U.S. State Department Scrutinizes Russian Handling of Magnitsky Case

By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch, Europe Desk

MOSCOW, Russia —  In its annual Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011, The United States Department of State strongly criticized Russia for the continuing impunity of the Russian officials who were involved in the killing of Sergei Magnitsky.

Sergei Magnitsky, Russian lawyer who died in prison (Photo courtesy of Russian Untouchables)..

The report states that Magnitsky’s death was a result of medical abuse and neglect during pretrial detention. The report stated the following, “In May the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office con­cluded its probe into the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs offi­cers who arrested and pros­e­cuted Mag­nit­skiy. It found no evi­dence of wrong­do­ing. In June the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office approved the find­ings of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs offi­cers accused by Mag­nit­skiy of tax fraud and the theft of 5 bil­lion rubles (approx­i­mately $150 mil­lion). In their report the offi­cers claimed that Mag­nit­skiy him­self car­ried out the theft that he reported to authorities.”

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act involves the banning of (1) individuals responsible for the death or detention of Magnitsky or involved in any related criminal conspiracy; or (2) individuals responsible for any human right violations against individuals who seek to expose illegal activity by the Russian government.

Despite former Russian President Medvedev’s intervention in the Magnitsky manner, nobody has been convicted in Russia for their involvement with the case. “Medvedev acknowl­edged that a ‘crime had been com­mit­ted.’ How­ever, on August 2, police refused a request by the coun­cil to rein­ves­ti­gate Magnitskiy’s death,” says the U.S State Department’s report.

The Magnitsky issue highlighted the rampant corruption that occurred on different levels of the government. In this particular case, Magnitsky was prosecuted by the very same Internal Affair Ministry officers that he accused of fraudulent behavior.

The U.S. is not the only country considering placing a ban on Russian officials linked to the Magnitsky case, a group of Italian deputies is advocating the idea and is currently slated to be discussed in Italian parliament for this week. The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is expected to announce whether or not it has decided to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Magnitsky due to Russia’s failure in convicting anyone for his death.

For further information please see:

The Heritage Foundation – After WTO Membership Promoting Human Rights In Russia With The Magnitsky Act – 14 May 2012

Law and Order Russia – U.S. Government Escalates Criticism of Russia’s Handling of Magnitsky Case – 28 May 2012

Notes From India: The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)

Courtney Schuster
Special Contributor, Blog Entry #1

In a rundown office space in the middle of one of Delhi’s poorest neighborhoods, there is a group of lawyers, activists, and interns slowly trying to change India.  Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is a NGO using public interest litigation, social activism, and training seminars to redirect Indian laws in an effort to better protect prisoners, the disabled, minorities, women, and children.  They strive to ensure the right to food, the right to health care, and the right to be treated equally before the law.

The HRLN front entry.

Currently, 95% of maternal deaths worldwide occur in Asia and in Africa, with India carrying 20% of the global burden.  The vast majority of maternal deaths are preventable and are mostly attributed to causes such as anemia, postpartum hemorrhaging, and unsafe abortions.  The Reproductive Rights Initiative at HRLN is trying to lower the maternal mortality rate by enforcing the government-mandated existence of adequate health facilities.

The accessibility of health care facilities in rural areas is one of the main health care problems in India, especially for those who are in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category.  Many health centers are only open a few hours a day and those that are open are under-equipped and understaffed.  Often times, people are turned away from health centers due to lack of staffing, supplies, and beds.  People either have to hire an expensive private car to take them to another facility or they do not receive medical care at all.  Those who are BPL cannot afford to hire a car so they go without medical care; giving birth at home or going without treatment for illness and disease.  This is a violation of India’s responsibility under state and international law.

The government created the National Rural Health Mission to ensure that those who are BPL receive health care.  It created standards that all public health centers must abide by, including a minimum number of staff must be present at any given time; a minimum number of beds; adequate equipment, tools, and facilities; standards for sanitizing equipment; the presence of unexpired, vital medicines; the administration of family planning services; and blood bank facilities at health centers.

Family planning measures are an important part of government operations in India.  Due to overpopulation, crowding, and strains on resources, the federal government mandates that public health centers offer tubal ligations (tubectomies), contraceptives, counseling, and access to safe abortions.  State governments across India sponsor Sterilization Camps, where women and occasionally men, undergo tubal ligations or vasectomies.  There are instances of women and men undergoing operations without any knowledge or consent of the family planning procedure.  There are cases where the procedure failed and women became pregnant with unwanted children.  There was even a case in which a hospital prescribed and performed hysterectomies on women on 74% of the women that entered the facilities, all without any examination.  HRLN is in the process of bringing all of these instances to the attention of the courts as public interest litigation petitions.

