Multinational Observation Group to Oversee Upcoming Elections in Fiji

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania 

 

Suva, Fiji 

Fiji is set to have their first democratic election since the military coup of 2006 and many are nervous that the elections will change nothing. Military leader Frank Bainimarama seized power in 2006 and has been the nation’s dictator ever since, he has now stepped down from that role and runs as a candidate in the presidential elections taking place next month. There are mixed feelings about Bainimarama’s time in power, many Fijians praise his efforts to improve the standard of living for the islanders others found his style of rule oppressive. There have been many reports of human rights abuses under Bainimarama’s watch that is why Fiji has asked for outside help to observe the elections and ensure that there is no corruption involved and the will of the people is effectively implemented.

IW #12 MOG
Frank Bainimarama during his recent campaign visit to New Zealand
(Photo Curtesy of ABC News)

Australia has been invited by the interim Fijian government to co-lead the Multinational Observation Group (MOG) along  Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and India. Many other nations have also been invited and are in the process of sending observers including Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Iran and the U.K. Canada and the U.S have also been invited to send observers and have expressed interest in doing so. Australia is especially excited to participate in the election according to Peter Reith, the appointed head of the observational group, Australian are keen to repair relations with Fiji since the 2006 coup.

The observation group is said to be given complete freedom of movement across Fiji and complete access to deal with the Fijian Government, political parties and organizations. Two reports will be issued as a result of the operation, one will be issued immediately after the election, the other will be released within two months of the election. The first is focused on whether the election was effective and allowed the Fijian people to represent their will. The second will contain recommendations as to how the Fijian Government can be more effective in implementing elections in the future. The point of both is to provide confidence in the results not just for the Fijian people but for the international community as well.

Bainimarama stated recently during a campaign trip to New Zealand that he will accept the results if the election goes against him. He swore to upheld the newly created constitution that protects Fiji from another military coup. The MOG is already on the ground in Fiji observing the political parties, candidates and preparations for the elections.

For more information, please see:

The Fiji Times — Watch and Improve — 27 August, 2014

ABC News — Elections: Australia to Co-Lead Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and PNG — 15 August 2014 

ABC News — Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Pledges to Accept Election Results During NZ Visit — 11 August 2014

ABC News — Fiji Leader Frank Bainimarama Greeted by Protesters Outside Sydney Election Rally — 23 August 2014

 

 

Sons of a Father’s Disappearance and a Mother’s Struggle

Boko Haram Leader Claims Control Of Nigerian Town

 

 

 

 

By Ashley Repp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

 

Gowza, Nigeria-  Boko Haram Releases Video Claiming Control in Northern Nigeria

 

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group with its roots in Nigeria, released a video commending group members for their work in capturing the town of Gowza.  The video asserts that the town, with a population of about 265,000, will now be under the governance of Islamic Law, and that this is major victory for the militants.

BokoHaram

Citizens of northern Nigeria are not strangers to the presence of Boko Haram, and the violence that tails the group.  Since 2009, thousands have been indiscriminately killed at the hands of Boko Haram.  Just this year, nearly 4,000 civilians fell victim to the deadly violence that Boko Haram so frequently employs in asserting authority and dominance.  The video recently released by Abubakar Shekau, shows pickup trucks with armed militants driving into Gowza.  About 20 men are shot dead in the video as well.  Many fled upon the arrival of the militants, though many were not fortunate enough to avoid the onslaught of gunfire and grenades.

Though the Nigerian military asserts that it is still in full control of Nigeria in its entirety, Boko Haram contends that this is untrue.  Many civilians in the area have also expressed that Nigerian military has been absent from the region.  Military absence creates a space in which Boko Haram influence can proliferate.  Furthermore, with the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, the growing influence of Boko Haram is particularly concerning.  While Abubakar Shekau mentioned Iraq in his video, there was no specific mention of an alliance or allegiance between ISIS and Boko Haram.  Nevertheless, this will be an allegiance to pay particular attention to.

Ultimately, in light of the recent news regarding Boko Haram, including their claim of responsibility in the kidnapping of about 200 school girls in April, the group is an entity that appears to have the requisite strength and ominous shadow to continue to grow.  Further growth will certainly compound issues for Nigeria, a country currently reeling from the devastation of an outbreak and the continued presence of Boko Haram.  It goes without saying that the Boko Haram situation will only continue to grow in strength and presence, unless it can be stopped, in the very least, by government and military forces.  Until a decisive shift in either direction is made, it seems the world, and Nigerians, can only watch and wait.

