Activist Chen Guangcheng’s newphew sentenced to 3 years and 3 months by a Shangdong Court

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

JINAN, China – Chen Kegui, nephew of Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, has been convicted of intentional infliction of injury and sentenced to 3 years and 3 months in prison by a Shangdong province court.

Image of Chen Kegui who was sentenced by a Shangdong court. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Chen Kegui was taken prisoner by police back in April when roughly 20 plain clothes police officers broke into his family’s home.  He attempted to fight the men back, not knowing who the intruders were, and was subsequently arrested and charged with intentional homicide.

The charge of intentional homicide was later dropped to intentional infliction of injury because the prosecutor’s office did not have enough evidence to back up the homicide charge.  Chen Guangfu, Kegui’s father, has condemned his son’s sentence as wholly illegal.

Chen Guangfu states that all of Kegui’s actions were in defense of himself and of his mother the night the plain clothes police broke into their home without warning or warrants.  Human rights advocates have also condemned Kegui’s sentence as illegitimate and believe that the verdict should be overturned.

The Shangdong court conducted a hasty trial behind closed doors which lasted only about half a day before the decision was reached.  Chen Kegui was held without any communication with his family, and he and his family were not allowed to choose their own lawyer for the legal proceedings.

Kegui’s court appointed lawyer, Ding Xikui, did not have access to any of the case materials nor did he have any contact with his client.  He had only heard about the trial merely hours before the proceedings started.

Ding Xikui said that he was not surprised by the hasty verdict reached by the Shangdong court.  He says this is not out of character for the local police and court, which he says has never respected due process and has violated the law in this manner in the past.

Chen Guangfu, Kegui’s father, said that his son would not be appealing the decision but does not know why since he was not allowed to witness the court proceedings.  He has also filed a separate lawsuit against the local police and official authorities, citing the illegality of their actions when they broke into their family home without a warrant.

Chen Kegui’s sentence and punishment is seen by rights activists as purposeful retaliation against the family for Chen Guangcheng’s escape.  Guangcheng escaped house arrest and fled to the United States in April, shortly before Chen Kegui was taken into custody.  These questionable legal proceedings will undoubtedly bring into question China’s legal system and their commitment to human rights.

For further information, please see:

Taipei Times – Blind Chinese activist’s nephew gets jail sentence – 1 December 2012

BBC – Chen Guangcheng: Nephew Chen Kegui sentenced – 30 November 2012

New York Times – Nephew of Chinese Dissident Given 3 Years in Prison for Assault – 30 November 2012

Reuters – Blind China activist’s nephew gets three years in jail – 30 December 2012


Northern Ireland Court Orders Facebook to Remove Page Exposing Paedophiles

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

IRELAND, United Kingdom – A High Court in Northern Ireland gave Facebook 72 hours to remove the page, ‘Keeping our kids safe from predators.’ A judge determined that some content amounted to “prima facie harassment” of the man and risked violating his human rights.

The replacement page after the original site exposing paedophiles was removed. (Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post)

The page, which acquired more than 5,000 “likes,” posted pictures of a convicted sex offender. The offender, who cannot be identified, applied to the courts in Northern Ireland to have the site removed immediately after discovering his photograph and life-threatening comments.

The man, who was sentenced to six-years in jail for various child sex offences committed more than two decades ago, also sought an injunction to prevent his photograph and details from appearing on the Facebook page. He claimed harassment, misuse of private information, and a breach of his right to privacy and freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment.

In response to the offender’s suit, one Facebook user posted, “So the man, or I mean mess of a human being, that’s taken this page to court, he must want to be the head paedophile and rule over all sex offenders. He will be like a god to them.”

However, Justice McCloskey stated, “Society has dealt with the plaintiff in accordance with the rule of law. He has been punished by incarceration and he is subject to substantial daily restrictions on his lifestyle.”

Although the page was taken down, two similar Facebook pages appeared on Friday afternoon. The replacement page gained 468 ‘likes’ within an hour and did not contain any personal information about specific individuals.

After McCloskey made his ruling, Facebook members continued to comment.

One user wrote, “Can facebook not step in here and fight this battle 4 us….. what the point of having a social netwok if we can’t post facts on people especially wen its 2 keep our kids safe……. Come on Mark Zuckerberg we need your help….. plz plz plz…..”.

Another wrote, “Let down a bag full 🙁 no justice at all……Not only me but every victim of sex abuse every kid in the land……. This is what we get for trying 2 protect our kids.”

For further information, please see:

BBCNews — Facebook given 72 hours to remove paedophile monitoring page – 30 November 2012

The Guardian – Facebook ordered to remove page exposing paedophiles – 30 November 2012

The Huffington Post — Facebook Paedophile Page Closed After Court Rules It Breaches Offenders’ Human Rights – 30 November 2012

IrishTimes – Sex offender takes case over Facebook paedophile page – 27 November 2012

Pilots Who Threw Dissidents Out Of Their Planes Go On Trial In Argentina

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Pilots for Argentina’s infamous “death flights” have begun trial, and brought up on charges for crimes against humanity for their active participation in de facto president Jorge Rafael Videla’s “dirty war” that consumed the Latin American county for years.

