Decision by Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice Sparks Outrage

Decision by Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice Sparks Outrage

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — Amnesty International and human rights activists around the world are showing outrage at a Superior Court of Justice’s decision this week, which ruled that sex with a 12-year-old does not necessarily constitute statutory rape. The head of Amnesty International’s Brazil branch, Atila Roque, is concerned that this ruling will serve as a green light to rapists and discourage victims of sexual abuse from reporting their abusers.

A model wearing clothes made by sex workers in a Brazilian red light district. (Photo Courtesy of The Global Post).

A Brazilian law, adopted in 2009, forbids sex with anyone under the age of 14. This week, however, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice did not convict a man accused of having sex with three 12-year-olds because, among other things, the girls had previously worked as prostitutes and the incident occurred in 2002.  Amnesty International said in a statement that “It is of extreme concern that the protections provided by Brazil’s legislation in cases such as these have not been implemented.”

Brazil’s human rights minister, Maria do Rosario Nunes, believes the court’s ruling “would in practice spell impunity” and has pledged to try to get the case overturned. Tourism Minister, Gastao Vieira, agrees, and stated on Tuesday that “the exploitation of sex is a crime and those responsible for it must be punished.”

According to the court’s president, Ari Pargendler, the court is open to revisit the decision.

Underaged prostitution has drawn many tourists to Brazil over recent years. Brazil’s Tourism Ministry stated on Tuesday that over 2,000  websites have been found, many of them hosted in the United States, promoting Brazil as the “sex tourism” destination in 2011. The websites show pictures of women in sensual poses and encourages sexual encounters with minors.

Taking down and reporting these websites is going to be one of the many steps the Brazilian government will take to combat the sexual exploitation of underaged girls during the 2014 World Cup. Last year, members of the Brazilian government distributed posters and sponsored advertisements across the country containing warnings that the sexual exploitation of minors is considered a crime. The posters were also distributed to the United States, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain.


For further information, please see:

ABC News – Brazil: Critics Slam Court’s Underage Sex Verdict – 30 March 2011

The Global Post – Human Rights Group Outraged At Brazil’s Underage Sex Ruling – 30 March 2012

The Washington Post – Critics Slam Brazilian Appeals Court’s Lenient Verdict in Sex With Minors Case – 30 March 2012

Associated Press – Brazil Takes on Websites That Promote Sex Tourism – 27 March 2012


Poland Prosecuting Former Intelligence Head For Role In CIA Torture

By Terance Walsh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland — Polish prosecutors have filed charges against Poland’s former head of intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, for his role in CIA torture of al Qaeda suspects on Polish soil.  Prime Minister David Tuck is supporting the ongoing investigation and prosecution and has promised the truth.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tuck (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The prosecutors charged Siemiatkowski with acting beyond the scope of his powers and violating international law for “unlawful depravation of liberty” and “corporal punishment.”

The investigation over torture in Poland began in 2008.  Although Prime Minister Tusk supports the investigation, he has called for great discretion to assist in finding the truth.  In a news conference Tusk said, “I did not came up with those charges and, if I were in the prosecutors’ shoes, I would not come up with such charges. But maybe I don’t have enough information.”

He added that the investigation “must rise to the highest standards of concern for state interest” and exercise the “utmost discretion.”

Despite Tuck’s skepticism, he remains confident that the investigation is a positive endeavor.  “Poland will never again be a country where politicians, even if they are working hand-in-hand with the world’s most powerful country, can make under-the-table deals.”

A 2006 report from the Council of Europe accused 14 member states of participating in over 1,000 CIA flights across European territory.

Since 2007 the Council of Europe has expressed concern over allegation that al Qaeda suspects were being detained in secret prisons in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania.  All three countries have denied the existence of any such prisons.

Additionally, former U.S. CIA officials have stated that the U.S. used secret prisons in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania to detain al Qaeda suspects.

Polish campaigners have found evidence of the secret prisons after compiling records of CIA planes that landed in Szymany, a Polish military base, in 2002 and 2003.  One of the planes is said to have been carrying Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-identified 9/11 mastermind who now faces a United States military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay.  Mohammed himself says he was detained in Poland for a period.

According to the campaigners the secret prison was located in Kiejkuty.

Terror suspect Abu Zubaydah also claims that he was tortured in CIA prisons in several countries, including Poland.  Polish officials have given Zubaydah “victim” status over the course of the investigation.

Human rights groups have applauded the initiative Poland has taken in prosecuting Siemiatkowski.  “Poland deserves credit for this step, as the first European state to begin to deal with CIA torture on its own soil,” said Reprieve, a London based group.  Reprieve also encouranged Romania and Lithuania to follow Poland’s example.

“Every state that has signed the (United Nations’) Convention Against Torture has an obligation not just to prevent torture but to hold accountable officials who authorize or facilitate it,” said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I suppose it may be true that the Polish secret service was making a base available and then was not really engaged in what was going on there,” said Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.  “But for such an operation to go ahead smoothly various units must coordinate their actions and have approval from politicians at the highest level. Any intelligence head would not make such a decision alone,”

In addition to the UN regulations, Poland has provisions in its constitution that ban torture and imprisonment without consent of the courts.  Politicians and officials who violate this provision are subject to prosecution in the courts.

