Brazilian Presidential Candidate Goes on Homophobic Rant During Debate

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — Levy Fidelix marred his presidential race by reciting a homophobic rant during a presidential debate on Sunday.  Levy Fidelix is a conservative and former journalist who has no hope of winning, with a support rate below 1%. But given almost equal airtime to the leading candidates on national television on Sunday, he let rip with a torrent of invective.

Levy Fidelix Image courtesy of pragmatismopolitico.com

The presidential hopeful claimed homosexuals “need psychological care” and were better kept “well away from [the rest of] us”.  He also joked that Brazil’s population would be cut in half if homosexuality was encouraged because “the excretory system” does not function as a means of reproduction.

The three other opponents did not comment on Fidelix’s statements, but his statements were the talk of social media following the event.

The incident shows the challenge of maintaining fairness throughout Brazil’s complicated election process.  While there are 12 people running for President, only seven of them got to participate in the debate, due to their parties being represented in Congress.  Out of the seven, four candidates, including Fidelix, consistently poll less than 1%.  Therefore, even though they have little to no chance of winning the election, they are allowed equal coverage during the debate.

Fortunately enough, the debate was broadcast live at midnight, on Sunday, while most people were sleeping.

Nevertheless, the campaign has been largely compelling and remains too close to call. According to the most recent polls, Rousseff will win the first round on 5 October and then face a run-off with Silva on 26 October. Second-round vote intentions have swung back and forth between the two, though the president recently opened up a narrow lead.

This close to an election (Brazil’s presidential election is next week), most publics expect to hear about front-runners government programs, and rely on them to highlight any weaknesses in their opponent’s programs.  This debate should have been that opportunity.  Instead the leading candidates relied on character attacks throughout the debate.

Rousseff accused Silva of falsely claiming that she supported the tax on financial transactions, even though she voted against it four times. Political adverts during the commercial break tried to reinforce this message of “Marina the liar”. The president said she was the most reliable and experienced of the candidates. “I humbly beg your vote,” Rousseff said.

Neves attacked Rousseff over a corruption scandal at the nation’s biggest company, Petrobras. But his performance was unlikely to lift him beyond third place.

The four fringe candidates stole the show with punchier lines and more radical viewpoints.  That left televangelist pastor Everaldo Pereira, who is running on an anti-abortion, anti-gay rights platform, came across as relatively moderate in comparison with Fidelix.

For more information, please see:

the guardian – Brazil presidential candidate airs homophobic rant during TV debate – 29 Sept. 2014

ABC News – Anti-Gay Remarks at Debate Spark Anger in Brazil – 29 Sept. 2014

Huffington Post – Levy Fidelix, Brazilian Presidential Candidate, Sparks Anger with Anti-Gay Remarks –  30 Sept. 2014

On Top Magazine – Brazil Presidential Candidate Levy Fidelix Claims Gays’ Need Psychological Care – 30 Sept. 2014

 

Australia Makes Deal to Send Refugees to Cambodia

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania 

 

Canberra, Australia 

On Friday, Australia’s Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, signed a deal with Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng for Cambodia to accept some of Australia’s rejected asylum seekers for money. The deal requires Australia to pay $40 million (Aus.) over a four-year period to cover resettlement costs. A spokes person for Morrison pointed out that under the deal only those refugees that chose to go to Cambodia would be sent. The trial phase is set to begin first and Cambodia has said that it plans to take between two and five people from the Australian refugee center on Nauru for relocation to Cambodia. It is understood that the deal could involve the relocation of up to 1,000 refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.

 

Families on Nauru protest the Cambodia refugee deal (Photo Curtesy of The Guardian)

Political opposition groups in both countries have voiced their dissent about the new deal. The Australian Green Party has said that the refugees would be at high risk of abuse and exploitation in Cambodia. The Australian opposition parties have warned that the level of rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation in Cambodia have increased dramatically in recent years. These groups have also said that any deal signed with Cambodia must get Parliamentary approval first. So far Parliament has not voted on the new refugee deal and has only approved refugees to be sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Human rights groups have also voiced their displeasure with the deal. The U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights was not involved in the deal and a spokes person said that there is concern with such a bilateral agreement that might involve the divesting of certain obligations under the refugee convention. The director of Australian Human Rights Watch said the deal would send people to a country that has a terrible record of protecting refugees and has many human rights issues of its own.

