Nasrin Sotoudeh Named Co-Recipient of Sakharov Prize

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – The Sakharov Prize is one of the top honors awarded to those annually for their contributions to human rights and freedom of thought. Previous winners include figures like Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. This year the award was given to Nasrin Sotoudeh and a fellow Iranian, film director, Jafar Panahi.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has been on a hunger strike since October 17th in reaction to harassment against her family. (Photo Courtesy of Iranian)

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre and is a jailed attorney who previously was known for defending children facing the death penalty, prisoners of conscience, human rights activists, and child victims of abuse. Currently, she is serving a six-year sentence for “acting against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” Many believe her arrest to be completely arbitrary and understand her imprisonment to be part of the Iranian government’s plan to suppress human rights lawyers.

Sotoudeh has been imprisoned since September 2010. For much of her detainment she was held in solitary confinement and tortured in attempts to make her confess. During this time she was kept away from her family and lawyer. Sotoudeh is no longer in solitary confinement, however, she is still often denied contact with her family.

“The conditions of detention imposed on Nasrin Sotoudeh are unacceptable and clearly aim at imposing additional punishment on her for her human rights activities,” stated Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.

Sotoudeh was caught writing her legal defense on a tissue, and ever since she has been denied face-to-face meetings with her family. Now she can only see her thirteen-year-old daughter and five-year-old son from behind a glass wall.

Authorities have taken other measures to punish the Sotoudeh family. One action they took was to change her visiting day from Sunday to Wednesday without proffering and real reason. The authorities have also placed travel bans on Nasrin’s daughter and husband and have held the husband in jail, overnight, for peaceful protests of his wife’s detention.

Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme believes that, “[b]y harassing the family members of prisoners solely in order to stop their legitimate public campaigning, the Iranian authorities are trampling wholesale on their international human rights obligations.”

In reaction to the harassment her family was facing, Sotoudeh began a hunger strike on October 17th which still continues. She wrote to her children in a letter, “I know that you require water, food, housing, a family, parents, love, and visits with your mother. . . However, just as much, you need freedom, social security, the rule of law and justice.”

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – Health Fears for Imprisoned Sakharov Prize Winner in Iran – 26 October 2012

Daily Beast – Iran’s Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers – 26 October 2012

Guardian – Nasrin Sotoudeh and Director Jafar Panahi Share top Human Rights Prize – 26 October 2012

Iranian – Nasrin Sotoudeh: Prisoner of the day – 22 October 2012

Police Admit Faults in Marikana Massacre

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

PRETORIA, South Africa – On Monday, the police admitted that they may have been at fault in the August 16 shooting involving strikers who worked for a mine owned by the platinum giant Lonmin in the Marikana area.

Striking miners carrying the coffin of one of the victims in the Marikana Massacre.(Photo courtesy of AFP/File, Rodger Bosch)

In a statement issued during a public inquiry, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said that some of its officers either overreacted or mistakenly shot at protesters in response to “friendly-fire”.

“The response of some police officers may have been disproportionate to the danger they faced from the group of more than 200 armed protesters,” the opening statement read. “The police officers are prepared to accept that they may have been responding to ‘friendly fire’, believing it to be fire from the protesters,” it added.

The SAPS statement was delivered by the SAPS lawyer, Ishmael Semenya, to a commission examining the evidence surrounding the events of what is now dubbed as “the Marikana massacre”. The commission, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, is currently investigating the role of the SAPS, along with trade unions and Lonmin authorities, in the incident.

Described by the South African media as the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1960 and the end of the apartheid era, the August 16 shooting resulted in the death of  36 miners, 2 police officers, 4 other unidentified persons and the injury of 78 other workers and police.

The SAPS also admitted that the number of police officers deployed at Marikana was “insufficient” to control the crowd of approximately 3000 angry miners, many brandishing traditional weapons, machetes and sticks as they protested for higher pay. Semenya insisted, however, that the police officers merely acted in self-defense when “the situation got out of control”. “The use of lethal force was the last possible resort. There was no murderous intent from the part of the police service,” he told the commission.

Dumisa Ntebeza, the lawyer for the victims’ families, refuted Semenya’s statement by contending that “no less than 14 of the striking miners were shot from behind, many in the back or in the back of the head.” “This evidence, which we understand is unlikely to be contradicted, is wholly inconsistent with the claims of necessity that the SAPS will advance,” Ntebeza asserted.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a crime scene technician admitted that the SAPS may have lost some of the evidence collected from the scene. He admitted that the police may have missed some cartridges and bullets, adding that the SAPS has yet to finalize its ballistic reports.

