Syrian Revolution Digest – Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Syrian Revolution Digest – December 18, 2012 

Call it a civil war wrapped in a revolution wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a guess – it’s all that and more, I profess. It’s a holy war slowly morphing into an unholy descent into hell. Not that anyone can really tell how it will all end.

Today’s Death Toll: 128 (including 11 children and 9 women)

42 in Damascus and Suburbs (including 4 in Tal Mneen), 21 in Daraa (including 5 executed publicly in the Naziheen Refugee Camp), 16 in Hama, 14 in Homs (including 3 were publicly executed in Al-Nuqeira), 13 in Aleppo, 12 in Idlib, 9 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Hassakeh.

Points of Random Shelling: 242


Rebels managed to liberate the town of Hilfaya in Hama Province, and were joined by many defectors from the loyalist militias. In Damascus, rebels took complete control of District of Hajal Al-Aswad (LCC).

Reporters Without Borders grants its Freedom of the Press Award to Mazen Darweesh, the well-known Syrian human rights activist currently languishing in jail.



Russia Sends Warships Toward Syria for Possible Evacuation

Syrian Rebels Battle Palestinian Fighters in Damascus

Richard Engel of NBC Is Freed in Syria The identities of the kidnappers and their motives were unknown. But an article on the NBC News Web site quotes Mr. Engel as saying their captors “were talking openly about their loyalty to the government” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Special Reports

Wounded, starving crowd ill-equipped Damascus hospital
As the civil war escalates around the capital, doctors are treating up to 100 injured a day at the 400-bed Damascus Hospital and have had to use local anesthetics even for complicated operations, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. Cases of severe acute malnutrition in children being referred to the hospital from rural Damascus, Deir al-Zor, Hassakeh, Deraa and Homs have risen to 7-8 a month from 2-3 in previous months, he said, and staff and patients have difficulty reaching health care facilities due to deepening insecurity.

What a Bosnian Mass Grave Can Teach Us About Syria’s Civil War
… perhaps the greatest justice could be found in ensuring a way for the international community to act, to prevent such slaughters. For whether they are yesterday’s mass graves in Bosnia, or today’s mass graves in Syria, the sick, sticky scent of death will linger, long after the international community fails to act.

When Assad Dropped the Façade
Given that Lesch has consulted for the American government, and that his access to al-Assad was itself an act of public diplomacy on the part of Syria’s Ba’athist regime, the value of his work is to shed light on the deeply ambiguous relationship between Western officialdom and that regime in the last few decades—and the embarrassing series of about-turns that ensued when this relationship was confronted with the Arab Spring in 2011.

Rubble and Despair of War Redefine Syria Jewel
As temperatures drop and the weakened government’s artillery thunders on, Aleppo is administered by no one and slipping into disaster. Front-line neighborhoods are rubble. Most of the city’s districts have had no electricity and little water for weeks. All of Aleppo suffers from shortages of oil, food, medicine, doctors and gas. Diseases are spreading. Parks and courtyards are being defoliated for firewood, turning streets once lined with trees into avenues bordered by stumps. Months’ worth of trash is piled high, often beside bread lines where hundreds of people wait for a meager stack of loaves.


Syria Deeply

Social Media Buzz: Rebels Lose a Charismatic Commander
Abu Furat defected after he received orders to shell a village in Latakia earlier this year. He joined the Islamist Tawheed Brigade, the largest rebel group in Aleppo, and would often pop up in videos from the frontlines, always ready with an uplifting and compassionate message.


Video Highlights

Leaked video documents use of missile launchers by pro-regime militias in the battles in the Eastern Ghoutah Region, Damascus Another leaked video documents the use of heavy artillery in pounding the town of Zabadani

Meanwhile, MiGs keep pounding Eastern Ghoutah: Douma , Kafar Batna Arbeen Harasta Hamouriyeh and helicopters keep dropping explosive barrels: Saqba Dead and wounded in Arbeen

To the West, the town of Moadamia was also pounded

In Damascus City, the pounding of Yarmouk Camp continues MIGs took part

In Hama, rebels celebrate the liberation of the town of Kafar Zeitah

Prisoners Finally Charged for Paraguay Land Skirmish

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay – Six months ago, on June 15,  violence ripped through the small land-locked country of Paraguay as a land eviction turned into a shot out which left six police officers and eleven civilians were killed in what has been dubbed the Curuguaty massacre. Now amid rallies and controversies prosecutors have finally levied charges against 12 peasants deemed guilty of murder, criminal association and invasion of property.

Protest in Paraguay demanding justice for massacre. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

However the event that forced Ex-President Fernando Lugo out of office has not ended as gunmen early December 2nd burst into the home of Vidal Vega and killed him in front of his wife. Vega was a witness to the atrocity, and one of the last surviving members of the Landless Peasant Movement.

Vega was a leader who lobbied for years to redistribute land that had been illegally seized by Senator Blas Riquelme  in the 1960s. While advocating a non-violent and legal return of the land, it was the lack of results and a ruling by the Paraguayan Supreme Courts in favor of Riquelme’s estate which caused peasants to lose their patience and re occupy the land.

Early on June 15, a large police convey entered the tract of land at Curuguaty to evict the nearly 50 peasants that been illegally occupying the land. The officers arrived unarmed, expecting only non-violent resistance from the men women and children currently occupying the land when gunfire filled the air. Witnesses disagree as to whether the peasants opened fire or infiltrated gunmen are to blame, but agree that the civilians and officers alike were riddled with bullets and when reinforcements arrived 17 people were dead.

With the death of Vega, the people of Paraguay demanded an answer and investigation for the death of the peoples leader. Days later over 4,000 people marched to the National Pantheon of Heroes demanding “justice” for their slain heroes and a release of the prisoners currently held and being prosecuted for the slaughter of Curuguaty. Organized by the Human Rights Coordinator of Paraguay the people have demanded compensation for the victims, police and peasants combined.

While the administration has pledged to fully investigate the murder of Vidal Vega there is no indication that they will budge on the protesters other demands. The marchers called for the release of political prisoners and return of the land, there does not seem to be any attempt by the executive, legislative or judicial bodies to return the land seized during the 1960s.

