Poland’s Governing Party Votes to Curb Power of Highest Court

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland–

The Polish Senate has approved changes to the power of Poland’s highest court, which has sparked mass protests within the country and concerns from the European Union that they could destabilize the rule of law. The bill takes away power from the constitutional court, and only requires the signature of Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, to become law. Duda is a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), which forced the bill through the Senate on an overnight session running from Wednesday to Thursday. The lower house of Parliament had already approved the measures on Tuesday afternoon.

The Polish Parliament debates a new bill to curb the power of the country’s highest court. The bill was passed in the Senate on Thursday during the early hours of the day. (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal).

The new law states that the courts must approve all rulings with a two-thirds majority, instead of the usual simple majority, and requires 13 of the court’s 15 judges to be present when highly contentious cases are before the court. Currently, the law only calls for 9 judges to be present. The law also calls for a mandatory waiting period of three to six months between the request for a ruling and a verdict, rather than the current two-week waiting period.

The opposition party has condemned the bill as an attempt by the PiS to interfere with the justice system and the constitutional court’s independence. These paticular changes, they worry, will decrease the number of cases the already overworked constitutional court will be able to hear per year.  Additionally, they claim the PiS are attempting to take control of the court and erase checks on governmental power. Previously, President Duda has stirred the emotions of the opposition party by swearing in four new judges earlier this month.

The European commission vice-president Frans Timmermans wrote to Poland’s foreign and justice ministers this past Wednesday, urging the Polish government to avoid adopting the law or passing it into effect. “All questions about the law’s impact and effects,” the letter stated, should be “fully and properly assessed.” The Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, quickly fired back that Timmermans had been “misled” by the opposition party on the intent and focus of the bill. Similarly, the UN high commissioner for human rights has expressed deep concerns for the effects on the rule of law the changes would create.

For more information, please see–

Wall Street Journal– Polish Governing Party Rushes to Reorganize Legislative Court— 22 December 2015

Russian Times– ‘Coup’ against EU? Poland accused of trampling democracy after new law on top court— 23 December 2015

Associated Press– Polish lawmakers pass contested law on constitutional court— 24 December 2015

The Guardian– Poland’s senate votes to curb power of top court— 24 December 2015

 

Spanish King Calls for National Unity After Turmoil of Elections

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain–

During his annual Christmas Eve speech, King Felipe VI of Spain appealed for open communication and national unity after an indecisive general election during the previous weekend. King Felipe stated his desire that the nation would show “understanding and a fraternal spirit, which are typical of this season, always be present among us.” The elections showcased two new national parties, the anti-auterity Podemos, and the center-right Ciudadanos, which both made substantial gains in Parliament. The addition of these parties effectively ended the dominant two party systems that had been in place for over thirty years.

King Felipe VI of Spain during his annual Christmas Eve address. During this year’s address, he called for national unity and patience while Spain determines which party will lead its Parliament. (Courtesy of The Guardian).

The elections resulted in a profoundly divided Parliament, with no party enjoying an outright majority, or by great enough margins to allow that party to rule alone. Already, party leaders have begun the process of negotiations to form coalition governments. The process is expected to take several weeks, or even months.

In his address, the King commented, “Political plurality, expressed at the ballot box, without a doubt offers different sensitivities, visions and perspectives; and it involves a way of exercising politics based on dialogue, consensus and commitment. Now, what should matter to all, first and foremost, is Spain and the general interest of the Spanish people.”

The King also appealed to the people for Spain to remain a unified state, as he spoke of “national cohesion.” Recently, the separatist movement in the Spanish state of Catalonia has gained traction, with many people calling for the state to receive recognition as an independent state. “I sincerely believe that we are living today in times where it is more necessary than ever to recognize everything that unites us,” King Felipe said.

When Parliament reconvenes in January, King Felipe will ask the coalition party with the most members to form a government. If, by that time, no coalition party has been determined, the individual parties have two months to hold negotiations. After that time period, if there is still no government, fresh elections will be held.

