Spanish Journalists Arrive Home After Being Kidnapped in Syria Back In September

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain – Two Spanish journalists that were detained for over six months in Syria finally arrived back in Spain on Sunday.

Espinosa reunited with his son. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

El Mundo staff correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were both reunited with friends and family on the tarmac of the of the Torrejon de Ardoz military airport in Madrid.

The two journalists had were kidnapped back in September at the Tal Abyad checkpoint in the Syrian province of Raqqa. They were close to the Turkish border, and had been prepared to leave Syria after covering the situation for two weeks. The kidnappers were thought to be members of a group linked to al Qaeda and Syria and had not revealed their demands to free the two journalists.

“We want to thank everyone who has worried about us and who has made it possible for us to return home, and as you can see, we are perfectly well,” Espinosa stated at the airport on Sunday.

The two men later went to the El Mundo newsroom where they were greeted with ovation and tears of joy. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry for what we have made you go through,” Espinosa stated to those gathered in the newsroom.

El Mundo had reported early Sunday that the two men had been freed in Syria, but it did not delve into any details of their release.

Espinosa, 49, and Garcia, 42, have both traveled to Syria many times, often together. Garcia had been traveling with Espinosa even though he was not on assignment for El Mundo. Espinosa was previously kidnapped while covering the conflict in Sierra Leone, and Garcia was kidnapped in 2012 in Syria for nearly two weeks. In 2012, Espinosa was in a make-shift press center in Baba Amr in the province of Homs, where correspondent Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times of London and French photographer Remi Ochlik were both killed.

The most recent kidnappers of the two stated that they wanted to make sure that the two men were not spies. Espinosa and Garcia had been traveling with four fighters from the Free Syrian Army, who were also kidnapped, but they were released twelve days later.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Spanish Journalists Home After Syria Ordeal – 30 March 2014

BBC News – Syria Crisis: Freed Spanish Journalists Back in Spain – 30 March 2014

CNN – Report: 2 Spanish Journalists Kidnapped in Syria Arrive Home – 30 March 2014

Fox News – 2 Spanish Journalists Freed From Captivity in Syria – 30 March 2014

Egypt Sentences Two Morsi Supporters to Death

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt-Two supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi have been sentenced to death for their actions during a protest after Morsi was ousted.  The two supporters threw two youth off the roof of a building during the violent protests.

One of the youths being pushed off the wall during a Muslim Brotherhood supported protest (photo courtesy of Ahram Online)

The traumatic event occurred on July 5 of last year, two days after Morsi was ousted.  Witnesses claimed it to be one of the most dramatic acts of violence on a day where sixteen other people were killed in Alexandria.

Egypt’s state news agency reported that a court in Alexandria found the two men guilty of murdering a child and a young man during the mass protests.  Judge Sayed Abdel-Latif stated he would issue the verdict against another sixty defendants charged with violence on that day in another two months.   Why the ruling was split, is unclear.

The boy who was killed was nine-year-old Hamada Badr.  Witnesses to the incident, including an Associated Press journalist, reported that the boy was stabbed and then thrown off the roof.

“But I want all the Brotherhood leadership tried and sentenced to death,” said Badr Hassouna, the boy’s father who said the verdict was partial vindication.

The other victim was a man in his early twenties who was hurled to his death and Morsi supporters proceeded to beat his lifeless body.

That same day, another twelve people were killed elsewhere in Egypt as tens of thousands of infuriated Morsi supporters took to the street in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Since then, violence has continued.

Last week, 529 Islamists were sentenced to death for killing a policeman in Minya, a province south of Cairo.  Morsi and most of the Brotherhood leadership are detained and awaiting trial from charges ranging from murder to incitement of violence to conspiring with foreign destabilization groups.

Almost no official has been held accountable for the killing of protesters.  Eight months after Morsi’s ouster, his supporters still protest, sparking clashes in the streets with security forces and political opponents.

Last Friday saw the latest act of violence where five people were killed, including a young female journalist who was shot in the head.  Hisham Abdel Hamid, a spokesman for CBC-TV, reported that four others were shot in the head and the chest.

Of the five people killed, one was a Christian woman who was pulled out of her car when protesters spotted a cross inside.  She was then shot dead.

