Opposition Calls on President Jammeh to Step Down after he Rejects Election Results

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

BANJUL, The Gambia–Opposition leaders in Gambia are calling for President Jammeh to step down after he rejected the countries recent election results.  Originally President Jammeh had accepted the election results and was going to allow for a smooth transition of power to President-elect Adama Barrow.  He has sense changed his mind which is not much of a surprise to the international community that does not have much faith in President Jammeh.  Jammeh has a questionable record as President of the Gambia as he has been accused of human rights violations

Source: Fatu Network

President Jammeh. (Photo Courtesy of Premium Times)

President-elect Adama Barrow has also been calling on Jammeh to step down in order to ensure a good transition.  Because of the countries lack of Supreme Court (it currently only has one justice) an election challenge would surely either drag on for a long time or be unduly influenced by Jammeh as he would appoint the remaining justices.  Either way opposition party members are eager to see Jammeh go not only in order to get the power that they won in the election, but also to ensure that The Gambia does not become a country of chaos after failed elections.

President Jammeh is due to leave office on January 18, 2017 which is the end of his mandate.  Should Jammeh actually step down opposition members have said they are planning to prosecute Jammeh for crimes he committed during office.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Gambia election row: Yahya Jammeh ‘should step down now’ – 12 December 2016

Joll of News – Gambia: President-elect Rejects Jammeh’s Election Challenge – 12 December 2016

NPR – Gambia’s Opposition Calls On President To Step Down After Election Defeat – 12 December 2016

Premium Times – Gambia election: Jammeh heads to Court – 12 December 2016

Magnitsky Campaign Releases Names of 28 Russian Officials Currently Involved in the Posthumous Cases Against Magnitsky for Inclusion on New International Sanctions Lists

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Distribution

27 December 2016 – Today, the Global Campaign for Justice for Sergei Magnitsky published a list of 28 Russian officials involved in current criminal cases against Sergei Magnitsky in spite of the fact that he was killed in police custody in 2009.

The list includes 28 officials from the Russian Interior Ministry, Prosecutor’s Office, FSB and the Investigative Committee.

The release of these new names coincides with the consideration or passage of Magnitsky sanctions legislation in the United States, Canada, the U.K., Estonia and at the EU.

The two Russian officials who had instigated the persecution of Sergei Magnitsky posthumously – Deputy General Prosecutor Victor Grin and Interior Ministry investigator Oleg Urzhumtsev – have already been sanctioned under the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.”

The Russian officials listed below have rejected numerous complaints filed by Magnitsky’s mother, Natalia Magnitskaya.

Mrs Magnitskaya’s most recent complaint filed by her lawyer with the Russian authorities seeking to end the posthumous persecution of her son, said:

” It is currently known that the same criminal group [which stole US$230 million] perpetrated a number of similar crimes, and the amount of funds stolen from the budget is about US$800 million. S. Magnitsky was placed into custody on 24 November 2008 soon after he gave testimony implicating members of this criminal group. In a little less than a year, on 16 November 2009, he was found dead in the cell of the collection unit of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center. The location and nature of injuries on his body indisputably testify to the violent causes of the death of S.Magnitsky.

After S. Magnitsky was physically eliminated, investigator O. Urzhumtsev created a knowingly false version of the crime, as purportedly committed by S. Magnitsky himself, which was aimed to compromise the deceased and was monstrous in its cynicism and injustice.”

The Russian Interior Ministry refused Mrs Magnitskaya’s complaint against her son’s posthumous persecution on the ground that Mrs Magnitskaya did not have a procedural status to lodge this complaint, and said:

“The investigation sees no grounds to treat Mrs Magnitskaya as a person whose interests are affected by the criminal prosecution.”

The refusal of Mrs Magnitskaya’s complaint was prepared by Russian Interior Ministry investigator Ranchenkov pursuant to a criminal case about the laundered US$230 million proceeds of fraud – the crime uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky and in which he is being posthumously accused by the Russian authorities. This posthumous proceeding is currently overseen by deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department Krakovsky and deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s Directorate of Investigations of Organised Criminal Activity Shneiderman.

List of Officials Persecuting Sergei Magnitsky Posthumously – 2011-2016:

1. R. Filippov – investigator of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky under case No 678540

2. P. Tambovtsev – investigator of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky under case No 678540

3. A. Ranchenkov – investigator of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky under case No 678540

4. Y. Shinin – first deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department who sanctioned the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

5. M. Alexandrov – head of Directorate of Investigations of Organised Crime and Corruption of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department, and then deputy head of the General Prosecutor’s Office Directorate of the Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases, overseeing cases against Sergei Magnitsky posthumously

6. A. Saribzhanov – deputy head of Directorate of Investigations of Organised Crime and Corruption of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department who refused complaint from Magnitsky’s mother against the posthumous persecution of her son

7. S. Shamin – head of 2nd section of Directorate of Investigations of Organised Crime and Corruption of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department who sanctioned posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

8. A. Ryabtsev – head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Department of Economic Security and Combating Corruption(Department “K”), involved in the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and exoneration of those involved in Magnitsky’s death

9. D. Mityaev – official of the Russian Interior Ministry’s MainDepartment of Economic Security and Combating Corruption(Department “K”), involved in the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and exoneration of those involved in Magnitsky’s death

10. A. Krakovsky – deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky seven years after his death in custody

11. S. Shneiderman – deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky seven years after his death in custody

12. S. Murashev – deputy head of second section of the Directorate of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky seven years after his death in custody

13. V. Yudin – head of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Directorate of Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

14. V. Ignashin – deputy head of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Directorate of Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

15. S. Bochkarev – prosecutor of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Directorate of Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

16. A. Kulikov – prosecutor of the second section of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Directorate of Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases, responsible for the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

17. D. Stroitelev – head of section of the FSB’s Directorate K (Financial Counterintelligence) involved in the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and refusal of complaint from Magnitsky’s mother

18. V. Komarov – officer of the FSB’s Directorate K (Financial Counterintelligence) involved in the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

19. A. Pogrebnyak – officer of the FSB’s Directorate K (Financial Counterintelligence) involved in the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky

20. E. Golubev – investigator of the Russian Investigations Committee who exonerated tax officials from liability for the US$230 million theft and posthumously persecuted Sergei Magnitsky in spite of complaints from Magnitsky’s mother

