Saudi Led Coalition Commences Airstrikes in Yemen

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East 

 

Sanna, Yemen

Saudi Arabia commenced air strikes in Yemen on Thursday in an attempt to halt the advances of the Houthi militia in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has gathered together a coalition of Arab nations to combat the Houthis, the Saudis are leading the coalition with 100 fighter jets, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 30 aircraft, 15 from Kuwait and Bahrain, 10 from Qatar and Jordan as well as naval support from Pakistan and Egypt. The coalition is made up of all Sunni nations, targeting the Iranian backed Shiite Houthi militia. The Saudis, as well as the other nations in the coalition are concerned about an Iranian run Shiite state on the Arabian Peninsula.

Aftermath of Saudi airstrikes against Houthi militia in Yemen. (Photo curtesy of The Independent)

Iran has expressed concern over the coalition airstrikes against the Houthi militia, claiming it further complicates an already complicated situation of internal strife. The Iranian Foreign Ministry claims the coalition attack on the Houthis will allow groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula to grow unchecked and take advantage of the chaos. The IranianForeign Ministry has also denied any military intervention in support of the Houthi militia. On the other hand, the U.S has expressed support for the Saudi led coalition, although Secretary of State Kerry has stated that the U.S will not intervene in the Yemen situation. The U.S supported the now deposed Saudi backed Yemeni government because of their support for the U.S drone strike campaign against Al Qaeda targets in Yemen. The U.S claims it will assist the coalition with intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and logistical support.

The Houthis have emerged as the dominant power in Yemen. The Sunni, Saudi backed Yemeni President Hadi was removed from power in January by the Houthis, since then the country has been in a state of chaos with differnet factions vying for power. The Saudis claim that their military operations are in support of Hadi and the legitimately elected government of Yemen. In support of these operations the Saudis have deployed 150,000 Saudi troops at the Yemen border in case a ground offense is undertaken against the Houthi militia. The Houthis claim that the coalition airstrikes into Yemen only serve to unite the people of Yemen to the Houthi cause. There is little the Houthi forces can do in response to persistent airstrikes but the militia claims that if Saudi ground forces invade they will be repulsed.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post — Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen — 25 March, 2015 

Reuters — Saudi Arabia Leads Airstrikes Against Yemen’s Houthi Rebels — 26 March, 2015

CNBC — Saudi Arabia, Allies Launch Airstrikes in Yemen Against Houthi Fighters — 26 March, 2015

CNN — Saudi – Led Coalition Strikes Houthi Rebels in Yemen — 26 March, 2015

At Least 54 Colombian Girls Report Being Sexually Abused by US Military

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia–Between 2003 and 2007, according to a recently released historic document on the Colombian conflict, US soldiers and military contractors sexually abused more than 54 children in Colombia.  Allegedly, the suspects have not and will not be prosecuted due to immunity clauses in bilateral agreements.

U.S. military staff are accused of filming sexual abuse of Colombian girls and selling as pornography / Photo courtesy of telesur

The report, 800 pages in length, was commissioned by the Colombian government and rebel group FARC to establish the causes and violent agitators of the 50-year-long conflict between leftist rebels and the state while they are negotiating peace.

Officials hope that the document will help negotiators determine who is responsible for the 7 million victims or the armed conflict between leftist rebels and the state while they are negotiating peace.

One of the scholars that helped redact the historians’ report, Renan Vega of the Pedagogic University in Bogota, focused part of this historic document on the American military that has actively supported the Colombian state in its fight against drug trafficking and leftist rebel groups like the FARC.

“[T]here exists abundant information about the sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials.”

One incident cited in the report was a 2004 case in the central Colombian town of Melgar where 53 underage girls were sexually abused by nearby stationed military contractors “who moreover filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”

According to Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, the victims of the sexual abuse practices were forced to flee the region after their families received death threats.

The case that has called the most attention was in 2007 when a 12-year-old girl was raped by a US Army sergeant and a former US military officer who was working in Melgar as a military contractor.

Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and subsequently raped inside the military base by the officers.  The prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were flown out of the country after the news broke.

The rape victim, her little sister and her mother were forced to flee to the city of Medellin as forces loyal to the suspects were threatening the family, the mother told Colombian television.

