Chemical Weapons Moving in Syria

Chemical Weapons Moving in Syria

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – As the civil war rages on, the Syrian government has taken action to safeguard its chemical weapons. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Friday that there had been “limited movement” to secure the chemical weapons.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listens to a question during at a news conference at the Pentagon. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

Syria has admitted to having a large stockpile of chemical weapons but has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.  According to CIA intelligence, Syria has had a chemical weapon program for years and has developed mustard gas and Sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent. The C.I.A. also believes that the country has attempted to develop more toxic nerve agents, such as VX gas. A report citing Turkish, Arab, and Western intelligence agencies put its stockpile at around 1,000 tons of chemical weapons stored across 50 towns and cities.

Mr. Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon on Friday: “We continue to have a concern about the security of the CBW [chemical and biological weapons] sites.”Although he added that the major sites “still remain secured by the Syrian military” there has been intelligence that there has been “some movement in order for the Syrians to better secure… the chemicals.”

“There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know,” Panetta told reporters. “I don’t have any specific information about the opposition and whether or not they’ve obtained some of this or how much they’ve obtained and just exactly what’s taken place.”

These chemical weapons can be deployed using aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets.  There is no evidence that Syria has used them in the 18-month conflict with the rebel forces, but has threatened to use them if the country came under attack.

President Barack Obama has declared that the threat of chemical or biological warfare in Syria is a “red line” for the U.S. meaning the U.S. will not tolerate it if the weapons fall into the wrong hands.

If the weapons do fall into the hands of militant groups, President Obama has said that at that point, it’s “an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us.” With the recent, more intensified fighting throughout the country, the possibility of militant groups obtaining the chemical weapons is becoming real.

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” said President Obama.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Syria ‘Moving Chemical Weapons to Safety’ – Panetta – 28 September 2012

Huffington Post – Syria Chemical Weapons Moved, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Says – 28 September 2012

Washington Post – Panetta: Intelligence Suggests Syria Moving Some Chemical Weapons – 28 September 2012

CBS News – Obama: Chemical Weapons in Syria are a ‘Red Line’ – 20 August 2012

Many Internally Displaced People in Sri Lanka Left to Roam

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – On Monday, the Menki Farm displacement camp’s remaining 1,160 Sri Lankan Tamils departed.  At one point, the Menik Farm lodged 300,000 people and was considered the world’s largest camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

A family finally returning home after leaving the Menik Farm camp. (Photo Courtesy of UNHCR)

In 2009, the Sri Lankan government opened the 700-hectare Menik Farm in northern Sri Lanka as an IDP location.

According to Reuters, after approximately three years succeeding the Sri Lankan civil war, authorities have closed Menik Farm, which previously housed tens of thousands of war-affected civilians.  When it the displacement camp shut down on Monday, there were 346 people left.

Although the United Nations (UN) has approved of the closing of the displacement camp, it cautioned that many still need help to restore their lives.

“This is a milestone event towards ending a chapter of displacement in Sri Lanka some three years after the civil war which ended in May 2009,” said Subinay Nandy, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Sri Lanka, this past Tuesday.

According to BBC, some are “left in the jungle” with no resources to rebuild their homes and lives.  One hundred and ten (110) families from Keppapilavu village said that they were prevented from returning home and were subsequently redirected to patches of vacant jungle area instead.

However, Sri Lanka’s army spokesman Vijtha Ravipriya rejected such claims and believed that most people were “very happy” with the help they received from the army.  “People have to go to their villages. The military is helping them renovate and reconstruct their homes so the people are very happy,” said Mr. Ravipriya.

Furthermore, erected army camps were only designated on government land.  “I categorically reject the complaints.  Some areas are no-go to prevent unnecessary accidents.  There are only very limited areas of army camps and they are on government land,” continued Mr. Ravipriya.

Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, a politician from the small and radical Tamil National People’s Front party has been publicizing the situation of the displaced persons.  “The government hurried to empty the Menik Farm camp because of the universal periodic review on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation coming up soon in Geneva,” Mr. Ponnambalam relayed to BBC.

Civil society activists estimate that about 26,000 people remain displaced by military occupation of their land in Sri Lanka.

For further information, please see:

Tamil News – Sri Lanka: Displaced Tamil families ‘left in jungle’ – 28 September 2012

BBC – Sri Lanka: Displaced Tamil families ‘left in jungle’ – 27 September 2012

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Sri Lanka’s displacement chapter nears end with closure of Menik Farm – 27 September 2012

Reuters – U.N. welcomes closure of controversial Sri Lankan “war” camp – 26 September 2012


Syrian Revolution Digest – Friday 28 September 2012

The Way Out Goes Further In!

All scientific studies confirm that the world does indeed go on even after one buries one’s head in the sand. The fires in Syria will not burn themselves out, and as they continue to rage unabated, they will burn more and more people in the process. But you cannot fight fire from a safe distance. 

Friday September 28, 2012 – Dedicated to the unity of the Free Syrian Army

Today’s Death toll: 167. The Breakdown: including 15 due to aerial shelling, 4 children and two women. 57 in Aleppo City (including 25 field-executed in Al-Rashideen), 48 in Damascus and suburbs (including 10 field-executed in Barzeh, and 17 in Qudsaya), 22 in Deir Ezzor, 14 in Aleppo Province, 10 in Daraa (including two martyred in Damascus), 7 in Hama, 5 in Homs, 2 in Raqqah and 1 in Lattakia  (LCC).


Special Reports


While our allies could take the lead in maintaining the no-fly zone, it is necessary in Syria, as in Libya, for America to take the lead in establishing it; only our Air Force and Navy have the weaponry needed to dismantle Syria’s Russian-designed air defenses with little risk. A “lead from behind” approach can work in Syria. President Obama need only apply it.

Even at 8.1 percent unemployment, America has historical responsibilities, which are also historical privileges. Even on the back burner, the world burns.

Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

FSA Unity? Col. Mithqal Al-Bateesh announces the creation of a joint command of all revolutionary military councils Once again, the move underlines not growing unity, but increasing rivalry between different rebel groups on the one hand, and between different factions in the Antakya-based officers on the other. Despite dedicating this Friday’s rallies to the unity of the Free Syrian Army, unity remains elusive.

Habeet, Idlib Province: people remain defiant as fighter jets fly over their anti-Assad rally

Aleppo city: Rebels declare the liberation of the neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud

Fire rage near the Syrian-Turkish borders

The continuing bombardment of Eastern Ghoutah Region in Damascus Province leaves any communities destroyed and farms on fire ,

The pounding of Homs City continues: Hamidiyeh Sultaniyeh The nearby town of Rastan was also pounded

Syrian-American protesters assault the Iranian UN Ambassador

Despite the continuing shelling and battles, hundreds of rallies took place across the country. This is a small sample:  

Kafar Yahmoul, Idlib:

Harasta, Damascus: “the people the unity of the Free Syrian Army”

Saqba, Damascus:

Douma, Damascus:

Al-Wa’er, Homs City:

Chilean Student Protests Lead To Arrests

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

SANTIAGO, Chile — Approximately 70,000 Chileans marched in Santiago and eight other cities, demanding free quality education for the entire population of Chile. The students have advocated for a stronger public education sector and an end to state subsidies to private education.

Masked Chilean protesters march for education sake. (Photo Courtesy of Peoples Daily Online).

The march, while intended to peacefully influence the budget bill of 2013, ended with violent clashes with the police. At least 59 individuals were arrestedt by special police forces after the protest. Noam Titelman, president of the Federation of Catholic University Students of Chile explains, “[we are] mobilizing because we believe that so far there has been no real debate about public education.” He continues to demand that if the politicians want to earn the respect and participation of the young than they need to address their needs.

