Syrian Revolution Digest: 3 June 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Abkhazia on the Mediterranean!

By announcing that he is no longer the president of all Syrians but only of those who accept his rule, Bashar Al-Assad formalized his “divorce” from the revolutionaries. Now the fight over division of “marital” assets begins at earnest. Unsurprisingly this will translate into more bloodshed; after all, this was an unfriendly divorce. “Friends” will also sort themselves out. Iran and Russia will stand by their man in hope of getting a foothold in the upcoming Abkhazia on the Mediterranean. While the “Friends of Syria,” for all their dithering, will have to deal with the remaining mess.

Sunday June 03, 2012

Today’s death toll: 33. The Breakdown: 23 in Damascus (Douma, Daraya, Artouz, Saqba, Assal Al-Ward, Qudsaya, Damascus City), 7 in Homs (including 3 in Qusayr), 3 in Hama, 3 in Aleppo, 1 Daraa (a child).

In the Damascene suburb of Douma, the known activist Adnan Wahbi, a co-founder of the National Coordination Body, was assassinated in his home by unknown assailants. Colleagues blame pro-Assad death squads. This Mr. Wahbi’s bodyhttp://youtu.be/Pacf5IKlxdw

In the Hiffeh District, Lattakia Province, local activists report that inhabitants of a number of Sunni villages have been forced to evacuate after days of pounding and raid by local pro-Assad militias.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Video Highlights

Many of Houla’s inhabitants, Homs Province, have been forced to flee into neighboring communities where their living conditions are dismal: the children in this video are not dead, for now, they’re just sleeping. International dithering might yet seal their fatehttp://youtu.be/AGaYrIn5P3I Meanwhile, the pounding of the town continued, even as Bashar Al-Assad delivered his speech and blamed the massacre of Houla on monstershttp://youtu.be/JphA0S_Fg9w A new report by Syrian TV clams that 800 heavily armed men came into this town besieged by the regular loyalist troops and conducted the massacre, then left. There is no explanation of why the current pounding is taking place.

In the town of Douma, Damascus Suburbs, clashes left over 10 locals dead: the poundinghttp://youtu.be/q8dVhBYQBSk The martyrs http://youtu.be/t0dm7lspNu4 ,http://youtu.be/DfGoXRPnE3E , http://youtu.be/b-r_jgmIcZo , http://youtu.be/FCAqP-2VICE , http://youtu.be/-xuxjzUF4L8 (Graphic) http://youtu.be/6CGaqaIJ-6w The body of activist Adnan Wahbi http://youtu.be/Pacf5IKlxdw

The town of Saqba, Damascus Suburbs, comes under fire http://youtu.be/aUJaDRSsdnw ,http://youtu.be/2IEagS9FueM Chopper surveying the scene http://youtu.be/71tXwQjKuEI

Fields around the village of Al-Rami, Idlib Province, catch fire after intense poundinghttp://youtu.be/i1Dz1BtEEEc A number of locals were killed and immediately buriedhttp://youtu.be/ZnuOFsPjoNI

The pounding of Ariha, Idlib Province, continues http://youtu.be/XgcaIRxMZz0 ,http://youtu.be/YJ9tTXv6joI

The town of Mourik, Hama Province, comes under heavy poundinghttp://youtu.be/qpJkgtBnte4

In Aleppo Province, loyalist troops move into the town of Hayanhttp://youtu.be/V5bbBx7tWPI the pounding sets many installations on firehttp://youtu.be/LMS1oE8fQqE

The pounding of Old Homs continues http://youtu.be/xk0YLIRBbdI ,http://youtu.be/3AUFzqi46O0

The town of Ghabaghib, Daraa Province, comes under heavy poundinghttp://youtu.be/8rBfSBXZNMg

Self-Immolations Spark Chinese Detentions of Tibetans and Further Governmental Restrictions

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China — After fourteen months, Tibetan self-immolations continue in protest of Chinese policies and restrictions aimed to repress a Tibetan movement for political and cultural autonomy.

Tibetans protest Chinese rules and regulations. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Last week, two Tibetan men set themselves on fire in front of the main temple in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. One of the men reportedly died from his injuries. The fact that the self-immolations were the first to occur in the heavily guarded Tibetan capital demonstrates the growing strength and force of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.

In response to these latest self-immolations, the Chinese Government aired a documentary stating that those who self-immolated were terrorists, criminals, or mentally ill.

Tibetan activists not only protest Chinese rule, but also call for the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The Chinese Government has deemed the Dalai Lama a separatist and accuse him of inciting the Tibetan self-immolations. The Dalai Lama, in turn, blames the Chinese Government for the self-immolations and states that China’s “cultural genocide” against Tibetans and their lifestyle has led to desperation among Tibetans to have their voices heard.

In a separate incident, a 33-year-old Tibetan mother, Rechok, set herself on fire last Thursday outside of a Buddhist monastery in a small town in Aba county, located in the adjacent province of Sichuan. She died shortly thereafter. Sichuan has been the scene of repeated self-immolations throughout the past year.

