Popular Syrian Political Cartoonist Attacked and Hospitalized; Security Forces Suspected

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Ali Farzat, one of the most popular political cartoonists in the Middle East, was brutally attacked by masked gunman early yesterday morning in Damascus.  The gunmen, suspected to be members of Syria’s security forces, pulled the 60-year-old from his car and beat him, focusing their blows on his arms.  Farzat, who has since been brought to a hospital and is recovering from his injuries, suffered two broken fingers on his left hand, a fractured right arm, and a bruised left eye.

Ali Farzat, Syrias best-known political cartoonist, lies in Damascuss al-Razi Hospital following Thursday mornings attack
Ali Farzat, Syria's best-known political cartoonist, lies in Damascus's al-Razi Hospital following his being attacked Thursday morning. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

This attack is among the latest in Syria, whose embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, has spent the last several months using security forces to crack down on dissenters.  Earlier this week, the United Nations called for further investigation into the crackdowns, which may constitute crimes against humanity.  But President Assad has continued to stand firm, calling the protesters terrorists whose crushing was necessary to protect the country.

The attack on Farzat indicates a new level of paranoia by the Assad regime.  Even before yesterday, fans could only access his cartoons on his private website because Syria had banned their appearance in local newspapers.  His popularity is derived from his willingness to skewer leaders across the Middle East, including former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the head of the Libyan government.  During Farzat’s 40 year career, his work has emphasized the “mismatch between rhetoric and reality in the Arab world,” as described by BBC Arab Affairs analyst Sebastian Usher.  These drawings have generally used generic government officials, but his work over the past few months has directly attacked Assad.  One of his most recent drawings depicted the Syrian leader carrying a suitcase while trying to get a lift from Gaddafi, who is driving a getaway car.  These criticisms came in spite of a ban on caricatures of Assad’s face.

Ayad Sharbaji, a friend of Farzat’s who visited him in the hospital, told the New York Times what Farzat recounted from the beating. “They told him as they were burning his beard, ‘We’ll see what you will draw from now on.  How dare you disobey your masters?’”

Usher considered the attack a sign that Farzat’s cartoons had “hit home and that the authorities’ tolerance for dissent is touching zero.”

Activists were concerned by this attack.  “What happened to Ali Farzat today scared us,” said an activist from Homs, who wished to be identified only by her first name, Sally. “But it’s only a proof of how desperate the regime is. It shows how frightened they are and proves that they are losing control.”

The United States was quick to respond with a statement from the State Department.  Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, issuing the statement, called Assad’s repeated promises of reform a series of “empty promises about dialogue with the Syrian people.”  Continuing further, Nuland reiterated the U.S.’s stance that Syria should promptly cease its attacks on dissenters against the Assad regime.

SANA, Syria’s official news agency, also reported the assault.  In a press release, the agency said that Farzat’s attackers were “veiled people.”  It concluded that “Authorities concerned are conducting an investigation” of the incident.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — US condemns Syria political cartoonist attack — 26 August 2011

SANA — Caricaturist Ali Farzat Attacked by Veiled People — 26 August 2011

BBC — Syria unrest: Famed cartoonist Ali Ferzat ‘beaten’ — 25 August 2011

New York Times — Political Cartoonist Whose Work Skewered Assad Is Brutally Beaten in Syria — 25 August 2011

Impunity Watch — Assad stands firm against pressure to step down, new investigation of violence in Syria — 23 August 2011

FIRST INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT TRIAL COMES TO A CLOSE

By Tamara Alfred

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

The International Criminal Court concludes its first war crimes trial this week against Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord.

Lubanga, 50, an ethnic Hema, was charged with enlisting and conscripting children as young as nine to his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) movement to kill members of the rival Lendu tribe during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It was the first international case to focus exclusively on child soldiers and the opening trial at the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.  Despite multiple setbacks, the conclusion of the two-year trial demonstrates the ICC’s ability to hear even the trickiest of cases.

Thomas Lubanga during his trial. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters.)
Thomas Lubanga during his trial. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters.)

“It is the first ICC trial finally coming to an end and it’s evidence that the ICC can conduct trials, despite the fact it has taken a considerably long time,” said Mariana Pena of the Federation for Human Rights in The Hague.

