President Uhuru Kenyatta to appear at ICC in The Hague

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor, Impunity Watch

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed he will be appearing at a hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague this week. The hearing, which is to be held on 8 October, is expected to set a date for his trial on charges of organizing ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people and left more than 600,000 people displaced after the 2007 elections. President Kenyatta denies the charges, during an address to the nation he said “I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me.” The International Criminal Court had President Kenyatta to appear to explain allegations that evidence against him had been withheld. In September, the court postponed the trial after prosecutors said that the Kenyan government had failed to deliver key documents. Witnesses for the prosecution have also withdrawn from the case.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will be temporarily stepping down as president invoking a never before used provision of the Kenyan constitution. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Kenyatta gave an address to the nation before parliament informing the public that he would invoke an article of the Kenyan constitution that will allow his deputy William Ruto to temporarily assume the role as president. “To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honorable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands.” The article, which until now has never been evoked in Kenyan History, says that the deputy can assume the duties of the president when the president is absent, temporarily incapacitated or during any other period the president decides.

Kenyatta is essentially using this loophole in the Kenyan constitution as a way of fulfilling the International Criminal Court’s order that he attend Wednesday’s hearing before the ICC but avoiding becoming the first sitting president to sit before the court. Because of this constitutional provision he will be appearing before the court as a private citizen, without giving up the ability to resume his passion as President of Kenya.

There had been doubts about whether President Kenyatta, who had been to the International Criminal Court before assuming office in 2013, would become the first sitting president to attend the court. Although he will now be appearing before the court as a private citizen dozens of Kenyan Members of parliament are expected to travel to The Hague in support of President Kenyatta.

For more information please see:

BBC News – Uhuru Kenyatta will appear at ICC in The Hague – 6 October 2014

The Guardian – Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to step down from office to attend ICC – 6 October 2014

Irish Independent – Kenyatta to take presidency break – 6 October 2014

BBC News – ICC hearing: Kenya MPs ‘to back Uhuru Kenyatta at Hague’ – 3 October 2014

USA Freedom Act May Ban NSA Surveillance Powers

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Chairman, is pushing the Freedom Act in order to stop the National Security Agency from collecting the phone records of millions of Americans. The bill would ban bulk collection of phone records by the NSA, while still allowing targeted surveillance of suspected terrorists.

The USA Freedom Act is the first legislative attempt at reining in the National Security Agency, however time is running out for Congress to pass it.

Leahy has stated that he has already gained the support of the Republicans, and can win approval of the bill when Congress returns for session after the 4 November election. With Congress’ approval, the bill will be passed this year. The legislation would require the government to disclose the individuals whose data has been collected and report how many of these individuals were American citizens. Further, the Act would create a panel of special advocates, which would be used to address issues concerning privacy and civil liberties.

If the Freedom Act is not passed, the National Security Agency will likely be left without the necessary surveillance capabilities to conduct legitimate and necessary investigations of suspected terrorists. Previously, the NSA has used the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law, in order to conduct authorized surveillance. However, this act is set to expire on 15 June.

Section 215 has been the basis for collecting and storing records from United States phone companies. These records have been used by the NSA in data sweeps, whereby they used telephone numbers, the date and time of phone calls, and the length of the calls in surveillance investigations. However, this section did not give the NSA authority to include records of actual conversations. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have also used Section 215 in obtaining business records, driver’s license records, and credit card records of suspected terrorists.

The bill has garnered support from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), and the National Rifle Association. The ITIC stated in a letter to the senate, “The USA Freedom Ac will send a clear signal to the International community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent and subject to oversight.”

 

For more information, please see the following:

THE GUARDIAN – Time is Running Out on the USA Freedom Act – Which could Drastically Curtail US Surveillance Powers – 3 Oct. 2014.

USA TODAY – Congress May Ban NSA Phone Data Collection – 3 Oct. 2014.

US NEWS – Should Americans Be Worried About The National Security Agency’s Data Collection? – 3 Oct. 2014.

WALL STREET JOURNAL – NSA Phone-Date Collection Program Set For Legal Challenge – 1 Sept. 2014.