The military detention center Esma where political dissidents were processed before being disappeared by the Argentinean military government. (Photo Courtesy of Periodismo humano)

From 1976-1983 during Videla’s reign as Argentina’s dictator, in addition to the armies kidnappings and murders, dissidents and  political prisoners were dragged from their cells in military detention, drugged and flown over the ocean and thrown from the plane.

The trial is expected to focus on the Naval School of Mechanics (Esma) which became a military detention center for leftist dissidents, of the 5,000 political prisoners sent there, more than 90% disappeared.

Among the 68 defendants – all ex-armed forces – set for trial are eight pilots who allegedly flew and participated in the flights which contributed to the murder and forced disappearance of hundreds of Argentinians.

The most famous on trial during this new set of trials is Alfredo Astiz. Convicted in 2011 – and serving a life sentence – for crimes against humanity, the pilot affectionately known as the “Blond Angel of Death” is facing new charges for his active participation in the force disappearance of prisoners in the infamous secret detention camps in Beunos Aires. In interviews Astiz showed no remorse, claiming that he “had acted to save Argentina from left-wing ‘terrorism’”, and he dismissed his trial as an act of political vengeance.

Many of these pilots have only recently been identified, some who have been identified by survivors from the Esma detention centers and others for lapses in judgment. Emir Sisul Hess, one of the pilots on trial admitted to co-workers how his victims “fell like little ants.” He has since formally denied any involvement in the flights.

Among those testifying are 70 survivors of Esma. One survivor, Carlos Munoz, who was detained at Esma for a year remembers  ” to have seen a room filled with vomit. I later found out that those who were going to be killed in the death flights were drugged and that those drugs made them throw up,” he continued, “At one point many of my cell mates disappeared and we were told they were moved somewhere else. We now know they were thrown in the water.”

Current President Cristina Kirchner has pledged to speed up and prosecute those involved with these human rights abuses. Many speculate that her commitment is linked to her husband, Nestor Kirchner who rescinded the laws that granted amnesty to security forces who participated in these military abuses.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Argentina Holds ‘Death Flights’ Trial – 29 November 2012

Bernma Malaysian National News Agency – Argentina Tries Alleged ‘Death Flights’ Pilots – 29 November 2012

Prensa Latina – Death Flight Pilots Prosecuted For The First Time In Argentina – 28 November 2012

SF Gate – Argentina’s ‘Death Flights’ Trials Begin – 28 November 2012

The Independent – Victims Of ‘Death Flights’: Drugged, Dumped By Aircraft – But Not Forgotten – 27 November 2012

BBC – Argentina ‘Angel Of Death’ Alfredo Astiz Convicted – 27 October 2011

Human Rights Organization ‘Viasna’ Evicted in Belarusian Dictatorship

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MINSK, Belarus – The human rights group Viasna (“Spring”) has been kicked out of their offices in Minsk following last year’s conviction of their chairman, Ales Belyatski, for tax evasion.  Belyatski has continued to deny the charges.

Belyatski, sentenced to 4.5 years, claims the foreign accounts for Viasna were necessary because without the recognition of Belarusian authorities, Viasna could not hold an account in Belarus. (Photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Viasna has experienced adversity from the government in the past.  In 2003, its status as an NGO was revoked, without explanation according to the group.

Last August, Belyatski, chairman of Viasna as well as Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested and jailed on charges of tax evasion “on a large scale.”  He denied the validity of the charges, because the refusal of Belarusian authorities to register Viasna as an NGO meant that it could not hold a bank account in the country.  Therefore, Belyatski open accounts for the NGO in Poland and Lithuania.  For more information see Belarus, Lithuania Rebuked for Arrest of Human Rights Activist.

However, in November 2011, the court sentenced Belyatski to 4.5 years in prison and ordered the confiscation of all of his property.  This seizure extends to the Viasna office space.

Belyatski has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.  He has won the Human Rights Defenders Award by the US ambassador to Poland, and the Lech Walesa Award.

Last week, a court notified Viasna that the apartment space it had used as an office for the past 12 years was being confiscated.

On Monday, the court’s orders were carried out, and officials emptied the office of all its equipment and furniture.  The fate of the empty office, a key for which was left in the possession of Belyatsk’s wife, will be decided by a court.

Valentin Stefanovich, Belyatski’s deputy and Viasna’s acting head, acknowledged that “this will make our life harder [because] [t]he office is well-known, recognizable, and people knew how to find us when something happened to them.”  However, he promised that “We are not going to stop any aspects of the legitimate human rights work of the organization. All victims of human rights violations can count on us as before for help and support.”

David Díaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program condemned the act, calling it “a blatant violation of Belarus’ international human rights obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of association.”  Furthermore, in October, for the first time since the 1990s, an Amnesty International researcher was denied an entry visa by Belarusian authorities.  A reason was not given.

Additionally, Belarus, a former Soviet republic, has an unfavorable record.  It stands as Europe’s last dictatorship, ruled since 1994 by President Alexander Lukashenko.  He has been accused of persecuting dissidents in order to maintain power.

For example, last month, Lukashenko’s most formidable political rival, Andrei Sannikov, once a deputy foreign minister, fled Belarus, taking political refuge in the U.K..  He had served 16 months in prison, during which he claimed prison staff tortured him and tried to get him to commit suicide.

