Saudi-led Coalition Announces Ceasefire in Yemen

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen – The Saudi-led coalition announced Saturday that a five-day humanitarian ceasefire was to begin at 11:59pm Sunday in Yemen. The Saudi-coalition stated, however, that they would respond to any attacks or military movements made by the Houthi rebels during the ceasefire.

The city of Sana’a destroyed by airstrikes. (Photo Curtesy of BBC News)

The unexpected announcement came just hours after an airstrike on Friday, conducted by the Saudi-coalition, launched on the town of Mokha. The airstrike killed 120 people, many of whom were civilians.

The Houthi rebels expressed doubt over the ceasefire and intended to wait until they heard from the United Nations before changing their position. The Houthi rebels held up 16 trucks carrying humanitarian aid from the World Food Programme.

The airstrikes on Friday struck the homes of many civilian power plant workers of Mokha. Among the 120 people killed were women, children, and the elderly. The number of causalities may have been increased due to families visiting workers for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Hassan Boucenine, a member of Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders stated, “ It just shows what is the trend now of the airstrikes from the coalition.” He continued, “Now, it’s a house, it’s a market, it’s anything.”

Rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have previously expressed concern that the Saudi-led coalition is violating laws for failing to ensure that civilian casualties are minimized. Concern over the Houthi rebel’s similar neglect for minimizing civilian causalities has also been expressed.

The U.N. human rights office stated earlier this week that, “since 17 June, there has been further destruction of civilian infrastructure, with at least 36 buildings, including hospitals, schools, court houses, power generation facilities, and communications institutions partially or totally damaged.”

A Saudi-coaliton military official stated that the military had been given incorrect coordinates. The closest Houthi rebel outpost to the town of Mokha was at least three miles away.

Just hours before the cease-fire was to start, fighting broke out between the Saudi-coalition and the Houthi rebels for control over an airbase north of Aden. Earlier in the week, the Saudi-led coalition recaptured much of the city of Aden.

Security officials reported random shelling by Houthi rebels in three neighborhoods surrounding the airbase. After the ceasefire took effect, security officials reported that the situation on the ground surrounding the airbase had quieted down.

Over the last four months, at least 1,693 civilians have been killed with another 4,000 civilians wounded. Air strikes caused a majority of the casualties.

A humanitarian ceasefire would allow aid to reach those desperately in need. It is estimated that more than 80% of Yemen’s 25 million population is in need of some form of aid. A proposed ceasefire earlier this month failed to go into effect because both sides blamed each other for not abiding by the truce.

For further information, please see:

Associated Press – 5-Day Humanitarian Ceasefire Starts in Yemen – 26 July 2015

Reuters – Houthis, Saudi-led Forces Battle for Yemen’s Biggest Air Base – 26 July 2015

BBC News – Saudis declare Yemen Ceasefire, as Air Strike ‘Kills 120’ – 25 July 2015

The Seattle Times – Saudi-led Airstrikes Kills 120; Deadliest in Yemen Conflict – 25 July 2015

Dialogue Attempt Fails in Bolivia

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LA PAZ, Bolivia — An attempt to foster dialogue between the Bolivian government and protesters in the city of Potosi failed on Tuesday after protesters demanded that Bolivian President Evo Morales be present for the talks. The government responded that Morales would receive the “final document,” but would not be available for the dialogue.  The protesters are led by the Potosi Civic Committee, or Comcipo.

Protests in the Bolivian city of Potosi. (Photo courtesy of the BBC)

Bolivian government representatives called a meeting for 2pm on Tuesday July 21 in La Paz to discuss the demands of the protesters. After waiting for 2 hours while Comcipo held an internal meeting, Comcipo president Jhonny Llally presented a letter which reaffirmed the existing pre-conditions (including Morales’ involvement) and additionally demanded that the dialogue be mediated by the Catholic Church, national ombudsman Roalndo Villena, and the Bolivia’s Permanent Human Rights Assembly.

Potosi is protesting for the government to build: a hydroelectric plant, three hospitals, glass and cement factories and an international airport. The city is also looking for steps to preserve the Cerro Rico mines, one of the largest silver deposits in the world.

