Australia Expands Laws to Face Terrorist Threat

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania 

 

Canberra, Australia 

The Australian Senate has passed a new bill in response to the recent foreign and domestic terrorist threats facing Australia. The new legislation will make it easier for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access the personal information on computers and cell phones of Australian citizens overseas. The bill would also create an increased penalty of up to 10 years in prison for disclosing secret information, this is especially concerning for journalists, who are concerned that they will be targeted with these new penalties. Lastly the new legislation gives civil and criminal immunity to Australian intelligence agents. The government was quick to comment that the immunity would not be extended to those agents that caused death, serious injury, engaged in sexual offenses or severe damage to property.

IS TERROR SUSPECT RAIDS
Australian police outside a house in Sydney during raids last Thursday (Photo Curtesy of SBS)

The Parliament has pushed for these new laws in response to major counter terrorist operations in recent weeks, where Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies foiled an ISIS plot to stage a public beheading in Sydney. There have also been smaller incidents, including a number of arrests involving ISIS recruiters operating in Australia. The Australian response was to lift restrictions on the intelligence community however; the political opposition parties are voicing their disapproval. Both the Liberal Democratic Party as well as the Green Party has stated that these new laws will effectively restrict freedom of the press. The major concern is that if the press is not able to report on intelligence activities then democracy in Australia will be undermined.

Another major concern of the opposition groups was that torture could be included in the new laws. Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave a speech in response to this rumor that torture would not be included in the new legislation and that it will remain outlawed in Australia. The legal immunity was also explicitly stated to not cover incidents of torture. It has only  been in the last few weeks that Australia responded to a call from the U.S. to aide international efforts in combating ISIS. In response to that call Australia deployed troops abroad, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott stating that Australia was not out of the reach of the ISIS threat. Shortly after the deployment announcement, ISIS became very active in Australia, evident from a foiled terrorist plot as well as a slew of arrests. Now Australia has adapted their laws to face the new threat but many worry that it will lead to injustice.

For more information, please see:

ABC News — Senate Passes New Counter-Terrorism Giving Stronger Powers to Intelligence Agency ASIO — 25 September 2014

The Guardian — Torture Ruled Out of Counter- Terrorism Laws For Australian Security Agencies — 21 September 2014

The Guardian — Australia’s Counter- Terror Laws Will Restrict our Free Speech and Free Press — 21 September 2014

SBS — What Will the Counter- Terror Laws Mean for Australians? — 24 September 2014

UN General Assembly Focuses on Traditional Topics As Well As Ebola and ISIS

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – On Tuesday 23 September 2014, more than 140 heads of state and government gathered in New York City for the 69th annual United Nations general assembly. With the current state of world affairs this year’s agenda took on new crises, including the rise of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, the Ebola outbreak, and the ongoing civil strife between Ukraine and Russia. However, traditional topics such as nuclear weapons and climate change were also discussed.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke in New York at the Climate Change Summit on 23 Sept 2014 (photo courtesy of Time).

On Wednesday, the United Nation Security Council convened at a special session chaired by United States President, Barack Obama, in order to reach an international agreement regarding disarming ISIS. The agreement seeks to sever the flow of funds and weapons to extremist groups. Thus, straining the rapid development of extremist groups such as ISIS.

In addition to addressing the concerns regarding security issues in the Middle East, United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, focused on the U.N. Climate Summit. Kerry states that it is “absolutely imperative” for the world to curb the impact of climate change immediately.

Additionally, the Ebola outbreak in Africa was a highly discussed matter at the summit. Last week, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution addressing the rapid spreading of Ebola, calling it an “international peace and security threat.” The resolution called for field hospitals to be set up in outbreak areas, along with all U.N. member nations to provide assistance in the form of qualified staff and supplies.

Since the first case of Ebola was discovered, it has claimed the lives of more than 2,7000 individuals. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, stated at a recent press conference, “Ebola is an exponential crisis that demands an exceptional global response.” President Obama also addressed the issue at the summit, and asked world leaders to provide more assistance in the form of funds and medical aid to the affected countries.

