Peaceful Protest Turns Deadly

Peaceful Protest Turns Deadly

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

JAYAPURA, Indonesia – On October 19, 2011, approximately 1,000 Papuans gathered for a peaceful pro-independence rally in the Papua provincial capital. However, the demonstration turned violent as Indonesian police and the army arrived and fired warning shots to disperse those in attendance.

Police arrested 300 people following what started out as a peaceful protest (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Witnesses explained that people either began running or immediately surrendered by putting their hands up. Approximately 300 people were arrested. Upon arrest detainees were ordered to take their clothes off and stood in their underwear while police reportedly beat them with pistols, canes and batons.

The army and police pursued those who ran into the nearby wooded area and made several more arrests. It has been confirmed that at least three people died during the crackdown while the Australian Broadcasting Company reports that six people died during the incident. Of the three confirmed dead, witnesses established two of them were shot by the army or police.

Daniel Kadepa, a twenty-five year old law student was shot in the head as he ran away from soldiers. Yakobus Samansabra had bullet wounds to his torso reportedly in the back. The Indonesian Government denies the deaths took place near the rally and were caused by bullets. Instead the government claims the injuries and deaths were caused by a sharp object.

Everyone who was arrested at the event has been released with the exception of six individuals. Five of those individuals are charged with treason and one is charged with possession of a sharp weapon.

Human Rights Watch has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for the “immediate establishment of an independent investigation into the deaths of the protestors and the ongoing violence in Papua.”

John Baransano, a Protestant minister in Jayapura who was present at the rally, cries for international help. “I call on the churches around the world to care about this. I’m calling for an intervention for us because today’s events show that we need a transitional government and this needs to happen to help the people of Papua,” he said. “We are now in a dangerous situation and we’re calling for a UN intervention to help us.”

The government appears prepared to resolve its differences with the Papuans. On Thursday President Yudhoyono told cabinet members “we have tried to solve the problem using a security approach, but that did not work. Now we will focus on the prosperity of our brothers and sisters.”

Many believe a dialogue between the two parties is essential to ending violence in the region.

For more information, please see:

Jakarta Globe – Activists Call for Dialogue on Papua’s Future – 30 October 2011

Australia Broadcasting Company — Video Shows Aftermath of Papua Crackdown — 28 October 2011

Human Rights Watch – Indonesia: Independent Investigation Needed Into Papa Violence – 28 October 2011

Jakarta Post – Govt ‘Not to Use Force’ to End Violence – 28 October 2011

Kenyan Airstrike Hits Somali Refugee Camp, Killing Five and Injuring Dozens More

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JILIB, Somalia – Kenya’s efforts to find members of the hardline Islamic group Al-Shabab went slightly offline on Sunday.  During an air raid over Jilib, a coastal town in southern Somalia, a bomb fell on a refugee camp that is home to more than 7,500 people.

Kenyan troops approach the Somali border in order to find and eliminate members of the militant Al-Shabab organization, which Kenya holds responsible for a series of kidnappings within its borders. (Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse)

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders), an aid organization that participates in the camp’s operations, five people, including three children, had died so far and another 45 had been hospitalized due to wounds sustained from shrapnel.  Due to the bombing activities, MSF has temporarily withdrawn its staff from the area.

“So today the nutrition clinic and cholera centre are closed,” explained mission leader Gautam Chatterjee.  “We will re-open as soon as things are a bit safer for our staff there.”

The strike was aimed at an Al-Shabab camp that was also located in Jilib.  Based on intelligence that a senior official was present, several aircraft flew overhead.  The refugee camp bombing was an accident due to an errant bomb.  Kenya confirmed the attack on the Shabab base, but denied harming the refugee camp.

Major Emmanuel Chirchir, a spokesman for the Kenyan military, said: “We bombed an al-Shabab camp, killed 10 and wounded 47. We are sure about this assessment, no collateral damage, no women, no children.”

Chirchir initially denied claims that the military had bombed the camp.

