Dozens of Kidnapped Children Freed in China

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China — Chinese police have rescued 92 abducted children and taken 301 suspected members of a trafficking network into custody. A breakdown of how many boys and how many girls were kidnapped, or their ages, was not reported. However, police found sleeping pills commonly used for babies during the investigation. The rescue is being called one of the biggest busts of its kind in years.

The freed children are being cared for by health and welfare workers. (Photo courtesy of Skynews)

On September 11, after a six month investigation, police simultaneously swooped into 11 different locations to free the children. No reason has been given for the delay in reporting the operation.

The freed children have been sent to hospitals for checkups and some of them have been sent to a children’s home in Zhengzou, Henan Province.

The trafficking of Chinese children and women has increased in recent years because of the strict Chinese one-child policy. There is a traditional preference for boys, especially in rural areas, resulting in an increase in sex-selective abortions.

Kidnapped women are sold to men in remote areas who are unable to find brides due to a sex imbalance resulting from the one-child policy. Some families even buy trafficked women and children to use as extra labor and household servants.

Child trafficking has become a serious problem in China. According to a report released by the China National Radio, about 200,000 children disappear in China each year. Of these, only 0.1% are found and freed from captivity.

Roughly 24,000 abducted women and children were freed in China last year.

The Chinese government has vowed to impose harsher punishments on people who buy kidnapped children. The government also said it would punish parents who sell their children.

On October 4 a U.N. committee is scheduled to issue its findings on China’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Beijing ratified in 1992.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Chinese police rescue 92 abducted children – 28 September 2013

Reuters – China police rescue 92 kidnapped children: state media – 28 September 2013

The Guardian – Chinese police rescue 92 children from gang planning to sell them – 28 September 2013

Sky News – China: Dozens Of Kidnapped Children Freed – 28 September 2013

The Huffington Post – Chinese Police Free 92 Abducted Children In Rescue Operation – 28 September 2013

Magnitsky Sanctions Briefing in Swedish Parliament Cancelled as a Result of the Swedish Government’s Refusal to Grant William Browder Safe Passage

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Distribution

30 September 2013 – Briefings in the Swedish Parliament on the Magnitsky
justice campaign have been cancelled as a result of the Swedish
Government’s refusal to provide a safe passage guarantee to William
Browder, the leader of the campaign.

The briefings were scheduled to take place in Stockholm last week.

Mr Browder’s campaign seeks to impose visa and financial sanctions in
Sweden and across the EU on Russian officials responsible for the
Magnitsky’s false arrest, torture and killing in Russian police custody.
Such sanctions have been already imposed by the United States Government
under the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 passed by
the US Congress. Sergei Magnitsky was arrested after he blew the whistle on
the $230 million theft with the involvement of Russian officials. Some of
the same officials Sergei Magnitsky had implicated in his testimony, were
involved in his arrest.

The Russian authorities have responded angrily to Bill Browder’s campaign
for Magnitsky sanctions by convicting him in absentia along with late
Sergei Magnitsky himself in the first-ever posthumous trial in Russian
history. The Russian authorities have also opened a spurious criminal case
against Mr Browder alleging that he “stole” Gazprom shares and harmed
Russian economic security, justifying the case by a regulation that never
stipulated criminal liability and was repealed eight years ago.

Given the sentencing in absentia of Mr Browder to 9 years in prison by the
Russian authorities alongside with the posthumous prosecution of Sergei
Magnitsky, in advance of his visit to Sweden Mr Browder sought a formal
assurance that the Swedish government will not cooperate with Russian
requests to extradite Mr Browder on a Russian warrant and will not assist
with any other Russian requests.

In a surprising development, the Swedish Justice Ministry rejected Mr
Browder’s request and stated that “The Government or the Minister may not
intervene or give instructions in these cases.”