Rechok’s self-immolation was the 35th Tibetan self-immolation to occur since March of 2011 and the fourth to occur in the town of Zhongrangtang, also known as Barma in Tibetan. At least 27 self-immolators have died to advocate Tibetan political and cultural freedom.

Following last week’s self-immolations, Chinese authorities detained an estimated 600 Tibetan residents and pilgrims. Reports indicate that even witnesses suspected of recording the self-immolations were detained by authorities. Those protestors who were not residents of Tibet were expelled.

Additionally, the Chinese Government has passed new legislation which allows police to act without reporting to higher authorities in emergency situations and allows for severe sentences for people who allegedly spread rumors. This new legislation reflects on the Chinese Government’s fear of unrest during a month-long Buddhist festival that began last week.

The Chinese Government claims the legislation is intended to promote stability in the Tibetan region amidst a wave unrest marked by increasing numbers of self-immolations.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Detentions Reported in Tibet Capital After Immolations – 31 May 2012

The Guardian – Tibetan Woman Dies After Setting Herself on Fire – 31 May 2012

Reuters – “Hundreds Detained” in Tibet After Self-Immolations – 31 May 2012

The Washington Post – Groups say Tibetan Woman Latest in Recent Wave of Self-Immolations to Protest Chinese Rule – 30 May 2012

The Times of India – Lhasa Burning: 2 Tibetans set Themselves Ablaze – 29 May 2012

 

Notes From India: Limitations Advocating for Those With Disabilities

Emily Schneider
Special Contributor, Blog Entry #1

“Go to hell, you go to hell! Never would a first year intern prescribe this medication to someone after only one high blood pressure reading, yet he prescribed it to me and my child died.  And now you are saying he is innocent! He is a murderer and you condone it!”

I pushed forward with the crowd, through the doors and into the courtroom.  It was my third day in India, my second day working at Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), and my first time in an Indian courtroom.  I stood on my tiptoes and craned my neck.  I could see the woman, wearing the traditional, and required, white collar of an advocate, screaming at the judge.

The onlookers around me gasped at her behavior.  The man next to me whispered to his colleague, “She is not right, she has called the judge a murderer indirectly; certainly she needs to see a doctor.”  His audience nodded in agreement.  The judge said something inaudible and soon guards entered the room and pushed through the crowd.  They dragged the woman out as she screamed accusations and insults at the judge, the other attorney, and the crowd.

Court guards forced us to all exit the courtroom and as people milled about in the hall I heard snippets of conversations in English.  It seemed that the consensus was that she was crazy. People whispered that she would go to jail for this.  My supervisor found me in the crowd and explained the woman’s story.  She was an attorney who experienced complications with her pregnancy.  After seeing a doctor, she was prescribed a medication to lower her blood pressure.  She later lost the baby and blamed the doctor because of the blood pressure medication he prescribed.  She then sued him for malpractice and I had just witnessed the hearing.  My supervisor explained that the Chief Judge of the High Court in Delhi was a patient man for allowing her to rant so long.  “He’s in a good mood today, let’s hope it carries into the afternoon for our hearing as well,” she said.

We were in court that day to hear the arguments for a case concerning torture of disabled persons.  In India, there are limited resources available to those with disabilities or families of those with disabilities.  When a child is born with a disability, the family usually abandons them due to lack of resources and they are put in a government-run care facility.

Recently, one of these facilities failed an inspection by the state.  Due to intense media coverage, the facility’s failure was brought to the attention of HRLN.  Between December and January, this care facility logged 19 fatalities due to the atrocious conditions of the home.  Over 700 disabled children lived in a space meant to serve 300 children maximum; and they were assisted by only three care-takers.  HRLN filed a petition with the court in January, and by the time of the first hearing on February 6, more children had died.

At that hearing, the court ordered the care facility to reform and set another hearing to follow up on the matter.  Since February, the care facility has failed to improve and it now houses over 900 children.  The judge, who has a reputation for supporting NGO’s, signed a court order allowing HRLN to visit and inspect the facility.  This was an incredible victory for HRLN because under normal circumstances only the State is allowed to visit or inspect a care facility.

If HRLN conducts inspections and finds after a set timeframe that the facility is not improving, they can bring the matter before the court again.  Both my supervisor and the arguing attorney found this judgment more than satisfactory.  My supervisor was so elated she cautioned me against believing it was always this easy to achieve victory.  I was dumbfounded.  This did not seem like a victory to me. It seemed like a compromise made only by the goodwill of the judge that day.  However, I’m discovering that most causes HRLN takes on are losing ones from the start.  Thus, even a compromise, with the slimmest opportunity of bringing real change, is an improvement.

Emily Schneider is a third-year law student at Syracuse University College of Law.  She will be contributing to Impunity Watch by blogging about her experiences in India, where she is spending her summer working as an intern.  

Magnitsky Bill Moves Forward in the U.S. Congress

PRESS RELEASE

3 June 2012 – On Thursday, 7 June 2012, the US House of Representative’s Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up and vote on the Magnitsky bill (H.R. 4405) that imposes visa bans and asset freezes on foreign human rights offenders and corrupt officials. Following that, the Magnitsky bill will move to the full vote in the House of Representatives. This is taking place amid the escalating Russian government rhetoric against the bill and the equally rising call from Russian civil society leaders for enacting the bill .

