#OccupyGezi Protesters Defy Bulldozers and Teargas in the Fight to Save Istanbul’s Last Public Green Space

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East Desk

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish authorities detained at least sixty people Friday in relation to protests against the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan. Demonstrations have broken out in several cities including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bodrum.

Turkish police use teargas and water cannons against peaceful demonstrators in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo Courtesy of Aljazeera)

Nationwide protests have occurred since May 28, when activists organized peaceful demonstrations against the proposed demolition of Gezi Park on Taksim Square in Istanbul. Considered the city’s last public green space, the park would be demolished to make way for a development project that would include the construction of a replica of historic military barracks built by the Ottoman Empire. A commercial shopping center would also be built on the property.

Protesters argue that the development plan is not part of a historic preservation project, but rather an excuse to build more malls and commercial shopping complexes in the heart of Istanbul.

Protesters used social media to spread awareness about the proposed destruction of the park as well as organize peaceful demonstrations. On May 28,protesters began setting up tents and sleeping bags to prevent bulldozers from entering the park. Even after authorities cleared the park by using teargas, protesters continued to gather in the park.

On Friday, the term #OccupyGezi was tweeted more than 160,000 times. Several protesters chose to Tweet in English to raise international awareness about the protests and the actions of the Turkish police.

As news of the police reaction to the peaceful demonstration spread though social media and other outlets, demonstrations broke out in other cities across the country. Many people saw the proposed demolition of Gezi Park, and the reaction of the authorities to the demonstrations, as an example of what they claim are the increasing authoritarian policies of Prime Minister Erdogan, who assumed office in 2003.

Many people across Turkey have grown increasingly frustrated with Erdogan’s authoritarian policies, including a law that would ban vendors from selling liquor between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. The people also show frustration over Erdogan’s policies toward the conflict in Syria.

According to Architecture Historian Ugur Tanyeli, Istanbul is “starved for green space.” Tanyeli argues that it is difficult to see this project as a legitimate historical preservation project because we do not know exactly how the Ottoman Empire barracks would have looked. Like many Turks, Tanyeli sees the project as another example of Erdogan’s authoritarian policies: “the real problem is not Taksim, and not the park, but the lack of any form of democratic decision-making process and the utter lack of consensus. We now have a prime minister who does whatever he wants.”

In response to the increased awareness of the protests and the project, a district court has agreed to hear the arguments against the rebuilding of historic barracks and shopping center, and has called for the project to be put on hold.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera — Protestors #OccupyGezi to Save Istanbul Park — 31 May 2013

Aljazeera — Turkey Arrests Anti-Government Protestors — 31 May 2013

CNN International — Report: Court to Hear Case at Center of Istanbul Protests — 31 May 2013

The Guardian — Turkey Protesters in Violent Clashes with Police over Park Demolition — 31 May 2013

For real-time developments, follow #OccupyGezi on Twitter

Seven Policemen Injured in Bahrain Bomb Attack; 10 Suspects Arrested

By Joe Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – Seven on-duty policemen were injured Wednesday night when a homemade bomb was remotely detonated just outside Bahrain’s capital of Manama. All seven policemen were taken to the hospital for treatment with one in critical condition and two others moderately injured according to Colonel Ibrahim Al Sheeb, General Director of Northern Province Police Department.  He condemned the attacked and praised the policemen for their bravery.

A police tear gas gun damaged in Wednesday’s bombing. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

 

Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior also condemned the bomb attack and deemed it a “terrorist act.” The Ministry of Interior’s twitter account reported in two separate posts that a total of ten suspects had been arrested for suspected involvement in the bombing. The posts also stated that the investigation and search for suspects was continuing.

This incident is one of the more severe of its kind in a country which frequently sees protesters, mostly Shi’ite, clash with police and the country’s Sunni rulers. Shi’ite protesters have been pushing for democratic reform and more involvement in government since February 2011 when large scale protests broke out. However, the controlling Sunni government has moved powerfully and swiftly to squash any substantial revolts. At least sixty people including six policemen have been killed in the conflict since the uprising began over two years ago.