21. V. Alyshev – deputy head of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee who exonerated from liability Interior Ministry officials who persecuted Sergei Magnitsky

22. A. Iskantsev – acting head of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee who exonerated from liability Interior Ministry officials who persecuted Sergei Magnitsky

23. S. Olkhovnikov – deputy head of the second investigative section of the first investigative department for Central District of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft

24. S. Kiryukhin – head of the second investigative section of the first investigative department of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft

25. L. Kolobkova – deputy head of the first investigative department of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft

26. A. Prokopets – acting head of the first investigative department of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft

27. R. Erdniev – deputy head of the Directorate of Procedural Oversight over Investigations of Especially Important Cases in Federal Districts of the Russian Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft

28. Y. Tyutyunnik – acting head of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigations Committee overseeing the posthumous persecution of Sergei Magnitsky and the exoneration of officials implicated by Magnitsky in the US$230 million theft.

For further information please contact:

Global Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

info@lawandorderinrussia.org

www.lawandorderinrussia.org

www.billbrowder.com

twitter.com/Billbrowder

 
Extract from Mrs Magnitskaya’s Complaint against her son’s posthumous persecution

Below is an extract from the complaint filed with the Russian Interior Ministry by Mrs Magnitskaya’s lawyer against her son’s posthumous persecution:

“The investigation of this criminal case affects the constitutional rights of Mrs Magnitskaya and her deceased son.

Since the end of 2007 and in 2008 Sergei Magnitsky took active part in exposing the criminal group responsible for the theft of 5.4 billion roubles [US$230 million] from the state budget under the disguise of a tax refund.

Today, the investigation has numerous proofs that the theft had been committed by the criminal group which comprised heads of Moscow Tax Inspectorates No 25 and 28 E.Khimina and O.Stepanova and their subordinates; owner and employees of Universal Savings Bank; previously convicted Markelov, Kurochkin and Khlebnikov; officials from the Moscow Interior Ministry’s Tax Crime Department who assisted them, and others.

Furthermore, it is currently known that the same criminal group perpetrated a number of similar crimes, and the amount of funds stolen from the budget is about US$800 million. The theft of 5.4 billion roubles was not the first and not the last in the list of their crimes. Having unlimited financial resources at their disposal and having secured protection at the high administrative level, they have organised persecution against those who disrupted and exposed their criminal activity.

S. Magnitsky was placed into custody on 24 November 2008 soon after he gave testimony implicating members of this criminal group. In a little less than a year, on 16 November 2009, he was found dead in the cell of the collection unit of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center. The location and nature of injuries on his body indisputably testify to the violent causes of the death of S.Magnitsky.

After S. Magnitsky was physically eliminated, investigator O. Urzhumtsev created a knowingly false version of the crime, as purportedly committed by S. Magnitsky himself, which was aimed to compromise the deceased and was monstrous in its cynicism and injustice.

The decree to commence a criminal case, investigator O.Urzhumtsev included data about alleged complicity of S. Magnitsky in the 5.4 billion roubles theft, which in fact S.Magnitsky had uncovered.”

The complaint from Mrs Magnitskaya’s lawyer further says that the conclusion on complicity of S. Magnitsky in the wrong-doing is a knowing lie and slander, contrary to the article 8 of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code which stipulates that no one can be recognised as guilty in committing the offence in the absence of a court judgment.

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated in Turkey

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — An off-duty Turkish police officer shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey while shouting “don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” in an attack that appeared to be backlash against the Russian military’s involvement in Syria.

 

Russian ambassador to Turkey killed in attack in Turkey (Photo courtesy of the USA Today)

The attack on the ambassador, Andrei Karlov, occurred in the capital city of Ankara on the evening of December 19th. Mr. Karlov was shot while delivering a speech at the opening of an art exhibition entitled “Russia Through Turks’ Eyes” at Cagdas Sanat Merkezi. Footage from the scene showed a man dressed in a suit and tie standing calmly behind the ambassador. He then pulled out a gun, and fired eight shots. Mr. Karlov was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

While shooting the ambassador, the man shouted in Arabic: “Allahu akbar! Those who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for jihad!” He then continued shouting in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”

After the attack, which has been described as an “embarrassing security failure,” Turkish special forces surrounded the gallery, and killed the attacker during a shootout. The Turkish Interior Ministry identified the shooter as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, a police officer in Ankara’s riot police squad. Three others were also injured by Mr. Altintas in the incident.

The assassination took place days after Turkish protests over Russia’s support for the Syrian government, and Russia’s role in the killings and destruction in Aleppo. As a precaution, all Russian tourists in Turkey had been advised against leaving their hotel rooms or visiting public places. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that Turkey would increase security measures around Russian diplomatic buildings and people.

The Turkish Interior Minister, Mr. Suleyman Soylu, offered his condolences to the Russian federation, while Mr. Erdogan called the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to brief him on the attack. During their conversation, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Putin agreed to cooperate in investigating the assassination and combating terrorism.

Mr. Putin called the killing a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging strengthening ties between Russia and Turkey. He further stated that the attack was an attempt at disrupting Russia’s peace advancement in Syria undertaken with Turkey and Iran.

Russia’s head of the foreign relations committee, Mr. Konstantin Kosachev, stated that the repercussions of the attack would depend on the details of the incident. He noted that while “it could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists,” it could also have been “the work of a lone maniac.” He indicated that the future of Russia’s relations with Turkey would depend on the motives behind the attack.

The attack on Mr. Karlov cast doubt upon the ongoing evacuation attempts for civilians in Aleppo, which was secured by Russia and Turkey. Mr. Karlov had participated in the discussions with Turkey which had led to the evacuation deal.

For more information, please see:

New York Times—Russian Ambassador to Turkey Is Assassinated in Ankara—19 December 2016

CNN—Russia’s ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Ankara—19 December 2016

The Guardian—Russian ambassador to Turkey shot dead in Ankara art gallery—19 December 2016

The Washington Post—Turkish police officer, invoking Aleppo, guns down Russian ambassador in Ankara—19 December 2016

Hurriyet Daily News—Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov assassinated in Ankara—19 December 2016

 

Mining is Exacerbating Drought in Bolivia

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Report, South America

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA—Environmental and Land rights organizations have released reports claiming that the boom in the mining industry has exacerbated the severe drought hitting Bolivia. Bolivia is currently facing a water shortage. President Evo Morales declared a state of emergency in late November due to the shortage.

