Congolese Opposition Leader Declares Self Election Winner, Calls for President’s Arrest

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo – Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo’s opposition leader, has refused to acknowledge the results of last’s month’s elections to determine the president of the violence-torn central African country.  Despite receiving just 32% of all votes cast, compared to 49% for incumbent Joseph Kabila, the 79-year-old declared himself the winner.  Kabila, who succeeded his father in office ten years ago, is scheduled to be inaugurated Tuesday.

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekdi, shown here while speaking on August 9, 2011, has declared himself the winner of Congo's second democratic vote despite losing to incumbent Joseph Kabila by a significant margin. (Photo courtesy of Radio Okap)

“I consider myself the president-elect of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is in that capacity that I address you this evening and thank the people for the confidence they have placed in me,” Tshisekedi said.  He will hold his own ceremony on Friday.

The election results have drawn controversy from outside observers.  Congo, which has vast mineral deposits but is near the bottom of the United Nations’ human development index, ran elections that the United States’ ambassador to the country viewed as “seriously flawed.”  Several other countries and the European Union also considered the vote’s validity questionable.

Congo insists that the election is legitimate.

“We as a government have followed every step of the constitution,” Kikaya Bin Karubi, the country’s envoy to Great Britain, told Reuters.

In a December 10 press release, the non-profit Carter Center, which helped monitor the process, reported that the results “lack credibility.”  In reviewing the election, it found that official procedures for handling materials were not always followed, which occasionally led to lost votes.  An estimated 400,000 votes from more than 3,000 polling stations were lost due to these problems.  The Carter Center also noted that the vote totals for some regions were highly unusual, such as one local compilation center which tallied over 227,000 votes for Kabila versus three for other candidates.

In spite of these clear problems, the Congolese Supreme Court upheld the election results, and therefore Kabila’s victory, last Friday.  In response to the announcement, protests and looting swarmed the streets of the capital.  Sunday, Tshisekedi called for more radical action, urging the country’s security forces not to follow orders issued by Kabila.

“I ask you to be calm and serene because a winner doesn’t get agitated, does not worry, to the contrary, he remains calm.  As for those who are causing our troubles, starting with Mr. Kabila, I ask all of you to look for him, wherever he is in the country, and bring him to me alive.  Whoever brings me Kabila here, handcuffed, will receive a very big prize,” he said.  “Also, Mr. Kabila’s government is dismissed from this day on.  All officers, lieutenants, caporals and soldiers of the Congolese armed forces, I order you to obey [] the legitimate authority.  The same goes for the national and sovereign police force.”

Kabila’s group has, so far, not taken his language seriously.  Though Tshisekedi’s comments were referred to as a “joke,” the president’s team still considers the ramifications significant.

“Mr. Tshisekedi is following a criminal logic,” said Kabila spokesman Aubin Minaku, who warned that the opposition leader could be arrested for his rhetoric.  “Anywhere in the world, when an individual commits a crime, whatever his rank, even a presidential candidate, especially when he incites international crimes, the state must react vigorously, and the International Criminal Court should react vigorously too.”

November’s election was the first to have been organized and operated by the Congolese government, and only the second democratic vote in the country’s history.

For more information, please see:

AFP — Tensions Rise Ahead of DR Congo Inauguration — 19 December 2011

Al Jazeera — Congo Opposition Leader Seeks Army Backing — 19 December 2011

BBC — DR Congo’s Tshisekedi Orders Army to Disobey Kabila — 19 December 2011

Al Jazeera — Congo’s Opposition Leader Insists He Won Poll — 18 December 2011

Congo Planet — Tshisekedi Says He Is President-Elect, Asks Security Forces to Arrest Kabila — 18 December 2011

Washington Post — Congo Opposition Leader Declares Himself – Not Kabila – Election Winner, Urges Calm — 18 December 2011

CNN — Court Upholds Congo Elections — 16 December 2011

Carter Center — Carter Center: DRC Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility — 10 December 2011

Violence Continues To Descend On The Streets Of Cairo, Protests Continue For Third Straight Day

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt–For a third consecutive day, Egyptian soldiers armed with batons and guns have clashed with hundreds of protesters armed with stones, overshadowing the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Ten months after Mubarak’s regime was toppled, the aftermath is still causing violence and civilian deaths.

