Human Rights Court Sides with Girl who Traveled 500km for Abortion

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

Strasbourg, France – The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a Polish rape victim, at the time 14 years of age, should have had access to an abortion.  The court further order Poland to pay the girl, known only as “P,” and her mother, 61,000 € (£49,000; $ 79,000) in compensation.

In Warsaw, Poland, a mother with her children passes a pro-life poster with the slogan ‘Right to be born for every child.’ (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

In May 2008, when “P” was 14, she received a certificate from a local prosecutor in Lublin stating that her pregnancy was the result of the illegal act of rape.  Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, allowing pregnancy termination only in cases of illegal acts such as rape and incest, or if the life of the mother or fetus is at risk.

However, despite her mandated certification for a legal abortion, “P” was turned away at her local Lublin hospital, where a Roman Catholic priest attempted to sway her to continue her pregnancy, and hospital officials issued a press release stating they would not perform the abortion.

In Warsaw (~ 150km NW of Lublin), “P” was met by hospital staff afraid to terminate her pregnancy due to pressure from pro-life groups and the media.

According to court documents, “P” and her mother “fe[lt] manipulated and helpless,” were harassed by pro-life groups, and were questioned by police.  A criminal case against “P” for illicit sexual relations was started by authorities, although eventually dropped.  The case against her alleged rapist was also dropped by authorities.  At one point, authorities accused “P’s” mother of forcing her daughter to have an abortion and had “P” temporarily placed in a juvenile shelter.

Eventually, “P” was able to get her legal abortion in Gdansk, Poland, 500km (300 mi) from home.

The Court found that the case presented two violations of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: “the determination of access to lawful abortion” and “the disclosure of the applicants’ personal data”; a violation of Articles 5 and 1 outlining the right to liberty and security, and a violation of Article 3 prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment.

Specifically, the Court held that “P” should have been unhindered in her attempt to get an abortion, and that the laws and medical staff she encountered created such a hindrance.  The Court noted “P’s” difficulties “in obtaining access to an abortion, in particular due to the lack of a clear legal framework, procrastination of medical staff and also as a result of harassment.”

Finally, the Judges ruled that “P” had been given “misleading and contradictory information and had not received objective medical counseling.”  They further stressed that those who tried to stop “P” from terminating her pregnancy with a press release were not excused for their behavior: “the fact that access to abortion was a subject of heated debate in Poland did not absolve the medical staff from their professional obligations regarding medical secrecy.”

The decision of the court is subject to further appeal.

Lastly, the court awarded “P” 30,000€ (£24,000; $39,000) in damages and her mother 15,000€ (£12,000; $19,500), plus legal costs, from the Polish state.

Although abortion laws in the staunchly Roman Catholic Poland are not likely to relax anytime soon, there is a chance that such will happen in the future.  Last month, legislation was proposed, although with very little chance of success, in the Polish Parliament that would have legalized abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

“P” is also not the first person to successful challenge the Polish abortion system.  Famously, Alicja Tysiac won a case in 2007 when she was denied an abortion after eye doctors told her giving birth could make her go blind.

Today, Polish women continue to struggle through the legal abortion system, and many wanting abortions for illegal reasons go underground or out of the country.  These abortions are expensive, often costing a month’s salary.  While the government claims that on average 300 abortions are performed annually (against a population of 38 million), the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning estimates this number to be somewhere between 80,000 and 200,000, many of them illegal.

For further information, please see:

Huffington Post – Poland to Pay Compensation to Teen Rape Victim Over Abortion ‘Harassment’ – 31 October 2012

BBC News – Polish Rape Victim ‘Should have had Abortion Access’ – 30 October 2012

Chicago Tribune – Europe Rights Court Condemns Poland in Abortion Rape Case – 30 October 2012

GlobalPost – Polish Teen Should have had Access to Abortion After Rape, Court Rules – 30 October 2012

Poliske Radio – Poland Must Compensate Teenage Rape Victim Denied Abortion – 30 October 2012

Christian Science Monitor – Staunchly Catholic Poland Takes a New Look at Easing Abortion Laws – 13 September 2012

Syria Revolution Digest – Tuesday 30 October 2012

Too Little Too Late!

It is said that the U.S. is behind a new initiative to form a transitional government for Syria. American officials, we are told, are doing all they can to ensure inclusivity and adequate representation of all major communities and political groups, including an attempt to bring in as many representatives of the internal opposition as possible. But by now, the fragmentation of Syria is a done deal, warlordism is all the rage, and any national government will have to act as a government-in-exile for years to come. The old political class in Syria has become largely irrelevant to the processes unfolding in the country.

Tuesday October 30, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 163. The Breakdown: Toll includes 13 children and 7 women: 72 in Damascus and Suburbs, 50 in Idlib (most in the shelling of Maaret Al-Nouman and dozens in Saraqeb and Kafar Batekh), 13 in Aleppo, 12 in Homs, 7 in Daraa, 5 in Hama, 2 in Deir Ezzor and 2 in Lattakia (LCC).

News

Special Reports

The rebel hold on Maaret al-Numan has disrupted the regime’s ability to send supplies and reinforcements to Aleppo, where government forces have been bogged down since July in a bloody fight for control of Syria’s largest city. Rebel advances over the past week in Aleppo have added urgency to opening the route.

