Nobel Prize Laureate Dies in China

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – Chinese Nobel Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, died on July 13th from multiple organ failure. Liu was a prominent Chinese dissident who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

Supporters mourning Liu Xiaobo’s death in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of CNBC.

In 2009, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his work with crafting “Chapter 08,” a manifesto calling for political reform in China. The Chinese government sentenced him to prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”

While serving his time at Jinzhou Prison in 2010, Liu was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” However, the Chinese government did not allow him to travel to accept the award and attempted to block the news inside the country. The Nobel organizers placed his award on an empty chair during the award ceremony in his honor.

Due to his illness, Liu was transferred to a hospital in the city of Shenyang to receive treatment. Despite facing much pressure from the international community, China refused to allow Liu to travel abroad to receive treatment.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently condemned the Chinese government for not allowing Liu Xiaobo to receive medical treatment abroad. Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that “the Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.”

Many people, including Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin, described his death as “one of the most crude, cruel and callous political show(s) I have ever witnessed.”

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and has not been allowed to communicate with the outside world since Liu Xiaobo received the award. Since his death, thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong to hold a vigil for Liu and asked the Chinese government to free Liu Xia.

Carl von Ossietzky, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was the last winner to die under government surveillance. He died in Berlin in 1938.

For more information, please see: 

CNBC – Struck by liver cancer, Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo dies – 13 July, 2017

Alijazeera – China’s Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo dies: official – 14 July, 2017

CNN – Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the unwitting martyr – 14 July, 2017

Reuters – Chinese Nobel laureate’s ashes scattered at sea – 14 July, 2017

Belgian ban on religious head coverings acceptable, European court rules

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

A woman wears a niqab in Brussels. Image courtesy of AP.

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing full-face religious veils in public.

The ban was implemented by the Belgian government in 2011. The full-face coverings, including the niqab and burqa, is religious headwear worn by women of the Islamic faith. Burqas cover the entire face, including the eyes, while niqabs leave the eyes open.

Punishment for wearing these veils in public are as minor as fines, to more serious jail time.

The ECHR held that the ban was not a violation of religious freedom.

It was said that the Belgian government has the right to impose restrictions that “protect the rights and freedoms of others.” They also stated that the ban was “necessary in a democratic society.”

The debate about Muslim face coverings has raged for several years. Multiple European countries have imposed or proposed a similar ban to the one in Belgium. The most recent was in Norway, where discussions began about banning full-face veils in June.

Proponents of the ban argue that it is actually conducive to women’s freedom, rather than restrictive of it. One Belgian policymaker, Daniel Bacquelaine, said that “[forbidding] the veil as a covering is to give them more freedom.” He added, “if we want to live together in a free society, we need to recognize each other.”

It is true that many women in predominantly Muslim countries do not have a choice in wearing head coverings. Saudi Arabia and Iran both require by law that women have their heads covered in public.

Yet many Muslim women in western countries have expressed that they choose to wear head coverings on their own free will. Two of these include the women who brought the Belgian ban to the ECHR.

One of the women did not leave the house for fear of breaking the law for wearing her head covering. The other took off her veil in public.

More European countries have begun support for partial or complete bans on full-face veils.

The decision by the Court can be appealed. There will be three months to bring an appeal to the higher level, where five judges will determine whether there should be a second look at the decision.

For more information, please see:

NPR – European Court of Human Rights Upholds Belgium’s Ban on Full-Face Veils – 11 July 2017

BBC News – Belgian face veil ban backed in European court ruling – 11 July 2017

Independent – European Court of Human Rights upholds Belgium’s bans on burqas and full-face Islamic veils – 11 July 2017

The Telegraph – Belgian ban on Muslim full-face veil is legal, European Court of Human Rights rules – 11 July 2017

JURIST – Europe rights court upholds Belgium burqa ban – 11 July 2017

Reuters – Norway proposes ban on full-face veils in schools – 12 June 2017

The Washington Post – MAP: Where Islamic veils are banned, and where they are mandatory – July 1, 2014

Peru Ponders Pardon for Former President As Tragedy Unveils Slavery Like Conditions for Peruvian Workers

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

LIMA, Peru – At least 2,000 Peruvian citizens protested July 7th, urging President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski not to pardon the country’s ex-leader Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving 25 years in prison for human rights violations.

