Venezuelan President Maduro, Backed by Russia, Pushes Back Against US Sanctions While Praising The Obama Administration


By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has stated that sanctions placed on Venezuela by the United States could cause his country to shut down its diplomatic missions in the U.S.

President Maduro Photo courtesy of

The measure, which has cleared the House of Representatives but faces a challenge in the Senate, could “lead to the point of not having an embassy or consulates in the United States, Maduro said Thursday.  However, Maduro has praised the Obama administration’s opposition to the bill, saying it has led him to name a new top diplomat in Washington.

The opposition to the bill Maduro is speaking of, is in response to comments by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who has again urged the U.S. Senate to vote against the bill.  Maduro said that he read the remarks “with great attention” and said that the remarks were a “leap toward good sense”.  These remarks sparked Maduro to name a new top diplomat in Washington.

The praise from Maduro, however slight, is a change in tide from the plethora of denunciations attributed to the U.S. by the Venezuelan President.  Following in his predecessor, and role model, President Hugo Chavez’s footsteps Maduro and his supporters have repeatedly accused Washington of trying to topple his government.  Maduro has blamed the U.S. for stirring up the protests in which at least 42 people have died since February.

This week, pro-Maduro Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez announced that the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, was implicated in a plot to murder President Maduro.  This news was announced in the midst of an event where Rodriquez was speaking that included first lady Cilia Flores and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.  Rodriguez requested that the U.S. government clarify if it knew of Whitaker’s alleged role or if Whitaker was acting without aid.

Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, called the allegation baseless.

Amongst Maduro’s supporters is Russia.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, at a joint press conference with Elias Jaua, Venezuelan Foreign Minister, “[a]ll the problems (of a country) must be solved under the Constitution, without outside interference, or even sanctions or threats of sanctions.”  Lavrov added, “[w]e have endorsed our solidarity with the government of Nicolás Maduro, and his determination to both overcome certain difficulties facing Venezuela and engage in dialogue (…) with the opposition.”

Maximilien Sanchez Arvelaiz, former Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil, has been named as Maduro’s new top diplomat in Washington.  In February, Maduro named Sanchez Arvelaiz to fill the vacant ambassadorship in Washington, but U.S. officials have not acted on the proposal.

For more information, please see:

El Universal — Russia Takes Issue with US because of Sanctions on Venezuela — 29 May 2014

ABC News — Venezuela Leader Praises US Rejection of Sanctions — 30 May 2014

The Washington Post — Venezuela Leader Praises US Rejection of Sanctions — 30 May 2014

Monterey Herald News — US Slow to Back Sanctions on Venezuela — 21 May 2014


United States Secretary of Defense To Make Decision Regarding Transfer of Guantanamo Bay Detainees

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America Guantanamo Bay has been highly criticized by human rights groups for imprisoning individuals for extended periods of time without being charged or given a trial. President Obama’s administration wants to close the detention center in Cuba, however the President’s plan has been thwarted by the difficulties of transferring the detainees.

Hagel to make decision on transfer of Guantanamo Bay Detainees “fairly soon” (Photo Courtesy of Reuters). 

The Senate Armed Services Committee recently wrapped up a defense bill on Thursday 22 May 2014. The bill would authorize the transfer of prisoners currently incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay to U.S soil for detention, trial, and incarceration.  The bill is in accordance with last years National Defense Authorization Act that eased restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and is another step towards closing the Guantanamo Bay facilities.

In an effort to close Guantanamo Bay, President Obama has been talking to several countries about relocating inmates. The U.S President recently spoke with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica about accepting six detainees. Uruguay agreed in March to take some inmates from Guantanamo Bay, in return, the United States was to free some Cuban prisoners. Uruguayan media reported that the detainees to be transferred were four Syrians and one Pakistani.

Under the current laws the Secretary of Defense must review all cases of detainees to be transferred and examine the procedures put in place to monitor the detainees so as to certify to Congress that they will not be at risk to return to the battlefield. United Stated Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, stated on Wednesday 28 May 2014 that he would soon make a decision regarding the detainees at Guantanamo Bay whom Uruguay has offered to accept. Defense officials said there was no timetable for Hagel to make the decision, and Hagel’s only indication as to the timeframe of his decision was his response that the decision would be made “fairly soon.”

Hagel responded to comments about his drawn-out decision by stating, “What I am doing is taking my time to assure that any decision I make is…by standards Congress gave me, that I in fact can notify and certify that this is the responsible thing to do.”

