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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Middle East
JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a controversial Israeli settlement in the West Bank on Monday where he dedicated a school named for his late father. The Netanyahu visit to the West Bank was played down by Israeli officials; however, the visit drew the Israeli settlement program into the limelight just ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Middle East. The Secretary of State’s visit to the region is an attempt to reignite peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
An Israeli planning committee has introduced a plan to build an additional sixty-nine housing units in Har Homa, a Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem originally constructed more than a decade ago with a population of roughly twelve thousand Israelis. The municipality has said that this plan is not new and has already been passed through initial planning stages.
Kerry’s visit will be his fifth to the region since being sworn in as Secretary of State in February. Kerry is expected to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramalhal. Patrick Ventral, acting deputy spoken for the State Department decided to answer any questions about the announced settlements, but stated that on his trip Kerry will “sit down with both sides.” Kerry mentioned that he is not concerned with setting any deadlines for specific actions to be taken by either side, including limits on settlement development.
Kerry said “I’m not setting any deadlines. We purposefully wanted to avoid deadlines. Deadlines can become self-imposed hurdles and, in fact, impediments to actually making progress.” However, Kerry stated that this is an urgent time in the Middle East peace process and a critical moment to make difficult decisions because ultimately “time is the enemy of a peace process.”
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be recognized as the Palestinian state, which was annexed by Israel but never recognized by the international community. Palestine also feels that Israel must stop the development of new Jewish settlements in the occupied regions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands that Palestinian hope will encompass the new Palestinian state. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the state they seek in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. They say that Israel must stop building settlements before peace talks resume.
Palestinian officials condemned Netanyahu’s controversial visit to a Jewish Settlement and plans for continued construction in Har Homa as “message” to Secretary of State John Kerry intended to underpin the Israeli government’s possession in regard to continued settlement development in the West Bank.
By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TUNIS, Tunisia – Josephine Markmann, Pauline Hillier, and Marguerite Stern, the three Femen activists arrested last month for a topless protest, were released on Wednesday after a Tunisian court heard their appeal. The women had been sentenced to four months in jail for public indecency and offending public morals after protesting Amina Tyler’s arrest. The women left Manouba prison late Wednesday night in the midst of small protest and arrived back in Paris on Thursday.
The women, dressed in the traditional Tunisian veil or sasfari, apologized for their actions during the appeal on Wednesday.
“I didn’t think it was going to shock Tunisians to that extent. Given the consequences, I would never do it again. We want to return to our country and our loved ones,” Ms Hillier told the court.
Local Islamist associations were attempting to join the trial as a civil party, which is allowed under Tunisian law, in an attempt to seek damages and delay the appeal. Their lawyers asked for an extension and unsuccessfully argued that there had not been sufficient time to review the case file.
The activists’ French lawyer, Patrick Klugman, argued that the Islamist associations were merely trying to delay the appeal in an effort to keep the women imprisoned. The court agreed and allowed arguments to proceed. Klugman appealed to the court that the protest was not sexual in nature and that the women did not exact such significant backlash as a result of their actions.
“You cannot pervert the message of Femen. Their breasts were visible to the public but they were carrying a message you can’t ignore. Stop looking at their breasts… and listen to them,” Klugman told the court.
The ruling comes after the Tunisian government came under pressure from Germany, France, and the European Union to reform its freedom of expression laws. These governments along with international human rights groups had criticized the punishment as harsh and unjust.
The three activists had also received support from fellow Femen members. Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh had been visiting Brussels on the eve of the hearing when three topless Femen protesters jumped on the hood of his car demanding the jailed Femen protesters be released.
By Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
MOSCOW, Russia – Since revealing classified intelligence on June 6, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been on the run from the US government. News outlets began reporting Monday that Snowden left Hong Kong heading for Ecuador with a layover in Moscow. Reporters, believing Snowden to be bound from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, booked flights on Aeroflight SU150 only to find that Snowden was not on board.
