Gay Pride Parade Banned in Serbia

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia – Citing security concerns and called upon to do so by Patriarch Irinej, head of Serbia’s Orthodox Christian Church, Serbia’s Interior Ministry has banned the Belgrade Gay Pride Parade planned for Saturday to cap off Pride Week.

Police clash with anti-gay protestors during the Belgrade Gay Pride Parade in 2010. (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Europe)

Along with the parade, all other public events scheduled for Saturday have been banned in order to preserve the peace and security of citizens, according to the government.

“Conflicts and victims are the last thing Serbia needs at the moment.  All conditions to ban public meetings scheduled for October 6 are in place, including the rally which is part of the so-called Pride Parade, as well as all rallies against the parade,” said Ivica Dacic, the Serbian Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Tensions were heightened on Wednesday afternoon, as 2,000 police in riot gear were deployed to the Center for Cultural Decontamination where a controversial exhibit opened: “Ecce Homo.” the same evening.  The art exhibit received threats from right-wing groups, angry at the exhibit’s portrayal of Jesus Christ.

Serbia has a strong orthodox Christian tradition.  Acceptance of homosexuality has been slow, and many gay rights events have ended in violence.

Patriarch Irinej, called Saturday’s planed parade a “parade of shame” that would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia.  He characterized it as a threat to Serbia’s centuries-old Christian culture and the model of the heterosexual family as the foundation of humankind.

The LGBT community in Serbia has attempted pride rallies in the past, but has been met with violence, when the rallies were not banned outright.  In 2001, a small gathering was broken up by ultranationalists.  In 2009, gay activists wanted to hold a pride parade, but authorities canceled at the last minute due to safety concerns.

In October 2010, the Pride Parade went forward.  5,000 police in riot gear were deployed to protect a fraction of as many marchers.  They were met with violent right-wing, anti-gay protestors.  About 100 police were injured; dozens of right-wing protestors were arrested.  There was also extensive property damage across the capital Belgrade.

Officials banned the Pride Parade last year, fearing a repeat of violence.

There is concern that the government should be doing more, or is even obstructing reform.  “The state isn’t doing enough to educate, to take a stand,” Aleksandar Skundric, a 28-year-old gay Belgrade native says.  “A lot of politicians said they were eager to take the ‘blame’ for canceling the [2011] pride parade.”

Part of Serbia’s application for European Union membership is a pledge to respect human rights.  However, there is concern by activists that the government, headed by former nationalists, has little interest in protecting the LGBT community.

Goran Miletić, program director of the Civil Rights Defenders and an organizer of the Pride Parade, has condemned the government’s failure to carry out the parade.  “If last year [the decision to ban the pride] represented the capitulation of the state, today it shows an open coalition [of the state] with hooligans because the authorities have fully adopted the arguments of the extremist organizations, as well as their demands,” Miletic said.

Before the parade ban was announced, Miletić had said that the LGBT community “will not just sit” this year, and planned to take certain steps if the parade was banned.

For more information, please see:

B92 – “All Eyes on Serbia Ahead of Gay Pride Parade” –3 October 2012

B92 – Serbian Authorities Decide to Ban Gay Parade – 3 October 2012

Balkan Insight – Serbia Bans Gay Pride Amid Security Concerns – 3 October 2012

Global Post – Serbia Bans Gay Pride Parade – 3 October 2012

The Independent – Gay Pride March Banned in Serbi – 3 October 2012

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Belgrade Braces Itself for Gay-Pride Parade – 3 October 2012

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Serbian Officials Ban Gay-Pride Parade – 3 October 2012

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – Serbia Bans Gay Parade, Other Gatherings – 20 September 2011

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – In Serbia, Gay Activists Prepare For the Worst – 10 October 2010

Maldives’ Ex-President Boycotts Court Hearing

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MALÉ, Maldives – On Monday, Maldives’ ex-president, Mohamed Nasheed, did not attend his court hearing in Malé.  Mr. Nasheed faces charges of abuse of power for unlawfully ordering for the arrest of Maldives’ chief criminal court judge, Abdullah Mohamed.

Mr. Nasheed speaks to the media. (Photo Courtesy of Radio Australia)

Last week, the Hulhumale Magistrate Court directed the ex-president to appear before it Monday but also, to not leave Malé without its permission.

In addition to his failure to appear in court, Mr. Nasheed did not seek the court’s approval when he left the capital to participate in election campaigning.

