A Call to end Sexual Violence

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—The alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl from a Favela in Brazil has stirred numerous protests. Thousands of protesters have poured to the streets of Brazil condemning the alleged rape, causing individuals and groups to stand up against gender violence and the “machismo” attitude against women in Brazil.

A protester in Sao Paulo. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

In Rio De Janeiro, about 2,000 individuals chanted and held signs against rape with slogans such as “No means No.” In Sao Paulo, hundreds gathered for a simultaneous protest. The protesters’ goal is to end gender violence and to call upon the government to act. The alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl has highlighted the deeply rooted acceptance of violence against women in Brazil. Crimes against women have been dismissed by the public. Brazil has the fifth highest rate of femicide. Studies have shown that 7.5% to 10% of women in Brazil will report an incident of sexual violence. Protest coordinators want to let women know they do not have to be silent but to report the crime.

Coincidentally, in Argentina, protests against gender violence have also taken place. Thousands gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires to voice their condemnation of the alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl in Brazil and of the killing of three 12-year-old girls in Argentina. The slogan for the protest was “Not one less.” In Argentina, 275 gender based killings occurred last year. In 30% of the cases the attacker was a current partner of the victim, and an ex-partner in 49% of cases. Social media is proving to be an outline for victims of crime and to raise awareness through out Latin America.

A short video of the alleged gang rape of the 16-year-old girl in Brazil surfaced on twitter. It showed 30 to 33 men boasting about the rape. She was naked, drugged and semi-unconscious in the video. The video received hundreds of likes and blamed the girl for the rape. The girl in a statement stated that she had gone to her boyfriends and woke up the next day in a different location surrounded by men raping her. The family of the girl allege her boyfriend was behind the rape in order to punish her. Some arrests have been made since the video became public, but police continue to search for the rest of the men involved.

For more information, please see:

CNN—Brazilian Teen Speaks out About Brutal Gang Rape—30 May 2016

CNN—2 men Arrested, 4 Sought in Brazilian Gang Rape, Government Says—31 May 2016

The Guardian—Brazil and Argentina Unite in Protest Against Culture of Sexual Violence—3 June 2016

Fox Latino— Thousands March in Argentina to Protest Violent Attacks on Women—4 June 2016

SBS—Thousands Protest at Brazil Rape Culture—4 June 2016

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Decentralization, Federalism, or none of the above? An analysis of possible governance options in post-conflict Syria

SJAC Update | June 1, 2016
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its allies announce the establishment of a federal system in northern Syria in country’s north. Source: AL MAYADEEN Youtube Channel

Decentralization, Federalism, or none of the above?
An analysis of possible governance options in post-conflict Syria

In March 2016, Syrian Kurds claimed the creation of a de-facto federal region in the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, uniting three Kurdish-led autonomous areas (Jazira, Kobani and Afrin) under one federal region, Rojava. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and allied Arab and Assyrian groups issued a statement which emphasized that despite the federal region’s autonomy, it will remain a part of Syria. Kurdish leaders defended the declaration, saying that the communities in question have a“legitimate right” to autonomy and that the declaration is a blueprint for a future decentralized Syrian state. However, the Kurdish declaration received significant backlash from multiple sides, including the PYD’s international supporters, the Syrian government (which said the declaration had no legal basis), and the Syrian opposition. Some Syrians view federalism as a dirty word and a poor option for Syria, given the failures of the Iraqi experience. As discussions about the new constitution and governance structure progress, Syrians must decide how decentralized their state will be which will first require a better understanding of the different options.

Governance structures may range from highly centralized to highly decentralized systems. Decentralization generally refers to the transfer of authority from a central government to other entities such as provinces, municipalities, or even private institutions. A decentralized government is any government in which a state’s political, administrative, and/or fiscal actions can be made by subdivisions that exist under the central government.Successful decentralized systems tend to combine technical expertise from the central government with local-level knowledge from subdivisions in order to provide services more effectively than what one level of government could accomplish on its own.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: Hermitage Seeks Money Laundering Investigation In Estonia Into Deputy Mayor of Moscow in Magnitsky Case

1 June 2016 – Hermitage Capital Management has filed a criminal complaint with the Estonian General Prosecutor seeking an investigation of funds received by an Estonian company, Transgroup Invest AS, which was 50% owned by Maxim Liksutov, who is currently deputy Mayor of Moscow.

 

In 2012, Transgroup Invest AS received US$336,153 from Zibar Management Inc, an offshore company registered in BVI and used by the Klyuev Organized Crime Group to launder proceeds from the US$230 million fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky.

 

The funds were wired to Transgroup Invest AS from account of Zibar Management Inc with Cypriot branch of FBME, which had its licence revoked by the Central Bank in December 2015.