The police have accused the “terrorists” of specifically targeting on-duty policemen and increasing their use of homemade explosives since April 2012. Youths around Manama regularly attack police with Molotov cocktails and police respond with stun grenades, tear gas, and bird shot. However, the Shi’ite opposition has frequently accused the police of using excessive force against protesters.

It is evident that tensions are on the rise and the conflict is intensifying after the events of the last few weeks. The attack comes on the heels of the peaceful sit-in last Friday by hundreds of Shi’ite protesters that turned violent after government security forces raided a senior Shi’ite cleric’s home. Shi’ite protesters claim that the raid was in retaliation after the cleric met with U.S. officials. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajeski condemned the attack, stressing that dialogue is the only path to reconciliation.

“We strongly condemn this attack on police and extend our deepest sympathies to all those injured. All violence is completely unacceptable and unhelpful in efforts to rebuild trust and pursue meaningful reconciliation in Bahrain,” he said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website.

For further information, please see:

Albawaba News – Bahrain bomb attack injures seven policemen – 30 May 2013

BBC – Bahrain police hurt in explosion near Manama – 30 May 2013

Huffington Post – Bahrain ‘terrorist’ injures 7 policemen; 3 suspects arrested – 30 May 2013

News – ‘Terrorist’ bomb wounds Bahrain policemen – 30 May 2013

Reuters – Bomb injures seven policemen in Bahrain – 30 May 2013

SNHR: 83598 people have been killed since Syria’s uprising against Bashar al-Assad

SNHR’s documentation policy requires that documents be provided from at least two different sources unconnected with each other.
SNHR does not issue statistics unless they are provided from files containing very precise details of each death case, fully identified by the name of the victim, as well as the date and location of death.
Using these standards, SNHR was adopted by the UN as one of the most important resources in statistics related to the victims of the Syrian conflicts, and from the renowned statistics provided at the beginning of this year, which stated the killing of 60.000 Syrian citizens.  SNHR was also adopted as the main source for many news agencies.
SNHR documented civilian casualties in addition to free army victims as a result of the possibility to apply the network’s criteria in documentation and verification.  This criteria is not applicable to the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces’ dead because such information compiling is restricted and subject to prosecution.
Between Syria’s uprising began in March 2011, and as of May 15 2013, SNHR documented that at least 80159 people were killed.  The distribution is as follows: 75992 civilians (91% civilian victims), 7606 Syrian Free Army (9% fighter brigades).
Among the civilians: 7686 women, 8329 children, and 2441 people who were tortured to death
(The following link to the official SNHR website is provided below, you can find the names and details of all the victims)
As a reference, we were able to document by name, location, photo and video within the available possibilities under the embargo and censorship imposed by the Syrian Government.  Although our estimation suggests that the real number of victims is double, up to nearly a quarter million.
In Syria, a civilian is killed by the Syrian Government’s Armed Troops every eight hours, 135 civilians are killed on a daily basis.  Every two hours a child killed, and every three hours a woman is killed.
The following chart shows the distribution of the 83598 victims in the Syrian governorates:
Damascus countryside: 17551 victims
Homs: 14254 victims
Aleppo: 11770 victims
Idlib: 10161 victims
Daraa: 7472 victims
Hama: 6492  victims
Damascus: 5597 victims
Dier Alzoor: 5477 victims
Lattakia: 1435 victims
Raqqa: 953 victims
Qunaitra: 651 victims
Hasaka: 638 victims
Tartous: 338 victims
Swidaa: 119 victims
Child victims:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces killed 8329 children, including 82 children who were arrested and tortured to death.  The proportion of child victims relative to victims overall is 9%, which is considerably high, and indicates that civilians are deliberately targeted and systematically killed.  In addition there are almost 9000 children currently detained by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces.
Female victims:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces killed 7686 women, including 24 women who were arrested and tortured to death.  Among the female victims, 2507 girls were killed.  The proportion of female victims relative to victims overall is 9%, which is considerably high, and indicates that civilians are deliberately targeted and systematically killed.  Nearly 6500 women are currently detained, and more than 5000 women were raped by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces.
Torturing to death:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces systematically and deliberately violated international conventions and laws that clearly and explicitly prohibit torture by using very brutal torture methods against detainees.  Such actions led to the deaths of 2441 Syrian civilians, including 82 children, 24 women, 51 over senior citizens, and 106 armed rebels; This shows that less than 5% of those tortured were armed rebels, and the rest were civilians.
There is a high volume of cases for those who were tortured to death, but due to the restrictions and inaccessibility to work in the Syrian territory, we were unable to document them.  This reveals that the real number could be far greater than what is currently known, especially since there are prisons who torture people to death and throw the bodies of the tortured into vacant land or rivers in an effort to decompose and disintegrate them and blur the crime.
 