The Swedish refusal is in contrast to safe passage letters being issued by
the German government and the Dutch government earlier this year. It also
is contrary to the INTERPOL’s refusal to post worldwide search warrant
issued by the Russian Federation on 24 May 2013 for Mr Browder when
Interpol’s independent Commission for the Control of Files determined that
the Russian warrant should be refused because the case against Mr Browder
was of a “predominantly political nature”. Interpol’s General Secretariat
made a further announcement in July 2013 that Interpol cannot be used to
arrest Mr Browder.

Mr Browder was invited to come to Sweden by Swedish MP Mats Johansson. Mr
Johansson was also the author of a petition sent to the Swedish Prime
Minister on the Magnitsky Case in 2012
(http://russian-untouchables.com/rus/docs/D398.pdf) calling for sanctions
against the Russian officials responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s death. The
petition was co-signed by Olle Thorell, a foreign affairs spokesperson from
Social Democrats party, and Kerstin Lundgren, from the Centre Party. The
petition was supported by 59 Swedish MPs from 7 parties. The Swedish
Government has so far ignored this parliamentary call for Magnitsky
sanctions.

“The Swedish government has refused to sanction to people who killed Sergei
Magnitsky, but are effectively sanctioning me in my fight to get justice.
The perception that Sweden is a country that fights for human rights is
profoundly challenged in the way the Swedish government is dealing with the
Magnitsky case,” said William Browder.

“Sweden should be supporting human rights activists with a just cause, not
hindering them. We should not be giving in to Russian pressure when
fundamental human rights issues are at stake,” said Mats Johansson, MP.

Mr Johansson was also one of the initiators of the Magnitsky Declaration at
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe two years ago, which
was supported by 53 deputies from 29 countries (
http://assembly.coe.int/Mainf.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc11/EDOC12744.htm
), calling upon the Russian government to cease the posthumous prosecution
of Mr Magnitsky and the intimidation of his family and to allow the family
access to his medical archive for an independent evaluation. Since then,
the Russian authorities prosecuted Mr Magnitsky posthumously, pressured his
relatives with summonses and questioning, and refused them access to his
medical archive.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

Jesse Jackson Negotiating for Hostage’s Release From Colombia

By Brandon Cottrell
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – Over the weekend, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the “FARC”) invited the Rev. Jesse Jackson to negotiate for the release of Kevin Scott Sutay, a former U.S. solider, who was captured by the FARC three months ago.  Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, however, does not want Jackson involved.  Despite that, Jackson intends to travel to Colombia this week to negotiate a cease-fire so that Sutay can be picked up from the FARC’s custody.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson hopes he can negotiate for Sutay’s release this coming week. (Photo Courtesy USA Today)

The FARC, a guerilla army comprised of 8,000 armed fighters and funded through drug trafficking and extortion, has been fighting against the Colombian government since the 1960’s.  While the FARC has repeatedly called for peace with the government, Santos has refused to stop the fighting.  Jackson, meanwhile, has said that “a lengthy pause in the fighting is not necessary for . . . to bring Kevin out” and hopes a one day cease-fire can be negotiated.

Sutay was captured in June as he hiked through the Colombian jungle, supposedly on his way to Brazil.  According to Jackson, the FARC “thought he was a terrorist or a spy” because he was in military attire and was carrying surveillance equipment.  After the FARC found out Sutay was not a terrorist or spy, they told Sutay he was free to leave.  However, due to the fighting in Colombia, there has not been a safe way to get Sutay out and he remains in custody.

Santos, meanwhile, does not want Jackson or any other public figure involved in the release of Sutay, stating, “We will not allow a media spectacle.”  Santos has, however, authorized the International Red Cross to facilitate Sutay’s release.  The Red Cross does not want to get involved right now and issued a statement that said it would facilitate the release “only once all sides agree on the details.”

The FARC has in the past, unilaterally freed more than a dozen prisoners of war as a goodwill gesture and in the hope that it will rally public support for its cause, which is social justice.  In a statement, the FARC hopes “instead of unjustly prolonging Scott’s stay in the jungle,” Santos will start planning for Sutay’s release.

