By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

On Friday, July 8, the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, put out an urgent plea for $136 million in international donations to help deal with the approximately 10 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya who are at risk of starvation as the region faces the worst drought in 60 years.

In the drought-ravaged Gedo region of Somalia, obtaining water can involve treks of 12.5 miles or more. (Photo Courtesy of Mohamed Gaarane/IRIN)
In the drought-ravaged Gedo region of Somalia, obtaining water can involve treks of 12.5 miles or more. (Photo Courtesy of Mohamed Gaarane/IRIN)

Two consecutive poor rainy seasons over the past year have dried up pastoral areas in the Horn of Africa, where the drought is exacerbated by already sky-high food prices, restricted humanitarian access and conflict.  Food is so scarce in Somalia that many will endure several weeks-long journeys through the desert just for the hope of nourishment at overcrowded Kenyan camps.  During the journey, many have to brave often fatal attacks by packs of hyenas and armed bandits, said Alun McDonald, an Oxfam representative in Kenya.

“2011 has been the year of all crises, but I think that in Somalia we can find the worst humanitarian disaster of the year,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.  “I have never seen…people coming in such desperate conditions.”

Somalis are pouring into the already full Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.  According to Bettina Schulte, Dadaab spokeswoman of the UNHCR, approximately 400,000 people are living in the camp, originally constructed to hold 90,000 people.  In June alone, 55,000 Somalis entered Kenya and Ethiopia, with about 1,700 arriving each day.  The flood of refugees still coming means that more than 60,000 Somalis are camped outside the actual refugee camp.  According to Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UNHCR, about 80% of the people are women and children.

A new refugee camp in Kobe, Ethiopia, opened just weeks ago to help address the growing number of refugees.  Already it is nearing its 20,000 person capacity.

The UN refugee agency said the flood of Somalis could overwhelm the ability of humanitarian agencies to help them:  “Humanitarian efforts to help newly arriving Somali refugees in southeast Ethiopia are at risk of being overwhelmed without a more rapid and robust international response to the drought and displacement crisis in the Horn of Africa,” said Fleming.

“Refugee children are dying and their mothers, reduced to walking skeletons, face the unbearable choice of which child to save first,” Guterres said.

The World Food Programme estimates that more than 10 million people are already in need of humanitarian aid, with the UN Children’s Fund estimating at least two million children are suffering from malnourishment.

For more information, please see:

Time – World’s Greatest Ongoing Humanitarian Disaster Reaches a Crisis Point – 13 July 2011 – Somalia: UN – Situation is ‘Worse Humanitarian Disaster’ – 11 July 2011

CNN – Refugee chief: ‘Heart is broken’ by hungry refugees fleeing Somalia – 8 July 2011

Court ruling marks “historic day” for human rights in Europe

By Polly Johnson
Senior Desk Officer, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court for Human Rights ruled last week that Britain failed in its responsibility to investigate civilian deaths in Iraq after the 2003 invasion of the country.

British officers patrol Basra in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of CNN/Getty Images).
British officers patrol Basra in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of CNN/Getty Images).

Rejecting the United Kingdom’s argument that the British troops were not subject to the European Convention for Human Rights because they were beyond its jurisdiction, the court in Strasbourg, Europe’s highest court, found that British soldiers in Iraq remained bound by the convention in “exceptional circumstances,” which extended to the acts of British soldiers in Iraq.

The case was brought by the Birmingham-based firm Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of Iraqis who said British troops inflicted torture, rape, and death upon their relatives between 2003 and 2006. The Strasbourg ruling overturned a 2007 ruling by the House of Lords, which ruled that there was no UK jurisdiction for the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

The landmark ruling may open the door for Iraqis seeking justice for abuses that occurred under British patrol.

The case involved six deaths that occurred in the Basra area of Iraq between May 2003 and June 2004. Basra at the time was under British patrol. Four victims were shot, while a fifth victim died after being beaten and forced into a river in which he drowned.

The sixth death involved Baha Mousa, who died at a British military base. His father, who identified his son’s body, said Mousa was covered in blood and bruises and had a broken nose.

In its decision, the Court wrote: “[T]he United Kingdom assumed authority and responsibility for the maintenance of security in (southeastern) Iraq. In those exceptional circumstances, a jurisdictional link existed between the United Kingdom and individuals killed in the course of security operations carried out by British soldiers during the period May 2003 to June 2004.”