The Refugees of Nauru have said that they will reject the offer to be relocated in Cambodia. Those refugees that have been interviewed stated that it was the common opinion amongst the camp that Cambodia is very poor with a long history of abuse and killings. 80 refugees staged a protest outside the Australian High Commission on Nauru in response to the deal.  Australia has also recently granted temporary visas to refugees on Christmas Island, who arrived on the same boats as those on Nauru but those on Nauru now only have the option of going to Cambodia.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian — Australia Signs Controversial Refugee Transfer Deal with Cambodia — 26 September 2014

ABC News — Scott Morrison to Sign MOU on Refugee Resettlement, Cambodian Government Says — 25 September 2014

BBC News — Australia and Cambodia Sign Refugee Resettlement Deal — 26 September 2014

The Phenom Phen Post — Refugees in Nauru Protest — 30 September 2014

Tensions Rise in Lebanon after Army Raids on Syrian Refugee Camps

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

BEIRUT, Lebanon – At least one person was killed and two other wounded during a raid by the Lebanese army at refugee camps near the country’s border with Syria on September 25th. The Lebanese army says it was searching for Syrian militants at the camps. The military says soldiers patrolling camp located outside the town of Arsal opened fire on men who they say were trying to set fire to tents at a neighboring camp, a statement said. Local residents disputed the military’s official version of events alleging abuse by military personnel. However, army spokesman dismissed the allegations as “lies,” adding: “Our troops act in accordance with international standards of humanitarian treatment.”

Recent military raids targeting Syriians in Arsal have led to the arrest of 22 Syrian Men. Reprisal attacks targeting the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon after a serious of clashes between Syrian extremists and the Lebanese army have forced many Syrian families out of local refugee cams after their tents and belongs were destroyed in fires and other vandalism attacks. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

By the time the raid ended hundreds of males, including children as young as 13, had been rounded up and taken away for questioning by the military. According to the  Lebanese army, the Arsal raids resulted in the arrest of 22 Syrian men suspected of involvement in attacks against the military – bringing the total number of Syrians detained in similar military raids over the past two weeks to an estimated 450. Dozens more were reportedly freed after interrogation.

“The situation was very bad,” said Kasem al-Zein, a former field doctor for the Free Syrian Army who now runs a hospital in the border-town of Arsal. “The refugees think the raids are unjust because they haven’t done anything wrong.” al-Zein said he treated several patients suffering from smoke inhalation and a young girl with third-degree burns on her leg.

Among those detained and later released after the raids conducted last Thursday’ was Syrian refugee Sleiman Khaled, who claimed he was blindfolded, beaten and interrogated by Lebanese soldiers at an unknown location. “They took all the men randomly,” he said. “When we got there they asked for our IDs, and those who had them on hand were separated from those who didn’t. They didn’t tell us why [we were being detained], only that they suspected we were cooperating with ISIS and Nusra.”

Arsal is the first stop for many civilians fleeing war-torn Syria. However, what was once a site of refugee has become a frontline for the tensions between the Lebanese population and incoming refugees as well as the ongoing tensions between supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Syrian rebel groups. Arsal’s local refugee camps have been badly damaged by the ongoing fighting, prompting refugees to seek shelter in the town itself. Last month, Arsal was the scene of deadly clashes killed dozens and rebels captured a group of Lebanese soldiers.

Human Rights Watch reports that the Lebanese authorities failing to take adequate steps to prevent and to prosecute increasing violence by Lebanese citizens against Syrian Refugees  following  last month’s outbreak of clashes in Arsalbetween the Lebanese Army and extremist groups the Islamic State  of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front. According to Human Rights Watch, The attacks against Syrians, most of them refugees, are being carried out in “a climate of official indifference and discrimination, with the violence appearing in some cases to be attempts to expel Syrians from specific neighborhoods or to enforce curfews.”

“Lebanon’s security forces should protect everyone on Lebanese soil, not turn a blind eye to vigilante groups who are terrorizing refugees,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The security forces have a duty to protect all persons in Lebanon, whatever their nationality.”

Human Rights Watch documented 11 violent attacks in August and September against unarmed Syrians or those perceived to be Syrian by Lebanese citizens, including attacks with guns and knives. In at least four of these instances, witnesses reported that the attacks took place in full view of Lebanese security forces, who did not intervene.

