Western Leaders Invited to Inspect Zimbabwe’s “Blood Diamond” Fields

By Tara Pistorese
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe—Zimbabwean authorities, including security forces and the national army, have recently been accused of beating, torturing, and killing diamond miners in the Marange fields, approximately 250 miles east of Harare.

Young boys selling rough diamonds. (Photo Courtesy of Time Magazine)

Four diamond companies are currently operating in Marange. One such company, Marange Resources, says it can produce a minimum of 200,000 carats per month between its three plants. This further supports an expert theory that Marange may be the largest diamond discovery in generations.

One of the most heavily criticized companies, Anjin, maintains a 50-50 partnership with DMC, another diamond company. Military and police officers make up a large portion of Anjin’s leadership board.

According to Global Witness (GW), one of the first non-governmental organizations to expose the international trade in blood diamonds, Anjin’s internal structure creates opportunities for “off-budget funding of the security sector” and “a real risk of these revenues being used to finance violence during a future election.”

After reports surfaced that diamond companies in the area may be assisting President Mugabe to suppress political opponents, the United States, Great Britain, and other countries imposed sanctions.

“It was actually quite shocking that sanctions would be slapped on us even though we are fully compliant by the Kimberley Process,” said Ramzi Malik, project manager for DMC. “So for us we just continue doing our business and doing our thing, and that is the end of it.”

The “Kimberley Process” (KP), an agreement between the UN, the EU, the World Diamond Council, and seventy-five countries and interest groups, requires the close supervision of rough stones in order to ensure legitimate mining and sales activities.

Lately, KP’s failure to implement a system for independent verification has initiated controversy over the system’s effectiveness. Pursuant to this perceived gap, members are still unsure where the diamonds originated or whether the proceeds are used to finance violence or abusive regimes.

As a result, GW has pulled out of KP; however, China and India’s participation in the diamond market has remedied any would-be surplus of diamonds.

President Mugabe and his allies are pushing to have the sanctions lifted. In an effort to put human rights abuse reports to rest, the Zimbabwean government has invited Western ambassadors to tour the controversial fields. The two-day mission will begin on Tuesday.

 

For further information, please see:

All Africa—Zimbabwe: EU Diplomats Set to Visit Marange Diamond Fields—24 June 2012

Voice of America—Zimbabwe Diamond Policy Won’t Improve Accountability in Marange—22 June 2012

Voice of America—Diplomats to Tour Controversial Zimbabwe Fields—19 June 2012

Human Rights Watch—Zimbabwe: Diamond Abuses Show Need for Reforms—4 June 2012

World Press—Blood Diamonds—15 April 2012

CNN—Inside Zimbabwe’s Controversial Marange Diamond Field—16 March 2012

Supreme Court Split on Arizona’s Controversial Immigration Law

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — The Supreme Court issued a split decision Monday on the controversial Arizona law aimed at deterring illegal immigration.

Reporters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The court differed on three key provisions of the law.  In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said those other portions of the Arizona law could not be enforced due to the federal government’s broad powers in setting immigration policy.

“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Kennedy wrote.  “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process (of the federal government figuring out how to best carry out its immigration power) continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

Specifically, the three provisions required immigrants to always carry immigration papers, banned illegal immigrants from trying to get work in public places, and allowed police to arrest immigrants without warrants, so long as the officers believed the immigrants were committing crimes that would deport them.  The votes on these provisions were either 5-3 or 6-2 in favor of declaring them unconstitutional, with the more conservative justices dissenting.

The justices unanimously upheld, however, the so-called “show me your papers” provision at the core of the law.  It requires local law enforcement authorities to determine the immigration status of anyone who’s stopped or arrested, so long as there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is illegally in the United States.

“There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced,” Kennedy wrote, emphasizing that state officials must obey all federal laws in checking a person’s immigration status or face additional constitutional challenges.

Opponents fear this portion of the law would lead to racial profiling.

“I know they will not be using that kind of tactic on people with the last name Roberts, Romney, or Brewer, but if your name is something like Gutierrez or Chung or Obama, watch out,” Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois told CNN.  He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  “The express goal of the authors of Arizona’s [immigration law] is to make life miserable for immigrants so that they will leave, and a key tool in that effort was upheld by the court.”

Arizona’s immigration law, passed in 2010, was the first of half a dozen states to adopt laws aimed at removing illegal immigrants.  Reuters reports that three percent of the country’s illegal immigrants, or about 360,000, live in Arizona.  Nevertheless, most of the state’s two million Hispanics are legal residents.

According to CNN, neither the Arizona Department of Public Safety nor the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police was clear on whether authorities would begin checking drivers’ immigration status while enforcing other laws.  Questions were referred to the state’s attorney general’s office.

Despite the split ruling, both parties declared the Court’s ruling a win.  President Obama was “pleased” the justices struck down the three key provisions of the law, while Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, called the decision “a victory for the rule of law.”  She also assured that police engaged in racial profiling would be punished.

Among those upset with the Court’s decision was Justice Antonin Scalia, who read an angry dissent from the bench.  He said he would have upheld the entire Arizona law.

“[T]o say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind,” Scalia said in reference to Obama’s recent executive order stopping deportation for certain young people in the United States illegally.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she had worked on it as Obama’s solicitor general.