 

For further information, please see:

AFP – S. Africa police admit possible mistakes in Marikana deaths – 23 October 2012

Mail and Guardian – Cop admits some evidence from Marikana shooting may be lost – 23 October 2012

Al Jazeera – Police admit ‘overreacting’ at Marikana – 22 October 2012

Business Day Live – Marikana: ‘No murderous intent’ on part of police – 22 October 2012

SABC News – Marikana Mineworkers were Shot in the Back – 22 October 2012

The Telegraph – Marikana massacre ‘could have been avoided’ – 22 October 2012

 

 

Police Find Eight Tortured Bodies Dumped Near Mexico City

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Authorities discovered eight dead bodies dumped along the streets of a Mexico City suburb on Thursday.

A police spokesperson said found the bodies in Ecatepec, a poor suburb north of the capital city.  Six of the bodies—five men and one woman—appeared to have been severely beaten.

“They were all naked and showed signs of torture,” police spokesperson said.  “It also appeared their throats had been cut.”

The other two bodies, both men between the ages of 18 and 22, died from gunshot wounds on another street.  So far, police have not identified the bodies or any suspects in what police called two separate crimes.

“Both incidents are being investigated by the homicide prosecutor’s office, which immediately assigned personnel to conduct the corresponding investigation,” the Mexico state Attorney General’s Office said, according to Global Post.

Fox News Latino reported that investigators believe the killings were linked to organized crime because of the way the victims were murdered.  The news organization quoted city officials as saying no messages were left with the bodies.

Fox News Latino also quoted city officials as saying two of the bodies had ropes around their necks, and all of them had “tattoos on different parts of their bodies.”

Since Mexico began cracking down on drug cartels six years ago, more than 60,000 people have died in violence linked to drug trafficking.  The Associated Press reported that Mexico City had been predominantly free of that violence, although it was slowly making its way there.

In September, Mexico deployed troops to Nezahualcoyotl, an eastern suburb, when fighting between two drug cartels spilled into the streets.

Reuters reported that the number of drug war deaths kept by the Mexican newspaper Reforma “is on course to suffer its heaviest death toll this year since [President Felipe] Calderon launched his offensive, at a time when the national count has erased somewhat.”

Ecatepec is home to both incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto and incoming State of Mexico Governor Eruviel Avila.  Both are members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed Mexico between 1929 and 2000.  As Reuters reported, “[c]ritics accused the PRI of turning a blind eye to the drug trade while in power.”

But Nieto, who will be sworn in this December, has pledged to continue the national crackdown on organized crime.  Until last year, he governed the State of Mexico, where both Nezahualcoyotl and Ecatepec are located.

For further information, please see:

Global Post — Mexico Violence: 8 Bullet-Ridden Bodies Found on Outskirts of Mexico City — 26 October 2012

Fox News Latino — Police Find 6 Bodies in Central Mexico — 25 October 2012

Reuters — Eight Bodies Found Dumped in Mexico City Suburb — 25 October 2012

Seattlepi.com — 8 Bodies Found on Outskirts of Mexico’s Capital — 25 October 2012

Violence in Myanmar’s Rahkine State Persists, Resulting in Dozens of Deaths

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SITTWE, Myanmar – Violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists flared up again in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine causing the deaths of approximately 60 inhabitants, roughly 31 of which were women.

Demonstrators hold up signs asking for aid. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Rakhine was the stage of a brutal conflict between the majoritarian Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims last June when the rape and homicide of Buddhist woman was blamed on Muslims.  Last June’s violence caused countless deaths and thousands more were displaced when their homes burned to the ground.

Officials are still investigating what exactly set off the violence this time around.  In addition to the existing casualties, dozens of others sustained injuries and thousands of homes along with several religious buildings were destroyed.

An accurate picture of the situation in Rakhine is still elusive as the state access is restricted making the information difficult to verify.  Witnesses to the violence and tragedies, however, have reported that at least 25 men and 31 women have been killed.  Roughly 1,900 homes have also been set ablaze.  It is still uncertain which side, whether the Buddhists or the Muslims, have sustained the most casualties.

