Syrian Revolution Digest: Wednesday 27 February 2013

The Shake!

As world leaders do their version of the Harlem Shake, fighters on the ground do theirs, and theirs seem to be far more spirited, and deadly. A policy on the devolving situation in Syria seems to get outdated by the time it is conceived. Bulletproof vests and night vision goggles in the hands of moderates will not change the dynamics of anything on the ground nor carry you any favor. Alawite and Sunni extremists are now dictating the pace of all developments, and they are not in the mood for conversation.

Today’s Death Toll: 210 martyrs, including 6 women, 10 children and 5 martyrs under torture: 106 in Aleppo with 72 in Sfeira who were field-executed, 61 in Damascus and Suburbs, 12 in Idlib, 11 in Homs, 8 in Hama, 7 in Daraa, 4 in Deir Ezzor and 1 in Raqqa (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 323 points, including 23 points were shelled using warplanes, 3 points using Scud missiles, the regime’s aircrafts used the explosive barrels in 5 points while cluster bombs were used in 2 points, vacuum bombs were used in two points, phosphorous bombs [Correction: more likely incendiary cluster bombs. Local activists often confuse the two] were used in 1 point. Artillery shelling was reported in 131 points, mortar shelling in 81 points, and rocket shelling in 84 point all around Syria (LCCs).

Clashes: 138. Successful operations by FSA rebels included downing a military jet in Eastern Ghouta region in Damascus Suburbs, and targeting a major pro-Assad militia checkpoint in Kafersousseh Neighborhood in Damascus City. To the South, rebels completed their take-over of border point number 48 along the border with Jordan arresting many soldiers (LCCs).



Kerry: U.S. must help counter aid to Syria opposition from extremistsThe United States is one of about a dozen nations preparing a package of broader financial and practical support for the rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry and other diplomats will frame the new help during meetings with Syrian political opposition leaders Thursday in Rome. The additional aid is expected to stop short of the weapons the rebels have long sought from Western backers.

U.N. Official for Refugees Says Syria Is Near Crisis “We are facing a moment of truth in Syria,” the official, António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, told the Council at a closed session in remarks that were later published on his agency’s Web site. “The humanitarian situation is dramatic beyond description. The refugee crisis is accelerating at a staggering pace.” Mr. Guterres was one of three senior United Nations officials who briefed the Security Council, painting what some diplomats later described as a chilling description of the fates of civilian victims of the nearly two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Britain can give military support to Syrian rebels after EU changes EU sanctions to allow greater assistance but opponents of Assad say they need more from the international community

Tony Blair calls for UK intervention in Syria crisis In the second part of a wide-ranging interview Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark talks to the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair about the crisis in Syria, the revolutions across the Middle East, and his role as the Middle East envoy representing the EU, UN, US and Russia. Kirsty begins by asking Mr Blair at what point he realised there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Syrian opposition set to attend Rome talks The Syrian opposition has decided it will attend an international summit in Rome which it initially announced it would boycott. US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Minister William Hague have successfully convinced Syrian Opposition Council President Moaz Al-Khatib to attend Thursday’s talks. The group had previously announced it would boycott the talks because of “the world’s silence” over the violence, as Jim Muir reports from Beirut.

Syrians Describe Apparent Missile Strikes on Aleppo The new reports come weeks after experts told The Lede that video of a huge explosion at Aleppo University last month suggested that the campus had been hit by a ballistic missile.

Syria humanitarian crisis worsening day by day, warns Oxfam UN ‘worst case’ of more than a million Syrian refugees displaced to neighbouring nations could be reached in weeks, says charity

Syria agrees to renew passports of overseas citizens The state-run news service announced that the Interior Ministry had directed that expired passports be renewed for two years “regardless of the reasons that had earlier prevented their renewal, and without obtaining the necessary authorizations.”

Once a curiosity, captured tanks are a growing part of Syrian rebels’ arsenal The rebel use of captured tanks and armored personnel carriers was first noticed last summer, though the engagements then were often short. One battle that this reporter witnessed in June outside the city of Talbiseh south of Kfar Nbouda ended quickly when government helicopters destroyed two armored personnel carriers the rebels had captured and turned on government soldiers. Since then, however, rebels have captured dozens, if not hundreds, of tanks and armored vehicles and have become adept at using them to attack Syrian government positions. The prevalence of rebel armor – in rebel-held areas it’s now common to see tanks and other armored vehicles parked in alleyways and orchards or covered with foliage to camouflage them from airstrikes – belies the common image of the rebels as vastly outgunned by a superior government force.


