NGO “Dirty List” Names Brazilian Companies Using Slave Labor

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — Human rights groups have published a “dirty list” of 340 Brazilian companies which have been fined by Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and Employment for engaging in employment practices which amount to modern day slavery. The list draws from firms fined between May 2013 and May 2015. Brazil defines slave labor as work “carried out in life-threatening or degrading conditions.” The designation also includes bonded labor, in which a person works without pay to settle a debt with an employer.

Workers in slave labor listen to an explanation of their legal rights in 2003 (Photo courtesy of TeleSur).

50,000 people have been released from slave-like working conditions since the Brazilian government began prosecuting slavery in 1995. According to the International Labor Organization, there about 200,000 people in slave labor in the country. Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.

The list was compiled using Brazil’s Access to Information Act by Reporter Brasil and the Brazilian Institute to Eradicate Slave Labor (InPACTO) in an effort to “enforce society’s right to transparency regarding corporate labor practices.” The list has been published and updated since 2003.

A company’s inclusion on the list has consequences – blacklisted employers face restrictions on the sale of their product and are blocked from government loans. The National Slave Eradication pact of 2005, which has been signed by over 400 banks and companies, institutes a boycott of those on the list.

Pockets of the Brazilian Amazon are home to slave-labor conditions similar to those of the nineteenth century. According to Leonardo Sakamoto, head of Reporter Brasil, “[historically] the worst slave conditions in Brazil have been found in cattle ranches in the Amazon where state power is difficult ot reach and where exploitation is more violent.”

The Inter-American Human Rights Court is currently hearing a case involving 340 men who were trafficked into slavery during the 1990s on a cattle ranch in northern Brazil. The Centre for Justice and International Law and the Pastoral Land Commission (an arm of the Brazilian Catholic Church) brought the case to the Court. Brazil has been accused of having knowledge of the use of slave labor, reported by inspections dating from 1997 to 2000.

Activists hope that the Court’s ruling, the first of its kind, will outline the responsibilities of states to prevent slavery and  compensate freed slaves.

 

For more information, please see:

TeleSur – 340 Brazilian Companies Fined for Modern Slave Labor Conditions – 6 February 2016 

Thomas Reuters Foundation – More than 300 Brazilian Companies busted for modern-day slavery – campaigners – 15 February 2016

Latin Post – 340 Brazilian Companies Fined for Engaging in Forced Labor; Anti-Slavery Group Releases ‘Dirty List’ – 16 February 2016

HNGN – Modern Day Slavery in Brazil: 340 Brazilian Companies Blacklisted for Forced Labor Conditions – 17 February 2016

Latin Correspondent – Genocide, slavery and intimidation in the Brazilian Amazon – 19 February 2016

Reuters – Brazil slave labor victims seek justice at Americas’ top rights court – 24 February 2016

 

Syria Deeply Weekly Update: Aleppo’s Healthcare System Struggles to Survive

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.

Aleppo’s Healthcare System Struggles to Survive: Q&A

As pro-government forces surround the city of Aleppo, medical workers are stocking up on supplies in anticipation of an impending siege. Syria Deeply spoke to one of them, Dr. Rami Kalazi, about the health situation in opposition-held areas and the challenges of being a doctor in a besieged area.

Kurdish Expansion is Changing Ankara’s Priorities

As Kurdish militias in northern Syria steadily take on greater importance, largely due to U.S. and Russian support, Turkey has quickly changed its priorities within the crisis. Syria Deeply spoke with Gokhan Bacik about the YPG’s expansion amid the chaos in Aleppo and the growing tensions in Turkey.

Chaos in Aleppo Creates Opportunity for the Kurds

While opposition forces have been hit hard by the Russian-backed government offensive in northern Syria, Kurdish militias have exploited the turmoil to expand their areas of control, capturing territory from already weakened rebel groups being targeted simultaneously by ISIS and pro-government militias.

