Merkel Agrees to Limit Refugees Entering Germany

 By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to limit the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany each year to 200,000, a decision that has elicited both support and criticism in the nation.

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union Party. Image courtesy of The Guardian.

The German Christian Social Union and the Christian Democratic Union  were in talks for hours before an agreement could be reached.

Many German voters had been angered with Merkel’s previous open-door policy, which effectively allowed in anyone who could reach the country. In 2015, this policy allowed over one million people in.

In July, Merkel stated “on the issue of an upper limit, my position is clear. I won’t accept one.”

Many see the policy as a concession to the demands of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which was propelled in September’s elections where Merkel lost millions of voters. The AfD campaigned on an anti-Islam, anti-migrant platform, becoming the third largest party in Parliament. The new measure is seen in many as a way of winning back voters.

Many believe that Merkel must negotiate with smaller parties in order to form a cohesive coalition government. Ms. Merkel believes the policy is necessary, saying that “Germany needs a stable government and the prerequisite for this was a common negotiating position.”

In 2016, the number of refugees capped at 280,000. That number has since fallen drastically, with fewer than 124,000 people applying for asylum in the first eight months of 2017. Experts are saying that the proposed limit is in line with current immigration trends.

The new policy is not being described as a limit, as no one who is seeking asylum will be turned away at the borders once the 200,000 limit has been reached. The figure can be altered should a new refugee crisis emerge.

The policy is being criticized, with Karl Kopp, director for European Affairs at Pro Asyl, a German refugee charity, saying that the policy is “not compatible with international law” and “totally unacceptable.”

Simone Peters, head of the Green Party, claimed that “The figure is completely arbitrary, fixed purely ideologically. As far as we’re concerned the fundamental right to asylum applies. When you throw together asylum seekers, refugee contingents, resettlement programs and family members joining refugees all in one pot, and then set a limit of 200,000, one group will be thrown under the bus.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Merkel Changes Tune on German Refugee Cap – 9 October 2017

The Guardian – Germany: Merkel Agrees to 200,000 Refugees Cap in Bid to Build Coalition – 9 October 2017

The New York Times – Germany’s Angela Merkel Agrees to Limits on Accepting Refugees – 9 October 2017

74 Foster Children Missing in Kansas

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

KANSAS, United States – More than 70 children are missing from Kansas’ privatized foster care system. In total, there are 74 children missing from the Kansas foster care system. KVC Kansas, the contractor for the cases in eastern Kansas has 38 of the missing children under its supervision and 36 more are under the supervision of Saint Francis Community Service’s in the western part of the state.

Three sisters, under the care of their great aunt, have not been seen since late August. Phyllis Gilmore, the head of the Kansas Department for Children and Families was not aware of the sisters’ disappearance before the Kansas City Star first reported it. Gilmore claims that tracking children in foster care is just one of the department’s responsibilities. She says the department has policies in place to attempt to find missing children and return them to their foster homes. “These children who run away are not under lock and key; they are generally in family foster homes, older youth, who attend school and activities, and they often miss their biological families,” she said.

Phyllis Gilmore, head of the Kansas Department of Children and Families was not aware three sisters in foster care have been missing since August. Photo Courtesy of HPPR.

Kansas has approximately 7,100 children in foster care as of August 2017. The missing 74 are 1% of the total children in the foster care system. That number is on par with the national average. The United States Department of Health and Human Services reported that during the 2015 federal government’s fiscal year, approximately 4,600 foster care children were listed as runaways which is about 1.1% of the almost 428,000 total.

Rep. Linda Gallagher said even if the number of missing children is on par with the national average, it is still too many. Chad Anderson, chief clinic officer at KVC Kansas, acknowledged to the child welfare task force that contractors can do a better job. “I don’t know that we as contractors have shared as much in terms of missing youth and the day to day as we probably should,” Anderson said. He added that contractors update the Department of Children and Families every 30 days on missing children.

During a meeting of an oversight panel at the Statehouse in Topeka, foster care contractors provided the information in response to questions about the disappearance of the three sisters. Rep. Steve Alford, chair of the task force, said he really was not surprised by the number of kids missing after the meeting. “There’s a break between DCF and the contracting,” he said. “Once the children … [go from the court] into the possession of the secretary, she hands them off to the contractors and it’s their responsibility, you know, it’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind in a lot of aspects.”

