Syria Human Rights Violations Report: 25 April 2012

Damascus Suburbs | Douma

Two pickups belonging to the regime’s forces are captured here full of detainees after an arbitrary and warrantless arrest campaign in the town.

 

Homs | Joret Ash-Shayah

http://youtu.be/DxDcbgV41EU

This unidentified man is stuck under the rubble after the regime’s forces completely destroyed the hospital.

 

Dar’aa | Al-Mahata

http://youtu.be/Wz5gk3OUoS0

All that is left of this school is the frame, after the regime’s forces arbitrarily destroyed it.

 

Hama | Masha’ At-Tayar

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

A girl no older than three years is pulled from under the rubble after the regime’s forces levelled more than 25 homes during a shelling campaign which killed at least 70 residents, most of them women and children.

 

Videos Courtesy of: 

Syrian Network of Human Rights – Violations Report – 25 April 2012

Charles Taylor Guilty of Aiding Sierra Leone Civil War

By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

On Thursday, former Liberian President Charles Taylor, 64, was found guilty by an international criminal tribunal of aiding and abetting war crimes, in neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war, that ultimately left 50,000 dead or missing.

Charles Taylor, hearing the guilty verdict Thursday morning. (Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.)

Taylor’s conviction is the first war crimes conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders following World War II.

After 13 months of deliberation, a panel of three judges from Ireland, Samoa and Uganda issued the unanimous decision that Taylor was “criminally responsible” for aiding and abetting crimes during a protracted and notoriously brutal civil war.  Taylor had been accused of murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting children under the age of 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns.

“This judgment affirms that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability,” said Prosecutor Brenda Hollis.  “No person, no matter how powerful, is above the law.”

United Nations (UN) human rights chief Navi Pillay echoed these sentiments, describing the conviction as “immensely significant,” saying it sends out a message that even the most powerful are not above the law.

“[T]his is undoubtedly a historic moment in the development of international justice,” said Pillay.  “A former president, who once wielded immense influence in a neighboring country where tens of thousands of people were killed, mutilated, raped, robbed and repeatedly displaced for years on end, has been arrested, tried in a fair and thorough international procedure.”

One disappointing note issued by Justice Richard Lussick of the Special Court for Sierra Leone states that prosecutors failed to prove that Taylor had direct command over the rebels who committed the various atrocities.

Taylor, who remained stoic throughout the reading of the verdict, had maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

In Freetown, Sierra Leone, where every television set was tuned in to the reading of the verdict, the mood was sharply contrasted from Taylor’s own.

A war victim watched the reading of the verdict for Taylor on television at the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Photo Courtesy of Agence France-Press – Getty Images.)

“Relief.  Relief,” said Jennifer Harold, national director of the charity, World Vision.  “Everybody is thrilled.”

“The trial is very important to all victims because it will help to hear our wounds,” Jabati Mambu, who lost his right hand in the war, told the Associated Press.  Mambu said the tribunal is a landmark in efforts to end impunity for leaders who sponsor rebellion.

Ibrahim Tommy, who leads the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law – a rights group in Freetown, had a slightly different viewpoint.  While he says the trial has brought “a sense of relief,” he told The New York Times, “I’m not sure it will bring closure to the victims,” but the trial was “a genuine effort to ensure accountability for the crimes in Sierra Leone.”

And yet, for the thousands of young men whose limbs were hacked off, the teenage boys sent into battle high on drugs, and the pubescent girls turned into sex slaves, the trial and verdict come much too late.  Regardless of Taylor’s guilty verdict, these victims will harbor unspeakable memories until the day they die, and numerous questions will remain about the atrocities and Taylor’s relationship with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.

Many Sierra Leoneans still strive for some normalcy, despite the rebels’ gruesome practice of hacking off limbs. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.)

Taylor’s life has never failed to be an interesting one.  Taylor was born in Liberia, studied economics in the United States (US), escaped from a Massachusetts jail after being charged with embezzlement, before ultimately becoming a pivotal figure in Liberian politics after he overthrew the regime of Samuel Doe in 1989, plunging the country into a bloody civil war that left 200,000 dead over the next 14 years.  Taylor became president of Liberia in 1997, where he remained until 2003, when heavy international pressure forced him out of office.  At that point, he lived in exile in Nigeria, where he was arrested in 2006 attempting to cross the border into Chad.