More Recent Stories to Look Out for at Syria Deeply

My Life Outside Syria: Diary Entry 59

For One Damascus Woman, The Uprising Continues

The Expert View: The Significance of Aleppo

Op-Ed: What Can Be Done for Syria’s Antiquities

Find our new reporting and analysis every weekday at www.syriadeeply.org.

You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

U.S. Submits Draft Resolution on North Korea to the U.N.

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

PYONGYANG, North Korea –

The United States has submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council which imposes more strict sanctions on North Korea due to its recent nuclear weapon test and missile launch. The United States is backed by China on the resolution and a vote is expected to take place within the next several days.

The draft resolution calls for U.N. member states to inspect all cargo shipping to or from North Korea. Previously, states only had an obligation to inspect cargo passing through their territories if they had reasonable grounds to suspect that there was any illegal cargo. Any ships under suspicion of transporting illegal goods will be blocked from using ports worldwide.

Additionally, the draft resolution proposes a ban on the transfer of any item to North Korea that could strengthen the capabilities of its armed forces. The supply of fuel for aviation programs will also be banned under the resolution, among other sanctions.

The United States and China held negotiations on the draft resolution for several weeks, followed by talks in Washington this week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China in Washington this past week. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

North Korea has been under sanctions by the United Nations since 2006 due to its continued nuclear tests and rocket launches. It currently is banned from importing and exporting nuclear and missile equipment.

North Korea’s recent missile launch and nuclear test are viewed among the international community as a violation of U.N. resolutions. If the resolution is approved, it will include the strongest sanctions instituted by the Security Council in over two decades.

China previously seemed reluctant to take measures against North Korea as its neighbor and it has differed from the United States in its opinions on what measures to take against North Korea. The United States has argued for punitive measures, while China has caked for more tempered measures. North Korea’s missile launch and nuclear test may have been a factor in China’s newly hardened resolve against North Korea.

North Korea currently does 90% of its trade with China. The draft resolution’s proposed sanctions would not prohibit trade between North Korea and China.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC News – North Korea: US Submits Tougher Sanctions to UN – 26 February 2016

Reuters – U.S., Backed by China, Proposes Tough N.Korea Sanctions at U.N. – 26 February 2016

The New York Times – U.S. and China Agree on Proposal for Tougher North Korea Sanctions – 25 February 2016

Voice of America – U.S., China Agree on Sanctions Against North Korea – 25 February 2016

Obama Introduces Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay

By Samuel Miller
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America and Oceania

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America — President Obama on Tuesday sent Congress a long-awaited plan for closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, kicking off a final push to fulfill a campaign promise, as well as one of his earliest national security policy goals. The proposal comes seven years after Obama made a vow to permanently close the prison for enemy combatants, but the proposal already faces objections and legal obstacles in place for transferring Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons.

Detention Center, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

The proposal sets up a final battle with Congress as the president works to move dozens of Guantánamo detainees before he leaves office next year.

“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened. This is about closing a chapter in our history,” said Obama in a White House Press Conference.

President Obama’s plan has four primary elements, including transferring to other countries detainees who are already designated for transfer. The plan aims at accelerating periodic reviews of authority to detain an individual, prosecuting detainees who are facing charges, and working with Congress to establish a location in the homeland to securely hold detainees who cannot be transferred.

Lastly, the president wants to move all remaining detainees to the United States. The White House claims moving the detainees to a new or modified facility in the U.S. would save as much as $85 million, compared to the current cost of $445 million per year to maintain the facility at Guantánamo.

A governmental planning group has for months surveyed a series of sites around the country, including a federal Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, as potential options to hold such inmates. The plan released Tuesday cites 13 unspecified locations it says it could house between 30 and 60 detainees.

The president’s plan faces steep obstacles, however. Congress has enacted a statute that bars the military from transferring detainees from Guantánamo to domestic soil for any purpose, and Congressional Republicans have shown little interest in lifting that restriction.

“Congress acted over and over again in a bipartisan way to reject the president’s desire to transfer dangerous terrorists to communities here in the United States,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The president signed all these prohibitions, and his attorney general recently confirmed that it is illegal for the president to transfer any of these terrorists into the United States.”

