Tensions Rise with North Korea as Another U.S. Citizen is Detained

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

Tensions are rising with North Korea as Kim Jong Un continues to threaten the United States. North Korea has actively begun a campaign to grow its nuclear weapons supply and develop means to convey those weapons further than has ever been possible for the autarkic country. Last week, the country put on a display of its power in a military parade through the capital. A few days later, the North Korean government tested its long-range missiles, which failed almost immediately.

North Korea paraded its missiles in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

This week, North Korea has stated it is “ready to sink” a U.S. aircraft carrier headed its way. The aircraft carrier was dispatched by President Donald Trump amid warnings that U.S. patience towards North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has come to an end.

Even more troublesome is the detention of a third U.S. citizen in North Korea. On April 21, 2017, Korean-American Tony Kim was detained as he attempted to leave the country. Kim had spent a month teaching an accounting course at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. His arrest is the third arrest of U.S. citizens trying to leave the country.

The human rights implications of North Korea’s actions are vast. It is unclear what conditions U.S. prisoners face in North Korea. Additionally, North Korea’s willingness to use nuclear weapons is a major national security concern for every nation on Earth. It is unclear what lies ahead, but it is clear that measures need to be taken to ease tensions between North Korea and the U.S.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – North Korea detains third U.S. citizen – 23 April, 2017

CNBC – North Korea reportedly detains US citizen as rhetoric, tensions ramp up – 23 April, 2017

Sydney Morning Herald – North Korean threats will leave alliance countries little choice – 24 April, 2017

BBC – North Korea ‘ready to sink’ US aircraft carrier Vinson – 23 April, 2017


Ireland Votes to Amend Abortion Laws

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

DUBLIN, Ireland — Members of the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland voted for a constitutional amendment that would mandate the Oireachtas to deal with the issue of abortion.  The vote came out 51-38, and resulted in the decision that Article 40.3.3 (the Eight Amendment, which protects the “right to life of the unborn”) “should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman.”

Protestors rally in Dublin to demand more liberal abortion laws (Photo Courtesy of the Independent)

The alternative option was for Article 40.3.3 to be “replaced or amended with a constitutional provision that directly addresses the termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman.”  This option would have specified in the constitution under which circumstances abortion would be allowed, and would limit the powers of the Oirechtas to legislate on the issue.

Pro-choice activist groups are disappointed that Citizens’ Assembly did not recommend the law be repealed entirely.  The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign commented that they are “disappointed that after six months of deliberations – which included the heartfelt testimony of women forced to travel for abortions – that the Citizens’ Assembly has opted against recommending the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment.”  The group did note, however, that they are “heartened that 87 per cent of members did vote for some form of constitutional change – proving the majority believe the Eighth is not fit for purpose.”

Brian Murray SC addressed members of Citizens’ Assembly on the same issue previously, and warned that a complete repeal of the Eighth Amendment might not lead to a more liberal abortion regime.

Some heated exchanges took place after the vote between Assembly members.  Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy commented that it was a “fraught” day for members, and asked members to be “respectful of [their] fellow citizens and alternative viewpoints” in the final session on Sunday.   Ms Justice Laffoy hopes that the members will “regain collegiality.”

This upcoming Sunday, members will analyze eight different scenarios in which the Oireachtas might legislate on the issue of abortion.  Some of these issues include a real and substantial physical risk the woman’s life, a serious risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, and availability upon request with no restrictions as to reasons for the abortion.


For more information, please see:

Dublin Live — Citizens’ Assembly: 87% in Favour of Changing Ireland’s Abortion Laws — 22 April 2017

The Guardian — Abortion in Ireland: Committee Votes for Constitutional Change — 22 April 2017

Independent — Irish Citizens Assembly Votes to Amend Abortion Laws — 22 April 2017

Irish Times — Assembly Votes to Mandate Oireachtas to Legislate for Abortion — 22 April 2017

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Statement on the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points