 

Zibar Management‘s nominal director, British citizen, Andrew Moray Stuart, served as director of hundreds other companies, including 214 BVI companies, 36 UK companies, 43 Irish and 4 New Zealand companies. While the company was dormant in BVI, it wired from its Cypriot account hundred thousands of dollars, including over $300,000 to Maxim Liksutov’s company in Estonia.

 

According to investigation of Panama Papers by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and Russian Novaya Gazeta, Maxim Liksutov had a 50% share in Transgroup Invest, registered in Estonia prior to becoming deputy mayor of Moscow. Several months after the receipt of funds from Zibar Management, Maxim Liksutov transferred his share in Transgroup Invest to his wife, Tatiana, who he soon divorced.

 

Maxim Liksutov was ranked 157 in the Forbes Russia rich list in 2013, with an estimated fortune of $650 million. In the Moscow City government, Maxim Liksutov is in charge of transportation.

 

Previously, it was reported that a son of the Transportation Minister and Vice Premier of the Moscow Region Denis Katsyv is facing Swiss and US money laundering investigations into his Cypriot company, Prevezon Holdings, which is alleged to have received proceeds of the US$230 million fraud. His father Petr Katsyv, currently Vice President of Russian state monopoly, Russian Railways, was ranked 65 in the Forbes list of Russia’s richest officials.

 

A cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, was recently identified as 

yet another recipient of funds connected to the US$230 million fraud into his corporate Swiss account, according to “Panama Papers” investigation.

 

Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage’s lawyer who uncovered the US$230 million fraud and testified about the complicity of Russian officials in it, was falsely arrested, detained for 358 days without trial, tortured and killed in Russian police custody at the age of 37.

 

The unprecedented events of this case are described in the New-York Times best-seller “Red Notice. How I Became Putin’s No 1 Enemy by William Browder, leader of the global Magnitsky justice movement, and in a series of justice campaign videos on Youtube channel “Russian Untouchables.”

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

e-mail: info@lawandorderinrussia.org

www.lawandorderinrussia.org

billbrowder.com

twitter.com/Billbrowder

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Canada’s Highway of Tears Add to National Inquiry into Unsolved Cases

By Portia K. Skenandore-Wheelock
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SMITHERS, British Columbia – Highway 16 is a remote stretch of road that cuts west across four provinces in Canada to the Pacific Ocean. A section of the road in British Columbia runs near remote logging towns and Indian reserves and has become known as the “Highway of Tears” due to the dozens of women and girls that have gone missing or been murdered near the highway. Most of these women and girls are indigenous and almost all of the cases continue to go unsolved.

The impoverished area and nonexistent public transportation has made hitchhiking a common means of transit. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) formed a special unit that has officially linked eighteen of these unsolved cases that occurred from 1969 to 2006 to the highway but families, activists, and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, believe the number is much higher. Complaints of racism and sexism committed by the police as well as disparities in police action for non-Indigenous women that have gone missing are behind this claim. Minister Bennett said the police often fail to do investigations and deem the deaths of indigenous women and girls to be suicides, accidents, or drug overdoses. She said, “What’s clear is the uneven application of justice.”

A United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women report completed last year found the previous government’s efforts under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to protect indigenous women from harm to be “inadequate” and found “grave violations” of the women’s human rights with the lack of an inquiry into the disappearances and murders. The report said failures by law enforcement have “resulted in impunity.”

A billboard along Highway 16 warns of the murdered and missing in the area. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Canada’s new government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a “total renewal” of the country’s relationship with indigenous people and in December Trudeau announced a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which completed the public participation stage of the inquiry design process this past spring. Nationally, the RCMP has officially counted a total of 1,181 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls but research done by the Native Women’s Association of Canada finds the number could be as high as 4,000 women and girls. The national inquiry is expected to cost $40 million ($31 million U.S.).

British Columbia has committed $3 million to improve public transit along the “Highway of Tears.” This includes extending transit services, sharing costs with First Nations reserves for community vans, and highway infrastructure safety improvements, including webcams and transit shelters.

Families and supporters continue their efforts to search for the missing. Ten years ago families walked a 700km stretch of Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George to raise awareness and improve safety along the highway and the walk is being done again over the next three weeks, ending on June 21, National Aboriginal Day. The first walk ended with a two-day Highway of Tears Symposium that focused on prevention, support, and emergency planning. Since then the Highway of Tears Initiative has been making efforts to implement recommendations from the symposium to build community supports and do workshops with first responders, but with limited funding. Brenda Wilson, the only official staff member of the initiative, said, “Some of the things with the government have changed. They’re starting to recognize the work that needs to be done in a lot of our communities between Prince George and Prince Rupert. This is Northern British Columbia. We need to be in the forefront. We can no longer be silenced. We need to be a part of British Columbia.”

