Syria Deeply: Uncovering Human Rights Abuses in Syria: Q&A with Dr. Anna Neistat

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis.

Uncovering Human Rights Abuses in Syria: Q&A with Dr. Anna Neistat

Syria Deeply speaks with Dr. Anna Neistat about her undercover human rights work in Syria with Human Rights Watch’s Emergency Team, Russia’s widening role, the west’s hyper-focus on the Islamic State and the future of the conflict as she sees it.

Do-It-Yourself Alternative Energy in Besieged al-Ghouta

Syria Deeply speaks with a medical equipment engineer and member of the Union of Free Syrian Doctors in besieged eastern al-Ghouta to discuss the creative methods residents are using to overcome the government-imposed blockade.

Russia’s Air Campaign Benefits ISIS

That ISIS benefits from Russia’s military involvement is no surprise, and is not even a coincidence or unfortunate by-product, argues Sharif Nashashibi. The stronger ISIS gets, the more people will buy into the flawed notion that Assad is an indispensable partner in the group’s defeat. Assad hence becomes part of the solution to the Syrian conflict rather than part of the problem, or in fact the cause.

More Recent Stories to Look Out for at Syria Deeply:

• Repurposed Weddings Emerge From the Ashes of the Syrian Conflict
• My Syrian Diary: Part 44
• Without Committed Air Support, Kurdish Forces Cannot go on the Offensive Against ISIS 

Find our new reporting and analysis every weekday at You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at

Alabama Judge Tells Defendants To Give Blood To Avoid Jail

By Samuel Miller
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America and Oceania

MARION, ALABAMA, United States of America — The SPLC filed a judicial ethics complaint against an Alabama judge who forced people unable to pay court fines and fees to give blood or face jail time. The judge’s announcement was made to dozens of defendants in a packed courtroom to deal with court fees.

Judge Marvin Wiggins in Montgomery, AL. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Some of the 500 defendants gave blood to avoid jail, but their debt remained.

Perry County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins threatened defendants in his court with jail on September 17. Judge Wiggins noted that the Sheriff had enough handcuffs for those unable to pay and unwilling to donate blood, according to the complaint filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama.

According to the SPLC, Judge Wiggins said in a recording, “If you do not have any money and you don’t want to go to jail, consider giving blood today.”

The offenders were to be given a $100 voucher that would go toward their fines and fees for misdemeanor and traffic crimes. Wiggins said to consider the option of giving blood “a discount rather than putting you in jail.” However, no one who donated blood received any “discount” on their court debt; they simply received a reprieve from being thrown in jail.

Most of the people in the courtroom still owed thousands of dollars to the court, even after years of making payments, according to the complaint. Virtually every case included fees that indigent defendants had been charged to recoup money for their court-appointed counsel

Without speaking to the judge about their financial situation, many indigent defendants gave blood out of fear of going to jail. The complaint outlines several ethics violations, including failure to demonstrate professional competence and failure to uphold the integrity of the law.

Some lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of it all.

In its complaint, the SPLC has claimed Judge Wiggins’ violated both Alabama statutory law and constitutional law.

“By jailing people for their inability to pay, the city violates their 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection under the law. The warrantless arrests violate Alabama law and the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The arrests also violate individuals’ right to counsel, protected by the Sixth Amendment.”

“People who couldn’t pay their court debt with cash literally paid with their blood,” said Sara Zampierin, SPLC staff attorney. “This is a shocking disregard for not only judicial ethics but for the constitutional rights of defendants.”

The Judicial Inquiry Commission could recommend that Wiggins face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Alabama judge orders defendants to give blood to avoid jail – 20 October 2015

CBS News – Judge to defendants: To avoid jail, pay court fees, or give blood – 20 October 2015

NPR — Alabama Judge Accused Of Telling Offenders To Give Blood Or Go To Jail – 20 October 2015

Reuters — Alabama judge accused of telling debtors to give blood or face jail time – 20 October 2015

SPLC — SPLC ethics complaint: Alabama judge forced defendants with court debt to give blood or go to jail – 20 October 2015

Time — Alabama Judge Tells Offenders to Give Blood or Face Jail – 20 October 2015

Ohio Delays Executions Until 2017

By Samuel Miller
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America and Oceania

COLUMBUS, OHIO, United States of America — Ohio has announced it is delaying executions until 2017 at the earliest as the state struggles to acquire the drugs used in lethal injections. The postponement of capital punishment means 12 death row inmates who were scheduled to die in 2016 are being given a temporary reprieve.

