One Week After Bombing PKK targets, Turkey Allows Peshmerga Fighters to Cross into Syria

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

ANKARA, Turkey – The Turkish government will allow Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq to cross its territory to defend Kurds in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani which has been under heavy attack from fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The Peshmerga forces have been heavily invoked in the ground fighting against ISIS in Iraq.

Kurdish people watch from the Turkish village of Mursitpinar as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani (Photo courtesy of Bloomberg News)

The announcement marked an abrupt shift in the Turkish government’s official position of refusing to grant any aid to help the Kurds of Kobani and came just hours after the United States military dropped 24 tons of weapons and medicines to the besieged town. The Turkish government has been slow to respond to calls from the United States and other members of the International community to aid in the fight against ISIS. Turkey has cited its belief that Kurdish militants in the region, many of whom would like to see the establishment of a Kurdish State, are terrorists.

Last week Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes have bombed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel targets near the Iraqi border, as the ceasefire reached between turkey and the PKK in March of last year comes under increasing strain. The Anatolia news agency reported that two PKK commanders wounded in fighting were arrested by Turkish authorities when they arrived for treatment at a hospital in south-eastern Turkey.

The Turkish armed forces say the airstrikes were carried out in response to a PKK shelling of a military outpost. Kurds are furious at Turkey’s inaction as Islamic State (IS) militants attack the Syrian border town of Kobani.

PKK Militants have been aiding the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Kobani. The Turkish government considers the YPG, like the PKK to be a terrorist organization and has refused to help aid the militia group in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Despite their status as one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East, with control of a semi-autonomous region in Iraq, the Kurdish people face discrimination in their homeland which spans across large regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Kurdish people have become targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) as the militant group continues to gain ground in largely Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq.

The war with ISIS has reignited tensions between the Kurdish people and the Turkish government. Tensions have risen in Turkey over the past several weeks. Demonstrations have been held in nearly 30 cities and curfews have been enforced for the first time in 22 years and state buildings have been attacked. Some of the fighting has been between the Turkey’s Kurdish populations. Turkey’s Islamist Hezbollah group supports ISIS while the banned PKK group is strongly opposed to ISIS,

The Turkish government’s decision to allow Peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish territory, just a week after targeting a Kurdish militants in its own country, may have been an attempt to both appease international calls for Turkish action against ISIS and to appease Kurdish populations in Turkey in order to prevent tensions in the country from continuing to rise.

For more information please see:

Bloomberg – Syria Kurds Say Peshmerga Must Work With Them in Kobani – 21 October 2014

The Guardian – Turkey to Allow Kurdish Peshmerga across Its Territory to Fight In Kobani – 20 October 2014

Reuters – Turkey to Help Kurdish ‘Peshmerga’ Fighters Reach Besieged Syrian Town – 20 October 2014

BBC News – Turkish Jets Bomb Kurdish PKK Rebels Near Iraq – 14 October 2014

BBC News – Turkey’s Fear of A Reignited Kurdish Flame – 8 October 2014

Korean “Digital Refugees”: Controversy over Privacy and Surveillance

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – On October 13, Lee Sirgoo, the co-CEO of a South Korean company “Daum Kakao,” held a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. He bowed in apology and said that “we stopped accepting prosecution warrants to monitor our users’ private conversations from October 7, and hereby announce that we will continue to do so.” He said that the company will make privacy the top priority of its business when there is discord between privacy and law and added that “if our decision is a violation of the law, I, as the head of Daum Kakao, will bear any responsibilities.” What’s happening in Korea?

Lee Sirgoo, the co-CEO of Daum Kakao, apologizing to the public at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. (Yonhap)

The Daum Kakao is a company that operates Kakao Talk messenger application. The Kakao Talk is a dominant application in South Korea with 35 million users out of 50 million of the country’s total population. Most cell phone users now communicate with each other through Kakao Talk rather than mere text messaging, and the term “Ka Talk” has already become synonymous with “sending message via phone.”

The controversial issue arose when the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, announced in late September that she was cracking down on the spread of baseless and insulting rumors about the president’s personal life. She complained that such rumors in SNS and on websites are socially divisive and destructive.

South Korean Prosecutor’s Office reacted to the president’s anger immediately. Within two days of the president’s comments, the office held a meeting with social media companies, such as Daum Kakao, Naver, and Nate, and also with other government offices like the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, police departments, and the Korea Communications Commission. As a result, the office officially announced that they will “preemptively respond” to spreading false information over the web by “constant monitoring” the SNS and messenger services. About seven days later, the office launched a special team for the task under the Prosecutors’ Office.

