbasseya Bridge.  The military surrounded the area, doing nothing to interfere and also making departure impossible. While the army fired live rounds in an effort to disperse the crowd, civilian loyalists climbed onto the roofs of nearby buildings to throw rocks, broken bottles, and Molotov cocktails at the assembled crowd.  Others, some of whom were armed with knives and machetes, made direct attacks on the protesters.  This march, unlike prior, peaceful protests, soon turned into a melee that lasted two hours before riot police fired tear gas into the fray.  Once the activists scattered, a new demonstration began within an hour.

The incident comes on the aftermath of statements made by the SCAF on Friday.  The military council accused the April 6 group, one of the larger protest organizations, of creating a scism between itself and the public.  “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces urges the public to exercise caution and not to be drawn into this suspicious plot that aims to undermine Egypt’s stability,” the statement said.

But statements such as these are not taken seriously by the protesters.  One participant, Ahmed Hassan, considered the SCAF to be the problem by acting as an instigator of violence.  “How should I trust this army to protect our country when they are turning our own fellow Egyptians against us with statements like these?” he asked.

Despite the recent bloodshed, protesters remain strong.  “We don’t want food or money,” said Al-Sharawi.  “If we get all of our demands, Egypt will be richer than America. The National Association for Change (NAC), another protest organization, has called for a one million man march on August 12.

For more information, please see:

Egyptian Gazette — Egypt’s protesters still camped in Square –24 July 2011

Egyptian Gazette — 1m-man march in Egypt on Aug 12 –24 July 2011

Al-Masry Al-Youm — 143 hurt at clashes in Cairo, two activists reportedly kidnapped — 23 July 2011

Daily News Egypt — Armed men attack thousands marching to ministry of defense; 55 injured — 23 July 2011

Daily News Egypt — Protesters march on defense ministry — 23 July 2011

New York Times — March against Egypt’s Military Collapses into Violence — 23 July 2011

Impunity Watch — Protests continue as new government takes shape in Egypt — 17 July 2011

Rebel Control of Somali Regions Contribute to Famine

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

DADAAB, Somalia – On Wednesday, the United Nations (“UN”) declared a famine in the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of southern Somalia.  Al-Shabab rebels control these regions and put a ban on foreign aid in 2009, claiming the foreign aid workers were Western spies and Christian crusaders.  More recently however, Al-Shabab allowed limited humanitarian aid to reach these communities.  Al-Shabab, one of the most active al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, is a militant Islamic organization, designate by the United States as a terrorist association. On Tuesday, the United States pushed the Shabab rebels to permit foreign aid workers to provide services for the people freely.  The United States attributes the region’s famine to the controlling behavior of these rebels.

Child suffering from the famine in Somalia.  (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
Child suffering from the famine in Somalia. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Across East Africa, ten million people face hunger resulting from a severe drought affecting the regions. The current famine is the result of a combination of regional conflicts, drought, and poverty, leaving tens of thousands of Somalis fleeing Somalia for Kenya or Ethiopia.  Somalia last experienced a famine nineteen years ago.

For the past two decades, Somalia has lacked an effective government.  During this time, Al-Shabab rebels have taken power in many regions and their continuing rise is alarming to many outside observers. The UN reports 80% of the nearly half a million malnourished children in Somalia in the rebel-controlled areas.

In their efforts to control incoming foreign aid, Al-Shabab have attacked and kidnapped foreign aid workers and refuse to permit aid agencies to operate.  Additionally, they have imposed restricted conditions for foreign aid agencies to provide services.  In 2010, the World Food Program (“WFP”) removed their workers because the rebels harassed and threatened them.

Presently, although a new dialogue between the rebels and the WFP is underway, Salman Omer, WFP Deputy Country Director, said, “[Our] relief effort [is] still hampered by insecurity, problems of access and lack of resources.”  The UN Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) made its first airdrop of emergency supplies in two years last week.

Throughout this process, Al-Shabab may gain by allowing humanitarian aid into the country.  Since the United States needs to cooperate to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, it will face more difficulty targeting Al-Shabab leaders in a joint CIA-Defense Department initiative.  Somali watchers also observed the rebels may be trying to regain support in areas where they were on the defensive.

Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, commented “Al-Shabab’s activities have clearly made the current situation much worse…[its] current policies are wreaking havoc and are not helping Somalis living in the south-central part of that country.”