For further information, please see:

The Supreme Court — Opinion, Arizona v. United States — 25 June 2012

The Associated Press — Court Hampers Romney’s Plea to Hispanics — 25 June 2012

CNN — Supreme Court Mostly Rejects Arizona Immigration Law; Gov says ‘Heart’ Remains — 25 June 2012

The New York Times — Blocking Parts of Arizona Law, Justices Allow its Centerpiece — 25 June 2012

Reuters — Supreme Court Has Split Verdict on Arizona Immigration Law — 25 June 2012

Syrian Network for Human Rights: Violations Report 25 June 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMQ0a8PYtvo&feature=youtu.be

A video showing the Joret Ash-Shayah neighborhood of Homs.  It has been completely destroyed due to attacks by the regime forces.

**WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES**

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcjKJtnbDx8&feature=youtu.be&skipcontrinter=1

After a shelling and raid campaign residents of Inkhel took to the streets in anger for the 15 victims killed.  The regime’s army and security forces targeted the protestors, killing another 3 citizens.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjW-6wcpg8&feature=youtu.be

Regime forces are placed all around towns in order to stifle the movement of citizens.

 

CASUALTY REPORT

70 confirmed casualties killed by the regime on Monday, 25 June 2012.

Hama: 17
Deir Ezzor: 11
Damascus and Rural Damascus: 11
Idleb: 9
Homs: 9
Daraa: 13
Latakia: 3
Al-Hasakah: 3
Aleppo: 3

90 confirmed casualties killed by the regime on Sunday, 24 June 2012.

Deir Ezzor: 28
Aleppo: 17
Idleb: 11
Daraa: 10
Homs: 10
Damascus and Rural Damascus: 9
Latakia: 5

102 confirmed casualties killed by the regime on Saturday, 23 June 2012.

Damascus and Rural Damascus: 27
Deir Ezzor 25
Homs: 19
Aleppo: 11
Hama: 9
Daraa: 8
Idelb: 2
Raqqa: 1

New President of Paraguay Fails to Receive Foreign Recognition

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Paraguay’s now formerly ousted President Fernando Lugo has accused the country’s Congress of a “parliamentary coup d’etat” in order to force him out of power. Lugo, 61, said he would accept the decision in the name of peace but also made the following statement: “Lugo has not been dismissed; democracy has been dismissed. They have not respected the popular will.”

Newly Appointed President Fredrico Franco Sworn in on Friday. (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

Friday, June 22, Fredrico Franco, the former vice president of Paraguay, was sworn in as the new president after the legislature voted to dismiss Lugo, who they said failed to fulfill his duties to maintain social harmony in the country. While Paraguay has long been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in South America, Lugo was found to be indecisive in the face of the country’s challenges with corruption and drug trafficking.

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, June 24, Lugo made an appearance at a local demonstration where he told his supporters that his Presidency was targeted because he tried to offer support and aid to Paraguay’s poor majority.

Lugo’s impeachment and trial sparked after clashes during a recent land eviction resulted in 17 deaths of both police and land peasant farmers. Critics of the impeachment process in Paraguay argued, however, that Mr. Lugo’s lawyers only had a few hours to defend him in the Senate, after which Franco was quickly sworn in to the position.

When asked whether this decision thwarted the democratic setup of the government, new President Franco replied, “there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through political trial is established in the national constitution.”

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission addressed its own concerns with the ousting of former President Lugo. Santiago Canton, the commission’s executive secretary noted, “It’s a travesty of justice and a trampling on the rule of law to remove a president in 24 hours without guarantees of due process.”

Argentinian President, Cristina Kirchner, took a firm stand saying that her country “will not validate this coup d’etat,” while the Brazilian government took a similar view that Lugo’s impeachment was “a rupture of the democratic order in Paraguay” that “compromises a fundamental pillar of democracy, an essential condition for regional integration.” Germany is the only foreign government to recognize the new leadership in Paraguay.

In order to restore its full democratic order, Paraguay now looks to its powerful neighbors for support with its new internal reform.

 

For further information, please see:

EIN News – Neighbors Protest as Paraguay Impeaches President – 25 June 2012

The Washington Post – Paraguay’s Lugo Says Parallel Govt Seeks to Regain Power; New Leader Rejects Region’s Response – 25 June 2012

Merco Press – Franco: “No Coup, a Change of Leadership”; Germany Admits New Government – 24 June 2012

The Telegraph – Paraguay’s Ousted Leader Fernando Lugo Denounces ‘Coup’ – 24 June 2012

Notes From India: Rural Health Care Facilities

Courtney Schuster
Special Contributor, Blog Entry #3

My most recent adventure was being assigned to a fact-finding team that was given the assignment of inspecting rural health facilities.    We were sent to the very rural, and very poor state of Bihar to examine how health facilities complied with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) standards.  The federal government instituted the NRHM in 2006.  It set the standards for care and operations at government health facilities.  Additionally, it established dozens of requirements for health facilities including: the number of staff that should be at a facility at any given time; drugs that should be present; the number of beds each facility should have; and basic medical hygiene that should be provided.

The fact-finding team spent a week in Bihar traveling to five districts and looking at twenty-five different health facilities.  The medical equipment and beds that these facilities had were mostly old and very rusted.  In every single facility we visited, there were numerous concerns that went far beyond the superficial issues like rusting bed frames.

The beds of the women's ward, where patients go after giving birth.

First, every facility had a layer of dirt on the floor.  Government facilities cannot afford to have air conditioning so they depend on windows and fans to cool the place.  Unfortunately, open doors and windows also mean that the dust and dirt get in and covers every surface.  There are no regular cleaning staff employed at any of the facilities, save the few large district hospitals; and even in those, the method of cleaning is simply sweeping with a grass broom, which is ineffective and unsanitary.

