Prison Riots Leaves 57 Dead In Overcrowded Venezuelan Prison

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – 57 prisoners were killed in one of the bloodiest prisoner riots to strike a routine and peaceful inspection prison guard met armed resistance from irate prisoners in the Uribana prison in Venezuela’s Lara province.

The National Guard taking action against rioters in Venezuela’s Uribana prison. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Early Friday prison guards and the National Guard planned an operation in an attempt to disarm prisoners from the violent prison facility. Sparked by a surge of prison violence earlier in the week as internal gangs battled for control, the guards had hoped for a peaceful inspection. Instead, as the sun rose Guardsmen were met with gunfire from an entrenched inmate position. When the dust settled and the National Guard had quelled the riot Nearly 60 people were dead, with another 120 wounded. While the official reason for this uprising is being investigated, human rights experts note that Venezuelan prisoners are notoriously overcrowded and filled weapons and drugs that have been smuggled in by corrupt prison guards and gang ‘mafias.’ Beyond the dead inmates, two protestant pastors and one soldier was killed in firefight.

Originally designed in 1997, the model prison of Uribana was built to hold 850 prisons, however when violence erupted the 23,500 square meter penal colony was holding 2,400.

Criticism has been levied on the nature of the inspections and the administration itself. Humberto Prado, leader of the activist group Venezuelan Prisons Observatory stated “It’s clear that the inspection wasn’t coordinated or put into practice as it should have been. It was evidently a disproportionate use of force.” He continued that while necessary, they should not be carried out in the warlike attitude that they have been.

Since peace has been restored, the surviving 2003 male and 132 female inmates have been moved to nearby prisons, and while another 49 inmates were discharged, 46 prisoners remain hospitalized.

The National Assembly has since begun investigating the causes of the riot at Uribana and what protocol steps can be taken in the future.

With allegations from abuse from prisoners, Correctional Service Minister Iris Varela has officially denied any allegations that inmates were run over by the National Guard, or that the population was naked while the National Guard was hitting them. Henrique Capriles, opposition leader against President Chavez’s levied heavy criticism on the administration. Stating that the vice-president ordered an investigation and then went to summit in Chile in contrast to President Rousseff of Brazil cancelled his trip. Taking advantage of the situation Capriles continued “Here, they go away to a summit. They dispose of it as if it were one more matter, one more little problem.”

For more information, please see:

Venezuela Al Dia – Parliament Began Research On Violent Events In Uribana – 28 January 2013

El Universal – Uribana Was Designed As A Model Prison – 28 January 2013

US News – Inmates Moved After Bloody Venezuela Prison Clash – 27 January 2014

El Nacional – Varela Announced That 58 Prisoners Were Killed By Violence In Uribana – 27 January 2013

CNN – Report: Prison Riot Kills Dozens In Venezuela – 26 January 2014

Israel’s Health Ministry Ceases Distribution of Injectable Contraception to Ethiopian Jewish Women After Outcry

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel — The Israeli Health Ministry recently came under heavy criticism for giving Ethiopian Jewish Women an injectable contraceptive called Depo Provera unknowingly and without their consent.

The Israeli Health Ministry recently ceased the distribution of Depo Provera to Ethiopian Jewish women after allegations arose that they were being distributed to them without their knowledge or consent. (Photo Courtesy of Jerusalem Post)

Suspicions of the act’s occurence arose a few years ago and most recently after a television documentary, “Vacuum,” linked the community’s declining birth rate to an over-prescription of the drug.  The population of Ethiopian Israelis has declined by 50 percent in the last decade. According to a report by the women’s rights organization, Isha le’Isha, Ethiopian Jews makeup the majority of people given Depo-Provera in Israel.

After falling under scrutiny, Israel’s Health Ministry on Sunday ordered four public health maintenance organizations to cease providing Ethiopian Israelis the drug without the administration’s explicit consent. It is the first time that an Israeli official acknowledged that Ethiopian Israelis were being given the drug. The order came after The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) investigated the allegations.

The letter written by the Health Ministry asks doctors “why contraception is being used in general and this one in particular (Depo Provera) and if she (the patient) is asking of her own free will to prevent pregnancy and if she understands the side-effects.” No where in the letter does the Health Ministry admit to administering Depo Provera to Ethiopian Israelis without their consent, however, the ACRI found the ministry’s order to cease the administration of the drug to be an implicit admission of guilt.