The movement still seems to have broad public support despite the length of the protest. The message of fair and free public education seems to have resonated with demonstrators elsewhere in the world. Other Latin American countries have seen students challenge their education systems, causing some to raise the Chilean flag as an example.

The government claims that the private sector involvement should be welcomed, however only 16% of higher education spending comes from public sources and three-quarters of Chile’s universities are privately owned. This privatization continues to high school as less than half of Chile’s students go to fully state-funded schools.

The first clash occurred when masked and hooded individuals threw objects at uniformed police. In response Special Police Forces used water cannons and tear gas on the protesters, those peaceful and disruptive alike.

The remaining protesters made their way to the staging area to hear the leaders of the movement speak and listen to local bands. And while students claim that they had at least 70,000 attendees, the police estimate only about 5,000 protesters.

The Chilean government has refused to respond to all the demands of the movement. In response students have planned two new protests on October 11 and 16. According to spokesman of the National coordinator of Secondary Students, Cristofer Saravia, “The 2013 budget… affects us, [and] is a small battle in the middle of our great struggle for a change in the structure of Chilean education.” He and other student leaders have promised to continue protesting until their demands to increase in the allocation of resources for public education in the National budget are met.

Of the 59 arrested, 23 were adults and 36 were minors.


For further information, please see:

Cooperativa – Amounted To 70,000 Students Attending The March In Santiago – 27 September 2012

La Segunda – Incidents Are Recorded At The End Of The Student March – 27 September 2012

Peoples Daily Online – Chilean Students March For Education Retake – 27 September 2012

The BBC – Chile’s Student Protests Show Little Sign Of Abating – 24 October 2011

Deportation May Be Put on Hold for Gay Couples

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — New guidelines from the U.S. Homeland Security Department mean immigration agents can consider an undocumented immigrant’s same-sex relationship in deciding whether to pursue deportation.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a new immigration policy that could spare some same-sex couples from deportation proceedings. (Photo Courtesy of Newsday)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a memo to Congressional members on Thursday that gay and lesbian partners in committed relationships are now considered family members when it comes to immigration policy.  Under the Obama Administration’s “prosecutorial discretion” initiative unveiled last summer, agents have leeway in taking certain factors—such as family members—into account when deciding who should be deported.

“In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase ‘family relationships,’ I have directed [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ includes long-term, same-sex partners,” Napolitano wrote.

Supporters of the change called the new policy a turning point that shows the government intent is not to split families up through deportation.

“It will mark the very first time that lesbian and gay couples have been recognized within immigration policy for relief,” said Steve Ralls, a spokesperson Immigration Equality, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender immigrants.

Relationships would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the move only grants a potential reprieve from deportation.  It does not grant same-sex couples an automatic stay, nor does it let them file petitions for legal residency and citizenship, as it does for immigrants with opposite-sex couples.

“It’s not equal access to green cards, which is what we really need,” said Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven.  “But it’s certainly another building block.”

The change was prompted by requests from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan).  They and other members of Congress said same-sex couples should not have their families needlessly torn apart.

There are an estimated 29,000 same-sex couples nationwide involving a U.S. citizen and an immigrant, according to The Williams Institute, a think-tank based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Opponents say the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in the United States as between one man and one woman, should prohibit same-sex couples from applying for immigration benefits.

The Obama administration has stopped defending DOMA, but that has not stopped the issue from being played out in court.  Newsday reported on Friday that a Long Island couple was among several who filed a lawsuit in April to have their immigration petitions recognized.

It was unclear Friday how DOMA might affect the new immigration policy.

For further information, please see:

The International Business Times — Same-Sex Relationships Can Help Undocumented Immigrants Avoid Deportation — 28 September 2012

Newsday — Deportation Cases to Consider Gay Couples — 28 September 2012

USA Today — Gay Couples Could Get Reprieve in Deportation Cases — 28 September 2012

The Washington Times — DHS Grants Gay Partners Discretion in Deportation Cases — 28 September 2012