Former Russian Finance Minister Kudrin Tries To Explain Why $1 Billion Was Stolen From The Russian Budget In Connection To The Magnitsky Murder On His Watch And He Did Nothing

Hermitage Capital Press Release
Originally Sent April 11, 2012

In an extraordinary statement issued on his political website, former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin explained how it was not his fault that $1 billion was stolen from the Russian treasury on his watch between 2006 and 2010 through a corrupt scheme uncovered by Hermitage Fund’s Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky (http://akudrin.ru/news/otvety-na-voprosy.html#.T4Szz3lJri8.twitter).

In his statement referring to the illegal approvals of tax refunds for millions of dollars, Mr. Kudrin said: “Employees of the Treasury cannot challenge the appropriateness of such a decision. Neither the leadership of the Treasury, nor, especially, the leadership of the Ministry of Finance interfere in this process.”

This statement came in response to a series of 7 public questions to Kudrin from Andrei Illiarionov, an opposition politician, posted in his blog  on ‘Echo of Moscow’ website (http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/875912-echo/), challenging Alexei Kudrin after an independent investigation by a Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, uncovered that the same officers from the Federal Tax Service and the same organized criminals who were involved in the $230m theft that Sergei Magnitsky discovered, stole a further 11.4 billion Rubles in ($444 m) in 2009 and 2010. These thefts were in addition to another $240m that were stolen under the guise of “tax refunds” by the same group of officials and criminals in 2006 and 2007.

“It is remarkable that the man whose responsibility was to protect the finances of the Russian state could say that he shouldn’t interfere when crimes were going on under his nose, in which $1 billion was stolen directly from the Russian treasury,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

Mr. Kudrin was also asked what he did when he learned about the theft of the $230m that Magnitsky discovered. He said: “I did not have this information in my possession then, but based on what I learned from the media reports at the time, I verbally asked the leadership of the Interior Ministry, if they were looking into it, and received an affirmative response… Neither the Ministry of Finance, nor I, at that time as Minister of Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, had the authority [to investigate the thefts].”

In fact, his statements about his lack of knowledge are directly contradicted by a series of petitions from Hermitage Capital seeking his intervention immediately after the illegal refunds were uncovered in 2008 and 2009. Hermitage Fund’s representatives wrote to Minister Kudrin providing detailed evidence of the involvement of tax officials in the thefts,  including 15 August 2008 (http://russian-untouchables.com/rus/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/D410.pdf) and again on 13 October 2009 (http://russian-untouchables.com/rus/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/D411.pdf). The first letter described evidence of the theft of $230 million via tax inspections No 25 and 28 in Moscow which took place within one day, on 24 December 2007. The second letter described 10 transactions used by the same tax inspections in Moscow to steal a total of $470 million from the Russian budget during 2006-2008. There was no answer to the first letter. The reply to the second letter signed by Deputy Finance Minister Shatalov on 28 October 2009 (http://russian-untouchables.com/rus/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/D412.pdf) said: “The Finance Ministry does not have authority to investigate the facts of budget thefts stated in your application.”This letter was sent 19 days before Sergei Magnitsky was killed in custody after exposing the officials perpetrating these thefts.

“It is notable that Alexei Kudrin fails to mention that not a single government employee had been charged or prosecuted for these successive crimes totaling $1 billion of budget funds over 4 years since they were discovered. It beggars belief that he thinks it is an acceptable explanation and he did nothing to stop the situation when he learned about it,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

“This is further evidence that the Russian budget is no longer functioning for the Russian people, but is now an unrestrained source of financing for corrupt officials and organized crime,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

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/

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Vol. 7 Issue 1–April 9, 2012

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

Vol. 7, Issue 1 — April 9, 2012

 

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Libya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Special Court for Sierra Leone

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Syria

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

North America

United States

South America

Argentina

Brazil

Colombia

TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

Kenya

Nepal

Thailand

Togo

COMMENTARY AND PERSPECTIVES

WORTH READING

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. For more information about War Crimes Prosecution Watch, please contact warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org.

Former Russian Finance Minister ‘Explains’ Why $1 Billion Went Missing

By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia–On Wednesday April 11, 2012 the Former Russian Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, attempted to set forth an explanation as to why $1 billion was stolen from the Russian budget while under his supervision between 2006 and 2010.

Former Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin (Photo Curtesy of The Telegraph)

Kudrin claimed that by no fault of his own was this money stolen.  Strangely, and perhaps even unbelievably, “Employees of the Treasury cannot challenge the appropriateness of [the illegal approvals of tax refunds for millions of dollars]. Neither the leadership of the Treasury, nor, especially, the leadership of the Ministry of Finance interfere in this process.” In other words, it simply was not part of Kudrin’s duty as a Finance Minister to protect the funds.

Kudrin went on to state that, “neither the Ministry of Finance, nor I, at that time as Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, had the authority [to investigate the thefts].”

