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

Reflections on Justice in the Former Yugoslavia

A New Civil Rights Era in Alabama? Undocumented Immigrants Intimidated Out of the State

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – The strictest immigration laws in the country are found in the deep southern state of Alabama.  Although some may assume the strictest laws would be in place in border-sharing states such as Texas or Arizona, Alabama instead holds the title.  With a Supreme Court hearing pending, many compare the effects of these new laws to that of the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s.

The new Alabama immigration debates bring up a long history of civil rights abuses in the state. (Image Courtesy of Fox News Latino/AP)

Probably the most controversial law is that requiring schools to check all students’ immigration status.  While the courts have temporarily blocked this provision, reports Fox News, the Supreme Court must ultimately decide whether education of kindergarten to high school students is fundamental, even for undocumented immigrants.

It should be noted that this law does not in any way bar students from receiving an education.  According to The New York Times, the law simply directs schools to obtain immigration status of incoming students through a birth certificate, other official documents, or an affidavit by the child’s parents.  The information makes its way to the State Board of Education to create an annual report.  No person or entity passes the date on to law enforcement at any time.

Fox News further reports, that although no conclusive numbers have been established, as many as 10% of school age children have withdrawn in the last month, since the law first came into effect.  The New York Times says that absences in Shelby County ranged as high as 15% of the total Hispanic student population, and that 1,000 absences can easily be expected per day.

The state argues that the law really has nothing to do with race, but rather the need for jobs.  Fox News reports that the provisions are simply a result of frustration with the federal government’s inaction and were made in an effort to open up jobs for the 10% of legal state residents who are currently out of work.

State Senator Scott Beason said that he is fine with the fact that the laws have driven immigrants out of the state of Alabama, but not necessarily out of the country.  Sen. Beason said about the bill, “It was not designed to go out and arrest tremendous numbers of people.  Most folks in the state illegally will self-deport and move to states that are supportive of large numbers of illegals coming to their state,” reports The Huffington Post.

Similar arguments are coming from Arizona.  Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh is quoted as saying “Our intention is to make Arizona a very uncomfortable place for them to be so they leave or never come here in the first place…So rather than massive deportations, we are basically going to encourage them to leave on their own,” reported The Huffington Post.

There are indeed many supporters of the bills, saying that widespread enactments of these kind of laws will force immigrants elsewhere, and largely eliminate the United States’ problems of illegal immigration.

The realty of the situation is, now that immigrants have started to leave the state of Alabama, few Americans are actually taking their place.  ABC News reports that Americans simply do not want these backbreaking, low-paying jobs.  Many either show up late, take time off, or quit after the first day.  Still others have failed to find any replacements at all, citing the fact that legal citizens simply do not want these kind of construction or farming jobs, reports Fox News

ABC News reports that there are crops that have not been harvested after the law went into effect.  Without the undocumented immigrants’ labor, blueberries and grapes have been left on the vine to spoil, and the agriculture industry has suffered.

What is more, the law is taking a toll on the children.  For the few who have remained despite the law, bullying has become routine.  The Associated Press reports that some students bully the undocumented children, telling them to go back to Mexico, when in fact they never lived there at all.  Many of the children were born here in the United States, although their parents were not.

In any event, The New York Times reports, the law has certainly created a “chilling effect” on parents sending their children to schools.  The Supreme Court has the opportunity to make a decision on the constitutionality of the law this year.  There are adamant proponents on each side, and it will be interesting to see which way the Court comes out.

For more information, please visit:

Fox News Latino — Alabama Immigration Battle Mirrors Civil Rights Era — 29 Oct. 2011

Politico (AP) — Alabama Immigration  Battle Recalls Civil Rights Past — 29 Oct. 2011

The Huffington Post — Alabama Lawmaker: Undocumented Immigrants Don’t Have to Go Home, But They Can’t Stay There — 27 Oct. 2011

The New York Times — Alabama Immigration Law’s Critics Question Target — 27 Oct. 2011

ABC News — Few Americans Take Immigrants’ Jobs in Alabama — 21 Oct. 2011

Magnitsky’s Mother Sues Russian Judge for the Denial of Access to Justice

Press Release originally sent 23 Oct 2011
by The Hermitage Fund

23 October 2011 – Mrs. Natalia Magnitskaya, mother of the 37-year old anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian pre-trial detention center two years ago after being subjected to torture and denied medical treatment, has sued a senior Moscow judge for the denial of access to justice. A hearing of her lawsuit is scheduled for Monday, 24 October, 13:30 at the Moscow City Court (8 Bogorodsky Val).