The relatives of those who died, apart from Mousa, were awarded £15,200 each in damages, and £44, 700 in costs and expenses. Mousa’s family has already been awarded £575,000 in compensation.

Phil Shiner, part of the team at Public Interest Lawyers said of the ruling: “This is a monumental judgment . . . and an important day for our clients, many of whom can now force what the MoD has long-denied them – a public inquiry uncovering the truth about what the British army did to them and their loved ones.”

The Ministry of Defense said: “We are disappointed by these Strasbourg judgments and we will consider them in detail before deciding on our next steps.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Court ruling ‘paves way for UK Iraqi abuse hearings’ – 7 July 2011

Belfast Telegraph – Human rights ruling on Iraq troops – 7 July 2011

CNN – Court: Britain obligated to probe civilian deaths in Iraq – 7 July 2011

Guardian – Iraq abuse ruling by European court says UK failed human rights role – 7 July 2011

Telegraph – British troops in Iraq had a duty under human rights laws, European court rules – 7 July 2011

Iran Escalates Executions at Alarming Rate

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran — Since the beginning of 2011, Iran has been executing an average of almost two people a day.  This rise in the use of capital punishment comes as the present governing Islamic regime fights to prevent a pro-democracy movement, similar to those occurring in neighboring countries, from gaining a significant foothold in Iran.

Political uprisings have become a part of Iran’s history so it is surprising that the country has been so silent as Arab Spring revolts break out all over the Middle East.  It now appears that the Iranian government’s harsh and violent crackdown may be one, if not the, root cause for the lack of a similar uprising in Iran.

While Iran is itself reporting a large number of executions, many human rights organizations worry that even more executions are happening in secret.  Amnesty International says that Iran has acknowledged executing 190 people since the beginning of 2011, but there have been reports of at least 130 more.  These numbers are backed by reports from both Iran Human Rights (IHR) and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI).

Hadi Ghaemi, an executive director of ICHRI feels that the executions are “a clear message that the state has no hesitation in using violence and applying it, no matter how arbitrarily, in holding power.”

The use of executions as a means to intimidate and prevent popular uprisings is nothing new in Iran, but the growing number of executions taking place in public is leaving human rights organizations deeply disturbed.  So far this year there have been 13 known public executions.  This is compared with 14 that took place all of last year.  In most instances those who are publicly hanged are left up on construction cranes for all to see.

Iran claims that the executions are related to drug trafficking, but many outside observers have questioned this notion.  Of those executed at least two have been identified as known political activists, and it seems too coincidental that the number of executions has risen when the likelihood of public uprising is also on the rise.

In response to Iran’s rise in executions, United Against Nuclear Iran has launched the Cranes Campaign.  This campaign has the goal of educating crane manufacturers on how Iran is misusing their products, and getting those manufacturers to renounce their business ties with Iran, until it becomes a civilized member of the international community.  The U.S. companies Terex and Caterpillar and Japan’s Komatsu have all ended their business ties with Iran.

For more information, please see:

Philadelphia Inquirer — What’s Keeping Iran Quiet — 11 July 2011

Care2 – Human Rights Groups Denounce Iran’s Rising Execution Rate — 10 July 2011

The Guardian — Iran escalates use of capital punishment — 7 July 2011

Los Angeles Times — Iran’s execution binge — 6 July 2011

Sex Trafficking in Nepal Faces Strong Resistance

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KATHMANDU, Nepal – For many Nepalese women, who were forced to become sex slaves in their youth, help is on the way. Last Saturday in a documentary entitled “Nepal’s Stolen Children” the CNN Freedom Project uncovered the lucrative sex trafficking industry that has plagued Nepalese women for years. Hosted by actress Demi Moore, the program featured the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year, Anuradha Koirala, and her organization Maiti Nepal, which has rescued over 12,000 stolen Nepalese children from sex trafficking since its founding in 1993.

Anuradha Koirala (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Demi Moore and Anuradha Koirala (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International said, “This is a multi-faceted story, but each side does not carry equal moral value. Modern day slavery is wrong. It needs to be stopped…CNN has committed our reporters around the world for the year to investigate an end to this global epidemic.”