Egyptian soldiers beat a female protester in Tahrir Square.(Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The violence began on Friday 16 December 2011 when one of several hundred peaceful protesters staging a sit-in outside the parliament building was reportedly beaten and detained by troops. According to Egypt’s health ministry, ten individuals have lost their lives in the continuous fighting while some 432 others were injured.

Demonstrations and protests began in Egypt earlier this February. A second round of voting served as the trigger for the latest occurrences of violence in Egypt. Many of Egypt’s ruling generals appear assured and confident that Islamist parties who swept recent elections will stay out of the fight while other pro-democracy protesters become increasingly isolated.

Al-Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, whom is reporting from Cairo, shared these sentiments about the scene at Tahrir Square.

“What the military have essentially done is created a concrete barrier to block the entrance into that street to stop the protesters coming from Tahrir Square and continuing with their sit in. The protesters, of course, are not happy with the situation. They’re telling us they have a right to peacefully demonstrate in front of a government building. The skirmishes are taking place across that concrete wall between the military and the protesters.”

Security forces donning riot gear have been filmed in the past few days beating protesters with long sticks after they had fallen to the ground. On Saturday 17 November 2011, soldiers cleared the area around Tahrir Square as thick black smoke filled the skies following the eruption of a fire near Egypt’s upper house of parliament. Military police reportedly openly beat female protesters in the street, slapped elders in their faces, and pulled the shirt off of at least one veiled woman as she was wrestled down to the pavement. The AP news agency stated that witnesses confirmed that soldiers beat and gave electric shocks to men and women dragged into to detention. Many of these individuals were taken to nearby parliament buildings.

Several members of an advisory board resigned over concerns about how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has dealt with the protests and the unrest. The board is made up of more than 30 political personalities, intellectuals, and businessmen. It was formed with the intention to be a consultative body that meets with the council regularly to discuss the development of the country.

The Institute of Egypt, which housed national archives dating back over 200 years, was set on fire on Friday 16 November 2011. The building has suffered catastrophic damage and a majority of the paper archives have been destroyed.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN general-secretary, released a statement on Monday 19 December 2011 condemning the actions of Egypt’s security forces.

“We are highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest.”

Kamal el-Ganzouri, Egypt’s prime minister, addressed the violence at a news conference 17 November 2011. He branded the protesters as “counter-revolutionaries” and claimed that the attack was an attack on the country’s revolution.

“This is not a revolution, but a counter-revolution. Those who are in Tahrir Square are not the youth of the revolution.”

On Sunday 18 December 2011, political figures in Egypt announced that they are working on a truce between the protesters and security forces to end the bloodshed. Armr Hamzawy and Mustafa Al-Naggar, both potential members of parliament, are among those involved in the discussions surrounding the deal. Hamzawy has called the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to stop their violence and for an immediate investigation to point out the perpetrators. He also has called on all the elected members of parliament and prominent Egyptian figures for a national initiative towards peaceful protests.

Moatez Abdel Fatah, a political analyst and former military advisory council member, announced that on Monday 19 December 2011 he would be at Omar Makram Mosque to meet with youth in the square in an attempt to calm things down. He stated that a truce would certainly not mean that the protesters should give up any of their rights, but simply need to take a timeout to plan their next substantive move.

After Mubarak’s ouster, the army generals who replaced him have angered many Egyptians by seeming reluctant to give up their new power. For the sake of the civilians who came together and voiced their displeasures loud enough to inspire change, one can hope that the generals will not allow the violence against protesters to continue.

Toqa Nosseir, a 19 year-old student, expressed these words to a correspondent working for The Guardian about the military attacks on women during the protests.

“Do they think this is manly? Where is the dignity? No one can approve or accept what is happening here. The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on to the power. I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.”