For more information, please see:

Fox News – More Than 20 Kids Missing From Kansas Foster Care System – 12 October 2017

HPPR – More Than 70 Kids Missing From Kansas’ Foster Care System – 11 October 2017

Time – ‘Flabbergasted.’ More Than 70 Children are Missing From Foster Care – 11 October 2017

US News – 70 Plus Children Missing From Kansas Foster Care System – 11 October 2017

International Center for Transitional Justice: Photos Capture Lasting Scars of Civil War in Lebanon

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Vivid Photos by Lebanese Young People Became a Window into the Civil War and Its Lasting Scars
Explore ICTJ’s New Report
A new, photo-filled publication from the International Center for Transitional Justice details how photos taken by Lebanese young people across the country helped to spark discussion about the disturbing, often-overlooked legacy of the Lebanese civil war.

Over the last two years, the photos were part of an arts-based, history-telling project that encouraged Lebanese teenagers and young adults to explore how they understand the civil war as part of the country’s past and present.

According to the publication, most of the teenagers and young adults who participated in the project had limited knowledge of the war, how it had started and ended and who had been affected. Most of what they knew had been passed down to them by their parents or neighbors – and were therefore often biased toward their own social group.

“Even though people in Lebanon often feel pressure not to talk about the war or its many victims, we wanted to challenge young people to show how the war and its lasting harms still affect people today,” said Nour El Bejjani Noureddine, manager of the project and author of the publication.

The publication calls on the Lebanese government to develop a common national history curriculum that includes lessons on the civil war. It also calls on schools and nonprofits to provide the post-war generation with unbiased information and facts about the war and the repercussions of political violence.

Read the full report
Copyright © 2017 International Center for Transitional Justice, All rights reserved.

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Forced Labor in Uzbekistan Cotton Fields

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – Cotton drives the Uzbek economy. The country is the sixth largest producer of cotton. It is commonly known as “white gold.” Historically, it has a long tradition as part of the economy, being cultivated as far back as the 5th or 6th century. As part of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan’s cotton industry boomed. The state controlled the production, output, input, and quotas of collective farms.

Uzbek child doing mandatory labor in cotton fields. Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Twenty-six years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Uzbekistan government still controls the cotton industry. The government controls extensive acres of cotton fields throughout the country.  They continue to control the production and harvest of the cotton.

Cotton grown in Uzbekistan is not harvested by machines, but rather hand picked by 2 million forced laborers. The government calls on citizens to go into the field during the harvest for “work-for-the-nation days”. Laborers include teachers, nurses, university students, children, government employees, the unemployed, and those benefiting from government aid. It is considered their patriotic duty to do so.

This causes issues of child labor, children missing school, significant lack of teachers in classrooms, and too few medical staff present in hospitals.

The forced laborers are coerced to do so. Refusal to work leads to threats of penalties, dismissal and expulsions from jobs, and loss of benefits. For those who can afford it, one can pay for a “replacement” in the field or even pay to avoid work completely. The cost can be up to half the monthly salary of a citizen.

Each day of work, individuals are required to meet a quota of 50 kilograms. Most workers serve on average 12 days. They are paid roughly 5 cents per kilo collected.

There is immense pressure for farmers and overseers to produce large yields to support the economy. One such official, Asilbek Yusupov , received a brutal verbal attack for not meeting quotas early in October. The insulting language, derogatory words and language left Yusupov so shaken that he suffered a stroke moments after returning to his office.  He later died in hospital.

