Moscow Mayoral Candidate Detained by Police After Holding Public Rally

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – Alexei Navalny was briefly detained by police on Sunday after holding a rally for his supporters in Sokolniki Park in Moscow.

Navalny is detained by police after a rally on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera).

Navalny, an opposition candidate in Moscow’s mayoral race, was arrested for alleged violations on the law of mass demonstrations.

A police spokesman stated that Navalny was “invited to a police department for a conversation in connection with violations” made during his rally.

Navalny, a starch opponent of President Vladimir Putin, is a notorious whistle-blowing blogger who gained fame in 2011 after leading a massive protest against President Putin during the winter of 2011. In a widely surprising move, Navalny was allowed to run for mayor after a court sentenced him to five years in prison last month for embezzlement charges that were believed to be politically motivated. Navalny was promptly released pending an appeal.

A YouTube video posted by Navalny’s campaigners shows two-dozen police officers sifting through the rally crowd, and Navalny can be heard telling the crowd to “go home” as he is escorted off the stage by officers. Navalny stated that he was taken to Northeastern Moscow in a police van and later released after an officer stated that “nobody detained him.”

About ten other individuals were also detained at the rally for “hooliganism” but were later released as well.

The Moscow Electoral Commission issued Navalny a verbal warning last Friday, accusing him of illegally distributing campaign literature. The Commission said it would soon discuss the violations of Navalny’s campaign.

His rival, incumbent mayor Sergey Sobyanin, is a pro- Kremlin politician who is considered the favorite to win the election next month.

“Opinion polls show that I have every chance to get into a second round and win. They will do everything to stop this scenario,” stated Navalny.

For more information, please see:

The Moscow Times – Navalny Briefly ‘Invited’ to Police Station After Rally – 26 August 2013

Al Jazeera – Russian Opposition Leader Briefly Detained – 25 August 2013

France 24 – Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Briefly Detained by Police – 25 August 2013

The Telegraph – Alexei Navalny Temporarily Detained After Campaign Rally in Moscow – 25 August 2013

 

Boko Haram Fighters Kill Nigerian Vigilante Members

By: Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – More than 20 members of Nigerian vigilante groups have been killed by suspected Boko Haram fighters.  These vigilante groups have been trying to fight back against Boko Haram in Borno, Nigeria.

Members of vigilante group man checkpoint (photo courtesy of AP)

The deaths occurred on two separate attacks on Sunday and Monday, residents and military officials reported.  These attacks have raised doubts about whether a military offensive against this group will succeed.

The military has been encouraging people to form vigilante groups to help it track down Boko Haram fighters as it pursues an offensive, attempting to end the Islamist extremists’ four-year insurgency.

In May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared an emergency in three north-eastern states, saying the group threatened Nigeria’s existence.

Now it seems that Boko Haram is taking revenge on these people who have formed these vigilante groups and observers have stated that they believe the groups may trigger the escalation of violence.

On Sunday, men disguised in military uniforms stormed a meeting of one vigilante group in Bama and opened firing, killing 14 people.  Later, at a local hospital, it was reported that another 4 people died.

“They came in military uniform and pretended to be members of the JTF,” survivor Mallam Bakura Module said of the attack in Bama, referring to a security task force.  “They asked after members of the vigilante group . . . but they opened fire on members of the group as we assembled for an address, killing 14 persons and injuring 10 others.”

The second attack took place on Monday night in the Borno village of Damasak, about 125 miles away.

Attackers crept up on sleeping members of the vigilante group, The Civilian Task Force, as they slept in a guesthouse and shot them dead.

Last week, gunmen had dressed as soldiers and opened fire on worshippers leaving a mosque in the village of Dumba, killing at least 35 people.

This fighting between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram has killed more than 3,600 people since 2009.  Both sides have been accused of major abuses.  Boko Haram claims it is fighting for the creation of an Islamic state.

