Egypt’s Opposition Refuses Morsi’s Offer of Dialogue

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi is still under attack for granting himself sweeping powers as protests continue. Now, the opposition has refused to open a dialogue with him.

Egypt’s Republican Guard has deployed a number of tanks to protect the presidential palace. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

President Morsi invited all major political factions to meet Saturday to begin talks regarding the Presidential decree reducing the Judiciary’s power. In that decree, issued on 22 November, President Morsi stripped the Judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions until the new constitution is ratified. Since then, Egypt has been in political turmoil.

This past Thursday, President Morsi refused to withdraw his new powers and delay a referendum on the draft constitution. Instead, President Morsi confirmed that the referendum on a new constitution will go ahead as planned, on the  December 15. He says that if the constitution is  voted down at that time, another constituent assembly will be formed to write a new draft.

The current draft, drawn up by a body dominated by Morsi-supporting Islamists, did not receive a proper review by parliament, according to critics. Opposition to the current draft point out that it may not give enough protection to political and religious freedoms and dos not protect the rights of women.

The main opposition movement, the National Salvation Front, said on Friday it would not take part in Saturday’s talks.

“The National Salvation Front is not taking part in the dialogue, that is the official stance,” spokesman Ahmed Said confirmed in a statement.Nobel prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, the movement’s chief coordinator, posted a message on his Twitter account calling on political groups to not participate in any dialogues with President Morsi. He said,  “we [want] a dialogue not based on an arm-twisting policy and imposing fait accompli,” in his message on Twitter.

Other opposition groups, the liberal Wafd party and the National Association for Change, also claimed they are boycotting the talks.

The April 6 movement, an activist group that played a major role in last year’s revolt against former President Hosni Mubarak, said on its Facebook page that protests on Friday would deliver a “red card” to Mr Morsi.

Protests have taken place in Egypt since Morsi’s decree and the constitution draft has caused tension to heighten and divisions to widen. New clashes have been reported on Friday between supporters and opponents of President Morsi outside a mosque in the city of Alexandria.

US President Barack Obama called President Morsi to express his “deep concern” over the recent violent protests, the White House said. Although President Obama welcomed Mr Morsi’s call for talks, he stressed they should be “without preconditions.”

For more information, please see: 

Al Jazeera – Egypt Opposition Rejects Morsi Dialogue Offer – 7 Dec. 2012

BBC – Egypt Opposition Rejects President Morsi’s Call for Talks – 7 Dec. 2012

CNN – Opposition Demonstrators again Gather to Challegen Egypt’s Morsy – 7 Dec. 2012

USA Today – Egypt Opposition Calls for More Protests – 7 Dec. 2012

Amsterdam Plans to Move Nuisance Neighbors to Container Housing

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Authorities in the Dutch capital city have announced plans to evict and rehouse families who have been a persistent nuisance to their neighbors or  police in container homes in  an isolated part of the city.

The purposed shipping container residences for nuisance offenders would be similar to those used as student housing pictured above. (Photo Courtesy of Daily Mail)

The plan has been defended by authorities as a means to prevent bullying of innocent neighbors and reduce anti-social behavior.  While innocent neighbors are often forced to leave due to trouble, the city council wants to reverse this trend.

Describing the current trend, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan had said “This is the world turned upside down.”

Council member Tahira Limon further explained: “Our plan is to combat bullying.  Usually people are scared to report problems for fear of intimidation. It’s an upside down world and we want to change it so the people who cause the problems are moved.”

Authorities further assert that the council’s rules would only be enforced against offenders in extreme cases, such as if gay people were being harassed or if police witnesses were being intimidated.

However, under the plans which would take effect in January, offenders identified as nuisances, including families, would be rehoused for a period of 6 months or more, in a residence made from an industrial shipping container, away from the public, under 24-hour watch of police and social workers.  There they would have access to only “minimal services.”

A special hotline and system for reporting complaints to the authorities is also planned.  On average, Amsterdam receives 13,000 such complaints of anti-social behavior every year.

Presently, Amsterdam has special squads in place to identify offenders for compulsory six month behavioral courses.  A special team of city hall officials is now being created to identify offenders who, if their behavior does not improve, will be subject to the rehousing program.  Social housing problem tenants who do not show improvement or refuse to move to the cargo unit residences face eviction and homelessness.

Mayor van der Laan had tabled the 1 million € (£800,000; $1.3 million) plan several past years.  However, some smaller scale, 10 shipping container residences have already been experimentally created for persistent offenders in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The Amsterdam council denies that it is creating a ghetto, and assets that is the last thing it wants to do. A spokesman for the council told the BBC that a ghetto full of troublemakers would just become a “hotbed for more trouble.”

Some have observed that the city council’s plan bears a resemblance to a proposal last year from Geert Wilders, the leader of a populist, anti-Islam, Right-wing party.

In an interview, Wilders was quoted as saying: “Repeat offenders should be forcibly removed from their neighborhood and sent to a village for scum.  They will then be put into converted containers as homes. If juveniles are involved, their families should be moved too. Put all the trash together.”

Although a spokesman for the mayor has denied association with Wilders’ proposal, Wilders’ rhetoric has led to such rehousing projects being called “scum villages.”

Instead, the mayor’s spokesman explained that the cargo container residences would serve to enforce good behavior.  “The aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent.”

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Amsterdam Plan to Rehouse Serial Nuisance Neighbours – 4 December 2012

The Telegraph – Amsterdam to Create ‘Scum Villages’ – 3 December 2012

Dutch News – Amsterdam Plans Caravan Exile for Nasty Neighbours – 30 November 2012

Dutch News – Set up Special Villages Away from Normal Folk for ‘Scum’, Says Wilders – 10 February 2011

California Church To Host Muslim Convention Despite Hate Mail

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — Church leaders in California are not backing down from plans to host a Muslim convention despite receiving hate mail and threats from across the country.

