Orphanage Worker Charged With Poisoning Children

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

PRETORIA, South Africa – An orphanage worker in South Africa has been charged after 20 young children were rushed to hospital with symptoms of poisoning, police say.

Children playing soccer in South Africa (photo courtesy of AFP)

The children are mostly Aids orphans living in the Malerato Centre for Hope in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria.

Children at the Centre complained of stomach ache shortly after lunch on Thursday, according to police spokesman Tsekiso Mofokeng.

“Twenty kids were admitted,” he said.

“A woman 35 years of age was arrested on suspicion of poisoning and charged with assault with the intent of causing grievous bodily harm,” he told AFP.

The children are reported to have consumed the poison in powder form with their lunch. After they complained of stomach pain, they started crying and vomiting.

Two of the children were in a critical condition with one being airlifted to Johannesburg hospital and the other rushed to Steve Biko hospital in Pretoria.

Eighteen others were rushed to various hospitals. Eight of the children have since been discharged from the hospital.

The Centre houses 42 abandoned children, as well as orphans, whose parents died from AIDS, according to South Africa’s Sunday Times.

The orphanage’s principal, Johanna Mashapa, told local media the children had been given powder.

“We were so worried. They were vomiting and crying. They had runny stomachs and were so sick,” she told South Africa’s Sunday Times.

Government inspectors were sent to the orphanage to investigate.

Staff at Malerato Centre for Hope orphanage was taken for forensic testing.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News – South Africa orphanage worker charged in poisoning – 10 November 2013
The China Post – Suspected poisoning at an orphanage hospitalizes 20 – 10 November 2013
Yahoo! News – S. Africa Orphanage worker held after suspected poisoning – 10 November 2013
msn news – Twenty orphans poisoned in Sth Africa – 10 November 2013
sabc – Woman to appear in court for child poisoning – 10 November 2013
france 24 – Orphanage worker held after suspected poisoning in S. Africa – 10 November 2013

United Nations Urges Qatar Labor Reform

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DOHA, Qatar-Pressure is being raised by the United Nations against Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, to end labor abuse.  Qatar has implemented a sponsorship system for migrant workers that is at the root of the abuse.

Migrant workers doing construction in preparation for 2022 FIFA World Cup (photo courtesy of Aljazeera)

“This marks a stain on Qatar’s reputation and is something that can be improved right away,” said Francois Crepeau, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.   Crepeau reported that living conditions of foreign workers tended to be poor, referencing them to “slums.”

With the World Cup quickly approaching, Qatar has been scrambling to complete major construction and infrastructure projects, increasing the number of its estimated 1.8 million foreigners (88 percent of Qatar’s population) working on projects for the event.

The system that Qatar has implemented prohibits employees from changing jobs or leaving the country without permission from their sponsors, who are frequently labor supply companies or wealth Qatar individuals who provide workers to personal profit businesses.

“A majority of the employee sponsors confiscate their passports for the duration of their contract, placing most of the workers in the construction and domestic work sectors.  Qatari Labor Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

“This system that is used to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers, with a work permit linked to a single employer, is problematic and a source of abuse against migrants,” said Crepeau.

Crepeau visited Qatar, meeting with government officials, migrant workers, academics, and Qatar’s National Human Rights committee.  He was able to visit every location that he wished to see and sat down to discuss drafting laws for domestic workers and a blacklist of companies who abuse migrant workers.

Crepeau also certified the establishment of a minium wage, a more developed labor inspection system, and the kafala system, the system that binds workers to a single employer and forbids the to change jobs or acquire an exit visa.

Living conditions were criticized by Crepeau,  “The dwellings I have visited do not conform to Qatari legislation.  I saw bunk beds, which are prohibited.  I saw overcrowding.  I saw very shoddy construction of these camps.  One place in particular had no kitchens…the latrines are, let’s say, minimal.  Access to water was problematic at times.”

In September, dozens of Nepali workers died during the summer in Qatar as laborers were not given enough food and water.  However, Nepal recalled its ambassador from Qatar this past Thursday after she claimed that Qatar was an “open jail” for Nepalis who suffer labor abuses.

For more information, please see the following: 

Aljazeera-UN official urges Qatar labour reforms-10 November 2013

Gulf News-UN urges Qatar to improve migrant labour conditions-10 November 2013

Reuters-U.N. expert on labour abuse urges Qatar to end sponsorship system-10 November 2013

Guardian-Qatar under pressure over migrant labour abuse-26 September 2013

Nazi Rally on Anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass Not Successful in United States City

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WASHINGTON, DC, United States – Neo-Nazis protested against immigration reform in the United States. In response, several organizations and city officials staged counter-demonstrations.

Nazis planned their rally for the 75th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, which devastated Jewish communities throughout Germany in 1938. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

On 9 November 1938, non-Jewish persons throughout Germany plundered and destroyed Jewish homes, synagogues, schools, and businesses. An estimated 1500 people died as a result of the attacks, which began around Hesse, making it one of the deadliest and most violent programs during the Nazi reign.