For more information, please see:
CNNAid agencies deal with terrorists to reach Somalia’s starving21 July 2011
BBCUN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle20 July 2011
Financial TimesUN declares famine in rebel-held Somalia20 July 2011
IOL NewsSomali rebels urged to allow aid trucks in20 July 2011

Australian Citizen Confesses to Burma War Crimes

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia– Htoo Htoo Han has come forward claiming that he is responsible for hundreds of deaths in his native land of Burma.  Han claims that he was commander of the so called, “death squad” during the pro-democracy uprisings in the late 1980s where about 6,000 people were killed.  He now tells the Sydney Morning Herald that eight of the men in his regime are currently living in Australia.

Htoo Htoo Han holds up an image showing him as a lieutenant in Burmas military regime and posing as a student activist.  (Image Courtesy of The Australian)
Htoo Htoo Han holds up an image showing him as a lieutenant in Burma's military regime and posing as a student activist. (Image Courtesy of The Australian)

The Australian government says that they will look into Han’s claims to determine if he is telling the truth.  A spokeswoman for the Burma Campaign Australia told the news source, The Australian, “Whilst these claims are serious they should not be taken as verbatim, and a thorough investigation into the validity of these claims is required.”

Han is an Australian citizen who came from Burma as a refugee in 1996.  Ironically enough, he has been involved in campaigns aimed at highlighting human rights abuses in Burma, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.  He lives in Brisbane with his wife and three children.  Even his wife does not believe his recent confessions.  Han is aware that he may never see his children again, but he hopes that they understand.

Han claims that he wants to go to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) because “[his story] is very complicated,” as reported by The Australian.  However, the ICC can only prosecute offenses that took place after its creation in 2002.

Han admits to executing at least 24 individuals himself, and further claims that others were killed under his direct command.  As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Han appears to be taking full responsibility for many of the atrocities committed 23 years ago.  “Maybe they kill 100 or 150 because I order them to do that.  It’s not their fault, my fault.  If they didn’t kill, they get killed too,” he said.

So far, Han has not released the names of the eight other men who worked under his control.  He has told authorities that two of the men are in Sydney, four are in Melbourne, one in Perth, and one is in Queensland.  None of the other men have come forward publicly.

After 23 years, Han is coming forward because of his guilty conscience.  “I did it, I am a war criminal,” Han said, “now I want to release what I carry inside for 20 years,” according to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

As of now, Australia is taking Han’s confession seriously and an investigation is underway.

 For more information, please see:

The Australian — Burmese “Hitman” Htoo Htoo Han Seeks ICC Hearing — 20 July 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — Death Squad Members in Australia, Refugee Says — 20 July 2011

Democratic Voice of Burma — Australia Police to Assess Burma ‘War Criminal’ — 18 July 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — Australian Admits War Crimes in Burma — 18 July 2011

Hungarian court acquits “most wanted” Nazi war crimes criminal

By Polly Johnson
Senior Desk Officer, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Lawyers for Sandor Kepiro, a war crimes suspect who was acquitted on Monday by a Hungarian court on the grounds of insufficient evidence, said on Thursday that they would appeal the court’s ruling because it does not go far enough in clearing Kepiro. The same day, prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling because they found the verdict “unfounded” and “inconsistent.”

Sandor Kepiro was accused of orchestrating the massacre of thirty Jews during the Nova Sad Massacre in 1942 (Photo Courtesy of AFP).
Sandor Kepiro was accused of orchestrating the massacre of thirty Jews during the Nova Sad Massacre in 1942 (Photo Courtesy of AFP).

Kepiro, 97, is believed to have been responsible for ordering the execution of over thirty Jews and Serbs in Novi Sad in January 1942.

The defense wants the court’s ruling to be based on its assertion that Kepiro did not commit the crimes of which he is accused, rather than on insufficient evidence.

Prosecutor Zsolt Falvai announced his decision to file an appeal immediately after hearing Judge Bela Varga read the verdict.

Prosecutors had originally asked for a prison sentence for Kepiro, arguing that he was directly responsible for the deaths of thirty-six Jews and Serbs in Novi Sad. An estimated 1,200 Jews and Serbs were massacred during a three-day period in 1942, a period that became known as the “Novi Sad Massacre.”

Though Kepiro was convicted in 1944 in Hungary, his conviction was later overturned by the government. He fled to Argentina, only to be tracked down by Nazi hunter and head of the Simon Wisenthal Center’s Israel office Efrain Zuroff.

The judge cited the prosecution’s reliance on old testimony and old verdicts as a basis for Kepiro’s acquittal.