The public erupted into a fury and obvious anxiety. Even worse, a newspaper allegedly introduced a case in which the Daum Kakao recently handed to the Prosecutor’s Office the information of three thousand people’s messages and profiles in relation to an investigation on only one person. The company and the office both denied the article, but the company admitted that the Prosecutor’s Office and the nation’s information bureau regularly request information (conversations between users) through warrants.

The president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, was recently suffered from rumors on websites and SNS about her personal life. (Reuters)

Based on a long history of distrust of governmental authority since the nation’s military dictatorship, the public started leaving the Kakao Talk and seeking for a “digital asylum.” So far, over 400,000 users have deserted the service, and, within a week, 1.5 million Koreans newly joined a German messenger application, Telegram. This application has no server in Korea and its functions are focused on privacy security. Accordingly, the app encrypts conversations between users and also has a function that automatically deletes the messages a moment after users read them. Now, the forerunner company of Daum Kakao, Daum Communications, is also suffering in the stock market as well as losing its users. The stock fell by over 20% in just three days.

Considering these side effects, the company made the decision not to obey law enforcement by ignoring warrants and compliance requests. The co-CEO of Daum Kakao, Lee Sirgoo, announced regrets that “Daum Kakao failed to understand such anxiety of users of Kakao Talk, bringing the issue to the current state.” He also announced further efforts to regain users’ trust by promoting privacy protections. The company will form an “Information Protection Advisory Committee” composed of outside professionals and modify its message-storage policy, such as reducing from 7 to 2-3 days of keeping users’ conversations in its server and encrypting them.

For more information please see:

YONHAP NEWS – Daum Kakao apologizes over security controversy – 13 October 2014

The Wall Street Journal – Maker of Korean Chat App to Ignore Legal Demands for Users’ Messages – 13 October 2014

Gadgets – Korea’s Kakao Talk Vows to Protect User Privacy – 13 October 2014

BBC – Why South Koreans are fleeing the country’s biggest social network – 9 October 2014

BBC – akao Talk says ‘no’ to South Korean government demands – 14 October 2014

Malaymail – Privacy before law, vows South Korea’s Kakao Talk – 14 October 2014

Australian Orders Investigation into Allegation of Abuse at Nauru Refugee Facility

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

 

Canberra, Australia

Asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia are intercepted by Australian border agents and sent to one of two refugee camps, either on Papua New Guinea or Nauru. The UN and other human rights groups have heavily criticized this Australian immigration policy. The conditions in these refugee camps are reported to be below standards and the refugees have little hope of getting clearance to enter into Australia. Adding to the scrutiny of these camps, it has recently been reported that there are accusations of sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct by Australian immigration guards against refugees held in the Nauru facility.

Demonstrators shout slogans against the government during a rally in support of asylum seekers in central Sydney
Rights groups protest the Australian Immigration polices. (Photo curtesy of Al Jazeera)

The Australian Minister of Immigration, Scott Morrison, has ordered an investigation into the accusation. The accusations against the guards of the facility are reported to include requiring sexual favors for female refugees to use the showers and forcing children to engage in sexual acts for entertainment. Morrison has stated that if true these acts would be abhorrent and would work to completely undermine Australian immigration policy. There have been additional reports that employees of service providers for the Nauru center have been misusing reports, encouraging the use of children in protests and coaching those detained on the island to engage in self- harm. Morrison has stated that whatever their political views, the reports of these employees encouraging protests and self- harm are unacceptable.

Many children on Nauru have engaged in the practice of sewing their lips together and refusing food or water in protest for their indefinite detention in the camp. Morrison stated that 10 workers of the Save the Children Charity have been removed from working on the island. Both Morrison and the charity deny any allegations that these employees had anything to do with the sexual abuse or misconduct investigation. It has been reported that Save the Children was the first to report the children sewing their lips together.

The investigation is not being undertaken by the Australian immigration agency but by a independent party. The interim report of the investigation is due to be issued in several weeks and the full report by the end of the year. At the present moment there is a finger pointing battle between the government and other groups working on Nauru as to who is responsible for the alleged abuses.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Australia Probes Sexual Abuse Claims on Nauru — 3 October 2014

Yahoo News — Australia Orders Inquiry into Nauru Refugee Camp — 3 October 2014

Reuters — Australia to Probe Sexual Abuse Claims at Nauru Refugee Center — 2 October 2014

BBC News — Australia Orders Inquiry into Nauru Abuse Claims — 3 October 2014

Florida Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Cellphone Searches Violate Fourth Amendment

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Report, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – On Thursday, 16 October 2014, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain warrants prior to tracking criminal suspects through cellphone location signals. Federal appeals courts around the country have recently debated cell phone privacy, as opponents to the practice believe it violates the Fourth Amendment Constitutional right which protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

A Florida Supreme Court ruling has struck down warrantless cellphone searches by police stating that is violates the protections provided in the Fourth Amendment (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in a 5-2 decision, “…cell phone tracking can easily invade the right to privacy in one’s home or other private areas.” The case came before the Florida Supreme Court when defendant Shawn Tracey accused the Broward County Sheriff’s department of lacking probable cause for a court order to obtain cellphone data of cite locations. Justice Labarga reasoned, “regardless of Tracey’s location on public roads, the use of his cell site location information emanating from his cell phone in order to track him in real time was a search with the purview of the Fourth Amendment for which probable cause was required.”