For more information please see:

Human Rights Watch – Lebanon: Rising Violence Targets Syrian Refugees – 30 September 2014

Al Jazeera – Lebanon Refugee-Camp Raids Fuel Resentment – 28September 2014

BBC News – Lebanese Army Raids Syrian Refugee Camps in Arsal – 25 September 2014

Reuters – After Border Town Attack, Syrians’ Welcome in Lebanon Wears Even Thinner – 24 September 2014

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Call for World’s Attention

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter

Protesters staying over night (Getty Images)

HONG KONG, China – The democracy movement in Hong Kong has become a massive civil obedience display as tens of thousands of citizens gathered and rallied in the streets. The Hong Kong police used violent tactics, but the protesters refused to disperse.

Over the weekend, a significant number of protesters clashed with police forces, and the city spiraled into chaos. The protesters occupied central financial streets in Hong Kong as part of a planned action called “Occupy Central.” College students boycotted their classes as the number of demonstrators continued to grow. The protest was non-violent as they were merely “sitting.”

However, as the protesters refused to disperse, police engaged them using tear gas and pepper spray, and the protesters resisted with umbrellas and masks.

Umbrellas against pepper spray (Boston Globe)
A protester being sprayed by police (AFP)

As time passed, the protesters became more outrageous. On Monday, the overnight clashes between the protesters and police seemed to escalate the tensions. The New York Times reported that Hong Kong police not only failed to disperse the protesters but also “motivated more people to join on Monday.”

A 30-year-old bank worker joined the protest during her lunch hour and said “what [police were] doing was not appropriate, especially the tear gas. The students were completely peaceful.”

Another protester, a mother of two, joined the protest for one hour to show her support because the protesters “are fighting for our future, for my children’s future.” She said she decided to participate after seeing tear gas fired at the protesters. To her, they were “so young.”

The protesters want political independence from the mainland of China. Hong Kong was supposed to have its own electoral systems that are independent and separate from the mainland starting in 2017. However, as Beijing had decided that it would allow only pro-Beijing candidates and exclude pro-democratic candidates for the election in 2017, citizens and activists in Hong Kong announced a large-scale civil protest.

“One country, two systems” was the promise made by the Chinese government when the U.K. returned Hong Kong to China after a 150-year colonial period. However, the recent political attitude of Beijing has scared Hong Kong citizens. Under one of the most advanced financial businesses in the world, Hong Kong has a high average income level per person ($53,203), which is close to the U.S. and more than four times higher than China ($11,904). They have persistent worries about different political and market systems between China and Hong Kong. Recent economic slow down contributed to that worry, and Beijing’s decision regarding the election was the final straw..

Beijing seems to be taking extraordinary measures to prevent reports from spreading outside, and the demonstrators called for others’ attention through foreign news media outlets.

According to Sinoshpere, a Chinese blog run by the New York Times, a directive order from the Central Propaganda Department in Beijing guided websites to delete any mention of the issue in Hong Kong. Only short articles produced by state news agencies were permitted in the mainland of China. The government also blocked popular social platform Instagram in fear of spreading pictures of the protest. The word “Occupy Central” and other related words were banned in Chinese SNSs, smartphone applications, and so on. Allegedly, some Chinese news organizations did deliver the news about Hong Kong, but under strict censorship or supervision.

A protester resting on a road (AFP)

On the other side, some people in Hong Kong expressed a different opinion about the student-led protest. A woman said in an interview with the ABC News that “those of us who came to the city 60 or 70 years ago had nothing and we worked and suffered so much to make Hong Kong the rich city it is today. And now the protesters have made our society unstable. For me, being able to eat and sleep is already a luxury.” She added, “I don’t need democracy. What does it mean?”

Signs and yellow ribbons at the fences of central government offices (AFP)
A protester making a banner (AFP)
Protesters at the government complex in Hong Kong

For more information please see:

USA Today – Hong Kong democracy protesters defy calls to disperse – 29 September 2014

The Boston Globe – What’s happening in Hong Kong? – 29 September 2014

Sinosphere (The New York Times) – Beijing Blocks Reports on Hong Kong Democracy Movement – 29 September 2014

The New York Times – Hong Kong Protesters Defy Officials’ Call to Disperse – 29 September 2014

The Washington Post – Hong Kong police try and fail to clear protesters with tear gas – 29 September 2014

Protests in Guerrero Mexico Result In The Disappearance of 58 Students

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On Friday 26 September 2013 in Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest and most violent states, police have joined a search for 58 students who went missing after a violent outburst at a local protest.