 For further information, please see:

BBC – Paraguay Peasants Charged Over Deadly Land Clash – 16 December 2012

El Mundo – Massive March In Paraguay For The Return Of Democracy And Justice For Curuguaty – 12 December 2012

El Mundo – Slain Peasant Leader Vidal Vega, A Key Witness In The Killing Of Curuguaty – 3 December 2012

Huffington Post – Vidal Vega Dead: Paraguay Peasant Leader Killed In Paraguay By Gunmen – 2 December 2012

El Mundo – A Violent Eviction In A Rural Hacienda Paraguay Kills 17 – 15 June 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Ring of Fire!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 15, 2012 

As the ring of fire grows tighter and tighter around Damascus, there are still those who think the fire is containable. This revolution might have shattered some illusions for some people, but others seem to cherish their illusions more than life and reason. For them, catastrophe is not an option they are willing to consider, which is why catastrophe becomes inevitable. The aftermath is dawning upon us, and if we think things are messy now, we don’t have long to wait before we discover how wrong we are. Still, it was all worth it, no matter the price.  

Today’s Death Toll:131 (including 5 women and 6 children)

36 in Damascus and suburbs, 26 in Aleppo, 18 in Homs (mostly in Rastan), 17 in Idlib, 12 in Daraa, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Hama and 3 in Raqqa.

Points of Random Shelling: 256


Rebels brought down a helicopter in Hassakeh and captured loyalist soldiers in Deir Ezzor as well as a major arms depot in Aleppo (LCC).

In Jordan, officials who defected from the Syrian government announced that they had formed a new opposition group led by Mr. Assad’s former prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, one of the highest-ranking officials to desert during the conflict. The group, called the National Free Coalition of the Workers of Syrian Government Institutions, aims to keep state structures intact if Mr. Assad’s government falls, Reuters reported.



Foreign Minister Blames Sanctions for Syria’s Troubles

Iran warns against Patriot deployment on Syria frontier

Syrian rebels gaining ground in Aleppo, opposition says

Palestinian faction leader Jibril leaves Damascus: rebels

Key rebel commander killed in Aleppo

UN contingency plan to deploy up to 10,000 peacekeepers in Syria – reports

Push Begins in EU to Arm Syria Rebels

UN, EU urge more Syria aid as conflict enters ‘new phase’

NATO says Syrian Scuds hit ‘near’ Turkey

Zarqawi’s brother-in-law reported killed while leading Al Nusrah Front unit


Special Reports

A Bread Shortage Is the First Big Test of a Transitional Council in Aleppo
In August, the prominent doctors, engineers, pharmacists and businessmen sheltering here established the Aleppo Transitional Revolutionary Council, a kind of city government in exile for the liberated portions of the city. Mr. Khanji, 67, a civil engineer with a long history of opposing the Syrian government, serves as its president.

Syrian refugees on run: ‘I want people to feel our pain’
“I feel so much ashamed of myself, being in a warm place and having my violin with me and playing music while people have to stand in long queues in order to have something to eat,” he says.

Syrians sounding alarm over growing food shortages
The Sahel al Ghab plain, in Hama province, used to be one of Syria’s richest agricultural regions, producing grain, olives, rice, cotton and sugar. But this year has been disastrous because of the war. Several people from the area said their land wasn’t being farmed because of shellfire from regime-loyal villages.


Syria Deeply

Jabhat al Nusra Shows Its Bloody Mark on Aleppo
Jabhat Al Nusra, now a U.S.-designated terrorist group believed to have links with Al Qaeda, still wins fans in Syria for its disciplined, ferocious fighters. It is considered the most effective fighting force against the Assad regime, and its latest film highlighting attacks in and around Aleppo seeks to bolster that reputation. In an hour-long video… Jabhat al Nusra takes us behind the scenes of its suicide bombings and attacks on military bases, demonstrating its craft and explaining the reasons behind what it describes as jihad against the Assad regime.


Video Highlights

Rebel leader Abu Furat hours before his martyrdom Before his death, Abu Furat sent a message to the Alawite community in Syria, telling them that in spite of Assad, Sunnis and Alawites will always live in peace and harmony Abu Furat made his address while greeting an Alawite defector.

Rebels in Khan Touman, Aleppo, take control of a major arms storage depot , ,

Rebels in Deir Ezzor capture soldiers from the units protecting the Mayadin Military Airport Sounds of clashes in Deir Ezzor City The pounding of the city continues as well

Kurdish opposition launch a new political union in Qamislo, Hassakeh Province

Locals in Beit Sahem, Damascus, pull bodies from under the rubble after an aerial raid on their town

To the south, rebels and loyalists clash in Moadamia, Damascus In Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, shelling leaves several buildings on fire To the east, aerial raids against the towns and villages of Eastern Ghoutah continues , To the north of Damascus City, MiGs pound the town of Yabroud To the West, the pounding of the town of Zabadani along the border with Lebanon continues

63 Arrested In Hunt for the Kidnappers of Minister’s Mother

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s army had arrested 63 people in raids as they searched for Mrs. Kamene Okonjo, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s 82-year-old mother who was kidnapped on Sunday. Although Mrs. Okonjo was released by her abductors five days after she was taken, the dozens of people arrested by the army remain in custody.

The Inspector General of Police ordered the police to spare no efforts in ensuring that Mrs. Okonjo’s abductors must be arrested to face justice. (Photo courtesy of Radioxyzonline/Vanguard)

Since Mrs. Okonjo’s kidnapping, both the military and police department had been on a wild hunt to find the kidnappers, conducting raids in various parts of Southern Nigeria and arresting all potential suspects.

“Already, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has deployed his men and they are working round the clock on the issue. The IGP is on top of the situation. However, I have instructed the IGP to deploy specialist officers from Abuja if need be, to help in fishing out the culprits,” the Finance Minister told the press as he described the action taken by the police.

The IGP, meanwhile, promised the public that not only will the police rescue the Finance Minister’s mother, but they shall “fish out” her abductors and their accomplices as well. The IGP said, “operatives shall ensure that no stone is left unturned in unravelling the mystery behind the abduction of Mrs. Okonjo and bringing the evil perpetrators to book.”

In a place where kidnapping is considered “a lucrative criminal enterprise”, Nigerian forces have been taking such matters more seriously over the past years. Reports show that they have grown increasingly intolerant of suspected kidnappers, often shooting them on sight – as they did in November to 13 people suspected of abducting a Turkish man.

They would even go so far as to arrest their own. On Tuesday, the Delta State Police ordered the arrest and detention of two police officers who were supposed to be on duty at the palace of Mrs. Okonjo on the day she was kidnapped. It remains unclear whether or not they were involved in the abduction itself.

The man who dropped off Mrs. Okonjo on a main road near her home in southern Nigeria on Friday was also arrested.