More than 30,000 child soldiers were recruited during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s civil war.  Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that Lubanga’s armed group recruited “hundreds of children to kill, pillage and rape.”

Lubanga has denied all charges, saying he was a politician, not a warlord, and never played an active role in the UPC’s militia.  His defense has argued that he is being tried as political scapegoat and that other leaders of the UPC and DRC bear greater responsibility.  The defense also claims that Lubanga in fact tried to liberate child soldiers, not recruit them.

The defense has also alleged that child soldiers who testified invented stories and suggested that they had been coached or bribed to give false evidence.  Additionally, the defense has also put forth major accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.

The trial was put on hold for six months in June 2008 – 10 days before it was scheduled to start – when judges ruled that Moreno-Ocampo had not given lawyers evidence that could have helped Lubanga, prompting criticism that Lubanga was not receiving a fair trial.  The documents were later released on the condition of confidentiality to protect the sources; just one of the ways the ICC was forced during the trial to find ways of shielding witnesses while giving testimony, as well as figuring out how to share materials with the defense without endangering sources because the materials reveal their identities.

“Disclosure obligations are non-negotiable,” said Alison Cole of the Open Society Justice Initiative, “and there are positive signs that lessons with respect to evidence management are being internalized within the court.”

Judges again halted the trial in July 2010 and ordered Lubanga’s release when prosecutors defied a court order to reveal the identity of an intermediary who had helped them contact witnesses.  Prosecutors appealed and Lubanga remained in custody.  Prosecutors revealed the identity of their intermediary to the defense in the end and the trial continued.

Prosecution and defense lawyers will conclude their arguments on Thursday and Friday before the three-judge panel leaves to consider the verdict.  A judgment is expected in early 2010 as the judges’ terms end in March.

The ICC is currently conducting three other trials, all of Congolese suspects, including the country’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba.

More recently, the ICC has issued indictments in the Darfur conflict in Sudan and of Libya’s fallen leader Gaddafi, as well as his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity for their role in the killing of civilian protesters at the start of the recent uprising.

“I found that fear of the ICC a healthy development in international law,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special envoy for children in armed conflicts, told the Associated Press regarding the power of the ICC.  “Nobody can measure how many children have been saved because of deterrence.  That’s not something you can measure, but hopefully that will be the case.”

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Judges urged to convict Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga – 25 August 2011

Voice of America – ICC’s First War Crimes Trial Comes to Close – 25 August 2011

Reuters – ICC’s landmark debut trial concludes after two years – 24 August 2011

International Push for Transitional Libya to Respect Human Rights

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya — In the last few days, the world has watched closely as Libya finally began to shake off the last remnants of its Qaddafi problem, and began a new chapter in its history.  After six months of intense fighting, the Libyan opposition took control of large parts of Tripoli, Libya’s capital and Qaddafi’s base of operations.

The National Transitional Council (TNC), the recognized face of the opposition, now has the job of picking up the pieces of Libya, and completing its goal for a “free and dignified” Libya.

The TNC derives its legitimacy from the decisions of local councils set up by the people of the cities and villages that have already been “liberated” by the rebel opposition.  So far 46 countries have recognized the council as a legitimate governing body, with the notable exceptions being the People’s Republic of China and Russia, both of which had business dealings with Qaddafi’s regime.

Numerous international actors, including foreign governments and human rights organizations, are urging the TNC to take the steps necessary to prevent lawlessness and reprisals from Qaddafi supporters.

“The National Transitional Council has set a good tone for the transition with forceful statements about justice and human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.  “But concrete steps are urgently needed to avoid revenge, protect vulnerable people and help promote the rule of law.”

So far the TNC is working to prevent revenge killings, but some have already occurred.  Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the council to step up the security for pro-Qaddafi Libyans, including those who were displaced from rebel territories and those who are accused of serving as mercenaries for Qaddafi.

Despite help from NATO, the job of trying the criminals of the revolution is being laid at the feet of the TNC. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland notes that while Qaddafi and his followers must face justice for all the “blood on their hands” such accountability needs to be “Libyan-led.”

HRW has also asked the TNC to protect all institutions that have become symbols of Qaddafi’s oppression such as the prisons, police stations, courthouses, and other government buildings.  Both the TNC and interested international onlookers hope to avoid what happened in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when many government buildings were looted and damaged and documents were destroyed.