 

 

Russian Government Refuses to Comply with Council of Europe’s Demand to Re-Open the Sergei Magnitsky Murder Investigation for the Fourth Time

PRESS RELEASE

 

6 October 2014 – The Russian Investigative Committee has for the fourth time refused the application from Sergei Magnitsky’s mother to investigate the murder of her son in Russian police custody after he uncovered and testified about the theft of $230 million from state coffers by members of the criminal gang and corrupt Russian officials. 

The latest refusal was issued by General Major Alyshev. In his refusal, he did not address any of the arguments posed by Ms Magnitskaya’s lawyer, and simply rejected the application in general terms, stating:

“The decree to close the criminal case was checked using the case materials…This decision is lawful and justified, and no grounds are seen to cancel it.”

The rejection letter issued by General Alyshev ignored every one of the points made in Ms Magnitskaya’s complaint seeking the reopening of the investigation, including that she has been refused the right to conduct an independent medical evaluation of her son’s tissues; that none of the officials that she named from the FSB, Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s Office have been questioned; that the documents she requested for collection have not been gathered from state bodies; that no investigation was done into the death threats sent to Mr Magnitsky’s colleagues shortly before his killing, and that the findings of the Council of Europe’s report about the falsification, disappearance and concealment of evience have been ignored.

“Numerous facts shows that after S.Magnitsky exposed the fraudsters who stole 5.4 billion rubles [$230 millionfrom the country’s budget, he was repressed, and on 16 November 2009 cruelly murdered…During the next three years, investigators faked an investigation of a criminal case, and the officials mandated to supervise the investigation and its length, including Mr Veseliev, simply symbolized such supervision,” says the complaint from Ms Magnitskaya’s lawyer.

 “The nature and location of bodily injuries demonstrate that brutal violence was used against him [Sergei Magnitsky]. The body of the deceased was found …on the floor of the cell of the collection unit of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center where he was delivered for emergency medical treatment during an acute stage of his disease. It is an incontrovertible fact that unlawful acts were carried out against S.L. Magnitsky by officials of the Tax Crime Department of the Moscow Interior Affairs Department….who made false statements in reports to justify his unlawful detention. During less than a year in custody, Magnitsky was transferred 22 times between three detention centers… None of these facts have been examined in a fair, legal way, none of the guilty in these violations, in fact, crimes, have been brought to justice,” says the complaint.

40 months have been spent by investigators to conduct knowingly partial judicial medical examinations, the conclusions of which had been artificially made to comply with a particular diagnosis to enable to close the case and not to bring to account those responsible for the death, in fact, murder of S.L.Magnitsky,” says the complaint.

In his refusal, General Alyshev also ignored the requests from Ms Magnitskaya to allow her an independent medical examination of her son’s tissues, to question Russian law enforcement officials and to heed the findings of the Council of Europe’s comprehensive international investigation into Sergei Magnitsky’s killing.

This is the fourth refusal by the Russian Investigative Committee of requests from Magnitsky’s mother to re-open an investigation into her son’s murder in custody. Previously, refusals were issued by Investigator Strizhov and senior Committee officials named А.М. Veseliev and D.V. Kolesnikov.

 

Ms Magnitskaya’s complaint said that the Investigative Committee has created a “regime of uncontrolled impunity” which is exemplified by the fact that no one has been brought to justice for the heinous murder of her son.

 

Estonia Remains Nervous About Russia; Boosts Military Presence

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

TALLINN, Estonia – Estonia is working to build up its military support in order to further defer Russia from invading like it did in Ukraine. Unlike with Ukraine, however, Estonia is receiving some help.

Volunteers in the Estonian Defense League prepare for training near Tallinn. (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

United States heavy military equipment of the First Brigade of the First Cavalry Division has arrived today in Tapa, Estonia. This military equipment, according to the General Staff of the Estonian Defense Forces, includes nine US Strykers, eight Bradley fighting vehicles, and other US military equipment. This will all be used over the next three months in military drills.