Delta state governor Emmanuel Uduaghan believes that because of the stringent security measures and intensified manhunt carried out by the law enforcement agencies, Mrs. Okonjo’s kidnappers decided to let her go. “The army and police have been on their trail and a lot of raids have been done. I think because of the heat they dropped her off on the highway,” he told BBC.

When asked what was being done with those in custody now that Mrs. Okonjo has been freed, army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe simply answered, “those arrested are being questioned.”


For further information, please see:

Reuters – Kidnappers free Nigeria minister’s mother, official says – 14 December 2012

BBC News Africa – Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother freed by kidnappers – 14 December 2012

Reuters – UPDATE 1-Nigeria arrests 63 in hunt for minister’s kidnapped mother – 13 December 2012

Information Nigeria – Okonjo-Iweala’s Mother’s Kidnap: Delta CP Says 2 Policemen Have Been Arrested – 12 December 2012

Reuters – Policemen held over kidnap of Nigeria minister’s mother – 12 December 2012

This Day Live – IG Orders Arrest of Abductors of Okonjo-Iweala’s Mother – 11 December 2012

Information Nigeria – Okonjo-Iweala’s Mum’s Kidnap: Suspect Arrested – 10 December 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Friday, 14 December 2012

Failure to Launch!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 14, 2012 

This Friday’s rallies in Syria were held under the slogan “the only terrorism in Syria is practiced by Assad.” This comes in response to U.S. decision to designate Jabhat Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization. The U.S. ignored the fact that most members fighting under the emblem of al-Nusra care little for its ideology and has little connection to its leadership abroad, but joined because they need its resources, something the U.S. was asked to provide months ago and failed to do. The U.S. is failing to connect with the Syrian people even as it finally seeks to help. Delayed, reluctant and ineffectual support begets disdain and rejection, not appreciation. Yet, contrary to popular sentiments, reason dictates that we still need American support, political and material, and if America is listening to reason, then, she would know she has much to lose than reputation and goodwill if she failed to provide it this time around.

Today’s Death Toll:106 (including 5 women and 8 children)

49 in Damascus and suburbs (including 4 in shelling of Hajar Aswad and 4 were shot in a funeral in Barza in addition to unidentified martyrs in Qaboun), 21 in Idlib, 11 in Aleppo, 8 in Daraa, 5 in Homs, 5 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Hama, 2 in Qunaitra and 1 in Hassaka.

Points of Random Shelling: 262


Heavy clashes took place in Damascus and suburbs, with rebels downing a MiG near the Damascus International Airport. Rebels also shelled the military airport in Deir Ezzor and downed a MiG there as well. In Aleppo, more than 100 soldiers and officers defected from the Defense factories following a rebel attack (LCC).



U.S. Officials: Syria Has Prepared Several Dozen Chemical Bombs

Russia Steps Back From Envoy’s Comments on Syria

Patriot missiles a warning to Syria’s al-Assad


Special Reports

Assad’s chemical card
There are plausible scenarios in which Assad would use CW in a tactical manner against his domestic enemies—and it’s not at all clear that he wouldn’t get away with it. Assad will fight tooth and nail to maintain control over Damascus, while also securing the route from Homs to the coast (an area that witnessed regime ethnic cleansing attacks)… Obama has now offered Assad another loophole with the designation of the Jabhat al-Nusra group as a terrorist organization. As soon as news came out that the designation was forthcoming, the regime rushed to claim that rebels had seized control of a toxic chlorine factory in east Aleppo, and may now use these chemicals in an attack. Such bogus stories set the stage for a possible attack in the future and provide Assad, and his backers in Moscow, with enough to muddy the waters.

In Syria, hunger spreads as war intensifies
Conditions are especially dire in the northern city of Aleppo, where civilians enduring incessant clashes and air raids in rebel-held districts say hunger is a new threat to survival in the 20-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s Kurds face uncertain future if Assad falls
The regime’s exit from Kurdish areas has sparked mistrust between the rebels and Syria’s third biggest ethnic group

Syria: a scathingly beautiful photograph of the edge of starvation
Artfulness only adds to this picture’s stark reality. Here is a sinister new chapter in the war between Assad and his people

Under Siege, Damascus Gets Desperate for Food and Fuel
As rebel fighters advance on the Syrian capital, those caught in the middle suffer from food, gas, and power shortages. Mikel Ayestaran on how Damascus residents are struggling to ride out the storm.

The Syria-North Korea Scud Missile Link
One day apart, North Korea launched a long-range missile to much fanfare, and the Assad regime fired Scud missiles on the rebels. Eli Lake on how the Hermit Kingdom helped Syria with the technology—and why chemical weapons might be next.

Russia and Its Syrian Debacle: When the Enemy of My Friend Becomes My Friend
For Russia, there are no good options left. The NCC is made up mostly of academics and dissidents with no military wing, and it has little hope of turning the situation in Russia’s favor if Assad is overthrown. “They have zero influence in Syria,” says Hassan Al-Huri, a Syrian businessman in Moscow who owns the Picasso restaurant and hosted his countrymen there. “If anything, the Syrian people now hate them for associating with the Russians,” he told me after the dinner was over. That means Moscow has no choice but to accept the loss of its last real foothold in the Middle East, says Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. Says he: “Maybe they have no more illusions.”

Syrian opposition forces say they are on brink of major victory in Aleppo
If Syrian rebels succeed in breaching an infantry school in Aleppo, they will gain some strategically critical pieces of territory, a windfall of supplies, and possibly a slew of regime defectors.

As Syrian Rebels Close In, Assad Has Cards To Play
He still has thousands of loyal troops and a monopoly on air power. A moribund diplomatic process has given him room to maneuver despite withering international condemnation. And the power of Islamic extremists among the rebels is dashing hopes that the West will help turn the tide of the civil war by sending heavy weapons to the opposition.

Syrian Rebel Seeks Prisoner Exchange to Free Hostages
The commander, Amar al-Dadikhi of the North Storm brigade, which has been holding the prisoners at an undisclosed location in Syria’s northern countryside, said in interviews that he would free the hostages if the Syrian government released two prominent opposition figures and if Lebanon freed all Syrian activists in government custody.



George H. Wittman: Syria Backstory
If Assad is to be replaced, who will replace the Alawites?

Michael Young: For Obama, it’s not too late on Syria
… the U.S. must rebuild its relationship with Syrians. This will be important for many reasons: to isolate the jihadists; to have a say in likely future talks between a post-Assad Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights; and to block Iran out of the country, and in that way contain it regionally. With some attention, this is achievable.