 

Courtney Schuster is a third-year student at Syracuse University College of Law.  She is currently working as an intern in India for the summer.  She will be contributing personal blog entries throughout her internship, documenting the challenges of solving human rights issues in international settings.  

 

Syrian Network for Human Rights: Special Report on 27 May Massacre in Hama

Massacre in Hama

After the Al-Houla massacre, divisions of the Syrian Regime army marched north and raided the city of Hama.  The troops were reinforced with many armoured vehicles and snipers who were already positioned on high buildings.  In the attack 33 victims were killed, including 7 kids and 5 women.  More than 90 people were wounded.

Districts that came under fierce shelling by armoured vehicles and artillery shells were: Athaheryea, Masha’a Al-Arba’een, some quarters of Aleppo Road, and Masha’a Al-Furousia (Janoub Al-Mal’ab).  When the residents of the abovementioned districts tried to flee, regime’s snipers targeted them, so scores of people were wounded, some of whom are now suffering from critical injuries.  The number of the wounded was at least 90 people.  At least 50 of the wounded received medical care in a makeshift hospital.  This included those with critical injuries, most of whom were women and children.

 

WARNING: SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES

The victims and the wounded are shown following the massacre.  

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY9Iavb_3T0

The makeshift hospital where the wounded are being treated.

 

For further information, please see;

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Special Report Hama Massacre – 27 May 2012

Mounting Accusations Plague Brazil’s Top Officials

By Margaret Janelle Hutchinson
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Brasília, Brazil – Gilmer Mendes, a judge on Brazil’s high court, is accusing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (“Lula”) of pressuring him to set aside a planned trial of the biggest scandal of his administration.

Former President Lula and Gilmar Mendes. (Photo Courtesy of Em Tempo Real)

 

The scandal erupted during President Lula’s first term in 2005 and caused a number of top officials in the governing Worker’s Party to resign.  In 2007, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) accepted the complaint against 40 politicians suspected of involvement in the alleged scheme reported by then Congressman Roberto Jefferson (PTB), which became known as “mensalão” or “big monthly allowance”. Jefferson said lawmakers accepted base periodic payments in exchange for voting with the interests of President Lula’s government.

Over the weekend Judge Mendes told Veja magazine that Mr. da Silva, 66, asked him in April in Brasília, the capital, to postpone the trial, set for August. Judge Mendes said the pressure at the April meeting in Brasília included an insinuation by Mr. da Silva that Judge Mendes could be linked to another scandal, this one involving an opposition senator, Demostenes Torres, and his ties to a businessman, Carlos Augusto Ramos (better known by his nickname, Carlinhos Cachoeira or “Charlie Waterfall”), who is accused of running illegal gambling operations.  The former president confirmed that the meeting in Brasília took place, but has adamantly denied the validity of Mendes’s accusations.

These mounting accusations of corruption at the highest levels cast a shadow over the current presidency of Dilma Rousseff. Ms. Rousseff is also of the Worker’s Party and was endorsed by President Lula as his successor. Scandals have forced seven cabinet ministers to resign in the past year, including Ms. Rousseff’s chief of staff. Ms. Rousseff issued a statement on Wednesday rejecting any threat of an “institutional crisis” between the judiciary and executive branches over the feud.

The president of the STF, minister Ayres Britto responded to the dispute between Judge Mendes and Mr. da Silva during a plenary session, stating that, “The judiciary is immune to such dissent. I have said repeatedly that we are experienced in coping with situations of all kinds. We did not lose the focus that it is our duty to judge the whole process – including the monthly allowance – with objectivity, impartiality, and serenity, ultimately aware of the evidence in the file.”  Mr. Britto also expressed that the trial should take place as soon as possible.

Two judges on the 11-member court are expected to retire soon, so if the trial is delayed, Ms. Rousseff’s nominations to fill the vacancies could influence the outcome, raising concerns over the Workers Party’s influence over the trial.

For further information, please see:

Primeira Edição – Lula já se encontrou com cinco ministros do STF em 2012 – 31 May 2012

Jornal do Brasil – Ayres Britto reafirma que não existe crise institucional por causa do Mensalão – 30 May 2012

The New York Times – Brazil’s Political Class Jolted by Claim That Ex-Leader Pressed a High Court Judge – 30 May 2012

The Washington Post – Supreme Court justice accuses former Brazilian president Silva of pressure to set aside trial – 29 May 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Wednesday 30 May 2012

THE COMMENTARY IN THIS PIECE DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF IMPUNITY WATCH.  

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Abandoned!