In addition to the United States’s recent additions, three prior Strykers were delivered in September. The United States will also be splitting 600 servicemen from the First Brigade of the First Cavalry Division of the US Army between the Baltic states and Poland, and will be replacing the paratroopers of 173d Airborne Brigade with these new troops. Estonia has also reportedly purchased 44 Dutch 193 CV9035NL IFV’s.

Estonia is also receiving help from home, as recruitment in the volunteer unit has doubled in comparison to last year. The Estonian Defense League (“Kaitseliit”) has around 14,500 members in its fighting units, compared to around 3,800 in the professional military.

Along with more recruiting, Estonia has also combated the Russian aggressor by arresting former KGB officers alleged to have crossed into Estonian territory. Mihhail Suhoshin, 64, and Alexander Ladur, 54, are being detained on charges of resisting arrest and illegally entering Estonia. It appears that the men “may have been merely fishing,” according to Kalev Stoicescu, a research fellow and Russia expert at the Tallinn based International Centre for Defence Studies.

Lithuania and Germany have also sought to help another east European nation against Russia. Germany will be sending 200 peacekeepers, including 50 paratroopers, to Ukraine. This marks the first time German troops are being deployed to Ukraine since the Nazi invasion of the then-Soviet territory. Lithuania also plans to increase monetary aid to Ukraine, along with convincing other nations to do the same. The reason behind all of this increased aid to Ukraine is the increased fighting near Donetsk over control of an airport, along with general fighting increasing in eastern Ukraine.

Russian aggression this year has caused many problems throughout Eastern Europe, and Russia has often been the nation playing offense and making the moves. Now the border countries are not only increasing their own defenses, but finally receiving significant help from other allies against Russia.

For more information, please see:

Ria Novosti – US Armored Vehicles Arrive in Estonia for Drills – 5 October 2014

Ria Novosti – US Armoured Vehicles to Arrive in Estonia – 4 October 2014

Mail Online – Germans set to send first troops to Ukraine since WW2 – 4 October 2014

News.com.au – Lithuania puts forward plan to provide defence fund for Ukraine – 3 October 2014

The Guardian – Estonia arrests former KGB officers – 3 October 2014

The Wall Street Journal – Alarm Over Russia Draws Volunteers to Defend Estonia – 2 October 2014

IHS Jane’s 360 – Estonia to buy Dutch CV90s – 2 October 2014

 

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice: Syria in the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance

Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice

SCTJ Publishes a Report on Enforced Disappearance

Due to the widespread perpetration of enforced disappearance in states ruled by dictators and military regimes such as Latin America, the United Nation declared the 30th of August to be international Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance. On this occasion, enforced disappearance in Syria should be highlighted as tens of thousands have become forcibly-disappeared over the past three years. The United Nations’ International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance classifies this crime as a crime against humanity because it entails many violations of human rights, which affect the victims and their families.

The Syrian regime has systematically perpetrated this crime for decades. Hafez-Al-Assad used this crime as a method to strengthen his rule and to silence dissents. Additionally, the policy of enforced disappearance has affected the families of the victims for many years. It is estimated that about 17,000 persons had been victimized by this crime since the 1980s. The families of the victims have been suffering from systematic governmental discrimination since 1979. When the Syrian revolution erupted in 2011, the intensity and the scope of the violations committed increased tremendously to include enforced disappearance. The documented number of cases recorded since the beginning of the Syrian revolution reached more than 53,000 cases. The United Nations acknowledged in most of its reports that enforced disappearance in Syria is being used in a widespread manner as a war tactic to terrorize civilians.

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice (SCTJ) affirms that the widespread perpetration of enforced disappearance by the Syrian regime against tens of thousands of victims and families is considered a crime against humanity. Subsequently this violation is one of the worst and the most widespread by Syrian regime. SCTJ urges the Security Council to investigate and refer these crimes to the I.C.C. in order to hold the perpetrators accountable. In addition, SCTJ calls the Human Rights Council to address this issue and work on investigating the enforced disappearance cases in Syria.

