Russian Economy Minister Charged for Solicitation of Bribe

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia’s economy minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, was charged and detained on charges of soliciting a $2 million bribe on Tuesday.  Ulyukayev accepted the bribe money from Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in exchange for his ministry’s approval of a sale between Rosneft and another government-owned oil company.

Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was detained on corruption charges, is escorted to his hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was detained on corruption charges, is escorted to his hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Authorities told reporters that Ulyukayev’s phones were tapped, and his electronic communications were being monitored.  Investigators set up an operation in which the bribe was handed to Ulyukayev on Monday.  According to authorities, Ulyukayev threatened to use his position as economy minister to create problems for Rosneft unless it handed him the $2 million.  Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, told reporters that “Ulyukayev was caught red-handed as he received the bribe.”

Vyacheslav Voloshin, former head of Putin’s administration and current speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, praised Ulyukayev’s detainment because it “means there are no ‘untouchable people’ in Russia.”

Others view the arrest as a sign of political tension in the Russian government.  Gleb Pavlovsky, former Putin strategist, called the move a “terrible sign of weakness at the top of the executive power” because Putin apparently knew of the investigation for months, yet allowed Ulyukayev to remain in office instead of firing him.

Some find the situation odd for a few reasons.  First, the man Ulyukayev apparently threatened, Sechin, is believed to be one of the most powerful men in Russia and one who has Putin’s ear.  Considering their close relationship, many believe that Sechin could have told Putin about the threat and no investigation would have occurred.  Second, Alexander Shokhin, a man who worked with Ulyukayev on the Russian cabinet, pointed out that it was odd Ulyukayev would have asked for a bribe considering the oil company sold at market price.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, assured that Putin was aware of the investigation throughout the process.  Peskov stated that “[t]hese are very serious accusations, and only a court can pass a verdict.”

Ulyukayev has been under investigation by Russia’s Federal Security Service for over a year.  He is the highest-ranking Russian official to be detained while holding office since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  If guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail, a maximum financial penalty of 70-100 times the sum of the bribe, and/or he would be stripped of the ability to serve in certain state office positions for 8-15 years.

 

For more information, please see:

The New York Times — Russia’s Economy Minister is Detained on Bribery Charges — 15 November 2016

Reuters — Russian Economy Minister Ulyukayev  Denies Extorting $2 Million Bribe — 15 November 2016

RT —  Russia’s Economy Minister Detained, Investigated Over Alleged $2 million Bribe Linked to Big Oil Deal — 15 November 2016

The Washington Post — Top Putin Aide Caught with $2 Million in Russian Bribery Sting — 15 November 2016

Syria Watch Weekly Update: Battle Resumes in Eastern Aleppo


WEEKLY UPDATE
November 18, 2016

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. But first here is an overview of what happened this week:The Syrian government resumed its aerial campaign on Aleppo, targeting the eastern, rebel-held side of the city for the first time in more than two weeks. Up to Thursday, at least 70 people have been killed since the offensive began and hundreds more have been injured.Airstrikes on Aleppo were reported to have hit hospitals, a blood bank and several ambulances. According to Doctors Without Borders – Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), all eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been targeted at least once, including the Bayan Children’s Hospital. Only 32 doctors remain to treat the roughly 250,000 people who remain in eastern Aleppo, MSF reported.Russia said it was not participating in the bombing of eastern Aleppo. However, it did fire cruise missiles from Tu-95MS airplanes, targeting the so-called Islamic State and the former al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham elsewhere in Syria, according to Reuters. On Tuesday, Russia also targeted several Syrian provinces, including Homs and the largely opposition-controlled Idlib.The situation has deteriorated quickly in eastern Aleppo as food supplies dwindle. “People are only getting about 15 percent of what they need,” Brita Hagi Hasan, president of the city council for opposition-held Aleppo, told Reuters.Food production all across Syria hit a record low this week, according to the World Food Program (WFP). Wheat output has dropped sharply between 2011 and this year and there are far fewer cattle, sheep, goats and poultry in the country.As the war economy in Syria wreaks havoc on food production and agriculture, the European Union and United States put further sanctions on the country’s financial sector. An additional 18 Syrian officials were hit with E.U sanctions on Monday, including Syria’s central bank chief and finance minister.The following day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed new legislation sanctioning the Syrian government that would target anyone who does business with the transport, telecommunications or energy sectors. The bill was passed in an attempt to quell atrocities in Syria.“Something needs to jolt this crisis out of its bloody status quo,” said Eliot Engel, the leading Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. “This bill would give the administration more tools to do so. If you’re acting as a lifeline to the Assad regime, you risk getting caught up in the net of our sanctions.”Weekly Highlights:

Pixels of War: One Student’s Path to Photography in Eastern Aleppo

In the second installment of “Pixels of War,” our diary series on Syrian photographers, Yehya Alrejjo recounts how the Syrian uprising and war transformed him from a student of chemistry into a photographer with the opposition in the besieged and contested city of Aleppo.