For more information, please see– 

WSWS.org– Spanish political system in turmoil over hung parliament— 23 December 2015

The Guardian– Spain’s King Felipe calls for country to unite after election uncertainty— 24 December 2015

BBC– Spain elections: King Felipe calls for national unity— 25 December 2015

Euronews–Philip VI’s call for national unity heard loud and clear by Basques & Catalans— 25 December 2015

Yemen Peace Talks End After Ceasefire Violations

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch News Reporter, The Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen – On Sunday, peace talks in Switzerland, regarding the Yemeni conflict, came to an end with no sign of resolution as combatants engaged in a fierce fighting. According to the United Nations, there were “numerous violations” to the ceasefire agreement.

The United Nations Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed meeting with the media, after the peace talks concluded. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

According to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, negotiations will resume sometime in the middle of January. He also stated that both sides, the Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, were far from a ceasefire as neither side trusts the other.

The ceasefire violations that occurred Friday and Saturday caused more than 100 deaths, 55 of which occurred on Saturday. According to the Houthi-run defense ministry, Saudi Arabia conducted 1,300 airstrikes in the Harath district of Hajah, since Thursday. According to Human Rights groups, the Saudi-coalition is responsible for the majority of civilian deaths.

The United Nations reported last month that 5,700 people have been killed in addition, tens of thousands have been wounded and 82% of Yemen, or 21 million people, is in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Johannes Van der Klaauw, stated, “The collapse of basic services in Yemen continues to accelerate.”

Houthi forces, over the past couple of days, have launched ballistic missiles at the Saudi-backed forces. According to Yemeni military officials, the Houthis have also attacked across the border, into Saudi-Arabia.

Anti-Houthi forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have started an offensive that sweeps across several northern provinces. The Anti-Houthi forces have recently captured new territory including a provincial capital.

During the peace talks, however, it was agreed that both sides would release prisoners and that both sides would create proposals on how to withdraw forces. An anonymous diplomat told The New York Times, that there has been a “palpable warming on a personal level between the two delegations over the course of the week.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – UN Announces End of Yemen Peace Talks Amid New Fighting – 20 December 2015

Reuters – U.N. Sees Progress in Yemen Talks but Urgent Need for Full Ceasefire – 20 December 2015

The New York Times – Yemen Peace Talks End with No End to Conflict – 20 December 2015

CNN – As Sides Talk, Fresh Violence in Yemen Leaves 55 Dead – 19 December 2015

Interactive Map of Al-Rahma and Al-Karama Clusters

 

الخريطة التفاعلية لتجمع مخيمي الرحمة والكرامة

Interactive Map of Al-Rahma & Al-Karama Clusters Map

English Version

الخريطة باللغة العربية

Service points distribution

توزع نقاط الخدمات ضمن المخيمات

Number of families in the camps

أعداد العائلات القاطنة في كل مخيم

Total number of tents inside each camp

عدد الخيم الكلي داخل كل مخيم

 

Pinochet-Era Soldier Confesses to Murder on Radio

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

SANTIAGO, Chile — A former soldier from the days of the Pinochet dictatorship confessed to participating in at least 18 murders on a live radio show. Guillermo Reyes, going by the pseudonym “Alberto” called in to “Chacotero Sentimental” (Loving Betrayal), a radio show hosted by Roberto Artiagoitia, to talk about a failing romance. Instead, for twenty minutes, Reyes discussed his participation in the killings of Socialist Party prisoners.

Former Chilean dictator Augustine Pinochet (right) in 1976. (Photo courtesy of the Guardian).

According to Reyes, soldiers executed the prisoners by shooting them in the head, and then destroyed the victims’ remains with dynamite. In his call, Reyes expressed no remorse for his participation in the executions: “The first time (I killed someone), I cried but the lieutenant was saying, ‘Good soldier, good soldier, brave soldier.’ I liked the second time. I enjoyed it.”

