British High Court Denies Right-to-Die Appeal

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, England – A British Court of Appeal upheld a ruling on Wednesday that the country’s law on assisted suicide cannot be changed by the courts, which quashed an appeal by a paralyzed man named Paul Lamb, and the family of the late Tony Nicklinson.

Paul Lamb exits the High Court in London on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo News)

The Lord Chief Justice, sitting with the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and Lord Justice Elias, affirming a High Court ruling, rejected the Nicklinsons’ and Mr. Lamb’s right-to-die challenges.

The Lord Chief Justice stated Parliament represented the “conscience of the nation” as applied to life and death matters, such as capital punishment and abortion.

The late Tony Nicklinson suffered from locked-in syndrome, where an individual is aware and awake but is paralyzed and cannot communicate. Mr. Nicklinson passed away in 2012 after refusing food following the initial High Court decision to reject his right-to-die claim

“We will carry on with the case for as long as we can so that others who find themselves in a position similar to Tony don’t have to suffer as he did. Nobody deserves such cruelty,” stated Nicklinson’s widow, Jane.

Paul Lamb, 57, who has been paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident 23 years ago, joined the right-to-die cause shortly after Nicklinson’s death. Lamb stated he is in constant pain, and has to be injected with drugs, including morphine, on a consistent basis due to his spinal injuries.

“I was hoping for a humane and dignified end- this judgment does not give me that,” Lamb stated.

Lamb and the Nicklinson family stated they will now take their case to Britain’s Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

“I am doing this for myself as and when I need it. I’m doing it for thousands of other people living what can only be described as hell. Many of them have been getting in touch with me begging me to continue this fight. The more it goes on the stronger I am getting,” Lamb stated.

As the law stands currently in Britain, anyone who aids another individual in killing themselves commits an offense of assisted suicide, while a person who carries out euthanasia commits murder.

In a separate case on Wednesday, however, the Judges ruled that another locked-in syndrome sufferer should be allowed to take his case to the Supreme Court. The man is seeking clarification of whether a medical professional would face trial if they helped him travel abroad to a Swiss suicide clinic.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Right-to-Die Campaigners Nicklinson and Lamb Lose Battle – 31 July 2013

The Independent – Barbaric and Inhumane: Paralyzed Man Paul Lamb Hit Back After Judges Dismiss His Right to Die Appeal – 31 July 2013

The Telegraph – Right-to-Die: Laws Must Clarify Whether Doctors Can Aid Euthanasia – 31 July 2013

Yahoo News – British Court Dismisses Landmark Right-to-Die Appeal – 31 July 2013

 

 

Wave of Deadly Car Bombs Targeting Shia Neighbourhoods Have Killed Dozens in Iraq Highlighting Rising Sectarian Tensions in the Country

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A recent wave of car bombs left at least 51 people dead and more than 200 wounded in mostly-Shia neighborhoods in cities across Iraq after 18 car bombs were detonated on Monday.

Recent civilian deaths approach 2008 levels. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

The majority of the attacks were carried out in Baghdad, the nation’s capital. Explosives were also detonated in the cities of Kut, Basra, Tikrit, Smawa and Muthanna Providence. The attacks targeted Shia communities and populated centers including a hospital, a bus station, a restaurant and several markets.

Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki has tightened security in the nation’s capital in response to fears that more bombs have yet to be detonated. There were long lines at checkpoints in Baghdad as the security services searched vehicles for explosives.

While there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attacks, they have largely been seen as an attempt to widen the gap between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni communities. The Iraq Interior Ministry has placed blame on Al-Qaida and accused the terror organization of trying to widen the rift between Sunnis and Shiites. Following the attacks, the United Nations envoy to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin called for an end to the senseless bloodshed because the violence could push Iraq back into a sectarian war, saying, “Iraq is bleeding from random violence, which sadly reached record heights during the holy month of Ramadan.”

According to the United Nations, more than 2,500 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since April of this year, the surge in violence marks the highest level of violence since U.S. military forces pulled out of Iraq in 2011.