The majority of the court agreed in stating that cellphones are a routine way of life, and Floridians should expect a certain level of privacy in how they use them. The justices stated that it is unreasonable to expect citizens to turn off their cell phones to avoid their movements being tracked, ”requiring a cellphone user to turn off the cellphone just to assure privacy from governmental searches…places an unreasonable burden on the user to forego necessary use of his cellphone, a device now considered essential.”

The American Civil Liberties Union supported the ruling stating that technology is changing at a rapid rate and that the Constitution’s protects must keep up with the changing times. Justice Charles Canady wrote in his decent that most individuals know how cellphones work and that they communicate with a cellphone tower that records their location.

 

For more information, please see the following:

 ABC NEWS – Florida High Court Puts Limits on Phone Tracking – 16 Oct. 2014.

CBS LOCAL MIAMI – Supreme Court Rejects Cell Phone Tracking By Police – 16 Oct. 2014

FOX NEWS – Florida Supreme Court Puts Limits On Police Tracking People Through Their Cellphones – 16 Oct. 2014.

REUTERS – Florida High Court Says Police Need Warrants To Track Cellphones – 16 Oct. 2014.

 

Christians have few options under ISIS- flee, convert, or die

By Ashley Repp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk

AMMAN, Jordan- Iraqi Christians have been a key target of ISIS, and are the group to experience some of the most heartbreak since ISIS began advancing through Iraq. Mosul, the heart of the Iraqi Christian community for over a thousand years, was aggressively targeting by ISIS. Residents were given three option, convert to Islam, be killed, or flee. Some chose to flee, first north to Irbil, then ultimately to Jordan. Most had to leave their lifelong homes, all of their possessions, and flee for safety in order to remain Christian. The bishop, as well as priests in the area, were executed. ISIS places the letter “N” (in Arabic pronounced “noon” “ن ), on the doorways of shops and homes, as a shorthand reference to the word “nasrani,” which means “Christian” in Arabic. The shops and homes were looted, damaged, and then made available for militants and their families to live in; a devastating experience for those forced to flee from life-long family homes.

ISIS
Christians crucified by ISIS (photo courtesy of Maghreb Christians)

Jordan, in partnership with a Catholic charity, Caritas, extended an invitation for these refugees to seek shelter in Jordan, in recognition of the severe persecution faced by Iraqi Christians at the hand of ISIS.  Jordan has expressed concern that this latest round of persecution of Christians could mean that even more flee to the West, which is troubling as the Middles East once had a very large Christian population and majority in some countries. One refugee told Catholic and Muslim Jordanian leaders that “humanity is dead in Iraq,” that men are running around with swords claiming that territory is now under Islamic rule, and that it is almost unimaginable that this is all occurring in the 21st century.  Another refugee suggested that he firmly believes that soon, there will be no Christians left in Iraq, as just in the past months, tens of thousands have fled, including whole Christian cities.

St. Mary’s Church in Amman has become a refuge for many fleeing Christians, as well as some Muslims. The church has opened its doors to the refugees, providing over 100 people a place to sleep, but this is only a fraction of those Christians that have fled Iraq. Aid groups, including IsraAID, and Israeli organization, has provided aid to the Christian refugees, supplying mats for beds, and food for infrants, among other needs. Father Khalil Jaar, the priest at St. Mary’s Church said that the doors of the church will be open and he is willing to help anyone that comes to him in need during this time of crisis and upheaval.

Authorities warn that things are likely to get worse, and more complicated in the coming weeks and months, as more and more flee persecution, and the weather begins to become colder.  It often snows in this region of Jordan during the upcoming months, and nearly all of the refugees have fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a handful of family keepsakes. Peace seems hardly a faint possibility as the situation becomes more dire in Iraq. One man, Basem Peter Rafael, an Iraqi Catholic who fled to Jordan during the Gulf War with his family, said that when his son was born 23 years ago during the war, they named him Salam, the Arabic word for peace, with the hope that peace would soon come to the region. Two decades later, peace seems even further away.

