Human Rights Organizations call for the Release of 2 Uzbek Journalists

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Uzbekistan – On February 14, various human rights organizations called for Uzbekistan to investigate the claims of torture and mistreatment of two journalists currently in jail – Bobomurod Abdullaev and Hayot Nasriddinov. The statement also called for the immediate release of the two as well as other journalists detained. Twelve groups partook in this petition: Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.

Left: Hayot Nasriddinov. Right: Bobomurod Abdullaev. Photo courtesy of AsiaTerra and Fergananews.

Both were arrested in the later half of 2017. Abdullaev was a reporter for Fergana. He was arrested for “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” by the National Security Service (SNB). His articles were described as ‘extremist’ and as part of a conspiracy theory to overthrow the government. The charge comes with a 20 year jail sentence. He told relatives of his torture and mistreatment.

Nariddinov was a blogger and economist. The reasoning for his arrest is unclear, but it is believed to be similar to Abdullaev’s. He could also face up to 20 years of prison if charged. There are concerns that he is also facing ill-treatment.

Abdullaev shared his abuse with his mother and wife, when they visited him in January. He said he was approached by SNB who did not show identification. He was beaten, a bag thrown over his head, and pushed into a car. He was kept naked standing in freezing jail cell with no food for 5 days.

On January 31st, the chief of the SNB was replaced. Under his tenure there were multiple cases of torture and ill treatment. Two SNB officers involved in the abuses have been suspended from the case, reportedly.

Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said, “At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation.”

For more information, please see:

 Committee to Protect Journalists – CPJ joins call for Uzbekistan to investigate claims jailed journalists were tortured – 14 February 2018

Human Rights Watch – Uzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist- 14 February 2018

Article 19 – Uzbekistan: Investigate torture of journalist – 14 February 2018

Peru’s ex-President Fujimori could face another trial despite pardon

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – A Peruvian court ruled Monday that former President Alberto Fujimori can stand trial for killings. The decision comes in spite of the fact that the current President had already granted Fujimori a pardon for these human rights abuses.

Ex-President Fujimori being wheeled out of a Lima clinic. Image Courtesy of Luka Gonzales.

Essentially, the court decided not to apply the grace that current President Kuczynski granted him. This ruling has paved the way for Fujimori to finally be tried for his alleged responsibility for the murders of six people in the town of Pativilca. The event occurred in 1992 when a paramilitary group under Fujimori’s orders kidnapped, tortured, and killed six farmers by death squad. Prosecutors asked to try the ex-president and 23 others for these crimes against humanity.

However, President Kuczynski’s office decided to grant the 79-year-old a “humanitarian pardon.” This heavily criticized pardon was granted on the grounds of Fujimori’s declining health. The President cited low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat as justification. Doctors diagnosed Fujimori with a progressive, degenerative and incurable illness. They said prison conditions would put him at risk. The President said, “I am convinced that those of us who consider ourselves democrats cannot allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison. Justice is not vengeance. All pardons are by nature controversial.” In response, protests erupted over the pardon. Peruvians were outraged and demonstrations turned violent in clashes with the police.

Now, the Peruvian court has made a historic decision in refusing to honor this pardon.  Amnesty International sees it as an important advance in the fight against impunity. They say it reinforces the obligation of the Peruvian state to guarantee victims’ right to truth, justice, and reparation. The Americas Director at Amnesty International, Erika Guevara Rosas, said, “Today the victims, families and Peruvian society have achieved an important step towards justice and preserving the memory of the victims of these crimes.”

Fujimori has indicated that he is prepared for the legal process ahead. His lawyer, Miguel Perez, stated that “Mr. Fujimori is not scared or does not oppose being summoned in this process as a defendant.” His son also remarked that he believes that the political process will treat his father fairly and acquit him of the charges.

Now that the path is clear, human rights organizations demand that he be tried if there is sufficient and admissible evidence against him. Prosecutors are seeking a 25-year sentence and reparations to the victim’s families. Still, Fujimori’s attorney said that he might appeal the court’s decision.

