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

WAR CRIMES PROSECUTION WATCH Volume 9 – Issue 15 October 20, 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.