For more information please visit:

BBC NewsBoko Haram Declares ‘Islamic State’ in Nigeria– 25 Aug, 2014

Boston Herald- Nigeria: Boko Haram Declares it is Islamic Caliphate– 25 Aug, 2014

Times of India- Boko Haram Chief Declares ‘Caliphate’ in Nigeria Town– 25 Aug, 2014

Reuters- Boko Haram Leader Says Ruling Nigerian Town by Islamic Law– 25 Aug, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Confusion and Misunderstanding Fuel the Ebola Fire

By Ashley Repp
News Desk Reporter, Africa

West Africa– Lack of government outreach and denial of the disease are adding kindling to the Ebola fire. Denial regarding Ebola has been an overarching reality in many West African nations.  In March and April many governments refused to admit that there were Ebola cases in their villages, asserting to the international community that there was no chance of an Ebola outbreak, no looming epidemic to contend with.  Governments misstepped again by failing to alert the public to the presence of the deadly virus within their respective countries.  This issue was further compounded by the general lack of knowledge of how the virus is spread, and without dissemination of information regarding proper health precautions on how to avoid becoming infected, many West Africans are in denial that Ebola is actually an issue at their doorstep, or are fearful of the disease they don’t understand.  Regardless of which side West Africans find themselves on, their governments should be faulted for the limited resources, information, and awareness provided to combat the rapidly spreading virus.

ebola

Ebola is spread by contact with bodily fluids including, sweat, blood, urine, vomit, and mucus.  Understanding this is key, yet very few West Africans are aware of this.  As a result, ritual burials that often include extensive contact with the dead body still continue, despite the fact that such contact with a body infected with Ebola could be lethal.  As one news report mentioned, many people waver between fear and denial, exemplified by a girl in Liberia yelling at her friend not to touch her because “Ebola in town.”  Her friend responded that Ebola isn’t real, the government planted this seed of fear.  Others are certain that West African governments are only using Ebola to get aid from nations like the United States, and that it is not an actual issue.  Ultimately, denial and fear are spurring on Ebola, and lack of government outreach and uniformed people, are supporting the epidemic’s survival.

It wasn’t until several days ago that one country, Guinea, decided to shut its borders in an effort to keep Ebola at bay.  But with West Africa’s porous borders and largely weak governments, it is unlikely that this measure will ultimately have much effect.  Nevertheless, in the aftermath of West African governments failing their people by not disseminating information regarding the disease, and denying the Ebola crisis, steps, such as closing borders, may be a turning point for the epidemic.  But have these precautions come too late?

 

For more information, please visit:

All Africa- Guinea Shuts Boarders in Bid to Halt Ebola Spread- 9 Aug, 2014

All Africa- Nigeria: Ebola- Many Nigerians Still Ignorant of Disease- 8 Aug, 2014

All Africa- Liberia: You Ain’t Know Ebola In Town?- 9 Jul, 2014

All Africa- West Africa: Misconceptions Fuel Ebola Outbreak- 14 Jul, 2014

Call for Papers

Impunity Watch Law Journal at Syracuse University College of Law serves as both a law review and news outlet, with our interactive website serving as our primary publication platform. The goal of our web-based presence is to immediately alert the world to impunity issues as they arise and to provide open access to thoughtful, cutting-edge academic debate about impunity issues. In addition to our online presence, we publish a print copy of our journal every spring in our annual review.

Impunity Watch was created in 2007 by Professor David Crane, the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Our website is read in over 212 different countries and territories, and some of our reports have been cited by BBC, CNN, and notable international blogs. Impunity Watch is also included in the U.S. Library of Congress database.

For our 2015 publication, we are seeking original scholarly works that provide insight or commentary on contemporary human rights and impunity issues. Preference will be given to pieces of reasonable length (no longer than 25,000 words) that utilize footnotes that are formatted in accordance with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed. 2010).

 

Submissions should be e-mailed to Bridget Kehm, Managing Editor:          bkehm@syr.edu

Our 2014 publication can be found at:

http://impunitywatch.com/journal/

 

Recent Events Reflect a Growing ISIS Influence in Europe

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, England – With the recent beheading video of American journalist James Foley causing major concerns with the Western world, there has been a great effort to find who is responsible for the attack. Likely the biggest hint to go off has been the seeming London accent of the apparent murderer. If true, this further increases the worry over an ISIS presence in Europe.