Despite not being able to investigate the crime,  Kudrin was aware of the illegal actions taking place. In August 2008, and again on October 13, 2009, Hermitage Capital—an investment fund that has invested about $4 billion in Russia— contacted Kudrin and provided detailed evidence of the tax official’s involvement in the thefts.

The 2008 letter “described evidence of the theft of $230 million” by way of tax inspections. No Russian official responded to the letter.

The 2009 letter described 10 transactions used by the same tax inspections in Moscow to steal $470 million from the 2006-2008 Russian budget. The Deputy Finance Minister responded to the letter stating that, “the Finance Ministry does not have authority to investigate the facts of budget thefts stated in [the] application.”

19 days after the receipt of the 2009 later, a Hermitage Capital attorney, who had initially exposed the tax rebate fraud, Sergei Magnitsky, was killed at the hands of abusive Russian authorities.

Magnitsky, who gave “sworn testimony against the officials involved, had been detained shortly after divulging the scheme. At the time of his death, he had been incarcerated for about a year.

In response to Kudrin’s naïve statements made this week, a Hermitage Capital representative countered that, “It is remarkable that the man whose responsibility was to protect the finances of the Russian state could say that he shouldn’t interfere when crimes were going on under his nose, in which $1 billion was stolen directly from the Russian treasury.”

Moreover, “not a single government employee [has] been charged or prosecuted for these successive crimes…” despite having been discovered over four years prior, said a Hermitage Capital representative.

Perhaps most egregious, is the blatant hypocrisy that the Russian government has emanated in the weeks following the tax fraud exposure: “the Russian budget is no longer functioning for the Russian people, but is now an unrestrained source of financing for corrupt officials and organized crime,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

European Court of Human Rights Denies Right to Incestuous Relationship

By Terance Walsh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday denied German man’s human right to carry on an incestuous relationship with his sister.  Patrick S. of Leipzig, the man convicted in this case, failed in his assertion that a ban on incest violated his right to “respect for private and family life,” which the European Convention on Human Rights protects.

Patrick S., who spent three years in prison for having an incestuous relationship with his sister (Photo courtesy of Spiegel Online)

The ECHR is the judicial prong of the Council of Europe, a group of forty-sever member states located in Strasbourg, France.

In a unanimous decision the Court held that although the German law’s effect violated Patrick S.’s choice of family life, it is nevertheless permissible because it is “aimed at the protection of morals and the rights of others.”

Germany’s law is predicated on the likelihood that a child of an incestuous relationship will be born with a disability.

The story underpinning the case is unusual.  Patrick S. became estranged from his biological family shortly after his birth in 1976 and was raised in care.  It was not until 2000 that he reunited with his family.  At that point he developed a consensual sexual relationship with his biological sister.  Over the course of that relationship from 2001 to 2005 they had four children together.

Germany outlaws sexual relations between relatives and punishes such behavior with up to three years in prison or a fine.  Patrick S. was handed several prison sentences and has already spent three years in prison.

The ruling has prompted some German legislators to call for a repeal of the incest ban and join nations like France, Japan, Turkey, and Brazil in allowing family members to have sexual relationships.  Hans-Christian Ströbele of the German Green Party said, “Two grown up people should be able to decided for themselves whether they want to have sex with each other — assuming, of course, that they love each other and it happens voluntarily and there is no form of dependency in the relationship.”

The center-left German newspaper Suddeusche Zeitung also wrote in opposition to the ECHR’s ruling:

The unspoken central reason for the societal taboo and the penal ban on incest is the possibility of hereditary defects — a factor that Strasbourg only hinted at. But the intention behind the eugenic argument is one that is indefensible, and not just in Germany with its terrible Nazi past: The increased risk of hereditary defects does not justify a legal ban. Otherwise you would have to legally ban other risk groups, like women over 40 or people with genetic diseases, from having children. Does anyone truly want to prevent predictable disabilities using penal measures and thus deny disabled children the right to life in 2012? That’s absurd. And yet such fears of genetic damage are precisely what shape the punishibility of sexual intercourse between siblings.

An editorial in Die Tageszeitung, however, applauds the ruling:

The ban on incest is no arbitrary law or anachronistic rule that is irreconcilable with self-determination in sexuality and an enlightened society. To the contrary: It is, as the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss said, a prerequisite for sociality — and a prerequisite for enlightenment and the rights of the individual.

In the aftermath of the ruling, Patrick S. says that the German law has ruined his family.  He and his sister are now separated and three of the children live in foster homes.  The fourth child remains with the mother.

For more information please see:

The Independent — European Court Supports Guilty Verdict In Incest Case — 13 April 2012

MSNBC — German Incest Couple Loses Human Rights Case — 12 April 2012

Spiegel Online — German Incest Ban Upheld By European Court — 12 April 2012

Spiegel Online — ‘Siblings Tied By Incest Don’t Belong In Courts’ — 12 April 2012

Washington Post — Germany Didn’t Violate Man’s Right Over Incest Conviction, European Court Says — 12 April 2012

Malaysia Introduces New Law to Replace Internal Security Act

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian government has proposed a new law, the Security Offense Bill, to replace the former Internal Security Act but many fear that the new proposal will lead to future human rights abuses.