In response to its new duty, the TNC has issued a call for a unified Libya.  They do not want any more civilian deaths in what has already been a deadly conflict.

Further, the TNC has promised to hold elections next April to choose a new permanent government for Libya.  This announcement, made by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the TNC chairman, comes as world leaders prepare to meet to discuss Libya’s future.  “We want a democratic government and a just constitution,” Jalil said.

Jalil and other members of the TNC have said that they will not seek office in the elections, but that they will still play a central role in the country’s immediate future.

As Amnesty International has said these are “momentous, but extremely dangerous” days for the people of Libya, but it is hoped by many that cool head will prevail and allow for a peaceful, human transition.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty — Both Sides in Libya conflict must protect detainees from torture — 25 Aug 2011

CNN — Group urges Libyans to respect human rights in transition — 24 Aug 2011

Huffington Post — Libya: a Revolution’s Endgame —  24 Aug 2011

New York Times — Sarkozy Assures Libyan Rebel Leader — 24 Aug 2011

The Telegraph — Libya:  leaders promise elections next year — 24 Aug 2011

Voice of America — US Human Rights Groups Urge No Retribution in Libya — 23 Aug 2011

Chinese government closing schools that serve the children of migrant workers

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – The Chinese government has shut down 24 schools that had served the children of migrant workers in Beijing and has resulted in 40, 000 students being forced to scramble for new placements just two weeks before the new semester was scheduled to begin.

Two children play on the debris of their demolished school in Beijing (Photo Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal).
Two children play on the debris of their demolished school in Beijing (Photo Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal).

The 24 schools affected were located  in the Daxing, Chaoyang and Haidian districts of Beijing which have long been home to migrant workers.

While the district government closure orders stated that the school closures were due to”…illegal construction, illegal operation, and safety concerns”, many are skeptical of the government’s motives.

Some of the skeptics suggest that school closures were caused by property developers who are anxious to continue expanding Beijing, while others believe that the school closures are a ploy to force migrant workers to leave the city. Fueling the latter suspicion is the memory of plans made last year by eastern Beijing’s Chaoyang district, in which 3,900 students were affected by the school closures, to ask approximately one million migrant workers to leave the city to alleviate strain on “social security and pollution.”

Under China’s residence permit system, the hokou system, the government designates each citizen based on their place of residence and determines which social services individuals are eligible to receive. Under the hokou system migrant workers living in Beijing, which numbered approximately five million, generally remained registered in their hometown making their children ineligible to register in Beijing schools. As a result, the children of migrant workers are only permitted to attend private schools that are often unapproved and unregistered.

In the Haidian district of Beijing, New Hope School was demolished on August 10 but official announcements were not made until eight days following the demolition. New Hope School had approximately 1,000 students ranging from kindergarten to ninth grade, all of which were forced to find placement elsewhere.

Following the  school closure’s, officials assured students and their parents that they would find placements for the children who were displaced. Some individuals; however, do not believe that the government will maintain it’s promise.

Geoffrey Crothall, the director of communications for China Labour Bulletin expressed his skepticism of the government’s promise by stating that, “…they set the threshold for school placement qualifications so high that the vast majority of migrant families cannot meet the requirements.” This concern is exemplified by the fact that only 70 students out of the 1,000 who were displaced from New Hope School have been able to gather the required documentation to have their children placed in the Beijing school system.

The requirements are so difficult to meet that of the approximately 1,000 students displaced from the New Hope School, only 70 have been able to gather the required documents to have their children placed in the school system.

For more information, please see:

The Wall Street Journal  –  Will School Closures Prompt Migrants to flee? – 19 August 2011

MSNBC – In Beijing, 40,000 Students Stranded – 18 August 2011

Radio Free Asia – Anger Over Migrant School Closures– 18 August 2011

Reuters – Closure of Migrant Children Schools in China Sparks Anguish – 18 August 2011

BBC – Migrant Schools Closed in Chinese Capital -17 August 2011

Extradition hearing set for Croatian woman living in Kentucky

By Greg Hall
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Azra Basic charged and arrested for war crimes committed nearly two decades ago. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, United States of America – An extradition hearing has been set for a Croatian woman, Azra Basic, who had been living in the United States but was charged with murder and torture relating to the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  Basic has become a naturalized citizen of the United States.  Basic’s attorney, Patrick Nash, has questioned the motion for Basic’s extradition and seeks to dismiss the case.