Nigeria’s 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News – ‘Boko Haram fighters’ kill vigilantes in Borno, Nigeria – 27 August 2013

The Voice of Russia – ‘Boko Haram gunmen’ kill 20 in Nigeria – 28 August 2013

Aljazeera – Dozens dead in Nigeria attacks – 27 August 2013

Reuters – Nigerian Islamists kill 14 vigilantes in Bama raid – 26 August 2013

Yahoo! News – Two suspected Boko Haram attacks kill 24 in Nigeria – 27 August 2013

 

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Vol. 8 Issue 11 — 26 August 2013

International Criminal Court

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of Congo

Kenya

Libya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Africa

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

 Chad

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Europe

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions in the Former Yugoslavia

Middle East and Asia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Syria

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

North and South America

United States

South & Central America

Columbia

Peru

Chile

Topics

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Reports

UN Reports

NGO Reports

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Nepal

Ivory Coast

Commentary and Perspectives

Worth Reading

SNHR: Syrian Government’s Forces Targeted the Delegation of the International UN Committee Investigating Chemical Weapons at the Eastern Entrance of Moadamiyet Al-Sham

Syrian Government’s forces targeted the delegation of the International UN committee investigating chemical weapons at the eastern entrance of Moadamiyet Al-Sham.

The UN committee investigating chemical weapons couldn’t enter the city of Moadamiyet Al-sham, because it has been targeted by a barrier known to all the residents of the region is located at the East entrance of  Moadamiyet, and called Air Intelligence barrier in front of oil station known as military oil station, where security forces, militiamen, and Shabiha were stationed at this checkpoint.  We do not have news of any casualties among the UN Commission of inquiry, although one of delegation’s car was affected by the attack.

After several attempts, the International Committee’s delegation was able to enter the city just shortly before.

 UPDATE:

Inspectors entered and took samples from the patients and met with the families of the victims  then returned to the hotel in Damascus .

Mexican Kidnapping Victims Found Dead in Mass Grave

By Brandon Cottrell 
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On May 26, twelve teenagers were kidnapped from an after-hours club.  This past week, a mass grave containing thirteen bodies was found in a neighborhood outside of Mexico City.  Of the thirteen bodies recovered, at least five of the bodies were identified as those of the kidnapped teenagers.  Authorities believe that the remaining bodies will soon be identified as the other teenagers.

A relative to one of the victims speaking to reporters. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

The bodies, which were covered in lime and asbestos and buried under concrete, were decapitated.  The decapitation is reminiscent of murders preformed by the drug cartel in other parts of Mexico.  While the drug war has caused little violence in the capital region, this murder is believed to be a “gangland battle for control of the lucrative drug trade in the poshest bars and nightclubs” in Mexico City.

Authorities believe the kidnapping is linked to an upstart gang from Tepito, which is home to most of the victims involved.  The Union of Insurgentes, a wealthy and powerful drug gang, is likely to have orchestrated the mass murder as a warning to other gangs trying to seize their territory in Mexico City.  The families of the victims, however, say the teenagers were not involved in drug trafficking, despite some of the family members themselves being involved in gang activity.

Many Mexicans believe that Mexico City’s top law-enforcement officials downplayed the kidnapping and “were at best incompetent in trying to find the bodies.”  Beatriz Loza, the aunt of victim Monserrat Loza, said Saturday that, “The investigation failed. I can’t believe that three months have passed.”  Other relatives to the victims claim that law-enforcement moved slowly in fear of what a legitimate investigation would reveal.

Samuel Gonzalez, a security consultant and former federal anti-drugs prosecutor, stated that,  “The capital’s authorities have the political and moral obligation to quickly figure out what happened in this case, otherwise it will demonstrate their inability (to stop such crimes) and it could foment violence in the city.”  Police presence was increased over the weekend, as many authorities believed a retaliatory attack was likely.

Meanwhile, Mario Ledezma and Ernesto Espinosa Lobo, two of the owners of the club where the victims vanished from, were arrested.  According to witnesses, both Ledezma and Lobo have ties to the Union of Insurgentes.  Ledezma, however, claims that the Insurgentes threatened him, telling him that the gang would sell drugs in the club or he would be killed.  Three other individuals, including a driver and a security guard for the club, have also been arrested.

 

For further information, please see:

CBS News – Mass kidnapping, beheadings disturb Mexico City – 25 August 2013

CNN – 5 bodies ID’d as those of kidnapped Mexican youths – 25 August 2013

CBC News – Bodies in Mexican mass grave confirmed as kidnap victims – 24 August 2013

Global Post – Mexico City, an oasis tarnished by mass kidnap – 24 August 2013

Egypt Becoming Increasingly Hostile Towards Journalists, Reporters Without Borders Says

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt has become an increasingly dangerous environment for journalists as Egyptian forces have cracked down on free press, as well as protests. Several journalists have been arrested or killed since Egyptian forces began cracking down on protests.