The surge in violence since April followed a violent crackdown by Iraqi security forces on a Sunni protest camp which left more than 40 civilians dead. Sunnis across the country have protested the Shia led government of Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, claiming an unfair distribution of power and discrimination against the Sunni minority. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the country was under the control of the Sunni minority until the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003. While the violence level in Iraq remains below the peak levels it reached during the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007 violence remains at its highest levels since 2008, bombings remain common and at least 700 people are believed to have been killed in July.

The recent surge in violence has largely been under-covered by American media outlets, likely as a result of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. However, The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the attacks, saying that United States “stands firmly with Iraq in its fight against terrorism.”

For further information please see:

Al-Jazeera – Deadly Wave of Car Bombs Strikes Iraq – 29 July 2013

Associated Press – Wave of Car Bombings in Iraq Kills at Least 58 – 29 July 2013

BBC News – Iraq Violence: Wave of Beadly Car Bombs Targets Shias – 29 July 2013

The Guardian – Baghdad Car Bombs Kill Dozens – 29 July 2013

Australia-bound Boat Carrying Asylum Seekers Sinks

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

JAVA, Indonesia — A boat carrying Australia-bound asylum-seekers sank off Indonesia’s Java Island, killing at least eleven. It was estimated that roughly 200 people may have been aboard the boat that began sinking Tuesday evening. Five children and a pregnant woman were among the eleven confirmed dead.

An Indonesian police officer carries an exhausted young boy from the sea.

The rescued asylum-seekers said they were from Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka and Syria.

The head of the local rescue agency has said the rescued are being held in a nearby immigration facility.

Every year countless people fleeing their home countries use Indonesia as a transit point. From there they board fishing boats bound for Australia.  Over 15,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by boat this year. However, hundreds have died on the 310 mile journey.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a new asylum policy last week. Under this new policy, all arriving refugees would be resettled in Papua New Guinea, although their claims for asylum will still be assessed in Australia.

“The asylum seeker policy we’ve adopted is about sending a very clear message to people smugglers that if you try to come to Australia by boat you will not be settled in Australia. That is all about destroying the people smugglers’ business model.” said Rudd.

However, critics say Australia’s new policy has them dodging responsibility and handing over its problem to a developing nation. “This is an appalling performance by Australia, which with its monetary wealth is able to pass the buck on to poorer countries.” said Tobias Kulang, an opposition spokesman.

In the meantime, Immigration Minister Tony Burke has promised to visit Australia’s offshore processing center in Papua New Guinea after allegations of abuse have emerged. Former security manager, Rod St. George, recently admitted that some detainees have been raped and assaulted.

“[They’re] not even fit to be used as a dog kennel.” George said about the processing center.

Burke has called the allegations “horrific,” and intends to work through the concerns at the island.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Four dead after Australia-bound asylum boat sinks – 24 July 2013

Yahoo! News – Indonesia searches for missing boatpeople – 24 July 2013

The Telegraph – Boat carrying more than 100 asylum seekers sinks off Indonesia – 24 July 2013

London Evening Standard – Three killed as Australia-bound refugee boat sinks – 24 July

Suicide Bomber Attacks Turkish Mission

By Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – A car loaded with explosives drove into an office housing Turkish embassy staff in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing three people and injuring nine.

An injured Turkish nationalist is carried out on a stretcher (photo courtesy of Reuters)

Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group, claims it carried out the attack on its Twitter feed.

“Mujahideen forced in Mogadishu have just carried out an operation targeting a group of Turkish diplomats in Hodan district,” al-Shabaab posted.

Al-Shabaab state they targeted Turkey because of their support for the Somali government and wanted to stop the establishment of Sharia.  This has not been the first time this group has targeted Turkish institutions.

A diplomat in Istanbul told AFP that the Turkish guards were able to kill two of the attackers before a third was able to detonate his vehicle.

One Turkish security officer was killed when the mission’s guards clashed with the attackers as they tried to enter the complex, one Turkish government official told Reuters.

“Turkey is very active in Somalia and when you are very active you become a target quite easily,” the diplomat told AFP.

Somalia’s government is being backed by international aid aimed at preventing al Qaeda-linked militants from entering in east Africa.

Turkey has given Somalia more than $400 million in aid since 2011 in an effort to help Somalia, most of the money coming from private companies.

These Al Qaeda-linked Shebaab insurgents have carried out multiple bombings and attacks that have ended in many deaths in an attempt to overthrow the internationally backed government.

