Counter-Terrorism Court in Syria: a Tool for War Crimes

 

Magnitsky Justice Campaign: Home of Russian opposition activist and Magnitsky Justice campaigner Natalia Pelevina is raided in Moscow

Press Release

For Immediate Distribution

 

Home of Russian opposition activist and Magnitsky Justice campaigner Natalia Pelevina is raided in Moscow

29 April 2015 – The Moscow home of Russian opposition activist Natalia Pelevina was raided by police operatives and investigative committee detectives on April 17 2015.  Pelevina is an outspoken supporter of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, who worked closely with murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and current opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov, seeking to have more names added to the US Magnitsky list.

In a raid similar to the 2008 arrest of whistleblower lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Russian officials stormed Pelevina’s apartment with a search warrant signed by Judge Artur Karpov, the same judge who refused lawsuits from the family of Sergei Magnitsky to appeal the decision not to investigate Magnitsky’s murder.

According to Pelevina, “my phone was ripped out of my hand and I wasn’t allowed to call my lawyer.  [The search] went on for hours, anything technical was confiscated along with money, passports, and papers.”

Natalia Pelevina was then taken to the Russian Investigative Committee for interrogation, which was led by Major General of Justice Rustam Gabdullin.  She was interrogated for four hours, during which time she became a suspect accused of organizing and financing the Bolotnaya street riots of May 2012, under Article 212, part 1 of the Russian Constitution.

Needless to say none of it is true and I had nothing to do with the 6 of May events, and wasn’t even on Bolotnaya that day,” said Pelevina.

Pelevina was due to fly to Washington DC this week, to join members of US Congress and prominent Russian activists in a symposium honouring the memory of Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down outside the Kremlin in February this year.  Because her passport and money were seized, she is now unable to leave Moscow, and Bill Browder, leader of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, will be taking her place on the panel.

Bill Browder will also be testifying at a hearing on the Global Magnitsky Act at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today.  (http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-global-magnitsky-human-rights-accountability-act)

Natalia Pelevina is a long time friend of the Magnitsky Justice campaign, whose only ‘crime’ was to speak out against the repression and corruption of the Putin regime,” said Bill Browder.“That she is now being persecuted for a crime she did not commit, as Sergei Magnitsky was, is clear and sinister evidence that the Putin regime is a police state, intent on stamping out the voices of dissidents.”

Judge Artur Karpov has a history of persecuting dissidents.  On 28th February 2014 he sanctioned the house arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (http://pravo.ru/news/view/102312/), and he also sanctioned the 2012 arrests of Bolotnaya square activists (http://bolotnoedelo.info/participants/butchers/652/karpov-artur).

He is the same judge that refused a lawsuit from Magnitsky’s mother seeking to end the posthumous proceeding against her son in March 2013, and a lawsuit from Magnitsky’s colleague, Jamison Firestone in May 2013, seeking to compel the Russian Investigative Committee to investigate the tax officials who approved the fraudulent $230 million tax refund. In 2011 he also refused the lawsuit from Magnitsky’s mother seeking to compel the Russian Investigative Committee to investigate the torture and murder of her son.

Sergei Magnitsky’s house was raided by Interior Ministry officials in 2008, after he uncovered a $230 million fraud committed by corrupt government officials and testified against those involved.  He was arrested during the raid, tortured in pre-trial detention for a year in an effort to get him to retract his testimony, and was eventually killed in prison in 2009.

For more information, please contact:

Magnitsky Justice Campaign

+44 2074401777

info@lawandorderinrussia.org

lawandorderinRussia.org

 

 

Ecuadorian Lawmakers Approve Same-Sex Civil Unions

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

QUITO, Ecuador — On Wednesday, Ecuadorian law makers overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for the legal recognition of civil unions in the South American country.

The measure was approved 89-1 and seeks to amend part of the country’s civil code.

Ecuador’s National Assembly / image courtesy of telesur

El Comercio, an Ecuadorian newspaper, reported the measure would allow LGBT couples to receive “the same rights and obligations of a marriage” in terms of pensions, purchasing a home together and other benefits. It would also eliminate the requirement that couples must wait two years before entering into a civil union and demonstrate that they had lived together during this period.