The trial was a meticulous one, beginning in 2007 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague, after it was moved following initial proceedings in Sierra Leone where emotions about the war still run high.  UN officials and the Sierra Leone government jointly set up the tribunal to try those who played the biggest role in the war atrocities.

Producing almost 50,000 pages of transcript and over a thousand exhibits, Taylor’s trial offered unique insights into Liberian and Sierra Leonean history, as well as uncovered two diametrically opposed views of Taylor’s role in West Africa.  In Taylor’s version, he is a peacemaker for the international community.  In the prosecution’s version, Taylor represents the darkest corner of Africa.

Taylor waiting for the prosecution’s closing arguments on February 8, 2011. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.)

Throughout the high-profile trial, judges heard testimony from more than 100 people, including Taylor himself and supermodel Naomi Campbell.  Prosecutors cast Taylor as a ruthless leader who as president of neighboring Liberia funneled weapons, ammunition and other equipment to Sierra Leone rebels in return for diamonds mined by slave laborers in Sierra Leone.  Witnesses testified to the grisly violence by the rebels, including chopping off the arms of civilians and shooting and disemboweling pregnant women and children.  Some spoke of being asked if they wanted “long sleeves or short sleeves” – either the hacking off of hands or the entire forearm.  Others, like former secret service agent Joseph Marzah, known as ‘Zigzag,’ confessed to displaying “heads on sticks and car bumpers,” killing babies, cutting open pregnant women and eating “Nigerians and white people.”  Meanwhile, during Taylor’s own seven months on the witness stand, Taylor portrayed himself as a statesman and regional peacemaker.

“Brave men, women and children have taken the stand against Charles Taylor,” the prosecutor’s office said in a written statement.  “They have included amputees, rape victims, former child soldiers, and persons enslaved, robbed, and terrorized.  We are awed by their courage.”

The man who indicted Taylor, US lawyer and Impunity Watch’s founder, David Crane, says “a clarion bell rang out clearly around the world today, the clear sound of justice, putting on notice that tyrants who kill their own citizens and others will be held accountable.”

With the pronouncement of the guilty verdict, a sentencing hearing is set for May 16.  With no death penalty in international criminal law, Taylor would serve out any sentence in a British prison.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Charles Taylor guilty of aiding Sierra Leone war crimes – 26 April 2012

CNN – Court finds Charles Taylor guilty of aiding war crimes – 26 April 2012

The New York Times – Ex-President of Liberia Aided War Crimes, Court Rules – 26 April 2012

Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Sierra Leone:  Taylor Trial a Triumph for International Justice, but Case Stirs Up Cordoned-Off Past – 25 April 2012

The Washington Post – Charles Taylor verdict expected in international court’s war-crimes trial – 25 April 2012

Time – Judges to Deliver Verdicts in Taylor Trial – 24 April 2012

Syrian Network For Human Rights Releases List of Causalities

Summary By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter – Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a London based human rights group, confirmed on Tuesday, 24 April 2012, that 33 victims died around the country.

Below is a list of victims sorted by region.  The victims are listed by name and the manner in which they died, if known.

Damascus and Damascus Suburbs: 10 Deaths this week

1-Khaled Ismail Anounu Arrifa’ee – Kafr Batnah – killed by the security forces gunfire in a demonstration

2- Omar Ridwan Assarmini – Douma – died in an explosion targeted him by the security forces

3- Muhammad Sameeh – Atadhamun – killed by the security forces gunfire in a demonstration

4- Muhammad Muhsen – Atadhamun – killed by the security forces gunfire in a demonstration

5- Muhammad Al-Khadhrah – Douma – Red Crescent paramedic personnel – Due to shelling

6- Muhammad Saryoul – Douma – died due to shelling

7- Haytham Addarrah – Douma

8- Muhammad Khair Muhammad Talq Azzarfan – Doum – 25

9- Fayez Tu’meh – Douma – death by sniper

10- Muwaffaq Hesaba – Douma

Dier Ezzor | 1 Death

1-Jamal Azzuhri – Al-Bukamal

Homs Province | 15 Deaths

1-Qutaibah Ma’rouf Al-‘Aitar – Al-Qusair – his body was dumped by the security forces in the farms after they executed him

2- Maysar Sa’eed ASuhouri – Al-Qusair – his body was dumped by the security forces in the farms after they executed him

A massacre took place in Al-Qusour Neighbourhood, the family members’ bodies were found slaughtered by the security forces