Mrs. Magnitskaya is suing Judge Igor Alisov, Chairman of the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow, for failure to consider her legal action to stop the prosecution by Russian authorities of her dead son, a prosecution denounced as barbaric and medieval by friends of her late son. In refusing to accept Mrs. Magnitskaya’s claim, Judge Alisov said that the criminal prosecution of a dead lawyer does not violate his mother’s rights and does not obstruct her access to justice.

Explaining the grounds for her lawsuit against Judge Alisov, Mrs. Magnitskaya says:

“Judge Alisov, in his position as Chairman of Tverskoi District Court, deprived me of the right to protection from courts. I believe he was obviously aware that this denial of justice was against the law. I consider his actions as a hidden form of mockery and manifestation of his conflict of interest.”
“Earlier, the Deputy General Prosecutor of Russia issued an unlawful and unconstitutional decree to prosecute my dead son making me a participant in that criminal proceeding. The fact that it is directly relevant to my rights is evidenced by summonses for questioning that I have received from Interior Ministry Investigator Sapunova who personally prosecuted my son,” says Mrs. Magnitskaya in the lawsuit.

On 30 July 2011, Deputy General Prosecutor of Russia (whose name has been withheld by authorities from the public and the Magnistky family) ordered the reopening of the prosecution against Mr. Magnitsky, who had been dead for 20 months by then. This was done under the pretext of a recent Constitutional Court ruling which allowed cases to be reopened against deceased defendants on application from their relatives for the purposes of reinstating their good name and rehabilitation. However, Mr. Magnitsky’s relatives did not apply for the case to be reopened. Instead of rehabilitation, the case is being used by the Russian Interior Ministry to prosecute Mr. Magnitsky after his death, using the same evidence that the Russian President’s Human Rights Council concluded was fabricated, and led by the same team of investigators that the Human Rights Council concluded in its report in July 2011 had a gross conflict of interest. Prior to his arrest in October 2008, Mr. Magnitsky testified against these investigators for their role in the theft of his client’s companies and the embezzlement of $230 million of public funds. He later gave testimony from detention regarding their role in the cover-up of these acts.

Instead of prosecuting the officials named by the Human Rights Council for the false arrest of Mr. Magnitsky on trumped-up charges, Russian authorities are now prosecuting Mr. Magnitsky. As part of this case, in August and September 2011, Mr. Magnitsky’s mother was summoned for questioning as a witness by the same Russian Interior Ministry officials who arrested Mr. Magnitsky to silence him and who tortured Mr. Magnisky or authorised his torture while he was  in custody.

On 5 September 2011, Mrs. Magnitskaya filed a lawsuit against the Deputy General Prosecutor for prosecuting her son after his death.

On 12 September 2011, Judge Igor Alisov refused to consider Mrs. Magnitskaya’s lawsuit against the Deputy General Prosecutor claiming—despite a very detailed filing setting out the grounds for her suit—that she was not a party to the proceedings and she did not justify how her rights have been violated by the reopening of the case against her son.

On 20 September 2011, Mrs. Magnitskaya filed a lawsuit against Judge Igor Alisov for failure to consider her lawsuit against Deputy General Prosecutor.

The lawsuit against Judge Alisov will be heard on Monday, 24 October, in the Moscow City Court. Mrs. Magnitskaya is represented by her counsel, lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov.

Judge Alisov is the same judge who in March 2011 absolved from any responsibility all of the officials named by Sergei Magnitsky as perpetrators of the $230 million theft. The judge instead convicted an ex-felon, previously convicted for burglary, of what has been called the largest financial crime in Russian history. This was done in a special proceeding that examined no evidence. Judge Alisov sought no compensation of the embezzled $230 million from the convict.

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital

+44 207 440 17 77

Twitter: @KatieFisher__

PILPG Piracy Working Group: UNSC Adopts Res. 2015 on Somali Piracy

Press Release originally sent 24 Oct 2011
by Public International Law and Policy Group

Unanimously adopting resolution 2015 (2011), the Council requested the Secretary-General, in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to further consult with Somalia and regional States on the kind of international assistance required to help make such courts operational, as well as the procedural arrangements required for the transfer of apprehended pirates, and to provide to the Council within 90 days detailed implementation proposals for the establishment of such courts.