Condemnation And Responsibilities
Responsibility of states for internationally wrongful acts, similarly Customary IHL provides that the state is responsible for all acts committed by a member of its military and security forces, thus, the state is responsible for those wrongful acts committed by its military and security forces including crimes against humanity.
Prohibition crimes against humanity are among the rules of jus cogens or peremptory, and the punishment of such crimes is compulsory according to the General principles of international law.  Moreover, the crimes against humanity are the highest violations of basic human rights, such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  In accordance with the principles, the State is responsible under international law.  Syrian Arabic Republic must be held responsible for such crimes and violations, for the duty to ensure punishment of the perpetrators individually, and the duty to provide compensation to victims.
SNHR holds that all violations committed by the Syrian Government Armed Forces to the Syrian government and the  General Commander of the army and the armed forces, Bashar Al-Assad, and to all the officials of security branches, and to all  financial and moral supporters to those forces, with the legal judicial and material consequences to the victims and their families in addition to all the reactions that will come from the victims’ families or their friends.
 
Legal conclusions:
1-    Syrian Government Armed Forces committed extensive systematic crimes against humanity by unlawful killings
2-    Syrian Government Armed Forces committed these extensive systematic crimes in non international armed conflicts, so such crimes should be considered war crimes
3-   Syrian government by killing and targeting civilians violated both International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
Recommendations :
Syrian Governments   
1-    Immediately stop all human rights’ violations.
2-    Respect international obligations in the protection of civilians in time of war, and respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
 
Lebanese and Iraqi Governments   
The Lebanese and Iraqi Governments should control their borders, and the Government of Lebanon must take necessary measures to prevent Hezbollah from  attacking and occupying  Syrian territory, stop them from shelling Syrian territory from Lebanon, and to stop facilitating logistical supplies to Syria Government’s Armed forces.
International Commission of Inquiry :
The International Commission of inquiry must live up to its level of expectation and give an accurate description of violations committed by the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces against the Syrian people.
 
Human Rights Council:
1-    Demand the Security Council and the concerned international institutions to hold the Syrian government responsible for what’s happening for the Syrian People who suffer from murder, rape, displacement, and unlawful arrest
2-    Pay serious attention to cases involving death by torture, considered to be the worst type of crime.
3-    Pressure the Syrian Government Troops to stop torturing and  killing, and release all those who were kidnapped and arrested
4-    Hold alias and supporters of the Syrian Government Troops: Russia, Iran, and China, morally and physically responsible for what is happening to the Syrian people
Security Council:
1-     Refer all the criminals involved to the ICC
2-    Warn the Syrian Government Troops of the repercussions of using brutal methods on the stability of civil peace and coexistence between the people of the same society
3-    Add the Syrian National Army, Shabiha troops loyal to Syrian Government’s Armed troops, and Lebanese Hezbollah on the international terror list
Arab League:
1-    Demand the Human Rights Council and United Nations to give serious, and the appropriate attention, necessary to stop the daily killing
2-    Political and diplomatic pressure on the Syrian Government Troops ‘s mainallies-Russia, Iran, and China – to prevent them from continuously providing cover, and international and political protection for all the crimes committed against the Syrian people, and hold them morally and physically responsible for all the excesses of the Syrian Government Troops
3-    Serious attention of this case and give it high priority, and try to take care of victim families psychologically, materially, and educationally