Special Reports

Elegant Damascus, besieged by both sides
Many feel trapped between an unloved authority in the form of the 43-year-old Assad dynasty and hungry revolutionaries at the gates, who resent the city’s privileged lifestyle.

Criminals cash in on Syria’s chaos with kidnappings and ransoms
Not all of the kidnappings in Syria are politically driven. In lawless areas not held by either the government or opposition, kidnappers are increasingly driven by cold cash.

In Syria, US mission creep with moral creep
President Obama is leaning toward providing nonlethal military equipment to certain rebels in Syria. Doing so runs moral risks. But doing nothing to stop the violence is also a moral risk. Can the US walk this fine line?

Has Syria become Obama’s Rwanda?
As Obama and the senior members of his national security team consider the memoirs they will inevitably write and the speeches they will invariably give after leaving office, they might reflect now on what they will later say about their greatest regrets. At or near the top of that list will likely be “Syria.” So why not do something about it now, before Syria becomes permanently mentioned in historical ignominy alongside Rwanda?

SEN. ROBERT P. CASEY, JR. Ending the Syrian War: It’s time for the United States to do what is necessary to bring down Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
We can and should do more to support the Syrian people and the armed opposition. There are democratically-oriented leaders among its ranks, which we should empower not only against the Assad regime but against the growing threat of radical Islamists in the country.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

Washington’s last chance to help Syria
In its latest editorial, the Washington Post argues for real political and military intervention by the Obama Administration. A policy of toe-dipping will not help at this stage.

If the Obama administration is to lead on Syria, it must commit itself to steps that can bring about the early collapse of the regime and its replacement by a representative and responsible alternative. Only direct political and military intervention on the side of the opposition can make that happen.

Personally, and on the basis of available leaks, I don’t believe that the new policy will mark much of a departure from the current do-nothing policy:

In Washington, activists who have lobbied for US support said the latest promises fell well short of the action needed to topple Assad and ensure moderate rebel groups won the day.Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident, said: “Bulletproof vests and night vision goggles will help you become a more effective fighter, but they will not protect you from MiGs, tanks and Scuds, or enable you to destroy them.”

Islamists Gain Momentum in Syria: After U.S. Efforts to Bolster Moderates and Subdue Extremists, Terrorist-Designated Group Gains Ground
They control airports, dams and oilfields. They are using confiscated tanks and armored vehicles in their operations, and are in possession of helicopter gunships and MiGs, booty from their recent take-over of Al-Jarrah Airport in Aleppo which they have yet to use. Last weeks, they have reportedly come into the possession of two Scud missiles after taking control of what remains of Al-Kibar nuclear facility, which had been bombed by Israel in 2007. It’s not clear whether they managed to get a launch-pad as well. Islamists affiliated with Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian Islamic Front, and other smaller groupings, are emerging as the dominant force on the ground, and probably make more than half the actual functioning rebel force.

Finding a solution in Syria is no longer about arming moderates, although they do need to be armed to remain relevant, if not just to survive, it’s about adopting a political strategy to bring the different parties to the negotiating table, including the extremists from both sides of the growing sectarian divide.

In the two months since the U.S. designation of Jabhat al-Nusra, the group’s fighters took control of one of the Taftanaz air base in Idlib, one of largest government air bases in northern Syria, where they seized tanks, helicopters and ammunition. They also took over the Jarrah airfield outside Aleppo, which gave them access to dozens of warplanes, according to rebels who took part in those battles.

In northern Syria, the Syrian Islamic Front coalition, alongside Jabhat al-Nusra fighters backed by Tunisian, Libyan, Iraqi and Chechen jihadists, continue to score the biggest gains, rebels and U.S. officials said.

The Islamist coalition led the takeover of Syria’s largest dam this month, giving them control over the electricity supply to the rebel-held east and north.

Jabhat al-Nusra, with its own fighters and the foreigners it has attracted, is now seen as the most powerful force in these rebel areas, along the Turkish and Iraqi borders.