3- Rayyah Aterkawi – Al-Qusour – 102 – her throat was slit

4- Al-‘Alyaa Aterkawi – Al-Qusour – her throat was slit

5- Jasem Aterkawi – Al-Qusour – died after being slaughtered

6- Muhammad Al-Mustafa – Al-Qusour – died from gunfire

7- Qasem Al-Mousa – Al-Houla – Defected lieutenant – killed in Damascus for defecting

8- Adnan Assarmini – Talbeesah – kidnapped from his home in Assalameyah on 18 April and found killed along with his son

9- Husam Adnan Assarmini – Talbeesah – kidnapped from his home in Assalameyah on 18 April and found killed along with his father

10- Fayez Naser Ashawwa – Al-Qusour – death by sniper

11- Mahmoud Ismail Taleb – Al-Qusair – died due to shelling

12- Muhammad Al-Atrash – Dier Ba’albah – public execution during a raid

13- Rashed Al-Uthman – Dier Ba’albah – public execution during a raid

p14- Abdurrahman Attadmuri – Dier Ba’albah – ublic execution during a raid

15- Ahmad Assaleem – Tadmur

Hama Province | 2 Deaths

1-Meheo Abul-Kareem Assayadi – Halfaya – 26 – died from gunfire

2- Zaher Abdullateef Annaser – Hafaya – 25 – died from gunfire

Dar’aa Province | 2 Deaths

1-Shukri Muhammad Khair Al-Qazhali – Jebab – died from gunfire

2- Hatem Al-Khateeb – Al-Jeezah – Security personnel

Aleppo Province | 1 Deaths

1-Abullateef Abdullah Afash – Anadan – 55 – killed by several bullets to his head

Idleb Province | 2  Deaths

1-Hasan Aullah Ashawwaf – Idleb – 30 – died after fighting his wounds of an explosion for the last 20 days

2- Labeeb Ahmad Mu’arri – Mehambel – detained two days prior to finding his body to the side on the street on Tuesday

For more information, please see

Syrian Network for Human Rights – London – www.syrianhr.org – 26 Apr 2012

Syria Human Rights Violations Report: 22 April 2012

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Location: Hamaa | Halfaya

http://youtu.be/54q6lCNAGeI

This hospital’s freezer is filled with bodies after the regime’s forces shelled the town. The young man seen here is one of the victims of the assault. 

 

Location: Hama | Masha’ Al-Arba’een

http://youtu.be/YHkUUTQnAl8

This woman is begging a monitor to help save the embattled citizens of Syria, telling him, “We are slaughtered, we are slaughtered.” 

 

Location: Damascus Suburbs | Douma

(WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC CONTENT)

http://youtu.be/OS1cHU8sNO0

Several residents were killed and dozens were injured when the regime’s forces violently shelled the town on Tuesday. This footage was taken inside a makeshift hospital, and pictures the bodies of the dead. Extremely graphic footage of one of the victims, whose brain was blown out.

 

Location: Aleppo | A’zaz

http://youtu.be/udOrOzNAFj4

To keep up the appearance of committing to the Annan plan and fool the UN monitors before their arrival, the regime’s forces are seen here hiding tanks in trenches in the town. 

 

Video courtesy of:

Syrian Network of Human Rights – Violations Report – 22 April 2012

www.syrianhr.org

Charles Taylor Judgement Summary

Bolivian Public Sector Teachers and Doctors Continue Strike Against Increased Hours Without Additional Pay

By Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LA PAZ, Bolivia – Public workers, including teachers and health service providers, throughout Bolivia continue to strike in protest of the recent passage of Supreme Decree 1126.  The newly-passed decree mandates that the previous 6-hour work day be increased to an 8-hour work day, with no increase in salary, for those in the public sector.

Public workers in Bolivia protest against new mandate of longer work days with no additional pay. (Photo Courtesy of NTN24 News)

The strike began on March 28, and just last week, a number of the groups began hunger strikes.  News sources in Bolivia report that close to 500 workers have joined in on the national hunger strikes.  Saúl Azcárraga, the leader of the Federation of Urban Teachers expressed the hunger strikers stance from a small school room in La Paz.

“Not a single drop of water nor food will enter their room. We assume this measure because in 2010 the government signed an agreement about salaries and hours but is not honoring the agreement,” Azcárraga said.

Rural teachers in Bolivia currently make almost twice the amount of an urban teacher.  In 2010 the Morale’s administration agreed to work to equalize pay rates progressively; but almost no steps to achieve this were taken.