Later this same day, unknown insurgents carried a bomb into a nearby hotel in central Mogadishu killing two people and wounding around ten.

In June this group attacked a main UN compound in Somalia’s capital, killing 22.

“All the Mujahideen who carried out the operation have returned safely back to their bases inside Mogadishu, preparing for the next operation,” al-Shebaab also stated on its Twitter feed.

“This cowardly act will not shake our commitment to continue working for the brighter, more democratic and prosperous future the people of Somalia deserve,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

 

For more information, please visit:

 

The Peninsula — Attack on Turkey mission in Somalia kills three — 28 July 2013

The Times of India — Suicide attack on Mogadishu Turkish compound kills two — 28 July 2013

Reuters — UPDATE 4-Al Shabaab claim attack on Turkish mission in Somalia, three dead — 28 July 2013

The Jerusalem Post — Car bomb hits Turkish staff building in Somali capital, 3 dead — 27 July 2013

BBC News — Deadly bomb hits Turkish target in Mogadishu — 27 July 2013

Yahoo! News — Suicide attack on Mogadishu Turkish compound kills two — 27 July 2013

 

M23 Rebels in Democratic Republic of the Congo Accused of Human Rights Violations

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the CongoA new Human Rights Watch report detailing recent abuses carried out by the rebel group M23 in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has been released.

An M23 camp commander inspects new recruits during a training session in eastern Congo in May. (Photo Courtesy of CBC)

According to the report, the group has executed at least 44 people and raped at least 61 women since March. It is believed that the instances of rape may be higher than reported because of social stigma surrounding rape.  Women are also often threatened with reprisal if they report the crime or seek medical attention.

The report also details the coercive recruiting tactics of M23 in Congo and Rwanda, often young men in Rwanda are promised jobs in the Congo only to end up forced into the militia.  One man was killed for refusing to turn over his sons to the group.

The Rwandan military has been accused of directly supporting M23. Rwandan army officers have been sighted at M23 bases training new recruits and actively participating in recruitment efforts in Rwanda. Former M23 members reported seeing weapons, ammunition, food, and phone credit delivered from the Rwandan army.

“Not only is Rwanda allowing its territory to be used by the abusive M23 to get recruits and equipment, but the Rwandan military is still directly supporting the M23,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This support is sustaining an armed group responsible for numerous killings, rapes and other serious abuses.”

The report came a day before the US Department of State called on Rwanda to stop supporting M23 and other rebel groups in the Congo.  The State Department also urged the Rwandan government to follow through on its commitments to a peace and security cooperation agreement signed by regional governments in the beginning of the year.

The U.N. has also previously accused Rwanda of supporting rebel groups in Congo.  An expert panel at the UN reported in June that Rwanda’s support for M23 had declined in recent months.  Human Rights Watch contends that the support coming from the Rwandan army is still significant. “It does appear the support is more limited than it was last year, but what we have documented in terms of support is still quite significant,” said researcher and report author Ida Sawyer.

M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani called the report very partisan and based on rumor. “It’s not a report, these are just rumors,” Amani said. “We have grown used to this. It isn’t the first time they’ve said these things.”

On Friday the Congolese government issued international arrest warrants for four former members of M23.  The warrants are for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture.

 

For further information, please see:

AFP — DR Congo issues warrants for Rwanda-based rebels — 26 July 2013

San Fransisco Chronicle — Congo issues warrants for former M23 rebel leaders — 26 July 2013

CBC News — Rwandan arms, fighters still sustaining M23 rebel forces in Congo — 23 July 2013

International Business Times — M23 Rebel’s Reign of Terror, Rape and Murder in DR Congo ‘Aided by Rwanda’ — 23 July 2013.

Voice of America — Human Rights Watch: M23 Abuses Continue — 23 July 2013

Voice of America — US Presses Rwanda to End Support for M23 Rebels — 23 July 2013

Human Rights Watch — DR Congo: M23 Rebels Kill, Rape Civilians — 22 July 2013

 

INTERPOL REJECTS RUSSIA’S SECOND REQUEST TO ARREST WILLIAM BROWDER

Press Release

26 July 2013 – Today, the General Secretariat of Interpol has announced that Interpol cannot be used by the Russian Federation to arrest William Browder, who is running a global justice campaign to sanction Russian officials responsible for the torture and murder of 37-year old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

“INTERPOL cannot be used by the Russian Federation to seek the arrest of Mr William Browder,” said Interpol’s General Secretariat in the official announcement posted on its website (http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/News-media-releases/2013/N20130726).