Each year thousands of girls are lured into following prospective employers to a large city only to be forced into prostitution.

In the documentary, Moore speaks with several girls that were trafficked when they were as young as eleven years old. The girls told horror stories of being tortured if they refused to participate in sexual activities. Traffickers would do anything from force-feeding these young girls growth hormones to make their bodies become more women-like to electrocution.

Radika, one of the rescued girls, recounted her stay at a brothel. She explained that if she refused to have sex with a man she would be burned with cigarettes on her body or hot water would be poured on her. She went to the brothel with her baby son, but was separated from him. If her child cried, his tongue would be burned with a cigarette.

In 2004, the cost to buy a sex-trafficked Nepalese girl was approximately 2,400 (USD) reports the WNN. Arresting traffickers can be difficult as adequate police enforcement generally does not exist in rural Nepal.

In the CNN documentary, Nepal’s Prime Minister, Jhalanath Khanal, cites the extensive poverty of the country as being one of the reasons why women of Nepal are suffering so much. The country’s poor economic situation leads many young girls to look for a better life. The WNN reports that Nepalese girls are cheaper to buy, much more cooperative, and are easier to control.  However, Prime Minister Khanal vowed to tackle the issue as part of the new federal constitution that will “provide every kind of right to women.”

Anuradha Koirala believes that the problem begins with the offenders’ attitudes towards women. However, she feels that male attitudes can be changed by allowing men to play major roles in preventing sex trafficking reports the Jakarta Post. Anuradha also hopes to globalize the issue.

“You and me and everybody, we expect this issue to be globalized. One day we hope this will end and that we have a traffic-free society.”

Through Maiti Nepal, Anuradha has provided more than a shelter for these girls and young women, she has created a home. It is a place for them to heal, go to school, learn a skill, and for some who are infected with HIV/AIDS, it is the place where they can spend their days surrounded by love, reports CNN.

Moore has also co-founded the “Demi and Ashton Foundation” with the goal of eliminating child sex slavery and human trafficking.

For more information please see:

CNN — ‘Nepal’s Stolen Children’ airs Sunday @ 8pm (ET) — 6 July 2011

The Jakarta Post — Anuradha Koirala: Stopping sex trafficking – 4 July 2011

The Kathmandu Post — Tracing trafficking trails — 13 January 2011

CNN — Woman fighting sex slavery named CNN Hero of the Year – 22 November 2010

Women News Network — Lost Daughters — An ongoing tragedy in Nepal — 5 December 2008


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                                          Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – The state of Texas executed Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr. on Thursday evening amid outcries from human rights organizations.  Despite the Mexican national’s conviction for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 16 year old Texas girl in 1994, government officials argued that the United States failure to place Garcia in contact with the Mexican consulate upon his arrest violated international treaty obligations under the Vienna Convention.

Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr. denied rights under Vienna Convention.  (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)
Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr. allegedly denied rights under Vienna Convention. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

Garcia’s victim was 16 year old Adria Sauceda.  Garcia was convicted of raping and strangling the young girl before using a 35 pound chunk of asphalt to bludgeon her.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations requested reprieves and clemency for the Garcia before his execution by lethal injection.   The case prompted a flurry of disputes over the United States’ commitments to international agreements and the rights of foreigners currently on American death rows.

CNN reports Garcia’s last statement before his execution as, “I am sorry for everything I have done.  I have hurt a lot of people.  Let this be final and be done.  I take the full blame for this.”  Garcia then shouted “Viva Mexico” before turning to the warden and stating “I’m ready warden, let’s get this show on the road.”  

Garcia’s appellate attorneys argued that their client’s sentence was unusual and that violations of the Vienna convention should at least have given Garcia a reprieve from death row.   They cited the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice ordered the United States to review convictions of Mexican nationals who received the death penalty.

However, CNN reports that in a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court requesting a stay of execution, the majority opinion indicated that “We decline to follow the United States’ suggestion of granting a stay to allow Leal to bring a claim based on hypothetical legislation when it cannot even bring itself to say that his attempt to overturn his conviction has any prospect of success.”