A member of ISIS carries the Islamic State black flag. (Photo courtesy of Breitbart)

Europe may be a breeding ground of sorts for ISIS to recruit, especially in religiously tolerant and democratic nations such as England. Some European nations have taken a stronger approach against Muslims, like France, Belgium, and parts of Switzerland banning a burqa from being warn in public. England, however, has continued to preach religious freedom, which may have ultimately opened the doors for ISIS to spread their influence under the “free speech” banner.

The Netherlands has attempted to avoid taking a stronger stance on targeting religions like some of their neighbors, but eventually decided to crack down by banning the display of ISIS’s black flag. A growing concern over anti-Semitic protests in the Netherlands has led to a classification of the ISIS flag as banned political paraphernalia, now seen in the same light as a Nazi symbol.

Greece has recently discovered the conversion that occurred to a one-time resident of their country. Shamal Ahmad Tofiq of Kurdistan moved to Athens, and a little while thereafter met new acquaintances at a mosque that radicalized him. Now known as Sina Ahmad, he is fighting for ISIS in Kurdistan, regularly posting graphic images online of horribly disfigured bodies and regularly asking prior contacts to repent their sins and join the fight.

Some British, like Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary and defense secretary who is chairman of Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, seek a stronger response from England. “[The militants] need to be eliminated, and we should not be squeamish about how we do it,” Mr. Rifkind reported.

The alleged British murderer in the Foley video would be far from the only British member of ISIS. Three British militants who cling together, known as “The Beatles” and known for their brutality, have been handling hostages of ISIS in Syria. Further, there are as many as 400 Britons estimated within ISIS, along with 2,000 estimated Europeans. As these numbers continue to grow, and with what appears to be an easy entry from the Middle East into Europe through Turkey, Europe and the Western world worry over the possibility of a major attack.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Britain Rejects Calls at Home to Join Forces With Assad Against Jihadists – 22 August 2014

NBC – Why Is Britain a Breeding Ground for ISIS Terrorists? – 22 August 2014

Fox News – How one Iraqi returned from Europe ready to kill family, friends – 21 August 2014

Breitbart – NETHERLANDS BANS ISIS FLAG AFTER ANTI-SEMITISM SURGE – 3 August 2014

Fijian Police Investigate Violent Shooting Shown in a YouTube Video

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

 

Suva, Fiji

To add to the mounting domestic struggles in the island nation of Fiji in the wake of elections and government repression, a YouTube video has surfaced claimed to be showing a Fijian fishing crew being gunned down just outside Fijian waters as they clung to their submerged craft. Fijian police have yet to identify the victims in the video, confirm that they are indeed Fijian citizens or that it actually occurred in the South Pacific. The amateur video shows the assailants on another boat laughing and taking selfies in the wake of the killings. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the vessel the assailants were on has been identified as a Taiwanese tuna fishing vessel. The vessel in question has had its  Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) turned off for the past three months and has not been located since. The Taiwanese fishing boat is reported to have been licensed to fish for tuna in the waters around Southern Australia and New Zealand last year.

IW #11 Fiji Fishing Shooting
In a still from the video one of the victims clings to the wreckage of his boat as bullets tear into the water around him.
(Photo Curtesy of the Daily Mail)

A Fijian college student originally uploaded the video to YouTube. Police say that the student found a mobile phone left inside a taxi that contained the video. The Fijian authorities have asked for help from Interpol to further the investigation.

The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association President, Mr. Southwick has stated that he believes the video actually originates from the coast of Somalia. It has been recorded that Taiwanese tuna crews have been making record catches of tuna off the coast of Somalia in recent years and have been risking the pirate infested waters ever since. It is Mr. Southwick’s contention that the incident shown in the video is actually a well-known event that occurred off the coast of Somalia. Somali pirates attempted to board a tuna boat but were shot by armed guards on the boat.

There is no evidence linking the video to Fiji or any evidence to reveal the victims in the video or indeed whether they are the victims in the situation at all. Even though the fishing boat had been previously licensed in the south pacific it is not uncommon for the boat to move to different waters. However, Southwick went on to say that he is aware that violence often erupts in pacific waters. The completion for tuna has grown quickly in recent years as tuna has become rare and where large amounts of money are at stake there is always a possibility for foul play.