Western-friendly opposition leaders said their inability to convince the U.S. and others to intervene in the war has discredited them among fighters and the Syrian public, making it hard to take control. Moderate rebels continue to report occasional battlefield gains, but the group is geographically scattered and far from unified, rebels said.

The Islamists’ December meeting in Turkey, meanwhile, led to the creation of the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that has become the most effective Islamist military coalition.

The meeting was also aimed at making sure the Western-friendly rebels weren’t the only ones with political leaders poised for a post-Assad Syria, coalition members said.

“We have a full political project for a modern Syria,” said a political representative for the Syrian Islamic Front, from the group’s new headquarters in Istanbul. He said Islamist rule was the right of a country with a majority-Muslim population, but that the rights of minorities would be protected.

The U.S. and others in the Friends of Syria will now have a harder time bolstering moderates, analysts said…

Islamists say the Western concept of a secularist Syrian rebel is misguided, in a Muslim nation. “There is no such thing as a secularist fighting on the ground,” said Abu Muhammad, a leader with an Islamist group. “In the next phase, the Syrian people won’t just welcome radicals. They’ll welcome the devil himself if he’ll help in the fight.”

As atrocities pile up, Syrians collect evidence
David Crane has been playing an amazing role supporting the cause of transitional justice in Syria. He does much quietly and behind the scenes, but his efforts have been instrumental in preparing us for the complexity of the task ahead.

A whole range of groups have accelerated a campaign to gather evidence of war crimes including torture, massacres and indiscriminate killings in the Syrian regime’s war against rebels, hoping to find justice if President Bashar Assad falls. Some talk about referring the cases to the International Criminal Court or forming a special tribunal, but many in Syria hope that it’s all laid out in the country’s own courtrooms….

David M. Crane, a former prosecutor at the Sierra Leone tribunal, which indicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2003, said among the challenges is the multitude of inexperienced activists collecting a flood of evidence in an uncoordinated way.

To help with building a case for a future prosecutor, Crane created an organization called the Syrian Accountability Initiative.

“We have mapped the entire conflict, we have built a crime base and we have actually sample indictments for whoever will get the case, be it a Syrian or international prosecutor,” said Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University in New York state. He said that the information is being shared with the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Syrian opposition.


Video Highlights

In Damascus City, the pounding of Jobar Neighborhood by pro-Assad militias using missile launchers , A sample of the missiles used

Meanwhile, in the Yarmouk Camp, Palestinian fighters defect from the ranks of Ahmad Jibril’s loyalist movement to form a pro-rebel unit

In Idlib, the town of Saraqib came under intense shelling by MiGs and missiles Scenes of devastation cluster bombs were used, activists still confuse them with white phosphorous bombs

In Aleppo City, rebels and loyalist clash in the neighborhoods surrounding the Aleppo Citadel , ,

The pounding of Jabal Al-Akrad region in North Lattakia continues

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues: Al-Hawiqa neighborhood ,

Syrian activists in Idlib do the Halrem Shake

15-year-old Rape Victim Will Receive 100 Lashes for Pre-Marital Sex

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MALE, Maldives – Yesterday, a Maldivian court sentenced a 15-year-old rape victim to receive 100 lashes for engaging in premarital sex.

Maldives, a popular tourist spot. (Photo Courtesy of International Business Times).

Last year, the Maldivian police examined allegations against the victim’s stepfather for raping and killing their baby.  Authorities subsequently discovered the dead baby buried on the island of Feydhoo in Shavivani Atoll.  If the victim’s stepfather, is convicted, he may face 25 years in prison.  Meanwhile, the victim’s mother is also facing charges for failure to report the incident to the Maldivian police.

After further investigation, the victim admitted to having a sexually consensual relationship with another man.

Maldives’s legal system has attributes of both Islamic and English common law.  Accordingly, in Maldives, sex outside marriage is illegal.

According to BBC News, a spokesperson for the juvenile court, Zaima Nasheed, stated that the court ordered the victim to remain at a children’s home under house arrest for the next eight months. Furthermore, the victim will not receive her punishment until she reaches the age of 18 or consents to an earlier time.

The 15-year-old victim is not the first to face this particular punishment.  In September of last year, a Maldivian court ordered the public flogging of a 16-year-old girl for premarital sex.