Diplomats and rights organizations in both the U.S. and Mexico expressed disappointment in the result of the case.  However, critics argue that the Vienna Convention is not binding upon individual states without the passage of enabling legislation by Congress.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that this “execution will undermine the role of the International Court of Justice, and its ramifications are likely to spread far beyond Texas.”  Many believe that this will cause retaliation and reprisals against Americans abroad.

“Frankly, if we don’t protect the rights of non-Americans in the United States we seriously risk reciprocal lack of access to our own citizens overseas,” says State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.   Nuland made clear that the Obama administration strongly opposed the outcome and is currently working to speed legislation specifically defining the rights of non U.S. citizens to consular access.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – Mexican National’s Execution in Texas Prompts Diplomatic Disappointment – 8 July 2011

Reuters – U.S. Seeks to Limit Damage of Texas Execution Case – 8 July 2011

CNN – Mexican National Executed in Texas – 7 July 2011

Washington Post – Execution of Mexican National Prompts Concern About Impact – 7 July 2011

Israel Arrests Pro-Palestinian Activists; Dozens More Detained

by Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEL AVIV, Israel – On Friday, hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists began to fly into Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.  The literal mass flight, nicknamed the “flightilla” in reference to a flotilla of aid ships that was denied access to Gaza, was intended to protest the Israeli government’s tendency to bar such people from entering the country.  As of Saturday, six activists, all Israeli citizens, have been arrested by national police, and over 100 others, mostly from Europe, remain in Israeli custody, awaiting deportation to their home countries.

Pro-Palestinian activists wave signs that read Welcome to Palestine in English, Hebrew, and Arabic during a small demonstration at Tel Avivs Ben-Gurion International Airport
Pro-Palestinian activists hold up signs that read "Welcome to Palestine" in English, Hebrew, and Arabic during a small demonstration at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The activists intended to take part in a “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, which was first announced in Paris on March 9 in response to a call from 15 Palestinian civil society organizations on the West Bank.  During the campaign, they would “pay a visit to Palestinian families, share their daily life for a week, visit the towns, villages and refugee camps, discover the difficulties encountered by their inhabitants, [and] also their culture and expectations.”  Because Palestine has no airport, they had no choice but to fly into Ben-Gurion. Though many who wish to visit Palestine lie about their purpose for coming in order to avoid trouble, participants in the initiative stated their intentions to the French Foreign Office, who then forwarded that information to Israeli authorities.

Despite clearly stating the group’s peaceful purpose to Israel months in advance, the country’s immigration department considered participants to be a “security threat.”  Believing this to be the case, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began preparations for their arrival.  Hundreds of security personnel were deployed to the airport.

The six who were arrested had caused a disturbance in the arrivals area of Terminal Three.  They also held up signs that read “Welcome to Palestine.”  According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, “Five males and one female are being questioned.”

As another part of the preparations, the Interior Ministry sent airlines in other countries a list of hundreds of names of people, Israel said were “pro-Palestinian radicals” who intended to create chaos at Ben-Gurion.  Those who arrived in Israel would be refused entry, so the airlines were asked not to let them on board their planes.  According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, the no-fly list was compiled by following the organizers’ websites and members’ social networking.  “We did not need the Mossad,” he said.  “It was all out there in the open.”

The decision was not met with kind words from the would-be activists.  One of the more notable incidents happened at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, where 50 people planned to board a Lufthansa flight, but were banned from boarding.  They then gathered in the terminal and repeatedly yelled “Boycott Israel,” while police observed.  “Charles de Gaulle Airport is under Israeli occupation.  We are peaceful people and have no interest in causing disorder at Ben-Gurion Airport,” Olivia Zemour, leader of one of the organizations that helped put the “flightilla” together, told Israel Radio.  A similar scene took place in Geneva, where 30 people were denied permission to board.

Those who did make it Tel Aviv did not fare much better.  At least two planes were diverted to a different terminal, where suspected activists were taken to a holding area for questioning.

Israel believed it was justified in detaining and denying entry to the activists. Interior Minister Eli Yishal gave credit to the Immigration and Population Authority for preventing their entry.  “We will take a firm hand against anyone disregarding [our] laws, and like any other sovereign state, we will use any means at our disposal to prevent people intent on breaking the law from entering the country,” he said.  Prime Minister Netanyahu added that every country had the right to prevent the entry of potential “provocateurs.”

