Gambian President Threatens to Eliminate Mandinka Ethnic Group

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter

BANJUL, Gambia—Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, has threatened the Mandinka ethnic group by calling them “donkeys and vermin” and threatening that “I will kill you like ants and nothing will come of it.”  His statements were made at political rally early in June and sparked reminders of the Rwandan genocide.  An editorial was published condemning Jammeh’s actions in reference to the 1994 genocide.  The first sentence states “one would have thought that what happened in Rwanda in 1994 would have served as a lesson to the world.”

Dieng UN
UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide condemns Jammeh’s rhetoric.  (Photo Courtesy of UN News Centre)

The United Nations Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adam Dieng, condemned Jammeh’s speech.  Dieng claimed that Jammeh’s words were dehumanizing and dangerous coming from a public leader.  As a head of state Jammeh has an obligation under human rights to law to protect his people.  Dieng is one of many who urged him to do just that while criticizing his inflammatory remarks.

Jammeh’s remarks are based of his conclusion that the Mandinka are not actually Gambian.  Reports show that his claims are false and this isn’t the first time he has been debunked.  He has also claimed that the Senegalese number 950,000 in the country’s population even though that would mean nearly half the population is Senegalese.

Another editorial calls out Jammeh similarly to the United Nations.  Joll of News said it was dangerous for a president to call out an ethnicity.  They cite the need to learn from the violent past as well as the duty of the president to “govern without any ill will”.  It is unclear whether or not Jammeh has responded to both the United Nations concern and the concerns of citizens.

For further information, please see: 

All Africa – Gambia: UN Adviser Condemns President’s Reported Threats Against Ethnic Group – 10 June 2016

Joll of News – Gambia: Jammeh Crosses the Red Line – 7 June 2016

Joll of News – Gambia: Editorial – Tribalism is a No Go Area – 6 June 2016

UN News Centre – Gambia: UN adviser condemns President’s reported threats against ethnic group – 10 June 2016





Drought Leads to Severe Food Insecurity and Need for aid

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

Severe drought since mid-2014 has obliterated crops and intensified hunger for 2.8 million people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Although the latest El Nino has ended, it caused a shift in weather patterns throughout the world and sea levels to rise to their highest levels in nineteen years, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Disaster response advisor for Central America at the U.N. humanitarian agency (OCHA) Gianni Morelli said, “People are and have been selling their assets to survive, selling land and seeds, reducing the number of meals a day and reducing their amount of protein intake. Right now the situation is very serious, and it’s fragile.” The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates some 3.5 million people are struggling to feed themselves in Central America’s “dry corridor” and 2.8 million rely on food aid to survive.

In Guatemala, areas like Chiquimula are severely impacted and the drought has worsened the hunger problem, especially among the country’s large indigenous population. Children as young as two are being treated for malnutrition at local clinics. Fresh water is also becoming scarce in this area as the level of the Jupilingo River has dropped and the hillsides deforested. Local resident Elda Perez Recinos said, “We walk three hours a day to get water, and after that we go out to look for firewood.” Experts call the period between June and September “seasonal hunger.” During this period between harvests the Guatemalan government has to provide food assistance to a million people but the drought has further depleted the harvests and limited the yield and income for farmers.

Sparse rain fall through the “dry corridor” has left farmers with one crop per year and hungry families. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

In El Salvador, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren declared a water shortage emergency for the first time in its history earlier this year, citing the effects of the El Nino phenomenon and climate change.

In April the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said it is providing food aid including rice and beans as well as cash for people to buy food at local markets. The Embassy of the United States of America in Honduras has contributed 75 percent of the funds received to serve drought-affected families in Honduras. The Minister Counselor of the Embassy of the United States of America said, “Investing in the health and nutrition of families is investing in the future of your communities.  That’s why it is important that you, the beneficiary, invest in feeding your family and that the works carried out in your communities are works for the benefit of all. Such long-term improvements including schools, roads, and drains strengthen you to be able to face future emergencies.”