Al Jazeera demands the release Shami, left, detained last week, and Badr, right, held since last month. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

 

Tamer Abdel Raouf, Regional Bureau Chief for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram’s, was shot in the head after soldiers opened fire on his car last week at an army checkpoint in Damanhur, Egypt during a government enforced curfew. Hamed Al-Barbari, a reporter for the Egyptian Daily Al-Gomhuria, was traveling with him; he was injured during the shooting and hospitalized in Damanhur.

Raouf and Barbari were returning to their homes in the town of Kafr Al-Dawwar when the shooting took place. They were returning from a meeting with several other journalists and Beheira’s governor.

According to Barbari, they decided to take a different route home as they approached the checkpoint and the military opened fire as they were turning their car around. Military officials claimed in a statement released Augusts 20, the day after the shooting, that soldiers fired on the car after the two journalists allegedly attempted to drive through the checkpoint at high speeds ignoring calls for the them to stop.

Raouf is the fourth journalist to be killed in Egypt since 14 August, the day that the new authorities began using force to disperse the sit-ins being staged by deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters.

The Egyptian government ordered the curfew, set to last for at least the next month, after security forces violently broke up two protests camps demanding the reinstatement for of Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday, August 14. The government enforced curfew in Egypt allows for an expectation for health officials and journalists, allowing them to move freely at night. However, according to Union of Journalists member Khaled Al-Balchi, many journalists have complained that the military officials is respecting this exemption for journalists.

Several journalists have been arrested since Egyptian forces began cracking down on protests. Abdallah Shami, a reporter for Al Jazeera has been held since August 14. He was detained by Egyptian forces during the government’s deadly crackdown on supporters of overthrown president Mohamed Morsi. No formal charges have been brought against him. Metin Turan, a reporter for the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), has been held since August 16 without charges. Mohamed Badr, a cameraman for Al Jazeera has been held in Egypt for more than a month; his detention recently extended for another 15 days pending further investigation.

Reporters Without Borders has called the arrests a sign of “growing hostility” towards journalists in Egypt. The group said in a statement that “the climate for journalists became even tenser on 17 August when the State Information Service issued a statement to the foreign media condemning their coverage of recent events.”

For further information please see;

Al Jazeera – Egyptian Journalist shot Dead After Curfew – 19 August 2013

Reporters Without Borders – Two Journalists Still Held, Others Arrested or Attacked – 19 August 2013

Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera Demands Release of Journalists – 20 August 2013

Reporters Without Borders – Egyptian Journalists Shot Dead During Night Curfew – 20 August 2013

Riots Ensue in Another Bout of Religions Unrest in Myanmar

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar– About 1,000 anti-Muslim rioters burned shops and homes in yet another outbreak of religious unrest in Myanmar. The former army-ruled nation has grappled with spreading religious violence since civilian rule was fully restored in 2011.

A young boy salvages for belongings amid burnt remains after anti-Muslim riots rocked the Sagaing region. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Police fired multiple warning shots as the mob set property ablaze and attacked fire engines that were attempting to put out fires in a village at Kanbalu, in the central region of Sagaing. According to a Ministry of Information statement, “the local security forces stepped in to stop a group of approximately 1,000 people as they tried to torch a house. But the crowd kept shooting with slingshots and the situation became uncontrollable.”

The unrest erupted after a man was arrested on suspicion of attempting to rape a Buddhist woman on Saturday evening, according to some sources. A crowd of about 150 people and three Buddhist monks gathered at the police station demanding that the accused be handed over to them. When the authorities refused, the mob lashed out, attacking Muslim property in the area. The crowd grew in size and ferocity as the night went on.

Attacks against Muslims – who make up at least 4% of the population – have exposed deep chasms in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, casting a shadow over widely praised political reforms since instated since the end of military rule in 2011. This latest bout of violence is the first anti-Muslim incident reported in Sagaing, but signals that the unrest is continuing to widen.

It began in the west of Myanmar last year and has spread across the country since bloody riots broke out in the central town of Meiktila, where dozens were killed in March. Last week watchdog, Physicians for Human Rights, warned that Myanmar risked “catastrophic” levels of conflict with “potential crimes against humanity and/or genocide” if authorities failed to stem anti-Muslim hate speech and a culture of impunity around the clashes. Rights groups have accused authorities of being unable or unwilling to contain the unrest, which has left about 250 people dead and more than 140,000 homeless. Myanmar has rejected these claims.