The special envoy will possibly have to deal with the role of the US military and its members in the alleged victimization of Colombians.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – At least 54 Colombian girls sexually abused by immune US military: Report – 23 Mar. 2015

El Tiempo – Seven years of shameful impunity for girl raped in Melgar – 22 Mar. 2015

El Turbion – Impunity for soldiers Plan Colombia – 15 Feb. 2009

telesur – US Military Sexually Abused at Least 54 Colombian Children – 23 Mar. 2015

Remnants of War and Prospects for Renewed Fighting Continue to Slow Recovery in Eastern Ukraine

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – While pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine may have initially been happy when they gained control of some land, they are now facing the struggles that come with disassociating from the parent nation. Economic times are tough in rebel-held territory, and those living in Eastern Ukraine are struggling.

Fighting in parts of Eastern Ukraine, particularly near this hotel around the Donetsk airport, has caused massive destruction that pro-Russian rebels are finding difficult to recover from. (Photo courtesy of National Journal)

After losing sections of Eastern Ukraine to pro-Russian rebels, Kiev installed some cuts to the banking system and also imposed some travel restrictions. In effect, these moves have caused those already in East Ukraine to become trapped without much aid or assistance from outside, increasing the poverty issue for those in pro-Russian land. The Ukrainian military is claimed to be denying aid to the East, and the pro-Russian rebel’s People’s Republic of Donetsk has handled the need for aid by denying there is a need for it. Either way, both sides are denying aid to those in need.

Some kids living in Eastern Ukraine are also being denied school by their parents due to concerns that it is not safe. Those who remain speak about the damaged homes and loved ones who were killed in the fighting, as well as the many who have already left to move either further West or into Russia. Despite the ceasefire, fighting has yet to completely halt in Eastern Ukraine, as artillery fire reportedly hit rebel-held Donetsk on Sunday. It appears that the shelling originated near the Donetsk airport, and Ukrainian soldiers further report that small arms, 82mm mortar shells, and rocket-propelled grenades were used against government troops near the airport overnight; three people have been injured in the attacks.

Ukrainian soldiers also report small arms fire and 120mm mortar shells were fired upon them in Luhansk and near Mariupol, and further that there were nine incidents where pro-Russian rebel drones were seen in the air. NATO’s joint intelligence unit in the United Kingdom, according to U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, has also confirmed that Russia continues to send military and economic support into Eastern Ukraine for the pro-Russian rebels.

Perhaps pressured by all of this, neighboring NATO countries, particularly in the Baltics, have been very concerned over the past year that they may be next in sight for Russia. In an effort to increase pressure on Moscow and ease concerns of military takeover in other Eastern European nations, the United States is currently engages in “Operation Dragoon Ride,” which involves a parade of Strykers and the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment riding throughout Eastern Europe.

For more information, please see:

Sky News (AU) – Artillery rocks Ukraine rebel base Donetsk – 23 March 2015

USA Today – For pro-separatist Ukrainians, hardship replaces hope – 22 March 2015

Bloomberg View – NATO Says Russia’s Still Pouring Arms Into Ukraine – 22 March 2015

RT – US military convoy parades through Eastern Europe – 22 March 2015

U.N. Investigators Sharing Reports of Syrian War Crimes with European Authorities

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – A team of United Nations Investigators have begun sharing details from their secret database on Syrian war crimes with European Authorities pursing domestic court cases. The Database contains detailed information on suspected war crimes committed in Syria during the course of the country’s Civil War which has now entered its fifth year. The move by the investigators could pave the way for the perpetrators of mass atrocities including killing and torture on all sides of the brutal conflict to be brought to justice. The goal is to go around the deadlocked United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China, which hold veto power, have prevented the cases from being referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva November 14, 2104. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the United Nations’ commission of inquiry, urged national authorities to contact the independent investigators who have compiled five confidential lists of suspected war crimes over nearly four years. Pinheiro and his team of investigators, including former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, said last month they planned to publish names of the suspected perpetrators of atrocities in Syria and push for new ways to bring them to justice, especially if the Security Council continues to fail to act.