Syria Deeply

Interview with Robert Ford: The Terror Stamp on Jabhat al Nusra

The High Military Command

Over 550 defector and revolutionary gathered recently in Antalya and elected a body made up of 261 representatives, which in turn elected a High Military Command made up of 30 individuals (11 officers and 19 civilians). The country was divided into 5 “fronts,” and each was represented by 6 members in the HMC. The 30 members then elected a joint-chief-of-staff, Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss. Brig. Gen. Idriss will be advised by 5 officers and 5 civilians representing the five fronts.

The HMC will be considered the highest military authority in the land. The head of the HMC will be the future Minister of Defense to be named by the Coalition when the transitional government is announced. The HMC will nominate 5 people, and the Coalition will have to choose one of them for the post. The HMC will do the same for the post of Minster of Interior. The specific linkages between the two ministerial posts have not been specified at this stage. Any rebel suspected of violations will be tried by a Syrian court, not an international one.

Eastern Front Northern Front Homs Central/Western Southern
1 Col. Ziad hajj Obaied (Pilot) Ahmad Issa Al-Shaikh Lt. Col. Qassim Saadeddine (Pilot) Brig. Gen. Abdulmajeed Dbeis Zahran Alloush
2 Major Adnan Muhammad Al-Kawkab Mustafa Abdulkareem Rami Al-Dalati Lt. Mazen Qneifdi Khalid Hussein Al-Arnous
3 Raghib Basheer Tomeh Jamal Khalid Maarouf Lieutenant Abdulhaleem Ghannoum Kamal Hammami Col. Khalid Muhannad al-Hourani
4 Yelmaz Sa’eed Col. Abdul-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi Iyyad Jom’ah Houthaifah Mustafa Al-Shoughri Fadi Saad Al-Assimi
5 Faraj Hammoud Al-Faraj Muhanna Jaffaleh Munthir Ahmad Sarras Youssef Muhammad Al-Hassan Lt. Col. Abdallah Al-Rifai
6 Dr. Omar Dada Ahmad Obeid Col. Abdurrahman Souais Saddeddine Al-Hashimi Ibrahim Al-Toushi

The Advisory Council (working under the chief-of-staff)

1) Col. Fateh Hassoun (Homs Front)
2) Oussama Sayih Al-Juneidi (Homs)
3) Major Muhammad Al-Abboud (Eastern)
4) Saddam Al-Jamal (Eastern)
5) Col. Mustafa Hashim (Central)
6) Abdul-Fattah Aroub (Central)
7) Lt. Col. Abdulbassit Al-Taweel (Northern)
8) Abdul-Qader Al-Saleh (Northern)
9) Brig. Gen. Ziad Fahd (Southern)
10) Bashar Awad Al-Zoubi (Southern)

The HMC also created 5 specialized offices to manage the military operations in each front:

Eastern Front Northern Front Homs Central/Western Southern
Operations Col. Raghib Al-Hamad Gen. Hussain Al-Oqaidi Lt. Abdllah Bahbouh Capt. Bassil Sillo Major Majeed Al-Sayyid Ahmad
Intelligence Lt. Omar Tarrad Major Ali Zain Lt. Omar Shamsi + Zakariya Taha Col. Muhammad Awad Capt.  Jawad Sa’eed
Provisions Lt. Oussama Al-Jassem Muhammad Mustafa Al-Bakkour Lt. Ikrimah Bakkour Manar Al-Shami Capt. Ahmad Nayif
Finance Major Mustafa Ibrahim Lt. Col. Fadel Al-Hajji Ahmad Abdurrahman Al-Hamwi Col. Maher Al-Nabhan Capt. Mazid Dahhan
Transitional Justice Lt. Col. Ahmad Ayid Al-Khalaf Brig. Gen. Abdurrahman Al-Hassan Khaid Bakkar + Ghanim Saadeddine (Esq.) Abdurrazzaq Freijeh Muhammad Al-Wazir

A number of specialized committees have also been set up.


Video Highlights

Rallies like this one in Kafrenbel, Idlib Province and Elbab, Aleppo, took place all over the country today, as per custom.

Clashes near a security headquarters in Aleppo , ,

Jordan’s King Abdullah II Releases Prisoners

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

AMMAN, Jordan – On Monday, King Abdullah II instructed the government to work with the state prosecutor to release detained protestors. One hundred and sixteen detainees are said to be released. Only thirteen detainees who had committed crimes previously will remain incarcerated on other charges.

King Abdullah II ordered the release of 116 detainees earlier this week. (Photo Courtesy of Petra)

The detainees all took part in protests over the past couple of months which criticized King Abdullah II. Some of the most recent protests occurred when gas prices rose by fifty-four percent and oil derivatives rose by twenty-eight percent.

The oil and gas protests led to violence in which three people were killed and seventy-five more were injured. Of these seventy-five individuals who were hurt, fifty-eight of which were police officers.

The Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications announced that, “the government reaffirms that freedom of expression and assembly is guaranteed by the constitution as a natural right of the human and considers these freedoms as one of the pillars of reform in general and political reform in particular.”

The minister went on to distinguish freedom of expression from violently attacking policemen and destroying property.

King Abdullah discussed his stance on protestors in late October when he stated that, “constructive opposition is a legitimate and required ambition. The negative movements, hollow slogans and attempts to foment sedition and chaos are unacceptable.”

He continued to say that “we must remember that catchy slogans are not the answer, and that extremist reactionary mentalities cannot be entrusted with the future of our children.”

Instead of protests, King Abdullah II advocated for citizens to come out and vote in the next parliamentary elections if they wanted to make changes.

These statements came shortly after he pardoned detainees in October after twenty individuals were incarcerated for what Amnesty International described as a peaceful demonstration calling for anti-corruption reforms.

In response to the king’s most recent pardon announcement, Amnesty International said that it was “too little, too late.” The human rights group was happy that the one hundred and sixteen detainees would be set free, and hoped that it would happen quickly so that those who desperately need medical treatment could receive it.

While Amnesty International was happy that all those prisoners would be set free, they worried that the King’s maneuver was a hallow gesture. “There’s a danger King Abdullah’s announcement will be seen as nothing more than a PR exercise because the reality is that dozens of people in 2012 have been detained solely for peacefully calling for economic and political reforms,” stated Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ann Harrison.

Amnesty International will further investigate the charges of the thirteen individuals who continue to be detained.