Medical workers in state facilities echo similar concerns.  They are outraged over the labour reforms by President Evo Morales because they violate earlier agreements made in the 1970s that established this 6-hour day for them.  Currently, Bolivian public sector doctors make roughly $200 a week, receive no benefits, no pension, and no overtime pay.

President for the Committee of Doctors on Strike, Francisco Sanchez, emphasized that those in the medical profession have previously asked and presented reasonable arguments for their incorporation into the General Labour Act.  Each time the government refuses to listen.

“We workers have always said that we do not agree to work eight hours of the working day . . . . Unfortunately, the authorities do not take this request seriously, or the arguments we give them. For this reason, in a situation of despair, not knowing what else to do, we have taken this extreme measure, the hunger strike, to raise awareness in front of the authorities,” said Sanchez.

Juan Carlos Calvimontes, the Minister of Health, maintains that the strike is “illegal.”  Calvimontes is calling for the docking of doctors pay during the time that they are on strike.  On March 31 the protestors hosted a “White Apron” March through downtown La Paz and burned an effigy of Calvimontes while calling for a repeal of the decree.

President Morales expressed his unwillingness to consider revoking the decree in a conference held on Tuesday last week.  Morales said that the decree was not his own initiative but one proposed at the Plurinational Social Meeting and supported by the Bolivian people.

On Tuesday, Morales emphasized the government’s firm stance that any worker’s who choose to strike are acting illegally.  Morales also announced that workers will have their pay reduced for each day that they take to the streets in protest.

“[A] day worked, a day paid, he who doesn’t work does not get paid,” said Morales.

 

For more information, please see;

NTN24 News – More Than 500 Public Workers Join Bolivian Hunger Strike – 19 April 2012

Bolivia Weekly – Striking Medical Workers Will Get no Pay – 18 April 2012

Bolivia Weekly – Doctors and Teachers on Strike – 17 April 2012

Latino Life – Bolivia: Doctors and Teachers go on Strike – 16 April 2012

World Socialist Web Site – Bolivian Doctors and Health Workers Strike, Demonstrate Against Decree – 3 April 2012

 

Press Release: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Takes Steps Towards Launching an International Investigation into the Murder of Sergei Magnitsky

Press Release
Law and Order in Russia

25 April 2012 – Yesterday, at the Spring Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) meeting in Strasbourg, 69 members of Parliament from 29 countries signed a motion entitled: “Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky”. The motion calls for a ‘dedicated report’ to investigate the death of Sergei Magnitsky and return the findings to the Assembly at a later date this year.

Sergei Magnitsky (Photo courtesy of Russian Untouchables)

The motion states:

“The conspiracy leading to Mr Magnitsky’s death was exposed by journalists and investigated by the Presidential Human Rights Council and other civil society bodies, which concluded in the summer of 2011 that a number of named officials were indeed apparently responsible for this crime.

According to investigators, following the events in question, the officials concerned acquired luxury properties and other assets whose value far exceeds what they could afford on their salaries as public servants. The competent authorities have nevertheless failed to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death. Instead, they have continued to accuse Mr. Magnitsky, even seeking to prosecute him posthumously.”

It further states:

“For the sake of its own credibility and that of the Russian Federation, the Assembly should now engage in co-operation with Russia, through the preparation of a dedicated report, in order to fully elucidate this landmark case.”

The motion was introduced by Pieter Omtzigt, a Member of Parliament from the Netherlands and member of the European People’s Party (EPP) at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mr Omtzigt said:

“It is a highly unusual step within the Council of Europe to focus on one case from one country for a report. The high number of supporters from so many countries within the Council of Europe suggests the truly emblematic nature of the Magnitsky case and the Russian Government’s inadequate response.”

The motion will be considered by the PACE Bureau at the Council of Europe on Friday 27 April. The Bureau is made up of the President of the Assembly, 18 Vice –President’s (each from a different member state), the Chair of each Political Group and Chairs of each PACE Committee. Once the Bureau approve the motion, steps will be taken to commission a special report into the Magnitsky case and assign a rapporteur to conduct the investigation and write the final report.

Special reports have previously been conducted into the Khodokovsky case, CIA extraordinary rendition and organ thefts in Kosovo.