“I think we’ve got a really valid argument on the dismissal motion, using a treaty of this age in the way they’re using it is fraught with problems,” Nash said, further noting that the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged crimes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Arehart said in a motion that it is up to the executive branch of the federal government to determine if a treaty is in effect, even though the country has changed names and forms of government.  “The political ideologies of the predecessor and successor states are irrelevant,” Arehart wrote.

Basic is accused of torturing and killing ethnic Serbs at prison camps from April to June in 1992.

Basic had been living in Powell County in Kentucky for several years and working in a nursing home before her arrest in March of this year.  Friends of Basic refer to her as a “big-hearted” person, who was so scarred by her experience in Croatia that she could not watch war movies and cut all ties with her homeland.  They defend her by saying that she was in a place of war and forced to make impossible moral choices.

Now after almost twenty years, Basic faces extradition back to Bosnia.  If convicted of the alleged crimes, Basic could spend the rest of her life in prison.  Basic states that she is not pleased with the current situation but understands the legal process takes time.

People that know Basic and her story state that she was just acting as a human being.  Others are calling for justice for her alleged atrocities.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 104,000 people died in the ethnic strife.  The conflict was the most brutal since World War II.

For more information please see:

Chron.com – Hearing set for woman accused of Bosnia war crimes – 22 August 2011

The Republic – Federal Court hearing set for woman accused of Bosnia war crimes in Yugoslav wars – 22 August 2011

New York Times – Dark past in Balkan war intrudes on new life – 3 April 2011

AS TENSIONS BETWEEN GAZA AND ISRAEL FLARE UP AND DOWN, CIVILIANS PAY THE TOLL

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip–Fresh strokes in the ongoing conflict between the Israel and Palestine has caught the attention and concern of the international community. With the current volatile situations in other countries of the region taking center stage, such as Libya and Syria, the timeless conflict has pushed its way back to the headlines after drifting somewhat into the background.

An Israeli tank is positioned near the southern Israel kilbuttz of Nahal Oz.(Photo Courtesy of CNN)
An Israeli tank is positioned near the southern Israel kilbuttz of Nahal Oz.(Photo Courtesy of CNN)

A third Israeli raid crushed a military training camp in the Gaza Strip after rockets fired from Gaza fell in southern Israeli on the fourth day of a continued cross-border conflict that has claimed the lives of 30 individuals.

Al-Jazeera’s Safwat Kahlout reported that at least nine Palestinians, including a brutally injured 13-year-old boy, were wounded on Sunday from Israeli drones and F-16 fighter jet attacks. The Israeli attacked targeted a Hamas police station and a military training camp belonging to the al-Ahrar movement.

On 20 August 2011, Hamas announced that it was formally ending its two-year truce with Israel. This was the first time in months that Hamas had openly declared its involvement in rocket attacks against Israel, since observing the de facto truce since the end of a three-week offensive in January 2009.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Cal Perry shared these sentiments concerning Hamas involvement.

“Hamas has called off the ceasefire that was in place with Israel, largely due to the violence and the continued strikes that we see from Israeli aircraft, killing at least 15 Palestinians. They do blame Hamas whenever anything originated from Gaza, be it a rocket attack from the south-we have seen 70 of those since Thursday-or an attack like we saw from southern Israel.”

Israeli army officials reported that at least 12 rockets fired from Gaza fell in southern Israel and hit an empty school, not creating any serious injuries. Israeli ministers held an emergency meeting on Saturday night to discuss the violence after an Israeli man was killed that evening by a rocket strike in the southern city of Beersheba. According to the AFP news agency, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) has claimed responsibility for the Beersheba attack. PRC is a faction in Gaza that is traditionally loyal to Hamas.

Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza have claimed the lives of at least 15 people, including gunmen and five civilians, three of them children. Israeli officials blamed the attack on Palestinian fighters who had entered southern Israel from Gaza through Egypt.

The Arab League implored the international community to “pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to put an immediate end to this assault,” after holding emergency talks in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday.

“The Arab League calls on the UNSC to assume its responsibilities and take quick steps to halt this brutal assault.”

