Last week Taliban gunmen stormed a school run by the Pakistani army, they shot and killed 149 people including 133 school children. In the wake of this attack Pakistan has decided to reinstate the death penalty for terrorism cases. The public outrage over the Peshawar shooting has driven Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to end a six-year moratorium on the death penalty. The Pakistani government now plans to use the punishment on around 500 militants who have been convicted on charges of terrorism.
So far six convicted terrorists have been executed. Two were executed on December 19th and four more on the 21st. The four executed on the 21st were convicted of terrorism charges for their attempted assassination of then military leader Pervez Musharraf with a suicide car bomb. While one of the two executed on the 19th was convicted of an attack on army headquarters in 2009.
The Prime Minister had directed the Pakistani Department of Justice to pursue terrorism related cases and prepare them for capitol punishment. Of the 500 cases chosen, all of the convicts have exhausted their appeals and their mercy petitions have been denied. All 500 executions have been scheduled over a period of the next two weeks.
While the Pakistani public has pushed for the government to take a hardline against the Taliban, in the aftermath of the Peshawar shooting, Pakistan faces international pressure regarding their new anti-terror punishment. There are several economic and political implications to the executions, it dangers an E.U. trade deal, pressure from the U.N. as well as pressure from human rights groups around the world.
Several specific cases have been brought to the media’s attention in an attempt to halt the executions, The U.N. has released that one of the convicted terrorists already executed was a Russian citizen and appeals to Pakistan to avoid a potentially dangerous diplomatic situation by executing more civilians, many of which are foreign citizens. Human rights groups have released the story of one of the condemned terrorists who was only 14 at the time he was convicted of kidnap and murder and has since retracted his confession, saying it was the product of nine days of police torture. Regardless of the international pressure to halt the executions, the domestic pressure stemming from the outrage over the Peshawar school shooting has decided the matter and there is no sign Pakistan will halt any executions.
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Impunity Watch, Managing Editor
BEIJING, China – Dozens of protesters took to the streets of Macau on Saturday demanding universal suffrage during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to the region. The demonstrators spoke out against the “One China Policy” supported by the central government in Beijing. The protesters fear the move is simply a power grab by the central government intended on striping the country’s semi-autonomous regions, like Hong Kong and Macau, of their political power.
During his visit President Xi warned the people of Macau and Hong Kong, a region racked by protests over the past few months as young demonstrators have taken to the streets to show their support for the Umbrella Revelation, to remember they are part of “one China,” as activists in both semi-autonomous territories call for free leadership elections free from the control of the central government. “We must both adhere to the ‘one China’ principle and respect the difference of the two systems,” Xi said at the inauguration of Macau’s chief executive Fernando Chui, who was selected for a second term by a pro-Beijing committee made up of 400 people in August, he was the only nominee given for the position. “This is the only way leading to sound and steady progress,” Xi added. “Otherwise a misguided approach from the beginning, just like putting one’s left foot into the right shoe, would lead us nowhere.”
On Saturday the protesters gathered in streets of Macao. “We want universal suffrage!” they chanted. The protest march in Macau’s historic district finishing in a public square where approximately 100 protesters remained into the early evening. “I am uncertain about Macau’s future, so we have to come out to make noise for ourselves,” Mark Pang, a 15-year-old high school said as he held up an open yellow umbrella in solidarity with Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution. The Macao protests come just days after Chinese police cleared the last remaining protester camps in Hong Kong.
Unlike Hong Kong, a thriving Industrial city, Macau’s economic health is heavily dependent on strong relations with mainland china, the region is the only place in China where gambling casinos are legal. Its resorts depend on wealthy high-rollers from the mainland to stay afloat. In recent months shares in Macau’s casinos have suffered. Over the past ten years Macau has become the largest gambling destination in the World, today the Casino industry accounts for more than 80% of the region’s economy.
While Macau’s democracy movement has not been as large as the movement in neighboring Hong Kong the formal Portuguese colony, which was returned to China fifteen years ago, saw its largest ever protest in May of this year. The protesters were held over proposed cash benefits for retired Macau officials, with 20,000 people taking part in the demonstrations.
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Impunity Watch, Managing Editor
Washington D.C., United States of America – Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Wednesday that the study would cancel the December 25th Release of “The Interview” in response to threats from the North Korean regime. Following alleged ambiguous threats to movie goers referencing the September 11th 2001 attacks in the United States several major multiplex companies across the country refused to show the film. Sony referenced this issue in its announcement saying “in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film.” The decision to cancel the release of “The Interview” comes as the United States government confirms that last month’s cyber-attack on Sony pictures originated form the Korean Peninsula and the North Korean regime was behind the attacks.