According to Associated Press, Mr. Nasheed, who served as Maldives’ first democratically elected president, believes that he was “forced from office in a coup d’etat.”

“The coup has not yet been completed,” Mr. Nasheed informed the AFP news agency after his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a protest in Malé last Friday to criticize the charges against him.

Furthermore, according to BBC, the ex-president denies the charges against him and believes that the trial is politically driven.  To Mr. Nasheed, the court’s purpose in restricting his travels was to prevent him from campaigning in the upcoming elections.

“Once they started to set up a fabricated court, bring in judges who are not judges of that court, and the whole structure of it is so… politically motivated, it is very obvious it is not meant to serve justice,” Mr. Nasheed shared.

In any event, if Mr. Nasheed is convicted, he may face up to three years in jail or banishment to a remote islet in the archipelago.  Furthermore, it may bar him from disputing future presidential polls.

“People will not allow the regime to steal the next election. A free and fair election is our over-arching goal,” said Mr. Nasheed.

After he either resigned or was forcibly moved by the Maldives police, Mr. Nasheed’s deputy, Mohamed Waheed, replaced him as president.

According to the Associated Press, the new president’s spokesman, Abbas Riza, denied Mr. Nasheed’s allegations against the court and said that the court order was “the usual practice, according to the country’s law.”

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Maldives ex-president to face trial – 01 October 2012

Associated Press – Maldives’ ex-president fails to show in court – 01 October 2012

BBC – Maldives ex- President Mohamed Nasheed defies court – 01 October 2012

Boston News – Maldives court orders police to bring ex-president – 01 October 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodian Activist Gets 20 Years for Allegedly Inciting Rebellion

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodian land rights activist and journalist, Mam Sonando, was sentenced to a 20 year jail term by the Phnom Penh court for allegedly inciting a mass rebellion against the central government.

 

Sonando being hauled away by police. (Photo Courtesy of The Phnom Penh Post)

A well-known critic of the current Cambodian prime minister and political administration, the 71 year old Sonando was accused of urging villagers in the eastern Kratie province to take up arms as part of a greater coup.  Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister, believes that Sonando was attempting to secede and establish his own separatist state with the rebelling villagers.

Sonando and his supporters have denied all allegations, and he has maintained his plea of not guilty despite being handed a guilty verdict by the panel of three judges in the Phnom Penh court.  The insistence by the central government of the existence of an actual rebellion is alleged to be mere puffery.  It is believed, by Sonando and his supporters, to be a political move to silence critics and keep the current abuses of the administration quiet.

The current administration has been known to forcibly evict Cambodian citizens from their land.  The central government’s alleged aim is to usurp private citizens’ lands and utilize it for agricultural purposes.  Industries, such as rubber, sugar, and mineral exportation, has exploded in recent years.  Cambodia has enjoyed quite an economic boom which has led to the current land disputes and possible abuses in basic land rights of private citizens.

From a special report by the U.N. Human Rights Council, Cambodia’s population is growing increasingly “desperate and unhappy” over the abuses by their government.  The government has been believed to be using these land grabs as a tool of repression.  A leading environmental campaigner and journalist, who had been reporting on issues such as the current land disputes, was found dead in the trunk of a car.

Last May, clashes between protestors and the central government’s armed forces over land disputes lead to the death of a 14 year old girl in Kratie.  Sonando has, now, been found guilty of assisting these villagers and inciting rebellion among their ranks.  His supporter’s have, however, believed that his recently found guilt and impending incarceration is a victory.  They now have possible direct evidence of abuses by the government, such as prosecuting baseless claims against government critics and activists.

The EU has been under immense pressure to freeze tariff free exports from Cambodia.  The tariff free exportation has, perhaps, contributed to the recent economic boom which has tempted the central government to forcibly and illegally steal land from private citizens.  The EU has also issued a statement doubting the legitimacy of the Cambodian courts.

 

For further information, please see:

BBC – Cambodia jails journalist Mam Sonando over ‘plot’ – 1 October 2012

International Business Times – Myanmar Revisited? Cambodian Pro-Democracy Activist Jailed For 20 years – 1 October 2012

Reuters – Cambodia rights activist jailed 20 years on disputed conviction – 1 October 2012

The Phnom Penh Post – Activist Mam Sonando gets 20 years – 1 October 2012

Big Win for Indigenous Rights in Peru’s Top Court

By Margaret Janelle R. Hutchinson
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

 LIMA, Peru – Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, has ruled that an Amazonian indigenous community could limit outsiders’ access to its territory and upheld the principle of communal autonomy.  The Tribunal also ordered lower courts to void the convictions of four indigenous community leaders who had been jailed during their struggle against illegal loggers, miners, and transportation workers.