Despite joyful reactions in the courtroom, Jewish groups and Jews across Serbia were disappointed at the verdict.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which assisted in bringing Kepiro to court, described the verdict as “outrageous,” and “an insult to the victims, an insult to the Jewish community, to the Serbian community, and [ ] a very sad day for Hungary.”

The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants group, based in New York, also expressed dismay at the verdict.

“Hungary has turned its back on history in failing to come to grips with its collaborationist policies with the Nazi regime during World War II,” the group’s vice president said in a statement, calling the decision “a betrayal by Hungarian judicial authorities of the demands of justice and memory.”

In related news, it was reported on Saturday in a German newspaper that John Demjanjuk, who was convicted this year for his role in the murders of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor Nazi death camp, may be prosecuted for similar crimes at another camp.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – APNewsBreak: Defense appeals acquittal in Hungary war-crimes trial – 20 July 2011

European Jewish Press – Prosecutor to appeal Hungarian Nazi war crimes verdict, Simon Wiesenthal Centre speaks of an ‘outrageous miscarriage of justice’ – 20 July 2011

Bloomberg – Hungary Prosecutor to Appeal Nazi-Era War Crime Ruling, MTI Says – 19 July 2011

Jerusalem Post – Officer suspected of complicity in ’42 massacre acquitted – 19 July 2011

RTT News – Hungarian Court Acquits Nazi War Crimes Suspect – 19 July 2011

Jerusalem Post – ‘John Demjanjuk could face more death camp charges’ – 16 July 2011

CHAOS AND DEATH DESCEND ON THE STREETS OF SYRIA

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

HOMS, Syria–The focal point of the uprisings against President Bashar al-Assad has turned fatal for civilians. Syrian troops and armed factions have spawned fear and turmoil on the streets of the city of Homs. Witnesses said that armed forces opened fire on 18 July 2011 outside the Khaled Bin al-Waleed mosque during funeral services for people killed in the past 24 hours. A local resident described these factions as “death squads.”

A funeral service for policemen in Homs. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
A funeral service for policemen in Homs. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Homs is located about 100 miles north from Damascus and rests in one of the country’s poorest regions. The sectarian violence indicates a precarious turn in the protests that have lasted since March, increasing tensions between different portions of Syria’s diverse religious makeup. The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, while President al-Assad and his ruling clan are Alawites.

Syrian rights activist Rami Abdulrahman, director of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights offered these words on 18 July 2011 to describe the situation.

“Thirteen civilians were killed yesterday and today in several parts of Homs when the army opened fire as it carried out an operation in the city. These clashes are a dangerous development that undermines the revolution and serves the interests of its enemies who want it to turn into a civil war.”

A Homs resident spoke to a Reuters correspondent via telephone on 19 July 2011 and described the situation.

“There are troops and armored vehicles in every neighborhood. The irregular forces with them are death squads. They have been firing indiscriminately since dawn with rifles and machine guns. No one can leave their homes.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 30 civilians lost their lives in Homs during riots. Bodies of the minority Alawite sect, which President al-Assad is a member, were found mutilated.

In totality, activists are reporting that the Syrian government’s onslaught on pro-democracy and anti-regime protests have claimed the lives of some 1,400 civilians. Thousands more are imprisoned for their participation while some 350 security forces personnel have died since the protests began.

Due to restrictions on international journalists reporting in Syria, the specific details of these events cannot independently be confirmed or verified. But human rights groups and activists have tried their best to relay an accurate depiction of what is really happening on the ground.

The international community already well on its way in applying diplomatic pressure on al-Assad. Qatar, a previously major backer of al-Assad, recently closed its embassy in Damascus.

The EU has imposed travel bans and engaged asset freezes on some 34 Syrian individuals and entities. But after a meeting in Brussels of EU foreign ministers, the Hague is ready to take things a step further and expressed these sentiments.

“Until the unacceptable violence against civilian population is halted…the EU will pursue and carry forward its currently policy, including through sanctions.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera-‘Death squads’ on streets of Homs-19 July 2011

BBC-Syrian troops ‘kill mourners in Homs assault’-19 July 2011

CNN-Activists: Syrian forces shoot at funeral procession-19 July 2011

New York Times-At Funerals for Protesters, More Syrians Are Fatally Shot-19 July 2011

Policy Brief: Open Statement on Atrocities in South Kordofan

Originally published by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
July 20, 2011

United Nations (UN) member states must uphold their responsibility to protect and take immediate action to protect populations from atrocities being perpetrated daily by Sudanese government security forces, and allied paramilitary forces and militias in South Kordofan. Since 5 June the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has unleashed a barrage of indiscriminate aerial bombardment targeting civilians. With reports of mass graves and at least 73,000 people displaced, this is not the time for states to ‘wait and see’ how things transpire. With each passing day the situation becomes more complex and intractable and the plight of civilians more dire.