“MSF is being used by al-Shabab [for propaganda purposes],” he told the BBC program Focus on Africa.  The military later admitted that civilian casualties may have been incurred, but not due to the airstrike itself.  Instead, a vehicle filled with ammunition and high explosives caught fire during the raid.  In trying to escape, the driver brought it into the refugee camp, where it exploded.  The resulting blast was deemed the cause of civilian casualties from his perspective.

MSF’s departure is another setback for humanitarian aid in Somalia, a conflict-ravaged East African country that has not had a stable government for more than 20 years.  Six areas presently under Al-Shabab control are in a state of famine, as declared by the United Nations.  But while the present skirmishes continue, the prospects of delivering much-needed aid are slim.

“The new escalation in fighting and insecurity along the Kenya-Somalia border risks increasing the suffering for civilians already devastated by drought and conflict,” another aid organization, Oxfam, said in a statement it issued last month. “The situation in Somalia is increasingly alarming.”

Al-Shabab has promised reprisals against the invaders.

“Kenya has brutally massacred civilians already displaced by hardship … We will ensure that Kenya mourns more than we did,” said Sheikh Abukar Ali Ada, a regional Al Shabab official.  “They cowardly killed around 15 civilians. We will similarly target them and take revenge.”

Though it has some backing from the Somali government, Kenya has no timetable for withdrawal other than saying that it will leave when it feels safe again.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Somali ‘Civilians Killed’ in Kenyan Air Raids — 31 October 2011

BBC — Kenya Air Raid in Somalia Jilib Town ‘Kills Civilians’ — 31 October 2011

Daily Nation — Death Toll in Kenya Raid in Somalia Rises to Five — 31 October 2011

Daily Nation — Kenya, Somalia Seek Support for War on Al Shabaab — 31 October 2011

Garowe Online — Kenyan Air Strike in Somalia ‘Kills Five and Wounds Dozens’ — 31 October 2011

New York Times — Aid Group Says Refugee Camp in Somalia Was Hit by Airstrike — 31 October 2011

Mere Hours After Egypt Apparently Secured a Ceasefire, Israel Launches Air Strike In Gaza

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza–Just hours after Egypt had been mediating a truce between Israel and Palestine, Israel has launched a fresh air strike on Gaza, east of Rafa. Seven members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing were killed, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 11. The Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza had reported that it had accepted a ceasefire prior to the attacks. The recent spike in violence came as funerals were being held for two Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight.

A Palestinian man grieves outside of a hospital in Rafa, Gaza. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

On Saturday 29 October 2011, at least 10 people were killed in Gaza and southern Israel.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls and governs Gaza, has made efforts to enforce the agreed-upon ceasefire since the latest round of cross-border airstrikes and rocket attacks in August, which saw both sides endure casualties. The confrontation in August was precipitated by a deadly attack north of Eilat that claimed the lives of eight Israelis. In that situation, the attackers crossed the border into Israel from Egypt. But Israeli officials claimed that the attack was organized and facilitating by another militant group in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees, and immediately eliminated its senior commanders in an airstrike.

Abu Ahmad, the spokesman for the movement’s armed wing Al-Quds Brigades, shared these sentiments about the developing situation.

“The Islamic Jihad has responded positively to the truce effort, while it reserves its right to react to any aggression by Israel.”

Ahmad also claimed that several of the dead were senior commanders of the organization. They included Ahmed al-Shiekh Khalil, a leader of one of the Islamic Jihad brigades. Khalil had four brothers who were activists in the movements. All of them were killed in operations conducted by the Israeli army.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu placed the onus on Hamas, the governing body in Gaza, for the violence that has occurred and expressed Israel’s resolve to defend itself.

“The Hamas rules Gaza, he is responsible for Gaza, he is responsible for preventing the firing from Gaza, and for keeping the calm in Gaza, even if the attackers are the Islamic Jihad. It is not worthwhile for anybody to test our determination to invoke the government’s defense principles. We will prevent every attempt to shoot at Israel and we will hurt everyone who nevertheless succeeds at doing so. We have no desire to see deterioration in the situation, but will defend ourselves according to these principles.”

An Israeli military official reported that on Sunday 30 October 2011, three rockets were fired at its territory after the ceasefire deadline had passed. The official claimed that two of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and the other crashed into southern Israel, but did not result in any casualties or substantial damage.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Cal Perry, who is reporting from Al Shojaya in eastern Gaza, shared this viewpoint on what is currently happening between the two Middle Eastern nations.