Symbolic gestures cannot save us from real slaughter. Words of sympathy do not shield us from mortar rounds. Sanctions do not stop marauding gangs of thugs and killers. In Syria, our sense of abandonment is as areal as the war being waged against us.  

Wednesday May 30, 2012

Death toll: 39.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

What the Hell Should We Do About Syria? FP asked five smart observers to offer their solutions for the quagmire in Damascus.

Obama & the Russians

… the Syrian revolution is as much about ending an apartheid-patronage system as it is about creating democratic state, yet Russia relies for its own commercial and military interests on preserving the former. Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid, freshly returned from Moscow, smartly observes:

What the “regime” means to the Russians is Alawite control of security and military apparatuses. If regime survival under this formula is not possible, than the powers-that-be in Russia would not be too opposed to the fragmentation of Syria so long as coastal areas remain under Alawite control, which is the likely outcome in this case. To ensure getting their desired outcome, the Russians will continue propping up the regime by supplying it with arms, which they claim are not meant to be used against protesters but against future western intervention, and by continuing to be a stumbling block in the way of any meaningful UN-led action or condemnation.

So Russia will, in the end, accept nothing less than the balkanization of Syria. So much for the insistence of countless Security Council statements that the country’s “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” be preserved.

The administration hopes that it is possible to appeal to the better angels of Moscow’s nature and that Houla compels them to change their position on Assad. Instead, the Russians are sending more arms to the regime. It’s hardly surprising, then, the Russians won’t even admit that Assad is behind the massacre. Russian deputy U.N. ambassador Alexander Pankin “rejected the idea that the evidence clearly showed Damascus was guilty.” … Moscow is simply playing the spoiler and thereby enjoying the sort of international prestige that it has not been afforded since the end of the Cold War. The Russians are not going to engineer a coup against Assad, or in any way work to resolve the issue, because it is precisely the conflict that has given them influence in Syria—the conflict, that is, and Obama, who for no good reason has handed Moscow the reins.

Video Highlights

In Houla, pounding by pro-Assad troops resumes after departure of UN monitors leaving many dead and wounded: treating the injured http://youtu.be/jBPjhJnjuMs ,http://youtu.be/7evsmN41-YQ Martyrs http://youtu.be/eb5D7Z3XzQo Crops catch firehttp://youtu.be/C3pWlKx9d9I The pounding http://youtu.be/2AUE2io4tbw ,http://youtu.be/2AUE2io4tbw The gunfire http://youtu.be/PnsxuLJ1vp8 ,http://youtu.be/vsjp5WIJ9ko Locals running away from town across the fieldshttp://youtu.be/Z3Z7mCYuphM Earlier in the day, UN monitors visited some of the local houses where entire families were slaughtered http://youtu.be/c1txS0LPPq8

Assad officials keep insisting that no condemnation should be made until their investigation of the events is concluded, but their methods of investigations, which involve random pounding of the town, are a bit… unorthodox.

Some of those Russians anti-aircraft missiles, not intended for use in the current crackdown, if we go by the assertions of Russian officials, get used in the pounding of the Old Homs neighborhoods, setting entire buildings on fire: Hamidiyeh http://youtu.be/OmeexzSs1aELocal activist is almost killed while filming http://youtu.be/JZI-C-1zY9g Bab Al-Sibaa: pulling the bodies of the dead from the streets while under fire from snipershttp://youtu.be/AK1i4jnG1sg Khaldiyeh http://youtu.be/3275Rb8nrbg The poundinghttp://youtu.be/P5YE7A8Lygk , http://youtu.be/QurkSJrrnj0 ,http://youtu.be/wMmOHpVkubA , http://youtu.be/wBc0IAGqrvY ,http://youtu.be/qJB6FoVLrZo

In Rastan, the pounding resumes at night http://youtu.be/RKW7NuJb8TQ

In Idlib Province, chopper fires rockets on the village of Mar Shammareenhttp://youtu.be/5Y8ZBI32QMs

In Anadan, Aleppo Province, chopper fires rockets on the townhttp://youtu.be/pVhC15D8Fm0

In Damascus, the pounding of the town of Douma continues http://youtu.be/pnZqu73h5ps

Press Release: Italian Parliament Debates Response to the Magnitsky Case

Press Release
Hermitage Capital

Italian Parliament Debates Response to the Magnitsky Case

30 May 2012 – The Italian Parliament held a debate on the Magnitsky motion on Monday, giving one of the strongest condemnations yet of any European national parliament of Russia’s handling of the torture and murder in police custody of 37-year old Russian whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The Magnitsky motion was introduced by Matteo Mecacci, MP from Italy’s Democratic/Radical Party, and Chair of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.“The Magnitsky case is a test for European politics.  We are calling on European countries, and in this case on Italy, to act to stop officials responsible for the torture and murder of an innocent and corageous man, from freely traveling and investing in our nation. This is not a question of politics, is a question of human justice that needs to have an answer,” said Matteo Mecacci, MP.