Salam al-Marayati (podium), President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and clergy at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., address hate messages they have received about an upcoming Muslim convention at the church. (Photo Courtesy of the Pasadena Sun)

All Saints Church in Pasadena will host the 12th annual Muslim Public Affairs Council convention on Dec. 15.  The event is expected to draw about 1,000 people.

Officials for the church, known for its liberal positions, said the 25 messages they have received since Friday are unlike other criticisms the church usually receives.

One message called Muslims “Body Snatchers” and compared them to Nazis, said Rev. Susan Russell.  Another message warned the church was “[c]onsorting with the Enemy that is Killing Christians Worldwide.

Russell said the church’s rector described the messages as “some of the most vile, mean-spirited emails” he’d ever read, especially the ones about the church participating in terrorism.  But she said All Saints hoped that hosting the event would send the opposite message.

“We want to light a candle of hope as Christians this Advent season that people of different faiths can stand in solidarity against polarization and for mobilization around our common values,” Russell said.

MPAC, a Muslim civil rights group, is hosting its annual convention at a church for the first time.  The group’s president, Salam al-Marayati, said the reason for doing so was to promote an interfaith dialogue.

“When we approached Rev. Ed Bacon to have the convention [at All Saints Church], he opened this church, which to us is a safe space for conversations,” al-Marayati said.

Church leaders said the hate mail was prompted, in part, by an online posting from the conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy.  The Contra Costa Times published a criticism posted on the Institute’s website that said, “Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naïve Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance.”

But organizers said they would not let opponents get in their way of holding the convention.

“This is what we have to say to the fear mongers: We want to convert you,” al-Marayati said.

“We don’t want to convert you to our religions, but we want to convert you so we can remove hatred and prejudice in your hearts and replace it with understanding and security,” he continued.

Church leaders said they were working with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security to make sure the convention is a safe place from the threats.

For further information, please see:

Contra Costa Times — Pasadena Episcopal Church Hosting Muslim Convention Gets Hate Emails — 6 December 2012

KTLA News — Pasadena Church Gets Threats over Muslim Convention — 6 December 2012

LAist.com — Hate Mail to Pasadena Church Hosting Muslim Event Calls Islamists ‘Body Snatchers,’ ‘The Enemy’ — 6 December 2012

Pasadena Sun — All Saints Church Receives Threats over Muslim Convention — 6 December 2012

Democratic Republic of the Congo Prepares Peace Talks with Rebels

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo—A United Nation’s spokesperson said yesterday that the humanitarian and security situation in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to be fragile even as the United Nations continues to aid the country on both fronts.

M23 rebels walks out of Goma as the occupation came to an end. (Photo Courtesy of Voice of America News)

The province of North Kivu, in the eastern region, has been in a state of upheaval since the region’s capital city, Goma, has been occupied by the M23 rebel group. The group is composed of a number of soldiers who mutinied in April of this year against the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s own national army. The rebels have defeated the Congolese army in a number of battles earlier this year.

The insurgency of M23 rebels has lasted for eight months now and poses one of the biggest threats to the current Congolese President Joseph Kabila. Any new risks of this conflict developing into a war may even draw in armies from neighboring countries. Further, the fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people in the Congo’s North Kivu province, creating an even more unstable and serious humanitarian issue in the region.

As concerns were brought to the United Nations, the international organization began to send in its own peacekeepers to help with the stabilization of the region. Since the United Nation’s began its monitoring process, the M23 fighters withdrew from the city this past weekend—one of the requirements laid out by a local regional group, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region. United Nations spokesperson Martin Kesirky told reporters that, “in North Kivu, the withdrawal of the M23 rebel group has continued. The Congolese army is deploying back to Sake, west of Goma.”

On another note, a panel of United Nations experts recently accused both Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the group. Both countries deny these allegations.

The United Nations is not the only group attacking this problem. The Congolese government and the eastern rebels are expected to get together later this week to being their own negotiation process, noted regional officials on Tuesday after the group finally withdrew from Goma.

 

For further information, please see:

Council on Foreign Relations – Congo’s Weak Peace Process – 6 December 2012

Voice of America News – Congo Government, Rebels Prepare for Talks – 6 December 2012

All Africa News – Situation in DR Congo’s Kivu Provinces Remain Fragile – 5 December 2012

The Telegraph – Peace Talks with Congo Rebels Expected This Week – 4 December 2012

Sri Lankan Police Arrest Student protesters suspected of terrorism

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government arrested and detained multiple alleged terrorists last week after a clash between police security forces and student protestors at Jaffna University.

Sri Lankan police arrest students in Jaffna. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Students at Jaffna University were organizing a celebration of “Maveerar Naal,” Martyr’s Day, to commemorate fallen Tamil Tigers, a separatist movement which was quashed in 2009.  The celebration of Maveerar Naal is seen as separatism which is illegal under the current Sri Lankan government’s anti-terrorism laws.

The separatist movement, the Tamil Tigers, fought with the present Sri Lankan government in a civil war in hopes of achieving an independent Tamil state in their northern and eastern homelands.  After their defeat in 2009, the Tamils have suffered systematic repression at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

Four of the main student leaders organizing the event to commemorate fallen Tamil Tigers were brutally attacked, arrested and detained by police.  Around 400 peaceful, unarmed students were also attacked by police security forces for their demonstrations against the unfairness of the arrests and the government’s bar on their right to protest.

The police also broke into and ransacked the rooms of a women’s student hostel.  The violent actions of the Sri Lankan police security forces are viewed by many in the Tamil community as a continual strategy for intimidating and punishing the subpopulation for their prior separatist activities.

Although the civil war has ended and the Tamil fighters have long been disarmed, the central Sri Lankan government continues their assault on the civil rights of the Tamil population.  The government has gone as far as stripping the Tamil population of their Sri Lankan citizenship.

In addition to the four main student organizers who were arrested and labeled as suspected terrorists, official reports say that as many as 20-25 more suspects have been arrested and detained in connection with this outbreak of violence against student protestors in Jaffna.