Although he did not identify himself during the call, police were able to track the call back to Reyes. He was arrested and has so far been charged with killing Freddy Taberna Gallegos and German Palomino Lamas, both Socialist Party prisoners. Reyes is also being investigated by a human rights judge.

Reyes was drafted into Pinochet’s army as a young man and was then indoctrinated during military training in Santiago. He said he was “forced to kill” because commanders would execute conscripts for disobeying orders.

When challenged by radio host Artiagoitia about his moral conscience and “responsibilities as a human,” Reyes reiterated that he was following orders. “If we found them with a gun, we liquidated them.”

At the time of his call, Reyes was a 62-year old bus driver.

The Pinochet regime of 1973-1990 is considered one of the most violent periods of Chile’s history. Officially, 903 people were disappeared and 1,759 were executed. Chile has taken a number of steps in current months to recognize the victims and provide education regarding the human rights violations. Recently, President Michelle Bachelet created a Human Rights Department to implement policies to support Pinochet’s victims.

 

For more information, please see:

Guardian – Former Chilean soldier charged with murder after stunning radio confession – 11 December 2015 

Latin Correspondent – Chilean veteran confesses on radio to murder during Pinochet era – 16 December 2015 

TeleSur – Chile Creates Human Rights Department for Pinochet Era Murders – 17 December 2015

USA Today – Radio caller confesses to 18 murders – 17 December 2015

 

Pepsi-Cola Workers Freed from Venezuela Plant

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — Employees at a Venezuelan Pepsi-Cola plant in Caucagua, in the Miranda state were “arbitrarily detained,” according to Polar. Polar, Venezuela’s largest food and drink producer, owns the local Pepsi division. Government inspectors from the Ministry of Labour reportedly visited the plant on Friday and ordered production to restart. The manager, two human resource workers and a lawyer were arrested by police.

The logo for Polar, who owns the local Pepsi division in Venezuela. (Photo courtesy of Reuters).

A tweet released by Polar late on Sunday said that, “Pepsi-Cola Venezuela managed to obtain full freedom for its Caucagua plant workers who were arbitrarily detained on Friday.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro frequently criticizes Polar and its CEO, Lorenzo Mendoza, of participating in an “Economic War” against the people. Days before the latest National Assembly election, Maduro referred to Mendoza as the “Oligarch of the devil.”

Pepsi, like a number of other products, have been in short supply in Venezuela in recent months. President Maduro accused Mendoza and Polar of purposely slowing down production and hoarding goods.

Mendoza and Polar say that production at the plant ceased due to the unavailability of necessary raw materials, which could not be imported due to Venezuelan currency controls. Maduro’s critics highlight that currency controls and price controls make it near impossible to import machinery and raw materials, or to profit from the production of consumer goods in Venezuela.

 

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Venezuela Food producer Polar says local Pepsi workers freed – 20 December 2015 

BBC – Venezuela releases detained Pepsi workers – 21 December 2015 

Curacao Chronical – Venezuela Food Company Slams Detention of Local Pepsi Workers – 21 December 2015 

HCN Dayton News – Pepsi Employees in Venezuela Detained for Halting Operations Have Been Finally Set Free – 22 December 2015 

WCPW Volume 10, Issue 21 – December 28, 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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org 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.

Contents

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Libya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Chad

Nigeria

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Iraq

Syria

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

TOPICS

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

WORTH READING

WORTH READING

Shenzhen Landslide Caused by Breach of Industrial Safety Regulations

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

BEIJING, China –

Local authorities in Shenzhen have released a statement stating that the deadly landslide last week was caused by breaches in construction safety rules and was not a natural disaster. Shenzhen authorities have vowed to punish those accountable for the landslide in accordance with the law.

The central government in Shenzhen organized an investigation team to look into the causes of the landslide. The team found that the cause of the landslide was the movement of construction waste in a landfill site rather than geological movement. Xinhua, China’s state run news source, has reported that the industrial site where the landslide occurred continued to take waste for 10 months after it was supposed to stop accepting all waste. Officials also ignored warnings that the site was dangerous.

