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Unseen since taking sick leave, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich repealed anti-protest legislation, and signed an amnesty into law for activists detained during massive protests.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

Snowden’s Leaked Documents Shows Canada Spying On Airport Travelers

By: Brandon R. Cottrell 
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

OTTAWA, Canada – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported today that leaked documents by Edward Snowden show Canada’s electronic spying agency collected data from “ordinary airline passengers” travelling through Canadian airports over a two week period.

Airline passengers who used the airport’s free wi-fi were the victim of a Canadian spying effort, per an Edward Snowden leaked document (Photo Courtesy CBC News).

Though Canadian law prohibits the Communications Security Establishment Canada (“CSEC”) from targeting any individual in Canada without a warrant, the CSEC has defended its action by citing its mission, which is to collect foreign intelligence by intercepting phone and internet traffic in order to protect Canadians.  CSEC has also said that no Canadians were spied on, yet most find no merit to that claim, as it is mostly Canadians that frequent Canadian airports.

Ronald Deibert, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on cyber-security, said, however,  that he “can’t see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC’s mandates.”

The CSEC further defends its action by saying that it only collected metadata, which it is legally authorized to collect and analyze.  Metadata, the information about a communication, such as the date and location of the communication but not the details of what was said or written, is however, still valuable information and considered by most to be an invasion of privacy.

Deibert, in regards to metadata, said that it is “way more powerful than the content of communications . . . you can tell a lot more about people, their habits, their relationships, their friendships, even their political preferences, based on that type of metadata.”

The report also indicates that the metadata was collected using a new powerful software program that was being developed by the United States’ National Security Agency (“NSA”), and is now fully operational.  Experts say that the program, after initially capturing information, “would have enabled the agency to track them for a week or more as they showed up in other wi-fi ‘hot spots’ around Canada, such as other airports, hotels or restaurants.”  The new program is also considered to be “game-changing,” as it could be used for tracking “any target that makes occasional forays into other cities/regions.”

A spokeswoman for the Canadian agency was critical of the leak, and defended the document as a “technical presentation between specialists exploring mathematical models built on everyday scenarios to identify and locate foreign terrorist threats [and that] the unauthorized disclosure of tradecraft puts our techniques at risk of being less effective when addressing threats to Canada and Canadians.”

Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, is currently living in Russia after fleeing the US in May 2013 after he leaked thousands of documents that revealed extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence services.

For further information, please see: 

BBC – Snowden Leaks: Canada ‘Spied On Airport Travellers’ – 31 Jan. 2014 

Bloomberg – Spy Agency Tracked Canadians At An Airport – 31 Jan. 2014 

CBC News – CSEC Used Airport Wi-Fi To Track Canadian Travellers: Edward Snowden Documents – 31 Jan. 2014 

RT – Attention Fliers: Canada’s Electronic Spy Agency Is Following You – New Snowden Leaks – 31 Jan. 2014 

Vital Supplies Enter Besieged Syrian Camp

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria-On Thursday, a food convoy entered the besieged Syrian Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp.  Dozens have died within the camp due to food and medicine shortages, declared the United Nations.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency delivers supplies to the Yarmuk Camp (photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

“1,028 food rations had been delivered to the camp south of Damascus, in a modest launch of the rescue operation.  Each ration is enough to keep a family of eight going for 10 days,” stated UN Palestinian refugee agency spokesman Chris Gunness.

“We hope to continue and increase substantially the amount of aid being delivered because the numbers of those needing assistance is in the tens of thousands, including 18,000 Palestinians, among them women and children,” stated Gunness.

Initial deliveries into the camp have been reported as “chaotic scenes” while the food was being distributed.  The last delivery of food occurred on January 21, when the UN Palestinian refugee agency sent in 138 food parcels.

SANA, the Syrian state news agency, also reported on the aid distribution.  “New food aid has entered Yarmuk camp, with the application of a peaceful, popular initiative supported by the Syrian government to alleviate the suffering of the residents surrounded in the camp, taken hostage by armed terrorist groups,” it said.

Hostilities have been steadily growing in the Yarmuk camp as at least 86 people have died in recent months due to starvation or lack of medical care.

The camp is principally controlled by rebel forces and surrounded by a siege since June, making it nearly impossible to get food and medicine into the camp or for residents to leave.  Many residents have reported eating grass, cats, and dogs in order to survive.