Snowden stayed behind in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport where he remained Tuesday and Wednesday. During that time, Secretary of State John Kerry wasted no time expressing his concern that Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong, stating it would be “deeply troubling” to find that China had intentionally allowed Snowden to fly to Russia. Kerry, joined by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, urged Russia to “do the right thing” and extradite Snowden back to the United States.
As of Wednesday, Russian Prime Minster Vladamir Putin has not acquiesced to US demands, stating that the Russian authorities may not take action against Snowden, who, by remaining in Sheremetyevo Airport, has not technically entered Russian borders.
Since fleeing Hong Kong, Snowden has been formally charged in the US with espionage for disclosing classified information, a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to ten years and may also include a fine. Snowden may never stand trial, however, since Ecuador has invited Snowden to apply for political asylum.
Ecuador famously provided political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in their London embassy. NBC News reports that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa “sharply criticized” the US government for drawing attention away from the sweeping NSA intelligence programs by focusing attention on finding and prosecuting Snowden.
Ecuador may not be Snowden’s only option for political asylum. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro praised Snowden’s courage and offered to allow him to apply for political asylum in Venezuela.
LONDON, England – British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an investigation into a former undercover police officer’s claims that he was ordered to spy on the family of the black victim of one of Britain’s most notorious racially-motivated murders.
The former police officer, Peter Francis, has stated that superior officers at Scotland Yard, formally the Metropolitan Police Service, ordered him to investigate and find any information that could be used against the members of the victim’s family, specifically to determine whether any individuals were political activists, involved in public demonstrations, or drug dealers.
The victim, 18 year old Stephen Lawrence, was stabbed to death at a London bus stop on April 22, 1993. He and his friend, Duwayne Brooks, were waiting for a bus on their way home from night classes, and were victimized by a white youth-gang.
Francis, who reported to The Guardian newspaper on Monday, said that he posed as an anti-racist activist with three other officers and infiltrated the Youth Against Racism in Europe, a group led by Lawrence’s parents that held protests.
Francis said that the spying was to discredit the Lawrence family’s campaign against racial violence because senior officers believed that the public protests could trigger Rodney King-esque rioting similar to the events in Los Angeles in 1992.
“They wanted the campaign to stop. It was felt that it was going to turn into an elephant,” Francis stated.
These allegations are the latest controversy in a case that has had its fair share. An official report by a high court judge found that “institutional racism” via insensitivity and lack of investigative rigor tainted the original investigation. Last year, 19 years after the killing, two men were convicted of the murder.
Cameron has promised that government investigators would “get rapidly to the bottom of what’s happened” and “get the full truth out.”
“To hear that, potentially, the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them-that’s horrific,” Cameron stated.
Home secretary Theresa May, the overseer of policing in Britain, has stated that two existing probes into police misconduct would investigate Francis’ claims.
Amid these assertions by Francis, an additional claim has surfaced, suggesting that the Metropolitan Police secretly recorded its officers’ meetings with Brooks, the friend of Lawrence who was with him the night of the killing in 1993.
BBC reported on Tuesday that a senior police source from the Metropolitan Police stated that orders were given to record two meetings between Brooks, his lawyers, and the police officers.
Brooks’ lawyer, Jane Deighton, stated that she was under the impression that the purpose of the meetings were to brief Brooks and her colleagues on the progress of the investigation into Lawrence’s murder.
“Under the guise of briefing us they were covertly recording us.”
Scotland Yard said it was investigating these additional claims and treating them with “huge seriousness.”
Report Prepared by Syrian Network for Human Rights
Period covered: 18 June 2013 to 25 June 2013
Talkalakh is in-between Homs city and Tartous city, almost 45 km west of Homs and nearly the same distance east of Tartous city.
It has a strategic importance, since it is located on the Homs Tartous highway, adjoined to the Lebanese border just five km north of Lebanon.