The decision to close Guantanamo Bay has been controversial due to the high security interest. Top Senate Republicans have vowed to do all they can to keep the facility open, or at the very least slow the process of transferring the detainees. Of the 166 men who were held in detention in May 2013 only 12 have ben transferred out of Guantanamo Bay in the past year.

Hagel has addressed the oppositions concerns to close the facility by stating that he has created a system whereby he will carefully examine the risk the detainees could potentially pose as well as measures put in place to mitigate those risks. However, Hagel acknowledged the risk in closing Guantanamo Bay when stating, “there is a risk in everything … I suspect I will never get a 100-percent deal.”


For More Information Please See:

ABC News – Obama Win on Guantanamo Prison May be Short-Lived– 30 May 2014.

Huffington Post – Time to Close Guantanamo — Not One More Day – 30 May 2014.

Reuters – Hagel to Make Decisions on Guantanamo Detainees ‘Fairly Soon’ – 30 May 2014.

Wall Street Journal – Hagel Reviewing Cases in Transfer of Six Detainees to Uruguay – 30 May 2014.


Pregnant Pakistani Women Stoned to Death by Family as Crowd Watched

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – As a court of onlookers watched outside of a Lahore courthouse on Tuesday, several male relatives beat her to death with stones, bricks and clubs because she married the man she loved instead of  her cousin.

Police investigators said the 25-year-old woman, Farzana Parveen, was stoned and beaten to death on a busy street as of about 30 men watched, but took no action to save her. Ms. Parveen was killed in the name of protecting her families “honor.” She was from a small Punjabi village 57 miles west of the city of Lahore, enraged her family in January when she married Muhammad Iqbal, a widower from a nearby village, instead of the man who had been chosen by her parents, a man who was her own cousin.

Mohammad Iqbal sits next to his wife,Farzana Parveen’s body, who was stoned to death members of her own family for not marrying her cousin. (photo courtesy of Reuters)

Her parents had brought a police complaint against her husband claiming that he had kidnapped their daughter. On Tuesday, Ms. Parveen was scheduled to appear in court in Lahore in the case. According to her lawyer she intended to tell the court that she had not been coerced into marrying her husband.

She was killed outside of the courthouse by her father, brother and the cousin her parents wanted her to marry as well as about a dozen male relives. So far Lahore police have charged her father, Mohammad Azeem, with murder, and the other men involved are being sought for the crime. Azeem told the police he helped kill his daughter because she had shamed his family.

While such crimes, often called “honor killings” are still seen in rural Pakistani communities where tribal traditions are strong and protections of women’s rights are weak, the crime of “honor killing” has become relatively rare in Pakistan’s larger cities. “I do not even wish to use the phrase ‘honor killing’: there is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way,” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement condemning the horrific killing.

According to Farzana Bari, a human rights activist based in Islamabad, in many so-called “honor killings” witnesses outside of the women’s family do not step in to stop the killings and protect the victim. She said “I’ve seen in the past people stand around and watch, and don’t intervene because it is a private matter. Farzana believes honor killings are still engrained in the culture in parts of Pakistan; she said, “I think honor killing is very much part of our culture. It is a cultural form of violence which is quite prevalent in certain parts of Pakistan.”

Ultimately the brutal murder of Farzana Parveen was not shocking because it is a rare occurrence in Pakistan or any other country but instead because her death was so public, it did not occur in the dark corners of a remote village but instead Ms. Parveen was killed on the streets of a bustling city. According to a report published in April by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 869 women in the country were the victims of honor killings last year.  Activists say the number may be much higher.

For More Information please see:

CNN International – Pregnant Pakistani woman beaten to death with bricks by relatives – 28 May 2014

Reuters – Pakistan woman stoned to death by family for marrying man she love – 27 May 2014

The New York Times – Pregnant Pakistani Woman Is Beaten to Death – 27 May 2014

USA Today – Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by her family – 27 May 2014

Chemical Weapons Inspectors Escape Attack in Syria

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – A group of chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons came under attack Tuesday while traveling to the site of a suspected chlorine gas attack in Syria. On Tuesday the Syrian Foreign Ministry said six inspectors and five Syrian drivers had been kidnapped in Hama Providence. The OPCW said “a convoy of OPCW inspectors and United Nations staff that was traveling to a site of an alleged chlorine gas attack” when the team came under attack.

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad adorns a wall in Damascus as a United Nations vehicle carrying inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons leaves a hotel on October 9, 2013. (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

A statement published by the State-Run media in Syria said that the Foreign Ministry “confirms that terrorist groups are attempting to undermine the work of the fact-finding mission and are committing terrorist crimes against employees of the United Nations and OPCW.” While it did not provide details about the incidents, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the team escaped the attack and that “All team members are safe and well and are traveling back to the operating base.”