The conflict between the FARC and the government has killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions of innocent victims from their homes, though a resolution is in the works as both sides have engaged in peace talks in the past year.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC – Jesse Jackson Continues FARC Mission Despite Colombia Refusal – 29 September 2013

CBS News – Jesse Jackson To Mediate For U.S. Captive In Colombia – 28 September 2013

USA Today – Jesse Jackson Hopeful FARC Will Free Captive Soldier – 29 September 2013

Wall Street Journal – Colombia’s Santos Won’t Authorize Jesse Jackson Role in Kidnap Case – 29 September 2013

50 protesters sentenced in Bahrain

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan

Impunity Watch, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – A Bahrain Court sentenced 50 people to between 5 and 15 years in prison on Sunday whom authorities accused of organizing an ant-government protest organization seeking to overthrow the government.

The February 14 movement has been organizing protests against the government since onset of the Arab spring in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Sixteen of the accused were sentenced to 15 years in prison, four were sentenced to 10 years and the remaining 30 defendants were giving a five year sentence. Some of the accused protesters were convicted in absentia.

Several of the defendants were involved with the 14 February Coalition, a youth based organization in Bahrain. The 14 February Coalition has been involved in influencing and expanding the Shia-led campaign for more rights in Bahrain which began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. Many of the organizations protest have been organizes in majority Shia villages and neighbourhoods The Bahrain regime accuses the youth movement of terrorism.

Yousif al-Muhafda, an activist and member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said that some of the defendants convicted by the court had told the judge preceding over the case that they had had confessed to the charges only after being tortured by authorities. He said that many of those convicted were activists involved with the 14 February movement, which has been organising protests against the Gulf State’s undemocratic and discriminatory policies against Shia Muslims since 2011. He also said the detainees included Naji Fateel, prominent a human rights activist who was sentenced to 15 years.

Muhafda argued that the government’s allegations that Fateel and other activist were engaged in an active conspiracy to attempt to overthrow the Bahraini ruling family was implausible and that all of the activities of these human rights groups were open to the public’ he said “They don’t do anything in secret — they work publicly.”

Al Wefaq, the state’s major Shia opposition   party, said Sunday was a “black day for justice” for Bahrain. Al Wefaq’s acting President Maryam Al-Khawaja said the court ruling was “a sham trial with a political verdict,” and called for the defendant’s to be released immediately,”

The court’s action, if confirmed, would appear to be part of a widening state effort to silence protests organized by members of Bahrain’s Shiite majority against the state’s Sunni monarchy, which has been accused of discriminating against the Shite majority.

The Gulf State has seen almost daily protests by members of the Shia Muslim majority since February 2011, when state authority’s brutally cracked down on a Shia-led uprising calling for the Bahraini royal family, the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty to give up its power over the state.

For more information please see:

ABC News – Activist: Bahrain Sentences 50 for Militant Links – 29 September 2013

Al Jazeera – Scores of activists imprisoned in Bahrain – 29 September 2013

The New York Times – Bahrain Dissidents Said to Get Prison Sentences – 29 September 2013

BBC News – Bahrain unrest: 50 Shia Muslims sentenced to up to 15 years – 30 September 2013

 

British Woman “White Widow” Wanted by Interpol for Last Week’s Kenyan Mall Attack

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France – Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Samantha Lewthwaite, for her possible connection to a terrorist attack on a Kenyan mall last week that resulted in 72 deaths.

Lewthwaite, 29, is wanted on conspiracy charges. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Lewthwaite, a British citizen dubbed the “White Widow,” was already wanted for charges of explosion possession and conspiracy to commit a felony as a result of an incident in Kenya in 2011.

Kenyan authorities believe that Lewthwaite was connected to an additional plot to attack places of public accommodation- restaurants and hotels. They believe the “White Widow” rented several houses in Mombasa to use to assemble the explosives.