On 9 November 2013, the 75th anniversary of what is now called “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass,” the National Socialist Movement (NSM) staged a rally at 3:00 p.m. at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri to protest against immigration reform. NSM is a white supremacist party that claims to be “the political party for every white American.”

A leaflet for the event stated: “If you are working for a slaves wage, making barely enough to feed your family, and are tired of seeing the corruption that is crippling our land, the time to get active in this fight is now.”

NSM claimed that politicians who advocate amnesty for “illegal aliens” are allowing the “nation to drown in a free fall of economic collapse.”

Kansas City police screened all persons entering the protest for firearms, padlocks, chains, backpacks, and baby strollers, which were strictly prohibited. Police stated that the security measures ensured “a peaceful expression of ideas” and helped avoid any violent incidents.

The ACLU objected to the restrictions, saying protesters on both sides needed pickets to hold up their signs.

About three dozen neo-Nazis attended, marched down the sidewalk, and preached their views in the shadow of an Andrew Jackson statute.

Across from the NSM rally, hundreds of opponents held signs and shouted from behind barricades and police tape. One sign, with a picture of Southern cook Paula Deen demanded, “White Flour! And more butter.” Pro-diversity protesters outnumbered the Nazis approximately nine-to-one.

Pro-diversity protester Ryan Jones said, “Humor dispels hate. Making a mockery of it makes the whole thing hard to take seriously.”

Before the protest, NSM claimed that other white supremacist groups would join them, including the White Christian Group of Aryan Nations, the Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club, and the Traditionalist American Knights, a Klu Klux Klan affiliate.

In response to the protest, several civil, human rights, and anti-racism organizations planned counter-rallies for the same time.

The Latino Coalition of Kansas City (LCKC) called for members to peacefully “stand up against the Nazis.”

At the Liberty Memorial, Kansas City officials and organizations staged a rally to support immigration reform. Kansas City Mayor Sly James said that immigration reform will happen only if people push their representatives and use voting as a voice.

The Ida B Wells Coalition against Racism and Police Brutality of Kansas City called local hotels to confirm that they were “not harboring Nazis.”

While the city made clear that it did not agree with NSM’s message, the city demonstrated that freedom of speech means the diversity of people and ideas.

For further information, please see:

ABC News – Neo-Nazis Stage Rally on Kristallnacht Anniversary in Kansas City – November 9, 2013

Kansas City Star – Freedom of Speech Reigns in Rally Faceoff – November 9, 2013

KCTV 5 News – ACLU Has Concerns over Restrictions at Neo-Nazi Rally – November 9, 2013

Kansas City Business Journal – Kansas City Council Roundup: Nazis Not Welcome – November 1, 2013

Russian Investigative Committee Has Formally Exonerated Olga Stepanova, the Tax Official Who Approved the Fraudulent $230 Million Refund Uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky

For Immediate Distribution

8 November 2013 – The Russian Investigative Committee has informed U.S.
lawyer Jamison Firestone, Sergei Magnitsky’s former law partner, that it
found no grounds to prosecute Olga Stepanova, the former head of Moscow Tax
Office No 28, and the person who approved the majority of the $230 million
illegal tax refund uncovered by the late Sergei Magnitsky. The Russian
Investigative Committee has exonerated all other tax officials involved in
approving the fraudulent tax refunds which cost Sergei Magnitsky his life
for exposing.

“No evidence was obtained which is sufficient to charge O.G. Stepanova or
other persons under Articles 286 or 285 of the Russian Criminal Code
[overstepping authority or abuse of authority],” the Investigative
Committee reported in their letter.

The Investigative Committee also said that it failed to question a number
of witnesses.

“The investigative actions that are possible without an accused, have been
completed except for a series of questioning of witnesses whose whereabouts
have not been established,” said the Investigative Committee in its letter.

Earlier, the Russian authorities informed Jamison Firestone that they were
not able to question two of Ms Stepanova’s deputies, Ms Olga Tsareva and Ms
Elena Anisimova, because they had left the country. These were the same
people who purchased luxury apartments in Dubai, along with Ms Stepanova’s
ex husband Vladlen Stepanov, shortly after the approval of the illegal $230
million refund in December 2007.