Frustrated citizens protest the water shortage in Bolivia. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
Frustrated citizens protest the water shortage in Bolivia. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Although the drought has severely impacted the water supply, the mining companies have further reduced the water supply, according to Environmentalist. Mining companies use an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of water on a daily basis which is the same amount of water used by the capital. As the mineral market continues to increase, the mining companies, regardless of the shortage of water, will increase the water intake. Hector Cordova, a mine engineer stated that “mining companies would continue to put an increase in profits ahead of drought-relayed consequences.” The mining companies have diverted water supplies and contaminated the water supply—an accusation the president of Bolivia denies. Reports have shown that the groundwater reserves are now below fifty percent.

Bolivia is currently facing the worst drought in over 25 years leading to water cuts in the country. The capital city is receiving water for three hours every three days. In the Corque municipality seventy percent of the population does not have drinking water. The drought has affected 177,000 families and has threatened both the agriculture and cattle industry. The President has allocated funds to local governments to drill wells in order to transport water.

The water shortage has caused frustration among residents. The leaders of the Federation of Town Councils held water and city official’s hostage demanding a resolution to the water shortage.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera—Bolivia Declares National Emergency Amid Drought—21 November 2016.

Reuters—Bolivia Declares State of Emergency Due to Drought, Water Shortage—21 November 2016.

Reuters—Mining Projects, Big Plantations Mean Bolivia’s Drought Hurts More: Campaigners—28 November 2016.

Al Jazeera—Is Mining to Blame for the Drought in Bolivia?—7 December 2016.

Germany Offers “Rent a Jew” Program to Combat Anti-Semitism

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

BERLIN, Germany —  Germany’s most recent attempt to combat anti-Semitism comes in the form of a program titled “Rent a Jew.”  Through the outreach program, those interested in learning more about the everyday lives of Jewish people are able to book a Jewish person for an informational session.  The program sends Jewish volunteers into German schools to speak about their experiences and to dispel commonly-held myths about the group.  The goal of the program is to draw light to the “ordinariness” of the Jewish community, and away from the view of the Jewish community as victims through the “Holocaust lens.”

The Rent-a-Jew website hopes to introduce Jewish people to the German community (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)
The Rent-a-Jew website hopes to introduce Jewish people to the German community (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)

Mascha Schmerling, one of the program’s leaders, tells reporters that the group’s aim is to “give people the chance to talk to the Jewish community.”  The group wants others to see that they are “completely normal people.”  Program organizer Alexander Rasumny explains that “[a] lot of people want to be more than just the regular Jewish stereotypes in Germany, reduced to victims. A lot of people want to be seen in their own right.”

As for the odd name of the program, Shmerling recognizes that they made the title “deliberately provocative” so that it would promote conversation.  According to Schmerling, the Jewish community is tired of hearing the anti-Semitic view that Jewish people are less valuable than other people.  The title of the program mixes humor and “chutzpah” as a step towards refuting such stereotypes.

On one recent trip to a German college, Shmerling and fellow speaker Monty Aviel Zeev Ott asked the students about rumors they have heard about Jewish people, and encouraged them to speak to any rumor even if it was unflattering.  On the trip, the Rent a Jew speakers also spoke to their holiday traditions, worship practices, and family recipes.

The Jewish speakers volunteer the time and do not get paid for their services, although the organization’s website suggests that hosts are welcome to pitch in for travel expenses of the volunteers if they are willing.  Students who have participated in the program thus far have described their experiences as “enlightening.”

 

For more information, please see:

NY Daily News — Germany’s Rent a Jew Program Hopes to Combat Anti-Semitism — 17 December 2016

Arutz Sheva — Germany Offers ‘Rent A Jew’ Services — 16 December 2016

Vox — “Rent a Jew” is an Actual Thing in Germany.  And, Amazingly, its a Good Idea. — 15 December 2016

Telegraph — Rent a Jew Service Now Available in Germany — 12 December 2016

Chemical Attack Blamed for Deaths and Injuries of Civilians and Children in Syria

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured in an attack believed to have been caused by chemical weapons.

At least 28 children have died following a suspected chemical attack in Syria (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) indicated that an odorless and colorless gas was released during heavy airstrikes which lasted over one hour near the ancient city of Palmyra. The odorless characteristic of the gas lends itself to the suggestion that the attack may have been sarin, rather than chlorine, which has a distinct smell.

The attacks are being blamed for the deaths of at least 90 individuals, including at least 28 children, and the injuries of over 300 civilians. The organization further stated that the number of casualties was high due to shortages of medical staff trained in chemical weapons response. The UOSSM stated that the majority of those who lost their lives appear to be children who “died very quickly after foaming at the mouth due to exposure to the gas.” Medics at the scene indicated that the children appear to have experienced symptoms such as “convulsions, suffocation, vomiting, dilated pupils and coughing blood.”

The UOSSM released pictures of the bodies of deceased children lined up on the ground in Syria, with discoloration around the eyes and foaming of the mouth. The graphic images did not appear to display any evidence of visible, physical injuries.

The attacks have attracted international outrage. The CEO of UOSSM, Dr. Khaula Sawah, released a statement in which she indicated “I just cannot describe the situation any more. 100 people, mostly children and women, die instantly from exposure to an unknown chemical gas.” She went on to say that the international community and responsible parties have not responded to constant calls for ending this “massacre.” Her statement indicated that “genocide is occurring, people are being massacred and action has yet to be taken.” The Chair of UOSSM in Canada, Dr. Anas Al Kassem, declared “we cannot stand one more day of horrors. Every day a new sadistic action is taken against the people of Syria as the world looks on dumbly.”

The head of the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, Mr. Rami Abdel Rahman, indicated that he could not confirm whether the airstrikes were carried out by Syrian or Russian warplanes.

The Syrian government, and its Russian supporters, have long denied using chemical weapons. A U.N. panel which conducted a year-long probe into Syrian attacks, however, determined that Syrian government forces carried out three chlorine gas attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015. The panel, which included experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, further found that ISIS was responsible for a mustard gas attack in Syria in August 2015.

