Chemical Weapons Team Set to Begin Syrian Disarmament

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global agency charged with enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention, is preparing to send a team of twenty to Syria on Monday. The team will be responsible for setting up a base of operations, secure communications, and other basic necessities to begin the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Another team will follow a week later to begin the inspection process.

The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands.

On Saturday, the OPCW agreed to a very ambitious schedule set forth by the United States and Russia, along with their Security Counsel counterparts, to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The plan sets a 1 November deadline for the dismantling of all chemical weapons production facilities and a 1 July deadline to destroy all chemical weapons stockpiles. Plans of this nature typically take years to complete, but under such pressing circumstances the OPCW hopes to complete the process in just nine months.

The OPCW, headquartered in The Hague, has handled the destruction of all chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention since it inception in 1997.  Syria’s membership has been accelerated and it will become the 190th party to the Convention on 14 October. The speed of situation presents a challenge for the OPCW, which typically deals with the disarmament of well-known quantities of US and Russian Cold War stockpiles.

“It’s kind of a 9-to-5 organization, in a way. It’s not a 24-7 organization, and it’s going to have to adapt to that,” said Faiza Patel, a former senior policy officer at the OPCW. “The organization is not really set up to be an investigative organization,” unlike the U.N. investigators who were sent to Iraq in the 1990s, she said. “It’s set up to do routine inspections that are based on the declarations that the states provide.”

Fortunately, most of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles are “unweaponized”, according to US and Russian intelligence and Syrian statements submitted to the OPCW thus far. Essentially, the “vast majority” of nerve agent is in a liquid bulk form and much easier to dispose of compared to battlefield ready liquid or loaded warheads.

For further information, please see:

Washington Post – Inspectors from obscure agency ready to destroy Syrian chemical weapons – 28 September 2013

Wall Street Journal – Weapons Teams Get Set to Tackle Syria’s Chemical Arsenal – 28 September 2013

Time – U.S. and Russia Say Majority of Syrian Chemical Arsenal Is “Unweaponized” –  27 September 2013

Washington Post – Most of Syria’s toxins can be destroyed more easily than officials initially thought – 26 September 2013

Greece’s Golden Dawn Accused of Criminal Activity and If Convicted, May Be Gone

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities began arresting the Golden Dawn party’s leaders and supporters accused of creating a criminal organization, rather than a political party. Human rights groups have previously accused the group of links to attacks on immigrants.

Golden Dawn accused of organizing a criminal organization and links to attacks on immigrants and political opponents. (Photo courtesy of Washington Post)

Golden Dawn is Greece’s extreme-right political party with neo-Nazi roots. In May 2012, the party first entered parliament by capitalizing on the financial crisis, rising crime, and anti-immigrant sentiments. Often, Golden Dawn members and supporters were suspected of violence against immigrants and political opponents; particularly Communists.

The 18 September 2013 death of rapper Pavlos Fyssas sparked outrage and protests throughout Greece, which compelled a government-ordered investigation. After police arrested the suspect, he admitted to the stabbing and identified himself as a Golden Dawn supporter. While police examined cellphone records of the suspect and 300 others connected to the party, Golden Dawn denied any connection between themselves and the suspect.

In the 2012 general election, Golden Dawn won almost 7% of the vote. Despite the party’s denial of connection to Fyssas’s death, Golden Dawn has lost appeal in the past week.

Many Greeks have called for the government to ban Golden Dawn. However, Greece’s constitution does not allow political parties to be banned.

On 28 September 2013, Greek authorities arrested the Golden Dawn party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, along with other lawmakers and supporters of Golden Dawn. The arrests are part of a government crackdown on the anti-immigrant party. This is the first time since the democratic restoration in 1974 that sitting members of Parliament have been arrested. The 17 lawmakers arrested were charged with forming a criminal organization.

At least one police officer was also arrested, in connection with accusations of law enforcement ignoring Golden Dawn violence and immigrant mistreatment.

Golden Dawn expressed outrage at the arrests in a text message to journalists: “We call upon everyone to support our moral and just struggle against the corrupt system! Everyone come to our offices!”

“It is an unprecedentedly dynamic response to a neo-Nazi organization,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told The Associated Press. “The prime minister and the government were determined to deal with Golden Dawn solely through the justice system…We have succeeded in stripping them of their political cover and deal with them as what they really are, a criminal organization.”

Greece’s Supreme Court and anti-terrorist squad have begun handling the case. Unless convicted, Golden Dawn lawmakers will retain their parliamentary seats.

Recently, Golden Dawn suggested that its deputies might resign to provoke elections.