The Death Chamber At the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. (Photo Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch)

Executions in the state have already been postponed for almost two years due to drug shortages.

In an agency press release Monday, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections detailed the justification for the decision:

“The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions.”

Ohio, like many states, has been forced to find new drugs after European-based manufacturers banned US prisons from using their products in executions on moral and legal grounds.

The DRC said it needed extra time to buy supplies of sodium thiopental and pentobarbital from overseas, or from small-scale drug manufacturers called compounding pharmacies. Ohio said in January that sodium thiopental and pentobarbital will be the only drugs used in its lethal injection cocktail.

State officials obtained an import license from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to buy drugs from overseas. However, they were subsequently warned by the Food and Drug Administration that if they did so, they would be violating a federal law barring the importation of lethal injection drugs unless the purchase had been explicitly approved by the FDA.

Ohio lawmakers even passed an execution secrecy law designed to encourage compounding pharmacies to make lethal injection drugs, but the American Pharmacists Association has been reluctant to approve the manufacture and sale of such drugs.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Ohio could speed up its executions by changing its method of execution.  The state could use the electric chair, hanging, or even a firing squad, but these changes would require state lawmakers to pass a bill and the governor would need to sign it.

The state has been postponing all planned executions since the administration of a faulty lethal injection caused a death row inmate to suffer in agony for 25 minutes before dying. In January 2014, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire with an untested lethal injection containing the controversial sedative midazolam, which malfunctioned and led to an outcry from concerned citizens and lawmakers.

The next execution in the state is currently set for January 2017.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Ohio puts executions on hold due to drug shortage – 20 October 2015

Columbus Dispatch — Ohio to delay executions until 2017 – 20 October 2015

Free Press Journal — US state postpones executions over lack of lethal drugs – 20 October 2015

NBC — Lack of execution drugs means delay for inmates on death row – 20 October 2015

RT — Ohio delays executions until 2017 over drug shortage – 20 October 2015

Sky News — Ohio Delays All Executions To 2017 Over Drugs – 20 October 2015

Human Rights Watch Releases Report on Nepal Atrocities

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia



Human Rights Watch has released a report on the human rights violations that occurred during protests this year in the Terai region of Nepal. The report calls for Nepali authorities to investigate the abuses and to bring those responsible for the abuses to justice.

The Human Rights Watch report, entitled “‘Like We Are Not Nepali’: Protest and Police Crackdown in the Terai Region of Nepal”, highlights Human Rights Watch’s investigation into the killings of 25 people, including 16 civilians and 9 police officers.

At least 45 people were killed during protests from August to September 2015. Among the atrocities committed were extrajudicial killings of protesters by police, killings of children, and the killings of police officers at the hands of protesters.

Protesters in Nepal’s Terai region. (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

While investigating abuses in Nepal, Human Rights Watch visited five districts in Nepal and recorded eyewitness accounts of police abuses and violence by protesters. Human Rights Watch did not find any evidence indicating that any of those killed were posing a threat at the time of their deaths.

Police abuses included invading homes to beat occupants, beating innocent bystanders, killing non-violent protesters, using racial insults, and making death threats against civilians. Two eyewitnesses saw a police officer open fire into a hospital. In another eyewitness account, a 14 year-old protestor was shot in the face by police while an officer stood on his legs. Doctors’ reports from the examination of his body corroborated the account of how the boy died.

Section 8, article 58(3) of Nepal’s Armed Police Force regulation allows police officers to use “necessary or final force in order to defend self, maintain law and order, and to arrest the attacker” if they are attacked or obstructed from their duties. Nepal’s Home Ministry denies that police have used excessive and unnecessary force and states that the Human Rights Report was prepared in a biased manner.

Police using water cannon to disperse protesters. (Photo courtesy of Voice of America)

Protesters have also grown violent. In one instance, protesters in Tikapur, a city in western Nepal, beat eight police officers to death with spears and sticks spiked with nails.