This September, during voting for parliament, there were reports of election rigging.  There were similar reports two years ago during the 2010 presidential elections.  The result is that no one elected to the 110 seat lower house of parliament was a member of an opposition party.

Mikhail Pashkevich, a leader of the Tell the Truth opposition party, told the BBC that the results had been predetermined.  “There are no elections […] in Belarus now, only something like a farce, a play that is named election but is not an election,” he said.

Unfortunately, Viasna and other NGOs in Belarus face a battle on two fronts.  They face both the human rights abuses they intended to fight, as well as a government that does not want them there in the first place.

For further information, please see:

Moscow Times – Lukashenko Relishes Reputation as Dictator – 27 November 2012

Amnesty International – Belarus Evicts Leading Human Rights Organization – 26 November 2012

RFE/RL – Belarusian Human Rights Center’s Property Confiscated – 26 November 2012

BBC News – Lukashenko’s Belarus: Rights Group Viasna to be Evicted – 20 November 2012

Polskie Radio – Opposition Parties Boycott Belarus ‘Pseudo-Elections’ – 23 September 2012

Polskie Radio – US to award Belarusian ‘human rights defender’ in Warsaw – 25 September 2012

Polskie Radio – Belarusian ‘prisoner of conscience’ wins Lech Walesa Award – 23 September 2012

Human Trafficking Rings Busted in New York, Call Attention to National Issue

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — New York State Police announced on Thursday they arrested nine people connected to a sex trafficking operation in upstate New York involving a minor.

Colorado authorities fear Kara Nichols, 19, may have fallen to sex trafficking while attending a modeling gig in Denver last month. (Photo Courtesy of The Daily News)

After a nine-month investigation, Troopers charged Lynette Tilden of Utica, Edward Tilden of Orwell, and Alexandria Davall of Utica with felony trafficking.  Troopers said the Tildens—25- and 30-years-old, respectively—used an online classifieds website called Backpage.com to advertise in the Northeast for sex with the victim.  Police did not describe the role Davall, 23, played in the operation.

Troopers also charged two men from the Utica area with rape, two others with endangering the welfare of a child, and two others with a criminal sex act.  Investigators did not release the age of the victim.

The bust came a little more than a week after New York City Police and the New York Attorney General’s Office announced the break-up for a $7 million, three-state prostitution and money laundering ring.  On Nov. 20, authorities arrested more than a dozen people and rescued two human trafficking victims.

A 16-month investigation into Somad Enterprises Inc. revealed it operated a “one-stop shopping vehicle for prostitution rings,” authorities described.  The ad agency created listings for escort services on television and websites, including Backpage.com.

The 180-count indictment charged 19 people and one corporation with enterprise corruption, money laundering, and prostitution, among other crimes.  So far, only 17 of those indicted have been arrested, and each faces up to 25 years in prison.  Reuters reported three prostitution clients also were charged.

These arrests highlighted a growing concern about sex trafficking in other parts of the United States, as well.  In Colorado, investigators said an aspiring model who disappeared last month may have fallen victim to trafficking.

Kara Nichols, 19, was last seen on Oct. 9 when she went to a modeling gig in Denver.  But according to an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office bulletin obtained by KKTV, investigators feared she became trapped in a sort of front for a modeling business.

A search of modeling and fashion websites authorities believe Nichols visited involved drugs and prostitution, according to police.

“Someone that has big dreams with limited resources sometimes turn to the internet,” Lt. Jeff Kramer said in an interview with the Daily News.  He hoped someone who knows something might come forward to shed light on what happened to Nichols.

Dangers like those that may have befallen Nichols have prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass a motion to investigate sex trafficking.

County officials said the majority of youths arrested on prostitution charges in LA County are from the foster care system. Supervisor Michael Antonovich cited FBI and U.S. Department of Justice data showing the average entry age into prostitution in 12-years-old, and that participation lasts seven years.

For further information, please see:

The Corning Leader — Police: Upstate NY Sex Trafficking Ring Broken Up — 29 November 2012

The Huffington Post — LA Teen Prostitutes Come from Foster Homes a Majority of the Time, County Says — 28 November 2012

The Daily News — Missing Model May Be Victim of Colorado Sex Traffickers: Authorities — 26 November 2012

The Chicago Tribune — Human Trafficking Victims Freed in U.S. Prostitution Bust — 20 November 2012

Region of South Sudan in State of Humanitarian Emergency

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

 JUBA, South Sudan – The Jonglei area of South Sudan is currently in a state of humanitarian emergency due to the ongoing ethnic bloodshed, according to international aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders.

 

Villagers from Jonglei return to their homes after escaping the ongoing violence in the region. (Photo courtesy of Robin Meldrum/MSF)

In a report published on Tuesday, the MSF called attention to the “devastating impact” of the ongoing violence on the lives and health of tens of thousands of people living in South Sudan’s Jonglei state.

The MSF special report, “South Sudan’s Hidden Crisis”, noted that civilians have become targets of attacks that are mainly caused by inter-communal, cattle rustling, fighting between government and rebels and a government disarmament process.