A sign put up by the indigenous community at Tres Islas warns motorists that the land is private property. (Photo Courtesy Indian Country)

“We’ve had to move heaven and earth to defend our territory, but we have won,” Esperanza Gonzales, one of the leaders facing a prison term, said at a press conference in Lima.

The Shipibo and Ese’eja community of Tres Islas, located in the southeastern region of Madre de Dios has been battling destructive trespassers for years.  Illegal miners, loggers and transportation companies have stripped portions of the land and polluted water sources.

When the community put up a gate across a road and posted a guard from the community, two of the transportation companies that served illegal miners brought suit against the community on the grounds that the gate violated the companies’ freedom of movement.

An initial court ruling in favor of the companies was upheld on appeal, and was ultimately supported by the Superior Court of Madre de Dios, which in September 2010 sentenced four community leaders to six years in prison and fines of about $2,500 each.

The Constitutional Tribunal, based its decision to overturn the lower courts’ rulings on principles from the Peruvian Constitution, International Labor Organization Convention 169 on the rights of tribal and Indigenous Peoples, jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Although “freedom of movement is a fundamental right, it is subject to certain constraints, such as not invading other people’s land without the owners’ consent,” the decision stated.

The case marks the first time that a Peruvian court has ruled that an indigenous community has a right not only to private property, like any citizen, but also to self-determination within its territory, as long as the aim is not secession from the country.

Although this decision is seen as big win for indigenous rights, advocates caution that there is still much progress to be made.

The ruling only guarantees indigenous communities autonomy over the surface of their land.  Sub-surface resources are still owned by the government, which can grant access to companies wishing to exploit them.

A key provision of Convention 169, which Peru ratified in 1994, is reflected in a new law that would require the government to consult with indigenous communities about any development project that would affect their territories.  The law has not yet been implemented, but the first of such consultations is expected to be held in early 2013.

For further information, please see:

Indian Country – Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal Rules in Favor of Indigenous Community – 2 October 2012

Upside Down World – Peru: Amazon Indians Win Court Case over Land Rights – 28 September 2012

Chicago Times Tribune – Peru top court puts tribal sovereignty ahead of mining, logging – 26 September 2012

Eurasia Review – Peru: Distance Between Government And Indigenous Communities Grows – 26 September 2012

International Labour Organization – Convention No. 169

 

Bahrain Court Upholds Jail Sentences for Medics

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East Desk

MANAMA, Bahrain — Nine medics who were arrested for their role in the pro democracy uprising that took place last year had their jail terms upheld by the Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s highest court, on Monday.  They were convicted on charges of weapons possession, incitement, and for taking part in the demonstrations.  Nine other medics had their sentences overturned in June and two are currently in hiding.

Bahrain’s treatments of medics who protested last year received international criticism. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, a former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya Hospital in Manama, the largest hospital in Bahrain, was sentenced to five years in prison, while one of his colleagues received a sentence of three years.  The other medics received sentences ranging between a month and a year.

“We did not get a fair trial…  We think we are a card being used by the regime to negotiate with the opposition,” Al-Ekri said in a telephone interview with Reuters.  This was the final appeal that could be heard, leaving the medics without any other chances to have their case heard.  Mohammed Al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says that while there are no other opportunities for an appeal left, there still might be a chance for a pardon by the king.

The arrests and convictions of the medics have attained global criticism.  Amnesty International claims that the medics were arrested for publicly denouncing the use of excessive force used by the government during the protests in interviews conducted by international news media.  Washington has also criticized the court’s ruling.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said during a statement, “[w]ith today’s verdict, the Bahraini government has shown once more it is not serious about human rights and accountability for past violations.”  Harrison believes that Monday’s affirmation of the convictions goes against the promises Bahrain made before the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 19.  The promises included measures aimed at releasing prisoners of conscience, bolstering fair trial guarantees, and investigating human rights violations committed during and after last year’s reforms.