There are ongoing protests in Nepal led by ethnic groups, primarily the Tharus and Madhesis, who are unhappy with Nepal’s new constitution. After years of political stalemate, Nepal’s political parties agreed on a constitution, which was ratified in September 2015. Ethnic minority groups such as the Tharus and Madhesis then began to protest against the constitution because they believe that it abrogates previous agreements made with their communities and delineated federal provinces that do not afford them adequate representation as citizens.

Power in Nepal is concentrated in the Pahadi, a group populating the Himalayas and the surrounding areas. The Madhesis and Tharus make up about a third of Nepal’s population, and they generally possess less wealth and education that the Pahadis.

Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli became Nepal’s new prime minister on October 12, replacing Sushil Koirala. Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, has stated that “Nepal’s new leadership should take immediate steps to stem the tide of abuse that has overtaken Nepal…the government needs to order investigations, and publicly call on all security forces to desist from any excessive use of force.”


For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – ‘Like We Are Not Nepali’: Protest and Police Crackdown in the Terai Region of Nepal – 16 October 2015

Human Rights Watch – Nepal: Investigate Deaths During Terai Protests – 16 October 2015

The New York Times – Report on Nepal Protests Details Grisly Violence – 16 October 2015

Voice of America – HRW: Nepal Must Investigate Constitution Protests Killings – 16 October 2015

Polish President Warns Government About Refugees Bringing Diseases

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland–

Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday that the Polish government should take steps to protect its citizens from Middle Eastern refugees bringing in “possible epidemics.” Duda told a local Polish new channel that the health and safety of Polish citizens was of utmost importance, rather than the refugees. He also added that if the government was willing and able to accept the refugees, they should take any measure necessary to protect the Polish people.

President Duda’s comments about refugees carrying diseases has been likened to the rhetoric spewed by the Nazis towards the Jewish people during the Second World War. (Photo courtesy of Al-Jazeera)

The comments by Duda, whose role is largely ceremonial in government, closely resemble remarks made by the leader of the Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Duda is a member of the right-wing Law and Justice Party, which is expected to win the elections on October 25th.

Speaking outside a refugee center, Kaczynski spoke about how the refugees had brought in “all kinds of parasites which are not dangerous in their own countries but which could prove dangerous for the local populations.” He later wondered how the Polish government expected to protect Polish citizens from these transient diseases.

Both Duda and Kaczynski’s comments have been condemned internationally, by members of the Polish government, and by the local media as evocative of the hate speech spewed by the Nazis during the Second World War. During that time, the Nazis said the Jewish people had typhus, and used that line of reasoning to force them into ghettos.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said there is no connection between migration and infectious diseases, and these diseases can exist independent of migration. “The risk for importation of exotic and rare infectious agents into Europe, such as Ebola, Marburg and Lassa viruses or Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS], is extremely low. Experience has shown that, when importation occurs, it involves regular travellers, tourists or health care workers rather than refugees or migrants,” a September report from the WHO said.

Poland has taken its time in accepting refugees, but has agreed to accept 5,000 of the 120,000 migrants to be shared between the 28 member states of the European Union. Poland was initially agreed to take in 2,000 refugees, but later upped the number. Although support for asylum for refugees is high, heavily Catholic Poland has some anti-Muslim sentiments that affect its ability to take in more refugees.

For more information, please see

The Globe and Mail–Ex-Polish PM slammed for comments migrants carrying diseases to Europe— 14 October 2015

Human Rights Watch– Dispatches: Welcoming Voices from Poland on Refugees— 15 October 2015

Al-Jazeera–Poland’s president warns of refugees bringing epidemics— 18 October 2015

Channel NewsAsia– Migrants may bring epidemics, warns Polish president— 18 October 2015

Voices for Sudan: Focus on outcome of the UN Human Rights Council 30th Session in Geneva, Role of U.S, U.K and A.U

VRS Round table Discussion Forum
  Focus on the Outcome of UN Human Rights Council 30th Session.
Role of U.S, U.K and A.U

(Disappointment over Sudan & South Sudan)

Thursday October 22, 2015

10:30 a.m – 12 noon


1400 16th Street N.W # 430

Washington, DC 20036

Conference Room, 4th Floor

 Special Guest Speakers 

Hannah Watson, Foreign and Security Policy (Africa and Conflict issues),British Embassy Washington

