President Obama Announces New Sanctions on Syria; Focuses on Preventing Mass Atrocities

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – On Monday, President Obama gave a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to present new tools to preventing and responding to mass atrocities.  He addressed broad and specific topics alike: Joseph Kony, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Qadhafi regime in Egypt.

President Obama spoke out against mass atrocities today, imposing harsher sanctions against Syria and its allies. (Image Courtesy of Reuters)

President Obama insisted in his speech, “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America,” reported CBS News.  He reiterated that military force is not a necessary intervention.  Rather, he stressed the use of other tools: “Diplomatic and political and economic and financial and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion.”

According to Voice of America News, President Obama set up the Atrocities Prevention Board last year, which was to meet for the first time Monday at the White House.

Furthermore, President Obama announced new, stricter sanctions against Syria and Iran and any other groups or nations that are currently aiding Syria.  He announced a new asset freezes and visa restrictions system against Syrian and Iranian agencies, according to Reuters.

He also stressed that the United States is committed to keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  This was especially an issue for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Reuters reports, “When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Besides the current issues in Syria and the Middle East, President Obama promised to extend military presence in Central Africa to aid Uganda and its neighbors to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) there.

The LRA is led by the infamous Joseph Kony, who recently gained recognition thanks to a viral video.  CBS News reports that President Obama ensures that the U.S. will not stop until this “madman” is brought to justice.

He continued, “It’s part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.”

Because the speech took place at the Holocaust Museum, comparisons were made between today’s issues and the “greatest tragedy in history.”  Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up, taken measures,” reported Voice of America News.

According to a White House Press Release, the Obama Administration has made the prevention of atrocities a key focus of this Administration’s foreign policy.  The U.S. needs to prioritize this effort and rely now on the Atrocities Prevention Board.  “The APB will help the U.S. government identify and address atrocity threats… we will make our military and civilian workforce better equipped to prevent and respond to atrocities . . . [and] we will hold accountable perpetrators of mass atrocities and genocide and support others who do the same.”

The press release lays out more strategies and tools that the U.S. will use to both prevent and respond to mass atrocities throughout the world.

For more information, please visit:

CBS News — Obama Tackles Mass Atrocities; Spotlights Syria, Kony — 23 Apr. 2012

Reuters — Obama Seeks to Stop Syria, Iran Tech Assault on Activists — 23 Apr. 2012

Voice of America News — Obama Unveils Sanctions , Touts Anti-Atrocity Mesasures — 23 Apr. 2012

White House Press Release — Fact Sheet: A Comprehensive Strategy and New Tools to Prevent and Respond  to Atrocities — 23 Apr. 2012

ICRC Worker Kidnapped in Yemen Amidst Violence

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANAA, Yemen–While traveling from a northern part of Yemen to the Red Sea port city of Hudaida, a French official working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly been kidnapped by armed men. The identity of the official was not disclosed.

A map of Yemen. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

It is not yet clear who is responsible for the kidnapping, although it is not uncommon for Westerners to fall victim to such actions. Last week, Al-Qaeda announced that it was holding Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Khalidi, a deputy counsel in Aden, who was abducted outside his home in the southern port city on 28 March 2012.

A Swiss woman working as a teacher was also kidnapped in Hudaida in March. The French news agency AFP reported that she is being held by Al-Qaeda after being taken to the far eastern province of Shabwa.

Dibeh Fakhr, an ICRC spokeswoman in Sanaa, stated that the kidnapped man works in the northern city of Sadaa and that the kidnapping occurred late on Saturday 21 April 2012, approximately 30 km from Hudaida.

“He was with two Yemeni drivers who the kidnappers released shortly afterwards. Until now, we have no contact with the kidnappers or our employee.”

The kidnapping comes amid a fresh round of fighting between the military and the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda in the southern city of Zinjibar. The fighting cost 19 individuals their lives and nearly 30 others were injured during clashes between the group and government forces, who have taken control of the eastern part of the city.

The battle represents repeated attempts by the Yemeni government to regain parts of the country that it has lost to Al-Qaeda fighters who took advantage of last year’s violent uprising against the former ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Zinjibar is the capital of the Abyan province and holds particular military significance for the government’s ability to drive Al-Qaeda out of the southern Yemeni territories. The coastal city also lies near several vital shipping lanes and millions of barrels of oil pass through them every single day.

According to medical officials, the fighters who had lost their lives were buried near the town of Jaar and turned a kindergarten there into a field hospital in order to treat the wounded. The school also now functions as a command center for the fighters, especially considering that the violence has not allowed the children an opportunity to attend and learn.

On Friday 20 April 2012, the Yemeni defense ministry reported that in the town of Lawdar, another town in the Abyan province, at least 250 Al-Qaeda fighters and 37 government soldiers had been killed in two weeks of extended fighting. The ministry said that it was sending more troops to the area to attempt to cut down on the fighting. With all of the violence occurring in the country, one can only hope that the kidnapped ICRC worker is not forgotten.

