After Violent Clash, Student Protesters arrested in Chile

By Ellis Cortez
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – Police clashed with students in Chile’s capital, Santiago, on June 26th after a peaceful nationwide demonstration by more than 100,000 students demanding education reform. Chilean police have arrested more than 100 people, many of them teenagers, after raiding secondary schools that had been taken over by their students.

Protesters run holding Molotov cocktails to throw at police in violent clashes during a student demonstration in Santiago, Chile on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Photo Courtesy of AP/Luis Hidalgo)

Local television showed police bursting into schools barricaded with chairs as well as isolated clashes between students and police. The violence erupted when protesters began to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at police forces. Police in riot gear responded with water cannons and tear gas.

“They are not students, they are criminals and extremists,” Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said at a press conference. “They’ve acted in a coordinated and planned way to provoke these acts of violence.”

Chile’s powerful student movement has staged major demonstrations to demand free and high quality education, along with the elimination of the profit motive at private universities. These demonstrations have been going on in the country since 2011, during which thousands of students have taken over schools and universities sporadically.

Although Chile’s education system is regarded by many as one of the best in Latin America, students argue it is deeply unfair. They say middle-class students have access to some of the best schooling in the region, while the poor have to be content with under-funded state schools. Students are demanding that the state be put back in control of the mostly privatized public universities.

In contrast to other protests, the student movement on Wednesday received the support of teachers, the CUT union, the professors union, the Federation of Port Workers and the CTC copper union, among other labor organizations.

Protesters also demanded a wider distribution of Chile’s copper wealth. Chile is the world’s top copper producer and has witnessed a surge in economic growth and investment, which the demonstrators say is not being used for the betterment of society as a whole. The South American country is afflicted by severe income inequality.

“This has to do with discontent that is deeply rooted in many sectors of society. But we’re the first ones to sympathize with people who are innocent victims of this violence, because there’s no way to justify these types of clashes,” Andres Fielbaum, president of the University of Chile student federation told state television.

Even after two years of student marches, students say they have seen few real benefits and the dispute over education reform remains a key electoral issue ahead of the November 17 presidential election.

For more information please see:

The Guardian  Chilean police evict student protesters from schools  27 June 2013

BBC Chilean students arrested in school raids after protests 27 June 2013

RT Actualidad Fuertes enfrentamientos marcan nueva jornada de protestas en Chile 27 June 2013

NBC News Violent clashes spoil Chile student protest 27 June 2013

 Fox News Latino Union members, miners join huge student protest in Chile 26 June 2013

Pakistani Girl Falsely Accused of Blasphemy Finds Shelter in Canada

Kevin M. Mathewson

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan–Rimsha Masih, a fourteen year old Pakistani Christian girl who was falsely accused of burning pages from the Koran, has fled to Canada with her family.

Rimsha and her family being released from prison.

The case attracted widespread international concern after Rimsha was detained in a maximum security prison for several weeks in August 2012. Charges against the girl were subsequently dropped, yet she and her family were forced into hiding after receiving several death threats.  If convicted, the teenager could have faced life in prison.

Along with the young girl’s release, Cleric Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti has been detained on suspicion of planting evidence to create resentment against Christians.

The teenager, who is believed to have learning difficulties, has now settled in Canada although the family’s exact location has not been made public.

According to Peter Bhatti, the leader of a Christian organization in Canada, Rimsha and her family are doing well.

“She is doing wonderful. She is studying in school, every day, she [is] going to school, she is learning, she is starting to talk more.”  Bhatti said.

In Pakistan, where 97% of the population is Muslim, blasphemy has become an overwhelmingly sensitive issue. In 2011 politicians Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for attempting to reform blasphemy law.

Campaigners allege that the law is frequently used to target religious minorities or settle personal scores. Suspects can face the fury of lynch mobs and judges soft on sentencing those convicted of the crime have even been murdered.