“This is a major development as it clears the last major bottleneck to get the Magnitsky bill passed in the House,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

The House consideration of the Magnitsky bill is significant for three reasons.

First, the consideration in the Foreign Affairs Committee is taking place a week after the Russian President’s foreign policy adviser tried to pressure the US over the Magnitsky bill. On 29 May 2012, Yuri Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, publicly threatened counter-measures if the bill gets passed:

“We got used to the Jackson-Vanik amendment, we know well how to manage it, and it has not particularly bothered us. But if this new anti-Russian law is adopted, then of course that will require some measures from our side in response.” 

The Russian government’s position on the bill is at odds with Russian public opinion. According to a Levada Center poll held last August, 60 percent of Russians support visa bans and asset freezes by the US and the EU on the Russian officials implicated in the Magnitsky case.

Second, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving on the Magnitsky bill at a much faster pace than the Senate, who origally led on the bill. In the U.S. Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry indicated that the bill would be considered in April, but in spite of a number of public promises it has not been on the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee leading some commentators to believe that Senator Kerry is being pressured by the US State Department to block the progress of the bill.

Third, the House may consider the Magnitsky bill before any consideration of repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which many had believed would be linked. The repeal of Jackson-Vanik amendment isconsidered necessary by the US administration for granting Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations before Russia joins the World Trade Organization, which is expected this summer.

The Magnitsky bill is supported by Russian opposition leaders as the single most effective way to deal with widespread Russian corruption and rights abuse. A recently released movie, Sergei’s Law, features fourteen Russian civil society activists urging to enact the Magnitsky bill in the U.S. Congress. The video was produced by College-100, a network of U.S. student body presidents representing over 3 million young people.

“The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” was introduced by U.S. House Representative James McGovern in April 2012. The bill has gained 25 co-sponsors in one month, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, where the bill will be up for mark up this 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 Human Rights Violations Report: 3 June 2012

Homs | Arrastan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1boBrIvQB8

Smoke still rises from residential buildings that were burned following a massive shelling campaign by regime forces.

 

Aleppo | Al-Sha’ar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCR7nKmMPzo

Protestors carry a man who was wounded when regime forces opened fire on them.

 

Hama | Al-Arba’een

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE-18I40sqU

A man is wounded and when another tries to pull him to safety, a sniper fires on the second man.

 

**WARNING: VIDEOS CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES**

Rural Damascus | Daria

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjLVro3-ZY0

Regime forces launches a severe campaign, killing 10 Syrians.  They tortured and burned them, like the victim in the video, and then abducted most of the bodies.

 

Casualty Report

53 confirmed casualties killed by the regime in Syria on Friday, 1 June 2012.

Damascus and Rural Damascus: 22
Homs: 12
Aleppo: 7
Dar’aa: 4
Hama: 4
Idleb: 3
Deir Ezzor: 1

 

Videos and Statistics Courtesy of:

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Casualty Report – 1 June 2012

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Violations Report – 1 June 2012

 

Syrian Revolution Digest – Saturday 2 June 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

The War for Syria!

Saturday June 02, 2012

Today’s death toll: 33. Cities & Towns under fire: Misraba, Kafar Sousseh, Assaly, Qadam, Douma , Arbeen, Hamouriyeh (Damascus), Kafar Zeiteh (Hama), Homs City, Qaryatein, Rastan, Qusayr (Homs Province), Ariha (Idlib).

Turkish authorities report that 400 more refugees crossed the border today, all but 4 are from Idlib Province.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Video Highlights

In the town of Douma, Damascus Province, and following days of pounding by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/MMireivrI3A , http://youtu.be/I6jSGsVaWtY an attempt to enter city http://youtu.be/Jn_L7RWhI7Q , http://youtu.be/mtUeZm2aVOA ,http://youtu.be/h9J89WECw2U  was repelled by local resistance membershttp://youtu.be/YCKWByruA2U in an operation that left 3 tanks, a sweeper and 4 buses destroyed as well as a number of loyalist soldiers http://youtu.be/yBZ43lUPiWc ,http://youtu.be/5lqwFPjMFDU Destroying a tank http://youtu.be/ViZMfj1uFcI The operation also led to the capture of a number of loyalist troops http://youtu.be/wovaf2A_or0As well as few rockets http://youtu.be/4yljB0x-z7k Martyr http://youtu.be/nZK7ZZtWfks

Meanwhile, the nearby town of Misraba was pounded by loyalist troopshttp://youtu.be/hhjSUL6s3X0 So did Arbeen http://youtu.be/_q41MaJk0Ac andHamouriyeh http://youtu.be/1LrMbS2HEN8 , http://youtu.be/4pBWnGpZTHk and Ain Terma http://youtu.be/6_VXugHWVOo Victims from the town of Arbeenhttp://youtu.be/kSGSAz0OlE0 Pulling bodies from the streets http://youtu.be/67I8A0XlqpY