Obama has reportedly threatened executive action to transfer the detainees to the U.S. if Congress tries to hamstring that process, under the argument that restricting his decision-making powers as commander-in-chief is unconstitutional.

“We’re not entirely clear on how the conversation will play out,” a senior administration official said. “We hope that meeting the deadline of presenting this plan itself will be a key step. We’re delivering what they asked for, and we’re hoping Congress will continue the conversation from that point forward.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Obama Sends Plan to Congress to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison – 23 February 2016

BBC News – Guantanamo Bay: Obama in prison closure push – 23 February 2016

CNN – Obama gives Congress Guantanamo closure plan – 23 February 2016

NY Times – Obama Sends Guantánamo Closing Plan to Congress – 23 February 2016

Politico – Obama announces plan for closing Guantanamo Bay prison – 23 February 2016

US News & World Report – Obama Unveils Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison – 23 February 2016

USA Today – Obama takes last chance to close Guantanamo Bay – 23 February 2016

Washington Post – Obama asks lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing prison at Guantanamo Bay – 23 February 2016

Colombia Investigating Disappearances at Notorious Prison

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — The Colombian government has launched an investigation into disappearances in Colombian prisons between 1999 and 2001. The investigation is focusing on La Modelo prison in Bogota. The dismembered remains of at least 100 persons were found in the sewer system of the prison.

La Modelo prison in Bogota, Colombia (photo courtesy of BBC). 

La Modela is one of Colombia’s biggest prisons, and significantly overcrowded. During the period in question, the prison was divided and controlled by left-wing and right-wing paramilitary groups. Allegedly, faction leaders bribed prison officials to look the other way while they maintained control over their part of the prison. The paramilitaries allegedly patrolled their so-called “territory” armed with grenades and automatic weapons.

Rumors of disappearances in the prison have spread since the dismembered remains of an inmate was found stuffed in a drain in 2000. He had disappeared eight days earlier. The next day, 17 inmates disappeared during a fight between different factions. Their remains were never found.

Investigators believe that there may be more remains hidden in the sewer systems of other prisons throughout Colombia.

The investigation was prompted by the prosecution of paramilitary leaders Mario Jaimes Mejía, called “El Panadero” (“the Baker”) and Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco. The two face charges of kidnapping, torture, and rape in the attack of Jineth Bedoya. Bedoya, a journalist, was one of the first to bring attention to the disappearances at the prison, after she noticed the numbers of inmates and visitors to La Modelo that went missing.

In 2000, Bedoya was abducted while visiting La Modelo (for the purpose of interviewing El Panadero). She was taken to the countryside where she was tortured and raped. The perpetrators left her tied up in a rubbish pile ten hours later.

Bedoya says she is “grateful for the actions being taken today, but it should’ve happened years ago. El Panadero’s testimony taken more than 15 years ago, his version of the story, which is completely false, was endorsed by a prosecutor (with the Colombian attorney general’s office) and that allowed for the process to stall and the case to remain in impunity.” Bedoya sued the Colombian government in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for “unwillingness to do justice in her case.”

Finding the truth of the disappearances at La Modelo, according to Bedoya, is “a debt that ht estate owes not only to Jineth Bedoya but the hundreds of victims of La Modelo Prison and the paramilitary forces.”

The current prosecutor, Caterina Heyck announced in a press conference on February 17th that El Panadero had confessed to ordering the attack on Bedoya, and that Cárdenas had admitted to being one of her abductors. She has also requested that the two men not qualify for lighter sentences under the Justice and Peace Law. The law allows former paramilitary members to receive lighter sentences for laying down arms and confessing to their crimes.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Scores of dismembered bodies found in Colombian jails – 17 February 2016 

BBC – Colombia probes disappearances from Bogota prison – 18 February 2016

CNN – Remains of at least 100 may have been tossed into sewers under prison – 18 February 2016

Latin Post – Colombian Jails Have Secrets That Can Give Your Nightmares – 18 February 2016