Buildings destroyed by airstrikes in eastern Aleppo. Yehya Alrejjo

How the White Helmets Have Evolved During the Civil War

Over the past three years the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer operation active in eight of the country’s 14 provinces, has had to adapt technically and emotionally in order to continue doing one of the hardest jobs in the conflict.

Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a government forces airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in the northern city of Aleppo, on October 4, 2016. AFP/ THAER MOHAMMED

Male Refugees in Lebanon Face Abuse and Neglect Alone

Single men are not often the priority for refugee assistance programs, but they are vulnerable in their own ways. Federica Marsi reports on the difficulties that lone Syrian men in Lebanon face in accessing aid and protecting themselves from exploitation.

I belong to no country, nowhere. I build my home and my world wherever I am. My home country is my relation with the place where I live at the moment and the accumulation of memories there. ©Joe Saade

Additional Reading:

Top image: A Sukhoi-33 aircraft is about to take off from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser to hit armed groups in Syria with bombs and missiles. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation via AP


Find our new reporting and analysis every weekday at www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Lebanese Special Forces Capture Eleven ISIS Fighters

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Eleven members of the Islamic State group (ISIS), including a local commander, were captured by Lebanese special forces on the morning of Friday, November 25th.

Lebanese special forces capture local ISIS commander (Photo courtesy of Middle East Monitor)

The Lebanese military issued a statement indicating that the eleven terrorists were captured in an operation targeting ISIS headquarters. It took place in an area heavily populated by hundreds of ISIS fighters along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The statement indicated that the operation led to the capture of ISIS’s local commander in the town, Ahmad Youssef Amoun, who fired upon the Lebanese soldiers attempting to arrest him. He was seriously wounded in the operation and subsequently taken to a hospital in Beirut for emergency treatment.

Photographs said to be of Mr. Amoun were posted on local media websites showing a “young man with a thick beard lying on a hospital bed with a blood-stained sheet covering most of his body.” The Lebanese military stated that Mr. Amoun was responsible for several recent explosions that hit the country. He is alleged to have been involved in making car bombs used in attacks throughout the country. The military further stated that he was also behind the attacks on army posts carried out in August 2014 when ISIS briefly occupied the town of Arsal.

A presidential statement released on behalf of the country’s newly appointed president, Mr. Michel Aoun, indicated that he praised the “pre-emptive security operation.” He is quoted as saying “such special operations strengthen stability and limit terrorist schemes.” The statement issued by the military indicated that no army personnel were injured in the operation.

Over the past two years, ISIS has claimed responsibility for multiple explosions in the country which have killed hundreds of people. The terrorists also captured twenty-five Lebanese soldiers and policemen in August 2014, and have been holding nine of them hostage since then.

For more information, please see:

International Business Times—ISIS In Lebanon: Army Arrests 11 Members, Including Local Commander—25 November 2016

Gulf News—Lebanon army detains Daesh commander near Syria border—25 November 2016

Middle East Monitor—Lebanon captures 11 alleged Daesh militants—25 November 2016

ABC News—Lebanon Army Says 11 IS Militants Detained Near Syria Border—25 November 2016

The Day After: Syrian views on international agreements regarding Syria: Cessation of hostilities, Geneva III, and any upcoming elections under UN supervision

Syrian views on international agreements regarding Syria: Cessation of hostilities, Geneva III, and any upcoming elections under UN supervision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2016
Contact: Razan Saffour
Email:     rsaffour@tda-sy.org
Phone:    +90 (552) 216 35 82
 تجدون أدناه البيان في اللغة العربية
Turkey – Istanbul: The Day After (TDA) conducted a survey between 1 March 2016 and 19 April 2016, with the aim of identifying Syrians’ views on international agreements regarding a political solution in Syria. Our team of field researchers carried out face-to-face interviews with a sample group of 3183 Syrian citizens inside Syria, consisting of 2113 men and 1070 women.
The nature of war and situation in Syria makes it difficult to gain a representative sample, that said our team of researchers managed to obtain answers from diverse samples which allowed us to contrast and compare over the differing demographic and social make-up of the Syrian landscape.
Aims of survey:
This survey aims to identify and better understand the views of Syrians regarding the international agreements taking place about Syria; the direct and indirect impact of these international agreements; and most importantly airing the views of the main stakeholders, the Syrian people, who are otherwise absent from the negotiations and decision-making table.
Key outcomes:

  1. Plurality of respondents do not have high hopes regarding the international agreements that have taken places regarding the Syrian situation and for the most part are not convinced that the representatives of states on the negotiation table will bring Syria any closer to a democracy. Only 8.5% of the participants expressed conviction in the agreements, whilst the larger contingent of participants said they see the situation remaining unaffected by the agreements, and if anything, will lead the country to the worst yet, or to how Syria was before the revolution, or believed that Syria will become a split country across sectarian and geopolitical lines.
  2. The larger percentage of participants, 40.5%, believe ceasefires serve the regime more than opposition factions, whilst 37.1% believe they changed little in the existing balance of power in the country. A small percentage believe the ceasefires served opposition factions.
  3. There is a general consensus among participants over the nature of the agreements regarding ceasefires between the regime and the opposition. Only 14.7% of participants, most of which lived in regime-held areas, classified the nature of agreements as settlement or reconciliation.
  4. Across all areas, the Syrian regime was viewed as primarily responsible for the catastrophic situation in the country, closely followed by Russia and the United States.
  5. The number of voters who participate in the upcoming elections which will take place a year and half from the Geneva three talks as proposed in UNSC resolution 2254 increase with age.  The youth who participated in the survey of 25 years or under were largely against the elections at 41.3%, in contrast with the 10.2% of those against the elections at the of 56 and above.