 

For more information, please see the following:

NEW YORK TIMES – President Obama to Address U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday – 23 Sept. 2014.

TIME – UN General Assembly Kicks Off in New York City – 23 Sept. 2014.

US NEWS – Obama Tackles ISIS, Ebola, and a Nuclear Iran at U.N. General Assembly – 24 Sept. 2014.

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Transcript: Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly – 24 Sept. 2014.

Regime Forces Overrun Town near Damascus

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – As U.S. and Coalition forces target the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the Khorasan group in Syria the Assad regime continues the tighten its grip on communities near the capital, targeting rebel held communities. Syrian forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad overran rebels in Adra al-Omalia, a town 30 km northeast of the Syrian capital. Syrian State Media, SANA reported that the armed forces had “imposed their control over the town of Adra al-Omalia and eliminated a number of terrorists.” SANA reported that Syrian soldiers were combing the area and clearing out explosives planted by armed groups. The raids were an important advancement for the Assad Regime which is attempting to strengthen its grip over the areas around Central Damascus. Assad’s forces, backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah group, have been gradually extending control over a corridor of strategic territory that reaches from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.

Syrian state TV, SANA, claimed on Thursday that the armed forces had “imposed their control” over Adra al-Omalia. SANA broadcast what it said was live footage of Syrian solders in the overrun town. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, confirmed that the government had taken control of Adra al-Omalia after clashes with rebels including some fighters from the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, whose assets have also been targeted by U.S. air strikes. The United States considers the Nusra Front a terrorist organization. The Observatory earlier reported that at least 29 people – 18 of them rebel fighters – died during fighting on Wednesday between rebels and government forces in the outskirts of Damascus. Fighting still regularly kills nearly 200 people a day Syria.

Syrian opposition activists warn that the continued U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes in Syria may ultimately help the Assad regime if regime assets are not targeted in the strikes. The Assad regime is a primary target of ISIS fighting, the regime views the ISIS organization as continued threat and could use the airstrikes as indirect aid to reclaim territory taken by the ISIS group and as an opportunity to open new ground battles against the militants.

The Coalition strategy against ISIS may incentives the Assad regime ramp up fighting against the Free Syrian Army and other moderate fighters out of fears that these groups will receive increased aid from the international community. United States President Barack Obama has lobbied for increased military aid and training to moderate Syrian rebels as a potential proxy force to fight ISIS militants on the ground in Syria. This firepower would likely ultimately be turned against the Assad regime.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Syrian Army Overruns Town Near Damascus – 25 September 2014
The Jerusalem Post – Report: Syrian Army Retakes Area Northeast Of Damascus – 25 September 2014
Reuters – Syrian Army Extends Grip In Town Northeast Of Damascus – 25 September 2014
The Washington Post – U.S.-Led Airstrikes Could Open New Fronts For Syrian Battles Against Islamic State – 25 September 2014

French Tourist Beheaded in Algeria by Group Linked to Islamic State

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France – A French tourist to Algeria was killed in a beheading by an Algerian jihadist group linked to the Islamic State. The group, Jund al-Khilafah, kidnapped Hervé Gourdel on Sunday, the day after he arrived in Algeria, and after putting out a video threatening Gourdel’s life if France does not stop aiding the US coalition in the Middle East, the group followed up with a video showing his alleged murder.

Hervé Gourdel with his captors before being executed. (Photo courtesy of NY Daily News)

Facing the threat of Gourdel’s death should the bombings not cease, France insisted that it would not back down from the attacks. Following the new video depicting the beheading, French President Francois Hollande condemned the group’s actions as “cruel and cowardly.” Hollande went on to declare that “France will never give in to blackmail, to pressure, to barbaric acts… Quite to the contrary… The fight against terrorism will be pursued and accelerated as much as necessary with the respect for law.”