At the outset, the camp began as a place for Palestinian refugees, but has since developed into an active district, housing nearly 150,000 Palestinians, as well as numerous Syrians.  However, now only an estimated 18,000 Palestinians remain in the camp, which has been destroyed by fighting.

With the present of the aid, many are hoping that conditions will improve.  “We are encouraged by the delivery of this aid and the cooperation of the parties on the ground,” stated Gunness.

For more information, please see the following: 

Al Jazeera-Chaos as food aid enters Syria’s Yarmouk camp-30 January 2014

Daily Star-Food aid enters Syria’s besieged Yarmuk camp-30 January 2014

Haaretz-Food supplies enter Palestinian camp in Syria-30 January 2014

Naharnet-Food Aid Enters Syria’s Besieged Yarmouk Camp-30 January 2014

EU Authorities Arrest Kosovo Serb Politician on War Crimes Charges

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MITROVICA, Kosovo – A top Kosovo Serb politician has been detained by the European Union’s police and justice mission on suspicion that he committed war crimes.

Ivanovic was ordered detained for a month on Monday, EU officials say. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

EU officials state that Oliver Ivanovic has been identified as a suspect as a result of a war crimes investigation that examined the Kosovo conflict of the 1990’s. No details of the alleged crimes have been released to the public, but reports indicate that Ivanovic, 60, is suspected of having tortured and killed numerous Albanians. Ivanovic is also believed to have a main organizer of a since-disbanded Kosovo Serb vigilante group widely known as the “Bridgewatchers.” The Bridgewatchers are suspected of widespread violence against ethnic Albanians.

Ivanovic turned himself into EU authorities voluntarily on Monday while accompanied by his lawyer. He was ordered to be detained for a month while investigators look into crimes “which occurred in 1999 and 2000 against Albanian victims,” Ivanovic’s lawyer, Nebojsa Vlajic, stated. Ivanovic has been transferred to a prison in Pristina.

Ivanovic is considered to be a moderate politically. He lost a recent election to be mayor of the Serb area of the northern town of Mitrovica to Krstimir Pantic. Ivanovic’s supporters believe that the recent war crimes charges are politically motivated, and untrue.

Ivanovic is the first senior Kosovo Serb official to be arrested by the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) on suspicion of war crimes against ethnic Albanians. EULEX has authority to investigate and prosecute cases that the local judiciary and police are either unable or unwilling to handle.

The 1998-1999 conflict began in Kosovo after ethnic Albanians rebelled against NATO bombings in Belgrade, which prompted an extreme crackdown.

Roughly 120,000 ethnic Serbs currently live in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and accounts for 1.8 million inhabitants, most of whom are ethnic Albanians. However, the approximately 40,000 Kosovo Serbs living in the northern part of the country do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. Serbia also rejects Kosovo’s secession. Despite this, Kosovo has been recognized by over 100 countries, including the United States and most EU states.

For more information, please see:

B92- Lawyer: Accusations Against Ivanovic “Politically Motivated” – 29 January 2014

BBC News – Kosovo Serb Politician Oliver Ivanovic Arrested Over War Crimes – 28 January 2014

InSerbia – Ivanovic Suspected of Crimes Committed in 1999, 2000 – 28 January 2014

Reuters – EU Arrests Moderate Kosovo Serb Leader in War Crimes Probe – 27 January 2014

 

70 Air Force Officers Implicated in Nuclear Test Cheating Scandal

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – The number of Air Force nuclear missile launch officers implicated in a cheating scandal widened Tuesday from 34 to 70. The Air Force is now investigating this unprecedented exam cheating scandal involving officers of captain rank.

News of the cheating scandal has prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to rethink the manner in which ICBM launch officers are tested. (photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Air Force leaders indicated that they stumbled on to the cheating at the Global Strike Command at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana while investigating a separate drug-abuse scandal that spanned six different Air Force bases. At least 34 of the nuclear launch officers implicated in this scandal have been stripped of their certification while three others were implicated in the drug-abuse scandal.

The Malmstrom base houses and maintains 150 Minutemen 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles or one third of the nation’s ICBM arsenal. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh indicated that the remaining personnel on staff at Malmstrom were sufficient to maintain the nuclear nation’s arsenal.

Considered the largest breach of integrity in the nuclear force, Air Force leadership determined that some staffers from the 341st  Missile Wing texted answers to routine tests to others while others knew but failed to report the news. Ultimately, 16 officers were found to have actually cheated on the exams.