Malaysia has proposed a bill, the Security Offense Act, to replace the former Internal Security Act (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch).

Creation of the proposal, which was introduced to parliament on April 10, began seven months ago after Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to scrap the Internal Security Act.

Despite the Prime Minister’s claims the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robinson, doubts that the proposed law will improve the condition of human rights in Malaysia. He states, “while the new law has improvements, the authorities still hold too much power to detain people on broad grounds, for too long, and without judicial oversight.”

For example, the proposed bill allows an individual to be detained for twenty-eight days without being brought before a judge, the ISA allowed for sixty days, and the individual is not required access to an attorney for forty-eight hours after arrest.

In addition, the proposal prohibits arrests that are based solely on political beliefs or activity but defines activity narrowly allowing the opportunity for law enforcement to arrest based on other peaceful political actions.

Police are given extensive power to search private property and are permitted to use electronic monitoring devices on those released from detention.

This power is especially unsettling given that the Security Offense Act authorizes in court use of any information obtained from communication interception, raids and investigations. As such, there is a presumption that some evidence admitted into trial will have been illegally obtained.

Furthermore, the Security Offenses Bill allows an arrest to be made without a warrant if the police officer has “reason to believe” that the person is involved in a security offense.

Individuals charged with a security offense will be denied bail under a blanket provision included in the proposal and the prosecution will be allowed to keep certain witnesses from the defendant and their attorneys.

Even if the defendant is acquitted, the proposal allows them to be detained until all appeals have been exhausted which can sometimes take years.

Despite the repeal of the fifty-two year old Internal Security Act, Malaysian media has reported that the Prime Minister has no intention of repealing the Sedition Act which has been increasingly used to detain activists and protestors.

The continued existence of the Sedition Act has led some to believe, including Wong Chin of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, that  “[the new laws] are far from sufficient, since the Sedition Act is still out there.”

Parliament is expected to approve the proposal as early as next week. If it is approved, it will be sent to the upper house of the legislature before being signed into law by the Malaysia monarch, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah.

The Internal Security Act was a relic from British colonial rule era and was designed to combat the Communist threat by allowing political opponents to be detained without a trial.

Between 2000 and 2010 the Internal Security Act was used to detain approximately 4, 500 people.

 

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Malaysia: Security Bill Threatens Basic Liberties – 10 April 2012

The New York Times – Malaysia Weighs End to Indefinite Detention – 10 April 2012

The Wall Street Journal – Malaysian Activists Still Worry Over Country’s Security Laws – 10 April 2012

The Wall Street Journal  – Malaysia Proposes to Ease  Strict Security Law – 10 April 2012

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Acknowledge Hunger Striker

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Wednesday, 11 April, Saudi Arabian authorities refused to acknowledge Mohammed al-Bajadi, a well-known human rights advocate who lived in detention for the past year, has engaged in a hunger strike since 11 March.  The Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (“ACPRA”) reported their founder’s health is in jeopardy since he stopped eating food last month.  ACPRA added Mr. Bajadi, 34, fainted four times after he refrained from drinking water on Saturday.  For four months of his arbitrary detention, Mr. Bajadi remained in solitary confinement.

Mohammed al-Bajadi before he initiated his hunger strike. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Mansour al-Turki, spokesperson for the Interior Minister, contradicts the ACPRA’s report.  He asserts Mr. Bajadi “did not go on hunger strike d he is in good health, consuming food on a regular basis and in the company of other inmates.”

On 21 March 2011, domestic intelligence agents arrested Mr. Bajadi in the Qassim province after demonstrating with family members of detainees outside the interior ministry in Riyadh, the country’s capital.  The Saudis advocated for the authorities to free thousands of people detained for suspiciously engaging in “military activity” and held without a trial or proper charges.  Along with Mr. Bajadi, the activists accuse their government of physically and mentally torturing over 30,000 political prisoners held without legitimate charges or a fair trial.

The authorities also charged Mr. Bajadi with supporting pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, possessing banned books, initiating demonstrations, and joining an unlicensed association.  ACPRA members reported to Human Rights Watch that the government denied their organization a license and that Mr. Bajadi obtained the books from the 2011 international book fair in Riyadh.

During Mr. Bajadi’s trial at the Specialized Criminal Court, a state tribunal hearing terrorism cases, the judges did not allow his lawyers to attend the proceedings.  After Mr. Bajadi refused to recognize the court, the judges suspended his trial.  The ACPRA called for Mr. Bajadi to have a “fair public trial” along with his “immediate release”.

ACPRA published a letter smuggled out of prison Mr. Bajadi wrote on 27 March.  He wrote, “I inform you that I am still continuing with my hunger strike.”  He adds the prison hospital force-fed him on Tuesday, 20 March in the presence of five soldiers and the ward offices.  He reported he also lost 22 pounds and the doctors signaled he had a dangerously low blood sugar level.