As recently as 23 August, Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into southern Israel overnight, according to Israeli police. Hamas officials said that Palestinian factions and Israel had agreed to observe a ceasefire after three days of border skirmishes. Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’ deputy foreign minister, has confirmed the reported ceasefire to Al-Jazeera, detailing that both sides reached an informal ceasefire through Egyptian and UN mediation.

“We have temporarily stopped firing rockets at Israel according to the national consensus.”

For more information, please see:

BBC-Israel and Hamas agree Gaza truce, reports say-23 August 2011

Al-Jazeera-Hamas says Gaza ceasefire agreed-22 August 2011

Ahram-Gaza militants agree to halt fire on Israel-22 August 2011

NYT-Efforts Seek to Restore Calm Between Israel and Hamas-21 August 2011

CNN-Rockets kill 1 in Israel; Hamas military wing ends truce-20 August 2011

Assad Stands Firm Amid Pressure to Step Down, New Investigation of Violence

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took to the airwaves Sunday, using an interview on national television to say that he would not bow to urges to resign from Western countries.  And as crackdowns continued against protesters in Syria, the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) today passed a resolution calling for an inquiry into Assad’s actions, which may include crimes against humanity.

President Bashar al-Assad said that he would not step down from office during Sundays interview on Syrian television. (Photo courtesy of SANA)
President Bashar al-Assad said that he would not step down from office during Sunday's interview on Syrian television. (Photo courtesy of SANA)

“The solution in Syria is political, but when there are security cases, they must be confronted through the competent institutions…” Assad explained.  “We have chosen the political solution since the very first days of events; otherwise, we wouldn’t have headed toward reform as we announced a package of reforms in less than a week after the events began…the political solution can’t succeed without preserving security.”

But Monday, crackdowns continued in Homs, the country’s third largest city, where a UN fact-finding team was visiting in order “to assess such needs as food and medicine.”  But while they were there, Syrian security forces fired at a crowd of people who had gathered to welcome the team.  The attack violated promises to the UN, including a personal assurance by Assad to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.  Today, Al Jazeera reported that 55 tanks had raided the town of al-Khowria in Deir ez-Zor.  They were launching shells at the neighborhood while two helicopters deployed troops.

The UN resolution comes mere days after the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing actions taken by security forces against activists.  Among other tactics, the security forces shot to kill unarmed protesters, including women and children.  The UN estimates that more than 2,200 Syrians, most of them unarmed dissidents, have died since the protests began in mid-March.  The 46-member HRC approved the resolution with 33 votes in favor, 4 votes against, and 9 abstentions.  China and Russia were two of the four countries who opposed, both saying that it was an unnecessary intervention.

Assad seemed unconcerned about the new pressure.  During Sunday’s interview, he promised elections and a review of the country’s constitution.  He also considered Western insistence that he step down “meaningless.”  “This cannot be said to a president who was elected by the people,” he said, referring to his victory in a 2007 referendum with 97.6% of the vote. Assad was the only candidate.

He also appeared confident that his country would emerge from its present situation stronger than before the violence began in March.  “Syria will not fall unless there will be a crisis that will finish Syria and this can’t happen,” Assad said. “I am reassured that the Syrians will come out of this crisis. I am not worried, and I want to reassure everybody.”

But the reality seems quite different, as protests continue and local and international opinion continues to move against Assad.  Though some activists liken their situation to that of the recently fallen Libya, they do not hold any cities, and the military forces seem to be holding strong.  It is, however clear, that Assad’s continued efforts are repression are failing.

According to Nadim Shehadi, a scholar at the London-based Chatham House, a research organization in London. Assad “needs to understand first that it’s over. He probably does but hasn’t shown it. Then he needs an exit strategy.”