The protests have been ongoing for at least 17 days, and have paralyzed activity in and around Potosi. Several dozen foreigners are reported to be trapped in the city, including 60 Argentinians. Schools and businesses are for the most part shut down. The city is reportedly close to running out of food, gas, and money. The blockades are preventing food, medicine, and other supplies from being flown in.

Four people have been injured in clashes between protesters and police.

This is not the first time that the people of Potosi has tried to bring attention these issues – similar protests were held back in 2010. These protests also caused a shut down of trade and commerce in the city. Then, 300 foreigners were trapped in the city, and many were evacuated by air by their own governments.  300 foreign citizens were trapped in the city.

No foreign government has yet confirmed that they are working to evacuate their citizens by air, though several have expressed frustration with the inability to access the city by road. Bolivia’s Interior Minister Carlos Romero has said that so far, “there has not been a favorable response from the blockading groups” in reference to the attempts to pull out foreigners.


For more information, please see:

Latin American Herald Tribune – Protests Trap Foreign Tourists in Bolivian City – 16 July 2015

BBC – Protesters cut access to Bolivian city of Potosi – 17 July 2015

Latin American Herald Tribune – Dialogue Attempt Between Bolivian Government, Protest Leaders Fails – 22 July 2015

LaPrensa – Dialogue attempt between Bolivian gov’t protests leaders fail – 22 July 2015


Esteemed Tibetan Monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Dies in Chinese Prison

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia



Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died on July 12th in a prison in the Sichuan city of Chengdu. His death occurred while he was serving a 20-year sentence on separatism and terrorism charges. Prison officials have not explained the cause of his death.

Tenzin Delek was highly esteemed among Tibetans in Sichuan, where he helped establish medical clinics, monasteries, and schools. He promoted Tibetan culture and had many followers.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Tenzin Delek was one of China’s most famous political prisoners. He was convicted of involvement in a bombing in Chengdu in 2002 but maintained his claims of innocence throughout his sentence. The United States, European Union, and human rights groups claimed that his arrest was politically motivated and called for his release.

Tenzin Delek was originally given a suspended death sentence when he was convicted, but the sentence was decreased to life imprisonment and then to the 20-year sentence. Another monk, Lobsang Dhondup, was also charged with involvement in the Chengdu bombing and was executed in early 2003.

Tenzin Delek’s relatives applied for medical parole on his behalf last year due to his development of a heart condition and other health problems. Prison authorities never responded to the relatives’ request. Tenzin Delek’s family members believe that his heart ailment resulted from abuse that he endured during his imprisonment.

Upon his death, Tenzin Delek’s relatives requested that his body be returned to them so that they could perform customary Tibetan Buddhist death rites, but prison officials refused to give up the body and instead cremated it.

Radio Free Asia reports that four Tibetans were able to retrieve the ashes from the cremation and that they intended to carry them to his home county of Nyagchuka in China. However, a Tibetan with connections to Tenzin Delek’s family told Radio Free Asia that Chinese authorities came to where the four Tibetans were staying overnight on their way to Nyagchuka and forcibly took the ashes back.

Relatives have stated that Chengdu prison officials have repeatedly declined to give a cause of Tenzin Delek’s death. Dolkar Lhamo, Tenzin Delek’s sister, stated that the family was not permitted access to see his death certificate and medical records.

According to advocacy group Students for a Free Tibet, Dolkar and her daughter, Nyima Lhamo, have now been arrested. Dolkar was one of nearly 100 Tibetans who had previously staged a sit-in protest outside the Chengdu building where Tenzin Delek was thought to be held.

Human rights groups have claimed that China has suppressed Tibetan culture and detained monks who have shown support for the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.


For more information, please see: 

Radio Free Asia – Chinese Authorities Snatch Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s Ashes From Tibetans – 20 July 2015

New York Times – China: 2 Relatives of a Tibetan Monk Who Died in Prison Have Been Arrested – 18 July 2015

New York Times – Chinese Cremate Body of Revered Tibetan Monk, Ignoring Pleas – 16 July 2015

Associated Press – Family Fails to Get Tibetan Lama’s Body After Prison Death – 15 July 2015

BBC – Tibetan Monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Dies in China Prison – 13 July 2015