The proposal would also apply to unmarried straight couples.

This union is open to couples of all sexual orientations.  The Civil Code specifies that this union is “not considered as marriage” and must be between “two people of legal age.”

The move furthers the rights of same-sex couples by annulling the prior requirement of having to prove a relationship of two years to be recognized in a civil union.  Yolanda Herrera, a lawyer who has worked in various LGBTQ causes explained to teleSUR English, “There are legal loopholes that are up in the air, like the affiliation of the child of a same-sex couple that decides…to have children.”

She added,“Today, those two mothers cannot (both) be registered, or in the case of surrogate mothers for two fathers, they cannot register their children. Only the person that gives birth (will be registered)”.

She explained that this creates legal issues as “when the couple splits up, (the registration) will only be maintained by one of these people.”

“It is a major achievement,” Diane Rodríguez, president of Silueta X Association, an Ecuadorian LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade after the vote.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has 30 days to sign or veto the measure.

Though, same-sex couples will have legal recognition gays and lesbians remain unable to adopt children.

Ecuador is among the growing list of Latin American countries that have extended legal recognition to same-sex couples.

Gays and lesbians are able to marry in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico City and a handful of other Mexican states.

For more information, please see:

Washington Blade – Ecuadorian lawmakers approve civil unions bill – 23 Apr. 2015

telesur – Civil Unions Approved by Ecuador’s National Assembly – 27 Apr. 2015

Pink News – Ecuador just approved same-sex civil unions – 28 Apr. 2015

GayStar News – Ecuador’s National Assembly approves gay civil unions bill – 28 Apr. 2015

Victims of Devastating Earthquake Still Stranded In Nepal

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

KATHMANDU, Nepal – Aid has been slow in reaching the most isolated communities in Days after the devastating 7.9 Magnitude Nepal after the devastating earthquake that struck the small mountainous country four days ago, claiming the lives of at least 5,000. People remain stranded, waiting for rescue and aid, in many of the countries remote towns and villages. While the relief efforts continued Tuesday, government officials warned that they were hindered by problems of getting aid into Nepal and then delivering it to the nation’s remote Himalayan communities in desperate need.

A man prays amid the rubble of a temple, destroyed in the April 25 earthquake, in Kathmandu on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the Hindu)

The government has declared three days of mourning in Nepal for the victims of Saturday’s earthquake which claimed the lives more than 5,000 people, left at least 10,000 people wounded and effected eight million people across the country, many of whom have now been displaced as a result of the large scale devastation. Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala says the government is doing all it can but is overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe. Thousands of people remain unaccounted for, especially in remote Himalayan villages, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has warned that the death toll could rise to more than 10,000 people.

Three days of mourning declared in Nepal as mass cremations are held for the victims of the tragic earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Aid efforts are still ongoing in the nation’s capital. On Tuesday heavy rains hampered the recovery effort in city of Kathmandu. The country’s Armed Police Force (APF) is now being assisted by teams from both China and India. APF officers are concerned that if bodies of the deceased are not recovered in time from the collapsed buildings that can be seen all over the historic city, an epidemic will break out in the city, putting even more lives at risk. “We are working as fast as we can and our response teams are moving from place to place but there is still a lot of work to do. Besides recovering the bodies, we believe that there may still be some survivors buried under all that rubble,” says one APF commander. The United Nations estimates that eight million people in 39 districts across Nepal have been affected by the devastating earthquake, more than a quarter of the nation’s population.

When addressing the nation to announce three days of mourning for the victims of the tragic disaster Prime Minister Sushil Koirala stated that his government was according top priority to rescue and search for the missing, and provided much needed medical treatment of the injured. He also promised that the nation would rebuild the historical, cultural, archaeological and religious monuments destroyed in the devastating earthquake.