 

For more information, please visit:

BBC News- Iraqi Christian Refugees Lament Lives Destroyed by ISIS– Oct. 14, 2014

BBC News- Escaping ISIS- Iraq’s Christians find refuge at Jordan church– Oct. 5, 2014

Israel 21c- IsraAID Assists Christian and Yazidis refugees fleeing ISIS– Oct. 19, 2014

Aljazeera- Islamic State takes Iraqi Christian town– Aug. 7, 2014

BBC News- Refugee misery for Iraqi Christians who have fled IS– Oct. 19, 2014

Nigeria and Boko Haram Agree to Cease-fire Deal

ABUJA, Nigeria-

The Nigerian government and Boko Haram, may have reached an agreement that includes a ceasefire and the release of over 200 schoolgirls who were abducted last spring, as well as a cease fire arrangement. In the agreement, Boko Haram will cease its bombing campaign and Nigeria will not target Boko Haram militant camps. Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group who’s name translates to “western education is forbidden,” has caused the deaths of thousands in its quest to implement Islamic Sharia law in Nigeria, and has ostensibly captured northern towns, with the hope of establishing and Islamic Caliphate. The Nigerian president, Jonathan Goodluck, has been repeatedly criticized for his inability to quell the violence and subdue the militant group.

The agreement includes of the kidnapped school girsl, missing for over 6 months

(Families of the kidnapped school girls demanding their release)

This agreement offers a possible turning point for the violence in Nigeria. Although past agreements and cease-fire plans have failed, a presidential aide, Hassan Tukur, said that this time, most are “cautiously optimistic” that the agreement will be upheld. This optimism is in part due to the fact that Boko Haram released Chinese and Cameroonian hostages. Tukur asserts that this demonstrates a willingness to abide by the terms of the agreement.

But again, optimism is cautious. Cross-border attacks carried out by Boko Haram have killed over a hundred people this week. The group also staged and incursion in Nigeria with heavy artillery and at least on tank. This violence does not seem to demonstrate a willingness to “play by the rules.” Furthermore, as part of the ceasefire and release of the school girls agreement, it appears that Boko Haram has demanded that at least some of its militants be released from Nigerian prisons as part of the deal, which is arguably a serious request to make of any government. This would mean the release of militants that are classified as terrorists, as Boko Haram has been labelled a terrorist group by several states, including the United States, Japan, Great Britain, and the European Union. The release of these prisoners could be dangerous at best, and strengthen the power of Boko Haram, making it easier for the group to begin establishing Sharia law enclaves within Nigeria, with the ultimate goal of nationally implemented Islamic law. Alternatively though, it could offer Nigeria a chance to engage Boko Haram in a way that reduces violence and establishes a relationship that recognizes inter-party agreements.

The girls are to be released in increments, but until the substantive portions of the agreement come to fruition, there is no certainty in either party upholding the deal.

 

For more information, please visit:

BBC News- Nigeria and Boko Haram agree ‘ceasefire’ and girls ‘release’– Oct. 17, 2014

Voice of America- Nigeria, Boko Haram reach cease-fire, agree to free school girls– Oct. 18, 2014

CNN- Nigeria, Boko Haram reach cease-fire deal, kidnapped girls to go free, official says– Oct. 17, 2014

The Telegraph- Nigeria’s missing girls ‘to be released by Boko Haram,’ government aide claims– Oct. 17, 2014

Asylum Seekers Allegedly Turned Away At U.S. Border

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – Border Agents have failed to identify individuals who may have potential claims to asylum, allowing them to be deported back to their native country where they may face dangerous conditions. A report by Human Rights Watch details the stories of men and women who have claimed to have fled violence in their homeland. The number of undocumented immigrants being apprehended in the United States who have traveled from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala has risen in the most recent years.

Human Rights Watch accuses U.S. Border Patrol agents of turning away immigrants with credible claims of asylum (Photo Courtesy of L.A. Times).

Human Rights Watch interviewed 35 migrants, including 25 deportees in Honduras. Some migrants stated that gang members have been extorting a war tax from citizens and threatening to kill or kidnap their families if they failed to pay the “debt.” Others have claimed that they were witnesses in gang violence and are currently hiding from the members for fear of their lives. Most of the interviewed immigrants stated that they were never asked about their fear of returning home.

A U.S. immigration researcher at Human Rights Watch stated, “in its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the US is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape, and other violence.” Human Rights Watch argued that the U.S. has failed in its duty under international law to give the immigrants’ cases sufficient scrutiny in determining whether they have a credible claim for asylum. International law which is binding on the United States prohibits any immigrants return to a country where they fact serious risks t their lives or safety. Detention of asylum seekers is also discouraged where as detention or migrant children is prohibited under international law.