Based on the findings of the MSF, women and children make up more than 50 percent of the gunshot injury victims treated by the MSF teams. One of their patients recalled her experience last March where she witnessed children thrown into a fire. “If the child can run, they will shoot them with the gun; if they are small and cannot run, they will kill them with a knife,” she told the humanitarian agency. Children as young as four months old are among the victims, according to the report.

Cases of violence are also likely to increase as the dry season approaches.

“What we are seeing is an emergency; the lives and health of Jungle’s population are hanging by a thread. The dry season is now upon us, making movement around the area possible again, and we fear a further spike in violence, injury and displacement,” said Chris Lockyear, the MSF’s Operational Manager.

The violent clashes between South Sudan army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and a militia group in Jonglei have also caused massive displacement and insecurity in the region. Entire communities fled their homes to escape the conflict and to seek refuge in safer towns. Due to lack of shelter, food and safe drinking water, however, they have become susceptible to diseases like malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition and diarrhea.

Another problem pointed out by the MSF report is that healthcare facilities have likewise been targeted. Hospitals and clinics are usually looted and destroyed.

As it highlighted the gravity of the humanitarian crisis Jonglei’s population faces, the MSF called on the South Sudan government, the UN, donors and other humanitarian organizations for support “to ensure that there is adequate emergency response capacity.”

“Today we are sharing the medical consequences as our teams see them on the ground,” added Lockyear. “Jonglei is in the grip of an emergency. MSF remains committed to providing neutral and impartial healthcare in Jonglei, however we fear there may be even more medical needs among people who cannot reach our clinics – due to sheltering in the bush or for fear of travelling to seek care. MSF calls on all armed groups to respect medical humanitarian facilities and staff.”

 

For further information, please see:

All Africa – South Sudan: Juba Unveils Water Project to Mitigate Conflicts in Jonglei – 28 November 2012

All Africa – South Sudan: Silent Violence of Hidden Crisis in Jonglei – 27 November 2012

CBS News – Aid group raises concern on South Sudan violence – 27 November 2012

Doctors Without Borders – South Sudan: Displacement and Destruction of Health Facilities in Jonglei State – 27 November 2012

Doctors Without Borders – South Sudan’s Hidden Crisis – 26 November 2012

 

At Least 50 Injured by Riot Police in a protest over a Copper Mine in Myanmar

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar – Riot police used violence to disperse protestors in the town of Monywa located in the northwestern district of Sagaing, injuring at least 50 individuals.

An injured monk gets aid for his burns caused by the riot police. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Roughly 1,000 protestors, including local monks, gathered in a camp in Monywa to oppose a copper mining venture jointly operated by a subsidiary of the prominent weapons manufacturer, China North Industries Corp, and the military-owned, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.

The protestors alleged that the proposed billion dollar expansion of the copper mining venture was illegally usurping more than 7,800 acres of land.  Local farmers protesting the current expansion complained that they were forced to swallow an undesirable deal only two years prior when they gave up their land in exchange for new housing and cash compensation.

The riot police arrived early in the morning, around 3 a.m., and opened fire on the camp inhabitants with water cannons, tear gas and incendiary devices, or “phosphorous bombs.”  Some protestors suffered severe burns from the incendiary devices and, as they took off their burning clothes, fires started all across the camp.

Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for President Thein Sein’s office, denied any use of incendiary devices against the protestors and stated only water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs were used to disperse camp inhabitants.

Some of the injured, many of them monks, have taken refuge in a nearby village to nurse their burns and other injuries suffered at the hands of Myanmar’s riot police.  The injured reported that there were no ambulances to take them to nearby hospitals, other emergency medical response measures, or doctors to help care for their burns.

Disputes over land usurpation, like the one presented in the expansion of the copper mining venture, has been a growing problem in Myanmar, especially after the central government under Thein Sein has relaxed the laws governing individuals’ rights to protest.

Prominent Burmese politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has offered her services to ensure a peaceful resolution to the current conflict between the interests of the joint mining venture and local land owners.

Aung San Suu Kyi has already met with the companies behind the mining venture and desires to meet with the thousands of protestors and local land owners to ensure better cooperation between the conflicting parties.

The hiccup in the mining venture’s progress has caused the Chinese media to characterize the ordeal as a losing situation for the Chinese interests involved.  The Chinese media has also gone as far as to blame Western interests as the cause for the unrest and stall in the project, claiming that only third party Western interests will benefit from the current result.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Burmese police break up copper mine protest – 29 November 2012

The Guardian – Burma: riot police move in to break up copper mine protest – 29 November 2012

Reuters – Riot police move in to end Myanmar copper mine protest – 29 November 2012

The Telegraph – Burma copper mine protest broken up by riot police – 29 November 2012

Democratic Voice of Burma – Hundreds protest against Burma copper mine – 21 November 2012

Protests Over Detentions Lead to More Detentions in Saudi Arabia

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Tuesday about fifteen men, twenty-two women, and eight children were detained for participating in a protest just outside the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh. The women and children were let go that day, however, the men are still being held by the Saudi Arabian security forces.

