Kenyan Presidential Candidates Face ICC Charges

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya—Two Kenyan presidential contenders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting violence after the election. The two candidates said that next year they would join forces and run together on the same ticket. According to their deal, the Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president after acquiring independence from Britain in 1963, will aim for the presidency, while his partner, the former cabinet minister William Ruto will run for vice president.

Kenyatta and Ruto, both facing charges at the International Criminal Court, join together to run in Kenya’s next election. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Thousands of people supporting the pair cheered as they unveiled their alliance at a rally in Nakuru, one of the worse hit regions by the post-election violence. Kenyatta said, “Our union is not to attack anyone, but to build Kenya, our work is to preach peace, and to make sure there is no blood spilt again.” He continued noting, “The journey to unite the country has started. We have the leadership that can bring Kenyans together…to build a country based on equality.”

However, alongside these hopes for peace, both Kenyatta and Ruto must stand trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague for their role in orchestrating the post-election unrest that displaced more than 600,000 Kenyans.

Kenyatta alone faces five charges of crimes against humanity. These charges include murder, rape, persecution, deportation as well as other inhumane acts. Ruto also faces three charges of crimes against humanity. Both claim to be innocent of these allegations and remain free and willing to cooperate with the court.

Al Jazeera’s Reporter Mohammed Adow commented on the candidates’ political force in the country. He noted that Kenyatta comes from the larges ethnic group in the country while Ruto comes from the third most popular tribe in Kenya. He said, “So together, they actually make the winning ticket.”

Adow further commented on their situation with the International Criminal Court. “These are two men who’ve got charged of crimes against humanity hanging over their heads. Although they deny them, these are very serious charges and the International Criminal Court is trying to pin down convictions.”

The charges against these powerful political figures have shaken the country. Kenya’s political elite were once seen to be almost above the law. Now the country faces concerns and uncertainty as to any new violence that may erupt should the candidates be barred from running in the next election.

 

For further information, please see:

790 KGMI News – Kenyan Contenders Facing ICC Cases to Run Jointly in Vote – 2 December 2012

Al Jazeera – War Crimes Suspects Form Kenya Poll Alliance – 2 December 2012

News 24 – Kenya ICC-Indicted Leaders Do Poll Deal – 2 December 2012

Reuters – Kenyan Contenders Facing ICC Cases to Run Jointly in Vote – 2 December 2012

Student Protesters Tortured in Detention

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

 KHARTOUM, Sudan – According to a press release by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) the Sudanese national security service reportedly detained and tortured student protesters last week.

 

Police officers engage a protester in Nyala. (Photo courtesy of Radio Dabanga)

Members of the national security service arrested high school students in Nyala, a city in South Darfur. Although a number of these students were released a week after they were brought to custody, they claim that they were tortured and beaten up.

According to some of the students, the security officers would burn them with electric shocks using water and car batteries — a torture method they referred to as “water fire”. Officers would also use acid to burn their skin, leaving permanent marks on their bodies. Other protesters said that they were were hung upside down from the roof while being verbally insulted.

On the day the national security service released the students, the agency allegedly threatened to kill the demonstrators’ relatives if they pressed charges. One source mentioned that the security officers told them, “no one can counter us and have us arrested.”

The government denied the allegations. Instead, it insisted that the detention of the students was necessary primarily because they stole money and documents from an office located in the Hay al-Emtidad neighborhood in Nyala. Some of these documents are said to be confidential in nature; thus, would have compromised national security had these been exposed to the public.

Families of the detainees, however, believe a different reason behind the arrests and torture. When interviewed by Radio Dabanga, they said that “the real motive of the students’ arrest was because they were accused of participating in the Nyala protests during the Ramadan holiday this year, and not for stealing, as claimed by the security services.”

Students have also become frequent targets of police arrests recently due to the escalating number of student protests at the Nyala University. On Thursday, Islamist students and students supporting Sudan’s Liberation Movement led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) caused a riot at the university premises. Since then, not only did the university ban several student activities indefinitely, it also suspended classes in all faculties for one week.