Jamison Firestone filed a complaint seeking a criminal investigation to be
opened into the tax officials, including head of Moscow Tax Office No 28
Olga Stepanova, on 15 April 2011, two years and a half ago. In his
complaint, Mr Firestone cited evidence of their role in the approval of the
fraudulent $230 million refund, and the use of illicit proceeds for foreign
real estate purchases. During this time, the Investigative Committee has
refused to conduct a proper investigation, and now informed him that they
have effectively exonerated all the tax officials involved. Earlier, the
investigative department of the Russian Interior Ministry informed Jamison
Firestone that they also found no evidence of wrong-doing by the tax
officials. Appeals to the General Prosecutor’s Office seeking to compel a
proper investigation of tax officials in the Magnitsky case have been

“All branches of the Russian law enforcement with direct supervision from
the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office have exonerated the tax officials
who were clearly involved in one of the largest refund frauds in Russian
history. This can only be explained that the cover up is ordered and
approved at the highest level of the Russian government,” said a Hermitage
Capital representative.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

John Kerry: Israeli Settlements “Illegitimate”

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, Palestine – The Israeli/Palestinian peace process has been threatened by Israeli moves over the past week to move forward with the construction of more than 3,700 new illegal settler homes in occupied Palestinian territories.

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking after a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, said . Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are “illegitimate.” (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Several international leaders have called upon Israel to restrict the construction of settlements in Palestinian territory seeing the construction of these settlements could derail peace process between Palestine and the state of Israel.

On Wednesday United States Secretary of State John Kerry called for Israel to limit the construction of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. Kerry said that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are “illegitimate” and are serving as a hindrance to the ongoing peace talks between Israel and Palestine. He said “Let me emphasise that the position of the United States is that we consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate.” He also said that there was no deal that the Palestinians accept that would recognize illegal settlements in return for peace, saying; “I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree, as a matter of going back to the talks, that they could somehow condone or accept the settlements.”

Kerry’s statement reflects the growing feeling amongst the international community that Israel’s government sanctioned settlement program is preventing any real progress in talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

On Thursday Catherine Ashton, the head of foreign affairs for the European Union addressed Europe’s concerns over the announcement that Israeli’s decision to allow the construction of more than 1,5000 homes in the West Bank, which she feels can damage the peace process. She said “The EU deplores the latest settlement announcement and calls on the Israeli government to reverse its decision.”

Ashton also said in a statement that the European Union has “repeatedly stated that settlements are illegal under international law and that bold and decisive leadership is needed for the current peace negotiations to succeed,” and that the planed actions that “could hamper or undermine the ongoing negotiations must be avoided.”

Secretary Kerry met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. According to his spokesman, President Abbas told the Secretary of State that “the Palestinians are committed to negotiations that would lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.” He also said that the Palestinians consider all Israeli settlements to be illegitimate.

An anonymous senior Palestinian official said that Palestinian officials would refuse to continue the talks with Israel as long as Jewish settlement on the West Bank are allowed to continue to proliferate. He said “The Israeli side is determined to continue its settlement and we cannot continue negotiations under these unprecedented settlement attacks,” he said after a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – EU Deplores Israel’s New Settler Homes Plan – 7 November 2013

Al Jazeera – Kerry: Israeli Settlements are Illegitimate – 6 November 2013

The Jerusalem Post – Kerry: US Considers Israeli Settlements to Be Illegal – 6 November 2013

The New York – Kerry Presses Israel on Settlement Construction – 6 November 2013

Major violations of media freedom in Syria, October 2013

Special report: documenting the most prominent violations against media activists in Syria regarding murder, torture, arrest, and abduction.

Killing  22 media victims including 2 who were tortured to death by security forces

Prepared by Syrian Network for Human Rights:

Date of Report: 4 November 2013

Subject: documenting major violations against Media Activists in Syria.

Period covered: from 1/10/2013 to 31/10/2013

Report consists of five basic paragraphs:


First: Summary

Violations committed against media activists for this month distributed as follows:

1- Killed: 22 victims of media activists and journalists, Syrian regime killed 21 of them including 2 under torture, Islamic state of Iraq and Levant killed one.

2- Detention and Abduction: 6 media activist have been abducted this month: 2 of them were kidnapped by the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant and the other 4 by unidentified armed groups.

3- Injured: 7 media activists were injured while covering the fight in Dier ez-Zoor.


Second: Introduction

The continuous violations committed against media freedom and the workers in this field and method caused fear and anxiety, especially with the increased quantity and quality of those crimes that lasted daily and instantaneously for long months with the intensification of the armed conflict between the two parties on the Syrian territories.

It seems that we are not saying any new fact or information if we point out to the Syrian government as being mainly responsible of the huge loss in souls and properties, as nothing is new when we mention the superiority of government forces against armed and extremist groups in the quantity and quality of targeting media activists with systematic and widespread killing, arbitrary arrests, and torture.  In what appeared to be a State policy since the beginning of the Syrian revolution and until this moment in gagged, block reports and picture, and pursuing journalist and media activists.

SNHR reaffirmed its condemnation of the continuous violations against media freedom  and convey the truth of any party and whatever type or size disparity.

As the network seeks actively from all parties, to respect media freedom and to ensure the safety of media activists, with accounting involved in violations against journalists and media activists.

SNHR also underlines the need to hard and fast move for civil society organizations and bodies to press on the Syrian Government and armed opposition, and deter them by appropriate means.