… over the last several months, according to U.S. officials and Syrian opposition figures, the State Department has worked to broaden its contacts inside the country, meeting with military commanders and representatives of local governance councils in a bid to bypass the fractious SNC… The new council is an attempt to change that dynamic. Dozens of Syrian leaders will meet in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Nov. 3 and hope to announce the new council as the legitimate representative of all the major Syrian opposition factions on Nov. 7, one day after the U.S. presidential election. The Obama administration sees the new council as a potential interim government that could negotiate with both the international community and the Syrian regime. The SNC will have a minority stake in the new body, but some opposition leaders are still skeptical that the effort will succeed.

Op-Eds

Jacques Bérès, combat zone field surgeon; Mario Bettati, professor emeritus of international law; André Glucksmann, philosopher; Bernard Kouchner, former minister; Bernard-Henri Lévy, philosopher, director of the review “La Règle du jeu”, member of the supervisory board of “Le Monde”: Enough Evasion, We Must Intervene in Syria!

It is precisely when one judges, as we do, that the dictatorship of the Assads is deservedly doomed and Islamist fundamentalism constitutes a major danger for the country’s future that the duty to protect is imperative. And related to and as imperative as this duty to protect is the duty to ensure the security of all elements, all the constituant minorities of the Syrian people. What is at stake goes beyond the fate of Syria.

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

Video Highlights

The pounding of Damascene suburbs continue: Hamouriyeh MiGs take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/uDaKbRKpMlg , http://youtu.be/LF17tIqp3M8Treating the wounded http://youtu.be/X8KS1M-5SYU ,http://youtu.be/D7fXJRnyfUg Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/GfVA2vdefI0 ,http://youtu.be/eKOY3xu-P5Y Ain Terma http://youtu.be/UipesebmnoU Harastapulling the dead rom under the rubble http://youtu.be/FeCpe8YW3po ,http://youtu.be/Ftz1MLQdgMA , http://youtu.be/Tu8AGsc62Jg  Buildings catch fire http://youtu.be/sP4B9jwQfOc Rescuing the woundedhttp://youtu.be/5cFGHtSnHqU Arbeen tanks take part in the poundinghttp://youtu.be/fXsY1kdG2S0  And MiGs http://youtu.be/_60cDg1l9iI Doumaimpact of pounding http://youtu.be/mBsYtRCT9i4 MiGs take part in the poundinghttp://youtu.be/83_00lXCRp8

Maraat Al-Nouman, Idlib Province, is pounded by TNT barrelshttp://youtu.be/0ZMIoQx0bJA , http://youtu.be/v_NHUYAu8oU

In an attempt to halt rebel advances in northern Lattakia, helicopter gunships are now taking part in the pounding of restive communities, including the town ofSalma http://youtu.be/y7ktFpgJF0c , http://youtu.be/CrsbLZTgHYs

Vietnam Jails Two Songwriters

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – Yesterday, two Vietnamese songwriters underwent a 5-hour trial at Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court for their alleged anti-government songs violating Article 88 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code.  Tran Vu Anh Binh, facing six years in prison, and Vo Minh Tri, facing four years instead, were detained in late 2011.

Authorities disbanding anti-government protest. (Photo Courtesy of Ibtimes)

Vo Minh Tri’s song lyrics purportedly condemned a police intervention and suppression of anti-China activists.  The lyrics further addressed other social justice issues.

Meanwhile, other singers have performed Tran Vu Anh Binh’s songs, including one of which criticizing the government for arresting insurgents.

According to the Global Post, the two produced two songs, “Anh La Ai?” (“Who are You?”) and “NuocToi Dau?” (“Where is My Country?”).  Furthermore, the lyrics of “Where is My Country?” include the following lyrics: Where is your nationalism?; Why consciously take orders from China?; You will leave a mark to last a thousand years; Your hands will be stained with the blood of our people.”

E News Park Forest reported that yesterday Amnesty International stated that the songwriters “should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

“This is a ludicrous way to treat people just for writing songs,” said Amnesty’s researcher in Vietnam, Rupert Abbott.  “These men are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their songs and non-violent activities, and should be freed.”

Weeks prior to Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri’s prison sentences, three Vietnamese bloggers were accused of disseminating anti-government propaganda and subsequently jailed for four to 12 years.

“There is a very disturbing trend of repression against those who peacefully voice opinions the Vietnamese authorities do not like,” continued Mr. Abbott.

On October 14th, the police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested university student Nguyen Phuong Uyen and three other students.  Nguyen Phuong Uyen allegedly participated in the circulation of leaflets censuring China and the Vietnam over their territorial dispute.  Although the others were released, Nguyen Phuong Uyen remains detained.

“Rather than trying to silence the young people of Viet Nam, the Vietnamese authorities should allow them to express their opinions and have a say in the development and direction of their country,” shared Mr. Abbott.

According to BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, Vietnam’s Communist Party is currently experiencing factional splits over mismanagement, fraud, and unstable economy.  Therefore, it is not welcoming to criticism.