“The Interview,” a satirical political comedy staring Seth Rogan and Academy Award Winning Actor James Franco told the story of two Americans tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jung-un, played by Randall Park. The film was deemed offensive by the North Korean regime, one of the world’s most secluded and censored countries where the majority of people live in extreme poverty, which deemed the goal of preventing the film’s releases worth devoting its resources to carrying out one of the largest cyber-attacks ever carried out against an American corporation.
Sony Pictures cited alleged terror threats originating from the North Korean regime as its primary reason for pulling the film. On Tuesday an email, allegedly sent from the North Korean hacking group responsible for last month’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, was sent to various news outlets referencing the film and the September 11th attacks. However, The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday there was “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,” but noted it was still analyzing messages from the group. United States President Barack Obama also responded to the alleged threats saying Americans should go to the movies.
Sony’s decision to pull the film is ultimately a business decision rather than a response to alleged future threats. The company suffered an embarrassing blow from the release of documents and personal emails from company expertise and potentially lost millions of dollars in revenue after the hackers released three unreleased movies online and posted full scripts of several upcoming Sony films. “This attack went to the heart and core of Sony’s business and succeeded,” said Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at research firm Gartner. “We haven’t seen any attack like this in the annals of U.S. breach history.”
Before Sony announced its decision Wednesday, Regal Cinemas, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Theatres, the three top movie-theater chains in North America announced that they were postponing any showings of film. Regal said in a statement that it was delaying “The Interview” ”due to wavering support of the film ‘The Interview’ by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats.” AMC noted “the overall confusion and uncertainty” surrounding the film.
The North Korean regime, a country with a GDP of just $40 Billion Dollars successfully attacked the servers of the Sony Corporation, an estimated $70 Billion company, stealing more than 100 terabytes of data from Sony Pictures and force the cancellation of an American motion picture.
The cancellation of the release of “The Interview” is reminiscent of the history of one of the greatest political satires of all time; Charlie Chaplin’s “the Great Dictator.” When Charlie Chaplin was producing the film the British Government stated that it would not allow the release of the film in British Theaters out of fear that it would offend the Hitler regime in Nazi Germany, at the time the British government was practicing the policy of Appeasement, refusing to stand up to one of the deadliest regimes in human history.
The Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice (SCTJ) in cooperation with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) organized a study visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which ran between December 1 and 6, 2014. The SCTJ delegation included the Syrian Interim Government’s Minister for Justice, a member of the legal bureau of the Syrian National Coalition, in addition to a number of Syrian judges, lawyers, and representatives of Syrian NGOs involved in the documentation of human rights violations. The aim of the visit was to learn about the Bosnian experience in addressing the issue of missing persons in the aftermath of the Bosnian war 1992-1995.
This visit is a part of the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice’s endeavors to contribute to the capacity building of legal and judiciary professionals, in the context of its work on programs of enforced disappearance, and in light of its work establishing the Syrian Special Court.
The delegation visited ICMP’s DNA laboratories, which work to match the DNA of the families of missing persons with the skeletal remains of anonymous victims exhumed from mass graves. Through such work, it has been possible to identify more than 17,700 missing persons. To learn about the process, the delegation was able to tour the ICMP’s premises in Sarajevo and Tuzla.
The delegation also visited the Potocari Memorial Center in Srebrenica, and met representatives of local societies for the families of victims. The delegation met a representative of the Missing Persons Institute which, on behalf of the government, is responsible for affairs concerning missing persons, and also met speakers from the Croatian Office of Detained and Missing Persons, which worked on DNA matching and identification prior to the establishment of the ICMP. The delegation also had the opportunity to meet representatives of civil society institutions involved in peace building.
All speakers stressed the importance of building a legislative and institutional system, as well as establishing a comprehensive national vision concerning missing persons’ affairs, before the commencement of field work.
SCTJ also made a brief presentation on the latest developments in its electronic system for the documentation of human rights violations in Syria. This system was built as a comprehensive central database for all human rights violations, and works in coordination with Syrian organizations currently documenting such abuses.