SNHR: Humanitarian Rights and the Humanitarian Situation in Al-Qusayr City

Al-Qusayr city is located about 35 KM south of Homs, and previously had a population of nearly 30,000 people.

Since May 18, 2013 to this moment, Al-Qusayr has been exposed to the heaviest military attack by the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces, supported by the direct intervention of Hezbollah, the extremist militia.

Syrian Government Armed Forces are currently shelling the city with warplanes, while Hezbollah is shelling the city with surface to surface rockets.  In addition to shelling from artillery positions near a water refinery, which Hezbollah occupies,  it has cut the waterline to all of Al-Qusayr and Hama city in a deliberate attempt to prevent families from accessing water.

Bombardment rates were increased to nearly 50 shells per minute, and resulted in the death of 183 victims, and wounded more than 1,300 people.

In the middle of a shortage in medical equipment, and due to the Syrian government’s prevention of allowing aid to the city, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) could not visit al-Qusayr, and provide any kind of relief at all.

In addition to preventing relief to the city, the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces deliberately shelled the field hospital, completely destroying it.

Supplies and food materials are scarce, because there is no way to provide any grain flour to the city’s residents.

Residents cannot flee or escape due to the siege of the city.  Residents have tried repeatedly, but Hezbollah’s snipers had targeted and wounded a number of them.

Prepared by the Syrian Network for Human Rights

Guatemalan High Court Overturns Rios Montt’s Genocide Conviction

By Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – The trial of former Guatemalan dictator General Efrain Rios Montt took a surprising turn on Monday when the Constitutional Court overturned Montt’s 80-year sentence for genocide. Citing illegal proceedings at the trial level, the Constitutional Court struck all proceedings in the trial subsequent to April 19.

Rios Montt’s time as dictator of Guatemala is believed to be the most violent period of the Guatemalan Civil War. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Trial judges dismissed Rios Montt’s attorney, Francisco Garcia, multiple times throughout the trial for attempting to have the judges recused “for bias”. The Constitutional Court noted that the trial should have been suspended to hear appeals rather than delaying them until after a conviction. Following the Court’s decision, Rios Montt’s attorney told a Washington Post reporter that he would be seeking his client’s freedom on Tuesday.

Rios Montt was on trial for the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Mayans during his 18-month rule as dictator from 1982-83. He originally gained power after a military coup during the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War. Over 100 witnesses came forward to testify at trial about rapes, killing of women and children, and other human rights violations committed by government forces during the period when Rios Montt was in power. The Civil War is estimated to have resulted in more than 200,000 deaths and over a million refugees. However, Rios Montt’s time in power is believed to have been the most violent of the War.

Rios Montt’s conviction marked the first time in history that a head of state was tried and convicted of genocide in a domestic court. His trial was met with heavy opposition from the Foundation Against Terrorism and the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF). Both groups ran advertisements denouncing both the trial and it supporters. The Foundation also brought hundreds of supporters from the Ixil region, including former military and indigenous people, to protest the trial.

Mario Polancko, director of a Guatemalan human rights group, told CNN that the Constitutional Court’s decision had “served the interests of those in power, and when it is one of the representatives of those in power who is on trial, they will resort to any means.” Polancko added, “I think there has been an abuse in the interpretation of the law.”