For further information, please see:

Bangkok Post – Vietnam jails songwriters – 30 Oct. 2012

BBC – Vietnam jails two dissident songwriters – 30 Oct. 2012

Global Post – Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh, musicians, jailed in Vietnam for anti-government songs – 30 Oct. 2012

E News Park Forest – Viet Nam: Acquit Songwriters Who Face 20 Years In Jail – 29 Oct. 2012

 

 

Bahrain’s Temporary ban on Protests Criticized

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain — Last Tuesday, Bahrain imposed a temporary ban on all protests and gatherings.  Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa said that the ban was established to ensure public safety and prevent violence.  Al-Khalifa also said that the ban was necessary since violence that accompanied previous protests, disrupted traffic, affected trade and the economy, and damaged private property.

Bahrain says that its temporary ban on protesting is a safety measure. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

During his press conference, Al-Khalifa mentioned Omran Mohammed Ahmed, a 19 year old police officer, who was killed in an explosion in Al-Eker village when his patrol was attacked by rioters.  “Citizens of any country in the world will understand the necessity of implementing security measures to control, but not close, the entrances to the village in order to conduct a thorough investigation into Omran’s death,” he said.

Amnesty International says that the ban on all rallies violates the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and must be lifted immediately.  Al-Khalifa says that no one’s right is violated as long as they comply with the limits prescribed in the ban. Amnesty International reports that within the last few months, scores of people have been arrested for “illegal gatherings,” where prisoners of conscience were jailed solely for exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

“Even in the event of sporadic or isolated violence once an assembly is underway, authorities cannot simply declare a blanket ban on all protetsts…” said Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Wefaq, Bahrain’s leading Shia opposition party, believes that the ban is an attempt to silence it.  “We reject this decision and consider it against our constitutional right.  There is no reason for it because all our events are peaceful,” said Wefaq official Sayed Hadi Al-Mousawi.  Al-Mousawi also said that he believes the ban goes against international human rights.  Bahrain banned many protests organized by Wefaq in the past few months.

Al-Khalifa also said that the ban is justifiable since organizers have failed to keep protesters from engaging in violence.  He believes that a temporary ban is an “opportunity for everyone to take a step back, calm down and gain some perspective.”

Prior to the ban, organizers had to go through a process to gain consent to hold a demonstration.  Bahrain’s Code on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings imposes significant restrictions, and is in breach under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The code requires that at least 3 organizers with a clean police record must apply for permission, specifying their activity and its subject, and the venue and time.  Organizers must be residents of the area where the activity will take place.  If permission is not granted then the activity is considered illegal.  Several rallies were banned this year due to the location and timings of the rallies since they could have potentially disturbed traffic.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Bahrain bans Protests and Gatherings — 31 October 2012

Amnesty International — Bahrain’s Protests ban Condemned — 31 October 2012

Bahrain News Agency — Ban on Marches and Rallies is Temporary, Interior Minister says — 31 October 2012

Reuters — Bahrain Must Lift ban on all Protests — 31 October 2012

Mayor Offers $120,000 for a Fugitive’s Head on Ice

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DAVAO CITY, The Philippines – Vice mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, of Davao City has offered a 5 million pesos ($121,000) reward for the capture, execution and delivery of a known fugitive’s head.

 

Duterte addressing the public on Yu. (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)

The fugitive in question is Ryan Yu, the leader of a local car theft ring.  Duterte has offered the public two million pesos ($48,400) for Yu’s capture, four million pesos ($96,800) if he is killed, and an additional 1 million pesos ($24,200), on top of the aforementioned reward, if Yu’s head is literally delivered on ice.

Duterte has a reputation for being tough on crime and has been previously associated with death squads.  These death squads were responsible for the executions of over 200 suspected criminals during Duterte’s previous mayoral term from 2004 to 2009.  The executions included a number of minors as well.

Human Rights Commission (HRC) chairman Loretta Ann Rosales has criticized Duterte’s actions declaring that he has violated the law by ordering the extrajudicial killing of Yu.  Rosales claims that Duterte is depriving Yu of proper due process, and despite Yu’s alleged crimes and links to the car theft ring, enjoys certain rights under the law.

Duterte responded to the allegations by calling for Rosales to show him the specific laws that he has violated by ordering the capture of a known fugitive.  Duterte claims that there is nothing illegal about using the police and government to sanction the capture of a dangerous criminal linked to a local carjacking gang.

Ronald de la Rosa, the local Davao police chief, says his office was flooded with calls and messages from people asking if the reward offer was legitimate.  Rosa assured that the reward was very real, and Duterte says that the funds for the reward will be paid out from his political campaign contributions.

Rosa conveyed that Yu and his gang were responsible for more than 40 stolen vehicles which were stashed in a local warehouse.  The discovery of the stolen vehicles prompted Duterte’s call for Yu’s head.  Duterte and Rosa have conveyed that the offer is to expedite the capture of a very dangerous criminal who could be armed with automatic weapons.

The reward is to facilitate Yu’s capture; however, it is also incentive for a fairly dangerous endeavor.  Duterte says that those who go after Yu need to know that Yu will most likely be armed and incredibly difficult to capture.  Because Yu will not come into custody peacefully, it may be possible that Yu must be killed in order for him to be incapacitated.

For further information, please see:

Philippine Daily Inquirer – Don’t castrate gov’t, Duterte tells CHR chief – 29 October 2012

Philippine Star – Duterte mulls raising bounty for car theft ring leader to P6 million – 29 October 2012

Davao Sun Star – Duterte to Human rights commission head: Show me the law I violated – 29 October 2012

NY Daily News – Mayor in the Philippines offers $121,000 reward for decapitated head – 26 October 2012

Suspected Rigged Ukrainian Election Sparks Hunger Strike

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – Opposition leader and ex-prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, announced a hunger strike to protest an alleged rigged voting.

