War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Breaking News – ICC First Verdict

PILPG Press Release
Originally sent 3/14/12

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is prepared by the International Justice Practice of the Public International Law & Policy Group and the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

 

Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate in hostilities

Press Release: International Criminal Court

March 14, 2011

 

Today, 14 March 2012, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided unanimously that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is guilty, as a co-perpetrator, of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003. It is the first verdict issued by an ICC Trial Chamber. At present, 14 other cases are before the Court, three of which are at the stage of trial.

 

The present war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities were committed in the context of an internal armed conflict that took place in the Ituri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and involved the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, against the Armée Populaire Congolaise and other militias, including the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri. A common plan was agreed by Mr Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities.

 

Mr Lubanga Dyilo was the President of the Union des patriotes congolais(Union of Congolese Patriots) (UPC), the Commander-in-Chief of its military wing, the FPLC, and its political leader. He exercised an overall coordinating role regarding the activities of the UPC/FPLC and he actively supported recruitment initiatives, for instance by giving speeches to the local population and the recruits. Furthermore, he personally used children below the age of 15 amongst his bodyguards and he regularly saw guards of other UPC/FPLC staff members who were below the age of 15. The Chamber, comprising Judge Adrian Fulford (presiding judge), Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge René Blattmann, found that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor establishes beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lubanga Dyilo’s contribution was essential to the common plan.

 

At the request of Mr Lubanga Dyilo, and in accordance with article 76(2) of the Rome Statute, the Chamber will hold a separate sentencing hearing. The Chamber will, furthermore, establish the principles that are to be applied to reparations for victims. The defence is entitled to appeal the conviction within 30 days of receiving the French translation of the Judgment.

 

Background information

 

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was transferred to The Hague on 17 March 2006, pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I. His trial, the first at the ICC, started on 26 January 2009 and the closing statements were presented by the parties and participants on 25 and 26 August 2011.

 

Over the course of 204 days of hearings, the Trial Chamber has delivered 275 written decisions and orders and 347 oral decisions. The Chamber heard 36 witnesses, including 3 experts, called by the Office of the Prosecutor, 24 witnesses called by the defence and 3 witnesses called by the legal representatives of the victims participating in the proceedings. The Chamber also called 4 experts. A total of 129 victims, represented by two teams of legal representatives and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, were granted the right to participate in the trial. They have been authorised to present submissions and to examine witnesses on specific issues. The Prosecution submitted 368 items of evidence, the Defence 992, and the legal representatives of victims 13.

 

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. At present, 15 cases have been brought before the Court in the context of 7 situations that are currently under investigation: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC Judges have issued 20 warrants of arrest (2 withdrawn following the death of the suspects) and 9 summonses to appear. Currently, five individuals are in the ICC custody and 11 suspects remain at large.

 

Editor’s Note: The verdict of the Court released this morning is available in English as a PDF here: http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1379838.pdf

 

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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org.

SRI LANKA ABUSES CONTINUE 3 YEARS AFTER WAR ENDS

by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka– On Tuesday, human rights group Amnesty International released a report alleging ongoing, routine, human rights abuses against ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan Government.

Amnesty International has accused the Sri Lankan military and paramilitary units of abducting people suspected of being critical of the government. (Photo courtesy of BBC News).

According to Amnesty, hundreds of people remain in arbitrary detention despite the end of the 26-year long civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. A recent statement by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris, put the number of Tamil Tiger ex-combatants still in detention at 750. However, Amnesty believes that ex-combatants are not the only ones being detained in post-war Sri Lanka.

Amnesty’s report alleges that constitutional and legal protections of individuals against wrongful incarceration and unfair prosecution have been replaced by anti-terrorism laws and emergency measures, which undermine human rights and the rule of law. Amnesty has stated that these laws were enacted during the war for the purpose of combating the Tamil Tigers, but that their post-war legacy undermines human rights.

The report further alleges that Tamils are routinely detained and abducted, denied due process, intimidated, solicited for bribes, tortured and subjected to other abuses by police and paramilitary groups. The report concedes that some of those who face unlawful detention are likely Tamil perpetrators of human rights abuses and war crimes. However, it further elaborates that many of those detained are innocent.

The report linked secret detentions and abductions in Sri Lanka to “a climate of impunity where human rights violations of all types go uninvestigated and unpunished.”

In recent months, reports of abductions have skyrocketed. Human rights advocates put the number of unexplained, reported abductions between October and February at 32. Of the 32 abductions, 5 have successfully escaped, 7 have been found dead and 20 have simply vanished.

Reports indicate that the abductions have targeted not only Tamils, but also Sinhalese and the island’s muslim minority. Those targeted include human rights activists, journalists and businessmen.