 

 

For more information, please see: 

Al-Jazeera – Red Cross Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 22 April 2012

CNN – French ICRC Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 22 April 2012

Reuters – International Committee of Red Cross Aide Abducted in Yemen – 22 April 2012

BBC – French Red Cross Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 21 April 2012

 

Argentine Soldiers From Falklands War Open Case Against Military Commanders for Torture and Abuse

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – As the 30 year anniversary of the Falklands war passes by, new tensions are brewing in the island community.  Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is still asserting an Argentine claim over the archipelago, which goes against the current British governance that exists.

Ex-soldier Rubén Gleriano recounts being staked to the ground for ten hours. (Photo Courtesy of MercoPress)

The 74-day war, for control of the Falklands, took place between Britain and Argentina from April to June of 1982.  The war was brief but very violent; with 649 Argentinian soldiers being killed and 225 British soldiers.

A recent class action lawsuit was started by conscripted Argentine soldiers who fought in the Malvinas (what the Argentines refer to the Falklands as).  Led by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the suit claims that human rights violations were committed by the Argentinian military commanders.  Over 100 ex-soldiers are now part of the suit.

During the first week in April, the case made an Amicus Curiae presentation before the Argentine Supreme Court at the Tribunals Palace in Buenos Aires.  Criminal Chamber Prosecutor, Javier de Luca asked that the court rule on whether the claims of torture and other abuses practiced on conscripted soldiers could be called war crimes.

The claims include stories of beatings, lack of food, psychological punishments and even being staked to the ground.  Rubén Gleriano, one of the conscripted soldiers who is part of the suit, recalls that on May 27, 1982, he was caught stealing food.  Gleriano says that he stole because he was starving.  The only food he had received in the past two days was a chocolate bar on May 25, as a celebration of Argentina’s national day.

The punishment inflicted on Gleriano for this was staking him to the ground for a period of ten hours, from 4pm until 2am the next morning.  The night was freezing cold and Gleriano almost died from hypothermia that night.  He did not regain consciousness until 2 days after his fellow soldiers were able to sneak out and take him down from the stake.

Similar stories are repeated by the other conscripted soldiers who were forced to fight for Argentina.  Rations were rarely provided, often soldiers were given a days worth of food and told they had to make it last for a week.  Suitable clothing to protect against the cold was never provided and half of the weapons given to soldiers were not functioning.

Following the war, studies show that roughly 400 Argentine veterans have committed suicide.  Soldiers who were released from their conscription were forced to sign a silence agreement that banned them from recounting the stories they had of the war, even to their own families.  It is only recently that a true picture of the Falklands/Malvinas war has emerged.  Much of this is attributed to the fact that the war was a point of embarrassment, something that Argentina wanted to cover up.  Additionally, the acts were done during a brutal military dictatorship, something which the current government wants to distance itself from.

Despite this, the court ruled that the crimes had prescribed.  Those involved in the case will still pursue their claims.  A report that was commissioned shortly after the end of the war, the “Rattenbach Report,” was recently given to President Fernandez.  The report was never released as it was considered to be “too crude and damning towards the commanding officers.”  The ex-soldiers, abused in the war, hope that in the end justice will prevail.

 

For more information, please see;

MercoPress – Malvinas Veterans Revisit Scenes of War Where They Were Tortured by Their Officers – 20 April 2012

The Guardian – Falklands War: 30th Anniversary  a “Day for Reflection” – 2 April 2012

Space War – Argentine Falklands Vet Sue for Abuse, Torture – 1 April 2012

Denver Post – 30 Years After Falklands War Visible Scars Remain – 31 March 2012

MercoPress – Legal Actions Against Argentine Officers who Tortured Conscripts During Malvinas War – 26 March 2012

Solitary Confinement for 40 Years? Amnesty International Says It Is Inhumane

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – On the 40th anniversary of their confinement, Amnesty International turned over a petition signed by 65,000 people to Governor Jindal (Louisiana) to release two men from solitary confinement.  The two men have sat in isolation – 23 hours a day – for the last forty years.  Now, many believe the extreme form of imprisonment is cruel, unusual and unnecessary.

Two of the three men remain in solitary confinement after 40 years, even after questionable convictions. (Image courtesy of Amnesty International)

Albert Woodfox, 65 and Herman Wallace, 70 were placed in isolation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as Angola Prison on April 17, 1972, according to Amnesty International.  The two men were convicted of murdering a prison guard.  However, the two have constantly denied the accusations.  Additionally, Democracy Now reports that Woodfox, Wallace and their supporters believe the two men were framed for their political activism and involvement with the Black Panther party.

What is more, there is no physical evidence linking the men to the murder, according to Amnesty International.  Additionally, any and all potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost.

Originally, a third man named Robert King was also convicted for the murder.  His conviction was overturned in 2001.  King told The Guardian that he spent 29 years in solitary confinement and he knows what it did to him.  He said, “it shrunk the brain, it shrunk the individual . . . you become acclimatized to small distances.”  He cannot bear the thought that his former fellow inmates have been in there an additional decade.

Extended stays in solitary confinement seriously impair both mental and physical health.  Amnesty International insists that this form of long-term solitary incarceration is cruel and inhumane and against both the U.S. Constitution and international law.