Ukrainian citizen watches as imprisoned former Prime Minister Tymoshenko’s party addresses the country. (Photo Courtesy of Spiegel)

On Sunday, Ukraine’s parliament held their election. President Victor Yanukovych is projected to win; however, international observers are subsequently criticizing the process. On Monday, these particular observers pointed out the flaws in the election process, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe commenting that the country had taken a “step backwards” on the road to democracy.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-business Party of Regions has 34 percent of votes. However, the United Opposition bloc, who promotes and involves jailed opposition leader and former Prime Minster, Yulia Tymoshenko, is in second place with 22 percent of the vote.

Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for the abuse of power, has “symbolically” led her party from behind bars. Yanukovych was accused of overpaying Russia in a gas deal, and she was, therefore, not permitted to register as a candidate.

The OSCE believes Tymoshenko’s current imprisonment is the epitome of obstacles that impede the elections in Ukraine. Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the Swedish MP who led the OSCE delegation stated, “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine. One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country.”

Tymoshenko announced through her lawyer, “The elections were rigged from the first to the last day. To hide this fact means to destroy Ukraine’s future.” Due to Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, she stated she would not call for “civil unrest in the streets” because she is prevented from guaranteeing “that these actions will be peaceful and organized in the best way.”

While Ukraine was recently considered isolated under President Yanukovich, observers accused the current government as corruption and authoritative. These recent accusations have stemmed from Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, which the United States and the European Union have called a “politically motivated show trial.”

United Opposition official, Arseiy Yatsenyuk, said, “The campaign was very tough, extremely tough. Intimidation, they purchased the voters, they intimidated the members of the election commissions. So they did their utmost with an iron fist to do something to win the elections, but look at the results of the exit polls. They didn’t succeed.”

The OSCE is monitoring the election.

For further information, please see:

BBC News — Ukraine election ‘reversed democracy’, OSCE says – 29 October 2012

CNN — Ruling party leads Ukraine vote – 29 October 2012

Reuters — Ukraine’s Tymoshenko launches hunger strike over “rigged” vote – 29 October 2012

Spiegel — Ukrainian Election Criticized as Votes Counted – 29 October 2012

Israel Turns Away African Migrants at the Egypt Border

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel — Human Rights Watch (HRW) and two NGO’s, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, and Physicians for Human Rights, report that the Israeli military have turned away dozens of African asylum seekers, mostly made up of Eritreans, from its border with Egypt since June 2012.

Israel has denied entry to dozens of African migrants since June. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

HRW published a report last Sunday, saying “Israeli soldiers allegedly denied food and water to migrants, beat them with fists and guns, and pushed them across the Israel-Egypt border with long metal poles.”

HRW claims that Israel’s actions puts asylum seekers at risk of enduring prolonged detention in Egyptian prisons and police stations, where they are unable to claim asylum.  Also, Eritrean migrants risk a forcible return to Eritrea, and also face abuse, torture, and rape by traffickers in the Sinai region.

The number of rejected asylum seekers has increased at the Egypt-Israeli border since Israel began construction on a 250 km fence that runs the length of the border.  “Building a border fence does not give Israel a right to push back asylum seekers,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at HRW.  Simpson believes that Israel is failing to follow international law, and should only reject asylum seekers when their claim for asylum is not valid.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Justice Ministry, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that Israel must resume the arrests of African migrants.  Yishai, who in his letter only mentions the Sudanese and not the Eritreans who comprise the majority of migrants that cross from Egypt, said “as you know, the problem of infiltration to Israel is one of the most difficult and complicated problems which Israel has dealt with since the founding of the state, [it is] a problem which threatens our identity, character, and future.”

A source close to Yishai said that his letter is directly related to the elections that will occur in January.  The Shas, the political party which Yishai is associated with, fear losing potential voters that commonly vote for the Likud and are frustrated with Netanyahu’s handling of the illegal immigration issue.

Last May, rising tensions over illegal immigration erupted when protesters marching through the streets of south Tel Aviv started smashing African-run shops and property, chanting “Blacks out.”

Currently, more than 60,000 Africans are estimated to be living in Israel illegally, mostly in the run-down neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera — African Migrants ‘Denied Entry’ to Israel — 29 October 2012

Gulf News — Israel Turns Back Dozens of African Migrants — 29 October 2012

Human Rights Watch — Israel: Asylum Seekers Blocked at Border — 28 October 2012

The Jerusalem Post — NGO’s Reject Israeli Asylum Policy to Migrants — 28 October 2012

Rockets and Air Strikes End Israel-Gaza Informal Truce

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – An informal truce in place since Thursday came to an end Sunday as militants in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel. Reports vary, but anywhere between 7 and 26 rockets were fired into Israel on Sunday from Gaza in the worst outbreak of violence in the area in months. Reports say that 18 rockets were fired on Monday alone.

A man is wheeled from the village of Beit Lahia, northern Gaza, after a recent Israeli airstrike. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An Egyptian-brokered truce paused fighting in the Gaza strip area since Thursday.  Although no formal agreement had been reached with Hamas, the Islamist faction which controls the Gaza Strip, an Israeli defense official said that Egyptian defense officials had been instrumental in restoring calm.

