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


China Charges Prominent Scholar with “Separatism”

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China–Security officials in China’s far western borderlands have formally arrested a scholar and hero of the country’s ethnic Uighurs on charges of provoking separatism.

Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur scholar, was detained for over a month and is now facing charges of propagating separatism. (Photo Courtesy of New York Times).

Authorities have confirmed that the scholar, Ilham Tohti, was being held in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which is about 2,000 miles from Mr. Tohti’s home in Beijing.

The detention has been anticipated for some time, but the formal arrest of Mr. Tohti underscores the government’s determination to silence one of the few moderate voices for China’s beleaguered Uighurs, a predominantly Sunni Muslim people who speak a Turkic language.

An economics professor in Beijing, Mr. Tohti, 44, was an outspoken but careful critic of Chinese policies in Xinjian.  The energy-rich region that adjoins several Central Asian nations is a bit of a geopolitical minefield.  Tensions between Uighurs and Chinese security forces have turned increasingly more volatile, with almost weekly clashes that in recent months have taken more than 100 lives.

Security officials said Mr. Tohti had contributed to increasing such tensions through his classroom lectures and writings, a charge rejected by his supporters.

“The accusations are baseless,” said his lawyer, Li Fangping.

Mr. Tohti’s wife, Guzaili Nu’er, said her husband’s life was an open book, largely because his every word — like his movements — was closely monitored by the authorities.  “He is a sensible, educated man who just studied human rights, culture and religion in Xinjiang,” she said. “A separatist? Now that’s beyond the pale.”

Speaking from Urumqi, Mr. Li said he had been unable to see Mr. Tohti, who has been held in isolation since the police raided his Beijing apartment six weeks ago.  Security officials in Xinjiang on Wednesday did not respond to inquiries from reporters.

Even in China’s highly politicized judicial system, where political offenders almost never prevail in court, charges of separatism are notoriously and especially difficult to defend, experts say.

Under Chinese law, the mere highlighting of ethnic problems in places like Xinjiang and Tibet can be deemed as threats to national unity because the state refuses to acknowledge that such frictions exist.

Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said Mr. Tohti was widely known for his advocacy of Uighur rights and autonomy — guarantees enshrined in the Chinese Constitution — but never advocated independence for China’s 10 million Uighurs.

“In the eyes of the authorities, if you are flagging legitimate problems with policies in the region, you are essentially raising the dissatisfaction level of the people who are subjected to these policies,” Mr. Bequelin said. “It’s not a legal test but a political test. There is no defense.”

The penalties range from 10 years to death.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera–China charges Uighur academic with separatism–25 February 2014

New York Times–China Charges Scholar With Fomenting Separatism–26 February 2014

UNPO–East Turkestan: Tensions Over Arbitrary Detention of Ilham Tohti–26 February 2014

Voice of America–Uighur Group Slams China’s Charges Against Intellectuals–26 Feburary 2014

Ugandan Women Protest Against Miniskirt Ban

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

KAMPALA, Uganda – Police in Uganda have prevented women from marching through the streets in the capital of Kampala, in protest of new laws banning women from wearing miniskirts.

New laws make it illegal for women to expose thighs, breasts, and buttocks (photo courtesy of BBC)

Two hundred women, upset with the ban, dressed in short skirts and gathered outside the national theatre to voice their anger.

There have been several harassments and assaults on women in the past week who were wearing short skirts.

This ban follows the signing of an anti-pornography bill, which bans “indecent” dressing.

Further, this week the President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill toughening penalties for gay people in the country.

This ban on miniskirts is known as “the miniskirt law,” which was raised with the anti-pornography legislation and after some women have been publicly undressed for wearing miniskirts.

The police have spoken out and condemned those who engage in this so-called “mob undressing.”

The women who stood outside the theatre in Kampala held up signs. One sign read: “my body my business,” and another read: “thou shalt not touch my miniskirt.”

BBC’s Patience Akumu told BBC that “I was wearing a dress I considered official. Policeman after policeman – low-ranking, high-ranking – the each told me, ‘You cannot enter this place in that miniskirt.’”

Then, Akumu stated, some officers manhandled her and confiscated her phone when she took pictures of them.

The Executive Director of the Uganda Women’s Network, Rita Achiro, said her organization may take legal action as the constitution guarantees equal rights for both sexes. Further, the organization would continue to urge politicians to review the law.

The anti-pornography act, or “the miniskirt law,” does not specifically ban miniskirts; however, it does ban women from exposing their thighs, breasts, and buttocks and from dressing indecently in a manner to “sexually excite.”

Achiro states that this law has emboldened men to abuse women.

“Now people are more free to do it openly. They are going to judge women according to what they see as indecent because there are no parameters defined by law,” Achiro said.

This has put women in risk in this country.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Uganda miniskirt ban: Police stop protest march – 26 February 2014
Local UK News – Uganda police stop miniskirt march – 26 February 2014
allvoices – Uganda police stop miniskirt march – 26 February 2014
Kenya Gounna –
Uganda police stop miniskirt march – 26 February 2014


Thailand Political Crisis Turns Fatal

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – Gunmen in a pickup truck opened fire on an anti-government protest in Thailand’s east, killing an 8-year-old girl, and wounding dozens, as violence in the country’s three-month-old political crisis spread outside the capital of Bangkok, officials said Sunday.

A protester injured in an anti-government rally arrives for treatment at a hospital in Trat Province, 300 kilometers east of Bangkok, on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

Hours later, an explosion killed two people and wounded more than 20 others near an anti-government protest in the capital of Bangkok. A boy aged 12 and a 40-year-old woman died in the attack near the Central World shopping mall, officials said. A protest leader, Sathit Wongnongtoey, said Sunday’s blast in central Bangkok was caused by a grenade.

Both supporters and opponents of the protesters, as well as police, have been victims of the political violence. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra condemned the attacks, describing them as “terrorist acts for political gain”.

The attacks are the latest in a string of protest-related violence in Thailand over the past three months, in which at least 16 people have been killed and hundreds injured. The protesters want Yingluck to step down in order to make way for an appointed interim government to implement anti-corruption reforms, but she has refused.

Thailand has been divided by violent political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, was ousted by a military rebellion after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have since then taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle.

No group has yet taken claim to either attack. Jonathan Head, BBC’s reporter in Bangkok says it appears to be the start of retaliation by the armed wing of the so-called “red-shirt” movement that backs the governing Pheu Thai party.

Red-shirt leaders organized a mass gathering in north-eastern Thailand this past weekend to decide how they should fight back against the campaign to overthrow the government.

A spokesman for the protesters, Akanat Promphan, described the attacks as “a massacre of innocents” that was “planned and organized terror.”

“The authorities must quickly find those terrorists responsible. Yingluck must show responsibility. Otherwise, we can only assume the government and . . . Yingluck’s involvement in this atrocity,” he said.

Both sides in the ongoing political dispute have blamed the other for instigating violence.

For more information, please see:

The Japan News – Thai political crisis violence spreads beyond capital – 24 February 2014

BBC News – Thailand crisis: Deadly attacks on opposition rallies – 23 February 2013

The Japan Times – Two killed by grenade at Bangkok anti-government protest – 23 February 2014

BBC News – Thailand police and protesters clash fatally in Bangkok – 18 February 2014

Ukraine’s Ousted President Yanukovich is Wanted by Authorities for Mass Murder

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, is wanted by police for the “mass murder of peaceful citizens”, according to a warrant announced on Monday.

Ukrainian citizens mourn the victims of the violence that has recently occurred. (Photo courtesy of New York Times)

Arsen Avakov, the Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister, announced the issue of the arrest warrant. This comes two days after Yanukovich fled the capital city of Kiev on Saturday, after the country’s Parliament voted to oust him from the executive seat.

“A criminal case has been launched over the mass murder of peaceful civilians. Yanukovich and a number of other officials have been put on a wanted list,” Avakov announced via Facebook on Monday. According to the latest reports, Yanukovich has last been seen at a private home in Baclava, Crimea. However, conflicting reports have led to widespread confusion over Yanukovich’s current location.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to oust Yanukovich and temporarily transfer the duties of President to Oleksander Turchinov, who is the speaker of the assembly.

A conflict between an alliance with Russia and cooperation with the European Union has permeated the Ukrainian government for years. Turchinov stated on Sunday that the Ukraine was ready for discussions with Russia to attempt to improve relations, but made clear that Kiev’s European integration would remain a priority. Turchinov stated that Ukraine’s new administration was ready to bring Kiev-Moscow relations to a “new, equal and good-neighborly footing that recognizes and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice.” “Another priority … is the return to the path of European integration,” Turchinov stated in an address to the country.

Turchinov stated on Monday that the presidential election campaign would begin on Tuesday, February 25, when the election commission would start registering candidates.

The Ukranian Parliament also had voted to oust the country’s foreign minister and was told by the Ukraine’s acting prosecutor that an order had been given to detain the former incomes minister and the former prosecutor-general.

The country’s capital of Kiev was calm on Sunday, a mere one day after  protesters took control of the presidential administration building, and thousands of Ukrainians roamed the suddenly open grounds of the lavish compound just outside of Kiev, where Yanukovich was believed to live.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Yanukovich Wanted for “Mass Murder” in Kiev – 24 February 2014

BBC News – Ukraine Crisis: Russia Brands New Leaders “Mutineers” – 24 February 2014

Kyiv Post – Ousted Yanukovich Flees to Unknown Location as Acting Authorities Accuse Him of Mass Murder – 24 February 2014

New York Times – Acting Officials in Ukraine Seek Stability and Ousted Leader – 24 February 2014

Mexican Authorities Arrest Infamous Cartel Leader Joaquin Guzman

by Michael YoakumImpunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexican authorities arrested notorious drug king Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Saturday at a condominium in the resort town of Mazatlán. News spread quickly to Washington, where US Attorney’s office announced Sunday that they will seek extradition of Guzman.

Guzman was arrested in 2001 but escaped from a high security prison, evading capture for thirteen years. (photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Authorities apprehended Guzman in a raid just before dawn in Mazatlán, pinning him to a bed before he could reach a Kalashnikov rifle lying on the floor. The condominium where Guzman was captured has a reputation for being a hangout for drug traffickers.

News of Guzman’s capture has been celebrated in the US, where he is considered one of the most notorious drug traffickers, responsible for as much as 80% of the drug trade in Chicago.

Attorney General Eric Holder said of his capture, “the apprehension of Joaquin ‘Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, by Mexican authorities is a landmark achievement, and a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States.”

Holder added that he was pleased that US law enforcement was able to cooperate with Mexican authorities in capturing Guzman.

Pressure on Guzman’s gang, the Sinaloa cartel, has increased in recent months as Mexican authorities have captured or killed several lieutenants. Information gained during raids on those cartel members ultimately yielded information, namely cell phone data, that aided in capturing Guzman.

The Sinaloa cartel is considered one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the world, having a wide reach into Europe and Asia. The cartel is heavily involved in the stream of violence in Mexico over the drug trade that has killed tens of thousands.

Despite his infamy, Guzman has been featured on Forbes’ list of the 100 most powerful people with an estimated wealth of $1 billion.

In his hometown of Badiraguato, Guzman is honored in song that pays homage to his small stature but wide reaching power. The area, known for harboring some of the most notorious drug traffickers, fears and admires people like Guzman.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán: US to seek cartel leader’s extradition from Mexico – 23 February 2014

BBC News – Man and myth: Joaquin ‘Shorty’ Guzman – 22 February 2014

CNN – After years on run, Sinaloa cartel chief ‘El Chapo’ Guzman arrested – 22 February 2014

NBC News – Authorities Arrest Mexican Drug Kingpin Joaquin Guzman – 22 February 2014

The New York Times – El Chapo, Most-Wanted Drug Lord, Is Captured in Mexico – 22 February 2014

Venezuela Deaths Rise as Police and Opposition Activists Clash Again

By Ellis Cortez
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Police and opposition demonstrators have clashed at the end of a march that gathered tens of thousands of people in Caracas on February 22. Police fired tear gas and activists hurled stones in the Altamira district where several people were injured.

Demonstrators run from police firing tear gas and rubber bullets during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, February 22, 2014. REUTERS-Jorge Silva
Demonstrators run from police firing tear gas and rubber bullets during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on February 22, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters/Jorge Silva)

Since the protests began, 10 people have died, 137 have been injured and 104 arrested, according to government figures. Demonstrators are accusing troops and pro-Maduro militants of attacking peaceful demonstrators.

A female student and a young supermarket worker were the latest fatalities from Venezuela’s political unrest. Geraldin Moreno, a 23-year old student, died in a hospital on Saturday after being shot in the face with rubber bullets as security forces broke up a protest on February 19. Santiago Enrique Pedroza, a 29 year-old man was killed late on Friday when he rode his motorcycle into a cable strung across a main road in the eastern neighborhood of Horizonte.”He was on his way home, he couldn’t see the cable because of the darkness, and it slit his throat,” Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told state television.

Maduro reiterated that the events of the last two weeks are a coup-in-the-making backed by the United States and financed by Colombia’s ex-president Álvaro Uribe, whom Maduro accuses Leopoldo Lopez of working closely with.

Anti-government protesters have repeatedly blocked streets in the area with trash, which they sometimes set on fire. Police and National Guard troops have often used teargas to separate demonstrators.

According to locals in San Cristobal, the state-capital of Tachira, the internet remained down until Friday. In another effort to neutralize mounting tensions, the minister of energy, Rafael Ramirez, has banned fuel distribution to areas he considers “under-siege”.

Private and public TV stations in the country have given little coverage to the street protests, or even to the incarceration of Lopez, who now awaits trial in a military prison. Several members of a CNN team had their journalist accreditation revoked and left the country amid accusations of “contributing with their coverage to psychological warfare.”

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement condemning the systematic violation of personal freedom and the unlawful imprisonment of civilians.

On Friday, Maduro urged U.S. President Barack Obama to hold talks with his government and suggested the two nations restore ambassadors. “Accept the challenge and we will start a high-level dialogue and put the truth on the table,” Maduro said in a nationwide TV address.

The opposition is demanding that the president resign over rampant crime, high inflation, shortages of basic products, and what opposition members see as repression of political opponents.

The current wave of protests began on February 12. Three people were shot dead at the end of those marches in Caracas by unknown gunmen. Daily protests have been held in the capital for the past eleven days.

For more information please see:

Reuters Venezuela deaths rise as unrest claims student and biker 22 February 2014

BBC Venezuelan police and opposition activists clash in Caracas 22 February 2014

The Guardian – Venezuelans on streets again as protest leader awaits trial arrest – 22 February 2014

CNN Venezuela’s Maduro wants talks with Obama 21 February 2014

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is on Hold

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

KAMPALA, Uganda – President Yoweri Museveni is asking the U.S. to advise Uganda’s scientists about homosexuality. The Ugandan President is currently considering whether to sign the law, which would increase punishments.

Gay Rights Activists have strongly condemned the Bill (photo courtesy of AP)

Museveni wants to discover whether people are born gay.

Museveni’s change of heart, which he was going to sign the Bill, seems to be due to the money the UK and United States gives to Uganda.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda. The proposed legislation passed by parliament toughens the penalties, including imprisonment for certain acts.

Previously, Ugandan scientists had determined there was no gene for homosexuality.

“It was learned and could be unlearned,” Museveni said.

Shortly after Museveni announced he would sign the Bill, U.S. President Obama warned Museveni that enacting the bill would affect relations between the two nations. He described the proposal as an “affront and a danger to the gay community” in Uganda.

The hold will determine whether homosexuality could be triggered by genes and is not a “lifestyle choice.”

Homosexuality is also illegal in 37 African countries. Few Africans are openly gay because they fear imprisonment, violence, and loss of jobs.

Museveni made a statement on February 18 that he “want[s] . . . [the United States] to clarify whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be a homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.”

Museveni had originally refused to sign the Bill, saying it was wrong to punish people born “abnormal.”

Scientists, however, advised him that homosexuality was a behavioral choice. They told him that there was no gene for homosexuality but it was not an “abnormality” and it could be influenced by environmental factors.

The report said: “The practise needs regulation like any other human behaviour, especially to protect the vulnerable.”

The Bill was first introduced in 2009, with the death penalty as a sanction. This was scaled back to life in jail when the Parliament voted in December.

The Bill also proposed years in prison for anyone who counsels or reaches out to gays and lesbians, a provision that would ensnare rights groups and others providing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Uganda: Museveni ‘seeks US advice on homosexuality’ – 21 February 2014
The Huffington Post UK – Uganda’s Gay Laws Put On Hold As President Asks For Advice From Scientists – 23 February 2014
Ugandan President says he’s asked U.S. scientists for advice on homosexuality – 22 February 2014
Reuters –
Antigay law put on hold in Uganda – 21 February 2013

Ukraine Ushers Overwhelming Change, Opposition Victory as Parliament Ousts President

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – A historic chain of events found Ukrainian protesters in control of the capital Kyiv, opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko free from prison, and President Viktor Yanukovych defiantly claim to still wield power after Parliament voted to dismiss him.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko praised protestors following her freedom from prison. (Photo courtesy of TIMES World)

Since November 2013, Ukrainian protests escalated into a Cold War-style confrontation, as Russia attempted prevent EU and US efforts to strengthen relations with Ukraine.

On 22 February 2014, security forces abandoned President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kyiv. Tens of thousands of protestors who occupied Independence Square discovered nearly-abandoned government and presidential buildings.

Inside Yanukovych’s private estate, Ukrainians found luxuries ranging from a private zoo to a replica galleon floating on an artificial waterway.