Amnesty insists that these men are no longer a legitimate threat to the prison community.  At their respective ages – and after the physical and mental degrade they have experienced – there are no longer rational reasons for this incarceration.  Everette Harvey Thompson, a regional director for Amnesty International USA said, “There is no legitimate penal purpose for keeping these men in solitary.  Louisiana authorities must end this inhumanity.

The cells are 2 meters by 3 meters and the men spend 23 hours there a day.  There is a mattress, toilet, sheets, and a small bench on the wall, with no windows.  The men get a short opportunity to “exercise” (in a concrete outdoor area) and time to shower.  Their social interaction is severely limited to a few visits from family members and a few phone calls.  They are also limited on the books they read, the news they read, and the education they can receive.

The men’s supporters and Amnesty International will continue to fight to get the “Angola 3” out of solitary confinement.

For more information, please visit:

Amnesty International — U.S. Authorities Urged to End Two Men’s 40-year-long Solitary Imprisonment — 17 Apr. 2012

Democracy Now — 40 Years in Solitary Confinement: Two Members of Angola 3 Remain in Isolation in Louisiana Prison — 17 Apr. 2012 (includes transcript of conversation as well)

The Guardian — Forty Years in Solitary: Two Men Mark Somber Anniversary in Louisiana Prison — 16 Apr. 2012

 

Prosecuting the Dead: Part II

Rights Group Calls on Pakistan to End Forced Disappearances

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Following the failure of authorities to present two missing individuals to the Supreme Court, Amnesty International is calling on Pakistan to identify hundreds of people who are believed to have “disappeared” at the hands of Pakistani agencies.

Pakistan has been called upon to end the occurrence of enforced disappearances (Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International).

A person is said to have “disappeared” when they are detained by government officials who then deny knowledge of their whereabouts.

Amnesty International noted the case of Mazar ul Haq who disappeared in 2007 after being accused of attacking Army Headquarters run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

Although ul Haq and the ten other men arrested with him were cleared by the Anti-Terrorism Court, they went missing again after being kidnapped from a high security jail.

Since being kidnapped in May 2010, four of the eleven men have died in custody. While Pakistan’s intelligence agencies maintain that the men died naturally, the attorney of one of the deceased has stated that his client was tortured to death.

Mazar ul Haq appeared in court in February 2012, four years after disappearing, surprising his family who did not whether he was alive or dead during the time he was missing.

Ul Haq and six other men were presented to the Supreme Court looking severely emaciated and some had urine bags protruding from their pants.

The allegations of abuse in combination with increased public pressures has prompted the Pakistani Supreme Court to not only order intelligence agencies to explain the poor conditions that the remaining seven men arrested are being kept in but to also order the creation  of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.

Despite the creation of this commission in 2010, disappearances continue to be reported.

Although the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been attempting to identify the number of those kept in secret detention for years, they have reported that verifying the actual number has been nearly impossible.

It is estimated, however, that 1,000 people have disappeared at the hands of intelligence agencies since 2001. Of the estimated 1,000, approximately five hundred are still missing and the dead bodies of dissidents are regularly found.

Enforced disappearances were rare in Pakistan before September 11, 2001. Following the attacks on the United States, authorities began using the disappearances against activists advocating for ethnic rights and justified such action as necessary for the “war on terror” led by the United States.

 

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Pakistan Must Account for Missing Victims of Enforced Disappearances – 16 April 2012

Pakistan Daily Times – No Forced Disappearance Should Escape Attention: HRCP – 3 April 2012

The Guardian –Pakistan’s Spy Agency ISI Faces Court Over Disappearances – 9 February 2012

Amnesty International – Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan – 22 July 2008

Tensions Soar Between Sudan and South Sudan

By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

On Thursday, the Sudanese president vowed to “never give up” a disputed oil-rich region that has led to escalated tensions between Sudan and South Sudan and sparked fears of a return to war.

The region where current clashes are escalating. (Photo Courtesy of the AFP.)

Clashes between the two nations soared in the past week after South Sudan declared the disputed Heglig region to be under its control.  Sudan also claims ownership of the region and has lodged complaints with the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), urging both groups to pressure South Sudan to withdraw its troops from the territory.

“We will never give up an inch of our land,” Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said during a rally broadcast on state media.  “And we have said it before, whoever extends his hand toward Sudan, we will cut it off.”

President al-Bashir’s defiant speech continued: “We will punish them…and it will be the last lesson for them.  If they do not understand, we will make them get it by force.  We extended our hand before for peace and unity.  But they deceived us.  Heglig is the start.”

The international community has urged the two countries to return to the negotiating table amid the intensified tensions.  South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011 under the terms of a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war.

“The last thing the people of these two countries need is another war – a war that could claim countless lives, destroy hope and ruin the prospects of peace and stability and prosperity of all Sudanese people,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The UN Security Council issued a statement demanding “a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting and a withdrawal of the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan] from Heglig and an end to aerial bombardments.

The United States (US) has also called for both sides to stop the hostilities.  “We condemn South Sudan’s military involvement in the attack on and seizure of Heglig, an act which goes beyond self-defense and has increased tensions between Sudan and South Sudan to dangerous levels,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.  “We also condemn the continued aerial bombardment in South Sudan by the Sudanese Armed Forces.”