Mirror – Gruesome mystery as body parts of 100 prisoners and visitors found in sewer – 18 February 2016

Time – 100 Dismembered Bodies Found Beneath Colombian Prison – 19 February 2016 

Vice News – Colombia is Investigating Whether 100 Bodies Were Stuffed in a Prison Sewer – 19 February 2016

 

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Documenting Attacks on Medical Facilities in Syria

On February 15, a UN spokesperson reported that at least 50 people were killed in missile attacks that struck four hospitals in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and a school used to shelter internally displaced people in northern Syria. According to many activists and observers, Russian warplanes were responsible for the attacks. The medical organization Medecins Sans Frointeres (MSF) ran one of the hospitals that was targeted. MSF’s Head of Mission said that the incident appeared to be “a deliberate attack on a health structure” and “leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict.”

Attacks on medical facilities in Syria have been ongoing since 2012. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, such attacks (the majority of which are committed by Syrian government forces) intentionally deny medical assistance to those who have been wounded as a result of the war. According to the UN, these continued attacks against Syrian civilians constitute a violation of international humanitarian law that could amount to war crimes. The UN statements are significant because they highlight that the attacks on medical facilities and the denial of basic health care to Syrian civilians constitutes a troubling and consistent trend which breaches international law.

Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention bans deliberate attacks on civilian hospitals. As the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explains, Article 18 requires military forces “to take special precautions to spare hospitals as far as is humanly possible” when conducting operations. The Rome Statute, which grants the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, explicitly describes intentional attacks against civilian populations and hospitals as types of war crimes.

High quality documentation is crucial to holding perpetrators of attacks on medical facilities accountable. The ICRC provides several considerations that can help human rights defenders refine their strategies when documenting attacks on hospitals. For example, the ICRC states that structures with exterior medical symbols  and markings (such as the red cross or red crescent symbols) should not be attacked. Thus, documenters can collect information, pictures, and interviews that help establish that the structure was clearly marked and that the perpetrator knew or should have known of the structure’s medical functions. Another consideration is whether the civilian hospital was far from military objectives and was not being used for military purposes. Documenters can collect interviews and facts to establish the distance between legitimate military targets and the hospital as well as the civilian rather than military use of the facility for treating the sick and wounded.

However, the urban nature of modern warfare, particularly in the Syrian context, presents serious challenges  to documenting these types of attacks. Fighting is primarily taking place in populated cities and towns where the line between civilian and military is largely blurred. Moreover, the Syrian government has not been adhering to the principles of the Geneva Conventions or the  ICRC guidelines while it wages war. Rather, the government and its allies appear to deliberately target hospitals as a policy to incite fear and intimidate civilians and humanitarian aid workers. Thus, many hospitals intentionally avoid using medical symbols and operate “underground” in order to avoid such attacks. As a result, human rights defenders may not be able to easily demonstrate that the perpetrators knew or should have known that the structure was a medical facility at the time of the attack.

Future transitional justice mechanisms should dedicate special attention to addressing the complex issue of hospital destruction and damage since 2011. In addition to allowing for criminal prosecutions, the post-conflict government or transitional body should rebuild medical infrastructure and prioritize the provision of health care to victims that need treatment for their long-term physical and psychological injuries. Additionally, steps can be taken to memorialize the efforts of Syrian and international health care workers who risked their lives to treat and aid the sick and wounded in their time of need. Without a concerted effort to holistically address the issue, the widespread destruction of hospitals will have devastating impacts for Syrians and their ability to access adequate healthcare for many years after the end of the conflict.

For more information and to provide feedback, please email SJAC at info@syriaaccountability.org.

Missiles Strike Four Hospitals in Syria

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria – Nearly 50 civilians were killed on Monday, as four hospital facilities were struck by missiles. The United Nations stated that the airstrikes were a blatant violation of international law.

The remains of the Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Maraat al-Numan. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

In the town of Azaz, near the Turkish border, fourteen people were killed and another 30 were wounded, as airstrikes struck a school and the children’s hospital. Local news footage showed ambulances unloading children on stretches at the Kilis State hospital.