“This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force and as everybody here knows, the No. 1 core value for us is integrity,” said Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force.

The exam questions were designed  to test launch officers’ proficiencies in “emergency war orders,” including receiving orders through the chain of command to fire a missile.

This scandal is the latest in a line for the Air Force, stretching back to October of last year when the two star general in charge of the ICBM arsenal, Michael Carey, was fired for drinking binge and other embarrassing behavior during a trip to Moscow.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Air Force nuclear cheating scandal widens – 28 January 2014

BBC News – Number of US nuclear ‘cheats’ doubles – officials – 28 January 2014

Fox News – Air Force: 34 nuclear missile officers implicated in cheating scandal – 16 January 2014

CNN – Air Force nuke officers caught up in big cheating scandal – 15 January 2014

The Washington Post – Air Force investigates dozens accused of cheating on nuclear proficiency exams – 15 January 2014

Thailand Plans to Proceed with Sunday Election Despite Growing Violence

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand–Thailand’s government announced Tuesday that it will move forward with an election set to take place this weekend despite a violent opposition boycott, street protests, and the prospect of even greater violence in the country’s political crisis.

A man is carried away after being nearly beaten to death by anti-government protesters Tuesday afternoon. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

The announced its plan after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met with the Election Commission, which had plans to delay the election.

The decision to hold Sunday’s parliamentary balloting is expected to further inflame tensions and produce violence. One protest leader was killed and at least a dozen others were injured in a clash last Sunday as protesters swarmed polling stations in an effort to stop advance balloting. Since November 30, 10 people have died and at least 577 have sustained serious injuries.

Anti-government protesters occupying parts of Bangkok have demanded that Yingluck step down before the election. Protesters argue that she should be replaced by a non-elected interim government that would institute reforms to remove her family’s weighty influence from the political structures. The opposition Democrat Party, which backs the protests, is boycotting the election.

The crisis places followers and opponents of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra against one another. Thaksin, a billionaire and Yingluck’s older brother, was deposed by a military coup in 2006 after accusations of corruption and abuse of power. Since then the two sides have been engaged in a sometimes violent struggle for power.

Yingluck’s supporters, including many people in the countryside who benefited from Thaksin’s populist policies, are demanding that they be allowed to vote.

‘‘The longer this crisis goes on, the more dangerous it becomes,’’ said Chris Baker, a Bangkok-based political analyst and writer. ‘‘The economy is clearly suffering already. It will suffer more the longer it goes on. The chances of violence keep increasing because emotions are getting stoked up.’’

Several hundred protesters laid siege to Tuesday’s meeting between Yingluck and the Election Commission.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said more violence was expected during the polls and would further damage the country.

‘‘I think Thailand has suffered enough and no one should be hurt or die from this election,’’ Somchai told reporters.

Somchai earlier said he would tell Yingluck about the problems enveloping Sunday’s election, including the lack of workers and meager equipment, which has yet to reach many provinces. The disruptions have been caused largely by the protesters, and some senior government officials have accused the Commission of supporting the anti-government side.

Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana said the Commission and the government had different views and the election would therefore move forward as scheduled. A court ruled last week that the election could only be postponed by mutual agreement between the prime minister and the Election Commission.

‘‘If we postpone the election, will the problems go away? The people who are causing trouble didn’t say they would stop if it’s postponed,’’ Pongthep said. ‘‘The longer it is postponed, the more damage it will cause the people and the country.’’

For more information, please see:

The Hindu–200,000 police to be deployed for Feb 2 snap polls in Thailand— 29 January 2014

Times of Oman–Thailand to deploy 10,000 police in capital to secure voting— 29 January 2014

Channel News Asia–“No” option valid political choice in upcoming Thai election— 29 January 2014

The Boston Globe–Thai government says no delay in Sunday election— 29 January 2014

UN Backs More Troops to Central African Republic

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

BANGUI, Central African Republic – The UN believes at least 10,000 troops will eventually be required to end unrest in Central African Republic (CAR), the French UN envoy said.

A French peacekeeping soldier searches a man for weapons (photo courtesy of Yahoo!)

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing European troops to use force and threatening sanctions against those blamed for the country’s strife.

The European Union is to send up to 600 troops to help African and French forces in the country to try and end clashes between rival Christian and Muslim militias.