Saudi Arabia’s religious leader, the grand mufti, believes that protests are nothing more than danger that can only bring chaos. (Photo Courtesy of Ahlul Bayt News Agency)

The participants of the peaceful protest claimed that its purpose was to criticize the states improper treatment of their detained relatives. They congregated outside of the Human Rights Commission hoping to be heard by the body because no other Saudi Arabian authority would previously listen to their complaints or attempt to resolve the dispute. The protestors’ complaints centered around two main issues concerning their detained relatives. Some cited inadequate medical care for detainees was a source of frustration. One woman claimed that her husband had been urinating blood for six months without ever receiving medical assistance.

Many others were protesting the complete lack of basis under which their relatives were being detained. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a human rights activist and board member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, described the protests as demonstrations by family members for prisoners who have been, “languishing in jail cells without due process” for years.

One woman said that her husband has been held against his will for twelve years despite being found innocent at trial. Others claimed that their relatives were being held captive despite never being charged or put on trial. As a result of their protests, the demonstrators became detainees themselves. Only after the women and children signed a document stating that they would not protest again otherwise they would face punishments if they did, were they eventually released.

The grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, has condemned the use of protests claiming that they are used by, “enemies to spread chaos.” He also states that to protest is inherently anti-Islamic. The grand mufti purports that Islam promotes dialogue, while protests promote nothing more than danger.

As an Islamic religious leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh is adamantly against the Arab Spring uprisings which have taken place across the Middle East for the past couple of years. He sees protests and demonstrations as a chief reason that four Islamic autocratic regimes were ousted from their positions of power. As a result, it is illegal to partake in a protest or demonstration in Saudi Arabia.

For further information, please see:

Daily Times – Saudi Grand Mufti Slams Protests as Anti-Islamic – 29 November 2012

Ahlul Bayt News Agency – Saudi Grand Mufti Condemns Protests and Blames Iran for Unrest Among Shiite Muslims – 28 November 2012

Amnesty International – Saudi Arabia Must Release or Charge Detained Peaceful Protesters – 28 November 2012

CNN – Saudis Protest for Release of Political Prisoners, Activist Says – 27 November 2012

Reuters – Saudi Authorities Detain Families at Rights Prtoest – 27 November 2012

Samsung Audit Reveals Inadequate Practices at Suppliers in China

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – On Monday, Samsung Electronics Co., a South Korean manufactuer, announced that auditing 105 of its suppliers revealed “several instances of inadequate practices at the facilities.”  Furthermore, Samsung anticipates reviewing practices at 144 other suppliers in China.

A Samsung phone. (Photo Courtesy of CNet)

According to BBC News, said practices include fines for being absent or late to work and excessive overtime.  However, there has been no evidence of under-age workers despite China Labor Watch’s report, a New York-based labor rights group, published prior of such workers in the facilities.  Specifically, China Labor Watch alleged that the hiring, use, and working conditions were “inhumane.”

“Samsung did not identify any instance of child labour during the audits after reviewing HR records of all workers aged below 18 and conducting face-to-face ID checks,” stated Samsung.

Moreover, Samsung requested that all its suppliers implement a new hiring process as soon as possible to combat the previously mentioned issues.  Furthermore, it further requested that they amend irregularities in labor contracts and cultivate a longer-term plan to correct working hours.

“Samsung takes concerns about working conditions in China seriously and, whenever an issue is identified, we take immediate and appropriate steps to correct it,” shared the company.  “Our goal is to assess, improve, and continuously monitor every aspect of working conditions at Samsung supplier facilities to meet our own high standards.”

A supplier of Apple and Microsoft, Foxconn, is well known for its alleged use of child labor, excessive hours, and working conditions.  This was revealed after a Fair Labor Association inspected Apple’s supply facilities.  After this incident, Foxconn agreed to increase workers’ wages.  Since the last check, the Foxconn made progress in these areas.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Samsung audit finds ‘inadequate practices’ at China suppliers – 26 November 2012

CNET – Samsung finds no child labor, promises fixes to supply chain – 26 November 2012

Washington Post – Samsung’s audit find inadequate labor practices at its Chinese suppliers – 26 November 2012

 

 

Palestinians Optimistic on UN Recognition bid

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Palestine — Palestine is set to renew a bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations (UN), which could strengthen their position in becoming a recognized state.  The UN General Assembly is expected to pass the resolution, recognizing Palestine as a nonmember observer state on Thursday.  Palestine is currently listed as an “entity” with no voting rights.

The UN will vote to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state this Thursday. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Out of the 150 countries expected to support the resolution is France, giving Palestine a boost in their efforts for recognition.  Eleven members of the European Union (EU) are also expected to support the resolution.  Norway and Switzerland are planning to vote for the recognition.

Britain will vote for the resolution only if it receives assurances from Palestine that it will not use the recognition to attack Israel through the international judicial system.  Britain seeks public commitments “that the Palestinian Authority would not take advantage of the resolution to act against Israel in the international court in The Hague and that it would commit to immediately renewing peace talks without preconditions.”  It has yet to receive these assurances.  “The first [assurance] is that the Palestinian Authority should indicate a clear commitment to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a message to Parliament.  “The second assurance relates to membership of other specialized UN agencies and action in the International Criminal Court.”

Germany and the Czech Republic also plan to vote for the recognition, but only if Palestine makes the assurances Britain demands.