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Russia of conducting the airstrikes that hit the hospital and school, killing children. Turkey’s foreign minister called it an “obvious war crime.” Russia denied responsibility for the attacks, stating that their country does not bomb indiscriminately and does not target civilians. The United States State Department, however, claimed the Syrian regime for the attacks.

Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, stated, “We at Unicef are appalled by reports of attacks against four medical facilities in Syria – two of which were supported by Unicef.” It continued, “One is a child and maternal hospital where children were reportedly killed and scores evacuated.” “Apart from compelling considerations of diplomacy and obligations under international humanitarian law, let us remember that these victims are children,” Unicef continued.

Another attack occurred on Monday at Maarat al-Numan, in the Idlib province, as a Doctors Without Borders hospital was struck by missiles four times within minutes. According to Doctors Without Borders, seven people were killed with another 8 people missing and presumed dead. Of those killed, five were patients, one was a caretaker, and one was a hospital guard. The eight unaccounted for are staff members, patients also may be missing, however it is not clear how many.

Massimilian Rebaudengo, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission, stated, “This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest terms possible.” He continued, “The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict.”

Doctors Without Borders claimed that the Syrian government was responsible for the airstrikes in the Idlib province. The Syrian ambassador to Russia accused the United States led coalition for the attacks in Idlib. The United States stated that the coalition did not conduct any military operations in the area.

Riad Hijab, the head of the high negotiations committee, stated on Sunday, “Everyday, hundreds of Syrians die from airstrikes and artillery bombardment, poison gas, cluster bombs, torture, starvation, cold and drowning.” He continued, “The Syrian people continue to live in terror and in utter despair after the international community failed to prevent even the gravest violations committed against them.”

According to Physicians for Human Rights, 697 health care workers have been killed in 336 attacks on medical sites over the course of the Syrian conflict. The vast majority of attacks are carried out by the Syrian government and its allies according to Physicians for Human Rights.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Syria: At least 22 Killed in Strikes Against 2 Hospitals, Sources Say – 16 February 2016

Reuters – Missiles in Syria Kill 50 as Schools, Hospitals Hit; Turkey Accuses Russia – 16 February 2016

Al-Jazeera America – Deadly Airstrikes Destroy Three Hospitals, School in Syria – 15 February 2016

The Guardian – Airstrikes Hit Two Syrian Hospitals, with Turkey Condemning ‘Obvious War Crimes’ – 15 February 2016

The New York Times – Syrian Hospitals Hit as Battlefield Grows More Chaotic – 15 February 2016

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Volume 10, Issue 25 – February 22, 2016

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

Mali

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

Syria

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

TOPICS

Terrorism

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

WORTH READING

Worth Reading

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Commentary and Perspectives

China Moves 9,000 Villagers From Their Homes to Build Giant Telescope

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

BEIJING, China –

The Chinese government has decided to relocate over 9,000 villagers from their homes in Guizhou province as it continues to build the world’s biggest radio telescope. The telescope is designed in part to observe signs of extraterrestrial life but will also gather significant amounts of data on space phenomena.

The telescope under construction in Guizhou province. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

The relocation of the villagers, who live in one of the poorest provinces in China, was announced on Tuesday. 2,029 families are being moved in order to ensure an optimal electromagnetic environment for the telescope. The people being moved are those who were within a three mile radius of the telescope location in Pingtang and Luodian counties in Guizhou. Villagers do not appear to be resisting the move at this point.

Chinese authorities plan to compensate each person being moved with $1,800 from its eco-migration bureau. This is not the first forced mass relocation ordered by authorities to make room for a project, and there have been many complaints among citizens about the move and the compensation offered by the government. Millions have been displaced to make room for infrastructure or “poverty alleviation” projects. Work on the Three Gorges Dam displaced more than a million people living on the Yangtze River, for instance.