Kenya’s foreign minister has stated that Lewthwaite took part in last week’s mall siege with the Qaeda-linked terrorist group, al-Shabab. A British security source, however, has stated that “it is a possibility” that Lewthwaite was involved.

Lewthwaite was originally married to one of the suicide bombers involved in the attack on the London subway system in 2005, which left 52 people dead. Lewthwaite stated in September 2005 that her husband had fallen under the control of radical mosques. “How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful. He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I suppose he must have been an ideal candidate.”

Lewthwaite is believed to have been using the alias ‘Natalie Faye Webb’ for several years while living in South Africa. Kenyan police suspected Lewthwaite was working with Musa Hussein Abdi, killed with an Al Qaeda boss in Somalia in June 2011, in the alleged 2011 Kenya attack plot.

In December 2011, authorities tracked down a woman they thought to be Lewthwaite in Abdi’s house but let her go after she showed them a South African passport. Police later realized the passport was fake, and returned to the house, but she had left.

Lewthwaite, 29, converted to Islam in her teens and went on to study religion and politics at the School Of Oriental and African Studies in London. Local city councilor Raj Khan, who knew Lewthwaite’s relatives in Aylesbury, recalled her as “an average, British, young, ordinary girl.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Interpol Issues Warrant for UK Woman – 27 September 2013

Fox News – Interpol Issues Arrest Warrant for “White Widow” Eyed In Kenya Terrorist Attack – 26 September 2013

The Guardian – “White Widow”: Interpol Arrest Warrant Issued for Samantha Lewthwaite – 26 September 2013

Mirror News – White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite Becomes World’s Most Wanted Woman After Interpol Issues Arrest Warrant for British Terror Suspect – 26 September 2013

Venezuelan Authorities Arrest Suspects in Air France Flight Cocaine Case

By Ellis Cortez
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan authorities have arrested 17 people in connection with a shipment of 1.3 tons of cocaine in an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris.

French interior minister Manuel Valls displays part of the cocaine haul.
French interior minister Manuel Valls displays part of the cocaine haul. (Photograph Courtesy of Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office said eight members of the National Guard and nine Air France and airport staff have been detained on drug charges. In addition, three Italians and two Britons were arrested in France.

The flight originated at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. The drugs arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on September 11. French authorities discovered the 1.3 tons of pure cocaine stuffed inside 31 suitcases registered under false names that did not correspond to passengers on the flight.

French authorities have called it the country’s largest cocaine bust ever, with an estimated value of $270 million. They worked with Spanish, British and Dutch police on the investigation. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said, this case “illustrates the importance of strengthening International cooperation in the fight against traffickers.”

Air France said it was still trying to find out how the drugs were smuggled on board. “Pending the results of these investigations, immediate measures have been taken to enhance our checks of baggage and goods on departure from certain sensitive destinations,” the airline said in a statement.

Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told reporters in Venezuela that authorities think an organized crime group with Italian and British members is responsible for the shipment. “The suitcases were not taken into the plane through the regular baggage platforms at the airport. We’re investigating how the drug (shipment) got to the airport,” he said.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says Venezuela does not produce sizeable quantities of cocaine, but drug traffickers are increasingly using its territory to smuggle drugs from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia to other nations.

The U.S. government has accused Venezuela of failing to adhere to international efforts against drug smuggling, and also charges that high-ranking military personnel have benefited from narcotics trafficking. Venezuela denies those charges and highlights its frequent announcements of drug seizures as proof of their progress in combating the illicit trade.

For more information please see:

BBC Venezuela arrests 22 over cocaine in plane to Paris 27 September 2013

CNN Arrests made in Air France flight cocaine case 25 September 2013

Fox News Venezuela arrests 22 in Air France cocaine bust  25 September 2013

The Wall Street Journal Venezuela Makes More Arrests in Probe of Smuggling Aboard Jetliner 25 September 2013

The Guardian Cocaine seizure: three Britons arrested in Paris, Venezuela says 23 September 2013

House Budget Amendment Creates Possibility of Government Shutdown

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – The House of Representative passed an amended version of the Senate spending bill early Sunday that removed funding for the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Congress has until Monday at midnight to agree on a new spending bill or face shutting down the federal government for the first time in 17 years.