Initially, Palestinian officials refused to make such assurances, but may change their tone if it means additional support.  Palestine officials believe that ICC accession is a discussion that can be held at a later date.  “It’s not for any country to get the Palestinians to relinquish their rights.  And if Israel is innocent, it has nothing to fear from the court,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive.  Ashrawi considers the vote to be a “last ditch effort” in recognition.  “We believe that the two-state solution is in jeopardy because of [Israeli] actions.  We want to ensure that the world is still committed to the establishment of a sovereign viable democratic free Palestinian state to interact as an equal,” said Ashrawi.

Countries that do not support the move include Israel, the United States, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi believes that the Palestinian’s bid will be successful, and will change future negotiations between it and Israel.  “The future political situation will be completely different for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… Netanyahu will not meet with [Palestinian] President Abu Mazen (Abbas) to take photos only,” he said.  Tibi considers the vote a “defining moment in the history of the Palestinian people.”

For further information, please see:

Haaretz — In Historice Vote, UN set to Award Palestinians Observer Status — 29 November 2012

Ma’an News Agency — Tibi: UN bid Will Change Future Negotiations — 29 November 2012

Al Arabiya — Global Support Grows for Palestinian UN bid — 28 November 2012

Al Jazeera — Palestinians to Renew UN Statehood bid — 28 November 2012

 

Thousands Displaced in Ivory Coast After Land Conflicts

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast—Thousands of people in the Ivory Coast recently began to flee their homes after continuous land conflicts and residual tension left from last year’s violence after the elections. This information was reported from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. The Center noted that 24,000 people were displaced just this year. Further, an additional 40,000 to 80,000 are still displaced from the conflict, according to what was called “conservative estimates” by the Monitoring Center.

Thousands of citizens left their homes after violent land conflicts and residual tensions after last year’s disputed elections. (Photo Courtesy of The New York Times)

Just last year, the nation was pushed almost to the brink of a civil war after the disputed presidential elections that were meant to unite the divided country after an earlier conflict. The former President of the country, Laurent Gbagbo, is now on trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes, even though both sides of the conflict are accused of committing a number of atrocities. The Hague has accused the former President of crimes against humanity after Gbagbo used security forces to terrorize citizens in Abidjan. More than 3,000 people were killed and an uncounted number of individuals were raped and mistreated.

The United Nation’s assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, mentioned that he was in the Ivory Coast in order to discuss the security situation with the nation’s authorities. He said, “I hope to discuss with governmental authorities, civil society, the victims and other actors what needs to be done to prevent a deterioration of the situation, to strengthen the protection of civilians, prevent further atrocities and improve the human rights situation in general.”

In June of this year, the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in the Ivory Coast reported that its own forces were attacked by a number of unidentified assailants while patrolling along the Liberian border. Members of the mission said that an undetermined number of Ivory Coast citizens were killed as well as seven members of the United Nation’s peacekeeping unit.

The Monitoring Center has called for efforts to protect against future crises that might displace more Ivory Coast citizens as well as to help those who are still displaced to return to their homes and to their land. Elizabeth Rushing, the Monitoring Center’s West African analyst said, “For the vast majority of internally displaced people, who are reliant on their land to survive, these (land) restrictions have devastating consequences.” She also added that “many simply di not have enough to feed their families.”

 

For further information, please see:

Bellingham Herald – Reports: Thousands Continue to Flee Ivory Coast – 28 November 2012

San Antonio Express – Thousands Continue to Flee Homes in Ivory Coast – 28 November 2012

UPI – UN Assessing Situation in Ivory Coast – 28 November 2012

New York Times – Ivory Coast Update – 30 November 2011

Syrian Government’s Attack Kills Children On Playground

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian opposition is alleging that the Syrian government used a cluster bomb recently in an attack that killed ten children on a playground. After a lull in fighting, children were allowed outside for a rare moment of leisure on Sunday. That’s when the fighter jets began to bomb the area.

The row of bombs shown in footage following the Syrian government’s attack on a playground. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera) 

Deir al-Assafir recorded the aftermath of the attack in a video posted on YouTube. In that video, a woman stands over the body of a young child and curses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and asks why the child had to die. The video opens by panning over what appear to be two bodies of little girls on the playground then shows two more bodies in a car. Viewers then see adults carrying what appear to be limp bodies of more children. One girl sits on the ground crying until an adult comes and picks her up. The video has spread rapidly over social media sites.

Alexia Jade, a spokeswoman for the opposition-run Damascus Media Office, said residents in Deir al-Assafir believe the attack was a retaliation effort on the part of the government for rebels taking over a nearby military airport. Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said it’s unclear what exactly happened or what the motivation was behind the attack.

“None of those killed were older than 15 years old. There are two women among 15 people wounded, mostly hit as they were inside the courtyards of their houses,” Abu Kassem, an activist in the village told Reuters news agency.

“There were no fighters inside Deir al-Asafir when the bombing occurred. They operate on the outskirts. This was indiscriminate bombing.”

According to al Jazeera reporter, Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, “The residents in the village insist there was a lull in fighting. It’s a village controlled by the opposition. They believe the government was doing this as a vengeance act as the rebels have been making significant advances around that area, in the eastern part of Damascus, taking control of more areas.”