Those who have witnessed abductions often report that unidentified, armed gangs forced their victims into unmarked, white vans. Rumors have been circulating that the vans belong to the Sri Lankan Government or armed groups working on its behalf.

One unnamed senior police officer in the capital allegedly told reporters of government preparations to deal with possible protests. He said; “we have arranged to bring tear gas, and we have plenty of white vans in Sri Lanka.”

According to cabinet member Vasudeva Nanayakkara, the government “…can’t say we don’t know about it.” Nanayakkara told reporters that the military is undermining Sri Lanka’s democracy by becoming too involved in civil affairs.

Opposition member of parliament Jayalath Jayawardana also recently weighed in on the issue, saying that “Jungle law is prevailing… Without the protection or blessings of the government in power or the security forces these type of things cannot take place.”

However, as a whole, the government and security forces deny responsibility for the abductions.

According to police spokesman Superintendant Ajith Rohana; “There are abductions. It happens. But generally we are conducting investigations into the matter.” Superintendant Rohana told reporters that special teams have been assigned to investigate the abductions.

In spite of the superintendant’s assurances, abductions appear to be increasing in both number and audacity. One abduction successfully targeted a prisoner who was being escorted by guards right outside the law courts in Colombo.

According to Amnesty USA’s executive director Susan Nossel, “if Sri Lanka is serious about moving from war to peace, it needs to ensure that the rule of law is not a matter of lip-service, but is the lifeblood of the nation’s justice system.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is currently meeting in Geneva, will vote next week on a resolution proposed by the United States urging Sri Lanka’s government to investigate allegations of war crimes and other human rights abuses. The resolution is further expected to call upon the Sri Lankan Government to seek reconciliation with ethnic Tamils.

A similar resolution passed in the United States Senate on March 1.

A recent statement from the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry laid out the government’s stance regarding the alleged abuses; “The Ministry of Defense rejects all allegations of human rights violations… it is able to prove with valid evidence that it was the LTTE that committed gross violations of human rights over the past three decades.”

The ethnic Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government views outside pressure over human rights issues as a violation of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and has responded to news of the proposed resolution by orchestrating protests across the country against the resolution. In Colombo, more than 10,000 people marched in protest of the resolution, while smaller groups petitioned U.N. and European officials at various embassies throughout the capital.

According to an article written by Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Elaine Pearson, several human rights groups and victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka have cancelled their plans to travel to Geneva for the UNHRC’s meeting due to fear of reprisal by the Sri Lankan Government.

In spite of the political saber-rattling inspired by the proposed resolution, next week’s vote is expected to be largely symbolic as the UNHRC has no power to implement an independent investigation.

Both the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government forces have been accused of committing war crimes during the final stages of the counrty’s 26-year long civil war, which ended when a Sri Lankan military campaign crushed the Tigers in 2009.

For more information, please see:

CBS News — Tamil Lawmakers Want UN Pressure on Sri Lanka — 15 March 2012

Human Rights Watch — With Sri Lanka Resolution, Indonesia Has Chance to Show International Leadership –14 March 2012

Al Jazeera — Amnesty Alleges Illegal Detentions in Sri Lanka —  13 March 2012

Amnesty International — Sri Lanka’s Shameful Record on Detention without Trial — 13 March 2012

Amnesty International — Locked Away: Sri Lanka’s Security Detainees — 13 March 2012

BBC News — Amnesty Accuses Sri Lanka of ‘Post-War Abuses’ — 13 March 2012

BBC News — Sri Lanka’s Sinister White Van Abductions — 13 March 2012

Jurist — Rights Group Details Claim of Sri Lanka Detention Abuses — 13 March 2012

NPR — US Sri Lanka Should Reconcile with Tamils — 13 March 2012

Voice of America — Lawmakers Pressure Indian Government on Alleged Sri Lanka War Crimes — 13 March 2012

Human Rights Watch — Sri Lanka: US Senate Calls for Justice — 07 March 2012

1 Peruvian Miner Killed in Puerto Maldonado Uprising

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – Last week miners throughout Peru began to protest the increased penalties for informal and illegal mining of gold.  Yesterday, early in the morning, miners in the Madre de Dios region escalated those protests in an attempt to capture control of the airport, markets and government buildings in the city of Puerto Maldonado.

Police rush to control the 10,000 protestors in Puerto Maldonado. (Photo Courtesy of NTN24 News)

One man was killed from a gunshot wound during the uprising and roughly 30 others were injured.  The 700 police officers called to the area used rubber bullets and buckshot to stop the protestors.  It is reported that 11 police officers were injured from stones thrown by the protestors.