Many of the incidents have featured retaliatory violence against Muslim communities in response to accusations of seemingly isolated criminal acts. An unnamed police official, said the latest conflict broke out after the suspect allegedly approached a 25-year-old woman, “grabbed her hand and attempted to rape her.”

No injuries have been reported in the violence, but the ministry statement said at least 20 homes were destroyed as well as over a dozen shops and a local mill. Fire engines battled the blazes and the ministry said security has been reinforced since early yesterday, in hopes of restoring peace in the region.

A radical Buddhist monk, Wirathu, who has been accused of stoking the unrest with anti-Muslim and nationalist speeches, posted a message about the incident on his Facebook page. He blamed Muslims in general for the unrest.

Two outbreaks of similar violence in the western state of Rakhine in June and October last year left about 200 people dead, mainly Rohingya Muslims. In March, sectarian strife in Meiktila killed at least 44 and thousands of homes were set ablaze.

The U.N. rights envoy to Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, slammed the government last week for allowing an aggressive crowd to surround his car and beat on the windows during a visit to Meiktila. He said the incident gave him “insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs”.

Myanmar responded, stating that the envoy was not in any danger.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Burma violence: Rioters burn Muslim homes and shops — 25 August 2013

Reuters — Order restored after fresh Myanmar religious unrest — 25 August 2013

Al Jazeera — Twelve arrested after fresh unrest in Myanmar — 25 August 2013

Gulf Times — Rioters burn shops, homes in fresh Myanmar unrest — 25 August 2013

FARC Rebels Kill 13 Colombian Soldiers

By Ellis Cortez
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – Thirteen Colombian soldiers have been killed in an ambush by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the eastern province of Arauca, the country’s army said in a statement. Two sergeants and 11 soldiers were killed.

US ambassador says ex-Marine held by Colombia rebels not part of US mission Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (Photo Courtesy of GETTY)

Another soldier was injured in the attack and is receiving medical treatment, the military said. The wounded soldier was transported to a hospital in the area. Last month, 15 soldiers were killed by the rebel group in the same region.

Army commander Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez traveled to the area to oversee the operation to track down the FARC guerrillas who carried out the attack. The FARC is Colombia’s main guerrilla and are estimated to have about 8,000 fighters, according to the defense ministry.

Even though FARC rebels and the Colombian government have been holding peace talks in Cuba, both sides are continuing to target each other militarily. The Colombian government and the FARC rebels have been holding peace talks in Havana, Cuba since November of 2012.

On August 23rd, the FARC announced a “pause” in the talks and the government subsequently withdrew its team of negotiators. The FARC announced a “pause” in order to study a proposal that any peace deal must be put to a referendum.

The chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said both sides would be back at the table on August 26th to continue peace talks. As of now, the two sides have reached an agreement on land reform, the first of six points on their agenda.

Current talks are now focused on political rights for the rebels, including the insurgents’ insistence that none of them be sentenced to prison. The FARC have also demanded seats in Congress and their own news media, but it has also for the first time acknowledged shared responsibility for the country’s suffering and a willingness to make amends to the victims.

The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s, making it the longest running insurgency in Latin America. The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.

A recent study by Colombia’s National Centre for Historical Memory estimated that 220,000 people have died as a result of the five decades of conflict.

The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. The FARC’s operations are financed through drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

For more information please see:

CNN 13 Colombian soldiers killed by rebels 25 August 2013

ABC News 13 Colombian Soldiers Killed, Talks to Resume 25 August 2013

The Telegraph Farc kills 13 Colombian soldiers ahead of talks 25 August 2013

Fox News Latino FARC rebels kill 13 soldiers near Colombia’s border with Venezuela 25 August 2013

BBC Colombian soldiers killed in ambush in Arauca province   24 August 2013

Liberian Police Corruption Impedes Country’s Progress

By: Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa

MONROVIA, Liberia – Police corruption in Liberia denies Liberians equal and impartial justice and impedes upon the country’s post-civil war decade long development, Human Rights Watch said in a report.  The United Nations (“UN”) plans on down-scaling its presence in Liberia, but should do so after these abuses are stopped.