More efficient irrigation systems and drought-resistant crops can help farmers better adjust and prepare for long dry spells. Until then, the effects of poor harvests and lost livestock will continue to hurt families as the rainy season has started a month late with inconsistent rainfall.

For further information, please see:

Appeal Democrat – Drought Heightens Seasonal Food Scarcity in Guatemala – 13 June 2016

Reuters – El Salvador declares drought emergency for first time ever – 14 April 2016

Thomas Reuters Foundation News – Nearly 3mln People Need Food aid in Drought-hit Central America – UN – 27 May 2016

World Food Programme – Honduras: Thousands of Drought-Hit Families Receive Food Assistance to Ensure Their Food Security – 6 April 2016

NATO Military Drills in Poland Prepare for Possible Conflict with Russia

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland — On Friday, the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wrapped up a 10-day training exercise simulating a Russian attack on Poland.  NATO sent over 30,000 troops, military vehicles, aircraft, and ships from over 20 countries to the military base in Wederzyn, Poland to take part in military drills and exercises.  This joint-military effort is the largest since the end of the Cold War, and is a part of Anakonda 2016 – a Polish national exercise which seeks to train national forces into an allied, multinational environment.

Polish Soldiers perform a mock-medical evacuation in an Anakonda 2016 training exercise (Photo Courtesy of NPR)

American units, as well as non-NATO forces such as Sweden and Finland, participated in the training drills in Poland.  Drills included collaborative helicopter attacks which included communications between Polish pilots and American air traffic controllers, hiking through dense forests, clearing houses room-by-room, and live fire drills.  The goal of these training exercises was to train Poland, along with other Eastern-European forces which used to be allied with the Soviet, to work together with the United States and Western European troops.

Many view the joint-military effort as one of prudent preparation.  Polish Defense Minister Antoni Maciarewicz states that they now feel prepared for “the worst” and for “any bad eventualities.”  Evelyn Farkas of the Atlantic Counsel characterized this joint-military effort as one which will send a message to Russia that NATO is prepared to respond if Russia attempts to “step…into one of our allied countries.”  NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the alliance has maintained communication with Russia throughout Anakonda 2016, however “practical cooperation” has been suspended since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Some leaders view the preparation and training as dangerous.  John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political scientist who specializes in European security issues, calls the training a dangerous “poke at the Russian bear,” and thinks it will be perceived by Russia as a threat which will give them more motivation to invade the Baltic States.   German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir categorized the NATO training as “counterproductive to regional security,” and instead urged NATO to replace the training drills with more cooperation with Russia.

Russia has also spoken out against Anakonda 2016.  Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the “war games” of Anakonda 2016 “do not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and safety on the continent.”

For more information, please see:

NBC — Huge NATO Drills in Poland Prepare West for Possible Conflict with Russia — 19 June 2016

BBC — German Minister Warns NATO Against ‘Warmongering’ — 18 June 2016

NPR — NATO War Games in Poland Get Russia’s Attention — 17 June 2016

U.S. Army Europe — What is Anakonda?

In Paraguay, Only the Farmworkers Stand Trial

By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay

The Paraguayan lower house speaker Hugo Velazquez has asked for an investigation into the death of eleven peasants during the Curuguaty massacre. Hugo Velazquez announced his commitment to opening an investigation after meeting with the slain peasant’s family members and Amnesty International.

Protestors Stand Outside the Courthouse. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)

In an interview with EFE, Velazquez stated that “the only way to achieve true justice is by sentencing those responsible for the massacre on both sides.” Currently only farmworkers stand on trial for the death of six policemen that died during the Curuguaty massacre. The trial is in the final stages of closing arguments which were given this week. A verdict is to be rendered by the twenty-third of June. Paraguay’s attorney general requested a sentence of eight to forty years in prison for the peasants on trial. Of these peasants three are women who face eight years in prison for criminal association, invasion of private property, and complicity. The remaining peasants face charges of premeditated homicide, invasion of property, and criminal association.