Second, poor cleanliness of supplies, bedding, and buildings is prevalent.  In every room, of every facility, the floors, and often times walls, were covered in old blood stains.  Sheets were also old and stained.  There were beds and operating tables without any sheets at all.  Medical supplies were not sterilized between uses.  Many of the larger health facilities had running water but none had the means to heat water or an autoclave.  A majority of the facilities we saw in rural areas did not even have running water.

A delivery room, in the yellow bucket is medical waste from a delivery a few hours earlier.

Third, unsafe medical waste disposal and poor garbage disposal was the norm.  Inside the facilities, used medical supplies littered the floors.  Medical waste, including blood and fluids, from births and operations were not disposed of in a proper or timely manner.  Most facilities threw delivery fluids, like after birth and the placenta, out the window.  At one center, a birth had taken place five hours before our arrival.  As we began our tour, that delivery room was still waiting to be cleaned.

The perimeter of each facility was much worse.  Every one we visited had garbage covering the lawns.  There were water drainage ditches outside buildings full of garbage, medical waste, and sometimes even human waste.  The more rural and remote health facilities had animal feces from cattle, goats, and sheep on the ground outside and on the steps leading into the building.   Old vials, used needles, blood soaked material, used gloves, and plastic packaging were littered everywhere.  Many facilities had people, including children, waiting outside right next to the medical waste.

Medical waste is tossed into an old cooler sitting outside one of the medical facilities.

I left Bihar stunned and dismayed at the unsanitary conditions and poor management of every health facility we visited.  None of them were consistent with the NRHM standards and it became clear to me why India continue to struggles with high maternal mortality rates.

 

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.  

Chinese Authorities Bar Artist’s Attendance in Courtroom

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China -Wednesday, Chinese authorities prevented artist Ai Weiwei from attending his company’s first court hearing against Beijing tax authorities.  According to Weiwei, they proffered no explanation.

Weiwei denied court access. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

“This society has become a scary and dangerous one now, because there are too many things that violate people’s rights and that happen with no explanation,” stated Weiwei.

Despite police officers’ attempts to bar many Weiwei supporters from leaving their homes, hundreds were still able to rally outside the Chaoyang District Court.

In 2011, Chinese authorities detained Weiwei for three months.  In addition, the government sanctioned Weiwei’s design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., to a 15M yuan ($2.35M) fine for back taxes.  Weiwei’s wife and legal representative, Lu Qing, has spearheaded an appeal on behalf of the company against the fine.  Qing has also filed a separate action alleging witness and evidence mishandling by the tax bureau.

Through his work and political activism, the 54-year-old artist has earned the reverence of most in both the political and artistic communities outside of China.  The Art Review deemed Weiwei the most powerful artist in the world.

“Ai’s activities have allowed artists to move away from the idea that they work within a privileged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum.  They have reminded his colleagues and the world at large of the fact that freedom of expression is a basic right of any human being.”

Political activists and other Weiwei supporters purport that a direct correlation exists between his punishment and his criticism of the Chinese government.

Since his release, the authorities have forbidden Weiwei to travel outside of China.  Moreover, Weiwei is under steady surveillance.

“They didn’t return my passport, I just realized that,” Weiwei said.  “And they didn’t return my computers. You know, because for subversion of state power, they want to try to find every trace. But they can’t find anything, I guess. I mean, they owe me to say sorry. But of course they would never do it. It’s over, but it’s never totally over. You are still not allowed to go abroad.”

In addition to the pending litigation, Weiwei may face other charges: pornography, bigamy, and illicit exchange of foreign currency.  However, there is no certainty whether the authorities will pursue these suspected crimes.

Despite authorities’ alleged attempts to stop or at least deter criticism directed at them, Weiwei continues to fight his censure through banned social networks such as Twitter.

 

For further information, please see:

NPR-Ai Weiwei Says He is Barred From Leaving China– 21 June 2012

Voice of America-Ai Weiwei: Still Can’t Leave China– 21 June 2012

Guardian-Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police– 20 June 2012

New York Times- Chinese Artist Is Barred From His Own Hearing-20 June 2012

Bastrykin Apologizes for Making Threats to Decapitate Russian Journalist

By Connie Hong
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – Alexander Bastrykin, Russia’s chief of the Investigative Committee, issued a public apology to Sergei Sokolov after making death threats to the Novaya Gazeta journalist.  In an off-the-record meeting with several editors from the Moscow media, Bastrykin apologized for being overly emotional during his confrontation with Sokolov.

Sergei Sokolov
Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta. (Photo Courtesy of Committee to Protect Journalists)

Sokolov, the deputy editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta first received fire from Bastrykin after writing an article accusing the Investigative Committee and its chief for aiding crime bosses.  The article was written in response to the light sentences served against members of the Kushchyovskaya gang, which murdered 12 people, including small children, in 2011.  Amongst those sentences that Sokolov heavily criticized was the one imposed on local legislator Sergei Tsepovyaz.  Tsepovyaz, a brother of a gang member, was only ordered to pay a fine of 150,000 rubles ($4,570) after the court found him guilty of destroying evidence of a gasoline purchase.  The gasoline had been used by gang members to burn down the victims’ home.

Bastrykin was infuriated after reading the article, and quickly acted to invite Sokolov to a conference in Nalchik.  Sokolov received the death threat on the return trip to Moscow.  According to Muratov’s open letter to Bastrykin, Sokolov was taken to a forest near Moscow in a car.  There, Bastrykin ordered his bodyguards to leave before “rudely” threatening Sokolov’s life, adding jokingly that he would personally investigate Sokolov’s murder.  Sokolov fled the country shortly after telling a colleague that Bastrykin threatened to cut his head and legs off.