For more information, please see the following: 

Ahram-Two Islamists sentenced to death for throwing children off roof last July-30 March 2014

Al Jazeera-Egypt sentences Morsi supporters to death-30 March 2014

Huffington Post-Egypt Court Sentences 2 Morsi Supporters To Death-30 March 2014

NBC News-Egyptian Court Sentences Two Morsi Supporters to Death-30 March 2014

Nine Nuclear Commanders Fired in Cheating Scandal

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – Nine Air Force commanders were fired Thursday after being implicated in scandal involving cheating on nuclear proficiency tests.  Air Force leadership additionally will discipline dozens of junior officers posted at Malmstrom Air Force Base, a nuclear missile base in Montana.

Col. Robert Stanley, who was led Malmstrom’s 341st Missile Wing, reportedly resigned in light of the cheating scandal. (photo courtesy of BBC News)

Though not directly involved in the cheating scandal, the nine commanders held leadership positions at Malmstrom.  Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the nine “failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force.”  Those firings were in addition to Col. Stanley, who resigned from his post Thursday.

“Leadership’s focus on perfection led commanders to micromanage their people,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command.  Wilson added “Leaders lost sight of the fact that execution in the field is more important than what happens in the classroom.”

Officers at Malmstrom were under pressure to achieve 100% proficiency on regular tests when only 90% was required, perhaps precipitating the cheating scandal.

James indicated Thursday that 100 junior officers were implicated in the cheating scandal, either for participating or overlooking the cheating. Nine of those officers were cleared of charges while the remainder received punishments ranging from letters of counseling to courts-martial. 30-40 of those officers are expected to be retrained and returned to duty.

Disciplinary measures are one of a variety of changes expected to affect the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile programs, according to both James and Wilson.  Other issues to be addressed are morale and the micromanagement of lower-level officers.  James, while optimistic about the changes, cautioned that progress will likely be slow.

“The issues that we have before us today are tough, and they didn’t come overnight . . . While we have progress in certain areas in recent years, there is more work to be done,” James said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also expressed concern about the state of morale and discipline among nuclear officers.  Hagel instituted a review of nuclear forces to look into the impact of these issues.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Nine fired in US nuclear force cheating scandal – 27 March 2014

CNN – 9 Air Force commanders fired from jobs over nuclear missile test cheating – 27 March 2014

Fox News – Commanders fired in nuclear missile exam cheating scandal – 27 March 2014

Russia Today – Nine nuclear base commanders fired from US Air Force over cheating scandal 27 March 2014

The Washington Post – Nuke test cheating linked to flawed leadership – 27 March 2014

Same-Sex Marriages Begin in Britain

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain recognized same-sex marriages at midnight on 29 March 2014, a historic change that many couples did not wait until dawn to celebrate.

The first same-sex marriage ceremonies took place as early as 12:01 a.m. on 29 March 2014. (Photo courtesy of Irish Times)

Around the 1980s, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government passed a law that banned schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality or depicting it as “a pretended family relationship.”

In 2003, Britain repealed that law without the large street protests against same-sex marriage that appeared in France. By 2005, British law provided a civil partnership that provided same-sex couples all legal protections and rights afforded heterosexual married partners, except for the label of marriage.

And in July 2013, Parliament legalized same-sex marriage by a wide margin, with the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated that no two people should be denied the right to marriage based on their sexuality. Polls demonstrated that two-thirds of Britons—especially young adult Britons—supported same-sex unions. However, BBC research suggested that a quarter of the women and half of the men surveyed would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding.

At midnight on 29 March 2014, Britain’s new same-sex marriage law came into effect. Couples began celebrating Britain’s first same-sex marriages within minutes. One marriage, that of Londoners Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway, included approximately one hundred guests at a town hall in Camden, and concluded at 12:10 a.m. Camden Mayor Jonathan Simpson officiated the ceremony. Adl-Tabatabai and Treadway emerged to loud applause, as well as Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe.”

“It’s amazing and surreal,” Adl-Tabatabai said. “It did feel like a historic moment.”

“For the first time, the couples getting married won’t just include men and women – but men and men, and women and women,” Cameron said in a statement. “When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.”

“What has amazed me is how much of Britain, how quickly, has moved toward backing us on this,” said columnist and former Conservative lawmaker Matthew Parris.