While it is unclear exactly what the link is between this group and ISIS, the video is a very similar style to the previous three videos released by ISIS depicting the beheadings of two Americans and one British citizen. While at least 40 nations have promised to support the move against ISIS, France has gained extra attention from the terrorist group. France was the first nation to join the United States in conducting bombings on ISIS targets in Iraq.

While past Western victims of the brutal beheading videos have been either journalists or humanitarian workers, Gourdel was merely in Algeria to hike and explore caves. While traveling through Algeria, armed militants grabbed Gourdel and took him captive. This was likely in response to the expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, as over 200 missiles have already hit targets across Syria. Even though Algeria is about 2,000 miles away from Syria, Algeria is not the only country with an ISIS presence within, as Libya has also been a worry to the French.

The Islamic State has already threatened to behead yet another British aid worker, Alan Henning. This recent video signals that ISIS and their allies are not going to stop simply because other countries have decided to begin fighting back.

For more information, please see:

USA Today – Jihadist video claims beheading of French hostage – 24 September 2014

ABC – ISIS Supporters Appear to Behead French Captive – 24 September 2014

Daily News – Algerian terrorists behead kidnapped French mountain guide – 24 September 2014

New York Post – Algerian ISIS group threatens to behead French captive – 23 September 2014

ACU Launches the Annual Report of 2013

The Assistance Coordination Unit is overdue in issuing its annual report of 2013 and the report of the external international auditing firm “Deloitte” is mentioned with four NOTES!!

The Assistance Coordination Unit “ACU” of the National Coalition has published its annual report of 2013, accompanied by a report from the external Global auditors who contracted with the Unit to conduct a full-scale auditing for it.

The annual report recites the achievements of the Unit through its main divisions in different humanitarian, developmental and medical sectors, as well as its affiliated offices in Lebanon and Jordan. Accompanying the report are the financial report of all ACU’s activities, auditing and comparison reports prepared by the ACU’s internal auditor as well as the report of the global auditing firm “Deloitte”. The report has graphic projections and representations of all 2013 activities and performance indicators.

Interestingly, the result that “Deloitte” concluded in its report came as a “qualified opinion” meaning that, “the financial statements give a true and fair view of the financial position of ACU as at 31 December 2013 except four notes”.

The ACU had contracted with “Deloitte”, the Global external financial auditors in March of 2014, in order to ensure greater transparency in front of the Syrian people and other donors and implementing partners, and with the intention of holding itself accountable to the dignified Syrian people pertaining to all funds provided to the public through the Unit and the crucial role it plays.

It is noteworthy that, “Deloitte” firm is one of the four largest international professional services networks (Big Four of Audit Firms). It is known to audit governments, governmental banks and a large array of international banks.
Download the report in English, via this link: Click Here

The following link is for a video with full explanation, supported by graphs and official documents, of the Unit and of the performance indicators of 2013. It also presents Deloitte’s report and the “NOTES” they talked about, to be utilized as technical information: Click Here

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any needed information upon financial issues on this e-mail: finance@acu-sy.org
For more information, please contact us on this e-mail: info@acu-sy.org

Maduro Announces $47M Disarmament Plan

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — On September 20, Venezuelan President Maduro announced a $47 million dollar plan to disarm Venezuelan civilians.  As that day was the International Day of Peace, Maduro detailed his plan to build 60 new disarmament centers.  The centers will allow citizens to voluntarily surrender their firearms.

Destroyed pistols used in a demonstration. Photo courtesy of International Business Times

According to figures from the United Nations, Venezuela has the second highest peacetime murder rate behind Honduras.  According to statistics most of the murders in Venezuela are committed using firearms.  “We are building peace from within, and for that, you need disarmament,” the president said at an event in the capital, Caracas.

UN figures suggest there were 53.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012, compared to 90.4 in Honduras.  This figure is up from 47.8 last year.  However, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a Caracas-based non-profit organization estimates a much larger number at 79 per 100,000 people.  A rate they say that quadrupled over the past 15 years.  