Carla Del Ponte, who served as the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal For Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established to investigate suspected war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s, argued that that the International Criminal Tribunal For Former Yugoslavia serves as an example of how an ad-hoc tribunal could eventually be established to bring justice to Syria. Del Ponte; “At the beginning I was for the ICC but now with the changing situation, I think an ad-hoc tribunal could be more efficient and work faster,” Del Ponte told the Guardian in an interview in Geneva. “First of all, the ICC would prosecute only three, four, five perpetrators, not more. I think an ad-hoc tribunal could prepare a list of over a hundred, like the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia … An ad-hoc tribunal could also be based near the region, facilitating access of witnesses, documentation and so on.”

The Assad Regime’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Hussam Edin Aala, dismissed the database created by the four year investigation claiming that a “biased and selective approach” was used by the United Nations investigators. He also claimed they had ignored crimes by Islamist insurgent groups. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against Humanity throughout the civil war, which began when the regime turned its guns on peaceful protesters demanding democratic reforms.  More than 200,000 people have been killed during the Syrian Civil War which began in 2011.

For more information please see:

Al Arabiya – U.N. Investigators to Share Syria War Crimes List – 17 March 2015

The Daily Mail – UN Investigators to Share Names Of Syria War Crimes Suspects – 17 March 2015

The Guardian – Call for Special Tribunal to Investigate War Crimes and Mass Atrocities in Syria – 17 March 2015

Reuters – U.N. Investigators Sharing Syria War Crimes Findings with European Authorities – 17 March 2015

New Reports Seem to Confirm Russian Rocket Responsible for Downing MH17 over Ukraine

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – A fragment found at the crash site of MH17 has been tested and appears to have come from a Russian BUK missile.

A piece of flight MH17 being removed from the crash site. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

A Dutch journalist recovered a fragment from the July 17 crash that killed 298 people. The fragment was later tested by international forensic experts, which included defense analyst HIS Jane’s in London. Tests on the fragment show that it appears to have come from the Russian BUK missile, an anti-aircraft missile that fires from a truck to engage aircraft up to 13 miles off the ground.

Testing on fragments has revealed a low-grade steel alloy consistent with BUK missiles, and a fragment believed to have come from a warhead includes numbers that seem consistent with a serial number and a Russian alphabet letter. IHS Jane reports the warhead came from a BUK-9M317, which is the newer version of a BUK 1-2. German rocket scientists Marksu Schiller and Robert Schmucker also believe the IHS Jane report, claiming “only a Buk missile can take out the aircraft at such a height, in such a short time, and cause so much damage.”

Until this new report came out, reports merely claimed “high velocity projectiles” hit the plane but could confirm no more. Both sides continue to blame the other; Kiev and Western nations believe it was fired either by Russia or more likely pro-Russian rebels armed with a Russian missile, while Russia and pro-Russian rebels tend to claim Kiev is responsible.

Ukraine has been more stable as of late given a cease-fire that has created more peace in the country’s East than has been seen in months. There is one problem, however, as the cease-fire is contingent on both sides pulling away heavy weapons 15 to 45 miles from the front, yet reports show that both sides have failed to do so, and are actively moving heavy weapons near the front. On Wednesday, reports claim Kiev transported a tank and large-caliber gun in Avdiivka, near the front, and reports from Friday claim that two tanks and two 120mm guns were taken to the front in rebel territory near Donetsk. Lack of willingness by both sides to honor the cease-fire terms, along with reports officially linking Russia to the MH17 crash, create concerns that the cease-fire may again fall apart to renewed fighting that has already killed 6,000.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo – Confidence in Ukraine’s cease-fire hurt by arms violations – 21 March 2015

Business Insider – More proof that a Russian BUK missile shot down passenger plane MH17 – 19 March 2015

NL Times – Russian BUK Missile Took Out MH17: Dutch Forensic Researcher – 19 March 2015

Reuters – Fragment from MH17 crash site supports missile theory: Dutch TV – 19 March 2015

Mosque attacks in Yemen kill over 100; many more wounded

By Ashley Repp

New Desk Reporter, Middle East

SANAA, Yemen-

As hundreds of Shi’ites gathered at two mosques in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, for Friday prayer services, attackers blended into the scenery using medical casts to conceal explosives. The bombers within the mosques then detonated the bombs, killing scores of worshipers. As people fled the mosques, bombers stationed outside then detonated a second round of bombs amidst the fleeing crowd. The death toll has not been officially set, but the number of those dead is estimated to be at least 130, and there are over 300 hundred wounded. Hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of individuals rushed in for emergency care, and staff made a call for immediate donations of blood to accommodate the pressing need in the wake of the attacks.