According to local news sources, the landslide killed at least seven people, with several others in serious condition in local hospitals and over 70 people still missing. The disaster also buried 33 buildings in the industrial site where the construction waste was dumped.

Rescuers search for survivors among the landslide wreckage. (Photo courtesy of the International Business Times)

Currently, there is still a risk of additional landslides in three other places in the Shenzhen industrial park according to Xinhua. Yang Shengjun, head of the Shenzhen Housing and Urban Rural Development Bureau, says that there are also dangerous chemicals that need to be dealt with.

Ma Xingrui, the Communist Party Chief of Shenzhen, has made a formal apology and has pledged to accept responsibility for the landslide. Officials are often dismissed after disasters in China, with others facing prosecution for their responsibility for such disasters. Now that it is apparent that the landslide was due to human error, it is even more likely that Shenzhen officials and others found to have contributed to the disaster will carry the blame.

Parts of Asia, including China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are particularly prone to landslides due to their dense populations and rapid growth of urban centers. The Shenzhen landslide has raised concerns about China’s industrial safety regulations and the lack of oversight that may have contributed to other similar disasters. An extensive amount of infrastructure has been built up in recent years to meet the growth of industrial hubs and cities in China. That infrastructure, if not built according to safety regulations, could pose a serious threat of future disasters.

 

For more information, please see:

CNN – China Says Landslide Caused by Safety Violations, Vows to Punish ‘Seriously’ – 26 December 2015

The International Business Times – China Shenzhen Landslide Caused by Safety Violations, Not Nature, Officials Say – 25 December 2015

The New York Times – Chinese Official Vows Punishment Over Shenzhen Landslide – 25 December 2015

The Guardian – Is the Shenzhen Landslide the First of Many More? – 23 December 2015

Haiti Postpones Elections Amid Accusations And Violence

By Samuel Miller
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America and Oceania

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian authorities postponed the country’s presidential and legislative runoffs because they said they needed to wait for recommendations from a special commission tasked with evaluating the widely criticized electoral process.

Haitians Protesting Announced Election Results. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

There were violent protests last month after the council announced the results of the first round of voting.

Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter, won the most votes but with 33% fell short of a majority. On Sunday, he was to face ex-state construction company head Jude Celestin, who came second with 25%.

The winner will succeed President Michel Martelly next February as the head of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

In parts of Northern and Southern Haiti, angry partisans insisted that the results released late Friday by the much-criticized electoral council did not reflect the will of voters. Presidential and legislative runoffs were scheduled for next weekend amid numerous accusations of fraud and manipulation of results.

On Saturday, street protests erupted when the results were announced; this led to several government buildings being set ablaze, and the death of one demonstrator. In the nearby town of Ferrier, another elections office burned and the mayor’s office was lit on fire. In northwestern Haiti, some houses and schools were set ablaze.

Police Inspector Guytho Noel said an 18-year-old protester was fatally shot when two factions clashed on the streets of the northeastern town of Terrier Rouge.

In recent days, President Michel Martelly announced that a five-member commission would assess Haiti’s electoral process ahead of the runoffs that opposition factions have threatened to derail because of suspicions of widespread fraud. However, the commission and the way in which it was formed has come under heavy criticism.

The opposition and the Senate have rejected the body and the government has also been forced to postpone the swearing-in of its members, who were supposed to have issued a report by Sunday.

While international observers have endorsed results from the first two rounds of this year’s elections, an array of rights groups, local election monitors and political factions allege they were so marred by fraud that their validity is in question.