For more information please see:

BBC News – Nepal Earthquake: Official Mourning Declared For Victims – 28 April 2015

CNN International – Nepal Earthquake: Death Toll Passes 4,600 As Rescuers Face Challenges – 28 April 2015

The Guardian – The Guardian’s View on the Earthquake in Nepal: It Will Be a Long Road Back – 28 April 2015

The Hindu – Quake Death Toll Could Reach 10,000, Says Nepal Prime Minister – 28 April 2015

VDC: Human rights organizations mark birthday of Razan Zaitouneh with renewed call for release of ‘Duma Four’

Violations Documentation Center in Syria – VDC

 

Syria: Human rights organizations mark birthday of Razan Zaitouneh with renewed call for release of ‘Duma Four’

(Geneva, 28 April 2015) – To mark the 38th birthday (on April 29) of missing human rights defender and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, head of the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC), winner of the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women In War), the undersigned human rights organizations today reiterate their call for her immediate release, as well as that of her missing colleagues Samira KhalilNazem Hamadi and Wa’el Hamada.

On December 9, 2013, the four human rights defenders, collectively known as the “Duma Four”, were abducted during a raid by a group of armed men on the offices of the VDC in Duma, near Damascus. There has been no news of their whereabouts or health since.

The VDC is active in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in Syria and the undersigned organizations believe that the abduction of the four activists was a direct result of their peaceful human rights work. Their ongoing detention forms part of a wider pattern of threats and harassment by both government forces and non-state actors seeking to prevent human rights defenders exposing abuses.

In the months prior to her abduction Razan Zaitouneh wrote about threats she had been receiving and informed human rights activists outside Syria that they originated from local armed groups in Duma.The most powerful armed group operating in Duma at the time of the abductions is the Army of Islam headed by Zahran Alloush. In April 2014, Razan Zaitouneh’s family issued a statement saying they held Zahran Alloush responsible for her and her colleagues’ wellbeing given the large presence his group maintained in the area.

The undersigned organizations, as well as other activists, have been calling for the release of the “Duma Four” since their abductions. Today they again urge the Army of Islam and other armed groups operating in the area to take immediate steps to release the abducted VDC staff, or investigate their abduction and work for their release. They further urge governments that support these groups, as well as religious leaders and others who may have influence over them, to press for such action, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139, which “strongly condemns” the abduction of civilians and demands and immediate end to this practice.

Razan Zaitouneh has been one of the key lawyers defending political prisoners in Syria since 2001. She has played a key role in efforts to defend the universality of human rights and support independent groups and activists in Syria. Along with a number of other activists, she established the VDC and co-founded the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which co-ordinate the work of local committees in various cities and towns across Syria. She also established the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office, which assists non-governmental organizations in besieged Eastern Ghouta.

Samira Khalil has been a long-time political activist in Syria and had been detained on several occasions by the Syrian authorities as a result of her peaceful activism. Before her abduction, she was working to help women in Duma support themselves by initiating small income-generating projects. Wa’el Hamada, an active member of the VDC and co-founder of the LCC network had also been detained by the Syrian authorities. Before his abduction he was working, together with Nazim Hamadi, to provide humanitarian assistance to the residents of besieged Eastern Ghouta.

Signatories:

 

1- Alkarama Foundation (in Geneva)

2- Amman Center for Human Rights Studies

3- Amnesty International

4- Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship

5- Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

6-  Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria

7-  Badael Foundation

8- Bahrain Centre for Human Right

9-  Defending  Prisoners of Conscience in Syria Organization

10-  Cairo Center for Development (CCD)

11-  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHR)

12-  Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

13-  Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights in Syria

14-  Committees for the Defending  Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria

15-  El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence

16-  Enmaa Center for Democracy and Human Rights

17-  Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)

18-  Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society

19-  Front Line Defenders (FLDs)

20-  Freedom House

21-  Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

22-  Human Rights First Society , Saudi Arabia

23-  Human Rights Organization in Syria – MAF

24-  Human Rights Watch (HRW)

25-  Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS)

26-  Hand in Hand Organization , Syria

27-  Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

28-  Index on Censorship

29-  International Media Support (IMS)

30-  International Centre for Supporting Rights and Freedoms

31-  International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)

32-  International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)

33-  Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)