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule,Program Manager States in Transition, Head of African Diplomacy (Via Skype)

Office of United States Special Envoy to

Sudan & South Sudan (invited):



Featured Speakers 

Hanadi Elhadi Board Member
(Focus on Sudan and women empowerment)
Emanuella Bringi, VFS Executive Assistant and Diaspora Progrm Coordinator
(Focus on youth engagement and role of new generation to end impunity)
(Via Skype from Canada)




Katie Campo

Program Officer

Africa Team

National Endowment for Democracy


Opening Remarks

Jimmy Mulla

President & Co-Founder, Voices for Sudan.

RSVP: E-mail at For further information e-mail
Bio of Speakers


Jimmy Mulla’s professional career has shifted between the technical field, research, and important Sudanese human rights advocacy work. He is an engineer by trade. Currently Jimmy is the president and Co-founder of Voices for Sudan (VFS), formerly known as the Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom (SSVF). Mr. Mulla is a long time Sudan activist and has led a wide range of advocacy and awareness-raising efforts for the North-South conflict including Nuba Mountains & Blue Nile, Darfur genocide, Eastern Sudan and other Sudan issues. He was the founding member and president of Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom (SSVF). SSVF played an instrumental role in the passage of the U.S. Sudan Peace Act and the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, which re-energized the civil war peace talks; helped raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur; and helped facilitate an aggressive and successful divestment campaign that raises awareness of companies that do business with Sudan. Mulla has been on CNN, Voice of America TV and Radio, Al-Jazeera, Al-Hura and other major news networks.

Katie Campo Program Officer on the Africa team at the National Endowment for Democracy. Katie manages NED’s grant-making programs in both Sudan and South Sudan. Prior to joining NED, Katie was a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where she specialized in Darfur. Katie holds a BA in International Relations from Brown University and an MA in Journalism from Columbia University. She speaks French, Arabic, and Chinese.

Hanadi Elhadi
Hanadi Elhadi, VFS Board Member
Hanadi Elhadi is a trained Chemist with a degree in pharmacology from Cairo University in Egypt, and an Associate degree from Howard Community College in Maryland. She served as a Quality Control chemist, and a student advisor. She is bilingual in English and Arabic, a skill that used in her work as interpreter and an activist on the issues of women empowerment, child protection and political lobbying for democracy and human rights in her country of origin, Sudan.  She helped found the Broad National Front, a coalition of Sudanese parties and organizations working on change in Sudan.

Emanuella Bringi.
Emanuella Bringi is Voices for Sudan’s Executive Assistant & Diaspora Training Program Coordinator. Ms. Bringi is also currently a National Youth Advisory Board member for a project titled Voices against Violence: Youth Stories Create Change; & a Leader for an initiative titled: Generation of Leaders: South Sudan.As a young leader in her community, Emanuella’s vision is to empower the Sudanese people from a youth perspective. As generations come and go, the need for support from all angles does not change; the visionaries of today and the experts of yesterday must collide and create a powerful force to bring peace to our regions.Emanuella holds a diploma in Social Service Work – Immigrant and Refugees from Seneca College, and a degree in Multicultural and Indigenous Studies from York University. During her studies at York University she held both the Student Life & Advocacy as well as the President position for the York United Black Students’ Alliance; YUBSA is a student run Pan-African organization established to help foster unity and togetherness in the Black community at York University and surrounding areas.

Special Guest Speaker

Clement Voulé – Programme Manager (States in Transition) and Head of African Advocacy
Clement leads our work to support defenders in States in transition and at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Before joining ISHR in 2006, Clement was Secretary-General of Amnesty International Togo and head of the Togolese Coalition of HRDs. Clement is Vice-Chair of the West African HRDs Network and a member of the African Commission Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment & Human Rights Violation. “Mr. Voule “a long time activist and lawyer, completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Nantes in France. Before joining ISHR in May 2006, he was Secretary General of Amnesty International in Togo (2000-2002) and has occupied several other positions within the organization, such as head of the training program, head of the lobbying team and coordinator of the jurists network and of the campaign for the International Criminal Court in Togo. He was a founding member and Secretary General of the Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders from 2002 and program coordinator of the West African Human Rights Defenders network from April 2005.” [1]

New Tactics in Human Rights: October 2015 New Tactics Newsletter

Join New Tactics in Human Rights for an online conversation on Influencing Policy to Create Inclusive Societies for Persons with Disabilities from October 26 to 30, 2015.