In recent days, several legislative candidates have taken to the airwaves stating how they were asked to pay thousands of dollars in bribes to electoral court judges and council members in hopes of securing a spot in parliament.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Haiti presidential election run-off delayed – 21 December 2015

Minneapolis Star Tribune — Haiti officials postpone elections set for this weekend until commission makes recommendations – 21 December 2015

Thompson-Reuters — Haiti postpones Sunday’s presidential election – council members – 21 December 2015

USA Today — Haiti postpones scheduled presidential runoff – 21 December 2015

Jamaica Observer — Violence in Haiti as final election results released – 20 December 2015

ABC News — Election Results Ignite Violent Protests in Haiti – 19 December 2015

Press Release: Sergei Magnitsky’s Mother Demands Answers from Russia’s General Prosecutor Chaika About False Statements Against Her Son

Yuri Chaika

22 December 2015 – Sergei Magnitsky’s mother has demanded answers from Russian General prosecutor Chaika over his hysterical letter containing false information about Sergei Magnitsky published last week in Russian newspaper Kommersant. Chaika’s letter was a response to Russian blogger Alexei Navalny’s explosive video about the corruption and abuse of office involving Chaika’s two sons and senior prosecutors in the country.

In Chaika’s 14 December 2015 letter to Kommersant, he claimed that Sergei Magnitsky had never investigated the $230 million theft from the Russian budget.

In Sergei Magnitsky’s mother’s application to the General Prosecutor’s office which was filed at the end of last week, she refuted Chaika’s false statements and placed the responsibility on Chaika himself for the cover up of the $230 million theft and its perpetrators implicated by Sergei Magnitsky in sworn testimony.

“The information you have disseminated inflicts pain on a mother who lost her son, it is not based on facts, it has not been corroborated by courts, and it is refuted by documents, including the criminal case files about Magnitsky’s death,” said Ms. Magnitskaya to Prosecutor Chaika.

“Thanks to Sergei Magnitsky’s investigation which he conducted on instruction from his client – the Hermitage Fund – the theft of 5.4 billion rubles [$230 million] was uncovered, and reported to you on 25 July 2008 in an application seeking to investigate the fraud and prosecute its perpetrators. In response your senior aid Bumazhkin replied that the investigation had been terminated …due to the lack of crime. Your aid also reported that the outcomes of this investigation were under control of the General Prosecutor’s Office,” said the application from Ms. Magnitskaya.

“It follows that under the control and with knowledge of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office headed by you, perpetrators who committed a grandiose theft of 5.4 billion rubles from the budget, remained for a long time free, had opportunity to destroy evidence of their crime and continue it unhindered through laundering the proceeds stolen from the Russian people via bank wire transfers,” said Ms. Magnitskaya’s application.

Sergei Magnitsky’s mother’s application asks Chaika whether the information he had disseminated was his personal opinion, or his official conclusion as General prosecutor of Russia tasked by Russian president to personally oversee all cases connected to Sergei Magnitsky. The reply from Prosecutor Chaika to Magnitsky’s mother application is yet not known.

For more information please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

e-mail: info@lawandorderinrussia.org

www.lawandorderinrussia.org

Twitter: @KatieFisher__

www.facebook.com/russianuntouchables

www.billbrowder.com

U.N. Adopts Resolution, No Mention of Assad

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch News Reporter, The Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – On Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that paves the way for an international peace process for the Syrian conflict. The peace process includes a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, as well as a plan to unify the government. Talks of Assad, however, were missing from the discussion.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution for the Syrian Conflict. (Photo Courtesy of The New York Times)

Western allies determined prior to the meeting, that bringing Assad to justice was a lower priority then ending the Syrian conflict. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stated, “If there’s justice in the world, Bashar Assad will end up in the Hague. Whether that is going to happen is another question. The moral answer is to end the killing now.”

Human rights advocates, on the other hand, believe this way of thinking is dangerous. Stephen Rapp, President Obama’s former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, stated, “The idea that you can go forward [with a peace settlement] without accountability is impossible.”

John Kerry, United State’s Secretary of State, when discussing Assad’s fate with reporters after the Council meeting on Friday, stated, “This is not being kicked down the road; it’s actually being timed out.”

Human Rights Watch released a report, two days before the United Nations Security Council meeting, which details the atrocities that occurred under Assad’s control. The report contains 28,000 photos of the deaths of hundreds of people who had been under the government’s custody. Most of the deaths are believed to be as a result of torture, and Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation and prosecution of the crimes.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Assad’s forces have been responsible for many other atrocities including bombing civilian areas indiscriminately, using nerve agents and chlorine gas against non-combatants, and the use of barrel bombs.