Talkalakh is surrounded by villages that are comprised of an Alwite majority.
It had a population of almost 55,000 before its residents were displaced due to the frequent shelling and destruction of homes especially within the last few months, when most of its residents fled out.
Lebanese Hezbollah accompanied by Shabiha and Syrian Government’s Armed Forces initiated a wide attack in the period between 18 June 2013 and 25 June 2013. Many massacres occurred during these attacks, where at least fifteen victims who were killed included two women, and three SFA members. 60 civilians are currently missing and more than 200 victims were killed in the attack. In addition, looting and destruction occurred during this period.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 – Lebanese Hezbollah militia accompanied the Shabiha from the Alawite villages surrounding the city, and the Syrian Government’s Armed Troops started a siege on the city where the Syrian Government had cut off communication, electricity, and water.
Thursday 20 June 2013 – After the siege, where they prevented civilians from entering and leaving, they started a very heavy shelling using artillery, rocket launcher, and warplanes. The shelling lasted for two days, and led to 40 injuries.
Saturday 22 June 2013 – Those same troops launched a ground offensive attack accompanied with a large number of tanks and armored vehicles on the north and west side of Talkalakh city. Many neighborhoods fell immediately, including: Tal-Alshamali, Mahata and the western neighborhood. We were able to document five victims, including four civilians: two women; one famous media activist, Mohamd Ahmad Maisara Aldandashi, who was filming the looting and shelling; a lawyer; and one Syrian Free Army. In addition, eighteen victims were killed in the attack.
We received many frequent reports, where we were not able to check the news regarding field executions, and resident kidnapping due to the cut off of communication and the ban imposed on all media and human rights organizations.
Video shows random shelling in the city:
Other video shows the shelling of civilians houses:
Names of victims that we could document:
1- Mohamd Ahmad Maisara Aldandashi, media activist
2- Ahmad Ramez Methqal: Syrian Free Army
3- Lawyer Nawaf Alaakari
4- Ms. Hanadi Aldarzi
5- Ms. Iman Ibrahim
Troops that stormed the city also destroyed the only medical point that existed there and prevented the entry of drugs and ICRC members into the city.
Sunday 23 June 2013 – They started the siege on the rest of the neighborhoods such as the eastern neighborhood, Ghalion mountain neighborhood and Alsook neighborhood, and tried to storm into them. Violent clashes took place between the Syrian Free Army Soldiers and them. The clashes led to many victims and injured persons.
Monday 24 June 2013 – The shelling occurred again in the city of Ras Alnaaba villages, killing many victims, then troops stormed the city and started mop up operations. Many houses were looted and burned. There were also reports of troops raping women.
Tuesday 25 June 2013 – Invasive forces controlled most of the neighborhoods in the city after the Syrian Free Army soldiers pulled from the city to the neighboring countryside. They killed eight civilians in field executions, and residents in city center. More than 30 victims disappeared. Soldiers arrested them and took them to unknown places.
The SNHR documented the victims’ names. It recognized that there are at least fifteen victims: three SFA, twelve civilians, two women, and one media activist:
1- Ali Haidar: Homs / Talkalakh
2- Mahomd Husain Borghali: Homs / Talkalakh
3- Ammar Husain Borghali: Homs / Talkalakh
4- Khudur Hamadi: Homs / Talkalakh
5- Sinan Halom: Homs / Talkalakh
6- Khaled Halom: Homs / Talkalakh
7- Mostafa Shahwan: Homs / Talkalakh
8- Ayman Hasan Hanof: Homs / Talkalakh
9- Ms. Iman Ibrahim: Homs / Talkalakh
10- Lawyer Nawaf Alaakari: Homs / Talkalakh
11- Mohamd Ahmad Maisara Aldandashi, media activist: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=544120545629147&set=a.196446397063232.46168.196429423731596&type=1&theater
12- Ms. Hanadi Aldarzi
Syrian Free Army victims:
1- Zakaria Yahia Albasha: Homs / Talkalakh
2- Ahmad Ramez Methqal: Homs / Talkalakh Ahmad Ramez Methqal : Syrian Free – -Army :https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=544122372295631&set=a.196446397063232.46168.196429423731596&type=1&theater
The invasive troops established many checkpoints inside the city. Most residents fled out of fear of execution and rape. The city is almost empty, and paralyzed with a lack of movement. Terror and panic prevailed there, contrary of what the Syrian Government said, that they re-secured and stabilized the city allegedly under siege by gangs like Al-Qaeda and Nasra.