A police officer was detained for questioning after a deadly clash in Iguala left six dead and more than 17 injured (Photo Courtsy of Yahoo News).

Guerrero is notorious for frequent protests by teachers resisting reforms and violent gang turf wars relating to the cultivation and sale of drugs. Friday’s protest developed due to students from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college protesting against what they consider to be discriminatory hiring practices for teachers, which favor urban students over rural ones.

Reports indicate that the protests turned violent when the students attempted to leave the protest. Members of the student union claim that their fellow students were attempting to hitchhike a ride back to their college campus on local busses. However the Iguala municipal police allege that the students were behaving unruly and trying to seize the local busses by force.

Media outlets report that the police proceeded to chase and fire at the students. Shots were fired at a local bus carrying a third division football team, the Los Avispones, which the gunmen presumably mistook for the bus “seized” by the student, causing the bus to crash killing the driver and one player.

The students have since disappeared after the eruption of the clashes between security forces and the students.  The clashes were deadly, claiming the lives of six people while injuring 17 others. While it is known that police took part in the shootings, a party of unidentified gunmen was also involved in the violent outburst. Activists claim that security forces are holding the missing students illegally. However state authorities have denied such accusations.

State authorities initially detained 282 local officer after the incident, but have since released all but 22, who are under arrest for suspicion of shooting at the students. Additionally, a helicopter has been deployed to assist in the search for the students.

 

For more information, please see the following:

BBC – Mexican Students Missing After Protest in Iguala – 29 Sept. 2014.

GULF NEWS – Dozens Of Students Missing After Mexican Protest Crackdown – 29 Sept. 2014.

NEWS 24 – Dozens of Students Missing After Mexican Protest – 29. Sept. 2014.

YAHOO NEWS – Dozens of Students Missing After Mexican Protest Crackdown – 29. Sept. 2014.

China Sentences Uighur Scholar to Life in Prison for “Separatism”

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

XINJIANG, China – China sentenced a Uighur scholar, Ilham Tohti, often referred to as “Uighur Nelson Mandela,” to life in prison for “separatism.” Nelson Mandela is the former president of South Africa who fought for democracy and against racial discrimination in the country. Tohti is an Economics professor at Minzu University, in Beijing. He was convicted after a two-day trial in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The New York Times described him as “the most visible symbol of peaceful resistance by ethnic Uighurs to Chinese policies.” Tohti has been known for his works on human rights issues in Uighur. He has done extensive research on relations between Uighur and Han, the majority ethnic group in China. The Xinjiang region is where Uighur people have claimed democratic independence, but in return the Chinese government has insisted that so-called Uighur separatists and extremists have been committing continuous terror attacks in China. The ongoing dispute and the oppressive policies put in place by the Chinese government have brought international attention.

Professor Ilham Tohti is known as a rare moderate commentator on China’s ethnic policy issues (AP)

However, the Chinese government seems to have a different opinion about the professor. Tohti was charged with organizing and leading a separatist group. The prosecution argued that he had “internationalized” the Uighur’s independence issues by posting relevant foreign articles and holding interviews with foreign news agencies.

In a statement from the Xinjiang police, he was accused of colluding with foreign forces and spreading separatist ideas. It also argued that Tohti had taught his students about “violent Uighur resistance” and encouraged them to overthrow the Chinese government. During his trial, the prosecution offered evidence such as his class materials and the website he had operated. The officials used the materials to demonstrate his viewpoints on Uighur identity and China’s ethnic policies. They also argued that the alleged separatist group run by Tohti included several of his students. Reportedly, seven students were also detained for issues related to Tohti’s case and they will be tried soon.

According to his lawyer, Tohti “showed great spirit in court.” The lawyer added that “he gave an eloquent defense to every accusation. He maintained his innocence from the beginning to the end. He gave a brilliant 90-minute defense speech at the end of the trial.” The lawyer also said that he now worries about Tohti’s family, as they will face financial difficulties, living without the head of the family. Tohti has two sons, 5 and 8, and the court ordered confiscation of all his assets. Tohti was first arrested in January, and he had been detained until the trial without the rights to see his family for eight months.