Close to 10,000 miners took part in the uprising on Wednesday.  They were protesting the new laws that will push many un-licensed gold miners in Peru out of work.  The BBC states that an estimated 50,000 miners in Peru operate without the proper licenses and permits.  The new laws enforce stricter penalties for those caught illegally mining.  Some of the proposals make it a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Peruvian officials defend the stricter penalties by pointing to the environmental concerns raised by illegal mining.  The rate of deforestation is increased by the mining.  As well, the rivers in the southeastern regions, where the illegal mining predominates, have concerning levels of mercury in them.  The mercury is used by miners in the process of extracting gold from the waters.

Officials further noted that they were not targeting the smaller organizations or individuals but instead focusing on breaking up the larger mafia-style groups that exploit economically disadvantaged people, like women and children, for their labor.

The President of Peru’s National Mining, Oil and Energy Society (SNMPE), Pedro Martinez, says that illegal mining is an important issue to tackle because of the dangers it poses.  Martinez estimates that the illegal gold mining brings in more than $2 billion per year.

“We cannot cede one centimeter in the fight against illegal mineral extraction because it puts in danger biodiversity and the health of Peruvians,” was Martinez’s statement.

The illegal mining has increased in recent years with the jump in gold prices.  A previous effort was made by the government to stop the mining when they destroyed the dredges used by the miners.  The miners believe that the government’s actions are motivated by a desire to garner a profit by selling all mining concessions to large multinational companies.  The government says they simply want the miners to obtain the correct permits so that their actions can be monitored and environmental repercussions can be limited.

 

For more information, please see;

Latin American Herald Tribune – Peru “Restoring Order” After Deadly Clashes with Miners – 15 March 2012

BBC – Peru Mining Protests Turn Deadly in Puerto Maldonado – 14 March 2012

NTN24 News – One Killed in Peru Miners Protest – 14 March 2012

The Wall Street Journal – Peru’s Informal Mining Protests Turn Deadly – 14 March 2012

Homeless Women in Canada Resorting to ‘Survival Sex’

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – According to a report released by the YWCA, women in Canada are facing an increased risk of homelessness due to many factors.  Teenage girls are quickly becoming the largest demographic for the face of homelessness.  Without the government’s help, the problem will only worsen.

Women are now a very significant part of the homeless population in Canada. (Image courtesy of The Montreal Gazette / Reuters)

 

According to The Montreal Gazette, homeless women are now resorting to “survival sex” just to find a place to sleep at night.  This is a form of prostitution and ‘hidden homelessness’ where women trade sexual favors for a place to spend the night.  Additionally, some women spend the night at houses of friends and family members, but often those people exploit and abuse them, reports The Montreal Gazette.

Teenage girls make up one-third to half of homeless youths in urban areas, according to The Wall Street Journal.  While many women flee to escape abuse, they find it waiting for them in the street, forcing them into a long cycle of homelessness.  According to Ann Decter, Director of Advocacy at YWCA Canada, “as many as 60% of homeless girls have been sexually abused,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

The YWCA’s report shows that homelessness is on the rise with women for many reasons.  Donna Brooks, the executive director at Prince Albert’s YWCA said many women become homeless because of the lack of affordable housing, domestic abuse, addictions, or mental health issues, according to News Talk 650.

Although the government programs give some money to women to support themselves, reports The Montreal Gazette, it is not nearly enough to cover rent and other necessities.  Women are forced back to the streets because they cannot afford everything they need.

Another problem is the lack of beds in shelters across Canada.  The YWCA’s report says more beds, and more women only shelters would help alleviate the problem a little bit.  Eric Desjardins, a front-line worker at Ottawa shelters said that not only do shelters need more beds, but also they need more people to work with the homeless women and get them on the right track, according to The Montreal Gazette.

Desjardins said, “There is need for more beds but therapies and programs should take priority.  There is a need for more caseworkers.  They are the ones who refer people to appropriate services and programs,” as reported by The Montreal Gazette.

The YWCA Canada is the country’s oldest and largest women’s multi-service organization, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Although it reaches out to nearly 1 million women, girls, and families in Canada, there is still a shortage of beds and workers across the country.

For more information, please visit:

The French Tribune – Homeless Women Forced to Have ‘Survival Sex’ — 14 Mar. 2012

CKOM News Talk 650 — Women Face Increased Risk of Homelessness — 13 Mar. 2012

The Montreal Gazette — Lack of Shelter Spaces Forces Women to Resort to ‘Survival Sex’: Report — 13 Mar. 2012

The Wall Street Journal — Homelessness Now a “Women’s Issue,” Says YWCA Canada — 13 Mar. 2012

TIBETAN HUNGER STRIKE REACHES DAY 21

by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– Three Tibetan activists marked the twenty-first day of what they have announced to be an “indefinite hunger strike” in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City today.