The violence has affected the towns of Yathedaung, Kyaukpyu, Kyauk Taw, and supposedly countless others.  Thousands have begun to flee their homes, and approximately 50 boats carrying Rohingya Muslims were reportedly headed for Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.

Those fleeing are believed to be heading to the refugee camps situated in the outskirts of Rakhine capital, Sittwe.  The prior conflict in June had already displaced thousands of inhabitants who have been bunkered down in the makeshift camps for months.

The U.N. expressed its concerns regarding even more displaced inhabitants fleeing for the already overcrowded camps in the periphery of Sittwe.  The thousands of refugees fleeing their homes and seeking safety include many women and children.

The international community watches on as the United Nations and local police forces call for calm and peace among the conflicting groups.  President Thein Sein had negotiated ceasefires and uneasy peace between the two conflicting groups in the past; however, the government has been unable to implement a permanent solution to the violence.

The estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are still considered illegal immigrants in Myanmar, and Bangladesh, where many have fled from, continues to deny Rohingyas refugee status.  Amnesty International has demanded Myanmar to repeal the 1982 citizenship law that continues to subject Rohinya Muslims to their stateless condition.  However, the state of affairs regarding Rohingya citizenship in Myanmar has yet to be addressed.

For further information, please see:

Bangkok Post – 20 die in Myanmar violence – 25 October, 2012

BBC – Burma Rakhine clashes death toll at 56 – state officials – 25 October, 2012

Centre Daily Times – 56 dead in new ethnic violence in Myanmar – 25 October 2012

Reuters – Sectarian violence worsens in Myanmar’s volatile west – 25 October 2012

EU Awards Prestigious Human Rights Award to Iranian Activists

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – On Friday, the European Union gave its largely respected human rights award to two Iranian activists, an imprisoned lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and a formerly imprisoned filmmaker, Jafar Panahi.

Sakharov Prize winners, Nasrin Sotoudeh (left) and Jafar Panahi (right). (Photo Courtesy of RFE/RL)

The European Union awards the Sakharov Prize to an individuals or groups dedicated to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. The award was created in December of 1988 and is named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, stated, “The award… is a message of solidarity and recognition to a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own.”

The jailed Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, and a Belarussian civil rights activist, Ales Beliatsky, were also nominees this year.

Co-winner, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer, is known for her defense of opposition activists. Sotoudeh also defended women who were jailed for demanding equality, and journalists who were punished for expressing their opinions. Often times, she took these important cases pro bono work and insisting Iranian authorities uphold the rule of law and justice. She is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for “acting against the national security” and “propaganda against the regime”.

Schultz announced, “If the fight for freedom, if the fight for human rights, for human dignity, for freedom from torture and against the death sentence, for freedom of opinion and for justice in criminal proceedings is an attack on national security, then we support this person in her attack on the national security of a regime that does not respect any of these fundamental rights. The prize for Mrs. Sotoudeh is a clear rejection of the regime in Iran.”

The other recipient, Jafar Panahi, a director, is regarded for his humanist films on life in Iran. While facing his own arrests in 2009 and 2010, some of his colleagues were also sent to jail for their outspoken criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2010, he was placed under house arrest and banned from filmmaking for 20 years. Despite his filmmaking restrictions, his 2011 documentary, This is Not a Film, was secretly smuggled out of the country on a USB drive that was hidden in a cake.

Schulz continued, “As in every good portrait, [Jafar Panahi in his films] shows not only the merits but also the contradictions and the daily problems of Iranians. State regimes clearly fear nothing more than the portrayal of the bitter reality that reigns inside their nations. And this is why people like Mr. Panahi are silenced in such regimes.”

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the imprisoned Iranian co-winners will make it to Strasbourg for the ceremony on December 12.

For further information, please see:

BBC News — Iran dissidents Sotoudeh and Panahi win Sakharov prize – 26 October 2012

International Business Times — EU Awards Iranian Dissidents With Sakharov Prize – 26 October 2012

The New York Times – European Rights Award Given to Convicted Iranians – 26 October 2012

RFE/RL – Iranians Win Sakharov Free-Thought Prize – 26 October 2012

Gold Mining Strikes Come to a Close in South Africa

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—South African mines today reached an agreement on a wage deal with the unions and the protesters as the bulk of the gold sector’s striking miners returned to work under a threat of dismissal. This return marked a success for the new tough approach taken by the mining firms. At least 12,000 gold and 20,000 platinum miners were still pursuing an illegal wave of strikes that have now cost Africa’s largest economy over 10 billion rand just this year. The reported estimation was made by South Africa’s National Treasury.