However, there seems to be little change in the law. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death in November 2010 and remains in prison after numerous women claimed she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Pakistani girl falsely accused of blasphemy ‘in Canada’ – 29 June 2013

Fox News – Pakistan ‘blasphemy’ girl moves to Canada – 30 June 2013

The Telegraph – Pakistani girl falsely accused of blasphemy flees to Canada – 30 June 2013

CNews – Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy settled in Canada: reports  – 30 June 2013

Guinea Court Charges Minister for 2009 Staduim Massacre

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CONAKRY, Guinea – A court in Guinea has charged Col Claude Pivi with murder, rape, and destruction of property for his alleged role in the 2009 massacre of opposition supporters in a stadium in Conakry.

2009 Stadium Massacre (Photo courtesy of Voice of America)

On September 28, 2009, security forces entered and opened fire on peaceful pro- democracy demonstrators gathered in the stadium to protest the military junta.  At least 150 people were shot, trampled, and stabbed and about 100 women were publicly raped, and tortured during the attack.  A subsequent U.N. investigation concluded that the events at the stadium likely constitute crime against humanity and the violence was believed to be a factor in the ending of the junta. Eyewitness accounts place Col Pivi in the stadium during the attack.

Col Pivi was a leading figure in the CNDD military junta at the time of the massacre and is now minister for presidential security.  He is the highest ranking official to be charged thus far and is one of seven leaders from the junta to be charged for the massacre.

There were fears that Pivi  would never be charged for his role in the attack because he still has a loyal following among the army.  Human rights groups have appluaded the action taken by the court, but are concerned that a trial may never take place.  “Our concern is that this must not just be a situation whereby people are indicted and then are left to go about their business as normal. We want to see some further advancement on this issue…we welcome this indictment as it should help us get to the truth. However, we call on this government to make sure that all those indicted persons still in the country should be removed from their posts until they face justice.” Asmaou Diallo, who runs a victims’ support group told BBC news.

Rights groups have also criticized President Alpha Conde, elected in 2010 in Guinea’s first democratic power hand over since the end of colonialism in 1958, for not moving fast enough to prosecute those responsible for the 2009 attack.

For further information, please see:

Washington Post — Court in Guinea charges notorious military commander Claude Pivi for 2009 stadium massacre — 28 June 2013

Human Rights Watch — Guinea: Minister Charged for Alleged Role in Stadium Massacre — 28 June 2013

Chicago Tribune — Guinea charges minister over 2009 massacre of demonstrators — 28 June 2013

BBC News — Guinea stadium massacre: Minister Claude Pivi charged — 28 June 2013

School Bus and Hospital Attacks in Quetta

Kevin M. Mathewson

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

QUETTA, Pakistan–Sunni militants in Quetta, Balochistan have claimed responsibility for attacks carried out on a bus carrying women students and on a hospital treating the injured victims on the bus, claiming at least 25 lives.

People in the Pakistani city of Quetta are in shock after Saturday’s double attacks. Her, civilians are seen emerging from the hospital which was attacked.

The follow up attack on the hospital, where survivors of the bus attack were being treated, led to a prolonged gun battle between security forces and militants. The standoff ended when security forces stormed the building, freeing 35 people that had been taken hostage.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks. “The secretary general notes with dismay that violence against women and educators has increased in recent years, the aim to keep girls from attaining the basic rights of education.” Ki-moon’s spokesperson said.

Abubakar Siddiq, a spokesman for Lashkar-e- Jhangvi, claimed that the attacks were revenge for an earlier raid by security forces against the group in the Kharotabad neighborhood of Quetta, where a woman and child were killed. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is known for its close ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

“The suicide attack on the bus was carried out by one of our sisters.” said Siddiq. “She boarded the student bus and blew herself up. Then we carried out a second suicide attack at the hospital and our fighters killed several people.”

On June 6th, Pakistani security forces killed at least three militants and two women belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban during a raid at a house in Kharotabad.

Quetta has been a stronghold for violence, some relating to a separatist insurgency, but much of it carried out by Taliban fighters or other militants.  A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shiite Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92. Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Funerals are being planned for the victims of the bus and hospital attacks. An official day of mourning will be observed throughout Balochistan.

Citizens of Pakistan are outraged at both the perpetrators and the security forces who have failed to prevent the three deadly attacks in Quetta in the past six months.