The majority of international organizations and foreign governments condemned the Chinese government for the trial. The White House requested his release and said that he is a “respected professor who has long championed efforts to bridge differences between Uighurs and Han Chinese.” Tohti’s harsh sentence was considered “retribution for Professor Tohti’s efforts” to promote the human rights of the Uighur people.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Beijing asked the Chinese government to begin “differentiating between peaceful dissent and violent extremism.” International human rights group Amnesty International released a statement criticizing the purpose of the trial and its political background. “Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished through politically motivated charges,” it said.

For more information please see:

The New York Times – China Sentences Uighur Scholar to Life – 23 September 2014

The New York Times – The Price of China’s Uighur Repression – 25 September 2014

CNN – China sentences prominent Uyghur scholar to life in prison for ‘separatism’ – 24 September 2014

CTV News – The case of scholar Ilham Tohti, the ‘Uighur Nelson Mandela’ – 25 September 2014

The Diplomat – Ilham Tohti and Islamic State: How China Defines Terrorism – 26 September 2014

China Denies Alleged Involvement with Hacking the U.S.

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – China refuted the U.S. hacking charges alleged in a Senate report. The report said the Chinese government backed hackers who intruded into computer systems of U.S.-based private companies. The companies included U.S. airlines, technology companies, and some contractors for the U.S. military.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said during a daily briefing that the report was groundless and urged that the U.S. must stop “irresponsible assaults and accusations.” Lei went on to blame the U.S. for cyber-attacks on other countries. He said the U.S. government should “stop large scale and systematic cyber-attacks against other countries and do more to uphold peace and security of the cyberspace.”

Lei also pointed out that “[t]he Chinese law bans all the activities that sabotage internet security, including hacker attacks, and resolutely combats relevant criminal activities.”

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee made public of its report on May 17. The report was produced after a year long probe. The report says that hackers linked to China invaded the U.S. Transportation Command (Transcom) at least 20 times in one year. Transcom is a private company that moves troops and military goods across the globe.

Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich (right) and Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Ok (left) reporting on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP)

The report emphasized the cyber weakness of private military contractors. The military itself has strong cyber security, but private companies do not. Cyber security expert Dmitri Alperovitch commented that “the military uses secret or top-secret networks that are not on the Internet, but private companies do not.” He added that China has recently showed a strong interest in the logistical patterns of the U.S. military.

The report also voiced concern about a lack of information sharing among U.S. government entities. According to the report, there had been about 50 intrusions or other cyber events into Transcom’s system, and at least 20 of them were successful. However, Transcom was aware of only 2. The committee’s top Republican, Senator Jim Inhofe, called for a “central clearinghouse” to help the contractors report suspicious cyber activities to the government and military.

“These peacetime intrusions into the networks of key defense contractors are more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace,” said Senator Carl Levin, the chairperson of the committee. In May, the U.S. accused five Chinese military officials of hacking nuclear, metal, and solar companies. According to Community Health Systems, one of the largest U.S. hospital groups, Chinese hackers attacked and stole personal data of some 4.5 million patients just last month.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Chinese hacked U.S. military contractors: Senate panel – 18 September 2014

The Wall Street Journal – Chinese Hacked U.S. Military Contractors, Senate Panel Says – 18 September 2014

PCWorld – China says US hacking accusations are ‘totally groundless’ – 18 September 2014

Global Post – China refutes U.S. hacking charges – 18 September 2014

Confronting Ebola: Is quarantine the answer?

By Ashley Repp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MONROVIA, Liberia- The fight to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus has been unsuccessful; the death toll has risen, as well as the number of those infected. People in Liberia, an epicenter of the disease, have struggled to cope with the existence of Ebola within their country’s borders. Some are convinced that saying the word “ebola,” will bring the virus to the village. Others believe that it is nothing but a government hoax to get peoples’ blood. And some are consumed by fear, skeptical of medical personnels’ ability to help stop the virus as more and more people taken into hospitals for treatment never emerge. This fear has caused many people to hide in their homes when they become ill, relying on their family for care, and infecting them in the process. But one of the newest issues in grappling with this virus, are the containment methods being employed to stop the virus.