For more information, please see:

Daily Mail—Heartbreaking images show the bodies of dead children lined up on the streets in Syria after they died in a ‘gas attack’—13 December 2016

Independent—While the world watches Aleppo, Assad may have just used sarin gas on civilians near Palmyra—14 December 2016

BBC News—Palmyra: ‘Chemical gas attack’ hits IS-held Syrian area—12 December 2016

Reuters—Syrian Observatory reports suspected gas attack in Islamic State area near Palmyra—12 December 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

David M. Crane Helps Draft UN General Assembly “Syrian Accountability Center” Resolution

UPDATE: According to Reuters, the UN General Assembly passed the resolution “to establish a special team to ‘collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence’ as well as to prepare cases on war crimes and human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Syria” on Dec. 21, 2016. The vote was “105 in favor, 15 against and 52 abstentions. The team will work in coordination with the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry.” Read more.

Evidence that war crimes have been committed during the five-year-old Syrian Civil War is hard to ignore. TV images, photographs, news reports, and social media posts from the front lines and throughout Syria have documented the torture of political enemies, the use of chemical weapons, sexual violence as a weapon of war, indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilian centers, the siege of cities, attacks on humanitarian efforts, and more.

Not all of this documentary, eyewitness, or anecdotal evidence can be used to bring justice to those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity or war crimes, but in cases where it will be useful to future prosecutors, it must be carefully collected, filed, and analyzed. There are a number of ongoing documentation efforts, one of the most thorough being that of David M. Crane, Professor of Practice at Syracuse Law, INSCT Faculty Member, and Founding Prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Over the past five years Crane has kept track of the evidence of atrocities with help from his students in the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP).

Now Crane is pushing the international community to make further use of his, and others’, documentation by helping to draft a resolution, which is being brought before the United Nations General Assembly, to establish an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic Since March 2011.”

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on the resolution on Dec. 21, 2016. The vote’s outcome is hard to predict. Although many in the international community recognize and condemn Syrian atrocities, that does not mean there is political will to create a postconflict justice mechanism for the people of Syria. As The New York Times explains, “The International Criminal Court, whose reason for being is to try the worst perpetrators of the world’s worst war crimes, has no jurisdiction over Syria, which is not a member of the court [and efforts] by the United Nations Security Council to refer the conflict in Syria to the court have been blocked by Russia.”

Nor is there currently any appetite, the article continues, to set up a special tribunal like the one in which Crane prosecuted former Liberian President Charles Taylor, helping to bring justice to the people of Sierra Leone. But, as Crane says, “We have to be seen to be doing something for the people of Syria!”

Specifically, the proposal suggests the UN assist Syrian justice by developing what Crane calls an “accountability center” to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of alleged war crimes, such as that being collected by the SAP. Work done by the accountability center would be “in accordance with international standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes.”

“I proposed this effort to the ambassadors of Qatar and Lichtenstein in September and briefed a dozen ambassadors in November,” explains Crane. “The resolution, which I helped draft, is the result of these conversations. The accountability center concept is a way to standardize the collection of evidence and to build a solid, legally supportable case against those who are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.”

Although its backing would carry a great deal of weight, The New York Times reports that “the United States has not said whether it supports the measure [but it] is separately funding a group of lawyers who are collecting evidence that can be used in future legal proceedings.” Nevertheless, the resolution has received support from one of the most influential, US-based rights organizations. On Dec. 19, 2016, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote a letter urging governments “to support the UN General Assembly resolution … The creation of such a mechanism could deter those contemplating further atrocities against civilians in Syria. Potential perpetrators need to know that the world is watching and they may one day find themselves behind bars. This is fully within the General Assembly’s authority.”

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Resolution: International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic Since March 2011 (Proposed by Lichtenstein)

http://un-report.blogspot.com/2016/12/liechtenstein-unga-draft-resolution-on.html

The General Assembly,

¶1 Guided by the Charter of the United Nations,

¶2 Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶3 Recalling the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, in particular Human Rights Council resolution S-17/1 that established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶4 Welcoming the ongoing work carried out by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and recalling its reports1 and the recommendations contained therein,

¶5 Expressing its appreciation for the work carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism and recalling its reports2 and the conclusions contained therein,

¶6 Recognizing the work of Syrian and international civil society actors in documenting violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law in the Syrian Arab Republic during the conflict,

¶7 Noting with concern the impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law committed during the conflict, in the Syrian Arab Republic which has provided a fertile ground for further violations and abuses,

¶8 Recalling the statements made by the Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed in the Syrian Arab Republic,

¶9 Noting the repeated encouragement by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Security Council to refer the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic to the International Criminal Court,

  1. Emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic or international level, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards this goal to ensure justice for all victims and contribute to the prevention of future violations;
  2. Stresses the need for any political process aimed at resolving the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic to ensure credible and comprehensive accountability for the most serious crimes committed in the country to bring about reconciliation and sustainable peace;
  3. Welcomes the efforts by States to investigate and prosecute crimes within their jurisdiction committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with their national legislation and international law, and encourages other States to consider doing the same and to share relevant information to this end with other States;
  4. Decides to establish an “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011” under the auspices of the United Nations to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of such crimes and prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings in accordance with international standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes;
  5. Requests the Secretary-General, in this regard, within 20 working days of the adoption of this resolution, to develop Terms of Reference of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism with the support of OHCHR, and requests further that the Secretary-General undertakes without delay the steps, measures and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the Impartial and Independent Mechanism, initially funded by voluntary contributions, in coordination with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and building on existing capacities, including recruiting or allocating impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise in accordance with the Terms of Reference;
  6. Calls upon all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to effectively fulfill its mandate, and in particular to provide it with any information and documentation they may possess pertaining to the above-mentioned crimes as well as any other forms of assistance;
  7. Requests the United Nations system as a whole to fully cooperate with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and to promptly respond to any request, including access to all information and documentation, and decides that the Mechanism closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in all aspects of its work;
  8. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within 45 days of its adoption and decides to revisit the question of funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism as soon as possible.

( This article was originally published by Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and can be found here.)

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

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.