Despite the setback, organizers still claim victory.  At a news conference in Bethlehem, Palestinian organizer Fadi Kattan said that he was “pleased – sadly pleased” with the Israeli reaction.  In his point of view, it revealed the country’s strong anti-Palestinian policies.

Laura Durkay, an American activist who was being held in a pre-interrogation area at Ben-Gurion with at least 30 other people, was also satisfied.  “What we want is to get into Palestine, but if that’s not going to happen, then the longer we stay here, the more the media will keep paying attention to our story,” she said.  “We want to show how the Israeli government treats people trying to travel to Palestine.”

For more information, please see:

Jerusalem Post — Pro-Palestinian activists plan week of protests in West Bank — 10 July 2011

Ma’an News Agency — Israel deports two activists, 118 still held — 10 July 2011

Al-Jazeera — Israel clamps down on fly-in protest — 9 July 2011

Jerusalem Post — Yishai commends ‘Flightilla’ security forces at B-G airport — 9 July 2011

Arutz Sheva — Six Expelled at Airport; 200 Stopped Abroad — 8 July 2011

New York Times — Israel Blocks Air Travelers to Palestinian Conference — 8 July 2011

Arutz Sheva — Pro-PA ‘Fly-In’ Stymied in Europe — 7 July 2011

Alternative Information Center — Israel Reacts Hysterically to Welcome to Palestine Initiative — 6 July 2011

Bienvenue en Palestine — Press Release, March 9, 2011 — 9 March 2011

ICTJ World Report July 2011

ICTJ World Report

Côte d’Ivoire Issues Arrest Warrant for Youth Minister for Post-Election Violence

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch, Africa

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire — Côte d’Ivoire’s state prosecutor has issued an international arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude, the country’s youth militia leader under ex-President Laurent Gbagbo.  Ble Goude was named Youth Minister when Gbagbo refused to leave office after the United Nations (“UN”)-certified Alassane Outtara the winner of the election in November 2010.  Gbagbo’s actions triggered four months of violence throughout the country.  Ble Goude has escaped from Côte d’Ivoire, and officials report spotting him in Benin and Ghana.

Côte d’Ivoire issues arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude.  (Photo Courtesy of The West Australian)
Côte d’Ivoire issues arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude. (Photo Courtesy of The West Australian)

The violence killed approximately 3,000 people.  Several of Ble Goude’s Young Patriots engaged in the violence with weapons, brandishing machetes, clubs, and AK-47s.  The Young Patriots countered the insurgency by establishing roadblocks throughout Côte d’Ivoire and attacking French and UN Peacekeeping troops.  The Youth Patriots also killed many Ouattara supporters and foreign West African nationals by burning them to death.

Ble Goude mobilized thousands of men at the conclusion of the violence to join the army.  Human rights groups report Ble Goude fervently called Côte d’Ivoirians at rallies to defend the country against “foreigners”.  After these gatherings, militia killings often occurred against Ouattara’s northern Dioula tribe members.

State prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said the state has issued arrest warrants against “suspects on the run”.  Côte d’Ivoire issued arrest warrants for Gbagbo’s inner circle including Ahoua Don Mello (Gbagbo’s government spokesman during the violence), Philippe Attey (ex-industry minister), and Raymond Koudou Kessie (Gbagbo’s ambassador to Israel).  These men, and 21 others in detention, face charges that include xenophobia, infractions against the security and authority of the state, tribalism, forming of armed gangs, abuse of office, and rebellion.  Koffi stated “for many weeks, [these] people incited hatred and xenophobia and committed all kinds of atrocities”.

Ouattara captured Gbagbo in April 2010.  Detained in the northern part of the country, Côte d’Ivoirian courts will try Gbagbo for war crimes, corruption, embezzlement, and economic crimes.

Presently, a delegation of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) is in Côte d’Ivoire to investigate the possibility of prosecuting the war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred during the post-election violence.

BBC reports the Ouattara government has promised the people an end to the impunity.  However, only Gbagbo supporters are being arrested and detained even though the UN Human Rights Council believes both Gbagbo and Ouattara committed war crimes during the post-election violence.  Human Rights Watch commented “there is a growing divide between the Ouattara government’s rhetoric that no one is above the law and the reality that justice appears one-sided”.