Protesters in Peru display photos of victims as they march against a possible pardon for former president Alberto Fujimori. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

One of President Kuczynski’s chief promises that allowed him to win the election against Fujimori’s daughter Keiko, was that he wouldn’t pardon Fujimori. However, Kuczynski proposed a potential pardon for Fujimori last month for health reasons, just after Kuczynski’s finance minister was ousted by a Congress dominated by Fujimori’s supporters.

Fujimori held office from 1990-2000, and was convicted in 2009 for leading groups which had massacred civilians and kidnapped journalists during his tenure. Despite this, Fujimori has an enormous amount of support due to his role in fixing Peru’s economy and stopping a bloody leftist insurgency. In fact, a May Ipsos poll found that 59 percent of Peruvians back a humanitarian release for him.

President Kuczynski meanwhile, has said that he will follow the recommendation of the doctors evaluating Fujimori, as to whether a pardon should be given for medical reasons. However, in 2013 a medical team which was then evaluating Fujimori said his condition didn’t warrant a pardon, so it is possible that history will repeat itself.

On June 27th, President Kuczynski had condemned the conditions some workers were living in after a fire killed four people imprisoned inside a shipping container by their boss. They had been locked inside to prevent theft, and detection by municipal inspectors. Since then Peru’s public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into human trafficking and labor exploitation. The International Labor Organization described the conditions in which the workers died and 17 others were injured as akin to modern day slavery.

After only Mexico and Colombia, Peru has the third highest rate of cases of forced labor and human trafficking in the region and is 18th worldwide, per the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index. Jorge Toyama, a labor lawyer, claims that the country only has 500 labor inspectors when it needs four times as many, and that many workers in Peru are not aware of their rights.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Peruvians protest against possible pardon for jailed Fujimori – 7 July, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Peru: Don’t Give Fujimori Special Treatment – 6 July, 2017

The Guardian – Peru launches investigation as fire kills workers ‘locked inside container’ – 27 June, 2017

Syria Deeply: Battle updates from Arsal outskirts, a good week for Russia in Syria and thinning ties between the U.S. and rebels