The pounding of Old Homs continues http://youtu.be/-T4DGhMD1SI ,http://youtu.be/OBMGKMELyaw , http://youtu.be/kurB4abde_Q Jouret Al-Shayah dead bodies, victims of the pounding, lie in the streets http://youtu.be/boIhgk1Z7-E KhaldiyehHomes catch fire http://youtu.be/6U8fHNbgo98 , http://youtu.be/yakzaN2XTvg Bab Al-Sibaa http://youtu.be/bKmp6RXrlZc Qoussour http://youtu.be/Mnpo27D14NQHamdiyeh Assessing the damages http://youtu.be/OzoRHnB3IM0

In the town of Talbisseh, Homs Province, an attack by pro-Assad militias on a civilian bus left a number of injured http://youtu.be/jBPyCVUh8GY and a number of deadhttp://youtu.be/afQ3Mv8SZ0k

The pounding of the town of Qaryatein leaves several dead http://youtu.be/n7_mVdsfGZ8

The town of Kafar Zeiteh, Hama Province, comes under fire at night and after UN monitors leave the city http://youtu.be/xzzW0ILYCKw and into the nighthttp://youtu.be/2hliZD_f-Ls Earlier, the U monitors paid a visit to the city and talked to the local inhabitants http://youtu.be/ZrI3kdo_3qM , http://youtu.be/6pBNMFKZd0c ,http://youtu.be/169FEK0XCcU

The pounding http://youtu.be/WZikl6rnMfw of the town of Ariha, Idlib Province, leaves this building on fire http://youtu.be/_AvRGo9bPo0 After a direct hit by a rockethttp://youtu.be/IFvWDDvXM5Q Loyalist troops stand at the outskirts of townhttp://youtu.be/1n4G-FuS-6c They try to storm the town http://youtu.be/7mE3FhykSfQWomen and children are forced to evacuate parts of the city http://youtu.be/VYTNgzTioFMPeople try to run for safety http://youtu.be/NO1Os6PjbY0 But the local resistance fought back and destroyed two tanks http://youtu.be/ULQmclc-wmw a local martyrhttp://youtu.be/NqHl1uFemVI

Protesters in Aleppo City come under fire: Salaheddine http://youtu.be/EfUTit_SuOQ ,http://youtu.be/tTwiNKyacMg But they remain defiant http://youtu.be/ah464I439tU

In the town of Tseel, Daraa Province, UN monitors assess damage done to one of the houses http://youtu.be/ymW_qQSM7Nc

France to Introduce Laws Legalizing Same-sex Marriage and Adoption

By Connie Hong
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France — On June 1, 2012, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told radio station RMC and television station BFMTV that laws legalizing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples will soon be introduced to France.  Ayrault did not specify when the bills would be presented to the French Senate. Whether a draft bill has been drawn up at this time is still unclear.  The president of the Socialists’ Homosexualités et Socialisme, Gilles Bon-Maury, however, predicts that such a bill could be presented to Parliament before the fall of this year.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. (Photo Courtesy of Pink News)

Ayrault, a member of the Socialist Party, was appointed as prime minister on May 15. Although the French National Assembly rejected a bill seeking to legalize same-sex marriage last year, the Socialist Party still plans on implementing measures that would introduce marriage equality to the country.  In fact, France’s new Socialist President, Francois Hollande, made a similar pledge vowing to introduce gay marriage to the country by 2013.  Hollande’s predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, was opposed to gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage is currently banned by law in France.  Gay couples may enter into Civil Solidarity Pacts (PACS) but they do not provide the same legal protections and benefits that marriages offer.  PACS, for example, do not give couples the right to joint adoption or artificial insemination.

The ban is highly controversial within the country, receiving much criticism from gay rights supporters.  A French couple had challenged the ban on constitutional grounds, arguing that it limited their personal freedoms.  In response to the claim, the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court of appeals, ordered the Constitutional Council to rule on the constitutionality of the law.  Last year, the council found the country’s same-sex marriage ban constitutional.  The council made clear that its power was limited to interpreting existing laws under the constitution, but that the legislature has the authority to make new laws allowing gay marriage.

France will be joining a growing number of European countries legalizing gay marriage if it goes through with its plans to introduce same-sex marriage.  France’s neighbors Spain and Belgium, as well as Holland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Portugal have already introduced marriage equality.  Other countries such as Denmark, Germany, Luxemburg, Finland and the United Kingdom have hinted that they also plan to approach the issue in the near future.