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – Jordan: Release of Detainees ‘too Little, too Late’ – 11 December 2012

Time – Jordan King Orders Release of Jailed Protesters – 11 December 2012

Petra – King Orders Government to Take Legal Measures to Release Detainees – 10 December 2012

Al Monito – Jordan King Releases Detainees who Protested, Urges all to Vote – 24 October 2012

Harsh CIA Interrogation Methods Ineffective, Report Finds

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — A Senate committee released the findings of a three-year investigation this week, and officials said the report had “startling details” on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of counterterrorism efforts.

A Senate committee report finds that harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding (above), are largely ineffective in counterterrorism efforts. (Photo Courtesy of Press TV)

The 6,000-page report is the most detailed, independent examination of the agency’s methods to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress.  But declassifying the report to prepare for its release to the public could take months, if not longer.

“The report . . . raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in a statement.  She chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, which voted 9-6 on Thursday to approve the report.

“I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites’ and the use of so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ were terrible mistakes,” she added.  “The majority of the committee agrees.”

Those familiar with the report’s findings said it makes a detailed case that the interrogation techniques never produced any counter-terrorism breakthroughs.  In some cases, such as the campaign against al-Qaeda, subjecting prisoners to the techniques were counterproductive.

Republicans had largely boycotted the investigation because of inaccuracies, and they faulted Democrats for calling too few witnesses.  Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was the lone Republican who supported approving the report, joining the committee’s eight Democrats.

The report includes information on every detainee in CIA custody, the conditions under which they were held, the interrogation techniques used on them, the intelligence they provided, and the accuracy of CIA descriptions of the program to the White House.  More than 6 million pages of documents were reviewed, containing data on post-9/11 interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the committee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement that the report “contains a number of significant errors and omissions about the history and utility of the CIA’s detention program,” noting that the investigation did not interview “any of the people involved.”

High-ranking officials from the George W. Bush administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, have defended the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other measures.  They argued that the techniques provided critical clues to help find Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. raid in May 2011.  But Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) dismissed that suggestion earlier this year.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has long opposed the United States’ use of torture based on his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, issued a statement that the committee’s work shows that “cruel” treatment of prisoners “is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country’s conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence.”

The report now goes to President Barack Obama and other officials for review.  Feinstein said the committee would receive their comments until February 15, at which time it would make the decision on whether to declassify the report for public release.

For further information, please see:

Press TV — Report Finds Harsh CIA Interrogations Ineffective — 15 December 2012

Chicago Tribune — Senate Committee Approves Report on CIA Interrogations, Revives Torture Debate — 13 December 2012

The Huffington Post — CIA Torture Report Approved by Senate Intelligence Committee — 13 December 2012

The Washington Post — Report Finds Harsh CIA Interrogations Ineffective — 13 December 2012

Court Rules Rights of German Man Handed over to C.I.A. Violated

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the rights of German citizen Khaled el-Masri had been violated in 2003 when he was seized in Macedonia and handed over to the C.I.A., which had misidentified El-Masri as a terrorist suspect.  For years, El-Masri has claimed that the C.I.A. tortured, beat, sodomized, and shackled him, but Thursday’s ruling represents the first instance of judicial recognition of his ordeal.

Khaled el-Masri, a German car salesman, was mistaken for an Al Qaeda suspect, and interrogated by C.I.A. for 4 months. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

The 17-judge Court unanimously found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning El-Masri when he was seized by security officers when crossing the Macedonia-Serbia border by bus after a vacation.  The court found that at the request of the C.I.A., El-Masri was held by police for 23 days at a hotel in Skopje, and interrogated in English, a language in which he had little proficiency.  El-Masri’s requests to contact the German embassy were denied and when he tried to leave, he was threatened with being shot.  In January 2003, El-Masri was turned over to the C.I.A. at Skopje airport at which point he was “severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” as Macedonian officials looked on.

In its 92-page ruling, the court determined that El-Masri had proven his claims of torture and abuse “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  In addition to El-Masri’s account of events, the court also considered testimony from former Macedonian officials, results of a German investigation, and U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.  The court found that El-Masri’s abuse “at the hands of the CIA rendition team” in the presence of Macedonian authorities was “invasive and potentially debasing … used with premeditation, the aim being to cause Mr. El-Masri severe pain or suffering in order to obtain information.”

From Macedonia, El-Masri was taken to Afghanistan and held in a cell in a prison called the “Salt Pit” for four months where he was brutally interrogated, never being charged or given access to a lawyer or German consular officers.  Sometime after the C.I.A. realized they had the wrong man, who had been seized only because his name resembled that of an actual Al Qaeda suspect, El-Masri, blindfolded and handcuffed, was placed on a plane to Albania.

El-Masri’s trek for recognition of his torment at the hands of Macedonian and American officials has been lengthy.  The United States justice system dismissed El-Masri’s lawsuit on “state secrets” grounds in 2007, and the Macedonian government denied outright that it had any hand in any of the alleged abuse.  Furthermore, U.S. officials sought to block German and Spanish criminal inquiries.

The court found that responsibility for El-Masri’s treatment rested with Macedonia. The court added: “Its government was consequently responsible for those acts performed by foreign officials. It had failed to submit any arguments explaining or justifying the degree of force used or the necessity of the invasive and potentially debasing measures. . . . In the court’s view, such treatment had amounted to torture, in violation of Article 3 [of the European human rights convention].”

Holding Macedonia “responsible for [El-Masri’s] torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the U.S. authorities in the context of an extra-judicial rendition,” the ECHR found that Macedonia had repeatedly violated El-Masri’s rights and therefore the court ordered €60,000 (£49,000, $78,500) in damages.

Decisions of the ECHR are final and binding on the 47 member-states of the Council of Europe and cannot be appealed.

Macedonia’s Lawyer, Kostadin Bogdanov, said Macedonia would pay the damages and perhaps take other actions, including reopening the El-Masri investigation and amending laws regarding criminal procedures or their implementation.

El-Masri’s lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, said of his client: “He lost his confidence in the system of rights that the democratic world celebrates. I hope this will give him a little bit more confidence again that even a little person who has come into a crime of great nations has the chance to have his rights.”

James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and another lawyer for El-Masri, said the ruling “serves as a wake-up call to the U.S. government and judiciary to re-examine how the CIA has treated rendition victims. … and offers an opportunity to re-examine the [U.S.] position of looking forward instead of backward.”

However, The ECHR does not have jurisdiction over the United States.  With respect to the U.S., its decision stands simply as a condemnation of improper “war on terror” tactics, specifically the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary renditions” programs, and of the failure of the American justice system to grant El-Masri or others judicial relief.  The decision also represents the first time the ECHR has described acts by the C.I.S. as torture.