After apprehending an individual, border agents are required to determine whether the undocumented immigrant is fearful of returning to his or her native country. An asylum officer or an immigration judge later determines whether that fear is valid. Even if immigrants to receive a credible fear interview, a very small proportion of immigrants are found eligible for asylum.

The human rights group obtained data for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year, which indicated that the Border Patrol agents were flagging a suspiciously low number of Central Americans as possible asylum seekers. The data indicated that at least 80 percent of asylum seekers were put on the fast track to deportation. While immigrants can voice their concerns with returning home to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement when they are placed in detention. However, ICE agents are not required to ask immigrants about the potential risks of retuning to their native countries.

A statement issued by the U.S. custom and Border Protection agency states that all border patrol officers are trained to recognize circumstances that would require a credible fear interview. The agency said that they are taking these allegations seriously and are investigating the issues.

The report recommends that the government stop fast-track removals of immigrants to endure that those who are entitled to asylum receive it.  It also calls for an end to family detention, which is currently being used instead of releasing the undocumented immigrants on bond with the condition of wearing ankle bracelets. Lastly, the report suggests that the government increase access to legal counsel.

 

For more information, please see the following:

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH – US: Migrants Returned To Danger – 16 Oct. 2014

HUFFINGTON POST – U.S. Deportation Practices Put Asylum Seekers At Risk, Human Rights Watch Says – 16 Oct. 2014.

L.A. TIMES –Is The U.S. turning People Away At The Border Who’ve Been Threatened With Rape and Murder? – 16 Oct. 2014.

WASHINGTON POST – Hondurans Flee Violence, Then Are Deported By U.S. To Face More, rights Group Charges – 16 Oct. 2014.

Venezuela Elected to UN Security Council

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — Today Venezuela was victorious in their bid to fill a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.  Angola, New Zealand and Malaysia were also successful in their bids.  In another round of voting Turkey lost their bid to Spain.

It is speculated that the daughter of Hugo Chavez will play a more prominent role in international politics after Venezuela was elected to the security council.  Maria Gabriela Chavez is Venezuela’s deputy ambassador at the UN mission.

UN Security Council | Image courtesy of Britannica.com

It took 181 votes from member states to secure one of five rotating seats on the Council.  Before the vote, special attention had been on Turkey, who has been under consistent pressure to do more concerning war in Syria.

Venezuela’s socialist government was unopposed for the single seat allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean. Venezuela’s foreign minister, Rafael Ramirez, dedicated “this huge triumph” to Chávez and said it came despite a “malign campaign against our country”.

The United States, which shut-down Venezuela’s last attempt to join the security council in 2006, did not discuss how it voted in the secret ballot.  Ten countries abstained from the vote.

Though Venezuela’s partners are United States enemies, the US chose to not publicly oppose Venezuela this year.  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has close ties with Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran and he has shown support for Russia over the Ukraine in the crisis.

Rights observers expressed concern over some of the newly elected council members. Philippe Bolopion, the UN director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The security council’s new membership could prove more problematic on human rights issues, with several generally rights-friendly countries leaving and others coming on board with poor voting records.

“This is particularly true of Venezuela, which has consistently challenged protection efforts at the [UN] Human Rights Council, but also of Angola and Malaysia, which need to demonstrate a more human rights-oriented approach in New York than they did in Geneva.”

The new members will join the council on 1 January and serve to the end of 2016. The five will replace Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda.

There are five permanent Council members, which each wield the power of veto, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Along with Lithuania, the non-permanent members that will remain on the Council until the end of 2015 are Chad, Chile, Jordan, and Nigeria.

Described in the UN Charter, the Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each of the Council’s members has one vote. Under the Charter, all UN Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

For more information, please see: 

the guardian – Venezuela elected to UN security council – 16 Oct. 2014

UN News Centre – Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela elected to serve on UN Security Council – 16 Oct. 2014

BBC News – Turkey loses out on UN Security Council seat – 16 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Venezuela Jubilant Over UN Security Council Win – 16 Oct. 2014

 

Prisoners Riot and Hold Wardens Hostage At Guarapuava Jail in Brazil

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — The riot that began at Guarapuava jail Monday, has dissipated today.  Most of the hostages were released with injuries, but no deaths have been reported.

 

Prisoners hang warden upside down during riot. / photo courtesy of dailymail.co

Monday, on their way to work at a construction site several prisoners overpowered guards.  The prisoners took 13 guards hostage and control of the prison.  Shortly after they were taken hostage three of the guards were freed.

Following a two-day standoff the other ten hostages were released.  A local official said the “rebellion” ended when prisoners demands to be transferred to other facilities was granted.