In addition to disarmament, Maduro has approved a plan for $39 million to go towards funding military soldiers to patrol streets alongside Venezuelan police.  The soldiers are set to patrol the streets in the most dangerous neighborhoods.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said the money would be used to finance 2,000 new patrols and fund new equipment for the security forces.

In June 2013, President Maduro introduced tougher prison sentences for people convicted of carrying illegal firearms.  The offense could land someone 20 years in prison.  Despite these new laws insecurity amongst Venezuelan citizens is at an all time high.  The law also restricted sales of firearms to military and security personnel, effectively outlawing civilian possession of firearms.

Security was a large reason for massive protests against the government this year, along with the economy.

Many opposition activists have accused the government of hypocrisy.  They allege that officials have armed “colectivos”, pro-government groups which have clashed with anti-government protesters during demonstrations.  The activists believe that the government is using the disarmament program as a cover-up.

This isn’t the first time the government has attempted to remove guns from the street.

In 2009, the government destroyed more than 30,000 guns that were seized during police raids.  $5,000 was raised from the sell of the scrap metal was donated to the Friends of Children with Cancer Foundation.  

The government continued their policy of disarmament in 2011. In September the Venezuelan government destroyed over 50,000 confiscated guns adding, racking up a total of 250,000 guns confiscated since 2003. Melted down, the weapons produced 60 tons of iron that was recycled for use in public housing projects.

On Sunday President Maduro said his government “continued to pursue the dream, the utopia of a Venezuela in peace”, and promised to build “peace with love, justice and a will to work”.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Venezuela’s Maduro launches civilian disarmament plan – 22 Sept. 2014

VICE News – Venezuelan Government Announces Disarmament Plan – Again – 23 Sept. 2014

Washington Times – Venezuela’s Maduro Launches $47M Plan to Disarm Civilians – 23 Sept. 2014

International Business Times – Venezuela Launches Disarmament Program – 22 Sept. 2014

Thousands Risk Death to Flee Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Benjamin Williams
Impunity Watch Middle East Desk Reporter  

GAZA, Palestine — In the wake of the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel, thousands of Palestinians are fleeing the Gaza Strip. Refugees are risking the perils of the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to begin a new life in Europe. Sources stated that news of the peril suffered by the fleeing Palestinians “has raised alarm among Gazan families awaiting word that their loved ones had arrived safely.”

This year has seen an estimated 10,000 Palestinians flee the country, with a swell in numbers since the conflict began in July. With the Israeli offensive, known as “Operation Protective Edge,” killing more than 2,000 mostly civilian Palestinians, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, and destroying much of Gaza’s infrastructure, it comes as no surprise that residents would seek refuge elsewhere. Migrants looking for a fresh start are subjected to not only the elements, but human traffickers, as well.

One such boat bound for the Egyptian coast was filled with upwards of 500 men, women, and children. Among the dead were Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Sudanese. Two survivors, after days clinging to flotation aids, were recovered from the wreckage after human traffickers intentionally sunk their ship when migrants refused to move to a smaller vessel. One survivor said, “After they hit our boat, they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing.” The two Palestinian men rescued stated as many as 100 children were on board when the boat went down.

Gazan residents have increasingly turned to smugglers to get across the Egyptian border. With tight border regulations making the journey extremely difficult, refugees have resorted to paying about $4,000 per person. The fee allows an individual to be smuggled into Egypt though an underground tunnel and on to Europe on a raft. However, even if residents can afford the trip, they will encounter criminals and treacherous conditions along the way.