“Justice, stability, no elections,” said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Greece’s Golden Dawn Leader Michaloliakos Held in Crackdown – September 28, 2013

CNN International – Greece: Golden Dawn Party Leader and 4 Lawmakers Arrested, Police Say – September 28, 2013

Euronews – Greek Police Arrest Far-Right Golden Dawn Party Leader – September 28, 2013

Reuters – UPDATE 4-Greek Police Arrest Leader, Lawmakers of Far-Right Golden Dawn – September 28, 2013

Washington Post – Greek Authorities Arrest Leader, Others from Extreme Right Party in Escalating Crackdown – September 28, 2013

British Intended and Birth Mothers Seek Same Benefits as Birth and Adoptive Parents

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, United Kingdom – The European Court of Justice advised a British woman that she and her British surrogate were entitled to the same maternity leave as birth and adoptive parents, under the EU Pregnant Workers Directive. In a separate advice, the ECJ stated that an Irish woman and her Californian surrogate were not entitled to maternity leave.

Intended and birth mothers may receive same benefits as birth and adoptive parents in the UK, pending review by the European Court of Justice. (Photo courtesy of the Independent)

In the U.K., while birth parents and women who adopt are entitled to the same maternity leave by statute, families who use a surrogate mother are not covered. However, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) advised that a British woman whose child was born to a surrogate mother was entitled to paid maternity leave.

In 2010, the Newcastle woman, C.D. used sperm from her partner to have a baby through a surrogate mother. Within an hour of the August 2011 birth, C.D. took over as the baby’s mother and began breastfeeding.

C.D. quickly discovered that her employer, National Health Service (NHS) was not obliged to pay for her maternity leave. On taking NHS to court, C.D.’s question went to the ECJ in Luxembourg, the highest tribunal for matters of EU law.

In response, ECJ Advocate General Juliane Kokott, who provides nonbinding legal advice, advised that both the intended and birth mothers should be permitted the same rights as birth and adoptive parents because surrogacy is legal in Britain. However, any maternity leave used by the woman who gives birth to the child must be deducted from the total leave taken by the mother. Nevertheless, each woman must receive at least two weeks.

According to Harriet Bowtell, an employment lawyer from Slater & Gordon, if the Court of Justice approves the Kokott’s opinion, the UK will be obliged to amend its equality act.

Although initial opinions are generally accepted as the basis for the final decision, another ECJ Advocate General, Nils Wahl reached the opposite conclusion of Kokott’s in a case originally taken to Ireland’s Equality Tribunal. Instead of two British women, Wahl’s case involved an Irish biological mother receiving a child born in California.

To prevent the exploitation of women in financial difficulty, eight EU member states prohibit surrogacy. These states also share a concern that surrogates would face emotional distress when forced to give up the child they carried to birth.

In the U.S., while the federal Family Medical Leave Act provides all workers at companies of at least 50 employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a relative, there is allegedly no federal right to paid maternity leave. As such, surrogacy laws vary between states, which may limit how much surrogate mothers can be paid; and surrogacy policies vary between employers.

If extended the protection of EU law, potential surrogates and parents who choose surrogacy will see a greater incentive to stay with that choice in the future.

For further information, please see:

Guardian – Intended and Birth Mother in Surrogacy Entitled to Maternity Leave, Says ECJ – September 26, 2013

The Independent – Surrogacy Mother Wins Maternity Leave Ruling in EU Court – September 26, 2013

Irish Times – European Court Finds against Irish Woman in Surrogacy Case – September 26, 2013

Wall Street Journal – Surrogate Births Stir Divisions in EU – September 26, 2013

Terrorist Attack in Kashmir Region Presents Hurdle for India-Pakistan Talks

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India– An early-morning attack on the Indian side of the disputed Kashmir region reportedly killed 12 people, including three teenage militants. This occurred just days before the Indian and Pakistani leaders were scheduled to meet in New York.

Soldiers take cover during a violent militant attack on a camp in the Jammu and Kashmir state. (Photo Courtesy of EPA)

The attack seemed to follow a long-established pattern of extremist attempts to derail any steps toward reconciliation between the wary neighboring countries, reports said.

A relatively minor group, identified as the Shohada Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group first surfaced in September when a threat was issued under its name against a classical-music concert, featuring conductor Zubin Mehta, in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Thursday’s attack started around 6:45 a.m. local time when three militants dressed in military garb arrived in a motorized rickshaw at the Hira Nagar police station, located in India’s northern Jammu and Kashmir state a few miles from the de facto border with Pakistan. Police said the gunmen were between 16 and 19 years old. Taking officers by surprise during a shift change, the three stormed the station with grenades and automatic weapons, reportedly killing four policemen and a civilian.

Reports said the militants commandeered a truck, killing an assistant and forcing the driver to accompany them along a main highway to Samba, in the adjoining district. There they engaged in a firefight with Indian troops outside an army camp before infiltrating the camp’s perimeter.

In a battle lasting much of the day, the insurgents killed an officer and two more soldiers before they were killed.

