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.

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

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

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 – 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