Rights groups expressed concern during the protests over the government’s treatment of medics.  An independent commission criticized Bahrain for its excessive use of force and torture.  The government has implemented some reforms after last year, but the opposition says that they are “superficial and have not curtailed routine abuses.”  The Shi’ite opposition wants a constitutional monarchy and a more equitable political system that would grant them greater representation, ending decades-old discrimination against them in their search for jobs, also within the army and security forces.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Bahrain Court Upholds Verdict in Medics Trial — 1 October 2012

Amnesty International UK — Bahrain Should Quash Medics’ Convictions — 1 October 2012

Bahrain Freedom Movement — Bahrain Upholds Jail Terms for Medics — 1 October 2012

BBC News — Bahrain Court Rejects Medics’ Appeal — 1 October 2012

Reuters — Bahrain Court Upholds Jail Terms on Protesting Medics — 1 October 2012

Magnitsky’s Mother is Expected to Testify Tomorrow in the Trial of the Prison Doctor Charged With Her Son’s Death

Press Release
Hermitage Capital

1 October 2012 – Natalia Magnitskaya, the mother of Sergei Magnitsky, is expected to testify against Dmitry Kratov, the doctor at Burtryka Prison who denied her son medical attention at his trial in Moscow tomorrow.

Sergei Magnitsky’s mother, Nataliya Magnitsky, holds a photo of her son. (Photo Courtesy of The Moscow Times)

The court hearing will take place at Tverskoi District Court (25а Tsvetnoi Boulevard, Moscow) at 10:30 am, Tuesday October 2nd

After three years of investigation, the Russian authorities charged Dmitry Kratov, former deputy head of Butyrka detention center responsible for medical care. He is the only official being prosecuted for the death of Mr Magnitsky. Russian authorities charged Kratov with negligence as opposed to torture or homicide. The charges were made ignoring the findings of the Russian President’s Human Rights Council and petitions from Magnitsky’s family showing evidence that Magnitsky was systematically withheld medical care, tortured and ultimately beaten to death in custody in an effort to force him to change his testimonies against corrupt Russian government officials.

In the previous hearing on this case on 13 September 2012, Judge Neverova rejected all petitions filed by Magnitsky’s family seeking to return the case to prosecutors to take into consideration new evidence showing that Kratov was acting in concert with other government officials as part of a conspiracy involving the theft of $230 million from the Russian government. The judge also refused to allow a video recording or live internet broadcasting of the hearing. She refused to move the hearing to a courtroom large enough to allow press and other interested parties to attend the hearing. And finally, she refused petitions to call new witnesses and seek documentary evidence from government organisations.

When Sergei Magnitsky was still alive, the same Judge Neverova also refused his own petitions from custody to stop his rights being violated by the Interior Ministry.

Sergei Magnitsky, an outside lawyer for the Hermitage Fund, was killed in Russian police custody at the age of 37 after he exposed the $230 million theft implicating government officials. He was honoured posthumously with 2010 Integrity Award by Transparency International, for his fight against official corruption.

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital
Phone:             +44 207 440 17 77
E-mail:             info@lawandorderinrussia.org
Website:          http://lawandorderinrussia.org
Facebook:        http://on.fb.me/hvIuVI
Twitter:            @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:     http://hermitagecap.livejournal.com/

I Am Syria Photos From the Middle East

Earlier this week these two photos were uploaded from the Middle East onto the “I Am Syria” webpage.  A group of young children show their support for the Syrian people by joining the campaign. 

 

2 Easy Steps to get Involved with the “I Am Syria” Campaign

  1. Like us on Facebook.  We can be found by typing in “Iamsyria” and our group pops up.  Make sure to enter it all as one word because there are other Syria groups.

         2. Buy a t-shirt.  They are $15 and can be paid for by paypal.  Find them at the website www.iamsyria.org

European Parliament Pushes for Gender Equality on ECB

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Recently, the European Council and the European Parliament have struggled over the lack of women on the European Central Bank’s governing council.

Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank is on her way to a parliament survey. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Currently, women hold only 17 percent of the top positions in the central banks of the 27-member European Union. Their representation in higher positions falls dramatically and is non-existent at the top levels.

As of 1998, only two women have occupied positions on the ECB’s executive board. Moreover, unless a woman is appointed to the current vacancy, another woman could not be appointed until May 31, 2018, when ECB Vice President, Vitor Constancio, is expected step down.

Although Parliament does not explicitly hold veto power as to the appointment of council members, Parliament questions candidates through public hearings and floor debates. The European Commission and lawmakers at the European Parliament have strived to push for a woman to be a member of the ECB executive board since 2010.

In a letter to the EU governments, various members of the European Parliament wrote, “We notice that the EU member states’ nominations to some of the most important… EU institutions result in an appallingly monotonous line-up of nominees.”