Five people were killed and five others were wounded this past weekend after an airplane dropped bombs on a town in South Sudan.  Col. Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the SPLA, said that the aerial strike hit a market area in Rubkona in the early afternoon on Saturday.  Two other counties were reportedly also attacked that day.

“We will observe closely the behavior and attitude of the reaction of the government of the South to this call and if they don’t heed it, we will reserve our right to exercise the right of self-defense and we will chase them out,” Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said.

While South Sudan did not immediately respond, Maj. Gen. Mangar Buong, a deputy commander for the South Sudanese military vowed to hold their position.

Later, South Sudan’s Ambassador to the UN Agnes Oswaha blamed the Sudanese government for attacks of their forces at the border, provoking the South Sudanese actions at Heglig.

“South Sudan had no choice.  It had to defend itself to deter attacks on South Sudanese territory,” Oswaha said.  “South Sudan is prepared to withdraw troops as long as a mechanism is put in place that the area cannot be used to launch further attacks.”

Tensions have continued to run high since the separation last year.  Unresolved issues pertaining to the divorce include status of citizens, how much the landlocked South should pay to transport its oil through Sudan, and the division of national debt, among others, including the fate of disputed border areas.

Addressing a rally in Khartoum on Wednesday, al-Bashir accused South Sudan’s ruling party, the SPLM, of seeking to execute “the agendas of world powers to oust the government in Khartoum” before threatening to do it the other way himself.

“Either we end up occupying Juba [the capital of South Sudan] or you end up occupying Khartoum, but the boundaries of the old Sudan can no longer fit us together.  Only one of us has to remain standing,” Bashir said.

He further pledged to liberate South Sudan’s people from the SPLM, which he described as an insect that must be crushed.

“We have promised the South’s people to free them from the SPLM rule immediately and we bear a responsibility before the South’s citizens after we contributed to establishing the SPLM rule in the South,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Sudan government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said that al-Bashir’s words were a warning that he would like to carry out the “genocide” in South Sudan as he is doing in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan.

The violence has led to increase of rights groups warning of deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a new analysis that the countries are “teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit.”

“The deteriorating situation right now is making the overall humanitarian issues very challenging,” said Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada.  Reportedly, supply lines to refugee camps have been cut off, and a failure to get key supplies before the rainy season hits will lead to an even greater humanitarian crisis.

“Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted by both government by the region and the United Nations Security Council, as well as such partners as the US, China and key Gulf states,” said the ICG.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Arab League calls emergency meeting on Sudan violence – 19 April 2012

CNN – Sudan president vows to ‘punish’ South Sudan – 19 April 2012

CNN – Official: 5 killed, 5 wounded in aerial attack in South Sudan – 18 April 2012

Sudan Tribune – Bashir Vows to ‘Free’ South Sudan’s People From SPLM – 18 April 2012

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Plans to Introduce Senate Legislation to Name Buffalo Courthouse After Robert H. Jackson of Jamestown – Chief Prosecutor in Nuremberg Trials

Press Release courtesy of Senators Schumer & Gillibrand
Originally Sent April 19, 2012

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the plan to name the Buffalo Federal Courthouse after Robert H. Jackson, the distinguished Supreme Court Justice that was raised in Jamestown and is famous for his role as chief prosecutor in the international Nuremberg Trials. Ahead of the official May 3rddedication ceremony, Schumer and Gillibrand will introduce Senate legislation for the Courthouse to be named after Robert Jackson, who began his legal career in a Jamestown firm and went on to serve as the Solicitor General, Attorney General, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, in addition to his role at Nuremberg. Schumer and Gillibrand plan to introduce their legislation as a companion bill to one introduced by Congressman Higgins in the House of Representatives. Once the bill clears the Senate and the House, it must be signed by the President before the building name is officially approved.

“Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was one of the truly great legal professionals Western New York and Chautauqua County gave America, and it is appropriate and fitting that the Buffalo Federal Courthouse bear his name,” said Schumer. “This courthouse symbolizes the rule of law in Western New York, and as the region’s only Supreme Court Justice, who had his humble beginnings in Jamestown and famously went on to be chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials, naming the courthouse for him is a perfect fit. The Buffalo courthouse stands as a new pillar of the Buffalo community, serving justice throughout Western New York, and it should honor all that he has accomplished through his long career in public service.”

“Naming downtown Buffalo’s U.S. courthouse in the honor of Justice Robert H. Jackson is the right choice, and the right way to tribute his tremendous public service to our community and our entire country,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “From serving on America’s highest court, to his role as the architect of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Justice Jackson always served with integrity, and was a true champion for human rights. This is the perfect opportunity for Western New York to celebrate and honor his legacy.”

Schumer and Gillibrand highlighted Justice Jackson’s impressive legal career, which got its start in Western New York. Robert Jackson was raised in Frewsburg and then spent the majority of his young adulthood in Jamestown, after spending a post-graduate year at Jamestown High School. Jackson went on to Albany Law School, and then returned to join a law practice in Jamestown. Jackson went on to become a leading lawyer in New York State, and was elected to the American Law Institute in 1930, one role among others that elevated his national reputation.