Third: Major violation against media freedom committed by government forces in Syria during October 2013:

SNHR monitored during October 2013, raise of media activists’ victims number in Syria, where 21 media activists including 1 under the age of 18 were killed and 2 have been tortured to death, and at least 6 were injured.

The arrest context:

On the other hand government forces released the French writer journalist Jean-Pierre Duthion in Paris Match magazine  after detention lasted for 4 days,  as they issued a decis! ion to release the blogger Tal Almalohi, but it didn’t carried out until this moment.

1- The bloody events of this month started with the murder of media activist Odai Mohamad Bardan: a founder of Tafas city coordination of Daraa governorate, 1/10/2013.

2- Media activist Abdulnaser Alshanbour affected in his wounds after he was injured in Tafas of Daraa, 2/10/2013.

3-Media activist Siwar Marwan Alissa, cause of shelling his town Noaemah of Daraa , 4/10/2013

4-Media activist Mohammad Deiri, Media office manager of Furqan Brigade, during covering clashes in Mork of Hama , 6/10/2013.

5- Media activist Mohamad Sharifa, responsible and media office manager of Qabon free congregation, on shelling on Qabon , 6/10/2013.

6- Media activist Maher Hamzah, shelling during covering massacre in Hamoria of  Damascus countryside , 7/10/2013.

7-Media activist Ayham Aldimashqi, a member of Media office south Damascus during covering clashes in Saida Zainab of Damascus countryside , in 8/10/ 2013

8- Journalist Abdulhadi Katish , tortured to death in Air force intelligence branch of Aleppo , 8/10/2013.

9-Child Media activist Ahmad Saleh, killed during covering clashes in Abu Jirin of Aleppo countryside , 10/10/2013.

10-Media activist Osama Swidani, killed in a mine explosion between villages of Nawa and Jasim of Daraa , 12/10/2013.

11- Media activist Amine Kojo,  killed during covering clashes in Hfiria of Damascus countryside, in 13/10/2013.

12-Media activist Khair Abdulrahman Alkhair, killed during covering clashes in Rashidiah neighborhood of Dier ez-Zoor, 14/10/2013.

13- Media activist Moumen Dalati, shelling on Zabadani 14/10/2013.

14-Media activist Abu Abdulrahman, killed during covering clashes in Alaasali neighborhood of Damascus, 14/10/2013.

15- Media activist Abdullah Abu Mohamad , shelling on Moazameah of Damascus countryside , 15/10/2013.

16-Media activist Yousef Alsaer , killed during covering clashes in Sinaa neighborhood of Dier ez-Zoor, 15/10/2013.

17-Media activist Mohamad Khalaf Alazzo ” the small media activist”, killed during covering clashes in Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo , 21/10/2013.

18- Media activist Abdullah Barghout, killed in shelling on Nabk of Damascus countryside , 26/10/2013.

19-Media activist Mohanad Obaid ” known as Mohamad Hababina”, after one day in his kidnapped, suspected to be killed by elements of the regime in Raqqa, 21/10/2013.

20- Media activist Hasan Othman, during covering clashes in Nubbal and Zahraa villages of   Aleppo, 28/10/2013.

21-  Media Activist Hasan Qasem, correspondent in Qalamon media centre, tortured to death in Harasta military branch after transferring him from Branch 148 of Damascus, 30/10/2013.


SNHR also documented at least 7 injuries, in during covering clashes in Dier ez Zoor , and they are:

Media activist Abo Marouf  correspondents in Sham News Network in Hamidiah neighborhood 13/10/2013

Media activist Hamoud, known as freedom prisoner “a founder of Dier ez-Zoor rebel brigade, and member of Media office of Dier ez Zoor free radio station “, shelling on Takaya neighborhood, 14/10/2013.

Correspondent of Dier ez Zoor channel Nedal Alharbi in Sinaa neighborhood, 15/10/2013.

Media activist Issa Harb ,Almojahidne fi Sabil Allah brigade in Rasafa , 15/10/2013.

Media activist Rami Abdulaziz, Mouata brigade media activist, 15/10/2013

Media activist Ahmad Alhajr, Rashidiah neighborhood, 18/10/2013

Media activist Rabeaa Hmidi in military airport, 27/10/2013.


Fourth: Major violation against media freedom committed by armed opposition in Syria during October 2013:

It looks that the incidents during this month is the least bloody and violence when compared with the last few months, although dramatically violations committed by armed opposition against free practice of media work in Syria.

One media has been killed and six have been kidnapped.

1- Kill of Media activist Mohammad Saed Alkhatib,  correspondent of Al Arabiya channel , shot by masked gunmen, elements of Islamic state of Iraq and Levant are suspected of his kill, in Hritan of Aleppo countryside, 26/10/2013.

As kidnapped the following:

– Rami AlZarrouk, “media activist and responsible in Radio Ana’ by elements of  Islamic state of Iraq and Levant in Raqqa 1/10/2013, then they broke into Ana organization and confiscation of transmission devices and especial equipments of the office 15/10/2013.