Omar Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir’s chief minister, said it would be a disgrace if planned talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were cancelled because of this attack.

“It would be grave injustice to those who have been killed,” he told reporters, adding that he believed the attackers had crossed over from Pakistan-controlled territory.

Both leaders seem to want better relations, analysts said, but face significant political constraints. Sharif has longstanding links to hard-line clerics, including those close to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamist group opposing closer ties, while Singh’s ruling Congress Party is vulnerable to opposition accusations that it’s weak and ineffective.

“Personally, Sharif is in favor of peace, but I don’t know that he will make that his political agenda,” said Radha Kumar, director-general of the Delhi Policy Group think tank. “And India wants peace, but I am appalled by the levels of immaturity the opposition shows when it comes to peace talks with Pakistan.”

India is already in election mode with next years upcoming elections, and within hours of the attack the opposition party attacked the government for even considering a meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister.

Talks and terrorism aren’t compatible, it said, blaming elements close to Pakistan’s powerful military for the attack. “What is the point of taking to a [Pakistani prime minister] who has no control over his army?” said opposition lawmaker Yashwant Sinha.

Though no significant breakthrough was expected upcoming meeting, that it was even taking place sent a positive signal to both countries. Cancelling it reverses hope of any progress in the near future. Two of three wars fought between the two countries since their independence in 1947 have been over Muslim-majority Kashmir.

India, which has battled a separatist insurgency in its part of Kashmir since 1989, has repeatedly accused Pakistan’s military of supporting militants fighting Indian rule.

“The army, [intelligence agencies] and political leadership are on the same page,” supporting better India-Pakistani relations, said Mehmood Shah, a Peshawar-based analyst and former army officer. “Whoever did this attack is no friend of India’s and no friend of Pakistan’s.”

Other recent militant attacks in the region include the killing of eight soldiers at Hyderpora in June and a March suicide strike at a paramilitary camp in Srinigar which resulted in the deaths of five paramilitary personnel and three insurgents.

“We have equally emotional publics on both sides,” Shah said. “But the political leaders must try and keep things in check. We’ve seen many incidents like this before.”

For more information, please see:

CNN– Militant attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir kills 9 — 26 September 2013

LA Times– Ahead of India-Pakistan talks, 12 die in militant attack in Kashmir — 26 September 2013

The Hindu– 12 killed in fidayeen strikes in Jammu — 26 September 2013

Hindustan Times– Twin terror strike in Jammu kills 10, PM says talks still on — 26 September 2013

UN Security Council Reaches an Agreement Regarding Syria

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria-UN Diplomats have announced that the five permanent members (France, Britain, Russia, China, and the U.S.) of the divided Security Council have reached an agreement on a resolution requiring Syria to dismantle its chemical-weapons supplies.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discuss the UN Resolution (photo courtesy of Times of Isreal)

Discussions among the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council have been ongoing for weeks attempting to narrow down the precise stipulations of a new resolution.  Final version of the resolution requires that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile be “secured and dismantled.”

The final agreement was reached a day after Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that a breakthrough had been reached in deciding that the resolution’s text would include references to Chapter 7 of the UN charter allowing military and nonmilitary actions to maintain peace and security.

Reports have indicated that the breakthrough arrived after the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Assad could avoid U.S. military action “by turning over every single bit of his chemical weapons to international control within a week.”

China, historically known for blocking resolutions dealing with the civil war in Syria, seemed to be persuaded by the U.S. sense of urgency.  Kerry stated that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had “strong agreement on the need for a mandatory and binding UN Security Council resolution.”

A U.S. official further stated, “They [U.S. and China] discussed the value of unity among the P5 [permanent Security Council members], and both felt it is important to act quickly.”  However, the U.S. official continued saying “the Chinese gave no indication about whether they would support a resolution that the U.S. and Russia agreed to.”

Ryabkov stated that Russia was prepared to help guard locations of Syrian chemical weapons and destroy President al-Assad’s stockpiles, but would not import them into Russia.  “We believe the destruction [of chemical weapons] on Syrian territory is the best option,” stated Ryabkov.

The United States and Russia are the only countries who the capability to handle mustard, VX, sarin, or cyanide-armed weapons.  However, U.S. law bans the imports of chemical weapons.

Since neither country that has the capability to take on the chemicals is willing to, the UN resolution is designed to implement destabilization of the chemical weapons within Syria at the local sites.  Inspection of these sites are to be completed by November 30 and the entire arsenal destroyed by June 30.

President Obama has stated that the U.S. use of force against Syria for last month’s chemical attack still remains a possibility.  However, a skeptical Congress and Geneva talks has put consideration of attack on hold.