For more information, please see:

The Santiago Times – Peru’s ex-President Fujimori to be tried for 1992 killings despite recent pardon – 20 February 2018

BBC News – Peru’s ex-President Fujimori ordered to stand trial again – 20 February 2018

CNN – Ex-Peru leader Fujimori can be tried over killings despite pardon – 20 February 2018

Voice of America – Peru Court: Pardoned Fujimori Could Face Another Human Rights Trial – 19 February 2018

Amnesty International – Peru: Fujimori may be tried after decision not to apply grace in Pativilca case – 19 February 2018

Venezuelan migrants desperate for cash

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CUCUTA, Colombia – The deepening crisis in Venezuela has triggered a mass migration into Colombia. Desperate migrants are forced to do whatever they can to make money and survive.

Man looking to buy locks of hair for hair extensions in Colombia. Image Courtesy of John Otis.

Under socialist President Maduro, Venezuelans suffer from widespread food shortages, medicine shortages, and hyperinflation. As of December, the Colombian immigration department reports that more than half a million migrants have crossed into Colombia in the last two years. This exodus rivals the Syrian refugee crisis and has been labeled the world’s “least-talked-about” immigration crisis.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced earlier this month that they would take measures to tighten the border. Venezuelans responded by rushing to cross the border before the new rules took hold. The Tachira River bridge is one of the busiest crossing points and is clogged with people. Many carry boxes of possessions and suitcases with them, but still are in desperate need of money. For most, the first opportunity comes right when they arrive. Dealers of precious metals wait for migrants to unload their jewelry. People hand over their rings, brooches, and necklaces. The dealers check the purity of the metal and then offer cash.

One shop owner, Jose Alvarado, negotiates prices around $7 for a woman’s silver bracelet and $275 for a man’s gold ring. Alvarado expresses compassion and recalls a heartbreaking case of a couple who sold their wedding rings after 40 years of marriage. He says, “People cry a lot when they sell their jewelry. But they have no choice.”

Venezuelans have found that selling their hair is another way to make money. Several wigmakers now walk around Cucuta with advertisements that they give cash for hair. The going rate in the border town for women’s hair is about $10, less than one third of the price in the nation’s capital. One woman, Ms. Hernandez, said “I sold my hair to feed my girl.”

Some other ways to survive include selling street food, performing street music, and working construction. However, others resort to prostitution or street crime. The massive number of migrants has made it impossible for all those who want to work to find a job. Most of their daily earnings are immediately spent on food, water, and paying to use bathrooms in cafes.

The situation has put a huge strain on locals. In an effort to reduce the tension, President Santos remarked, “I would like to ask all Colombians to steer clear of xenophobia and hostilities toward Venezuelans.” Despite this, migrants report being robbed at knifepoint and practically run down by cars. One young man from Caracas explained how unwelcome he felt and commented, “We are rats to them.”

President Santos has adopted several measures to counter the crisis. There will be programs to help legal immigrants gain access to residency and there will be task forces to control the homeless population.

For more information, please see:

Herald Tribune – Santos Urges Colombians to Reject Xenophobia toward Venezuelan Migrants – 21 February 2018

Colombia Reports – Curfews in central Colombia after looting and violence – 21 February 2018

NPR – Venezuela’s Deepening Crisis Triggers Mass Migration Into Colombia – 20 February 2018

NY Times – In Colombia Border Town, Desperate Venezuelans Sell Hair to Survive – 17 February 2018

Simon Wiesenthal Center Considers Travel Advisory

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, is considering issuing a travel advisory for Jews traveling to Poland.

Gate at Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland. ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Makes One Free) is written overhead. Photo courtesy of Scott Barbour.

The travel advisory is being considered in light of a recent spike in anti-Semitism in Poland following the passage of a new law imposing fines and prison sentences for individuals who suggest that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Over three million Polish Jews were murdered in the country during the genocide. Only ten percent of the Polish Jewish community survived. Several of the most deadly death camps run by the Nazi regime were constructed and run in Poland.

The “Holocaust Speech Law” has been condemned internationally and spurred a bitter feud between Israel and Poland.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the law, which takes effect on February 28th, saying “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

The travel advisory, if issued, would “urge Jews to limit their travel to Poland only to visit ancestral graves and Holocaust-era death camps,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement issued on February 22nd.