Night patrol with the police. With road blocks around central Monrovia, the police have managed to reduce violence and crime in the town. (photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

In a 64 page report about this abuse it describes the police’s many criminal activities, such as charging crime victims at every stage of an investigation, extorting goods from street vendors, and bribing criminal suspects to pay for their release.  These actions violate Liberians’ rights under international and national law, as well as remove any trust the public has in officers.

“Police should protect the population, not prey on vulnerable people,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.  “Liberians have had all too many years of chaos and violence. A professional police force is critical to uphold people’s rights and create a rights-respecting society.”

In February the UN recommended more resources going to law enforcement to ensure Liberia’s security sector gains the trust of its citizens and can operate independently once the UN withdraws.

“Improving the criminal justice system, addressing impunity for crimes and increasing access to justice and security services for all Liberians remain particularly important for the consolidation of peace,” the UN Mission in Liberia said in its report to the Security Council.

The UN has been in Liberia for 10 years to stabilize the country after years of civil war.  It now plans to cut its troops in Liberia in half between 2013 and 2015.  However, a recent UN assessment of the national police found “abusive behavior, a lack of professionalism, and serious resource challenges that leave the force unprepared to become Liberia’s security.

“Liberians have had all too many years of chaos and violence. A professional police force is critical to uphold people’s rights and create a rights-respecting society,” said Corinne Dufka.

Human Rights Watch spoke with 120 people who were victims to the police abuse and corruption.  They told Human Rights Watch that the police officers typically ask crime victims to pay to register their cases, for transport to the crime scenes, and for pens and other items used in the investigation.

“I don’t go to the police for anything,” one Monrovia resident told Human Rights Watch. “They always want from me and I don’t have.”

Human Rights Watch also spoke to 35 police officers who expressed their own frustration with a lack of adequate support for their work.  These officers described their inadequate supplies, low salaries, and pressure to pay their superiors to obtain desirable posts and promotions.

“They come crying to you and you don’t even have a drop of gas,” one officer said, describing the difficulty of traveling to a crime scene to investigate a crime report. “We are not supposed to ask someone for money, but because you don’t have, we ask the person for money to go.”

“The Liberian government has made noteworthy efforts in recent years to promote human rights,” Dufka said. “Persistent police corruption and abuse, however, undermine the nation’s goals of national security and economic development.”

For more information, please visit:

Human Rights Watch – Liberia: Police Corruption Harms Rights, Progress – 22 August 2013
Reuters – Rampant police corruption harms Liberia’s progress: report – 22 August 2013
Thomas Reuters Foundation – Liberia: Police Corruption Harms Rights, Progress – 22 August 2013
AfriqueJet – Liberia: Police corruption harms human rights, progress – 23 August 2013
News24 – Police corruption harms Liberia’s progress – 22 August 2013
Tolerance.ca – Liberia: Police Corruption Harms Rights, Progress – 22 August 2013

 

Alleged Human Rights Violations Lead to Detainment of South Sudanese General

By Dan Krupinsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, South Sudan – The commander in charge of troops in the Jonglei state in South Sudan was detained by the nation’s army officials in the wake of allegations that soldiers under his command committed human rights abuses, including the killing of civilians.

General James Otong has not been formally charged, and army spokesman Philip Aguer said he will not be until the investigation into the alleged killings and human rights violations by the troops is complete. The general has been relieved of his command, however.

“Because of some allegations that some civilians have been killed, some properties were destroyed and looting took place…the commander of the area has to answer,” Aguer said.

A house in Pibor County burns after attacks from cattle raiders in July. (Courtesy of AFP)

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir ordered army officials to arrest, charge and bring to trial any soldiers accused of committing human rights abuses in Jonglei State, in a speech last month.

According to Aguer, to this point he has received information on only one event, which occurred in late July. According to reports, two soldiers opened fire on four civilians that were walking to Pibor town. Two women were killed in the shooting, and the soldier accused of perpetrating the attack were immediately detained.

Despite only having specific reports of one incident at this time, Aguer added that the army is prepared to investigate any additional reports of human rights violations, such as civilians being shot by soldiers or property being looted.

The Jongle state has been a site of constant conflict over the past year, with ongoing clashes between the army and rebels led by their leader David Yau Yau, as well as interethnic clashes. More than 300 people died in clashes last month in Jonglei when thousands of fighters from the Lou Nuer ethnic group raided towns and villages belonging to members of the Murle group. Aguer would not say how many soldiers are deployed in the area.