For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – UN Condemns Egypt’s Military Violence – 19 December 2011

Ahram – Hundreds March to Cabinet Headquarters to Stop Clashes Between Military And Protesters – 18 December 2011

BBC – Egypt Violence: Third Day of Deadly Clashes in Cairo – 18 December 2011

CNN – Outrage Over Woman’s Beating Fuels New Egypt Protests – 18 December 2011

The Guardian –Egypt Clashes Continue Into Third Day as Army Cracks Down – 18 December 2011

Reuters – U.N.’s Ban Condemns Excessive Force in Cairo Clashes – 18 December 2011

NYT – Leaders Denies Use of Violence as Cairo Crackdown Persists – 17 December 2011

Paroled American Denied Leave For The Holidays

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru — Lori Berenson, a U.S. political activist jailed in Peru since 1995 for terrorism, and her 31-month toddler were denied from boarding a flight back to her New York home on Friday despite showing immigration authorities a court order approving the leave. The Peruvian court authorized her leave for the holidays on Thursday conditioned upon her return on January 11.

Lori Berenson blocked at Peru airport. (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post).

Berenson, a former MIT student, was arrested in 1995 at age 25 on a terrorism conviction after authorities raided her home and found over a dozen members of the Tupac Amaru group inside. The government believes that the rebel group was preparing an attack on Congress and that Berenson was aiding in the planning and providing them a safe house. Authorities also found around 8,000 rounds of ammunition and  3,000 sticks of dynamite inside the home.

Berenson was initially sentenced to life in prison by a military judge, but her sentence was later reduced to 20 years in prison in civil court with pressure from the U.S government. Berenson denied having any knowledge about the rebel group’s violent plans during her trial but has recently acknowledged and regretted to have aided the rebels.

After serving more than 15 years in prison, Berenson has been out on parole and was granted permission by a Peruvian judge to visit her family in New York City for the holidays. Berenson claims that she was turned away by immigration authorities upon arriving at the airport because she was “missing a document” but that she was sure she had all the documents required for travel.

Berenson’s lawyer is her ex-husband and a former member of the rebel group, Anibal Apari Sanchez. Sanchez believes the government abused its authority and made a political decision to stop her from leaving the country. “Administratively, you can’t block a court order,” he said.

An anonymous U.S. State Department official stated that there were some paperwork issues that were being worked through but that he could not comment any further on the situation because of its sensitivity.

Guillermo Gonzales, A Judiciary Department spokesman denies blocking the court order. “We don’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “As far as the judiciary is concerned, she was allowed to leave the country.” Neither the Interior Ministry nor any senior government official could give an explanation.

Sanchez told Reuters he is going to see what other measures he can take in the coming days to make sure Berenson will be home in New York for the holidays.

For further information, please see:

Reuters – Peru Delays Former Prisoner Berenson’s Return to U.S – 18 December 2011

The Washington Post – State Attorney Alleges Judicial Misconduct in Granting Berenson Permission to Holiday in NY – 18 December 2011

CNN – Paroled American Activist Stopped From Leaving Peru, Her Lawyer Says – 17 December 2011

The New York Times – American Who Was Jailed in Peru Is Blocked at Airport – 17 December 2011



Department of Justice Investigates Civil Rights Abuses in Arizona

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – The self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio has allegedly committed multiple civil rights violations.  The allegations specifically refer to maltreatment of Latino prisoners.  Arpaio has dismissed the complaints as “politically motivated.”

Sheriff Jospeh Arpaio is best known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. (Image Courtesy of The Huffington Post)

Arpaio has always prided himself as tough on crime, especially illegal immigration.  He has consistently dismissed accusations of using racial profiling tactics.  He is most well known for jailing inmates in tents in the desert and dressing them in pink underwear.

The U.S. Justice Department has began an investigation into alleged systematic discrimination against Latinos, including unjust immigration patrols and jail policies that deprive prisoners of basic Constitutional rights, reports the Huffington Post.  Beyond the civil rights investigation, a federal grand jury has also been investigating criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009, according to the Washington Post

The Huffington Post quoted Thomas Perez as saying, “We found discriminatory policing that was deeply rooted in the culture of the department, a culture that breeds a systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections.” 

Perez is the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.  According to CNN, he added that an independent reviewer described Arpaio’s tactics as “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States.”

According to figures provided by Arpaio’s office, 57 percent of the 1,500 people arrested in 20 police sweeps since January 2008 were undocumented immigrants.