آراء وتوجهات سورية في الاتفاقات الدولية حول سوريا: وقف إطلاق النار ومفاوضات جنيف (3) والانتخابات الرئاسية

المقبلة برعاية الأمم المتحدة
تركيا – اسطنبول:
أجرت اليوم التالي” خلال الفترة الممتدة بين 1 آذار/مارس و19 نيسان/ أبريل 2016 مسحاً اجتماعياً، بهدف التعرف على أبرز الآراء والتوجهات حول الاتفاقات الدولية للحل السياسي في سوريا، وقام فريق الباحثين الميدانيين بإجراء مقابلات وجهاً لوجه مع مواطنين سوريين داخل سوريا، شملت (3183) شخص: 2113 رجل و1070 امرأة.
إن ظروف الحرب والنزوح التي تعيشها البلد تجعل من غير الممكن الحصول على عينات تمثيلية، لكن فريق البحث تمكن من الحصول على عينات ذات تركيبة متنوعة، وكافية تسمح بإجراء مقارنات بين مختلف المتغيرات الديمغرافية والاجتماعية، قادرة على التزويد ببيانات مهمة عن أبرز الآراء والتوجهات حول الاتفاقات الدولية تمت دراستها (وقف إطلاق النار، مفاوضات جنيف 3، الانتخابات المنصوص عنها في قرار مجلس الأمن ٢٢٥٤).
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، تم الأخذ بعين الاعتبار ظروف وشروط الحياة المتفاوتة جداً والتي يعيشها السوريون في ظل الحرب الدائرة منذ سنوات، فتم التمييز بين مناطق محاصرة، وأخرى تحت هدنة، وأخرى تحت سيطرة قوى المعارضة أو النظام، وتم التمييز أيضاً بين أولئك الذين اختبروا معاهدات واتفاقات مشابهة سابقة لوقف إطلاق النار (المدنيين أو المقاتلين وعائلاتهم الخارجين من مناطق هدن) وغيرهم من السكان الذين لم يسبق لهم أن عاشوا تجربة مماثلة.
أهداف البحث:
يهدف هذا البحث إلى التعرّف على أبرز الآراء في سوريا بخصوص الاتفاقات والتفاهمات الدولية حول سوريا، الأمر الذي يساعد على فهم بعض تبعاتها وآثارها المباشرة وغير المباشرة، بالإضافة إلى ذلك، ستساهم هذه الدراسة في إيصال صوت السوريين المغيبين عن طاولة صناع القرار، وصانعي السياسات الدولية.
أهم النتائج:
  1. لا يبدو أن المستجيبين يعقدون أمالاً كبيرة على ادعاءات القوى الدولية والأمم المتحدة بأن مفاوضات جنيف ستكون بوابة انتقال سوريا إلى الديمقراطية. فقط 8.5 % قالوا إن سوريا ما بعد جنيف ستدخل في مرحلة انتقال ديمقراطي، بينما اختار حوالي نصف المستجيبين إجابات متشائمة تجاه مستقبل سوريا بعد جنيف، حيث قالوا إن الأمور ستذهب نحو الأسوأ، أو سيعود الحال لما كان عليه قبل الثورة، أو سيبقى الوضع على حاله، أو أن سوريا ستصبح بلداً مقسماً.
  2. النسبة الأكبر من المستجيبين تعتقد أن وقف إطلاق النار سيكون في صالح النظام (40.5 %) أو أنه لن يغير من التوازن العسكري القائم (37.1 %)، نسبة قليلة قالت إنه سيكون في صالح المعارضة.
  3. هناك شبه إجماع بين المستجيبين على وصف الاتفاقات التي جرت وتجري بين النظام والمعارضة بالهدنة أو وقف إطلاق نار، فقط 14.7 % تصفها بتسوية أو مصالحة، ويبدو أن هاتين التسميتين الأخيرتين تنتشران بشكل رئيسي في مناطق سيطرة النظام.
  4. يأتي النظام وحلفاءه الإقليميين في المرتبة الأولى في كافة المناطق كمسؤول عن هذا المآل الكارثي لسوريا ويأتي بعده كل من روسيا والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.
  5. تزداد نسبة المشاركة في الانتخابات  المزمع عقدها بعد عام ونصف من انطلاق جنيف (3) بحسب قرار مجلس الأمن 2254 مع التقدم في العمر، فالشباب في العينة (أقل من 25 عام) هم الأكثر رفضاً لهذه الانتخابات 41.3% مقابل 10.2 % عند الذين تجاوزا ال 56 عاماً.