For more information, please see:

 Human Rights Watch – Uzbekistan: Some Wokers Excused from Cotton Fields – 5 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – Rights Group Says Political Will Needed To End Forced Labor In Uzbekistan – 5 October 2017

Azernews – Uzbekistan to switch to mechanized harvesting of cotton – 6 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – 5 Cents Per Kilo: Why Uzbek Government Still Forces People To Pick Cotton – 11 October 2017

RadioFreeEurope |RadioLiberty – Uzbek Official Collapses, Dies After Being Disgraced For Bad Cotton Harvest –9 October 2017

Indian Supreme Court Rules Sex with Minor Bride as Rape

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 
NEW DELHI, India – On Wednesday, October 11th, the Indian Supreme court ruled that any sexual relationship between a man and his wife between the age of 15 and 18 is a crime. The country’s highest court changed the rape law and declared that sex with an underage wife is an illegal act. According to the Indian Supreme court, the committed offense must be reported by the wife within a year.
There are over 26 million child brides in India. Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera.

Under the current law, the legal age of consent and marriage is 18. In the rural parts of the country, child marriages are not uncommon. Currently, there are more than 26 million child brides in India according to the United Nation’s children agency. Based on the agency’s report, between 2008 and 2014, more than 47% of the girls were married before their 18th birthday. Furthermore, an estimated 18 percent of the girls were married by the age of 15.  It is reported that most of the girls were from poor families with little education.

Previous Indian governments have defended the law as they believed the country’s poor social and economic conditions have made child marriage an unfortunate reality. Moreover, early marriage has been a part of the Indian culture though the “guana” ceremony.

Many activists around the country praised the recent decision as a “positive step in the right direction.” A member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association recently stated that “we strongly feel that this decision of the Supreme Court will work in impacting child marriages.”

Although activists still believe that the Indian Supreme Court’s decision is difficult to enforce, many agree that it will have long-lasting consequences.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Sex with underage wife is rape, Indian supreme court rules – 11 October, 2017

BBC – India Supreme Court rules sex with child bride is rape – 11 October, 2017

Al Jazeera – Indian court rules sex with minor wife is rape – 12 October, 2017

Civitas Maxima: Press Release – Jungle Jabbah Guilty Verdict







US Court finds Liberian Rebel Commander “Jungle Jabbah” Guilty of Crimes Linked to Atrocities in Liberia’s First Civil War

18 October 2017

PHILADELPHIA – On 18 October 2017 a jury of 12 in a U.S. Federal Courthouse found former Liberian rebel commander Mohammed Jabbateh, aka “Jungle Jabbah,” guilty of two counts of fraud and two counts of perjury for lying to U.S. government officials about his role as a combatant in the Liberian Civil War. Jabbateh will be sentenced most likely within the next few months. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

In order to prove that Jabbateh provided false information to U.S. immigration authorities and procured asylum in the United States by fraud, the prosecution had to prove that he was a high-ranking rebel commander during the first Liberian civil war and committed criminal actions while in that position. Prior to immigrating to the United States, Jabbateh served as a battalion commander for the rebel group ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy), one of the key warring factions that fought against Charles Taylor’s NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) during Liberia’s first civil war (1989-1996).

Over the course of two weeks, twenty witnesses travelled from Liberia to Philadelphia to testify in detail about horrific acts committed by Jabbateh and his ULIMO soldiers, including cannibalism, rape, murder, and slavery. Their testimonies exposed the horrors of the civil war, and Jungle Jabbah’s role in perpetuating the violence that destroyed the West African nation. One witness recounted her rape and sexual enslavement by Jabbateh, while another witness described how soldiers under Jabbateh’s command killed her husband and then ordered her to cook his heart. Another witness testified that she saw Jabbateh put a pistol into her pregnant sister’s vagina and pull the trigger. Jabbateh was so infamous for his terrible acts in Liberia, one witness stated, that the people could never forget him and named a bridge after him.

This historic case marks the first time that Liberian victims were able to testify about their experience of the atrocities committed during the first Liberian civil war in a public and fair trial. It was also the first trial of a former commander of the armed group ULIMO. The war resulted in the death of 150,000 civilians and the commission of a wide range of war crimes and human rights abuses by each warring faction in the conflict. To date, no one has been held to account in Liberia, and the trial against Jabbateh is the first confrontation of the crimes committed during the first civil war in a foreign country.

Civitas Maxima (CM) and its Monrovia-based sister organization the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), both independent and apolitical NGOs, have collaborated since 2014 with U.S. authorities on the investigation of crimes Jabbateh allegedly committed in Liberia.