Responsibility of States
Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts
Responsibility of states for internationally wrongful acts, similarly Customary IHL provides that the state is responsible for all acts committed by the members of its military and security forces. Thus, the state is responsible for wrongful acts committed by its military and security forces, including crimes against humanity.
Prohibition of crimes against humanity are among the rules of jus cogens or peremptory, and punishment of such crimes is compulsory according to the General principles of international law. Moreover, the crimes against humanity are the height of violations against 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 of the State’s responsibility in international law. Syria, an Arab Republic holds responsibility for such crimes and violations. It has a duty to ensure punishment of the perpetrators individually and a duty to provide compensation to victims.
SNHR holds all violations committed by Syrian Government Armed Forces to the Syrian government and the General Commander of the army and the armed forces, Bashar Al-Assad. To all the officials of security branches, and to all the financial and moral supporters of 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 families or their friends.
1- SNHR emphasizes that the collective and individual killings as reported previously was deliberately targeted against unarmed civilians, despite government claims that Al Qaida and other terrorists committed these crimes. Thus, Syria Government’s Armed Forces and Shabiha violated international human rights laws that protect the right of life. In addition to being committed in non-international armed conflicts, the crimes are tantamount to war crimes and violate all the conditions.
2- SNHR emphasizes that the killings that happened in Talkalakh are crimes against humanity, and contain elements of systematic and widespread attacks against the civilian population in that town, where there was a siege, shelling and ground attack, where houses were searched, and executions occurred.
The same applies on rape, kidnapping, looting, and thefts, even if it is relatively minimal when compared to Extrajudicial killings.
3- Random Attacks committed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces are considered violations of customary international humanitarian law, where it shelled a populated area and not a specific military target.
4- Those attacks, especially the bombings, caused the occasional loss of civilian life, and injury or damage to civilian objects. There are very strong indications to believe that the damage was too excessive when compared to the expected military advantage.
5- Syrian Government’s Armed Forces and Shabiha committed various types of cruel and inhuman acts of torture against people in violation of the State’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
6- SNHR emphasizes that the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces and Shabiha committed the war crime of looting, and contributed to the destruction and burning of property during the search of homes in the events of Talkalakh.
7- The volume of the massacre and repeated nature of the massacres, the excessive force used and random nature of the shelling and coordinated nature of the attack couldn’t occur unless they were instructed by a high authority. This is a state policy.
1- Immediately stop all human rights violations.
2- Respect international obligations of protection of civilians in time of war, and respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Human Rights Council:
1- Demand the Security Council and concerned international institutions to uphold their responsibilities for what’s happening to the Syrian People regarding the killing, rape, displacement, and arrests.
2- Pay more serious attention to cases involving death by torturing, which are considered as the worst type of crimes at all.
3- Pressure the Syrian Government Troops to stop torturing and killing civilians, and to release those who were kidnapped and arrested.
4- Hold allies and supporters of the Syrian Government Troops: Russia, Iran, and China, morally and physically responsible for what’s happening to the Syrian people.
1- Decide to refer all the criminals and others involved to the ICC.
2- Warn the Syrian Government Troops of the repercussions of using brutal methods to rupture the stability of civil peace and coexistence between the people of the same society.
1- Demand the Human Rights Council and the United Nations to give serious and right attention in order to stop the daily killing.