In 1934, Jackson was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which opened the door to a host of federal roles, including his work as the U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Attorney General, and finally his extensive work as a Supreme Court Justice. In 1945, President Truman appointed Jackson to serve as the Chief Prosecutor in the international Nuremberg Trials, for which he took a leave from the Supreme Court. Jackson is famous for the passion, energy, intellect and great skill that he brought to these trials. Schumer and Gillibrand highlighted his long career of public service in the legal field, and stated that Jackson is the perfect candidate for the naming of the Buffalo courthouse.

In November of last year, Schumer toured the new federal courthouse in Buffalo before its official opening. Schumer has championed the project for nearly a decade, helping to secure Congress’ support for the project. After successfully gaining Congress’ support, Schumer helped to deliver $83 million in federal funding for the project, which began in 2007. Schumer was also instrumental in pushing the Office of Management and Budget to release nearly $10 million to the General Services Administration to help move site selection and the design process forward. Since the groundbreaking, Schumer has fought to keep costs down and ensure that the costs of construction mistakes were not passed along to taxpayers.

For further information, please see:

Press Release – 19 April 2012 – http://schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=336575

South Africa Rape Video Goes Viral

By Tamara Alfred
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

A cell phone video allegedly showing a group of seven Soweto youths filming themselves raping a 17-year-old girl, who is said to have the mental age of a five-year-old, went viral on Twitter in South Africa.

Women place white flowers outside parliament during a demonstration on the International Day for the Prevention of Violence Against Women in South Africa. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.)

Eight suspects, between 14 and 20 years of age, were arrested Tuesday morning and charged with kidnapping and rape, according to police spokesperson Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela.

“The video is very bad.  The men can be clearly identified as they take turns raping and filming her,” Makhubela told CNN.

“The girl can be heard pleading with the boys to stop,” journalist Mandy Weiner reported.  “They crudely jest and crassly spur one another on.”

The Daily Sun, a local tabloid, reports that it was the one to alert the police after a concerned mother who caught her daughter watching the video handed it over to the paper.

“The mother of a teenage girl saw the horrifying pictures and confiscated her daughter’s phone.  A work colleague of the woman said they recognized some of the boys and advised her to take the video to Daily Sun,” the newspaper reporter.  Interestingly, the colleague did not advise the woman to go the police directly.

The paper reports that the video lasts just over 10 minutes and the girl can be heard shouting “you are forcing me” repeatedly.

The Sun was also the one to inform the victim’s mother.  The woman reportedly said that her daughter had been a victim of rape since age 12.

“People took advantage of her illness and because my family is poor,” the Sun quoted her as saying.

The girl’s mother reported her missing on March 21.  Media reports suggest the police initially failed to open a missing persons case, but that the girl has since now been found.  Police suspect the girl was kidnapped and turned into a sex slave.

A local radio station got hold of the video and has been receiving requests to post it.  Eyewitness News editor Katy Katopodis stated that the station would never do that.

“To those asking for the #rapevideo link that #EWN reported on today.  Stop!  Not happening!  We’d never put it on our site.  Illegal & wrong,” Katopodis posted on Twitter.

According to the Film and Publication Board CEO Yoliswa Makhasi, the Films and Publications Act states that minors may not be used or featured in pornographic content and the creation, possession and distribution of child pornography is illegal.  Authorities have warned anyone who has received a copy of the video to delete it or risk being charged under these laws.

A popular radio talk show host broke down Wednesday morning as she encouraged listeners to come up with solutions to the problem of rape in the country.  According to the latest police statistics more than 60,000 cases of sexual assault were reported in the year ending March 2011, down from 70,000 in 2008.  NGOs estimate a woman is raped every 26 seconds in the country.  Women’s rights activist Lisa Vetten says that in the province where Johannesburg is located, one in every five rapes is a gang rape.

“Rape is a young man’s crime.  It’s a bit of a performance for them, showing off to each other how macho they are,” said Vetten.  “We need to teach our young men that you can be masculine in ways that do not involve violence and degrading women.”

Experts say that the South African government is well aware that the problem needs urgent attention.  “We are not lacking in terms of legal instruments to deal with this kind of thing,” said Nomboniso Gasa, an expert on gender and culture.  “What we lack are ways of making these instruments effective.”

The country has created a ministry of women and children headed by Lulu Xingwana precisely to deal with violence against women and other related matters.  Xingwana says that this case will be a high priority.  “Distributing child porn is illegal in this country so the police must confiscate this video,” said Xingwana in a radio interview.  Furthermore, “[i]n addition to the painful ordeal of rape the young woman was forced to endure, she is now subjected to a second assault on her dignity (the video),” Xingwana added.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Outrage in South Africa over internet rape video – 18 April 2012

CNN – Shocking rape video goes viral in South Africa – 18 April 2012

South African Press Association – South Africa: Board Warns About Rape Video – 18 April 2012

Israel Prevents Pro-Palestinian Activists From Boarding Flights

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – On Sunday, 15 April, Israeli police denied 43 pro-Palestinian activists entry into Israel at Ben-Gurion Airport.  The authorities sent 12 activists to their country of origin and detained 31 activists to the Givon detention center.  Moreover, the police held 9 people protesting at the airport for investigation.