Britain exempted religious groups from conducting same-sex weddings, unless a group chose to opt in. While Quakers and Liberal Judaism have opted to conduct same-sex weddings, the Church of England, the country’s biggest faith, does not conduct same-sex weddings.

“These weddings will send a powerful signal to every young person growing up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual – you can be who you are and love who you love, regardless of your sexual orientation,” said Ruth Hunt, acting Chief Executive for leading gay rights charity Stonewall.

Scottish law will begin recognizing same-sex marriages in October 2014.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera – UK Holds First Gay Marriage Ceremonies – March 29, 2014

BBC News – Swansea and Caerphilly Couples among First in UK to Have Same-Sex Weddings – March 29, 2014

Independent – Gay marriage: ‘When People’s Love Is Divided by Law, It Is the Law That Needs to Change,’ Says David Cameron as First Same-Sex Couples Tie Knot – March 29, 2014

Irish Times – First Gay Couples Marry in UK at Stroke of Midnight – March 29, 2014

TIMES – First Couples Wed as Gay Marriage Becomes Legal in UK – March 29, 2014

Pakistani Christian Receives Death Penalty for Blasphemy

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.

Christian families had already fled when the rioters struck. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Sawan Masih, a government sanitation worker, was given the death penalty after the court listened to testimony about how he had allegedly insulted the Prophet Mohamed. The 35-year-old Mr. Masih, who has two children, has pleaded not guilty and will appeal to a higher court.

Mr. Masih was part of an altercation between him and two other men in Lahore’s Joseph colony, home to many Christian families, when he was accused of blasphemy.

Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan, where 97% of the population is Muslim.

The police arrested the government worker as word of what had happened spread, a mob descended on Joseph Colony and set fire to scores of homes and two churches. “Sever the head of the blasphemer,” the crowd is said to have chanted.

Several recent cases have prompted international concern about the application of blasphemy laws. However, because of a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, it is unlikely that Mr. Masih will face the gallows any time soon.

Since the 1990’s, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed. Campaigners say very often the accusation of blasphemy is used to settle personal grievances and squabbles. Once an accusation is made, it is almost impossible for the authorities to ignore it.

While most of those convicted have been sentenced to death by lower courts, many sentences have been overturned due to lack of evidence. Sawan Masih now has 30 days to appeal.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Sawan Masih: Pakistani Christian gets death penalty for blasphemy – 28 March 2014

The Independent – Pakistani man sentenced to death for blasphemy over ‘Prophet Mohamed insult’ – 28 March 2014

The Telegraph – Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan – 28 March 2014

The Huffington Post – Pakistani Christian Sawan Masih Sentenced To Death For Blasphemy Against Prophet Muhammad – 28 March 2014

 

Kerry meets with Abbas to discuss Middle East Peace Talks

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has met the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to salvage foundering peace talks that were dealt a new blow when Arab leaders said they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry and Abbas during the peace discussions (photo courtesy of Reuters)

On Wednesday, Abbas spoke to reporters and said he still was waiting to receive a formal framework proposal from Kerry. He said there have been no talks on extending negotiations beyond the April deadline, adding that the coming month would be “a very important period.”

Kerry and Abbas spoke for more than four hours over a working dinner in the Jordanian capital of Amman that U.S. officials said were “constructive.” No other details of the meeting were released.

Kerry flew from Rome to Amman to see Abbas as negotiations approached a critical April 30 deadline for a settlement. The Palestinians have threatened to walk away before then unless Israel releases a group of prisoners, as it agreed to, by Saturday.

Kerry planned further talks with Abbas and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming days.

Wednesday’s announcement by the Arab League, blaming Israel for a lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, put up another roadblock. The communique, issued at the end of a two-day summit, also rejected “the continuation of settlements, Judaisation of Jerusalem, and attacks in its Muslim and Christian shrines.”

In Amman, Kerry met first on Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II before the dinner with Abbas. Kerry planned his return to Rome on Thursday to join President Barack Obama at meetings with Pope Francis and Italian officials.

The League’s announcement that it would not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people rejected a key demand of Netanyahu. The Palestinians say such recognition would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel’s Arab minority.

Kerry will then join Obama in Saudi Arabia on Friday and Saturday.