Supported by representatives from five different parties in the Italian parliament, the motion calls for visa bans and asset freezes on the 60 Russian officials identified by the US Helsinki Commission for their role in the false arrest, torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky and the $230 million corruption he uncovered.

The Magnitsky motion calls the two-and-a-half year investigation into Magnitsky’s death “unsatisfactory” and condemns the posthumous prosecution launched against Mr Magnitsky.

“The proceedings initiated by Russian authorities in order to ascertain the cause of Magnitsky’s death have to date been completely unsatisfactory, culminating… in the reopening of a proceeding against Magnitsky, thus giving rise to the first proceeding against a deceased person in the history of the Russian Federation,” says the Italian motion.

“The detailed complaints which were recorded and expressed by Magnitsky himself over the course of his imprisonment have allowed accurate identification of those responsible 60 people within the Russan government…who have not to date been subject to due criminal process,” says the motion.

The motion urges the Italian government to act by imposing sanctions on the 60 Russian officials:

“To not issue entrance visas to the sixty people on the Cardin’s list in Italian territory or under Italian jurisdiction, and to identify, if any, the assets belonging to the sixty people on the Cardin’s list…and to take the appropriate measures in order to attain a substantial block on the availability of said assets.”

In addition to Mecacci, the motion is supported by Italian parliamentarians Luca Volontè, Fabio Evangelisti, Gianni Vernetti, Lapo Pistelli, Ricardo Migliori, Ettore Rosato, Marina Sereni, Antonio Misiani, Rita Bernardini, Elisebetta Zamparutti, Maurizio Turco, Maria Antonietta Farina Coscioni, and Marco Beltrandi.

During the debate, “The People of Freedom” party introduced a different motion on the Magnitsky case. It recognised that the Russian government failed to provide clear answers to the EU on the Magnitsky matter, but stopped short of calling for Italy to impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on the complicit Russian officials.

“The People of Freedom” party was launched five years ago by Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister and a friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Berlusconi was one of the few Western leaders who attended President Putin’s inauguration on 7 May 2012 in Moscow.

“We are calling on the Italian government not to allow Russian torturers and murders to come into Italy,” said a representative of Hermitage Capital. “We hope that personal friendships don’t get in the way of justice.”

The Magnitsky motion is now going into the consultation phase between various factions in the Italian parliament and the Italian government. It should be voted on at a plenary session next week.

 

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/

Syrian Network for Human Rights: Massive Shelling and Violent Attacks at Al-Houla Leaves 107 Dead

Al-Houla Plains Flooded with Blood

On 25 May 2012, Al-Houla plains witnessed the most brutal massacre since the arrival of the international observers in Syria. Random shelling targeted the villages and lands of al-Houla particularly the town of Taldo which lies at the western entrance of al-Houla and is surrounded by pro-regime villages.

The shelling, which lasted for 14 hours, left 11 people dead and dozens injured. Subsequently, army and security forces along with shabiha from the villages of Fulla and al-Qabou stormed into many houses at the outskirts of Taldou.

Shabiha forces carried out raids and extra-judicial executions against all residents at the outskirts of the town. Children were handcuffed and gathered with many men and women who were all subsequently slaughtered with bayonets. Shabiha militias then opened fire on the slaughtered victims, acts reminiscent of the dark ages and the law of the jungle.

The preliminary death toll of al-Houla massacre currently stands at 107 victims whose full names and photos have been documented. There remain many bodies that could not be reached and documented as yet. Among the casualties are 49 children under the age of 10 and 32 women.

 

WARNING: SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfS4QV1HxBw&feature=youtu.be&skipcontrinter=1

A video showing some of the victims of the brutal shelling and massacre, including very young children.

 

A video showing some of those wounded from the attack.

 

International visitors arrive in Al-Houla following the massacre and are swarmed by residents relating what has occurred.

 

The mass burial for the victims of the massacre.

 

For further information, please see;

Syrian Network for Human Rights — Special Report on Al-Houla Massacre — 26 May 2012

 

Charles Taylor Convicted to 50 Year Sentence

By Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Today Charles Taylor, the ex-President of Liberia, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his crimes committed in Sierra Leone during the country’s civil war in the 1990s.  The judgment handed down this morning in The Hague, Netherlands, is the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal, since the Nuremberg trials following World War II.