“This is the first verdict giving some measure of redress to Liberian victims who have been yearning for justice for too long. This case shows that Liberians do not have to accept the status quo of impunity in Liberia. Victims want justice and we will continue to support them in their pursuit of accountability within and outside of Liberia, independent of any tribal affiliation or political influence. This is only the beginning. As a survivor of this war and advocate for justice, I want to thank the witnesses for their courage, thank the Liberian people for their cooperation and support during the trial and thank the Liberian media for their wide coverage”, said GJRP’s director Hassan Bility in Monrovia.

CM published daily detailed reports of the legal proceedings on its website. CM also supported, through a partnership with New Narratives, three Liberian journalists who provided independent and balanced coverage of the trial from Philadelphia and Monrovia.

Moreover, CM and the GJRP launched a media campaign called “the Liberian Quest for Justice,” which provided a publicly accessible and unbiased account of the proceedings and information related to impunity in Liberia (Facebook and Twitter). The campaign used cartoons of a Liberian girl called Musu to explain the relevance of the case and engaged with Liberians online. Musu and the campaign have helped reach thousands of Liberian survivors in Liberia and the diaspora, ensuring that the impact of this trial reaches the people most affected by Jungle Jabbah’s crimes.

The Liberian Quest for Justice will continue to support Liberian victims in their pursuit of accountability for war time atrocities, and inform the public about other public trials of alleged Liberian war criminals coming up in Europe and the U.S. The Jabbateh trial was only Chapter 1.



About GJRP

The Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) is a Liberia-based non-profit, non-governmental organization that documents war related crimes in Liberia and, where possible, seeks justice for victims of said crimes, with the full consent of the victims.

For more information and media inquiries go to or contact us at 00231778160062.

About Civitas Maxima

Civitas Maxima is an NGO based in Geneva that ensures the coordination of a network of international lawyers and investigators who work for the interests of those who have been victims of international crimes, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

For more information and media inquiries, go to or contact us at, phone: 0041223461243.


Uruguay seats first transgender senator

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – On Tuesday, Michelle Suarez became the first transgender senator ever to be seated in Uruguay. She vows to use her position to expand and protect the rights of transgender people throughout South America.

Senator Michelle Suarez. Image Courtesy of Fox News.

The 34-year-old lawyer and activist assumed her seat in the upper chambers of Congress to represent the Communist Party. Her goal is to push a law that would let transgender people change their legal identities without needing the approval of a judge. The law would also mandate that the government set aside one percent of jobs for transgender people. Finally, a pension would be established to compensate transgender people who were persecuted during Uruguay’s decade under military dictatorship.

“Uruguay has evolved, but it’s still a discriminatory country,” Suarez told the Associated Press. With her position, she seeks to increase debate and action for LGBT rights within the Senate. Her top priority is drafting the Comprehensive Trans Act, which she co-authored, and will guarantee rights to people of all sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

Suarez revealed that she was fifteen when she acknowledged that she was a woman living in a male body. She attributes much of her success to her parents for accepting her. While growing up, she always had the support of her family but was discriminated against by classmates and teachers. “It was a tough time,” Suarez said. “People who knew me began to harass me.”

Regardless, she graduated high school with top grades and became the first transgender person to earn a law degree in the country of 33 million people. She began working as an activist for gender rights in 2009 as a way to cope with the loss of her mother.

Prior to gaining her seat, Suarez helped draft a bill that legalized gay marriage in 2013. She also worked as an activist and legal adviser for an LGBT rights organization, Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep).

The underlying attitude in Uruguay is still macho and fosters fierce resistance to LGBTQ issues. Suarez points out the prominent discrimination faced by Uruguay’s trans community of about 900 individuals. Because of it, gaining stable employment is difficult and many are pushed into sex work. Meanwhile, neighboring countries such as Argentina and Chile have started to make movements toward gender diversity.

“For the same facts, sayings, ways of feeling and thinking that at some point in my life I was harassed, persecuted and sanctioned, today I am applauded by many.” Suarez adds, “there has been positive change.”