Israeli police escort an activist through Ben-Gurion Airport. (Photo Courtesy of Haartez)

However, two female activists with French and Italian citizenship gained access to the country and arrived in Bethlehem on Sunday.  The 23-year-old French activist reported she attempted to board a flight to Israel from the Lyon airport in France as part of a 50 person group.  The French police prevented half of the activists from boarding the flight while she expects the Israeli authorities to deport the other half.

She commented that the security forces in France and Israel “treated us like criminals or terrorists, despite the fact that we made it clear that we came for peaceful purposes.”  She added, “It was very frustrating and surprising that French authorities cooperated with Israel’s claims and propaganda.”

Carriers in Manchester and Brussels also prevented passengers from flying.  Manchester passenger Mick Napier said, “We were demonstrating over our right to travel but we also had the extra provocation of Jet2 refusing to reimburse us for our flights.”  Jet2 recently agreed to reimburse the passengers.

These activists intended to travel to Israel to participate in the “Welcome to Palestine 2012” weeklong conference.  The protest organizers reported airlines notified 60 percent of the expected 1,500 activists scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday that their flights were cancelled.  After Israel release this list, it  warned the airlines they must take responsibility for passenger’s immediate return if a banned person arrived in the country.

A similar “fly-in” protest took place in July 2011 where the Israeli authorities detained 120 of the 300 international activists that arrived in Israel.  The authorities denied entry to 69 people as well.

The airlines that prevented the activists from boarding flights over the weekend included Lufthansa, Jet2, Air France, and EasyJet.  EasyJet announced it would not allow passengers on Israel’s no-entry list to board.  In a letter to the international airlines, Israel’s Internal Ministry wrote, “due to statements of pro-Palestinian radicals to arrive on commercial flights from abroad to disrupt the order and confront security forces at friction points, it was decided to deny their entry.”

If an activist arrives in Israel, the authorities will give them a letter stating the activists are disregarding the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the militants firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, and Iran’s support of terror.  The letter reads, “We therefore suggest you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience…Have a nice flight.”

For further information, please see:

BBC – Pro-Palestinian Activists Refused Israel Flight – 15 Apr 2012

Haaretz – Pro-Palestinian ‘Fly-In’ Activist: Israel and Europe Treated Us Like Terrorists – 15 Apr 2012

Reuters – Update 4 – Israel Moves To Thwart Pro-Palestinian “Fly-In” – 15 Apr 2012

The Boston Globe – Airlines Cancel Activists’ Flights To Israel – 14 Apr 2012

 

ICC Office of the Prosecutor Weekly Briefing – April 2012

Magnitsky Case Files Identify New Information on Russian Officials Involved In $230 Million Tax Fraud Cover-Up

Press Release
Hermitage Capital

18 April 2012 — New files from the posthumous case files against Sergei Magnitsky reveal the name of the main “expert” witness used to absolve Interior Ministry officers from liability for the $230 million corruption scheme uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. The expert was Maxim Tretiakov, head of the legal department of Moscow Tax Office No 28, the office at the centre of the corrupt tax refunds scheme.

Sergei Magnitsky (Photo courtesy of Jewish Russian Telegraph)

In return for his “friendly testimony”, the Interior Ministry officers who themselves had a conflict of interest, exonerated him and his colleagues and claimed that the $230 million tax refund was executed by a “sawmill employee” and a “jobless” individual, and that all bank records proving otherwise had burned in a truck explosion and cannot be traced. As a result, officials from the Moscow Tax Office Number 28 were able to continue with their corrupt scheme, and were recently shown to have executed $1 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over a four-year period from 2006-2010. Families of the tax and Interior Ministry officers involved in the scheme have become $47 million richer after the thefts and have been shown to invest in luxurious foreign real estate and foreign bank accounts.

“The fact that the head of the legal department at the tax office who oversaw the theft of the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered would be the expert witness justifying the police actions sheds further light on the absurdity and complete breakdown of law in Russia. In any other country, revelations like this would lead to mass resignations of cabinet ministers,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

Documents from the case files indicate that Maxim Tretiakov from the Moscow Tax Office No 28 provided “expert” testimony on 12 February 2008, two months after his Tax Office perpetrated the $230 million tax refund. His testimony was obtained by Pavel Karpov, Interior Ministry officer directly implicated in the $230 million tax refund. Pavel Karpov was named by Sergei Magnitsky and in Hermitage Fund’s complaints, along with officer Artem Kuznetsov, for their role in the illegal seizure of documents of Hermitage Fund companies that were used by Russian officials and criminals to fraudulently re-register those companies and perpetrate the tax refund scheme.

Maxim Tretiakov whose office approved the $230 million tax refund in one day, claimed that there was a legal justification for Interior Ministry officers’ actions. To confirm his expertise, Mr Tretiakov said in his testimony to investigator Karpov: “My job responsibilities include the representation of the interests of tax inspection in court, sanctioning of decisions, and clarification of current legislation.”