The public statement from Interpol came a day after the Russian Interior Ministry announced that it had sent a request to Interpol to search for Mr Browder on orders from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. The news of the Russian authorities targeting Mr Browder with one more international search warrant was covered by 139 news outlets in several hours since its release.

This morning Interpol’s General Secretariat refused the Russian Federation’s request to search for and arrest Mr Browder in order to extradite him back to Russia because the Russian proceedings in relation to Mr Browder have already been found by the Interpol’s governing bodies to be “of a predominantly political nature” and “contrary to INTERPOL’s rules and regulations” following a review held in May 2013 by the Interpol’s Commission for the Control of Files. In accordance with the Commission’s recommendation, the General Secretariat of Interpol has deleted all information related to the Russian request concerning Mr Browder from its information systems.

All information related to this request for Mr Browder’s arrest has been deleted from INTERPOL’s databases and all INTERPOL member countries have been informed accordingly,” said Interpol’s General Secretariat in its official statement.

“It is remarkable that Putin has become so desperate to persecute whistleblowers that he is ready to humiliate himself and Russia in front of key international organizations. The fast response from INTERPOL in this case is an indication that it has put in place effective systems to protect themselves from Putin’s attemtps to draw them into his own corrupt political vendettas”,said a Hermitage Capital representative.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

Bulgarian Prime Minister Oresharski Refuses Resignation Amidst Continued Protests

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

SOPHIA, Bulgaria – Despite recent protests, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski vowed to continue his administration of the country, even if low public support delays much needed reform. European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly simultaneously called for public order and the continued right of public demonstration.

Thousands of Bulgarians barricaded lawmakers in the parliament building during a seven-week-long protest. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Currently, a number of problems plague Bulgaria’s aging population, including an ineffective market and failing health care and education systems. Tax collection and revenue agency reforms are also areas of concern.

In February 2013, Bulgaria’s former Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) government collapsed following protests over low living standards and high utility bills. By May, without backing from another party, GERB reclaimed an electoral majority. However, the BSP, which won second place, received support from another party in the legislature for Oresharski’s rise to power.

In June, demonstrators protested the Socialist government’s decision to appoint, without debate, a “media magnate” the head of the National Security Council. Even after parliament cancelled the appointment, protests have continued for nearly seven weeks in Sofia. Of thousands of Bulgarian protesters, most are young and well-educated anti-corruption demonstrators.

Most of the protests had been peaceful and overshadowed in international media by concurrent violence in Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt.

On 23 July 2013, protesters trapped more than 100 lawmakers, ministers, and journalists inside the parliament building. Protesters used paving stones, street signs, and park benches as barricades. Despite injuries to several protesters and at least one police officer, the rally continued for over eight hours. The streets rang with thousands shouting “Resign! Mafia!” Around 3:00AM, police escorted lawmakers away in vans.

A government decision to borrow nearly $700 million sparked the demonstrators’ decision to barricade lawmakers inside parliament.

“We want people in the parliament to start thinking about the people, and not only for their own pockets,” said demonstrator Anna Grozdanova.

“People’s patience has run out,” said Bulgarian cultural expert Alexander Kiossev, who recently protested in Sofia. “This patience has several times been overstretched by this government and previous ones.”

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding openly sympathized with “Bulgarian citizens who are protesting on the streets against corruption.”

According to a recent poll, Oresharki’s coalition has the highest disapproval rating of any incoming Bulgarian government since 1997. Amidst protesters calling for Oresharki’s resignation, political analysts have predicted that the government will not last long because the Attack Party, while necessary for passing legislation, continues to push an anti-EU and anti-NATO agenda.

“When we speak of resignation,” said Oresharski, “that is an easy personal decision to make but would be irresponsible for the country… I have heard no convincing arguments explaining how resignation would automatically solve the problems of the country.”

