Ukrainian Accuses Russia of Invading, West Warns Russia against Military Intervention

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine accused Russia of beginning an invasion, stating that the eastern European country can defend itself. Western powers called on Russia to pull back.

Armed men who appeared at two airports in Ukraine have been the basis for accusations that Russia began an illegal invasion. (Photo courtesy of Haaretz)

On 28 February 2014, Russian officials issued a statement, which outlined President Vladimir Putin’s orders on Ukraine. That statement announced Putin ordered Russia to work with Ukrainian and foreign partners to find a financial package to shore up Ukraine’s collapsing finances.

In the statement, Putin had ordered his government “to conduct consultations with foreign partners, including the International Monetary Fund, on the provision of financial aid to Ukraine.” However, there are doubts that Russia will provide $15 billion in bailout monies to Ukraine, which was first discussed when Russia convinced Yanukovich to spurn the November 2013 trade deal with the EU.

Also, at that time, armed men, believed to be Russians, appeared in a local parliament in Ukraine’s Crimea region. Within hours, against Moscow’s denial, Ukraine accused Russian forces of overrunning two Black Sea airports. Later, reports indicated that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was seen in Russia. Yanukovich is wanted on accusations of mass murder.

Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev further accused Russia of illegally sending military planes and helicopters into the country. He then said, “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.”

While Sergeyev wrote to Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite about the power of the 15-nation council to investigate disputes or “international friction” to determine whether international peace and security is in jeopardy, a call to the council resulted in no formal action. Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council who can block any actions proposed by Member States, including Ukraine.

In battling Western nations for influence over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy has been to allow his lieutenants to arouse passions in its “brotherly nation” while he watches over them.

Alexei Pushkov, a Putin loyalist and a senior member of parliament said, “No matter what Russia does, Kyiv will be firmly pro-Western. The only question left is are we prepared to pay more for this course or not?”

Yanukovich told reporters, “I think that Russia should act and is obliged to act. And knowing Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s personality, I am surprised that he is still saying nothing.”

While Yanukovich claimed that he had spoken to Putin since Kiev a week ago he denied any meeting with Russia’s president.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said “the United Kingdom believes that any newly deployed troops that do not answer to the Ukrainian government should withdraw.”

Washington was “gravely disturbed by reports of Russian military deployments into the Crimea,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. “The United States calls upon Russia to pull back the military forces that are being built up in the region, to stand down, and to allow the Ukrainian people the opportunity to pursue their own government, create their own destiny and to do so freely without intimidation or fear.”

U.S. President Barack Obama affirmed that stance, warning Russia against military action.

For further information, please see:

Haaretz – Obama warns Russia: There will be costs to any military intervention in the Ukraine – March 1, 2014

Reuters – Conciliatory Words Hide Putin’s Anger over Ukraine – February 28, 2014

Reuters – Ukraine’s U.N. Envoy: ‘We Are Strong Enough to Defend Ourselves’ – February 28, 2014

Washington Post – Ousted Ukraine President Says He’s Surprised by Putin’s Silence – February 28, 2014

Former Guantanamo Bay Detainees Allege Torture

By Brandon R. Cottrell
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – Two former Guantanamo Bay detainees, Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchallali, who filed a lawsuit alleging torture and mistreatment while at Guantanamo, have asked that retired major general Geoffrey Miller, who was the commander of the prison, be subpoenaed.

Retired Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was a commander at Guantanamo Bay, is alleged to have overseen “a systematic plan of torture.” (Photo Courtesy RNW).

In an expert report that accompanied their lawsuit, Sassi and Benchallali say that Miller “authorized a systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom . . . [and] the basic rights of any detainee.”

According to the lawyers for Sassi and Benchallali, the acts performed “constitute[d] torture and violate, at a minimum, the Geneva Conventions prohibition on coercive interrogations.”  As such, Miller “bears individual criminal responsibility for the war crimes and acts of torture inflicted on detainees in US custody.”

Sassi and Benchallali, who were detained from 2001 to 2004 likely suffered from the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that the Bush administration had approved.  Such techniques included “placing detainees in stress positions, stripping them, isolating them for extended periods of time, and exposing them to extreme heat and cold.”  Miller allegedly continued to use these techniques even after then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld withdrew permission to use those techniques.

The United States has not responded to this subpoena.  Additionally, in January 2012, Sophie Clement, the investigating magistrate, requested access to relevant documents and for permission to interview those who had contact with Sassi and Benchellali—that request has yet to solicit a US response.

Katherine Gallagher, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “that high-level US officials alleged to bear responsibil[ity] for torture continue to enjoy impunity domestically is a stain on the US system of justice.”  She also praised France as a “venue that is willing to investigate torture and assist in providing some measure of justice to the torture survivors.”

Reports of torture at Guantanamo Bay were first brought to the international community’s attention when the International Committee of the Red Cross carried out an investigation, that including interviewing over five hundred individuals.  Their report voiced concern over the lack of a legal system for the inmates and the excessive use of isolation and steel cages and ultimately concluded that the prison had “too much control over the basic needs of detainees.”