– Photographer Ziad Homsi , by elements of  Islamic state of Iraq and Levant in the North of Syria, 12/10/2013.

– Russian Photographer Constantine Juravljev, by armed groups in Aleppo countryside , 12/10/2013.

– Media activist: Hazem Alhusain in Raqqa by masked armed groups 9/10/2013

– Mauritanian journalist Isaac Mokhtar “Sky News correspondent” and his colleague Lebanese correspondent  Samir Kassab by unknown armed groups, while covering the field events in Aleppo.



Fifth: Attachments:

Pictures and videos of media activities that are mentioned in the report

A- Victims and wounded by Government’s forces :

activist Odai Mohamad Bardan


Abdulnaser Alshanbour



Abdulnaser Alshanbour


Mohamad Sharifa



Maher Hamzah



Abdulhadi Katish tortured to death



Child Ahmad Saleh



Osama Swidani


Amine Kojo


Moumen Dalati


Yousef Alsaer




Abdullah Abu Mohamad


Mohamad Khalaf Alazzo


Abdullah Barghout


Mohanad Obaid



Hasan Othman





Jean-Pierre Duthion


Blogger Tal Almalohi





Media activist Abo Marouf


Nedal Alharbi



A- Victims and Kidnapped  by Armed groups :

Mohammad Saed Alkhatib









Rami AlZarrouk


Ziad Homsi




Russian Photographer Constantine Juravljev


Isaac Mokhtar


Samir Kassab


Hazem Alhusain


M23 Rebels End Insurgency in Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo–  The rebel group, M23, announced on Tuesday that it is ending its insurgency in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The announcement came just hours after the government claimed military victory over the group. It its statement, made on the group’s Facebook page, M23 claimed that it would seek to accomplish its aims through “purely political means”. The group also urged its fighters to disarm and demobilize.

An army officer stands outside an enclosure filled with M23 rebel fighters who have surrendered in Uganda. (photo courtesy of Reuters)

M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa announced that “the chief of general staff and the commanders of all major units are requested to prepare troops for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on terms to be agreed with the government of Congo”.

The government claims that the last remaining rebels had either been capture or fled to neighboring countries overnight.  The announcement also comes after an agreement signed by African leaders for M23 to make a public declaration renouncing the rebellion.

M23 has been has been fighting with the DRC military since April 2012. The group is primarily made up of former military members who defected because they believed the government did not honor a peace agreement with the National Congress for the Defense of the People signed March 23 2009. The primarily  Tutsi groups is widely believed to be back by Rwanda and Uganda.

At least 800,000 people have fled their homes since the fighting began but many may not be able to return home because there are still other rebel groups active in Eastern Congo. “We now speak to other armed groups to surrender because if they don’t want to, then we will disarm them by force,” Army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told the BBC. The Information Minister Lambert Mende told AFP news agency that “There is no more place in our country for any irregular group”

The M23 has now been replaced at “top of the list” by the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia. Rwanda has invaded DRC twice claiming it wanted to stop Hutu groups, such as the FDLR, from attacking it. Analysts believe that if the FDLR were defeated, Rwanda would lose its main justification for its involvement in Congolese affairs. Both Rwanda and Uganda deny aiding rebel groups in DRC.

M23 is set to sign a peace agreement with the DRC government on Monday.

For further information, please see:

Reuters — Congo says to sign peace deal with M23 rebels on Monday — 8 November 2013

Wall Street Journal — Congo M23 Rebels Set to Sign Peace Deal With Government — 9 November 2013

Christian Science Monitor — M23 surrender alone won’t end Congo war: 7 thoughts from US envoy — 7 November 2013

ABC News — Official: M23 Chief, Rebels Surrender to Uganda — 6 November 2013

Aljazeera — DR Congo army defeats M23 rebels — 6 November 2013

BBC News — DR Congo M23 rebels ‘end insurgency’ — 5 November 2012










Highest European Court Approves Homosexuality as Grounds for Asylum

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, European Union – Applicable to all EU states, the European Court of Justice ruled that fear of imprisonment on the basis of homosexual status is grounds for asylum; particularly, for nationals of Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal.

ECJ ruling allows persecuted homosexuals from African countries to claim asylum in EU member states. (Photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

In October 2013, the Netherlands and Russia fought when masked assailants entered a Moscow apartment, beat a Dutch diplomat who lived there, and scrawled “LGBT” in lipstick on his mirror. The attack followed a similar attack in which Dutch police entered a Russian diplomat’s flat and “roughed him up.”

In early November 2013, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stated that Russia’s prohibition on “homosexual propaganda” may be grounds for asylum in the Netherlands, which is a leader in protecting LGBT rights. Russia’s law has angered many activists worldwide, who have called for a Winter Olympics boycott since the law’s June 2013 enactment.