The Sudanese government has, as in Darfur, tried to hide the horrific consequences of its actions by restricting the access of the UN, media and independent monitors to the region. Yet credible reports indicate that the government is actively perpetrating atrocities against its own people. What began as an SAF operation ostensibly to disarm the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), a rebel group that fought alongside its southern counter-part against the SAF during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war, has escalated rapidly. In addition to daily aerial bombardment, the SAF and the Popular Defence Forces, an allied paramilitary force, have conducted house-to-house searches and imposed road blocks. This has been part of a deliberate strategy to target individuals for extra-judicial execution, abduction, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture on the basis of his or her ethnicity and perceived support for the SPLA-N and its political arm, the SPLM-N. There are also reports that the SPLA-N has carried out extra-judicial killings.

The Nuba have borne the brunt of such targeting. They are marginalized and discriminated against by the Sudanese government on the grounds that they are not ‘Arab,’ and that many Nuba supported anti-government movements during the 1983-2005 civil war. Experts have labeled the government’s brutal actions against the Nuba during the early 1990’s, genocide. Once again the Nuba are the victims of mass atrocities. A leaked report by the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) argues that crimes perpetrated since the outbreak of fighting may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes – crimes that states unanimously committed to protect populations from by endorsing the responsibility to protect at the 2005 World Summit.

At the core of this commitment is the responsibility to prevent crimes before they occur. Few situations have had as much early warning of imminent mass atrocities as South Kordofan or such a glaring failure to heed these warnings. Now is the time to take action to ensure that this mistake is not repeated. The risk of future crimes against humanity and war crimes is all too clear. The government’s actions over the past seven weeks have shown that, as with Darfur and the 1983-2005 civil war, it views the commission of mass atrocities as a legitimate counter-insurgency tactic. Furthermore, peaceful means of resolving differences, most notably through a 28 June framework agreement between the government and the SPLM-N to address political and security issues in the state, have been rejected by Sudanese President al-Bashir. This raises serious concerns that the government will continue to perpetrate atrocities against the Nuba as a means of destroying the SPLA-N and SPLM-N. That the current governor of South Kordofan is wanted by the International Criminal Court for atrocities perpetrated in Darfur, does not bode well for the Nuba. Nor does the reliance on paramilitaries and militias who may be motivated by ethnic and religious ideology and a desire to seize land. The SAF’s use of paramilitaries and militias adds another explosive ingredient as it is harder to deter and reign them in, thus making a political solution even more difficult.

The UN Security Council, key countries such as China and the Gulf States, as well as the guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) for the South, including the African Union (AU) and the Arab League, have a critical role to play going forward. The failure to fully implement the provisions of the CPA, including the holding of popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, helped fuel the current crisis. The guarantors must not allow their attention to be diverted now that the South has gained independence. Instead they must re-double their efforts to identify measures likely to bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis in South Kordofan and use every source of leverage to halt mass atrocities.

The Security Council’s 15 July issuing of ‘elements to the press,’ a minimal expression of the Council’s opinion that does not form part of the official UN record, was a first step but is insufficient absent sustained engagement. The Council’s inability to agree on a Presidential Statement drafted five weeks ago, or to consider a resolution, despite the disturbing findings of the recently leaked UNMIS report, sends a clear message to the Sudanese government that the Council is divided and that there will be no consequences for its heinous actions.
That there is division about issuing a more weighty condemnation is indefensible. Bombs rain down on civilians, individuals are targeted because of their ethnicity, and unknown horrors are being inflicted on populations in parts of South Kordofan that have been closed off to the rest of the world. The situation risks destabilizing the region, including the fragile newly independent South Sudan, and is a clear threat to international peace and security.

The desire to reward the Sudanese government for allowing the South independence cannot come at the price of lives lost in South Kordofan. At this moment, the Council must be guided by the lessons of the past. The strategy of compartmentalizing the various conflicts within Sudan has proved ineffective in preventing atrocities. The Sudanese government is repeating familiar patterns of behavior: it is trying to hide the true horrors of its crimes by denying outside monitors, the UN and humanitarian agencies access to the most vulnerable of populations; it is being relentless in its commission of atrocities as part of its counterinsurgency; it is relying on militias, often motivated by extremist ideologies to do so; and it is providing piecemeal concessions in negotiations to resolve crises, only to subsequently reject any agreements reached. Finally, what little protection was provided by UNMIS through their presence and by bearing witness to unfolding atrocities in its vicinity ended on 8 July and the mission is currently withdrawing from South Kordofan, at the behest of the Sudanese government. Concerted international efforts, including demarches from all five permanent members of the Council and a personal request from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convince Khartoum to allow them to stay have unsurprisingly failed.