Three Tibetan activists have refused food for 21 days in front of the United Nations in order to draw attention to the continuing crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet. (Photo courtesy of Voice of America).

The three say that they are fasting in protest of the continuing crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet.

No action by the United Nations or the Chinese Government to ease the situation in Tibet yet appears to be forthcoming.

However, the three human rights activists, who are confined to wheelchairs due to famine-induced weakness, cannot help but attract headlines and have succeeded in garnering a significant amount of attention.

The three activists claim to have been visited on Monday by top United Nations human rights official Ivan Simonovich, whom they purport to have told that they wish to see “concrete action” by the Chinese Government to ease the crackdown on dissent in their distant homeland. The strikers say that they shall continue their fast “indfinitely” until the Chinese Government takes such action.

Mr. Simonovich’s visit was apparently followed up today by an expression of concern for the health of the strikers from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Nonetheless, the Secretary General stated that he “affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest.”

The strikers hope to bring pressure to bear upon the United Nations to take action and have delivered a petition with five demands to that effect. The core demands included a request for a fact-finding mission into the situation in Tibet. The strikers also called upon China to open up the region to journalists, to end martial law in areas with large Tibetan populations and to release all political prisoners.

One of the activists, 69-year old Dorjee Gyalpo, informed journalists that he is prepared to give his life to achieve the goals of the group’s petition. The other two strikers explained that their goal is not merely to bring awareness to the Tibetan cause, but to resolve the situation.

The United Nations has informed the media that it has received the petition and is investigating the matter.

Elsewhere in New York City, on Saturday an estimated 2,000-4,000 local Tibetans marched in solidarity with protestors in Tibet and to mark the 53rd anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Similar marches by hundreds of Tibetan exiles also occured in cities and towns in India, which houses the Tibetan Government in exile.

The protests have taken place against the backdrop of ongoing, muffled protests in Tibet itself. Human rights organizations estimate that some two dozen Tibetans, mostly Budhist monks, have set themselves on fire in China in recent months in protest of Chinese rule. Tibetan protestors also seek the safe return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities have responded to the protests by branding the self-immolators as terrorists and vastly increasing the number of police and security personnel in the region. Additionally, the authorities have clamped down tightly on the internet and mobile phones in the region, in some areas reportedly blocking these forms of communication entirely.

Tibetan activists and human rights groups say that the Chinese authorities in parts of China with a sizeable Tibetan population suppress Tibet’s culture and religion and crush all public displays of dissent.

Tibet has been under varying degrees of Chinese rule ever since Chinese troops occupied the region in 1950.

For more information, please see:

Huffington Post — Self Immolations in Tibet, Hunger Strikers in New York — 14 March 2012

Voice of America — UN Chief Voices Concern for Tibetan Hunger Strikers — 14 March 2012

Al Jazeera — Fasting for Tibet outside the UN — 13 March 2012

The Telegraph India — Tibetans Decry Chinese Outrage — 11 March 2012

NBC New York — Tibetans, Activists March and Rally in NYC — 10 March 2012

Voice of America — Tibetans on Hunger Strike Demand UN Action — 09 March 2012

CHINA AMENDS SECRET DETENTION LAW

by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Human rights lawyers and activists hailed proposed revisions to China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which were unveiled on the fourth day of the National People’s Congress in Beijing last Thursday, with cautious optimism.

Chinese police already possess sweeping powers in practice (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post).

The revisions passed today with overwhelming support from what many analysts believe to be a “rubber stamp” congress, which has never rejected a proposed draft law.

However, the revisions are seen as controversial and have been the subject of unusually fierce public debate inside China since they were first publicly announced last August. The crux of the controversy surrounded the issue of secret detentions by China’s police forces.

Proponents of China’s increasingly powerful, hard-line, state security apparatus took a position favoring an amendment that critics claimed would simply legalize existing police practices of “disappearances” and secret detention without implementing oversight or guidelines. Supporters of the amendment are believed to be concerned with the growing number of strikes, protests and public dissent across China. Many in China’s government fear the emergence of a widespread Chinese version of the “Arab Spring.” They believe that increased police powers are necessary in order for the Communist Party to maintain order and control.

On the other side of the controversy,  human rights activists, political reformers and a sizeable portion of China’s legal community decried the proposed amendment, known as Article 73. Reformists have been able to harness an unusually large and vocal showing of public support, including tens of thousands of online complaints about the proposed amendment.

Support for the reformist stance is thought to partially be a backlash against what a report by Hong Kong-based human rights organization Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) recently labeled in its annual report as “…a year of harsh crackdowns for human rights defenders, characterized by lengthy prison sentences, extensive use of extralegal detention, and enforced disappearance and torture.”