For more information, please see the following: 

Al Jazeera-Kerry meets Abbas as peace process founders-27 March 2014

Reuters-Kerry interrupts Rome visit to salvage Mideast peace talks-27 March 2014

U.S. News-Secretary of State Kerry meets Palestinian leader Abbas in bid to salvage peace process-27 March 2014

Washington Post-Kerry meets Abbas as peace process founders-27 March 2014

 

Japan Releases Death Row Inmate after 48 Years, Evidence Found to be Fabricated

By Brian Lanciault

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan–After forty-eight years of professed innocence and incarceration, thirty of which were in solitary confinement, Iwao Hakamada was freed Thursday. On June 10, 1966 when two children and their parents were stabbed to death and their home set ablaze, Hakamada, the longest-serving death row inmate in the world, was arrested, thrown in jail and ultimately sentenced to death for it.

Iwao Hakamada, former Japanese featherweight champion, was held for 48 years on death row, and finally released on Thursday after a tribunal determined that evidence was fabricated. (Photo courtesy of Reuters).

Hakamada, a former professional boxer who is now 78, was released Thursday morning after a Japanese court concluded investigators had likely fabricated evidence during his 1968 trial, according to Associated Press reports. Hunch-backed and wearing a yellow button-down, he struggled into an awaiting car, surrounded by a crowd flashing cameras. The decision to free him comes a month after the exoneration and release of America’s longest-serving death row inmate, Glenn Ford.

Blood on a shirt prosecutors alleged Hakamada wore during the family’s murder turned out not to contain his DNA. The court ordered a retrial, calling Hakamada’s original verdict an injustice. Prosecutors reported that they will seek appeal.

The order marks only the sixth time in Japan’s postwar history that a death row inmate has been granted retrial. The decision is expected to ignite more criticism of a capital justice system that has come under attack before. Japan and the United States are the only two Group of Seven nations to maintain the death penalty, and it holds high popularity in Japan.

Critics report significant problems with the system. Death row inmates, who are hanged, don’t know the date of their execution until the morning of the event. “For decades,” Reuters reports, “Japan did not even officially announce that capital sentences had been carried out.” Perhaps most troubling of all, police obtain confessions in closed-door interrogations, opening the door for false or fabricated confessions.

This is exactly what Hakamada claims happened to him.

In 1966 Hakamada had taken a job in the town of Shimizu situated along Japan’s southern coast at a food-processing factory. On June 30 of that year, the factory’s manager and his wife and two children were found stabbed to death. Someone had also stolen 200,000 yen — $2,000 –from their house, which had been razed.

Two months later in August, Hakamada was arrested, charged with murder, robbery and arson. While in custody, he said he did it. He later recanted the confession, but it was too late. On September 11, 1968, a three-judge panel sentenced him to death.

The case wasn’t nearly as solid as it appeared. The sentencing haunted one of the judges. “I have thought about his trial for many years,” Judge Norimichi Kumamoto told reporters in 2007. ”The guilty verdict was based solely on Hakamada confessing to the killings. But he confessed after being confined and tortured in a small room for 20 days. … The police use shocking, barbaric means to extract confessions and those who make them do so only out of despair.”

“I have felt sadness and disappointment over this,” Kumamoto continued.

Despite that admission, Hakamada languished on death row for seven more years, always unsure if every day was to be his last. He was eventually admitted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the globe’s longest-serving death row inmate.

If previous cases offer guidance, Hakamada’s chances at retrial are good. Four of the other five death row inmates who were tried a second time were acquitted. The other case is pending.

For more information, please see:

The Telegraph– World “longest serving” death row prisoner released–27 March 2014

Washington Post– Japan frees world’s longest-serving death row inmate after more than 45 years— 27 March 2014

Japan Times– Hakamada released after 48 years— 27 March 2014

ABC News– Japan Frees World’s Longest-Held Death Row Inmates— 27 March 2014

Houston Police Arrest Five Men for Kidnapping 115 Immigrants

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

HOUSTON, United States – Police arrested five men on Tuesday, charging them with kidnapping 115 people at gunpoint and holding them in a small Houston area home.  The 115 people are suspected illegal immigrant, who were told by their captors that they must pay a ransom in order to continue their entry into the United States.  Sixteen of the 115 captors were minors.