2- Political and diplomatic pressure on the Syrian Government Troops’s main allies -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 excess violence caused by the Syrian Government Troops.
3- Serious attention of this case and give it a high priority, and try to take care of victims’ families psychologically, materially, and educationally.
25 June 2013 – Today, the Council of Europe’s Rapporteur, Andreas Gross MP, presented the results of a detailed six-month review of the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky in Russian state custody and the state sanctioned cover-up which followed. His 41-page report entitled, “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky,” was presented to the Human Rights and Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe this morning.
The report labels as “unacceptable” the ongoing impunity of those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death and for the largest known theft of public funds in Russian history that Magnitsky had exposed.
The Rapporteur condemns in strong terms the failure of the Russian authorities to conduct a proper investigation into Sergei Magnitsky’s torture and beating in custody, and calls the Russian government’s efforts “belated, sluggish and contradictory.” He describes as “legally unfounded” the tax evasion claims levelled posthumously against Sergei Magnitsky and against William Browder in absentia. He describes the Russian government’s latest allegations against Hermitage of the “theft” of Gazprom shares as “selective justice” and “politically motivated,” and finally he condemns the “cover-up” in this case organized at a “high level.”
“Sergei Magnitsky had denounced a gigantic robbery whose victim was Russia herself. He died because he refused to give in to the pressure that corrupt mid-level officials had put on him in order to get away with their crimes. Why, then, does the Russian state, and at such a high level, try so hard to cover up this crime?” asks the Rapporteur in his report.
Following fact-finding missions to Russia, Cyprus, Switzerland and the UK, the Rapporteur dismisses as “unconvincing” and “doubtful” the explanations offered by the Russian government authorities who exonerated officials for their role in the thefts and then blamed Sergei Magnitsky himself, after his death, for the crimes that he had uncovered.
The report cites evidence that the same persons and officials were involved in a series of thefts from the Russian budget during a long period of time, both before and after the $230 million theft, using the same Moscow tax offices.
“Thanks to the above-mentioned investigations of the “money trail,” it has been shown that the same suspects (the so-called “Klyuev group”), using the same modus operandi (annulling a fraudulently re-registered company’s profits of the previous year through sham damages claims…) [did so] using the same Moscow tax offices No 25 and 28 and the same money-laundering paths… In my view, all these similarities cannot be mere coincidences.”
The Rapporteur relies on this evidence to reject the Russian government’s posthumous allegations that Sergei Magnitsky orchestrated the $230 million tax theft.
“A very strong argument against blaming the USD 230 million tax reimbursement fraud on Sergei Magnitsky himself is the fact that similar tax reimbursement frauds were committed before and after Mr Magnitsky was taken into custody, and even after his death,” said the Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur also points out the lack of credibility of the Russian government’s version of the $230 million theft given that it relies on the alleged involvement of a person who died before the theft took place.
“The conclusions of the accusation [signed by Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Grin] appear to believe Mr Markelov’s testimony that he opened a new bank account for Parfenion with Intercommerz Bank in mid-December on an instruction from a Mr Gasanov, who had been dead since 1 October 2007. Such inconsistencies tend to undermine the credibility of Mr Markelov’s new testimony that Sergei Magnitsky was the one who gave him his instructions,” notes the Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur concludes:
“I am personally convinced that this crime was not committed or in any way aided or abetted by Mr Magnitsky, but by a group of criminals, including the persons he had accused before these persons took him into custody, where he died.”
The Rapporteur criticizes the Russian government for their evasive and unconvincing responses.