Part of the passed resolution requires an election to take place within 18 months of the political talks. However, there was no mention of whether Assad will be allowed to run in the new elections, as the Russians and Iranians blocked any attempt to discuss the issue. The election process will be under the guidance of the United Nations, which would make it difficult for Assad to control the vote, and also requires all Syrians to vote, even “members of the diaspora.”

Sergey V. Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, stated, “We should try avoiding the mistakes we have made.” He continued, “Only the Syrian people are going to decide their own future. That also covers the future of the Syrian president.”

Assad was not in attendance at the United Nations Security Council meeting.

For more information, please see:

CNN – U.N. Security Council Approves Peace Plan for Syria – 19 December 2015

Reuters – U.N. Endorses Syria Peace Plan in Rate Show of Unity Among Big Powers – 19 December 2015

ABC News – ‘Agreement’ on UN Draft on Syria, but No Mention of Assad – 18 December 2015

The New York Times – After Years of War in Syria, U.N. Passes Resolution on Talks – 18 December 2015

Politico – Cozy Retirement for Assad Looks Likely as Syria Peace Talks Convene – 17 December 2015

Press Release: New York Federal Court Disqualifies Lawyer John Moscow and BakerHostetler in Magnitsky Money Laundering Case

21 December 2015 – The federal court in New York has disqualified lawyer John Moscow and his firm, BakerHostetler, who represented the alleged Russian recipients of money laundering proceeds from the US$230 million Russian fraud that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered, in a civil forfeiture case brought by the US Department of Justice. The case alleges money laundering of proceeds of Russian fraud into multi-million dollar Manhattan real estate by Prevezon, a company owned by a son of former Vice-premier of the Moscow Region and the current Vice-president of Russian Railways Pyotr Katsyv.

John Moscow and BakerHostetler had originally worked for Hermitage in 2008 to defend Hermitage against unfounded accusations relating to the fraud, including (among other projects) by tracking the stolen US$230 million and its recipients, and bringing the evidence of this complex Russian fraud which victimised Hermitage, to the US Department of Justice. On Hermitage’s behalf, John Moscow personally presented the findings from the Hermitage’s and Sergei Magnitsky’s investigations of the $230 million fraud to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On 25 November 2008, one day after Sergei Magnitsky’s arrest by corrupt Russian officials on false charges, John Moscow also became involved in Hermitage’s legal actions to free Sergei Magnitsky from Russian detention. Prior to his arrest, Sergei Magnitsky gave testimony to Russian authorities implicating Russian officials in the theft of Hermitage’s Russian companies and of US$230 million the Hermitage’s companies had paid to the Russian government.

One year later, on 16 November 2009, Sergei Magnitsky was killed in Russian police custody before he could testify in an open trial.

In 2013, John Moscow and BakerHostetler switched sides, and went from representing Hermitage to representing Russian-owned Prevezon, an alleged beneficiary of the US$230 million fraud, that Sergei Magnitsky’s investigation had led to after his death. The US Department of Justice has traced to Prevezon nearly US$2 million of the US$230 million fraud proceeds and more funds in false and questionable transactions. The US court has frozen about US$14 million in Prevezon’s assets, including bank accounts and several Manhattan properties.

In November 2015, John Moscow and BakerHostetler made filings on Prevezon’s behalf in which they explicitly accused Hermitage of committing the US$230 million fraud that they originally have been hired to defend against.

On 15 December 2015, Hermitage filed a motion to disqualify BakerHostetler and John Moscow.

In Judge Griesa’s opinion, issued on 18 December 2015, the U.S. Court for Southern District of New York ordered:

“The court is now convinced that it would be improper for BakerHostetler and Moscow to continue as counsel to defendants. …Hermitage’s motion to disqualify BakerHostetler and Moscow as counsel to defendants is granted.”