Initially, the prisoners had a long list of demands including: better food, treatment, conditions and the transfer of some prisoners to other penitentiaries.

For Brazil, jail riots seem to be as common as weekdays.  This is Brazil’s 21 prison riot this year.  Brazil has the world’s fourth largest prison, with 500,000 inmates held in prisons equipped to hold 300,000 people.

A spokesman for the Parana state’s justice secretary said 28 prisoners involved in the riot would be transferred from Guarapuava jail to other detention centres in the region.

News broadcast of the rebellion showed the inmates on the roof of the prison holding the guards, whom they had stripped of their clothes.  Prisoners were armed with knives and clubs beating some of the disrobed guards and fellow inmates atop a prison building roof.  At least six men were injured when they were thrown from the roof onto the ground below.  One report noted that guards were set on fire before being thrown from the roof.  At one point the prisoners tied up a warden by his feet and dangled him off the roof.

Prison riots in Brazil often turn extremely violent. Five people were killed in August in a riot in Cascavel prison also in Parana, two of them were decapitated.

Earlier this year the UN called for an investigation into the high number of violent deaths in Brazil’s prisons, after previous riots at a jail in the north left dozens of people dead.

For more information, please see: 

BBC News – Brazil prisoners end hostage drama at Guarapuava jail – 15 Oct. 2014

Aljazeera – Brazil Prison Guards Held Hostage by Inmates  – 14 Oct. 2014

Int’l Business Times – Rioting Brazilian Prisoners Set Fire to Guards and Throw Them From Rooftops – 14 Oct. 2014

dailymail.co.uk – Horrifying Moment Warden held hostage by inmates at Brazilian jail has his feet bound and is DANGLED from the roof of the prison – 15 Oct. 2014

 

Shia Militias Operate Outside the Law in Iraq

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

 

Baghdad, Iraq 

The predominantly Shia government of Iraq has been accused of giving Shia militant groups impunity to terrorize the Sunni population in response to the attacks by the predominately Sunni forces of ISIS. The government of Iraq has responded that it fairly governs all its citizens, Shia’s and Sunni alike. The Iraqi government has been unable to halt the advance of ISIS as it rolls across Northern Iraq, Amnesty groups have said that it is now mostly Shia militant groups that have been in combat with ISIS forces.

The Shia militia groups are estimated to a combine to be in the tens of thousands. After ISIS seized the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for volunteers to reinforce the military, who had suffered several defeats to ISIS forces. The Shia militias answered the call; they have military equipment and operate with impunity across Iraq but do not formally answer to the Iraqi government and are not prosecuted for crimes they commit.

The Shia militias have ben accused of abducting hundreds of Sunni civilians in response to terror attacks by ISIS targeting Shia civilians. There have been stories reported to Amnesty International, telling how even after their families have paid the ransom demanded by the militias the abductees were still killed by the militias. Ransoms have been reported to be as high as $80,000 for Sunni’s that are abducted, in most cases the average Iraqi can’t afford to pay such a high ransom.

Sunni insurgents, mainly ISIS fighters and operatives have targeted Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad and across Iraq with car bombs and other attacks. The Shia militias respond with kidnappings and killings and the cycle continues. The Iraqi government is powerless to combat either group. ISIS has already proven to be too much to handle for the Iraq military, capturing large swaths of Iraqi territory. On the other hand, the government needs the Shia militias for their own protection, they don’t have the power to fight ISIS on their own and rely on the numbers that the militias can bring to combat ISIS. The Iraqi military has had difficulty recruiting soldiers to fight ISIS, the Shia militias are much better at recruiting members to fight ISIS and is one of the main reasons why the militias have taken large responsibilities in the defense of Iraqi territory.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Iraq: Shia Militias “Killing Sunnis in Reprisal Attacks” — 14 October 2014

ABC News — Rights Groups: Iraq Shiite Militants Killing Sunnis — 14 October 2014

CBC News — Iraq’s Shia Militias Kill Sunni Civillians in Retaliation Against ISIS, Amnesty Says — 14 October 2014

The Independent — Iraq Descends into Anarchy: Shia Militias Abducting and Killing Sunni Civilians in Revenge for ISIS Attacks — 14 October 2014 

Riot at Albania-Serbia Match Fueled by Political Underpinnings

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia – A Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia ended abruptly due to a drone carrying a controversial flag that interrupted the game and sparked a riot.

Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic takes down the “Greater Albania” flag that sparked the riot. (Photo courtesy of RT)

Around 41 minutes into the match, a drone flew over the stadium while carrying a flag depicting the “Greater Albania”, which was shown to include Kosovo. When Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic took down the flag, a brawl quickly erupted. Martin Atkinson, an English referee on the field, tried to take players off the field, but it was too late. A brawl erupted between the two teams, with referees and fans soon finding themselves in the middle of it as well.