The delegation from the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice included representatives of the Free Independent Judicial Council, the Free Lawyers Union, the Free Lawyers Gathering, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, in addition to a number of independent judges, allowing the knowledge and expertise of different groups and organizations to be shared and disseminated.
66 years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While often described as “soft law,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was born out of our experiences during the Second World War, serves as a constant reminder of the International commitment commitment to work to prevent mass atrocities and violations of Human Rights. In honor of International Human Rights Day the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be found below.
THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – 15 people have been detained in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for their alleged involvements in the torture-murder of 19 people in Bosnia back in 1993. The 15 were detained via a joint effort by law enforcement in both countries.
More than 20 years ago, a train traveling from Belgrade, Serbia to Montenegro, passed through Bosnia and was stopped at the Strpci depot by Bosnian Serb militia members. 18 Bosnian Muslims and a Croat were removed, beaten, and taken by truck to a school gym where they were subsequently stripped, tortured, before being again ushered to a house along the Drina River where they were ultimately shot. The bodies were dumped into the Drina River after, and only three have since been recovered (all in 2010 when Peruac Lake was drained to repair a dam). Only one low-level soldier has previously been convicted for part in this massacre.
Last Friday, a joint operation led to the arrest of 5 Serbs and 10 Bosnians for their alleged involvement in the 19 murders; three names of the 15 detained are of particular importance. First, Luka Dragicevic was a Bosnian general in charge of military operations in the area at the time of the massacre. Second, Gojko Lukic, brother of Milan Lukic, was also detained. Milan Lukic was a Bosnian Serb warlord who is regarded as the mastermind of the ethnic-cleansing that allowed for this massacre, and Milan Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Third, Boban Indjic, a former close associate of Gojko Lukic, was also among the 15 arrested.
These new arrests are the result of a year-long investigation into the massacre. Many have blamed the political systems for failure to arrest those responsible for over 20 years, and now the arrests are met with praise by many. Some, however, are protesting the arrests. Milovan Markovic, father-in-law of “Momir,” claims “[h]e did nothing, no war crimes.” Further, some Serbians may still see the killers as war heroes, and some of the responsible parties have since been involved in business, politics, police, and the army. However, Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, Bruno Vekaric, Serbian deputy war crimes prosecutor, and Goran Salihovic, Bosnia’s chief prosecutor, all are praising the arrests of these 15 individuals for their alleged involvement in the massacre.
By Lyndsey Kelly Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON, D.C., United States Of America – According to a recently published report by Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee, during the Bush administration the CIA misled congress as it conducted interrogations of terror suspects that were far more brutal than what was publicly conveyed. Among the revelations of the report were that President George W. Bush was not briefed by the CIA about the details of the interrogations, which began post 9/11 until 2006. The report also indicates that after being briefed Bush expressed his concern and discomfort about a detainee who was “chained to the ceiling, [and] forced to soil himself.”
The report finds that at least 119 detainees went though the CIA detention program and at least 26 were held without information to justify their detention. The report states that the techniques used were “deeply flawed,” poorly managed and most times the result of fabricated information. Some of the egregious instances of torture in the report include a detainee chained to a wall, standing, for 17 days, sleep deprivation for extended periods of time, ice water baths, and force feedings. It has been clear since 2009, that the Obama administration released details regarding how investigators used waterboarding. The reports says that such techniques “were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.”
The central claim of the report is that the CIA methods of interrogation did not produce information that was necessary to save lives that was no available by some other means. The long awaited study went through more than six million CIA comments The report has reignited the partisan divide over combating terrorism. Many democrats have argues that the tactics used by the CIA conflict with American values. On the other hand, CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement that challenged several conclusions of the report. Also, former senior intelligence officials have launched a website, CIASavedLives.com, that attempts to refute the findings.
Brennan has issued a statement that the CIA has learned from its mistakes, but maintained his claim that the idea that the agency systematically misled top government officials about its tactics. The agency says that the conclusions of the report contain too many flaws to be held as an official record of the program.
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Impunity Watch, Managing Editor
RAMALLAH, Palestine – In a move that could signal the possibility of an prosecution of war crimes allegedly committed by members of the Israeli armed forces as well as Hamas during the 2014 armed conflict between the two groups the International Criminal Court granted observer state status to the Palestinian Authority on Monday. The move clears the way for alleged war crimes to be investigated in the occupied Palestinian territories. The ICC, which is governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community including war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The President of the Assembly of State Parties of the Rome Statute of the ICC noted that this step was not indicative of any imminent indication that the court’s judicial body might later take on the issue of potential crimes committed in the occupied territories. “The assembly takes the following decisions on procedure independently and without prejudice to decisions taken for other purposes, including the decisions of any other organization or any organ of the court concerning legal matters before it,” she said.