For further information, please see:

FIDH – Former Guantánamo Detainees Urge French Judge to Subpoena Former Guantánamo Commander for Role in Detainee Torture – 26/2/14

Global Post – Ex-Guantanamo Detainees Ask French Judge To Probe Torture – 26/2/14

Huffington Post – French Judge Asked To Continue Investigation – 26/2/14

Russian Times – Former Gitmo Inmates Urge French Judge To Probe Systematic Torture – 27/2/14

Chinese Police Rescue 382 Babies from Child Trafficking Ring

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China–China has put an end to at least four child-trafficking rings and arrested more than a thousand people.  The culprits were apprehended for using websites and instant messaging groups to trade babies, Chinese authorities said Friday.

Chinese police have rescued 382 babies and arrested over 1,000 individuals in an online sting that has shutdown a massive human trafficking ring. (Photo Courtesy of AFP).

On February 19, police from 27 provinces across China rescued 382 babies and arrested 1,094 people suspected of buying and selling infants online, China’s Ministry of Public Security said in an online statement posted to its website earlier this week.

The sting was part of a six-month operation launched after police in Beijing and Jiangsu in eastern China received multiple reports of a suspicious website promoting “private” adoptions. Further investigations uncovered a virtual black market — involving four websites, online forums and some 30 groups on a popular Chinese messaging platform — that connected traffickers with potential buyers, and functioned as the gruesome equivalent of stock exchange.

The ministry said that at least a handful of the people arrested confessed to using the trafficking sites.

According to local media reports, 27 suspects were arrested in the country’s southern Sichuan province.  Thirteen babies were also rescued in the area. Another 43 suspects were arrested and eleven babies rescued in Anhui province, in eastern China.

A woman arrested by police in Leshan, Sichuan admitted to buying two baby girls from Wuhan and Chengdu, in August 2013 and January 2014, respectively, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Another couple in their mid-30’s told CCTV they used a Chinese website to buy a baby from an expectant teenage couple in Chengdu. They paid 20,000 Yuan (US$3,250) for the child.

Reports have yet to indicate where the other arrests took place.

Child trafficking has become a major issue for the Chinese government, as traffickers seek to profit off a mounting demand for healthy babies from potential adoptive parents both in China and beyond.

Last month, a Chinese doctor received a suspended death sentence for selling babies to a trafficking ring. The woman, an obstetrician at a hospital in Shaanxi province in central China, sold seven babies in six separate transactions.  She prompted the exchanges after persuading her patients that their newborns were sick and should be given up, according to statements posted on the local court’s official microblog account.

The ministry said its investigation into the online baby-trading networks is still ongoing. It did not indicate whether charges have been brought against any of the suspects, or if the trafficking extended beyond China.

For more information, please see:

CNN–Chinese police save hundred of babies from online trading racket–28 February 2014

Times of India–Chinese police crush online trafficking, rescue 382 babies–28 February 2014

US News and World Report–Chinese Babies Saved From Human Trafficking Ring–28 February 2014

Global Times–Police save 382 babies in trafficking crackdown–28 February 2014

Egypt’ Cabinet Resigns, Setting the Stage for Sissi Presidency

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – Just three years after the Arab Spring took hold in Egypt, bringing thousands of young people out into the streets to call for democratization and an end President Mubarak’s military regime, a bloody regime characterized by fear and violence, Egypt appears to be moving closer to a new presidency; hand-picked by the state’s military.

Egypt’s interim prime minister announced the resignation of his cabinet on Monday, a an action that could set the stage for the nation’s military chief Abdel Fatah el-Sissi to run for president. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

Egypt’s Prime minister, Hazem al-Beblawy, announced the early resignation of the interim cabinet on Monday. Al-Beblawy was appointed to serve as Egypt’s interim head of government until the nation could elect a new president, however following weeks of criticism his government resigned on Monday. Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour reportedly requested that outgoing Prime Minister Hazem al Beblawy – to run the government’s affairs until a new prime minister can be named.

In a speech, al-Beblawy called on the Egyptian people to take greater personal responsibility in solving the nation’s economic and political problems. “It is time we all sacrificed for the good of the country. Rather than asking what Egypt has given us, we should instead be asking what we have done for Egypt,” Beblawy was quoted as saying in state-run media. He added that while in office his government has “made every effort to get Egypt out of the narrow tunnel in terms of security, economic pressures and political confusion.”

The sudden resignation of the interim government paves the way for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fatah el-Sissi to announce his candidacy for the presidency.

Sissi, was a member of the interim candidate, serving as Defence Minister. The government resignation was seen as necessary because he would first have to leave his office in order to run for the Presidency.

According to one Egyptian official, this action was sees as a necessary move ahead of Sissi’s announcement that he will seek the Presidency. The official also said that the entire cabinet resigned in one move in order to create an image of unity and make it seem that Sissi was not acting alone.

The presidential elections will be the first held since the overthrow of Egypt’s first democracy elected President Mohamed Morsi, a move may considered the beginning of a pendulum swing back to the old politics of the Mubarak regime, sparked the bloodiest rise in modern Egyptian history. Egyptian security forces killed hundreds and arrested thousands of Islamists and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood has accused Sissi of planning a coup to remove the democratically elected Morsi regime from power in order to restore a military-centric doctoral government similar to that which existed under President Mubarak.

For more information please see:

Al Arabiya – Egypt’s Govt Resigns, Sparking Controversy – 24 February 2014

The Guardian – Egypt’s Prime Minister and Cabinet Resign – 24 February 2014

The Washington Post – Egyptian Cabinet Resigns, Paving Way for Military Chief To Run For President – 24 February 2014

The Washington Post – Egypt’s Cabinet Resigns, Sets Stage for Presidency – 24 February 2014