Almost one million people (a quarter of the population) have been displaced by fighting since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power in March last year in the majority Christian country. At least 2,000 people have been killed.

The African Union force is eventually intended to reach 6,000 troops while France now has 1,600 soldiers in place.

The UN resolution also allows for asset freeze and travel ban sanctions against the ringleaders of groups blamed for massacres and human rights abuses. It did not name initial targets.

Ambassador Gerard Araud described the situation in CAR as “very, very dire.”

Araud said the African Union force in the country, intending to reach 6,000 troops, “is considered now too low because frankly the situation is very, very dire and the country is huge.”

He said the resolution was a “new stage” in efforts to help CAR out of the strife in which thousands are feared killed and more than 900,000 people have fled their homes.

Security council members have been alarmed by the vicious cycle of vengeance between Muslim and Christian militias in CAR, said the BBC’s Nada Tawfik in New York.

The United Nations had warned that the conflict in the landlocked former French colony could spiral into genocide.

CAR’s interim President Catherine Samba-Panza said on Tuesday that she had written to the UN to call for the African peacekeeping force to be transformed into a larger UN operation. She said the violence had continued despite the presence of African and French forces.

“It means that the number of troops is insufficient to restore and ensure security for the population,” she said.

On Monday, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the situation was getting even worse despite the inauguration of a new leader last week.

A day after reports, at least 13 people were killed. Eleven people were killed in the violence on Tuesday and 26 others were wounded.

“It’s really quite a challenge because there is an incredible amount of resentment and hatred between the two communities,” Aurad said.

He also said that transforming the African force into a UN operation would bring guaranteed funding and an experienced civilian component to help rebuild CAR’s state institutions, which have basically disintegrated.

CAR is rich in gold and diamonds but years of unrest and poor governance have left most of its 4.6 million people in poverty.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Central African Republic: UN ‘may need 10,000 troops’ – 28 January 2014
The Peninsula – UN backs EU force, sanctions in Central Africa – 29 January 2014
Yahoo! News –
Central African Republic wants U.N. force as EU troops OKed – 28 January 2014
AFP –
UN backs EU force in Central Africa amid troops push – 28 January 2014
Japan Today –
U.N. backs EU force in Central African Republic – 29 January 2014
The Guardian –
UN backs force, sanctions in Central Africa Republic – 28 January 2014

 

Morsi Faces Trial for 2011 Prison Break

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt’s overthrown President, Mohamed Morsi, appeared in court in Cairo on Tuesday to face charges stemming from a 2011 prison break. Morsi is accused of organizing a large-scale breakout from the Wadi al-Natrun prison and the subsequent murders of police officers during the jailbreak.

Morsi and the other defendants appeared in a glass cage in order to keep them from interrupting the proceedings. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Morsi is also accused of colluding with foreign forces, Hamas and Hezbollah, to plan and execute the prison break. Members of both organizations are on trial with Morsi for charges relating to the event. In total another 130 individuals are on trial for the prison break events, but many of them remain on the run.

The prison break was one of a number that occurred during the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. During the 2011 revolution more than 20,000 inmates escaped from Egyptian prisons.

Morsi and the other defendants are appearing in a sound-proof glass box surrounded by a cage for the duration of the trial. At one point, journalists were given the chance to hear what was going on in the glass cage.

The defendants were heard chanting “Down with military rule” and the judge quickly cut off the sound. The defendants also made the four-finger “Rabaa” protest sign, which is linked to the pro-Morsi Rabaa al-Adawiya square protest camp that was cleared in August.

At one point Morsi demanded to know the identity of the court’s judge to which the judge replied, “I’m the head of the criminal court.” Additionally, Morsi shouted a handful of statements at the court that maintained he was still the President and that the conditions of his imprisonment were unsuitable.

There were pro-government crowds outside the courthouse, but no pro-Morsi supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organization and it is now illegal to show any public support for the Brotherhood or Morsi.

The trial was adjourned until February 22. Morsi currently facing four different criminal trials on separate charges some of which are punishable by death.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Morsi faces court over Egypt prison break – 28 January 2013

BBC – Egypt ex-President Morsi defiant at jailbreak trial – 28 January 2013

New York Times – Egypt Locks Morsi in Soundproof Cage During Trial – 28 January 2013

USA Today – Ousted Egypt leader shouts at judge during trial – 28 January 2013

Mexican Government Legalizes Vigilantes

By Brandon R. Cottrell 
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – After months of implicit cooperation with rural vigilantes, the Mexican government formally signed an agreement today, which will allow the vigilantes to gain legal status.