For further information, please see:

ATV Today — French Prime Minister Promises Equal Marriage Laws — 2 June 2012

Jurist — France PM: same-sex marriage, adoption laws to be introduced — 1 June 2012

Pink News — French prime minister: Equal marriage and adoption laws to be introduced ‘quickly’ — 1 June 2012

World Crunch — After Sarkozy’s Defeat, Will France Be Next To Legalize Gay Marriage? — 14 May 2012

Syrian Network for Human Rights: Statistics of Syrian Revolution Victims

 

Total Death Toll (March 18, 2011 — May 29, 2012): 14,093

Children: 1,012 (777 males and 235 females)
Women: 865
Death Under Torture: 545
Military Personnel: 1,148

Victims by the Various Regions:

Homs: 5,144
Idleb: 2,245
Hama: 1,942
Daraa: 1,446
Rural Damascus: 1,086
Deir Ezzor: 558
Damascus: 495
Aleppo: 479
Latakia: 325
Al-Hasaka: 103
Tartous: 70
Raqqa: 59
Qunaitera: 50
Swuaida: 14

 

For the full report, please see:

Syrian Network for Human Rights — Syrian Revolution Victim Summary — 2 June 2012

Illegal Africans in Israel Find Themselves Unwelcome

By Melike Ince
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel has recently found itself at the center of an ironic controversy amidst this week’s release of an annual US  human rights report. It claims that Israel is denying basic public services to African asylum-seekers.

Protestors at an Anti-African demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Photo Courtesy of JPost)

It has become common practice for Africans escaping persecution to illegally enter Israel through Egypt. While those with official refugee status are provided with health care and work permits, asylum-seekers do not receive either of these services despite their great need for them.  The report also mentions that Israeli officials occasionally refer to asylum-seekers  as “infiltrators” and associate them with “the rise in crime, disease and terrorism.” Right wing parties have also been known to compare the immigrants’ existence to a cancer in the body of Israel.

Angry Israeli citizens took to the streets in protests and riots this week, attacking Africans and shattering African-run shops to express their frustration over the situation. Many attribute the increased violence in southern Tel Aviv to the Africans. Locals have also accused the immigrants of decreasing employment among nationals and argue that there are insufficient economic resources to provide for the 60,000 illegals currently in Israel.  Africans for many years considered Israel to be peaceful and tolerant but now find themselves living in fear.

“I cannot live this way. I’m afraid for my life,” said Amene Tekele Haymanot, an illegal immigrant seeking refugee status.

In an effort to calm the tense population, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the violence but promised “the infiltration problem must be resolved and we will resolve it.” The government hopes that the security barrier that is currently under construction near the Egyptian border will hinder illegal entry. If it succeeds in doing so, Israel plans to begin the deportation process soon after its completion

Those sympathetic to the Africans’ plight believe that race is playing a role in the conflict, and the irony of the situation is not lost on them. It was not long ago that those of Jewish ancestry were escaping their own persecution in Europe and settling in Israel. In the past year, Israel has  received over 4,000 applications for asylum but has approved just one.  Though it is considering deportation as one potential solution, international law will likely render Israel unable to send any of the illegals back to their home countries due to the risks of persecution there.

For further information, please see:

CNN News – Why Did Anti-immigration Sentiment Boil Over in Israel? – 31 May 2012

Jerusalem Post – Tel Aviv: Clashes, Arrests at Anti-African Demo – 30 May 2012

Al Jazeera – Should Israel be Responsible for Immigrants? – 29 May 2012

BBC News – Israel Denies African Migrants’ Rights, Says US – 25 May 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest — Friday 1 June 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

The Debate!

So long as the debate over Syria still revolves around the issue of whether to intervene rather than how to intervene, delusion will continue to rule the day and disaster will keep inching its way to fulfillment.

Friday June 01, 2012 – A day dedicated to the children of Houla

Today’s death toll: 50. The Breakdown: 21 in Damascus and suburbs including 2 children who were summarily executed, 12 in Homs province including 3 children and 1 defected soldier, 6 in Aleppo including 3 children, 4 in Daraa including 2 women, 3 in Idlib including 1 child, 3 in Hama and 1 in Deir Ezzor.

The Syrian Chargé d’Affaires in Yemen announces his defection and support for the Syrian Revolution.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Leaked video shows tanks driven by pro-Assad militias crushing the body of a local activist in Al-Barrah Village, Idlib Province http://youtu.be/eX5rU_DBFAY

Highlighted Articles

What needs to be done is quite straightforward: Under the auspices either of NATO or a coalition of the willing, Washington should pursue air strikes against select targets, especially the columns of tanks and heavy artillery that are bombing restive towns indiscriminately.

The U.S. and its allies should provide arms to local resistance fighters, enabling them to secure their communities. They should create safe havens across the Turkish and Jordanian borders. And they should encourage high-level defections by offering amnesty to Assad’s key military, security and political figures.

Washington should build a coalition of peacekeepers who can maintain order in the country, and work with opposition groups to piece together an interim governing body that can take over once Assad’s regime has fallen.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but the cost of non-intervention will be much higher.

Comment: If the Russian Church truly wants to protect Syria’s Christian communities, then removing Assad should be Item Number 1 on its agenda, for it is Assad and his family who have paved the way to the current situation and it is their dabbling with Al-Qaeda that brought it to our backyard. Putin and his advisers know that pretty well, and could have informed the patriarch of the Russian Church. Instead, they play them like puppets and motion them to express for Assad and his regime. But, the naivety and/or duplicity of Russian patriarchs notwithstanding, one thing should be clear: Putin and his advisers care as much about the future of Christians in Syria as they do about the concerns, aspirations and basic rights of Russia’s own opposition groups.