“At the same time I recall that Rule 94 of the rules of procedures states that at the beginning of every session of the assembly the president, subject to the adoption of the assembly, may invite states which are not parties to the Rome Statute and which have not signed the final act nor the statute to attend the assembly proceedings.”
After the meeting, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Ambassador to the UN in New York Riyad Mansour said that Palestine’s formal inclusion as an observer nation sent “a signal that we are inching closer and closer to the moment of signing on and becoming a state party to the ICC.” He continued “We have consensus among the Palestinian people and among the political groups within the PLO and outside the PLO that we should take that step. What happened today is inching forward in this direction.”
Monday’s decision is a symbolic victory for advocates of Palestinian statehood who have called on the Palestinian Authority to be granted a seat at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Monday’s decision means that it is now legally possible for war crimes to be investigated in the occupied territories by the International Criminal Court if requested. “What this means is that Palestine is now listed as a ‘non-state party observer’ – exactly the same status as the US or Russia or every other country that is not a signatory of the Rome Statute,” said Al Jazeera Diplomatic Editor James Bays reporting from the United Nations Headquarters where the open meeting of the assembly of states parties of the International Criminal Court occurred on Monday. “In other words, all the ICC signatories now consider Palestine to be a state. The acceptance is symbolic but adds to the international momentum for Palestinian statehood and has legal repercussions,” he said. “If Palestine now applies to join the Rome Statute, it will be much harder to reject them. The acceptance clearly brings war-crimes trials against Israelis one step closer.”
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Impunity Watch, Managing Editor
ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s two oil unions are planning to start a three-day strike this week to protest what they say are the unfair labor practices of the oil sector. The Unions are also planning to put pressure on the Nigerian government to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), a bill that experts believe is unlikely to pass before February’s elections. The strike is being organized by The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and has been described as a “warning strike” intended to remind the Nigerian government, as well as the oil sector as a whole, of the power held by the Nigerian oil worker.
The union alleges that the industry has failed to recognize and reach adequate collective bargaining agreements, failed to restate wrongly terminated employees and failed to promote qualified workers in the industry among other concerns. The union also alleged that oil workers have faced unfair victimization by their employees. The Union also alleges high levels of corruption within the Nigerian government, essentially in regard to the issues of oil theft and vandalism which has had a devastating effect on Nigeria’s environment and places oil workers at risk. PENGASSAN alleges a high level collaboration between agencies, politicians and highly placed Nigerians in the buccaneering racket of oil and gas installations, adding that the ugly trend signifies a looming extinction of the oil and gas industry with attendant job losses.
The strike follows the end of a 14-day ultimatum issued by the National Executive Council (NEC) of PENGASSAN to the federal government and other concerned employers’ and agencies in the oil sector. The NEC said the ultimatum had expired without any meaningful resolution or commitment from either the government or the concerned employers’ and agencies at resolving the issues. A statement issued by the oil workers union said all organs of the union have been fully mobilized for the strike actions which they say will affect every value chain in the upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas industry.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of oil as well as the continent’s largest economy. Oil wealth from crude oil production accounts for 70% of the government’s revenue and 95% of the foreign exchange income. The majority of the country’s oil is extracted by major foreign corporation with more than 80% being pumped by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA in joint ventures with state-owned NNPC.
Speaking from Lagos, Nigeria’s industrial capital, Babatunde Oke, a spokesman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said by phone from Lagos, said the exact timing of the strike will be announced once all plans are finalized. “Oil workers have concluded plans to shut down all oil and gas installations in the country due to the anti-labor activities of some employers,” Oke said in an earlier statement.
ATHENS, Greece – Protests in Athens have erupted into violent clashes with police today on the anniversary of an unarmed teenager being killed by a police officer.
On December 6, 2008, 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed in Athens. Grigoropoulos and a friend were arguing with two police officers and one officer went back to his patrol car to get a gun, then returned and shot Grigoropoulos dead. Violent protests lasted for two weeks following the killing. Epaminondas Korkoneas, the police officer who killed Grigoropoulos, is serving a life sentence for the murder. Vasilis Saraliotis, the other police officer involved in the incident, is serving a 10 year sentence for accessory to murder.
