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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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