SCTJ published a report on enforced disappearance, which highlighted that there are more than 60,000 missing persons and about 53,525 forcibly-disappeared persons in Syria, 6722 of whom were killed including 1,348 children and 1,511 women.

The above figures reflect a challenge for us and for the entire world to end this ongoing crime, to take all the necessary measures to refer these crimes to the I.C.C., to hold the perpetrators accountable, and to put an end to the impunity culture.

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice: Regime’s Airstrikes Targeted a Bakery Killing Tens of Civilians and Wounding More than 80 People

Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice

SCTJ Statement on al-Bab Massacre, September 18, 2014 in Aleppo

Tens of innocent civilian victims in al-Bab city in Aleppo were killed due to barrel bomb airstrike by Assad regime forces. The strike targeted a queue of civilians waiting in line to buy bread from a bakery. The outcome of the strike resulted in high number of casualties and injuries. Not to mention the damages and the ruins in such condensed neighborhood which were caused by the barrel bomb.

On Thursday 18 September, 2014, at approximately 10:00 AM the Syrian regime carried out an airstrike assault against the heavily populated city of Al-Bab in al-Makateb Street, where a barrel bomb weighing approximately 450 was dropped by Regime warplanes.

The Syrian regime targeted an area in the street where residents and IDPs live. Furthermore, the civilians in that area were standing in line in front of a bakery when the incident took place. The outcome of the massacre resulted in tens of civilian victims; most of whom were children and women. Additionally, the shelling wounded more than 83 civilians and caused great material damages to the buildings and the near local markets.

The targeted area is an absolutely civil area that has no military presence during or before the time of the shelling. Civil defense and Fire fighters teams headed immediately to the targeted area while Ambulance San Frontiers (MSF) organization transferred the wounded and charred dead bodies to field-hospitals. Nevertheless, the fires that broke out in the buildings due to the shelling hindered the medical teams to reach the charred bodies, transfer them, or even recognize them.

While the final death toll is still not confirmed especially with more than 83 injuries, including critical cases, 41 victims were documented at the end of the day, Thursday, September 18, 2014:

1- Abdullah Othman Ar-Ragheb.
2- Samer Haddad.
3- Beshr Shehabi.
4- Mohammad Abdulaziz Al-Ataqi.
5- Mustafa An-Naqou.
6- Ahmad Taqi Assfour.
7- Trad Al-Abd Al-Jawad.
8- Hussein Al-Kousa.
9- Ahmad Mohammad Kalzi.
10- Ahmad Kassar.
11- Hamidi Ad-Dahham.
12- Khawla Haj Omar.
13- Child Mohammad Ali Az-Zou’bi.
14- Abdulmu’ti Ar-Ragheb.
15-16- Two unidentified victims, from “Ar-Ragheb” family.
17- Unidentified 30-something woman victim.
18- Unidentified female child victim.
19- Unidentified victim/
20- Victim called Mansour. His full name wasn’t confirmed.
21- Victim called Faraj, his full name wasn’t confirmed.
22- Mohammad Ali Al-Bzie’i.
23- Walid Abulasal.
24- Unidentified victim, Walid Abulasal’s son.
25- Bassam Abulasal.
26- Mohammad Abulasal.
27- Eidou Al-Ali.
28- Othman Bakri.
29- Osama Ibied.
30- Abdussalam Ar-Ragheb.
31-41- Eleven unidentified victims.

SCTJ strongly condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians and residential areas using various methods of bombing including barrel bombs which are killing more and more children, women, and elderlies in Syria every day. Furthermore, SCTJ affirms that the Syrian regime perpetrated war crimes that are considered serious violations of the international law, which strictly prohibits the targeting of civilians or anyone that is not involved in military operations, shelling, or even attacking cities, villages, condensed neighborhoods, and buildings that are not military targets.

The Syrian regime’s ongoing policy of indiscriminately shelling civil areas and civilians’ gatherings which are not considered military targets reflects a complete and utter disregard of the international humanitarian law and recklessness of the lives of innocent civilians especially women and children.

