Probation of Chinese Rights Lawyer Revoked

Probation of Chinese Rights Lawyer Revoked

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China- Chinese officials have announced that rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for almost two years, will be forced to serve three years in prison for allegedly violating the terms of his probation.

The probation of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has been revoked for violating the terms of his probation despite being considered a missing person for almost two years (Photo Courtesy of the Shanghaiist).

Gao was arrested and sentenced to probation in 2006 for defending practitioners of Falun Gong which is a banned religion in China. After being sentenced Gao disappeared three times and, in the period between his disappearances, informed reporters that he had been tortured.

He reported that he had been beaten with electric batons and handguns. He also reported that he had been forced to sit still for sixteen hours with a hood over his head while being told to forget that he was human and threatened with death.

Human rights activists have been angered by the announcement of the revocation and have used it to illustrate the abuse faced by dissidents in China.

They emphasize that although missing for twenty months, the Chinese government had maintained that Gao Zhisheng was free on probation since 2006. Some believe that the recent revocation indicates that the lawyer has secretly been in state custody despite claims by authorities that they were unaware of his location.

Renee Xia, a director of Human Rights Directors, asserts that the courts revocation “…is the clearest acknowledgement to date by the Chinese government that it has secretly detained Gao for the last twenty months despite its repeated denials.”

Chinese authorities have not identified what probation violations were committed by Gao but it is known that his five year probation would have expired earlier this week prompting some to believe that the government re-imprisoned him solely to prevent him from being freed.

Gao Zhisheng’s brother, Gao Zhiyi reported that he has not seen his brother since April 2010 and fears that he may be dead.

This fear has been substantiated by Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, who stated that “[t]he people who saw him more than twenty months ago described him as a ghost. We have absolutely no details about his condition now.”

Chinese authorities have been pressured by Western nations and the United Nations to release Gao but have refused to do so.

In response to international concern, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has stated that other nations do not have the right to interfere in China’s internal affairs.


For more information, please see:

China Daily – China Opposes Interference in Legal Case – 23 December 2011

The New York Times – China Revokes Probation of Missing Human Rights Lawyer – 16 December 2011

The Washington Post – China Jails Lawyer Gao Zhisheng  for Three More Years, Confirming Status After Long Disappearance – 16 December 2011

Kim Jong-il: A Legacy of Brutality

by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea – One week after Kim Jong-il’s death, the 69 year-old, ruthless dictator continues to hold the spotlight of world attention hostage from beyond the grave.

Kim Jong-il's Military First Policy is widely believed to have caused mass-starvation among North Korea's impoverished population. (Photo courtesy of The Mirror).

Speculation in the media and among foreign policy analysts as to the potential impact of Kim Jong-il’s death on North Korea’s future has run the gamut from detente to crackdown to collapse and back again. However, as the world struggles to discern a murky future it must not forget or ignore either the brutality of Kim’s reign or the continuing, horrific, human suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Like his father before him, Kim Jong-il used the coercive power of the state to reach into and attempt to control nearly every aspect of the daily lives of Koreans living in the North. Any perceived threat to the dominance of the personality cult of the “dear leader” over the hearts and minds of the North Korean people was filtered out of public consumption and dealt with mercilessly. Under Kim’s direction, the DPRK’s political machine is widely reported to have worked vigilantly to stomp out its citizens civil liberties including; privacy, and freedom of expression, religion, association and the press.

One of the regime’s methods for achieving its aims has been to effect a practically universal stranglehold on the flow of information within the country. According to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the DPRK boasts no independent media and all radios and televisions in the country are “pre-tuned to government stations.” Furthermore, people living in the North are forbidden to listen to, watch or read foreign media and all foreign broadcasts are jammed by the government. Violators of the government’s media policies are punished swiftly and severely.

Although the DPRK’s constitution provides for the free exercise of religion, the CIA believes that the reality in the North falls far short of the idealistic text. North Korea’s media continuously showered praise on the “dear leader,” and the population was required to demonstrate unwavering and absolute devotion. State sponsored religious groups do exist, ostensibly to provide an illusion of choice to the outside world. However, autonomous religious activity has all but disappeared entirely from the isolated state.

In order to maintain its grip on society, the DPRK’s government continues to punish political dissent harshly. Once accused of disloyalty, political dissenters and other “enemies of the state” are denied access to an impartial and independent judiciary and receive no due process in sentencing or punishment. Furthermore, public and secret executions, forced labor, intimidation, imprisonment and torture are reportedly widely utilized to impose the government’s will on the populace.

Additionally, a recent report by Amnesty International estimated the number of political prisoners currently languishing in the country’s remote gulags to be upwards of 200,000. Tens of thousands are estimated to have died from exhaustion, starvation, exposure, sickness or execution in the camps under Kim Jong-il. Yet, the North’s stranglehold on information and its treatment of political prisoners, though horrendous and inexcusable, are unlikely chief among the many pressing woes that most of the DPRK’s population continue to face on a daily basis.