Amnesty International censured the punishment as “cruel, degrading and inhumane.”  “We are very surprised that the government is not doing anything to stop this punishment – to remove it altogether from the statute books,” stated Ahmed Faiz, a researcher with Amnesty.

“This is not the only case.  It is happening frequently – only last month there was another girl who was sexually abused and sentenced to lashes,” continued Mr. Faiz.

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch has chastised the punishment and stated that this in reality was a sex crime against the victim.  In addition, the United Nations has continually asked Maldivian authorities to cease using the “barbaric practice” of flogging women.

However,there is hope for the 15-year-old victim. The Maldivian government disagrees with the court’s sentence.  “The President has asked the Attorney-General to appeal against the lower court decision,” stated spokesman Abbas Adil Riza to AFP. “The girl will also be provided with the necessary legal counsel and we hope the case will be concluded in about a month,” continued Mr. Riza.

For further information, please see:

The Globe and Mail – Maldives government to appeal flogging of rape victim, 15, for premarital sex – 28 February 2013

BBC News – Maldives girl to get 100 lashes for pre-marital sex – 26 February 2013

Fox News – Alleged Maldives rape victim, 15, to get 100 lashes for having premarital sex – 27 February 2013




U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Secret Surveillance Case

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit on Tuesday that challenged a federal law giving the government a broader ability to eavesdrop on international communications.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge on Tuesday to a federal wiretapping law that allows the government to eavesdrop on international calls and emails. (Photo Courtesy of RT)

In a 5-to-4 ruling split along ideological lines, the Court shielded a government anti-terrorism program from ever facing a constitutionality challenge, at least according to court observers.

“[The decision] insulates the statute from meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jameel Jaffer in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

The law is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA.  Congress amended FISA in 2008, giving the National Security Agency broader authority to secretly monitor emails and phone calls of any U.S. citizens, so long as they are suspected of communicating with anyone located outside of the United States.  The amended provision was set to expire at the end of last year, but Congress renewed and reauthorized the bill for another five years.

In the now-rejected case, Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates challenged the constitutionality of the law on the grounds that they might be subject to future wiretapping.  But Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s majority, held that such fear was too speculative for the case to proceed.  In other words, they could not show that the law harmed them, so they lacked standing to sue.

“They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms,” Alito wrote.  The plaintiffs claimed that the reason they had not been harmed yet was because they had taken steps to avoid the surveillance — for example, traveling out of their ways to meet sources and clients in person rather than sending emails or talking on the phone.

Alito reasoned that the plaintiffs had the burden of showing they had standing.  To do that, the Justice wrote, they must point “to specific facts.”  The government had no burden to disprove the plaintiffs’ standing.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the Court’s dissenting opinion.  He agreed with the plaintiffs that, if they had not shown harm already, it was only a matter of time.

“Indeed, it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen,” Breyer wrote.

To the dissent, the fact the plaintiffs had to alter their work practices to avoid having confidential calls overheard indicated some harm already.

“In my view, this harm is not ‘speculative,’” Breyer added.

For further information, please see:

Supreme Court of the United States — Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l USA — 26 February 2013

GlobalPost — Supreme Court Blocks Warrantless Wiretapping Lawsuit — 26 February 2013

Los Angeles Times — Supreme Court Rules out Secret Surveillance Lawsuits — 26 February 2013

The New York Times — Justices Turn Back Challenge to Broader U.S. Eavesdropping — 26 February 2013

RT — US Supreme Court Refuses to Let Americans Challenge FISA Eavesdropping Law — 26 February 2013

Syrian Revolution Digest: 26 February 2013

Too Little Too Late?

Syrian Revolution Digest – February 26, 2013 

I fear that by the time any agreement on Syria is reached in international policy circles, unfolding events on the ground will have rendered it completely irrelevant. The turtle of disintegration is about to cross the finish line, but the rabbit of intervention is still foraging for carrots.


Tuesday February 26, 2013


Today’s Death Toll: 111 martyrs, including 13 children, 4 women, and 5 martyrs under torture: 51 martyrs in Damascus and Suburbs, 50 in Aleppo, 11 in Idlib, 10 in Hama, 7 in Homs , 6 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Daraa, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Swaida (LCCs).


Points of Random Shelling: 374 points, including 20 points that were shelled by regime warplanes, 3 points using Scud missiles, 4 points with barrel bombs, 6 points with cluster bombs, 2 point with Thermobaric bombs, 150 points using heavy caliber artillery, 98 points using rockets and rocket shelling in 91 points across Syria (LCCs).