For more information, please see the following: 

Aljazeera-Reports: Deal reached on Syria UN resolution-September 26, 2013

Times of Isreal-World powers reach Syria resolution deal, diplomats say-September 26, 2013

USA Today-U.N. diplomats: Possible deal on Syria resolution-September 26, 2013

Washington Post-U.S., Russia reach agreement on seizure of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal-September 26, 2013

 

Judges Uphold 50-Year Sentence for Charles Taylor

By: Dan Krupinsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone denied the appeal of former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Thursday, confirming his 50-year sentence for war crimes.

Judges found no reason to overturn or reduce the 50-year sentence for Taylor.
Original Chief Prosecutor David Crane (center), with his successor, Sir Desmond DeSilva (left) and current Prosecutor Brenda Hollis (right) at Taylor’s appeal.

Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, torture and the enslavement of child soldiers, on April 26, 2012. The atrocities in Sierra Leone were carried out by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a guerrilla army. Taylor supplied them with guns, training and recruits in return for diamonds, actions that the Court determined amounted to “aiding and abetting” the crimes.

In addition to aiding and abetting, Taylor also planed some of the attacks carried out by the guerrillas.

“Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposefully unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist,” said Presiding Judge George Gelaga King.

Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War Two.

“This verdict shows no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law,” said the court’s prosecutor, Brenda Hollis.

The reaction in Sierra Leone was understandably positive.

“It’s a victory for me against tyranny,” said Edward Conteh, whose hand was cut off by rebels, according to Reuters. “I’m happy Charles Taylor is behind bars for 50 years because I’m a victim of the war.”

The ruling means that Taylor, 65, will more than likely spend the rest of his life in a high security prison cell. A final decision will be made next week on where we will serve his sentence, but the UK is currently the only country that has publicly offered to accommodate him.

“The sentence is fair in the light of the totality of the crimes committed,” said Judge King. “The defense failed to demonstrate any discernible errors in the trial chamber’s sentencing.”

Taylor’s lead defense attorney, Morris Anyah, said Taylor took the verdict with great stoicism and also added that Taylor would not have been convicted if he had had a powerful ally.

“If Charles Taylor had had a friend among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, this case would not have had the traction it has had,” he said.

Thursday’s ruling is the final judgment at the court, which indicted 13 of the main facilitators of the violence in Sierra Leone. Two died before trial and one more remains unaccounted for and possibly dead. Another died before hearing a verdict. All of the others were tried and convicted.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Judges uphold Charles Taylor’s jail sentence – 26 September 2013

The Guardian – Charles Taylor’s 50-year sentence upheld at war crimes tribunal – 26 September 2013

Reuters – Liberia’s Charles Taylor loses appeal against war crimes conviction – 26 September 2013

The Telegraph – Charles Taylor to spend rest of life in British jail for Sierra Leone war crimes – 26 September 2013

 

Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts to Unveil Draft Statute for Syrian Tribunal on October 3, 8:30-9:30 AM, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Event open to the Press and Public

The government of Syria has admitted possessing chemical weapons; the United Nations has confirmed that their use killed more than 1,400 people in the outskirts of Damascus last month; and an international process for ridding the country of such weapons has just commenced. But what about holding the perpetrators accountable for violating the Geneva Conventions and the 1925 Chemical Weapons Treaty?

A blue ribbon panel of former international tribunal chief prosecutors, international judges, and leading experts has prepared a Draft Statute for a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes.  It’s being called the “Chautauqua Blueprint” because it was finalized on the margins of a recent conference of several of the chief prosecutors of the various international criminal tribunals at the Chautauqua Institution. The initiative was organized by Case Western Reserve Law Professor Michael Scharf, who is Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG); and David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who is a member of PILPG’s Board.

The members of the blue ribbon panel believe the time is particularly ripe for this initiative.  According to Scharf: “It can help the Syrian opposition demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, ensure that accountability plays an appropriate role in peace negotiations, put Syrian officials and military commanders on all sides on notice of potential criminal liability, and lay the groundwork for justice rather than revenge in the immediate aftermath of transition.”  Crane adds, “It is a useful framework for not only the Syrians but regional and international organizations to assist in the creation of an appropriate justice mechanism.”

The Chautauqua Blueprint will be publicly unveiled and discussed at a special event at the National Press Club, 8:30-9:30 AM, on October 3.  A preview copy of the document is available at http://publicinternationallawandpolicygroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Chautauqua-Blueprint1.pdf.  Speakers will include Scharf, Crane, members of congress, and other experts.  Paul Williams, President of the Public International Law & Policy Group, will chair the event, which is open to the press and public.  Breakfast will be provided.

The National Press Club breakfast event precedes Congressional hearings scheduled to consider Congressman Chris Smith’s Concurrent Resolution #51 on establishing accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.   Congressman Smith’s resolution recommends establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute top figures.  The Chautauqua Blueprint recommends an “internationalized domestic tribunal” as a complement or alternative to an international tribunal.