Work on the telescope is set to conclude in September of this year. Chinese authorities say that the location of the telescope in an isolated area of Guizhou make it an ideal place to receive extraterrestrial messages. The telescope is just one piece of China’s plans in regard to space exploration. China has also aspired to put an astronaut on the moon and a space station in orbit as part of its space program.

Wu Xiangping, director-general of China’s Astronomical Society told state-run news source Xinhua that the telescope will help scientists to “search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy”.

 

For more information, please see: 

HNGN – China Telescope To Be World’s Largest, Will Displace 9,000 – 19 February 2016

Business Insider – 9,000 Chinese villagers are being displaced to build this massive radio telescope in search of alien life – 17 February 2016

The New York Times – China Telescope to Displace 9,000 Villagers in Hunt for Extraterrestrials – 17 February 2016

The Guardian – China Uproots 9,000 People for Huge Telescope in Search for Aliens – 16 February 2016

Delhi Water Shortage Worsens Amidst Protests

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India 

Protesters from the Jat community in India have damaged equipment in the Munak canal, leading to Delhi authorities setting strict water rationing rules. Delhi schools are closed on Monday because water supplies in the area are in danger of running dry. Seven out of nine water treatment plants have closed due to the protests. Irrigation engineers are currently attempting to restore water to the area.

Violent demonstrations are ongoing, with protestors violating curfew rules and forcing the closure of roads and railways. India has deployed its army to quash the protests, which is reported to gave opened fire on them in some areas. At least 12 people have been killed by security forces, with another 150 sustaining injuries. Protesters have continued to throw rocks at security forces, attack vehicles and set buildings and other public property on fire.

Jat Protesters. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Delhi’s government has sought out assistance with the water shortage from the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is also in the process of forming a committee to consider the protesters’ demands.

The Jat protesters are campaigning for guaranteed jobs within India’s caste system. India’s constitution incorporates an affirmative action program in which the lower castes in its system have reserved and protected opportunities in education, employment, and government.

There are three categories of lower castes: the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Castes (OBC). The Scheduled Castes, called Dalits, are the lowest in the caste system. The Scheduled Tribes generally live in remote areas. The OBCs are disadvantaged but are not as excluded from Indian society as the other two groups. They are essentially considered to be those in the lower castes who are considered backward simply because they did not belong to the upper castes.In 1989, benefits were extended to those in the OBC category.

In March 2014, India’s government announced that it planned to recategorize the Jats as falling into the OBC category, which would entitle the Jats to be part of a government quota system for jobs. India’s Supreme Court recalled the plan in 2015 because in its view, the Jats are not entitled to OBC status.

The Jats believe that the Supreme Court’s decision places them at a disadvantage because they are not entitled to the same job quotas as those in the other lower castes.

 

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Deadly North India Protests Lead to New Delhi Water Shortage – 21 February 2016

BBC News – Water Crisis Fears in Delhi Over Jat Caste Unrest – 21 February 2016

The Economic Times – Jat stir: Delhi Reels Under Water Crisis; Schools to be Shut on Monday – 21 February 2016

The Sydney Morning Herald – Delhi water crisis: Schools, Factories Close as Indian Army Deploys to Quell Protests – 21 February 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Lech Walesa Faces Allegations of Spying for Communist Secret Police

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland–

Former Polish President Lech Walesa has announced that he will be defending himself in court on new claims that he was a paid communist informant for the country’s secret service during the Soviet era. Former President Walesa was the country’s first president of the post-communist era, and was the leader of the Polish Solidarity movement during that time. The state-run National Remembrance Institute (NRI) announced earlier this week that documents confiscated from the house of the last communist interior minister, General Czeslaw Kiszczak, included a letter signed by Walesa indicating his intent to provide the secret service with information. The letter is believed to be authentic.

Lech Walesa faces new allegations of his purported collaboration with the communist secret police. He has faced these allegations many times throughout his career, but was previously cleared in court from any wrongdoing. (Photo courtesy of NPR).