Taylor stands as his sentence is read. (Photo Courtesy of EuroNews)

Taylor’s conviction was based on the crimes he committed during his presidency which lasted from 1997 until 2003; specifically the crime of trafficking weapons to rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for “blood diamonds.”  The presiding judge said that Taylor was guilty of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”  As the 50 year conviction was handed down, Taylor stood in front of the court with his eyes cast down to the floor.

The original indictment laid out specific crimes including conscription of children under the age of 15, multiple instances of mass rape, and sexual assault.  Taylor’s provision of weapons allowed for the rebel soldiers of Sierra Leone to rampage the country, committing numerous war crimes including: rape, sexual assault, sexual slavery, murder, terrorism, and looting.  Although Taylor was not convicted for these crimes, and likely never will answer for them, human rights activists were optimistic about the sentence.  Ibrahim Sorie, a lawmaker in Sierra Leone, stated, “It restores our faith in the rule of law, and we see that impunity is ending for top people.”

Prosecutor’s, who originally asked for an 80 year sentence, said they might choose to appeal the sentence both to lengthen the time Taylor will spend behind bars and to broaden his responsibility for the crimes committed by the rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone.  Peter Andersen, a spokesperson for the Special Court of Sierra Leone, said that the prosecution had hoped the court would find Taylor guilty of being a “superior leader” and having a direct influence on the atrocities committed.  Andersen also noted that the sentence was a major step forward for the people of Sierra Leone and may help them move closer towards reconciliation.

Taylor’s defense counsel plans to appeal the sentence immediately.  They believe it is clearly disproportionate and excessive, especially considering that Taylor is 64 years of age and a 50 year sentence means he will spend the remainder of his life behind bars in a British prison.  Morris Anya, one of Taylor’s lawyers, noted that Taylor voluntarily stepped down from office; a fact that the court overlooked in reaching their sentence.  Prosecutor’s contest this last fact, stating that Taylor did not voluntarily leave but was pushed out by an African leaders delegation and a rebel offensive; both urging an end to the bloodshed.

 

For further information, please see;

ABC News — Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison — 30 May 2012

CNN — Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years for War Crimes — 30 May 2012

New York Times — Taylor Receives 50 Years for Heinous Crimes in War — 30 May 2012

Wall Street Journal — Court Sentences Liberian Dictator — 30 May 2012

 

Body of Boy Suspected of Terrorism Displayed by Somali Forces

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – The body of an unidentified boy suspected to be a member of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, lay lifeless at the Bakaara Market last May 22, publicly displayed for everyone to see.

Somali forces use dead body of suspected Al-Shabaab member to serve as a warning. (Photo Courtesy of Shabelle News)

The killing was part of Operation Free Shabelle, a military offensive by African Union member-states aiming to regain control of the Shabelle region of Southern Somalia from Al-Shabaab, an organization known to be affiliated with the international terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

According to Abdullahi Hassan Barrise, the Somali police spokesman, the boy was spotted carrying explosives which he allegedly planned to detonate in the area. When confronted by security officers, the boy tried to escape, prompting the officers to shoot him.

In an interview with the local newspapers, Barrise said the boy was one of the youths brainwashed by Al-Shabaab. On behalf of the Somali government, Barrise called upon the boys in Al-Shabaab to “repent” of their actions in the country. However, it is unclear if Barrise intends to give lighter punishment to the young combatants who will surrender peacefully.

Barrise further urged parents to caution and restrain their children from doing “risky behavior” which may ultimately harm them.

The scene of the killing, Bakaara Market, is one of Somalia’s biggest markets. It has seen its own share of violence and arms trade through most of Somalia’s civil wars. The recent increase of security forces in the area is in line with the Somali Army’s goal to “liberate the whole Shabelle region from Al-Shabaab” under Operation Free Shabelle.

The battle for control over this region has been ongoing since the early 1990s. It was only in 2007, however, that the Somali government, along with African Union member states, moved to toughen its stance through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

“Although much of the Al-Shabaab has been eliminated from the whole of Mogadishu, the Somali government forces will not stop pursuing members of the organization in other regions still under Al-Shabaab’s control,” Barisse said.

This killing of a suspected juvenile members of Al-Shabaab may continue as Barrise intends to give current members a preview of the grim fate they face should they persist with their activities. Somali government forces have been displaying the bodies of people they link to Al-Shabaab. Such incidents are on the increase of late.