Activists claim cluster bombs were used in the attack on the playground, but this allegation has not been verified. Videos showed a row of what seemed to be unexploded small bombs, not necessarily cluster bombs.

Activists say at least 3,000 children are among more than 38,000 people killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March last year.

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Syrian Children ‘Killed by Cluster Bombs’ – 26 Nov. 2012

BBC – Syria Cluster Bomb ‘Kills Ten Children’ – 26 Nov. 2012

CNN – Opposition Says Shelling Kills Ten Children in Syria – 26 Nov. 2012

Gulf News – ‘Air raid kills 10 children near Damascus’ – 26 Nov. 2012

 

Guatemalans Struggle to Overcome Atrocities of Rios Montt, Violence, Natural Disasters

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — In January 2012, former president, General Efrain Rios Montt was arrested and formally charged with ordering genocides throughout the country of Guatemala.  Although he is no longer in power, the country is still struggling with violence, drugs, and poverty.

Men, women, and children suffer from violence and natural disasters in Guatemala with little help in sight. (Image Courtesy of The Examiner/Getty Images)

 Under the reign of Rios Montt, hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed.  Soldiers under Montt’s control raped women in front of their children.  Soldiers forced many teens to join the “civil self-defense group” and if they did not, the soldiers assumed they were guerillas, according to Amnesty International.

Peace accords were signed in 1990, and a minimal investigation into the thousands of murders began.  Current President, retired General Otto Perez Molina is trying to cover up the genocide, reports Amnesty International.  Although the country seems to be in a much better place, it is still struggling with high crime rates and violence, and also plagued by a bit of bad luck.

Last week, seven men were killed execution style at a medical complex in Guatemala City, according to Fox News.  It is believed that the Zeta drug cartel is responsible for the violence.  The Zeta drug gang moved from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008, reports Fox News and has caused problems for the country ever since.

According to Fox News, Guatemala has an average of 16 homicides a day.  It is considered one of Latin America’s most violent countries because of the local gang activity and other organized crime.

Besides the violence and drugs, Guatemala has fallen prey to Mother Nature.  Since November 7, 2012, Guatemala has felt over 100 earthquakes – most markedly the 7.4 magnitude earthquake on November 7 destroying much of the infrastructure there.  The Examiner reports that other natural disasters including floods, mudslides, volcanoes, and hurricanes have also devastated the country of 15 million people.

Guatemala’s economic situation is a problem when it comes to recovery.  The majority of the population does not have insurance and must rely on the government and outside governments for help, reported by The Examiner.  Now, after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the United States, many donations will go there before sending the money to an outside country, reports The Examiner.

Overall, the population has not recovered from the genocides in the 1980s, and is continually held down by poor economy and natural disasters.  Many people seek justice through the conviction of General Efrain Rios Montt for the atrocities committed 30 years ago, hopefully bringing the country closure for a terrible period in its history.

For further information, please see:

Fox News Latino — Five Bodies Found in Vehicle in Southern Guatemala — 24 November 2012

Fox News Latino — Guatemala Blames Drug Gang for Massacre — 23 November 2012

Amnesty International — The Two Guatemalas of Rios Montt — 22 November 2012

The Examiner — Guatemalan Earthquakes and the U.S. War on Drugs in Perspective — 22 November 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Monday 26 November 2012

Who Speaks for Rayaan?

Syrian Revolution Digest – November 26, 2012 

Pro-Assad militias describe their operations against the rebels in Damascus, Homs and elsewhere as “clearing slums,” but considering that millions of people have been displaced as a result of these operations, the overwhelming majority of whom are Sunnis, the development is nothing less than a massive ethnic cleansing effort. Since, for now, an Alawite enclave along the coast has already been secured, except for regions in north Lattakia, the current drive seems aimed simply at disrupting rebel activities, irrespective of long-term impact. The slums have for decades provided shelter to immigrant families from rural areas searching for jobs and advancement opportunities and emigrant middle class families from the inner cities driven out by inflationary pressures. By pushing them out, the “clearing” operations have produced a major humanitarian disaster. But, judging by increased rebel activities in these areas, the operations have proven a total failure in terms of military strategy. Still, the madness continues, coupled with opposition irrelevance and international indifference. So, who speaks for Aisha and Rayaan? Who speaks for the thousands of children that have been killed in this conflict?

Today’s Death Toll: 168 (including 6 women and 5 children)
90 in Damascus and suburbs (including 28 who died under torture in Daraya and 6 in Dahadeel)
35 in Aleppo
11 in Hama
10 in Homs
8 in Daraa
7 in Idlib
4 in Quneitra
2 in Deir Ezzor
1 in Raqqah

Points of Random Shelling: 248
75 by mortar
140 by artillery
33 by missile
10 by warplanes (including three uses of barrel bombs)
2 uses of cluster bombs

Clashes: 140
Rebels liberated a police station at the Jordanian-Syrian border, attacked checkpoints in Quneitra, and repelled multiple regime attempts to storm Daraya and the cities and towns of Eastern Ghoutah in Damascus (LCC).