Bastrykin’s apology comes after the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)’s criticism.  Both groups supported Muratov and his demand for a public explanation, and urged Russian authorities to investigate the threats.

Sokolov and Muratov had both accepted Bastrykin’s apology.  While some have applauded the Investigator Committee chief, others have expressed disappointment in Novaya Gazeta’s response.

“It is now forbidden to take Sergei Sokolov out in the woods and threaten to do away with him, but it’s OK to do that to other journalists.  Because as of today it’s not even a crime, just a bit of rudeness.  That is Dmitry Muratov’s gift to the journalistic community that only yesterday took to the streets for him,” wrote Masha Gessen, editor of the travel magazine Vokrug Sveta.

While Bastrykin’s apology did not change the dangerous conditions of Russian journalists, it most certainly answered Novaya Gazeta’s demands for Sokolov’s safety.  Sokolov returned to Moscow on June 19 after Bastrykin apologized to him personally.

 

For further information, please see:

The Economist — Publish and be Threatened: A Revealing Tale of a Journalist and a Top Policeman — 23 June 2012

Bloomberg — What to Do When Russia’s Top Cop Threatens to Behead You — 20 June 2012

The Moscow Times — Bastrykin Ate His Words — 19 June 2012

International Federation of Journalists — IFJ and EFJ Slam Head of Russian Investigative Committee over Threats to Senior Journalist — 14 June 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Sunday 24 June 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Paper-Tigers & Wimps!

They talk tough but remain missing in action: Turkish and Western leaders better spare us their sympathy is it don’t come with an action plan that can stop Assad NOW.

Sunday June 24, 2012

The average daily death toll is now close to 150, and the worst is yet to come, with more pro-Assad militias perpetrating more and more massacres, selling more and more towns throughout the country.

News

The circumstances of the deaths were not immediately clear, with the state-run news agency saying at least 25 men were killed. In the video — which The Associated Press could not independently verify — the narrator said the victims were members of the “shabiha,” or pro-regime gunmen… It was not clear whether the men were killed execution-style or died in clashes. An activist in the area, Mohammed Saeed, said rebels regularly collect the bodies of the dead from the government side and dump them by the side of the road so troops can collect them later.

Op-Eds & Special Reports

More coverage of AEI Event on Syria, June 18, 2012

“The country is being partitioned.  Waiting will allow for the partitioning to actually take effect.  There will be repercussions that will be felt in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Jordan, in Turkey and perhaps even in Israel as well,” Syrian pro-democracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid said. (Video)

Turkey – A Paper Tiger on the Mediterranean

After making so many on promises on Syria, like vowing not to allow Hama, only to stand and watch the retaking of Hama, and the endless slaughter that followed and to watch on helplessly as Assad troops pursued refugees even inside Turkey’s borders, the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Assad’s air defenses, mostly likely operated under guidance of Russian experts, and Erdogan’s confused reaction to the matter serve only to consolidate the emerging image of Turkey as nothing more than a paper tiger.

With its continued reliance on Iranian gas supplies, continued problems between the political and military leaderships, and continued inability to effectively address its Kurdish Question, not to mention its Alevi Question the mere enunciation of which remains a taboo, the image of a regional powerhouse that Turkey has been to project over the last few years seem highly exaggerated. Turkey is simply not ready, politically, economically, or militarily, to be a serious player on the regional scene, consideration of Turkish pride notwithstanding. Her leaders are advised to reflect this reality in their pronouncements to avoid having more egg on their faces, and to avoid the continued embarrassment of having to appear nothing more than mustachioed wimps even when confronted by the region’s lankiest and weakest link: Bashar Al-Assad.

U.S. Policy on Syria – another example of wimpishness in action

The interview below with Secretaries Clinton and Baker outline the current U.S. policy on Syria. At the heart of the policy is he continued preoccupation with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the belief that Russia can help find a solution for this, hence the unwillingness to anger Russians over Syria and the push for so-called political transition with Nicaragua rather than Yemen providing the model for that. But with no talk of serious enforcement mechanisms, any talk of political solutions risks going in the same direction of the Arab League and Annan plans, and will only buy Assad more time to keep killing and ensuring the de facto partition of the country.

Interview With Charlie Rose of “Conversations on Diplomacy”
Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State, Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III 
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DCJune 20, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: On Syria, so far they’ve taken Russia’s lead on Syria. But we’re working on that every single day as well.

MR. ROSE: Why did they do that? Why do they take Russia’s lead?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think both Russia and China have a very strong aversion to interference in internal affairs.

MR. ROSE: Sovereignty issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And so for the Russians, we – I was with President Obama in Mexico two days ago. We had a two-hour meeting with President Putin. They’re just – they don’t want anything to do with it. They find it quite threatening, and basically they reject it out of hand. So anything that smacks of interference for the Russians and for the Chinese, they presume against. There are other reasons, but that’s the principal objection that they make.

MR. ROSE: Would coming – both different countries and different points, but they somehow come together on these issues – Syria and with respect to Russia and the role they are playing.

SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah, yeah.

MR. ROSE: And the role that the United States is playing and the role that the region can play. What should we be doing and what is the risk of not doing?

SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I’ll answer that in just a minute. But first let me say if we’re going to have differences with Russia – and we do have some differences with Russia – it seems to me the most important difference we might have is with respect to Iran. And we don’t have that now, and that’s really important. And I don’t think we ought to create a problem with Russia vis-a-vis what we want to do in Iran about their nuclear ambitions as a result of something we might do in Syria. I just think the Iranian issue there is far more important really than how we resolve the Syrian issue.