People living with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group. Fifteen percent of the world population or one billion people are unable to fully engage in family, community and politics due to their disability. According to the World Bank, twenty per cent of the world’s poorest people live with a disability. Disability is more prevalent in the most vulnerable societies and further perpetuates disadvantage and poverty. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, where they are often denied equal access to health care, education and employment opportunities. Consideration of social determinants is central to creating inclusive and comprehensive policies. Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes the equal right of all persons with disabilities to make choices equal to all members of society and requires governments to take effective steps to facilitate the full enjoyment of this basic right by persons with disabilities.

In this conversation, we seek to share tactics and success stories of ways organizations and individuals influence governments to develop and implement socially inclusive policies for people living with disabilities. We aim to investigate local, regional, and national policy issues, including: defining disability under the law, developing partnerships to advocate policy change or legislation, applying international platforms to local and national contexts, drawing public support for disability legislation through grassroots campaigns, including individuals with disabilities advocacy efforts and more.

Tensions Continue to Rise Between Palestine and Israel

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israeli military air-strikes targeted a Hamas weapons facility on Sunday. A pregnant woman and her toddler, residing in a home nearby were killed.

Relatives of the Palestinian woman and child, who were killed when a house collapsed on them, grieve outside of a hospital morgue. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Since the summer of 2014, the woman and her child are the first Palestinian civilian casualties of an Israeli airstrike.

Israel’s airstrike was in response to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip territory. On Friday, a rocket from Gaza was also fired, which landed in a field resulting in no causalities.

Israeli military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lener, stated, “The IDF holds Hamas responsible for any act of aggression from the Gaza Strip.” Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the two rockets.

Also on Sunday, a women allegedly detonated an explosive in her car, on a West Bank road, headed towards Jerusalem. According to a police officer the women shouted, “Allahu Akbar”, God is great, just prior to the explosion.

The officer was slightly hurts, as a result of the explosion. The woman sustained burns to 40% of her body. According to Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, the woman was not linked to any militant group.

Shin Bet, also reported that the explosion was caused by a single gas canister that was ignited with flammable materials. The agency stated, “We are not taking about an explosive device.”

According to Palestine’s security, the explosion was caused by “a malfunction in her car, and there was no bombing.” Palestine’s news agency reported that an anonymous witness stated that there was an electric issue which caused a small fire inside the car.

Three Israeli’s were stabbed near Hadera, on Sunday. A thirteen-year-old boy was killed by Israeli forces in a clash in West Bank. Tensions have risen over the past week resulting in the deaths of 23 Palestinians and 4 Israelis in the past 12 days.

Part of the increase in tension is in part due to Palestine’s dear that Israel is trying to change the status quo of arrangements made concerning the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, also known as the Temple Mount by Jews.

Jewish groups have increased their trips to the compound over the past year and many Muslims see this as a loss of control over the area. Another point of contention is a failure between Palestine and Israel to reach peace talks, as Israeli’s are continuing to build settlements in West Bank.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Palestinians Killed in Israel Gaza Airstrikes – 11 October 2015

Reuters – Israeli Airstrike Kills Two in Gaza; Israeli Police Say Stop Suspected Car Bomb – 11 October 2015

The New York Times – Israeli Retaliatory Strike in Gaza Kills Woman and Child, Palestinian Officials Say – 11 October 2015

The Wall Street Journal – Israeli Airstrikes into Gaza Strip Kill Palestinian Woman and Daughter  – 11 October 2015

Slovenia Pressured to Accept More Refugees as Hungary Closes Borders

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia–

Slovenian officials warned that the country’s ability to cope with the influx of migrants was nearing a breaking point after Croatia announced it was closing its border with Hungary. After a request from Croatia to take in 5,000 migrants per day, Slovenia has announced they can only allow 2,500 migrants to cross its borders daily. The Interior Minister, Bostjan Sefic, commented, “we can simply not have a situation where we would be receiving enormous numbers of refugees, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to leave.”