Clashes: 154, with the fiercest clashes were reported in Damascus and Suburbs where FSA rebels successfully liberated the Operations Command Building in the Police Academy in Khan Aasal. In Aleppo, FSA rebels continued their shelling of the local Police Academy setting parts of it on fire. In Hama, rebels targeted the 47th Brigade using mortar shells. And in Daraa, rebels liberated a police station located on the Jordanian-Syrian borders (LCCs).



U.S. considers direct aid to Syrian rebels The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide the rebels with equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and possible military training and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria’s opposition political coalition, according to U.S. and European officials.

Rome talks unlikely to break Syria conflict deadlock Whatever exactly emerges from the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome on Thursday, one thing is clear: the parameters of the Syrian conflict – a brutal, slow-moving slugging-match on the ground, and deadlocked international diplomacy – have not changed, nor are they likely to for some time.

Ballistic missile strikes on Aleppo signal new escalation in Syria war The Syrian government denied this week that it is using Scuds in its battle to crush the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, in which as many as 70,000 people have been killed. But military experts say all the available evidence, including the scale of the devastation from the explosions and the sightings — captured on video — of missiles being fired from bases outside Damascus shortly before the blasts, points to them being Scuds. The Russian-designed missiles carry about 2,000 pounds of explosives and are manufactured by Syria using parts imported from Russia, North Korea and Iran. The Obama administration also thinks the missiles are most likely Scuds.

Will Kerry Convince Ankara on Syria? Although the two countries have closely coordinated on Syria in the past, differences have started to emerge on how the crisis should end, a fact that will no doubt focus added attention on the talks Kerry has with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.

Russia wants U.S. to urge Syria rebels into peace talks The crisis in Syria made up “the bulk of the conversation” between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at talks in Berlin on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. After talks she characterized as “really serious and hard-working”, Moscow and Washington sounded a rare note of accord over efforts to launch talks to end the nearly two-year-old conflict, in which 70,000 people have been killed.

Displacement in Syria giving way for serious gender-based crimes, warns UN official “This displacement is not only about loss of homes and economic security. It is also, for many, accompanied by gender-based crimes, deliberate victimization of women and children and a frightening array of assaults on human dignity,” the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Reports are revealing that the conflict in Syria is increasingly marked by rape and sexual violence employed as a weapon of war to intimidate parties to the conflict destroying identity, dignity and the social fabrics of families and communities.”

Syria needs grow, rebel-held north out of reach: U.N. The rebel-held north of Syria remains largely out of reach to aid operations, even though they have been stepped up elsewhere in the country torn by civil war, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Tuesday. “We are watching a humanitarian tragedy unfold before our eyes,” Amos told a news briefing. “We must do all we can to reassure the people that we care and that we will not let them down.”

Syria: Unlawful Missile Attacks Kill More Than 140 The Syrian government launched at least four ballistic missiles that struck populated areas in the city of Aleppo and a town in Aleppo governorate during the week of February 17, 2013. The attacks killed more than 141 people, including 71 children, and caused immense physical destruction.

Syria troops, rebels battle in Aleppo’s old city The rebels seized the centuries-old Umayyad Mosque, which for months has been used as a military encampment and checkpoint by regime forces, after a day of fighting, Aleppo activists said. The mosque sits near the medieval citadel, the city’s signature landmark and a strategic site high above the surrounding neighborhood, which remains in the hands of the military.


Special Reports

Syria rebels bolstered by new arms but divisions remain

Several rebel commanders and fighters told Reuters that a shipment which reached Syria via Turkey last month comprised shoulder-held and other mobile equipment including anti-aircraft and armor-piercing weapons, mortars and rocket launchers. Rebels told Reuters the weapons, along with money for cash payments for fighters, were being distributed through a new command structure, part of a plan by foreign backers to centralize control over rebel units and check Islamists linked to al-Qaeda. However, in a sign of the difficulty in uniting disparate fighting groups, some rebels said they had turned down the arms and refused to submit to the new command.

The Russia Gambit: For the sake of Syrian lives, John Kerry’s got to play hardball with Moscow.