Ebola 2
Liberia, epicenter of outbreak, declares state of emergency (Photo courtesy of BBC)

 

In West Point slum in Monrovia, residents are being detained by police. No one is allowed in or out. Barbed wire lines gaps between buildings and officials stand ready to enforce. As a result of this confinement, people are unable to go to work, unable to feed themselves or their families, and the formerly minimal sanitation is now nonexistent. These quarantine policies have done nothing to quell fear, and instead, have provoked panic and desperation in an already tense community, rattled by the Ebola crisis. One man interviewed from the other side of a quarantine gate in the slum likened the containment process to being penned up like an animal. Others have expressed concern over the fact that the dead are not necessarily getting proper burial rites, according to local and religious practices and beliefs. For example, one man interviewed asserted that among the dead was a Muslim man, and particular burial practices must be followed.

While there is an apparent need to contain the virus, and quickly, the quarantine practices walk the line of inhumane, even under the given circumstances. Effective communication lines need to be formed between medical workers and villages so that the fear many have of doctors, nurses, and hospitals can be eliminated. But with the limited resources at government and aid groups’ disposal, the battle to contain the spread of Ebola will be challenging. Educating people as quickly as possible on the spread of the virus and the role of doctors may be the best low budget and most effective method of containment.

For more information please see:

The New York Times- What you need to know about the Ebola outbreak– 22 Sep 2014

PBS- Frontline: Ebola Outbreak (Documentary)– 9 Sep 2014

Discovery Health Channel- Ebola: Inside the deadly outbreak (Documentary)– 2014

CNN- Angry, scared and hungry: inside the Ebola quarantine zone– 26 Aug 2014

ICC to investigate war crimes in Central African Republic

By Ashley Repp

Impunity Watch news reporter, Africa

The ICC has begun official investigation into crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic. Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor for the ICC stated that the list of alleged crimes is simply too serious to ignore, and includes rape, pillaging, murder, and use of child soldiers. As a result, formal evidence to mount a case will be collected.

Man chases a suspected Seleka member  Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Photo: Man Chases a suspected Seleka member (Courtesy of The Atlantic)

The violence began after a coup in March of 2013. The Muslim group, Seleka, overthrew the president and installed the politician of their choice, Francois Bozize. Violence escalated, and a Christian group formed, called anti-balaka, which translates somewhat to anit-machete. As the nation began to split along sectarian lines, creating stark contrast between the Muslim minority and Christian majority, violence and crimes against humanity became more glaringly obvious to the international community. After proving that he was unable to quell the violence, Francois Bozize was pressured by world leaders to step down from his position as president.

An interim president from the Christian majority was installed, and she in turn, selected a Muslim prime minister, in an attempt to reduce the sectarian violence. This also has provide ineffective at quelling the violence, and now, the ICC has decided that it must step in to mount a case against those who perpetrated the violence. The UN has also sent troops to the country in an effort to help reduce the violence and crimes against humanity.

While the violence has certainly taken a toll on the nation, and efforts by the ICC may be warranted, many Africans are skeptical of the ICC, if not unsupportive. The ICC currently has eight investigations open, and all of the cases are in Africa. In many regards, these efforts may come across as a new form of imperialism, with the sights set on Africa. As one man the Central African Republic noted, “Normally we Africans are against the actions of the ICC, but for the Central African case, it’s a necessity because the Central African justice system doesn’t have the means or the desire to judge those responsible for this crisis.”

Beyond many African countries feeling targeting by the ICC, there is doubt, in many minds, that the ICC has the ability to carry out justice, as it has mounted cases against many, with no real punishment or ability to even capture those it charges with crimes. So while the Central African Republic continues to cope with the violence that has gripped the country, all it can do is wait and see if ICC efforts will be able to bring to justice those who perpetrated the crimes against humanity.

 

For more information, please visit:

The Wall Street Journal- The International Criminal Court opens second Central African Republic probe– 24 Sep 2014

ABC News- ICC opens new Central African Republic probe– 24 Sep 2014

 All Africa- Central African Republic: Hague court opens probe in Central African Republic– 24 Sep 2014