CNN reports that the Justice Department said Arpaio’s detention officers invoked offensive slurs and profanities against Hispanics, calling them “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.”  The report also said that Latinos are four to nine times more likely to be stopped in traffic stops in Maricopa County than non-Latinos are; often times, Latino drivers are stopped and arrested without good cause.

Furthermore, the Associated Press reports that legal U.S. citizens who are Latino were arrested or detained without cause during many of the traffic stops.  Additionally, the civil rights report says that Latino inmates in Arpaio’s jails were punished for failing to understand English commands although they had little to no English skills.  These violations were punished with solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day.  Further denials of basic daily services were also reported.

Arpaio insists that the politically motivated allegations by the Obama administration are uncalled for.  The Huffington Post quotes Arpaio as saying, “The Obama administration might as well erect their own pink neon sign at the Arizona-New Mexico border saying welcome illegals to your United States, may home is your home.”

Jack MacIntyre, Arpaio’s deputy chief said that the Justice Department’s allegations were a “sneak attack by the federal government on the citizens of Arizona,” reports CNN.  Arpaio’s attorney, John Masterson said, “People have an intention to go out on a witch hunt, and that’s what they come up with”

Adding to the political atmosphere, Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry is defending Sheriff Arpaio, according to CBS News.  Perry agrees that the Justice Department is on a ‘witch-hunt.’  “I would suggest to you that these people are out after Sheriff Joe,” said Perry, according to CBS News.

In addition, Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman, Rob Haney has described Arpaio as “a national hero.”  He too believes that the Department of Justice is “tyrannical” and is personally attacking Arpaio for his stance on immigration, reports the Tucson Citizen.

Arpaio previously worked for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which allowed him to work in Mexico City for some time, developing a compassion for the people there.  “[E]nforcing the law overrides my compassion.  I took an oath of office and I’m enforcing the state and federal law.  I will continue to enforce all the laws,” Arpaio said (CNN).

On top of these civil rights issues, Arpaio is currently facing pressure from his opponents to resign due to failed sex crime and molestation investigations.  The Huffington Post reports that his office said more than 400 sex crimes investigations had to be reopened after the Justice Department learned of cases that hadn’t been adequately investigated, or investigated at all.

As of now, the Justice Department requires Arpaio to set up effective policies against discrimination that a judge would monitor for compliance, reports the Associated Press.  Arpaio has until January 4, 2012 to decide whether he wants to work out an agreement; if not, the federal government will likely sue him.

For more information, please visit:

CBS News — Perry Defends Joe Arpaio — 16 Dec. 2011

The Huffington Post — Joe Arpaio, Arizona Sheriff, Rebuked by Justice Department for Civil Rights Violations — 16 Dec. 2011

Tucson Citizen — Arpaio is “a National Hero” — 16 Dec. 2011

CNN — Arizona Sheriff Rebuts Federal Allegations of Discrimination Against Latinos — 15 Dec. 2011

The Star (Associated Press) — ‘Toughest Sheriff in America’ Arpaio Violated Civil Rights, Says Scathing Report — 15 Dec. 2011

The Washington Post — Arizona Sheriff’s Office Gets Hit with Scathing Civil Rights Report from Justice Department — 15 Dec. 2011

Protesters Dispersed with Tear Gas and Stun Grenades

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – On Thursday, 15 December, Bahraini security forces targeted hundreds of protesters with tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protest attempting to block the main road leading to Manama, the nation’s capital.  During the past ten months, the nation’s Shia Muslim majority regularly held protests that called for more rights from the Sunni-dominated monarchy.

Zainab al-Khawaji and other peaceful protesters visibly affected by tear gas during their sit-in at the highway roundabout. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Bahrain’s King Hamad pledged to initiate reforms by, for example, hiring police chiefs from the US and Britain to lead security agency reform.  Although Michael Posner from the United States State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor praised King Hamad for beginning to implement reforms on his recent visit to Bahrain, Posner urged King Hamad to do more to address the human rights abuses.  The US’s concerns of Bahrain using excessive force, such as tear gas, to respond to the continued street protests remain.