“The Egyptians have a very impressive ability to articulate to (Hamas) that its primary interest is not to attack and use terror against Israel or other targets,” Amos Gilad, an Israeli defense official, told Israeli Army Radio. However, he made sure to acknowledge that there was no direct agreement with Hamas.

“It can be said categorically that there is no agreement with Hamas, there has never been and there will never be. … The only thing that has been set and said is that there will be calm. We are not interested in an escalation,” Gilad added.

An Israeli spokeswoman said that 86 projectiles had been fired at Israel from Gaza between Tuesday and Wednesday, but noted that the Iron Dome system had intercepted eight of them. There was nevertheless damage to several homes in southern Israel and three agricultural workers were wounded when a Palestinian rocket exploded near them on Wednesday. That same day, Israel killed a Hamas militant in an air strike, the purpose of which was to prevent rocket launches from Gaza. On Tuesday, Israel killed three Hamas members who, allegedly, were involved in launching the previous attacks or planning future ones.

Before Sunday, the last known rocket launched from Gaza occurred on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., according to that spokeswoman.

The latest surge of violence occurred Sunday, following the killing of a Gazan who Israel claimed had fired mortars at Israeli troops. That militant died near the southern town of Khan Younis and reportedly belonged to the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which is the armed wing of Hamas. Hamas responded by firing rockets and were answered by Israeli airstrikes that took out several targets in Gaza. Israeli officials say that seven rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza on Sunday alone.

Hamas has refused to renounce violence or recognize Israel’s right to exist, and is ostracized by the Quartet of Middle East mediators comprising the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.

For further information, please see:

Arutz Sheva – Barrage Continues: 18 Rockets Since Midnight – 29 October 2012

BBC News – Violence Ends Israel-Gaza Truce – 29 October 2012

Haaretz – IAF Strikes Gaza After Rocket Barrage Hits Southern Israel – 29 October 2012

Rueters – Egypt Brokers Informal Israel-Gaza Truce: Israel Official – 25 Octover 2012

Rebels Attack Virunga National Park, Killing Park Rangers

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Rebels have killed two park rangers and a soldier in an attack at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s famous Virunga National Park last Friday.

 

More than 130 rangers have been killed since 1996 protecting wildlife in the Virunga National Park. (Photo courtesy of Global Animal)

The attack, which took place at Mwiga Bay near the park’s Lake Edward, also claimed the lives of five rebels.

A statement from the park management reported that three soldiers and two rebels were wounded during the conflict. The injured rebels were taken into custody and confined in a hospital in Vitshumbi, the statement added.

The Virunga park, which employs park rangers from the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, has seen a dramatic increase in the presence of armed militias since the civil war outbreak in May this year. These rebel forces, including the “March 23 Movement” (M23), decided to set up their own bases in the park. This has led to a growing number of fighting between rebel groups and the army in the area. As a result, park staff have usually been caught in the crossfire and have been vulnerable to assaults from militia men. Reports show that the number of park rangers has decreased from 1,000 to 271.

According to the park’s chief warden, Emmanuel de Merode, “the civil war has brought an influx of militias into the park, intent on poaching and attacking the local population. This is bringing overwhelming pressures on our small team of rangers whose duty it is to protect the wildlife and the people living in and around the park. Once again, we are deeply shocked and saddened by the deaths of our colleagues.”

To protect the park staff, the government has deployed 200 soldiers, including 48 recruits trained by retired Belgian Special Forces, into Virunga.

The spokesperson for the Congolese Army, Col. Hamuli, speculated that Friday’s attack may have been perpetrated mainly by M23 “to destabilize [the army’s] positions from the inside of the territory [and] to show that Rwanda and Uganda are not supporting them. He also suggested that seizing parts of Virunga park may be a ploy of the M23 to “take back their traditional fiefdom in Masisi.”

The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement condemning the Friday attack.The Security Council also condemned “any attempts by the M23 to establish a parallel administration and to undermine State authority.”

The Virunga National Park, largely known for its endangered mountain gorillas, was created under Belgian rule in 1925 and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

For further information, please see:

AFP – Eight killed in attack at DR Congo wildlife reserve – 27 October 2012

Wildlife Extra – Rebel attack on Virunga National Park ranger patrol kills three in DR Congo –  27 October 2012

BBC News – Virunga National Park: DR Congo rangers killed – 26 October 2012

Environment News Service – Eight Dead in Attack on Virunga National Park Rangers – 25 October 2012

The Washington Post – Congo M23 rebels attack army in North Kivu province to gain more territory; army pushes back – 19 October 2012

Huffington Post – Africa’s oldest park threatened by rebels, now oil – 5 October 2012

Global Animal – Virunga National Park Loses Defense In Congo War – 17 September 2012

 

Protesters Killed In Peruvian Market Relocation

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – A new local ordinance in Lima was enacted with the intent of relocating a market due to hygiene concerns. The police tasked with closing down the markets in La Parada were met with violent protests from stall-owners and local citizens. While resistance was expected, the police were not originally prepared for the levels of violence they encountered.