34-  International  Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

35-  Iraqi Women Network

36-  Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense  Association(IJRDA)

37-  Iraqi Network  for Social Media (INSM)

38-  Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (observer)

39-  Kurdish Organization for Human Rights in Syria (DAD)

40-  Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

41-  Lawyers for Lawyers

42-  Lulua Center for Human Rights

43-  Madad NGOs

44-  Maharat Foundation

45-  MENA Media Monitoring group

46-  Metro Centre to Defend Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan

47-  National Organization for Human Rights in Syria

48-  Nazra for Feminist Studies

49-  No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ)

50-  One World Foundation (OWF)

51-  Omani Observatory for Human Rights

52-   World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

53-  Pax for Peace – Netherland

54-  Pen International

55-  Reach All Women in War (RAW)

56-  Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

57-  Sawt Al Niswa

58-  Sentiel Human Rights Defenders

59-  Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)

60-  Syrian American Council (SAC)

61-  Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression  (SCM)

62-  Syrian Center for Legal Researches & Studies

63-  Syrian Journalists Association

64-  Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

65-  Syrian League for Citizenship

66-  The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders In Middle East and North Africa

67-  Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression

68-  Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC)

69-  Vivarta

70-   Yemeni Organization for Defending  Human Rights and Democratic  Freedom

 

VDC: Messages to Razan Zaitouneh

Violations Documentation Center in Syria – VDC

 

Messages to Razan Zaitouneh…

April 29 coincides with the birthday of Razan Zaitouneh, the prominent lawyer and human rights activist who was kidnapped in Douma city, Damascus (Eastern Ghouta). Razan disappeared on 9 December 2013, along with three other activists; Samira KhalilWael Hamadah (Razan’s husband) and lawyer Nazim Hammadi. To date, their fates remain un unknown, despite hundreds of calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

In her last article before she disappeared, Razan described the kidnapping of an activist in Ghouta, calling for an end to all campaigns of abduction and the release of captives. Razan wrote:

While initial attention to every abduction takes place through the  media and social networks, the case is soon forgotten in light of the almost complete inability to influence or intervene for the good of the abducted; their fate remain unknown…”

The Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) calls on activists around the world to send messages of solidarity to Razan on her birthday, to be published on 29 April 2015. The VCD also reiterates its demands for the immediate and unconditional release of Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazim. Moreover, it calls on all relevant and active groups in Eastern Ghouta to shoulder their responsibilities towards the matter without delay.

Please include a name, job description and organization with each message to the following address:

Letters.for.razan@gmail.com

Violence and Looting erupts In Baltimore after Funeral of Freddie Gray

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – Looting and violence erupted in the streets of Baltimore, the 26th most populous city in the United States, following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25 year-old unarmed African American man who died as a result of injuries allegedly suffered while he was in police custody. Despite the families call for peace and request that no demonstrations be held on the day their son was to be laid to rest riots broke out a few blacks away from the church where Mr. Gray’s funeral was held. Seven Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks, broke windows, looted businesses and burned police cars. One of the injured police officers is reportedly unresponsive. Maryland’s Governor declared a state of Emergency.

A man carried items from a looted CVS store in Baltimore as a police patrol car is set ablaze by rioters. (photo courtesy of CNN International)

The riots are the first major crisis faced by Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in as the nation’s first African American Attorney General earlier this morning. Following her swearing in, Lynch said improving relations between police and the communities they protect will be a high priority. “We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them,” she said. Lynch met with President Obama this afternoon to discuss the riots unfolding in Baltimore, a city located just 40 miles from the White House in Washington D.C.. The Obama Administrator sent three delegates to Freddie Gray’s funeral including Broderick Johnson, a native of the city and the chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

With the exception of clashes with police on Saturday the demonstrations against police brutality in Baltimore have largely been peaceful. Police initially showed restraint on Monday as high schoolers began protesting and rioting in the streets but then began arresting protesters who allegedly were engaged in looting and attacks on police and intrastate as the violence erupted. Police also prepared to use teargas and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse crowds and prevent further damage. Looters broke into several privately owned establishments and began steeling goods. A CVS Pharmacy was looted and set ablaze in a neighborhood that has no grocery stores.