The authorities denied several activists who sought to visit Mr. Bajadi on 2 April.

ACPRA blames the interior ministry for Mr. Bajadi condition.  The organization stated, “The interior ministry…carries full responsibility over the deteriorating health condition of the prominent rights activist and member of the association, Mohammed bin Saleh al-Bajadi.”

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Saudi Activist On Hunger Strike ‘In Danger’ – 11 Apr 2012

BBC – Saudi Arabia Denies Activist On Hunger Strike – 11 Apr 2012

The Chicago Tribune – Update 1 – Saudi Arabia Denies Activist On Hunger Strike – 11 Apr 2012

Press TV – Saudi Rights Activists Concerned Over Health Of Al Bajadi – 10 Apr 2012

 

Charges Against Magnitsky Doctor Dropped

By Terance Walsh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia — Russian authorities have dropped charges against Larisa Litvinova, one of the doctors originally charged for her role in the torture and death attorney Sergei Magnitsky.  The charges are no longer applicable because the statute of limitations expired.

Sergei Magnitsky (Photo courtesy of BBC)

The decision to drop the charges was made last week but was not announced until Monday.

In a document to Magnitsky’s mother Investigator Marina Lomonosova said, “Hereby I order to terminate criminal proceedings in relation to Larisa Litvinova for the crime of causing death inadvertently, as a result of the improper conduct of professional duties due to the expiry of the statute of limitations.”

Authorities did not file charges until twenty months after Magnitsky’s death.  During that time officials disclaimed any wrongdoing in the matter.  It was not until international pressure mounted that authorities filed charges.

In December 2011 Russia reduced the statute of limitations for several crimes, including the crime for which Litvinova was charged.  According to President Dmitry Medvedev the amendements were part of “the humanization of the legal system.”

Litvinova was the doctor in charge at Moscow’s Butyrka maximum security prison while Magnitsky was detained there for almost four months.  Under her supervision Magnitsky never received treatment for the gallstones and pancreatitis he developed while detined prior to his trial.

Magnitsky was under Litvinova’s care for over a month leading up to his death and Litvinova never ran ultrasound tests or blood or urine tests, which would have been expected given Magnitsky’s symptoms.  Even in spite of twenty letters of complaint pleading for medical care from Magnitsky and his lawyers to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Penetentiary System, and the courts, Magnitsky still never received the care he needed.

In an official statement Investigator Lomonosova said, “The crime committed by the defendant [Litvinova L.A.] is an inadvertent criminal act, for which the maximum sentence does not exceed three years… Currently, the crime committed by Litvinova L.A. is considered by law as a crime of insignificant severity, for which the statute of limitation constitutes two years…L.A. Litvinova expressed her consent to the termination of prosecution on that ground.”

In charging Litvinova only with “shortcomings in the provision of medical care”, Russian officials refuse to admit that Magnitsky was tortured.  If they were to admit that Litvinova’s refusal to administer medical care was torture she would be subject to a ten year statute of limitations.

Hermitage Capital has harshly criticized the decision to drop charges against Litinova, calling it “the latest example of the reluctance within the Russian government to hold anyone accountable.”

Furthemore, Hermitage accused Russian authorities of dishonesty in the handling of the Magnitsky case.  “In dropping charges against Ms. Litvinova, the Russian investigators have refused to acknowledge that Sergei Magnitsky had been tortured in custody, a crime that has a 10-year statute of limitations.”

A spokesman for Hermitage commented, “It has become clear today that the whole process of prosecution of the scapegoats in Sergei’s death has been aimed at creating an illusion that at least someone would be punished.”

William Browder, Hermitage’s executive director, expressed his regrets that the doctors were even charged in the case, calling them scapegoats.  He further lamented that the Russians could not “even scapegoat the scapegoats.”

Litvinova is one of sixty Russian officials (the “List of 60”) that Magnitsky supporters have asked the international community to sanction for her role in the Magnitsky case.  The “List of 60” includes officials from the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Penetentiary System, the Federal Security Service, and judges in federal courts. The only remaining member of the “List of 60” who is still facing charges is Doctor Kratov.

Magnitsky’s life ended after a series of events precipitating from his discovery of a tax fraud scheme run by Russian officials through his company, Hermitage Captial.  Officials turned the tax fraud accusations against Magnitsky and detained him in a maximum security prison.  There he was denied basis living amenities and emergency medical care.  He died in custody in November 2009.

Russian officials have acquiesced in the belief that Magnitsky died as a result of negligence by prison officials.  They refuse, however, to look further into the motives that seem apparent in light of the circumstances surrounding Magnitsky’s death.

After Magnitsky’s death, President Medvedev swore to oversee the investigation.  The investigation is slated to conclude later this month.