The Sri Lankan police and government officials assured the public that their anti-terrorist activities and violent assaults and arrests of the alleged terrorists are entirely legal.  The police say they have followed proper procedures and have informed all of the suspects’ families of the proceedings and the specific locations of where the suspects are being held.

However, the families of some of the suspects say that they have been kept in the dark regarding the arrests of their family members.  One family says that they received information on the arrest of their son long after the arrest occurred and only after they alerted the local human rights officials.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Sri Lanka arrests: Jaffna police detain ‘terror’ suspects – 6 December 2012

Socialist Worker Online – Tamil students and lecturers strike in Jaffna against repression – 6 December 2012

Tamilnet – Sri Lanka intensifies terror campaign against Tamil students – 6 December 2012

Sri Lanka Internet Newspaper – Sri Lanka Tamil parties protest in Jaffna against arrest of students – 4 December 2012

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka – Jaffna student leader, three others arrested in midnight raid – 2 December 2012

The Washington Post – US expresses concern about attack on student demonstration in Sri Lanka’s former war zone – 29 November 2012

Kim Kardashian: Her Milkshakes Bring the Hardcore Islamists to Protest

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – Earlier this week, American celebrity Kim Kardashian arrived in Bahrain to promote the new Middle Eastern franchises of the Millions of Milkshakes chain. Her visit to Bahrain brought delight to Sheikh Khalifa and his regime, anger to hardcore Islamists, and mixed emotions to many human rights activists.

Kim Kardashian poses in front of camels during her trip to Bahrain. (Photo Courtesy of Al Arabiya)

Bahrain’s human rights report card has been far from stellar over the past couple of years. The regime’s security forces have tear-gassed and killed protesters, detained and tortured demonstrators, tortured and jailed medics who helped the demonstrators, and its government has changed the law to curtail freedom of expression and has revoked the citizenship of individuals.

Many human rights activists like Maryam Al-Khawaja were hoping that Kim Kardashian would actively use her presence in Bahrain to shed light on the human rights tragedies that were taking place within the country. Such people would ultimately be disappointed as Kardashian, or at least her twitter personality, would be used as a propaganda tool of the regime.

Instead of highlighting injustice, she documented her encounter with camels in the desert and her glass of camel milk. She also tweeted, “I just got to Bahrain today. This place is incredible! Prettiest place on earth!” which was re-Tweeted by Bahrain’s foreign minister.

Furthermore, she Tweeted, “Thanks Sheikh Khalifa for your amazing hospitality. I’m in love with The Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Tweets like these upset the likes of the Washington Post’s Foreign Policy analyst March Lynch who believes that, “Kardashian’s visit generates positive publicity for a Bahraini regime which carried out an unspeakably brutal crackdown last year, continues a fierce campaign of repression and has been utterly unrepentant.”

In the end, however, Kardashian’s visit would expose some of the human rights violations that take place in Bahrain. Upon her arrival to the country, fifty hardcore Islamists were waiting for her, carrying signs like “God is Great.” These protesters denounced her presence stating that she had a “bad reputation” and believed that “it is not part of Bahraini culture and traditions to receive [a] reality star.”

These protesters were dispersed by teargas fired by riot police which has become a normal practice when individuals gather to demonstrate.

Kim Kardashian may not have intended to take part in the revealing of the Bahraini regime’s human rights abuses, but her notoriety turned the tear-gassing of the Islamic hardliners into a newsworthy event. For this reason, human rights activists can be happy that Kardashian visited Bahrain.

For further information, please see:

Avaaz Daily Briefing – Kim Kardashian Sheikhs Things up in Bahrain – 5 December 2012

Washington Post – Why People are so Upset About Kim Kardashian’s odd Visit to Bahrain – 3 December 2012

Al Arabiya – ‘Prettiest Place on Earth’: Kim Kardashian in Love with Bahrain – 2 December 2012

Guardian – Bahrain Police Deploy Teargas at Anti-Kim Kardashian Protest – 1 December 2012

 

Cardin Statement on Status of the Magnitsky Act

Press Release
Office of Senator Cardin

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and author of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, made the following statement regarding his legislation:

“I am pleased that the Senate finally will be voting on passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. In the memory of one courageous Russian, we are setting a precedent for future trade agreements that tells the world that gross violators of human rights cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act. Visiting the United States and having access to our financial system, including U.S. dollars, are privileges that should not be extended to those who violate basic human rights and the rule of law.

We are creating a precedent for future trade agreements

“This bill may only apply to Russia, but it sets a standard that should be applied globally. I encourage other nations to follow our lead. I will continue to work with my bipartisan cosponsors towards passage of the Magnitsky sanctions for other countries so that human rights violators in all corners of the world understand that the United States is still committed to the universal cause of liberty and human dignity for those who stand up against oppression.”

For further information please contact:
Sue Walitsky: 202-224-4524 or 202-320-0819

Syrian Revolution Digest: Tuesday 4 December 2012

Patriots for Turkey! Disdain for Rebels!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 4, 2012 

Wariness over providing support to rebel groups is legitimate and understandable, but it is becoming increasingly untenable. At one point the U.S. will have to secure Syria’s WMDs stockpiles. Without rebel cooperation, the task, which is already daunting, would become impossible. The U.S. needs to cultivate goodwill among rebel groups in Syria, and for this, it needs to begin providing them with the support they need in their battle to reclaim the country from the psychopaths in charge.

 Today’s Death Toll: 184  (including 1 woman and 33 children)

110 in Damascus and suburbs (including 40 in Bahdalieh and 30 students martyred when regime forces shelled a school in the Wafideen camp), 21 in Aleppo, 17 in Homs, 12 in Daraa, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Idlib, 5 in Hama, and 1 from Tartous killed in Idlib.