Yemen attack
Photo courtesy of CNN

 

While officials have not determined who is responsible for the attacks on the mosques, some point to ISIS, a Sunni extremist organization that considers the Shi’ite Houthi rebels to be heretics. Supporting this assertion, a twitter account that prominently features ISIS propaganda asserted that the mosque attacks were the first wave of attacks in Yemen. Some officials are skeptical that this was the work of ISIS, as the organization only recently set up in Yemen in November of 2014, and argued that, more realistically, this was the work of al-Queda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP has denied these allegations though, and asserts that it was given orders to refrain from attacking mosques and markets.

If this attack was indeed orchestrated by ISIS, it represents the ever growing concern that ISIS is expanding its reach quickly and effectively, and has the capacity to incite world wide security concerns. Compounding the concern, the attack in Yemen on Friday follows just on the heels of a terror attack in a Tunisian museum on Wednesday, for which ISIS also claimed responsibility. If ISIS continues to develop a stronghold in Yemen, the already precarious civil situation between Sunnis and Shi’ite Houthi rebels, could be further deteriorate and evolve into a civil war.

 

For more information, please visit:

BBC- Yemen Crisis: Islamic State claims Sanaa mosque attacks– Mar. 20, 2015

Al Jazeera- Scores killed in suicide attacks on Yemen mosques– Mar. 21, 2015

CNN- Yemen: Bombs kill 137 at mosques; ISIS purportedly lays claim– Mar. 20, 2015

Tunisia in shock following terror attack

By Ashley Repp

News Desk Reporter- Africa

TUNIS, Tunisia

               Many Tunisians are in a state of shock as they attempt to process the terror attack at the Bardo Museum on Wednesday afternoon that left a reported 25 people dead. Scores of people have taken to the streets to protest the terror attack, in an effort to defend the fragile democracy, which saw its first democratically elected president in December. The protesters carried signs condemning terrorism, asserting that terrorism is not representative of Tunisia or of Islam.

tunisia-attack
Mourner brings flowers to the site of the attack- photo courtesy of NY Daily News

 

Two of the attackers were killed during the siege by police, but little is known about the individuals, or who is ultimately responsible for the operation. ISIS has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack; just prior to the attacks, an ISIS supporter tweeted “Coming good news to Tunisia’s Muslims.” ISIS has supporters in Algeria and an active presence in Libya. Tunisia, one of the region’s only democracies, lies geographically between Algeria and Libya, which makes it susceptible to ISIS activity and influence, as well as a target for operations aimed at disrupting democracy. Also problematic, thousands of Tunisians have already gone to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. One of the two attackers killed had reportedly gone to Libya to receive training.

The attack will likely have a resounding impact on the tourism economy. Once a tourist destination, Tunisia had seen a substantial decline in tourism to the country, and only recently did the industry begin to grow again. Following Wednesday’s attack, some cruise companies have already decided to remove Tunisia from the list of countries their ships will stop at. The economic implications of the attack are likely to reveal themselves in the coming months if tourists decide to avoid Tunisia for safety concerns.

Photos taken from the scene reveal the gruesome nature of the attack. Blood from those slain by the attackers remained on the ground, congealing in the sun and heat. Those killed were predominantly tourists from cruise ships, and were visiting the Bardo Museum and Tunis for the day. Inside the museum, one staff member heard the gunfire and immediately ushered tourists in that wing into a room and shut the door, venturing out after the gunfire subsided.

