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