China’s Inconvenient Truth

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

BEIJING, China – The evidence of China’s pollution problem can now be seen from Space. NASA satellite images show a huge bloom with a bluish huge over the world’s most populous country. This massive air pollution problem is caused by China’s coal fired power plants as well as car exhaust, in a country where bicycles were the primary mode of transportation just over a decade ago china is now home to the world’s largest population of drivers. The true cost of China’s rapid industrial development is being felt by the country’s people, who breath in the byproducts of development on a daily basis.

a view of the city of Shiziazhuang, the capital of North China’s Hebei province, showing low visibility caused by pollution in the regions largest city. (photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

On Saturday, Chai Jing, a former TV journalist at CCTV in Beijing, released her feature-length documentary titled “Under the Dome”. This film has been doubled China’s “Inconvenient Truth,” refrain to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s 2005 Academy Award winning documentary which awoke many American’s to the environmental justice problems associated with Global Climate Change. 60 million peopled reportedly watched the documentary as Jing took the government to task for poor air quality, especially in the country’s densely populated urban areas.

Jing began her documentary with an image of a sonogram of her daughter who was born with a malignant tumor that she claims was caused by air pollution.  “I’d never felt afraid of pollution before and never worn a mask no matter where, but now, here’s life in my arms,” she said. “What she breathes, eats and drinks are all your responsibility and then you feel the fear. When I went to Beijing I knew I was pregnant, when I heard the heartbeat, I wish she could be healthy and I couldn’t wish for anything more than this. Unfortunately she had a benign tumor.” Jing’s daughter survived, but her mother says how she has been worried about the issue of air quality in china ever since.

Pollution has become the leading issue in Chinese politics and the primary concern for members of the public. Air pollution topped the list of concerns among locals ahead of annual parliamentary sessions which begin on March 5. According to a poll published by China Daily, 18% of respondents said pollution was their primary concern, followed by corruption (10%) and income inequality (8%).

Air, water and land pollution is a major problem for china’s limited natural resources. The country has a population of over 1.3 billion, making it the most populous nation on earth, and resource management has become a primary concern for the government which must provide resources for an ever growing and ever modernizing population.  According to Jing’s documentary many of china’s rivers are polluted with benzoyl, a deadly chemical, from the coal-mining province of Shanxi, a landlocked state in the north, and west of Beijing.  When Jing did the original reporting on Shanxi in 2004, 88% of the rivers in the region were polluted.

The documentary, which was released online, has gone viral in china and around the world. Demonstrating china’s growing concerns over environmental justice issues. The timely video hopes to help pressure the Chinese government into taking more direct action to conserve the environment.

For more information please see:

Forbes – Pollution Becomes China’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ – 3 February 2015

Think Progress – China’s Surprising Reaction to an Online Video Exposing the Country’s Extreme Pollution Problem – 2 March 2015

The Washington Post – China Is Disappearing – 2 March 2015

The New York Times – Documentary on Air Pollution Grips China – 1 February 2015

John Legend’s Bahrain Concert Highlights World’s Silence and Indifference towards Bahraini Regime

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

MANAMA, Bahrain – As the world’s attention focuses on the threats associated with the spread of extremist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant the world has remained silent as human rights abuses continue in the small Gulf State regime of Bahrain. Bahraini rights activists expressed concern on Friday that John Legend, an American singer known for his outspoken advocacy of civil rights and in the United States, plans to perform in Bahrain next week, despite the country’s continued brutal crackdown on dissent and civilian protests. Legend is scheduled to perform at Bahrain’s state sponsored Spring of Culture festival.

Bahraini youths peacefully demonstrate in front of armed police in Manama in 2010. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Bahraini human rights activities have labeled John Legend, the Academy award winning recording artist behind Selma’s hit song “glory,” a hypocrite for eloquently writing about the American Civil Rights movement and, to their minds, failing to show empathy for the Bahrain human rights movement by going forward with a big ticket performance for Bahrain’s rich and powerful. Legend responded with a statement saying that he was aware of “documented human rights abuses by the government of Bahrain,” but preferred to “engage with the people of the country” by visiting there.