“In light of this information [money trail], the attitude shown by the Russian authorities so far is not really convincing. …The spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior, Ms Dudukina, publicly stated that the whereabouts of the tax money fraudulently paid into Universal Savings Bank could no longer be established because a truck transporting the bank’s documentation had accidentally burnt. My interlocutors at the Ministry of Interior and at the Investigative Committee evaded my question when I enquired about the credibility of this statement. Regarding the treasury funds ending up in Mr Stepanov’s account, I was told that this had been verified and that the funds…could be explained by his successful business activities, including building tunnels in Russia…But in my view, this does not explain that the same treasury funds, whose disbursement had been authorized by Ms Stepanova, ended up in her husband’s or ex-husband’s account, via the complicated path described above,” says the Rapporteur.
Concerning the case opened by the Russian Interior Ministry against Hermitage Capital’s client, Kameya, used to seize documents for Hermitage Fund’s companies and steal their $230 million tax payments, the Rapporteur finds that it was not a bona fide investigation:
“The Russian authorities did not deny to us any of the information on the Kameya case, they merely stated, without substantiating, that the search and seizure actions on 4 June 2007 were motivated by a bona fide criminal case concerning underpayment of taxes by Kameya. In view of the precise, substantiated and well-documented presentation of the facts on the Kameya case by the representatives of Hermitage, I conclude that the criminal case must have been opened for other reasons than the bona fide pursuit of criminal justice.”
Concerning the tax evasion accusation made during the posthumous trial of Mr Magnitsky and in absentia against Mr Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, the Rapporteur finds the claims by the Russian government to be legally unfounded:
“The Kalmyk law requiring an additional agreement came into force only in July 2002 and did not apply to the year 2001, during which the underpayment in question is alleged to have occurred. It would therefore appear that the accusation in question is legally unfounded.”
“The detailed and well-documented replies received have gone a long way to convince us that Hermitage did not violate the law. This was also confirmed by an audit carried out by the competent tax authorities… The tax evasion accusations are suspect also in light of the peculiar circumstances of the (re)-opening of the criminal case, which had been opened in 2004 on the basis of an FSB report and closed for “lack of any crime…”
“Legal pursuits for any tax underpayments concerning 2001 would also appear to be time-barred…Consequently, the formal indictments dated 22 March 2013 and the posthumous trial against Sergei Magnitsky and the trial in absentia against Bill Browder appear to violate Russian law.”
Concerning the new case opened by the Russian government and accusing Hermitage Capital of “stealing” Gazprom shares, the Rapporteur finds it to be exemplary of “selective justice” and “indicative of politically-motivated cases”:
“The retrospective prosecution of the Hermitage executives for any violation of this decree would appear to violate the principle…enshrined in Article 7 ECHR…In my view, the authorities cannot now change their minds retroactively, in addition solely to the detriment of one of the “grey market” participants and not the others: this would be a case of selective justice, which in the practice of the Assembly is often seen as an indication for the “political” motivation of criminal prosecutions.”
The Rapporteur examines the failure of the Russian authorities to investigate Sergei Magnitsky’s killing in custody and the subsequent cover-up, issuing a damning verdict:
“The belated, sluggish, and contradictory investigations lead only to indictment of two Butyrka doctors, one of them for negligently failing to diagnose diseases that Mr Magnitsky never actually had, whilst exonerating all others – including all those who were present when Mr Magnitsky died at Matrosskaya Tishina, those responsible for the failure to treat his actual, diagnosed diseases, those responsible for the beatings and for the numerous cover-ups.”
The Rapporteur finds that Magnitsky was beaten shortly before his death and brands “doubtful” the explanations presented by the Russian authorities to the contrary.
“I was told by several representatives of the authorities that Mr Magnitsky was not beaten upon his arrival at MT prison…I am not convinced by the explanations given to me during my second visit in Moscow that this document [the report about the use of rubber batons] is “out of context” and that the mentioning of rubber batons as part of the special measures used against Mr Magnitsky was purely “automatic.”… In addition, the autopsy, the testimony of Mr Magnitsky’s mother and photographs taken by family members when they were first permitted to see the body confirms that Mr Magnitsky had visible injuries on his body that had never been explained…It is therefore clear for me that Sergei was indeed beaten shortly after his arrival at MT prison, whereas the reason mentioned in the official report about the use of batons – a nervous breakdown – is doubtful both for legal and factual reasons,” concludes the Rapporteur.