Many expressed their shock and disbelief that such an attack could happen at the Bardo Museum, which is just steps away from Parliament. President Beji Caid Essebsi called on Tunisians to unite in the face of terror, asserting that “we won’t win if we don’t stand together.” Tunisians seem to be uniting under this call and protesting against extremism and terror.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News- Tunis museum attack: President urges unity to fight terror– Mar. 20, 2015

The Washington Post- Tunisia rampage raises new fears about reach of Islamic State groups– Mar. 19, 2015

The Guardian- Troops patrol streets of Tunis in aftermath of terror attacks– Mar. 19, 2015

Time- Tunis reels from a terror attack possibly linked to ISIS– Mar. 20, 2015

Indonesia Postpones Drug Related Executions of 10 Prisoners

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania 

 

Jakarta, Indonesia

The Indonesian government has postponed the executions of 10 prisoners convicted of drug smuggling charges. The government has postponed the executions to deal with the appeals of several of those scheduled to be executed; the government claims the appeals could take months to work through. The Indonesian government has been under significant pressure by the international community to halt its practice of executing those who are convicted of drug smuggling charges. The President of Indonesia declared narcotics a “national emergency” and imposed a death penalty in Indonesia, which hasn’t been used since 2013 in any criminal case.

Andrew Chan consults with his lawyer during his original conviction. (Photo curtesy of the International Business Times)

In January Indonesia executed five foreign citizens who were convicted of drug smuggling charges in Indonesia. Since then, two Australian citizens have been sentenced to death for smuggling heroin as part of the “Bali Nine” drug smuggling organization. The two Australians, named Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran argue that they are reformed and have expressed remorse for the crime as well as argue they have been model prisoners.

Both men appealed to the President for clemency to halt their executions. The President rejected their appeals and the executions were scheduled to continue as planned. Government officials claim that there are no avenues under Indonesian law to appeal the Presidents decision on a clemency appeal. However, the defense attorneys claims that the President did not actually read the case files of the two men before he rejected their appeals. The lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have until March 25th to prepare their argument and submit evidence to challenge the president’s rejection of their earlier clemency appeal, with March 30th being the day the defense is scheduled to present their case.

In addition to the two Australian citizens there are several other foreign prisoners who have been sentenced to death that are attempting to appeal their sentences and convictions. Two Nigerian prisoners are also appealing the President’s clemency rejection, as well as a French citizen and Ghanaian citizen who are asking the Indonesian Supreme Court to review their convictions. Indonesian officials have expressed concerns over the timing of the executions. If all the executions are not carried out simultaneously it would create further problems for the government, the executions must now wait until the appeals of all the convicts are resolved before any of the executions can move forward.

For more information, please see: 

The NY Times — Indonesia Postpones Drug- Case Executions Amid Legal Challenges — 19 March, 2015

ABC News — Indonesia Defers Execution of 10 Drug Traffickers — 18 March, 2015

International Business Times — Bali Nine Executions: Indonesian Court Postpones Clemency Appeal Hearing for 2 Australian Convicts — 19 March, 2015 

The NY Times — Indonesia: Executions are Delayed — 18 March, 2015

Rights Disregarded: Prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran

 

logo 3

Rights Disregarded: Prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran
(March 18, 2015) – Today the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has released its newest report, “Rights Disregarded: Prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The imprisonment of successive generations of activists, human rights defenders, and journalists, and other citizens by governments both before and after the Revolution of 1978-79 have turned the country’s prisons into a central stage in Iranian political and cultural life. This report examines that stage by taking a tour of fifteen detention facilities across Iran through the eyes of inmates past and present.
In exploring previously-unreleased testimony and other accounts including letters and memoirs from current and former political prisoners, the report presents a broad-ranging investigation of prison conditions and the treatment of political prisoners in Iran’s penal system. Iran’s prisons are shown to suffer from extreme overcrowding, poor hygiene and water quality, inadequate medical facilities, violence targeting political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and chronic abuse of prisoners by the authorities.
Rod Sanjabi, IHRDC’s Executive Director, stated, “For years, all evidence coming from inside Iran’s prison system has readily demonstrated that the reality of prison life in Iran is extremely grave,” adding, “It is apparent that the Islamic Republic has not endeavored to uphold either international instruments like the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or its own domestic prisons regulations, both of which are habitually and indeed systematically ignored by the Prisons Organization and the Judiciary that oversees it.”
The report can be accessed here.

Mexico’s Guerrero State Continues To Be Plagued By Violence: Politicians Targeted

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Aide Nava, a 42-year-old woman running for mayor, has been kidnapped and decapitated in Northern Guerrero, a Southwestern Mexican state. This same state has been the location of numerous violent crimes and most notably the recent murders of approximately 43 student teachers, which sparked the biggest crisis of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.