During this protest, Bahraini police detained prominent blogger and human rights activist Ms. Zainab al-Khawaja.  She tweeted:  “Sitting in a roundabout on Budaiya street, shouting down down Hamad. Until now riot police don’t seem to know what to do. A few girls have joined me now.”  The police arrested her and another female protester for refusing to leave the sit-in at the roundabout after other protesters dispersed.  The police detained seven other people during the protest.

A police car also ran over Ali al-Kassab, a seventeen-year-old protester, and killed him.  The security forces injured twelve protesters during the peaceful demonstrations throughout Bahrain’s towns and villages.

Bahrainis have protested against the Al Kahalifa dynasty since February 2011.  Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent their troops to aid Bahrain in quelling the peaceful protests on March 14.  On November 23, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry stated the government used excessive force to quash the protests, urged the government to change verdicts protesters received in military courts, and supply compensation for victims.  Overall, dozens of people have died throughout these protests.

On Thursday, riot police chased protesters away from the highway they sought to block while helicopters hovered over the crowd.  Along the highway, protesters waved red and white Bahraini flags.  After the government destroyed a pearl sculpture and evicted the protesters from Manama’s Pearl Square in March, the protesters continually attempt to retake the heavily guarded square that has vast symbolic value.

A Budaiya resident reported, “Protesters are in batches of 40-50 each. There are still many police officers and vehicles here trying to keep demonstrators away from the highway. But protesters keep coming back.”

For further information, please see:

BBC – Bahrain Blogger Zainab al-Khawaja ‘Detained in Protest’ – 15 Dec 2011

IOL News – Bahrain Protesters Confront Police – 15 Dec 2011

Press TV – Bahrain Police Run Over, Kill Protester – 15 Dec 2011

The Washington Post – Bahraini Police Use Tear Gas, Stun Grenades To Disperse Protesters on Highway Outside Capital – 15 Dec 2011


Proposed Federal Legislation to Honor Robert Jackson

Press Release, Robert H. Jackson Center
Originally Sent 6 December 2011

On December 3, 2011, Representative Brian Higgins (NY-27)  announced that he has introduced a bill to name the newly-opened United States Federal Courthouse in Buffalo the “Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse.” Rep. Higgins, who was joined in the announcement by Rep. Kathy Hochul (NY-26), noted that all twenty-nine members of the New York delegation in the House of Representatives are co-sponsors of the bill (H.R. 3556).

The legislation and its strong and wide support demonstrate the enduring relevance of Justice Jackson’s life and his legacy in law practice, as a federal jurist and in U.S. and international law. The Robert H. Jackson Center strives to advance this legacy through its mission to host exhibits, archives & educational programs.

Supporting the Jackson Center’s mission is crucial for future growth! The Jackson Center is currently engaged in a year-end Challenge Grant program that offers a 100% matching gift by the board of directors (up to $100,000). Generous donors have already met 70% of this challenge. Please call 716-483-6646 or CLICK HERE to help us reach and exceed the goal before December 31st!

Lastly, tis’ the season for holiday shopping…..

  • CLICK HERE for items available through the Robert H. Jackson Center’s bookstore items.
  • CLICK HERE for information on ordering a custom-engraved, commemorative brick to honor someone special. This lasting tribute will be installed around the Jackson Center’s front entrance flagpole.

Explosive 75-Page Report Showing How Sergei Magnitsky Was Murdered in Russian Custody and the Subsequent Government Cover-Up

Press Release, Hermitage Capital Fund
Originally Sent 28 November 2011

Today, Hermitage Capital released a 75-page report with new documentary evidence showing how Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in Russian police custody and how the Russian government has consistently lied in public about Sergei Magnitsky’s false arrest, torture and death to cover up the criminal liability of the Russian officials involved.

The report entitled “The Torture and Murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the Cover Up by the Russian Government” is the result of 1000 man hours of work conducted by a team of pro-bono lawyers, forensic investigators and Sergei Magnitsky’s colleagues, who have reviewed Russian court filings, criminal case materials and public statements by government officials in the Magnitsky case. The report shows in more than 100 documents, photographs and media links how Russian government officials systematically tortured Sergei Magnitsky in custody, and how every single department of the Russian law enforcement system has been involved in the cover-up of the crimes.