For more information, please see:

Telesur – Lawyer and LGBT Activist to be Uruguay’s First Transgender Senator – 6 October 2017

Washington Post – Uruguay’s 1st transgender senator seated, vows protection – 10 October 2017

Fox News – Uruguay: first transgender senator assumes senate seat – 10 October 2017

El Observador – Michelle Suarez, the first trans senator in Uruguayan history – 10 October 2017

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 16 – October 16, 2017


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 16
October 16, 2017

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus – Grassroots Truth Telling in the US

ICTJ World Report
October 2017
In Focus ›
Is the United States Ready for a Truth-Telling Process?
Fania Davis thinks the time has come for a truth-telling process about racial injustice in the United States, and she is working to make it a reality. We sat down with her and her colleague, Jodie Geddes, to discuss their vision for a national process, what they hope it would achieve, and what they have learned from their conversations with local leaders so far.
Read More ›
Publications ›
Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies ›
Media and Transitional Justice: A Dream of Symbiosis in a Troubled Relationship ›
Other News
To Prevent Enforced Disappearances, Rethink the Justice and Security Equation
With enforced disappearances on the rise, ICTJ President David Tolbert says the path to prevention is clear: the international community must reorder its priorities and change its approach. The disproportionate attention on counterterrorism takes us further away from accountability and prevention, Tolbert writes. He urges the international community to lead the way in unequivocally censoring governments that use enforced disappearance as a political tactic — and ensuring there can be no impunity for this crime.
Read More ›
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. Walk the long path to justice that led to this historic trial.
Read More ›
Upcoming Events ›
October 17 – 22, 2017
22nd Workshop in Budapest: Practices of Memory and Knowledge Production ›
Location: Budapest, Hungary
November 09, 2017
Reckoning with Racial Injustice in the United States ›
Location: NYU School of Law’s Lipton Hall, 110 West Third Street New York, NY 10012
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Syria Deeply: Our updates on the battles for Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, the cease-fire south of Damascus, and Turkey’s military expansion in northern Syria

Syria Deeply
Oct. 16th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Fight Against ISIS: The battles against ISIS in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa advanced over the weekend as pro-government forces claim to have recaptured al-Mayadeen, and U.S.-backed forces announced their final push against militants in Raqqa city.

Citing Russia’s defense ministry, the Associated Press said on Saturday that Syrian troops fully freed al-Mayadeen, in Deir Ezzor province, from ISIS militants. An unidentified Syrian military source confirmed the advance to Reuters, saying that ISIS suffered a “collapse” in their ranks. The ISIS command structure is believed to be based in the city, which is on the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq.

The advance came after ISIS launched a triple car-bomb attack in eastern Syria on Thursday, killing at least 50 people, including internally displaced civilians and Kurdish security personnel, Reuters said.

On Sunday, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched the “final phase” of their battle against ISIS in Raqqa after hundreds of militants surrendered, the SDF said in a statement, adding that the latest push was aimed to drive the few hundred remaining ISIS fighters from their positions inside the city. The announcement came after more than 3,000 civilians and some 275 Syrian ISIS fighters and their families, were evacuated from the city Saturday night under a deal negotiated between local officials from the Raqqa Civil Council and ISIS fighters.

Cease-fire in South Damascus: A cease-fire went into effect at noon on Thursday in a rebel enclave south of Damascus, after three opposition groups agreed to a deal brokered by Russia and Egypt in Cairo.

The exact area covered by the deal remains unclear, but Islamist rebel groups control a pocket of three villages – Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem – adjacent to ISIS-held territory south of the capital. The three villages have been under total or partial siege since 2013. An estimated 42,500 civilians are still living there.

The Syrian government did not sign the deal. According to Mohammed Alloush, the political leader of Jaish al-Islam, his group is party to the agreement, along with Jaish al-Ababil and Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis, linked to the Palestinian Hamas group.

Turkey Expands In Northern Syria: On Saturday, a new batch of Turkish troops and armored vehicles arrived on the Turkish side of the Syria border ahead of the second phase of deployment in northern Syria, according to Reuters.