Now, nearly 6,000 people are protesting in Athens again to mark the anniversary, and around 18,500 police officers are ready for the protests. Marches turned violent as protesters broke into a clothing store and stole clothes to burn in the street. The neighborhoods of Exarchia and Thessaloniki have held most of the fighting, with police firing tear gas and pepper spray. Over 200 protesters have been arrested, and so far no casualties have been reported. Fighting and protests appear to be going strong into the night.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is going to meet with the parents of Nikos Romanos, a friend of Grigoropoulos who was present for his killing. Followers of Romanos have been some of the leaders of current protests, as Romanos is currently being hospitalized due to a hunger strike that has lasted nearly a month, and he was imprisoned anyways due to participation in a bank robbery including a hostage early last year.
By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Managing Editor, Impunity Watch
DHAKA, Bangladesh – Two years ago last month a deadly fire broke out in the in the Tazreen Fashion factory in the Ashulia district on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. At least 17 women and girls were killed in the factory, which made clothing for several major American brands including Wal-Mart and the Walt Disney Company. The fire injured at least 200 workers, making it the deadliest factory fire in Bangladeshi history. Workers in the factory were subjected to sweatshop labor conditions and low pay, as well as an unsafe working environment. Many of the women and girls who worked in the factory were trapped inside when the fire broke out on 24 November 2012 because the factory management had padlocked the exits to prevent workers from leaving early or even taking breaks. Several workers jumped out of windows in an attempt to escape the flames engulfing the factory floor. One survivor, Mohammad Ripu, who jumped from the second floor in an attempt to escape the flames, said that the factory manager had said to the workers after the fire alarm began sounding that “the fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work.”
Three supervisors from the factory were arrested on 28 November 2012, on charges of criminal negligence. Police cited the practice of padlocking exits allegedly used by factory management. Tazreen Factory owner Delwar Hossain claimed that the premises were not unsafe, adding, “It is a huge loss for my staff and my factory. This is the first time we have ever had a fire at one of my seven factories.” However, it was known that the building was not up to code. Investigators found that the fire safety certificates for the facility had expired. This level of negligence is common in factories across the developing world, especially in the garment industry, where workers are underpaid and often subjected to sub-standard working conditions.
Two years after the fire, survivors continued to share their stories. “I jumped from the fourth floor. I lost my eye and broke my spinal cord and leg,” Shahnaz Begum, a Tazreen worker said. “I can’t stand straight and I can’t lie down. I can’t work – I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. I’m still waiting for fair compensation.” Even two years after the deadly fire took the lives of at least 17 people and sparked international outrage over the poor working conditions in sweatshops across Bangladesh and around the world, the victims of the deadly event and their families are still waiting for compensation from the western companies that contracted with the factory, including well known American brands.
These brands include labels produced by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., reportedly the largest buyer at the Tazreen factory, as well as Walt Disney Co., Sears Holdings Corp, Dickies, Delta Apparel, Sean Jean, and several others. Advocacy groups say these brands continue to refuse not only to offer adequate compensation, but to even enter into discussions regarding the events with representatives of survivors and their families forward. Essentially, these brands have attempted to distance themselves from the horrific events that unfunded at the Tazreen factory in order to avoid drawing attention to the fact that their business models depend on the use of slave-like sweatshop labor.
“Wal-Mart has yet to take any responsibility for the workers killed and injured,” Babul Akhter, a representative the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, said last week. Workers at the Tazreen factory say that when the fire broke out, they had just finished filling a shipment to Wal-Mart. According to IndustriALL Global Union, an umbrella group with 50 million members worldwide, US brands that bought projects from the factories continue to refuse to move forward on compensation talks. “None of these brands have paid a cent towards compensation,” IndustriALL states.
The Tazreen factory fire is often compared to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which took the lives of more than 100 garment workers in a sweatshop in Manhattan, many of the women and girls who were killed in the fire jumped to their deaths to escape the smoke and flames after they were locked into the building. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became one of the most significant events in the American Labor Movement sparking calls for stricter workplace safety standards, fair pay, and unionization across the United States. The Tazreen factory fire has had a similar effect in Bangladesh. The event reminded the world that low-priced clothing comes at a cost, and strengthened calls among factory workers in Bangladesh and around the world to demand safer working conditions, fair compensation, and even the right to join a labor union.