The Magnitsky case was previously raised at length in the August 2009 Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee report written by the former Rapporteur Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, currently serving as Germany’s Minister for Justice. This report can be found here: http://russian-untouchables.com/docs/D42.pdf

The full text of the “Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky” motion submitted at yesterday’s PACE Spring meeting can be found here: http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=18232&Language=EN

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/

Full list of PACE Signatories:

OMTZIGT Pieter, Netherlands, EPP/CD

ACKETOFT Tina, Sweden, ALDE

AGRAMUNT Pedro, Spain, EPP/CD

ANDERSON Donald, United Kingdom, SOC

ÁRNASON Mörður, Iceland, SOC

AXELSSON Lennart, Sweden, SOC

BACKMAN Þuriður, Iceland, UEL

BARDINA PAU Josep Anton, Andorra, ALDE

BARNETT Doris, Germany, SOC

BOROWSKI Marek, Poland, NR

BREMER Tor, Norway, SOC

BUGNON André, Switzerland, ALDE

CEDERBRATT Mikael, Sweden, EPP/CD

ČIGĀNE Lolita, Latvia, EPP/CD

CILEVIČS Boriss, Latvia, SOC

CONNARTY Michael, United Kingdom, SOC

CORSINI Paolo, Italy, SOC

CRAMON-TAUBADEL Viola, von, Germany, SOC

DEBONO GRECH Joseph, Malta, SOC

FLEGO Gvozden Srećko, Croatia, SOC

FRUNDA György, Romania, EPP/CD

GARDETTO Jean-Charles, Monaco, EPP/CD

GUNNARSSON Jonas, Sweden, SOC

GUŢU Ana, Republic of Moldova, ALDE

HARANGOZÓ Gábor, Hungary, SOC

HAUGLI Håkon, Norway, SOC

HOLOVATY Serhiy, Ukraine, ALDE

JENSEN Michael Aastrup, Denmark, ALDE

JOHANSSON Mats, Sweden, EPP/CD

LĪBIŅA-EGNERE Inese, Latvia, EPP/CD

LOKLINDT Lone, Denmark, ALDE

LØHDE Sophie, Denmark, ALDE

LUNDGREN Kerstin, Sweden, ALDE

LYDEKA Arminas, Lithuania, ALDE

MAELEN Dirk, Van der, Belgium, SOC

MANZONE-SAQUET Nicole, Monaco, EPP/CD

MARCENARO Pietro, Italy, SOC

MARIN Christine, France, EPP/CD

MATEU PI Meritxell, Andorra, ALDE

MATUŠIĆ Frano, Croatia, EPP/CD

MAURY PASQUIER Liliane, Switzerland, SOC

MEALE Alan, United Kingdom, SOC

MONTAG Jerzy, Germany, SOC

MOTA AMARAL João Bosco, Portugal, EPP/CD

NEGELE Gebhard, Liechtenstein, EPP/CD

O’REILLY Joseph, Ireland, EPP/CD

PAPADIMITRIOU Elsa, Greece, EPP/CD

PELKONEN Jaana, Finland, EPP/CD

PFLUG Johannes, Germany, SOC

PHELAN John Paul, Ireland, EPP/CD

POURBAIX-LUNDIN Marietta, de, Sweden, EPP/CD

RAČAN Ivan, Croatia, SOC

REISSMANN Mette, Denmark, SOC

ROSEIRA Maria de Belém, Portugal, SOC

RUPPRECHT Marlene, Germany, SOC

SANNEN Ludo, Belgium, SOC

SCHOU Ingjerd, Norway, EPP/CD

SCHUSTER Marina, Germany, ALDE

SHERIDAN Jim, United Kingdom, SOC

SVEINSSON Gunnar Bragi, Iceland, ALDE

TOMLINSON John E., United Kingdom, SOC

TRETTEBERGSTUEN Anette, Norway, SOC

TUIKSOO Ester, Estonia, ALDE

VAREIKIS Egidijus, Lithuania, EPP/CD

VERCAMER Stefaan, Belgium, EPP/CD

VIROLAINEN Anne-Mari, Finland, EPP/CD

VUČKOVIĆ Nataša, Serbia, SOC

WADEPHUL Johann, Germany, EPP/CD

XUCLÀ Jordi, Spain, ALDE

Libya Bans Religious Political Parties

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya – On Wednesday, 24 April, the National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya’s governing body, enacted a law that banned political parties founded on religious, tribal, or geographic ideals.  However, parties that stand on Islamic principles intended to campaign for assembly seats during the 19 June election.  Parties including the Muslim Brotherhood denounced this surprise move.