Until Assad acknowledges this, the cycle of protests, crackdowns and calls for him to step down may not end for a long time.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — UN orders probe into Syria rights violations — 23 August 2011

BBC — Syria unrest: UN rights body to investigate crackdown — 23 August 2011

SANA — President al-Assad: The Solution in Syria is Political…We Made Security Achievements…There will be Elections and Review of Constitution — 23 August 2011

United Nations — Top UN human rights body orders inquiry into Syrian violence — 23 August 2011

United Nations Office at Geneva — Human rights council decides to dispatch a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic — 23 August 2011

New York Times — Dissent in Syria Emerges as Front Line of Arab Uprisings — 22 August 2011

New York Times — Assad Says He Rejects West’s Calls to Resign — 21 August 2011

Hate-Filled Murder Shows Racism Still an Issue in Mississippi

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – A community in Mississippi is mourning the loss of James Craig Anderson, the victim of a racially fueled murder.  Human rights groups are heading to the community to speak out against such a horrible crime.  Sadly, not many are shocked by the racist attitudes still present in modern day Mississippi

CEO and Founder of the New Order National Human Rights Organization hosts a rally alerting Mississippi to racial injustice and hatred.  (Image courtesy of The Clarion Ledger)
CEO and Founder of the New Order National Human Rights Organization hosts a rally alerting Mississippi to racial injustice and hatred. (Image courtesy of The Clarion Ledger)

James Craig Anderson was killed in a hit and run in June.  The attackers – a truck full of white teenagers – were caught on surveillance video.  Mississippi has now formally charged the ringleader, 19-year-old Deryl Dedmon, with capital murder. 

Hinds County District Attorney, Robert Smith called it a hate crime, alleging that Dedmon set out to harm a black person, according to WLBT news, an NBC affiliate.  Smith is quoted as saying, “Dedmon murdered this man because he was black,” according to Peoplesworld.org.  National civil rights groups agree that Dedmon and his friends were intentionally seeking a black person to harm, as reported by The New York Times.

After drinking at a party, Dedmon rounded up some friends to go “f**k with some n****s,” according to Peoplesworld.org.  The group found Anderson in a parking lot, immediately assaulted, and robbed him while yelling, “White power!” and other racial slurs.  Eventually, Dedmon got back into a green truck, and ran Anderson over before fleeing the scene.  Peoplesworld.org further reports that Dedmon called some friends to brag about running Anderson over.

The New Order National Human Rights Organization based out of Georgia travelled to Mississippi on August 20 to speak out against the brutal murder, as reported by The Clarion Ledger.  Gerald Rose, founder and CEO of the group, said their message was to “put Mississippi on alert” about racial injustice and hatred.

Dr. Timothy Summers, a psychiatrist in Jackson, Mississippi told The New York Times, “Racism has always been part of the lifestyle in Mississippi in one form or another.”  Rev. Brian Richardson of Castlewood Baptist Church was close with Anderson.  He and his family told The New York Times that while racism is not unique to the Deep South, a deep streak of “us and them” exists.

Dedmon and his family have refused comment, but Dedmon’s high school classmates stand by him, suggesting that what he did was an accident and that they are no racists.  Dedmon, in a letter to his younger sister told her to “choose her friends wisely . . . My so-called friends got me in here,” according to The New York Times

Although many feel that racism is not present anymore, it is clear that it is still an issue in the United States.  Francis Sutton of Jackson told The Clarion Ledger, “If anybody’s freedom is at stake, everybody’s freedom is at stake.”

For more information, please visit:

The New York Times — Weighing Race and Hate in a Mississippi Killing – 22 Aug. 2011

The Clarion Ledger —  Atlanta Group Decries Alleged Hate-Crime Slaying  — 21 Aug. 2011

WLBT News — Human Rights Group Plans to  Speak Out About James C. Anderson’s Murder — 21 Aug. 2011

Peoplesworld.org — Mississippi is Still Burning, Vicious Murder Shows — 10 Aug. 2011

Hazare Leaves Prison, Begins Protest

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch, Asia

NEW DEHLI, India – In continuance of the battle between the Indian government and Anna Hazare, the seventy-four year old man was taken into custody by police Tuesday, just hours before the beginning of Hazare’s next hunger strike over the recently proposed anti-corruption bill.

Anna Hazare
Anna Hazare leading a protest (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Although Harzare’s public hunger strike was thwarted, Hazare began fasting in prison. Hazare’s has been relentless in protesting the bill, while some have defended the government’s actions calling Hazare’s protests dangerous and undemocratic.

Officers in plain clothes picked up Anna Hazare from a house in Delhi and drove him away in an unmarked car, fellow activist Akhil Gogoi told the AFP news agency. Police explained that Hazare was arrested because he intended to defy prohibitory orders.