The Chautauqua Blueprint reflects insights gained from a series of meetings and workshops over the past two years led by the Public International Law & Policy Group, which brought together Syrian lawyers, jurists, and civil society leaders with international experts to discuss an approach to transitional justice uniquely tailored to Syria.  It also reflects comments received from the distinguished members of the Blue Ribbon expert drafting committee whose names and affiliations are listed below.

The Blue Ribbon Panel consists of:

 

  • M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law at DePaul University, who chaired the Drafting Committee at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court
  • David Crane, Professor, Syracuse University College of Law, who was the first Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association
  • Justice Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
  • Larry Johnson, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School, former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs who drafted the Statutes for the Yugoslavia Tribunal, the Cambodia Tribunal, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
  • Gregory Noone, Director of the Fairmont State University National Security and Intelligence Program and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law, and former head of the International Law Branch in the International and Operational Law Division at the Pentagon  
  • Michael Newton, Professor, Vanderbilt University Law School, and former Deputy to the Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, U.S. Department of State
  • William Schabas, Professor, Middlesex University Faculty of Law, and former Member of the International Truth Commission for Sierra Leone
  • Michael Scharf, Associate Dean, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Managing Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group, and former Attorney-Adviser for United Nations Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Paul Williams, President of the Public International Law & Policy Group and Rebecca Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations, American University

 

In addition the following experts provided comments on the draft Statute but have asked to be listed as “contributors” rather than members because of their official positions:

 

  • David Scheffer, Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, U.N. Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.
  • Judge Patricia Wald, former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

[scribd id=171185307 key=key-1rovoppaf32grkhy5579 mode=scroll]

President Putin States Activists Who Protested on Russian Oil Rig Are Not Pirates

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

SALEKHARD, Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Wednesday that thirty activists who were arrested for protesting on Russia’s first Arctic offshore oil platform in Prirazlomnaya violated international law, but indicated that he did not believe they should be charged with piracy.

The Activists were set to be questioned on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of The Moscow Times)

Thirty activists from Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization, were towed aboard their ship to shore after two of the individuals aboard attempted to climb aboard the Russian oil rig to protest Russia’s plans to conduct Arctic oil drilling.

Russian authorities seized their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and led the activists to detention centers in Murmansk.

“All thirty people were sent to different investigative detention facilities in Murmansk and the Murmansk region. Today questioning continues, but lawyers and diplomatic representatives are not allowed to visit the activists,” Greenpeace-Russia spokeswoman Tatyana Vasilyeva said.

The activists were to be questioned on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Russian investigators stated they had opened a criminal investigation on suspicion of piracy, which is punishable by up to fifteen years in jail.

“It is absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates,” stated President Putin.

Greenpeace is concerned with Russia’s plan to conduct Arctic oil drilling, as they contend it poses a threat to the fragile eco-system. They stated that scientific evidence shows any oil spill from Prirazlomnaya would affect more than 3,000 miles of Russia’s coastline

The Russian Federal Investigative Committee called the protest an “attack” and said it violated Russian sovereignty.

Russian authorities believe that protests like this one at the Prirazlomnaya platform, owned by state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, would soil efforts to draw foreign investment and tap rich Arctic resources.

President Putin further stated “Our law enforcement institutions, our border guards didn’t know who was trying to seize this platform under the guise of Greenpeace. It would have been better if representatives of this organization had sat in this room and voiced their attitude to the issues we are discussing.” Putin was coincidently attending the Arctic Forum in Salekhard in western Siberia, with the presidents of Finland and Iceland, as well as officials from other Arctic nations.

The Investigative Committee stated it had questioned three activists on Tuesday and planned on questioning more pending the arrival of translators and lawyers.

Greenpeace said the boarding of the oil rig by Russian authorities was illegal as they were conducting a peaceful protest, and denied the piracy allegations.

For more information, please see:

The Moscow Times – Putin Says Greenpeace Activists Aren’t Pirates But Broke The Law – 26 September 2013

BBC News – Greenpeace Activists Broke The Law, Says Putin – 25 September 2013

The Independent – President Putin: Greenpeace Activists Were ‘Obviously’ Not Pirates – 25 September 2013

The New York Times – Putin Defends Seizure of Activists’ Ship But Questions Piracy Charges – 25 September 2013

Four Police Mexico City Police Implicated in Heaven Bar Mass Killings

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexican authorities have arrested a total of 18 people in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 12 young men and women from the Heaven after-hours bar late last May.  Arrests made Tuesday brought the number of Mexico City police officers implicated in these crimes to four.

Relatives of the 12 kidnapped youths protested in front of the Mexican Attorney General’s office, asserting that Mexican authorities were covering up police involvement in the crimes. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

The 12 youths went missing from the after-hours bar in the Zona Rosa district of Mexico City on May 26.  Their bodies were discovered in a mass grave in August, where evidence implicated a local gang in the murders.