How should we resolve the Syrian issue? I think we should continue to support a political transition in the government in Syria. But I don’t – but I think we ought to support it diplomatically, politically, and economically in every way that we can, but we should be very leery, extremely leery, about being drawn in to any kind of a military confrontation or exercise.

MR. ROSE: Does that include supplying them with arms?

SECRETARY BAKER: That – well, that’s a slippery slope. The fact of the matter is a lot of our allies are already supplying them with arms. Okay? It’s not something –

MR. ROSE: And our friends in the region.

SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I say our allies in the region. Yeah, they’re doing it. And it’s not something we have to do. I look at Syria and I think why are we not calling for something that we – this is – it may not be the right comparison, but in 1989, when we came into office, the wars in Central America were the holy grail of the left, political left in this country, and the holy grail of the political right in this country. We said if we can take these wars out of domestic politics, we can cure the foreign policy problem, and we did.

How did we do it? We put it to both parties – Daniel Ortega, the hardline, authoritarian dictator, if you will, in Nicaragua, and to Violeta Chamorro, the opposition candidate. We said if you’ll hold an election and both agree to abide by the results, that’s the way we’ll get out of this conundrum. That’s what happened. And both of them did agree, finally, to abide by the results. Ortega lost. President Carter was very instrumental in getting him to leave office. Why don’t we try something like that in Syria, I mean, and say look, political transition is what we’re looking for. Everybody – even the Russians, I think – would have difficulty saying no, we’re not going to go for an election, particularly if you let Bashar run. Let him run. Make sure you have a lot of observers in there. Make sure they can’t fix the election. Why not try that?

MR. ROSE: Why not try that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, that is the path that we are trying. And I spoke with Kofi Annan again today. He is working on a political transition roadmap. We are somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that I think Assad still believes he can crush what he considers to be an illegitimate rebellion against his authority and characterizes everyone who opposes him as a terrorist who is supported by foreign interests. He’s not yet at the point where he understands his legitimacy is gone and he is on a downward slope.

The other problem we have is that the opposition has not yet congealed around a figure or even a group that can command the respect and attention internally within Syria as well as internationally. So what we’re doing is, number one, putting more economic pressure, because that is important, and the sanctions and trying to cut off the Syrian regime, and send a message to the Syrian business class, which so far has stuck with Assad.

We’re also working very hard to try to prop up and better organize the opposition. We’ve spent a lot of time on that. It still is a work in progress. We are also pushing hard on having Kofi Annan lay down a political transition roadmap and then getting a group of nations, that would include Russia, in a working group to try to sell that to both the Assad regime and to the opposition .

So, I mean, the path forward is exactly as Jim has described it. Getting the people and the interests on that path has been what we’ve been working on now for several months.

MR. ROSE: Who would be in that group other than the United States, Russia? Who else?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you would have to have the Arab League because Kofi Annan is a joint envoy of both the UN and the Arab League. You would have to have the permanent members of the Security Council because that’s who he represents in his UN role. And you’d have to have the neighbors. You’ve got to have Turkey involved because of their long border and their very clear interests. But when I spoke with him today, he’s going to be making another proposal to the Russians, the Turks, and other interested groups to try to get them to agree on this roadmap and then a meeting, in effect to go public with it, so that we can increase the pressure not only on the Assad regime but on the opposition as well.

MR. ROSE: Is there a role for Iran?

SECRETARY CLINTON: At this point, it would be very difficult for Iran to be initially involved. I mean, I’m a big believer in talking to people when you can and trying to solve problems when you can. But right now, we’re focused on dealing with Iran and the nuclear portfolio. That has to be our focus. Iran’s always trying to get us to talk about anything else except their nuclear program.

And then we also have the added problem that Iran is not just supporting Assad, they are helping him to devise and execute the very plans that he is following to suppress, oppress the opposition.

SECRETARY BAKER: If you get the – you’re going to get the attention of the Russians and the Chinese, in my view, in the Security Council if you come with some sort of a proposal for a political transition that might involve an election, if you’re willing to say anybody and everybody can run. That means, of course, you got to make sure that the election is not fixed. But that would put a lot of pressure – the only reason I mention this, it seems to be that would put a lot of pressure on the Russians to support this idea.

With respect to Iran, I agree with the Secretary. This is not the place to involve them. However, I would think there might be a place for them in a group with respect to Afghanistan. They helped us when we first went in there. We talked to them. They were helpful.

International Criminal Court Swears in First Woman and African Chief Prosecutor

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Gambian lawyer, Fatou Bensouda, was sworn in as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) replacing Argentinian Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Fatou Bensouda takes the oath. (Photo Courtesy of AFP)

Fatou Bensouda was born in Banjul, Gambia to a civil servant and a housewife.  After graduating with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Ife in Nigeria, she went on to pursue her Barrister at Law at the Nigeria Law School in Lagos.  She later acquired a Master of Laws from the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta making her Gambia’s first expert in international maritime law and the Law of the Seas.

In 1987, she returned to Gambia to begin her career as a public prosecutor.   Ten years later, she was appointed as Gambia’s justice minister and attorney-general.

As a Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecutor’s office, she handled cases on the 1994 Rwandan genocide wherein approximately 800,000 people were killed.  She later rose to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit.

By virtue of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP), the ICC’s founding document, Fatou Bensouda was elected ICC prosecutor in December 2011 by the 121 state signatories.  Judge Sang-Hyun Song, president of the ICC, vouched for her competence saying, “I am confident that her strong independent voice, legal expertise and genuine concern for human rights issues will contribute greatly to the continuous fight against impunity.”