Woman remembers son lost at sea on his journey to a new life in Europe. (photo courtesy of Oman Daily Observer)

Hundreds of families have lost contact with their loved ones making the dangerous trek to a new life. One man learned of the death of his son from a survivor who had seen him on a ship that sank on September 10th. Khalil Abu Shammal, director of Gaza’s Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights, said, “The number of people with whom families in Gaza have lost contact is around 400. Measures are required to stop such travel towards death and the unknown.” “The risks [residents] take reflect their desperation and we cannot keep abandoning them to their fate,” stated the International Organization for Migration director general William Lacy Swing.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera America – Palestinian migrants fleeing Gaza Strip drown in Mediterranean Sea – 22 September 2014

CNN – “Laughing” traffickers ram boat full of migrants and kill 500, survivors say – 22 September 2014

Oman Daily Observer – War spurs more Gazans to risk migration to Europe – 22 September 2014

 

U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes Begin Inside Syria

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – U.S. forces have begun leading airstrikes in Syria against The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) which is attempting to establish an caliphate in Syria and Iraq based on its extremist interpretation of Islamic law. The United States military conducted the airstrikes with fighter jets as well as remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk missiles to conduct 14 strikes against ISIS in Syria. 47 Tomahawk missiles were fired by American ships located in the Red Sea and the North Arabian Gulf. The Coalition of states supporting the airstrikes included several Arab allies. Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes. Several of the Arab Allies participating in the airstrikes played a kinetic role in the strikes meaning they played an active role in carrying out the strikes rather than simply providing material support to the United States.

A U.S. fighter jet prepares for launch from the USS George H.W. Bush located in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday to take part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. (Photo courtesy of CNN International)

On Tuesday morning, before heading to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, United States President Barack Obama addressed the importance of Arab participation in the Coalition combating ISIS on Tuesday morning saying the Coalition that attacked ISIS in Syria overnight “makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone,” and that Middle Eastern governments are rejecting ISIS and its extremist agenda. Jordan’s minister of information and communication, Mohamamd Al Momani, confirmed Jordan’s participation in the strikes saying the airstrikes would continue in the coming period. Momani said The Jordanian Kingdom is participating in the collation in order to combat “terrorism in its home in order to protect Jordan’s security and stability and to prevent terrorism from reaching the kingdom.”

The strikes primarily targeted the area around Raqqa, which ISIS has declared as its Capital city. For several moths civilians living in Raqqa have been experienced the harsh rule of ISIS after militants took over their city, which had been one of Syria’s most liberal cities. Members of ISIS have implemented severe punishments against civilians for violations of their strict interpretation of Islamic law, opposition members have said public executions have become a daily occurrence in the area.

Abo Ismail, an opposition activist inside Raqqa, said Tuesday that residents were both fearful and elated to see the U.S. attacking ISIS targets there because while they were thrilled to see intentional action against ISIS the group was reacting by increasing security in the city.

“I would dance in the streets, but I am too afraid,” Ismail said.

Syria has been in the midst of a devastating civil war that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced several million people. Syrian rebels have been clamoring for Western military aid as they fight the regime after it began turning its guns on peaceful demonstrators. Despite the late action the Free Syria the Free Syria Foreign Mission said it was elated by the U.S. strikes. “Thank God. What a momentous day — a day that we have been looking forward to for so, so long,” the Syrian opposition group said. “It’s a big step forward, but we are nonetheless clear-eyed that it will be a prolonged campaign to defeat ISIS.”

Ironically attacks targeting ISIS may help the Syrian Regime. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has said it wants to be informed of any action against ISIS taken in its country and will react harshly to actions taken without its approval. However, the regime has been fighting ISIS and other rebel groups in Syria for three years and U.S. and Coalition attacks on ISIS will allow the regime to target moderate rebel groups in the country.  “It helps him because we’re taking out one of the threats to his regime,” said retired Air Force intelligence officer Lt. Col. Rick Francona. “If we destroy ISIS, which we’re committed to do … that takes the biggest player off the table. And all he has to worry about is the smaller, less effective al Qaeda in Syria — al-Nusra — and the (rebel) Free Syrian Army, both of whom he has bested in the past couple of years.”

According to a statement issued by the United States Decampment of Defense “The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets… and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.”

The airstrikes also targeted the Khorasan group, an al Qaeda affiliated organization. In a statement the United States Department of Defense claims the group represents and imminent threat to the United States and the West.  The statement said “The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qaeda veterans – sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group – who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.