Putin’s gambit is clear and simple: he wants to rebuild the foregone imperial prestige of the good old Soviet Union even at the expense of our aspirations for freedom. And yes, many of the experts I met during my recent visit to Moscow reiterated elements of the argumentbelow:

What if the line in the sand that Mr Putin wants to draw is not about Russia’s prestige and role in the Security Council? What if his plan is far grander: halting, at the gates of Damascus, what he sees as the green tide of Sunni Islamism stretching from Morocco, through North Africa and the Levant to Turkey and thence almost to Russia’s unstable southern border? If that is the case then to prosecute a civil war in Syria, far from being a disaster, is both necessary and desirable – like the one he fought in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, Putin’s dear old friend, Bashar Assad, continues to unleash his thugs so they can bombard the churches of Old Homs and to prevent a Christian family in Damascus from holding a proper funeral for her martyred son. After all, he was killed while documenting the atrocities of pro-Assad thugs.

“Defections in Deir Ezzor City and surrounding areas have increased dramatically over the last few days,” said Ammar Abdulhamid in his daily Syrian Revolution Digest. “Most of the city and the larger province seems to have fallen under the control of the local resistance.”

Abdulhamid, who has been a leading pro-democracy activist in exile from his native Syria, also commented in an email, “Increased death and suffering with an end-game in sight is something most Syrians would accept at this stage, because by now the only choice we have is to get to the other side no matter how high the cost will be. It’s the combination of death and abandonment that fuels extremism and kills hope.”

Abdulhamid also reported that authorities and pro-Assad militias in Damascus prevented a funeral for the Christian activist Bassil Shahada in order to avoid what he called “an embarrassing show of anti-Assad sentiments” by the city’s large Christian community. “Assad and his supporters are still trying to portray the revolution as an exclusively radical Sunni phenomenon, but, in truth, discontent with Assad rule is endemic to all communities in Syria,” Abdulhamid said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that she would talk about Syria during Putin’s visit, which had been scheduled to focus on economics. “A disaster is taking place in Syria, and we will do everything we can to alleviate the suffering of the people,” Merkel told reporters in Stralsund, Germany. “There’s growing demand to do something,” said Stefan Kornelius, foreign editor of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “But nobody knows what that something would be.”

Video Highlights

In the town of Hamouriyeh, Damascus, a family of two women and two children is found slaughtered. Local blame roving pro-Assad death squads which have been operating in the area for a while http://youtu.be/7GyzIVNCVb4 , http://youtu.be/xQ0_W7bN2iM

Tens of thousands of local residents in Aleppo City march towards the central square chanting for freedom and the Free Syrian Army http://youtu.be/RoysSRWz06s ,http://youtu.be/P4RogxTDHag Different rallies come from different parts of town before converging on Saadallah Al-Jabiri Square http://youtu.be/BOC5uF7SSz4 ,http://youtu.be/9GiJTRi4obg , http://youtu.be/dG-1zplNlnA ,http://youtu.be/KTLtKXHFetA But the moment they arrive at the Square, pro-Assad militias open fire on them http://youtu.be/CkJjiYUqAhk But some protesters hold their ground on the outskirts of the Square and throw stones at the militias http://youtu.be/3QXoglUZ55k InSakhour suburb, protesters come under fire before they leave the neighborhoodhttp://youtu.be/ZoVIQJFCsos Rescuing the injured http://youtu.be/UCR7nKmMPzo Some children are killed http://youtu.be/J-rG3-TZD-g

The pounding of Homs City continues from morning (Jouret Al0-Shayah)http://youtu.be/F1boBrIvQB8 , http://youtu.be/jd-H9R26dNw ,http://youtu.be/8E3sjV4sRHw way into the night http://youtu.be/2tPT4j9m7DQ Setting whole buildings on fire Qoussour http://youtu.be/UWGkB41byBI Malaabhttp://youtu.be/LePuYnP-rV8 Khaldiyeh http://youtu.be/sgMY2rZrHig ,http://youtu.be/2mPOjennRFw Martyrs http://youtu.be/R5JGKP68Ikg ,http://youtu.be/oar2MAPBYa4
Tanks continue to pound the town of Rastan http://youtu.be/26QvL217Hrw while others pound Houla http://youtu.be/SXJeMVo1m1c , http://youtu.be/6cd_M8cUoTc And InQusayr where shelling kills several http://youtu.be/UczJu4B-7qA The shelling was meant to break up this rally http://youtu.be/wSeCwRHLJho

Eastern Bouyadah, Homs Province: UN monitors pay a visit to the site of Thursday’s massacres perpetrated by pro-Assad death squads  http://youtu.be/CxkEloj0_gU ,http://youtu.be/vrnSSMLf0j0 , http://youtu.be/smkS3D8CtHM

The town of Al-Atarib, Aleppo Province comes under heavy poundinghttp://youtu.be/UGLSd3BsUK0

Protesters in the neighborhood of Salhiyeh in Central Damascus come under firehttp://youtu.be/cDmbWzu_5cU The town of Douma, east of Damascus, comes under heavy pounding http://youtu.be/WREOxgQlTRA The Damascene suburb of Daraya comes under pounding http://youtu.be/pVHZ2oKypLU

Despite the violent crackdown, hundreds of rallies took place across the country, even in Houla and many other communities that have witnessed massacres and still witness bombardments and attacks by pro-Assad militias and death squads.