The Day After (TDA) is a Syrian civil society organisation working towards democratic transition in Syria, and focuses on work in the following sectors: rule of law, transitional justice, security sector reform, constitutional design, electoral system design, and post-conflict social and economic reconstruction.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert: South Sudan, Burma/Myanmar and Iraq

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

South Sudan

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, visited South Sudan from 7 to 11 November to meet with government officials, and religious and community leaders amidst ongoing reports of targeted ethnic violence throughout the country. Since widespread fighting broke out between the army and rebel soldiers in Juba between 7 and 11 July this year, there has been growing ethnic polarization, with increasing use of hate speech in the media, as well as targeted killings and rapes. Following visits to Juba and Yei, Special Adviser Dieng released a statement emphasizing that, “the signs are all there for the spread of this ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians that could evolve into a genocide, if something is not done to stop it now.” The UN, African Union and Inter-governmental Authority on Development must urgently engage with the government of South Sudan to ensure immediate action is taken to end violence, prevent further fracturing of South Sudanese society, and protect populations from atrocity crimes, regardless of their ethnic or political affiliation. The UN Security Council should impose a long overdue arms embargo to halt the flow of weapons to South Sudan and into the hands of those who target and kill civilians.

Burma/Myanmar

The situation in Burma/Myanmar continues to deteriorate following the start of a joint army-police operation in Arakan/Rakhine state on 10 October. Violence between the army and the Rohingya population – a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group – has escalated while humanitarian assistance for more than 150,000 people remains suspended. On 12 and 13 November the army responded to an attack that killed two soldiers by deploying helicopter gunships to several Rohingya villages, resulting in the death of more than 30 people. There are reports of the widespread destruction of Rohingya buildings and mosques in army-led “clearance operations” as well as ethnically-motivated attacks on Rohingya civilians, including allegations of rape and sexual assault of women and young girls. Under existing discriminatory laws in Burma/Myanmar, the Rohingya minority have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized.

Iraq

On 14 November Human Rights Watch released a report detailing a pattern of unlawful demolition of buildings, homes, and entire villages within Kirkuk and Nineveh governorates between September 2014 and May 2016 by Kurdistan Regional Government security forces and Peshmerga fighters in areas where they have defeated the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The report follows the 11 November announcement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of alleged revenge killings and home demolitions in Kirkuk by civilians and members of the Iraqi security forces since the start of the Mosul offensive on 17 October. While the offensive has revealed further atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, forces combatting the group must ensure their own actions consistently comply with international humanitarian and human rights standards. As the military campaign to liberate Mosul from ISIL continues, it is essential that all parties take effective measures to ensure the protection of civilians and uphold their obligations under international law.

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ICTJ: New Accord Consolidates Path to Peace in Colombia

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New Accord Consolidates Path to Peace in Colombia
BOGOTA, November 16, 2016 – The International Center for Transitional Justice welcomes the announcement that the Government of Colombia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) have agreed on a series of modifications to the peace accord, after the original version was narrowly rejected in the October plebiscite vote.

“With this new agreement Colombia is advancing toward the consolidation of the peace process,” said ICTJ President David Tolbert. “We are encouraged by the parties’ commitment to find the way forward in an expeditious and efficient manner to keep the momentum of the peace process on track.”

“The agreed-upon changes demonstrate the considerable flexibility and understanding of the negotiating parties,” underscored Maria Camila Moreno, Director of ICTJ’s Office in Colombia. “We hope that this will set an example for the entire country, especially during the very complex peacebuilding process that is set to begin.”

ICTJ has been working in Colombia since 2006 to achieve the realization of victims’ rights. It reiterates its commitment and willingness to offer its knowledge and national and international experience in support of the full implementation of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence contained in the new peace accord.

PHOTO: Demonstrators in Bogota hold hands in support of a peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia, File)

Colombia Signs Revised Peace Deal

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Report, South America

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA—The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader, Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, signed a revised peace deal ending fifty-two-years of war. The new signing comes after the previous deal was rejected by the citizens of Colombia on October 2. The new deal will not be put to a popular vote, instead the deal will be given to Congress for approval.

Colombia signs revised peace deal with the FARC. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)
Colombia signs revised peace deal with the FARC. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Unlike the previous signing of the deal, which was attended by 2,500 people including dignitaries, the new signing took place in a ceremony of 800 attendees in Bogota at the Colon Theatre. The revised deal includes the concerns of the citizens who voted against the previous deal. President Santos reminded Colombia of the urgency to approve the deal and ending Colombia’s civil war. He stated, “This new accord allows us to work together as a nation to recover the most affected regions due to conflict, to reconcile ourselves, to make use of new opportunities for growth and progress.”