When accepting the Academy Award for best original song in a motion picture Legend told viewers of the telecast, “We say that ‘Selma is now’ because the struggle for justice is right now.” He added, “Live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you.” Bahraini activists have argued that Legends decision not to cancel the Bahraini show demonstrates a level of hypocrisy and indifference towards the struggle for human rights in Bahrain.

Robert Mackey of the New York Times noted the Irony in the Selma song writer’s actions writing; “three years before the American protesters mentioned in the song “Glory” confronted police officers in Ferguson, Mo., with the chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” demonstrators in Bahrain were gunned down by the security forces as they marched with raised hands, repeating the Arabic word for “peaceful” — “selmiya” — again and again.

The Bahraini regime has a long history of human rights abuses and crackdowns on public assent. The fourth anniversary of the Bahraini uprising was marked on 14 February with clashes between protesters and police, as the Bahraini regime resisted reform. Shortly after Hussain Jawad prominent, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist was arrested by plain-clothes police and his home of was raided by 20 masked police officers. His family expressed concerns that he may be tortured while in custody.

For more information please see:

The New York Times – John Legend Rejects Calls to Cancel Bahrain Show over Rights Abuses – 2 March 2015

Press TV – International Silence Emboldens Bahrain Regime: Nabeel Rajab – 1 March 2015

Middle East Eye – Bahraini Human Rights Activist Detained, Family Claim Risk of Torture – 16 February 2015

The Guardian – We Are Human Rights Defenders, But Bahrain Says We’re Terrorists – 9 February 2015

U.S. Immigrants May Be Deported For Bosnian War Crimes

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America – United States officials are seeking to deport hundreds of Bosnian immigrants, whom are believed to have been invovled in war crimes during the 1992-95 war. The Bosnian War killed more than 100,000 people and displaced two million others after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Officials have identified an estimated 300 immigrants suspected of having concealed wartime atrocities when they came to the United States. During the wave of Bosnian immigrants to the United States, more than 120,000 Bosnians sought US visas. During this time, little effort was made on behalf of the United Sattes government to check the backgrounds of these immigrants.

US immigrants suspected of war crimes during Bosnian War (Photo Courtesy of BBC).

In 2008, the United States immigration agency set up a war crimes section, which has investigated immigrants from former conflcit zones, including: Ethopia, Rawnda, El Salvador, Guatemala and other global hot spots. However, no conflict has gained as much detention as the Bosnian war.

Now, investigators are giving much attention to those who arrived in the United States following the Bosnian War. Michael McQueen, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement historian, told the New York Times, “the more we dig. The more documents we find,” “the idea that the people who did all this damage in Bosnia should have a free pass and a new shot at life is just obscene to me.” U.S. officials are making an effort to identify suspects, urging witnesses to come forward with any information pertinent to the war crimes. However investigations have proven to be complicated, due to a lack of available expenses necessary for fees such as travel and translation.

Federal officials have built cases against immigrants from New York to Oregon. Suspects include: a metal worker in Ohio, four casino staff in Las Vegas, and a woman located in Kentucky who had been a guard at a military detention center in Bosnia. The woman, Azra Basic, has been jailed and faces extradition on charges that she tortured detainees, allegedly forcing them to drink gasoline and human blood.

Kathleen O’Conner, a human rights prosecutor at the Department of Justice, has stated, “justice can be served in the United States despite the fact that many yeas have gone by and that the conduct occurred overseas, far away.”


For more information, please see the following:

BBC – US Moves to Deport 150 Bosnians Over War Crimes – 1 Mar. 2015.

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES –US Immigrants Suspected of Bosnian War Crimes Could Be Deported – 28 Feb 2015.

NEW YORK TIMES – U.S. Seeks to Deport Bosnians Over War Crimes – 28 Feb. 2015.

REUTERS – U.S. Moving to Deport Bosnians Over War Crimes: NYT – 28 Feb. 2015

Fragile Truce Tested in Ukraine

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

KIEV, Ukraine – The ceasefire between pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian military, brokered by France and Germany, is broadly holding at the front line in eastern Ukraine, but the events of the last several days have put new strained on the fragile truce. Pro-Russian fighters in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk are reportedly training for another round of clashes against Ukraine’s government troops. Under the watch of rebel commanders, fighters have fired automatic assault rifles, grenade launchers and even an anti-tank missile at targets propped against refuse discarded by a local mine on Sunday. The training operations came just a day after the murder of Boris Nemtsov, a Putin critic and opponent of the war in Ukraine, who was gunned down in Moscow on Saturday night. Nemtsov was reportedly planning to publish evidence of Russia’s presence in eastern Ukraine.