“This report shows irrefutable documentary evidence of the roles of specific high level officials in the false arrest, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the cover-up that followed. This is a unique record of the injustice that was done to Sergei Magnitsky, and it also lays bare the inner workings of the corruption inside the Russian criminal justice system,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesman.

The report starts out by showing, for the first time, graphic and disturbing images of the deep lacerations and bruises on Sergei Magnitsky’s body after he was beaten by eight riot guards with rubber batons one hour before he was found dead on the floor of an isolation cell at Matrosskaya pre-trial detention center. It shows an internal report from Matrosskaya Tishina, which has never been seen before, where its head, Fikhret Tagiev authorized the use of rubber batons in those fatal beatings and then ordered the closure of any further probe eight days after Sergei Magnitsky died.

The report then presents another key document, which has never been seen before, showing how an official from the Preobrazhensky office of the Russian State Investigative Committee reviewed the evidence of Sergei Magnitky’s death three days after he died and wrote a recommendation to his superiors that a murder investigation should be opened. This recommendation was never acted upon and concealed until it came to light in this review of case files recently.

The Magnitsky report reveals evidence provided by civilian doctors showing how detention center officials falsified the time, place and other circumstances of Magnitsky’s death in their care. Detention center officials stated that Magnitsky was delivered to a prison hospital at Matrosskaya Tishina in Moscow, where he was examined by medical personnel, and fell suddenly ill and died at 9:50 pm on a hospital bed after resuscitation attempts failed. However, testimony from the civilian doctor present at the time of Magnitsky’s death indicate that he did not have an opportunity to examine Magnitsky because he found Magnitsky’s dead body on the floor of an isolation cell before 9 pm.

The Magnitsky report contains links to seven formal requests for medical attention (out of 20 in total) that Sergei Magnitsky filed to all branches of the Russian state, including the Russian Interior Ministry, General Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Penitentiary Service, and the Moscow Court.
These requests were filed after he fell ill, lost twenty kilos and was diagnosed with Pancreatitis, Gallstones and Cholecystitus.

The report then provides links to the six letters from each branch of the Russian law enforcement apparatus systematically refusing his increasingly desperate pleas for medical attention. These refusals come from:

–          Judge Alexei Krivoruchko of the Moscow Tverskoi Court on 14 September 2009;

–          Judge Elena Stashina of the Moscow Tverskoi court on 12 November 2009;

–          Prosecutor Andrei Pechegin, of the Russian General Prosecutor’s office on 9 October 2009;

–          Major Oleg Silchenko of the Russian Federal Interior Ministry on
2 September 2009;

–          Lieutenant Colonel Dmitri Komnov Head of ButrykaPre-Trial DetentionCenteron 7 October 2009;

–          General Vladimir Davydov, Head of MoscowPenitentiary Service on
7 October 2009.

The report then highlights the contradiction between the many requests and denials of medical attention and the public statements made by Russian officials about their non-existence. Among senior Russian government officials exposed in the report as having publicly lied about Magnitsky’s medical conditions in custody were:

–          Irina Dudukina, the official spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee, who said on 17 November 2010 that “there has not been a single complaint from Magnitsky about his health in the criminal case file.”

–          Alexei Anichin, the Deputy Russian Interior Minister, who said on 23 December 2009 that “Out of 111 complaints from pre-trial detention reviewed by the Interior Ministry, not a single complaint contained anything to do with his health or conditions of his detention”

–          Oleg Logunov, Chief of Legal Department of the General Prosecutor’s Office, who said on 7 June 2010 that “for the whole period of his detention, the investigation did not receive a single compliant about his health”

–          Olga Egorova, Head of the Moscow City Court, who said on 14 September 2010 that “Magnitsky did not request to be released due to his health. The judges probably did not know about his health”

–           Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Parliament, who said on 18 May 2010 that “Magnitsky in many of his petitions … to the investigators complained about everything, but never about his illness and non-receipt of medical care”

–          Yuri Kalinin, former head of the Russian Penitentiary Service and currently a member of the Russian Parliament who said on 4 April 2011 that “The death of Magnitsky was an accident that was hard to foresee. He received medical care for his diagnosed illness”

–          Alexander Bastrykin, Head of the Russian State Investigative Committee who said on 7 September 2010 “There is no ground to think that his death was connected to actions of officials who prosecuted him. There is no objective information showing that he was prosecuted illegally or that physical and psychological pressure was applied to him”

“Most shockingly, this report proves that nearly every single high level Russian official in the law enforcement system publicly lied to cover up the fact that he was systematically denied medical care for a life threatening illness,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesman.

