Unseen President Unsuccessfully Attempts to Resolve Ukrainian Unrest

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian tensions remained high following President Yanukovich’s attempted relief to the opposition. However, world leaders offered help.

Ukrainian opposition continues to stand against the government, despite amnesty and the repeal of anti-protest laws. (Photo courtesy of RT)

Unseen since taking sick leave, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich repealed anti-protest legislation, and signed an amnesty into law for activists detained during massive protests. Amidst news reports of a prominent opposition activist’s kidnapping and torture claims, many rejected Yanukovich’s decision because he conditioned it on activists leaving occupied buildings.

“There’s no point in signing this amnesty law,” said an improvised clinic worker at Kyiv’s occupied city hall. “No one will leave here until this government is gone.”

Concerned for demonstrators’ health in Arctic temperatures, opposition leaders urged protesters not to take to the streets for their weekly rallies. However, media outlets continued to replay video of activist Dmytro Bulatov’s story of kidnap and torture, which has kept anti-government tensions high.

Bulatov disappeared on 22 January 2014, at the hands of unknown kidnappers. Since Bulatov’s return, an interior ministry official has accused him of faking his claims to stir unrest.

“There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten. My face has been cut. They promised to poke my eye out. They cut off my ear,” Bulatov said. “They crucified me by nailing me to a door with something and beat me strongly all the while.”

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said, “The military and the Ukrainian armed forces … called on the supreme commander to take immediate steps, within the framework of the law, to stabilize the situation in the country and reach agreement with society.”

While Yanukovich has expressed concerns that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war, the military refused to take sides. A Defense Ministry news website quoted retired Admiral Serhiy Rybak, as he recalled Ukrainian peacekeeping missions abroad: “No political ambition is worth a drop of human blood.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted that the “military must remain neutral” even if it were to become involved in the crisis.

Moscow highlighted its economic over Ukraine by refusing its planned purchase of $2 billion of Ukrainian government bonds. The move contributed to the currency falling to its lowest point against the dollar in over four years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet opposition leaders, on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

“Our message to Ukraine’s opposition will be the full support of President Obama and of the American people for their efforts,” Kerry said in Berlin before the meetings. “But we will also say to them that if you get that reform agenda… we would urge them to engage in that because further standoff, or further violence that becomes uncontrollable, is not in anybody’s interests.”

Kerry also said, “We would … say to our friends in Russia this does not have to be a zero (sum) game, this is not something where Ukraine should become a proxy and trapped in some kind of larger ambition for Russia or the United States.”

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Tension Grips Ukraine over Torture Claims – February 1, 2014

BBC News – Stand-Off over ‘Tortured’ Ukrainian Activist Dmytro Bulatov – January 31, 2014

Reuters – Ukraine President Signs Amnesty but Anger Remains, Currency Slumps – January 31, 2014

RT – Russia’s Emergency Loan to Ukraine on Hold until Govt Forms – January 30, 2014

Times Of India – Ukrainian President Takes Sick Leave, No Crisis Solution in Sight – January 30, 2014

FIFA Sets Deadline for Qatar to Show Signs of Improvements in Working Conditions for Migrants

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Middle East

DOHA, Qatar – Organizers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup have been given a tight deadline by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to explain what is being done to improve working conditions for migrant labourers working on the construction process for various buildings associated with the World Cup. FIFA is demanding that The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Qatar Provide the organization with “detailed report” by February 12 with “information on specific steps” being taken to improve conditions faced by migrant works, who make up the majority of the construction workforce in Qatar.

Migrant Workers wait for a bus that will take them to an accommodation camp in Doha, Qatar, where they are working on 2022 World Cup infrastructure. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Concerns over the working conditions of migrant workers, who are often subjected to near slave-like conditions, in Qatar was reported extensively in a report by Amnesty International last year.

FIFA as initially criticized for failing to adequately address the concerns over Qatar’s history of worker abuses. However, after the report was made public FIFA president Sepp Blatter publicly described the situation as “unacceptable” and raised during a visit to Doha last November.

FIFA plans to use the report to prepare for the hearing on the matter of workers’ rights in the Arab emirate at the European Parliament in Brussels on 13 February 2014. In a press release FIFA announced that “the application of international norms of behaviour is a FIFA principle and part of all of FIFA’s activities, and is expected from all hosts of its events.” Doctor Theo Zwanziger, who was appointed by FIFA to spearhead efforts to address the issue of labour rights in Qatar associated with the World Cup, has held several meetings with human rights and labour organisations including Amnesty International and the ILO, in order to strengthen the dialogue between various interest groups and to reach a sanctioned approach.

According to Zwanziger FIFA is “currently in the middle of an intensive process, which is exclusively aimed at improving the situation of workers in Qatar.” A complete report will be delivered to the FIFA Executive Committee at its meeting on 20 and 21 March. Zwanziger stated that clear rules and an outlined process will be needed in order to “build trust and ensure that the situation, which is unacceptable at the moment, improves in a sustainable manner.”

The choice of Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been criticized since the organization made the decision to allow the Arab state to host the games. Concerns about the health risks associated with acute summer temperatures in Qatar has led FIFA to delay the competition to the winter. The origination has also been criticized by several human rights organizations and activist for choosing Qatar to host the games despite its long history of Labour rights abuses.

FIFA has stated that it ”firmly believes in the power of the World Cup in triggering positive social change in Qatar, including improving the labour rights and conditions of migrant workers.”

What is clear is that the decision to host world’s most popular sporting event in Qatar has brought the issue of migrant rights and labour conditions in Qatar into the public eye.

For more information please see:

CNN International – Qatar Set Deadline by FIFA over Conditions For Migrant Workers – 31 January 2014

Fédération Internationale De Football Association – FIFA Requests Update On Working Conditions In Qatar – 31 January 2014

Bloomberg – FIFA Demands Report from Qatar on World Cup Construction Deaths – 30 January 2014

The Guardian – Qatar World Cup: FIFA Demands Update on Efforts to Improve Worker Conditions – 30 January 2014

Press Release: Russian Authorities Defy Council of Europe Magnitsky Resolution by Upholding Posthumous Guilty Verdict Against Sergei Magnitsky

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

31 January 2014. – Today, the Russian authorities defied the resolution adopted three days ago by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) byupholding the posthumous  guilty verdict against Sergei Magnitsky who was tortured and killed in Russian custody four years ago.

The Moscow City Court announced this morning that the posthumous verdict against Magnitsky “automatically” came into force “because nobody challenged it”.

Just three days ago, delegates from 47 member countries of PACE have adoptedwith an 81% vote the resolution entitled “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky, calling on Russian authorities “to close the posthumous trial against Mr Magnitsky.” Instead, the Russian officials went ahead with the posthumous case.

The PACE resolution calls for “targeted sanctions against individuals (visa bans and freezing accounts)” by Council of Europe member states in the case of Russia failing to address the recommendations contained in the resolution.

“It is clear from today’s decision that Russian authorities have immediately defied the PACE resolution and deserve sanctions. Moreover, it shows that the justice system in Russia has been bastardized to support high-level government corruption,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

Last year, President Putin promoted judge of Tverskoi District Court Igor Alisov who issued to Sergei Magnitsky a guilty verdict in the first posthumous trial in Russian legal history.

For more information please contact:

Law and Order in Russia


PACE Documents “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky”

PACE Resolution 1966 (2014)1: http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewPDF.asp?FileID=20409&lang=en

18. The Assembly resolves to follow closely the implementation of the above proposals. It recalls its Resolution 1597 (2007) and Recommendation 1824 (2007) on United Nations Security Council and European Union blacklists. It further resolves that if, within a reasonable period of time, the competent authorities have failed to make any or any adequate response to this resolution, the Assembly should recommend to member States of the Council of Europe to follow as a last resort the example of the United States in adopting targeted sanctions against individuals (visa bans and freezing of accounts), having first given those named individuals the opportunity to make appropriate representations in their defence.”

PACE Recommendation: http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewPDF.asp?FileID=20410&lang=en

“1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution 1966 (2014) on refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky, and invites the Committee of Ministers to examine ways and means:

1.1.     of improving international co-operation in investigating the “money trail” of the funds originating in the fraudulent tax reimbursements denounced by Mr Magnitsky; and, in particular,

1.2.     of ensuring that the Russian Federation fully participates in these efforts and holds to account the perpetrators and beneficiaries both of the crime committed against Sergei Magnitsky and that denounced by him.”

PACE Report “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky”:http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-DocDetails-EN.asp?fileid=20084&wrqid=0&wrqref=&ref=1&lang=EN