Sylvie Goulard, a European member of parliament, wrote a letter to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, stating, “At issue is discrimination” and requested “that at least one woman is immediately appointed to the ECB Governing Council.”

In a push to appoint a woman to the ECB executive board, Parliamentarians postponed hearings to fill the seat on the executive board of the European Central Bank because not enough women were promoted as candidates. Also, Parliament continues to delay Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch appointment to the ECB.

In order to achieve their goal, the European Parliament will have to produce a satisfactory candidate because their only authoritative power is a limited legislative power over the European Banking Authority. Consequentially, the European Parliament’s wish to appoint a woman could be ignored.

Ironically, this current gender equality struggle occurs simultaneously as the European Commission plans to introduce a potential requirement for private companies’ non-executive boards to be at least 40 percent female by 2020, otherwise facing fines and other sanctions. Nine European states are opposed to this potential quota plan.

Viviane Reding, the European Union’s justice commissioner, said on Monday, “Thankfully, European laws on important topics like this are not made by 10 men in dark suits behind closed doors, but rather in a democratic process with a democratically elected European Parliament, which will decide on an equal footing with the council.”

For further information, please see:

The Commentator — EU Commission quota plan would violate human rights – 1 October 2012

Spiegel — Europe Battles over Gender Equality at the ECB – 1 October 2012

Reuters — EU parliament steps up push for woman in top ECB role – 25 September 2012

The New York Times — European Central Bank Candidacy Delayed Over Lack of Women – 7 September 2012

Leaders Of The Venezuela Presidency Killed

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – The political climate heat turned violent in Venezuela as three political activists were shot and killed. Supports of the Presidential challenger Henrique Capriles, political opposition leaders Omar Mereno and  Antonio Avila were pronounced dead at the scene.

imageRotate
Pro Hugo Chavez Supporters Rally The Presidents Cause. (Photo Courtesy of El Universal).

According to CNN, the caravan the activist leaders had been attached to had been stopped by a blockade. The opposition leaders Mereno and Availa exited the caravan, requesting permission to pass, when a gunmen opened fire upon them. Two other people were wounded. One the wounded, Hector Rojas latter succumbed to his wounds at a nearby hospital.

Survivors indicated that the blockade had been formed by a group of militant Chavez supporters.

Each of the dead were leaders of  smaller groups that had grouped together to form the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Table (MUD). Each group has come together to challenge current President Hugo Chaves. The incident occurred shortly after a rally for Presidential Hopeful Henrique Capriles. The rally was held in Caracas and was aimed to be the final push in the Coalition leaders’ bid for the presidency.

While this is the first incident of actual violence and homicide, the political battle for Venezuela has been fraught with fraud. Both sides have accused each other of fraud and misconduct. Chavez supporters claim that the opposition is intending to create a chaotic conflict that will destabilize the country. This would slow anarchy, encourage a coup, and allow the old bourgeois to return to power. They continue that these attempts for a “coup” are looking to ignore the legitimacy of Venezuelan institutions and among his despair at the loss of the elections.

Henrique Capriles believes that he is the first real opponent Hugo Chavez’s cult of personality, and that the Socialist dream he is presenting has led to a widespread meltdown of the country’s wealth, social institutions, and public trust.

Hugo Chavez, the current President of Venezuela, is seeking reelection for a third term on Sunday October 7. According to Chavez, “I have not cheated or failed” as he perpetrates that a vote against him would be akin to revoking all the social changes that Venezuela has seen in the past ten years. He has called on his supporters to avoid provocation and retribution. He continued with his message that “Not with violence that we will face off. It is with votes… with ideas.”

Within hours of the shooting six people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the crime. Three women and three men have been arrested including the supposed perpetrator of the fatal shooting.

 

For further information, please see:

ABC – They Stop The Perpetrator Of The Murder Of Two Politicians In Venezuela  – 1 October 2012

Clarin – Opposition Mass Rally In Caracas – 30 September 2012

El Tiempo – The Lines Of Hugo – 30 September 2012

El Universal – Chaves: “I have not cheated or I have failed” – 30 September 2012

Talcual Digital – A Third Dead – 30 September 2012

The BBC – 2 Killed As Venezuelan Campaign Turns Violent – 29 September 2012

Deadspin – Hugo Chavez’ Opposition In Venezuela Lampoons Him As An Egomaniacal Pitcher – 29 September 2012