Police called on local businesses to closer early and for people to stay away from the affected areas if possible. The Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards, located near the neighborhood where the riots are occurring, was postponed. Church leaders belonging to local Christian churches as well as the Nation of Islam have called for peace. Reverend Jamal Bryant, the Gray family pastor and one of the primary leaders of the peaceful protests calling for justice for the Gray family, has condemned the violence and called on all involved to stop and go home. He criticized looters for disrespecting the Gray family’s wishes for peace in the wake of their son’s horrific death. “It is disappointing just a few hours after putting Gray to rest,” Reverend Jamal Bryant said. “This is not what the family asked for today of all days. This was a day of sacred closure.”

For more information please:

CNN International – Baltimore Protests Turn Violent; Police Officers Injured – 27 April 2015

CNN International – Baltimore Protests Turn into Riots – 27 April 2015

CNN Politics – White House, Lynch Turn To Baltimore – 27 April 2015

Reuters – Violence Erupts After Funeral of Baltimore Man Who Died In Police Custody – 27 April 2015

VDC: The Weekly Statistical Report

The Weekly Statistical Report

 

 

 

Obama Discloses the Deaths of Hostages in U.S. Strikes on Al Qaeda Targets

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East 

 

Islamabad, Pakistan

Obama announced on Thursday that U.S. counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan on Al Qaeda targets  killed an American and Italian hostage last January. The President took full responsibility for the deaths of American Warren Weinstein and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto. The White House Press Secretary claimed Obama did not personally approve the strikes but they were in the bounds of policy guidelines. The White House did not admit that drones carried out the strikes that killed the hostages.

A U.S. drone used for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Photo curtesy of The Daily News)

Al Qaeda captured Warren Weinstein in August 2011 while he was working as a USAID contractor in Pakistan. Lo Porto was taken hostage while working as an aid worker in 2012. Obama announced that the Inspector General is launching an investigation into the incident. Obama also stated that the U.S. government would compensate the families of both hostages. The U.S. did not recover the bodies of either hostage but multiple intelligence sources confirmed their deaths based off circumstantial evidence.

The President also disclosed that two American citizens, both Al Qaeda operatives, were killed by counter- terrorism operations in the same region of Pakistan. Ahmed Farouq was the Al Qaeda Deputy Amir for the Indian subcontinent and he was killed in the same strike that killed the two hostages. The other American, Adam Gadahn was also killed but the White House reported that he was likely killed in a separate operation.

Obama and the Press Secretary claimed that the U.S. government was not aware that the hostages  or that the two American Al Qaeda operatives were present at the target sites. Critics of the drone strike campaign are using the incident for continued pressure on the Obama administration even though it is yet to be officially disclosed that drones carried out these operations. Obama announced two years ago that he would be scaling back drone operations however; the administration claims that these strikes were carried out within the guidelines for such missions. Regardless, the ACLU pointed out that there is a significant problem with continuing these strikes if there is continued harm to civilians. The ACLU also pointed out that the deaths of civilians shows a gap between the stringent standards the government says its using and the standards that are actually being used when carrying out these strikes.

For more information, please see:

CNN — U.S. Drone Strike Accidentally Killed 2 Hostages — 23 April, 2015 

The New York Times — Obama Apologizes After Drone Kills American and Italian Held by Al Qaeda — 23 April, 2015

CNN — Al Qaeda Hostage, American Warren Weinstein, Killed in Operation — 23 April, 2015 

Daily News — American, Italian Hostages Killed in U.S Drone Attack Against Al Qaeda in Pakistan: White House — 23 April, 2015

European Union Takes Action Following Mediterranean Migrant Disasters

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Following the disasters in the Mediterranean Sea over the past week that saw over 1,000 migrants killed when two separate ships capsized, the European Union has come together to work on a solution.

Overcrowded and weak migrant vessels, such as this one, have led to thousands of migrants drowning in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. (Photo courtesy of RTE News)

After European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker brought together EU leaders to discuss the disaster, four “priority areas for action” were agreed upon: “to strengthen the EU’s presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility.” The idea behind these focal points is to not only address the situations as they arise, but also to try and combat the problem at the source. The European Commission aims to release its European Agenda on Migration on May 13th.