Police had given Hazare regulations that had to be followed if a fast was to take place. Included in the list were: the fast should be limited to three days, no more than four to five hundred people were allowed to gather, and parking must exist for an unspecified number of vehicles.

Following Hazare’s arrest, many supporters rushed onto the streets to protest. India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram responded telling reporters, “This government is not against democratic and peaceful protest. But that right must be exercised subject to conditions laid down by authorities charged with the duty of keeping law and order and public peace.”

Tuesday evening government officials ordered Hazare to be released from prison. However, Hazare refused because his discharge would be contingent upon him agreeing to abide by government regulations during future protests.

Feeling pressure from the world and a peaceful march, which included over ten thousand people, the government was willing to strike a deal with Hazare.

Hazare’s arrest and the march dominated the local television news networks capturing how citizens feel about the current leadership of the country spurring the government to act.

Wednesday evening one of Mr. Hazare’s aides, Kiran Bedi, announced via Twitter that Mr. Hazare had accepted a police offer to limit any hunger strike and mass demonstration in New Delhi to 15 days.

The protest would be staged at the city’s Ramlila grounds, and the Indian news media reported that the authorities had relented on Mr. Hazare’s demand that no limits be placed on the number of people allowed to attend.

Because of the expected crowd size the protest was delayed until Friday so adequate preparations could be made. However, participants began arriving on Thursday. Many have purchased apparel which reads “I Am Anna.”

City workers began to repair the Ramlila grounds, which had been damaged by the recent rain storms. Metal detectors were placed at entry points, sound systems were prepared, mattresses were laid out to sit on, and a huge tent was built.

Over fifty thousand people attended the event on Sunday. Protesters chanted “Anna, you keep fighting, we are with you.” Hazare has not eaten since his arrest Tuesday and only drinks water in protest. A medical team is on site to monitor Hazare’s health.

Hazare is demanding that his anti-corruption bill be introduced to parliament on Tuesday and be passed by the end of the month. Hazare says if the bill is not passed by the end of the month then there will be an “unprecedented revolution” in the country by the people. “The government will have to either get the Bill passed (in Parliament) or go,” Hazare said on Sunday.

However, Hazare’s boldness has come under criticism. Critics point out that Hazare is attempting to dictate policy to an elected parliament.

One of the major points of contention surrounding the bill is whether or not the prime minister can be investigated for corruption.

Hazare demands that the prime minister fall under the umbrella of the bill, while the government says if the prime minister were to be investigated, the government would be shaken.

Hazare’s counter-argument is if the prime minister is corrupt and no investigation is done, then the danger to the country would be far greater.

Aruna Roy, leader of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and one of India’s most famous social activists, described Hazare’s recent actions as “ill-advised.”

She explained “We must assert our rights. But to get rid of these institutions would be a great disaster for all the people in this country. We must make these democratic institutions work for us and they must work for us.” Roy continued, “anyone who says my view should be the only view is wrong.”

Since Roy’s remarks Hazare and his supporters have appeared to reduce their demands from absolute passage of the bill to negotiations. Arvind Kejriwal, a man close to Hazare, told supporters, “we are in favor of discussion, we want to ask the prime minister whom should we come to talk to, and when and where.”

The government has begun to show signs of compromise as Prime Minister Singh said he was open to dialogue about the bill. Furthermore, a majority party lawmaker has sent Hazare’s bill to a parliamentary committee for consideration.

Hazare plans to continue his protest throughout this week.

For more information, please see:

DNA — Congress paralysed in face of Hazare-tsunami – 21 August 2011

Reuters — Under pressure, Anna Hazare may tone down demands – 21 August 2011

The Times of India — ‘Anna shouldn’t undermine democratic institutions’— 21 August 2011

The Times of India — Give us our Lokpal Bill or quit: Anna warns government – 21 August 2011

New York Times — Indian Anticorruption Leader to Leave Jail – 18 August 2011

The Times of India — Won’t back down till Lokpal Bill is passed, says Anna Hazare – 18 August 2011

The Times of India — Anna Hazare escalates war with govt, refuses to leave Tihar Jail – 17 August 2011

BBC – India anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare detained – 16 August 2011

LIBYAN REBELS ADVANCE INTO TRIPOLI, HOPING TO INITIATE GADDAFI’S ‘LAST STAND’

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya–Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is standing firm to his claim of staying entrenched in Tripoli until “the end,” as opposition fighters clashed their way towards the capital to support rebels who entered the city on Saturday evening. After being met with sporadic and seemingly farce resistance, rebels blasted into the Libyan capital on Sunday evening, complete with street celebrations by residents hailing the end of Gaddafi’s 42-year reign.