The Constitutional Court’s ruling does not signal the end of Rios Montt’s legal battle, however. The Court’s Secretary, Martin Guzman, told the Washington Post that the trial must be rolled back to April 19 to address the numerous appeals. Both sides will now have to return to court to redo the final weeks of the trial.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Guatemala annuls Rios Montt’s genocide conviction – 21 May 2013

CNN – Guatemala genocide conviction overturned – 21 May 2013

The Washington Post – Guatemala’s top court overturns genocide conviction of former leader Efrain Rios Montt – 21 May 2013

Al Jazeera – Guatemala: Rios Montt genocide trial ends with historic verdict – 15 May 2013

Raid on Bahrain Sheikh’s Home Fuels Tension

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrian – Angered by a security forces raid on the home of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim, hundreds of Bahraini Shi’ite Muslims participated in a sit-in protest against their Sunni-led government on May 24th.  Sheikh Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in the Gulf state, was not present in his home at the time of the raid.  Security forces seized documents but made no arrests.

Protesters carrying images of Sheikh Isa Qassim walk in Diraz 24 May 2013
Protesters carrying images of Sheikh Isa Qassim following a raid on his home. (Photo curtesy of BBC)

Shias make up the majority population in Bahrain, but most of the money and power is controlled by the Sunnis and the Sunni Royal Family.  Tensions and discrimination from this religious sectarianism have long been escalating. Lack of accountability has been regarded as the biggest problem for increasing tensions by Bahrain’s allies.

In February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in the Capital Manama but were later cleared out by the police force.  Those mostly affected by the police brutality were Shia Bahrainis where more than fifty people died, hundreds were jailed, and thousands lost their jobs.

Over the past two years, Bahrain has experienced numerous democracy protests in a battle for influence between Shia power Iran and Sunni Arab states including Saudi Arabia.  Many mass protests have been abolished, but smaller demonstrations continue where the Bahraini Shia majority wants the Sunni rules to raise elections and create a constitutional monarchy.

Al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition political society, organized the May 24th sit-in protesting the raid on Sheikh Qassim’s home and announced that it would withdraw from reconcilliation talks with the Bahraini government.  Jasim Husain, a senior al-Wefaq member, stated that the raid “deeply offended” the Shia community.  The government’s promises to reform the human rights violations and police brutality against protestors have failed, claimed al-Wefaq.

The sit-in was held in Diraz near Sheikh Qassim’s mosque. Protestors waved Bahraini flags and held up images of Sheikh Qassim.  The protest was authorized by the government and the police did not attempt to stop protesters from entering the town.  However, one witness recounted that violence went on for more than an hour.  Protestors threw stones at riot police who then responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Three Sunni political societies issued a statement denouncing a meeting Sheikh Qassim had with Rashad Hussain, a senior U.S. state department official.  These societies have claimed that the Sheikh is responsible for the ongoing unrest in Bahrain and that this meeting was evidence that the position of the American government is “increasingly exposed in its support for terrorist operations in Bahrain.”

Bahraini Shias claim that the Sheikh’s meeting with Rashad Hussain was the driving force behind the raid on his home.  The police rejected notions of the raid on the Sheikh’s home being targeted and claimed that it occurred during a security operation in the same neighborhood.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera – Bahraini protesters clash with police – 25 May 2013

Reuters – Bahraini protesters clash with police over raid on cleric’s home – 25 May 2013

BBC – Raid on Bahrain cleric’s home draws thousands to sit-in – 24 May 2013

BBC – Bahrain tensions a trigger for Gulf turmoil – 13 December 2013

 

French Soldier’s Stabbing Believed to be Act of Terrorism

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France – A French soldier was stabbed while on patrol in La Defense, a business district west of Paris, on Saturday. Private First Class Cedric Cordier, 23, was approached from behind and stabbed in the neck with a small-bladed knife.