House members worked well into the night debating the amended budget that removed funding for the healthcare law. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

A shutdown of the federal government would require hundreds of thousands of federal employees to be placed on unpaid leave until a budget bill could be passed through Congress.

The amended bill passed by the House would place a one year delay on the implementation of the ACA and remove a tax on medical devices that aimed to help finance the healthcare law.  The ACA is set to begin enrolling uninsured Americans into the program on October 1, the beginning of the federal government’s fiscal year.

“The American people don’t want a government shutdown, and they don’t want Obamacare” House Republican leaders said in a joint statement.  The Republican leadership then called upon the Senate to vote on the bill in order to avoid a shutdown.

Democratic leaders are holding firm against passing the bill, refusing to convene the Democratically-controlled Senate to vote on the bill passed by the House.  Senate majority leader Harry Reid promised to strip out the healthcare provisions of the House bill, calling the attempt to delay the ACA “pointless.”

“After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at Square 1,” Reid said, adding “[w]e continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”

The White House issued a strongly worded statement Saturday, saying “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown.”

President Obama has promised to veto the House version of the bill.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – US shutdown looms amid political rifts over health law – 29 September 2013

Reuters – Wall Street braces for volatility as shutdown seems likely – 29 September 2013

The Guardian – US government on verge of shutdown as House votes to delay health law – 29 September 2013

Wall Street Journal – U.S. Nears Shutdown as House Votes To Delay Health Law -29 September 2013

The New York Times – U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law – 28 September 2013

Bahrain Court imprisons 50 Activists

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain-Following charges of inciting anti-government protests to topple the government force, 50 people have been sentenced to between five and fifteen years in jail for “training elements to commit violence and vandalism and attacking security men.

Demonstrators campaign for better human rights in Bahrain (photo courtesy of BBC)

Activists reported that the government accused the convicted of being involved in the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition and other protests against the government since 2011.  The group has been described as a terrorist organization by Bahrain’s head of public prosecution.

Since February 2011, daily protests have been ongoing by members of the Shia Muslim majority who are demanding that the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty give up power.  When asked for comment, an official said a government statement regarding the matter was in preparation.

“This was a sham trial with a political verdict, they should be released immediately,” stated Maryam Al-Khawaja, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.  It was further stated that it was a “black day for justice.”

Other civil rights groups have reported that many of those convicted were denied access to a lawyer and provided confessions under torture.  In a separate action, two police officers were jailed for torturing a protest to death in his prison cell in 2011.

Sixteen of the defendants were hand fifteen year terms, while four were jailed for ten years and the other thirty defendants received five years.

“This is the result when you have a court with a judge appointed by the king of Bahrain.  The court is just a tool to suppress the opposition and human rights defenders, and to acquit those who torture and kill protesters,” stated Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy-head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

One of the defendants to receive a fifteen year sentence was Njai Fateel, who is a well-known blogger and protest organizer who had been jailed and tortured twice before his latest arrest in May.  Fateel has been prevented from providing testimony describing torture in prison in.

Another defendant was Rihanna al-Moussawi who was arrested for taking part in an anti-government rally during the Formula One race in April.  She was sentenced to five years and was also denied a lawyer.

“All of those who were jailed today are activists and protest leaders in their villages.  The authorities just want to send a message to the opposition to stop and to accept the political situation as it is,” stated Muhafda.

For more information, please see the following: 

Alakhbar-Bahrain jails 50 activists for up to 15 years-September 29, 2013

Aljazeera-Scores of activists imprisoned in Bahrain-September 29, 2013

BBC-Bahrain unrest: 50 Shia Muslims sentenced to up to 15 years-September 29, 2013

New York Times-Bahrain Dissidents Said to Get Prison Sentences-September 29, 2013

 

Nigerian Students Killed While Asleep

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

ABUJA, Nigeria – Roughly 50 students were killed as suspected Islamist gunmen attacked a college in north-eastern Nigeria.