For more information, please see:

ABC News Australia — Men Shot at Sea: Fiji Police Told Gruesome Video Showing Men Being Shot at Sea Originated in Somalia — 19 August 2014

The Guardian — “Fijian Fisherman Being Shot” Video Posted on YouTube — 19 August 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald — Fiji Police Investigate High- SeasShooting Video — 19 August 2014

The Daily Mail — Shot at Sea: Shocking Video Posted on YouTube Appears to Show Fisherman “Murdered” in Fiji — 19 August 2014 

 

 

Washington Post Considers The Word ‘Redskins’ A Slur And Refuses to Use the Word In It’s Opinion Columns

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America – The editorial board of the Washington Post has decided to no longer use the word “Redskins” when referring to Washington’s professional football team in opinion articles. The board stated that the term degrades Native Americans and was the reasoning behind their decision.

The Washington Post editorial board says that the word ‘Redskins’ is a slur and it’s opinion columns will no longer use such word (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post).

Washington Post’s editorial board operates separately from the news staff and controls only the paper’s opinion pages. The Post’s newsgathering side will continue to use the Redskins name.

The Post’s editorial board stated, “We have decided that, except when it is essential for clarity or effect, we will no longer use the slur ourselves,” and continued to state, “that’s the standard we apply to all offensive vocabulary, and the team name unquestionably offends not only many Native Americans but many other Americans, too.” The board also made it a point to state that it did not think that fans who supported the team’s name had racist feelings towards Native Americans.

Opposition to the name has been extant since the 1960’s. However, the campaign has recently taken off as a result of efforts made by the Oneida Indian Nation. Ray Halbritter, the representative of the New York State tribe, and Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians calls the Post’s decision, “appropriate and honorable.”

The owner of the Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has refused to change the name, and says that he honors Native Americans. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner and a group of Redskins players have voiced their support for Snyder’s opposition to change the team’s name. Snyder has come under pressure from U.S. Senators, journalists, newspapers, and the President to change the team’s name.

In June, the U.S. patent office cancelled six of the trademarks belonging to the Redskins, due to their finding that the team name is a slur against Native Americans, thus making it ineligible for trademark protection. The team has decided to appeal the patent office’s decision, which would ultimately force the franchise to drop the team’s name.

 

For information, please see the following:

BBC – Washington Post Editorial Board abandons ‘Redskins’ – 22 August 2014.

NEW YORK TIMES – Washington Post Editorial Board No Longer Using Word ‘Redskins’ – 22 August 2014.

REUTERS – Washington Post Editorial Board No Longer Using Word ‘Redskins’ – 22 August 2014. 

WASHINGTON POST – Washington Post Editorial Board Stops Using the Word ‘Redskins’ – 22 August 2014.

 

 

 

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Lessons from Cambodia

 

Killing Fields in Phnom Penh
Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. Source: Joel Burslem,Flickr Creative Commons

Attention over the past few weeks has centered on ongoing conflicts, including ISIS’s activity in Iraq and the situation in Gaza. In another corner of the globe, however, the international community has taken action to address war crimes from long ago. On August 7th, Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal found two former Khmer Rouge leadersguilty of crimes against humanity. The Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 17 April 1975 to 7 January 1979, during which the regime killed at least 1.7 million people. The tribunal’s verdict is widely perceived as too little, too late, but, nonetheless, it may prove instructive to the international community.

The two men convicted are Nuon Chea, 88, and Khieu Samphan, 83. They are the two most senior members of the Khmer Rouge who are still alive. Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, died in Cambodia in 1998.

During the reign of the Khmer Rouge, roughly a quarter of the Cambodian population perished due to forced labor, starvation, and execution. Survivors, such as SJAC board member Youk Chhang, recall torture, imprisonment, and a struggle to live: “my mother lost all three of her brothers, one sister, one daughter and many grandchildren under the regime. Nearly 60 of our family members are still missing today.”

Many survivors welcome the verdict for its symbolism. “We knew that the court would not resolve everything,” Chhang tells the New York Times, “but it was important to have the proceedings.” The verdict—albeit 35 years after the crimes—demonstrates that the international community does not forget atrocities. This is a small step towards accountability.