Soldiers and other gunmen looted UN and aid agency stores in Pibor, including a key hospital, in May.

The fighting is having an indirect effect on the Sudanese people, as well.

According to Doctors Without Borders, many of those who fled in July due to the fighting are “still hiding in fear in the bush” around Pibor.

The recent heavy rains in the remote, impoverished area have only added to the hardships of the tens of thousands already displaced by the regional conflict.

“As the rains intensify and the living conditions become ever more precarious, the situation in Pibor county remains critical,” according to a statement by Doctors Without Borders.

 

For further information, please see:

Blouin News – South Sudan arrests general following U.S. pressure – 21 August 2013

FOX News – South Sudan arrests general for rights violations – 20 August 2013

New York Times – South Sudan: Commander Arrested – 20 August 2013

Voice of America – S. Sudan General Detained, Soldiers Probed over Alleged Pibor Abuses – 21 August 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putin Prohibits Public Demonstrations during Olympics

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed that all public demonstrations not related to the Olympic games will be banned around Sochi between January 7 and March 21, 2014. Human rights organizations have issued a statement that the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new president—to be elected in September 2013—must ensure that hosts comply with all human rights, as according to the Olympic Charter.

Prohibited demonstrations would include protests against Russia’s controversial ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law, which was passed in June 2013. (Photo courtesy of Washington Post)

In June 2013, Russia passed an anti-homosexual law that banned anything accessible by minors that constitutes “gay propaganda”. In response, activists claimed that all public displays and information related to homosexuality have been made illegal. However, the IOC stated that it received “strong assurances” that the law would not affect competitors or spectators at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro and other competitors have planned to openly support the LGBT community at the Games.

In the U.S., some have noted that the Olympics seem to attract human rights violations, such as the detention and torture of anti-Olympic protesters in Beijing and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters in Rio. Following the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, supporters also note that the Olympics have been a perfect protesting stage. For instance, in 1968, King encouraged John Carlos and Tommie Smith to make their iconic black-gloved salute at the Summer Olympics.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak stated in a letter to the IOC that Russia will fully comply with the Olympic Charter’s provision against all forms of discrimination.

Kozak added that the law “cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation” because it applies to everyone equally.

On 23 August 2013, Putin announced that all “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets” that are not part of the Olympics or Paralympics are banned in Sochi for the two-and-a-half months surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics. Additionally, vehicles entering Sochi must be cars with local license plates, emergency vehicles, or a vehicle accredited by the Olympic organizers.

On its Twitter page, the television channel Dozhd posted: “Putin’s decree has turned Sochi-2014 into Moscow-1980.” In 1980, Soviet authorities had restricted entry to Moscow during the Summer Olympics and forced dissidents and other “anti-social” people out of the city limits.

While Russian authorities have already repeatedly denied gay activists’ applications to set up a Pride House in Sochi during the Olympics, activist Nikolai Alexeyev denounced Putin’s decree and told the Associated Press that he would petition the Supreme Court next week. Alexeyev intends to argue that by creating the ban, Putin is “violating our right to freedom of assembly.”

In addition to gay pride protests, Human Rights Watch has protested against the harassment of journalists and activists investigating alleged illegal activity connected to the Games, including the ill-treatment of migrant workers, environmental damage, and inadequate compensation for those building the Olympic complex.

To punish the few, Putin attacked the whole. For the whole to find peace again, they must now welcome the few.

For further information, please see:

Euronews – Putin Bans All Public Gatherings during Sochi Winter Olympics – August 24, 2013

Deutsche Welle – Putin Bans Protests in Sochi during Russia’s Winter Olympics – August 23, 2013

Reuters – Olympics Hosts Must Have Clean Rights Record – Rights Group – August 23, 2013

Washington Post – At Sochi Olympics, the Podium Can Be a Platform – August 23, 2013

Washington Post – Russian President Putin Bans Any Rallies in Sochi before and during 2014 Olympic Games – August 23, 2013

Times – Russia Defends Anti-Gay Law in Letter to Olympic Committee – August 22, 2013

U.N. Department of Safety and Security has Blocked Investigators from Heading to the Site of Chemical Weapons attack in Syria as International Community Demands and Investigation

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian opposition activists claim that the Syrian regime carried out a massive chemical attack in Ghouta, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, killing hundreds of people. Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported that videos capturing the alleged attack showed children and adults in field hospitals, some of them suffocating and coughing.