According to CHRD’s report, almost 4,000 political campaigners were detained in China last year. The report indicated that at least 150 of the detainees had been tortured and at least 20 had been “dissapeared” for weeks or months without their families being informed by the authorities.

Additionally, the Chinese Government has increased it’s security and police presence in its restive province of Xinjiang and areas with large Tibetan populations. Human rights groups say that the Chinese Government suppresses traditional religion and culture in these regions and that it regularly carries out secret detentions and disappearances in order to maintain control there.

However, China maintains a virtual stranglehold on the flow of information out of Xinjiang and Tibet, making it difficult to determine whether repression in those regions had a significant impact on the debate over revisions to China’s detention laws.

An earlier draft of Article 73 would have allowed for China’s police forces to affect secret detentions without informing detainees’ families. Though the legality of secret detentions and “disappearances” under Chinese law was questionable prior to today’s passage of the revisions, it is widely believed that these practices were already commonplace in China.

However, haggling over the proposed amendments has yielded a compromise, which many view as a small victory for reformers. Last week the proposed amendment was modified in a highly unusual attempt to ease concerns over human rights.  The amendment provides police with the power to detain dissidents for up to 6 months in “residential surveillance” at their homes or at other locations such as hotels. It also gives police the power to hold people in “secret detention centers,” often referred to as “black jails.” However, the amendment now comes with a caveat requiring the authorities to inform detainees’ families within 24 hours after the start of detention.

Human rights groups have been quick to point out that the law provides exceptions to the “24 hour rule” in situations when informing the family would be impossible or in situations involving “state security” or “terrorism.” State security is widely viewed as a catch-all phrase that covers vaguely defined crimes such as “subversion” in order to provide a mechanism for detaining dissidents critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Rights groups have further asserted that the amendment gives a legal justification for existing police practices that violate human rights, which they argue will likely increase now that the amendment has passed. Activists have often brought allegations of torture and other abuses committed by police during “residential surveillance” or secret detention.

Aside from the secret detention issue, the revisions have been praised for taking a surprisingly humanitarian tone.

According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the amendment explicitly states for the first time that trials are to exclude “confessions extorted through illegal means such as torture.” Furthermore, Chinese defense attorneys have praised provisions of the amendment that they say will likely allow them more access to suspects and defendants. Additionally, in a statement on its website, human rights group Amnesty International praised the amendment’s “…improved legal protections for minors and the mentally ill…”

However, Amnesty and other rights groups have indicated that they do not believe that the reforms go far enough and fear that legal protections may not be effective in practice. Amnesty has urged the adoption of a “right to silence,” a presumption of innocence and protection from arbitrary “technical surveillance” such as wiretaps.

China is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which it has yet to ratify. The ICCPR provides that “anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.”

According to Human Rights Watch, even though China has not yet ratified the ICCPR, China is obligated under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties “to refrain from acts which would undermine the object and purpose” of a treaty to which it is a signatory.

Overall, activists have applauded the reforms as a positive first step in human rights reform and have noted the importance of increasing public input in the Chinese political process.

As the National People’s Congress’s annual session drew to a close today, out-going President Wen Jiabao called for further political reform and increased openness inside China. Without reform, Wen said that “such historic tragedies like the Cultural Revolution [which was characterized by human rights abuses on a massive scale] may happen again.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — China Premier Calls for Political Reforms — 14 March 2012

The Washington Post — China’s Wen Jiabao Calls for Reforms Even as Legislature Strengthens Detention Law — 14 March 2012

Financial Times — China to Enact New Secret Detention Law —  13 March 2012

BBC —  China Rights Situation Deteriorating, Say Activists — 09 March 2012

Chinese Human rights Defenders — “We Can Dig a Pit and Bury You Alive” Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China, 2011 — 09 March 2012

BBC —  China Unveils New Legislation on Police Detention Power — 08 March 2012

NPR — China to Restrict Secret Detentions on Paper — 08 March 2012

Reuters — China Parliament Unveils Dissident Detention Powers — 08 March 2012

Time Magazine — Changes to Detention Rules Are Small Victory for Activists in China — 08 March 2012

Voice of America — China Drops Plan to Legalize Secret Detentions — 08 March 2012

Amnesty International —  China Must Not Legalize “Disappearances” and “Two-Track Justice,” Says Amnesty International — 06 March 2012

Human Rights Watch —  China: Don’t Legalize Secret Detention — 01 September 2011

Guatemala Sentences Former Soldier to 6,060 Years in Prison

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – As previously reported, Guatemala began trying former dictator General Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and other crimes against humanity.  Other high-ranking soldiers and officials are now facing the same fate.  The 17-month period between 1982 and 1983 claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 people.  Now, nearly 30 years later, the people responsible for these killings are being brought to justice.