In today’s agreement, Mexican vigilantes will legally join forces with the Mexican Military (Photo Courtesy: The Guardian).

Under the agreement, the vigilantes, or so called “self-defense groups” will be temporarily incorporated into the Rural Defense Corps and will be subject to regulation by the Organic Law of the Mexican Army and Air Force.  In incorporating with the Corps, the vigilantes will “cooperate with the troops activities being carried when they are asked to.”

Additionally, this agreement allows the vigilantes to join municipal police forces, which will allow them to protect their communities.  Prior to joining such forces, however, the vigilantes must be approved by the applicable city council.

The vigilantes must submit a list of their members to the Defense Department.  The vigilantes, who are heavily armed, may keep their weapons, provided that they register their weapons with the Defense Secretary prior to their individual incorporation.  The military will, however, give the groups “all the means necessary for communications, operations and movement.”

Though the government has admirable goals in solving the nation’s security problems, the legalization of the vigilantes comes with plenty of risks.  For example, consider that the government must enforce military discipline and instill respect for human rights and due process among more than 20,000 heavily armed civilians, then eventually disband them and send them back home.”  Instilling such respect is likely to prove difficult, as the Mexican Army itself has been accused of human right abuses during the current “war against organized crime.”

Furthermore, in other Latin American countries were vigilantes were legalized, the vigilantes morphed into state-backed militias, which carried out “widespread human rights abuses [such as] mass killings.”  For example in Guatemala, thousands of deaths were attributed to the army-backed Peasant Self Defense Patrols during the country’s civil war.  Claudia Samayoa, a human rights activist in Guatemala, said that this “cure is going to be worse than the disease” and that “it would be better not to go down that road, and instead strengthen law enforcement and the justice and public safety systems.”

However, there is optimism in such an arrangement, as the vigilantes, prior to legalization, “have seized a dozen towns terrorized by extortion, killings and rapes at the hands of the cartel’s gunmen.”  Additionally, the vigilantes are mostly pro-government and are dedicated to “ fighting against kidnapping, violence, and extortion by the cartels.”

 

For more information, please see the following:

AP News – Mexican Vigilante Legalization Plan Carries Risks – 28 Jan. 2014

Fox News Latino – Mexican Gov’t Signs Agreement With Vigilante Groups – 28 Jan. 2014 

Guardian Liberty Voice – Mexico – Three Sided Vigilante Standoff – 28 Jan. 2014 

Al Jazeera –Mexico Legalizes Vigilantes – 27 Jan. 2014 

 

WCRO: New WCRO Report Examines Obtaining Victim Status for Purposes of Participating in Proceedings at the International Criminal Court

Washington, DC January 27, 2014 —The War Crimes Research Office (WCRO) launches a new report on the International Criminal Court (ICC), entitled Obtaining Victim Status for Purposes of Participating in Proceedings at the International Criminal Court.

One of the most lauded features of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) is its victim participation scheme, which allows individuals harmed by the crimes being prosecuted by the Court to share their views and concerns in proceedings against the persons allegedly responsible.  To date, more than 12,000 individuals have applied to participate in proceedings before the ICC, and well over 5,000 have successfully obtained victim status.  However, the process established under the documents governing the ICC by which individuals apply for and receive permission to participate – which involves each individual victim submitting a detailed form with supporting documentation to the Court, observations on each application by the parties, and an individualized decision on the application by a Chamber of the Court – has proved inefficient for the applicants, the parties, and the Court.  At the same time, the process has been frustrating for victims, as it can take more than two years for applicants to receive a decision on their status, meaning victims are often unable to share their views and concerns with the Court during key proceedings in the case.  This frustration is compounded by the fact that, for the vast majority of victims, participation takes place through a common legal representative, appointed by the Court to represent significant numbers of victims together, raising the question as to why individual victims were required to endure such a lengthy and detailed application process.

Recognizing that the current system is both unsustainable and undesirable, various Chambers of the Court have been exploring alternative means by which individuals may obtain victim status in the cases before them, and the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) is considering reforming the system courtwide.  This report examines the different options that have been tried and/or that are under consideration by the ASP and ultimately recommends changes to the victim application system aimed at saving valuable time and resources for applicants, the Registry, the parties, and the Chambers.  Importantly, the recommended changes are unlikely to undermine the meaningfulness of victim participation, and in fact will allow victims to gain recognition and the right to representation much more quickly than under the current system, meaning the recommended approach is likely to make participation more meaningful for a large number of victims.