“In wake of the controversial new Holocaust Law in Poland and the anti-Semitism it has unleashed that has left the Jewish community shaken, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is considering issuing a Travel Advisory for world Jewry.”

More than 8,000 people in Poland, including many liberal Poles, troubled by the Holocaust Speech law’s passage and the rise in anti-semitism and hateful rhetoric,  have signed a letter to “our Jewish friends” denouncing the escalating wave of hatred.

Jews in Poland are fearful of discrimination and persecution in the wake of the bill’s passage. Many are worried the law’s passage could trigger violence against Jews in the country.

Matylda Jonas-Kowalik, a student at Warsaw University in Poland, worries for her safety. “This is my home. I have never lived anywhere else and wanted this to keep being my home… “But this makes me very anxious. I don’t know what to expect.”

An open letter posted to the Union of Jewish Communities website in Poland calls the Polish government to action. The letter states in part, “as representatives of Polish Jewish organizations, we call on public institutions, police, media outlets, schools, and members of the Polish public to combat anti-Semitism, and we are eager to cooperate with them in this critical mission.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Polish Jews Stunned, Scared by Eruption of Anti-Semitism – 17 February 2018

CNN – Poland’s Jewish Groups Say Jews Feel Unsafe Since New Holocaust Law – 20 February 2018

The Guardian – Poland’s Jews Fear for Future Under New Holocaust Law – 10 February 2018

Newsweek – Nazi Hunter Group Mulls Warning Jews Against Travel to Poland in Wake of Holocaust Law – 22 February 2018

Reuters – Jewish NGO Simon Wiesenthal Center Considers Travel Advisory for Poland – 22 February 2018

Syria Deeply: The latest developments on the situation in the Eastern Ghouta and the U.N. Security Council’s call for a 30-day cease-fire


Feb. 26th, 2018





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

Healthcare Under Attack: As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation on Tuesday, February 27 at 12 pm ET, with Annie Sparrow, a critical-care pediatrician and public health professional, and Mohamad Katoub, a medical worker from Eastern Ghouta and advocacy manager for the Syrian Medical Society, about the deteriorating healthcare situation in Eastern Ghouta. To RSVP and receive dial-in instructions, click here. Submit questions for our editors or guests by responding to this email or tweet @SyriaDeeply using the hashtag #DeeplyTalks.

Increased attacks on the rebel-held enclave in the Eastern Ghouta have severely damaged the region’s already strained medical infrastructure. We invite you to read up on our recent interview with Annie Sparrow about the unprecedented pressures on healthcare facilities in Eastern Ghouta, and the repeated failure to deliver life-saving aid.

Eastern Ghouta: It has been one of the deadliest weeks in the opposition-held suburbs of Damascus, since Eastern Ghouta came under siege more than four years ago. Despite the United Nations Security Council resolution that passed on Saturday calling for a 30-day cease-fire to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations, at least 24 people were killed in attacks on the area in the since Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Sunday’s casualties bring the total death toll to around 530 people killed since the government launched an intensified bombing campaign on the opposition enclave last week, according to Agence France-Presse, who cited the SOHR.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered a “humanitarian pause” in Eastern Ghouta, beginning on Tuesday that would only be in effect from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time daily, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced. Shoigu added that a “humanitarian corridor” would also be created to facilitate civilian evacuations from the area, but did not give any additional details on that process.

Afrin: Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” continued in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday despite the U.N. Security Council’s resolution for a 30-day nationwide cease-fire across Syria.

On Monday, Syrian state-run news and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a Turkish airstrike in the village of Yalan Quz in Afrin killed at least five people. The Turkish army also reportedly captured three villages near the northern Syrian town from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and shelled Afrin on Sunday, the Associated Press reported, citing Turkey’s official news agency.

Ankara on Sunday said that the cease-fire would not affect operations against the YPG in Afrin, according to AFP.

“We welcome the resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council in response to the worsening humanitarian situation all across Syria, in particular in Eastern Ghouta,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement. But it added that Turkey “will remain resolute in fighting against the terrorist organizations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria.”


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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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