The revised deal includes changes to fifty-seven points in the original document such as: the FARC will need to hand over its assets to the government, which the government will use to compensate victims of the war; Family values were addressed in accordance to the concerns of religious communities; a 10 year limit was put in place for the transitional justice system; FARC must provide information in connection to drug trafficking; the deal will not be integrated into the constitution.

The deal did not include tougher penalties and sentences for the FARC nor did it bar the FARC from political participation.

Congress is expected to vote on the deal within the next week. The deal must receive majority votes. Former president Uribe and his party, the Democratic Centre, will cast a No vote. They claim that the revised deal does not address their concerns, including harsher penalties against FARC members. They are also demanding for a popular vote. It is believed that the deal will pass since the president’s party holds the majority within Congress.

For more information, please see:

Wall Street Journal—Colombia’s Santos Inks New Peace Deal With FARC—25 November 2016.

AL Jazeera—Colombia Signs Revised Peace Deal With FARC Rebels—24 November 2016.

BBC—Colombia Signs new Peace Deal with FARC—24 November 2016.

The New York Times—Colombia and FARC Sign New Peace Deal, This Time Skipping Voters—24 November 2016.

Egyptian Human Rights Activist Banned from Travel

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — On Wednesday, November 23rd, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist was banned from leaving the country as she attempted to board a plane.

Director of the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation Victims of Violence subjected to travel ban due to alleged involvement in Egypt’s ongoing foreign funding case (Photo courtesy of Financial Times)

Ms. Aida Seif Al-Dawla, Director of the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation Victims of Violence, was attempting to board a flight before she was stopped by Egyptian authorities. A statement released by the Center indicated that she was traveling to Tunisia to attend a conference bringing together NGOs working on rehabilitating victims of violence in North Africa.

An airport security official stated that the travel ban was implemented because of Ms. Al-Dawla’s involvement in the “ongoing trial implicating the majority of the most active human rights groups in Egypt.” Ms. Al-Dawla issued a statement in which she indicated that the travel ban is aimed at “eradicating the rights movement” in an attempt to cover up the government’s systematically committed violations. Her statement further indicated that the government’s attempt to “prevent individuals who dedicated their efforts to support and alleviate the pain” of violence victims “will not work.” Egyptian human rights activists stated that the travel bans are “part of the authorities’ attempts to silence criticism from civil society groups.”

The Egyptian government had attempted to shut down the Center earlier this year. In February, the Health Ministry had threatened to close the Center due to “violations,” which included “shifting its focus from operating as a medical facility to working in human rights and advocacy.” The threat had attracted local and international criticism and outcries from rights groups. In early November, Egypt’s Central Bank had ordered the freezing of the El Nadeem Center’s bank account. The Bank had lifted the freeze shortly thereafter when the Center documented that it does not fall under the authority of the Social Solidarity Ministry.

Ms. Al-Dawla is one of many human rights activists who have been banned from travel for their involvement in the country’s pending foreign funding case. Earlier this week, the Egyptian legislature also ordered issued travel bans for Ms. Azza Soliman, lawyer and head of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, and Mr. Ahmed Ragheb, lawyer and Director of the National Community for Human Rights and Law. Both were on their way to attend international conferences, and were informed that the ban was the result of a judicial order, issued without their knowledge, regarding the case involving illegal foreign funding of NGOs.

For more information, please see:

Ahram Online—Egyptian activist Aida Seif El-Dawla banned from travel: Nadeem Centre—23 November 2016

All Africa—Egypt: El Nadeem Center Director Aida Seif El Dawla Banned From Travel—23 November 2016

New York Times—A Top Egyptian Human Rights Activist Banned From Travel—23 November 2016

Financial Times—Egypt imposes travel bans on human rights activists—23 November 2016

 

Relocated Refugee Children from Calais Forced into Labor

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France — Child refugees, who have been sent away from the migrant camp known as the “Jungle” in Calais, France to other parts of the country, have allegedly been forced into physical labor at their new locations.

Teenage refugee boys wait at a reception center in Southern France (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)
Teenage refugee boys wait at a reception center in Southern France (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

Safe Passage, an organization run by the immigration charity Citizens UK, claims that refugee children are being forced to work on local farms without pay.  Legal interviews of unaccompanied refugee children were conducted, in which minors told interviewers that they were ordered to work on farms picking apples for French supermarkets.  The minors were too scared to refuse the work because they feared doing so would harm their chances of claiming asylum in the United Kingdom.

Of 33 teenage boys interviewed, one quarter admitted they have not been given clean clothes since arriving approximately four weeks ago.  39% of the minors who were interviewed said they felt better off at the Calais camp.  On boy interviewed in Northern France told interviewers “[i]t is horrible. We worked all day picking apples and were left to eat the rotten ones. The rest went to be sold in France. We just want to be with our family in the UK.”

Many minors are considering or have already absconded from their base centers, as they are not being given enough information about the status of their asylum claims.  Three of the boys have not spoken to anyone official regarding their asylum claim since their arrival at the center.  Two of the boys interviewed said they were considering running away from the center they were living in, and two who were originally scheduled to be interviewed had already run away.