Oresharski added that while protests have forced his government to be more effective, they have made enacting major reforms difficult. Nevertheless, he vowed to maintain fiscal rigor and help spur economic growth.

As demonstrated, however, if the corruption allegations are true, the Bulgarian people will not want the major reforms offered to them.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Bulgaria’s ‘Class War’ – 26 July 2013

Reuters – Bulgaria PM Refuses to Quit, Says Protests Hamper Reforms – 26 July 2013

TIME World – A Bulgarian Spring? Entrenched Protests Challenge Eastern Europe’s Status Quo – 26 July 2013

Deutsche Welle – Kiossev: ‘There’s a moral solidarity in Bulgaria’ – 25 July 2013

Reuters – Bulgaria Parliament Siege Escalates Political Crisis – 24 July 2013

Egypt’s interim interior minister warns dispersal of all protests in the wake of one of the deadliest pro-Morsi protests

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – Following the aftermath of the ousting of former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, dozens were killed in a clash between pro-Morsi protestors and the Egyptian Army.  The attack occurred early Saturday morning and carried on for several hours.

(photo courtesy of Aljazeera)

Two sides to the details of the attack and how much carnage actually occurred have been circulated.  The government is claiming that no live rounds were used and security forces only relied on tear gas, putting the death toll at 65. However, protestors claim the army was shooting to kill.

A Brotherhood spokesman, who witnessed the shooting, stated that, “When I arrived, bullets were whizzing past my ears…Today was brutal, people were fired at with live firearms.” The Brotherhood is also claiming that the death toll is as high as 120.

Medics at a nearby field hospital reported that nearly 70% of the deaths were caused by live fire with most of the victims being shot in the chest, neck, or head by what they believed to be snipers shooting from surrounding rooftops.

Doctor Hesham Ibrahim stated, “They were mostly killed by bullet wounds especially by snipers, especially in the head.  We have nearly cut throats, just like animals.”  Other doctors claimed that they were not equipped nor have a proper facility to treat all of the wounded.

A CBS News Reporter stated, “There was blood everywhere in the morgue.  Volunteers tried futility to mop it up with rags, only smearing it across the floor.  Relatives sobbed over their loved ones.  Women shrieked. The crowd outside chanted ‘down with the military regime.’ The stench of blood and the heat of the people was overwhelming.”

Egypt’s interim interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, warned pro-Morsi protestors that they will all soon be dispersed from the sit-ins throughout Cairo.  He claimed that lawsuits filed by residents near the protests provide legal grounds for removal of the protesters.

Acting to ensure “the minimum losses possible,” Ibrahim spoke at a news conference on Saturday, insisting the security force’s main goal is to “prevent bloodshed.”  “We hope that the protesters come to their sense and that they put an end to these protests in order to prevent bloodshed,” added Ibrahim.

However, two leading political figures who supported the army’s removal of Morsi, have condemned Saturday’s shooting.  The highest Sunni Muslim authority in Egypt, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar mosque, has called for an investigation, while Mohamed El Baradei, the president of the interim government, claimed that excessive force had been used.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief, has urged all sides to stop the violence.  A spokeswoman for Ashton stated, “Ashton is following with concern the latest developments in Egypt and deeply deplores the loss of life…she also calls on all actors to refrain from violence and to respect the principles of peaceful protest and non-violence.”

Should the number of 120 deaths be confirmed, Saturday’s killings will be the deadliest bout since Morsi was deposed and detained by security forces over three weeks ago.

For more information, please see the following: 

Aljazeera – Egypt official warns pro-Morsi protesters – July 27, 2013

BBC News – Egypt minister: Pro-Morsi protesters to be dispersed – July 27, 2013

CBS News – Pro-Mohammed Morsi protesters, army-backed demonstrators clash in Egypt– July 27, 2013

Reuters – EU’s Ashton deplores deaths in Egypt, urges halt to violence – July 27, 2013

Death Toll Over 100,000 in Syria Conflict

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – On Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that over 100,000 people have now been killed in the conflict in Syria.  The UN Chief appealed to all parties involved to begin new peace talks as he addressed the media before a meeting with United States Secretary of State John Kerry.