Migrants begin crossing over the border after numbers pile up, and breathing room collapses. (Photo courtesy of BBC.)

Officials said the country was accommodating the increased flow of migrants, but was unable to deal with migrants who were stranded and would not be able to pass through to other countries. Nearly 200,000 migrants have entered the country since mid-September, with 2,100 migrants arriving on Sunday alone. Slovenia is currently attempting to register as many refugees as possible, before moving them along to wealthier nations such as Germany and Austria.

Hungary was the first to close its borders with Slovenia, suspending the Schengen Rules of the European Union, which allows for passport-free travel between member nations. The Hungarian government stated that because of the arrival of refugees on the Slovenian side of the border, they had to cut off access to an already unstable country. Slovenia, in response to restricted travel for migrants, fortified border security with the military along their Croatian border.

The weather is of particular concern to the Slovenian government, as colder temperatures will be arriving soon. Currently, the autumn winds and rain are hammering temporary shelters, and endangering the safety of migrants. With winter chill arriving, Slovenia will be hard pressed to provide for the migrants in addition to their own welfare state.

For more information, please see–

NBC–Thousands of Migrants Surge Into Slovenia in New Route— 17 October 2015

BBC–Migrant crisis: Slovenia sets limit of 2,500 people a day— 18 October 2015

Reuters–Croatia diverts migrants to Slovenia after Hungary closes border— 18 October 2015

Wall Street Journal–Slovenia Pressured by Influx of Migrants— 18 October 2015

Peru Looks into Military Corruption

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru — Last week the Associated Press reported that the Peruvian military was turning a blind eye to regular and frequent flights transporting cocaine out of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley region (known as VRAEM). Responding to the allegations, Peruvian authorities announced that they would launch an investigation into corruption in the military.

Peru’s military inspector general will head the probe.

Police in the region say that roughly half of Peru’s cocaine exports have left the country this way: four times a day, a small plane lands in the valley. Cash is exchanged for 300 kilos of cocaine, then the plane takes off and flies out to Bolivia. Each exchange is worth about $7.2 million.

An airstrip used for cocaine trafficking in the VRAEM region. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press).

The remote jungle region where the flights land are under the control of the military. The landing sites are in close proximity to military bases.

An alleged pilot of a narcotics transport plane interviewed by the Associated Press claimed that local military commanders charged $10,000 per flight to look the other way.

The military claims that their forces in the region are outmatched by “heavily armed traffickers” and the participating community. Officials claim a connection between the traffickers and the Shining Path guerrilla group in the region.

A retired army general, Wilson Barrantes, has complained about drug related corruption in the military for years, calling military control of the cocaine-producing region “like putting four street dogs to guard a plate of beefsteak.”

Drug related corruption is an open secret in Peru, according to anti-corruption nonprofit Transparency International.

President Ollanta Humala named combatting illegal drug trafficking as a priority of his administration when he took office in 2011. Over the summer, Humala’s administration authorized an “eradication” campaign, in which government workers destroyed coca plots across the country. It was a controversial move which devastated the livelihood of thousands of Peruvians. Other efforts have included blasting holes in known airstrips.

In August, the Congress unanimously authorized the military to shoot down these narcotics transport planes.

Humala’s critics say that he has allowed cocaine production to go on in the VRAEM region, where the eradication campaigns didn’t reach. A narcotics public prosecutor says that trafficking has gone “from bad to worse” during Humala’s tenure. Humala has eight month’s left in office, with an approval rating of about 15 percent.


For more information, please see:

The Seattle Times – Eradication spells misery for Peru’s coca farmers – 17 August, 2015

Associated Press – Peru Military fails to act as narco planes fly freely – 14 October 2015

The Guardian – Peru to investigate cocaine ‘air bridge’ where smuggler planes are ignored – 14 October 2015

Latin Dispatch – Peru Will Probe Military Collusion With Traffickers After Damning Report – 15 October 2015



Syrian Kurdish Party Displaces Thousands of Civilians

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Thousands of Syrian civilians have been displaced from their homes by the Autonomous Administration. The Autonomous Administration is led by the Syrian Kurdish party Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (PYD). The United States has backed the Autonomous Administration in its fight against the Islamic State.