Relatives of missing students gather in Mexico City to protest violence occurring in Guerrero State. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).

Guerrero, along with eight other Mexican states, is set to hold gubernational elections in June. Nava, a candidate from the leftist Part of the Democratic Revolution was kidnapped in the town of Ahuacuotzingo, the municipality she hoped to become mayor of in the June elections. A threatening note was left next to Nava’s body, stating that the same treatment would be given to any politician who does not “fall in line.” The note was signed by “Los Rojos,” one of the main criminal groups in Gurrero. Gurrero’s chief prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez did not confirm local media reports that Nava has been beheaded, but said “it is a very unfortunate and important case that we have to treat with a great deal of care.”

Violence throughout the state is prevalent. Nava’s husband, Francisco Quiñónez, who served as mayor of the same town Nava sought to run for mayor in, was shot dead in June 2014, two years after the couple’s son disappeared after being kidnapped. Additionally, two weeks prior to Nava’s death Leticia Salazar, the mayor of Matamoros, suffered an armed attack on a convoy she was travelling in. Further, Juan Acosta, the mayor of the town of Choix in the state of Sinaloa, is currently hospitalized after suffering bullet wounds sustained in an attack on a vehicle he was traveling.

More than 100,000 people have died in violence linked to drug cartels in Mexico during the past eights years. There have been no significant improvements in the security of citizens. Unfortunately, it seems as though now, the people who can make a difference in controlling the violence through the enactment of reforms, are the targets of the violence.

 

For more information, please see the following:

THE GUARDIAN – Mexican Mayoral Candidate Reportedly Decapitated – Body Found on Dirt Road – 11 Mar. 2015.

HUFFINGTON POST – Mayoral Candidate Aide Nava Decapitated in Mexico’s Guerrero State – 11 Mar. 2015.

LATIN POST – Mexico Drug Cartel News: Mayoral Candidate Aide Nava Found Decapitated in Guerrero Along With Threatening Note Written By Gang – 12 Mar. 2015

REUTERS – Mexico Mayoral Candidate Decapitated in Northern Guerrero State – 11 Mar. 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days For Syria: Starting March 15th

Almost a Million Demonstrators Marched Against President Rousseff in Brazil

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — Almost a million demonstrators marched in towns and cities across Brazil Sunday to protest the slumping economy, rising prices and corruption – and to call for the impeachment of left-wing President Dilma Rousseff.

Almost a million Brazilians protested and called for impeachment of President Rousseff on Sunday / image courtesy of CNN.com

The protests in the country come as Brazil struggles to overcome economic and political troubles and recovers from an economic boom that crumbled about the time Rousseff took office in 2011.

Rousseff, who began her second four-year term earlier this year, is unlikely to face the impeachment proceedings called for by her many opponents.  However, a fifth year of economic stagnation and a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at state-run energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, has fueled their anger.

For a president narrowly re-elected about five months ago, the protests are a sign of a deeply polarized country whose people are increasingly unhappy with the leadership.  Recently, the hard won gains of an economic boom have begun to succumb to an economic slowdown, in addition to recent water shortages.

The unexpectedly large demonstrations also promise to fuel opposition parties and restive allies, including the leaders of both houses of Congress, who are nominally part of Rousseff’s ruling coalition, but are hindering efforts to pass reforms intended to jump-start the economy.

During a press conference Sunday night, two members of Rousseff’s cabinet recognized the rights of protesters, but minimized the importance of the demonstrations, suggesting that they were expressions of discontent by those defeated at the polls.

The press conference also attempted to discredit those who suggested impeachment.  Miguel Rossetto, one of Rousseff’s top aides, criticized what he called the “intolerance” of those opponents and likened their demands to coup efforts.

In a statement posted online Sunday, Aecio Neves, a centrist who was defeated by Rosseff in October, said the demonstrations marked a day when Brazilians “went to the streets to reunite with their virtues, their values and also with their dreams.”