About one quarter of the boys interviewed said they had not received clean clothes since their arrival, however they all said they had access to shower, hot water, and at least three meals per day.

Rabbi Janet Darley, Citizens UK Leader, said that the group is “hugely concerned about the safeguarding of children in the CAOs in France.”  Darley emphasized that while “the CAOs are, on the whole, safe places for the children to live, they cannot be used as an excuse to delay the transfer of children to the UK.”

In addition to taking part in forced labor, minors have also reported that they are being forced to share living accommodations with adults.

 

For more information, please see:

The Huffington Post — Refugee Children Say They’d be ‘Better Off’ in Squalid Calais Camp than New Centres — 21 November 2016

RT — Refugee Children from Calais Camp Forced to Work on Farms in France – Report — 20 November 2016

The Guardian — Child Refugees Forced to Work for Nothing After Leaving Calais — 19 November 2016

The Independent — Calais Refugee Children Forced to Work on Fruit Farms and Share Accommodation with Adults, Charity Claims — 19 November 2016

Ukraine Marks ‘Dignity and Freedom Day’ as National Holiday

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine — Three years ago, on November 21, 2013, the people of Kiev, Ukraine took part in an anti-government protest in the streets of the city.  The events were called “Revolution of Dignity” by the victors of the protest, who successfully took power of the right-winged radicals and promises of integrating Ukraine into the European Union.

Protesters hold Ukrainian and EU flags during a demonstration to support integrating Ukraine into Europe on November 21, 2013 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)
Protesters hold Ukrainian and EU flags during a demonstration to support integrating Ukraine into Europe on November 21, 2013 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)

The 2013 protests, which resulted in over 100 deaths and an ousted government and president, are also known as “Euromaiden.”  The Euromaiden movement started when protestors gathered in Kiev after then-president Viktor Yanukovych announced he declined to sign a trade deal with the EU and instead sought a closer economic relationship with Russia.  Protestors saw the trade deal as a path towards adopting a European standard of living, as well as possibly visa-free travel in the EU.  After the protests, Yanukovych fled to Russia and was subsequently removed from office.

This year, November 21 was declared a national holiday in Ukraine, and was given the name “Dignity and Freedom Day.”  As a part of the commemorations, government officials, protest participants, clergy, youth organizations, and Ukrainian citizens held ceremonies across the country.  Flowers were placed on a monument honoring those who were killed in the protests, and a “revolution march” was organized to take place in Kiev on the holiday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke at one of the ceremonies, calling on the nation to unite and stand together against the Russian “threat.”  Poroshenko insisted that “[t]he Revolution of Dignity put an end to our Russian-Soviet past and the post-Soviet period.  It has separated our Ukrainian and European world from the Russian world.”  Poroshenko went on to congratulate the Ukrainian citizens, and thanked them for building “our European state together!”  He stressed that since the 2013 protests, the “basis for a new Ukraine was laid.”

The November 21 holiday also recognizes and honors the 2004 Orange Revolution.  The revolution also began in November, and marked the first majority vote for a pro-European Union candidate.

Approximately 21,000 law enforcement officials will be present at the ceremonies and demonstrations across Ukraine to ensure public order.

 

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty — Ukraine Marks Third Anniversary Euromaiden — 21 November 2016

RT — Ukraine Marks ‘Dignity & Freedom Day’ as Euromaiden Dream Falters — 21 November 2016

Ukraine Today — Ukraine Marks Day of Dignity and Freedom — 21 November 2016

Ukrinform — President Poroshenko Congratulates Ukrainians on the Day of Dignity and Freedom — 21 November 2016

 

Turkish Bill Clearing Men Accused of Raping Underage Girls Passes First Parliament Vote

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament approved a preliminary bill which would clear men accused of raping underage girls if they marry her.

Thousands protested a new bill that would clear men accused of raping underage girls (Photo courtesy of Digital Journal)

The bill, which was brought to parliament by President Erdogan’s party, was preliminarily approved on the evening of November 17th. The parliament will debate the bill a second time on November 22nd before casting their final vote.

The Turkish government stated that the bill is designed to pardon men only on the basis of sex that is “without force or threat,” and if the offense was committed before November 11, 2016.

There has been strong opposition to the bill in many parts of the country, including by members of parliament, with many protestors stating that it is an encouragement for rape. Critics of the bill declare that it “legitimizes rape and child marriage,” and that it “lets off men who are aware of their crime.” Parliament member Ozgur Ozel stated that “sexual abuse is a crime” which does not require consent. He added that “seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for.”

It is anticipated that approximately 3,000 men accused of assaulting a girl under 18 will have their convictions repealed if the bill is passed. On Saturday, November 19th, thousands of people attended a demonstration in Istanbul protesting the bill. The crowds, wielding banners stating “#AKP take your hands off my body,” shouted anti-government slogans, declaring “we will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately.” Further mass protests are expected if the bill passes following Tuesday’s vote.