For more information please see:

ABC News – President Obama Says Airstrikes against ISIS Targets in Syria ‘Not America’s Fight Alone’ – 23 September 2014

Al Jazeera – US and Allies Strike ISIL Targets in Syria – 23 September 2014

CNN International – Obama: Syria Strikes Show ‘This is Not America’s Fight Alone’ – 23 September 2014

CNN International – U.S. Strikes ISIS and Khorasan Inside Syria Live – 23 September 2014

FIFA Official: Qatar Won’t Host FIFA World Cup

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor Impunity Watch

DOHA, Qatar – On Monday Theo Zwanziger, Executive Committee member for the Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) suggested that the Committee may choose to remove the 2022 World Cup from Qatar, which has been preparing for the games for years.  According to the FIFA official the decision will come down to one factor: Extreme heat. However, if true, the decision to strip Qatar of the World Cup followed months of international criticism of the Gulf State’s treatment of migrant workers and complaints of slave labor conditions for workers at the World Cup sites.

People celebrate the announcement location of the 2022 World Cup with a screen that reads ‘Congratulations Qatar’ after FIFA announced that Qatar will be host of the 2022 World Cup in Souq Waqif in Doha, in this December 2, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Theo Zwanziger, the former German soccer association (DFB) chief said that the most widely watched tournament in sports will have to be held somewhere else due to health concerns over the extreme heat that players will experience in the Qatari desert. “I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar,” he said. “Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.”

Qatar remains adamant that it will host the 2022 World Cup. “The only question now is when, not if,” Qatar 2022 communications director Nasser Al Khater said in a statement. He added “summer or winter, we will be ready.” The oil-rich Gulf state insists that it will be able to use state of the art cooling technologies currently being developed for stadiums, training areas and fan zones. However, there FIFA officials still cite concerns over the health of players and fans; “they may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said. “Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor. That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”

Labor rights activists have raised concerns about dangerous working conditions and have made allegations about unpaid salaries and other abuses of workers’ rights. The Qatari economy is heavily dependent on large numbers of low-paid migrant workers, many of whom ar brought from Asia.

Two weeks ago the Qatari government confirmed that it is holding two British citizens who went missing while researching migrant labor conditions in the country, saying that the men are being questioned about possible illegal activities in the country. The confirmation came after Amnesty International urged authorities to reveal the men’s whereabouts and insure their safety. The Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development reported that the two British citizens, a researcher, Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and a photographer, Ghimire Gundev, 36, went missing on Aug. 31 as they were preparing to leave the country.

While at least one high ranking FIFA officials believes Qatar will be stripped of its hosting duties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup because of concerns over extreme heat, the organization has faced criticism for choosing the Gulf State to host the games despite concerns over human rights abuses in the country. Any decision by FIFA to remove the tournament from Qatar on the bases of temperature concerns will likely be interpreted as an attempt by FIFA save face as the organization has been continually criticized by activists as new allegations of abuses in Qatar continue to surface.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Qatar Won’t Host the World Cup: FIFA Official – 22 September 2014

Fortune – FIFA May Pull 2022 World Cup from Qatar ‘On Medical Grounds’ – Exec – 22 September 2014

Reuters – Qatar Adamant it will Host 2022 World Cup Despite Doubts – 22 September 2014

The New York Times – Officials in Qatar Confirm Detention of Britons – 8 September 2014

Ashraf Ghani Named as the President of Afghanistan

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s Election Commission finally announced Ashraf Ghani as the president-elect. The announcement was made Sunday after Ghani and the runner up, Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing deal. Ghani’s presidential inauguration will be held on September 29.

The Commission Chief, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, stated that “[t]he Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan declared Dr. Asraf Ghani . . . as the president of Afghanistan.” This announcement will end the political chaos following the presidential runoff on June 14. While experiencing nationwide terrorists’ attacks on the day of election, Candidate Abdullah insisted election fraud and vote rigging, and his supporters denied the election result. At the time, millions of ballots were suspected of fraud, and Abdullah’s supporters warned to establish “parallel governments.”