Further, by the text, the Council underlined the importance of such courts having jurisdiction to be exercised over not only suspects captured at sea, but also anyone inciting or intentionally facilitating piracy operations.  This would include key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy who illicitly plan, organize, facilitate, or finance and profit from such attacks.

Recognizing that any increase in prosecution capacity must necessarily be accompanied by a related increase in prison capacity, the Council called upon both Somali authorities, UNODC, UNDP and other international partners to support the construction and responsible operation of prisons in Somalia in accordance with international law.

The Council called upon Member States, regional organizations and other appropriate partners to support efforts to establish specialized anti-piracy courts in the region by making or facilitating arrangements for the provision of international experts, including those from the Somali diaspora.

Police Detain up to Seven People for Protesting Land Confiscation

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Burmese authorities have detained and charged up to seven individuals, including a Burmese rights lawyer, following a peaceful demonstration opposing the confiscation of farm land.

Seven people were detained for protesting land confiscation in Burma (Photo Courtesy of ABC News).

The detainees were arrested following a staged sit-in that occurred in front of the government housing department in Yangon and were charged with unlawful assembly and refusing to comply with a police order to disperse. These charges carry a potential sentence of six to twelve months in prison for those charged.

The detained rights attorney, Pho Phyu, was taken by police to an unknown location where the vice police chief allegedly engaged in negotiations with him. Pho Phyu has been an advocate in the campaign for farmer’s rights and has used his legal expertise to help farmers petition the government to prevent their land from being seized from them by with little or no compensation in return.

Pho Phyu explained the reason for the protest when he stated, “we have approached parliament for help but nothing happened, so we decided to take to the street.” He also explained that, “at first, they promised that joint-venture farming would be carried out between the farmers and private businessmen on these lands but nothing happened.”

In addition to dispersing the crowd of approximately 100 individuals, the police also confiscated the group’s signs and banners.

The protesters alleged that government authorities have seized about 10,000 acres of land and did not adequately compensate the owners in return. This figure was confirmed by the deputy agriculture minister who has testified that several thousand acres of farmland have been confiscated for urban development and mechanized farming. In return for the land, the government’s housing department paid the farmers only 20,000 kyat, or twenty-six American dollars, per acre.

Approximately half of the workforce in Myanmar is employed in the agriculture sector but farmers do not generally have the money or legal resources to challenge the evictions compelling them to accept the offers made by the government.

Protests in Myanmar during the reign of the military government were rare and brutally suppressed by the military.

The land grab protests, however, come shortly after the government’s promise of democratic reforms following the acquisition of power by an elected government. The government’s reaction to the protest has been seen as a test of the new government’s commitment to reform. The lack of violence used in dispersing the protesters was seen by some as a positive sign of the government’s commitment to reform.


For more information, please see:

ABC News – Myanmar Police Charge Seven for Staging Land Protest – 28 October 2011

BD News – Farmers in Rare Myanmar Protest – 27 October 2011

Radio Free Asia – Police Breakup Rare Protest – 27 October 2011

Reuters – Myanmar Police Shut Down Rare Protest – 27 October 2011

Lithuania Sued for Violating Human Rights at CIA Black Sites

By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – London-based human rights organization INTERIGHTS the International Centre for Legal Protection of Human Rights, and a team of United States-based lawyers filed a complaint on Thursday, October 27, 2011 against Lithuania on behalf of alleged al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Zubayadah at the European Court of Human Rights.

Abu Zubaydah, after his capture, suffered severe torture at the hands of CIA and European officials in the darkness of the CIA "black sites" (Photo Curtesy of ABC News)

The complaint sets forth that Lithuania failed to protect Zubaydah against various human rights abuses that occurred in a secret CIA detention facility on Lithuanian territory. The complaint also contends that the Lithuanian Prosecutor General “prematurely” closed a “superficial criminal investigation” which could have led to evidence showing Lithuania’s role in the human rights violations.

According to The New York Times, a statement issued last week stated that Lithuanian prosecutors have declined to reopen an investigation despite new information on the Zubaydah’s case provided by the rights groups.