The UN Children’s Fund stated that it was “deeply concerned” over the bill. The Fund’s spokesman indicated that “these abject forms of violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such, and in all cases the best interest of the child should prevail.”

The government has defended the bill by stating that its aim is not to excuse rape, but to “rehabilitate” men who may not have realized the unlawfulness of their sexual relations or to prevent underage girls who have sex from “feeling ostracized by their community.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that the bill “is not an amnesty for rape,” and that the country has very “serious punishments for rape.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag indicated that the bill could help couples who want to marry after engaging in consensual relations. He stated that when a child is born from a non-official union, the mother and child are subjected to financial difficulty because the father will be arrested after the doctor informs the prosecutor.

Turkey has experienced a steep increase in violence against women in the past decade, with 40% of women reporting sexual or physical abuse.

For more information, please see:

Euro News—When is rape not a crime? Turkey considers proposal for controversial sexual abuse law—18 November 2016

Anadolu Agency—Turkish justice minister clarifies law changes—18 November 2016

Ahram Online —Thousands rally against Turkey child sex conviction bill—19 November 2016

BBC News—Turkish bill clears men of statutory rape if they marry—18 November 2016

TRT World—Proposed bill sparks debate in Turkey—18 November 2016

 

Scores Killed in Mozambique Truck Blast

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

MAPUTO, Mozambique– 73 are dead and over a hundred are injured in Tete, Mozambique after a truck blast.  The truck, which was carrying petrol from the port city of Beira to Malawi, exploded killing civilians.

A badly injured person arrives at Tete hospital following a fuel-truck explosion

A person injured from the blast arrives at a Tete hospital.  (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

It is still unclear under what circumstances the truck exploded.  Officials are exploring whether petrol was being sold at the time or the blast was triggered by a rush of civilians trying to siphon gas.  Government officials have recently raised the price of gas and the country’s currency has not been able to keep up with the increase.  Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest country’s.  Of the countries 24 million citizens more than half live in poverty.  The country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975 and soon after dealt with a 16 year long civil war which ended in 1992.  Since 1992 the country has struggled to end the widespread poverty that the country faces.

Because the blast happened in Tete in western Mozambique medical attention was not immediately near by.  Some victims traveled over 90km to receive medical attention.  The exact death toll of the blast is still developing, and the results of the lack of medical attention nearby will be revealed as the story develops.

For more information, please see: 

BBC News – Mozambique: Scores Killed in Fuel Truck Blast – 17 November 2016

The Guardian – Scores killed in Mozambique fuel-truck blast – 17 November 2016

Indian Express – Mozambique: At least 73 killed, 110 injured in truck blast – 17 November 2016

Amazon Indigenous Communities Protest Oil Spill

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Lima, Peru—The Indigenous community located at the basin of the Marañon River in the Amazon are protesting the latest oil spill in the district of Urarinas—the cost of damage has yet to be released. This is the tenth oil spill since January 2016 in the Amazon. The indigenous community began their protest on September 1st.

Oil spills are contaminating the Amazon river and affecting the indigenous community. (Photo Courtesy of Peru This Week)
Oil spills are contaminating the Amazon river and affecting the indigenous community. (Photo Courtesy of Peru This Week)

The latest protest was led by seven indigenous federations in the Northwest region of Peru by blocking the Marañon River, an important transportation route. The communities are demanding action from the Peruvian government. The communities are seeking an end to the contamination, an end to the oil spills, measures to protect the environment and compensation for those affected by the spills. They are also demanding an independent third party to monitor the area and the impact of oil extraction in the region. The community leaders known as the Apus released a letter addressed to the government stating, “we are carrying forward a just struggle to peacefully push a platform of fair social development that guarantees the right to a safe environment and water that sustains our people.”

Petroperu is the company overseeing the pipelines and oil extraction. The company has attributed the spills on third parties intentionally breaking the pipes. Petroperu released a statement after the most recent spill stating, “the people who are causing the spills to stop because you are putting the health of people in the area at risk as well as affecting the surrounding environment.”

The Apus, a day after the spill, have finally arrived to an agreement with the government to a meeting with the president of Peru Pablo Kuczynski or Prime Minister Fernando Zavala. The protestors will continue blocking the passage way until action is taken.

For more information, please see:

Telesur—Amazon Indigenous Block Peru River Traffic to Protest Oil Spill—14 November 2016.

Peru This Week—Tensions Rise in the Amazon—27 October 2016.

Telesur—Peru Officials to meet Indigenous Protesting Amazon Oil Spills—28 September 2016.

Peru Reports—Oil Spills Contaminate Major River in Peru’s Amazon—13 February 2016.

Germany Bans Islamic Group ‘True Religion’

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

BERLIN, Germany — German authorities have banned the Islamic group True Religion early Tuesday morning based on allegations of their recruiting efforts for the Islamic State.  True Religion is known for distributing German copies of the Quran as well as setting up “welcome tables” in busy parts of cities.  Police conducted raids in over 60 cities across Germany, and searched 190 mosques, apartments, and offices connected to the group.  Evidence was gathered with the intention of using it to reinforce the ban, however no arrests were made.