Poland has been one of the United States’ staunchest allies throughout the course of the “War on Terror.”  It has taken part in American missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. does not deny that it has flown prisoners to stations all over the world but it denies the use of torture in those prisons.

There also remain questions about how much Leszek Miller, the Polish Prime Minister in at the time the alleged detentions occurred, knew about the secret prisons.  There is, however, evidence that Miller was aware of the prisons and could face charges for allowing the prisons to operate on Polish soil.

The Polish prosecutor’s office has declined any comment on the matter.

For more information please see:

Adelaide — Light Shines On CIA “Black Site” — 30 March 2012

Huffington Post — PM: Poland Is “Victim” Of US Leaks On CIA Prison — 30 March 2012

BBC — Polish PM Promises Truth On CIA Rendition Of Prisoners — 29 March 2012

Reuters — Polish PM Urges “Discretion” Around CIA Prison Probe — 29 March 2012

Reuters — Human Rights Groups Welcome Reports On CIA Prisons — 28 March 2012

PolskieRadio — Former Polish Intelligence Chief Charged In CIA “Black Sites” Case — 27 March 2012

U.S. Settles for Sub-Par Human Rights Conditions in Russia for Better Foreign Relations

By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia–The Obama Administration is seeking to repeal a 1974 law, called the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which currently restricts “normal trading relations with communist countries” and also permits mass emigration from the Soviet Union, despite having helped thousands of people escape the Kremlin’s repression, join their relatives abroad, or to leave behind inhuman living conditions.

Obama and Putin (Photo Curtesy of Getty Images)

The United States Chamber of Commerce has called the repeal its “top priority” for this year claiming that, when Russia joins the World Trade Organization, the country will be opened to a world of international trade. Continuing to prohibit the United States to trade with Russia could put American companies at a competitive disadvantage.

On the other hand, the law has had little “practical effect since 1994,” because the United States generally “waives” its application. Even still, lawmakers who are critical of Russia’s human rights record have resisted repeal and politicians in Washington D.C., Democrats and Republicans alike (including Sen. John McCain), have sought to enact a separate law—which they named the Magnitsky Act. The proposed law would put travel bans and freeze assets on Russian’s suspected of human rights violations, namely those who contributed to the death of Russian tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky.

The Bill’s latest endorser, Republican Senator Dick Lugar stated during a Press Release on March 27, 2012 that, “this bill has been pending before the Foreign Relations Committee for nearly a year, and we held a hearing on the bill last December. My office has worked with Senator Cardin’s staff to develop a revised version of the bill, which I strongly support.  Therefore, I would look forward to the opportunity for the Committee to consider this legislation at the next business meeting.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration does not like the proposed law because it threatens United States/Kremlin relations—a bond which the President has worked hard to repair. Moreover, the Kremlin dislike the proposed law because it exposes—on an international level—Putin’s criminal regime.

Despite the important relation that the President has built with Russia, the Magnitsky Act calls for the rehabilitation of human rights in Russia and would require the United States to settle for nothing less. The law is named for Magnitsky, the Russian tax attorney, who suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of Russian authorities as a byproduct of a political brawl. The circumstances surrounding Magnitsky’s death have been vague and elusive from the beginning, though this much is clear: Magnitsky testified against the Russian Interior Ministry (a governmental agency responsible for policing, national security and investigation economic crimes, like tax invasion), stating that they used his employer, Hermitage Capital, to embezzle $230 million from the Russian treasury by filing false corporate tax returns. After testifying against the Interior Ministry, Magnitsky was detained beginning in 2008 “on suspicion of helping Hermitage Capital evade $17.4 million dollars in taxes.”

A year after being detained, Magnitsky died. As the Wall Street Journal describes,  prisoners in Russia are kept in “freezing and overcrowded cells, grotesque sanitation, and larvae-infested food.” Government officials iterated that Magnitsky’s death came as a result of heart disease and active hepatitis. Appropriate medical care would have allowed for the diagnosis and treatment of the diseases before he become fatally ill; nevertheless, on the day of his death he received no such medical treatment.

Magnitsky’s death has sparked incredible outrage throughout the world. In fact, on Russia’s “Google” equivalent——there are 19,000 articles on Magnitsky. According to Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, this signifies that “middle-class Russians, whom Magnitsky typified, finally realize they are no longer immune to the everyday official thuggery routinely meted to Russians outside the privileged belts of Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

Despite the international outrage, and the growing concern that Russia continues to violate their citizen’s basic human rights, the Obama Administration has been slow to speak out against Magnitsky’s death; however, historian Alexander Goldfarb said, as quoted in The Moscow Times, that “when Russian citizen’s are once again compelled to go out onto the square and defend their rights, keeping the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is the best way the United States can support them.” Perhaps one day, so will the Magnitsky Act.