For more information please see:

Risaala Media Corporation – Anood: Operations Won’t Stop Till We Liberate The Whole Of Lower Shabelle – May 26, 2012

Somaliland Press – In Pictures: Operation Free Shabelle – May 25, 2012

Shabelle Media Network – Somali Police Displays the Body of Suspected Al Shabab Boy in Mogadishu – May 23, 2012

Risaala Media Corporation – Somalia CID Boss Displays The Body Of Suspected Young Al-Shabab Fighter – May 23, 2012

 

Notes from Kampala: Spotlight on Sanyu

By Reta Raymond
Associate Special Features Editor

There are nearly two million known orphans in Uganda.  Many of these orphans lost their parents to AIDS, or the children were not kept because they were born out of wedlock, or their parents were simply too poor to keep them.  Additionally, women who give birth in Uganda have a high mortality rate.  This high mortality rate is in part due to the requirement that women in labor must bring their own medical supplies needed for labor, or they will be turned away from hospitals and clinics.  Often that will lead to women giving birth outside a medical facility in unsanitary conditions.

Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)
Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)

While in Kampala, I stayed at Sanyu Babies Home, which is the oldest babies home in Kampala. It runs on private donations and income-generating projects such as the on-campus guesthouse and craft shop.  There is no government funding for orphanages in Uganda.  Sanyu houses around fifty children, whose ages range from one day to four-years-old. This home has an excellent track record of getting children adopted, fostered, or reunited with their birth families.  These children are often found in pit latrines, maternity wards, churches, near wells and on the side of the street. Some of the caretakers believe that some children are delivered to Sanyu to save the child from being sacrificed as part of a traditional “witchcraft” ceremony.  They believe that certain beads worn around the children’s stomachs is evidence that a child has been chosen for sacrifice.

Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)
Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)

Children are generally very well taken care of at Sanyu.  There, children are given three meals and two snacks per day.  When the children come to Sanyu they are tested for AIDS, receive vaccinations, and are given medical treatment by the resident nurses or taken to a hospital if they require additional care.  Many of the children are malnourished, have experienced trauma, or have other health problems when they are brought to Sanyu.  These children, live in the equivalent of a middle-class Ugandan home.

However, Sanyu still struggles to provide medical care to the children, because it is difficult to pay their medical bills.  When medical bills reach a certain level, the hospital will refuse to care for any more children.  This past spring, one of the volunteer caretakers from outside Africa carried pneumonia to the home and infected many of the children.  As a result of this outbreak, three children died and many were put in the hospital, which left Sanyu with some debilitating bills.  Not only must Sanyu pay for the medical services when a child falls ill, but also for the medical supplies.  For example, if a child needs stitches, Sanyu must bring the scissors, gauze, and thread.  Therefore, the medical bills can escalate rapidly, and if they do not pay the bill for a long time, the hospital will simply refuse to treat any more of Sanyu’s children.  After the pneumonia outbreak, Sanyu worried that they wouldn’t be able to pay the bill before another child would need to visit the hospital.

Sanyu is also unique because it is a somewhat transparent organization.  Donors may pay hospitals, electricity bills, and vaccinations directly on behalf of Sanyu.  An administrator, whose decisions are subject to a board of director’s approval, runs the home. However, recent criticisms of their financial decisions make me believe that Sanyu may not be free from corruption, which is widespread in Uganda.

Regardless, Sanyu is one of the best places for an orphaned child in Uganda to end up.  Many international families, as well as local families, come to Sanyu to be matched with their potential child, and many international and local volunteers come to help care for the children.  Many orphanages in Uganda are not nearly so lucky.  For example, I visited another orphanage in Kampala where children were not fed one day per week, as a way of budgeting for food.  At that orphanage, donations from international visitors were rare, as it is further out of the city and not well known.  That orphanage housed over seventy children, with all the boys living in a two-room house without electricity.  Furthermore, the children had to sleep two or three to a mattress.

Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)
Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala, Uganda (Photo by Reta Raymond)


For more information on how to help Sanyu, either by donating items or money or becoming a volunteer visit: http://www.sanyubabies.com.

Additionally, a $7 donation to “Mercy for Mamas” will buy a “mama’s kit” which provides an expectant mother with all the medical supplies she will need at the hospital to deliver her baby safely and in sanitary conditions.  Since Ugandan medical facilities do not provide medical supplies to treat their patients, hospitals and clinics turn women away if they do not bring the proper medical supplies necessary to deliver the baby.  For more information, visit: http://www.mercyformamas.com.

Another source of information is the child advocacy blog, “A Child’s Voice.” This blog posts on a variety of issues affecting children in Uganda, read more at http://a-childs-voice.org/.