Jamil Dakwar, the head of the A.C.L.U.’s human rights program, described the struggle to persuade the Obama administration to hold officials accountable under international law for El-Masri’s mistreatment as “an uphill battle,” but that the ECHR’s ruling “gives the Obama administration the opportunity to acknowledge the egregious violations against Khaled, offer an official apology and reparation.”

UN special reporter on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, further commented on the significance of the ruling, calling it “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture.”

Coincidently, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also voted Thursday to adopt a 6,000 page report, based on a three-year review of more than 6 million pieces of information on controversial C.I.A. practices including waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.  The report, believed to conclude that Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, however, remains classified.

“The committee took an important step toward making sure that history will not repeat itself.  The investigation and report are also an important precedent for establishing checks and balances between Congress and a CIA that has often flouted both the law and American values,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Only by knowing what happened at the CIA can Congress ensure that it does not happen again.”

For further information, please see:

ACLU – Senate Intelligence Committee Adopts Report on CIA’s Use of Torture and Abuse – 13 December 2012

ECHR – EL-MASRI v. “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA” – 13 December 2012 (full case text)

Guardian – CIA ‘Tortured and Sodomised’ Terror Suspect, Human Rights Court Rules – 13 December 2012

Guardian – European court of human rights finds against CIA abuse of Khaled el-Masri – 13 December 2012

Huffington Post – Khaled El-Masri, German Allegedly Kidnapped By CIA In Afghanistan, Wins Case – 13 December 2012

New York Times – Court Finds Rights Violation in C.I.A. Rendition Case – 13 December 2012

New York Times – Rendition Condemned – 13 December 2012

RFE/RL – Court Finds Macedonia Responsible In U.S. Rendition Case – 13 December 2012

British Prime Minister Statement on Patrick Finucane

Russia “Gaga” over Homosexuality Promotion Debate

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – In the latest showing of Russia’s struggle with homosexuality, international pop star Lady Gaga has run afoul of “homosexual propaganda” laws in St. Petersburg.  During her Sunday concert in the city, Lady Gaga made a call for respect for gay rights, attracting the ire of Putin ally and United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov, who spearheaded the St. Petersburg ban on homosexual promotion.

Long-time advocate of LGBT rights, Lady Gaga spoke out at her concert in St. Petersburg on Sunday. (Photo Courtesy of GlobalPost)

Milonov, a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, promised to lodge a formal complaint with St. Petersburg prosecutors, accusing Lady Gaga of encouraging 12-year-olds to support the LGBT cause.  He told a Russian paper “We will contact prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies to carry out a thorough investigation of the situation. . . When people tell kids ‘you must support sexual minorities’, that can create a false equivalence for them between traditional and non-traditional relationships.”

Attempts were also made, but failed, to place an under-18 ban on concert attendance.  Lady Gaga told local media offstage that she’d been threatened with arrest or heavy fines if she mentioned gay rights.

The controversy surrounding Lady Gaga invokes a comparison to a case involving Madonna earlier this August, who, after a concert in St. Petersburg, was charged with “inciting religious hatred and offending cultural traditions” and faced a potential fine of $11 million.  A district court dropped the charges this November after a trial in absentia, but only after the pop celebrity had spent $10.7 million in legal fees.

The law in St. Petersburg, passed last March, criminalizes “public action directed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors.”  St. Petersburg is one of three major cities to have recently passed such a law, which primarily imposes fines.  However, the scope of what constitutes “propaganda” is not clear, although gay rights protesters have been arrested under the law.  The United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled this and similar laws discriminatory and a violation of freedom of expression.  Advocates say that the few human rights hard won for the LGBT community are disappearing under the law.  Although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, hostility against gays and lesbians remains widespread in Russia.

“This law will be applied against people who take to the streets, against journalists who write things that displease authorities, against those who simply defend their rights,” says Igor Kochetkov, the head of the LGBT Network, a gay-rights group in St. Petersburg.

Furthermore, on December 19, the Duma (the lower chamber of Russia’s national legislator) will consider similar legislation that would impose fines for promoting homosexuality to anyone under 18.  Russia’s Code of Administrative Law Violations would be amended so that individuals found responsible for “propaganda for homosexuality among minors” could be fined up to 5,000 rubles (US$160), and organizations could be fined up to 500,000 rubles (US$16,000).  However, the legislation fails to define “propaganda,” “homosexuality,” or “among minors.”

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch, explains that “[t]he draft law’s language is so vague that it could undermine any public efforts to address rampant discrimination of LGBT people in Russia.”

Dittrich further comments: “The proposed provisions attack the fundamental right to free speech, deny LGBT people equal rights, and violate Russia’s obligations under international and Russian law.”

Russia’s own Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has voiced his opposition to the legislation, saying that “not all relations between people can be regulated by law.”

On Saturday, before her “promotional” concert in St. Petersburg, Lady Gaga tweeted to say she thanks the PM for “not standing by your party’s anti-gay propaganda law.”

For further information, please see:

St. Petersburg Times – Art Exhibition Sparks Outcry – 12 December 2012

Global Post – Russian Lawmaker Goes after Lady Gaga on Gay Rights –11 December 2012

Human Rights Watch – Russia: Reject Homophobic Bill –10 December 2012

Moscow Times – Lady Gaga Thanks Medvedev for Opposing Anti-Gay Laws – 10 December 2012

RFE/RL – Being Gay In St. Petersburg Gets Even Harder – 25 June 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Monday, 10 December 2012

Justify Yourself, Mr. President!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 10, 2012 

The Obama Administration needs to explain in clear terms and soon its decision to declare Jabhat Al-Nusra as a terrorist group at this particular juncture. Despite being critical of Al-Nusra themselves, too many rebels and activists see in this move an attempt at quashing the armed struggle in favor of a political solution that would accommodate the interests of all and sundry, except those of the revolutionaries. But it’s not only this decision that seems problematic to the revolutionaries, it’s the entire about-face that the Obama Administration did in its stance on the Syrian Revolution that remains unexplained and, hence, subject to misunderstandings. The desire to be so involved in steering the process at this stage is being interpreted as an attempt at appropriating the advances recently made by rebels in order to retain some influence over them after the fall of Assad. While this might come as an oversimplification, as well as a misreading of the facts on the ground, it represents an ethos that is too widespread to be ignored. It’s time for some justifications: why has President Obama been so late in coming to the fore, and what endgame in Syria is he really seeking? It’s not enough to have Ambassador Ford explain Obama’s point-of-view to the opposition. It’s the Syrian people who need to be openly addressed by the Man himself.