Deir Ezzor Procvince: Albou Kamal http://youtu.be/8DJIJOdrHVA Jbeilehhttp://youtu.be/7LkMt_mqxaE Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/7Pg8RomeXoo

LattakiaHiffeh http://youtu.be/CGXX9G6JboE

Indonesian Muslims Riot Against Christian Congregation

by Stuart Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia — On May 21, 2012,  a crowd of local Muslims and police surrounded members of the Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches Filadelfia parish, a Lutheran congregation based in Bekasi, Indonesia, just outside Jakarta, preventing them from attending Sunday worship, according to NPR. The congregation was headed to pray in an empty lot because they had been barred from building a church there by the local mayor’s “zero church” policy. It was the second confrontation in less than a week on the congregation by local Muslims, reported the Jakarta Post.

Muslims confront Christians in Ambon, Indonesia on September 11, 2011. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Displaying signs stating that Muslims are prepared to wage Jihad against the congregation, the crowd demanded the congregation return to their homes. According to local Muslim resident Irwan Taufik, the Christians are responsible for the confrontation. “The Christians,” he said, “should have gathered the community leaders and clerics together and asked us, ‘Can we worship and build a church here?’ But if in fact the people are not willing and reject the request, then why must they insist?”

Yet, the congregation refused to be deterred and as tensions mounted, truckloads of riot police arrived, but did not separate the Christians and Muslims. Reverend Palti Panjaitan, leader of the Filadelfia congregation, stated, “If my brothers are the killing type, then I am ready to be killed. That’s it! Tell the police I am ready to be killed right here. If it’s a riot you’re worried about, then arrest the rioters, not me.”

Finally, only after police informed the congregation that their safety can no longer be guaranteed were the Christians forced to return home.

The confrontation, Panjaitan believes, was the result of efforts by the militant Islamic Defenders Front, which, police records indicate, was involved in 34 instances of violence and destruction in the past two years, to incite conflict between the local Muslims and Christians. The previous week, bowing to pressure from the Front, authorities denied Lady Gaga a permit to perform in Jakarta.

According to the Jakarta Globe, the increasing religious intolerance by hardline Islamist throughout Indonesia, and especially in Bekasi, is deeply troubling to human rights groups, including the Asian Human Rights Commission. “There’s now a religious intolerance case almost every day in Indonesia,” said Bonar Naipospos, a Setara Institute researcher, in an interview with BBC News. “There’s been a marked increase in cases over the last decade. The government doesn’t do anything about it because it is worried about losing the Muslim vote. Even though the majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderate- they are the silent majority. If we don’t fix this we could go from being a moderate country to one dominated by extremists.”

Panjaitan agreed. “The majority of the Muslims here are tolerant, but they are easily influenced by the intolerant,” he said. “Actually, tolerant people in Indonesia are in the majority, but they are passive. I wish they would be more active and say ‘no’ to the intolerance which is now increasing in Bekasi.”

However, for now, the Filadelfia congregation holds their Sunday worship, complete with prayer, singing and protesting, in downtown Jakarta, right across the street from the presidential palace.

For further information, please visit:

BBC News — Is Indonesia Becoming Less Tolerant? —  28 May 2012

Asian Human Rights Commission — INDONESIA: Judgement by the Supreme Court upholding freedom of religion disregarded by police and Bekasi local authorities —  25 May 2012

NPR — Hard-Line Muslims Test Indonesia’s Tolerance — 24 May 2012

Jakarta Globe — Human Rights Group Calls on Bekasi District Chief to Protect Filadelfia Church —  21 May 2012

Jakarta Post — HKBP Filadelfia church congregation harassed- again — 21 May 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest — Thursday 31 May 2012

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

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

Liberty & Death!

 

Increased death and suffering with an end-game in sight is something most Syrians would accept at this stage, because by now the only choice we have is to get to the other side no matter how high the cost will be. It’s the combination of death and abandonment that fuels extremism and kills hope.

 

Thursday May 31, 2012

 

Death toll: 51, most of whom fell in Homs Province in Qusayr, Rastan and Homs City.

 

Most neighborhoods and bazars in the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo and many local neighborhoods continue to observe the call for general strike.

 

Defections in Deir Ezzor City and surrounding areas have increased dramatically over the last few days. Most of the city and the larger province seems to have fallen under the control of the local resistance.

 

Authorities and pro-Assad militias in Damascus prevent a funeral for the Christian activist Bassil Shahada in order to avoid an embarrassing show of anti-Assad sentiments by the city’s large Christian community. Assad and his supporters are still trying to portray the revolution as an exclusively radical Sunni phenomenon, but, in truth, discontent with Assad rule is endemic to all communities in Syria.

 

News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Eds & Special Reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While USA Today’s own editorial cautions against military intervention in Syria at this stage, I was given the opportunity to express the opposite point of view, arguing that “The time for action has come.” People can actually vote on whether they agree with the arguments made or disagree.