Striking Mine Worker. (Photo Courtesy of All Africa)

In its interim budges policy statement, the treasury said, “Declining mining output and the spread of strike activity has depressed activity in related industries—including manufacturing, logistics and services, with negative consequences for GDP.”

The National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said that, “the worst in the gold sector is over. Members have accepted a new pay structure.” The Chamber of Mines’ offer, together with a package that was already on the table will give the mine workers a wage increase between 11 and 20.8 percent depending on the role in the mining process.

Spokeswoman, Marian van der Walt, for Harmony Gold, a gold mining company in the region, noted, “We’re very pleased that they signed and all of the uncertainty and turmoil in the market to an end.”

This agreement does not cover the platinum and coal sectors—only gold miners. The mine owners of these other two sectors are starting to count the cost of what may end up to be the worst labor unrest in the country since the 1980s.

Not all of the strikes are coming to an end. A six-week old strike at Anglo American Platinum, the world’s top producer of the precious metal, is not much closer to ending. It has 20,500 workers at its Union and the strikers continue to hold out for higher wages.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Parliament today, “We say very clearly that the problems in the mining area do reflect upon our growth prospects and it’s going to still take us some time to understand what the full impact on the growth is depending how and when these strikes actually end.”

 

For further information, please see:

All Africa – Gold Mining Companies, Unions Sign Agreements – 25 October 2012

Al Jazeera – South Africa Mines Agree Deal With Unions – 25 October 2012

Associated Press – ‘Worst is Over’ as South Africa Gold Miners Sign Pay Deal – 25 October 2012

Reuters – South Africa Strikes Ease as Gold Mine Pay Deal Reached – 25 October 2012

 

Four on Trial in Bahrain for Tweets Against the King

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain — Four men in their twenties were recently detained and charged for statements they made on Twitter which allegedly insulted King Hamad.

A torn poster of King Hamad can get you at least two months in prison. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

They were all arrested on charges of defaming the king on Wednesday and had their computers and other electronic equipment confiscated. Prosecutor Ahmed Bucheeri has said that the four will face, “an urgent trial before the criminal court.”

So far three of the cases have been adjourned to October 31 for submission of defense papers. The other case has been adjourned for the verdict on November 1. The three adjourned until the 31st have all denied the charges brought against them. Additionally, all three have been denied their respective requests for release. The fourth man charged admitted to committing the act, however, later notified the judge that he was informed he would be released had from custody had he admitted to the crime.

Bahrain has been in political tumult since the Sunni rulers suppressed the Shia majority’s pro-democracy protests last year. They put down the uprising through the use of martial law and help from other Gulf neighbors. The country is in great unrest and it is a daily commonplace occurrence that protestors and police will clash in the streets.

Since the uprisings, criticism of King Hamad or the Al Khalifa family has been considered a great offense. The court interprets any insult towards the ruling family as an insult on the country of Bahrain as a whole.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (“ANHRI”), has called for the “immediate release of all the prisoners of conscience in the Bahraini prisons and respect the freedom of opinion and expression and the peaceful demonstration.”

ANHRI is upset about how these four bloggers have been arrested and in general, condemns the frequent and systematic violence in which Bahraini authorities deal with peaceful demonstrators. They have urged other international and regional human rights organizations to take greater action to change Bahrain’s policies which suppress human rights.

These four twenty year old men have not been the only alleged protestors who have been recently detained. A month ago, Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of a detained Bahraini activist, was imprisoned for two months for tearing up a picture of King Hamad.

Last July, protest leader Nabeel Rajab was convicted and sentenced to three months in jail for a comment he tweeted against the prime minister. Rajab was later acquitted on appeal which gives some hope to these four men on trial for similar charges.