At the close of 2011, the DPRK’s population is once again believed to be facing widespread famine. PBS Newshour reports that flooding and a severe winter have decimated the North’s food production. As a result, DPRK has set food rations for its non-military, non-political elite, civilian population at “200 grams or less per person per day.” According to the World Health Organization, the minimum daily energy requirement is around 600 grams of food per person per day. An estimated 60% of North Korea’s population depends on government rations for survival.

The volatility of the DPRK’s food security has been further aggravated by the large number of persons thought to be internally displaced (IDPs) as a result of flooding and famine. However, the exact extent of the impact of IDPs on North Korea’s food security is unknown, because an accurate number of IDPs in the isolated country is difficult to determine. As the situation appears to be worsening, international aid organizations fear that children, pregnant women and the elderly will face a significant risk of starvation throughout the winter.

However, food scarcity is nothing new to Koreans living in the DPRK. Kim Jong-il’s 17-year rule was marked by food shortages and malnutrition punctuated by periods of widespread starvation. In 1992, he launched his so-called “Military First” policy, which stressed intensive military spending above feeding DPRK’s population.

In times of economic hardship or agricultural failure this policy called for the military and state officials to be provided for first and often resulted in slashed food imports and severe hardship for much of the civilian population. Furthermore, the DPRK has repeatedly been accused of stockpiling international food aid for use by its military.

In addition to failing to provide food security to its people, the government under Kim Jong-il allowed human traffickers to operate with virtual impunity. Women continue to be systematically sold to buyers in China as wives, sex slaves or laborers. Furthermore, inside the country, the DPRK’s government effectively treats many of its citizens as slaves by mandating their type of employment.

In light of the ignominious human rights record of Kim Jong-il’s government, Kim’s death has sparked a series of serenades by international humanitarian organizations echoing previous calls from around the world for North Korea to commence immediate and drastic reforms. A plea from Human Rights Watch quoted  the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea’s depiction of DPRK human rights abuses as “harrowing and horrific,” “egregious and endemic,” “systematic and pervasive” and “in a category of its own.”

Unfortunately, the prevailing view among analysts seems to be that the DPRK’s leadership will likely not be receptive to outside calls for quick and thorough reform. Indeed, many have pointed to Kim’s ruthless purge of potential enemies throughout the North’s society upon taking power in the 90’s and suggest that the military has already begun to initiate similar activities on behalf of the “dear leader’s” son Kim Jong-un.

While the future of the North Korean Government’s stance on human rights remains ambiguous at best, it may still be premature to predict whether or not Kim Jong-il’s death will have a significant impact on the suffering of the North Korean people. However, even if Pyongyang were to completely reverse its stance on human rights, salving the brutality of Kim Jong-il’s legacy would require substantial assistance from the international community for years to come.

Sources cited by Amnesty International report that the people of North Korea are eating grass and bark as they struggle to survive. Meanwhile, a cruel dictator lies bedecked in flowers.

For more information, please see:

CBC News — 7 Questions about North Korea’s Future — 20 December 2011

Amnesty International — North Korea: Kim Jong-il’s Death Could Be Opportunity for Human Rights — 19 December 2011

Huffington Post — Kim Jong Il’s Death Elicits Plea for End to Human Rights Abuses in North Korea — 19 December 2011

Human Rights Watch — North Korea: Kim Jong-Il’s Legacy of Mass Atrocity — 19 December 2011

PBS Newshour — Aid Groups: Children in North Korea at Risk for Starvation This Winter — 08 December 2011

Amnesty International — North Korean Prison Camps Grow Larger — 11 May 2011

Amnesty International — Images Reveal Scale of North Korean Political Prisoner Camps — 3 May 2011

Human Rights Watch — World Report 2011: North Korea — 24 January 2011

UN News Center — Human Rights Situation in DPR Korea Is Bleak, Independent UN Expert Says — 15 March 2010

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 6, Issue 19 — December 19, 2011

Vol. 6, Issue 19 – December 19, 2011



Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo



Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Special Court for Sierra Leone


Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal


United States




Gender-Based Violence


UN Reports

NGO Reports








War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. For more information about War Crimes Prosecution Watch, please contact

Congolese Opposition Leader Holds Self-Inauguration; Security Forces’ Behavior since Election Announcement Questioned

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo – Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo’s opposition leader, held an inauguration ceremony for himself as president of the central African country on Friday.  The ceremony, which happened three days after the inauguration of President Joseph Kabila, serves as a sign of his disregard for the results of last month’s election, officially decided in favor of Kabila.  Originally scheduled to take place at Stade des Martyrs, the event was moved to Tshisekdi’s home after police prevented both Tshisekedi and his supporters from attending.

A soldier in the Congolese army stomps on a member of Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) during efforts to break up a peaceful protest on December 14. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party invited supporters, journalists, and diplomats to attend the event, but police acted to disperse would-be attendees.  Several were arrested as they attempted to enter the stadium, and others were subjected to stun grenades.  No injuries were reported.  The government banned the ceremony itself and dispatched heavily armed security forces around the stadium, which is located in an area of Kinshasa that strongly supports Tshisekedi.  The BBC reported that its recording equipment was confiscated.

Opposition supporters also flocked to their leader’s house, where the ceremony eventually took place.  Police cordoned off the streets surrounding it.  They fired tear gas into the assembled crowds at both locations.  Other weapons spotted included water cannons, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades.  The military presence was greater in areas that backed Tshisekedi.