Hermitage Capital’s representative said of the disqualification of John Moscow and BakerHostetler:

“This disqualification is a stark reminder that lawyers can’t switch sides just because there is money being offered to them.”

Under Rule 1.9 of the New York Rule of Professional Conduct, lawyers are not allowed to betray their former clients. In particular, the rule says:

“A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.”

Hermitage became the victim of the US$230 million fraud in 2007 when a Russian criminal organisation, comprising FSB, Interior Ministry and tax officials and headed by a convicted fraudster Dmitry Klyuev, raided offices of Hermitage and its law firm in Moscow, unlawfully seized statutory and financial documents for its corporate Russian subsidiaries. Using those documents, the Russian crime group forged contracts and powers of attorney, fraudulently re-registered the stolen Hermitage companies to felons previously convicted for violent crimes, and through sham court proceedings obtained about US$1 billion judgments against the stolen Hermitage companies, in order to claim US$230 million in purportedly “overpaid” taxes.

The fraudulent US$230 million tax refund was granted by Russian tax officials, who were members of the crime group, in one day, and paid out two days later to two small Russian banks, where fraudsters had opened bank accounts, and then laundered through Russian banks and around the world.

Through efforts of Hermitage and law enforcement authorities around the world, about US$40 million connected to the US$230 million fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky have been identified and frozen.

BakerHostetler is an “Am Law 100 law firm” with more than 900 attorneys and 14 offices. John Moscow is a former New York prosecutor and a partner at Baker Hostetler.

For more information please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

e-mail: info@lawandorderinrussia.org

www.lawandorderinrussia.org

Twitter: @KatieFisher__

www.facebook.com/russianuntouchables

www.billbrowder.com

Canadian Pastor Receives Life Sentence in North Korea

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

PYONGYANG, North Korea –

North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced Canadian Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim to life in prison with hard labor last week. Mr. Lim was detained in February and was charged for “subversive plots and activities” while on a routine missions trip to North Korea. Prosecutors originally called for the death penalty as punishment for his alleged crimes against North Korea’s government. 

Mr. Lim during his confession at a news conference in July. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, has reported that Mr. Lim confessed to committing anti-DPRK religious activities, conducting false propaganda, and aiding in an operation to lure and abduct North Korean defectors.

Mr. Lim traveled to North Korea in January for a visit that his family describes as a routine humanitarian trip. Mr. Lim, who emigrated from South Korea to Canada in 1986, is a minister at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto. He has completed over 100 trips to North Korea in order to support projects that his church initiated there, including an orphanage, nursery, and nursing home.

In July, Mr. Lim was brought to a news conference by authorities, where he read a statement confessing to attempts at bringing down North Korea’s government. Associated Press reports that Mr. Lim admitted that he was working toward creating a religious state in North Korea while taking advantage of the policies of the United States and South Korea. Mr. Lim gave another confession at a church in Pyongyang in August.

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs objects to the sentence given to Mr. Lim, especially in light of his age and poor health. Canadian officials were not given access to Mr. Lim during his detainment. The Department of Foreign Affairs also commented on this in its statement, stating that the North Korean government’s refusal to let Canadian officials confirm Mr. Lim’s health and wellbeing is a violation of the rights of states to have access to their citizens under the Vienna Convention.

North Korea has been known to detain foreigners for religious or missionary activities, accusing them of committing crimes against the state. Other westerners that have been held by North Korea in the past have also given public confessions under pressure from its government.

International human rights groups have criticized North Korea for its trials of foreign detainees, in part because their family members and outside lawyers are not allowed to visit them or defend them in court.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – N Korea Sentences Canada Pastor to Life in Jail – 16 December 2015

CNN – North Korea sentences Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim to life in prison – 16 December 2015

The New York Times – North Korea Sentences Canadian Pastor to Life in Prison – 16 December 2015

The Guardian – Hyeon Soo Lim: Canadian Pastor Given Life Sentence in North Korea – 15 December 2015