A year later, on 27 February 2009, Mr. Tretiakov gave further testimony in relation to the $230 million tax refund. He claimed he had not been aware that the refund was illegal and requested to be declared a “victim,” claiming his “business reputation suffered” from the refund. “On 19 February 2009 from the documents received from the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee we learned that the directors of Parfenion and Mahaon, earlier in 2007, presented to the tax inspection Number 28 in Moscow false documents to justify the overpayment of income tax for 2006 and thus received illegally budget funds and caused damage to the business reputation of tax office Number 28 and material damage for the refunded amount,” said Mr Tretiakov in his 27 February 2009 testimony.

On the back of Mr Tretiakov’s testimonies, the Interior Ministry’s investigation into the $230 million tax refund was closed in March 2011 concluding that the tax officials, including Maxim Tretiakov, were “tricked,” “mislead” and “unaware.” The only persons prosecuted by the Interior Ministry for the largest single tax refund fraud in Russian history, were a sawmill employee and an unemployed man. Both men had previous links to Interior Ministry officers Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov named by Sergei Magnitsky as involved in the scam (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bdae02a8-e784-11df-b5b4-00144feab49a.html#axzz1sKATheoD) who were absolved from responsibility.

At the same time, Mr Tretiakov’s tax office was in the middle of a four-year $1 billion tax refund embezzlement scheme, according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (http://www.novayagazeta.ru/inquests/51924.html).

Tax Official Maxim Tretiakov is Number 45 on the U.S. Helsinki Commission List of officials involved in the torture and death of Magnitsky and the corruption he uncovered. Investigator Pavel Karpov is Number 21 on the list.

The scale and duration of the tax refund scheme has raised questions over the role of Alexei Kudrin, former Russian Finance Minister. Public questions were formulated by Andrei Illarionov, former economic advisor to the Russian president (http://echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/875912-echo/).In Kudrin’s reply on 11 April 2012, he said that neither he, nor his subordinates at the Federal Tax Ministry and Treasury gave instructions to execute the illegal tax refunds (http://akudrin.ru/news/otvety-na-voprosy.html). This prompted further questions from Mr Illarionov on 12 April 2012 (http://echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/877960-echo/questioning) who is challenging whether Mr Kudrin is fit to lead the Committee for Civic Initiatives, an organization he unveiled on 5 April 2012, which stated fighting corruption as one of its goals (http://akudrin.ru/news/zayavlenie-o-sozdanii-komiteta-grazhdanskikh-initsiativ.html).

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital

Phone:              +44 207 440 17 77
Website:           http://lawandorderinrussia.org
 
Facebook:        http://on.fb.me/hvIuVI
Twitter:             @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:       http://hermitagecap.livejournal.com/

Chávez Decline Forecasts Instability for Venezuela, Military Forces Consolidating Power

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – As President Hugo Chávez continues his six month fight with an unspecified cancer, talks about the future of Venezuela circulate.  A new article, by former Former Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, addresses the tenuous situation.   The startling article, published just days ago on April 11, describes a complex power scheme that is currently playing itself out.

President Chávez inspects troops with Defense Minister, General Henry Rangel Silva, in January of this year during Silva's swearing in ceremony. (Photo Courtesy of San Antonio Express News)

Noriega believes that the increasing visibility and operational roles of high-ranking military officials are indicators that the military is preparing to take control of the country.  In one portion of his article Noriega even notes his belief that the military plans to instate martial law throughout the nation if necessary to gain control in an unstable situation.

“In my estimation, the approaching death of the Venezuelan caudillo could put the country on the path toward a political and social meltdown. The military cadre installed by Chávez in January already is behaving like a de facto regime determined to hold onto power at all costs…his lieutenants and foreign allies are behaving as if he were already dead — consolidating power, fashioning a “revolutionary junta,” and plotting repressive measures,” writes Noriega.

Other analysts express concerns with the recent promotional decisions by Chávez.  In January, he named Diosdado Cabello as the leader of the ruling party and of the National Assembly.  As reported by MercoPress, this was done to pacify a group of powerful military officers including; Defense Minister – General Henry Rangel Silva, Chief of Intelligence – Cliver Alcalá, and Chief of Military Intelligence – General Hugo Carvajal.  All three men have been linked by US drug offices as having associations to the drug trade.

Noriega makes clear his belief that these military cadres will, “never surrender power and the impunity that goes with it,” and abide by the results of an election because it will never provide legitimacy for a “Venezuelan narco-state.”  Noreiga forecasts an unstable Venezuela, with the fall of the Chávez administration, where men like Cabello, Silva, Alcalá, and Carvajal will not hesitate to use the billions of dollars in illegal drug money they have acquired and the force of the tens of thousands soldiers under their command to keep hold of power.  Troubling statements by General Silva earlier this month hint at this.

“We are going to recognize whoever wins the October 7 elections. We’re not just going to recognize whoever says they won,” was Silva’s obscure comment.  He has previously expressed a very strong stance that the Venezuelan military would never accept an opposition party taking control of the country.