Bensouda’s inauguration was also hailed by non-governmental groups. “Fatou Bensouda is extremely qualified to lead the office of the prosecutor,” said Willam Pace, the head of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a body which monitors the work of the tribunal.

Bensouda, who took the oath of office last week, specifically stated that she shall be carrying on with the seven situations, 14 cases (two of which are Kenya’s post election violence cases), and a further seven preliminary investigations that Ocampo had initiated.

However, Bensouda’s election was not devoid of criticisms.  The African Union was concerned that the prosecutor might have a tendency to single out African cases.  Bensouda countered that she will not target any particular state.  Guided by the ASP, she promised to be even-handed in dealing with all the 121 state parties.

“I am humbled by the privileged responsibility that the state parties have bestowed on me.  I am also thankful to the African Union for supporting my candidature which shows that they are committed to fighting impunity,” she said during the brief ceremony inside the chamber.  “The Office of the Prosecutor,” she added, “will continue to work with other partners namely other offices of ICC, rights groups and the state parties.”

 

For further information, please see:

New Europe World — Second ICC Prosecutor Formally Takes Office – 15 June 2012

The Star — Bensouda Assumes ICC Prosecutor Post – 15 June 2012

Star Africa — Gambian Woman Takes Over as ICC Chief Prosecutor – 15 June 2012

Capital FM News — New ICC Prosecutor Bensouda Reaches Pinnacle – 14 June 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Thursday 21 June 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Updates from the Road (3)!

 

As the world plays games of hide-and-seek and wait-and-see in regard to our “situation,” “worrying” and “tragic” as it is, the only thing we have is our resistance, our refusal to break even when faced with so much hypocrisy and indifference and with odds that so many would consider insurmountable. For the first time since the introduction of the term of “popular resistance” into our lives, it has finally become a true way of life for us.

 

Thursday June 21, 2012

 

Death Toll: 66The Breakdown: 24 in Hama, 20 in Damascus (17 in the Suburbs, mostly in Douma, and 3 in Damascus City), 7 in Daraa, 5 in Homs, 3 in Aleppo, 3 in Lattakia, 3 in Idlib, and 1 in Deir Ezzor.

 

News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Eds & Special Reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houla, Homs, the site of infamous massacre is pounded againhttp://youtu.be/nttfHmyzN4o The wounded http://youtu.be/n_Zt7ypo_h4 ,http://youtu.be/Dl4KPZNXswE Nearby Talbisseh is also poundedhttp://youtu.be/pxGN6I594dQ , http://youtu.be/iq_veILEOS0 And Rastanhttp://youtu.be/CUlbFgLRrN4 , http://youtu.be/_C4sPSmoXB4

 

Da’el, Daraa: pounding by helicopters leave two children deadhttp://youtu.be/nSM4Mfe0x54 The nearby Khirbet Ghazaleh gets poundedhttp://youtu.be/4OV6hB-gMAY

 

Hama City is also shelled http://youtu.be/vY4OsbjEzuw

 

Qamishlo: Kurdish protesters clash with pro-Assad security in protest of the continued shelling of the Homs City http://youtu.be/tXh75LmbFOA

 

Anadan, Aleppo: smoke rises over the city as result of continued poundinghttp://youtu.be/iUGExKpgws4

 

Fires rage at night in Al-Kurd Mountain in Lattakia Provincehttp://youtu.be/Hx7gO_GY99Q

 

The True Story of the Al-Qubeir Massacre: Witness Accounts

http://youtu.be/usUdPauqMNQ

The UN video footage, once they were able to enter the village of Al-Qubeir and document the incident.

Location: Al-Qubeir Farm is located 20 KM west of Hama city and 2 KM south of Marzaf Village.
Description: Al-Qubeir Farm is a small community consisting of 25 houses, and its population is approximately 150 people
Date of incident : 06/06/2012
The witnesses:
1.    Ahmad X (survivor) | age:45
2.    X (survivor) | age: in her forties
3.    witness code #12001 | Marzaf villager
4.    witness code #12002 |  Marzaf villager

Reporting of the Incident, Based on Interviews With the Witnesses:

On Wednesday June 6th 2012 at about 12:30 pm an armed group, consisting of 6 personnels who were wearing plainclothes and who carried Kalashnikovs weapons, attacked a checkpoint that belonged to the Syrian army.  This was done to save a person arrested earlier the same day and detained, at the previously mentioned checkpoint.  During the combat, a reinforcement from the Syrian army was sent, it was composed of 3 tanks, T72 type, some military armoured vehicles, and some military trucks, Zell type (Russian made).  These full- armed reinforcement besieged the attacking group and clashed with them; leading to the deaths of all 6 men: (1)Mohammad Hassan Elwan, Hama- Greggis village; (2)Mahdi Ahmad Elwan, Hama-Greggis village; (3)Sari Ali Al-Hamdou, Hama-Greggis village; (4)Emad Ismail Elwan, Hama-Greggis village; (5)Mohammad Saleh Elwan, Hama-Greggis village; (6)Salah Jameel Elwan.

Afterwards, the tanks headed towards Al-Qubeir village along with the Zell trucks, six white buses, oil-colored armoured vehicles with the words “Riot Control” on the side of one, and other  pick-up trucks carrying forces outfitted in the Syrian Armed Forces uniform.  These troops all had personal weapons,most of the weapons displayed were Kalashnikovs  and BKC machine guns.