Lawyers, activists and Nyala residents have condemned the “brutal” treatment the national security service gave the students. “The security bodies can’t continue to use this approach when dealing with protesters, as it is not acceptable after the Arab spring. The regime can’t be isolated from the demands of its people, the right to expression and demonstrations. The ANHRI rejects the repression and assassination of demonstrators, in addition to threats against the protesters’ relatives if they file reports,” said the ANHRI last week. In addition, the human rights agency called for an immediate investigation by the Sudanese government “to hold those responsible accountable and ensure justice.”

 

For further information, please see:

Radio Dabanga – Student detained by Nyala security services – 29 November 2012

International Freedom of Expression Exchange – Security forces in Sudan torture high school demonstrators – 28 November 2012

All Africa – Sudan: Nyala University Suspends Classes and Bans Student Activities – 26 November 2012

All Africa – Sudan: Students From Rival Parties Riot in Nyala – 23 November 2012

All Africa – Sudan: Students Reportedly Tortured in Nyala – 17 November 2012

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – Torture with Acid Water: NISS tortures high school students in Nyala – 16 November 2012

Man Capturing and Forcing Women into Prostitution is Sentenced to Death

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Yesterday, a court in central China sentenced 35-year old Li Hao, a local government clerk and a father to an eight-month child, to death for holding six women as sex slaves in a man made dungeon.

A picture of Li Hao and his man made dungeon. (Photo Courtesy Business Insider)

After arresting Mr. Hao in September of last year, the court found him, guilty of “murder, rape, organized prostitution, illegal detention and spreading pornography for profit.”

According to Business Insider, Mr. Hao allegedly attended karaoke bars, hair salons, and massage parlors in order to persuade women to return with him.  Once these women would follow him, he would hold them captive between two and twenty-one months.  During this time, he would force them into prostitution, having sex with him, and appearing in online sex performances.

Mr. Hao’s plan was revealed when one of his captives in the Luoyan, Henan provinces escaped and informed authorities.

Three of the women previously kidnapped and kept were also found guilty of murder. They were involved in the death of two other women in the dungeon.  These women were given lenient sentences due to the nature of the situation.

One received three years and the two others were placed on probation. Authorities believed Mr. Hao intimidated them to commit murder.

According to Samay, Mr. Hao forced the women into having sex in order to generate money.

The police chief of Luoyang apologized to the public last year for failing to discover Mr. Hao’s crimes earlier and has subsequently suspended four police officers in relation to the case.

For more information, please see:

Sahara Samay – China’s serial rapist Li Hao gets death sentence – 01 December 2012

BBC News – China ‘sex slave’ case: Li Hao sentenced to death – 30 November 2012

Business Insider – Chinese Man Sentenced To Death For Keeping ‘Sex Slaves’ In Dungeon – 30 November 2012

Egypt to Have New Constitution by Day’s End

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – The highly anticipated new constitution which has created so much controversy and has led to innumerable protests and demonstrations is expected to finally be enacted today in Egypt. The constitutional assembly worked around the clock, for approximately seventeen straight hours yesterday, before they unanimously approved the two hundred and thirty-seven items in the draft. After President Mohammed Morsi officially receives and ratifies the draft, he will call for a quick-fire referendum to adopt it.

There have been countless protests both for and against Morsi and a new constitution in Egypt. (Photo Courtesy of the Jerusalem Post)

Morsi will call for the referendum because he does not want the supreme constitutional court to get in the way of the constitution’s adoption. Morsi’s worry is that the supreme constitutional court will try to dissolve the constitutional assembly that had created the draft before it officially becomes law. “There is a rush because you can’t leave the country like this and wait for a politicised verdict from the supreme constitutional court,” said Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Sameh El-Essawia.

Once the referendum is called for, a decision to dissolve the constitutional assembly would have no effect. Furthermore, Morsi will call for the referendum because of his November 22nd decree, which asserts that he is immune from any judicial challenges until a constitution is passed and a parliament is elected. That was another highly controversial move, but the Muslim Brotherhood believes that adopting the constitution now will deflect a lot of negative attention away from that political manuever.