Women demonstrating in Libya. (Photo Courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

NTC spokesperson Mohammed al-Hareizi emphasized the law encourages “national unity”.  He said, “Parties are not allowed to be based on religion or ethnicity or tribe”.  He added, “We don’t want the government to be divided by these ideological differences.”  The NTC developed this law to regulate the swelling of political parties in Libya.

This law also combats geographical division in the nation.  This month, eastern Benghazi has called for autonomy and possibly secession from Tripoli as the area prepares for its local council elections.  Libyans throughout the nation are calling for TNC leaders to resign because they failed to establish a functional government.

In two months, Libyans will elect a 200-member assembly responsible for forming a government and compositing a constitution.  Independent candidates will fill 120 of these seats while political organizations will fill the remaining 80 seats.  Free elections will occur in Libya once this assembly has fulfilled its objectives.  Diplomats believe several strong religious leaders will run in the free election once the country ratifies a new constitution.

Parties and organizations intending to campaign for these seats must receive approval to run.  For approval, parties must have at least 250 founding members where organizations need at least 100 founding members.  Mustafa Landi, a member of the NTC legal committee, clarified these groups “cannot be an extension of a political party abroad or receive foreign funding.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s most organized political group, founded the Freedom and Development party and the Justice and Construction party this year.  The Muslim Brotherhood reported that rather than directly contesting these elections, the organization will advocate for social issues and development in Libya.  During his dictatorship, Moammar Gadhafi banned many of these political organizations

Spokesperson for the Freedom and Development party Mohammed Gaira asserted “This is not democracy” after the law passed.  He added, “We don’t understand this law…It could mean nothing, or it could me that none of us can participate in the election…We are a nationalist party and Islam is our religion.  This law is unacceptable and only suits liberals.”

For further information, please see:

All India Radio – Religious Political Parties Banned in Libya – 25 Apr 2012

Deutsche Welle – Libya Bans Party Formation Based On Religion, Tribe – 25 Apr 2012

The Telegraph – Libya Tries To Hold Off Rise Of Religious Parties With New Election Rules – 25 Apr 2012

The Voice of Russia – Religion-Based Parties Banned in Libya – 25 Apr 2012

The Washington Post – Libya Bans Political Parties Based On Religion; Islamists Denounce Move – 25 Apr 2012

Notes From Kampala: The First Note in a Series of Reflections and First Hand Accounts From a Law Student’s Summer in Uganda

By Reta Raymond
Associate Special Features Editor

Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)

I’m a second-year law student from Syracuse University and was fortunate enough to have spent the summer in Kampala, Uganda to work in the area of human rights law. I worked for a small Ugandan law firm that works on a variety of public interest constitutional matters, human rights issues, and also represents the three-time presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye. In addition, I worked for another human rights organization and volunteered at an orphanage. While in Kampala I lived at a guesthouse adjacent to the orphanage where I volunteered. The orphanage generates desperately needed income, as the government does not support organizations caring for the nearly two million orphans in Uganda.

I came to Uganda at a turbulent time. Two weeks earlier the police responded to the month-long protests with live ammunition and tear gas. Unfortunately, these events were largely unreported or downplayed by the international media. I decided to keep a journal of my experiences in Uganda, detailing the issues that were plaguing Ugandan society. The most striking of these issues include high rates of child abandonment, structural problems in the law, pervasive corruption, state-condoned police brutality, separation of power issues, and executive power breaches. This series of articles will serve to highlight some of these issues, raise awareness, and give a voice to the Ugandans who are fighting so hard for change.

The capital city of Kampala is constantly bustling, from the claustrophobic markets to the ever-present traffic jams. The old second-hand cars and stripped-down Volkswagen Vanagon taxi buses spew black exhaust, which combine with the burning trash to pollute the air to a near asphyxiating degree. Due to the electric company’s mismanagement, the city often loses power for hours at a time, even in the center of the city. For a city that only has twelve hours of daylight but many residents who travel by motorcycle, it can be rather dangerous speeding through the city without streetlights. However, Kampala is generally safe and there is a strong presence of police in full military attire who carry assault rifles. The police presence is particularly heavy in the center of the city, as there are dozens in the Constitutional Square, although they are usually sleeping in the grass. But where the police fail, the lynch mobs usually pick up the slack.