Lawmakers, as well as, both local and international human rights organizations have made allegations of irregularities during the trial. For example, the police force was forbidden from attending the trial but during the closing arguments and under the direction of the attorney general 20 policemen dressed as civilians entered courtroom illegally and were escorted out of the room. The policemen attended the trial illegally to prevent family and friends of the peasants from attending. Lawmakers claim that actions that have been taken by the attorney general demonstrates a bias towards the policemen.

The Curuguaty massacre occurred on June 15, 2012 when seventy farmworkers occupied the state owned Morumbi property that spans 4938 acres. Businessman and Politician Blas N. Riquelme obtained ownership of the Morumbi property when dictator Alfredo Stroessner gave it to Mr. Riquelme. The peasants believe the transaction was illegal. Mr. Riquelme requested the eviction of the farmworkers and the police responded by sending three hundred armed policemen to evict the farmworkers. The clash quickly turned into a violent conflict. Immediately following the massacre President Fernando Lugo, a leftist progressive, was taken out of office and blamed for the incident. He was the first progressive to rule the country in over sixty years. It is believed the massacre was a pretext for a coup.

For more information, please see:

EFE—Lawmakers Want Probe Into death of 11 Peasants in Paraguay Massacre—13 June 2016

Fox News Latino—Lawmakers Want Probe Into Death of 11 Peasants in Paraguay Massacre—13 June 2016

Telesur—Paraguay: 12 Landless Capesinos Face up to 40 Years in Prison—16 June 2016

Telesur—Paraguay’s Curuguaty Massacre: A Pretext for a Coup—14 June 2016

Egyptian Courts Sentence Three Journalists to Death

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — An Egyptian Court sentenced six people to death including two Al Jazeera journalists. The six people convicted were accused of espionage in relation to leaked documents to Qatar.

Judge Mohammed Shrin Fahmy presided over the case (Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

The presiding judge in the case, Judge Mohammed Shirin Fahmy, recommended the death sentence for the six people accused of leaking secret documents to Qatar. All capital offense cases are then delivered to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the nation’s top Muslim theological authority, for approval. Judge Fahmy quoted the Mufti’s office saying that the six defendants brought harm to their country by providing Qatar with documents concerning the Egyptian army. Judge Fahmy stated they betrayed their country for ideology.

The two Al Jazeera journalists were identified as Ibrahim Mohammed Helal, former director of news at Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, and Alaa Omar Mohammed Sablan, former Al Jazeera producter. The other journalist convicted was Asmaa Mohammed al-Khatib, a reporter for Rasd. Rasd is a media network widely suspected of having ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. All three journalists were tried in abstentia.

Al Jazeera condemned the verdicts against their former employees stating that the sentences were “politicized” and  “legally baseless.” Amnesty International also called for the “ludicrous charges” to be dropped. Both organizations stated these kinds of convictions of journalists are an affront to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Along with the six death sentences, the Egyptian Court also sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to life in prison. Morsi, the first democratically elected Egyptian president, was ousted by the Egyptian army in 2013 following a popular uprising against Morsi’s leadership. Morsi was found guilty of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political party that is now-banned in Egypt. Morsi was acquitted of espionage charges.

Since Morsi’s ouster by the military, Egypt’s relations with Qatar have been strained. During Morsi’s time in power, he was supported by Qatar, a tiny but wealthy nation in the region. Egypt claims that Qatar undermines its national security by supporting Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar stated that the convictions went “against the truth” and that they harm relations between the two countries.

For more information, please see

ABC News — Egyptian Court Sentences 2 Al-Jazeera Employees to Death — 18 June 2016

Chicago Tribune — Egyptian court sentences 2 Al-Jazeera journalists to death, former president to 25 years — 19 June 2016

CNN — Egypt sentences 6 people to death, including 2 Al Jazeera journalists — 19 June 2016

The Star — Qatar slams Egypt over death sentences in Al Jazeera espionage case — 19 June 2016

Yahoo — Egypt sentences 2 Al-Jazeera journalists to death, ousted president Morsi gets life — 19 June 2016