For more information, please see:
CBSIvory Coast issues warrant for Gbagbo youth leader2 July 2011
BBCIvory Coast warrant for Gbagbo ally Ble Goude1 July 2011
Reuters Ivory Coast issues warrant for Gbagbo youth leader1 July 2011
The West AustralianI. Coast issues arrest warrant for Gbagbo allies1 July 2011

Indian Official Makes Anti-Gay Comment

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – Gay rights activists are outraged at statements made by India’s health minister in which Ghulum Nabi Azad described homosexuality as “unnatural” and a “disease” from the West and implied that homosexuality is responsible for the majority of India’s HIV rate.

Ghulum Nabi Azad is facing backlash after making anti-gay remarks (Photo Courtesy of Now Public).
Ghulum Nabi Azad is facing backlash after making anti-gay remarks (Photo Courtesy of Now Public).

Azad is quoted as stating “Unfortunately there is this disease in the world and in this country where men are having sex with other men, which is completely unnatural and shouldn’t happen, but it does.”

The remarks were made at a conference in which officials addressed the fact that HIV has affected approximately 2.5 million people living in India and 7.3 percent of homosexuals have been diagnosed with HIV.

The statements came as some parts of India have begun to increase their acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality. In July 2009, homosexuality was decriminalized by New Delhi’s highest court which found that “consensual sex amongst adults is legal, which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes.”

Anjali Gopalan, founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation which fights the spread of HIV, has said that Azad “let a golden opportunity pass, for narrow sectarian gains, when he should have used the platform to address the concerns of the country as a while.”

Following the backlash resulting from the statements, Ghulum Nabi Azad has since clarified his remarks and stated that the statements were taken out of context.

For more information, please see:

CNBC – AP News in Brief at 5:58 am EDT – 5 July 2011

The Hindu – Azad Clarifies on ‘Gay-Sex-is-Unnatural’ Remark – 5 July 2011

The New York Times – India’s Health Minister Calls Homosexuality ‘Unnatural’ – 5 July 2011

Representatives of Australian Defence Force Aware of Possible Abuses at Abu Ghraib

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (“PIAC”) has now obtained documents that show that Australia’s military aided in preventing Abu Ghraib prisoners from receiving Red Cross treatment.  At the center of the detainee mistreatment investigation is Australian officer Major George O’Kane.

Australia knew more about abuses at Abu Ghraib than originally thought. (Image Courtesy of the Associated Foreign Press)
Australia knew more about abuses at Abu Ghraib than originally thought. (Image Courtesy of the Associated Foreign Press)

Defense documents reveal that Australian Army lawyer, Major George O’Kane knew much more about the abuses at Abu Ghraib than originally thought.  Although he was not personally involved with the highly publicized abuses, perhaps equally disturbing was his involvement in denying Red Cross medical attention to high priority prisoners.  According to ABC News, Major O’Kane told ICRC representatives that they could not interview certain detainees because they were “undergoing active interrogation.”

Major O’Kane was instructed to report any abuses or wrongdoings to his superiors.  Robert Hill, the then defense minister said that military lawyers and other officials could often “find themselves in tricky situations,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

The only reports Major O’Kane made to his superiors were those concerning a U.S. investigation into photos.  He did not give evidence at a Senate inquiry in May of 2004, nor did he attend U.S. Congressional hearings on the abuses.  However, Major O’Kane did eventually play a role in tipping off the U.S. about the Red Cross abuses.   According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Major was instructed to deny prisoners access to the Red Cross because of their status as “High Value Detainees” during a January 2004 visit.  Their process of interrogation reportedly required “imperative military necessity.”

Documents show that when Major O’Kane did express doubts about the legality of American interrogation techniques, defense officials ignored his recommendations.  The Straits Times reports that Defence Minister Hill made no effort to correct a public statement announcing that the techniques ‘were consistent with the Geneva Convention,’ even though he knew they were wrong.

Former colonel Mike Kelly was in Baghdad at the same time as Major O’Kane.  Kelly stood up for the Major telling The Sydney Morning Herald that the Major was “a really conscientious officer” and that “there were people with a lot more crap on their shoulders responsible for making these decisions.”