Two political figures were also on the flag. The first, Isa Boljetini, was an Albanian nationalist who led uprisings against the Serbs and Ottomans in 1912 and 1913. The second figure was Ismail Qemali, the founder of the modern Albanian state, which gained independence back in 1912.

While some countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, other countries do not. Even after Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, Serbia is among those countries that do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

Olsi Rama, brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, was detained by police on suspicion of being the one responsible for the drone. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, however, insisted Rama be released and allowed back home.

This was the first match Albania has played in Belgrade since 1967, and given the ethnic war in 1999 and Kosovo’s independence in 2008 that have happened since, tensions were already high going into the match. Away fans were not present, and so once the fighting began, the Albanian team was outnumbered. Serbian captain, Branislav Ivanovic, claims that his team “shielded the Albanian players every step of the way to the tunnel.” Albanian captain, Lorik Cana, reports that his players were “being attacked and hit even inside the tunnel, and even by the stewards.” Furthermore, Albania’s coach, Giovanni de Biazzi, reports that four of his players were injured from the incident.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Serbia and Albania game abandoned after drone invasion sparks brawl – 15 October 2014

Reuters – Serbia-Albania match abandoned following drone stunt, brawl – 15 October 2014

The Guardian – Albania and Serbia face heavy Uefa sanctions after abandoned game – 15 October 2014

The Telegraph – Serbia accuses Albania of ‘terrorist action’ with drone carrying flag as both countries charge by Uefa for violence – 15 October 2014

The Washington Post – UPDATED: Drone toting pro-Albanian flag causes riots that end Albania vs. Serbia Euro 2016 qualifier early – 14 October 2014

Hong Kong Protesters Re-gather after Talks Collapse

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HONG KONG, China“The Umbrella Revolution” has not ended. The number of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, which once dropped down to few hundreds, is re-growing as the meeting between the government and the protest leaders has been cancelled. Reportedly, the number is now estimated at tens of thousands, and tension is elevating with worry that violent clashes will soon ensue.

The Hong Kong Chief Secretary announced on Saturday that the government cancelled the meeting scheduled for Sunday. He said the government would not have any conversation unless the students accept the legal framework of the 2017 election announced by Beijing. There seems to be no way to reach an agreement between the two groups, the government and the student-led protesters, because Beijing’s decision on the 2017 election was the main trigger of the mass protest. The student leaders made it clear that they cannot disperse unless the Hong Kong government at least agrees to represent their views to Beijing.

Protesters wearing masks and goggles (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has been pressured by the protesters to resign, said the protesters are making “impossible” demands. This is because, according to Leung, there is “almost zero chance” that Beijing will revoke its earlier decision about the 2017 election. A Chinese state-run newspaper editorial described the protesters demand as “arrogant and ignorant.”

Beijing wants to nominate pro-Beijing candidates chosen by the Communist Party, but the Hong Kong people want an open and democratic nomination by the public. Leung also added that the police might have to use the least level of force since the protests have “spun out of control.” The current Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung, was elected by a small number of voters, about 1,200 who were mostly pro-Beijing.

The current situation in Hong Kong is becoming acute. Once, the protest seemed to be over when the protesters let government officials return back to their work places. This was to partially accept the government’s request. A few hundred students remained to continue the protest while police forces kept a distance not to provoke them. However, after the meeting was canceled, the number of protesters rose back to tens of thousands. According to Bloomberg and CNN, the police moved barricades out of the street. This was understood to be a gesture signaling to protesters that the police would be ready to take any immediate action as needed.

Hong Kong Police removing barricades and watching protesters’ reaction (Bloomberg)

Conflicts between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing protesters have been alleviated to a degree. Accordingly, the pro-Beijing group gathered at several places opposite the “Occupy Central” movement. CNN reported on Monday that police had to stand between the two groups as they clashed when the pro-Beijing group attempted to remove barricades reinstated by the pro-democratic protesters. The pro-Beijing groups gave a deadline to clear the streets, the end of Tuesday, to both the students and the police, or they will clear the area by themselves.