Now is the time for decisive action. Council members should request an emergency briefing by senior UN and AU officials, including former South African President Mbeki, who negotiated the 28 June agreement. Those members supporting a stronger response should use the opportunity to engage with fellow members who oppose taking further steps and find a way for the Council to speak with one voice. That voice should strongly condemn the commission of mass atrocities, demand an immediate halt in aerial bombardments, call on both sides to cease their hostilities, allow for humanitarian access, and establish a human rights fact-finding mission. The AU and Arab League should similarly call for the creation of a fact-finding mission and use their relationship with the Sudanese government to urge the parties to grant such a mission much needed access. They should, as with the UNSC, outline that there will be consequences for the Sudanese government and actors responsible for perpetrating and inciting mass atrocity crimes should they fail to halt their actions. This should include the enactment of further targeted economic sanctions.

The leaked UNMIS report cannot be more clear, “the International Community cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such deliberate attacks by the Government of Sudan against its own people. If the current conduct of the SAF, especially the aerial bombardments, does not stop, it will dissipate the Nuban population in South Kordofan.” The time for warnings has passed. Atrocities are being perpetrated. Failure to act today will be a repeat of previous mistakes and will see more lives unnecessarily lost.

For more information, please visit the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Serbia arrests last war crimes suspect

By Polly Johnson
Senior Desk Officer, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia – Goran Hadzic, the last Serbian war crimes fugitive, was arrested Wednesday after seven years on the run. Serbian secret police arrested him in a forest north of Belgrade and close to his family home.

Hadzic faces charges of war crimes stemming from his role following Yugoslavias break up (Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post/AP).
Hadzic faces charges of war crimes stemming from his role in the early 1990s wars following the break up of Yugoslavia. (Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post/AP).

Hadzic, now 53, faces fourteen counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes and was indicted in 2004 for his role in the wars following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. He has been accused of ethnic cleansing that led to the killings of hundreds of Croats and other non-Serbs and the deportations of tens of thousands. Specifically, he was responsible for the massacre of nearly three hundred men in Vukovar in 1991 and for the deportation of twenty thousand people from the town after it was captured.

Serbian President Boris Tadic called a news conference to announce Hadzic’s arrest, proclaiming, “With this, Serbia has now concluded its most difficult chapter in the cooperation with The Hague tribunal.”

Hadzic was the last fugitive of the 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The arrest is significant for Serbia and comes two months after the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army who is currently awaiting trial in The Hague. Mladic was responsible for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that left more than eight thousand Bosnians dead.

The European Union (EU) welcomed Hadzic’s arrest, noting that the arrest has paved the way for Serbia’s entry into the EU.

“This arrest sends a positive signal to the European Union and to Serbia’s neighbors, but most of all on the rule of law in Serbia itself,” EU leaders said in a joint statement.

The EU will present a progress report on Serbia, which is expected to show that Serbia has met its candidacy requirements. The process takes several years.

ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz said of the arrest, “Hadzic’s transfer into the Tribunal’s custody is a long awaited development for the victims of the crimes charged against him. It is also an important milestone in the Tribunal’s history. Eighteen years after the Tribunal’s creation, we can now say that no indicted person has successfully evaded the Tribunal’s judicial process. This is a precedent of enduring significance, not only for this Tribunal, but also for international criminal justice more generally.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Serbia holds Croatia war crimes suspect Goran Hadzic – 20 July 2011

Belfast Telegraph – War crimes arrest could help EU bid – 20 July 2011

CNN – Last Yugoslav war crimes suspect at large is captured – 20 July 2011

Huffington Post – Goran Hadzic, Last Balkan War Crimes Fugitive, Arrested In Serbia – 20 July 2011

New York Times – Serbia Arrests Last War Crimes Fugitive – 20 July 2011

Telegraph – War crimes suspect Goran Hadzic finally captured after investigation into stolen Modigliani painting – 20 July 2011

Concern Mounts as Violence Against Women on the Rise in the Middle East

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

WASHINGTON D.C., United States — United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern earlier this week over reports of the wide scale use of violence against women throughout the Middle East to intimidate and punish pro-democratic reformers.

“Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and even so-called ‘virginity tests’ have taken place in countries throughout the region,” Clinton noted.  “These egregious acts are violations of basic human dignity and run contrary to the democratic aspirations so courageously expressed throughout the region.  It is an affront to all people who are yearning to live in a society free from violence with respect for basic human rights.”

A victim of the use of government sanctioned sexual assault during the Libyan conflict (Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail).
A victim of the use of government sanctioned sexual assault during the Libyan conflict (Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail).

The use of mainlined sexual assault, as a weapon for war, first gained notoriety in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the early 1990’s.  Since that time, it has developed an even more twisted arsenal of usage for reasons of torture and repression.  It has become a key weapon against the dissident women, who dare speak out against their governments, in what have been termed the Arab Spring revolts.

The fact that sexual assault has become such a prevalent issue in the Middle East should come as no surprise.  A UN report, released in early July, revealed some egregious truths about the plight of justice for women worldwide.  Even though such violence has been outlawed in 125 countries, globally 603 million women still live in countries where it is not considered a crime.

The Middle East region has the least number of countries with laws against domestic violence, sexual harassment, and rape.  Dr. Moraz Doraid, the officer-in-charge of the United Nations Women’s Division of Management and Administration, attributes this to cultural generalizations, which lead countries to believe that the problems do not exist because the culture and traditions ensure the protection of women.

Solid data on the amount of incidents of violence against women in the Middle East is almost non-existent.  Victims rarely come forward, and those that do must face a lengthy police reporting process that usually culminates in the perpetrator escaping charges. These women suffer institutional barriers such as lack of autonomy, little knowledge of the law, lack of financial resources, and the threat of permanent stigma.  Such adds injury to insult.

Still, there is some hope of change in the future.  Reports have shown that countries with higher political involvement from women are more likely to serve women’s interests.  The rise in use of sexual assault as a weapon may be a harbinger of a fear that haunts the current traditionalist Middle Eastern regimes.  The women are finding their political voice.

For more information, please see:

Al Arabiya —  Anita Anand: Pursuing Justice for All Women — 18 July 2011

Today’s Zaman — UN report: Turkey US, EU in violence against women — 17 July 2011

Voice of America — Clinton Condemns Sexual Violence in the Mideast — 15 July 2011

The Daily Star — HRW urges Parliament to pass domestic violence bill — 7 July 2011

Kuwait Times — One in three women in Kuwait ‘a domestic violence victim’ — 5 July 2011

Malaysian Government Arrests 1600 Protesters

By: Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia– At least 1600 people were arrested last Saturday after police officers rushed to break up a protest seeking electoral change. Police ended the protest by firing tear gas and water cannons. While injuries were low, the Daily Star reports that a 59-year-old taxi driver died during the rally as he attempted to flee from tear gas. The police, however reported that the man was a bystander whom died of a heart attack based on reports by the Jakarta Globe.

Malaysian police arrest protesters (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Malaysian police arrest protesters (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

The protest was organized by a coalition of opposition groups known as Bersih 2.0. The government had already declared Bersih an illegal organization and anyone found with any Bersih-related materials could be arrested says CNN.

Prior to the protest, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim wrote on his blog:

“Our reason for gathering is pure and simple — to demand that the electoral roll be cleaned, that the postal voting system be reformed, that indelible ink be used, a minimum 21 day campaign period be instated, free and fair access to media for all be provided, public institutions be strengthened, and for corruption as well as dirty politics to be stopped.”

The Malaysian Bar Council said in a report Tuesday that its monitors witnessed the police using tear gas and water cannons “arbitrarily, indiscriminately and excessively” and “beating, hitting and kicking the rally participants.”

The protesters, it said, acted in a “peaceful and calm manner,” except for an incident in which “one or more” people threw plastic bottles at a television reporter reports the New York Times.

On Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the actions of his government. “Public order is very important in Malaysia because if we allow for street demonstrations, there’s no end to it, there will be another group that wants to demonstrate.” Mr. Najib also explained that while the government had banned protests in the capital city, the protestors had the option to hold their event outside of the capital city but refused to do so.

Najib accused opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of planning the rally and manipulating rally organizers to gain support for his campaign to become the new prime minister says the Daily Star.

On Thursday, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia announced that it planned to examine police conduct during the protest. Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, a member of the commission, said they decided to act after receiving complaints from the public, protest organizers, and rights groups. “We are also acting on media reports and our own observations during the rally,” said Abdullah in a New York Times report.

Saturday, US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner described concerns over the events last weekend. “Obviously, we stand for… the right for people to freely express their democratic aspirations and express their views freely.”