Heavy weaponry used in urban in areas has produced a large number of the casualties. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

“More than 100,000 people have been killed, millions of people have either been displaced or become refugees in neighbouring countries,” Ban said. “We have to bring this to an end. The military and violent actions must be stopped by both parties, and it is thus imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible.”

Kerry also addressed the reporters stating that he had recently spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that both countries remained committed to a peaceful outcome.

“There is no military solution to Syria,” Kerry told reporters. “There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table. We will try our hardest to make that happen as soon as is possible,” Kerry said.

In the past, peace conferences have been delayed because of disagreements between Russia and the US and uncertainty as to whether the all of the Syrian parties to the conflict would show up.

The announcement occurred shortly after a car bomb was detonated in the al-Siyouf Square in the Jaramanah disctrict of Damascus.  Reports have the number of deaths ranging from seven to as many as seventeen with dozens injured.

The UN death toll estimate marked a significant increase from last month’s estimate of 93,000 killed in the conflict.  The UN has stressed that their numbers are an underestimate.

The death toll is not the only startling statistic that has been released by the UN.  In May, it was reported that more than one-and-a-half million had fled Syria and another four million were displaced within the country.

While Ban and Kerry pushed for peace talks, the rebel opposition called for more military support from the US.  Opposition Syrian National Coalition president Ahmad Jarba said that the rebels have a “right to self-defense” and need further support as the situation has grown “desperate” after regime advances.

For further information, please see:

CNN – Opposition presses for weapons as Syria death toll tops 100,000 – 26 July 2013

Al Jazeera – UN: Syria death toll rises above 100,000 – 25 July 2013

BBC – Syria death toll now above 100,000, says UN chief Ban – 25 July 2013

Global Post – Syria death toll tops 100,000 – 25 July 2013

Snowden Stranded in Moscow As US Congress Refuses to Limit NSA Surveillance.

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – Lawyers for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said Wednesday that issues with his requests for asylum are expected to leave Snowden stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Snowden requested temporary asylum in Russia last week after he was stopped from boarding a flight out of the country.

Snowden, 30, sparked a national debate about the legality and morality of secret mass surveillance programs targeted at US citizens. (Photo courtesy of NPR)

Snowden made headlines back in May when he released classified information detailing an NSA program designed to collect phone meta-data from users of Verizon’s phone service.

Snowden arrived in Moscow late last month, expecting only a short layover before traveling to South America. When Snowden arrived in Moscow on a revoked passport, however, bureaucratic measures prevented him from leaving the airport or boarding an outbound flight. Instead, lawyer for Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, now says that he will remain in the airport until the Russian Federal Migration Services grants temporary asylum.

Back in the United States, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a measure demanding the State Department coordinate with lawmakers in applying sanctions to Russia and any other country that offered asylum to Snowden. So far Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered Snowden asylum.

The measure passed unanimously through the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday after it was included as an amendment to next year’s foreign operations bill.

This came just one day after the House of Representatives voted on a bill that proposed to curtail the NSA’s ability to conduct mass surveillance programs like the one Snowden exposed. The bill was the first opportunity for members of Congress to take a position on mass surveillance since details of the NSA’s program came to light.

The bill, which fell seven votes short of passing, saw the bi-partisan alliance of libertarian conservatives and liberal Democrats as strong proponents.

For more information, please see:

CBS News – Senate pushes sanctions on nations aiding Edward Snowden – 25 July 2013

Fox News – NSA leaker Edward Snowden stuck in a holding pattern at Moscow airport – 24 July 2013

LA Times – Edward Snowden turned back at Moscow passport control, official says – 24 July 2013

The Guardian – Edward Snowden plans to stay in Russia, says lawyer – 24 July 2013

The New York Times – House Vote 412 – Rejects Limits on N.S.A. Data Collection – 24 July 2013

The Washington Post – Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, could remain in Russia indefinitely – 24 July 2013

 

 

 

Red Cross Denounces Blockage of Humanitarian Aid to Homs

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

HOMS, Syria – Syrian armed forces are blocking the entry of food and medical supplies to civilians trapped in the old city of Homs.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) revealed last Friday that it has been attempting to negotiate a humanitarian pause to deliver much needed supplies to the city.