The Dutch Council of State, a top advisory body, asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whether homosexuals could be considered a particular social group, and whether criminalization and possible imprisonment amounted to persecution of them. Dutch policy had suggested that homosexuals could exercise “restraint” to avoid persecution.

Particular social groups with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status under international law, if the persecution constitutes a severe violation of human rights.

In response, the ECJ ruled that laws specifically targeting homosexuals do make them a separate group; however, national authorities must determine “whether, in the applicant’s country of origin, the term of imprisonment…is applied in practice.” For instance, merely banning homosexuality is not grounds for approving an asylum request.

While it is unclear how persons claiming refugee status can prove their homosexuality, the ECJ is not scheduled to rule on that issue within the coming year.

In its ruling, the ECJ discussed that expecting concealment of one’s sexual identity was not reasonable: “A person’s sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it.”

The Dutch Council’s request stemmed from a case of three Africans seeking asylum on grounds that they feared persecution for their sexual orientation if returned to their homelands. Currently, homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, including Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, and other Western allies.

In Uganda and other countries, suggested punishments for homosexuality have included the death penalty.

In June 2013, Amnesty International reported dangerous levels of homophobic attacks in sub-Saharan Africa, where 38 countries criminalize homosexual acts, and stated that such attacks must stop.

Until the ECJ visits the question of how EU states may reasonably inquire as to a refugee’s sexual orientation, a larger question looms: in the pursuit of happiness and a greater quality of life, does a person’s specific reason for wanting to leave an oppressive regime really matter?

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Top EU Court Ruling Backs Gay African Asylum Bids – November 7, 2013

Deutsche Welle – European Court Rules Homosexuals Can Seek Asylum in EU – November 7, 2013

RadioFreeEurope Radio Liberty – ECJ Rules Homosexuality Can Be Grounds for Asylum – November 7, 2013

Reuters – Anti-Gay Discrimination Could Be Grounds for Asylum: EU Court – November 7, 2013

TIME – European Court: Gay Refugees May Have Grounds for Asylum – November 7, 2013

Syrian Peace Talks Once Again Fall Through

DAMASCUS, Syria-The United States and Russia have failed to agree on a date to bring Syria’s disputing sides back to the table to negotiate.  The two powers have currently remained divided over what role Iran should play in an aspired for Geneva peace conference.

President of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmad Jarba attends the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo (photo courtesy of Reuters)

Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League’s top envoy to Syria, reported that even though Russia and the U.S. did not reach an agreement at the end of their discussions, all hope is not lost in resuming negotiations.  Another round of talks is set for November 25th.

Brahimi further went on to say that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the various divisions among the Syrian opposition.  “It is no secret to anyone that the opposition has a lot of problems and is working seriously to overcome these problems to reach a position and appoint a convincing delegation to represent them in Geneva, and that is what has delayed us a bit,” he said.

Diplomats have experienced numerous challenges throughout the negotiation process with world powers strongly disagreeing over what steps should be taken to end the fighting and how the Syrian government should be shaped moving past President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, has once again insisted that Iran, a supporter of Assad, should join them in the discussion of the Syrian conflict.  Russia has been an avid supporter of Assad as well but Iran’s presence at a Geneva conference would cause controversy among Syrian rebels and their Gulf Arab supporters.

Syria’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, claimed that the Assad government is not ready to hand over their power causing many to insist that Assad should not be present at any negotiations.

The United Nations announced that outside aid in the form of food, shelter, medicine, and other basic necessities is in need to at least 40 percent of Syrians, as storages are running low.  “It’s a disaster, and it continues,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More than 9 million people, including 6.5 million who are internally displaced, are in need of humanitarian assistance.  The war has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past three months.

The plan to incorporate a government body to replace the Assad regime began in June 2012 with talks of establishing a government with full executive powers agreed to by both sides with implementation of elections.  However, once again, no general agreement has been achieved on how this should be done.

For more information, please see the following:

Aljazeera-No date agreed for Syria peace conference-06 November 2013

USA Today-Syria peace talks postponed in blow to Obama-06 November 2013

Associated Press-UN envoy: No deal on Syrian peace talks date-05 November 2013

Reuters-Arab League backs Syria peace talks, urges opposition to go-04 November 2013

North Korea Claims to Have Captured South Korean Spy

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea–North Korea announced Thursday that a South Korean spy had been arrested while attempting to use “dishonest elements” for a mission to destabilize its government. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) immediately rejected the claim as baseless.

Pyongyang regularly accuses Seoul and Washington of working to sabotage its secretive, authoritarian system, but specific claims that an individual spy has been captured, especially before an investigation is concluded, are unusual. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

Security authorities recently captured an agent of South Korea’s intelligence agency in Pyongyang, according to the North’s state-run media outlet, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

KCNA’s report quoted a spokesman for the Ministry of State Security as saying the spy confessed to coming into Pyongyang illegally through a third country.

“An initial investigation indicates that he was engaged in anti-DPRK (North Korea) espionage and plot-breeding activities in a third country bordering the DPRK for nearly six years, while disguising himself as a religionist,” KCNA reported.