However, on September 19, prosecutors arrested Edgar Ernesto Gutierrez Vera, a patrolman from the Zona Rosa district, for “active and direct participation” in the mass kidnapping and murder.  Authorities had been looking into Gutierrez Vera on suspicions of protecting the gang implicated in the mass killings, which eventually led prosecutors to evidence of police involvement in the crimes.

Security Chief Jesus Rodriguez Almeida said the arrests of his four officers reflected poorly on Zona Rosa police department’s reputation, a force that had one of the better reputations in a city rife with allegations of police corruption.  Almeida said all four officers had passed department vetting processes but refused to comment on specific procedures for security reasons.

Mexican authorities investigating the four officers still urge that the kidnappings were likely the result of clashes between rival drug cartels, asserting that the 12 youths were linked by involvement in drug trafficking.

Ricardo Martinez, attorney for the victims’ families, believes there to be elements to truth on both sides.  “There are both criminals and public servants involved,” Martinez said.

That the Heaven kidnappings occurred in Zona Rosa, widely regarded as a safe district, and not in a border town, has shaken beliefs that the area is safe from drug related crimes.  The kidnappings occurred in broad daylight and just a block from the US embassy.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Mexico Heaven bar murders: Three police officers arrested – 24 September 2013

CNN – Fourth officer arrested in Mexico mass kidnapping case – 25 September 2013

ABC News – 4th Mexico City Officer Arrested in Bar Kidnapping – 24 September 2013

Fox News – Alleged involvement of police in mass kidnap, killing of 12 a blow for Mexico City’s image – 25 September 2013

Latin Times – Three More Police Officers Arrested In Connection With Mexico Heaven Bar Kidnapping And Murders – 24 September 2013

At Least Seven Killed in Nigerian Shootout

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

ABUJA, Nigeria – Suspected Islamist militants have opened fire on security forces in Nigeria’s capital this past Friday, killing at least seven. Security forces state this shootout was with Boko Haram, but witnesses claim it was an attack of unarmed squatters.

The military say it has killed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (photo courtesy of AFP)

The State Security Service (“SSS”) did not give any details as to how many people were killed in the attack. A witness told BBC that he saw nine bodies.

The SSS intelligence service said its forces had been searching an area behind the Apo Legislative Quarters for weapons after a tip-off from arrested members of the anti-government Boko Haram group when they came under fire and shot back.

It mentioned injuries, but no deaths.

This will be the first clash involving Islamists in the capital this year if Boko Haram did open fire. Boko Haram is a group that wants to impose sharia or Islamic law in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram is most active in north-eastern Nigeria, where a state of emergency was imposed in May.

Attacks in the north-east have increased recently despite a massive military deployment to the worst-affected areas.

However, other witnesses claim that the shooting came during an attempt to move squatters. Six witnesses told Reuters the house was owned by a military man who wanted them to leave his property.

The BBC’s Mohammed Kabir Mohammed in Abuja says the shooting occurred at a two-story building which has been built, but not yet complete. Young men have been using the building to sleep at night.

Although witnesses claim a different number of bodies seen, a doctor who declined his name because he was not authorized to speak to the news stated that there were seven dead.

A Reuters reporter saw a police vehicle dump three bodies and then drive off, “leaving a trail of blood.”

Also, there was no security presence at the hospital, as might have been expected if there had been Boko Haram suspects among the wounded.

A statement from the SSS said: “No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements. Some persons were injured and 12 others have been arrested in connection with the incident.”

However, a 28-year old witness being nursed for leg wounds stated that he was one of the squatters during the attack. He further said that the owner had come on Wednesday and told them to leave, but they refused because they were paying a security guard to be there.

The witness, Mohammed, further stated that the security guard left on Thursday and then around midnight five pick-up trucks arrived carrying armed personnel.

“They began firing. It was crazy,” Mohammed said. “We were running helter skelter and bullets were flying.”

Last month, the army said it had killed Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau but this has not been confirmed and the militants’ attacks have continued.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News – Nigeria’s ‘Boko Haram’: Abuja sees security forces targeted – 20 September 2013
Aljazeera – Deaths reported in Nigeria shootout21 September 2013
Chicago Tribune News – Nigerian forces raid building in Abuja, seven killed20 September 2013
Africa Review – Boko Haram attack’: Abuja sees security forces targeted – 20 September 2013
War News Updates – Multiple Attacks By Boko Haram And A Massacre Are Being Reported In Nigeria – 20 September 2013

U.N. Weapons Inspectors Return to Syria Wednesday

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – U.N. chemical weapons inspectors are expected to return to Syria on Wednesday according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Ryabkov addressed the inspector’s return on Tuesday when he spoke to the Russian parliament regarding the unfolding situation in Syria.