Aljazeera- ICC to probe possible war crimes in CAR– 25 Sep 2014

US Reaches $554 Million Settlement with Navajo Nation

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

WINDOW ROCK, Navajo Nation – On Thursday the Navajo nation reached a 554 million settlement with the United States government, ending years of litigation. The landmark settlement stems from a 2006 lawsuit in which the Navajo nations claims the United States Government mismanaged natural resources and trust fund assets dating back to 1946. The Navajo nation charged the federal government with failing to properly managed, invest and account for tribal funds and resources derived from the tribe’s 14million acres of trust lands, which are leased for various purposes, including farming, grazing, mining and timber harvesting. The Navajo Nation semi-autonomous reservation is the largest Native American reservation in the United States with 300,000 members and 27,000 square miles of territory in three states, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Despite the nation’s vast resources wealth many of the tribal members who live in remote areas of the reservation live without basic modern amenities, including electricity and running water. The Navajo lawsuit alleges that the Bureau of Indian affairs miss-management of Navajo assets contributed to extreme poverty on the reservation and prevented the nation from taking actions of its own.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly presents Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell with a blanket after signing the $554 million settlement reached between the Navajo Nation and the Untied States government on Sept. 26, 2014, at Window Rock Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock. (Photo courtesy of The Arizona Republic)

On Friday the United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, under whom the Bureau of Indian Affairs is managed, led a delegation of federal officials at a signing ceremony at tribal headquarters in Window Rock. After the ceremony she said that the funds will be transferred to the Navajo Nation within weeks. “By the end of the year, we believe the check will actually be here and in the bank and earning interest,” Jewell said.

United States President Barack Obama has directed that future interactions with Native American tribes should be based on a government-to-government status, recognizing that tribes should exercise self-governance and self-determination, Secretary Jewell. “Our job with 21/2 years remaining is to make sure that we deepen the relationship with Indian country, so no president coming after President Obama — Republican, Democrat or independent — can undo the good work that we’ve started, because we need to move forward in this next generation,” Jewell said.

Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch, who attended Friday’s ceremony, said President Obama has long worked to strengthen ties between the United States and the Navajo Nation, adding that “it reflects my personal commitment to resolving long-standing lawsuits rather than wasting the time and resources of both the United States and Indian tribes in contentious litigation.”

The landmark legal settlement, which concluded eight years of litigation, is the most paid by the federal government to a single Native American tribe. Ben Shelley, President of the Navajo Nation, said the agreement does not fully compensate the nation for the loss of revenue suffered and harm caused by the federal governments action’s over the past several decades. However, he believes the settlement marks a turning point in the relationship between the federal government of the United States and the Navajo Nation. “The trust litigation has been a protracted battle and, in the end, it was a victory for tribal sovereignty,” Shelly said in a statement. “After a long, hard-won process, I am pleased that we have finally come to a resolution on this matter to receive fair and just compensation for Navajo Nation.”

For more information please see:

The Arizona Republic – U.S. Government Formally Agrees to Pay Navajos $554 Million – 26 September 2014

CNN International – Navajo Nation to Sign $554 Million Settlement from U.S. Government – 25 September 2014

The Los Angeles Times – U.S. Settlement with Navajo Nation is Largest Ever for a Tribe – 25 September 2014

The Washington Post – U.S. to Pay Navajo Nation $554 Million in Largest Settlement with Single Indian Tribe – 25 September 2014

Security Council Members Urged to Spare Veto in Cases of Mass Atrocity

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

United Nations Headquarters, United Nations – More than two dozen foreign ministers have urged permanent members of United Nations Security Council to avoid using the veto power in matters that involve mass atrocities including genocide. The Security Council has been criticized for failing to produce resolution to respond to mass-atrocities committed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups including the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) during the Syrian civil war which has raged on for more than three years. Several resolutions on Syria proposed by members of the United Nation’s most powerful body have been vetoed by Russia and China.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius urged fellow UN Security council members to hold back using veto powers when dealing with issues of mass-atrocities (Photo courtesy of the Irish Independent)

France, which is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council is proposing that the France, The United States and The United Kingdom voluntarily refrain from using the veto in what French foreign minister Laurent Fabius called “mass crimes”. “We cannot stay paralyzed,” He said calling for an agreement by next year’s 70th anniversary of the UN’s founding.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, The United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United Nations, expressed support for France’s proposal saying, “The UK is appalled by its recent abuse at the expense of millions of suffering civilians.” United States Ambassador Samantha Power  did not express specific support for the Fabius’ proposal but criticizes the China and Russia’s vetoes on the Syrian issue, the United States has used its veto power more than two dozen times on issues involving Israel.