For further information, please see:

The Independent – Pakistan: Gunmen storm hospital after Quetta bus bombing which killed 14 female students – 15 June 2013

Yahoo! News – Sunni militants claim twin Pakistan attacks – 16 June 2013

BBC News – Pakistani city of Quetta in shock after double attack – 16 June 2013

China’s Xinjiang Region Plagued by Unrest and Deadly Attacks

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– Violence erupted Wednesday in China’s western Xinjiang region, and continued through Friday with reports of at least 35 dead. Beijing officials reported through state-run media outlet Xinhua Saturday that the two incidents were “terrorist attacks.” This is the deadliest attack in the area since a 2009 clash between ethnic minority Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese left over 200 people dead. President Xi Jinping has authorized a security crackdown in the area, stationing riot police, armored tanks, and other security military personnel throughout the region.

Armed police officers stationed in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Wednesday’s incidents took place in Lukqun township in Turpan prefecture, a fairly remote area of the vast western region. Reports state that some 11 armed assailants attacked a police station with knives and set fire to nearby police cars. The initial violence culminated in the deaths of 24 people, at least two were police officers. The police forces squashed the brief uprising, however, killing 10 of the assailants and severely wounding one, who died later in the week.

The rioting continued on Friday in the desert city of Hotan, a remote area heavily populated by minority Uighur. According to Xinhua News Agency, approximately 100 people, armed with knives and riding motorcycles, gathered outside of mosques and other local religious venues, before launching an attack on a police station near Moyu county. Additionally, some 200 people, reportedly unaffiliated with the motorcycle group, attempted to “incite trouble” at a nearby shopping mall.

While little information has been uncovered describing any causes or reasons for the incidents, reports suggest that they reflect a continual strife in the region between the minority Uighurs and majority Han.

Uighurs make up approximately 45% of the regions population, the remainder being Han Chinese. The Uighurs are an ethnically diverse group, largely muslim and speaking Turkic, that have inhabited the area for decades. The most recent decade has seen a massive influx of Han Chinese to the area. The Uyghur American Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, argues that the Chinese government has cracked down intensely on religious practice by Uighurs, and restricted their cultural heritage under a guise of trying to eradicate “poverty” from the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government has dumped billions of dollars into the region in order to decrease poverty, which it perceives as the legitimate source of unrest between Uighurs and the Han settlers. In pursuit of these investments, the government policy has been to foster religious and cultural identity which is legitimate. The government has since taken a harsh stance against most Uighurs whom it believes use Islam to incite violence and repel the Communist regime.

In July of 2009 a massive, seven day riot broke out between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi, the regional capital. The events began with a relatively peaceful march by approximately 1,000 Uighurs, but quickly degenerated into a violent riot, with a reported death toll of 197, although UAA and Human Rights Watch suspect that this number is a severe under-estimate. Since these riots, the Chinese government has suspiciously watched Uighurs, suspecting them as “separatists” and believing many Uighur groups to be connected with the Taliban in Pakistan. Beijing has issued several reports that connect some violent Uighur groups with terrorist training under the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) based in Pakistan. ETIM affiliations are banned in China, and the UAA disputes claims that Islamic extremists and fundamentalists exist in the Uighur population of Xinjiang.

The latest incidents took place just one week before the four year anniversary of the Urumqi riots.

The Chinese government has vowed to resolve the issues and extinguish any further unrest or terrorist acts. Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, pledged to “step up action to crack down upon terrorist groups and extremist organizations,” at a meeting of government officials in Urumqi.

For more information, please see:

The Globe and Mail — Death toll from violence in China’s Xinjiang region rises to 35: state media — 28 June 2013

Reuters — China’s troubled Xinjiang hit by more violence — 29 June 2013

VOA — Xinjiang’s Deadliest Violence in Years Renews Focus on Ethnic Tensions — 26 June 2013

Channel News Asia — China blames ‘terrorists’ for sparking riot in Xinjiang clash — 29 June 2013

Indian Express — Violence hits west China’s Xinjiang ahead of key anniversary — 29 June 2013

BBC — China’s Xinjiang hit by fresh unrest — 29 June 2013