Ibrahim al-Idlibi, a military adviser in the Free Syrian Army, told Reuters that “nearly 200 troops are now stationed in areas that separate territory under control of Kurdish groups and opposition groups.” Citing unidentified witnesses, Reuters added that Turkish bulldozers were working “around the clock,” setting up observation posts and digging fortifications.

The Speaker of Syria’s People’s Assembly Hammouda Sabbagh said on Sunday: “The people’s assembly condemns the Turkish flagrant aggression on the Syrian territory in Idlib province, which constitutes a blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and a flagrant violation of international law and norms.”

Read the full summary

f020b569-7455-410e-8ef8-f41b0077a844.png MOST POPULAR

This Week’s Top Articles



Syria Studying Proposal to Amend Nationality Law

The Damascus-based Syrian Law Journal discusses a proposal under review to amend the Syrian Nationality Law and grant Syrian women the right to pass their nationality on to their foreign husbands.



How Syrian Civil Defense Is Alerting Civilians of Potential Airstrikes

The Syrian Civil Defense has developed a warning system to help civilians evade airstrikes. Powered by a network of spotters, the online platform sends minute-by-minute alerts of potential target zones after a warplane is seen taking off.

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Community Insight



Turkey’s Operation in Idlib May Not Bring All-Out War With al-Qaida

Hashem Osseiran,  The deputy managing editor of Syria Deeply.

Turkey’s discussions with al-Qaida-linked militants ahead of its deployment in Syria’s Idlib province indicate that a wide-scale offensive against the militant group may not be Ankara’s primary objective, according to Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.



Despite Impressions, Syrian Violence Still Raging in Some Areas: ICRC

Hashem Osseiran,  The deputy managing editor of Syria Deeply.

Syria Deeply spoke with Pawel Krzysiek of the International Committee of the Red Cross about the recent escalation in violence in the country – the worst since the battle for Aleppo in 2016.



Deeply Talks: Syria’s Border with Jordan

Hashem Osseiran, Alessandria Masi, Kim Bode

As Syrian and Jordanian officials ponder reopening the Nassib border crossing, Syria Deeply talks with Sam Heller of the Century Foundation about the sticking points and possible negotiations.


Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists 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.

Fate of Catalonia rests on Catalan president’s shoulders

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

Supporters of Catalonia’s independence wave Catalan flags in Barcelona, outside of the Catalan parliament building. Image courtesy of Nakam/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock.

BARCELONA, Spain – Catalonia has yet to determine whether they have declared independence.

On October 10th, Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont decided the southern region of Spain would not immediately declare independence from its mother country.

The statement came after Mr. Puigdemont signed an official declaration of independence. Soon after, Mr. Puigdemont announced the suspension.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has accused the Catalan president of deliberately confusing the Spanish government.

On October 11th, the government officially stated that the “ball was now firmly back in Puigdemont’s court.”

What the Catalonian government does next will determine whether the Spanish government will strip Catalonia of its autonomy using Article 155 of the federal constitution. If this happens, administrative control over Catalonia will be given to the Spanish government.

The struggles over the past several days have caused some divide within Spain itself.

The Constitution itself was established in the late 1970s after years of an authoritarian regime, where Catalans were severely oppressed by a dictator.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, of Spain’s main opposition leadership, has expressed support for using the Constitution to deprive Catalonia of its autonomy.

The support was in exchange for an agreement to form a commission to change the Constitution.

Both sides of the spectrum argue that the other side is a threat to democracy.

Prime Minister Rajoy accused separatists of “foisting their will on all the people of Catalonia,” indicating that they ignore the Catalans who do not want to secede.

Yet Mr. Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, sees Catalonia as an autonomous region that has “won the right to be independence” as a result of the vote held on October 1st.

“The people’s will” is to break free from the central government in Madrid, Mr. Puigdemont stated in front of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona.

On the day of the election, the Spanish government sent police troops in to various towns and cities around Catalonia. This led to several clashes between Catalans and police, with hundreds reportedly injured.

The chaos that day has led to the launch of an investigation into the allegations of police brutality. The main question is whether law enforcement used excessive force against people who were peacefully assembling to vote or protest.

If the Spanish government does choose to invoke Article 155, it may cause more civil unrest similar to the kind seen on October 1st.