One issue that must be resolved is where the migrants will go once they are saved, and the Commission has stated that it seeks to work on quota issues throughout the EU. Ireland has already stepped up and agreed to take 220 Syrians after they have been recognized as refugees by the United Nations refugee agency, in addition to the 114 refugees Ireland has already agreed to take in under the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Programme.

With over 10,000 migrants saved from the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya just over the past week, this is a pressing issue that must be solved now. According to the International Organization for Migration, 1,727 have died already this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, as opposed to 56 last year by this time. The EU members have already agreed to triple funding for border operations from 2.9 million euros a month to nearly 10 million. In addition to this increased support for saving migrants in the Mediterranean, there is also a movement for “declaring war on smugglers,” according to the EU Commissioner for Migration. Military action against the traffickers may take a few months to work out, but the EU has assigned EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to fine possible military actions the EU may take.

For more information, please see:

RTE News – EU to triple funding for migrant search and rescue missions – 24 April 2015

European Commission – EU leaders agree actions to tackle Mediterranean tragedy – 24 April 2015

Fox News – EU leaders commit ships, aid for action on migrants – 23 April 2015

USA Today – EU agrees to send more ships to stem migrant crisis – 23 April 2015

The Wall Street Journal – EU to Triple Funding for Sea Patrols in Migration Crisis – 23 April 2015

VDC: The Weekly Statistical Report

 

 

 

Thousands Evacuated as Chile Volcano Erupts

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile– Just in time for Earth Day Volcano Calbuco erupted last night in Chile for the first time in more than four decades.  The sudden eruption sent a thick plume of ash and smoke several kilometers into the sky.

By night, almost 4,000 people had been moved from the area, an evacuation radius of 20 kilometers was established and schools in the area and the classes were cancelled in surrounding towns, authorities noted.

Chile’s Onemi emergency office declared a red alert following the sudden eruption at around 6 p.m. local time.  Calibuco lies about 1,000 km south of the capital, Santiago, near the tourist town of Puerto Varas.

President Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to travel to the affected area on Thursday.

According to Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo there were no reports of deaths, missing persons or injuries.  Penailillo urged residents to evacuate the area and warned of possible lahars, a mix of water and rock fragments that flow down a volcano’s slopes and river valleys.

The column of ash and smoke is being pushed northeast towards Argentina, by winds.

“In this situation, with the eruption column so high, the main risk is that it collapses, falls due to gravity because of its own weight and causes a pyroclastic flow,” Gabriel Orozco, a vulcanologist with Chile’s geological and mining service, said on local TV.

Video courtesy of Informaciones Chile

A pyroclastic flow is a superheated current of gas and rock that can destroy nearly everything in its path and travel at speeds upwards of 200 to 300 kilometres per hour.

The volcanic ash has caused flights to be cancelled in Argentina and Chile due to the ash making it dangerous to fly.  The ash can cause damage to an airplane.

Canadian-born Trevor Moffat, who lives in Ensenada, some 10 kilometres from the volcano, said the eruption happened without warning. Volcano Calbuco’s last known eruption was in 1972 and the most recent major eruption happened in 1961.

“It sounded like a big tractor trailer passing by the road, rattling and shaking, guttural rumbling … we left everything there, grabbed my kid, my dog, got in the car with my wife,” said Moffat, who was driving to nearby Puerto Varas at the time.

“All the neighbours were outside, a lot of young people crying. Armageddon-type reaction.”

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Calibuco Volcano Eruption in Chile Forces Evacuation of 4,000 People from the Region – 23 Apr. 2015

LA Times – Hiker Found as Ash from Calibuco Volcano Closes Borders in Chile – 23 Apr. 2015

Aljazeera – Thousands Evacuated as Chile Volcano Erupts – 23 Apr. 2015

Reuters – Flights Canceled as Ash Cloud Pours from Chile Volcano – 23 Apr. 2015