SCTJ urges U.N. and the Security Council to take all the necessary measures to protect the Syrian civilians and IDPs from the Syrian regime warplanes, which are continuously targeting them and their residential areas. Also, SCTJ affirm the necessity to hold all the individuals responsible for this massacre and any other similar crimes accountable.

Moreover, SCTJ renews its demands to refer all Assad massacres and crimes, which is being perpetrated daily, to the specialized international courts in order to hold the individuals responsible accountable and bring them to justice.

al-Bab_Masscre2

al-Bab_Masscre3

al-Bab_Masscre4

Images of the Victims and the damages caused by the barrel bomb

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice: Civilians in Ar-Raqqa Suffer from Regime Airstrikes and ISIS Besiege

Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice

SCTJ Statement on Ar-Raqqa Massacre, September 06, 2014

On Saturday September 06, 2014, Ar-Raqqa city witnessed a horrible massacre in which tens of civilians were killed by the Syrian regime warplanes. The Syrian regime targeted Al-Andalus bakery in Tal Abyad Street where civilians were standing in line to buy for bread. On the same day Ar-Raqqa, which is under the control of ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Sham), was targeted with more than eight airstrikes. Most of these airstrikes killed civilians, not ISIS militants.

At least 49 were killed by the airstrikes that targeted Ar-Raqqa on September 06, 2014 including women and children, the following were documented:

1- Mohammad Taha Al-Hussein Ad-Dakhil, 20 years old.

2- Ahmad Haj Khalaf.

3- Hammadi Hussein Al-Hammadi Al-Ahwal, 22 years old.

4- Zina Hussein Al-Hammadi Al-Ahwal, 18 years old.

5- Adla At-Tahhan.

6- Aisha “Awwasha” Hassan Ash-Shu’ib, 60 years old.

7- Houriya Al-Ahmad Al-Haram.

8- Zina Al-Ahmad, 18 years old.

9- Hussein Al-Amin.

10- Abd As-Suliman As-Saleh.

11- Awwad Al-Khairi.

12- Qusai Al-Mohammad.

13- Abdulkarim Hallaq.

14- Hussein Al-Halalq.

15- Nazih Al-Ashram.

16- Aboud Al-Hawwash.

17- Mohammad Al-Jomaa.

18- Jamal Al-Ibrahim.

19- Saleh Al-Mhimed.

20- Mohammad Hammash.

21- Ammar Al-Ghniem (Al-Assaf).

22- Seham Jasim Al-Ilies.

23- Khalil Khalaf Al-Habib.

24- Mahmoud Al-Mohammad Al-Hamoud Al-Abd, 27 years old.

25- Ali Al-Mohammad Al-Hamoud Al-Abd, 24 years old.

26- Child Ahmad Al-Mohammad Al-Hamoud Al-Abd, 11 years old.

27- Child Ibrahim Al-Mohammad Al-Hamoud Al-Abd, seven years old.

28- Mousa Al-Hamad Al-Karsa.

29- Ahmad Al-Imier.

30- Dham Ibrahim Al-Mousa.

31- Saleh Al-Haj Hassan.

32- Victim called Anwar, his full name not been received.

33- Khalil Khalalf Al-Habib Al-Jarrad.

34- Hassan Al-Ghadier.

35- Fayyad Sweidan Al-Halloun.

36- Unidentified woman victim, Fayyad Sweidan Al-Halloun’s wife.

37- Qusai Al-Ahmad Al-Imier.

38- Unidentified victim, Nazih Al-Ashram’s son.

39-46- Eight unidentified victims, from the same family “Khaled Al-Haj Omar”.

47- Unidentified woman victim.

48-49- Two unidentified victims.

This massacre is another crime of a long string of continuous violations that the Syrian regime has been perpetrating for weeks against civilians in areas controlled by ISIS. Furthermore, the Syrian regime strikes such areas to justify ISIS presence but never targets them directly, but in fact ISIS was the least militant group to be targeted by the Syrian Regime, and that’s can be an evidence that both ISIS and Assad are cooperating to terrorize civilians.