Nevertheless, it does not appear that replacing one controversial decision with another. which is implemented by equally controversial means, will do anything to help cure the clear divide between conservative muslims and any liberal or non-muslim in Egypt. The general criticism against the draft is that it is too focused on utilizing Sharia law and is ambiguous as to women’s and minority rights. Many feel that the draft protects the religion of Islam at the expense of having freedom of expression. Numerous protests have been held in Tahrir Square, including one yesterday, in attempts to criticize Morsi’s regime and stop this constitution from being passed.

As many demonstrations as there were against Morsi and the constitution, there were just as many demonstrations to promote it and Morsi, including one today. Tens of thousands of Islamists met in the streets of Cairo calling for the “implementation of God’s law.”

“The contentious issues have not been resolved, especially regarding the relationship of the state to religion, and that takes us away from the modern civil state,” said University professor Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed.

For further information, please see:

Al Ahram – President Receives Draft Constitution Today and Setting a Date for the Referendum – 1 December 2012

BBC – Egypt Crisis: Islamists Rally for President Morsi – 1 December 2012

Guardian – Morsi Supporters hit the Streets as Egypt Braces for Referendum – 1 December 2012

Jerusalem Post – Islamists Rally for Morsi as Egypt Rift Widens – 1 December 2012

 

“Hobbit” Star Endorses Gay Marriage in New Zealand Amid Dispute Over Role Churches Could Play

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Actor and gay rights advocate Sir Ian McKellen says he would like to get married in New Zealand.

“Hobbit” star Sir Ian McKellen said he hopes New Zealand lawmakers pass the marriage equality bill so that he may be able to get married in the country. (Photo Courtesy of Radio New Zealand)

In a video message to a marriage equality conference in Wellington, the “Hobbit” star said he supported the Marriage Amendment Bill, which has passed its first reading in Parliament and now is being considered by a select committee.

“I hope that by the time I get back to Middle Earth, I might even be able to get married,” he said.

McKellen, who has spent a considerable amount of time in New Zealand playing the role of Gandalf in “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings, said the world has looked to the country for “social advancement” ever since it became the first country to give women the right to vote.

“It will be a popular move, I know, and I’m glad your major political parties have embraced it.,” he added.

The endorsement came after considerable debate in New Zealand over the autonomy churches would have if the law were passed.

The bill contains a provision that churches are authorized but not required to marry gay, lesbian, or transgender couples who wanted to be married.  The bill’s sponsor, Labour MP Louisa Wall, has repeatedly said she wanted churches to maintain their freedom of religion and expression.  The Human Rights Commission also has endorsed this provision.

But some opponents and legal experts said that a law change would make it unlawful for churches to turn people away.

“If this goes forward, then churches will be required to open their premises to gay marriages,” Baptist minister Scott Lelievre told The New Zealand Herald.

“I guess if we have to go to jail, then we have to [go to] jail,” he added.  “There’s a long and honorable history of Christians going to jail, so we would not be the first.”

Family First NZ and 24 members of the Victoria University law faculty also called into question the interpretation of the law by the HRC and MP Wall.  Family First NZ’s national director, Bob McCoskrie, said the HRC specifically should not be depended on for independent legal analysis because it has lobbied for this bill since the very beginning.

“Based on the interpretation of [the church exception provision] by the HRC and Louisa Wall, a marriage celebrant could lawfully decline to marry a particular couple because they are of different races or because the marriage celebrant disliked persons of a certain race,” McCoskrie said.  “Of course, that is completely unlawful and would quite rightly breach . . . the NZ Bill of Rights Act.”

Family First NZ also said it obtained legal opinions from Barrister Ian Bassett that indicated the law, if passed, would not allow churches to lawfully decline to marry gay couples because the provision itself does not authorize discrimination based on sexual orientation.

For further information, please see:

Radio New Zealand — Actor Eyes Same-Sex Marriage in Middle Earth — 1 December 2012

The New Zealand Herald — Gay Choice for Churches — 23 November 2012

Stuff.co.nz — Gay Marriage ‘Not Forced on Churches’ — 23 November 2012

Voxy.co.nz — Legal Experts Dispute Human Rights Commission on Gay Marriage — 22 November 2012