Toner stressed that the US would stand up for Malaysians’ “universal right” to assemble but stressed that it was the responsibility of protesters here to do so in a non-violent manner reports the Malaysian Insider.

For more information, please see:

Sydney Morning Herald —Condemn Malaysian crackdown, US urged – 18 July 2011

BBC — US concern at Malaysia crackdown on protests – 14 July 2011

Malaysian Insider — US voices concern over Bersih crackdown – 14 July 2011

New York Times — Malaysian Prime Minister Defends Muzzling of Protests – 14 July 2011

CNN — Malaysian authorities crack down on protesters – 12 July 2011

Daily Star — Malaysia defends protest crackdown – 11 July 2011

Jakarta Globe — Malaysian PM Defends His Regime’s Protest Crackdown – 10 July 2011

Congress Needs Human Rights Assurances To Support Russia MFN Vote

Originally Published by Inside US Trade
July 15, 2011

There is a growing sense in Washington that members of Congress will need assurances on human rights if they are to agree to grant Russia permanent most-favored nation (MFN) status, which is necessary if U.S. companies are to fully benefit from Russia acceding to the World Trade Organization.

In a July 7 statement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) argued that extending permanent MFN and ushering Russia into the WTO is “simply not an option” until Russia is pressed to improve its human rights record. A congressional aide said this sentiment is shared by other members of Congress.

According to an informed source, the White House opposes directly linking improvements in Russia’s human rights situation to Russia’s WTO accession, but since January has nonetheless been advancing the idea that Congress should consider separate human rights legislation this year.

The White House wants to head off a situation where Congress would put off a vote on extending permanent MFN status due to objections on human rights abuses or lack of democracy in Russia, this source said.

President Obama raised both human rights abuses and WTO accession in July 13 discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to a White House statement, although that statement gave no indication that Obama directly linked the two issues.

In particular, Obama discussed the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in government custody after uncovering a massive tax fraud by Russian government officials. Obama also reaffirmed U.S. support of Russia’s efforts to complete its accession to the WTO this year, and discussed other issues as well, according to the White House statement.

Ros-Lehtinen has no direct jurisdiction over the MFN vote, but she could use her chairmanship to sway the House leadership to take her position, sources said. Alternatively, she could devise her own human rights bill that would fall under the jurisdiction of her committee.

In April, Mike McFaul, the White House National Security Adviser on Russia, said that members alarmed about Russia’s human rights record could back legislation that would penalize Russian officials found to have contributed to Magnitsky’s death and are involved in other gross human rights abuses (Inside U.S. Trade, April 22).

The bill in question is sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and would authorize the United States to impose a travel ban and financial sanctions on Russian individuals believed to have been directly involved in Magnitsky’s prison death. It would also ban U.S. visas and freeze U.S. assets of Russian individuals found to be directly involved in other gross violations of human rights, such as murder, torture or imprisonment.

Cardin’s bill currently has 18 co-sponsors, including fellow Finance Committee members Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) — who also serves as the Senate Republican whip — and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) has also signed on to the bill. The measure is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In the House, a more limited bill is pending before the Judiciary Committee. The House bill would only apply visa bans and asset freezes to those directly involved in Magnitsky’s death but not other human rights violations.

The legislation may become a required trade off for some senators to support the administration’s push to get a vote on permanent MFN and the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment in Congress, according to a congressional aide. Delay in moving this legislation may lead to a delay in the Jackson-Vanik vote, he said.

Passing this legislation could give political cover to members who are nervous about voting in favor of permanent MFN for Russia because they could also support a measure that addresses Russia’s human rights abuses.

The congressional aide acknowledged that the asset freeze may not have a large financial impact due to the fact that many Russian individuals in question do not have assets in the United States or could easily pull their assets out once they know they are subject to an investigation.

But it will put pressure on the European Union, which is also considering a similar policy for freezing assets and banning visas for questionable Russian individuals, to adopt a similar model. This is significant because many Russian individuals keep many of their assets in the EU and travel frequently to EU member states, this source said.

By banning the entry of Russian individuals to the United States, this source said the bill would make a strong symbolic statement to a country whose population is eager to immigrate to the United States and find opportunity here.

The White House is considering formally supporting the legislation in response to growing criticism in Congress over Russia’s human rights issues, but is facing opposition from the State Department, according to an informed source.

The State Department has been cautious toward the White House fully supporting Cardin’s bill, asking instead for a non-binding version or a “sense of the Congress” resolution, according to a congressional source.