Reaction was mixed, with some fearing that this demonstration has the potential to continue what has already been a contentious aftermath to the country’s second ever democratic election.  Last month’s election has been a source of dispute in both the Congo and the international community.  Despite allegations of voter fraud, the country’s Supreme Court confirmed the results on December 16, with incumbent Kabila the victor with 49 percent of the vote, versus only 32 percent for Tshisekedi.  The UDPS party disagreed and considered Kabila’s victory a fallacy.

“Before thinking about the destabilization of the country, we have to think about the truth of the vote,” said Tshisekedi advisor Valentin Mubake.  “The reality of the elections is that Tshisekedi has been elected by the Congolese people.  That [means] the stabilization of Congo and that is reality.”

Before Tshisekedi took the oath at his ceremony, spokesman Albert Moleka introduced him by saying that he had won with 53 percent of the vote.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende called the ceremony a “non-event.”

“It’s an extremely regrettable act,” he said, adding that officials were “saddened” that Tshisekedi “was expressing his frustration over his defeat in this fashion.”

Others connected to the regime concurred.

“Anyone who makes pantomime politics and declares himself president will have to face the law of the land,” said Kikaya Bin Karubi, Congo’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.  “We will not tolerate someone disturbing the peace and thinking his dreams are reality.”

Questions have also arisen over the behavior of Congolese security forces.  On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that they have killed at least 24 people since the results were announced in early December.  The report shows numerous occasions of security forces, including the elite Republican Guard which is tasked with the President’s protection, firing on civilians in an effort to break up potential demonstrations and detaining dissenters.  The Republican Guard does not have the authority to arrest or detain civilians.

When asked by Human Rights Watch, Gen. Charles Bisengimana, the nation’s police chief, said that he could ask the Congolese army for help if police could not maintain order.  He had not done so because Kinshasa had been calm.  He did not expect any need to call on them in the near future.  He also could not explain why the Republican Guard was in Kinshasa, saying that he had no authority over them.

“The callous shooting of peaceful demonstrators and bystanders by the security forces starkly illustrates the depths the government will reach to suppress dissenting voices,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The UN and Congo’s international partners should urgently demand that the government rein in its security forces.”

For more information, please see:

BBC — DR Congo Police Block Entry to Tshisekedi Inauguration — 23 December 2011

Congo Planet — Tshisekedi Stages Self-Inauguration at Home — 23 December 2011

Guardian — Congo’s Opposition Leader Holds Own Inauguration Ceremony — 23 December 2011

Voice of America — Police in D.R. Congo Fire Tear Gas at Protesters — 23 December 2011

Human Rights Watch — 24 Killed since Election Results Announced — 21 December 2011

Police Infiltrated by Zeta Drug Cartel; Over 800 Officers Fired

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – After months of drug related violence, failed protection, and shootings in broad daylight, the Mexican city of Veracruz-Boca Del Rio has fired its entire police force.  The police had become so infiltrated with members of the Zeta drug gang, that there was no other choice.

The navy has taken control of the city since the police have been fired. (Image courtesy of BBC News/AP)

President Felipe Calderon, who took office in 2006, has repeatedly vowed to cut down on organized crime.  The biggest problem however has been with the local police, who are often employed by drug traffickers, according to CBS News.

“It was a fairly high percentage of people infiltrated or in collusion,” an unnamed armed forces official told the Associated Press.

Specifically, marines had already been deployed to help in the area after 35 bodies were found dumped on a busy road in September.  Two weeks later, the navy found another 32 bodies in three different buildings, according to BBC News.  The killings are likely linked to a battle between two of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs – the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

Although other officers have been fired over the last five years for drug related and violence related crimes, this has been the largest crackdown yet.  According to CBS News, 800 officers were fired Wednesday along with 300 administrative personnel.

The Gulf coast city of Veracruz-Boca Del Rio is home to approximately 700,000 people.  In the meantime, about 800 marines or navy infantry are patrolling the port city according to News24.

The state reports that none of the dismissed employees are under investigation for corruption and each of them can reapply for his or her job.  Each applicant will be required to undergo a new program of testing and background checks to prevent future problems, according to News24.

President Calderon leaves office in December 2012 and has promised to develop a more secure police force.  Currently, the Mexican navy is training new officers to replace the recently dismissed officers.  The process is expected to take about ten months.

Mexico has also begun a process to secure police forces throughout the country.  According to the Washington Post, the federal government has been pushing an elaborate process for vetting all of Mexico’s 460,000 police officers, starting with polygraphs, psychological and toxicology tests along with personal and medical background checks.

For more information, please visit:

News24 — Mexico Fires Corrupt Police — 23 Dec. 2011

CBS News — Mexico Port City Police Infiltrated by Zetas Gang — 22 Dec. 2011

The Washington Post — Marine Official Says Fired Police Force  in Mexico Port City was Infiltrated by Zetas Cartel — 22 Dec. 2011

BBC News — Mexico Disbands Veracruz-Boca del Rio Police Force — 21 Dec. 2011