Rescue workers and family members gather to identify the shrouded bodies (photo courtesy of Kuwait Times)

The students were shot dead while they were asleep in their dormitories at the College of Agriculture in Yobe state. The gunmen also torched the college’s classrooms.

The attack is blamed on the Boko Haram extremist group, even though there has been a four and a half month old state of emergency covering three states and one-sixth of the country.

“They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them,” Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture said.

Mato further said he could not give an exact number for death toll because security forces are still recovering bodies of students mostly aged between 18 and 22. The Nigerian military has collected 42 bodies and transferred 18 wounded students to a local hospital.

In addition, Mato reported that about 1,000 students had fled the scene.

Most of those killed were Muslims, as is the majority of the college’s student body.

The college is roughly 25 miles from another school that suffered from a similar attack around Damaturu town. There are no security forces stationed at the college despite the attacks.

Two weeks ago, state commission for education Mohammed Lamin urged all schools to reopen and promising protection by soldiers and police.

In June, Boko Haram carried our two attacks on schools in the region. At least nine children were killed in a school on the outskirts of Maiduguri, while 13 students and teachers were killed in a school in Damaturu.

In July in the village of Mamudo in Yobe state, Islamist militants attacked a school’s dormitories with guns and explosives, killing at least 42 people, mostly students.

Boko Haram regards schools as a symbol of Western culture. The group’s name translates as “Western education is forbidden.”

Some of Boko Haram’s fighters have trained with al-Shabab in Somalia.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said in video addresses that his group wants to end democracy in Nigeria and allow education only in Islamic schools.

Its uprising poses the biggest security challenge in years to Nigeria which is Africa’s biggest oil producer and its most populous nation with more than 160 million people – almost equal numbers of which are Muslims and Christians.

Boko Haram militants have killed more than 1,700 people since 2010.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News – Nigeria attack: Students shot dead as they slept – 29 September 2013
Scottish Express – Gunmen massacre Nigeria students – 29 September 2013
Kuwait Times – Militants storm Nigeria college, kill 50 students – 29 September 2013
Yahoo! News – Nigeria College Attacked: At Least 40 Killed – 29 September 2013
Sky News – Nigeria College Attacked: At Least 40 Killed – 29 September 2013
The Globe and Mail – Boko Haram blamed after attack on Nigerian college leaves as many as 50 dead – 29 September 2013

 

Boko Haram Gunmen Kill College Students in Early Morning Attack

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria — At least 40 students were killed today when Boko Haram gunmen opened fired on their dormitory. All of the dead are believed to have been students in the College of Agriculture in Gujba, some 30 kilometres from Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state. Northeastern Nigeria has been under a state of emergency for several months following multiple attacks by the extremist group.

Boko Haram Fighters (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

Initial reports indicate that most of the students were asleep when the dormitory was attacked and many died in their sleep. A local politician has told the BBC that two van loads of bodies were taken away from the scene. College provost Molima Idi Mato, speaking to Associated Press, said the number of dead could be as high as 50 and that about 1,000 students had fled the campus. The gunmen also set fire to classrooms.

Surviving students are looking for family and many people have shown up at the hospital looking for loved ones.

Academic activities only resumed last week in schools in Yobe state following 10 weeks of closure after an attack by members of Boko Haram on two secondary schools, which led to the death of 29 students and three teachers . Boko Haram, which roughly translates to “western education is forbidden”, has a penchant for attacking schools and students because they believe that schools are a symbol of Western culture and ought to be destroyed.

The military believes that  the recent school attacks are a sign of desperation by the Islamists because the group only has the capacity to hit soft targets, like schools.  The defence ministry has said that an offensive launched against Boko Haram in May has greatly weakened the group and scattered their fighters across the northeast. The fact that the group is still launching attacks, even if they are in remote places, casts some doubt on the military’s claims of success.