Points of Random Shelling: 245

Clashes143

Rebels blocked several attempts at storming   different towns in Eastern Ghoutah Region in Damascus and shelled the Military Airport of Deir Ezzor (LCC).

 

News

Syria crisis: Nato approves Patriots for Turkey

NATO warns Syria not to use chemical weapons

Syria Says 29 Students Killed in Mortar Attack

CNN: Looking at Syria’s chemical weapons

 

Special Reports

Brian Whitaker: Six pointers to Assad’s fall
Each day’s news brings more reasons to believe the Assad regime’s fall cannot be far away. Viewed individually these signs may not in themselves spell doom for the regime but collectively they do: 1) Withdrawal of UN and diplomatic personnel, 2) Jihad Makdissi flees, 3) Damascus airport [closed], 4) Internet shutdown, 5) US reviewing its options, and 6) Chemical weapons.

Are Syria’s rebels about to win?
Syrian rebels have made significant gains in recent weeks as support for Assad shows signs of fraying.

Is Russia About To Ditch Syria? The Truth Is That It May Not Matter
…if you’re going to go the humanitarian intervention route you can’t have “overthrow Assad” as the stopping point. In fact, overthrowing Assad has to be the beginning of a very lengthy process of political reconciliation in an extraordinarily tense and dangerous environment.

In Damascus, Bracing For The Worst
For many months, Damascus was spared the worst of the fighting. But amid the increasing battles in and around the city, almost every Damascene household seems to be doubling or tripling up with extended family.

The Confessions of a Sniper: A Rebel Gunman in Aleppo and His Conscience
Like many men on the front line, the Sniper has found solace in religion, but his is a politicized form of Islam. He speaks admirably of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group that has been responsible for some of the most spectacular suicide bombings against regime targets. “They are clean and doing good work,” he says. He wants to join them, if he can “cleanse” his body and mind, he says pointing to a red pack of Gauloises cigarettes. A day later, he quit smoking.

Syrian refugees face brutal winter with inadequate shelter and food
The Syrians who walked 18 hours to seek refuge in Lebanon have escaped the fear of government attack. But with the brutal winter closing in, some would rather go back home to warfare.

As fighting subsides, Aleppo residents find little left
Skyrocketing food prices and shortages mean some Syrian children are eating only one small meal a day, if that. Residents in one Aleppo neighborhood have taken matters into their own hands, collecting money to buy food for the neediest — but it’s never enough.

As Syria Unravels, Russia Tries to Bolster Future Position
Inside Syria, Russian envoys are meeting opposition politicians. Two weeks from now, Russia will support a meeting in Italy of what it hopes will be a pro-Russian group: the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change.

How Would Assad Use Chemical Weapons?
Upholding the U.S. declaration requires readiness to commit armed forces to eliminating Syria’s CW capability and punishing the regime and its forces for using them. It means having military assets earmarked or in place to act quickly with overwhelming force, and to deal with the post-attack environment. It does not mean relying on diplomacy as the sole or even main response. Failure to respond with force to any use of chemical weapons would be dire. The regime would see it as a signal to conduct more attacks, and the opposition would see it as a complete abandonment.

Condoleezza Rice: We’ve Waited ‘Very Late’ to Intervene in Syria
The former secretary of state, speaking at the Women in the World Summit, addresses reports that chemical weapons are being readied by the Syrian government.

Syrian rebels riding momentum to Damascus
The fighting follows a number of gains for opposition forces in the north of Syria, which has sparked optimism among Syrians hoping for the downfall of the Assad regime.

‘Sun setting’ on US chance to shape Syria’s transition
Pro-democracy activists are concerned that US and Western reticence is inadvertently handing the initiative to radical Islamist forces which receive considerable financial and military assistance from the Gulf.

Follow this link to register for FDD’s Washington Forum 2012 “Dictators & Dissidents”

 

Video Highlights

Activists in Damascus produce their own video reportage on the siege of Damascus International Airport, getting within a hundred meters of the airport fence. Loyalist troops are nowhere to be seen, choosing to barricade themselves inside the fence. The local rebel commander says that the only reason they decided to target the airport is to cut off the regime supply lines of weapons http://youtu.be/7gQSgXToOL0

In Douma, Damascus, this video, found on the mobile phone of a loyalist soldier, document the last stand of a group of Alawite loyalists before rebels took over their position http://youtu.be/_oivjlNR7zE

A massacre in nearby Diyabiyeh http://youtu.be/ATMyfKU497I

Missile launchers in Mazzeh Airport in Damascus City target Daraya and other restive suburbs to the south of Damascus http://youtu.be/6OsAle_qCQo

Rebels in Damascus showcase some of the missiles that they have gained during their recent operationshttp://youtu.be/mj2oQio0j6k

Rebels showcase a tank they have gained in their operations near Agrab, Homs http://youtu.be/SOfMfGHpk5Y they also say that the random shelling does not discriminate between Sunni and Alawite inhabitants, albeit the shelling does come from nearby Alawite villages http://youtu.be/-cDHH_xPOBY

Rebels move to lay siege to Manag Military Airport, Aleppo Province http://youtu.be/YnpYMiRHLDU

Fears of a chemical attack prompted some activists to make a video on how a makeshift gas mask can be madehttp://youtu.be/B1i_Dues4Q8

Activists in Kafrenbel, Idlib, risk life and limb to document the impact of shelling on their communityhttp://youtu.be/UEb8IoT7_Lo

At Least Four Dead after Pro and Anti-Morsi Supporters Clash in Cairo

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — The Health Ministry reported that at least 4 people were killed, and 350 people were injured in Cairo as supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clashed near the presidential palace last Tuesday.