Nonetheless, the verdict is limited. It cannot heal the lingering scars of the Cambodian people. The perpetrators have been sentenced to life but, at 88 and 83, life imprisonment means something much different than it would have 35 years ago, when Chea and Samphan were younger. Given the court’s tardiness, many other leaders have already died, escaping prosecution. Equally importantly, this belated accountability process denies now-deceased victims the opportunity to see their tormentors brought to justice.

Looking forward, Chhang argues, the international community must focus on prevention. “Saving millions of lives today speaks far greater for our civilization than issuing verdicts tomorrow.”

How does this apply to Syria today? While prevention is a logical first step, Syrians and the international community must also consider ways to address the atrocities of the past few years. Special tribunals—as enacted in Cambodia—represent one possible avenue. However, such tribunals prove quite costly. The Rwanda tribunal, for example, cost around $250 million to try fewer than 50 individuals. The Cambodia tribunal itself has spent over $200 million since 2006 and convicted only three individuals. Syrians and the international community must consider tribunals’ long timelines and high price tags, and determine whether such funds might be better spent on other accountability initiatives, such as reparations programs.

Special tribunals offer one path to implementing international law, but other alternatives can be considered, such as International Criminal Court investigations or the creation of domestic Syrian accountability systems.

Cambodia has taught us that accountability is attainable, but often belated. To best achieve justice and deter future crimes, Syrians and the international community must discuss potential avenues for accountability so that they can be employed as soon as possible and with the best possible impacts on Syria’s future.

ICRC: Rules of War in a Nutshell (150 Years of IHL)

22 AUGUST 2014
Today, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original Geneva Convention, we call on all parties to all conflicts to preserve what it means to be human, by complying with international humanitarian law. You can help us spread the word by sharing this video on your web and social media platforms.

The pdf of the original Geneva Convention signed in 1864 is also available on scribd and on icrc.org. You can download it, share it or embed it on your own platforms.
photo gallery retracing 150 years of IHL can also be shared on social media.

We count on you to help us take advantage of this anniversary to convey our IHL messages as broadly as possible!

Best regards,
ICRC Law & Policy

Hamas Executes 18 Palestinians Suspected of Collaborating with Israel

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GAZA CITY, GAZA – Hamas has executed 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.  The executions come one day after Israel killed three of Hamas’ top military commanders in an airstrike on a house in southern Gaza Strip.  The killings suggest an attempt to by Hamas to deter any future collaboration with Israel.

Palestinians watch outside of a mosque in Gaza as seven alleged Israel collaborators are executed by masked gunmen. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Early Friday 11 people were killed, but whereabouts of the execution is uncertain.  Reports vary, claiming that the executions took place in the Gaza City police headquarters, an abandoned police station outside of Gaza, or in a public park in Gaza City.  These 11 were allegedly already sentenced to death for collaborating with Israel.

Seven more alleged collaborators were executed publicly in a central Gaza square later on Friday.  Masked gunmen dressed in black shot the victims outside a mosque after prayers had ended.  The victims had their heads covered and their hands tied.  Video footage showed blood running down the streets as children watched.

“The spies had their heads covered and were sitting by the wall outside the mosque,” said a witness at the mosque, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “There were about 20 masked gunmen in the area. One of them said loudly that the death sentence is going to be carried out against seven collaborators.”

“They did not mention their names,” he added. “They shot them after that and then the militants left. People were shouting, God is great.”

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Israel’s intelligence services rely, in part, on informers to pinpoint the whereabouts of Hamas leaders.

“Israel has a long and successful history of recruiting collaborators and informers both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and they do so through a variety of different means: sometimes it is financial inducements; other times it is blackmail, bullying, threats, promises [and] maybe intimidating family members,” Rowland said.