For further information, please see:

New York Times – Dozens of Women Vanish on Canada’s Highway of Tears, and Most Cases Are Unsolved – 24 May 2016

CBC – Highway of Tears ‘cleansing walk’ begins in Prince Rupert – 3 June 2016

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Report of the Inquiry Concerning Canada – 30 March 2015

The Government of Canada – National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – 8 March 2016

Germany Officially Recognizes Armenian Genocide

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany — This past Thursday, a near-unanimous vote by the German parliament officially recognized the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as a genocide.  Germany is home to an estimated three million Turks, two thousand of which demonstrated in Berlin opposing the German parliament’s ability to pass judgment.  France passed similar legislation in 2011, to which Turkey responded to by recalling its ambassador in Berlin and freezing military cooperation between the two countries.

German lawmakers vote in favor of decision to recognize Armenian genocide (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

This declaration by the German parliament comes at a time in which strong foreign relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) are vital, as the EU as a whole needs Turkey’s help in managing the refugee migrant crisis.  As a result of a recent migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, a Syrian refugee in Turkey is resettled in the EU for every Syrian refugee that is returned to Turkey from Greece.  Turkey also agreed to take necessary measures to prevent open migration routes between Turkey and the EU.

German diplomats across the world have spoken out to encourage Turkey to maintain ties with Germany despite the decision.  The German Foreign Minister in Argentina, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, stated that he hoped the decision would not cause Turkey to overreact.  German lawmakers see the move not as a jab at the Turkish government, but rather as a way to strengthen reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia.

This decision has caused significant unrest in Turkey.  Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan called this decision a “plot” against Turkey, and criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for not intervening to prevent the vote (Merkel did not take part in the vote).  Erdogan stated that the decision would “seriously affect” Turkey’s ties with Germany, however would not affect Turkey’s ties with the EU.  Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim condemned the decision as “irrational” and predicted that it would put the friendship of the two countries to a serious test.  A spokesman for Erdogan went so far as to blame Germany for relying on “lies” about Ottoman Armenians.

Within two hours of the vote, Turkey recalled its ambassador in Berlin for “consultations” and summoned a German diplomat to the foreign ministry in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey.

For further information, please see:

CNN — Germany Declares 1915 Armenian Killings a “Genocide” — 2 June 2016

Reuters — Germany Triggers Turkish Outcry with Armenian Genocide Vote — 2 June 2016

The Guardian — Turkey Recalls Ambassador After German MPs’ Armenian Genocide Vote — 2 June 2016

The New York Times — German Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide, Angering Turkey — 2 June 2016

Business Standard — Turkey Says German Recognition of Armenian Genocide is a ‘Plot’ — 4 June 2016

PRI — Why Germany’s Recognition of Armenian Genocide is Such a Big Deal — 5 June 2016

Mass Kidnapping by Taliban in Afghanistan

by Zachary Lucas

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

KABUL, Afghanistan — In the northeastern province of Kunduz in Afghanistan, armed Taliban gunmen stopped two buses on their way to the provincial capital of Kunduz. At least ten people were killed in the incident and nearly 200 people were kidnapped.

Afghan Forces Have Stepped up Security in Kunduz Following Recent Attacks (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

The incident occurred in the early morning when two buses were traveling to the city of Kunduz on the highway in the Ali Abad district. The Taliban had set up a roadblock and seized the passengers on the bus. About 10 people were killed immediately and 185 of the passengers were kidnapped. The people kidnapped included women, children, and seniors.

The people kidnapped were taken to a village called Omarkhil in the province of Chardara where they were being held in a church. An unknown number of abductees were killed after arriving in the village. Residents reported that the Taliban was questioning them to see if they had connections to the government. Around 160 of the people kidnapped were rescued by Afghan forces although some reports suggest that the Taliban released them. Some 20 people still remain hostage.

The identity of the victims have not been identified nor is it known why these passengers were the target of this kidnapping. It is thought that the victims might be Shi’ite Hazaras. The Taliban discriminated against this group when they controlled the government in the 1990s and discrimination against them has increased in the last year. The hard-line Sunni Taliban consider the Hazaras to be heretics.

The Taliban have stepped up their attacks in recent weeks. One week ago they claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed ten people and injured four others. They have also kidnapped numerous people in similar highway abduction incidents of both locals and foreigners. In early May, the United States warned American travelers in Afghanistan to be vigilant following an attempted abduction of an American citizen.

Following the death of Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in a drone strike, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada was announced as the new leader. The new leader vowed to continue the militant policies of the founder of the Taliban that was killed in a drone strike in 2011. Akhundzada stated that there would be no peace talks with the current Afghan government.

For more information, please see:

ABC News — Taliban Kidnap Afghan Bus Passengers Killing at Least 16: Provincial Official — 31 May 2016

BBC — Afghan Conflict: Taliban Kidnap Bus Passengers and Kill 10 — 31 May 2016

CNN — Afghan Police: Taliban Kidnap 200 Travelers, Keep 20 Hostage — 2 June 2016

Reuters — Afghan Taliban Kill Nine, Kidnap 20 Bus Passengers, Army Rescues 140 Others — 31 May 2016