Is this John Kerry, now traveling in Europe and soon the Middle East for consultations about Syria, or is it Warren Christopher, who embarked on a similar mission 20 years ago to bring the bloodshed in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end? The parallels between the two missions are striking — and we should hope that Kerry has learned the lessons from Christopher’s tragically failed bid.

Give Me Shelter: Syrians brave bombs and bullets to deliver aid to their war-torn country.

With security concerns and bureaucratic hurdles keeping most international aid workers from actually entering this war-torn country, NGOs rely on Syrians like Mahmoud to make the hazardous trek across the border to assess the needs for assistance and deliver aid to the local population. Syrian “implementing partners” pick up the supplies at warehouses in southern Turkey, near the border, and drive them into Syria — avoiding major highways to mitigate the risk of being attacked by a plane or helicopter. “The roads are bad because there are many parts of the road that are destroyed because of the shelling,” Mahmoud said.

Assad’s Big Ally: How Deeply Entrenched Is Iran in Syria?

Though Western and Iranian officials will not discuss Syria when they sit down for talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, Iran’s ability to shape that conflict will hang over the negotiations, strengthening both Tehran’s perception of its position and the West’s resolve to deny Iran meaningful sanctions relief.


My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.


Video Highlights


A video found on the mobile of an Assad supporter captured by rebels during a battle in Daraa Province shows pro-Assad troops torturing two detainees to death and beyond, including cutting off their genitals (gruesome)


This just released video shows the prisoner exchange that took place a few weeks ago involving Iranian hostages held by rebels


These videos are from February 12, they take us on a tour of Al-Jarrah Airport, Aleppo, after its liberation by rebels ,


In Damascus Suburbs, pro-Assad militias continue their pounding of rebel strongholds: Moadamiyeh , Daraya


In Damascus City: Jobar locals rush to put out a fire started by a missile attack , Yarmouk


The pounding of Daraa City by pro-Assad militias continues


In Idlib, the pounding of the town of Ariha by pro-Assad militias continues


U.N. Officials Call for the Release of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni

By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Human rights officials from the United Nations are asking for the government of Venezuela to free Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who is currently on house arrest. Afiuni has been charged with corruption, abuse of authority and aiding an inmate’s escape. U.N. officials are also asking for Afiuni to be offered adequate compensation and to investigate her accusations of acts of violence against her.

Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

Margaret Sekaggya, the U.N’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and other U.N. officials in an appeal to reverse Afiuni’s conviction. “Judge Afiuni’s situation represents an emblematic case of reprisal,” Sekaggya said in a statement issued by the United Nations.

In 2009, Afiuni infuriated Chavez in 2009 by freeing a banker, Eligio Cedeño,from prison as he waited trial after being accused on charges of flouting currency exchange controls. She says that he was being held in prison awaiting trial longer than law generally permitted.

“Reprisals against a judge for enforcing an opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and withholding her waiting for a process for more than three years is like opening the door to further abuses and has a widespread intimidating effect,” independent expert and current chair of the UN body, El Hadji Malick Sow, stressed.

President Hugo Chavez said on national television that Afiuni should face the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Aifuni accused state authorities of rape and other grave acts of sexual violence while in the infirmary of a women’s prison in 2010. These allegations went public in November when a book by Francisco Olivares was published that detailed her arrest and detention. She claims that she got pregnant from the crime. “After that episode was when I got sick and they removed my uterus,” Afiuni is quoted as saying in the book.

“It is unacceptable that Venezuelan authorities are not acting with due diligence to investigate the acts perpetrated against Judge Afiuni in an immediate and impartial manner, and severely punish those responsible,” said Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo.

Aifuni is currently on house arrest due to medical problems following the abortion she had from the prison rape. In December, her lawyer requested for her to be freed, but this was denied by the government the following month.

U.N. Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report on a country situation or a human rights theme.


For more information, please see:

Nuestra Tele Noticias — Hermano de María Lourdes Afiuni denuncia “traslado relámpago” de tribunal de la jueza venezolana –20 Feb 2013

Ghana New-Spy Ghana — UN Ask Venezuela To Release Judge María Lourdes Afiuni. – 15 Feb 2013

El Universal — UN: Having Afiuni imprisoned is like opening the door to further abuses –14 Feb 2013

Huffington Post — UN Human Rights Officials Urge Venezuela To Free Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni – 14 Feb 2013