State is the lead agency in the bill to carry out the visa ban and will work with the Treasury Department to freeze assets of individuals listed.

State has made it clear that it wants sufficient due process provisions to accompany any kind of asset freeze carried out by the Treasury Department, such as a verification process to make sure assets frozen truly belong to someone listed.

Additionally, State is concerned that the bill’s provision that would allow any member of Congress to submit a request for an individual to be investigated for possible sanctions under the law and require a response within 30 days might expose the department to unreasonable requests by congressional members wishing to make political statements.

A congressional source said that some of its objections could be addressed by having the legislation limit requests only to the chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees and giving State 90 days to respond to a request, according to a congressional source.

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, S. 1039, is a reintroduction of a bill first proposed by Cardin last year but not pushed in the lame-duck session so as not to jeopardize the ratification New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which Cardin supported.

The bill may have more traction this year not only because of Russia’s pending WTO accession but because many senators “went out on a limb” for the administration to approve New START despite human rights concerns at the end of last year.

Members of Congress this year were confronted by a spate of events this year that reflect poorly on Russia’s human rights record. These included the news that high-profile Russian prisoner Mikhail Khodorovsky was convicted a second time, extending his prison sentence to at least 2016, the congressional source said.

The 2003 imprisonment of Khodorovsky, a former Russian oil tycoon, has been criticized in the United States as a heavy-handed response to Khodorovsky challenging the power of then Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Additionally, Russia has stated that it will not honor the terms of New START if the United States pursues a missile defense program in Europe because Russia considers it a threat to its security. The terms of the treaty allow for the United States to pursue missile defense efforts, sources said.

The bill may also gain more support after Russia banned the formation of an opposition party this year and had, for a time, instituted a travel ban that prohibited two of the party’s organizers from leaving Russia. The travel ban was overturned last week, sources said, most likely in response to the fact that a travel ban was directly contradictory with the Jackson-Vanik amendment’s provisions on the free movement of people.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment is part of Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 and makes MFN conditional on Russia’s emigration policy. For Russia the amendment was meant to pressure the country to allow the free emigration of its Jewish population but it applies to the movement of all people. If the amendment is repealed by Congress, it gives the president the authority to grant permanent MFN to Russia, which will allow the United States to take advantage of the tariff and trade commitments that Russia will make as part of its WTO accession.

The United States has granted Russia conditional MFN for many years recognizing the fact that Russia no longer restricts the movement of its people.

Agencies “cover” officials involved in Magnitsky case – rights activist

Originally published by Russia & CIS Business and Financial Newswire
July 1, 2011

MOSCOW – July 1 (Interfax) – Human rights activists intend to name the
officials who may be involved in Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei
Magnitsky’s case, who died in a Moscow detention facility.

The names will be mentioned in the interim report on the Magnitsky case,
which the presidential Human Rights Council plans to pass to President
Dmitry Medvedev on July 5, Kirill Kabanov, the head of the public
organization National Anti-Corruption Committee, told Interfax on Friday.

“We will raise questions about the names of the people who may be
interested in the Magnitsky case,” Kabanov said.

The working group of the presidential Human Rights Council is actively
working with the Russian Investigations Committee, which is investigating
Magnitsky’s death.

“We have come to the following interim conclusion: Unfortunately, it may be
impossible to subject all participants in this trial to criminal liability.
Agencies are covering them. Courts have made many illegal decisions.
Dealing with courts is a big problem,” Kabanov said.

The interim report will not state the final conclusion on the cause of
Magnitsky’s death, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, a member of the presidential human
rights council, a member of the Council’s working group on the Magnitsky
case, and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for the investment foundation Hermitage Capital, died
in the Matrosskaya Tishina detention facility on November 16, 2009, at the
age of 37. He was charged with tax evasion.

Magnitsky’s death drew a broad public response. The Investigations
Committee opened a criminal case on charges of failure to provide
assistance to a patient and negligence.

According to two forensic evaluations, Magnitsky died of acute heart
insufficiency. The experts confirmed that Magnitsky was suffering from the
illnesses he was diagnosed with earlier, but said those illnesses were not
at an acute stage.

Despite the dismissals in the Federal Service for the Enforcement of
Punishments, human rights activists believe no real investigation into the
causes of Magnitsky’s death was conducted.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 6, Issue 8 — July 18, 2011

Volume 6, Issue 8 — July 18, 2011

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Libya

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

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

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

United States

TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

Honduras

Ivory Coast

Kenya

Sri Lanka

Thailand

COMMENTARY AND PERSPECTIVES

WORTH READING

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.