The killings are reminiscent of executions that took place during Israel last Gaza offensive in 2012.  During that period at least seven vigilante executions took place, including one of a handcuffed man identified as Ashraf Ouaida.  Quaida’s bloody body was left beneath a billboard with a sign indicating that he aided in the killing of 15 Palestinian leaders.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Hamas executes 18 suspected informers – 22 August 2014

BBC –  Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed – 22 August 2014

Haaretz – Hamas executes 18 ‘collaborators’ in Gaza – 22 August 2014

NY Times – Gazans Suspected of Collaborating With Israel Are Executed – 22 August 2014

Reuters – Gaza gunmen execute ‘collaborators’; mortar kills Israeli boy – 22 August 2014

West African Countries Step-Up Quarantine Efforts As Ebola Death Toll Rises

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Managing Editor

MONROVIA, Liberia – As the death toll continues to rise in West Africa’s deadly Ebola virus outbreak several counties have taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly illness. To date the virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four West African countries; Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Police in Liberia use force in an attempt to prevent slum residents from breaking quarantine in Monrovia. Slum residents have complained that curfews and quarantines have been placed on them without giving them the proper opportunity to buy and store food and water. (Photo courtesy of The Wire UK)

So far Liberia has been the worst affected of the four West African countries hit by the Ebola virus, with 576 deaths from 972 cases to date. Officials have sealed of the West Point Slum in Monrovia, an area that is home to 75,000 people, in an attempt to stop the spread of the Ebola virus. However, the quarantines have angered residents who say the forced curfews and quarantines came with no advanced warning of the measures which has prevented them from being able to buy and store food and water.

Some residents had begun throwing rocks at police who were enforcing the quarantine. The police responded by firing live rounds and teargas into the crowd. Police also reportedly beat some of the residents. While several serious injuries were reported no-one is reported to have been killed during the incident.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended the quarantines, which have been established in areas throughout the country, saying they were essential to control the spread of the disease. She argued that Ebola had continued to spread throughout the country because of “continued denials, cultural varying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government”.

However, there are fears that large scale isolation will lead to unrest in quarantined communities when essential movement of goods and people is cut-off. “I don’t have any food and we’re scared,” said Alpha Barry, a West Point resident. The World Health Organization has begun working with local authorities to deliver emergency food aid into quarantined zones in an attempt to prevent rising unrest.

The World Health Organization, which has set up a task force to monitor and contain the Ebola outbreak, has advised countries affected by the Ebola virus outbreak have been asked to introduce exit screenings at all international airports, seaports and major land crossings in order to stop the spread of the disease. The WHO task force will also be responsible for providing information to governments as well as transport companies. “Any person with an illness consistent with [the Ebola virus] should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation”, the UN health agency said. It added that non–affected countries in the region “need to strengthen the capacity to detect and immediately contain new cases.”

Several governments have already taken steps to restrict travel from West African countries effected by the Ebola outbreak. Kenya Airways announced that it will suspend flight operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Kenyan government announced other restrictions, saying it is temporarily suspending entry into Kenya of passengers who have passed through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The government of Cameroon has closed all its borders with Nigeria, which has had at least 4 deaths due to the virus, in an attempt to halt the spread of the Ebola virus, state radio said on Tuesday.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Liberia Overwhelmed By Number of Ebola Dead – 21 August 2014

The Wire UK – Ebola: Police Open Fire to Enforce Liberia Quarantine – 21 August 2014

Reuters Africa – Cameroon Says Closes Borders With Nigeria in Bid To Halt Ebola – 20 August 2014

USA Today – Ebola Toll Climbs Even Amid ‘Encouraging Signs,’ WHO Says – 19 August 2014

The Wire UK – Ebola: WHO Calls For Screening at Borders in West Africa – 19 August 2014

CNN International – New Restrictions in Kenya for Travelers amid Ebola Fears – 16 August 2014

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa – August 2014

Syria’s Declared Chemical Weapons Stockpile Destroyed

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced that U.S. military and civilian personnel had completed the destruction of the Syrian regime’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement President Obama said that the neutralization of these chemical agents “advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.”

American ship MV Cape Ray docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, on Thursday, February 13. The ship was used as the cite where Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons would be neutralized. (photo courtesy of The Washington Post)

On Monday morning, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called the captain of the Cape Ray, the ship chosen to oversee the neutralization of chemical weapons in international waters, , to congratulate him and the crew for eliminating the stockpile. President Obama thanked Denmark, Norway, Italy, Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom for key contributions to the mission. He also noted Russia’s and China’s assistance.

“While the international community’s work to completely eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program is not yet finished, the secretary believes this is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when diplomacy is backed by a willingness to use military force,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

The effort was conducted with the support of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as the United Nations. While the Obama Administration acknowledgment the milestone of destroying Syria’s declared stockpile it acknowledgement that the Syrian regime was likely less than forthcoming in declaring the exact extent of its chemical weapons stockpile. “In record time, even amid a civil war, we removed and have now destroyed the most dangerous chemicals in the regime’s declared stockpiles,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But much more work must be done.”