The Election Commission went on to review polling stations and ballot papers under a U.N. audit, but the result was unsuccessful.

“Although the audit was comprehensive . . . [we] could not detect or throw out fraud completely,” said Commission Chief Nuristani. The commission withheld the final election numbers. Nuristani said the commission will announce it later, but did not specify when. He did not take further questions from reporters.

Ghani (right) and Abdullah (left) signing the power sharing deal (Reuters)

The details of the power-sharing deal were not disclosed to the public. Reportedly, Abdullah will be in a position named “Chief Executive” that is similar to prime minister. They will also share powers over controlling the nation’s institutes and government agencies, including the military forces. The incumbent president, Karzai, made clear that the former government and administration will not be responsible for the deal and that Ghani and Abdullah will have to work on fulfilling the commitment.

The public reaction varied. The Afghan public seems happy for the end of months of political unrest, but some worried with the possible effects of the deal. Afghan resident Sharifullah told Voice of America that he was disappointed because the hardship people suffered through to vote while under the violence of terrorists was wasted. He added the political deal would harm the principle of democracy in Afghanistan.

The U.N. and the U.S. both welcomed the agreement and described it as an important step toward achieving social stability in Afghanistan. TIME reported that the deal is a “victory for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,” as he is the one who first got the candidates to agree in principle to the power-sharing arrangement when he visited Afghanistan in July. TIME also said he revisited to seal the deal in August. John Kerry stated that Ghani and Abdullah have “put the people of Afghanistan first, and they have ensured that the first peaceful democratic transition in the history of their country begins with national unity.”

For more information, please see:

TIME – Afghanistan Finally Has a New President – 21 September 2014

BBC – Afghan presidential contenders sign unity deal – 21 September 2014

Voice of America – Ashraf Ghani Named President-elect in Afghanistan – 21 September 2014

Mine Spill in Mexico Shuts Down Water Supply

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On 21 September, Mexican authorities issued an alert concerning a toxic spill into a river due to a copper mine run by the company Grupo Mexico. Grupo Mexico operates a $1 billon a year Buenavista mine in Cananea, Sonora, which produces nearly 200,000 tons of copper.

This pool of water with sulphuric acid is used by Grupo Mexico to extract copper stones (Photo Courtesy of BBC News).

The chemical, which is used to dissolve copper from ore, turned a 60km stretch of Sonora River the color orange. The spillage caused the authorities to shut down the municipal water supply to seven towns, affecting more than 20,000 people. Officials in the northern state of Sonora also asked that citizens to not use any water from the Bacanuchi River.

Carlos Arias, the civil protection director for the border state of Sonora, stated that his department is taking measures to ensure people and livestock do not come in contact with the water until it can be tested. The Sonora state civil protection agency said it would end its relationship with Grupo Mexico, due to the company’s continuing discharge of toxic substances into the water supply. The recent spill comes jut weeks after a spill of 40,000 cubic meters.

On 6 August, two rivers were contaminated by a spill due to the mining giant, causing thousand of residents to be left without clean water. The spill was recorded as the worst environmental disaster in Mexican history by a mining industry. The contamination forced authorities to shut down hundreds of water wells and distribute millions of liters of water in trucks. At least five individuals sought medical attention after coming into contact with the polluted water.

More than a quarter of Mexico’s mining activity is located in the north-western region. Thus making it Mexico’s top producer of gold, copper and graphite. Grupo Mexico reached an agreement with the Mexican Government, in which Grupo would create a trust to pay for all environmental damage caused by toxic spills. The company has since set up a $150 million trust.

 

For more information, please see the following:

ABC NEWS – Western Mexico State Reports New Mine Spill -21 Sept. 2014

BBC – Mexico’s Sonora State Reports New Mine Spill – 21 Sept. 2014.

BLOOMBERG – Grupo Mexico Spill Sparks Scrutiny of $150 Million Cleanup – 17 Sept. 2014.

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Grupo Mexico To Set Aside $150 Million for Mine Spill Cleanup – 11 Sept. 2014.