“We heard Islamic Jihad spokesperson saying that they were going to give 48 hours both to Egyptians and the Israelis to work out some kind of an agreement. But as late as Sunday afternoon, there has been further air strike bringing into question if anyone is going to be able to stop the recent spate of violence.”

This latest flare-up between the ever-feuding nations came less than two weeks after the return of a captured Israeli soldie, Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, who had been held incommunicado in Gaza for more than five years by Hamas. Israel had freed 477 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the soldier and is set to release some 550 more prisoners in a deal that has significantly bolstered Hamas’s stance.

Hamas is reportedly largely committed to the rather fragile ceasefire that first came into effect after Israel’s three-week military offensive in Gaza that came to a close in January 2009. It is alleged that smaller groups such as the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are not committed to a ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned rocket fire from Gaza and called for it to stop, according to CNN.

“We hope that both parties will fully respect the calm as brokered by Egypt and urges maximum Israeli restraint following the killing of a reported 10 alleged militants.”

The international community can keep imploring the two sides to come to a truce that has clout and can last. But until that actually occurs, civilians will be the ones who really pay the price and will continue to do so with no foreseeable end in sight.



For more information, please see: 

Al-Jazeera – Israel Launches Fresh Air Strike In Gaza – 30 October 2011

BBC – New Israeli Air Strike Into Gaza After ‘Ceasefire’ – 30 October 2011

CNN – Islamic Jihad Announces Gaza Cease-Fire – 30 October 2011

The Guardian – Gaza Militants Agree to Truce After Nine Killed in Israeli Air Strikes – 30 October 2011

Reuters – Gaza Violence Simmers After Truce Announced – 30 October 2011

NYT – Israeli Drone Strike Kills Militants In Southern Gaza – 29 October 2011

Libyan Militias Terrorize Qaddafi Supporters, Force Refugee Relocation

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya — More than 100 militia brigades from the city of Misrata have been operating outside of any official duty since Tripoli fell in August.  Members of these militias have reportedly engaged in torture, aggressively pursued enemies all over the country, and detained and shot individuals being held in detention.

Bullet shells litter a besieged street of Misrata (Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post).

Currently, these militias are preventing the entire displaced town of Tawergha from returning home.  They believe that this city was sympathetic to Qaddafi and provided him avid support.

Now that the war in Libya has come to an end there are calls for accountability and reconciliation.  Groups such as the Misrata militias are showing how difficult this will be.

In western Libya, anti-Qaddafi militias have looted and burned the homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator.

Other militias from around Zuwara have been looting property as compensation, which they feel they deserve for damages suffered during the war.

The recent execution of the 53 pro-Qaddafi supporters at a hotel in Sirte was apparently under the control of the Misrata militias.

Similarly, it was a Misrata militia that apparently captured and then killed Qaddafi while he was in their custody.  Details of how and why his death occurred are still unknown.

The Misratans have made it clear that they detest anyone who supported Qaddafi during the conflict.

Misrata withstood a two-month siege from Qaddafi’s forces with almost daily attacks that left around 1,000 of its citizens dead. The city now is a shell of its former self with collapsed, charred buildings highlighted by the blight of ubiquitous bullet-holes.

The militia is focusing a large amount of its anger on Tawergha, a town of approximately 30,000 located just south of Misrata.  Residents from both cities say that residents from Tawergha took up arms to fight for Qaddafi.  The Misratans claim that these volunteers are guilty of raping and pillaging, though they have yet to produce any evidence, claiming that the victims are too embarrassed to come forward.

Most Tawerghans fled their town as Misratan fighters advanced on it between 10 August and 12 August.  Witnesses and victims have provided credible accounts of the Misratan militias shooting and wounding unarmed Tawerghans and torturing detainees, in a few cases to death.

In the city of Hun, located about 250 miles from Misrata, Benghazi militias have begun protecting about 4,000 Tawerghan refugees.  They say that the Misratans are hunting the Tawerghas all over the country.