“People feel betrayed”, said Diogo Ortiz, a 32-year-old advertising worker, who called the Petrobras scandal “a national and international disgrace.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Why are protesters furious with Brazil’s President? – 16 March 2015

Huffington Post – Massive Rallies Across Brazil In Protest Of The President – 16 March 2015

The New York Times – Brazil Leader Facing Turbulence, but Ouster Unlikely – 16 March 2015

Barron’s – Brazil: Rousseff Impeachment Unlikely, Despite Weekend Protests? – 16 March 2015

U.N. Rights Chief Warns Nations Not to Lose Focus on Guarding Human Rights

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France – U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein recently spoke out against not only terrorism, but also against nations who lowered themselves to the level of the terrorists by employing tactics that violate human rights. “The fight against terror is a struggle to uphold the values of democracy and human rights, not undermine them,” Hussein said. He believes nations fighting terrorism are also restricting and violating the rights of people in the name of ‘national security.’

Hussein criticized terrorism, but also criticized the way that some nations have handled fighting it. (Photo courtesy of Mail & Guardian)

Hussein worries that employing questionable tactics in the fight against terrorism may actually be assisting terrorists. For example, ISIS has already successfully used human rights violations by the US at Guantanamo Bay as a propaganda tool to recruit more members. “Counter-terrorist operations that are non-specific, disproportionate, brutal and inadequately supervised violate the very norms that we seek to defend,” Hussein claimed. Hussein also criticized the US for its use of torture in the name of ‘national security,’ including torture sites throughout Europe.

Hussein was also quick to criticize the terrorists employing brutal tactics to begin with. While world powers may be acting in ways that fuel terrorism, “experiences of humiliation, inequality and discrimination … may drive, though they do not excuse, the urge to destroy.” Many of these violations have occurred over the past year at the hands of ISIS or affiliates of, including at least two terrorist attacks on European targets (Charlie Hebdo in Paris and a Jewish Museum in Brussels).

Also targeted by Hussein was the silencing of opposition to the Kremlin, Boris Nemtsov. First, Nemtsov was killed in Moscow, sparking international demand for an international investigation to ensure Putin is not involved and to bring the right people to jusitce. Since then, detained suspects claimed to be responsible for the killing have been showing signs of torture after being detained, with one, Rustam Yusupov, reportedly missing since detention.

It is precisely the injustices around the world in some leading nations that Hussein believes is fueling terrorism and allowing extreme human rights violations to occur. By eliminating torture, racial insensitivity and inequality, and wrongful silencing of the opposition, Hussein believes leading nations can better preserve human rights while also properly combatting terrorism.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Suspects in Nemtsov killing probably tortured – Russian rights activist – 11 March 2015

The New York Times – U.N. Rights Chief Criticizes World Powers – 5 March 2015

Mail & Guardian – UN calls on countries to ‘root out’ injustices that fuel extremism – 5 March 2015

UN News Centre – Member States must enforce human rights amid rising tide of extremism – UN rights chief – 5 March 2015

U.S Appeals Ruling On BP Oil Spill

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., – United States of America – The United States Government is appealing a federal court ruling that reduced the potential penalty BP Plc must pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the biggest offshore oil discharge in U.S. history, by nearly $4 billion. The Clean Water Act would allow for BP to be fined a maximum of $17.6 billion but Barbier’s ruling on the spill size lowered the fine to $13.7 billion.

 

The aftermath of the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier decided the spill size in January, judging it to be 3.2 million barrels. BP appealed the spill-size decision last month. Additionally, Judge Barbier recently rejected claims that the London-based BP was reckless in preparing for a disaster or had acted unreasonably in responding to the spill. However, the U.S. didn’t say which part of the court ruling it was appealing in a notice it filed Friday. The U.S. is seeking a maximum $13.7 billion based on the size of the spill and the finding of gross negligence. BP has countered the U.S’ claim by stating that it did not deserve the maximum fines due to its efforts in responding to the spill and minimizing the impact. Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice department spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to requested for comment on the substance of the U.S. appeal.

BP has incurred more than $42 billion of costs for the spill, including for clean up, fines and compensation for victims. Approximately 810,000 barrels were collected during the clean up.

For more information, please see the following:

ABC NEWS – BP Ends Attempt to Out Oil Spill Claims Administrator – 6 Mar. 2015.

BLOOMBERG – BP Win Cutting Gulf Spill Tab By $4 Billion Fought by U.S. – 13 Mar. 2015.

REUTERS – U.S. Appeals Ruling On Size of BP Oil Spill – 14 Mar. 2015.