Protesters Clash With Police. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

The market at La Parada is known to be filled with criminals and a place where you can buy stolen and black market goods. The resistance that the National Police of Peru have faced may have been a shock, but protesters have a method for their madness. Beyond the mere criminal aspects of the market, numerous law-abiding shopkeepers are being forced to relocate into this new market. Critics of the relocation claim that the new market space will not provide sufficient space with a much higher rent.

The forced market relocation began with a  riot. Police originally used concrete blocks and bricks to stop supply trucks from entering the La Parada market. They were attacked with clubs and bricks, the police responded with live ammunition and tear gas.

On the first day, one person was shot and killed and a police officer was beaten to near death. The protests continued and two more people died in clashes with the police.

Lima’s Mayor, Susana Villaran, has accused stall-owners of hiring criminals to stall the police with rocks and clubs, claiming that the real merchants want to move into the new market. She continued that “We are regaining order and security in an area that has only been one of disorder, chaos, insecurity and filth.”

As the police have managed to pacify the area 2,000 officers have remained to enforce public order and restrict the recreation of the markets. 1,500 have been stationed at supply centers to prevent recurrence of violence or allow trucks to enter the area and restock the protesters and bring food into the area. Another 500 have been sent to patrol the area to ensure that peace and dissuade criminals from re-continuing their illegal acts.

The Ministry of Interior has announced a campaign to identify the criminal who caused the riots and began attacking policemen. They plan on n using surveillance equipment in order to identify protesters  The police will also begin putting up physical and digital posters with the faces of the agitators. The Ministry expects the support of the population in this matter.

To date 101 people have been arrested, including 6 minors.

For further information, please see:

Andina Agencia Peruana De Noticias – More Than 2,000 Officers Remain At The Stop To Ensure Public Order – 28 October 2012

La Republica – The Stop: Interior Minister Announces Campaign To Identify Attackers Of Police – 28 October 2012

RPP Noticias – Pedraza Assumes Some Responsibility For Acts Of La Parada – 28 October 2012

The BBC – Peru Clashes: Two More Die In Lima Market Protests – 27 October 2012

Chinese Teacher Detained for Allegedly Abusing Kindergarten Children

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Photographs depicting kindergarten teachers in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang allegedly abusing young children were posted on the social networking site “Weibo” last Wednesday.

Yan holds up the screaming child by the ears. (Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post)

The pictures that were taken and uploaded on China’s social networking site, Weibo, showed a teacher holding up a student by the ears as the student screamed and writhed in pain.  The teacher can be seen smiling in the photograph as she is holding up the child by the ears.

Additional photographs displayed a child being put upside down in a trash can and a child’s mouth being sealed with tape.  A video also circulated on social networking sites which showed a teacher slapping a five year old girl in the face repeatedly.

Parents of the students at The Blue Peacock Kindergarten, the location where these abuses took place, have cried out in public outrage for the alleged abuse that their children have suffered.  The father of the girl who had been slapped repeatedly alerted local police after his daughter arrived home from school with bruises on her face.  The classroom’s security camera confirmed the physical punishment.

The teacher who held up the student by the ears was later identified as Yan Yanhong, a 20 year old private kindergarten teacher from Wenling city.  Yan was detained by local police on Thursday after the infamous photos were posted on the internet.

Yan, a 20 year old unlicensed teacher, commented to local news sources that the photo depicts her and the student merely having some fun.  Her fellow teacher who had helped Yan take the pictures was punished by being placed under a 7 day administrative detention.  The teachers have also been ordered by local authorities to publically apologize to students and parents.

Because kindergarten is not about of China’s nine-year compulsory curriculum, it does not enjoy the adequate necessary government funding and assistance.  There is a severe shortage of public kindergartens so the rise in private schools providing early education to Chinese students has stepped up to fill the void.  Unlicensed teachers, like Yan, have also been hired hastily by these private schools to help relieve the shortages of available private education for young Chinese children.

Private kindergartens often do not have proper supervision like their public counterparts.  The teachers are also severely underpaid due to cost cutting measures implemented due to the financial pressures of operating these schools.  An average private kindergarten teacher in the Zhejiang province of China can expect to earn roughly 20,000 RMB, which is about 30% of the salary enjoyed by their public school counterparts.

Local laws also do not provide favorable protection to the students.  Chinese law does allow for the charge of abuse to be applied to teachers who harm their students.  The punishment of these abusive teachers is also left up to school administrators and the educational authorities.

Pundits have expressed a need for the Chinese government to up their spending on early childhood education.  Currently, the Chinese government spends about 1.2 of total educational expenditures on kindergarten education programs; developed countries spend an average of 6-8%.

For further information, please see:

Shanghai Daily – Abuse scandal kindergarten head sacked – 28 October 2012

BBC – China outcry over picture of teacher hurting pupil – 25 October 2012

China Daily – Abusive teacher exposes lack of supervision – 25 October 2012

Global Times – Kindergarten teachers detained for “ear pulling” in East China – 25 October 2012

Huffington Post – Chinese Kindergarten Teacher Allegedly Lifts Student Off Ground By Ears, Shares Photo On Internet – 24 October 2012

President Zuma Withdraws from Lawsuit Over Cartoon

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—The South African President, Jacob Zuma now intends to drop a four-year-old lawsuit that claimed about $600,000 in damages from a political cartoonist who depicted the President poised to rape “Lady Justice.” The defendant in the case was The Sunday Times—who also said that it had reached an agreement with Zuma and Zuma’s lawyers for the end of the suit and all other claims.