For more information please see:

The Sydney Morning Herald — Outrage As Investigators Drop Prison Death Charges — 10 April 2012

BBC — Magnitsky Death: Charges Against Russia Jail Doctor Dropped — 9 April 2012

The Moscow Times — Magnitsky Doctor No Longer Faces Charges — 9 April 2012

Washington Post — Russia Drops Charge Against Doctor At Prison Where Lawyer Who Reported Corruption Died — 9 April 2012

Although Fears Concerning Hunger Striker Were Quelled, The Situation in Bahrain Does Not Change

By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain–Activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has refused food since 08 February 2012 in protest of a life sentence he received in June 2011. He is a Shiite convicted by a military court of plotting against the Sunni-monarchy and is currently in a stable condition. Amnesty International stated last month that the trial was “grossly unfair” and that his conviction was based on a confession he made under duress, and no evidence was presented that showed he had used or advocated violence during the mass protests against King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

Bahraini Shiite protesters carry signs of al-Khawaja. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

The nation of Denmark had asked Bahrain to send Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, to the Scandinavian country. Bahrain’s official news agency BNA reported on Sunday 08 April 2012 that officials in Manama had turned down the request.

On Monday 09 April 2012, Mr. Khawaja’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Jeshi, expressed fears that his client could have died after repeated attempts and requests to contact him were turned down. al-Jeshi shared these words with AFP on Monday 09 April 2012.

“We fear that he might have passed away as there is no excuse for them to prevent us from visiting or contacting him.”

The daughter of Mr. Khawaja, Zainab, told Al-Jazeera on Monday 09 April that the family had “no idea” about the state of her father’s health as they had not been allowed to call or visit him.

But on Tuesday 10 April 2012, al-Jeshi released a statement confirmed that his 52-year-old client was “in good health” and called on the media to exercise caution concerning the details of the situation. Two foreign doctors, one of them an expert on hunger strikes and the other the director of a medical center in Denmark, had visited the activist at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital in the capital of Manama. Abdul Rahman al-Sayed, Bahrain’s attorney general, shared these words with a BBC correspondent.

“Despite prior medical reports that showed low blood sugar, potassium, and low white blood cells, which would have endangered his life if he had not received proper medical care, his current condition is well. He was co-operative, quite coherent, well-oriented in time, place and person, as he is receiving good medical care at the BDF hospital.”

Although Mr. Khawaja is in “good health,” the rest of his county is not. On 10 April 2012, seven Bahraini policemen were wounded when a home-made bomb exploded during a protest near the capital calling for the activist’s release. According to an interior ministry spokesman, demonstrators and protesters threw petrol bombs at riot police to lure officers into Eker, a Shia village outside Manama before the explosion was set off.

“We consider this an act of terrorism.”

Demonstrators and protesters have also revealed plans against hosting the Formula One grand prix, which was postponed last year. The race was reinstated to occur this year but was cancelled due to the uprising and bloody crackdown. The governing Internatonal Automobile Federation and Bahraini organizers have maintained that the race is still scheduled for 22 April 2012.

As Mr. Khawaja continues his hunger strike vigil with hopes to bring about change in Bahrain, one can only hope that government officials take stock in how effective demonstrators and protesters can be. The citizens of Bahrain are doing their best to be heard. It is up to the government to listen.

 

For more information, please see: 

Al-Jazeera – Policemen Injured in Bahrain Blast – 10 April 2012

BBC – Bahrain Hunger Striker Khawaja ‘In Good Health’ – 10 April 2012

Ahram – Jailed Bahrain Hunger-Striker Feared Dead: Lawyer – 09 April 2012

Al-Jazeera – Concern Mounts For Bahrain Hunger Striker – 09 April 2012

CNN – Bahrain Says Activist On Hunger Strike ‘Is Fine’ – 09 April 2012

The Guardian – Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s Death Would Be A Stain On Bahrain – 09 April 2012

 

 

Ecuador Citizens March for Water, Life, and Dignity

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter

QUITO, Ecuador – President Rafael Correa recently signed a new mega-mining deal for the Mirador copper project with Chinese company Ecuacorrientes (ECSA).  Public outcry over this has been immediate with many citing the lack of environmental safeguards in the deal.

Some of the marchers clash with police as they enter Quito on March 22. (Photo Courtesy of McGill Daily)

Correa signed the deal and bypassed a number of national mandates regarding environmental protections.  The Mirador project is located in the Amazon province of Zamora Chinchipe, along the Peruvian border.  Correa failed to comply with Article 6 of the Ecuadorian Mining Mandate that regulates an established procedure for mining concessions granted on protected lands.

During the signing of the contract on March 5, Correa indirectly admitted that he was aware of the potential environmental damages the project posed.

“All mines pollute. We need mining. Let’s have responsible mining,” said Correa at the signing; while failing to mention that he was moving the project forwards without having done an Environmental Impact Assessment or obtaining an Environmental License.

Indigenous communities as well as other social activist groups throughout Ecuador came together the day after the signing to implement the March for Water and Life.  On March 22, the fifteen day march through Ecuador ended in Quito, the capital city.  At that point the march had close to 25,000 supporters.