SCTJ urges the international community to take all the necessary measures in order to put an end to the Syrian regime’s policies which resulted in crimes against humanity and war crimes which violate the international humanitarian law. Moreover, the Islamic State, which also has been perpetrating horrific crimes in Ar-Raqqa since its rise, should be held accountable. Also, investigations should be opened regarding all the violations, and the individuals responsible for these massacres, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Syria and no criminal shall be granted any form of impunity.

Ar-Raqqa_Massecre1

Damages and Ruins caused by the airstrike

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice: Regime’s Airstrikes Killed 10 Children and 5 Women in Deir Ezzor

SCTJ Statement on Deir Ezzor Massacre

On 3 September, 2014, the Syrian regime targeted many areas in the province of Deir Ezzor with heavy aerial bombardment via airstrikes. One of the strikes targeted a bus, which was carrying civilian passengers. The bus was travelling on the Damascus – Deir Ezzor highway and the outcome of the strike caused 10 children and five women to be killed instantly. Out of the fifteen victims, the following were identified:

Aisha Ahmad Az-Zou’bi

Yara Al-Omar

Noura Al-Omar

Ayman Al-Omar

Kauthar Ali Al-Mekhlef

Amina Al-Ali Al-Mekhlef

Saif Ali Al-Mekhlef

Hanaa Ali Al-Mekhlef

Ayham Al-Hassan

Marwa Al-Hamada

Marwan Al-Hamada

The Syrian regime’s continuous use of indiscriminate shelling and aerial weapons had killed tens of thousands of unarmed civilians. Furthermore, the Syrian regime, which uses these weapons against unarmed civilians, violates all international laws by taking advantage of the international community’s inaction of its ongoing crimes against humanity.

This massacre has breached once again the international humanitarian laws, which provides that civilians and civil facilities are to be protected during armed conflicts.

The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice condemns this massacre as it constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. Additionally SCTJ urges the international community to shed light on the Syrian regime’s systematic terrorism against civilians, and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. The international community should take appropriate measures to put an end to the Syrian regime’s policy of indiscriminate shelling and targeting of civilians.

American Samoa Grants Amnesty to over 4,000 Migrant Workers

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania 

 

Pago Pago, American Samoa 

American Samoa, a territory of the United States has recently granted amnesty to 4,000 foreign migrant workers living in the territory. Prior to this new bill American Samoa had a quota system of allowing only about 350 immigrants enter a year, this bill temporary changes that limit for this year only. The territorial government of American Samoa has stated that the bill is the first step in immigration reform, which is completely unencumbered by the United States federal immigration law. The territorial government has also stated that they have had trouble with undocumented workers in the past and that mass amnesty and giving legal status helps these immigrants better contribute to society, which is better for the immigrants, and better for American Samoa.

 

Fishing Docks in American Samoa (Photo Curtesy of Lemalae)

The bill is also important to the government of the territory in providing accurate census numbers. Census information is one of the biggest factors assessed in deciding the amount of federal aide the territory gets from the United States. With a large population of undocumented workers using the local infrastructure it creates a drain on the aide money. Previously the government did not get aide money reflecting the actual number of people living in American Samoa.

The migrants granted amnesty hail from 24 countries. Neighboring Samoa had 2,845 people, 457 Tongans, 446 come from the Philippine Islands, 101 from Fiji, 96 from China, 19 from New Zealand, 17 from Vietnam and 12 from South Korea. Other nations that are represented in the amnesty group include Australia, Germany, Federated States of Micronesia, Romania, Great Britain and Taiwan.

The Minimum wage in American Samoa is lower then the federal minimum and ranges from $4.18- $5.59. The minimum wage varies in that range depending on the industry, some industries require higher or lower minimum wages according to the territorial law. American Samoa’s minimum wage is also the lowest out of all the U.S territories. The working conditions in American Samoa are reported to be poor for foreign migrant workers; government and other highly sought jobs are only given to ethnic Samoans, which limits the potential jobs for these migrant workers.