28 April 2017 Web Version


Statement on the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points

The Government of the State of Qatar, in association with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, co-hosted the seventh annual meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points in Doha, Qatar, from 24 to 25 April. This was the first meeting of the Global Network to take place in the Middle East region.
The meeting brought together senior government officials from more than 40 countries as well as representatives from the European Union and United Nations, including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Mr. Ivan Simonovic. During the meeting the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, also addressed the R2P Focal Points via video.
During the two-day meeting participants discussed challenges and opportunities for accountability for mass atrocity crimes, the global rise in hate speech and xenophobia, and the refugee crisis, as well as their collective impact upon efforts to prevent and halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The interactive meeting gave R2P Focal Points an opportunity to exchange lessons learned from their own experiences regarding their government’s approach to mass atrocity prevention.
More than a quarter of the UN membership has joined the Global Network, with 58 states and the European Union having appointed a senior government official to serve as a R2P Focal Point. Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, noted that, “in these times of global crisis, with tens of millions of people displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, we need to close the gap between words and deeds and defend international human rights and humanitarian law.” Dr. Adams emphasized the significance of holding the meeting of the Global Network in the Middle East, stating that “we want to expand the conversation around how all states can help prevent atrocities and uphold their responsibilities at home and abroad.”
The meeting concluded with the R2P Focal Point from Finland announcing that her country will be hosting the eighth annual meeting of the Global Network in Helsinki during 2018.
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53 Charged After Celebrating Gay Wedding in Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

LAGOS, Nigeria– 53 men have been arrested in the Nigerian state of Kaduna after celebrating a gay wedding.  The group was charged with conspiracy, unlawful association, and unlawful society.  Currently homosexual acts are illegal in Nigeria.  If caught for performing homosexual acts one can face up to 14 years in prison.


Kenyan gay and lesbian organizations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

Upon being charged the group plead not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and unlawful society.  The groups defense lawyer, Yunusa Umar, claims that the group was illegally detained for 24 hours.  He also said that most of the group is students.  Gay rights group claim that the group was celebrating a birthday rather than a wedding.  Maria Sjodin, deputy executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, said she believes the gay wedding story is just an “excuse” and part of the police’s attempt to “crackdown on an emerging LGBTQ movement” in Nigeria.

Homosexual acts were made illegal in Nigeria in 2014.  The creation of this law came from the two conservative parts of the country: evangelical Christianity in the South and Islam in the North.  Human Rights Watch and other rights group claim that the law was also created to legitimize abuse in the LGBT community.  “Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence” are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, Human Rights Watch said in a 2016 report.  The country also bans gay marriage.

Currently the group is out of jail on bail pending a hearing on May 8th.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Nigeria ‘gay wedding’ bust leads to charges – 20 April 2017

Deutsche Welle – Nigeria arrests 53 over Gay Wedding – 20 April 2017

The Journal – Nigeria charges 53 men with conspiracy to organise a gay wedding – 20 April 2017

NBC News – 53 Arrested in Nigeria for Celebrating Gay Wedding, Police Say – 20 April 2017


International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus World Report

ICTJ World Report
April 2017




In Focus

Laundering the Corrupt Is a National Priority? Tunisian Civil Society Again Opposes the National Reconciliation Law

This is the third time that the Tunisian government, supported by several Members of Parliament, has put debate of the National Reconciliation Law on the political agenda. Rearranged in form but with the same substantial faults, this law has mobilized the opposition — for the third time — of approximately 20 civil society organizations that met yesterday and plan to soon hold a press conference.

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World Report


A court in Cote d’Ivoire cleared former First Lady Simone Gbagbo of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges after a trial on her alleged role in post-election abuses that led to the deaths of thousands. However, she must still serve 20 years in prison after being found guilty in 2015 of offenses against the state. The United Nations found 17 mass graves in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as gathered reports of rapes and killings by soldiers. The International Criminal Court said the violence may amount to war crimes. According to the International Criminal Court, Uganda will not withdraw from the Rome Statute. In Kenya police watchdog groups are investigating a video that appears to show police officers executing an alleged gang member in Nairobi. The Gambia held its first parliamentary elections since long-time leader Yahya Jammeh left power. The country is expected to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in upcoming months. The bodies of victims of Rwanda‘s 1994 genocide are still being discovered today, some with the aid of information from prisoners convicted for their involvement. Rwanda’s high court also convicted a man accused of leading and coordinating attacks on minority Tutsis during the genocide and sentenced him to life in prison. Protests in South Africa continued to call for honest and transparent governance. Former rebels in Mali agreed to attend a peace conference after previously saying they would boycott the talks.