For further information, please see:

Gulf Daily News – Four on Trial for Insulting His Majesty – 23 October 2012

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – ANHRI Calls the Bahraini Authorities to Stop Suppressing the Peaceful Demonstrations – 23 October 2012

Saudi Gazette – Bahrain Detains Four for Defaming King on Twitter – 19 October 2012

Guardian – Bahrain Charges Four Men with Insulting King – 18 October 2012

 

European Parliament Calls on EU Council of Ministers to Impose EU Wide Visa Bans and Asset Freezes on Officials in Magnitsky Case

Press Release
Hermitage Capital

25 October 2012 – The European Parliament passed with an overwhelming majority a resolution calling on the Council of Ministers of the EU to impose EU wide visa sanctions and asset freezes on Russian officials involved in the false arrest, torture and death of whisleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The European Parliament also called on the Russian government to conduct a credible investigation into Magnitsky’s death and to cease persecuting his mother and widow.

The report was presented by Kristiina Ojuland MEP (Estonia/ALDE Party), the special rapporteur on the Magnitsky case in the European Parliament. On the floor of the European Parliament, Ms. Ojuland said: “Although former president Dmitry Medvedev promised to cast light to this case, we still have not seen justice served. Visa bans and asset freezes are concrete reactions…and demonstrate the EU’s value based policy. Let us be clear, the Magnitsky case is more than a tragedy of an individual fighting organized crime. …we cannot let EU banks accept the fortunes of corrupt individuals stealing from the Russian people.” 

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/afet/pr/908/908403/908403en.pdf

The EU Parliament has twice before called for progress in Russia’s investigation into Sergei Magnitsky death. Because of the lack of action, the EU Parliament is now specifically calling on the Council of Ministers of the EU to implement sanctions. Similar calls have been made by parliamentarians of Sweden, Holland, the UK and Poland, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Marek Migalski (Poland /ECR Party) said: “Sergei Magnitsky…was killed, was tortured in a Russian prison. Our responsibility is just doing the minimum – that which is proposed by Ms Ojuland’s report – that is the introduction of visa bans, the freezing of assets on those whom we suspect may be involved in the process of killing this innocent man.”

Andris Piebalgs, a member of the European Commission and speaking on behalf of the EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs said: “The Magnitsky case has become one of the emblematic cases in this respect, not only for the Russian people but also for the EU. The … reason why we continue to be active in the Magnitsky case is that we believe that Russia itself should have a great interest in solving it.”

The next step is for the recommendations voted on by MEPs to be brought up at the next meeting of the EU Council of Ministers.

 

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital
Phone:             +44 207 440 1777
Email:              info@lawandorderinrussia.org
Website:          http://lawandorderinrussia.org
Facebook:        http://on.fb.me/hvIuVI
Twitter:           @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:     //hermitagecap.livejournal.com/

Violence between Israel and Gaza Escalates

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East 

GAZA CITY, Gaza — Four Palestinians were killed and two Thai nationals were seriously injured within a twelve hour period last Wednesday when Israel launched an aerial assault on Gaza.  The act was a response to events that occurred last Tuesday, when Palestinian fighters launched six rockets at Israel.  The Israeli military said it had fired 72 rockets and mortar shells over the border since midnight.

 

Israel launched an aerial assault on Gaza City that resulted in the deaths of two Hamas fighters. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The aerial bombardment began Tuesday evening and continued well into the early morning hours on Wednesday.  Israeli aircrafts killed two fighters from the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, in northern Gaza, sparking more rocket fire.  An early morning raid killed a third fighter from the Popular Resistance Commitees (PRC) near the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, while a Hamas fighter died of injuries he sustained during Tuesday night’s air raid.  Since Monday, 6 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks, while 12 have been injured.

“4 Palestinians killed in a day is a spike in numbers, with the killings and also the rockets there is an increase in tension, things currently are really tense in Gaza as border crossings are closed,” said Nicole Johnston, a reporter for Al Jazeera.

Palestinian armed groups fired 50 home – made shells from the Gaza strip as a response to Israel’s air raids.  Israeli sources say that at least 6 Israelis were injured by the attack.  Palestinian sources say that fighter groups within the region have formed a joint operations center to counter any Israeli wide spread attacks.

During a tour of the area around Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed that “Hamas would receive its punishment for what happened [here].”  “No terror element responsible for causing damage in Israel, or to Israelis will be spared,” he said.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ensured that “every community within 7 kilometers would be properly protected against rocket fire.”  An Iron Dome battery, one of Israel’s missile defense systems, intercepted 7 rockets that were fired at the town of Ashkelon.

Haaretz reports that as of now, all Israeli communities within mid-range of Gaza rockets are properly reinforced to protect against the fire.