Syria Deeply
Jul. 28th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Battle in Arsal outskirts: Hezbollah and an al-Qaida-linked militant group reached a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, a week after the Lebanese group and the Syrian army launched a joint offensive against militants in the rugged mountainous area along the Lebanese and Syrian border.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security agency, reportedly brokered the truce, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA). Under the terms of the deal, which extends to al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate but not to fighters from the so-called Islamic State, fighters will be granted safe passage to Idlib province in Syria.
At least two dozen Hezbollah fighters and some 150 militants have been killed in clashes since the battle began last week, according to Al Jazeera.
But the battle in the outskirts of Arsal is not yet over. The next phase of the joint operation is expected to target nearby ISIS-held territory.
Russia’s wins in Syria: Four battalions of Russia’s military policy have been deployed around the proposed de-escalation zones in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian media on Wednesday.
Moscow had been in talks for several weeks about deploying its military police to buffer zones on the edges of the four de-escalation zones. At the last round of Astana talks earlier this month, however, Moscow, Turkey and Iran failed to reach a definitive agreement about “which specific forces” would police the zones, Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said. In addition, the opposition delegation told Reuters that they remained skeptical of the proposal.
Less than three weeks later, on Monday Russian military police set up “two checkpoints and four monitoring posts” in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs outside the capital, according to Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian general staff. This followed an earlier deployment in southwest Syria over the weekend, where Russia’s forces set up two checkpoints and 10 observation points.
The deployment comes after two individual cease-fire declarations in the respective areas. Violations have been reported in southern Syria and the cease-fire between government forces and opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta crumbled on Sunday after only 24 hours.
Russia further solidified its role in Syria later in the week, when President Vladimir Putin approved an agreement with the Syrian government that would allow Moscow to deploy at the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province for the next 49 years, with the option of extending the agreement for a further 25 years, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Thinning ties between U.S. and rebels: Days after news broke that President Donald Trump had ended the covert CIA program that provided arms and training to Syrian rebel groups, the U.S.-led coalition urged its Syrian allies to only fight the so-called Islamic State.
“We have made it very clear time and again our goal in Syria and Iraq is to fight ISIS and fight ISIS only [and] we’ve asked [our partner forces] to be committed to that same mission,” coalition spokesperson U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Ending the CIA program was a “signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” a U.S. official told Reuters last week. According to the New York Times, the decision came more than a month ago and revealed that ousting President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a U.S. priority.
The move has led at least one U.S-backed rebel group to split off from coalition forces and pursue independent operations against the Syrian government. In response, Dillon said Washington had begun the “process of ceasing our support,” for Shohada al-Quartyan, a local rebel group that had been fighting ISIS in southern Syria.
Read our Daily Executive Summaries
f020b569-7455-410e-8ef8-f41b0077a844.png MOST POPULAR
This Week’s Top Articles
At least 32 children in the besieged Houla region are suffering from an inherited blood disorder that requires frequent transfusions. Though fatality rates for thalassemia are not exceptionally high, the absence of supplies and blood banks has made it life-threatening.
The economic strain of Syria’s six-year civil war has encouraged hidden forms of child labor, as an increasing number of youngsters take up work in dim factory buildings, dusty workshops and in the dingy backrooms of Damascene cafes.
Like all wars, Syria’s conflict has taken not just a massive human toll, it has also had a significant environmental impact. But green initiatives in rebel and Kurdish areas – even failed ones – have brought a small measure of hope to local people.
973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS
Community Insight
Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply
The former head of the U.S. Office of Global Criminal Justice, Stephen Rapp, spoke with Syria Deeply about improving the possibility of holding Syrian war criminals accountable.
Lina Sinjab,  Syrian Journalist and Middle East Correspondent at the BBC
The conflict in Syria has given way to a new class of nouveau riche, dominated by warlords and independent businessmen who benefit from the status quo, and may make it difficult for an international deal to be implemented locally, writes Syrian journalist Lina Sinjab.
Milia Eidmouni, Syrian Independent Media Group  Regional Director for the Syrian Female Journalist Network.
Though international nonprofits hope their empowerment and decision-making workshops will prove useful to Syrian refugee women, many women express a desire for more pragmatic and economic-oriented training courses.
Upcoming coverage
We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.
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Copyright © 2017 News Deeply, Inc. All rights reserved.

International Center for Transitional Justice: World Report July 2017 – Transitional Justice News and Analysis

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ICTJ World Report
July 2017




In Focus

A Noble Dream: The Tenacious Pursuit of Justice in Guatemala

Bring General Rios Montt and other high ranking members of the military to trial in the Guatemalan courts for genocide? In 1999 it was a noble dream for justice, but one with little apparent possibility of ever coming true. On International Justice Day, walk the long path to justice that led to this historic trial?

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World Report


Victims of past election violence in Kenya demanded compensation before the next election. In the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, soldiers were convicted for the murder of militia members, which is also where authorities found a dozen more mass graves. The UN denounced the decision by a DRC military tribunal to not prosecute seven soldiers for crimes against humanity. South Africa’s African National Congress political party declared support for the country’s withdrawal from the ICC following a corresponding court decision. An inquiry into the death of an apartheid-era activist has been re-opened. Uganda’s Amnesty Commission failed to reintegrate and resettle ex-rebels. A bishop in Liberia encouraged the establishment of a war crimes court to preserve and ensure the nation’s democracy. In the Gambia, a draft bill on Truth and Reconciliation was beginning to be reviewed by the country’s judiciary. On July 4th, Rwanda celebrated Liberation day, commemorating the day the 1994 genocide ended, while UN court proceedings continued the review of a criminal’s case who had requested exoneration. A parliament member of Zambia called for the inclusion of peace and conflict resolution studies into national education curriculum.