Police found ninety-nine men and sixteen women in a 1300 square foot Houston area home last week. (photo courtesy of BBC News)

The five men – identified as Jose Aviles-Villa, Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, Antonio Barruquet-Hildiberta, Jose Cesmas-Borja and Eugenio Sesmas-Borja – appeared before a federal judge Tuesday on hostage taking, weapons, and conspiracy charges.  The judge denied bail to all five suspects, believing them to be a flight risk for trial.

Conviction for the hostage taking charges could result in a 10 year sentence with a potential for 20 years for the conspiracy charges, plus fines.

A criminal complaint drafted by agents from the Department of Homeland Security claimed that agents found the 115 hostages in the Houston area home last week stripped of their shoes and most of their cloths.  The complaint said they were threatened with violence if they did not comply and there were instances of some being kicked and beaten and females being groped.

The captives told authorities that they were held under armed guard, the doors were locked with deadbolts, and the windows were covered with plywood to prevent their escape.  Authorities recovered a shotgun, rifle, stun gun, ammunition, and wooden paddle from the home.

Police found the 115 captives after a Chicago resident contacted Houston police about the possible abduction of her daughter.  The criminal complaint alleges that she paid $15,000 for the return of her daughter and two grandchildren.  After she paid the original ransom, the complaint claims the captors demanded an additional $13,000.

Houston police traced the phone call from the captors and began surveillance on the house, ultimately finding the captives.  Stash houses of more than one hundred captives are not rare in South Texas, but this was the largest in the city in several years.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – 5 Charged in Houston Human Smuggling Operation – 25 March 2014

BBC News – Five charged with holding 115 hostages in ‘stash’ house – 25 March 2014

The Guardian – Five men charged with hostage-taking after 115 people found in Texas house – 25 March 2014

Star Tribune – 5 charged in Houston human smuggling operation after more than 100 immigrants rescued – 25 March 2014

USA Today – Police find more than 100 immigrants in stash house – 20 March 2014

Turkish Court Orders Termination of Twitter Ban

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish court ordered the country’s Telecommunications Authority to restore access to Twitter throughout the country through a court-issued injunction.

Demonstrators against the Twitter ban in Ankara. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Five days ago, the Telecommunications Authority blocked access to Twitter throughout the entire country. The social network had been a large source of links that provided recordings implicating government corruption. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “rip out the roots” of the social network, and accordingly ordered the Telecommunications Authority to block the website. The Telecommunications Authority had accused Twitter of not following Turkish court orders to remove certain content from the website.

Since the enactment of the Twitter-ban, lawyers, opposition parties, and journalists both inside and outside the country had advocated for the abolishment of the ban. Pro-Twitter advocates contended that the ban was unconstitutional. The ban drew a lot of international criticism and many Turkish Twitter users found ways to access Twitter during the ban. The Turkish President Abdullah Gul tweeted his opposition to the blockage after it was enacted.

The administrative court in Ankara based its decision on Wednesday on freedom of expression and the right to communicate freely, both of which are cited in the country’s Constitution, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc stated that the Telecommunications Authority would obey Wednesday’s court decision after it received official notice from the administrative court, but that it was reserving the right to appeal the decision. An anonymous government source stated that the Authority has thirty days to implement the court’s decision.

This upcoming Sunday, Turkey will be holding elections which are being regarded as a referendum on Prime Minister Erdogan’s time in office. During a recent election rally in northern Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan accused opposition parties and media who criticized the Twitter ban of being the “advocate of companies who don’t recognize Turkey’s laws and treat Turkey as a Third World country.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag stated that the Telecommunications Authority had been merely implementing court orders: “Is it against the Constitution to implement court orders?”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Turkish Court Orders Halt to Twitter Ban – 26 March 2014

Al Jazeera – Turkish Court Orders Halt to Twitter Ban – 26 March 2014

BBC News – Court in Turkey Suspends Ban on Twitter – 26 March 2014

Reuters – Turkish Court Upholds Appeal Against Twitter Blockage-Media – 26 March 2014

Kenya Orders Somali Refugees Back to Camps after Attack

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

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya has ordered all urban-based Somali refugees to move into designated camps in a bid to end attacks by militant Islamists.

South-Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma camp (photo courtesy of AFP)

 

The order has been issued because of “emergency security challenges” facing Kenya.