Anti-Morsi demonstrators clashed with his supporters in front of the presidential palace last Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy of Al Arabiya)

It is reported that pro-Morsi demonstrators tried to break up an opposition sit-in.  The leaders of the opposition accused the Muslim Brotherhood of creating violence.  Fighting continued between the two parties into Thursday morning, as both sides threw stones and Molotov cocktails at each other.  Pro-Morsi supporters ransacked tents erected by the opposition in front of the palace last Tuesday, claiming that they found drugs and alcohol within them.  Witnesses claim that they saw Morsi supporters throw stones and use clubs to attack anti-Morsi demonstrators.  The Interior Ministry claims that thirty-two people were arrested.  Protests spread throughout Egypt as the offices of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Ismalia and Suez were torched.  Morsi’s opponents were heard chanting “no to dictatorship,” while their rivals responded with “defending Morsi is defending Islam.”

Because of the crisis, three members of the Presidential Advisory Council, Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Al-Sayyad, and Amr Al-Leithy, announced their resignation.  Dr. Ahmed El-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of the powerful Al-Azhar Mosque, called for Egyptians to engage in dialogue.

Earlier on Wednesday, Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said that the constitutional referendum is still scheduled for December 15, but that the “door for dialogue” remained open, suggesting that it would still be possible to make changes to the document after it is voted in.  In a press conference last Wednesday, Mekki urged for consensus, saying that opposition demands must be respected to overcome the crisis.

Opposition leader Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Secretary-General of the Arab League said that Morsi must make a formal offer for dialogue if his opponents were to take Mekki’s requests seriously.  “We are ready when there is something formal, something expressed in definite terms, we will not ignore it,” said Moussa in a press conference held last Wednesday night with pro-opposition leaders Mohamed El-Baradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi.  The three men blamed Morsi for the violence that occurred in front of the presidential palace.  “He has lost the moral legitimacy to lead Egypt,” said Sabbahi.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, believe that the opposition leaders are to blame for the violence.  “It’s very sad to see opposition leaders such as El-Baradei, Hamdeen, and Amr Moussa to resort to such levels of talk, said Gehad El-Haddad Senior Advisor to the Freedom and Justice Party, in an interview with Al Jazeera.  “Such disrespect to the sanctity of peaceful protesting, within the context of democracy is very alarming.”

For further information, please see:

Al Arabiya — At Least one Killed as Anti-Mursi Protests Flare Outside Cairo’s Presidential Palace — 5 December 2012

Al Jazeera — Several Killed in Egypt Clashes — 5 December 2012

BBC News — Egypt Crisis: Fatal Cairo Clashes Amid Constituion row — 5 December 2012

Daily News Egypt — Egypt Crisis Escalates — 5 December 2012

Syria Deeply Clarifies Media Coverage

By Emily Schneider
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

After 630 days of conflict in Syria and confusion in the media coverage, Syria Deeply, a new media outlet, is  synthesizing information sources following the conflict into one easily accessible and user-friendly site.

Syria Deeply is “an independent digital media project led by journalists and technologists, exploring a new model of storytelling around a global crisis,” according to the site’s “about us” section. The comprehensive coverage of daily events could quickly make the website an indispensible resource for both individuals and other media sites following the Syrian conflict.

The site focuses on taking information from other news sites and social media sites and making it more digestible for the reader. Using a dashboard type interface, it offers users a quick look at the headlines for the day while also providing links to background coverage that gives context to current issues.

The homepage offers readers a chance to explore a multitude of media outlets all in a single place. About 25% of Syria Deeply’s content is original, the other 75% is populated from static material. For instance, the homepage displays links to news stories about Syria that headline that day and Tweets focused on the conflict.

Another area highlights stories from civilians personally experiencing the conflict. In a visually impressive portion of the homepage, an interactive map shows areas of high fatalities and refugees and exactly where trending videos are being filmed. One of the most original features on the site is the “defection tracker” that shows all the Syrian government officials and military members who have defected.

“Our goal is to build a better user experience of the story by adding context to content, using the latest digital tools of the day. Over time the hope is to add greater clarity, deeper understanding, and more sustained engagement to the global conversation,” the Syrian Deeply site says.

Lara Setrakian, the co-founder of the site, is a foreign correspondent who’s covered the Middle East and US foreign policy for the past five years, filing for ABC News, Bloomberg Television, the International Herald Tribune, and Monocle Magazine. In an article posted on Syria Deeply, she explains the reasoning behind the creation of the site.

“It was clear that the Syria story, a crisis unfolding into civil war, had become too complicated for people to understand. Why was it happening? Why was Assad killing his own people? Why was the international response so tame? The user experience of the story was abysmal: a lot of noise and competing narratives, not enough context, history, and background. The global news audience was underserved,” Setrakian says.

Setrakian’s efforts are already creating a buzz and Fast Company has written an article lauding Syria Deeply’s innovative take on reporting the news. But as Setrakian said, Syria Deeply was not created to revolutionize the news industry (although it just might), it was created “for people on both sides of the [Syrian] story: people around the world who want to better understand Syria, and people inside Syria who long to be better understood.”

 

For more information, please see:

Syria Deeply

Fast Company – Syria Deeply Outsmarts the news, Redefines Conflict Coverage – 3 Dec. 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest: Monday 3 December 2012

Chemical Assad!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 3, 2012 

All those warnings against possible use of chemical weapons by Assad and his militias ring quite hollow. In reality, Assad can do much evil before he has to worry about consequences. Putting together a force of 75,000 will not be done overnight, and Assad might just decide to go down a hero to his supporters, falling victim to his own lies about resistance and dragging the country along with him for a nightmarish descent into Hell.

Today’s Death Toll: 239 (including 10 children and 8 women)

116 in Damascus and suburbs (including 40 in Zayabieh Massacre), 41 in Aleppo, 18 in Daraa (including 10 in Tafas), 17 martyr in Hama, 13 in Idlib, 12 in Homs, 10 in Hassakeh, 10 in Deir Ezzor, and 2 in Lattakia.

Points of Random Shelling: 291

Clashes157

Clashes around Damascus continue. Rebels downed a MiG over Eastern Ghoutah, between Dmair and Ruhaibeh, and shelled the Military Airport in Deir Ezzor. Rebels also stomred the town of Mansourah in Raqqah province, and destroyed several military vehicles belonging to loyalist militias (LCC).