“I am in shock,” a retired military servicewoman named Natalia Rudenko said as she inspected the president’s rare pheasant collection and a banquet hall built inside the galleon replica. “In a country with so much poverty, how can one person have so much?”

As Yanukovych gave a television interview from the pro-Russian eastern bastion city of Kharkiv, he denounced the “coup” against him and branded his political foes “bandits.”

In Yanukovych’s absence, Parliament stepped into the power vacuum , voted to oust President Yanukovych, and set new elections for 25 May 2014. Next, Parliament ordered Yanukovych’s pro-EU rival, Tymoshenko free from prison. United States officials applauded Tymoshenko’s release, and wished her “a speedy recovery as she seeks the appropriate medical treatment that she has long needed and sought.”

Tymoshenko appeared in a wheelchair to 50,000 protestors, saying, “You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine.”

Later, deputies named Tymoshenko ally Arsen Avakov as interior minister in place of Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who is blamed for ordering the police to open fire on unarmed protesters.

The army issued a statement that it “will in no way become involved in the political conflict.” Additionally, the police force declared itself in support of “the people” and “rapid change”.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future, and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard.”

“This is a political knockout for Yanukovych,” charismatic opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said in a statement. “Yanukovych is no longer president.”

In a firm voice, Yanukovych vowed to fight any attempt to oust him: “I am not leaving the country for anywhere. I do not intend to resign. I am the legitimately elected president.

However, government buildings stood without police protection as baton-armed protesters dressed in military fatigues wandered freely across his once-fortified compound.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused the opposition of “submitting itself to armed extremists and looters whose actions pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and constitutional order of Ukraine.”

Only time will tell how well the waters of this Ukrainian spring have cleansed a country following months of turmoil.

For further information, please see:

AFP – Protesters Hail Freed Tymoshenko But Ukraine Leader Defiant – February 22, 2014

Aljazeera – Freed Tymoshenko Addresses Ukraine Protesters – February 22, 2014

Euronews – Ukraine: New Parliamentary Speaker Elected – February 22, 2014

New York Times – Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called – February 22, 2014

TIME World – Freed Ukrainian Opposition Leader Yulia Tymoshenko Addresses Protestors – February 22, 2014

Australian Missionary Detained in North Korea

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONYANG, North Korea – John Short, an Australian missionary who has been working in Asia for 50 years, has been detained in Pyonyang after apparently disseminating Christian pamphlets at a tourist site.  The 75-year-old carried Korean-language pamphlets advocating Christianity into the East Asian nation, which were later discovered by security personnel.

John Short was detained on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Times)

Australia has no representation in North Korea, leaving diplomats scrambling to prevent a potentially lengthy detention in the secretive regime. A spokesman from the Seoul embassy said he was seeking more information about his case.

“We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well being of Mr. Short,” the spokesman said.

With no representation in the authoritative country, the Australian government is essentially powerless to help Short directly. Instead, it is left to rely on Swedish officials in the North Korean capital to check on Short’s well being.

“John is still in North Korea in detention and being questioned as to why he was carrying Korean-language Christian materials,” Karen Short said via telephone in Hong Kong, where she co-owns a Christian publishing firm with her husband.

“He wanted to go as a Christian but not do anything untoward or unwise, because it’s a very closed country, the world knows that. He’s not cavalier in any way, but he is a man of faith.”

She said it was her husband’s second trip to North Korea and that he knew it was not a tourist destination, but said he “cares about the people and wants to help.”

It is unclear what charges, if any, Short may face. However, last year North Korea sentenced American missionary Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labor after convicting him of trying to overthrow the state. Efforts from Washington to secure his release have proven unsuccessful.

Karen Short says that her husband is fit and healthy and has not yet suffered any physical harm.

Short is no stranger to testing circumstances. A former soldier in the Australian military, he arrived in Hong Kong in 1964 and worked at a refugee clinic during the turmoil of China’s Cultural Revolution. Even so, there is no disputing the tremendous peril he currently faces, including a possible 15-year prison sentence similar to Bae’s. “I pray for my husband to come back soon,” says Karen Short, “I miss him dearly.”

For more information, please see:

TIME – Concern, Little Sympathy, for Australian Missionary Detained in North Korea – 20 February 2014

The Australian – Visiting missionary arrested in North Korea – 20 February 2014

BBC News – North Korea detains Australian missionary – 19 February 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald – South Australian man detained in North Korea on suspicion of doing missionary work – 19 February 2014

abc NEWS – Family: Australian Missionary Held in North Korea – 19 February 2014