The report is the eighteenth in the WCRO’s ICC Legal Analysis and Education Project, an initiative aimed at producing public, impartial, legal analyses of critical issues raised by decisions and practice of the ICC. The ICC Legal Analysis and Education Project benefits from the insights of an Advisory Committee comprised of the following experts in international criminal law:

–        Judge Mary McGowan Davis, former Acting New York State Supreme Court Judge and Board Member of the International Judicial Academy and the American Association for the International Commission of Jurists;

–        Justice Unity Dow, Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, member of the ICJ’s Executive Committee and former judge of the Botswana High Court;

–        Siri Frigaard, Chief Public Prosecutor for the Norwegian National Authority for Prosecution of Organized and Other Serious Crimes and former Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes in East Timor;

–        Justice Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda;

–        Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza of the Massachusetts Appeals Court and former Chief International Judge serving as Coordinator of the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor; and

–        Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment and former Special Advisor on Prevention to the Prosecutor of the ICC.

For a hard copy of the report or more information, contact the War Crimes Research Office at warcrimes@wcl.american.edu, or +1 (202) 274-4067. The reports are also available online at http://www.wcl.american.edu/warcrimes/icc/icc_reports.cfm.

You can view a webcast of our recent event on victim participation here.

Press Release: Parliamentary Assemby of the Council of Europe Voted 81% in Favor of U.S.-Like Magnitsky Sanctions if Russian Authorities Continue to Enjoy Impunity

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

28 January 2014 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
which unites 47 countries, has called today for the introduction of
U.S.-like Magnitsky sanctions by Council of Europe member states if Russian
authorities fail within the reasonable timeframe to adhere to the PACE
Resolution. The Resolution calls on Russia to end impunity of Russian
officials by bringing to account those responsible for Magnitsky’s death,
stopping his posthumous prosecution and the pressure on his family, and
closing criminal cases against other Hermitage Fund’s lawyers who reported
the $230 million theft and defended the Fund against the fraud.

The Resolution entitled “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei
Magnitsky” was passed by 81% of PACE delegates (151 deputies – in favor, 25
– against, 10 – abstention)
(http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/Votes/DB-VotesResults-EN.asp?VoteID=34812&DocID=14854).

The PACE also approved (151 – in favor, 29 – against, 8 – abstention) the
Recommendation to the Council of Minister to “ensure that the Russian
Federation …holds to account the perpetrators and beneficiaries both of the
crime committed against Sergey Magnitsky and that denounced by him.”

The PACE report highlights that Russian authorities are engaged in a
massive cover-up at all levels in this case:

“We are in the presence of a massive cover-up involving senior officials of
the competent [Russian] ministries, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the
Investigative Committee and even certain courts finds itself further
consolidated,” says Rapporteur Andreas Gross, MP in his report (
http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewPDF.asp?FileID=20084&lang=en).

The voting was preceded by speeches from delegates from different
countries. The Russian delegates tried to deflect blame by accusing William
Browder, the head of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, of being responsible
for Magnitsky’s arrest and death.

Other PACE delegates from Europe stressed that this case is symbolic of
abuse and corruption. They said it was shameful that Russian authorities
have not investigated officials denounced by Magnitsky as complicit in the
$230 million theft, and those responsible for his killing in custody.

The addendum to the Report on the impunity in Magnitsky case by Rapporteur
Gross says that Russian authorities not only failed to adhere to the
recommendations made in the main report, to bring to account those involved
in the $230 million theft denounced by Magnitsky, but have instead
exonerated all officials in spite of evidence of their enrichment:

“The Russian authorities have not made any progress in investigating the
matters highlighted in the main report and in the draft resolution adopted
by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on 4 September 2013. On
the contrary, one of the main suspects – Ms Stepanova – has recently been
exonerated by the Investigative Committee, without reference to the
suspicious circumstances surrounding the disbursement in record time of a
record amount of tax refunds into freshly opened bank accounts of criminals
known as such by the authorities, with a small and ill-famed bank that
closed soon after the receipt of the funds and “lost” all records,” says
the Addendum to Report “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei
Magnitsky”.

For further information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

Report: “Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky”