Militant Group Attacks Church in Kenya

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya—Early this morning, Sunday, September 30, 2012, a grenade attack on an Anglican church in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi left a child dead and seven other children injured. This attack has been viewed as a response by the Somali militant group Al Shabab to the Kenyan troops’ capture Al Shabab’s stronghold a couple of days ago on Friday.

One Child Was Killed in the Attack and Seven Others Were Injured. (Photo Courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor)

Currently, no suspects have been caught but suspicions have been placed on this group as there have been several other attacks on churches and public gathering spots in Kenya that have been attributed to Al Shabab.

Kenyan officials, however, noted that they do not believe that some of the smaller attacks are the work of Al Shabab. They commented that typically Al Shabab members have been trained in terrorist tactics and have often killed hundreds of people with large suicide bombs. But, the police also added that Al Shabab’s supporters in Kenya probably do not have the skills or the supplies to carry out a large scale operation and have now turned to less complicated attacks like the one today.

The Kenyan police chief Moses Nyakwama told the press that thirteen people were injured in this revenge attack and that two police officers were killed in the nearby town of Garissa—near the border of Somalia.

The reports of the attack suggest that many of those injured at the church were actually injured in the stampede after the attack. Police spokesman, Charles Owino, said, “These are the kicks of a dying horse since, of late, Kenyan police have arrested several suspects in connection with grenades.”

Irene Wambui, a woman who was at the church at the time of the grenades described the attack saying, “We were just worshipping God in church when suddenly we heard an explosion and people started running for their lives. We came to realize that the explosion had injured some kids who were taken to hospital and unfortunately one succumbed.”

The Kenyan military pushed deeper into Somalia and braced themselves for this kind of reprisal attack after the military staged an attack on Kismayu, the stronghold for Shabab militants, which allowed them to control a large area of the country. However, the Shabab have been slowly losing territory this past year against the Kenyan national army.

A member of the country’s Parliament appealed to the nation’s people when he said, after the attacks, “Religious wars have destroyed countries everywhere. That should not be replicated in Kenya.”

 

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Deadly Kenya Grenade Attacks Hits Children in Church – 30 September 2012

Christian Science Monitor – Child Killed in Kenya Church Attack: Revenge for Kismayo? – 30 September 2012

The New York Times – Blast Kills Boy at Church in Kenya – 30 September 2012

All Africa – Kenya: KDF Takes Kismayo – 29 September 2012

Sharp Increase in Violence in Iraq

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Sunday marked the deadliest day in Iraq in nearly a month with a number of bombings that killed at least thirty-two people and wounded approximately one hundred.  The insurgents seem to be targeting Iraq’s Shiite Muslim community.

Residents inspect the rubble at the site of a bomb attack in the town of Taji. (Photo courtesy of Rueters)

Baghdad’s Shiite-majority government blames the recent attacks on Sunni insurgents with ties to al Qaeda.  A local news source noted that insurgents are have recently been regarded as weaker than before by the public but are still able to carry out mass-casualty attacks.  Twenty people were killed in the seven explosions in and around Baghdad, while at least thirty-seven others were wounded in explosions in al-Mashada and al-Amel, neighborhoods closer to the city center.

“I was in my shop and I heard the sound of a very powerful explosion,” said Abu Ihab, a shop owner in central Baghdad’s Karada district. “Dust was everywhere.”

“We were sitting in the shop while police were collecting flesh,” he said. “Human flesh was on the sidewalk, being collected and put in plastic bags.”

“When the explosion happens…I sit in my shop and I am afraid for my life,” Ihab told reporters.

Abu Ihab had good reason to be afraid, as the blast was followed by another car bomb that hit the same area.

Later in the day, a Shiite shrine in al-Madaan, about 20 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, was the target of a car bomb. Four people were killed by the blast, and nineteen others were wounded. Four of the wounded were Iranians who had traveled to the shrine on a religious pilgrimage from Iran.

In Kut, a predominately Shiite city about 110 kilometers south of Baghdad, a car exploded at a police checkpoint, killing six people. Three of those killed were members of the Iraqi police.

These explosions demonstrate a marked increase in violence after a relatively calm period. The last outburst of violence occurred on September 9, when 63 people were killed and around 200 wounded. Most of those victims were Iraqi security forces and took place in Shiite areas.

Infighting among Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds has been common in Iraq, and was particularly terrible in 2006. Although the level of violence has generally been on the wane since the war in 2005 and 2006, recent months show that the violence is escalating again. This past July, the death toll reached a two-year high of 325 reported casualties.

The recent events have raised concerns that the political conflict will continue to escalate and return to the high level of violence that plagued the country a half-dozen years ago.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Many Killed in String of Iraq Attacks – 30 September 2012

CNN – Iraq Suffers Deadliest Day in Nearly a Month – 30 September 2012

Khaleej Times – Wave of Iraq Attacks Kills At Least 32 – 30 September 2012

Rueters – String of Iraq Blasts Kills at Least 32 – 30 September 2012

Muslim Women Refused Entry to Saudi Arabia for Hajj

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Wednesday, the Nigerian government reported that approximately 200 of its women were deported from Saudi Arabia.  Another 900 had been detained in Mecca, and three planes were turned around from Medina.  The women had attempted to enter the country to take part in a hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, that is mandated by their religion. They were turned away for not having a male guardian with them.

Almost 1,000 Nigerian women were held in detention when they showed up for hajj without male supervision. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

In the the eyes of Saudi law, women are no different from children.  As legal minors, they cannot work, leave the country, and often, receive medical treatment, without the consent of a male relative. These women flew into Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah airport, expecting to take part in a holy pilgrimage. Abubakar Shehu Bunu, Nigeria’s Saudi ambassador, claimed it had been agreed that the Nigerians could partake in their hajj as long as they were chaperoned by local authorities.  But instead, the Saudi ministry would not permit any woman under the age of forty-five to enter the country without a male guardian.

Those who were detained reported horrendous treatment by the Saudis. The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria remarked that the women had been kept “in very poor living conditions” where some needed “urgent medical attention.”  Nigeria is home to approximately eighty million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa.  One of the five pillars of Islam mandates that all Muslims who are able to must make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetime.

Halima Muhammad was one of the women who had been detained. She claimed that, “[f]rom the airport we were all rounded up and taken to a facility that is not fit for humans. No one offered us anything, we had only water and slept on bare floors.”

“Some of us were kept in two halls for five days in humiliating conditions with little food, water and other basic needs and inadequate toilet facilities,” reported Zainb Mohammed, another detainee. “Many of us have cold and fever. We did not have blankets and it was cold, especially at night.”

Saudi Arabia’s actions have greatly disturbed relations between itself and Nigeria. Namadi Sambo, Nigeria’s Vice President, said that if Saudi Arabia was not going to permit its pilgrims to perform hajj that it should have let them know that in advance. Bunu has filed a formal complaint with the Saudi authorities.  In response to the deportations and detentions, former governor and Nigerian Muslim leader Lawan Kaita called the incident “a slap in the face for Nigeria and all Muslims. Saudi Arabia has the privilege of being hosts, but it shouldn’t stop others from coming to do the hajj.”

These women came to Saudi Arabia from Nigeria believing that they were fellow Muslims, but ultimately ended up feeling as if they were infidels.

“We were held like criminals in debasing conditions,” stated Maryam Abdulah, another one of the many who were denied access.  “We deserve human treatment and as women and mothers, we deserve to be treated with honour but the Saudis have shown that they have no heart.”

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Nigeria Stops Hajj Flights Over Deportations – 28 September 2012

The National – Detention of Almost 1,000 Femal Haj Pilgrims Causes Diplomatic Rift – 28 September 2012

Arabian Business – Nigeria Says Saudi Deported 150 Female Pilgrims – 27 September 2012

Guardian (UK) – Nigeria Protests After Saudis Deport Female Hajj Pilgrims – 27 September 2012

Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa – Saudi Denies Entry to Some 1,000 Nigerian Women for Hajj – 26 September 2012

Legislation Expanding Treason Definition in Russia Could Criminalize Foreign-funded Organizations

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – Russian Parliament’s State Duma has, in its first reading, unanimously approved a bill that would broaden the definition of treason, equating it to espionage and potentially criminalizing many kinds of international advocacy.   According to rights activists, this legislation appears to be part of a widening crackdown on dissent.  Lawmakers claim that it would make law enforcement more effective.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB, drafted the legislation widening the definition of treason.

Recently the Kremlin has moved to force the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) out of Russia.  Opposition demonstrators have seen strict criminal charges.  (See Pussy Riots and Osipova.)

In what is seen as the latest crackdown on dissent, the proposed legislation would open up the definition of treason to include financial or consultative assistance to a foreign state or organization.  The definition of high treason would include activities harming Russia’s external security.

This legislation results from Kremlin concern that foreign funding is adverse to the interests of the Russian government.  “We should include international organizations on the list of agents that can be charged with treason due to the fact that foreign intelligence agencies actively use them to camouflage their spying activity,” FSB deputy head Yury Gorbunov told the Duma.