For further information, please see:

ABC News — At least 40 dead after Boko Haram militants open fire in college dorm in Nigeria — 29 September 2013

All Africa — Nigeria: Breaking – Boko Haram Gunmen Kill Many Yobe Agric College Students in Early Morning Attack — 29 September 2013

BBC News — Nigeria attack: Students shot dead as they slept — 29 September 2013

Daily Post — Several Students killed as Boko Haram attacks College of Agriculture in Yobe — 29 September 2013

Fighting Continues in Zamboanga City

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — An estimated 158 people have been killed, including 15 members of the military, five police and 13 civilians, since fighting broke out between Philippine soldiers and separatist rebels.

Filipino special forces troops carry the flag-draped coffins of fellow service members killed in clashes with Muslim rebels around the southern port city of Zamboanga, where fighting has been flaring for 17 days. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

A majority of those killed, roughly 125, were members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The fighting began more than two weeks ago in Zamboanga City when a large number of MNLF rebels came ashore.  The rebels took nearly 180 people hostage causing Philippine security forces to move in.

The majority of the captives have now been freed, but authorities believe the rebels could still be holding up to five people hostage, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, a military spokesman, said Wednesday.

As a result of the fighting over 1000 buildings have been destroyed, driving at least 80,000 local residents from their homes. Continued sporadic fighting has closed schools and halted transit.

“The Zamboanga crisis has laid bare the inherent vulnerabilities of Philippine government in providing security to its citizens as well as instituting durable peace in Mindana,” Asia Times Online reported.

President Benigno Aquino III has issued an ultimatum for the rebel front’s founder, Nur Misuari, to surrender, warning that the government is prepared to use additional force. The Philippine government has already deployed more than 3,000 police and soldiers.

The Philippine government has been struggling with Muslim rebels since the MNLF was founded in 1971, with at least 120,000 estimated to have died in fighting. The MNLF was created with the aim of establishing an autonomous region for Muslims in the mainly Catholic Philippines.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila in 1996, but some of its members have broken away to continue a violent campaign.

For further information, please see:

CNN – Death toll climbs as army, militants fight on in the Philippines – 26 September 2013

Los Angeles Times – Battle drags on between Philippine troops and Muslim rebels – 25 September 2013

Aljazeera – Deaths as battle drags on in Philippine city – 25 September 2013

The Big Story – 6 MORE DIE AS FIGHTING DRAGS ON IN PHILIPPINE CITY – 21 September 2013

 

Disappearances in Mexico Continue to Increase

By Brandon Cottrell
Impunity Watch, North America Reporter

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – The number of disappearances that go unsolved in Mexico continues to rise even though President Enrique Pena Nieto continually pledges to tackle this problem.  For example, just recently four people disappeared within six days from an area close to the United States border, which exposed again, “the cruel mix of state corruption and organized crime.”

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (Photo Courtesy Reuters)

In February, Nieto’s administration revealed that between 2006 and 2012, 26,000 people have disappeared and not yet been found and that an additional 60,000 people have been killed during that span.  The administration also acknowledged that the authorities have not properly investigated these disappearances and often did not even carry out a basic investigation.

Several of the disappearances stem from marine checkpoints.  Eyewitnesses claim that they saw the marines force individuals into a military vehicle and drive towards a nearby base.  However, personnel at the base told the eyewitnesses that no civilians were being held.  Despite such a statement, the individuals taken are still missing and little progress has been made in finding them.

Rupert Knot, a researcher for Amnesty International Mexico, said that these “cases [are] languishing with the Federal Attorney General” and that the “prosecutors want the families to provide more evidence while [the prosecutors] do nothing to further the investigations.”  Additionally, the prosecutors say, “the eyewitness accounts prove nothing [because] naval authorities deny responsibility.”

Furthermore, corrupt law enforcement officers is a common problem as many officers work for the drug cartels.  For example, in a mass kidnapping and killing of thirteen young adults earlier this summer, and in a kidnapping of a man from his car, police officers were involved. The families of these victims say they do not trust Mexican authorities and hope for an independent international investigation.