“In my view, the manipulation of the initial “death act” [with reference to a suspected cerebral injury removed in one version] is a strong indication for an official cover-up. So is the rejection of the two requests for an independent autopsy made by Mr Magnitsky’s family on 17 and 19 November 2009,” says the Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur condemns as “cynical” the cover up by Russian authorities of Sergei Magnitsky’s complaints from custody detailing his ill-treatment and cites a litany of complaints and their refusals by Russian authorities, including the decision by Interior Ministry officials to “archive” the complaint without any consideration.
“Officials in Moscow…told me that Sergei Magnitsky had neither complained about his detention conditions, nor about lack of health care provided to him in detention. …Mr Magnitsky’s mother and Hermitage provided me with a long list of the complaints.. The replies speak for themselves… The complaint was assigned for review to Major Silchenko who recommended it to be archived as this complaint was “not within our competence”. Mr Silchenko’s recommendation was approved by his superior, Colonel Karlov,” writes the Rapporteur.
“In light of the well-documented, specific complaints reproduced above, I find it downright cynical that the authorities now say that Sergei Magnitsky never actually complained about his treatment in detention and the lack of medical treatment…In my view this is unacceptable,” says the Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur points out that the objective of his report is to “contribute to a better protection of individuals against lawless behaviour of state officials in future.”
The Rapporteur states that the impunity of Magnitsky killers must be unacceptable for both the Russian people and the international community.
“This result – complete “impunity of the killers of Sergei Magnitsky,” as it is formulated in the title of the motion underlying this report – is simply unacceptable… This result should first and foremost be unacceptable for the Russian people and the Russian state,” says the Rapporteur.
“The international community must not accept the outcome of this case so far. In the interest of the Russian people themselves and of their state, corrupt officials must not be allowed to plunder state property whilst brutally silencing those standing in their way, with impunity,” says the Rapporteur.
During the course of the preparation of the report, Rapporteur Gross met with Magnitsky’s family, his clients at Hermitage Capital, Hermitage’s lawyers, as well as with Russian officials, including officials in the Russian Prosecutor’s Office, Interior Ministry, Investigative Committee, and Chair of the Russian Central Bank Mr Ignatiev.
In his report, the Council of Europe’s Rapporteur states that he had asked for meetings in Russia with many more witnesses and officials but these meetings did not materialize.
“I would have liked to speak with the prison doctors, guards, the members of the civilian psychiatric emergency team and others whose testimony I could only refer to through written sources…I had provided a detailed list of these persons to the Russian authorities already before my first visit in February 2013, and again before my second visit, in May. These meetings never materialized,” says the Council of Europe’s Rapporteur in the draft report presented to the Legal and Human Rights Committee.
Andreas Gross (http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/AssemblyList/AL_MemberDetails.asp?memberID=3498) is a Swiss MP, chair of the Socialist Group of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and a co-author of the 2012 report “The honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation” (http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/XRef/X2H-DW-XSL.asp?fileid=18998&lang=EN).
The report on the Magnitsky case will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights and Legal Affairs Committee in the fall and used by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to decide on a resolution about how the Council of Europe should react to the impunity of officials in this case. The report will also be used by the governments of member states of the Council of Europe as they consider their own policy on sanctions, and other responses.
By Danielle L. Gwozdz Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
ABUJA, Nigeria – Four prisoners have been hanged in Southern Nigeria; the first known execution in the past seven years. The justice commissioner of the state of Edo told reports that the prisoners have been convicted of armed robbery or murder. Local media says that President Goodluck Jonathan recently asked state governors to sign death warrants in an effort to reduce crime.
Today, more than 1,000 prisoners in Nigeria are believed to be on death row.