Syria

Following a three-week pause in airstrikes on opposition-held Eastern Aleppo, the Syrian government renewed their bombardment on 15 November. As of 20 November the World Health Organization reported that the 250,000 Syrians still trapped inside the city are entirely without access to emergency medical care following airstrikes on the few remaining hospitals. Local health authorities have also reported civilians suffering symptoms of chlorine exposure following a suspected 22 November chemical attack by government helicopters. Non-state armed groups have also continued shelling residential areas of western Aleppo, including a direct hit on a school on 20 November, killing eight children. In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 21 November, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien called for an end to all attacks on civilians and an immediate lifting of the siege by Syrian government forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in the 60 days since the cessation of hostilities collapsed, 834 civilians have been killed in East Aleppo. In light of the failure by the Security Council to uphold its responsibility to protect the long-suffering people of Syria, the UN General Assembly should immediately take up the issue.

South Sudan

On 17 November the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, briefed the UN Security Council on his recent visit to South Sudan, warning that there is a “strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide.” Special Adviser Dieng called upon the Council to request that the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) monitor, investigate and report on all incidents of hate speech and urged Council members to impose an arms embargo, noting the devastating impact of the proliferation of arms. During the meeting the Permanent Representative of the United States, Samantha Power, announced her delegation’s intention to put forward a resolution for an arms embargo on South Sudan. The draft resolution should be adopted without delay.

Burma/Myanmar

Burma/Myanmar’s army continues to undertake violent “clearance operations” in ethnic Rohingya areas of Arakan/Rakhine state following the 9 October attacks on border posts. According to Human Rights Watch, during these operations security forces have razed more than 1,250 homes in five Rohingya villages, with more than 820 destroyed since 10 November. On 18 November the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, criticized the government for placing the region on “lockdown” for six weeks and for its “blanket denial” of human rights violations, urging an immediate investigation into reports of torture, sexual violence and summary executions. An estimated 30,000 people have been displaced from Arakan/Rakhine state since 9 October and emergency humanitarian access remains suspended for an estimated 160,000 people. The UN Refugee Agency has appealed for neighboring countries to allow safe passage to civilians fleeing violence amidst reports that Bangladesh has closed its border to Rohingya asylum seekers.

Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin

Despite a Nigerian government offensive against Boko Haram, over the past two weeks the extremist group has reportedly escalated its attacks. Employing scorched earth tactics, Boko Haram has razed nine villages in Borno state. The town of Chibok, where hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped in April 2014, is currently under siege by Boko Haram. The group also carried out multiple suicide attacks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on 18 November, and perpetrated three attacks in northern Cameroon on 21 and 22 November, including an attempted suicide bombing of a camp for displaced civilians.

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Syrian Network for Human Rights: 23,863 Children Killed in Syria since March 2011

23,863 Children Killed in Syria since March 2011
The Bleeding Innocence

I. Introduction and Methodology:
The children of Syria have been the victim of all sorts of violations since March 2011. Children are one of the vulnerable groups which why they should be especially considered. However, we haven’t noticed any form of special care and consideration for them as their schools are being systematically targeted by the Syrian regime and its allies who are, evidently, deliberately targeting the future generations of Syria in retaliation of the areas that called for changing the ruling regime and sought to repel against its control.
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Xinjiang: China’s Anti-Terrorism Campaign Is Linked to Its Persecution of Uighurs

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

For years, unrest in China’s Xinjiang region has led to the injury and deaths of hundreds of people. Muslim people in the region, predominantly the Uighurs, have experienced persecution under the Chinese government, which claims that such actions are part of its growing campaign against terrorism.

For years, there has been violence between Chinese security forces and the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)
For years, there has been violence between Chinese security forces and the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Previously, Xinjiang was a short-lived independent state named East Turkestan, before China asserted control over the region in 1949. Xinjiang was historically not considered part of China before that point.

The ethnic majority in Xinjiang is made up by the Han Chinese. About 10 million Uighurs also live in Xinjiang, and make up nearly half of the population in the region. Many Uighurs live in southern Xinjiang, which is the poorest area in the region.

Xinjiang is rich in natural resources like oil, coal, and natural gas, and because of those resources, the Chinese government has provided incentives to Chinese citizens in order to facilitate their moving and settling there. Due to these incentives, many Han Chinese have migrated to the Xinjiang region. The presence of the Han Chinese in the region has grown exponentially in recent years, with an increase from the Han making up 6.7% of the population in the region to over 40% of the population in 2008. That migration is yet another factor impacting the presence of conflict in Xinjiang.

China’s government states that the violence in the area is due to the mobilization of Islamic separatist and militant groups and that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uighur Muslim separatist group, is the primary instigator of tension in the region.

ETIM is an al-Qaeda affiliated militant group and is concentrated in nearby states Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group has fought for some time to establish an independent state for the Uighurs. China blames ETIM for over two hundred terrorism-related attacks thatoccurred from 1990-2001, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, a United States based independent think tank.

While ETIM was officially considered an active terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda by both the United States and China in 2002, some experts on the region have questioned how active the group has remained in Xinjiang. Prior to recent years, the violence in the region appeared be directed toward local governments in response to their treatment of the Uighurs.

Rather than ETIM, human rights groups believe it is truly Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs fueling the ongoing conflict in Xinjiang. According to their view, it is the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uighurs, including its blaming of the Uighurs for fueling terrorist uprisings in the region and its curtailment of the Uighurs’ religious and cultural practices, that has contributed to that unrest.

Uighurs in Xinjiang. (Photo courtesy of the Telegraph)
Uighurs in Xinjiang. (Photo courtesy of the Telegraph)

Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International has referred to the unrest as “homegrown self-radicalization that is made worse by repressive policies and an attempt to hollow out Uighur culture and religious practices.”

The Chinese Communist Party has an agenda against what it perceives as “three evils” of extremism, separatism, and terrorism. According to the 2015 annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the Communist Party’s campaign against the said evils has “manifested in a heavy-handed security apparatus and led to the adoption of a repressive approach to Islam in Xinjiang”.

Human rights groups state that China overstates the threat of Uighur separatists to justify its restrictions on the Uighurs. Some experts also state that the Chinese government may also be overstating the extent of ETIM’s growth in the region.

China’s repression of the Uighurs has heightened since 2009, as anti-terrorism efforts have become increasingly important to the Chinese government. As that repression heightens, conflict in the region also appears to have increased significantly.