Cartoonist Shapiro is No Longer on the Hook for His Cartoon of President Zuma of South Africa. (Photo Courtesy of Global Post)

The Presidency noted that “in depicting President Zuma as a would-be rapist, the cartoon sought to play a discredited and legally disproved accusations made against him in 2006. The newspaper and the cartoonist wanted to perpetuate an image of the President as a sexual deviant, despite a court law rejecting the allegations against him and clearing his name.”

The cartoon, considered to be both “hurtful and defamatory,” was printed at a time when Zuma was not yet president. At the time, he was also fighting graft charges, which later were withdrawn, and two years later he was acquitted of raping a family friend. Even though he was acquitted, he admitted to having unprotected sex with a woman who he knew was HIV-positive.

The President’s office, in a statement to the press and the people said “The President…would like to avoid setting a legal precedent that may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech, with the unforeseen consequences this may have on our media, public commentators and citizens.” The office, however, still believes that the cartoon was and is an affront to the dignity of the President.

Dropping the lawsuit will send an important signal showing that the President respects the right of the media to criticize his conduct. Zuma noted that racial and cultural prejudice and bigotry could not be exclusively handled through the court system. Zuma, however, is also suing several other newspapers and a radio broadcaster for about 50 million rand.

Jonathan Shapiro, the cartoonist involved in the suit, is known to write controversial cartoons. He told the Sunday Times that he had mixed feelings about the case being dropped because he believed that he would have won “hands down.”

“This is a vindication of what I was saying in the cartoon and it’s a vindication of the Sunday Times for publishing it,” Shapiro said.

 

For further information, please see:

Associated Press – South Africa’s Zuma Drops Lawsuit Over Rape Cartoon – 28 October 2012

The Australian – South Africa’s Zuma Drops Lawsuit Over Cartoon – 28 October 2012

Global Post – Zuma Drops Rape Cartoon Lawsuit Against Shapiro – 28 October 2012

Reuters – South Africa’s Zuma Drops Suit Over Rape Cartoon – 28 October 2012

Russian Leftist Leader Charged with Riot Conspiracy; Activist Claims Kidnapping, Forced Confession

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia— Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Russian Left Front Movement, was charged with conspiracy to organize mass riots against the presidency of Vladimir Putin on Friday.  Also charged are Konstantin Lebedev (an assistant to Udaltsov) and Leonid Razvozzhayev (an assistant to an opposition State Duma deputy), who has claimed he was kidnapped from Ukraine and forced to sign a confession while in handcuffs in Moscow.  All face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov was charged Friday with conspiring to organize mass riots, and detained by police as of Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of RFE/RL)

On Friday, Udaltsov, who last week was placed under a travel ban after Russia’s Investigative Committee (SK) began to scrutinize him, appeared before the SK and denied all charges.  Although he was permitted to leave the SK office Friday, Udaltsov was detained Saturday by police at a protest in Moscow.

Udaltsov is well known for his involvement in Moscow street protests, for which he has served several short periods in jail in the past. Before appearing before the SK, Udaltsov stated the following to a group of reporters: “[T]his case is based on tortures, it’s shameful, it hurts Russia’s image. . . I have not committed any crime. I am going in there with my head up.  And if I am arrested today, I hope society will not ignore it, and mass protests will begin.  As for me – I’ll be ok, I hope everything will be fine and Russia will be free and that’s what I wish you all.”

Razvozzhayev, also charged with plotting mass riots and being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, signed a lengthy 10-page confession concerning orchestrating riots, which the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) claims he penned himself after turning himself in.  Razvozzhayev has asserted that he was forced to sign after being kidnapped, and has since retracted the confession.

Leonid Razvozzhayev remains in custody at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison after vanishing from Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

Razvozzhayev claims that, after meeting with a lawyer for advice on seeking political asylum Friday 19, he was kidnapped off the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, by four men who put a hood over his head and forced him into a van, which then drove him across the Russian border against his will.

Razvozzhayev claims that he was then psychologically tortured; he was kept handcuffed in a basement without food or water or use of a toilet.  He says he signed the confession in handcuffs.

As Razvozzhayev was being removed from a courthouse on Sunday, where his arrest had been sanctioned, he shouted to reporters: “Tell everyone that they tortured me. For two days. They smuggled me in from Ukraine.”

The charges against Udaltsov, Lebedev, and Razvozzhayev stem from a documentary film, “Anatomy of a Protest 2,” aired by a pro-Kremlin television station, NTV, at the beginning of October, which allegedly showed Udaltsov meeting with a member of the Georgian government to discuss plans and seek foreign money for organizing street unrest in Russia.

In the middle of October, the apartments of all three were searched, as was the apartment of Udaltsov’s parents.  Udaltsov’s wife and children are staying in Ukraine.

Putin’s spokesman has stated that the Kremlin cannot and should not comment on the case, and it only concerns the investigators, prosecutors, judges, attorneys and rights activists. Likewise, the parliamentary majority party, United Russia, has denied a parliamentary probe into Razvozzhayev’s claims, arguing that such falls to the Prosecutor General.