“If confirmed, these executions mark a sudden, brutal return to the use of the death penalty in Nigeria, a truly dark day for human rights in the country,” stated Nigeria’s deputy director of Africa, Lucy Freeman.
Although these executions are the first known since 2006, Nigerian security forces have been repeatedly accused of extra-judicial killings during that time period. The human rights organization urged Nigerian authorities to stop all executions immediately and “return to a moratorium on executions in the country.” Further, this organization stated that “[w]e oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception, as it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
This execution was initially delayed because of technical issues with the gallows; however, on Monday the executions went ahead.
There also is a fifth man that is intended to be executed. However, he will not be hanged because his sentence dates back to before 1999 in the military era and his sentence called for him to be killed by a firing squad, which prison authorities were not prepared to do on Monday.
The state’s justice minister told Reuters that the four men “have been on death row for a long time and they were executed yesterday.” However, he did not state why authorities decided to use the death penalty after a seven year gap.
The four men had made appeals, exhausted their administrative remedies, but their death warrants were signed.
The state’s justice minister states that “[i]f the international community deems it wrong they should approach the national assembly for review of the law.”
PYONGYANG, North Korea– North Korea’s prison population continues to swell as the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has implemented an extensive crackdown on persons caught fleeing the country. Suspected defectors are being sentenced to a minimum of five years in brutal prison work camps, and prison populations at each facility now number in the thousands.
North Korea has long been considered a restrictive country when it comes to human rights, however researchers in South Korea believe that since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father, the country’s boarder security has reached new heights. According to Insung Kim, a researcher with the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (DCNKHR), the nation’s crackdown can be imagined as “tightening the noose.” Kim, who works extensively with North Koreans who have managed to escape the country to safety in South Korea, believes that “this is to set an example to the North Korean people.”
Following his rise to power, Kim Jong Un sought an agreement with North Korea’s main ally, China, through which any North Korean citizen found in China would be forcibly repatriated in Pyongyang, where they would face legal recourse for defection. Under North Korean law defection is the equivalent of treason, and those attempts which are considered “serious”, according to the penal code, are punishable by life imprisonment. While the penal code does not explicitly define a “serious” act of defection, researchers from institutions such as the DCNKHR believe that a “serious” defection involves recieving aid from American or South Korean missionary groups. In certain circumstances, the penal code provides for a death sentence.
Defectors are typically sentenced to labor in one of the nation’s five, sprawling work camp facilities. The facilities, modeled after the Soviet Gulag system, are isolated from the rest of the country, often surrounded by natural barriers such as mountains or rivers. At least one of these camps, Yodok, has been specially reserved for those prisoners repatriated from China. Kang Cheol-hwan, a former inmate in Yodok, wrote extensively about the experience in his book, “The Aquariums of Pyongyang.”
Estimates of the prison population range from 100,000 to 200,000, of which approximately five (5) percent are defectors. According to DCNKHR, this approximation reflects a “five-fold” increase in the number of detained defectors over the last ten years. According to researchers within South Korea, the number of refugees received has steadily decreased since Kim Jong Un took power. In 2009, 2,929 refugees crossed the boarder into South Korea. Last year, only 1,509 were reported.
This crackdown was recently brought to light after nine North Koreans, mostly teenagers, were captured in Laos and repatriated through China. Human rights groups fear that these young people will fall victim to indefinite detention and torture at the hands of the North Korean government. Despite these fears, the international community can do little to assuage the impact of this heavy-handed crackdown. The government continues to deny outsiders access to the detention facilities, and largely denies the existence of the labor camps.
In the mean time, North Korea has taken advantage of these nine defectors, parading them on stage at the Koryo Hall of Compatriots last Thursday. An official government statement announced that the nine were “abducted” by South Korean “flesh traffickers.” According to the Korean Central News Agency the young defectors chose to “return to the arms of their fatherland” after being tricked into leaving North Korea in a “sordid plot” by the “puppet regime of South Korea.”