The Foreign Ministry said the attack occurred when chemical weapons inspectors were attempting to reach the village of Kfar Zeita where a ceasefire had been agreed between 8 am and 6 pm to allow the team of international chemical weapons inspectors to work in the area.  While en-route one of the two cars carrion the team of 11 people was hit by a bomb, forcing the convoy to turn back. Intimately the Foreign Ministry reported that only one of the cars returned successfully.

Abdullah Darwish, A doctor in Kfar Zeita, said the team had been expected to arrive in the village on Tuesday and medical officials had prepared documents pertaining to the alleged chemical weapons attack and had arranged for them to meet with a number of people who suffered during the alleged chlorine attack.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in October as part of an agreement to give up its chemical weapons program, does not ban states from owning chlorine, but prohibits its use as a weapon. The Syrian government still has roughly 8 percent of 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons it declared to the OPCW, raising concerns that the regime will miss the June 30 deadline to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile.

The OPCW Director-General Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu expressed concern about the attack, calling all parties to pledgee cooperation with the mission. He said, “Our inspectors are in Syria to establish the facts in relation to persistent allegations of chlorine gas attacks,” Uzumcu said. “Their safety is our primary concern, and it is imperative that all parties to the conflict grant them safe and secure access”

The pro-opposition Hama Media Centre claimed the attack on the team’s convoy was carried out by Assad’s forces.

For more information please see:

CBS News – Chemical Weapons Inspectors Attacked in Syria – 27 May 2014

CNN International – 6 Chemical Weapons Inspectors Reported Kidnapped in Syria Now Safe – 27 May 2014

Reuters – Chemical Weapons Team in Syria Attacked but Safe: OPCW – 27 May 2014

The New York Times – Chemical Weapons Inspectors Escape Attack in Syria – 27 May 2014

Human Rights Activist Released from Prison After Two Years

MANAMA, Bahrain- Human rights activist and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, was released from prison on Saturday after serving two years for organizing and taking part in illegal protests that were considered “anti-government.”

Nabeel Rajab is a fierce supporter of human rights in Bahrain. (photo courtesy of BBC News).

In addition to holding the presidency of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Rajab is Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights.

Rajab is a key Shiite activist for the protest movement against the Gulf Arab monarchy’s Sunni rulers. Since 2011, the Shiites have been protesting, demanding greater rights and political freedoms for their people

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protestors have held numerous peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the government to relinquish power. Hundreds of citizens have been killed and even more injured and arrested in the government’s ongoing crackdown of these peaceful demonstrations.

Before his imprisonment, Rajab was repeatedly detained in connection with “pro-democracy” demonstrations that erupted in the Gulf. Rajab claimed he was punched in the face several times by riot police after leading these demonstrations. He also stated he was held in dire conditions and subjected to cruel treatment, including being placed in solitary confinement with dead animals and being held almost naked.

Rajab was sentenced, in early 2012, to three years in prison, but an appeals court later reduced his term by one year.

In mid-2012, Rajab was given an additional three months in prison for his comments on Twitter about Bahrain’s prime minister. This conviction was later overturned in an appeals court.

While in prison human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights First, campaigned for his release, calling on authorities for an early release.

After his release, Rajab told the Associated Press that he is “happy to be out [of prison} after more than 600 days.” Rajab called for the release of all political prisoners and said that stability can only be achieved “through respect for human rights.”

“After two years in prison, I see Bahrain’s political environment as more difficult than ever and still without a roadmap for real reforms,” Rajab said. “I am happy to be with my friends and back with the human rights community, but still saddened that there are thousands of others who are still behind bars or outside the country.”

Maryam al-Khawaja, the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights while Rajab was in prison, said that “even though Rajab was released from prison, citizens should note that this is not a show of goodwill on the government’s part as Rajab was not pardoned or released early, but completed his full term.”

After his release from prison, Rajab was greeted by dozens of people outside the prison and hundreds of people gathered near Rajab’s house to welcome his release.

Rajab said that Bahrain’s situation today is worse compared to when he went to prison because of an upsurge in violence. Bahrain said that although he was imprisoned he will not stop participating in peaceful demonstrations, but denounces violence.

For more information see:

PressTV- Nabeel Rajab urges “serious dialogue” in Bahrain– 25 May 2014

BBC News- Bahrain activist Nabeel Rajab released from prison– 24 May 2014

Watertown Public Opinion- Top Bahrain activist released from prison– 24 May 2014

Al Jazeera- Bahrain frees leading human rights activist– 25 May 2014