The spy came to Pyongyang to “rally dishonest elements within the boundary of the DPRK and use them for undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK”, it said.

“This fully proves to what extent the puppet group of conservatives has reached in its anti-DPRK moves,” the report continued.

NIS responded from Seoul almost immediately.

“Such allegations are absurd and totally groundless,” an NIS official said.

North and South Korea have remained technically at war since their 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice. Since then, thousands of North Korean spies have been arrested in the South. The North has also sporadically announced the arrests of South Korean citizens on charges of espionage.

The South’s Yonhap news agency speculated that a South Korean citizen might have been detained while doing missionary work in the North.

The North arrested Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old US citizen, in November and sentenced him to 15 years’ detention in a labor camp on charges of seeking to topple the government.

The court described Bae, also known by his Korean name Pae Jun-Ho, as a militant Christian evangelist who smuggled inflammatory material into the country.

Since the announcement, Northern officials claim to be “intensifying investigations.”

For more information, please see:

Fox News– North Korea says it has arrested South Korean spy in Pyongyang; Seoul rejects claim — 7 November 2013

Bloomberg– North Korea Arrests South Korean Spy in Pyongyang, KCNA Reports — 7 November 2013

Arirang News– N. Korea admits catching S. Korean spy — 7 November 2013

AFP– N. Korea arrests S. Korean spy: state media — 7 November 2013

Sky News– North Korea says it arrested South spy — 7 November 2013

Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Group Claims Responsibility for Murders of Two French Journalists in Mali

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

GAO, Mali – The Al Qaeda-linked militant group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the deaths of two French journalists, who were murdered in Mali on Saturday.

Dupont and Verlon were abducted and murdered by a subset of Al Qaeda on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

The Mauritanian news agency, Sahara Medias, stated that it received the message in the form of an email. In the email, AQIM claimed it was responsible for the deaths of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, journalists from Radio France International.

Dupont and Verlon were found dead just outside of Kidal in northern Mali hours after being abducted at gunpoint. Sahara Medias stated the email said the murders had been carried out by a unit led by Abdelkrim al-Targui, a Malian national who has risen to prominence internally in a branch of Al Qaeda that is led by Algerian jihadists. Sahara Medias, often sent statements by Islamic militants in Mali, stated it received the email from fighters loyal to Targui.

“This operation was a response to crimes committed by France against Malians and the work of African and international forces against the Muslims of Azawad,” the email stated.

France had launched a military operation in the ground and air in Mali in January earlier this year, with the objective of reclaiming territory seized by Islamist militants in the northern part of Mali.

The AQIM statement also suggested that the murders were “the minimum debt” owed by the French people and President François Hollande “in return for their new crusade.”

Targui is a native of the Kidal region of Mali and is also believed to be responsible for the previous kidnappings of two French nationals, Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic. Verdon and Lazarevic were abducted from the town of Hombori in northern Mali in 2011. Lazarevic remains in captivity, while Verdon was executed earlier this year.

AQIM grew in the 1990’s out of a movement started by radical Algerian Islamists who sought the overthrow of the Algerian government and to replace it with Islamic rule. The organization joined forces with Al Qaeda in 2006 and has spread itself across the Sahel region abutting the southern Sahara desert.

On Tuesday, France stated that it had sent seven investigators, including intelligence and police officials, to Mali to assist in the search for Dupont and Verlon’s killers. A member of the Malian security forces said that roughly thirty five suspects had been arrested in connection with the murders.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – “Al-Qaeda killed” French Reporters Dupont and Verlon in Mali – 6 November 2013

France 24 – Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Claims Murder of French Journalists – 6 November 2013

New York Times – Killing of French Journalists Reverberates in France and Mali – 6 November 2013

Reuters – France, Malian Forces Hunt Suspects Behind Journalist Killings – 4 November 2013


Egypt Court Upholds Ban on Muslim Brotherhood

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – On Wednesday, a court in Egypt upheld an earlier ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered their assets confiscated. Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Osama el-Helw announced that they would appeal the ruling and may do so on multiple grounds and in multiple courts.

Mohamed Morsi supporters protest outside of the Cairo Police Academy, where his trial took place on November 4.

The group was originally banned on September 23 as a result of the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi. In that ruling, the court ordered the Brotherhood’s assets to be seized until the criminal trials of the now removed president and the leaders of the Brotherhood are complete.

The original verdict was viewed as a pretext to move against the Muslim Brotherhood’s assets which include schools, hospitals, charities, and businesses. On October 2, members of the ruling government created a committee to review the assets, but thus far have not moved against them.

The leftist Tagammu party, which filed the case demanding the banning of the group, said the new ruling should give the authorities the green light to move.

“The government must take urgent measures to implement the court ruling … and prove it is serious about implementing the law,” Hani el-Husseini, a Tagammu member, told the official MENA news agency.