A refugee group condemned the decision as “illegal.”

Kenyans were asked to report any refugees or illegal immigrants outside the overcrowded camps.

“Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement.

Until now, refugees who could support themselves or were in need of specialized education or medical care had been allowed to live in urban areas.

Lenku said “all refugees residing outside the designated refugee camps of Kakuma and Dadaab are hereby directed to return to their respective camps with immediate effect.”

Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab group has carried out a flood of attacks in Kenya in recent years.

It was behind the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September, killing 67 people.

On Sunday, at least six people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a church near the coastal city of Mombasa.

This attack came amid heightened warnings of a threat of Islamist violence in Kenya despite boosted security in major cities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

This attack also came days after police arrested two men with a vehicle stashed full of large quantities of powerful explosives prepared in pipe bombs, which experts said would have been strong enough to bring down a major building.

Kenya has repeatedly claimed that refugees crossing over from Somalia are threatening security.

Mr. Ole Lenku said refugee registration centers in Kenya’s main cities would be closed.

All refugees living in cities and towns should report to Dadaab and Kakuma camps.

Dadaab, where people often live in appalling conditions, is home to more than 400,000 mainly Somali refugees.

Kakuma, a vast desert settlement, is home to more than 125,000 refugees from across the region, including Somalia.

“Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Mr Ole Lenku added in a statement.

BBC News says this decision will affect hundreds of thousands Somalis, many of whom who live and work in the cities. This could also worsen overcrowding at the camps.

“Kenya has signed international conventions that allow freedom of movement for refugees, and Tuesday’s decision flies in the face of those assurances,” the US-based Refugee International group said in a statement.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Kenya restricts Somali refugees to camps – 26 March 2014
The East African – Kenya orders all refugees into designated camps – 26 March 2014
Aljazeera – Kenya orders all refugees back into camps – 26 March 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald – Kenya crackdown on refugees after attacks – 26 March 2014
Reuters – Kenya orders Somali refugees back to camps after attacks – 26 March 2014

Obama Proposal Ends NSA Bulk Collections Of Phone Records

By Brandon R. Cottrell 
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – President Barack Obama has proposed changes to the National Security Agency (“NSA”), which would end its ability to collect telephone records in bulk in an attempt to eliminate concerns regarding bulk data collection.

President Obama’s proposal would prohibit the NSA from collecting phone records, while allowing access to records kept by telecommunication companies (Photo Courtesy Reuters).

The plan, according to a senior administration official, would ensure that the government will no longer be able to collect or hold metadata—such data includes the numbers and time of phone calls but not the content of the conversation.  His plan would, however, attempt to retain “as many [other] capabilities of the program as possible.”

The plan would also still ensure “that the government has access to the information it needs to meet the national security needs.”  Though the NSA would not being storing the information, it would have access to the records that telecommunications companies will keep.  In order to obtain access to those records, the NSA would need to obtain a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Marc Rotenberg, an executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, thinks that the proposal is a “sensible outcome, given that the 215 program likely exceeded current legal authority and has not proved to be effective.”  The 215 program that Rotenberg refers to is a program that was put in place by the Bush administration in 2006, which was interpreted to mean that the NSA could systematically collect domestic calling records in bulk.

Jameel Jaffer, of the American Civil Liberties Union, agrees with Rotenburg and added, “the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.”  He points to the government’s inability to point to a thwarted terrorist attack to bolster his statement.

A competing proposal by the House Intelligence Committee, however, though aimed at ending the bulk collection of data, would allow the NSA to search the data collected by the telecommunications companies so long as they had a reasonable articulable suspicion; it would not require approval of a judge.

According to a White House statement released last week, Obama maintained that his administration is committed “to taking steps that can give people greater confidence that their rights are being protected while preserving important tools that keep us safe.”  In addition, the Obama administration will also consider ending or modifying other bulk collection programs.

 

For further information, please see:

CNN – Obama, Congress, Working on Changes to NSA – 25/3/14

The Guardian – House’s NSA Bill Could Allow More Spying – 25/3/14

NY Times – Obama to Call for End to NSA’s Bulk Data Collection – 24/3/14

Reuters – Obama to Propose Ending NSA Bulk Collection of Phone Records – 25/3/14