Meanwhile, Mr. Puigdemont told CNN that he is sending a message of “calmness”, stating, “[w]e are facing a political problem that we need to solve with politics and not with police.”

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Spanish PM asks Catalonia: have you declared independence or not? – 11 October 2017

The New York Times – Spain Asks Catalonia: Did You Declare Independence or Not? – 11 October 2017

BBC News – Catalonia: Spain takes step towards direct rule – 11 October 2017

The Guardian – Catalonia’s suspended declaration of independence: what happens next? – 11 October 2017

BBC News – Catalonia independence declaration signed and suspended – 10 October 2017

Al-Jazeera – Catalan vote: Claims of Spanish police brutality probed – 3 October 2017


Columbian police open fire on protestors

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — Hundreds of farmers and community members gathered to protest forced eradication of their coca crops when the peaceful demonstration turned into a massacre. As many as fifteen civilians were killed and 50 more were injured at the hands of Colombia’s own security forces.

Police enter Nariño to carry out forced eradication. Image Courtesy of Telesur.

Local reports say anti-narcotics police opened fire into the crowd of protestors on October 5. Between 300 and 1,000 unarmed farmers had gathered in a field of coca requesting to speak with the security forces and stop police from destroying their crop. President Santos has ordered further investigation into the event that occurred in Nariño, the rural area known as a key zone for growing coca.

As the largest producer of coca, a base element of cocaine, Colombia has thousands of farmers who rely on the crop.  The country’s new peace plan provides an opportunity for crop substitution. Over a thousand farmers signed an agreement with the government to participate in this program that will substitute their coca crop for legal ones. In exchange for ripping up their coca, the farmers will receive government investment in their community.

However, most coca farmers around Nariño are not yet included in this program and need their crop to feed their families. Although they intend to participate, anti-narcotics authorities will not wait and are forcing eradication of their crop. This premature eradication destroys their means of livelihood.

Several conflicting reports have been brought blaming different groups for the violence, but human rights organizations and locals of the area assure that it was the police who opened fire on the protesting farmers. They resorted to violence after a peaceful two-week protest in which the farmers refused to participate in coca eradication efforts. Local media reported on several protests in this highly coca dependent area, where about 1,000 locals demanded to be included in the national crop substitution program.

On the other hand, the Colombian government has indirectly blamed guerrilla rebels for inciting the incident. Hundreds of FARC rebels have refused to follow the group’s peace agreement and have formed their own organized crime factions dedicated to drug trafficking. Colombia’s Defense Ministry claims that the rebels threw five-cylinder bombs at members of security forces and the crowd of protestors.

There has been no evidence of this version of events and most witnesses deny it. They report escalating tension between the police and the protestors that resulted in “excessive and irrational action” by the police that was “a clear violation of human rights.”

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports – Southwest Colombia furious at security forces after ’15 killed’ in massacre – 6 October 2017

Reuters – At Least Six Die During Colombia Protest Over Coca Crop Removal – 6 October 2017

Colombia Reports – Military massacre in southwest Colombia?  At least 8 killed, 18 injured in coca protest – 6 October 2017

Fox News – 4 killed in clashes with Colombia coca growers, eradicators – 6 October 2017

Telesur – Colombians Mobilize Against Police Killing of 8 Campesinos – 5 October 2017

Instability Amid Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Race

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Former Soviet territory, Kyrgyzstan, is set to hold Presidential elections on 15 October 2017. This will be the second presidential election since a Constitutional change in 2010. Presidents can only serve one 6-year term.  There are 13 candidates at the moment running for the position.   Parliamentary elections concluded the first week of October.

Citizens rally to support free and fair elections. Photo Courtesy of RadioFreeEurope|RadioLiberty.

Since the candidates were announced on 10 September, the campaign has been characterized by smear tactics and intimidation.

According to the electoral law of Kyrgyzstan, the media must present unbiased information and treat candidates equally. Free airtime in 15 minute slots is provided to all candidates.

However, contender Bakyt Torobaev, claims that the Public Television and Radio Corporation broadcasted harmful material to damage his reputation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was asked to monitor the elections, reports that the number of instances where public officials filed cases for civil defamation has increased recently.