Charles Taylor, Former Liberian President now War Criminal

By Vicki Turakhia
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — After a five-year and  50 million dollar trial, Charles Ghankay Taylor, the 64-year old once president of Liberia, has been tried and found guilty of war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Then Liberian President Charles Taylor during the civil war. (Photo Courtesy of All Africa)

Taylor’s conduct in Sierra Leone has been cited as pivotal towards the harm caused to the citizens of Sierra Leone. His crimes included involvement in the murder, rape, sexual slavery, and recruitment of child soldiers. Charles Taylor was a rebel leader turned president of Liberia until his ultimate exile to Nigeria. During Charles Taylor’s time as president, he received blood diamonds for his participation in the killing of tens of thousands of people which he used to furnish weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis, found the actions of Charles Taylor to be “purposely cruel.” Hollis has stated that Taylor was involved in the facilitation of public rapes of women and people being burned alive in their homes. Taylor’s involvement also extends to the amputation and execution of the citizens of Sierra Leone, using decapitated heads at checkpoints.

However, the defense calls Charles Taylor a scapegoat for Sierra Leone’s self-inflicted harm. Charles Taylor provided his own argument for his actions by stating that he was bringing peace to Sierra Leone and he did so with honor, he further claimed that his trial had been unjust because his witnesses had been paid to change or recant their testimony.

Taylor declared that his actions were comparable to President George W. Bush, stating that it is unfair that the United States did not prosecute President Bush for his conduct. Courtenay Griffiths, Charles Taylor’s defense barrister, argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC), is being manipulated behind the scenes, strung along by politics instead of the steadfast law. Mr. Griffiths insists that the trial, while necessary, was handled incorrectly.

Despite, the defenses’ arguments Charles Taylor was found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting rebel forces. The judges of the ICC were unanimous in their decision.

The prosecution has recommended an 80-year sentence, while the defense asks for anything that would be less than a life sentence. The prosecution has found the 80-year prison sentence is justified based on the Charles Taylor’s conduct and involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War. Taylor is to be sentenced on May 30th with a right to appeal the decision. The loss of the appeal may result in Taylor serving a sentence in a British prison as the Netherlands has only agreed to house the trial and not the prison sentence.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Liberia:Charles Taylor Gets Sentence Tomorrow  – 29 May 2012

All Africa –  Liberia: Taylor Begs for Merciful Jail Sentence – 17 May 2012

CNN – In His Last Stand, Charles Taylor Defends Himself as a Peacemaker – 16 May 2012

BBC – Sierra Leone Trial: 80 Years Urged for Charles Taylor – 3 May 2012

BBC – Charles Taylor Guilty of Aiding Sierra Leone War Crimes – 26 April 2012

Western Nations Expel Syrian Diplomats Following Houla Massacre

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — Several Western nations expelled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated response to last Friday’s violence in Houla.  Following the release of a United Nations report on Tuesday describing how many of the victims were shot dead at close range, the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands participated in the global diplomatic action.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League’s Joint Special Envoy for Syria, meets with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) described how most of the 108 victims were shot at close range with fewer than twenty killed by artillery.  Rupert Colville, an OHCHR spokesman, explained: “this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it was summary executions of civilians, women and children [where] entire families were shot in their houses.”

Pro-government paramilitary thugs known as shabiha were blamed for the house-to-house killings.  “Unfortunately, these allegations are consistent with other incidents documented by my office, the international Commission of Inquiry on Syria and other human rights organizations,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said on Tuesday.  Syria has denied responsibility, calling the Houla massacre a “terrorist massacre” perpetrated by “armed terrorists” who attacked the military in the area, killing civilians.

UN and Arab League representative Kofi Annan met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in Damascus.  Annan appealed “for bold steps now – not tomorrow, now – to create momentum for the implementation of the plan.  This means that the Government, and all Government-backed militias, could stop all military operations and show maximum restraint.”  The six-point peace plan offered by Annan to end the bloodshed back in March has not been implemented.  The Houla massacre is only the latest in a long string of atrocities that have taken place over the past fourteen months.

The U.S. and its allies are considering seeking further sanctions by the UN Security Council against Syria according to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.  However, Russia has blocked two measures in the past and has threatened to veto future attempts.

French President Francois Hollande went so far as to mention the possible use of military force.  Speaking to France 2 television, he said, “military intervention is not excluded provided it is carried out under the auspices of international law, namely via a Security Council resolution.”  Hollande went on to say, “it is down to myself and others to convince Russia and China, and also to find a solution which is not necessarily a military one.”  On Friday, he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris.

For more information, please see:

Al-Ahram – Syria Opposition Seeks Resolution Authorising Use of Force – 29 May 2012

Al Jazeera – Syria Diplomats Face Expulsions over Massacre – 29 May 2012

Bloomberg – U.S., Allies Expel Syrian Diplomats after Houla Massacre – 29 May 2012

The New York Times – Western Nations, Protesting Killings, Expel Syrian Envoys – 29 May 2012

United Nations News Centre – Joint UN-Arab League Envoy Urges Syrian President to Take “Bold Steps” to End Violence – 29 May 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Tuesday 29 May 2012

THE COMMENTARY IN THIS PIECE DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF IMPUNITY WATCH.  