 

News

Strike from Syrian plane reported near border with Turkey

As battle raged in Syria, Russia sent tons of cash to Damascus, flight records show

Medvedev: Support of Syria Rebels ‘Unacceptable’

Syrian rebels claim dam seized; looting plagues Aleppo

Rebels Claim They Seized Air Bases and a Dam in Syria

NATO to Decide on Turkey Missile Defense

Syria rebels close Aleppo ring as France finances opposition

Syria opposition names London ‘ambassador’ Originally from the central city of Homs, the 62-year-old former teacher set up the SCHR in 1986 and was imprisoned several times, before moving to London, where he represented the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Special Reports

Assad’s Troops Wipe Out a Playground Full of Children in Syria
The United States has kept its hands in its pockets so far, in part because our diplomats say that the Syrian rebels have long been too fragmented and disorganized for any hope of real cooperation. Will a playground full of dead children sway the State Department to take a more assertive stance? Probably not.

Fighting to Hold Damascus, Syria Flattens Rebel ‘Slums’
For the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the stakes in Damascus are nothing short of retaining control of the nation itself. “If they lose Damascus, they lose the state,” says Patrick Seale, a British author and Syria expert. Senior security officials within the Assad regime say partial demolitions of pro-rebel neighborhoods in and around Damascus are a key element of an ambitious counterinsurgency plan now unfolding. The plan also involves the expansion of regime-funded militias known as “Popular Committees” within the capital.

Syria crisis: Kidnappings compound conflict fears
As the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition fighters continues, kidnapping has become a source of much needed money in a struggling economy, the BBC’s Lina Sinjab in Damascus reports.

As Kurds Fight for Freedom in Syria, Fears Rise in Turkey of Following Suit
Just 25 miles from Aleppo, which has been pounded into dust by Bashar al-Assad’s air force, the Syrian town of Afrin is a picture of domestic tranquility. But that’s because it’s being run by a relatively unknown player in Syria’s civil war: Syrian Kurds.

Syria rebel officers plan post-Assad army
Syrian rebel officers have formed a commission to lay the foundations for a future army and liaise with the political opposition on issues such as arming fighters on the ground, a spokesman said on Monday.

In One Corner Of Syria, A Rebel Victory Results In Friction
When Syrian rebels seized the border post at Ras al-Ayn on Nov. 8, they celebrated the victory and went on to “liberate” the town, a place where both Arabs and Kurds live on Syria’s northeast border with Turkey. But the Kurdish inhabitants quickly saw their “liberation” as a disaster. Within days, dozens were dead in clashes between Kurdish militias and the rebels.

Teen group shows support for Syria
Follow this link to register for FDD’s Washington Forum 2012 “Dictators & Dissidents”

Announcement
The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) invites you to its 2012 Forum to be held on Tuesday, November 27th, at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, where Members of Congress, foreign dissidents, and leading policy experts will discuss “The Price of Greatness: The Next Four Years of U.S. Foreign Policy.” (RSVP Here).

N.Y. teen group shows support for Syria
I am glad to be an adviser in this effort.

Students around the country are getting involved in something global and something powerful. With a click of a mouse and a bit of green paint, teenagers across the United States are reaching out, pledging their support and making a difference. Students around the country are becoming … Syria. “I Am Syria is a campaign for the Syrian people, and its purpose is to let them know that we support them and that they are not alone,” said Abby Cordaro, a sophomore at Immaculata Academy. “Its main goal is to spread awareness about the conflict in Syria.”

More on the I Am Syrian Campaign can be found on its dedicated website. Educators will find this page in particular to be of interest and use.

Meanwhile, no one seems in a position to speak for this little girl. Her name was Rayaan. 

 

Video Highlights

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias abusing the injured after they stormed a field hospital for rebels. The go from one injured to another asking him to tell them where the weapons are hidden threatening to shoot him if he failed to reply http://youtu.be/p3Bex1oMAHA

This leaked video is from Deir Ezzor City shows part of the “sweep” operations conducted by pro-Assad militias in the old market http://youtu.be/FgT7qimaWUk

Scenes from the clashes in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/Y5vRksGWbMs , http://youtu.be/VZbRU70jXb0 ,http://youtu.be/b4lcUJkz7w4

Rebels attack a checkpoint in Ruknaddine Neighborhood, Damascus City http://youtu.be/gMnAVukcGDg Sounds of mortar fire can be heard in the plush Mazzeh Neighborhood http://youtu.be/xxawwjAdDjs ,http://youtu.be/TPGZYMLU25U

The shelling of the town of Zabadani continues http://youtu.be/s8GJ5_I_6E8

The pounding of the town of Rastan, Homs Province, continues http://youtu.be/03cPoBiJ3ns ,http://youtu.be/gKGJvQfFa3Q

Fighter jets keep pounding neighborhoods and towns in Aleppo: Bab El-Hawa http://youtu.be/gr2vQv2qp5Y ,http://youtu.be/36M489AwmYk Dar Azzah http://youtu.be/DSrzhSBUv-M Elsewhere http://youtu.be/7yaE6NQYuQo

Clashes in Old Aleppo http://youtu.be/xTzhAhT85QQ , http://youtu.be/AZVB1jTiYog , http://youtu.be/LSrYLDh77To

A local rebel leader calls on “tent officers,” as defectors based in Antakya are known, to come join him and his comrades in the trenches, “there is more honor and dignity in it for you.” http://youtu.be/3JCAeY46zso