Egyptian Government Targets Female Protesters

Egyptian Government Targets Female Protesters

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — Egyptian security forces and military are targeting female protesters, subjecting them to torture, sexual assault, and threats of rape.  The practices are very similar to those employed pre-revolution say various international and Egyptian human rights organizations.

Women protesters face the double pressure of being activists and female in a conservative male-dominated society (Photo courtesy of Jezebel).

“Nothing has changed overall. Law enforcement officers still feel that they are above the law and that they don’t have to fear prosecution, it’s a green light that legitimizes an excessive use of force, sexual assault and torture,” said Heba Morayef, Egypt Researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Since January, it has appeared that the military was protecting protesters, both male and female, during a revolutionary process that ended in the overthrow of long-time president Hosni Mubarak.  With the power of the government now in the hands of the military critics say that they have resorted to the same sorts of brutality used by the former regime, most notably during protests in 2005 and 2007.

A viral video, filmed recently, shows Egyptian soldiers beating and disrobing a female protester.  At least three men expose the woman’s midriff and bra as they stomp on her stomach and batter her head with batons.  The video has drawn international scorn, including a condemnation of the “systematic degradation” of Egyptian Women by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

“Women protesters have been rounded up and subjected to horrific abuse. Journalists have been sexually assaulted. And now, women are being attacked, stripped, and beaten in the streets,” she added.

“This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people.”

In response to this beating thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets in protest.  It was the largest all-female protest since Egypt’s independence, demanding the end of military rule.

The Egyptian government released an apology via Facebook for the beating and expressed “its great regret to the great women of Egypt for the violations that took place” and promising that “all legal measures have been taken to hold accountable all those responsible for these violations.”

There is skepticism about seeing real change come from the government’s response.  There was not explicit order banning or condemnation of violence and sexual assault on female protesters given anywhere in the apology.

The usage of violence against female protesters does have a purpose.  Egypt is a conservative, male-dominated society.  Women are not supposed to express themselves openly in the public sphere.  The violence is likely meant not only to punish those who violate this norm, but also to deter those who might consider speaking out in the future.

For more information, please see:

Afrique en ligne — Egypt urged to prosecute sexual assaults on protesters — 22 Dec. 2011

ABC — Female Protesters Targeted By Egyptian Government, Say Activists — 21 Dec. 2011

Al Jazeera — Egyptians protest against beating of women — 21 Dec. 2011

Huffington Post — Sexual Violence Has No Place in Egypt’s Public Forum — 20 Dec. 2011

European Commission Blocks Export Of Lethal Injection Drugs

By Terance Walsh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission announced a restriction on drugs produced by European manufacturers for use in lethal injection executions.  The restriction marks another widening of the gulf between the capital punishment policy of Europe and the United States and further decreases the supply of an already scarce resource.

A lethal injection room in Alabama (Photo courtesy of The Guardian).

The newly restricted drug, sodium thiopental, is a sedative that has several uses but is commonly used in administering executions.  It can now only be exported from European countries after authorization by national authorities.

The reason for the restriction, according to the European Commission, is to “prevent their use for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The move was cheered by opponents of the death penalty.  “We need to see a broad, catch-all provision to prevent any drugs from being used in capital punishment in order to ensure Europe is never again complicit in the death penalty,” Anti-death penalty group Reprieve’s director, Clare Algar, said.

The restriction expressly forbids the sale of the drug to countries that currently practice the death penalty.  It is consistent with the unconditional opposition to the death penalty expressed in the European Charter:  “[T]he European Union opposes the death penalty under all circumstances. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed. In this regard, the decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide.”

The impact of the regulation is yet to be known in countries that practice the death penalty.  States like Ohio, Texas, and Georgia that execute people relatively frequently have taken to using alternative drugs and looking to other countries overseas to meet its demand.  Switching to the use of alternative drugs, however, places a burden on states that want to perform lethal injections by complicating the process of obtaining the drugs and possibly opening legal challenges.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a string of efforts to reduce the supply of drugs used for executions.  In April Great Britain announced a ban on exportation to the United States of three drugs used for lethal injections and an Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer that supplied sodium thiopental to Nebraska announced it would cease supplying the drug to American prison officials.  In July a Danish manufacturer attempted to quell the sale of its drug for executions by making its distributors promise they would not use the drug for that purpose.

Many American prisons have stockpiled execution drugs over the past year in anticipation of restrictions, but Europe’s new regulation will make it more difficult for prisons to replenish supplies in the future.  It is also difficult for regulators to promise that the drugs will not be sold to prison through the back door.  In order to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the regulations, the European Council has retained the power to add other drugs to the ban as it sees fit.

The United Kingdom’s business secretary Vince Cabel supports the new restriction.  “We have led the way by introducing national controls on the export to the United States of certain drugs, which could be used for the purpose of lethal injection. However we have always stated our clear preference for action at EU level and I am pleased that, following our initiative, these steps are now being taken.”