“We believe it is a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor,” said Hedva Eyal, who authored a report which revealed that 57 percent of all Depo Provera users in Israel were of Ethiopian origin even though their community accounted for less than two percent of the population. “It is indeed the first time that the state actually acknowledged that this procedure of injecting immigrant women with this drug, when they do not know the side effects and are given no other choice, is wrong.”

Allegations of racism in Israel have been made not just by the Ethiopian community in the country, but also by other African migrants and asylum seekers. In May, dozens of asylum seekers were injured during the Tel Aviv riots, which were encouraged by politicians who blamed Sudanese and Eritrean communities in Tel Aviv who entered the country illegally.

Claims of illegal discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis specifically reached a boiling point in 2006, when it was made public that blood donations by the community were being routinely disposed of out of fear of disease. Complaints were also raised about discrimination in jobs and education.

For further information, please see:

Al Arabiya — Outcry in Israel Over Injection of Ethiopian Jews With Birth Control Drug — 28 January, 2013

Jerusalem Post — Health Ministry: Halt Ethiopian ‘Birth-Control Shot’ — 28 January 2013

JTA — Israel’s Health Ministry Orders Halt to Injectable Contraception for Ethiopian Women — 28 January 2013

The National — Israel Accused of Forcing Birth Control on Ethiopians — 28 January 2013

Syria Revolution Digest: 27 January 2013

He Speaks, But Will He Act!

Syrian Revolution Digest – January 27, 2013 

President Obama just regained his voice on things Syrian. Now we wait for him to acquire some willpower to act. True, contemplating intervention is never easy, and the U.S. is not meant to be the keepers of world order, but with great power comes great responsibility, there is no avoiding that, and what is unfolding in Syria today is a great humanitarian disaster that needs to be mitigated. The U.S. cannot turn its back on that indefinitely. At one point, it will be called upon to act. Its failure to do so earlier only served to make the task more complex, dangerous and thankless. The fact that a nonviolent protest movement was allowed to turn into an armed insurrection paving the way for civil war only increases the culpability of international leaders, including President Obama, and turns intervention, as complex and hazardous as it is bound to be, into an even greater moral must. I can only hope President Obama sees the light soon.


Sunday January 27, 2013


Today’s Death Toll: 106 martyrs including 5 women, 11 children, and 3 who were tortured to death: 41 fell in Damascus and suburbs, 18 in Homs, 16 in Aleppo, 10 in Daraa, 9 in Idlib, 7 in Hama, 2 in Hasakeh, 2 in Deir Ezzor and 1 in Latakia (LCCs).


Points of Random Shelling: 337 points were shelled by regime forces, including 21 points that were shelled using warplanes, 4 points using phosphorous bombs, 3 points using vacuum bombs, 2 points using cluster bombs, 116 points using artillery shelling, 94 points using mortal shelling, and 85 points using missiles (LCCs).


Clashes: The Free Syrian Army clashed with regime forces in 141 points. Operations included freeing of dozens of detainees from the Military Security branch in the areas of ‘Assas in Damascus Suburbs and targeting the Security branch in Harasta with mortars. Also, the Air Force Headquarters in Sahnaya were struck and a number of tanks were destroyed in the heart of Damascus. FSA rebels also targeted shabiha militias stationed on the outskirts of the city in Deir Ezzor. In Homs, FSA rebels stormed the Political Security intelligence branch in Deir Baalbeh District. In Daraa, rebels repelled a loyalist attack on the town of Basr Al-Harir (LCCs).



Obama says struggling over whether to intervene in Syria “In a situation like Syria, I have to ask: can we make a difference in that situation?” Obama said in an interview with The New Republic published on the magazine’s website… “And how do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” he said…. “We do nobody a service when we leap before we look, where we … take on things without having thought through all the consequences of it,” Obama told CBS. “We are not going to be able to control every aspect of every transition and transformation” in conflicts around the world, he said. “Sometimes they’re going to go sideways.”


Children die in Syria air raid as patriots go active

UN Humanitarian Chief in Syria for Talks

More Lebanese Sunnis are crossing into Syria to aid rebellion, officials say

Iran Official: Attack on Syria is Attack on Iran

Jordan’s King Abdullah: “The New Taliban Are In Syria”

Medvedev says Syria’s Assad running out of time, must negotiate

Al-Assad’s grip on power “slipping away,” Medvedev says

NATO: Patriot missile battery operational on Syrian border

MSF: Syria: All Parties To The Conflict Must Respect Medical Facilities

Oxfam launches £12m Syria appeal as refugees contend with brutal winter


Israel Girds For Attacks As Syria Falls Apart At least one Iron Dome missile defense battery was deployed Sunday in northern Israel amid reports of intense security consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding Syria and the possibility of chemical weapons falling into the hands of Islamist rebels or being transferred to the militant group Hezbollah.