Today’s Death Toll:142 (including 7 children and 11 women)

59 in Aleppo (including 10 in Shaikh Maksoud), 50 in Damascus and suburbs, 12 in Daraa, 9 in Idlib, 5 in Homs, 3 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama and 1 in Raqqa

Points of Random Shelling: 213


Regime forces carried out aerial raids against Alkhadra village in Latakia as well as Talbisseh and Houla in Homs using cluster bombs, and Erbin in Damascus suburbs using phosphorous bombs. In Damascus, rebels liberate the Art Institution in Harasta, previously used by pro-regime militias, shelled the military airports in Deir Ezzor and Mazzeh (Damascus) (LCC)



Syria to U.N.: ‘Serious fear’ it will be framed for the use of chemical weapons

Syria Crisis: Rebels Capture Parts Of Sheik Suleiman Army Base Near Aleppo

Inside Syria: ABC News Reports on the Thousands of Displaced Syrian Refugees and the Threat of Chemical Warfare in the War Torn Country

US designates Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra front a ‘terrorist’ group at lightning speed

Syrian rebels defy US and pledge allegiance to jihadi group Rebel groups across Syria are defying the United States by pledging their allegiance to a group that Washington will designate today a terrorist organization for its alleged links to al-Qaeda.

Syrian economy to shrink 20 percent in 2012: IIF War-ravaged Syria’s economy will shrink by a fifth in 2012 and all its foreign reserves could be spent by the end of next year, a global finance industry association said on Monday.

Syria’s Assad Will Use Chemical Weapons, Says Former Weapons Program General He listed mustard gas along with the sarin, VX and tabun nerve agents as the main elements in Syria’s chemical arsenal, whose existence Syria doesn’t even acknowledge… “They’re idiots, crazy. Simply they are killers,” he said.

EU moves closer to full recognition of Syria opposition Alkhatib said he expected to get a decision on Wednesday from the EU over whether it would recognise the coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. “This is under discussion because the European countries each have their own point of view and they are debating the issue,” he told reporters after he left midway through the ministers’ meeting. “They will give the final answer in Marrakesh.”

EU: Syria war is ‘stain’ on world conscience The European Union, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said at the award ceremony on Monday that the conflict in Syria was “a stain” on the world’s conscience. “Let me say it from here today,” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. “The current situation in Syria is a stain on the world’s conscience and the international community has a moral duty to address it.”

Google trends: The moment Syria’s ‘revolution’ became a ‘civil war’ Google users are now almost three times as likely to search for “Syrian civil war” as they are for “Syrian revolution.” A week ago, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights warned that the country risked “a full-fledged civil war.” She’s probably a better judge than Google’s billion-plus users, but, according to the wisdom of this particular crowd, Syria has already crossed the line into civil war.


Special Reports

Syria rebels hope arms will flow to new fighter command
Despite using more effective battlefield tactics and acquiring more arms, the mainly Sunni Muslim fighters have so far lacked the firepower to deliver a decisive blow to Assad… “The Qataris and the Saudis gave us positive promises. We will see what will happen,” he said, adding that officials from Western countries, who also attended the meeting in Turkey, had not mentioned arming the rebels but talked about “sending aid”.

Caution urged over Syria chemical weapons
Privately, some western government officials say they think the use of CW by the Assad regime is unlikely. “He knows it would be a game changer that triggers outside intervention, which is why he probably won’t use them,” says one western official. “Nor are these weapons you can use with any safety in close combat guerrilla warfare.” Instead the much greater concern for the US and its allies, especially Israel, is that parts of the chemical arsenal will eventually fall into the hands of militant groups, such as Hizbollah and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra.

Inside Bashar al-Assad’s Army
But as Assad’s army weakens, rebels and analysts warn, it is also becoming more extreme in its fight for survival. And two of the grimmest scenarios observers have long feared—that Islamic extremism could come to dominate the rebel fight, and that Assad could decide to attack with chemical weapons—now look more likely than ever to take hold.

The guns have fallen silent in Homs – but the fear remains
The city brutalised by Assad is calm. But this is no easy peace.  Following up on yesterday’s post, the regime continues to pursue a line of action that seems designed to allow it to use chemical weapons while blaming the rebels for it. Today, the regime tells the U.N. that it fears it will be framed for using chemical weapons. So, now we have a video purporting to show rebels experimenting with chemical weapons, and threatening to use them to wipe out the Alawites, and a public protestation designed to build an alternate theory of the would-be crime. Things do not augur well indeed.


Video Highlights

This leaked video shows the storming of the Army Headquarters in Damascus that took place on September 26, 2012 The car that was brought into the compound was later detonated, and all the Jihadi elements were killed during the ensuing gun battles. The clip was made by a loyalist officer using his mobile phone to capture the video he was watching on a laptop. The original video was taken by security cameras of the compound. The officer was captured by rebels during recent clashes around Damascus.

An incendiary bomb lands in the town of Aqraba, Damascus, sending people scurrying in all directions thinking it was a chemical weapon People are convinced that Assad will be using chemical weapons against them.

A clip showing a reported WMDs storage facility In Mazzeh District on the periphery of Damascus City

A missile launcher recently won by rebels in Damascus suburbs

But the pounding of restive suburbs in Damascus continues: Yelda , Daraya Zabadani Douma , ,

Violent clashes take place in Harasta, Damascus , , , ,

Sounds of clashes in Salhiyeh Neighborhood in Damascus City

Rebels in Aleppo showcase their gains from their takeover of the military base of Sheikh Sulaiman

Magnitsky Sanctions Will be Discussed in Hearings in the Canadian Parliament Tomorrow

Press Release
Hermitage Capital

10 December 2012 – Tomorrow, Magnitsky sanctions will be discussed at hearings in the Parliament of Canada. William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, will speak at the Canadian Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Another speaker at the subcommittee is Vladimir Kara-Murza, from the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition. They will both discuss the case of Sergei Magnitsky, theimpunity of Russian officials who were involved in his false arrest, torture and death, and the need for Canada to adopt visa sanctions and asset freezes against those Russian officials who were involved in Magnitsky’s death.

Last year, Irwin Cotler MP and former Attorney General of Canada, introduced a piece of legislation into the Canadian Parliament entitled “An Act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky.”

This bill establishes a process by which the Canadian government must prepare a list of individuals responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the conspiracy to defraud the Russian federation of taxes paid by Hermitage Capital, and for efforts to shield those culpable of those gross violations of human rights. It imposes restrictions on the listed individuals and their family members, such that they are inadmissible for the purposes of entering or remaining in Canada.