“The report dispels any myths that Magnitsky did not complain about his medical condition or that he complained to the wrong state authorities or that the authorities did not have the knowledge of his diagnoses of pancreatitis and gallstones. The report shows that all state bodies received his complaints and flatly refused them,” added the Hermitage Capital representative.

The report concludes that the Russian government has failed to investigate Magnitsky’s torture and murder and the corruption he had uncovered. It further shows that the Russian investigation is conducted and supervised by the very same officials who have been implicated in the crimes and therefore does not meet any standard of independence and impartiality.

All petitions from Magnitsky’s family filed with the Russian authorities seeking to open a torture and murder probe were rejected, most recently in September 2011. Requests from Magnitsky”s family for an independent medical expertise have also been repeatedly rejected by Russian authorities and courts, most recently in October 2011.

The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office, the same agency which was responsible for a number of the violations of Magnitsky’s rights in custody, was ordered by President Medvedev to oversee the probe into the Magnitsky case after his death. As a result of this probe, the Russian Interior Ministry officials who were involved in the $230 million corruption uncovered by Magnitsky and his subsequent arrest and persecution were absolved from any wrong-doing, promoted and decorated with state honors, with the most recent conclusions issued in November 2011.

The official Russian investigation into Magnitsky’s death has been extended ten times, as a result of which two medical officials were accused in October 2011 of failing to diagnose “diabetes and hepatitis”, two diseases which Magnitsky never had. The authorities refused Magnitsky’s family access to his personal and medical records by denying over 30 requests for information. In a final development, the Russian Prosecutor’s Office re-opened a criminal case against Sergei Magnitsky twenty months after he died, and assigned to the case the same Interior Ministry officials who arrested and tortured him to death. Requests from the family to cease this unprecedented misuse of the justice system have been denied by prosecutorial authorities and Russian courts.

The 75-page Magnitsky report has already been submitted to the US Congress, the Canadian Parliament, five EU Parliaments, and the Russian Human Rights Council. It is now being publicly released more broadly as part of an on-going campaign to obtain visa sanctions and asset freezes all over the world for all the officials involved in the Magnitsky’s false arrest, torture and death and the subsequent cover-up.

Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year old lawyer who served as an outside counsel to the Hermitage Fund when he uncovered the largest-known tax refund fraud in Russian history perpetrated by Russian officials. He testified about it and was arrested on trumped-up charges by the same officials, tortured for 358 days and murdered on 16 November 2009 in Russian police custody. None of the officials Magnitsky reported for their role in the embezzlement of
$230 million of public funds and who were involved in his false arrest, torture and murder have been prosecuted for these crimes. After two years of investigation, two medical officials were charged with unintentional negligence in proceedings which deprived the Magnitsky family and their counsel from access to most of his personal records and case files.

Last April, the US Helsinki Commission has published a list of 60 Russian officials involved in the $230 million corruption uncovered by Magnitsky and his subsequent arrest, torture and death. Last November, Sergei Magnitsky was posthumously awarded the Integrity Award by Transparency International for his personal stance against the Russian corruption. This October, lawmakers from 29 countries in Europe signed a Magnitsky Declaration calling upon Russia to immediately prosecute killers of Sergei Magnitsky.

Human Rights Watch Urges Yemen to Install Marriage Age Minimum

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen – Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) released its 54 page report “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?: Child Marriage in Yemen” to urge Yemen to ban marriage for girls under the age of eighteen.  This age floor would improve educational opportunities for girls and protect their human rights.  Child marriage in poor Arab countries preserves females’ status as second-class citizens and jeopardizes girls’ health.