Palestinians fleeing Syria are double refugees Syria provided tens of thousands of Palestinians with a livable sanctuary after what they refer to as the Nakba or catastrophe of 1948. Over the decades they built a city from the original tents in Damascus’s Yarmouk camp, which until recently housed about 150,000 people. When anti-regime protests broke out in 2011, even those sympathetic to the opposition in Yarmouk were wary, conscious of their guest status. Late last year however, the war came to them. “It’s the Nakba of Yarmouk,” says Um Mazen.

Mined area in Syria border promises oil “This region has considerable natural and cultural heritage as well as areas to be used for energy. There are resources for oil and natural gas production. A method for exploiting the cleared terrain regarding all finds will be elaborated on and announced to the public,” Karahocagil said, adding that mine clearance falls under the jurisdiction of the National Defense Ministry.


Special Reports

The creation of an unbridgeable divide

Ammar Abdulhamid: Syria’s civil war is now strongly characterised by militias identifying along sectarian lines. The growing divide between Sunnis and Alawites has profound implications for Syria, and the Middle East.

Syria’s female revolution

Hundreds of women took to the streets of Banias early on in the uprising, demanding the release of thousands of men who had been rounded up by security forces loyal to the regime. Activist Nadja Mansour told NOW that women back then led many of the peaceful movements. But as the violence increased, peaceful activities decreased, and the role of women also diminished.

Inside Damascus: Risking life and limb for a loaf

Daily life in the suburbs of Damascus is getting harder, writes Bill Neely, as the bitter and bloody battle for control of the Syrian capital grinds on.

Kurds Caught Between Islamists and the PKK

There is also a sectarian reason why the Assad regime backs the PKK, according to Othman. Most of the PKK’s leadership hails from a rarified minority: Alawite Kurds. Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s founder who is now in Turkish prison, is an Alawite from Maabatli, a town from which most of Syria’s Alawite Kurds, perhaps 200,000, hail. Kurds make up more than 10% of Syria’s 23 million citizens, and the vast majority of them adhere to a moderate version of Sunni Islam.

Syria war leaves ghost towns in Kurdish region

… regime officers are afraid that their platoons of conscripts could desert at the first opportunity, while the rebels are too low on weapons and ammunition to forge ahead. The result is a stalemate which has made life impossible for the Kurdish civilians who used to live in the 60 villages in the area, in the northern reaches of Latakia province. Almost all have left, moving farther north toward the Turkish border where they feel safer. For now, they are crammed into small houses left vacant by better-off Syrians near the border and who are now waiting out the war in Turkey. But more arrive each day, putting a strain on both lodgings and charity.


The Meltdown


The Islamist-Kurdish Divide


New fronts in Syria’s civil war are now emerging. The first pits Islamist rebels against Syria’s Kurdish population. The current flashpoint is the Kurdish-majority town of Ras Al-Ain/Sere Kanye, currently under attack by over 1,500 Islamist fighters belonging to 16 different groups. Rebels are using tanks and RPGs in their assault and are showing the same kind of disregard to civilian populations that pro-Assad militias tend to show.


Meanwhile, the town is being defended by an assortment of Kurdish fighting units led by the YPG (Kurdish local defense committees which are ideologically lined to PKK). But other Kurdish groups are now involved, with Kurds fearing that the current attack comes as part of an Islamist/Arab strategy to take over and/or isolate all Kurdish-majority towns in the northeast. The fighting is fierce, Arab tribal are involved, and certain tribal members of the Syrian National Council seem involved in directing the fight against the Kurds, including ranking member Ahmad Hamad Al-Assad Al-Milhem. The fighting has been ongoing for ten days now, with over 150 dead on both sides. Turkish involvement is not clear, but protection afforded to the wounded from Islamist rebel groups when treated in Turkish hospitals indicate sympathies with Islamists. Many


Islamists rebels bury one of their own, as sounds of clashes can be heard in the background


The Secular-Islamist Divide


A second front that is also developing slowly is one that pits Islamists fighters, including members of Jabhat Al-Nusra, against secular activists.  Recent developments in the town of Saraqib, Idlib Province, give an accurate ideas as to what is involved at this stage.