El-Helw said the government has already violated due process by forming the committee and allowing it to begin its work while the group had filed for suspension of ruling.

“We will pursue legal means. Let the law be the arbiter,” el-Helw said.

Although an appeal is planned it will not stop the government from moving forward unless it is accepted by another court. Legal experts say it is unlikely that the ruling will be overturned despite the fact that the court may have been improper and failed to provide clear guidelines for monitoring the Brotherhood’s assets.

The Muslim Brotherhood has already begun feeling the effects of the new regime, specifically in a charitable capacity.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Cairo, said: “We have been speaking to charities that are affiliated with the organization who say that over the past couple of months, things have gotten very difficult for them indeed, and their donations have all but totally dried up. But now we will see things get even tougher for the Muslim Brotherhood as a financial entity and as a political entity too.”

For further information, please see:

ABC – Egypt Court Upholds Muslim Brotherhood Ban – 6 November 2013

Al Jazeera – Egypt court upholds Muslim Brotherhood ban – 6 November 2013

BBC – Egypt court rejects Muslim Brotherhood ban appeal – 6 October 2013

CNN – Egypt court upholds ban on Muslim Brotherhood activities – 25 October 2013

Ugandan Officers Force Rwandan Refugee to Return to Country he Fled

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

KAMPALA, Uganda – A Rwandan refugee was forcibly returned to Rwanda by Ugandan police after he went missing for six days. The refugee, Joel Mutabazi, is now in police custody in Rwanda in an undisclosed location.

Photo Courtesy of Operation World.

Mutabazi had been living in a “safe house” under Ugandan police protection before going missing.

Uganda’s conduct is a violation of Mutabazi’s refugee status and raises concerns about Mutabazi’s safety in Rwanda.

Mutabazi has survived an abduction in Uganda, as well as an assassination attempt, in which both cases the perpetrators were unknown. The Ugandan police were aware of these incidents and agreed to provide him with 24-hour security protection.

Ugandan authorities say they are investigating the incident and have suspended the Ugandan officer who arrested Mutabazi and erroneously handed him over to Rwandan authorities.

An Ugandan representative for the United Nations refugee agency, Mohammed Adar, said that Mutabazi’s case was not subjected to judicial review before he was handed over to Rwandan authorities.

“We don’t understand how he managed to get out of the country and how he was handed over to the Rwandan government,” he said. “He survived two attempts in the past to take him back to his country . . . We are concerned about his safety.”

Rwandan police are holding Mutabazi in an undisclosed location after he was arrested by Ugandan police and handed over to Rwandan authorities. The Human Rights Watch is concerned he will receive an unfair trial like “other alleged criminal suspects whom the government accused of having links with the opposition.”

Rwandan officials have previously said that Mutabazi, a Rwandan army lieutenant who served President Paul Kagame’s security detail before defecting, was wanted back home over alleged robbery charges. He is accused of robbing a bank in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, more than two years ago.

They also claim Mutabazi is accused of terrorism and was the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Rwanda. But the Ugandan government statements admits that handing Mutabazi to Rwanda without court proceedings is contrary to “established legal procedure” and the “Police Code of Conduct.”

“The Ugandan police have utterly failed to protect this refugee, who was clearly at serious risk,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director. “It’s unconscionable that they handed him over summarily to the police force of the country whose persecution he fled.”

Human Rights Watch says that Ugandan authorities should immediately put in place effective measures to protect Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those whose security is at risk. The Ugandan authorities urgent should complete the investigation they have announced into Mutabazi’s handover to Rwanda and publish its findings without delay.

Further, Human Rights Watch states that Mutabazi should be transferred back to Uganda and subject to a formal extradition procedure in a Ugandan court, including consideration of the human rights implications of the transfer and his refugee status.

Many journalists and former civilian and military officials have fled Rwanda, alleging persecution. In the most prominent case, Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan army chief who once was a close Kagame ally, defected to South Africa in 2010 and later accused Rwanda’s government of ordering a failed attempt to assassinate him. Rwanda denied the allegations.

For more information, please visit:

Human Rights Watch – Uganda/Rwanda: Forcible Return Raises Grave Concerns – 4 November 2013
allAfrica – Uganda/Rwanda – Forcible Return Raises Grave Concerns – Rwandan Government Should Ensure Returnee’s Safety, Fair Trial – 4 November 2013
Topix – Uganda/Rwanda: Forcible Return Raises Grave Concerns – 4 November 2013
Zimbio – Uganda/Rwanda: Forcible Return Raises Grave Concerns – 4 November 2013
azfamily.com –
Rwandan in Uganda sent home despite safety fears – 5 November 2013
abc News – Rwandan in Uganda Sent Home Despite Safety Fears – 5 November 2013
St. Louis Today – Rwandan in Uganda sent home despite safety fears – 5 November 2013
SRN News – Rwandan in Uganda sent home despite safety fears – 5 November 2013