For more information, please see:

ABC News — American Samoa Grants Amnesty to More Than 4,000 — 24 September 2014 

Radio New Zealand — American Samoa Grants Over 4,000 Immigration Amnesty — 1 October 2014

PayWizard.org — Territorial Minimum Wage — 4 October 2014

Minority Rights Group International — World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People: American Samoa Overview — 4 October 2014

 

 

Alleged Sexual Abuse At Texas Immigration Detention Center

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 

WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES of America – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and attorneys from the University of Texas School of Law, have issued a complaint alleging ongoing abuse at the Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas.  Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), opened the Texas facility along with a facility in Artesia, New Mexico after a 500 percent increase in the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Central America last year.

A Texas Immigration Detention Center (Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post).

The detention center for families was opened in Texas just two months ago. The complaint filed on 25 September, alleges that the 500-plus-bed center has failed to provide adequate food, health and mental health services. More serious allegations revolve around numerous instances of sexual abuse of women at the center.

The complaint was based on interviews with women in the Karnes City facility. The women allege that at least three employees engaged in abuse of the female detainees. The abuse includes numerous instances of the guards removing mothers from their cells at night to engage in sexual acts, in exchange for promises of immigration help. The complaint alleges that these women were harassed and groped in front of other detainees, including children. The female detainees claim that the perpetrators referred to the women as their “girlfriends.”

MALDEF asks the federal government to close the center and find alternative ways to detain immigrants with a criminal record, while releasing those whom are being detained for no other reason than illegal entry into the United States. Staff attorney for MALDEF, Marisa Bono, made a statement regarding the allegations stating, “This is exactly why the federal government should not be in the business of detaining families.”

ICE has stated that the agency is unable to discuss the ongoing investigation, but has implemented protections in accordance with Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and ICE stated in an email “Ice has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse or assault,” “Accusations of alleged unlawful conduct are investigated thoroughly and if substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”

 

 

For more information, please see the following:

BALTIMORE SUN – Texas Immigrant detention Center Rife With Abuse, Groups Say – 2 October 2014.

HUFFINGTON POST – Complaint Alleges Sexual Abuse In Immigrant Detention Center – 2 October 2014.

NBC NEWS – Sex Abuse Alleged At Immigrant Family Detention Center In Texas – 2 October 2014.

REUTERS – Texas Immigrant detention Center Rife With Abuse, Groups Say – 2 October 2014.

Venezuelan Politician Found Dead

By Mridula Tirumalasetti

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela—Robert Serra, the 27- year old Venezuelan politician, was found dead on Wednesday, October 1st alongside Maria Herrera, who is believed to have been Serra’s partner. Both were murdered in Serra’s home in the working class Caracas neighborhood of La Pastora, and both died from a loss of blood. Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said the two were “vilely killed here in their house…on the ground floor lay the woman and the upper floor lay Robert Serra.”

Although the motive for the attack was unclear, the attack has been blamed on the far right opposition groups and on Colombian parliamentary groups. President Maduro said, “Terrorist groups encouraged by sectors of Venezuela’s ultra-right and Colombian parliamentary groups are behind this [effort] to bring violence to our country.” He added, “In the course of this week…We have detained four different groups that came to attack our country’s central cities, including Caracas, and fill them with violence.” Torres called the attack “a planned assassination, organized in detail and executed in the course of 15 to 20 minutes…We are not talking about a random occurrence.”

Elected in 2010, Serra was one of the youngest members of the National Assembly for the Socialist Party (PSUV) in Venezuela and the leader of the youth section of the party. The PSUV was founded by Hugo Chavez, and Serra was known for delivering passionate speeches in support of deepening Chavez’s Socialist policies.

Robert Serra, pictured above, giving a speech at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in March 2008 (photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)

After Honduras, Venezuela had the second highest peacetime murder rate in the world in 2013, according to U.N. statistics, although some sources argue the actual statistics are much lower. The U.N. relies on figures from non-governmental organizations because of the absence of official statistics.