In the United States lethal injections have become the predominant method of executions in recent years.  Earlier this year President Barak Obama made a direct appeal to Germany to supply the drugs, to which German Vice Chancellor Philipp Rosler responded, “I noted the request and declined.”

The death penalty is entirely banned in the European Union and since 2007 the EU has called for a worldwide halt on the death penalty.

For more information please see:

ACLU — Europe Won’t Supply Execution Cocktail To U.S. — 21 December 2011

New York Times — European Union Tightens Exports Of Drugs Used In Executions — 20 December 2011

The Guardian — Europe Moves To Block Trade In Medical Drugs Used In U.S. Executions — 20 December 2011

The Olympian — European Union Restricts Sale Of Execution Drugs — 20 December 2011

Washington Post — European Union Restricts Sale Of Lethal Injection Drugs To U.S., Tightening Scarce Supply — 20 December 2011

New Blog Illustrates Sharia Law in the United States

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Sharia Index is a recently launched blog that brings Islamic law to the forefront.  The website addresses the role of sharia law in U.S. courts, which is becoming more and more prevalent.  You can visit the blog at:

The goal of the blog is to report on U.S. cases that address Islamic law and comment on other, specific areas of Islamic law.  Also on the website, there are multiple educational resources including articles about sharia law in the news, interviews, and lectures.

Sharia Index describes in its mission the goal of the blog: “To provide an objective resource and destination for lawyers, professionals and anyone who is interested in learning about sharia in America.”  It further explains that sharia law is becoming more and more important in the American court system.  Just as foreign courts refer to the United States Constitution and public policy to resolve American issues, the United States must reference relevant sharia law to govern certain disputes.

“In our global village, marriages, finance and commercial transactions are crossing borders.  U.S. courts, therefore, must regularly interpret and apply foreign law – including Islamic law . . .,” says the website.

The website lists U.S. cases by name, by subject, or by state.  Each link provides a compressed version of the facts, issue, and the ruling, created by lawyers or law students.  The website provides no editorializing; the cases are summarized with objective facts.

Overall, the blog aims to clear up any confusion about sharia law and its role in the United States and the world.  Some of the links are under construction, as the website is relatively new.  It is a very useful blog for learning the basics of sharia law and its application in the United States.  Again, the website is

Turkish-French Relationship Jeopardized Over Proposed Legislation

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey – On Tuesday, 20 December, Turkish President Abdullah Gul asked France to drop a proposed parliamentary bill that criminalizes Turkey’s denial that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was genocide.  Turkey warned France would jeopardize the countries’ friendship for “small political calculations” if the French National Assembly passed the bill on Thursday.  French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated the countries’ ties “are sufficiently strong to overcome challenges.”


Presidents Sarkozy and Gul talking after a press conference on February 25, 2011, in Turkey. (Photo Courtesy of Today's Zaman)

The bill presented by the French lower house of parliament includes a one-year prison term and a $59,000 fine for Ottoman Turks who deny the Armenian killings.  If the bill passes as expected, France would criminalize any genocide, war crime, or crime against humanity recognized by French law.  This proposed legislation parallels how the French treated the denial of the Holocaust, which the French banned in 1990.

French spokesperson Valerie Pecresse stated the bill is “very broad in a way that it can apply to all genocide recognized by France in the future.”  She added the bill includes slavery and does not target the Armenian genocide.

In October, President Sarkozy asked Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide as part of its history as a “gesture of memory” similar to France’s participation in the Nazi deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.

President Gul stated, “It is not possible for us to accept this bill which denies us the freedom to reject unfair and groundless accusations targeting our country and our nation.”  Last week, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the French government the hostile bill targeted Turkey and Turks living in France.  Turkey said it would pull its ambassador to France if the bill passes.

Turkish Members of Parliament (“MP”) and business representatives lobbied Juppe and Jean-David Levitte, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser, in France this week.  The Turkish delegation desires to remove the bill from the National Assembly’s agenda.  If the bill remains, they urge the upper house of parliaments not to pass it.

Armenia reports Turkey killed 1.5 million people during mass deportations, but Turkey claims only 300,000 people died.  Turkey also asserts Turks died when Armenians fought against the Ottoman Empire and Russian troops invaded Turkey during World War I.  Turkey refuses to call the deaths genocide.  Rather, it asserts the people died during civil unrest when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

During his visit to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, in October, President Sarkozy commented, “Turkey, which is a great country, would honor itself by revisiting its history like other countries in the world have done.”

For further information, please see:

BBC – French Genocide Bill Angers Turkey – 20 Dec 2011

Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish President Urges France To Drop Genocide Bill – 20 Dec 2011

The Jerusalem Post – Turkey Calls On France To Halt ‘Genocide’ Bill – 20 Dec 2011

Today’s Zaman – Turkey Urges France To Immediately Drop Genocide Bill – 20 Dec 2011

“Scores” Reported Killed in Syria, As Al-Assad’s Regime Continues to Fester Violence

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

IDLIB, Syria–Less than a week before the Arab League delegation is due to visit Syria as part of a deal hoping to end the bloodshed, as many as 200 individuals are reported to have lost their lives in the last two days across the country. There are various reports coming from Syria about the situations involving the death tolls.

