Suspected Rigged Ukrainian Election Sparks Hunger Strike

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