“We can even ask ourselves whether ISIL would have gained the foothold it has if the Security Council had been able to come together,” she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State extremist group that has seized huge parts of both Syria and Iraq. Neither Russia nor China sent its ambassador to United Nations to the meeting and China’s representative suggested that Security Council members should “fully consult” with each other to keep disputed draft resolutions from reaching a vote.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin has maintained that Russia will oppose any change to veto rules. Vitaly Churkin’s deputy Alexander Pankin reiterated Russia’s concerns asking what mechanism the UN Secretary General would resort to in order to limit a Security Council member state’s right to use veto. Russia’s representative said the veto repeatedly protected the council from “doubtful undertakings” and asked skeptically how secretary general Ban Ki-Moon would determine what qualified as a mass atrocity. Earlier this year Ban Ki-moon called Syrian conflict an “extraordinarily brutal war” and warned that the UN’s credibility would suffer if was unable to help end it.

Earlier this year both Russia and China vetoed a draft UN resolution calling for the crisis in Syria to be referred to the international criminal court – ignoring support for the measure by 65 other states and all 13 remaining members of the Security Council. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, dismissed that vote as a “publicity stunt.

“Moscow and Beijing can veto a resolution but they can’t suppress the desire for justice by the Syrian people and the dozens of governments that stood for their rights,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch in response to the vetoes. “With the Syrian crisis entering a fourth year, atrocities raging on all sides, and the death toll skyrocketing well over 150,000, Russia and China’s vote for continued impunity is a disgrace.”

For more information please see:

Irish Independent – UN’s Big Guns Urged to Limit Veto – 26 September 2014

RIA Novosti (Russian State Media) – Russia Vows to Oppose Push to Change UN Veto Rules – 26 September 2014

The Associated Press – Security Council Urged to Spare Veto in Atrocities – 25 September 2014

The Guardian – Russia and China Veto UN Move to Refer Syria to International Criminal Court – 22 May 2014

Brazil Tries to Curb Dengue Fever with ‘Good Mosquito’ Release

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian researchers have released thousands of mosquitoes infected with a bacteria that suppress dengue fever.

Genetically modified mosquitoes. Photo courtesy of International Business Times

The researchers believe that the mosquitoes will multiply, breed and become the majority of mosquitoes.  They hope this will reduce cases of the disease.  The initiative is actually a part of a larger program also taking place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Dengue fever, is a mosquito-borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness.  The more severe forms include dengue shock syndrome and dengue hemorrhagic fever.  Dengue fever must be treated before it turns into dengue shock syndrome or dengue hemorrhagic fever.  Dengue fever is commonly found in urban areas of subtropical and tropical climates, such as Central and South America, various parts of Africa and Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The intracellular bacteria the mosquitoes were infected with, Wolbachia, cannot be transmitted to humans.

The program started in 2012.  “Transparency and proper information for the household is a priority.” said Luciano Moreira of the Brazilian research institute Fiocruz, who is leading the project in Brazil.  “Our teams performed weekly visits to the four neighborhoods in Rio being targeted.  Mosquitoes were analyzed after collection in special traps.”

Ten thousand mosquitoes will be released each month for four months, the first release was in Tubiacanga, in the north of Rio.

The bacterium Wolbachia is found in 60% of insects.  Wolbachia acts as a vaccine for the mosquito which carries dengue, Aedes aegypti, stopping the dengue virus multiplying in its body.

Aedes mosquitoes with Wolbachia become predominant without researchers having to constantly release more contaminated insects.

The program has already proved successful in Australia.  Within 10 weeks on average Wolbachia mosquitoes became predominant.

Three more neighborhoods will be targeted next.  There will be large scale studies to evaluate the effect of the strategy possibly in 2016.

Dengue fever re-emerged in Brazil in 1981 after an absence of more than 20 years.  In the following 30 years, seven million cases were reported.

Brazil leads the world in the number of dengue cases, with 3.2 million cases and 800 deaths reported in the 2009-14 period.  The disease continues to have implications for Brazil’s public health system and economy.  There was large concern about dengue fever in Brazil during the World Cup.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Brazil Releases ‘Good’ Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue Fever — 24 Sept. 2014

The Malay Mail Online — Researchers Release ‘Good’ Mosquitoes to Suppress Dengue Fever in Brazil — 26 Sept. 2014

International Business Times — Brazil Releases Thousands of ‘Good’ Mosquitos to Combat Dengue Fever — 25 Sept. 2014

The New Age Online — Brazil Releases Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue Fever — 25 Sept. 2014