Libyan rebels advancing into Tripoli. (Photo Courtesy of NYT)
Libyan rebels advancing into Tripoli. (Photo Courtesy of NYT)

The fighting spilled into Sunday morning in several central and eastern neighborhoods. Witnesses reported that rebel flags were raised over some buildings, perhaps a sign to hope that change might really be on the horizon. This recent swing of battles comes just 24 hours after forces loyal to Gaddafi utilized heavy machine guns and mortars to deal with lightly armed opposition forces and protesters who were expressing their disgust with the status quo in the streets.

In an address to the nation, Gaddafi refused to surrender and guaranteed to emerge as the victor. He also called on all of the Libyan people to come from all regions to “liberate” Tripoli.

“We will not, we will not abandon Tripoli to the occupants and their agents. I am with you in this battle. We do not surrender and, by God’s grace, we will emerge victorious. Today we must take over Tajoura. I fear, if you let them, they will destroy Tripoli.”

Just as Gaddafi was delivering his promise to never surrender, rebel fighters made significant advances in several key regions. They advanced ten kilometers from the western region of Zawiyah, capturing the town of al-Mayah. This acquisition placed the rebels within several kilometers of Tripoli’s suburbs. Simultaneously, more rebels made their way to other locations to the south and east, Gharyan and Zlitan.

An Al-Jazeera correspondent conducted an interview with a Tripoli resident in the Abu Sita neighborhood named Youssef. He expressed these sentiments concerning the rebel advances on Sunday afternoon.

“We are waiting for the revolutionaries to come to conquer Tripoli, because we don’t have weapons to defend ourselves. Gaddafi troops are using heavy artillery and heavy weapons, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next two to three hours.”

Late Sunday evening, rebel officials reports that two of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam and Saaid, have been arrested by opposition forces in Tripoli. The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo confirmed this report of their capture. Moreno-Ocampo also said that the court has indicted Saif al-Islam for torturing and killing civilians.

Moving into the early hours of Monday, the rebels pushed further and made their way to Green Square, which they renamed Martyrs’ Square. Celebrations began to pile up as thousands of Libyans entered the streets and waved rebel flags, appearing to salute each other over a victory that was not completed.

Gaddafi gave an audio broadcast to his nation late on Sunday, urging them to “save Tripoli” from the rebels.

“How come you allow Tripoli, the capital, to be under occupation once again? The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli. Get out and lead, lead, lead the people to paradise.”

Libyan Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim reported that since fighting in the capital began around noon (10:00 GMT) on Sunday, the battles had claimed 1,300 lives and left some 5,000 wounded.

“The city is being turned into a hellfire.”

The National Transitional Council (NTC), the governing body of the rebels, issued a mass text message early on Monday morning.

“We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

There is surely a resurgent feeling of hope inside Libya that the 42-year reign of their leader is finally coming to an end. Aref Ali Nayed, an ambassador in the United Arab Emirates for the NTC said that the opposition forces were dubbing Sunday “Day 1” to signify that a new era in Libya has already begun. But the search for the Libyan leader still continues.

More battles occurred early on Monday after tanks left Bab Aziziya, Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, to try and quell the impending rebel assault. The location of the Gaddafi himself is still unknown and it is believed that he is attempting to rally his forces for a final defense. One can only hope that more of the thousands of civilians inside Libya will not have to pay the ultimate price for a regime transition that desperately needs to occur.

For more information, please see:

Ahram-Gaddafi’s reign crumbles to its demise as rebels seize most of Tripoli and heir-22 August 2011

Al-Jazeera-Libyan rebels in ‘final push’ for capital-21 August 2011

BBC-Scenes of joy as Libya rebels enter centra Tripoli-22 August 2011

CNN-Gadhafi regime appears to be ‘crumbling’ as rebels advance in Tripoli-22 August 2011

The Guardian-Libya:rebel forces reach heart of Tripoli-22 August 2011

NYT-Jubilant Rebels Control Much of Tripoli-22 August 2011