For example, one morning around 7:30 a.m. a colleague arrived at the office and told us to look out the window. There was a mob after a man who had tried to steal a car. The mob of fifteen to twenty people had partially stripped the thief of his clothing, which they do to humiliate the man, and were beating him with their fists and stones. The man lay in a pool of blood in the gutter while the group watched for movement. He feigned death, his only hope for survival. His lack of movement mostly satisfied the mob, but they gave him intermittent blows regardless.

Our office is in the center of the city only two blocks from the Constitutional Square, but it took forty-five minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Once the ambulance pulled up, the driver talked to some of the mob participants but decided to drive away without the man. Some of the onlookers followed the ambulance and demanded it return for the man. Shortly thereafter, a police truck showed up with four or five men with assault rifles, who restrained the mob and eventually ordered the ambulance to take the man away. By that time, the man had been lying in a pool of blood for an hour. My colleagues and I watched as the ambulance was sent in the direction of Mulago Hospital, the government-run hospital, and the truck of officers went in a different direction. If the man survived the incident, he would probably not face any criminal charges.

In the aftermath, some of my colleagues joked about how “gangster” they are in Uganda and voiced their opinions on the mob mentality. It seemed clear that mob violence increases when there are larger societal problems; it is really a result of displaced anger. There is no rationale for killing a would-be car thief otherwise.

Many Ugandans feel that President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, lacks legitimacy. In April, the opposition parties led a peaceful “Walk-to-Work” campaign to protest high commodity and fuel prices. The military responded with liberal use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, killing at least ten civilians including two children. The government has yet to investigate these deaths. Then in July, Kampala’s taxi drivers, business owners, students, and teachers all went on strike. Uganda seems to face insurmountable problems, but the government’s current responses to these problems have been insufficient and Ugandans are clearly not going to stand for much more.

Senate Supporters of Russia Rights Bill Press On Despite Warning

Press Release
Erik Wasson

Senate supporters of a Russia human-rights bill linked to trade said Tuesday that they are pressing forward despite a warning from the Russian ambassador this week that the bill will impair relations.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), would freeze the assets of Russian officials allegedly involved in the suspicious death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky in November 2009.

Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said that he is fighting to get the bill voted on, and he and Cardin dismissed the comments by Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that it would cause a “significant” reaction in Moscow and impair relations. “I accept that he made that assessment, but I would point out that this bill arises in the course of trying to do a number of things that will assist our relations with Russia, whether in trade or diplomacy, and it appears to me that the Magnitsky issue does make a point about our regard for human rights of citizens,” Lugar said.

Cardin said that his bill is meant to benefit the Russian people and said the United States is just reaffirming international norms. “This is for the Russians, it’s not for us,” he said, citing words of support from ordinary Russians he has received. “This is not meddling.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is moving toward considering the bill.

Lugar told reporters on Tuesday that the bill is no longer on the docket for a meeting this week, but he continues to press for passage. “The chairman has decided to take the Magnitsky issue off the table,” Lugar said. He added that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has been in consultations with the White House in making his decision.
Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth said the bill was never up for discussion this week, however, and that Kerry is supportive of the bill and is working toward its passage.

One of the items under discussion is finding a way to make the bill about human rights more broad rather than just about the situation in Russia, sources said. The Senate proponents of the bill are linking its passage to the extension of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia. Passing the Russia trade bill is the top trade agenda item for the White House this year. Russia will join the World Trade Organization regardless of congressional action — if PNTR is not passed, U.S. exporters will be penalized with higher tariffs than those faced by other WTO members. PNTR supporters argue that because of this self-injuring aspect to the bill, it is not the right vehicle to press Russia on rights.

Cardin expressed confidence that he was winning the fight, however. “There is a growing consensus in Congress and on the part of the administration that it is going to be a part of PNTR,” Cardin said. “I think we have the votes on its own merits but I think it will be helpful to have it as a part of PNTR.”

For more information, please visit:

The Hill—Senate Supporters of Russia Rights Bill Press on Despite Warning— 24 April 2012

 

 

China Reportedly Halts Repatriation of North Korean Refugees

By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Reports began to surface last week that China has suspended its policy of deporting North Korean defectors back home in accordance with a plea from South Korean officials.  The move is said to have been in response to North Korea’s failure to inform China about the specific plans regarding its recent missile launch earlier this month and, if true, indicates the Chinese government’s displeasure with North Korea’s intentional incitement of international tensions.