While the allegations themselves are not new, they have resurfaced after Kiszczak’s widow offered to sell the letters to the NRI for 90,000 zlotys (approximately $22,800). Prosecutors seized the documents before the sale was completed because the law requires “important historic papers” to be handed in to the authorities. The documents include 350 pages of secret police files that have never been opened to the public before. Contained in these pages are money receipts signed by “Bolek,” which was Walesa’s code name, according to the NRI president, Lukasz Kaminski.

The documents date from 1970 to 1976. Walesa co-founded the Solidarity movement in 1980, which contributed to the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Walesa was elected president in 1990 as a result of his efforts.

Although Walesa has previously stated he did not collaborate with the secret police, he confirmed in 2008 that he had signed a document that stated his intent to cooperate with the police. He maintains, however, that he did not follow through with this commitment. Walesa wrote on his blog from Venezuela earlier this week, commenting that the documents were forged to discredit him and tarnish his reputation. A special court convened in 2000 had already cleared him of all charges of working with the secret police.

For more information, please see–

BBC– Lech Walesa ‘was paid Communist informant’— 18 February 2016

The Guardian– Lech Wałęsa denies he was secret service informant during communist era— 18 February 2016

NPR– Polish Institute: Files Show Lech Walesa Worked With Communist-Era Secret Police— 18 February 2016

New York Times– Lech Walesa Faces New Accusations of Communist Collaboration— 18 February 2016

Egypt on Path to Repeat 2011?

By Tyler Campbell Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAIRO, Egypt – People gathered together protesting repeated instances of police brutality. A wide range of people, from doctors to taxi cab drivers, actively voicing their frustration with a government they see as increasingly heavy handed. Reporters catching every moment and informing the public with social media. All this leading to grass roots support with the hashtag Jan25. For many this sounds like the start of the Egyptian unrest that took place in 2011. However, for people living in Cairo, this could also describe what has been happening in the last few days.

Egyptian Doctors stage protest and threaten to strike after police violence. Photo Courtesy: Iran-Daily

Just as in 2011, there has not been one major spark to ignite the people’s feelings against the government. Instead a dangerous mix of authoritarian tendencies, police brutality, and general distrust continue to move people to stage these protests against the current regime.

The problem of police brutality was a major part of what lead to overthrow of ex-president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It appears the people of Egypt are again facing the very same problem. Last Friday the doctors of Egypt took to the streets to protest an instance of police brutality committed against 2 of their own.

On January 28th two doctors were assaulted and arrested after two police officers visited the Matariya hospital in Cairo. Allegedly, while receiving treatment for a cut on the forehead a doctor called an officer’s injury “simple.”  This comment ended with two doctors being assaulted and being placed on a bus toward the police station. The 2 doctors were later released but the larger group of protesting doctors threatens to go on strike if no action is taken against the officers.

Yesterday another instance of police brutality led to more protests around Cairo. Mohamed Ali, a young taxi driver, was shot by an out of uniform police officer during an argument between the two. It is reported that the two got into an argument as the officer and a relative of his were getting into Ali’s cab.

A statement from the Interior Ministry stated, “The policeman pulled out his gun to end the fight but a bullet came out by mistake, killing the taxi driver.” It is unclear at this time where the officer is, some reports say he was apprehended by authorities while others claim that he was killed by bystanders who saw the altercation.

Young Ali’s death came only a day after the regime had moved to close the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. This Human Rights organization had been documenting complaints of torture against Egyptian authorities and giving families effected by violence and torture a resource to turn to. Little explanation for the closure was given besides they had been operating outside their license.

If instances of police brutality and Human Rights violations continue to occur we could see a situation come together in Egypt that heavily mirrors 2011.

For More Information Please See:

The Guardian – Thousands of doctors in Egypt protest after police accused of attack on two medics – 12 Feb. 2016

The Guardian – Egyptian authorities move to shut down torture watchdog – 17 Feb. 2016

All Africa – Deadly Police Shooting Sparks Egypt Protests – Feb 19 2016

Deutsche Welle – Deadly police shooting sparks Egypt protests – Feb 19 2016