23-year-old Cordier was stabbed while on duty on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of The Local)

The suspect, described as being a bearded, athletically-built man of North African origin, was captured on security cameras before fleeing into a crowded shopping area and evading detention by police and the other patrolling-soldier.

Reports indicate that the suspect was seen “praying” before the knife attack, increasing fears that the attack was an act of terrorism.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters, “…there are components which could lead you to think we’re dealing with an act of terrorism.”

Last Wednesday, a British soldier was killed on a London street by two men allegedly acting out of revenge for violence against Muslims.

Valls told reporters that, “there are elements- the sudden violence of the attack- that could lead one to believe there might be a comparison with what happened in London…But at this point, honestly, let us be prudent.”

Similarly, French President Francois Hollande said there was no sign of a direct link with the London killing, but that authorities are “exploring all options.”

France is on high alert for attacks by Islamic militants following its military intervention in Mali in January, which prompted threats by the North African wing of al Qaeda. Jihadist rebels threatened to “strike the heart of France.” France’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist alert system was raised to “reinforced red” as a result.

The higher state of alert is one of the reasons why some 450 soldiers are on patrol at metro and train stations and other vulnerable locations in Paris. The Vigipirate scheme sees troops deployed at high-profile tourist, business and transport sites.

Cordier, who was in uniform patrolling the underground corridors where shops and crowded public transport lines converge under the Arch of La Defense, was released from a military hospital on Monday morning. The stab wound was reportedly just two centimetres away from his carotid artery. The 23-year-old soldier had lost a considerable amount of blood, but remained stable.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian vowed to continue France’s “implacable” fight against terrorism. Anti-terrorism investigators are handling the case.

Currently, a police hunt is under way for the suspect. He is described as being 1.90 metres tall, and though initially thought to be wearing a djellaba (a traditional North African robe), later reports indicated he was wearing a black pullover.

For more information, please see: 

The Local – Suspect ‘prayed’ before knifing French soldier – 27 May 2013

Al Jazeera – French anti-terrorism police probe stabbing – 26 May 2013

BBC News – Knife attack on soldier in Paris treated as terrorism – 26 May 2013

France 24 – French soldier stabbed on patrol outside Paris – 25 May 2013

Suicide Bombers Attack two Locations in Niger for Revenge

By Danielle Gwozdz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NIAMEY, NIGER – Suicide bombers affiliated with the jihadist Mujao group (movement for unity and jihad in West Africa) attacked two locations in Niger around 5:30 A.M. on May 23.

Niger army soldiers patrol northern Niger. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

The first attack occurred at a barracks in Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger.  This attack killed about 19 people, including 18 soldiers and one civilian.  The suicide bombers drove a Toyota truck through the barrier of the town’s military base and detonated the explosives when soldiers opened fire. An Agadez resident, Barka Sofa, said he heard a strong explosion outside the army base, followed by heavy weapons’ fire. A local journalist reported heavy damage inside the camp.

The second attack occurred 30 minutes later and 150 miles north of Agadez in the Somair mines in the town of Arlit.  One person died and roughly 50 people were injured, mostly security agents at the mine.  A man driving a 4×4 packed with explosives had been mixed in with Somair workers.  Once his vehicle was in front of the mine he blew up the vehicle.

The mine in Arlit is controlled by a French-run operation, Avera, the world’s second largest uranium producer, which extracts more than one-third of uranium from Niger and has been operating there for more than 40 years. Areva stated that the mine had been “badly damaged” and they were forced to stop production.

Four of the Mujao attackers died in the explosions, while one is still alive and is holding four army officers hostage.

The jihadist Mujao group is part of a loose Islamist coalition which seized control of North Mali last year before being ousted by a French-led offensive in January.  Niger has been singled out because of its role in the military intervention in Mali and for its relationship with France and the United States, which signed an agreement this year to establish a new military base in the country.

A jihadist Mujao spokesman stated that they attacked these two locations in Niger because they were “enemies of Islam” and referred to Niger and France’s involvement in combating Islamists in Mali.