Pedro Pimentel Rios at his trial on Monday. (Image courtesy of The Guardian)

According to The Associated Press, Pedro Pimentel Rios is the fifth former special forces soldier to be sentenced for his participation in the “Dos Erres” massacre in 1982.  Rios was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison – 30 years for each of the 201 people slaughtered in the massacre, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity.  All five of the former soldiers were sentenced to 6,060 years or more.

Rios is a 54 year old former instructor at a Guatemalan training school for elite military forces.  He moved from Guatemala to Santa Ana, California where he worked in a sweater factory until finally being detained by immigration authorities in May 2010, according to The Associated Press.  The United States extradited him to Guatemala the following year.

According to CNN, Judge Irma Valdez said Monday that the evidence presented by the prosecution along with testimonies from witnesses proved Pimentel was involved in the killings.

Maria Tulia Lopez Perez is just one of the many survivors of the three-decade long civil war.  She still suffers back pain from the torture she endured in 1985, according to BBC News.  She currently works with other survivors who come to her suffering from depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress; she helps them remember that they are not alone, reports BBC News.

The ruling is highly symbolic, according to The Guardian, because under Guatemalan law, criminals may only serve 50 years.  This ruling comes as Guatemala seeks to clean up atrocities from the civil war.

As for Efrain Rios Montt, his defense lawyers say that he did not control battlefield operations while he was dictator, according to The Guardian.  He faces charges of genocide and he is accused of ordering the killings of at least 1,700 innocent Mayan people during his reign.

Overall, more than 200,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during the 36-year civil war, where there were 669 documented massacres, as reported by CNN.  Other officials will likely face the same consequences as Rios, receiving more than 6,000 years in prison, as Guatemala tries to bring some closure and justice to the victims of the civil war.

For more information, please visit:

Associated Press — Guatemalan gets 6,060-Year Sentence in Massacre — 13 Mar. 2012

BBC News — Healing Guatemala’s Emotional Scars from the Civil War — 13 Mar. 2012

CNN — 6,060 Years in Prison for Former Guatemalan Soldier — 13 Mar. 2012

The Guardian — Guatemalan Ex-Soldier Jailed for 6,060 Years Over Dos Erres Massacre — 13 Mar. 2012

Swedish Parliament Calls On The Swedish Prime Minister To Impose EU-Wide Visa Sanctions On The Magnitsky Killers

Press Release
Originally sent by Hermitage Capital 3/12/12

59 Swedish members of the Parliament from seven of the eight political parties signed a parliamentary petition to Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, calling on him to impose EU-wide visa sanctions on Russian officials in the Magnitsky case. The parliamentarians stress it is a matter of international importance given Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe and WTO.

In the parliamentary petition, Swedish MPs said:

“Law and justice in Russia – and lastly justice for Sergei Magnitsky – is a question that concerns the entire circle of member states in the Council of Europe and the WTO, of which Russia is a member. The outcome of this case will establish the country’s standing as a state governed by law.”

Swedish lawmakers urged the Swedish government to work at the EU level “for the purpose of coming to an agreement among the EU’s member states on the subject of sanctions against the offenders.”

The petition was initiated by Mats Johansson, from the ruling Moderates party, along with Olle Thorell, a foreign affairs spokesperson from Social Democrats party, and Kerstin Lundgren,  from the Centre Party.

“As members of the Human Rights Group of the Swedish Parliament we often deal with cases like this. But if Russia wants to be a member of the Council of Europe, it cannot act like any other totalitarian state but must respect the rules of the club. Impunity for the perpetrators in the Magnitsky case is not in line with these rules,” says Mats Johansson, who is also a standing Rapporteur on media freedom of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The Swedish parliamentary action is a result of the impunity of Russian officials who falsely arrested, tortured and killed 37-year old Sergei Magnitsky. These officials have since opened a posthumous proceeding against him, an unprecedented act in Russian legal history.

The petition to the Swedish Prime Minister pointed out the absurdity of the posthumous prosecution by saying:

“He (Sergey Magnitsky) was murdered in prison because of his defense of the law and justice in the proceeding against officials who had stolen companies owned by the foreign investment company Hermitage. No one responsible has been punished so far. Quite the opposite – the Russian government has recently taken the unusual step of prosecuting Magnitsky posthumously, a practice that hasn’t been followed in 500 years.”

The Swedish initiative follows a number of actions by parliamentarians in Europe.

Coskun Coruz, Human Rights Rapporteur for the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, said last week that “Russia’s lawlessness in this case is absolutely not fitting into OSCE’s values” and vowed to do everything in his power so that Russian authorities prosecute Magnitsky’s killers.