For more information please see:

CNN – Scuffles as protest opponents try to tear down Hong Kong barricades – 13 October 2014

The Washington Post – Hong Kong chief says protesters are making ‘impossible’ demands – 12 October 2014

Bloomberg – Hong Kong Police Remove Some Barricades to Shrink Protest Site – 12 October 2014

The New York Times – Police Move on Barricades; Hong Kong Leader Rejects Protesters’ Appeal – 12 October 2014

Syrian Lawmaker Reportedly assassinated as more Barrel Bombs dropped over Hama

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor, Impunity Watch

Damascus, Syria – Syrian State-run media outlet, the Syrian Arab News Agency, (SANA) reported that gunmen allegedly opened fire on a Syrian Member of Parlmement while he was in his car outside of the city of  Hama in the west of the country on Wednesday. SANA reported that the attack killed the lawmaker and another civilian. The Lawmaker was named as Waris al-Younes was a Member of the People’s Assembly representing the central province of Hama. According to SANA a sources within the Hama Police Command told the agency that that terrorists opened fire on al-Younes’ car near Um al-Twaikiye crossroads on Tuesday midnight while he was heading from Hama city to al-Salamiya city.

SANA Reports that Member of the People’s Assembly Waris al-Younes was killed when gunmen opened fire on his car on the road between Hama and al-Salamiya.

There have been several attacks targeting Syrian lawmakers and other government officials since the start of the Syrian Civil war in 2011. In 2012, a suicide bomber killed three of top military officials in Damascus and last April the prime minister survived an attack on his convoy in Damascus, which killed six. An estimated 200,000 people of a population of nearly 25 million have been killed over the course of the ongoing civil war in Syria.

The People’s Assembly condemned the attack, SANA said. Following the attack the Assembly put out a statement saying calling for those who carried out the attack to be punished. The statement said, “We tell those who were behind this crime that your terrorism will not intimidate us, but it will increase our commitment to confront takfiri mentality along with the Syrian Arab Army,” the Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The Assad Regime has been accused of carrying out collective punishment of civilian populations living in areas seen as loyal to anti-regime forces. One method of collective punishment used by the Assad Regime has been the use of Barrel Bombs, which are highly indiscriminate weapons made of explosives and shrapnel packed into large barrels, and heavy bombardments of civilian neighborhoods in many of Syria’s major cities including the city of Hama, the regime allegedly ramped up barrel bomb attacks in Hama over the past several weeks.

On Wednesday Syrian warplanes carried out raids on the countryside in area east of Hama province. Destructive and indiscriminate barrel bombs were dropped in the north, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which tracks the conflict. On the ground, pro-regime forces fought with Nusra Front and Islamist battalions in the north, the Observatory reported.

For more information please see:

Detroit Free Press – Syrian Lawmaker Killed As Kurds Fight Islamic State – 15 October 2014

Reuters – Gunmen Kill Syrian MP in Western Province: Agency– 15 October 2014

Syrian Arab News Agency (State-Run Media) – MP Waris Al-Younes and another Civilian Killed In Terrorist Attack in Hama… People’s Assembly Condemns Crime – 15 October 2014

Reuters – Assad Steps Up Bombing As West Strikes Militants in Syria – 26 September 2014

Protests Continue in Ferguson, Missouri After Another Fatal Police Shooting

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America Last weekend thousands of citizens staged protests, consisting of marches, vigils, and other demonstrations in St. Louis, Missouri. The demonstrations were sparked by a national campaign being called, Ferguson October. The campaign consists of four days of events, which started Friday afternoon outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office in Clayton.

Protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

The St. Louis area has seen an increasing number of protests since the fatal shooting of an African American teenager in August. A grand jury is currently reviewing the case, and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation. Since August, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St. Louis area of Missouri. The most recent fatality occurred on Wednesday when an off-duty officer working for security patrol shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrrit D. Myers. The officer has alleged that the teen opened fire and only then did the officer respond by firing 17 rounds.

This months protest campaign started with a ½ mile march through downtown St. Louis. Organizations such as Hands Up Unite led the demonstration. The crowd started by gathering around a memorial where Michael Brown was fatally shot in August. The protests continued onto Saturday night when more than 30 demonstrators gathered outside the Bush Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the San Francisco Giants in the fist game of the National League Championship Series.

It was not until Sunday, 12 October 2014, that the protests turned violent. A video transmitted by a witness showed a small protest in Shaw, Missouri. The video depicted dozens of individuals sitting on the ground outside a convenience store. Police dressed in riot-gear then arrested at least 17 demonstrators after they refused to disperse from the sit-in. Some witnesses stated that the protestors were hit with pepper spray and tear gas, but these allegations have not been confirmed.

 

For more information, please see:

 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE – Thousands March In St. Louis To Protest Police Violence – 11 Oct. 2014.

FOX NEWS –  Thousands in St. Louis To Protest Fatal Police Shooting – 11 Oct. 2014

REUTERS – Thousands March In St. Louis To Protest Police Violence – 11 Oct. 2014.

REUTERS – St. Louis Area Police Arrest At Least 17 During Weekend Of Protests – 11 Oct. 2014.