Hundreds of people were treated at the site of Wednesday’s alleged chemical attack in Syria for symptoms similar to those seen in victims of nerve gas attacks. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Chemical weapons experts have said that the symptoms of the victims shown on the footage could indicate the use of a nerve agent. Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said, “By looking at the videos, you can tell that some of the victims are suffering from asphyxiation. They don’t have any external wounds, so it’s consistent with the use of a chemical agent.” She said that it is difficult to determine what actually happened at the site of the alleged attack without physical samples.

Leaders of the international community are demanding that the Syrian government immediately allow United Nations inspectors onto the site of the alleged chemical attacks, which have killed as many as 1,800 people.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the Syrian government to allow the team of U.N. inspectors already in Syria to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks at three unrelated sites. He has said that the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime should be investigated immediately. He also said there is “no time to waste” in getting an inspection team to Ghouta.

The Secretary-General said that the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime would constitute a crime against humanity. He warned the Syrian regime of “serious consequences” that will follow if their use of chemical weapons against their own people was proven.

Russia, which has maintained support for the Al-Assad regime, has called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the United Nation’s experts in Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after the reports first emerged Wednesday, that the “Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the UN chemical experts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that what has occurred in Syria “indicates that this is clearly a big event, of grave concern.” He said that the international community must determine more about whether a chemical weapons attack has occurred and has called for the al-Assad regime to allow for a full investigation.

The United Kingdom and France have also issued strong statements demanding U.N. investigators be granted access to the attack sites.

Despite the International community’s collective demands for an investigation, the U.N has yet to authorize investigator’s to go to Ghouta, Kevin Kennedy, acting head of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security told reporters at the U.N. headquarters on Friday that he has not yet given the inspectors a green light to visit the sites of the alleged attacks, citing extreme violence in the region. Kennedy said, “It’s an active war zone in Damascus.”

For further information please see;

Al Jazeera – Hundreds reported killed in Syria gas attack – 21 August 2013

Foreign Policy – Congress’ Doves Rethinking U.S. Intervention After Syria’s ‘Chemical’ Attacks – 22 August 2013

Al Jazeera – New footage emerges of Syria ‘gas attack’ – 23 August 13

Al Jazeera – Russia backs UN probe of Syria attack – 23 August 2013

CNN International – Official: US military updates options for possible strikes on Syria – 23 August 2013

CNN International – Syria under pressure to allow urgent probe of chemical weapons claim –23 August 2013

Maldives Overturns Sentence of 100 Lashes For Rape Victim

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

FEYDHOO, Maldives — A Maldivian court has overturned a sentence of 100 lashes for a 15 year old rape victim. The sentence sparked international outrage and focused attention on the holiday isle’s treatment of women.

The Maldives observes elements of Sharia as well as English common law.

The court ruled on Wednesday that the girl had been wrongly convicted by a juvenile court for having premarital sex. Police first investigated the complainant when it was alleged she was raped by her stepfather, but later confessed to also having consensual sex with another man.

Premarital sex is illegal in the Maldives, a popular tourist destination in the Indian Ocean.

The child’s stepfather in this case faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of rape and a separate charge of murder, after he allegedly killed a baby as a result of his alleged rape of his stepdaughter.

President Mohamed Waheed was “overjoyed” with the High Court Decision. He said in a statement that “as sexual assaults on women and children are increasing, it is important to formulate the criminal justice system in a way to prevent further victimizing women and children.”

Maldives observes elements of Islamic Sharia law as well as English common law.

In its decision, the court said the sentence of the lower court was based on a confession that the girl made while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International, which campaigned to spare the victim, believed the girl should have never been put on trial in the first place.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do.” Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director said in a statement. “We are relieved that the girl will be spared the inhumane ‘punishment’ based on an outrageous conviction.”

The UN as well as international rights groups have continuously asked the Maldives to end the “barbaric practice” of flogging women.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Maldives girl’s 100 lashes sentence overturned – 22 August 2013

The Times of India – Maldives court quashes flogging of teenage rape victim – 22 August 2013

Yahoo! News – Maldives quashes flogging of teenager for premarital sex – 22 August 2013

South China Morning Post – Maldives overturns flogging sentence for rape victim – 22 August 2013