Citing security concerns, EgyptAir flight to Damascus returned without landing on Monday.

 

News

Exclusive: U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible Attack

Barack Obama warns Syria of chemical weapons ‘consequences’

Official: Syria Moving Chemical Weapons Components

Clinton Warns Syria Against Using Chemical Weapons

Syria denies plans to use chemical weapons

Turkey cites Syria chemical weapon concern

Putin in Turkey as Syria rules out chemical attacks

Israel Asked Jordan for Approval to Bomb Syrian WMD Sites

Bashar al-Assad’s regime could fall ‘anytime’: Arab League chief

UN to withdraw non-essential staff from Syria

Russia, Turkey agree to differ over Syria conflict

Syria’s opposition warns of a rise in extremists

U.S. Steps Up Aid (But No Arms) To Syrian Exiles

Assad Suffering Reversals in Fighting and Diplomacy A senior Turkish official said that Russia had agreed on Monday to a new diplomatic approach that would seek ways to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, a possible weakening in Russia’s steadfast support for the government.

 

Special Reports

Rebel gains in Syria embolden Lebanese Sunnis
Sunnis in Lebanon are growing more outspoken about the most powerful faction in their country, the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Syria rebels exploit rivals’ successes
…some rebel groups are misusing video to make themselves appear more active and successful than they really are, skewing the distribution of resources, and making it harder for outsiders to accurately evaluate the forces on the ground. The stories also underscore the fragmentation of the armed opposition as a newly formed coalition of Syrian opposition groups struggles to establish authority over a rebellion which is unfolding faster than the speed of diplomacy.

Exclusive: Jolie backs UK moves to tackle warzone rape
Exclusive: The British government is sending a team of experts to Syria to gather evidence on warzone rape – a move backed by UN special envoy and actress Angelina Jolie.

Jihadists answer the call in Syria
Radical clerics exhort jihadists in Syria to help depose dictator President Bashar Assad. Many in Lebanon say they joined the fight because of family or tribal affiliations.

Max Boot: On Drawing the Line at Chemical Weapons
I am not objecting to the tough stance the administration is taking on chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime. I just wish its outrage–combined with the willingness to act–extended to all the other horrifying and reprehensible things that Bashar Assad is doing.

Follow this link to register for FDD’s Washington Forum 2012 “Dictators & Dissidents”

 

Launch of Syria Deeply

 Lara Setrakian: Why I Built Syria Deeply
It was clear that the Syria story, a crisis unfolding into civil war, had become too complicated for people to understand. Why was it happening? Why was Assad killing his own people? Why was the international response so tame? The user experience of the story was abysmal: a lot of noise and competing narratives, not enough context, history, and background. The global news audience was underserved.

Lara Setrakian: Saving the Syria Story, With Technology at Our Side
I love what I do in journalism, covering the world on radio and television. But when I look at the system as a whole, how all of the networks and newspapers cover foreign news for an American audience, I know we can do much, much better. We are failing the Syria story and complex issues like it.

Syria Deeply Outsmarts The News, Redefines Conflict Coverage
As conflict rages in Syria, the news industry is in crisis, too. Lara Setrakian’s Syria Deeply is re-imagining the business of storytelling.

 

Video Highlights

Random shelling claims the lives of several children in the village of Armanaya, Idlib Provincehttp://youtu.be/wHOWuyBRrI0 More dead in Al-Barrah http://youtu.be/UdFD5GdlFA0 In Kafrenbel, rebels come under shelling as they try to transport the body of a fallen comrade http://youtu.be/2f2rhyL4sms ,http://youtu.be/VVCksXeXLPg

Locals pull the dead and wounded from under the rubble following an aerial raid on the town of the Kurdish-Majority ofRas Al-Ain along the Turkish borders. Rebels from Jabhat Al-Nusra have taken control over parts of the town in recent weeks http://youtu.be/E5hPNN0PzQg , http://youtu.be/8JcCqcZ7uKs , http://youtu.be/_09Ns6YuJ30

This video shows clearly missiles being launched from the Damascus Military Airport targeting rebel groups advancing towards the capital http://youtu.be/qMbADxly28M

Impact of shelling by missiles on Eastern Ghoutah: Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/TDlGaOaKBHs Zamalkahttp://youtu.be/FOXVfsfYRhc , http://youtu.be/FzT1nS1Dotc Misraba http://youtu.be/kkfqlhePq8o Babbilahttp://youtu.be/dJTYLpBR8qM

Some of today’s martyrs in Damascus: Misraba http://youtu.be/BVDyLnMZouw Mleihahhttp://youtu.be/cbwEwYZUWTw An unexplained bomb shell in Harran Al-Awameed http://youtu.be/-NN3FOnon5A

MiGs took part in the pounding as well: Madyarah http://youtu.be/hUQeRGQQ_a0 Hamouriyehhttp://youtu.be/pH5tJsJuzBw Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/Mrzk1VmmUOY Saqba http://youtu.be/2pqBply8Rik ,http://youtu.be/rBiGtNvlvB0 Yalda http://youtu.be/D2lzkvxVjwE

A failed attempt to storm the town of Daraya by pro-Assad militias left plenty of loyalist deadhttp://youtu.be/LlzRolQ40jY

For all the missiles and MiGs, rebels have taken control of the town of Agraba along the Airport Highwayhttp://youtu.be/C1dj2s6GUTg

Random shelling claims the lives of many in Handarat, Aleppo http://youtu.be/fRLm3Zdub4M In Sfeirah, locals find the bodies of 5 comrades who were executed http://youtu.be/ALmhuaopFow

Clashes in Houleh, Homs Province, continue http://youtu.be/PC08qDMfUXE , http://youtu.be/N58dcq5QKBU Locals leave the city http://youtu.be/v2fIsnOU16g

The city of Deir Ezzor comes under heavy shelling at night http://youtu.be/H9vDB9O9PKE

Arab, Kurds and Turkmen rebels come together to form a new battalion, named after Yussouf Al-Azmeh, the Syrian Defense Minister who died in battles against French invasion in 1920 http://youtu.be/XMHeUDFIsiw

Judges Threaten to Boycott Constitutional Referendum

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — Last Monday, the head of the Judge’s Club, an unofficial body who represents the judges of Egypt, urged its members to boycott overseeing the referendum of a draft constitution, which is scheduled for December 15, due to a standoff between the president and the judiciary.