Demonstrators holding placards against al-Assad's regime in Idlib. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Activist groups have reported the deaths on Tuesday 20 December 2011 after heavy fighting had occurred primarily in the province of Idlib, near Syria’s northern border with Turkey. On Monday 19 December 2011, activists claimed that as many as 110 people lost their lives in fighting acorss the country, including 60-60 army deserters who were apparently gunned down by machine-gun fire close to a village called Kafrouaid in Idlib.

More violence was reported in the region of the Zawiya Mountains on Tuesday 20 December 2011, with the Local Coordination Committes stating that 25 individuals had died close to the same village by machine-gun fire and shelling.

Many of the towns and cities located within Idlib are without Internet and mobile phone connections. Others are with electricity.

Rula Amin, an Al-Jazeera correspondent reported from Beirut, shared these sentiments about the violence.

“Activists and opposition figures say killings in Idlib area are very large. Dozens have been killed but people differ who were among those killed; some say they were defectors, others say armed men who oppose the government.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British based organization, stated on Monday 19 December 2011, more than 60 army deserters had been shot and killed as their tried to flee their base. Also, it reported that al-Assad had decreed the death penalty for anyone caught distributing arms “with the aim of committing terrorist acts.”

The state news agency SANA reported that security forces in Idlib had killed at least one “terrorist” and wounded several others.

Wissam Tarif, a well-known activist based in Beirut, stated that accounts from hospitals and witnesses suggested that some 260 individuals had been killed in Idlib alone on Tuesday 20 December 2011. He said that most of these individuals were defecting soldiers but also included some 93 loyalist soldiers and six civilians.

In the town of Jabal al-Zawiya alone, Tarif claimed that more than 3,000 soldiers had defected and that 10,000 had defected across Syria.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the opposition umbrella group, stated that 250 individuals lost their lives between Monday 19 December and Tuesday 20 December. It released a statement urged the international community to act against the “horrific massacres.”

A team of observers from the Arab League is scheduled to arrive in Damascus later this week, as part of a signed deal between al-Assad’s regime and the Arab League in order to end the violence. The team is comprised of security, legal, and administrative observers, with human rights experts expected to follow.

Nabil el-Araby, the Arab League chief, stated that the initial team would go to Syria on Thursday 22 December 2011 while the rest will arrive by the end of December. He also stated that the Arab League desires to have 500 monitors in Syria by the end of the month and shared these sentiments with Reuters.

“It’s a completely new mission and it depends on implementation in good faith. In a week’s time, from the start of the operation, we will know if Syria is complying.”

The US and the EU have already imposed sanctions upon Syria, which combined with the unrest itself has pushed Syria’s economy into a free-fall. The Syrian pound fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday 20 December 2011 to over 55 pounds per dollar, 17 percent down from the official rate before the crisis erupted.

In response to this economic depravity, Al-Baath newspaper reported that Prime Minister Adel Safar had instructed ministries to cut their expenditures by 25 percent. These cuts affected spending on elements such as fuel, stationery, and hospitality. Arab League chief el-Araby stated that the sanctions would stand until the League’s monitors begin reporting back on what they have seen on the ground.

The Arab League has threatened to request the UN Security Council to adopt its peace plan for Syria. This would considerably broaden the chances for international action inside Syria.

Syrian opposition leader Burham Ghalioun was not enamored by the actions of the Arab League thus far by allowing al-Assad’s regime to sign a proposal to end the violence.

“The Syrian regime is playing games and wants to buy time. We are quite surprised that the Arab League is allowing this to take place. This regime had proven time and time again that it is a regime built on lies and force. We need a safety zone to protect and prevent efforts by the regime to transform the crisis into a civil conflict.”

The UN has claimed that more than 5,000 individuals have been killed in Syria since the ant-Assad demonstrations and protests began in March, not missing the opportunity to be part of the Arab Spring. The Syrian government has reported that more than 1,100 security personnel have lost their lives to foreign-backed “armed terrorist gangs.”

The ban on international journalist inside Syria still stands, preventing all casualty claims from being independently verified.


For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – ‘Scores killed’ in Syria Violence – 21 December 2011

BBC – Syria crisis: ‘Nearly 200 Lives Lost’ In Last Two Days – 21 December 2011

Ahram – Deaths Mount in Syria as Arabs Move On Peace Plan – 20 December 2011

CNN – More Die in Syria After Deadliest Known Day – 20 December 2011

Reuters – Dozens Killed in Syria as Arab Peace Team Due – 20 December 2011

NYT – Syria Agrees To Allow Outside Observers, But Activists Remain Wary – 19 December 2011