Activists Protest China's Repatriation of North Koreans
Activists in South Korea protesting China's repatriation of North Koreans earlier this year. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Allegedly, China has been demanding that North Korea refrain from acts of international aggression and provocation, which the North Korean government has evidently ignored.

Before this recent fall out, China had been dealing with North Korean defectors under its domestic laws, classifying them as “illegal economic migrants” and deporting them back home.  These actions have drawn heavy international criticism from human rights activists, who called the repatriations inhumane.  It is widely known that North Korea has been torturing and, in some instances, executing its repatriated refugees, but until now, China had been ignoring these practices.  It is uncertain exactly if and when China purportedly began to halt these deportations.

The number of North Korean defectors entering China has grown intensely since the death of former leader Kim Jong Il last December.  According to a source working for the Chinese authorities, at it’s height, as many as thirty North Koreans had been escaping to China on a daily basis.

Now, according to reports, tensions between China and North Korea have led Chinese officials to halt its practice of returning all captured defectors.  Furthermore, in a move against North Korea, China has allegedly allowed five North Korean defectors who had been under arrest in a diplomatic office in China for the last three years to leave for Seoul, South Korea earlier this month.

At this time, it is unclear whether North Korea’s blatant disregard for China is the sole reason why China has supposedly halted deportations or for how long this suspected suspension will last.  However, in late March, Chinese President Hu Jintao indicated that China would be more flexible in its deportation policy and that it would be respectful of South Korea’s strong opposition to the mal-treatment of North Korean defectors.

While the U.S. has yet to confirm if these reports are true, State Department spokesman Mark Toner indicated that officials in Washington are hopeful.

“We consistently urge China to adhere to its international obligations as part of the UN Convention on Refugees,” Toner stated.

 

For more information, please see:

AFP – US Takes China ‘at Word’ on N. Korea Sanctions – 20 April 2012

Voice of America – Panetta: China Assisted North Korea Missile Program – 20 April 2012

Daily Yomiuri – China Stops Deportations of N. Koreans – 19 April 2012

Chosunilbo – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors – 19 April 2012

Korea Herald – China Said to Have Stopped Repatriating N. Korean Refugees – 18 April 2012

Syria Human Rights Violations Report: 22 April 2012

Idleb, Jabal Ez-Zawiyyaah
http://youtu.be/02MyVR4K4iQ

Dozens were injured and many were killed as the regime’s forces pounded residents’ homes with rocket shells. The injuries on this casualty victim illustrate the extent of the shelling.

Douma, Damascus suburbs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzB6KwLtx_0

This young man was killed by a sniper on his way to work on Sunday.

At-Tal, Damascus suburbs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HBFV5eAIJo

The family of this young man bids farewell to him after was killed by the relentless gunfire at the hands of the regime’s forces during a demonstration.

Hama, Hama Province
http://youtu.be/mYc7Ek8za9U

The killing and destruction by the regime’s forces in Hama continues after the United Nations monitors left the town. This video captures the regime’s forces on a high building gesturing and threatening residents that a violent onslaught is about to begin again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JmRvYGhGFA

This is leaked video footage of the regime’s forces bragging about the pictured items (the chairs, fan, etc.) which they stole from residents after killing them.

http://youtu.be/p3VIHjXHYGY

This footage shows the pain of a mother crying to the United Nations monitors that she hasn’t heard from her son in months after he was arrested by the regime’s security forces, and that they refuse to give her any information.

Dar’aa, Khirbet Ghazala
http://youtu.be/Y2oYblOJn_M

These residents, at great risk, were able to capture footage of the regime’s checkpoint at the entrance of the town, where every vehicle entering and leaving is stopped and residents are berated by the regime’s forces, who often steal what is in the vehicles.

Homs, Al-Qusair
http://youtu.be/_6MdUbOdze4
http://youtu.be/nE_EH75DyCQ

None of the points in the Annan Plan have been respected by the regime’s forces, and the tanks, military chekcpoints and armoured vehicles remain in the streets.

Homs, Al-Holeh
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNxw5sqhVcA

Even water is being prohibited from the residents, after the regime’s forces targeted the water tanks of the town in order to force the residents to flee as one basic necessity after another is taken away by the regime from residents.

Homs, Joret Al-Shayyah
http://youtu.be/WtVMQuYewo4

Nothing is left in the town but massive destruction after the relentless shelling attacks on a daily basis by the regime’s forces.

 

Videos Courtesy of:

Syrian Network of Human Rights – Violations Report – 22 April 2012