The Syrian city of Homs on July 18, 2013 after reported attacks by government forces. (Photo Courtesy of Shaam News Network)

President Assad’s forces have been laying siege to the city in a heavy offensive against rebel forces.  The ICRC has warned that “tragic” consequences are possible should there not be a break in the fighting.

“We have been trying, for close to 20 days now, to bring medical supplies and other aid to the old city of Homs,” Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

“Despite lengthy negotiations with both sides, and three trips back and forth between Damascus and Homs, we have still not received the go-ahead from the Syrian authorities,” he said.

Homs was the birthplace of the revolution against the Assad government and has seen some of the fiercest fighting since that war began in 2011.  It is believed that two thousand people are trapped in the city.

The international laws of war require that the parties to a conflict provide for the rapid safe passage of humanitarian aid to civilians.

“They must also allow civilians in areas besieged by fighting to leave for safer areas, should they wish to do so. Regrettably, these obligations are not always fulfilled,” the ICRC said.

Despite the ongoing struggle in Homs, the ICRC has seen success in other parts of the country.

In what has been termed as the “Food for Freedom” deal, eighty rebels were released from the central prison in Aleppo in exchange for the safe passage of food supplies into the city.

Additionally, over the last two weeks aid deliveries have been permitted to feed the five thousand prisoners held there.  The city had reportedly been facing a severe food shortage.

The agreements were facilitated by the Syrian Red Crescent, an aid organization that works closely with the ICRC.  The two organizations have supplied food to over two-hundred thousand people this month.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Red Cross: Syria regime blocking aid to Homs – 25 July 2013

Arab News –Assad govt blocking access to needy in Homs – Red Cross  – 25 July 2013

Fox News –ICRC condemns Syria blockades – 25 July 2013

Reuters – Syrian authorities blocking access to needy in Homs – 25 July 2013

Myanmar Releases 73 Political Prisoners

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar– In honor of a commitment made to European leaders last week, Myanmar’s President, Thein Sein, ordered the release of 73 political detainees. President Sein’s pledge seeks to have all prisoners released by the end of 2013.

Chit Thura Ko Ko was released from the Insein Prison yesterday. (Photo courtesy of AP)

Shortly after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Sein promised amnesty for the prisoners as part of a larger transition from half a century of military rule and authoritarianism to democracy. Sein, a reformist who took power with military support late in 2011 from the former junta, said that over a thousand political detainees have already been released from the country’s jails, and that a committee had been established to work through cases of those that remained locked up. Human rights groups confirmed these statements, and noted that of those already released, hundreds were persons who had been held for political reasons.

In a radio broadcast last month, Sein announced that any prisoners serving jail time for holding, expressing, or acting in accord with political beliefs would be set free. “I don’t want anyone who is imprisoned with particular political beliefs in any jail,” he said during the broadcast, adding that a government investigation into cases that had been “confused with criminal acts” was ongoing and had “taken some time.” Sein did not reveal the number of prisoners which the government considers “political.”

Human rights activists welcomed the release, and the government’s pledge to continue freeing political prisoners, but still had some concerns. According to Bo Kyi of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), “we welcome this release, [but] we are very concerned because of the new trials, they continue to send new (political prisoners) to jail.”

Aung Min, a minister in Thein Sein’s office who negotiated the tenuous peace deal between the government and the  Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in May after two years of hostilities, said that more than two dozen of the prisoners released were from the Kachin state.

“The president released about 70 prisoners including 26 from Kachin state,” he said from the regional capital Myitkyina.

Aung Min personally escorted well-known Kachin political prisoner Brang Shawng, who was sentenced to two years in prison last week under the Unlawful Association Act for his alleged role in the KIA, back to his home Tuesday from Myitkyina Prison.

Thousands of political prisoners have been released in batches over the past two years. But human rights activists say the government has to do more to recognize other individuals who are in prison-–specifically whistle-blowers who were former government workers-–as political prisoners and grant them similar amnesty.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Burma frees a further 73 political prisoners — 23 July 2013

Reuters — Myanmar frees 73 political prisoners: government committee member — 23 July 2013

Radio Free Asia — Myanmar Releases Scores of Political Prisoners — 23 July 2013

AFP — Myanmar frees dozens of political prisoners: official — 23 July 2013

Wall Street Journal — Myanmar Releases New Batch of Political Prisoners — 23 July 2013