In 2009, there were ethnic riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, which caused thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. Since 2013, there have also been attacks on a coal mine, a mosque, a market, train station, and in Tiananmen Square, all of which the Chinese government linked to Uighur militants.

Following a set of attacks in Urumqi that killed 43 people in 2014, Chinese officials began a “strike hard special operation” against terrorist forces in the country. The Chinese government has noted that that the operation facilitated the elimination of 200 terrorist groups and the execution of least 49 people.

Also in 2015, Chinese authorities hunted down alleged perpetrators of the coal mine attack in Xinjiang. Security forces killed 28 suspects in the process, women and children among them.

Following the Urumqi riots in 2009, Chinese authorities began to take measures to curb the perceived threat of terrorism in Xinjiang, such as building fences throughout the regions and closing off entire neighborhoods for security inspections. Uighurs are often required to display identification before entering their neighborhoods, while Han Chinese living in the same neighborhoods do not have to adhere to the same requirement.

Heavy security in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)
Heavy security in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Authorities in Xinjiang maintain security checkpoints to check the ID cards and cellphones of citizens, primarily those of Uighurs. Cellphones are of particular interest to officials because they may contain apps or other software contributing to jihadist causes or allowing owners to communicate with individuals outside of China.

Uighurs are also disallowed from certain religious practices, including the covering of the head and face and accessing religious centers. Fasting during Ramadan is also strictly governed.

Many Uighurs are also discouraged from traveling, especially abroad, and some are even denied travel documents. Even those who are ultimately able to obtain travel documents go through an arduous process in order to be approved for those documents. In June 2016, the Chinese government determined that people in Yili, in Xinjiang’s north-western region, would need to present DNA or other biological evidence when applying for travel documents.

Human rights advocates that have worked to eradicate conflict in Xinjiang face repression by the Chinese government as well. One such advocate, economist and Uighur supporter Ilham Tohti, was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged separatism after he called for reconciliation between the Chinese and Uighurs. This year, two years after his imprisonment commenced, Mr. Tohti was announced as the winner of the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders. The Martin Ennals Foundation described Mr. Tohti’s work as that which fostered dialogue and understanding between the Han and Uighur populations in Xinjiang, but China’s foreign ministry stated that the activist’s case has nothing to do with human rights and is based purely on his separatist activities.

Ilham Tohti, a Uigher and advocate for mending relations between the Chinese and Uighurs, was imprisoned in 2014. (Photo courtesy of the Guardian)

Additionally, members of the media, both foreign and national, have experienced persecution for their portrayal of the Uighur plight. It is difficult for foreign press to infiltrate Xinjiang to deliver news coverage of ongoing events, so coverage is limited. Officials in the region often do not respond to requests for interviews, and the aforementioned security checkpoints keep journalists from reaching specific parts of the region.

In December 2015, a French journalist was expelled from the country for an article that criticized Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region and its treatment of the Uighurs. The journalist, Ursula Gauthier, published a story indicating that China could be using the Paris attacks to justify its crackdowns in Xinjiang. Ms. Gauthier’s expulsion was the first foreign journalist to be expelled from China since 2012.

Even those who work for state-run media are not safe from punishment for what the government perceives as criticism of its policies regarding the Uighurs. In November 2015, the editor of newspaper Xinjiang Daily, was expelled from the state’s official Communist Party and subjected to legal review for his improper discussion of clashes in the Xinjiang region.

China’s crackdown on the Uighurs may in turn have driven some Uighurs to join terrorist organizations. When news sources began to report that Uighurs were fighting alongside affiliates of al-Qaeda in 2015, it became clear that some Uighurs were vulnerable to al-Qaeda and Islamic State recruitment techniques.

Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have pointedly highlighted the Uighurs’ treatment by the Chinese in Xinjiang. In December 2015, Islamic State’s foreign media division, Al Hayat Media Center, released a recording of a chant in Chinese which called for Muslims to rise up and fight for the Islamic State. It was unclear whether the chant designated China as a target, but China was previously identified by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a state in which the rights of Muslims are seized.

Additionally, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi denounced China’s treatment of the Uighurs and other Muslims earlier this year and spoke of an Islamic state reaching from Morocco to Xinjiang.

A report released in July 2016 by the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, indicated that 114 Uighurs from Xinjiang had been recruited by the Islamic State. The report, which was based on leaked registration documents of Islamic State recruits, stated that policies enacted in the region could be a “push factor driving people to leave the country and look elsewhere for a sense of ‘belonging’.”

Earlier this year, a suicide bombing at the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan was carried out by Zoir Khalilov, an ethnic Uighur who reportedly was an ETIM member. The GKNB, the State Committees of National Security for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, reported that Uighur terrorist groups committed the attack and that Nusra Front, a splinter group of al-Qaeda in Syria, financed the attack.

The bombing was the first time a Chinese embassy has ever been attacked by a terrorist organization. Several other individuals were detained or arrested in connection with the attack.

China has increased its anti-terrorism efforts targeted at the Uighurs by joining efforts with other states. For example, in 2015, Thailand deported a group of 100 Uighurs who were attempting to reach Turkey and other nations that could offer refuge. The Chinese government claimed that the deportees were militants who intended to join the jihadist movement in Syria. Thailand’s deportation sparked protests in front of a Chinese embassy and an honorary consulate in the country.

In August 2016, China instituted an anti-terrorism alliance with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, all whom border with the Xinjiang region. China and Tajikistan held anti-terrorism drills in October, with over 400 troops participating.

China’s President, Xi Jinping, visited Saudi Arabia in 2016 to discuss expanding security cooperation in the fight against terrorism. In October 2016, China and Saudi Arabia held joint anti-terrorism drills in southwest China, with about 50 individuals participating.

Anti-terrorism forces in China. (Photo courtesy of Time)
Anti-terrorism forces in China. (Photo courtesy of Time)

At the 2016 G20 Summit in September, President Jinping and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pledged to strengthen ties in order to fight terrorism. Turkey and China previously had discord between them regarding China’s treatment of the Uighurs, who ethnically identify as Turkish. Some Muslim political groups in Turkey have denounced China’s treatment of the Uighurs, and at one point, Turkish protesters marched on the Chinese embassy and consulate in Turkey to fight that treatment. Jinping and Erdogan’s pledge to increase ties between their states seems to have overshadowed that discord at least for the time being.