On October 4, 2011, Parliamentary Assembly delegates from 29 countries of the Council of Europe signed the Magnitsky Declaration (http://assembly.coe.int/Mainf.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc11/EDOC12744.htm), calling upon the Russian government to cease the posthumous prosecution of Mr Magnitsky and the intimidation of his family and to allow the family to carry out an independent medical evaluation, which Russian authorities continue to refuse.

On 28 February 2012, the European Parliament’s Delegation to EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee urged EU member countries “to start immediately procedures to enact measures such as an EU-wide travel ban and a freeze on the financial assets of those believed to be guilty of the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky as well as of those covering up the case.”

On 7 March 2012, a motion was unanimously passed in the British House of Commons calling for visa and economic sanctions on Russian officials involved in the original crimes uncovered by Mr Magnitsky and the cover-up since his death.

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital

Phone:             +44 207 440 17 77
E-mail:             info@lawandorderinrussia.org
Website:          http://lawandorderinrussia.org

Facebook:        http://on.fb.me/hvIuVI
Twitter:           @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:     http://hermitagecap.livejournal.com/

Mats Johansson, MP:
http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/AssemblyList/AL_MemberDetails.asp?MemberID=6647

Olle Thorell, MP: http://www.riksdagen.se/sv/Start/Sok/?sok=olle+thorell&rm=&typ=&titel=&bet=&tempbet=&datum=&tom=&nr=&org=&iid=&parti=&katid=&sort=rel&a=

Kerstin Lundgren, MP:
http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/AssemblyList/ALMemberDetails.asp?MemberID=5859

See Swedish Parliamentary Petition on Sergei Magnitsky case
http://russian-untouchables.com/rus/docs/D398.pdf

Hermitage Capital Issues Response To The Russian Ambassador’s Letter To The Speaker Of House Of Commons

Press Release
Originally sent by Hermitage Capital 3/9/12

Following the March 7th debate in the House of Commons which unanimously approved sanctions on the Russian officials in the Magnitsky case, the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, posted a letter on the official Russian embassy website (http://www.rusemb.org.uk/press/650). In his letter addressed to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, the Russian Ambassador argued against the sanctions and said that because the officials were not convicted in a Russian court, visa sanctions and asset freezes would be “extrajudicial punishment.”

Today, Hermitage Capital responded to the Ambassador’s letter.

“It is remarkable that the Russian Ambassador is fighting for the travel privileges of corrupt officials who stole $230 million from the Russian state and killed the man who exposed the theft,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesperson.

“It is now clear that the cover-up and protection of the 60 officials who killed Sergei Magnitsky has become a national policy. When foreign ambassadors get involved, this is no longer the case of rogue officers acting on their own initiative. It is a clear directive of the Russian state.”

The Ambassador does not mention in his letter that: 58 out of 60 Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky case have been exonerated; the investigation into corruption that Magnitsky uncovered has been closed; Magnitsky’s family has been denied access to his medical records for an independent medical examination, and that the same officers who arrested Magnitsky are now organizing the first ever posthumous trial in Russian history against him.

“The Ambassador argues that only the Russian judicial system can decide the guilt of the officers. The judicial system he is arguing should be relied upon is the same judicial system that refused Sergei Magnitsky’s desperate requests for medical attention, refused his requests for visits with his children and family, and excluded all exculpatory evidence which would have allowed Sergei Magnitsky to be freed before he died,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesperson.

“Visas are a privilege, not a right. They should not be available to the torturers and murderers,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesperson.  

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital

Phone:             +44 207 440 17 77
E-mail:             info@lawandorderinrussia.org
Website:          http://lawandorderinrussia.org

Facebook:        http://on.fb.me/hvIuVI
Twitter:           @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:     http://hermitagecap.livejournal.com/

Russian Law ‘Arbitrarily Denies’ Citizens the Right to Leave the Country

By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia–On March 6, 2012 the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow heard a lawsuit filed by Ivan Cherkasov, a Hermitage Capital executive based in London, England, against the Russian Interior Ministry. The lawsuit challenges a fairly new law, enacted in April 2010, which allocates power to the Interior Russian Ministry to “arbitrarily deny any person the right to leave the country.”

Ivan Cherkasov files complaint against Russian Foreign Ministry (Photo curtesy of Forbes Magazine)

In September of 2011, Cherkasov, a colleague of the late Sergei Magnitsky, applied for a new passport through the Russian Embassy in London. The Embassy thereafter denied his application in December “on orders from the Russian Interior Ministry,” but refused to provide any further detail. Last week, however, the Embassy stated that Cherkasov’s request for a renewed passport had been denied based on paragraph 3 of Article 15 of the Russian Federal law entitled “On Procedure of Exit and Entry to the Russian Federation.”