Discouraged by the authorities’ investigations, there has been a movement sweeping across Mexico where the community itself carries out investigations.  The group meets regularly with prosecutors and use social media to raise awareness.  It also gives strength to the families of the victims and shelters those who want to investigate from the intimidation and pressure from the state to abandon the search.

Although Mexico has not submitted a required report pursuant to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance, which would detail what it is doing to solve these disappearances, Nieto has taken some action to remedy the problem, such as assigning new investigators and creating a new unit dedicated to solving the disappearances.  The Mexican legislature is also considering whether to “reform the military justice system once and for all, and ensure civilian justice to investigate and try all cases of human rights violations by the armed forces.”

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Mexico’s Disappeared Continues To Rise – 29 September 2013

Amnesty International – Mexican Senate Must End Impunity For Armed Forces’ Human Rights Violations – 27 September 2013

CNN – Fourth Officer Arrested In Mexico Mass Kidnapping Case – 25 September 2013

Daily Mall – Mexican Police Drag Man From Car And Kidnap Him In Broad Daylight – 27 September 2013

 

Thousands of Migrant Workers may be worked to Death in Qatar as the Gulf State Prepares for the World Cup.

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Middle East

DOHA, Qatar—Dozens of Nepalese migrant workers have died in Qatar in recent weeks, and thousands more are enduring horrendous labor abuses and poor labor condones. According to an investigation by the Guardian, thousands of Nepalese workers, the single largest group of laborers in Qatar, face labor exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labor Organisation.

Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar.(Photo courtesy of the Guardian)

At the Nepalese embassy in Qatar, at least 44 Nepalese workers died between 4 June and 8 August 2013. More than half of these workers died of heart attacks or heart failure related to overwork or from workplace accidents. Approximately 30 Nepalese migrates sought refuge at their embassy in Doha Qatar in order to escape the brutality of their employers and the deplorable working.

The international Trade Union Confederation has claimed that construction in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup could cost the lives of at least 4,000 migrant construction workers. The group has said that at least a half-million migrant workers are expected to flood into Qatar to complete construction on stadiums, hotels and new infrastructure for the World Cup. These workers are expected to come from several countries, including Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.

The annual death toll among migrant workers could be as high as 600 per year, unless the state government steps into to enact reforms the ITUC claims. The ITUC has based its estates on current mortality statistics for Nepalese and Indian migrant workers.  Without changes in labor conditions, more workers are expected to die.

A spokesman for the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said on Thursday that organizers of the 2022 World Cup were “appalled” by the Guardian’s findings in their investigation saying, “There is no excuse for any worker in Qatar, or anywhere else, to be treated in this manner.” He claimed, “The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker that contributes to staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup is of the utmost importance to our committee and we are committed to ensuring that the event serves as a catalyst toward creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar.”

Claims of worker abuse and the large scale loss of human life among migrant workers in Qatar has sparked international outrage, including from the soccer community. Qatar has been told it must respect the rights of workers building the 2022 World Cup stadiums by the world professional footballers’ association, Fifpro.

Fifpro has called on Water to respect the rights of construction workers building the venues for the 2022 world cup. Brendan Schwab, Division Asia chairman for the organization said, “The 2022 FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar to promote football and, more importantly, football’s universal values in the Middle East. This can only be achieved if Qatar respects the rights of the key people who will deliver that World Cup: the workers who build the World Cup stadia and the players who play in them.”

For more information please see:

The Guardian – Qatar told to respect rights of workers building 2022 World Cup stadiums — 27 September 2013

NBC Sports – Qatar World Cup horror, as 4,000 migrants could be ‘worked to death’ – 27 September 2013

The Guardian – Qatar World Cup construction ‘will leave 4,000 migrant workers dead’ – 26 September 2013

The Guardian– Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’ – 25 September 2013