For more information please visit:

Wall Street Journal–Russia’s Steve Biko–27 March 2012



Independent Candidate, Liu Ping, Reports Being Beaten

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –  Liu Ping was detained by local authorities on March 6 for running as an independent candidate in China’s Jiangxi province.

Liu Wang was detained and abused in prison following an attempt to run against the Communist Party as an Independent candidate (Photo Courtesy of The Hindu).

Liu was detained by security who worked from her former employer, Xinyu city Steel Group, which is state owned.

Following her detention Liu was taken to a “black jail”, the common name for an unofficial prison, where she was aggressively strip searched and beaten.

According to the China Human Rights Defenders, “her belongings were confiscated, and she was held temporarily in a black jail…her captors forced Liu into a car and drove her back to Jiangxi.”

After being driven to a secret location, while blindfolded, Liu was strip-searched by three women who left her virtually naked and with little food.

While in this location, Liu was forced to stay in a windowless room equipped with padded walls and surveillance cameras where she was monitored daily.

When Liu confronted her captors about the condition she was being kept in, she was beaten until she fell to the ground.

Liu was returned home on March 19 after she became sick.

Since being returned, Liu has endured surveillance cameras being placed at her home and negative treatment of her family members by authorities.

The treatment of Liu was caused by the strong following she had obtained during her candidacy as an independent candidate  for district People’s Congress.

Chinese authorities have reportedly warned that independent candidates do not exist and any person desiring to run for election for the People’s Congress will have to obey legal procedure.

Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, described  the arrest of Liu as another example of detentions made annually shortly after the yearly meeting of the National’s People Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Wang asserts that this meeting typically leads to detention of people identified as troublesome to the government. Despite the regularity of these meetings and the subsequent detentions, Wang has express the opinion that “…this year is more serious than previous years.”

Interestingly, Liu was detained the National People’s Congress was focused on passing a revision to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law which would require authorities to detain citizens in official detention centers rather than black jails.  The amendment would also require that family members of detainees to be informed of the detention within twenty-four hours.

Parties opposing the Communist Party are banned in China, with the exception of a few “democratic parties”, leading those who try to run against the ruling party to be subjected to lengthy prison terms.

Elections take place every five years and is responsible for appointing two million lawmakers at the county and township levels in over 2,000 counties and 3,000 townships.


For more information, please see:

The Hindu – Activist’s “Disappearance” Exposes China’s Legal Limits – 27 March 2012

Radio Free Asia – Independent Candidate Stripped, Beaten – 27 March 2012

The New York Time – Activist Said to be Missing in China – 19 March 2012

Afghanistan Imprisons Women For ‘Moral Crimes’

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

KABUL, Afghanistan – On Wednesday, 28 March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released “I Had to Run Away,” a report highlighting the approximately 400 Afghan women and girls who are imprisoned in jails and juvenile detention facilities for “moral crimes.”  The authorities jailed women for escaping domestic abuse and surviving rape.

Zarghona holds her seven-month old son Balal to look out the window from the Kabul Women's Prison in Afghanistan. (Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press)

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth commented, “It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage.”

The report notes “some women and girls have been convicted of zina, sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution.”  Judges routinely sentence women to lengthy prison sentences, including 10 years in some cases where a zina conviction could hold a 15 year sentence.  Illiterate women often are convicted on “confessions” they “signed” without the government reading the confession to them and without a lawyer present.

The number of convictions for running away rose after the Afghan Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that women who ran away and did not immediately go to the police or a close relative would be incarcerated.  The Court recommended these women be jailed as a precautionary remedy against promiscuity and prostitution.  However, the Afghan criminal code does not define fleeing her home without permission as a crime.

The report emphasizes that President Hamid Karzai did not meet the standards prescribed by international human rights law.  Although he passed the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2009 to protect women, President Karzai has struggled ensuring women’s rights to please the conservative religious forces.

For example, the traditional practice baad (where families give their daughters away to settle disputes), forced under-age marriage, and domestic violence remain present in Afghanistan.  President Karzai also supported a “code of conduct” submitted by the Ulema Council, a powerful council of clerics, that permitted certain situations for husbands to beat their wives, forbade women to study or work in mixed company, prohibited women from travelling without male chaperones, and stated a woman is secondary to a man.  However, President Karzai declared pardons should be given to women that left their home to marry a husband of her choosing.

HRW interviewed 58 jailed girls and women for this 120-page report.  The report details Asma W., a 36 year old women imprisoned when she ran away once her husband beat her, tossed boiling water on her, transmitted sexual diseases, and declared he intended to marry his mistress; 15 year old Fawzia sought security from a family that forced her into prostitution after they drugged her; and Farah G. is a 16 year old girl that eloped with her friend’s brother after they fell in love.

For further information, please see

Brisbane Times – Women’s Hefty Price for ‘Crimes’ – 30 Mar 2012

Pakistan Observer – Hundreds Of Women, Girls Jailed For ‘Moral Crimes’ In Afghanistan – 29 Mar 2012

BBC – Hundreds of Afghan Women Jailed For ‘Moral Crime’ – 28 Mar 2012

Irish Independent – 400 Women and Girls Held In Afghanistan For ‘Moral Crimes’ – 28 Mar 2012