Images of the march show that what started as a protest to the large-scale mining agreement, by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), grew to include a number of wider issues facing the country.

“I am here in the spirit of solidarity between indigenous peoples and nationalities. Each people, each sector, has their own reason for being here. We, the Sapara Nation, are here to resist oil extraction on our land,” was one protestors comment regarding the growth of the march.

A 19 point charter was submitted to the government by the protest.  It covers a number of issues; including law of water, free admission to universities, equitable distribution of land, restoration of public servants, freedom of expression, and an end to open-pit mining and oil concessions.

The arrival of the march in Quito on March 22 was tense with large numbers of riot police on the streets and helicopters flying overhead.  Some isolated altercations broke out between the protestors and police at the end of the day.

Reports by local media are that President Correa paid people and gave them food and transportation to fill all public park spaces in Quito so that as the march entered the city protestors would have no place to gather.

For more information, please see;

Amazon Watch – Ecuador’s Indigenous People Reach Quito After 600 km March for Water, Life, and Dignity – 23 March 2012

Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources – Ecuador March for Water and Life Video Report – 23 March 2012

The McGill Daily – Thousands Protest in Ecuador’s Capital for Water, Life, and Dignity of the People – 22 March 2012

FIDH – FIDH Calls for the Suspension of the First Large-Scale Open-Pit Mining Project in the Ecuadorian Amazon – 19 March 2012

Global Voices – Ecuador March for Water and Life Says No to Large Scale Mining – 17 March 2012

Latin America Press – Mega Mining Takes Off – 15 March 2012

Six Activists Detained in UAE

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – On Monday, 9 April, the authorities notified six activists they resided in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) illegally and detained them.  The authorities revoked the nationality of these activists for critical statements they made about the country’s leadership last year.

The UAE detained six activists after stripping them of thier nationality. (Photo Courtesy of Al Arabiya News)

The activists’ lawyer Mohammed al-Roken reported the Interior Minister summoned the activists to the capital Abu Dhabi to inform them they resided in the country illegally.  The Minister then instructed them to sign a statement that forced them to obtain a new nationality within two weeks.

Daughter of activist Mohammed Abdel-Razzaq al-Siddiq reported, “My father called us…He refused to sign the declaration as now he is stateless, so he was detained along with the other five men.”  The authorities detained the six in a detention facility that caters to illegal immigrants.

Al-Roken describes the government’s act of stripping the men of their citizenship as unconstitutional.

Al-Siddiq believes the authorities targeted them for advocating for political change as part of the Reform and Social Guidance Association, an Islamic political organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.  He sought political reform by signing a petition calling for the UAE leadership to grant more powers to the country’s Federal National Council, an advisory body.

Although the UAE has a generous welfare system and is a lead oil exporter, the leadership has aggressively quashed political dissent to maintain control of their country.  Last year, for example, the authorities detained an economics professor, a well-known blogger, and three other political activists on anti-state charges of endangering national security, inciting protests, and insulting the government.  A judge sentenced the detainees to two to three years in jail.  The president released the activists the following day, but he did not officially drop the charges.

On 5 April, the authorities detained representatives of the National Democratic Institute (“NDI”), a US-sponsored democracy group, when they attempted to depart the country once the authorities closed their UAE office for licensing issues.  After questioning an American employee in detention, the authorities allowed the two Americans to leave the country.  However, the authorities did not permit an employee of Serbian nationality to depart.

Authorities closed the NDI office on 28 March before closing the offices of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German pro-democracy group, on 29 March.  Polling group Gallup also recently closed its Abu Dhabi office.

Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) Samer Muscati commented, “It seems that the government is still frightened by the events transpiring in the Middle East and are trying to do what it takes to keep the Arab Spring from reaching its shore, regardless of how small that possibility might be.”

For further information, please see:

Al Arabiya News – UAE Detains Islamists Linked to Terror Funding – 10 Apr 2012

Gulf Daily News – UAE Activists Held – 10 Apr 2012

The Chicago Tribune – UAE Detains 6 Islamists Stripped Of Citizenship: Lawyer – 9 Apr 2012

The Kansas City Star – UAE Detains 6 Activists Critical Of Rulers – 9 Apr 2012

CNN – Details Emerge In UAE Closing Of Pro-Democracy Groups – 6 Apr 2012

Banda Sworn in as New Malawi President; Vows Reform

By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LILONGWE, Malawi – Joyce Banda was sworn in as Malawi’s first female president on Saturday, a week after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, whose party expelled her after a disagreement over whether his brother Peter could succeed him.  The former vice president takes on the task of rebuilding a crumbling economy and restoring confidence in government.

“The first priority would be to revamp the economy and ensure that there is good governance,” said Banda.  “I know this is a great challenge but I thank all Malawians for having confidence in me.”