PIAC is a legal lobby group that obtained these documents through Freedom of Information laws.  PIAC Chief Executive Edward Santow said, “We need to assure ourselves that we have learned from the mistakes of the past and . . . ensure that the key information gets into the public domain about our policies in relation to the detention and treatment of prisoners of war.”

PIAC told the Associated Foreign Press that these documents show a “disturbing response by Australian officials regarding detainee mistreatment.”  PIAC will continue to inquire as to what the Australian Defence Force knew about the extent of the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

For more information, please visit:

Associated Foreign Press — Australia “linked to Abu Ghraib abuses” — 5 July 2011

The Straits Times — Alleged Australian Link to Abu Ghraib: Document — 5 July 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — ADF Knew of Abuses at Abu Ghraib — 5 July 2011

Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) — Australia’s Ties to Abu Ghraib — 4 July 2011

Herald Sun — Calls for Inquiry Into Abu Ghraib Abuses — 4 July 2011


By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter

The only woman to ever be indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Rwanda’s former minister of family and women affairs, was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 24 for genocide and rape, among other crimes.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)
Pauline Nyiramasuhuko (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Nyiramasuhuko, 65, her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali and the former mayor, Elie Ndayambaje, were all given life sentences.  Each had been convicted of extermination, rape and persecution as crimes against humanity during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.  Over 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were murdered during the conflict.

“Hoping to find safety and security, they [ethnic Tutsis seeking refuge in the local government] instead found themselves subject to abductions, rapes, and murder,” said Presiding Judge William Sekule.  “The evidence…paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism.”

The judgment comes 10 years after the trial started and 16 years since the first arrest.  The case is considered the longest, largest and probably the most expensive in the history of international justice trials.  A total of 189 witnesses were presented and approximately 13,000 pages submitted into evidence, creating more than 125,000 pages of transcript.

Nyiramasuhuko, Ntahobali and Ndayambaje were convicted alongside three other accused, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo, both former governors of Butare prefecture, and Joseph Kanyabashi, the ex-Mayor of Ngoma Commune.

Nsabimana was sentenced to 25 years for failing to discharge his legal duty.  Nteziryayo was sentenced to 30 years for direct and public incitement to commit genocide during two speeches he delivered.  Kanyabashi was sentenced to 35 years for genocide.

While Nyiramasuhuko is the only woman to have been convicted by the ICTR, other women have been convicted by other courts in connection with the genocide.  A Roman Catholic nun was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a tradition Rwandan court and two other Catholic nuns were convicted by a Belgian court.

Between April and mid-June 1994, hundreds of Tutsis were rounded up by militia members in Butare.  Many were victims of assault and rape.  The genocide was triggered by the April 6, 1994 shooting down of a plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu president.

In a statement, the United States hailed the judgments:  “This ruling is an important step in providing justice and accountability for the Rwandan people and the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.  “This conviction is a significant milestone because it demonstrates that rape is a crime of violence and it can be used as a tool of war by both men and women.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – US hails Rwanda genocide verdict – 26 June 2011

All Africa – Rwanda: Woman Sentenced to Life for Genocide – 24 June 2011

BBC News – Profile: Female Rwandan killer Pauline Nyiramasuhuko – 24 June 2011

CNN – Ex-Rwanda minister jailed for life on genocide and rape counts – 24 June 2011

Trafficking sex slaves: a booming industry in the US capital

By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – Human trafficking is a booming business in the United States. Particularly popular is the sexual exploitation of trafficking victims, many of which are young boys and girls.  These child prostitutes are often lured in by false promises and then forced into a life as a “sex slave.”  Although cities across the U.S. are hubs for child prostitution, Washington D.C. has one of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the nation.

Tina Frundt, a former trafficking victim turned activist (Photo Courtesy of CNN). Tina Frundt, a former trafficking victim turned activist. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)


According to, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001 estimated that “300,000 runaway and throwaway youths under 18 have been sexually exploited.” ABC’s Good Morning America reported that in 2007 the U.S. Department of Justice had expanded that estimate to “between 100,000 and 3 million.”

Recently, CNN investigated and reported on the sex slave ring in D.C.  During the investigation, CNN’s Barbara Starr interviewed Tina Frundt, a former trafficking victim turned activist who works at a non-profit organization for victims of sex trafficking called Courtney’s House.  Frundt revealed to Starr that the average age of young girls being trafficked is between 11 and 14 years, and for boys it is between six and nine years old.