The events occurred after Egypt tried to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas following a round of violence where approximately 80 rockets and mortar shells were fired at the areas surrounding the Gaza strip.  A Palestinian official close to the talks told Reuters last Wednesday that “[t]he contacts Cairo made resulted in a verbal promise by Hamas to calm the situation down and Israel… would refrain from attacks unless it was subject to rocket fire.”

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Israel and Gazans in tit-for-tat Attacks — 24 October 2012

Gulf Today — Israeli Raid Kills Four Palestinians — 24 October 2012

Haaretz — Palestinians: Egypt Trying to Mediate Hamas – Israel Truce — 24 October 2012

International Middle East Media Center — Palestine Today 10 24 2012 — 24 October 2012

The Jerusalem Post — Palestinian Official: Egypt Mediating Hamas-Israel Truce — 24 October 2012

U.S. Record on Human Rights Criticized

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the United States this week for what it called “serious problems” in the U.S. human rights record.

Russia criticized the United States and its record on human rights this week, turning the tables on it called American double standards. (Photo Courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor)

Presenting their own report on human rights to foreign nations, Russian leaders condemned what they called the American double standards on human rights.  Specifically, they criticized harsh conditions in prisons, use of the death penalty, mistreatment of adopted children, and the United States’ failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

“Washington’s attempts to become the world’s tutor on democracy are baseless,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov during a hearing by the Duma International Affairs Committee.

The report, which was not actually released after being presented on Monday, was the second paper from the Russian Foreign Ministry on human rights abroad.  The first was released in December, not long after a report from the U.S. State Department criticized Russia.

Among the criticisms outlined in the report were racial profiling, police brutality, Internet censorship and rising right-wing extremism.  It also condemned the United States for “extra-judicial” killings overseas by drones, its involvement in Afghanistan, CIA “renditions,” and failing to sign and ratify more than a dozen international treaties and conventions on human rights going back 80 years.

Konstantin Dolgov, who authored the new Russian report, said the purpose was to expand the dialogue of human rights abuses worldwide by showing no country is perfect.

“Nobody likes to be hectored,” he said.  “We are a young democracy, we have our problems, but we also have serious achievement that we hope won’t be overlooked.”

Dolgov and other authors based the report largely on the work of American academic and non-government sources.  They claimed the data shows that U.S. criticisms of other countries are often less than objective, ignorant of cultural significance, and sometimes hypocritical.

“They criticize and judge everyone except themselves,” Dolgov said.  “We think the U.S. should not try to monopolize the role of leader, teacher, and mentor in the field of human rights.  If they want to do this, they should be aware that they are also being monitored.”

The official U.S. response to the Russian report was “Bring it on,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.  The news organization quoted State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland as saying that would be the response from any agency, whether American or international.

“[The United States] is an open book, and we have plenty of non-governmental organizations of our own that make assessments about our human rights and that represent to the government what they think needs to be done,” Nuland said.

For further information, please see:

The Christian Science Monitor — Russian Report Criticizes US on Human Rights, US responds ‘Bring It On’ — 24 October 2012

Global Research — Russia Denounces US Human Rights Record — 23 October 2012

The Chicago Tribune — Russia Condemns United States for Human Rights Record — 22 October 2012

The Moscow Times — Foreign Ministry Slams U.S. on Human Rights — 22 October 2012

Two Month Prison Hunger Strike Ends After Hospilization

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – The last members of the Mapuche Indian hunger strike protesting the Chilean government has ended. The Indigenous Inmates hunger strike which began July12 2012 was in protest of the treatment they received and misuses of their ancestral lands.

Mapuche Indians Clash With National Police On Oct. 15. (Photo Courtesy of Warrior Publications)

Late Sunday Evening one of the protesters,  Quijo Leonardo had to be transferred from his cell after abdominal pain led to a minor episode of cardiac arrest. However at the medical center he refused medical treatment after a blood test and the staff was forced to return him to the prison in Temuco, Chile.

The Mapuche inmate strike began with members of the indigenous tribe forsaking food and medical treatment. These inmates believing themselves to be political prisoners are protesting the Chileans treatment of the Mapuche indigenous tribe. They continue that their group has been unfairly prosecuted and their human rights continually violated. Their numbers have slowly dwindled during the past 2 months as health reasons have forced them to abandon their protest of the Chilean laws that placed them in prison.