Amongst the protesters are many judges, who may boycott overseeing the constitutional referendum. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

The boycott is a response to one of President Mohamed Morsi’s constitutional declarations, which temporarily strips judges of their ability to overturn presidential decisions or to dissolve the Constituent Assembly.  The draft constitution and recent power decrees by Morsi has been met with widespread protests, as protesters returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo, where calls to oust former President Hosni Mubarak occurred a year ago, to voice their dissent.  Egypt’s judges are considered to be the strongest critics to Morsi’s recent decisions.

Judge Zakaria Shalash, head of the Cairo Appeal Court, expects a majority of judges to side with the Judge’s Club in its boycott.  Shalash believes that if, during the process of the boycott, lawyers or law professors are called on to take the place of  boycotting judges, then the referendum will be deemed invalid.  Ahmed Yehia Ismail, head of the South Cairo Criminal Court, disagrees.  Ismail believes that a majority of the judges will take part in overseeing the referendum due to their ethical and professional responsibilities.

Malek Adly, a lawyer at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, said that lawyers do not have the right to oversee the referendum, calling it illegal.  “It is illegal because the judges, not lawyers, not professors, nor any other group, need to be the observers according to the law and the constitution.”  Adly also said that it is expected by the international community that the referendum would be overseen by judges.  Ibrahim Elnur, a professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo, does not think this will be an option.  “All of the professors have different political opinions.  They cannot replace the judiciary; they are a completely different category.”

Earlier on Sunday, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court decided to shelve its work indefinitely after Morsi’s supporters prevented judges from convening.  In determining the legality of Morsi’s constitutional decree, the court planned to make a ruling over whether to dissolve the upper house of Parliament and the constituent assembly.  A new date for the ruling has yet to be set.

Morsi is accused of usurping sweeping powers and pushing the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda.  The secular opposition promises to stage a civil disobedience campaign against the vote, and with judges divided on boycotting the referendum, it is unsure what their level of participation will be.

For further information, please see:

Ahram Online — Judges, Legal Experts Weigh up Scenarios Ahead of Constitutional Referendum — 3 December 2012

Al Jazeera — Egypt Judges Reject Role in Constitutional Vote — 3 December 2012

BBC News — Egypt Judges ‘to Oversee Referendum’ Despite Boycott — 3 December 2012

Daily News Egypt — Judges Club Will not Observe the Referendum — 3 December 2012

Kosovo’s Former Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, Cleared of War Crimes

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla fighter in Kosovo and a former prime minister, was acquitted of war crimes. Haradinaj was charged with the torture and murder of Serb civilians and suspected collaborators while he was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army during its fight for independence in 1999.

Ramush Haradinaj is greeted by Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and crowds of cheering people. (Photo Courtesy of The New York TImes)

According to court documents, detainees were “given very little food or water, were regularly beaten and subjected to other forms of physical mistreatment, and denied medical treatment for their injuries. A number of prisoners … died as a result of their injuries, or were executed on orders of the accused.”

Aleksandar Vulin, the head of the Serbian government office for Kosovo, commented, “An acquittal of Haradinaj by the ICTY would be a message that it is allowed to kill Serbs in Kosovo. How can we talk about the fate of missing persons, justice for those killed and return of those exiled, if a man who talk part in all this is set free?

In 2008, Ramush Haradinaj’s was initially acquitted of the suspected war crimes. However, his acquittal was overturned. The appeal judges determined that a retrial was necessary because of witness intimidation. Despite his retrial in 2010, Haradinaj and co-defendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, were cleared of all charges.

Judge Bakone Moloto said that although there was evidence that the Serbs and their supporters were beaten at a KLA compound in Kosovo and at least one of them had died from their injuries, there was, however, no evidence of Haradinaj’s involvement in the attacks.

Mr Haradinaj’s lawyer, Ben Emmerson, stated, “With the consent of the people, he [Ramush Haradinaj] will soon be resuming his rightful position as the political leader of the country.” Subsequently, Haradinaj’s face appeared on billboards in Kosovo with the slogan, “the leader who keeps his word” and “forward with a clean slate”.

President Tomislav Nikolic of Serbia, claimed the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was “formed to try the Serbian people” for the wars of the 1990s. However, he continued, “Nobody will be convicted for the horrible crimes against Kosovo Serbs.”

In fact, Amnesty International expected that nearly 800 non-Albanians were detained and killed by Kosovo rebels during the 1990s, but few people suspected of such crimes were prosecuted in Kosovo.

The judges ordered Haradinaj and two of his associates to be released immediately. After spending almost four years in jail, Haradinaj returned to Kosovo and was welcomed by the prime minister and cheers by large crowds on the streets.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Kosovo ex-PM Ramush Haradinaj cleared of war crimes – 29 November 2012

NBC News – Kosovo ex-premier Haradinaj cleared of war crimes again – 29 November 2012

The New York Times – War Crimes Court Frees Former Leader of Kosovo – 29 November 2012

The Guardian – Ramush Haradinaj awaits new verdict on Balkan war crimes charges – 25 November 2012

Legislation Intended To Cut Police Corruption

By Brendan Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

LIMA, Peru – In the wake of public outcry the Interior Ministry of Peru has decided to enact new legislation and standards to combat the corruption that has so completely permeated the national police force.