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors research the use of sarin gas in Syria following an attack on 21 August. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

“We are satisfied that our persistent calls for the return of the UN inspectors for an investigation of the previous episodes have finally borne fruit,”  said Ryabkov.

The weapons experts will be the same team that visited the country during August to investigate the reports of chemical weapons use. The team, led by Ake Sellstrom, presented their report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just over a week ago. The report confirmed that a ‘large scale’ sarin gas attack occurred on 21 August just outside of Damascus.

Before the 21 August attack, the UN weapons inspectors were tasked to investigate several other reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. However, when the 21 August attack occurred, the team delayed their research and was relocated to focus exclusively on the Damascus attack.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.N. said the investigation will include gathering evidence specifically from the village of Khan al-Assal. The village, just outside of Aleppo, was reportedly the target of a chemical weapons attack on 19 March of this year. Not surprisingly, the rebel opposition and the Assad government adamantly deny responsibility and blame the other.

There have been a total of fourteen alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria since the revolution against the Assad government began in 2011. Two locations of particular interest to United Nations chemical weapons inspectors are Sheikh Maqsoud and Saraqeb. Inspectors received permission from the Assad government to visit the sites back in July, but have been unable to inspect the sites yet.

In late August, the inspectors were to continue there research at sites other than just the Damascus location, but inspectors left the country as the threat U.S. military intervention increased. Since, the U.S. and Russia have come to a general agreement regarding the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria. The passage of an official resolution via the United Nations is expected soon.

For further information, please see:

BBC – UN chemical weapons inspectors ‘to return to Syria’ – 24 September 2013

Huffington Post – UN Chemical Weapons Inspectors Returning To Syria – 24 September 2013

RT – UN chemical weapons experts to return to Syria Wednesday – Moscow –  24 September 2013

Voice of America – Russia: UN Investigators Heading Back to Syria – 24 September 2013

The Taliban Ramp up Violence with Afghan Border Attack

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Militants have killed at least 11 Afghan policemen at a checkpoint on the Pakistani border. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack took place on the border of Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

The Taliban, a hard line Islamic group, has proved to be a major threat to the Afghan government.

The attack took place against a series of border check posts in the Shorabak District of Kandahar Province.

Insurgents attacked the border post in the early hours of Sunday morning, said a spokesman for the Kandahar police. In the overnight attack the Taliban insurgents used heavy weapons, including mortars. The insurgents then escaped back across the border to Pakistan, where they are believed to be based.

Also on Sunday, in an unrelated attack, two coalition soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan.

Then early Monday morning, a district intelligent chief was assassinated on his way to work. Abdul Hussein was sprayed with bullets as he was riding a motorcycle Monday morning near the city of Kunduz.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for these attacks.

The attack on the border police on Sunday comes less than a week after insurgents ambushed a police convoy in the Badakhshan Province in northern Afghanistan, killing 10 and taking 16 prisoners.

The Taliban have ramped up their violence on security officials as foreign forces prepare to withdraw before the end of next year. Afghan police are in the forefront of the fight against Taliban militants. In 2012, more than 2,000 Afghan policemen were killed.

For further information, please see:

NY Times – 11 Officers Killed as Taliban Strike Afghan Border Post – 23 September 2013

BBC News – Afghanistan Taliban kill 11 police in Kandahar province – 23 September 2013

The Daily Star – Afghanistan: Taliban kill 11 border police guards – 23 September 2013

The Hindu – Taliban kill 11 border police guards in Afghanistan – 23 September 2013

News Times – Afghanistan: Taliban kill 11 border police guards – 23 September 2013

India’s Cabinet Passes Executive Order Protecting Convicted Politicians

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India– India’s cabinet moved to shield politicians found guilty of crimes by passing an executive order on Tuesday that could allow convicted lawmakers to continue to hold office and stand in elections, ahead of national polls due by next May.

People gather outside the Indian Parliament building during its session. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

About thirty percent of Indian lawmakers across federal and state assemblies have pending criminal charges against them, and following a Supreme Court order in July, many faced being expelled from their seats. In response, the ruling congressional party had already moved a parliamentary bill to partially reverse the decision of the court, which held that any lawmaker found guilty of a crime could no longer hold or run for elected office.

The current ordinance is believed to resemble the content of the parliamentary bill, which would allow lawmakers facing criminal charges to continue taking part in parliamentary proceedings such as debates, but would not permit them to vote or receive a government salary.

The bill has not yet passed through India’s historically slow-moving parliament. Some commentators believe the government sprung to action in light of the possible corruption conviction of a key electoral ally of the majority,  in a case set to conclude next week.

“When it comes to saving their convicted brethren, they act with lightning speed,” said Amulya Ganguli, a political analyst.