Zubaydah was captured in March 2002 in Pakistan, where he was initially interrogated. Later, he was moved to a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand and thereafter to Morocco. Eventually, in February 2005, Zubaydah was relocated to Lithuania. Today, he is held at Guantanamo Bay where he “continues to languish in a legal vacuum” even though the United States has “no intention of initiating any legal action” against him.

A 2002 legal memorandum issued by Jay S. Bybee, the Justice Department’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, describes Zubaydah as one of al Qaeda’s leaders, being a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. He “managed a network of training camps” and was involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al Qaeda before his capture. At the time of his capture, it was alleged that he was the most senior al Qaeda member to be caught since the September 2001 attacks.

Interestingly, according to INTERIGHTS’s press release on October 27, 2011 “all such allegations were formally withdrawn after Abu Zubaydah was finally afforded legal counsel.” The release goes on to say that, “the U.S. no longer even alleges that Abu Zubaydah was a member of al Qaeda or that he supported al Qaeda’s radical ideology. It no longer alleges that he was Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. Nor does it allege that Abu Zubaydah had any role in, or knowledge of, any terrorist attack planned or perpetrated by al Qaeda, including the attacks of 11 September 2001.”

In 2009, a Justice Department memorandum from April 2005 was released detailing Zubaydah’s prolonged incarceration. It describes Zubaydah, upon being captured, was stripped of his clothes and held in a cold cell. Thereafter, Zubaydah revealed important information pertaining to al Qaeda, including information that led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh. Despite officers’ beliefs that Zubaydah had revealed everything he knew, CIA officials demanded that waterboarding be used to coerce more information. Zubaydah experienced waterboarding 85 times, yet he came forth with no new information.

The CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program (“RDI”) consisted of a world-wide network—something like a “spider’s web”—of disappearances, secret detentions, and otherwise illegal inter-state transfers of detainees suspected of having knowledge of or being an active member of terrorist groups, and in particular, al Qaeda. Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for the Council of Europe” has maintained that the RDI program has deeply violated the systems of justice and human rights protection.  There is “no doubt,” Hammarberg said, “that all 3 elements of this program have entailed systematic violations of human rights” for which the United States and European countries should be held accountable.

Danny Silverstone, the Executive Director of INTERIGHTS commented on Thursday, saying, “This is a unique case, shedding light on how the CIA’s extraordinary rendition, detention and interrogation programme operated. Although created by the U.S., this programme could not have been implemented without the active collaboration of numerous other countries around the world. This case is about Lithuania’s responsibility for its participation in serious violations of human rights, including torture, enforced disappearance and secret detention, and for its failure to conduct effective investigation into the existence of a secret CIA prison on its soil.”


For more information, please visit:

The New York Times – Lithuania: Terrorism Suspect Files Case Over C.I.A. Rendition Claim – 27 October 2011

INTERIGHTS – Abu Zubaydah, Victim of CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition, Seeks Accountability at the European Court of Human Rights – 27 October 2011


Growing Evidence of War Crimes in Libya; International Calls for Investigation

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya — The bodies of 267 people were discovered in Sirte, the birthplace of Qaddafi.  A source from the Red Cross noted that most of the dead appeared to be Qaddafi supporters.  The finding highlights what seems to be growing evidence of war crimes that occurred in the almost nine month Libyan conflict.

Medical and Militia officials prepare to remove corpses from a mass grave (Photo Courtesy of the International Business Times).

Officials told a local newspaper that it appeared the people were executed and then buried in mass graves.

The finding is just one in what has become a series.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently uncovered 53 bodies in an abandoned Sirte hotel.

95 other bodies were discovered at the site where Qaddafi was captured.  HRW said that most of those individuals had been killed in fighting or as a result of NATO airstrikes, however at least 10 of the bodies showed evidence of having been executed.

In September, a mass grave was discovered near the infamous Abu Salim prison in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.  It contained the remains of 1,200 bodies.  According to the accounts of former innmates the Qaddafi forces spent three hours shooting prisoners.

Medical officials in Sirte reported that the bodies of 23 anti-Qaddafi fighters were identified in mid-October.

The Libyan conflict has led the international community to conclude that both Qaddafi’s forces, and the anti-government rebel forces have been guilty of war crimes.

Amnesty International has noted that while Qaddafi’s forces did commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the National Transitional Council (TNC), are also guilty of war crimes and human rights abuses, “albeit on a smaller scale.”