The law provides that, “the right of citizens of the Russian Federation to leave the Russian Federation may be temporarily restricted in cases where the citizen is suspected or involved as a defendant, and for as long as the decision is made on the case or the court verdict comes into force.”

Denying Cherkasov’s request for a new passport appears to be yet another glimpse into the corrupt workings of the Russian government and the latest twist in a tax rebate fraud case. In May 2007, the Russian Secret Police and the Russian Interior Ministry began a “fabricated criminal case” against Cherkasov as a means to “gain access to” Hermitage Fund’s documents and files and then to steal $230 million of taxes that Hermitage had paid the year prior. The tax rebate fraud was exposed by an attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who gave “sworn testimony against the officials involved.” Magnitsky was  then arrested and detained; he died a year later at the hands of abusive Russian authorities. Cherkasov’s case has remained open for the past five years, thus allegedly falling within the bounds of the above-stated law.

As Cherkasov points out, he left Russia six years ago and has, since that time, lived abroad. “By refusing to issue me a passport of a citizen of Russian, the Russian Interior Ministry in fact denies me Russian citizen and denies me the right to emigrate.”

Cherkasov claims that, “with the new law in place, anyone who is being persecuted by the authorities no longer has the freedom to emigrate. The constitutional right of citizens of Russia to freedom of movement is left at the mercy of corrupt law enforcement officers.”  Indeed, restricting one’s ability to emigrate has been method exercised by such totalitarian regimes under both Mussolini between 1922 and 1943 and Hitler from 1933 to 1945.

For more information, please visit:

Impunity Watch—UK Parliament Calls for Sanctions on Russia For Magnitsky Death—9 March 2012

Law and Order in Russia–Magnitsky’s Colleague Challenges Russia’s New Restriction on Emigration—6 March 2012

Impunity Watch—Deceased Russian Whistleblower to be Tried Posthumously—12 Feb. 2012

Jamaican Police Too Eager to Use Lethal Force

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Amnesty International and other human rights groups are questioning the police tactics in use in Jamaica.  Many accuse the Jamaican police of being “trigger happy,” and resorting to unnecessary use of guns.

Police forces not hesitant to engage in gun battles with local criminals. (Image courtesy of Amnesty International)

According to Amnesty International, police have killed forty-five people so far in 2012.  Twenty-one of those killings occurred in a six-day period.  Over the ten-year period between 2000 and 2010, Jamaica reported more than 2,220 fatal shootings by police and only two officers have been convicted over that span.

Most recently, on 5 March, there was a fatal shootout between the police and other gunmen.  According to The Associated Press, six people were killed including a 13-year-old girl named Nicketa and two elderly men who were caught in the crossfire.  Residents of the community blame officers for the killings.

Since the incident, the area has been under curfew and patrolled by security personnel armed with M16s and other machine guns, reports The Associated Press.  Nicketa’s mother and aunts showed reporters bullet holes evidencing the officer’s carelessness in shooting.  The gun battle lasted approximately forty minutes.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington tried to ease the tension by speaking out and trying to put the officers’ actions in context.  According to Go-Jamaica, he explained, that between 2007 and 2012, criminals using illegal firearms murdered 5,829 people.  Additionally, in that same period, 62 police personnel were killed on duty and another 127 were shot and injured.

The news report indicated that he stands behind the officers and he maintains that the officers only shoot in self-defense.  According to Go-Jamaica, Commissioner Ellington said that he recently reminded cops of the guidelines for using lethal force and non-lethal force in confrontations with criminals.

On 9 March, the officers returned to the same community in search of illegal weapons and criminals.  About 50 persons were detained and many remain in custody.

Amnesty International said, “The problem is that police continue to enter marginalized inner-city communities as if everyone there was a criminal suspect.”  Many human rights groups want more accountability for the police.  “If human rights abuses such as police killings go unpunished, it will only open the door for more abuses to take place,” said Chiara Liguori, a Caribbean researcher at Amnesty International.

Overall, the Jamaican police are caught between using lethal force in self-defense and to prevent criminals from using illegal weapons, and being overzealous, intruding where they should not.  Liguori said, “[T]he Jamaican authorities must take decisive steps to fight impunity.”

For more information, please visit:

Associated Press — Jamaica Outraged by Police Killings — 9 Mar. 2012

Go-Jamaica — Denham Town Detainees Remain in Custody — 9 Mar. 2012

Go-Jamaica — Police Commissioner Speaks Out — 9 Mar. 2012

Amnesty International — Jamaica Must Tackle Shocking Wave of Police Killings — 8 Mar. 2012