Frundt further revealed that at night the streets of D.C. are traffic controlled: the trafficker makes all the money.  The women and children live as slaves, being beaten and forced to work the streets every night.

Frundt’s interview with CNN brings the reality of the sex slave trade to the forefront. At the close of the report, she offers that “if President Obama had to walk out of his door, his front door, at two-three in the morning – he would go two blocks away and see traffickers forcing women and girls out on the street every night here in the United States.”

CNN also interviewed Bradley Myles, the Executive Director and CEO of the Polaris Project, an organization aimed at combating human trafficking and slavery, to discuss public unawareness.  Myles told Starr that most people who walk the streets of D.C. on a daily basis do not realize that at four and five in the morning those same street corners are used for prostitution.

Those who are aware of the trafficking and sexual exploitation in D.C. are extremely concerned.  Amanda Kloer, an Editor at, reported that “all this wealth, political power, and slavery happens within five square blocks of one another, in what may become the human trafficking capital of America.”

Kloer, who works in D.C., is extremely disturbed that from her own office window she can see “one of the most notorious corners for prostitution in the city.”

Despite its continued prevalence, there have been some efforts by the federal government to crackdown on sex trafficking.  In 2000, Congress passed anti-trafficking laws, which were reauthorized in 2006.  Both the Human Trafficking Task Force and the U.S. Justice Department’s Innocence Lost initiative, separate efforts that target violent and predatory pimps, have made use of the laws to impose stiffer penalties on those convicted.

Yet, cracking down in Washington D.C. has proved to be a challenge.  One reason may be because it is a small region where different legal jurisdictions intersect.  Maryland and Virginia abide by their respective state laws, while a mixture of both local and federal laws govern D.C.

Human trafficking is also a very lucrative business, which makes it extremely difficult for police to shut it down.  As CNN reported, “the sex trade alone is worth millions of dollars every year and the buyers keep on coming.”

For more information, please see:


CNN – Sex slaves in nation’s capital – June 24, 2011 – Human Trafficking Booming in Washington D.C. – June 28, 2010

The Washington Post – Activists Work to End Human Trafficking in D.C. – October 8, 2009 – Washington DC a sexual playground for pimps and johns: Exposing child prostitution rings in DC – March 18, 2009

ABC News – Teen Sex Slave Trade Hits Home – January 30, 2007

The Washington Post – Area Juvenile Sex Rings Targeted Using Anti-Trafficking Laws – March 6, 2006


Sudanese President Makes Visit to Beijing

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir arrived in Beijing on July 5 following an unexpected delay for a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao which was initially scheduled to take place on July 4.

Bashir arrived in China on Tuesday after being invited to visit the country by Chinese president Hu Jintao (Photo Courtesy of International Business Times).
Bashir arrived in China on Tuesday after being invited to visit the country by Chinese President Hu Jintao (Photo Courtesy of International Business Times).

Indictments by the International Criminal Court against Bashir have made Beijing’s invitation to the Sudanese leader controversial and has led to condemnation by several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Because China is not a member of the International Criminal Court, the country was not obligated to arrest Bashir once he presented himself in the country.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Bashir on charges of genocide for the mass killings that have occurred in the Darfur region of Sudan since the leader’s rise to office in 1993.

Richard Dicker, the director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program stated that “Bashir’s flouting of international arrest warrants should be cause for condemnation, not for an invitation.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly invited Bashir to China to increase cooperation between the two nations and “exchange views on Sudan’s ongoing north-south peace process and the Darfur issue.”

Bashir’s visit comes just before the secession of South Sudan from the North which is expected to occur at midnight on July 9.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Sudanese Leader’s Visit Emphasizes China’s African Agenda – 29 June 2011

L.A. Times – Confusion as Sudan President Arrives Day Late in Beijing – 28 June 2011

Aljazeera – Bashir Visits China Ahead of S Sudan Split – 27 June 2011

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 6, Issue 7– July 5, 2011

Volume 6, Issue 7 — July 5, 2011


Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo




International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


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


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma


United States




Universal Jurisdiction


UN Reports


Ivory Coast





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