A second point of concern is that influential members of society endorse politicians in very public manners. For example, an ex-mufti, Chubak azhy Zhalilov, stated that he would vote for Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Zhalilov is one of the country’s most famous imams. The Central Election Committee (CEC), which is in charge of monitoring and running the election, says religious authorities may not interfere in the election process. During the 2015 Presidential Elections the CEC issued Zhalilov two warnings about involvement in the elections. This round, he has received none.

Analysts from the Institute for Public Analysis argue that Zhalilov didn’t receive warnings because he favors the current government’s favored candidate. However another well-known religious leader found speaking about Candidate Jeenbekov’s opponent is involved in an ongoing investigation about his endorsement.

A third issue is the concern about the misuse of administrative resources. There are reports of bribery and use of political positions to pressure civil servants and students to vote for Jeenbekov. There are fears that if they don’t they could suffer uncertain futures.

There have even been arrests on 30 September around a coup plot supposedly developed by a MP supporter of Omurbek Babanov, the main opponent against Jeenbekov. Supposedly, if Babanov does not win the election, violent unrest would ensue to put Babanov into the seat of power. Babanov believes that this accusation is just a ‘black pr’ tactic used to smear his campaign.

Citizens rallied together in Bishkek at the end of September. Approximately 1000 people attended. They demanded fair and clean elections in response to the bribery, administrative resource misuses, and endorsements.

On October 15, Former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov won Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election, receiving 54.3 percent of the approximate 1.7 million votes cast. 

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg Politics – Jeenbekov Wins Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Election – 15 October 2017

Radio Free Europe – Following The Twists, Turns In Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Race – 26 September 2017

OSCE – Interim Report – 29 September 2017

Eurasianet – Kyrgyzstan: Smears Soil Election Campaign– 2 October 2015

Radio Free Europe – “Rally Held ‘For Fair Elections’ in Bishkek Ahead of October Presidential Vote” – 30 September 2017

Institute for War and Peace – Kyrgyzstan: Religion and Politics Prove Sensitive Mix – 29 September 2017

President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Arrested for Corruption

By: Fernando Oliveira
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – On October 5th, 2017, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the Brazilian Olympic Committee president, and his right-hand man, Leonardo Gryner, the general director of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, were arrested by Brazil’s federal police. Both were allegedly involved in a voting-buying scandal that supposedly allowed Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Brazilian Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman is escorted from the federal police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph courtesy of Bruno Kelly/Reuters.

According to Brazilian federal prosecutors, Nuzman and Gryner controlled a complex criminal organization which, in 2009, “bought” Lamine Diack’s vote to bring the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. Indeed, the investigation has found several emails showing that Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal, received at least $2 million for promising to vote for Rio de Janeiro’s candidacy during the poll held in Copenhagen in October 2009.

Nuzman, who is now 75 years old, was a Brazilian volleyball player who represented the national team from 1962 to 1968. Later on, he became head of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation, from 1975 until 1995.  Since 1995, he has been BOC’s president. According to investigators, in the last 10 years, his assets have grown more than 450%.

Additionally, investigators discovered that Nuzman concealed sixteen 1kg gold bars in a Swiss bank, which led federal prosecutor Fabiana Schneider to declare:

“While Olympic medalists chased their dreams of gold medals, leaders of the Brazilian Olympic Committee stashed their gold in Switzerland.”

The ongoing investigation, called “Unfair Play,” brought evidence that Nuzman and Gryner are involved in corruption, money laundering, and conspiracy.

Nuzman’s lawyer, Nelio Machado claimed that Nuzman’s arrest is wholly unnecessary, and constitutes a vehement flaw, mostly because it is clear that the election of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games strictly followed the rules.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Brazil police arrest Olympic committee chief in vote-buying scandal – 05 October 2017

New York Times – Brazil’s Olympic Committee President Arrested for Corruption – 05 October 2017

ABC News – President of Brazilian Olympic Committee arrested – 05 October 2017

Folha de São Paulo – Brazilian Police Arrest Olympics Chief Carlos Nuzman in Alleged Vote-Buying Scheme – 05 October 2017