Peruvian traffic cop accepting a bribe. (Photo Courtesy of Peru This Week)

Police corruption is nothing new. But the levels in Peru have run to such levels that reports from the US Department of State and Us Bureau of Diplomatic Security indicate that “corruption and impunity remained problems,” as noted that “Police have been known to solicit bribes in order to supplement their salaries or may readily accept bribes when offered.” The problem is so rampant that in 2007 the Policia Nacionel del Peru noted “Continuity of corruption cases… damage the image of the PNP.”

The levels of police corruption radiate throughout. From local police officers who readily accept bribes for traffic violations or drug enforcement operations. Earlier this year in San Ignacio, a group of police officers captured drug traffickers attempting to illegally ship cocaine paste, however the 200 kilos of cocaine where never entered into evidence as the eight arresting officers took the drugs for their own personal use. Prosecutors met harsh resistance from officers claiming no illegal activity.

To combat this, the Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza Sierra announced that they will set in place a new system of investigation action in the National Police of Peru (PNP) to increase disciplinary actions and end the clout of impunity that has protected police officers in the South American country.

This new system is intended to increase punishments for the corrupt, and reduce the time frame in which the accused will be prosecuted. This system will take case against policemen away from police courts and grant jurisdiction to civil and criminal courts with jurors. This will take the power away from the police and give it to the people. In the past it was widely believed that

This is the latest in Peruvian president Ollanta Humala’s attempt to clean up the police within the country. Last year in his capacity as newly elected President, Humala replaced and fired two-thirds of the country’s senior police officers. Thirty of Peru’s police generals were forced into retirement, even a few without evidentiary links to corruption and drug trafficking.

This reform legislation is intended to clean up the image of the police force.  The Minister stressed their intention to fight policemen who have lost sight of their main creed “to provide safety and care for the citizenry.”

For further information, please see:

Andina, Agencia Peruana De Noticias – New System Of Investigation And Disciplinary Action Will Be In The PNP – 1 December 2012

RPP Noticias – Interior Minister Announces New Penalty System For Bad Cops – 1 December 2012

Peruvian Times – Prosecutor Investigates Police Over Drug Arrest In Puno – 24 May, 2012

BBC – Humala Sacks Peru Police Commanders In Corruption Purge – 10 October 2011

How To Peru – Police In Peru – October 5, 2011

Polish High Court Rules Kosher, Halal Meats Illegal

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – On Tuesday, Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled that religious, or ritual, slaughter of animals used to produce kosher and halal meat is in violation of the constitution.  The ruling comes weeks before a European Union law is to take effect allowing the practice.

Under traditional Jewish shechita and Muslim dhabiha slaughter, it is impermissible to stun an animal into unconsciousness. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Animal rights groups had petitioned Attorney General Andrzej Seremet to bring the case before the court.  In June, Seremet argued that ritual slaughter for religious purposes was unconstitutional, and that a 2004 amendment allowing the practice violated a 1997 animal rights law permitting slaughter only “following the loss of consciousness” after stunning.

Although former Agricultural Minister Wojciech Olejniczak has claimed that the purpose of the 2004 amendment was to place Polish laws in line with those of the EU, the court ruled that, in the words of Judge Zbigniew Cieslak, “a decree that is supposed to serve in the execution of a law, and the realization of its goals, cannot be in opposition to it.”

The ruling brings Poland into conflict with current international EU laws, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which includes sections on religious freedoms, such as the practice of ritual slaughter of animals.

Jewish and Muslim clerics have insisted that stunning an animal before slaughter is inconsistent with Jewish and Muslim practices for producing kosher and halal meats, respectively.

There are small Jewish and Muslim communities in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation of 38 million.  It is estimated that about 6,000 Jews and several tens of thousands of Muslims live in Poland.

However, Poland is also a leading producer in kosher and halal meats, exporting to other European countries, Arab countries, Turkey and Israel.  With two dozen slaughterhouses specifically specializing in kosher and halal meats, the export industry is valued at an estimated $259 million.

The same day that the court’s ruling is set to take effect, January 1, an EU directive (The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter) also will become effect.  The EU directive will set common rules for ritual slaughter across the EU, but will also allow individual counties to decide whether or not to apply these rules.  Specifically, the new directive allows “derogation from stunning in case[s] of religious slaughter taking place in slaughterhouses,” but leaves “a certain level of subsidiarity to each Member State.”

Currently, Sweden has a complete ban on ritual slaughter.  Last year the lower house of parliament in the Netherlands voted to enact a similar ban before backing down in the face of controversy.  Non-EU countries Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland also have a ban.

Last year, during the Dutch debate on religious slaughter, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski defended it as an ancient practice said there was “a crisis of tolerance” in Europe.

Poland’s Agriculture Minister Stanislaw Kalemba has promised “[t]here will be no doubt about this as of January 1.”  His ministry believes the EU law takes precedence and will act to remove any doubts about ritual slaughter’s legality in Poland.  His ministry has already licensed 17 slaughterhouses to practice Jewish or Muslim religious slaughter.

However, animal rights groups have said Poland may still opt-out of the EU laws. “It’s up to us to decide whether we want a law authorizing this kind of slaughter or not,” said Dariusz Gzyra of the campaign group Empatia.

Additionally, Piotr Kadlcik, president of Poland’s Union of Jewish Communities, has said he believes the ruling contradicts a 1997 law on relations between his Union and the Polish state.  “It appears there is a legal contradiction here and it is too early to tell what this means,” he said. “We are seeking legal advice on this right now.”

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Polish Ritual Slaughter Illegal, Court Rules – 28 November 2012

Polskie Radio – Ritual Slaughter of Farm Animals ‘Unconstitutional’ in Poland, Court Rules – 28 November 2012

France24 – Polish Court bans Ritual Slaughter, EU Gives Go-Ahead – 27 November 2012

Jerusalem Post – Polish Court Rules Against Ritual Slaughter – 28 November 2012