Police officers transport materials seized in the raid on True Religion (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Police officers transport materials seized in the raid on True Religion (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Thomas de Maizière, German interior minister, said that the ban was executed because True Religion was acting as a “collecting pool” for future Islamic fighters.  De Maizière insisted that the group was targeted because of its “work to foster violence,” not because of its religious ties and faith.  According to de Maizière, 140 of True Religion’s members have traveled to Iraq and/or Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.

De Maizière emphasized that the ban is “directed against the abuse of religion by people propagating extremist ideologies and supporting terrorist organizations under the pretext of Islam.”  The group, also known as “READ!” often holds banners or wears garments with “READ!” embroidered in gold.  The ban will prohibit the group from running these types of campaigns in the future.

Authorities accuse the group of using their campaigns as a cover up for recruiting for the Islamic State.   These campaigns were the idea of Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, a Palestinian who preaches Salafism, a conservative form of Islam.  Abou-Nagie, a German national who has lived in the country for more than 30 years, has been on the radar of German authorities since 2005, when he set up a website that officials alleged spread extremist ideologies. Officials attempted to prosecute Abou-Nagie in 2012 on charges of incitement of religious hatred, however were unsuccessful.

True Religion’s Facebook page and website were offline Tuesday, however they condemned the raids through their Twitter account, saying “Dear brothers and sisters, the Quran has been banned in Germany. We brought Allah’s message to everyone. Allah u Akbar.”  They later posted a link to the Facebook page of the group’s UK branch.

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry clarified that there is no evidence True Religion was planning any form of attack itself.

 

For more information, please see:

CNN — Germany Bans Islamist Organization After Raids — 15 November 2016

The New York Times — Germany Bans ‘True Religion’ Muslim Group and Raids Mosques — 15 November 2016

Reuters — Germany Bans Islamist ‘True Religion’ Group, Raiding Mosques and Flats — 15 November 2016

The Washington Post — Germany Launches Raids Across 60 Cities, Bans Group on Suspicion of Islamic State Recruiting — 15 November 2016

Aleppo Hit By Airstrikes Following Weeks-Long Peace

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — On Tuesday, November 15th, Russia launched new airstrikes on the rebel-held sections of Aleppo in connection with a major new offensive against forces battling President Assad.

Aleppo is struck by several airstrikes, killing six and injuring dozens more (Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency)
Aleppo is struck by several airstrikes, killing six and injuring dozens more (Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency)

Local civil defense sources stated that Russia and the Assad regime have carried out intense airstrikes on the opposition-held city of Aleppo for the past twenty-four hours. A civil defense official, Baybars Meshaal, added that the airstrikes have also targeted the towns of Al-Shear, Salahaddin, Haydariyah, Al-Sahur, Muyesir and Misqan Khanuna. These attacks mark the end of a nearly three-week calm that had prevailed over the region.

Mr. Meshaal indicated that the intensity of the attacks is creating difficulty for paramedics and civil defense teams to reach targeted areas. He noted that “local residents are afraid to leave their homes,” while stating that at least six people were killed and dozens more injured when a warplane struck an ambulance. He noted that those who are injured cannot be taken to a hospital because regime forces are “striking anything that moves.” Residents and a war monitor indicated that both rocket strikes by jets and barrel bombs dropped by helicopters were being used.

A children’s hospital was one of the locations hit by the attacks, destroying sections of the building. Patients, doctors and staff members were forced to take shelter in the basement. The director of the hospital posted a message on Facebook, stating that he and the hospital staff were sitting in one room in the basement, trying to protect the patients. He indicated that they are unable to leave the basement due to the continued presence of aircraft in the sky, while asking for readers’ prayers.

The U.S. State Department condemned the airstrikes as a violation of international law, by reporting that it allegedly targeted civilian infrastructure. It described the Russian airstrikes as a “disappointment.” The Pentagon spokesman stated that he “hoped” the airstrikes were not an attempt to “change the balance of power in Aleppo.” He added that Russia already has significant military capabilities within Syria, and that anything brought in from the outside, such as aircraft carriers, cruise missiles or long-range strike bombers flying in from Russia, is “done for show.”

The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, stated that Russia used its aircraft carrier to launch missile strikes against opposition-held areas in Syria through cruise missiles and fighter jets. He indicated that the country had started “a big operation to deliver massive strikes.” Mr. Shoigu further added that “exhaustive” research on all targets had been conducted, and that warehouses with ammunition, terrorist training centers and factories are being targeted.

For more information, please see:

The Wire—At Least Three Dead After Air Strikes Resume in Rebel-Held East Aleppo—16 November 2016

Boston Globe—Russia launches new Aleppo offensive—16 November 2016

Anadolu Agency—Russia, regime pounding Syria’s Aleppo: Local sources—16 November 2016

The Guardian—Children’s hospital in Aleppo hit as airstrikes continue—16 November 2016