President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, meeting at the G20 Summit. (Photo courtesy of International Business Times)
President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, meeting at the G20 Summit. (Photo courtesy of International Business Times)

China’s relations with Western nations regarding its anti-terrorism campaign and treatment of the Uighurs have not been as fruitful. Many critics of China’s treatment of the Uighurs and its anti-terrorism campaign point to China’s lack of transparency.

In June of this year in its annual anti-terrorism report, the U.S. State Department questioned China on its anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang, citing its lack of transparency and its effect on anti-terrorism cooperative efforts. China responded with a statement citing the need for the United States to respect China’s fight against militants in the region.

In November 2015, China’s state-run media also came out with a series of articles criticizing western nations for their failure to support China in its fight against Uighur militants in Xinjiang, stating that those nations refused to treat the Uighurs’ actions as acts of terrorism.

 

For more information, please see: 

Al Jazeera – China, Saudi Arabia Hold Joint “Anti-Terror” Drills – 27 October 2016

Associated Press – Rising Uighur Militancy Changes Security Landscape for China – 9 September 2016

Associated Press via San Diego Union-Tribune – AP EXPLAINS: How Uighur Militants are Affecting China – 9 September 2016

The Atlantic – The Limits of Chinese Isolationism – 17 October 2016

BBC –Chinese Police Require DNA for Passports in Xinjiang – 7 June 2016

BBC – China Xinjiang Daily Editor Sacked After “Anti-Terror Criticism” – 2 November 2015

CNBC – As China Fights Uighurs in Xinjiang, Complaints Rise Over West’s View – 25 November 2015

The Diplomat – China’s Nightmare: Xinjiang Jihadists Go Global – 17 August 2016

The Economist – Xinjiang: The Race Card – 3 September 2016

The Epoch Times – CHINA SECURITY: China Uses Paris Attacks to Promote Persecution of Uyghurs – 24 November 2015

The Financial Times – Syria-based Uighur Militants Linked to Chinese Embassy Bombing – 7 September 2016

The Guardian – Ilham Tohti, Uighur Imprisoned for Life by China, Wins Major Human Rights Prize – 11 October 2016

The Guardian – China Expels French Journalist Who Questioned Treatment of Uighurs – 26 December 2015

International Business Times – China’s Jinping Meets Turkey’s Erdogan; Both Countries Pledge to Step up Counter Terrorism Cooperation – 3 September 2016

The New York Times – Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown – 2 January 2016

The New York Times – ISIS Extends Recruitment Efforts to China With New Chant – 8 December 2015

Reuters – China, Turkey Pledge to Deepen Counter-Terrorism Cooperation – 3 September 2016

TIME – Five Ways China Has Become More Repressive Under President Xi Jinping – 6 October 2016

TIME – China Will Have to Get Used to Being a Terrorist Target – 31 August 2016

TIME – Uighur Extremists Joining Isis Poses a Security and Economic Headache for China’s Xi Jinping – 21 July 2016

UNPO – EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy Recognizes Persistent Threats to Minorities – 26 September 2016

UNPO – East Turkestan: Daily Harassment and Physical Segregation of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Region – 24 August 2016

UNPO – East Turkestan: U.S. Criticizes Chinese Anti-Terror Campaign – 6 June 2016

War on the Rocks – Counterterrorism or Repression? China Takes on Uighur Militants – 18 April 2016

 

Saudi Arabia Sentences Fifteen to Death After Convicting of Spying for Iran

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A Saudi Arabian court issued death sentences to 15 individuals, and prison sentences ranging from six months to 25 years for an additional 15 individuals, after they were convicted of spying for Iran.

15 sentenced to death following convictions of spying for Iran (Photo courtesy of The Times of Israel)

In February 2016, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court initiated trial proceedings against 32 men: 30 members of the country’s Shia Muslim minority, an Iranian citizen, and an Afghani national. They were accused of “treason, setting up a spy ring, and passing on sensitive data to military zones.” Saudi Arabian media indicated that the defendants provided Iran, the country’s long-term rival, with sensitive national security information which attacked the nation’s “territorial unity and integrity,” as well as its armed forces. The defendants were accused of meeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, coordinating with Iranian intelligence agents, possessing weapons, forging documents, and accepting bribes. Additionally, prosecutors alleged that they were attempting to sabotage the country’s economy, “undermine social peace and public order, spread chaos, incite sectarian strife, and carry out ‘hostile acts’” against the nation. The charges further included allegations of traveling to Iran and Lebanon for the purpose of receiving training on espionage techniques.

A lawyer who represented a majority of the defendants, Mr. Taha al-Hajji, informed Amnesty International that his clients were detained between 2013 and 2014 without an arrest warrant, and secretly imprisoned for approximately three months. During the trial, some defendants testified that they were threatened with solitary confinement. They further indicated that they were coerced into signing confession statements on the grounds that they would be “banned from having contact with their families” if they declined to do so.

Amnesty International has characterized the trial process as “grossly unfair.” The defendants were held in custody for nearly three years without charges or a trial. Once proceedings were initiated, the defendants were charged with an “exhaustive list” of accusations, comprising nearly 100 pages. At that point, Mr. Hajji indicates, some defendants had just met their attorneys for the first time. Furthermore, several lawyers complained that they had not been permitted to meet with their clients, view evidence, or prepare adequate defenses.

The Deputy Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International’s Beirut office, Mr. Samah Hadid, issued a statement in which he stated that it is a “slap in the face” to sentence 15 people to death after a “farcical trial which flouted basic fair trial standards.” He further indicated that the legal proceedings in this case have made a “mockery of justice.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has denied any instances of Iranian spying in Saudi Arabia, while indicating that the accusations are “baseless and serve political motives.”

For more information, please see:

The Independent—Saudi Arabia sentences 15 people to death over Iranian spy case—6 December 2016

BBC News—Fifteen Saudi Shia sentenced to death for ‘spying for Iran’—6 December 2016

Reuters—Saudi court sentences 15 people to death for spying for Iran—6 December 2016

International Business Times—Saudi Arabia sentences 15 people to death over accusations of spying for Iran—7 December 2016

 

Stolen Nazi Concentration Camp Gate Found in Norway

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

OSLO, Norway — After receiving an anonymous tip, authorities in a suburb of southwestern Norway found part of a wrought iron gate that was stolen more than two years ago from a former Nazi death camp.  The gate was a part of the Dachau concentration camp, and bears the slogan “Arbeit macht frei” which translates to “Work sets you free.”