The bill notes that “no objective official investigation has been conducted by the Russian government into the Magnitsky case, despite extensive documented evidence incriminating Russian officials in serious human rights violations, in the embezzlement of funds from the Russian treasury, and in the retaliation against Mr. Magnitsky”, and that those individual persons have not been “identified, apprehended and brought to justice in Russia.”

“The ongoing impunity, and indeed, in this instance shocking impunity, regarding Russian officials is as scandalous as it is shocking. This legislation would uphold the rule of law, would assure Russian human rights defenders that they are not alone, would protect Canadian business interests in Russia, and in particular would remember and honour the heroic sacrifice of Sergei Magnitsky. He acted on behalf of all of us in his protection of the rule of law,” said Irwin Cotler, MP.

For further information please contact:

Hermitage Capital
Phone:             +44 207 440 1777
Twitter:           @KatieFisher__
Livejournal:     //

Information on the session at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

Information on the An Act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky

Press Release: Human Rights Lawyers Incarcerated in Iran

10 December 2012 – On this year’s Human Rights Day, human rights lawyers like Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Abdolfattah Soltani and others are incarcerated in the jails of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) for their representation of clients in politically sensitive matters.  Threats to the independence of lawyers in the IRI have increased significantly in recent years, particularly with the passage of legislation designed to diminish the role of defense attorneys in the IRI’s legal system.  To provide a personalized view of these negative trends, IHRDC releases the witness testimony of Mahnaz Parakand, a renowned Iranian defense attorney who was forced to flee Iran on account of the pressures on her ability to do her job.  The full witness testimony can be read here.

Syrian May Be Gearing up to Use Chemical Weapons as U.S. Recognizes Opposition

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria– “The regime started to fall and deteriorate. It’s coming to its end,” said retired Major General Adnan Sillou in an interview in a hotel near Antakya, Turkey. Sillou, a former top general in President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces, is now sharing what he believes might be President Assad’s next move.

Former Syrian Major-General Andan Sillou. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

“It’s highly possible that he’ll start using [chemical weapons] to kill his own people because this regime is a killer,” Sillou said.

Sillou told ABC News that he was the chief of staff on the defensive side of the chemical weapons program. In addition to his responsibilities in training soldiers in attacks and contact with chemical weapons, he procured safety equipment to help guard the forces against the weapons. In his most recent post, he was second in command to Said Ali Khalil, a member of Assad’s ruling Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Syria does not officially acknowledge its chemical weapon program, but Sillou says the military has weapons that employ mustard gas, sarin, VW and tabun nerve agents. U.S. intelligence reports confirmed the presence of sarin as recently as last week. In fact, according to U.S. intelligence officials, sarin had already been mixed with its catalyst agent and loaded into bombs to await the final order from President al-Assad.

Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. In 1988, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used sarin in a single attack, killing 5,000 Kurds

“They’re idiots, crazy. Simply they are killers,” Sillou said of the Syrian regime. He believes that if Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, falls to the rebels President al-Assad won’t hesitate to deploy chemical weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clintong, has warned President Assad that if he used chemical weapons, he would “cross a red line.”

Today, U.S. President Barak Obama took U.S. support of the opposition to the next level by announcing that the U.S. now recognizes the Syrian opposition as a legitimate representation of the country’s people.

“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he told ABC’s Barbara Walters. Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council already recognized the opposition as legitimate.

But, as one U.S. official put it, if President al-Assad chooses to use chemical weapons, “there’s little the outside world can do to stop it.”


For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – U.S. Recognizes Syrian Opposition – 11 Dec. 2012

CNN – Obama Recognizes Syrian Opposition – 11 Dec. 2012

ABC – Syria’s Assad Will Use Chemical Weapons, Says Former General, Now Defector – 10 Dec. 2012

NBC – Syria Loads Chemical Weapons into Bombs; Military Awaits Assad’s Order – 6 Dec. 2012

Nobel Laureate and author Mo Yan likens censorship to airport security checks

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Mo Yan, the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012, refused to sign an appeal, supported by 134 other Nobel laureates, calling for the immediate release of detained Chinese rights activist and former Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo.

Mo Yan, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, speaks in Stockholm. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Former Nobel Peace prize winners,  African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Taiwanese-American chemist Yuan Lee, are among the supporters that characterized Liu Xiaobo’s eleven year prison term as a heinous violation of international law.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, has also been detained, serving out her sentence under house arrest concurrently with her husband’s.  Liu Xia is under 24 hour guarded surveillance in her downtown Beijing apartment with no internet or phone line to connect her to the outside world.

When asked about his opinion regarding his fellow Nobel laureate and compatriot, Liu Xiaobo, Mo Yan refused to answer and told reporters that if they wanted to know his opinion, they should search the internet for the statements that he made back in October when it was first announced he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested and imprisoned by the Chinese government for his criticism of the Communist party and his call for democratic reforms.  The Chinese government accused Liu Xiaobo of interfering with the central government’s internal affairs as well as creating issues for the country abroad.

Mo Yan stated, in regards to China’s censorship of Liu Xiaobo, that censorship is necessary to guard against defamation or the spread of damaging false rumors.  He did, however, say that censorship should not stand in the way of the truth.

The Chinese author likened the practice of censorship to airport security checks, reinforcing his assertion that censorship was indeed a necessary tool.  Mo Yan conveyed that when he was passing through airport security, they wanted to check Yan for any dangerous items, making him take off his belt and shoes.  He believes that censorship is as necessary as these airport security checkpoints.

Herta Muller, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009, called Mo Yan’s award a “catastrophe.”  Hu Jia, a dissident of the Communist Chinese government also expressed his disappointment, wondering why Yan could not even say one sentence in support of Liu Xiaobo.

Mo Yan maintained that he is an independent thinker and will not be bullied into adopting ideas or making statements that are not his own.  He insisted that this is an outlook he has adopted for years and that his prize is about literature and not politics.

The 57 year old author’s real name is Guan Moye.  He adopted the pen name “Mo Yan” for his literary works, which, when translated into English means, “don’t speak.”

For further information, please see:

Shanghai Daily – Mo Yan likens censorship to security checks at airports – 7 December 2012

The Guardian – Censorship is a must, says China’s Nobel winner – 6 December 2012

Reuters – Chinese Nobel winner dodges call for laureate’s freedom – 6 December 2012

The Wall Street Journal – Detained China Nobel Wife Speaks Out – 6 December 2012