The witnesses said that there were other civilian vehicles –2 pick-up Hyundai white tucks, other pick-up trucks, and small trucks (the natives call them Torteera or Torzena), these vehicles had civilians who accompanied the military forces.  The people in them wore plainclothes and carried small weapons such as: sticks, knives, and daggers.  Some of them carried pistols and Kalashnikovs

Between 1:40 and 1:50 pm, the previously mentioned armed forces besieged the village from three axis (The Northern Axis: Mezrav village direction; the Eastern axis: Al-Majdal direction; and the western axis: Al-Taweem village direction).

Once all of the forces took up positions, 4 shells were launched directly on the houses, without any earlier warning.  Next, the heavy and medium guns were used to fire at random on the houses.  After roughly 10 minutes, the tanks stormed into the village along with the security forces, wearing the alternative uniform that belongs to the Syrian Armed Forces, and the civilians, who wore plainclothes.  They began shooting heavily.  The sound of gun fire lasted intermittently inside the village for about an hour and a half, however the forces remained in the village until 7:30 PM.

According to one female survivor’s  report, Feda Al-Yateam, the forces would get the people out of their houses and would shoot them directly.  She added that the forces, wearing the plainclothes and carrying sticks, took her husband along with other civilians from the village.  The villagers take were made to lay down on the ground  and then were beaten on their heads with sticks, until those administering the beating knew the villagers were dead.  After that the attackers burned the bodies, another witness, with the code #12001, said that  he saw the army retreat from the village.  Witness #12001 then dared to enter the village, so that he could administer aid to any survivors.  Upon entering the village, he reported seeing a woman who had been shot in the chest with her right hand cut off at the wrist.  Next to her there was a baby’s body, he had been stabbed in his chest with a sharp tool and enough force that his internal viscera had fallen out onto the ground.

Witness #12001 also added that he saw in front of another house three children’s bodies.  All of them were behind a woman’s body.  The four bodies were in sitting positions, and the scene displayed implied that the woman was trying to protect the children when they were all shot at point blank range.

Another survivor, a male, Ahmad Al-Yateam, said that he was hit repeatedly with sticks and shotguns on his head and his body.  Some of his attackers wore the Syrian military uniform, and others wore plainclothes.  Al-Yateam said that he was brutally beaten until he became unconscious.

Another witness, code #12002, said that before the military forces withdrew from the village, there were 6 ambulances that arrived and took some of the bodies.  The witness said that the number of bodies taken was between 25-30, then the ambulances also withdrew from the village, accompanied by the forces.

Witness #12001 recalled that a bold green armoured vehicle, belonging to the Syrian Armed Forces, attached two bodies with a rope to the truck and dragged them on the ground while heading west to a place known locally as Aseela Road.

While the survivors and the locals claimed that there were over 100 people killed in this massacre, we managed to document 54 victim’s names.  In addition to the 6 individuals killed in the clash at the checkpoint.  The reason only 54 victims were documented is due to a variety of reasons.   First, the bodies of some of the victims were completely disfigured or deformed, to the point that the locals couldn’t recognize it to identify.  Second, there exists an incapacity to find some of the victims as their bodies are missing, or taken by the attacking force.  Additionally, the Syrian government and military refused to make a comment on the Al-Qubeir incident, after failing to conduct a real and honest investigation.

Furthermore; the government and the security forces refused to let the international observers, who were stationed in Hama city, enter the area and document the incident.  Those who attempted to enter the next morning, on June 7th, were stopped, and told to return to Hama city, at one of the many checkpoints surrounding the area where the massacre took place.  The observers were thus prevented from heading into the village to gather accurate information.

 

The information contained in this report was provided by:

Syrian Network for Human Rights and Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies

11-year-old Awaits Verdict in Protest Case

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain — On Wednesday, a Bahraini court postponed the verdict of 11-year-old Ali Hasan until July 5.  Hasan has been accused of participating in anti-government protests.

Ali Hasan after posting bail. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

The prosecution accuses Hasan of assisting protesters by blocking a street with trash containers and wood last month during protests in Manama.  Hasan’s defense claims he is a child who was merely playing with friends in the street at the time.  Defense attorney Mohsen al-Alawi has called on the court to drop all charges.

Until he posted bail last week, Hasan was in prison, spending the last few weeks in custody awaiting his trial.  As a result of this incarceration, Hasan, a sixth-grade student, had to take his school exams behind bars.  During his time there, he roomed with three other children and was forced to clean the facility.

Hasan spoke with the Guardian newspaper by phone from his parents’ home in the Bilad al-Qadeem suburb of the capital.  “I cried all the time but I became friends with the other boys there and we could play for four hours every day – but had to spend all our other time in a locked room,” he said about his time in jail.

The day before his arrest, there was fighting between protestors and police near Hasan’s house.  Demonstrators used burning tires and trash cans to block the street.  The next afternoon, Hasan was on the street playing with friends when the police came.  “While we were playing there, some police forces came towards us which made us panic.  My friends managed to run away … but I was so scared by the guns they were carrying that I couldn’t move … and I was arrested,” he said.  Following his arrest, Hasan was taken to a variety of police stations where he was forced to confess to involvement in the protests.  “I was crying all the time. I told them I’d confess to anything to go back home,” he added.

On Wednesday, the government defended its handling of the Hasan case.  It concluded he was arrested for blocking a road, held in police custody for only six hours, and then transferred to juvenile detention for the next month.  The government contends that Hasan was paid by a man to cause trouble on the street.  Chief of Public Security Tariq Al Hassan said, “What is deplorable is how some older people will take advantage of vulnerable youth for their own political purposes.”

There have been some concerns surrounding Hasan’s case.  Mariwan Hama-Saeed of Human Rights Watch said, “He was not accompanied by a lawyer during his questioning [and] it seems the only evidence used against him is his own confession and the testimony of a police officer.”