In June 2014 there were 225 buildings, as of June 2015 only 14 buildings remain. (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

The Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, Lama Fakih, stated, “By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law, in attacks that amount to war crimes.”

The Autonomous Administration instructed a local armed group, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, to force Arabs and Turkmen from their homes.

According to Amnesty International, some civilians have reported that if they failed to leave, the U.S. led coalition would conduct airstrikes. One civilian, Safwan, told Amnesty International, “They told us we had to leave or they would tell the US coalition that we were terrorists and their planes would hit us and our families.”

The Kurdish authorities insist that displacement was limited and only for security purposes, to keep civilians out of areas facing conflict. However, there has been evidence that whole communities have been displaced and have had their homes destroyed.

It is alleged that the YPG threatened to burn down a house, with the inhabitants still inside. Bassama, a relative of the family, stated, “They started pouring fuel in my in-laws’ house. My mother-in-law was there refusing to leave and they just poured it around her.”

Amnesty International called for the United States and other allies of the Autonomous Administration to not turn a blind eye to the displacement of civilians. The forcible displacement of civilians for no military necessity is a violation of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International also called for the Autonomous Administration to stop the displacement of civilians and to compensate the civilians whose homes were destroyed.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Syria: US Ally’s Razing of Villages Amounts to War Crimes – 13 October 2015

The Guardian – US-Backed Kurdish Forces ‘Committing War Crimes Against Syrian Civilians’ – 13 October 2015

FOX News – Amnesty Says US-Backed Kurds Displace Thousands of Arabs in Syria, Demolish Villages – 12 October 2015

The Washington Post – Report: U.S.-Backed Kurdish Rebels May Have Committed War Crimes in Syria – 12 October 2015

Israeli Soldier is Killed and 11 Civilians Wounded by Palestinian Gunman

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – As many as 11 people were wounded and one Israeli soldier was killed on Sunday by a Palestinian gunman in a bus station in the Israeli city of Beersheba. The attacker was shot and killed by police in what police described as a drawn out gun battle.

Israeli police officers standing near the body of the Palestinian gunman who shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded 11 people. (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

An individual who, at the time was believed to be a second attacker, was shot and wounded. The individual was mistaken as an assailant and was not involved in the attack.

Over the past month, 8 Israelis have been killed in random attacks by Palestinians and at least 18 suspected Palestinian attackers have been killed in the 30 attacks against Israel. Palestinians allege that Israel’s security forces are using excessive force. The latest attack is one of the more serious attacks this month.

Israel has erected a concrete wall approximately five meters high between Armon Hanatziv and Jabal Mukaber. The goal was to prevent rocks and petrol bombs from being hurled from Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighborhood, into Armon Hazatziv, a Jewish neighborhood. Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, stated, “This has no political meaning.” He continued, “It’s one more aspect of our security measures.”

Palestinians allege that the roadblocks are merely collective punishment. Israel’s police spokeswoman stated that the barrier would remain, “for as long as needed and that it could be lengthened based on security needs.”

Israel has increased the presence of security forces in its cities as well as setting up roadblocks in East Jerusalem.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high. Palestinians believe that Israel is changing the status quo of the hilltop compound, known as Temple Mount by Jews and the al-Aqsa Mosque by Muslims. Israel has denied any attempt to change the status quo and holds Palestinians accountable for promoting violence based off of false accusations.

Israeli’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated, “Israel is not the problem at the Temple Mount, Israel is the solution. He continued, “We will protect the status quo, we are the only ones who are doing this and we will continue to do it responsibly and seriously.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Israel-Palestinian Violence: Israeli Killed in Beersheva Bus Station Attack – 18 October 2015

Reuters – Palestinian Gunman Kills One, Wounds 11 in Israeli City of Beersheba – 18 October 2015

The Associated Press – Israel: Assailant Opens Fire on Bus Station, Soldier Killed – 18 October 2015

The New York Times – Israeli Soldier is Killed in Attack by Palestinian – 18 October 2015

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Volume 10, Issue 16 – October 19, 2015

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.



Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the CongoKenyaLibya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia



Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma




Gender-Based Violence