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In Colombia, a truth commission has been officially launched to investigate what happened during the 52-year conflict that led to the victimization of 8 million people. Meanwhile, the demobilization and disarmament of FARC rebels continues with the building of “peace villages” to help facilitate their reintegration into society, which includes female combatants taking on the role of battling gender inequality. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrian Rios Montt will face a second trial on genocide charges for the deaths of around 200 people in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre. Victims of Peru‘s forced sterilization program between 1996 and 2000 are seeking justice with the help of the Quipu Project, which hopes to change attitudes about the often taboo subject and help people speak out about their experiences. The number of “disappeared” in Mexico rose to 30,000 as of the end of 2016, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). The organization has also counted 1,143 mass graves containing 3,230 bodies in 30 Mexican states, all secretly buried within the last decade.

Read More…


Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi denied that ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population was occurring, while a top official called a potential UN probe into alleged human rights abuses in Rakhine state an unwanted obstacle. Too many tourists visiting Cambodia’s “killing fields” has raised concerns that commercialism might compromise efforts to preserve memorials for the 2 million or so lives lost under Pol Pot. Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is seeking funding for its reparation efforts. A retired police officer who testified to killing hundreds of people while working for a “death squad” under Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has fled the country for fear of his life. The people of Tamil Nadu in Sri Lanka continued their demand for justice for war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. In Thailand, a brass plaque commemorating the historic proclamation ending 700 years of absolute monarchy in Thailand was mysteriously removed and replaced by a new plaque honoring the monarchy. The Chinese National Party (KMT) proposed a transitional justice bill that urged the inclusion of compensation for those affected by wartime missions after 1949.

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Files archived by the United Nations with early evidence of Holocaust death camps were opened for the first time to the public and online. The UN urged Kosovo to investigate the threat of “ethnic cleansing” by a senior official. The Council of Europe also said the country must end impunity for the crimes committed during the conflict by ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Bosnia tried nine former Bosnian Serb soldiers and policemen on charges related to the capture, abuse, and murder of Bosniak civilians in 1992.

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In Tunisia, parliament today is debating a “reconciliation law” that would grant amnesty to businessmen accused of corruption during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – a bill already delayed two years by popular opposition. Meanwhile, the country’s Truth and Dignity Commission has made efforts to confront past horrors and bring some perpetrators to justice. US Senators introduced a bipartisan bill in a bid to investigate war crimes in Syria, including the creation of a “hybrid tribunal.” Witness testimony and documentation from Syria’s secret torture wards housed in military hospitals offered some of the most concrete evidence of crimes against humanity to date. In Lebanon, families of the missing urged the government to approve a project to collect DNA samples to try to trace victims’ whereabouts on the 42nd anniversary of the start of the nation’s civil war. A court in Egypt sentenced former interior minister Habib el-Adly, who served under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, to seven years in jail for corruption. Israel marked annual Holocaust Remembrance Day with the ritual wailing of sirens across the country.

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Assessing the Prospects for Transitional Justice in Georgia

Since Georgia’s independence in 1991, successive governments have struggled to deal with endemic corruption, organized crime, and various disputes along its borders, which sometimes sparked into armed conflict. Efforts to combat corruption and organized crime through its “zero-tolerance” policy on crime degenerated into extensive human rights violations.

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Media and Transitional Justice: A Dream of Symbiosis in a Troubled Relationship

In transitional contexts, reporting does not simply present the facts, but instead shapes the parameters for interpreting divisive political issues. Coverage in such polarized contexts can mitigate or obscure the substance of transitional justice efforts to establish what happened, who the victims were, and who was responsible for the violations.

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More Publications

Upcoming Events

May 09, 2017

‘Adjudicating Rights’ – Manuel Cepeda in conversation with Octavio Ferraz and Sandra Fredman Location: University of Oxford View Details

June 08 – 09, 2017

Transnational and Global Dimensions of Justice and Memory Processes in Europe and Latin America Location: Paris View Details

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