Jihadists and Secular Activists Clash in Syria: “The dispute in Saraqib began when a group of masked men raided two organizations run by local activists, a new cultural club and a social work office, the activists said. At the second office, where Danish journalists and two visiting female Syrian activists were staying, the men seized fliers advocating nonviolence and ordered the group to leave town by sunrise, according to activists and one of the journalists, a filmmaker. The masked men were angry, the witnesses said, in part because the visiting Syrian activists were not covering their hair in accordance with the practice of many pious Muslims. The men also declared that they preferred foreign journalists entering the country to be men.”


On Friday, secular activists marked their rejection of the tactics of Jabhat Al-Nusra in their city, chanting “the Syrian people are one,” “God, Syria, Freedom and nothing more,” and hosting banners asserting the “civic” nature of the city irrespective of the number of guns now in it, and rejecting the presence of “masked men” in their midst




Meanwhile, criticism of Jabhat Al-Nusra’s tactics continues to mark a widening divide between secular and Islamist groups. Jabhat Al-Nusra has just adopted a suicide attack against a pro-Assad militia headquarters that took place in Salamiyeh, Hama, on January 21. The attack was controversial because it generated many civilian casualties as well, and on account of the highly mixed character of the City, where Christians, Alawites, Ismailites and Sunnis live. The announcement by Jabhat Al-Nusra was received with much naysaying on part of secular activists writing on their Facebook posts and on their blogs, and is bound to increasing tension between secular pro-democracy activists and Islamists rebels on the ground in many flashpoints across the country, but especially in so-called liberated areas.




Bearing all these divides in mind, and the one I just pointed out in my recent article in openDemocracy, the one that goes to the heart of the current situation, the dire predictions of Christian Caryl that the international community’s failure to act so far has set the scene for more killing to come in the near future seem quite logical…


“Because the fateful wheel of atrocity and reprisal, so familiar from past civil wars, is gathering momentum. It could hardly be any different, considering the scale of the killing so far. The Assad regime bears full responsibility for launching the carnage. But it does not bear sole responsibility for all the crimes that have been committed, and it will not bear sole responsibility for the crimes that are yet to come.”


The real long-term impact of this is something Lara Setrakian of Syria Deeply seems to get:


We have lost Syria — we’ve lost the good faith of its people and lost the opportunity to stem its decline. Everyone, everywhere we’ve reached has said the same thing: Stop the bleeding. This message speaks to wounds we cannot see and stories we can hardly fathom. But they will shape the Middle East for generations to come.


Video Highlights


The battle for control over Idlib City’s Central Prison as seen from the point of view of a rebel unit affiliated with Suqur Al-Sham


Rebels in Deir Ezzor City use a confiscated tank in an attack on a loyalist checkpoint ,


A rebel attack against a loyalist headquarters in Mseifrah, Daraa ,


The pounding of rebel suburbs in Homs City continues: Jobar


Aerial bombardment of rebel suburbs in Damascus continues: Arbeen Al-Qadam , Saqba


Rebels in Sheikh Saad Suburb in Aleppo City capture a number of key locations , , ,


TV Director Convicted for Criticizing President

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

PORTO-NOVO, Benin – Last Thursday, human rights groups and press organizations demanded the Benin government to release a TV director who was imprisoned for airing a program that criticized President Boni Yayi.

President Yayi Boni accused several TV stations of disturbing public order after they criticized his administration for corruption last year. (Photo courtesy of Afriqueenelles)

On September 18, 2012, TV station Canal 3 broadcasted a press conference where former Presidential Adviser and Spokesperson Lionel Agbo accused the President of enabling his cabinet members’ corrupt practices.

The following day, President Yayi filed a complaint against the director of Canal 3, Berthe Cakpossa, before the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), Benin’s media regulatory body. In the complaint, President Yayi denied all of the accusations Agbo made against him, claiming that these were mere fabrications. According to him, by airing the press conference, Canal 3 “disturbed public order” and “undermined national cohesion”. Two months later, the HAAC suspended two of the TV station’s programs:  “Actu matin” and “Arbre à Palabre” for two weeks and three months, respectively.