Representatives of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have issued statements, agreeing with the Misrata militias, saying that no Tawerghans should return home.  Ibrahim Yusuf bin Ghashir, one such representative, said: “We think it would be better to relocate them somewhere else.”  He added that the rape allegations “cannot be forgiven and it would be better to resettle them far away.”

The unforgiving plan of not allowing refugees to return home is not limited to Tawerghans.  The Misratans have made it clear that any group that supported Qaddafi will not be tolerated.

HRW has called the forced resettlement and abuses of the refugees a crime against humanity, a charge that is made more egregious by the fact that the much of the reasoning given for the Libyan war was to end such treatments by the Qaddafi regime.

The stories of abuses committed by these militias post- war have been pouring in through various human rights organizations. They are equally horrific, and have invited international condemnation and calls for the NTC to initiate investigations and bring the offenders to justice.

The NTC says it has plans to open investigations into any post-war abuses, but it has yet to offer specifics or respond directly to the allegations of the crimes committed by the militias published in a report by HRW.

For more information, please see:

Raw Story — Libya militias accused of ‘revenge attacks’ — 30 Oct. 2011

CNN — NTC will investigate allegations of crimes against pro-Gadhafi forces, official says — 30 Oct. 2011

Reuters — Cycle of revenge hangs over Libya’s fragile peace — 30 Oct. 2011

Human Rights Watch — Libya: Militias Terrorizing Residents of ‘Loyalist’ Town — 30 Oct. 2011

Human Rights Watch — The Murder Brigades of Misrata — 28 Oct. 2011

Amnesty International Reports Patients Tortured in Syrian Hospitals

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – On Tuesday, 25 October, Amnesty International issued a report that claims security forces and the medical staff in government-run hospitals in Baniyas, Homs, Tell Kalakh and a military hospital in Homs subjected patients to torture and other ill-treatment.  The report entitled “Health Crisis: Syrian Government Targets the Wounded and Health Workers” alleges the government converted hospitals into instruments of repression and targeted patients and medical staff members to quash anti-government opposition.

Patients in a Syrian Hospital. (Photo Courtesy of Global Post)

The report notes the government directed those injured from anti-government activities to receive treatment at the military hospital where they considered patients detainees and held them incommunicado.  The medical staff also denied care to some of the patients injured in uprising-affiliated incidents, a gross violation of medical ethics.

Amnesty researcher Cilina Nasser reports security forces appear to have free reign of the hospitals.  The report also claims security forces obstructed ambulances with a patient en route to the hospital and interrogated patients while in the ambulance.

Nasser found it disturbing that people reported feeling safer not treating their major wounds rather than seeking treatment at a proper medical facility.  The report adds injured people prefer “to seek treatment either at private hospitals or at poorly equipped makeshift field hospitals.”

Furthermore, since the Ministry of Defense controls the blood bank, the hospital must deliberate to contact the blood bank for an injured patient.  A medic at a private hospital stated if they contact the Central Blood Bank, “the security would know about him and we would be putting him at risk or arrest and torture, and possibly death in custody.”

Doctors protested hospital raids and attacks, but hospital workers also face arrest and torture.  Ahmed, a doctor from Homs, reported many patients disappeared from his hospital.  Moreover, he saw a nurse beat a 14-year-old patient with bullet wounds.  After he alerted the hospital manager, the nurse told officials Ahmed was a member of an Islamic organization.  Rather than following the officials’ request to visit the security building, Ahmed chose to leave Syria.

The government denies torturing its opponents; however, President Assad has promised reform.  His critics do not believe the reforms will go far enough, if the government implements them at all.

During a hospital raid in September, security forces failed to find an alleged opposition armed field commander in Homs.  They arrested eighteen wounded people; one of these patients was unconscious and needed his ventilator detached before removing him from the hospital.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Syria ‘Using Hospital for Torture’ – Amnesty – 25 Oct 2011

Dalje – Syria Accused of Hospital Repressions – 25 Oct 2011

Haartez – Amnesty: Syria Regime Using Torture in Hospitals to Repress Opposition – 25 Oct 2011

Now Lebanon – Amnesty Condemns “Climate of Fear” in Syrian Hospitals – 25 Oct 2011