 

Highlighted Articles

 

 

While many respondents supported religious values in public life, only a small fraction strongly favored Shariah law, clerical influence in government, or heavy emphasis on Islamic education. A large majority (73%) said it was “important for the new Syrian government to protect the rights of Christians.” Only 20% said that religious leaders have a great influence on their political views…

 

Just 5% had even a mildly positive view of Saudi Arabia as a political model. In contrast, 82% gave Turkey a favorable rating as both a political and economic model (including over 40% extremely favorable). The U.S. earned 69% favorable ratings as a political model, with France, Germany and Britain close behind. Tunisia rated only 37% and Egypt 22%. Iran was rated lowest of any country included in the survey, including Russia and China: Not even 2% of respondents had positive views of Iran as a political model. Fully 90% expressed an unfavorable view of Hezbollah, including 78% with the most negative possible attitude…

 

The survey demonstrates that the core of the Syrian opposition inside the country is not made up of the Muslim Brotherhood or other fundamentalist forces, and certainly not of al Qaeda or other jihadi organizations. To be sure, a revolution started by secularists could pave the way for Islamists to win elections, as has occurred in Egypt. But the Syrian opposition is solidly favorable to the U.S. and overwhelmingly negative toward both Hezbollah and Iran.

 

 

“If the Americans are serious about adopting the Yemeni solution and pointing everybody in this direction, then they must do more than negotiate and consult because al-Assad will not accept any deal until after the Yemeni solution is no longer applicable and it is impossible to implement. We must accelerate the arming of the Syrian opposition and support them to besiege the regime until al-Assad accepts stepping down from power via a deal that represents the bare minimum that he has offered others. Unless al-Assad feels that he is being militarily besieged, he will never step down, rather he will accept more and more support from Hezbollah and Iran to create even more chaos, pushing Syria towards a sectarian war, for this is precisely what he wants, as he believes this will allow him to retain control of some parts of Syria, remaining as president of the regions that are – in terms of sectarianism – affiliated or allied to him.”

 

 

By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis researcher.

 

“Every protest I observed during three days in Aleppo ended the same way: with the army, security forces and shabiha – the infamous militias who do some of the government’s dirty work – opening fire on non-violent demonstrators who posed no threats to them (or to anybody else).”

 

Video Highlights

 

In the village of Eastern Bouaydah near the town of Qusayr in Homs Province, 14 laborers fell victims to summary executions by pro-Assad militiashttp://youtu.be/T0eP4K2Tibs , http://youtu.be/0nZcaV1WxFI , http://youtu.be/bcFD1-7PNJk

 

In Qusayr itself, the pounding continues http://youtu.be/JiRImmprk-8 and claims the life of local activist involved in filming and documenting the crackdown against the protesters in his area http://youtu.be/45Tg7lMgLlk Doctors and the field hospital come under fire even as they scurry to treat the injured http://youtu.be/LRPLh9wxfa8 Some of today’s martyrshttp://youtu.be/1dFvUskVWAM

 

In Homs City, the pounding of the old neighborhoods continueshttp://youtu.be/BHZtlskgi_M  , http://youtu.be/ub5PH78dQnQ Nighttime pounding left many buildings on fire: Qoussour http://youtu.be/1pcGUFOJWTA Hamidiyeh a historic house converted into restaurant is destroyed by the pounding http://youtu.be/CnS-E5fPkGUHome catches fire http://youtu.be/BKyt6C4r5Cc A local church is hithttp://youtu.be/rSOgu9CnrC8 Khaldiyeh: homes catch fire http://youtu.be/RbcgPKvjBZwhttp://youtu.be/6ZrAL3cGN7A Siraj Mosque catches firehttp://youtu.be/E6BmkL14W9Y

 

The nearby town of Rastan is pounded again http://youtu.be/fZQOo_MMaMU ,http://youtu.be/HarxR6hd7-Q , http://youtu.be/GBKv1EHf9gg ,http://youtu.be/S9gn8zGVnVE , http://youtu.be/xWjel4NN3zI An activist from the local documentation team is killed http://youtu.be/l_AGxEmdAV4 Clouds of black smoke rise above the town http://youtu.be/pRPe8JrRPn4 Some buildings catch firehttp://youtu.be/fjv6LVszO3o

 

In the town of Dar Azzah, Aleppo Province, choppers take part in bombarding the historic church of St. Simeon http://youtu.be/MMPIV-IPUK8 , http://youtu.be/7SL7AefbPeo

 

The town of Marei is pounded using choppers destroying many homeshttp://youtu.be/u1Ceq7odwao , http://youtu.be/ArpHYfYBrwA One of today’s martyrshttp://youtu.be/FSrPjZtII1k The chopper that took part in the poundinghttp://youtu.be/gSO1uK0YgXI

 

The town of Ma’arrat Al-Nouman, Idlib Province, is poundedhttp://youtu.be/dxFpY7d8Rlo

 

The town of Daraya, Damascus Province, is pounded http://youtu.be/hSR2LZg-Jhg

 

The Massacre of Eastern Bouaydah Village, Town of Qusayr, Homs Province

The Current Counts