On January 16, a Cotonou court found Cakpossa guilty of “offending the head of state”, sentencing the director to three months in prison with hard labor. Cakpossa was also ordered to pay a fine of 500,000 francs CFA (US$1,000), and symbolic damages of 1 franc CFA. In its decision, the Cotonou court cited the country’s 1997 press law which states that journalists are considered the author of third-party statements they report.

Agbo was likewise arrested for the same charges.

According to Cakpossa’s lawyer, Claret Dedie, they recently appealed the court’s decision which they hope will suspend the execution of the sentence. In an interview with the local news, Dedie said that she was surprised to learn about her client’s arrest since prison terms of less than six months do not require immediate incarceration in Benin. She also found it peculiar that out of all the cases filed against Cakpossa in connection with the controversial broadcast, Cakpossa had been convicted only in the case in which the complainant was the President.

“President Yayi retaliated against a journalist who conveyed a message he did not like and then pressured the courts to impose his will. He is sending a message that his government is off-limits to critical scrutiny,” noted Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the appeals court to overturn this verdict, which is a stain on Benin’s image as a free, democratic nation.”

Other human rights and media organizations such as the Media Foundation for West Africa (MWFA), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and the Union of Media Professionals of Benin (UPMB) have joined the CPJ in urging the appeals court to set Cakpossa free.


For further information, please see:

Horn Portal – Benin TV chief jailed for program slamming presidential palace – 26 January 2013

Spy Ghana – Berthe Cakpossa sentence was illegally motivated by the Benin government – William Gomes – 26 January 2013

IFEX – TV station director sentenced to hard labour in Benin – 25 January 2013

Committee to Protect Journalists – Benin TV director convicted for offending president – 24 January 2013


Factory Fire in Bangladesh Kills 7 and Brings Into Question the Country’s Commitment to Labor Rights

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Questions of worker safety and possible foul play are raised after seven workers die in blaze at a small factory in Bangladesh.

Survivor, Laiju, stands inside the damaged factory after the fire claimed the lives of her fellow employees. (Photo courtesy of The Times of Northwestern India)

On Saturday, a fire ravaged a small factory owned by Smart Exports Garment Ltd in the Dhaka metropolitan area.  Roughly 50 people were injured in the stampede, 6 had to be rushed to the hospital and at least 7 women workers were found trampled to death amidst the chaos.

Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, Kalpona Akter, reported that Smart Exports Garment Ltd had been subcontracted to fill orders by other garment factories.  This particular company was not a member of the Bangladesh garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association.  Lacking membership, the company was unlicensed by fire prevention and labor governing bodies.

Factory worker, Raushan Ara, reported to a local newspaper that the emergency exit was locked when workers tried to flee the blaze.  Spectators reported that some of the trapped workers attempted to jump out of second story windows.

Jahangir Kabir Nanak, a government official, has been assigned to investigate the possibility of foul play due to the allegations that the emergency exit was locked, trapping many of the workers inside the factor during the fire.

Altaf Hossain, father of one of the casualties sustained in the fire, is seeking legal action, bringing cases of negligence against three of the directors of the factory.  The police have begun their own independent investigation into the alleged crimes.

Abdul Halim, a fire official, has reported that the actual cause of the fire continues to remain a mystery as the fire department continues their investigation.  Preliminary findings suggest that the fire was caused by electrical short circuit in the upper floor of the two-story building.

International labor rights groups, including The Worker Rights Consortium, Clean Clothes Campaign, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, and the International Labor Rights Forum, have called for better accountability in the apparel industry to improve garment workers’ rights in this part of the world.

The large brand companies that contract these factories to make their clothing continue to keep their internal audit and investigation results secret, marginalize trade unions, and simply walk away from these types of tragedies when convenient.

Bangladesh currently operates roughly 4,500 garment factories and is one of the world’s largest exporters of clothing.  The garment manufacturing industry currently makes up about 80% of Bangladesh’s $24 billion in annual exports.

It is unclear whether or not the clothing made in this particular factory was destined for western markets as initial reports have been conflicting.  This tragedy comes merely two months after one of Bangladesh’s worst factory fires which occurred in the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory, killing 112 workers and injuring 150 others.

For further information, please see:

The Global Times – Foreign labels found in latest Bangladesh factory fire – 27 January 2013

The Times of Northwestern India – Bangladesh probing if factory’s 1 exit was locked – 27 January 2013

Reuters – Labor rights groups seek action after Bangladesh factory blaze – 27 January 2013

Belfast Telegraph – Bangladesh factory fire kills seven – 26 January 2013