For further information, please see:

RFE/RL – Russian Police Detain Opposition Leaders at Moscow Rally – 27 October 2012

BBC News – Russian Leftist Sergei Udaltsov Charged with Conspiracy – 26 October 2012

RFE/RL – Udaltsov Charged With Plotting Unrest – 26 October 2012

RT – Leftist Leader Udaltsov Charged with Conspiracy to Organize Riots – 26 October 2012

International Herald Tribune — Jailed Russian Opposition Leader was Abused, Groups Say – 23 October 2012

RFE/RL – Russian Activist Charged With Preparation of Mass Disorders – 23 October 2012

BBC News – Russian Anti-Putin Activist ‘Admits Riot Plot’ – 22 October 2012

The Guardian – Putin Opponent Claims he was Tortured into Moscow ‘Riots’ Confession – 22 October 2012

RFE/RL – Udaltsov Aide Charged, Faces 10 Years in Jail – 18 October 2012

China Offers Reward for Information About Recent Self-Immolations

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – On Thursday, authorities offered up to a $32,000 reward for information revolving around the series of self-immolations in China’s Tibetan-inhabited region, Gannan.  Furthermore, authorities anticipate awarding $7,7000 for information regarding planned immolations.

The most recent self-immolation. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

According to BBC, Chinese authorities issued a notice stating that the immolations have “seriously impacted social stability and harmony as well as people’s ability to live and work.”

The note further stated, “Anyone who reports and informs the legal authorities on the people who plan, incite to carry out, control and lure people to commit self-immolation will be awarded 50,000 yuan.”  Furthermore, anyone is able to provide information regarding the “black hands,” those behind four recent self-immolations, will be receive 200,000 yuan.

Since February 2009, approximately 60 ethnic Tibetans, many of whom were nuns and monks, have committed self-immolation to protest China’s rule in Tibet.  Moreover, the recent “black hands” incident occurred near the Labrang monastery.

As China’s dominant ethnic group, Han, moves into historically Tibetan areas, countless Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of eroding their culture and suppressing their religious freedom.

“This fourth self-immolation in the space of a week underlines that protests in Tibet are continuing and intensifying. We can only expect this to continue until Tibetans are granted the freedom they demand,” shared Free Tibet’s Stephani Brigden.

On Wednesday, the government attributed the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Dalai Lama, for promoting self-immolation.  However, according to AFP, the Dalai Lama has not denounced such acts and prefers to remain “neutral.”

 

For further information, please see:

Examiner – China offers rewards for information about immolations – 26 Oct. 2012

Hindustan Times – Self-immolation: China police offer reward for info on “planned” suicides – 26 Oct. 2012

AFC – China offers rewards to expose Tibetan immolations – 25 Oct. 2012

BBC – Tibet immolations: China offers rewards for information – 25 Oct. 2012

 

 

Syrian Truce Unstable

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – The agreed upon cease-fire in Syria for Eid al-Adha fell apart Saturday with bombings and outbreaks of violence across the country. Each side has accused the other of breaking the truce.

A Syrian warplane flies over Aleppo earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

The government accepted the cease-fire proposed by Lakhdar Brahimi, an international envoy that has been trying to negotiate a peace deal. However, the government did say that it reserved the right to resume military activity to respond to any so-called terrorist gangs.

On Friday, the first day of the four day Muslim Feast of Sacrafice,  the level of violence throughout the country seemed to lessen. Demonstrators walked the streets in the larger numbers than had been feasible for weeks. Activists said that there were planes circling above the crowds, but they did not fire any weapons.

But by Saturday, almost every violent hot spot reported resumed hostilities. The most outrageous disturbance of the truce occurred when a warplane fired missiles into a residential building in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus. That attack killed eight men, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Although that attack has not been confirmed yet, it marks the first aerial attack since the truce began Friday morning. In pictures posted on Facebook, the residential building was shattered and a large crater filled with rubble was clearly visible.

“There is a clear breach of the truce,” Ahmad Kadour, an Idlib activist, said. According to him, government convoys of reinforcements were moving up the road to Wadi al-Deif, the site of a military base and fighting the day before.

In Aleppo, an activist who uses the nickname Abu al-Hassan claimed government tanks had resumed shelling in areas around the airport. Other activists said that towns around Aleppo and Idlib were shelled as well.

Residents in the central city of Homs sad there was no sign that  the fighting was diminishing.

“There are regime snipers shooting at us from several fronts, and the city remains under siege, as it has been for 141 days,” activist Abu Bilal said. “This siege alone is considered a military operation, so with or without the truce, this criminal regime obviously does not care.”

SANA, the official news source of Syria, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights both reported firefights between government forces and the opposition in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour. Multiple car bombs exploded near a military headquarters and in front of the Syriac Orthodox Church. At least five people were killed. Airplanes also shelled Deir al-Zour, activists said.

Although, there were areas where there was no fighting.

“It kind of depends on the area…it has been calm over here” said Iyas Kadoni, a civil-society activist from Saraqib, near Aleppo. He said that area was much quieter than other areas, like Homs.

 

For further information, please see:

CNN – Reports of Renewed Fighting Unravels Temporary Syrian Truce – 27 October 2012

Daily Star – Syrian Warplanes Stage 1st Airstrike Under Truce – 27 October 2012

SANA – Gatilov: Armed Opposition in Syria Has Thwarted Eid al-Adha Truce – 27 October 2012

NY Times – Syrian Protestors Emerge Amid Clashes and Bombing During a Holiday Cease-Fire – 26 October 2012