The Venezuelan government responded to the high violence statistics last year by introducing tough penalties for illegal weapons possession, such as sentences up to 20 years in jail. Additionally, a smartphone app was released last month. The app divides Caracas into quadrants, which lets civilians contact police officers for these specific areas directly. Also, Maduro announced an increase in funding of $47 million for a program aimed at disarming civilians and stationing military troops in high-crime areas.

Still, despite the tough regulations, correspondents argue there is a perception of insecurity among Venezuelan civilians. This argument is supported by the series of anti-government protests earlier this year, in which increased security and improving the economy were two of the main issues.

For more information, please see: 

The Wall Street Journal–Young Venezuelan Lawmaker Killed in Attack–2 October 2014

Latin America News Dispatch–Venezuelan Lawmaker Stabbed to Death Under Mysterious Circumstances–3 October 2014

BBC News–Venezuelan lawmaker Serra’s murder blamed on far right–3 October 2014

BBC News–Venezuelan lawmaker Robert Serra killed in Caracas–2 October 2014

Bloomberg–Venezuela Says Lawmaker Murdered in a Planned Attack–2 October 2014

The Whole World is watching *China Excluded: Media Censorship Ramped up in China

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

BEIJING, China – As Hong Kong’s youth take to the stress to defy Beijing’s attempts to reign in the former British Colony the Chinese government has been actively attempting to silence the demonstrator’s online social media presence. In the wake of Hong Kong’s Umbrella revolution the People’s Republic of China has ramped up censorship of social media and news websites inside of the China preventing real-time coverage of the events unfolding on the streets of Hong Kong. Like many modern democratic movements online social media has played an important role in the Hong Kong demonstrations as young people take to the streets armed with umbrellas to protect themselves from teargas and smart-phones to share their stories with the world. However, the majority of people living in mainland china will not have access to the posts of their countrymen.

Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrator light the night on the city streets using their cell-phones which they also use to share their stories with the world (Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy)

Chinese state-run news outlets not covered pro-democracy demonstration except to call the demonstrators extremists. A story from the state-run news outlet Xinhua featured the Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung denounced the demonstrations as “unlawful.” The Chinese government has been actively working to ensure that the protests are not only kept in the dark by state-run media but by social media platforms as well.

The Chinese government has been using its online censorship program to scrub Chinese social media of pro-democracy posts from Hong Kong, especially on Weibo, china’s version of Twitter and one of the largest social media platforms in the world. The government, which has extensive control over Weibo posts, has removed posts containing key-words indicating a relationship to the Hong Kong demonstrations including pro-democracy phrases.

Photos of the protests and clashes between police and demonstrators have flooded the internet over the past two days. The flood of posts has come in at a faster rate than the Chinese can apparently handle and in response popular photo sharing websites like Instagram have been blocked in the country. “In the past two days, we can see a lot of people holding phones and taking pictures of different (Hong Kong protest) scenes on Instagram, Facebook and sharing it around,” King-wa Fu, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, said. China observers  have noted that while the app can’t be accessed in China for most citizens, the country’s First Lady Peng Liyuan’s official Instagram account posted a picture of her and her husband, China’s President Xi Jinping, on Monday.

monitoring of Chinese social media shows a spike in online censorship, measured by posts removed from social media platforms, beginning shortly after the Hong Kong demonstrations (Photo courtesy of The Economist)

Twenty five years ago Chinese youths took to the streets in Beijing to demand a movement towards democratization. Much like today the Chinese government actively worked to keep the majority of the Chinese populous in the dark by stomping stories of the Tiananmen Square protests and the government massacre that silenced them. It remains unclear what the future will bring for the Umbrella Revolution and the people of china but what is clear is that the proliferation of social media and internet access around china and the world has made it nearly impossible for the Chinese government to stop the signals coming out of Hong Kong and to keep its people in the dark.

For more information please see:

The Economist – HK Backspace, Backspace – 4 October 2014

CNN International – China’s Internet Firewall Censors Hong Kong Protest News – 30 September 2014

The New York Times – Chinese Web Censors Struggle with Hong Kong – 30 September 2014

Foreign Policy – In China, the Most Censored Day of the Year – 29 September 2014