This attack occurred four months after a previous terrorist attack in neighboring Algeria.  Al-Qaeda linked militants seized a desert gas plant in a siege that left 38 hostages dead and had been in retaliation against the intervention in Mali.

Niger states that the attacks had been an inevitable consequence of the government’s decisions to intervene in Mali.  However, it states that the intervention had not been a mistake because it shares borders with Mali and would have been affected by the crisis regardless of its intervention.

French President Francois Hollande vowed to help Niger “destroy” the militants and would back all efforts of Niger to stop the hostage situation. However, it will not intervene as it had in Mali, but has the same willingness to cooperate to fight against terrorism.

 

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Niger Suicide Bombers Target Areva Mine and Barracks – 24 May 2013

Africa Review – 19 Killed in Niger Suicide Bomb Strike – 23 May 2013

The Dawn News – At Least 20 Killed in Al Qaeda-Linked Militant Attacks in Niger – 23 May 2013

The Guardian – Suicide Attacks Rock Niger – 23 May 2013

Ahram Online – Islamist Bombers Kill 20 in Niger Attacks, Seize Hostages – 23 May 2013

Yahoo! News – Islamist Bombers Kill 20 in Niger, Seize Hostages – 23 May 2013

 

ICTY Marks the 20th Anniversary of its Inception

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Managing Editor, News

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Members of the UN Security Council marked last Saturday as the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), created  to prosecute war crimes committed during the Balkan conflict of the 1990’s.

May 25, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s inception. (Photo Courtesy of UN News Centre)

Twenty years ago, The ICTY was unanimously established on May 27, 1993 under the UN Security Council’s Resolution 827.  Since then, the international community has provided more than two billion dollars for the tribunal’s continued performance.  The ICTY has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of human rights committed between 1991 and 2001.  Proceedings against 131 people were completed, while 25 others still currently await their sentence.  The tribunal will adjourn for the final time in 2016.

The ICTY sentenced some of the most notorious human rights offenders who were active during the Balkan War, including then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in the ICTY detention center during the trial for his crimes committed in Bosnia – Herzegovina, Croatia, and in Kosovo.

The Security Council recalled the resolution in a statement made to the press last Saturday.  In the statement, the Security Council stated the necessity of passing the resolution, and also recognized “the contribution of the ICTY in the fight against impunity for “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.”

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz also hailed the achievements of the ICTY.  “One of the achievements is for sure that there are no fugitives at large any more,” said Brammertz.  The court’s president, Judge Theodore Meron, said that the biggest achievement for the ICTY was being able to show that “an international court could deliver justice impartially.”

Meron also shared his criticism of the court when he commented on the efficiency of the court due to the complexity of the crimes.  Referring to the inability to hand a final sentence to Milosevic, who died before the end of his four-year trial, Meron said “I wish we could have gone faster, but I do believe that we have such special problems that if you focus on our cases you see that our progress has been quite reasonable.”  Bosnian war crimes investigator Mirsad Tokaca commenting on the length of trials, said “[i]t is impermissible that the trials should last so long, absolutely impermissible.”

Many Serbs also criticized the court, saying that they were unfairly targeted and form the majority of the suspects.  Yet some Serbs, like former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was initially convicted by the court of war crimes and later acquitted after a retrial, praised it. “This is the only institution or arbiter that went (through) with it, so if the question is, is it worth that we have it or it would have been better not to have something like that?  I must say it was worthy to have it,” said Haradinaj.

For further information, please see:

CP24 — Mixed Reviews for UN Yugoslav War Crimes Court — 27 May 2013

Euronews — Ex-Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal Marks 20 Years of Business — 25 May 2013

UN News Centre — Security Council Recognizes Contribution of UN Yugoslav Tribunal – 25 May 2013

Dalje — ICTY Marks 20th Anniversary Amid Divided Assessments of its Work — 24 May 2013

Activists Consider Ukraine’s First LGBTI March Successful

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine — Despite a ban issued by the city and upheld in court, LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Intersex) activists held Ukraine’s first gay rights march for forty minutes during the Kyiv Pride 2013 forum. And it appears that the police granted the activists protection.