Following India’s 2009 general election, some thirty percent of the lawmakers sworn into the federal and state assemblies had criminal charges against them, according to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms, an advocacy group.

In the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the national assembly, 162 of the 543 MPs indicated that there were pending criminal cases against them in sworn affidavits filed prior to elections. In the state assemblies, 1,258 of the 4,032 lawmakers declared criminal charges. The amount of subsequent convictions remains unknown.

Before July’s Supreme Court order, Indian lawmakers had been able to capitalize on a loophole whereby those who filed appeals within three months of a guilty verdict could stay in office.

The ordinance must be signed by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee in order to become law. The law must be ratified by parliament within six weeks of the next parliament session. Analysts suspect it will pass with ease.

“There is widespread support for this among the political class,” said Neerja Chowdhury, a political commentator and former political editor of The Indian Express newspaper.

The case due to conclude next week involves Lalu Prasad, a former chief minister for the eastern state of Bihar, and a frequent ally of the ruling congressional party. Prasad is accused of participating in a scam where money was allegedly taken from state treasuries to provide fodder for herds of livestock that later turned out to be non-existent.

“Lalu Prasad’s possible conviction could have prompted the cabinet to pass this ordinance,” Chowdhury said. “There are some who feel that…if they get Lalu Prasad on board they can win Bihar.”

Bihar is one of India’s most important electoral states.

Another influential figure, Rasheed Masood, a majority party member of India’s upper house and a former health minister, was found guilty last week in a corruption case. He was to be the first lawmaker to be affected by the Supreme Court order, according to local reports.

Numerous politicians have been charged with serious crimes such as rape and/or murder. Elected office is lucrative in a country where black markets often thrive under political protection. Political parties are often open to criminal syndicates who bring with them campaign financing.

For more information, please see:

Reuters — India’s cabinet moves to protect politicians convicted of crimes — 24 September 2013

Times of India — Cabinet clears ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers — 24 September 2013

Hindustan Times — Gov’t may bring ordinance to save tainted lawmakers — 23 September 2013

Zee News — Cabinet paves way for convicted MLAs, MPs to contest elections — 24 September 2013

Bloomberg — India Cabinet Counters Step to Ban Convicted Lawmakers, PTI Says — 24 September 2013

Mall Seige Over, Mourning Period Declared by Kenyan President

By: Dan Krupinsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – The four-day siege at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall is finally over, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Tuesday.

Kenyan soldiers move into position outside of the mall. (Courtesy: Reuters)

In an address to the nation, Kenyatta said that five terrorists were killed, while 11 others believed to have been connected to the attack have been taken into custody. 61 civilians and six soldiers are also among the dead, according to Kenyatta, but more bodies, including possibly those of additional terrorists, may be buried in rubble, after three stories of the mall collapsed during the attack. The Red Cross put the death total at 62, and said that 65 people are still unaccounted for.

Kenyatta praised the people of his nation for their united stance and support during the siege.

“Fellow Kenyans, we have been badly hurt and feel great pain and loss, but we have been brave, united and strong.  Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed,” he said.

Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was payback for Kenya’s military operations in Southern Somalia.

According to witnesses, the attackers questioned many of the civilians about their religious beliefs, and allowed Muslims to go free.

Remarkably, reports have circulated that a four-year old British boy was spared after he confronted a gunman and told him that he was a ‘very bad man’ as he protected his six-year old sister and mother, who had been shot in the leg.

The gunman then reportedly handed the children candy bars, and said “Please forgive me. We are not monsters.”

While most of the gunmen reportedly spoke English, Kenyatta would not confirm reports that some of the attackers were from outside the region, and possibly Westerners.

“Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack,” he said.  “We cannot confirm the details at present, but forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.”

Reports of the potential involvement of a British woman have caused many to wonder it could be Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the bombers responsible for the London subway attacks in 2005. She has been dubbed “white widow” by the British press.

Lewthwaite is wanted for planning other attacks in Kenya, and has been linked to terrorist groups in the country.

Kenyatta declared that the attackers will be held fully accountable for the “mindless destruction, deaths, pain, loss and suffering we have all undergone as a national family.”

“These cowards will meet justice as will their accomplices and patrons wherever they are,” he vowed, pledging to work with allies in fighting terrorism.

Kenya will officially have a three-day mourning period.


For further information, please see:

All Africa – Kenya: Govt Says Army in Control of Besieged Mall, All Hostages Free – 24 September 2013

CNN – Attackers defeated in mall siege, Kenya’s president says – 24 September 2013

Daily Mail – Astonishing Moment: British boy, four, confronted Kenyan mall gunman – 23 September 2013

Voice of America – Kenyan President Declares Mall Siege Over – 24 September 2013

Washington Post – Kenyan president says siege of Nairobi mall is over, declares mourning period for the dead – 24 September 2013