Its report stated that members and supporters of the Libyan opposition “unlawfully killed” more than a dozen Qaddafi loyalists between April and July, and that some rebel supporters had “shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching dozens of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries.”

The family of the deceased Qaddafi are planning on filing a complaint for war crimes against NATO with the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Their claim is based upon the idea that it was NATO’s actions since February 2011 that led to Qaddafi’s death.

There are numerous questions surrounding the death of Qaddafi who appeared to be alive at the time of his initial capture by the TNC. He died from a shot in the head, but the circumstances of how that happened have yet to be revealed.

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the deceased dictator, is, according to officials in the TNC, attempting to arrange transportation to fly him out of his current refuge and into the custody of the ICC.  The decision was likely influenced by the violent killing of his father at the hand of the Libyan rebels, a fate he is attempting to escape.

The ICC is attempting to confirm this story so it can work out the best way to move the younger Qaddafi safely to the Hague.

The TNC is weighing its options with regards to trying the younger Qaddafi, though they did make it clear that if he was captured in Libya he would be tried according to traditional Libyan law.

The international community is putting the TNC under increasing pressure to lead investigations into the possible commission of war crimes by both sides.  It would be difficult for the TNC to bring their own supporters to court without facing a serious public backlash, however not holding the guilty responsible would just continue the human rights abuse impunity that acted a great motivator for the revolution.

The identity of the new Libya has yet to be formed, and a huge power vacuum is still looming in Tripoli.  The way it handles the clean up of its revolution will be a big indicator to what direction it is headed.

For more information, please see:

CNN — Lawyer: Gadhafi family to file war criminal complaint against NATO — 27 Oct. 2011

Reuters — Gaddafi son seeks flight to Hague war crimes court — 27 Oct. 2011

International Business Times — Hundreds of Gaddafi Supporters Killed in New ‘War Crime’ — 26 Oct. 2011

The Nation — Libya After Qaddafi — 26 Oct. 2011

NPR — Foreign Policy: Was Killing Gadhafi A War Crime? — 24 Oct. 2011


Brazil to Investigate Human Rights Abuses with Truth Commission Bill

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil —  Brazil will soon join Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in the list of South American countries that are taking steps to investigate those responsible for the human rights abuses during their respective military regimes. A truth commission bill, which will examine the abuses between 1946 and 1988, was approved by Brazil’s Senate on Wednesday night and now awaits the signature of President Dilma Rousseff in order to become law.

President Rousseff was among several other leading figures in Brazil that was imprisoned and tortured during the military regime. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

The truth commission bill was drafted by former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers Party. Rejection and threats from three force commanders and the Minister of Defense, however, blocked any advancement of the bill during his term.

With strong support from current President Rousseff, the truth commission bill passed the lower house of the Brazilian legislature in September. President Rousseff, a former socialist during her youth, was captured and claimed to have been tortured in jail during the dictatorship. She urged congress to act swiftly on the bill as she believes it is key to Brazilian unity.

In addition to President Rousseff, several other leading figures in Brazil have stated that they were imprisoned and/or tortured during the military regime, including former Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Fernande Henrique Cardoso, and culture minister and singer Gilberto Gil.

The truth commission bill will consist of seven people appointed by the President to research reported abuses during the military dictatorship, and draw up a final report. Because of a military amnesty law, however, any military official or left-wing guerrilla accused of violence cannot be prosecuted. Despite no trials, Senator Aloysio Nunes believes the commission will help unveil many truths from the dictatorship era.

Approximately 500 Brazilians were captured or killed by the military during their rule between 1964 and 1985. Brazil has never punished those military officials responsible for the murders and human rights abuses.

Senator Randolfe Rodrigues believes this commission is a “timid” one compared to its’ neighboring countries. Other countries in South America, including Argentina and Uruguay, have already sentenced ex-military officials found guilty of human rights abuses during their military dictatorship. Brazil’s truth commission’s purpose, however, is to merely investigate.


For further information, please see:

Washington Post – Brazilian Senate Approve Investigation of Human Rights Abuses During Military Dictatorship – 27 October 2011

BBC News – Brazil Creates Truth Commission to Probe Rights Abuses – 27 October 2011

AFP – Brazil Approves Truth Commission on Rights Abuses – 27 October 2011

Merco Press – Truth Committee in Brazil but With No Review of Past Human Rights’ Crimes – 21 October  2011