The legislation specifically defines expands treason as “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization . . . directed against Russia’s security, including its constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”

Many Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rely on foreign funding; such funding would be difficult to receive under the new legislation.  NGOs may be further inhibited from working with Russian citizens because the legislation would allow Russian citizens providing assistance to foreign states or international organizations to be charged with treason.

And, a person or group could be charged with high treason and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if found to be relaying a state secret to a “foreign government or international, foreign organization.”

Environment and Rights Center (ERC) Bellona chairman Alexander Nikitin says, “This is yet another bill from the series of recent laws meant to tighten the noose around the necks of Russia’s citizens, especially those who work with NGOS, who work as journalists, who work as researchers as well as those who work as scientists.”

Furthermore, a law passed in July, which takes effect November 20, requires NGOs, or civil society organizations, that advocate and receive foreign funding to register with the Ministry of Justice as “foreign agents.”  Failure to register carries large fines and closure for the NGO and up to two year’s prison time for employees.  Status as a “foreign agent” must be stated on all literature and websites.  As the term has roots to the Stalinist purges, many NGOs are concerned that the measure is designed to destroy their credibility.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva a human rights advocate of the Moscow Helsinki Group, which has also pledged not to register as a “foreign agent,” said the treason bill is aimed at “ending any independent public activism.”

Veteran rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, pointing to the “very broad definitions of treason and espionage” said the legislation could be used to prosecute government critics.  He explained that “everyone who accidentally becomes aware of secret information can be convicted” and that Russian leaders “have now chosen an ideological course — you can even call it a national idea — to search for external and internal enemies.”

Before the legislation becomes law, it must go through two more readings in the Russian Parliament and be signed by President Putin, who is expected to support it.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – The Kremlin May Call It Treason – 28 September 2012

Bellona – Russian Parliament Votes in First Reading to Expand Treason Laws – Casting a Darker Shadow on the Future of NGOs – 24 September 2012

The Moscow Times – Treason Bill Gains Momentum – 23 September 2012

The New York Times – Russia Moves to Broaden Definition of High Treason – 21 September 2012

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – New Russian Bill Would Widen Definition of Treason – 21 September 2012

Kenyan Minister Suspended for Hate Speech Against Maasai

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – On Thursday, Assistant Minister for Water and Irrigation, Ferdinand Waititu was suspended from his government office after the Kenyan court charged him with hate speech, along with inciting ethnic violence.

MP Ferdinand Waititu under police custody for hate speech and inciting ethnic violence. (Photo courtesy of Capital FM News)

The charges were rooted in a statement Waititu gave to Kayole residents — most of whom belong to a lower-class residential area in Nairobi — where he encouraged them to evict members of the Maasai tribe. “All Maasais must leave; they are from Tanzania and without identification cards …. We do not want Maasais in Kayole,” he told the community.

Waititu’s statements were directed at Kayole residents who were protesting the alleged killing of a man by security guards thought to be Maasai. These protests eventually led to a full-scale ethnic riot, leaving at least two people dead. According to prosecutors, conflict between the non-Maasai and the Maasai further escalated as a result of Waititu’s statements.

As argued by prosecutor Lilian Obuo, “the utterances made by [Waititu] incited communities … and caused the crowd to hunt for the Maasai people.” “The words were calculated to bring violence to the Maasai community working in Kayole,” she added.

In his defense, Waititu said his statement was misinterpreted. According to him, he was merely referring to the security guards in particular. He claimed that it was only incidental that these security guards were from Tanzania and were Maasai. He did not intend to incite violence against the Maasai people. “When I used the word Maasai, I saw that it had come out wrongly. I accept that mistake and I apologise. Nobody can claim that they have never made such mistakes, even you, in your house, your tongue does slip, and that’s very normal,” Waititu said to the press on Tuesday. In addition to his apology, he insisted that “nobody was hurt” after his comments. The chaos already took place before his remarks and it was even him who quelled the turmoil when he visited Kayole, he argued. Waititu asserted that blaming him for the unrest was “all politics.”

The day after his suspension and subsequent arrest, however, Waititu was released after depositing a 1 million KES bond. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) disagreed with the Kenyan court’s decision to grant his bail. The DPP objected on the ground that because he is a “serial offender”, it is likely that he will abscond. Waititu has reportedly refused to honor previous police summons.

 

For further information, please see:

Bernama – Kenyan Assistant Minister Suspended for Making Hate Speech – 28 September 2012

Capital FM News – Waititu pays Sh1m cash for freedom – 28 September 2012

Al Jazeera – Kenyan minister suspended for hate speech – 27 September 2012

Capital FM News – Kibaki suspends Waititu as assistant minister – 27 September 2012

BBC News – Kenya MP Ferdinand Waititu accused of ‘hate speech’ – 25 September 2012