Police remove Orthodox protestor who attempted to block Kyiv’s first gay pride event. (Photo Courtesy of Kyiv Post)

One organizer of the march, Stas Misthenko stated that the 2013 event was important to demonstrate possible change “[n]ot just in Ukraine, but for Russia, for Belarus, for Moldova.” Last year, organizers canceled their demonstration following both a statement that police could not guarantee protection for participants and the beating of an activist in broad daylight. Since then, one non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kyiv has received reports of twenty-nine violent attacks and thirty-six threats against LGBTI persons.

Recently, however, Ukraine has been under pressure to improve its human rights. For instance, the European Council established deadlines for Ukraine to demonstrate such progress by making judicial and electoral reforms, as well as releasing political prisoners. Also, the CEO of Amnesty International Ukraine, Tetiana Mazur declared, “The Ukrainian legislation doesn’t provide an adequate protection and sometimes violates the rights of [LGBT] people. Ukraine is unable to guarantee the protection of their principal freedoms. The right for freedom from the discrimination, the right to security of person, integrity and the right to freedom of assembly.”

Mazur also called for Ukraine to oppose legislation that would criminalize the “propaganda of homosexuality”, and instead promote legislation addressing LGBTI discrimination. According to Misthenko, the vast majority of LGBTI people hide their sexual identities for fear of being beaten in the streets or fired from their jobs.

Several right-wing and religious groups in Ukraine threatened that, if held, this year’s march would result in violence. Archpriest Greorgy Kovalenko of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church explained that rather than a chance to defend rights, the Equality March “was propaganda for sin and sodomy.”

On May 21, 2013, Kyiv officials sought to bar events from the city center on May 25 not linked to the Kyiv City Day celebration, including the Equality March. The Kyiv city administration stated that in light of several applications for rallies supporting opposing views, the government was “obliged to take the necessary measures to ensure public order and protect people’s lives and safety.”

To prevent violence, a court in Ukraine upheld the ban on March 23.

Nevertheless, on March 25, 2013, the Equality March took place amidst strong police presence. Reports indicate that over one hundred pro-LGBTI activists were present. While demonstrators marched on Victory Avenue, Orthodox Christians denounced them by shouting slogans. One slogan included: “Ukraine is not America. Kyiv is not Sodom.”

After police detained thirteen persons protesting against gay rights, improvement appears very likely for Ukraine’s human rights.

For further information, please see:

Kyiv Post: Police Detain about ten Opponents of Equality March in Kyiv — 25 May 2013

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty — Gay Pride Activists Briefly March in Kyiv — 25 May 2013

Reuters — Ukraine’s First Gay March Held under Police Protection — 25 May 2013

EuroNews — Kiev Court Cites Security Reasons for Banning Gay Pride Rally — 24 May 2013

Interfax Ukraine — Organizers Try to Hold Gay Pride Parade in Kyiv on May 25 Despite Court Ban — 24 May 2013

Amnesty International — Ukraine: Kyiv Authorities in Shameful About-Face on Pride March — 23 May 2013

Human Rights Watch — Ukraine: Allow Equality March, Protect Participants — 23 May 2013

National Radio Company of Ukraine — Court Bans LGBT Equality March in Kyiv on May 25 — 23 May 2013

Reuters — Ukranian Court Bars Gay Pride Event, Citing Security Concerns — 23 May 2013

Guardian — Ukraine Gay Pride Marchers Ready to Defy Violence — 18 May 2013

Kyiv Post — Amnesty International Urging Ukraine to Adopt Laws to Combat Discrimination against LGBT People — 17 May 2013