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Requiem for the Living!

 

If world leaders believe that they have the luxury to turn their collective back on Syria and wring their collective hands, it will not be the first time people failed to see how their own houses were vulnerable to the fire they were doing nothing to combat. Humanity has made a habit of dancing in her own funeral. What we need today, more than ever, is a requiem for the living for the dead are already at peace.

Tuesday May 29, 2012

 

Death toll: 61, mostly in Homs, Aleppo and Deir Ezzor provinces.

 

News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Eds & Special Reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the attention being devoted to such dead-end diplomatic initiatives is simply indicative of the fundamental lack of seriousness in Washington regarding events in Syria. President Obama may have created an Atrocities Prevention Board, but he is doing nothing serious to prevent the ongoing atrocities in Syria.

 

Video Highlights

 

In the village of Sijer in Deir Ezzor Province in the northeast, locals find dozens of unidentified bodies with their hands tied behind their backs left by pro-Assad militias, the victims of summary executions: http://youtu.be/DxTvF7g6dFU

 

In Homs City, the pounding of old neighborhoods continues: Bab Sibaa http://youtu.be/MCwjNVtmdXo , http://youtu.be/2cW6ncspAqs Hamidiyeh: human remains scattered all over the streets http://youtu.be/6cBGQDOhrsA

 

The nearby town of Qusayr along the Lebanese borders continues to be heavily bombarded as well http://youtu.be/HlZsd8NsY1Y , http://youtu.be/UB9zX4__qUQ ,http://youtu.be/cr7oXDLqseE Treating the injured http://youtu.be/ymvoDziNsQ8 ,http://youtu.be/LStUj9mZros Martyrs http://youtu.be/WKECEkDAGx4 ,http://youtu.be/2VD63bHzm1M

 

In the town of Rastan, Homs Province, and after weeks of pounding, many neighborhoods lie in ruins http://youtu.be/rwL8n1g0-7E

 

In Aleppo Province, the battle for the town of Al-Atareb continues, but for now the local resistance retains control http://youtu.be/In_FZ5-4Nyk Scenes from the battle: local resistance laying siege to an official building where loyalist forces took refugehttp://youtu.be/Q40u6RodIo8 , http://youtu.be/ZZzYa0miY_4 ,http://youtu.be/1q1pSImGdYQ The wounded http://youtu.be/JIpWMxlAY9M Martyrshttp://youtu.be/KNgVAdYSq_c

 

In Damascus, the town of Douma comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/t94bUwJgKpMand has come under fire earlier in the day as well http://youtu.be/ALsbNkqPT0w

 

Leaked videos shows loyalist troops firing at civilian neighborhoods in the town of Da’el in Daraa Province http://youtu.be/TbHscxDBwD8

 

Syrian Human Rights Violations Special Report: Hospitals in Hama

During the past few months, private hospitals in Hama witnessed an organized campaign by the Syrian regime forces which went on killing and torturing civilians and even pursuing them to the places where they receive treatment and withholding treatment from them. Hospitals receiving the wounded in Hama were attacked many times as shown by the following examples obtained by activists from the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

 

This video shows the effects of shelling on the façade of Al Bader hospital (which is a private hospital in the northern part of Hama in Aleppo Road neighborhood).

 

Premature babies are dying in the incubators of Al Assad medical compound due to power cuts and the inability to use generators after fuel supplies to the hospital were cut.  Al Assad medical compound is a public hospital in the north eastern part of Hama in Al Hader neighborhood; it specialized in treating babies and pregnant women.  The Syrian regime forces have occupied the rooftop of this hospital and used it as a vantage point to kill and terrorize civilians.  The hospital is one of the most important centers for the regime forces in this area.

 

A video showing snipers monitoring from their strategic vantage point on the occupied Al-Assad hospital rooftop.

 

Field hospitals set up by residents, and with the help of doctors, to treat the injured away from regime forces are witnessing massive shortages in materials, sterilization and medical practice.  Doctors and nurses working in such hospitals are subject to arrest and torture.  The most critical shortages in such hospitals are blood transfusion sacks which are imported and sold in Syria exclusively by the Ministry of Defence through state-run blood bank branches which are formally affiliated with the Ministry of Defence, in addition to the platelet separator only available at such blood bank branches. Many cases of deaths result from injury and the inability to provide the patient with the needed blood. Activists in the Syrian revolution are currently working to get such sacks into the country through illegal ways to meet the needs of field hospitals.

 

Videos Courtesy of:

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Special Report Hospitals in Hama – 29 May 2012