She took her first steps in that process on Monday, firing Police Inspector General Peter Mukhito.  Once hailed by Mutharika as the best IG Malawi ever had, Mukhito’s departure came as a surprise to some.  Banda’s administration did not provide an explanation, but his handling of recent events may have been a factor.  The country faced anti-government protests about the economy last July.  In response to the rallies, Malawian police fired into the crowds, killing at least 19 people.

Mukhito garnered fame for his questioning a lecturer about his comparisons between the Arab Spring uprisings and the country’s fuel crisis last year.  The incident escalated to the point that Chancellor College, part of the University of Malawi, was forced to close.  According to the People’s Party (PP) Orange Intellectuals, the youth wing of Banda’s political party, the conflict over academic freedom raged for eight months.  It welcomed the change in leadership.

“This could not have come at a better time,” said National Coordinator Edgar Chipalanjira, a student at the since-reopened Chancellor College.  “Honestly, it was hell under the former IG who was ironically dubbed ‘finest ever’ by the late President.  Those were the days no Malawian would wish to experience again.”

Banda has appointed commissioner Lot Dzonzi to replace Mukhito.

She will face a stiffer challenge on economic issues.  In the year before his death, Mutharika had a falling out with the United Kingdom, who cut off its aid to Malawi.  This has contributed to a shortage of foreign currency, as Mutharika also had poor relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  Despite these hurdles, and her party’s lack of representation in Parliament, the government does not expect much political wrangling.

“We would like to help the new president to rebuild the country. Malawi at the moment is confronted by several challenges and the new needs support from lawmakers. By working with her, Malawians will benefit from development projects,” said an optimistic Ken Kandodo, the country’s former finance minister.  “We had [a] very smooth transition according to the Constitution. There were some people from the national governing council who wanted to disrupt this smooth process but have failed. We should all celebrate because democracy has triumphed.”

But government alone will not be enough to guarantee a successful turnaround.  Banda has emphasized the need to reestablish relations with foreign exchanges and to build up its own industries once again.

“The economy is on a downward spiral with challenges of availability of foreign exchange, fuel shortages and failure to pay civil servant on time or at all,” Banda said last May.  “The private sector is constrained to take an active role.  The country needs to urgently find alternative sources of foreign exchange.”

For more information, please see:

BBC — Malawi’s New President Sacks Police Chief Mukhito — 9 April 2012

Daily Times (Malawi) — Banda Tipped on Priorities — 9 April 2012

Daily Times (Malawi) — Industry Hopeful with New Regime — 9 April 2012

Nyasa Times — PP “Intellectuals” Hail Appointment of New Police Chief — 9 April 2012

Malawi Voice — Inspector of Police Mukhito Fired; Dzonzi Takes Over — 8 April 2012

New York Times — In Mourning, Malawi Swears in a New President — 7 April 2012

Child Torture Revelations in Syrian Conflict

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — In a twisted development to an already aberrant conflict, there is news that Syrian authorities have been detaining and torturing children.  This is coupled with previous reports that the Syrian military has routinely raped women, tortured detainees, shot unarmed civilians, and encouraged looting of houses they storm.  There have been (unconfirmed, as of yet) stories of the Syrian opposition army employing child soldiers.

The individual stories of child torture are shocking.

13 Year Old Hossam is one of many children that has been tortured by the Syrian army (Photo courtesy of Salon).

Hossam, a 13 year-old boy, talks of the “ultimate pain” of his torture when a “terrifying person” with a “huge body” drove a screwdriver up into his big toe nail before ripping it out with pliers.  The man screamed, “’You want freedom? You want to topple the regime?’” as he beat the boy.

Mohammed, a 16-year old from Duma, was tortured with electricity after being arrested, and telling his captors that he supported a Syria that benefits all Syrians.  He was beaten with a cable two or three times a day, and electrocuted on his chest, hands, legs, neck, and on his stomach, close to his genitals.

Pure physical torture of children does not cover the extent of the stories coming out of Syria.

Ayman Karnebo, a dissident who was arrested last May when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began, witnessed the Syrian security forces torturing a pregnant mother, her husband, and her husband’s mother in front of the couple’s infant sons.  Karnebo was sharing a cell with them at the time.

He recalls that the family was of Somali origin; having been rounded up after the revolt took hold.  All foreigners were viewed with suspicion by the Assad government, leading many, like this family, to be detained and questioned.

Karnebo describes all three adults as being tortured with electric shocks to the elbows, hands and toes in front of their terrified children.  After this round of torture the family was moved to another jail.  Their fate remains unknown.

The Assad regime has long been known for its systematic and widespread use of torture, but these new revelations have still come as a surprise.

Amnesty International recently identified 31 methods of torture being employed by Syrian authorities. Some methods have been in use for decades, include the “tire,” where the victim is forced into a large tire and beaten on the feet. There is also the “flying carpet,” where the prisoner is strapped face-up on a wooden board that is bent to stretch the spine.

There are relatively unknown apparently new and even more disturbing techniques, including using pincers to rip out flesh, anal rape with sharp objects and a form of crucifixion where the prisoner is hung from a wall by their wrists.