Protesters Support Banning Child Marriage. (Photo Courtesy of CBC News)

Presently, Yemen does not have a legal minimum age for marriage.  In 2009, the Yemeni government presented a bill to set seventeen as the minimum age for marriage.  Arguing the proposed law conflicted with Islamic law, a group of conservative Yemeni lawmakers stopped the bill’s passage.  Several countries who follow Islamic law have instituted the age of eighteen as the marriage age minimum.

Yemeni demonstrators called for reforms such as guaranteed gender equality in recent months.  HRW advocates the government should place banning child marriage as a reform priority.

Data from the United Nations and the Yemeni government indicate eight-year-old girls were married, and some of their husbands engaged in martial rape and domestic abuse.  Often, these child brides forcibly marry much older men.  Last year, a nine-year-old wife published her account of marrying a man three times her age.  A thirteen-year-old also died after having sex with her husband twice her age that caused internal bleeding.  Boys are rarely subjected to child marriages.

Nadya Khalife, HRW’s women’s rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa and the report’s author, stated “Girls should not be forced to be wives and mothers…The government…needs to show that it has the political will to do this by adopting this law.”

The girls’ families force them to marry.  These new brides do not control their lives or childbearing decisions.

While fifty-two percent of girls are married before the age of eighteen, about fourteen percent of Yemeni girls wed before the age of fifteen.  Once these future child brides reach puberty, they usually do not attend school.  The young child bearing age associated with early marriage results in lasting reproductive health issues.

One of the thirty girls interviewed testified, “I reached sixth grade, and left school to get married.  Now, when I see my daughter, I say to myself, ‘Who’s going to teach her?’  Because I can’t.  I understood [the value of education] when I got older.”  Another girl said, “My father insisted that I get married.  I wanted to go to college, to become a lawyer, but there’s no chance now because I’m going to have a baby.”

For further information, please see:

CBC News – Yemen Child Marriages Targeted By Rights Groups – 8 Dec 2011

Human Rights Watch – Yemen: Child Marriage Spurs Abuse of Girls and Women – 8 Dec 2011

Reuters – Rights Group Urges Yemen To Ban Child Marriage – 8 Dec 2011

Taiwan News – Rights Group Urges Yemen To Ban Child Marriage – 8 Dec 2011

Opposition Led Strike in Syria Results in Bloodshed

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — Renewed clashes in Syria have resulted in the deaths of at least 23 people as opposition activists initiate a general strike.

The general strike called by the opposition activists was being observed in southern Syria on Sunday with school children and civil servants staying at home.  Fear of pro-government militias did keep some shopkeepers from joining the strike.

Many shopkeepers who didn’t open on Sunday had their property burned by troops.

There were reports of heavy machine-gun fire and pre-dawn clashes between activists and loyalist forces.

The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, has been warning of a potential bloodbath for days in the city of Homs, where tanks and checkpoints have been massing for days.  The government has denied that a conflict is imminent.

The Syrian government has long blamed the bloodshed on Islamic militants and armed gangs, which it says are supported by outside states.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said that the deaths on Sunday occurred as authorities confronted members of “an armed terrorist group.”

Syria allows only severely restricted access to foreign media so it is hard to verify the content of its reports.

The United Nations estimates that over 4,000 individuals have died thus far in the over nine-month conflict.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is currently under international pressure to end his continued crackdown on the anti-government protesters.

It is reported that the Arab League will hold two emergency meetings in the coming day to discuss Damascus’s response to a League plan to send monitors into Syria.

Last month the League suspended Syria’s membership to protest the continued government crackdown on the protests.

The country’s economy is already beginning to hurt from economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, Arab League, United States, and Turkey, however it is still getting support from Iran, Russia, and China.

In neighboring Jordan there have been some violent protests at the Syrian embassy, in the capital city of Amman.  The embassy said that protesters stormed the building and attacked staff, however sources close to the protesters argue that they were assaulted when they went into the embassy wearing opposition flags.

For more info, please see:

Al Jazeera — Syrian army and defectors ‘battling in south’ — 11 Dec. 2011

BBC — ’18 killed’ in fresh Syria clashes, say opposition — 11 Dec. 2011

Los Angeles Times — General strike launched in Syria amid fierce clashes — 11 Dec. 2011

Day Press — Opponents, Supporters of Syrian Gov’t — 10 Dec. 2011