Kerry said there are still “discrepancies and omissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration.” Secretary Kerry expressed concerns over the continued use of chlorine gas against Syrian civilians by the regime forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry also reaffirmed the United States’ support of moderate rebels.

“The United States,” Kerry said, “will continue to provide political, financial, and other support to the moderate opposition because we are committed to help those who seek the right of all Syrians to choose a future of peace and oppose the violent extremists who exploit the chaos and ruin that Assad has brought to Syria.”

The announcement comes almost a year after more than 1,4000 people were killed by sarin gas attacks On August 21 2013 in the  Ghouta suburbs of the Markaz Rif Dimashq district outside of Damascus, which were struck by rockets containing the chemical agent sarin.

For more information please see:

For More Information Please See:

Foreign Policy – Syria’s Most Lethal Chemical Weapons Destroyed With Little Fanfare – 18 August 2014

The New York Times – Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Fully Destroyed, U.S. says – 18 August 2014

The Washington Post – Declared Syrian Chemical Weapon Stockpile Now Completely Destroyed –18 August 2014

The White House – Statement by the President on the Completion by the M/V Cape Ray of the Destruction of Syria’s Declared Chemical Weapons – 18 August 2014

ISIS and Pro-government Forces Battle for Iraq’s Critical Infrastructure

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Managing Editor

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The battle between militants belonging to the Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIS) and the Iraqi national government forces and Kurdish regional  peshmerga forces has taken a toll on Iraq’s critical infrastructure including the nation’s oil reserves and industry infrastructure, power plans and, most recently, the countries massive hydraulic power system.

Smoke rises from airstrikes conducted by US forces against ISIS fighters near the Mosul Dam in Northern Iraq. (photo courtesy of the Guardian)

Earlier this month ISIS forces seized control of the Mosul Dam, once known as the “Saddam Dam,” which is a key component of Iraq’s massive hydroelectric power and Irrigation system spanning the Tigris and Euphrates watershed. The 3.2-kilometer-long Mosul Dam is the largest dam in Iraq and the fourth largest in the Middle East. The Hydroelectric dam is located along the Tigris River and holds back as much as 12.5 million cubic meters of water. If the dam were to be breached it would create a wall of water tens of feet tall that would cause massive flooding in Mosul, threatening its 1.7 million residents, and would cause massive flooding in communities as far downstream as Baghdad.

On Monday Kurdish peshmerga fighters, backed by US warplanes conducting strategic airstrikes against ISIS strongholds, pressed a counter-offensive against ISISS forces retaking the Mosul Dam alongside Iraqi government forces. US aircraft are carrying out strikes in support of the forces battling ISIS militants, who have declared a caliphate areas under their control in both Iraq and Syria. “The planes are striking and the peshmerga are advancing,” a Kurdish fighter said on Monday near the shores of the Mosul dam.

While critics argued that aiding Iraqi forces in retaking the Mosul dam and other infrastructure may constitute mission creep beyond US forces initial mission in Iraq Administration officials have argued that the Mosul Dam is critical to Iraqi national security as well as the security of US interests in the region citing evidence that ISIS forces was not performing necessary maintenance on the dam as well as fears that the group was planning to destroy the dam, potentially endangering millions of Iraqi residents.

ISIS has a history of using water infrastructure as a weapon of war.  Earlier year, its fighters opened the gates on the Falluja Dam in central Iraq after seizing it in an effort to stop the military from advancing. The water from the dam flooded a several villages. “ISIS has already used other smaller dams to gain control of territory, to pressure Sunnis to support them and to punish the Shiites,” said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.

The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest victory in the Iraqi governments struggle to take back assets seized by ISIS since the organization launched a massive offensive in Northern Iraq in June.

For more information please see:

CBS News – Emboldened by U.S. strikes, Iraq goes on offense – 19 August 2014

CNN International – U.S. airstrikes critical in Mosul Dam capture – 18 August 2014

The Guardian – Iraqi and Kurdish forces recapture Mosul dam from ISIS – 18 August 2014

The New York Times – Troops in Iraq Rout Sunni Militants From a Key Dam – 18 August – 2014