 

The stolen gate bears the words
The stolen gate bears the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Will Set You Free” (Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post)

 

The 220 pound gate was stolen from under guarded watch in November 2014, and is believed by German authorities to have been stolen as part of an organized crime.  The gate was made by prisoners in a workshop at the Dachau camp.  Prisoners entering the camp passed through the gate, as it served as a barrier between their imprisonment and the outside world.

The Dachau concentration camp, located near Munich, was established under Nazi rule in 1933.  Over 200,000 people from across Europe were held at the camp, and over 40,000 died there.

After the camp closed it was turned into a memorial, and the theft of the gate sparked significant international outcry.  The memorial’s director explains this rage, describing the gate as “the central symbol for the prisoners’ ordeal.”  Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial called the theft “an offensive attack on the memory of the Holocaust.”  German chancellor Angela Merkel called the theft of the gate “appalling.”

Recovery of the stolen gate has brought much comfort to those who were upset about its theft.  Jean-Michel Thomas, president of the International Dachau Committee which represents former prisoners from the camp, was “very happy” with the discovery of the gate.  Margrethe Myrmehl Gudbrandsen, a police spokeswoman in Norway, explained that Norway decided to leave the announcement of the recovery to the Germans out of respect for its symbolism.  Gudbrandsen said that the Norwegian authorities “understand this gate is an important monument for Germany.”

While the gate was missing, a replica was installed in its place during events marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.  Another gate with the same inscription on it was stolen in 2009 from Auschwitz, however has since been recovered.

The investigation of how the sign was stolen might be implicated by the lack of “usable evidence” surrounding the discovery.  The sign is now under police care, and they do not yet have any suspects.

 

For more information, please see:

The Huffington Post –Nazi Death Camp Gate Found in Norway 2 Years After Being Stolen From Dachau — 3 December 2016

NBC — Stolen Dachau Concentration Camp Gate Found in Norway — 3 December 2016

CBS — Dachau Gate Appears to be Found in Norway — 2 December 2016

The Guardian — Dachau Concentration Camp Gate Found Two Years After it was Stolen — 2 December 2016

The New York Times — ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ Gate Thought to be Stolen from Dachau is Found — 2 December 2016

 

Saudi Arabia Extends Prison Sentence of Human Rights Activist

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A Saudi Arabian court extended a human rights activist’s jail sentence by two years, from nine to eleven years.

Human rights activist Issa Al-Hamid will now serve eleven years in prison (Photo courtesy of Arabian Business)

Mr. Issa Al-Hamid, a Saudi Arabian human rights defender, had received a prison sentence of nine years in April 2016 for a “long list” of charges, which included “communicating false information to undermine the image of the state.” The charges referenced online articles written and statements made by Mr. Hamid in which he had called upon the Saudi king to order an investigation into rights abuses. He had further spoken about issues such as the right to demonstrate.

Following an appeal, on December 1st, the Specialized Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia increased Mr. Hamid’s prison sentence to eleven years. It further imposed a travel ban of equal duration, in addition to a fine of 100,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately $27,000 USD).

The group with which Mr. Hamid was associated, Saudi Arabia’s Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was shut down by Saudi authorities in 2013. All of its founders have subsequently been sentenced to prison in connection with their “peaceful human rights activities.”

Mr. Samah Hadid, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International, stated that the extended prison sentence is another example of the authorities’ “continuous ruthless and relentless crackdown on political dissidents” in the country. He indicated that the decision is a reflection of the “regime’s unabated persecution of human rights defenders.”

Mr. Hadid stated that these “blatantly unfair proceedings” appear to be “designed to silence” individuals who are attempting to “expose the Kingdom’s incessant human rights violations.” He urged Saudi authorities to “urgently quash the unjust conviction” of Mr. Hamid, as well as the convictions of all other human rights defenders. He further stated that Mr. Hamid and his two brothers, who are both doctors, have paid a high price for defending human rights, and noted that such individuals should be “protected and recognized, not sentenced and imprisoned.”

Saudi Arabia has long been the subject of international criticism due to its lack of protection for human rights, “draconian restrictions on freedom of speech,” and severe punishments for those opposing the regime.

For more information, please see:

Press TV—Saudi court increases human rights activist’s prison sentence by two years—2 December 2016

Middle East Online—Saudi increases jail term for rights activist to 11 years—1 December 2016

Amnesty International—Saudi Arabia increases ruthless sentence in unfair trial of human rights defender to 11 years—1 December 2016

 

Egyptian Journalists Union Head Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

CAIRO, Egypt– The Union Head of Egyptian Journalists was sentenced to two years in prison on November 19th.   Yahia Qalash — the head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate — and board members Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim were convicted for harboring wanted journalists.

Yehia Qallash at a protest rally outside the Journalist Syndicate headquarters in Cairo. Photo: 4 May 2016

Yahia Qalash speaks in front of Union headquarters. (Photo Courtesy BBC)

Prosecutors ordered Qalash, al-Balshy, and Abdel Rahim tried for harboring wanted journalists who spread lies.  These journalists came under fire after they started protests after the Egyptian government turned over two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.  Many Egyptians see this as an unconstitutional, non transparent act.

Qalash, al-Balshy, and Abdel Rahim have the opportunity to appeal their convictions.  In the meantime their bail has been set at $630.  They have the opportunity to go about their business as they await appeal.  This is the first time that the Union Head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate has been arrest in the unions over 75 year history.

Human rights activists are not pleased that Qalash, al-Balshy, and Abdel Rahim were put on trial.  Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said, “This case shouldn’t have gone to court to begin with,…the decision is political…we are not talking about the law and judiciary.”  Dozens of other opposition journalists have been arrested under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi rule, who has ensured that dissenters are quashed quickly.

For more information, please see: 

ABC News Austrailia – Head of Egypt press union sentenced to two years’ jail for harbouring wanted journalists – 19 November 2016

BBC – Egypt journalist’ union head gets two-year jail term – 19 November 2016

Wall Street Journal – Head of Egyptian Press Union Gets Two Years in Prison – 19 November 2016