The prison in Angol has a permanent group of protesters outside the cities jail, actively protesting the anti-terrorist law. The bulk of the protest is criticizing the Chilean governments use anti-terrorism laws that unfairly prosecute Mapuche members. Known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, it was originally enacted by General Pinochet who used it to quell dissent and subversives of his government. In 1993 the government began enforcing the law to actively criminalize the Mapuche social movement. The law allows citizens to be detained indefinitely and tried in military tribunal courts where they would receive harsher sentences than in a civilian court.

While the Chilean government has vowed to support changes to the anti-terrorism laws, Mapuche protesters are still being met with violent response from the countries national police force. The hunger strike that was just ended could be seen as an extension of the a similar strike that occurred two years prior where 30 Mapuche inmates refused food. Their message was overshadowed by the rescue of the trapped Chilean Miners in 2010.

Chilean government officials and representatives feared violent conflict as the protest continued, with human rights experts fearing a violent outburst if one of the protesters died. Small skirmishes have already erupted on October 15th, after individual inmates suffered health risks as a result of their hunger strikes.

While not all their demands were met, representatives believe that “The steps taken to end the hunger strike have reached a satisfactory conclusion,” and would be welcomed by the Mapuche people.

There are approximately 650,000 Chileans who identify as members of the Mapuche, almost 3.5 percent of the people in Chile.

For further information; please see:

Latercera – Mapuche Still On Hunger Strike And Refuse Medical Care – 22 October 2012

Latin America Herald Tribune – Last 10 Mapcuche Indians On Hunger Strike In Chile End Fasting – 22 October 2012

UNPO – Mapuche: Court Action For Human Rights Against Chile – 22 October 2012

The Argentina Independent – Chile: Court Sends Mapuche Hunger Strikers Back To Prison – 19 October 2012

Sounds and Colours Magazine – Mapuche Hunger Strike In Chile Highlights The Real Problem Facing President Sebastian Pinera – 15 October 2010

Bangladesh Soon to Abolish Last Mutiny Driven-Battalion

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Today, the director-general of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Major General Anwar Hossain, stated that the last of the frontier force’s mutiny-driven battalion is near disbandment.

Bangladeshi people hold candles during a remembrance for the fallen at the Bangaldesh Rifles headquarters. (Photo Courtesy of India News Daily)

“Three of the (mutiny-driven) battalions have been abolished earlier while the fourth one, the 44 Battalion, is set to be abolished early next month on completion of due processes,” stated Major General Hossain.

On Saturday, the Bangladesh military court found 723 border guards, the former Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR), guilty of “joining and leading the mutiny.”  The mutiny, which occurred in 2009, had lasted for 33 hours at BDR’s headquarters in Dhaka.  Moreover, the military courts neither permitted the defendants to obtain legal counsel nor grant a right to appeal.

“In all, 735 border guards were charged. Two died during the trial and 10 were acquitted,” relayed prosecutor Gazi Zillur Rahman to the AFP news agency.  “Of the 723 found guilty, 64 soldiers were sentenced to seven years in jail.”

According to Indian Daily News, hundreds of nurses and sportsmen, who have previously represented Bangladesh internationally, were among those convicted.

Two days after, a Bangladesh court jailed 723 border guards for their involvement.  Moreover, the court stated that the verdict was final in a sequence of mass trials lead by the Bangladesh military.

According to BBC, approximately 6,000 people have been jailed for the mutiny over pay and conditions with 74 people dead.  Moreover, among the deceased were at least 57 senior army officers whose bodies were dumped in sewers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has faulted the trials for the death of these suspects while in custody of authorities and for others who were tortured and beaten.

In response, the Bangladesh military has casted HRW’s claims as baseless.  Moreover, the Bangladesh military alleged that the death of the suspects were from natural causes, such as heart related complications.

According to News Track India, Major General Hossain stated that four new battalions have been created with nearly 10,000 new recruits to replace the border force’s strength after the disbandment of the 24th, 13nth, 36th and 44th battalions.

The BGB, also known as “The Vigilant Sentinels of the National Frontier,” is the oldest uniformed force in Bangladesh and is predominantly responsible for the country’s border security. It is also the Ministry of Home Affair’s paramilitary force.