The next presidential elections are scheduled to occur in just over six months, on October 7 of 2012.  Chávez pledged earlier this year to be a candidate for them, but at a mass in his hometown last week, his statements indicated the gravity of his desperate struggle against cancer.

“Christ … give me life, because I still have things to do for the people and this country. Do not take me yet,” he said.  Chávez made this statement just after returning from his third trip to Cuba to receive cancer treatments.

 

For more information, please see;

MercoPress – Revolutionary Junta to Consolidate Chavism, Forecasts US Expert in LatAm Affairs – 14 April 2012

In Sight – Is the Venezuelan Military Eyeing a Power Grab? – 13 April 2012

Washington Post – Hugo Chávez Rallies Thousands of Supporter Marking Return After 2002 Coup in Venezuela – 13 April 2012

CNN – Chávez Returns to Venezuela After Latest Round of Treatment – 12 April 2012

Foreign Policy – After Chávez, the Narcostate – 11 April 2012

Chinese Prime Minister Fights Corruption

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is taking a stand against corruption within the Chinese government and its officers. Mr. Wen was quoted in the Qiushi (a conservative Communist Party journal) when he stated “the government must hold officials accountable for corruption that occurs on their watch and make the results of corruption investigations open to public inspection.”

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has vowed to fight corruption within the Chinese government (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Mr. Wen has taken strong stances against corruption since the February scandal surrounding former Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai. Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, is accused of murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman. It is believed that the Bo’s and Mr. Heywood had a good relationship until a financial dispute. It is alleged that after the financial dispute Gu Kailai arranged for the killing of Mr. Heywood.

As a result of Mr. Heywood’s death, Mr. Bo was removed from his political positions and party officials released a report which accused him of “serious disciplinary violations.” Government officials have hinted that Mr. Bo will have criminal charges filed against him in the future.

Analysts believe Bo’s case creates a major dilemma for top officials. If the government only reveals small portions of evidence against Bo it will lead many to believe he was removed solely for political reasons. If the accusations are very serious in nature, many will ask how Bo was able to become so powerful. Furthermore, people will begin to wonder how powerful other government officials are and what activities they may be involved in reports The Guardian.

Prime Minister Wen has proposed several focuses that he believes will help halt corruption in the government. In the article published by Qiushi, Mr. Wen demanded that priorities be given to the reforms in the administrative examination and approval system, the allocation of public resources, and many other services provided by the government.

One of the changes Mr. Wen hopes to see in the current system is local governments immediately responding to and investigating problems reported by the people and the media, and publicizing the results of various investigations in a timely manner.”

Mr. Wen explained the importance of upholding the law throughout the country. He explained “China is a socialist country ruled by law, and the dignity and authority of the law cannot be trampled… there is no special citizen before the law. It does not allow any special party members to override the law within the party.”

For more information please see:

International Business Times – Wen Jiabao Again Warns of Threat Posed By Corruption – 16 April 2012

New York Times – Prime Minister Calls for Corruption Crackdown in China – 16 April 2012

China Daily – Premier Wen Vows Greater Anti-Corruption Resolve – 15 April 2012

The Guardian – Wen Jiabao Promises Crackdown on Corruption in China – 15 April 2012

Beheadings, Torture, Murders continue in Mexico

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexican authorities still have very little control over drug cartels and drug violence in Mexico.  The groups are still kidnapping, torturing, and murdering civilians to show signs of their territory and to display other threatening messages.  In the last 48 hours, 24 bodies were found tortured or beheaded in the western state of Michoacan.

Michoacan is a small port state in Southwestern Mexico

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, these acts are based around a local drug war between rival drug cartels.

The Washington Post describes the victims as each having a black plastic bag over their heads with a single gunshot wound to the back of their neck.  Also, threatening messages accompanied the bodies.  Just two days prior, nine bodies were found in another Michoacan town.  The bodies had been tortured and beheaded.  An Associated Press reporter saw police and soldiers carry away the bodies and heads.

The Washington Post reports that drug cartels often behead victims as a threatening message in itself, to intimidate rival gangs, usually over territory disputes.  The most recent display was likely the work of the New Generation gang, according to The Weekly.

Along with these killings, eight taxi drivers were killed in northern Mexico and three bystanders were injured, according to The Huffington Post.  Public security spokesman, Jorge Domene Zambrano said that four gunmen shot five drivers outside of a base office, and the other three men were killed later, a few blocks away.  This is where the bystanders – including an 8-year-old girl – were injured, reports The Huffington Post.

Mexico continues to have many problems with violence.  The major problem tends to be with drug gangs, but random civilian violence prevails as well.

For more information, please visit:

The Latin American Herald Tribune — Cartel Turf Battle Claims 9 More Lives in Western Mexico — 13 Apr. 2012

The Weekly — Seven Tortured, Bound Bodies Found in Mexican Port — 13 Apr. 2012

The Washington Post — Seven Tortured, Bound Bodies Found in Western Mexico Port City, With Warnings Signed by Drug Gangs — 12 Apr. 2012

The Huffington Post — Mexico Taxi Drivers Killed by Gunmen, 3 Bystanders Injured — 11 Apr. 2012