“The biggest lie of the regime is that there are no orders to torture,” a defected former member of Syrian Air force Intelligence told GlobalPost. “It’s a program, a routine. I saw an old man with a 6-year-old girl brought to the interrogation department. Just five minutes of what she saw there, the screams she heard will surely traumatize her for the rest of her life.”

Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ human rights chief believes that the UN Security Council has enough reliable information to refer Syria’s actions to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”).

“They’ve gone for the children — for whatever purposes — in large numbers,” the BBC quoted her as saying. “Hundreds detained and tortured… it’s just horrendous…Children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information…I feel that investigation and prosecution is a crucial element to deter and call a stop to these violations.”

Syria is not a party to the ICC, so unless Damascus refers itself to the court’s jurisdiction, the only other way for ICC jurisdiction to be created is by a UN Security Council vote.  Given the previous vetoes by Russia and China on resolutions concerning Assad’s violent crackdown such actions are unlikely.

The United States, for its part, is urging the Syrian opposition to unite and pledge to respect minority rights should they eventually push Assad out of power.

“They must be able to clearly demonstrate a commitment to including all Syrians and protecting the rights of all Syrians,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in the yearlong Syrian uprising.  Both the opposition and the Syrian government have been accused of human rights abuses during the conflict, drawing international flack from NGOs and other countries alike.

A supposed cease-fire between the opposition and the Syrian government, brokered by the United Nations, is scheduled to start on April 14, but its already shaky future is now further in doubt as the Syrian government is now claiming its conditions were misunderstood.

 For more information, please see:

Miami Herald — Syria puts new conditions on cease-fire — 08 April 2012

Business Mirror — Torture of children, rape by Syrian army ‘routine,’ ex-soldiers say — 07 April 2012

Independent — Syrians tortured parents in front of terrified children — 07 April 2012

Salon — Syria’s tortured children — 04 April 2012

Kansas City Star — Torture of children, rape by Syrian army ‘routine,’ ex-soldiers say — 02 April 2012

The Independent — Assad’s forces target children, says UN envoy — 29 Mar. 2012

MSNBC — Syria is torturing children, UN human rights chief says — 28 Mar. 2012

 

 

Bahrain’s Hunger Striker Moved To Hospital Rather Than Released

By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – On Friday, 6 April, Bahraini and Danish citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began receiving intravenous fluids to combat his 58-day hunger strike when authorities moved him to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital.  Mr. Khawaja began his hunger strike to protest the life sentence he received by a special military court for engaging in anti-government protests last year.  The court convicted him of attempting to overthrow the royal family.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in his hospital bed on Saturday.  (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera).
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in his hospital bed on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera).

Mr. Khawaja’s lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi reported his client’s health is deteriorating, and the authorities moved him to the hospital after he dropped twenty-two pounds.  Mr. Jishi stated, “His condition has worsened…his blood pressure is down, and he is getting an IV (intravenous) drip.”  He added the IV drip only contained saline and glucose, and “The doctors said this won’t be enough to keep him alive.  He is in a critical phase and he still needs to take food.”

His family fears he will die from an impending cardiac arrest and urges the government to take action to save his life.  Furthermore, Khadija Almouosawi, Mr. Khawaja’s wife, asserts the nurses and guards mistreated her husband in the military hospital.

Human rights groups are also advocating for Mr. Khawaja’s release.  Mr. Khawaja is a Danish citizen, and Denmark has requested Bahrain to transfer Mr. Khawaja into its custody for medical treatment.

Moreover, authorities detained Mr. Khawaja’s daughter Zainab on Thursday for protesting her father’s “illegal treatment”.  On Friday, the authorities transferred Zainab to a prison before releasing her on Saturday.

Furthermore, thousands of protesters calling for Mr. Khawaja’s release endured the teargas and water cannons security forces fired upon them on Friday.  These protesters have held daily rallies, and they have planned mass demonstrations supporting their fellow protester’s release.

The authorities arrested Mr. Khawaja last April after a protest at Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Bahrain’s capital.  Protests occurred in Bahrain when police and security forces confronted people peacefully occupying the roundabout.

Amnesty International asserts the court convicted Mr. Khawaja in June with a confession obtained under duress and without proper evidence demonstrating he relied on violence during the protests.  Mr. Khawaja was one of eight protestors who received life sentences for their charged crimes.  Mr. Khawaja also reported to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry he endured tortious acts throughout his detention.

After her release, Zainab tweeted, “My father just called, he can hardly speak, and he can hardly breath(e).”

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Bahrain Mulls Denmark Plan For Hunger Striker – 7 Apr 2012

Channel 4 News – Calls To Drop F1 Grow as Bahrain Hunger Striker Hotpialised – 7 Apr 2012

BBC – Bahrain Hunger-Striker al-Khawaja Moved to Hospital – 6 April 2012

Tehran Times – Bahrain Hunger Striker’s Daughter Jailed – 6 Apr 2012