Hasan’s case is just one of the more recent examples of the government’s crackdown on protestors since unrest began in Bahrain fifteen months ago.  The political unrest pits the Shiite majority, seeking a greater political voice, against the ruling Sunni dynasty.  Since the upheaval began in February 2011, more than 50 people have died.

For further information, please see:

AFP – Bahrain 11-year-old ‘to Hear Verdict on July 5’ – 20 June 2012

Washington Post – Bahrain Court Delays Verdict in Case of 11-year-old Who Allegedly Took Part in Protests – 20 June 2012

Guardian – Bahrain Puts Boy Aged 11 on Trial for Alleged Role in Roadblock Protest – 19 June 2012

Al-Jazeera – Bahraini Boy Describes Arrest and Detention – 12 June 2012

Gulf Daily News – Riot Charge Boy is Freed – 12 June 2012

Dozens of Asylum-Seekers Feared Dead After Boat Sinks

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia — Rescuers in Australia said late Thursday that dozens of asylum-seekers are believed dead after their boat capsized on the way to Christmas Island.

An asylum-seeker is searched as he arrives at Christmas Island. (Photo Courtesy of The Australian)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said 110 survivors had been rescued, but the agency confirmed the deaths of at least three people.  About 40 people were seen clinging to the hull of the overturned vessel, and as many as 75 were believed to have drowned.  A spokesperson said about the Sri Lankan refugees were headed to Christmas Island when they encountered trouble some 200 kilometers north of the Australian territory.

“We don’t know the full details yet, but clearly we have lost a number of lives in a very dangerous journey from Indonesia to Australia,” said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilliard from a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro.  She confirmed that she and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had spoken on the phone and agreed to have their agencies work together to co-ordinate the search and rescue operation.

A 13-year-old boy was reportedly among the survivors, who were otherwise believed to be adult men.  Three merchant ships were helping with the rescue efforts.

“The objective is to save as many lives as possible,” said Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.  “We’re still in that critical window where more lives could be saved.  People can survive out there for up to 36 hours if they have life jackets or debris to hang on to.”

Clare said some people were seen holding onto debris as many as three nautical kilometers away from the capsized boat.

Meanwhile, authorities were trying to confirm whether another boat also might be in trouble.  Australia’s Rescue Coordination Centre told Indonesian authorities that the second distressed vessel was possibly in the area.  The maritime safety authority, however, said only one troubled boat has been confirmed.

Three other boats carrying about 240 refugees have been intercepted near Christmas Island over the past two days.  But Thursday’s disaster was the latest in a string of disasters to impact asylum-seekers at sea.  Last November, 200 refugees died off the coast of Java when their boat capsized on the high seas.  In December 2010, four dozen drowned in a wild storm off the Christmas Island coast.

So far this month, more than a thousand people have sought asylum in Australia, marking the second consecutive month the number has eclipsed 1,000.  To date this year, 4,494 refugees have made the journey to Australia.

For further information, please see:

The Australian — Mass Asylum Seeker Drownings Feared off Indonesia — 22 June 2012

News.au.com — Asylum Seeker Boat Capsizes North of Christmas Island, Survivors Plucked from Ocean — 22 June 2012

ABC — Asylum Seeker Boat Capsizes South of Australia — 21 June 2012

The Sydney Morning Herald — Asylum Seekers Clinging to Hull of Boat — 21 June 2012

Yahoo! 7 News — Asylum Seeker Disaster North of Christmas Island — 21 June 2012

Pressure on British Government for Complete Boycott of Eurocup 2012, Protest Host Ukraine’s Human Rights Record

By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, England – The British government is being pressured by the Labour party to continue its current boycott of the Eurocup 2012 tournament. The soccer tournament is being jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Due to deteriorating human rights violations and the actions of Ukranian President Yanukoyvch in the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival, several European governments have announced their boycott of the tournament. All of the participants in Group D of the tournament, England, France and Sweden boycotted the group stage.

David Lidington, Europe minister (Photo Courtesy of Press)

The Labour party wants Prime Minister David Cameron’s office to completely boycott the entire tournament, as opposed to their current decision of only boycotting the early stages.

Emma Reynolds, shadow Foreign Office minister said, “Why does the Government still take the position that human rights don’t seem to matter in the knockout stages of the European Championships? Is it that they don’t have confidence in their own policy or they don’t have confidence in our team?”

The British Europe minister David Lidington has commented that the government will review the attendance by ministers at later stages of the tournament under review.  “We have made it clear in every conversation at official and ministerial level with our Ukrainian counterparts that if they want to have the democratic future, the closer links with Europe that the Ukrainian government says it wishes to see and we believe needs to happen, then they have to show that they are serious about democratic as well as about economic reform.”, Lidington has said.

David Cameron’s office also faces pressure from Eugenia Tymoshenko, Yulia Tymoshenko’s daughter who is calling for the Prime Minister to rescind President Yanukoych’s invitation to the opening ceremonies for the   2012 Olympics this summer. She also calls for visa bans on high ranking Ukrainian officials and for their assets to be frozen.

President Yanukoyvch’s handling of the Tymoshenko case has caused concern for the country’s human rights record. Tymoshenko was convicted for abuse of power charges and is currently undergoing investigation after Yanukoyvch linked her to a 16 year old murder case.

For further information, please see:

ITV News — Labour Urge Government to Boycott Euro 2012 – 20 June 2012

United Kingdom Press Association — Government Under Euro 2012 Pressure – 20 June 2012

The Guardian — Yulia Tymoshenko’s Daughter: Bar Ukraine President from Olympics – 18 June 2012