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Colombia’s FARC rebel group disarmed after decades of war. The UN Security Council agreed to monitor Colombia’s peace process until 2020, while the ICC is pushing for prosecutions of members of various generals, corporals and the country’s Armed Forces commander. In Argentina, four former military officers were arrested for crimes against humanity committed in 1976. The former dictator of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, is having his case reviewed after his daughter claimed that he was falsely sentenced. Canada apologized and gave a reparations payment to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, after a court concluded that his rights were abused. In Mexico, dozens of NGO’s requested an ICC investigation of crimes against humanity in a prison in the state of Coahuila.

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In Nepal, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began looking into rights violations. The TRC and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons called on the Prime Minister to extend their term until the probe into war-era cases concludes. Nepalese families of war victims will receive a reparations payment through the Relief and Rehabilitation Unit under the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. In Myanmar, a tribunal will be held this fall to highlight atrocities committed against the Rohingya. The country also released child soldiers that fought under the former junta. In Cambodia, a production honoring victims of the nation’s conflict will begin on a global scale and a peace museum will open to acknowledge the country’s history. The UN-backed Cambodian tribunal trying Khmer Rouge atrocities admitted that only some perpetrators will face justice. Prosecutors delivered closing arguments in the case against Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, focusing on the genocide charges they face. Taiwan will declassify records to continue transitional justice efforts. Additionally, a Taiwanese act took effect in order to protect indigenous languages and cultures.

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In the Netherlands, a Hague Appeals Court confirmed that Dutch UN peacekeepers were partly liable for a 1995 massacre near Srebrenica. An Amsterdam city hall named for a Nazi accomplice is in the process of being renamed. On July 11th, Bosnia remembered the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court confirmed the conviction of a former military policeman for committing crimes against humanity in the Bihac area in the summer of 1992.In Croatia, victims are awaiting justice for crimes committed at a prison camp in Serbia. In Scandinavia, a Truth Commission began in Finland to unveil discrimination of the Sámi people. In France, a former judge was selected to aid the UN in prosecuting Syrian war crimes. Meanwhile, a family seeks in the United States seeks to regain a painting they say was plundered in Nazi Germany. A 98-year old Minnesota man who was accused of Nazi war crimes in Poland. In Kosovo, a court will charge former guerrillas for crimes committed in the country’s war. Elsewhere, holocaust survivors in Romania became eligible for reparations. In Spain a court began investigating a war crime in Syria, on behalf of the victim’s family member in Madrid.

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In Syria, victims of a chemical weapons attack demanded accountability for the crime, and hundreds of refugees returned to their Syrian homes after unsafe conditions arose in Lebanese refugee camps. Lebanon’s human rights minister called for an investigation into the deaths of four Syrian refugees. In Afghanistan, the ICC delayed investigating war crimes due to “substantial” new information from Kabul. Australian special forces are being investigated for war crimes committed in two Afghan provinces. In other news, Israel paid compensation to Turkish victims of a 2010 raid on a flotilla. Regarding Saudi Arabia, British arms sales will continue following a decision from the London high court, despite their use in alleged war crimes in Yemen.

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Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence

Discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement.

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When No One Calls It Rape: Addressing Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys

Sexual violence against men and boys in times of conflict or repression is alarmingly common— and takes a markedly consistent form across contexts in terms of how it affects victims and societies as a human rights violation that is taboo to talk about. It has been committed in all cultures, geographic regions, and time periods.

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November 07 – 08, 2017

The Interface of National Security and Humanitarian Law in Situations of Low-Intensity Armed Conflict / High Intensity Emergency Location: Ulster University, Jordanstown campus View Details

October 09 – 13, 2017

Negotiating Peace and Justice: ICTJ’s 2017 Intensive Course on Transitional Justice and Peace Processes Location: Barcelona, Spain View Details

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