For further information, please see:

News Track India – Bangladesh Border Guards to abolish last mutiny-stained battalion – 24 Oct. 2012

Zee News – B’desh Border Guards to abolish last mutiny stained battalion – 24 Oct. 2012

BBC – Bangladesh mutiny: 723 border guards jailed – 22 Oct. 2012

India Daily News – Bangladesh jails 723 guards for 2009 mutiny – 20 Oct. 2012

Manslaughter Conviction for Italian Scientists who Failed to Warn of Earthquake

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

L’AQUILA, Italy – Six prominent Italian earthquake scientists (seismologists) on the Major Risks Commission and a senior government official were convicted of manslaughter on Monday by an Italian court and sentenced to six years in prison each for failure to communicate to the city of L’Aquila the risk of what became a deadly earthquake in April 2009.

A destroyed street in L’Aquila, Italy shortly after the devastating April 2009 earthquake. (Photo Courtesy of the International Herald Tribune)

The defendants included the deputy director of the Civil Protection Agency, Bernardo De Bernardinis, and prominent scientists Enzo Boschi, the former president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology; and Giulio Selvaggi, the organization’s current head.

The defendants were charged with manslaughter and causing a disaster and serious bodily harm, not for failing to predict the earthquake per se, but rather on the grounds of reassuring residents that the danger was low and providing “inexact, incomplete, contradictory advice.”

Although prosecutors asked the court for sentences of four years, the judge handed down sentences of six years in prison for each defendant after.  In addition, they have been ordered to pay more than €9 million (£7.3 million) in damages, and each of the convicted may never hold public office again.

The trial was held in L’Aquila over the past year. Judge Marco Billi considered his verdict for four hours before reading the sentences to the court.

The defendants and their attorneys have expressed their intention to appeal.

Members of the scientific community, particularly fellow seismologists, have spoken out strongly against this ruling.  Seth Stein, an earth scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, said “I think it’s very unfair and very stupid.  It reflects a kind of fundamental misunderstanding of what science can and can’t do.”

Others have suggested that this ruling will make scientists less likely to make safety calls in the future.  Physicist Luciano Mariani, current chair of the Major Risks Commission, claimed that the sentence “spells death for services rendered to the state by academics and professionals,” and elaborated that “[i]t is not possible to provide consultancy serenely, professionally and disinterestedly under such frenzied judicial and media pressure. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.”

Thomas Jordan, a professor at the University of Southern California, stated directly, “I’m afraid that many scientists are learning to keep their mouths shut.”

In protest, several members of Italy’s National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks resigned have resigned as of Tuesday.

Prior to the April 2009 quake, the seven held at a public meeting in response to a series of small temblors earlier that year at which they stated the unlikelihood that the shaking projected a larger quake, according to the Huffington Post.  This reassurance was backed by a claim by Bernardinis that the small temblors would discharge built up seismic energy, although even some the convicted seismologists found this statement scientifically inaccurate, according to Nature.  However, scientists generally agree that the likelihood of a large earthquake was low, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Several days later, during the early morning of April 6, a 6.3-magnitude quake struck, destroying medieval buildings in L’Aquila’s and killing 309 people, many who were sleeping, according to the International Herald Tribune.  Prosecutors alleged that at least 29 of the dead would have left the city if not for the defendants’ reassurances, according to Nature. More than three years later, L’Aquila is still recovering.

Relatives of the deceased victims of the quake cheered at the verdict, calling it “a tiny bit of justice.”

Marcello Petrelli, one of the defense attorneys described the verdict rather differently: “It’s a jaw-droppingly incomprehensible sentence in law and in its evaluation of the facts[; a] sentence that cannot avoid in-depth examination on appeal.”

For further information, please see:

Corriere – Minister Challenged: Six Years for Multiple manslaughter and Bodily Harm Over Reassurances about Strong Tremor – 23 October 2012

International Herald Tribune – Italy: Officials Quit Over Punishment of Quake Experts – 23 October 2012

ANSA – Earthquake Scientists get 6 Years in L’Aquila Ruling – 22 October 2012

Huffington Post – Earthquake Scientists Jailed Over ‘Inexact’ Statements Preceding 2009 L’Aquila Quake – 22 October 2012

The Independent – Italian Scientists Jailed for Six Years after Failing to Issue Warnings Ahead of Deadly L’Aquila Earthquake – 22 October 2012

International Herald Tribune – Italy Orders Jail Terms for 7 Who Didn’t Warn of Deadly Earthquake – 22 October 2012

Nature – Italian Court Finds Seismologists Guilty of Manslaughter – 22 October 2012