Volunteers of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People”s Republican guard fire their weapons during training in Donetsk on Sunday March 1, 2015.

“We don’t want this war”, said Yegor, a commander of the rebels, who claim to be serving the new Republican Guard created by the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zacharchenko. “But when we see what’s happening on the other (Ukrainian) side we’re preparing for the worst.”

On Monday the Ukrainian military reported that one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and four more wounded in separatist eastern territories in the past 24 hours. The Ukrainian government reported a sharp drop in attacks from pro-Russian separatists over weekend but warned that rebels may be using the ceasefire as a means of repositioning for future combat. Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko also claimed that pro-Russian rebels continue to receive a “significant” amount of military equipment from neighboring Russia, a claim continually denied by the Putin regime.  “The enemy is moving heavy weapons and military equipment, primarily in the area of Mariupol,” Lysenko said in a televised briefing. “If the situation doesn’t worsen, then the Ukrainian side will continue to pull back weapons. For now the process of withdrawal is ongoing,” Lysenko said.

The United Nations announced on Monday that a sharp escalation in the fighting in eastern Ukraine from mid­-January to mid-February led to the death of at least 842 people and left more than 3,400 people wounded, with hundreds missing and many buried without their deaths being recorded. Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations assistant secretary general, reported that in total more than 6,000 people had been killed since the conflict began last April. “Credible reports indicate a continuing influx of heavy and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as foreign fighters, including from the Russian Federation,” the United Nations Said.

For More Information Please See:

The New York Times – Fighting In Ukraine Has Killed Over 840 since Mid-January, U.N. Says – 2 March 2015

Reuters UK – Pro-Russian Rebels Train For More Fighting Despite Ukraine Truce – 2 March 2015

Reuters – Ukraine’s Military Says One Ukrainian Serviceman Killed In Past 24 Hours – 2 March 2015

Forbes – Nemtsov and the Crisis in Ukraine – 1 March 2015

Assassination of Putin Critic Draws World’s Attention

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – As multiple theories continue to float up about the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Putin wrote a letter to Nemtsov’s Mother promising to find and bring to justice the murderer. Theories currently range anywhere from Putin ordering the assassination of Nemtsov, a strong opponent of Putin’s, to rumors that perhaps an ally of Nemtsov killed him to make him a martyr. Internationally, reactions have been skeptical that Putin is entirely clean from involvement.

A crowd gathers at the site of Nemtsov’s death to create a memorial. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Vladimir Milov, a former deputy minister of energy and co-author of pamphlets created by Nemtsov, believes that Putin was behind the murder “to revive a culture of fear in Moscow.” The Kremlin disagrees, however, stating that they have “half a dozen” leads, and that perhaps Islamic extremists are responsible for the killing.

French president Francois Hollande, British prime minister David Cameron, and European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini all spoke out today to voice disapproval of the killing and demanding a transparent investigation into the murder. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the killing “cowardly,” and Obama asked the Russian government to be “prompt, impartial and transparent” in investigating the murder. Finally, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko commented on the impact Nemtsov had, calling him a “bridge between Ukraine and Russia.”

Other Russian opposition has been fairly outspoken, stating that the killing is clearly a politically motivated move by an increasingly militaristic state, particularly in regards to how Russia has handled the situation in Ukraine. Given that Nemtsov blogged two weeks ago in an interview that he was worried Putin would kill him, and that Putin has subsequently ordered the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder be taken over by Putin’s men rather than the police, many are skeptical that the Kremlin has had no part in the what is being called a “contract killing”.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Fear Envelops Russia After Killing of Putin Critic Boris Nemtsov – 28 February 2015

ABC (Australia) – Boris Nemtsov assassination: Russian president Vladimir Putin vows to bring those responsible for ‘vile’ murder to justice – 28 February 2015

BBC – Reaction to death of Boris Nemtsov – 28 February 2015

USA Today – Anti-Putin leader Boris Nemtsov fatally shot in Moscow – 27 February 2015