Statement issued by Syrian organizations in support of the work of the IIIM
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
We, the signatories to this letter, are Syrian organizations working on human rights documentation, accountability, and transitional justice in Syria. Reaffirming our commitment to the demands of justice and accountability, standing in solidarity with all victims in Syria and recognizing their demands for justice and redress, we would like to make the following statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations and to the Secretary-General in support of the mandate of the IIIM. We wish to refer to the following points:
Support the work of the IIIM and cooperate with its team:
In its resolution establishing the IIIM (A/71/L.48) in December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly called upon various bodies, including Syrian civil society, to cooperate fully with the IIIM, in particular to provide the IIIM with any information or documents these bodies may possess, as well as any other forms of assistance relevant to the IIIM mandate.
Over the past year and a half, Syrian civil society has worked diligently to support the IIIM’s work. Civil society has introduced the Syrian people to the mechanism, leading to a greater understanding of the IIIM’s mandate. This process included holding three consultative meetings with the mechanism’s team in Lausanne, Switzerland, recently culminating in the signing of a protocol of cooperation between the IIIM and Syrian civil society organizations. This protocol aims at ensuring mutual understanding between the parties in terms of opportunities for cooperation, furthering the parties’ common objective of ensuring justice and accountability for victims of crimes committed in Syria.
The signatory organizations look forward to working with the mechanism’s team to advance the justice and accountability agenda for all victims in Syria and would like to encourage international and local organizations to cooperate with the mechanism and support its mandate.
The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at email@example.com. Unsubscribe | Preferences
By: Emily Green Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
CURITIBA, Brazil – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva surrendered himself to police after a day-long standoff. The politician has begun his twelve-year prison term for money laundering and corruption.
Lula was taken into custody on Saturday in Sao Paulo and was flown to the southern city of Curitiba. Just hours earlier, he told thousands of supporters that he would surrender to police while still maintaining his innocence. Lula argues that his corruption conviction is just a way to keep him from running for re-election in October.
Judge Sergio Moro ordered the arrest warrant for Lula, giving him until 5 p.m. Friday to present himself to police. Instead, Lula chose to hunker down in the metal workers union headquarters where his rise to power began. The once very popular leader still has a large support base who gathered at the headquarters to keep him from going to jail.
When he first tried to leave, dozens of people blocked the gate where his car was trying to exit. His supporters had a few minutes of tense words with the guards until Lula got out of the car and went back into the building. He emerged a second time later that night surrounded by bodyguards who kept supporters away. He reported to police and was transported by helicopter to his cell in Curitiba.
Currently, Lula is appealing his conviction for corruption. The Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country’s top court, decided in a six to five vote that Lula could not remain free while appealing his conviction. However, it would only take one justice to change his mind for Lula to be released while pursuing his appeals. These could take months if not years. Additionally, Lula is facing six separate pending trials for corruption.
Polls conducted before he was jailed report that Lula was the frontrunner for the October presidential election. He claims that he is a political prisoner of the opposition party. Lula said, “The police and ‘Car Wash’ investigators lied. The prosecution lied, and I don’t forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief.”
Supporters have staged a “Free Lula” camp outside of the federal building where he is being held. They say they will not budge until he is released. Police estimated about 700 people camping around the building with more expected to arrive. The leader of the Workers’ Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, said Lula is a political prisoner and the party will not give up the fight to have him released.
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Viktor Orban has just won re-election in Hungary, and wants the nation to know that “significant changes and modifications can be expected.”
Orban’s party now has a supermajority of seats in Hungary’s parliament, having won 134 of the 199 seats in the national assembly.
Orban led his campaign on an anti-immigration platform. As the incumbent Prime Minister, Orban has employed various tactics in order to gain public support.
His influence has even found its way into school textbooks. One book espouses Orban’s belief that refugees pose a threat to Hungary, stating that “it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist.”
Orban’s tactics have been a point of contention in the European Union. As part of his campaign for re-election, he pledged to tighten Hungary’s borders and prevent migrants from getting into the country.
Orban believes that the European Union, the United Nations, and philanthropist George Soros intend to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country.”
As part of his efforts to prevent migrants from coming into the country, Orban supports the “Stop Soros” bill that would prevent civic workers in their efforts to assist and support asylum seekers. If the bill is passed, civic groups would be forced to obtain government permits. In addition, they would not be able to operate within five miles of Hungary’s borders, which is typically where migrants file claims seeking admission into the country.
Orban is outspoken in his belief that Hungary’s borders should not be opened to migrants. He once said to a Hungarian television station: “We will never allow Hungary to become a target country for immigrants. We do not want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary.”
Between 2015 and 2016, a wave of over one million migrants arrived in Europe. During that time, the European Commission proposed compulsory quotas be enacted to distribute the asylum-seekers to European Union member nations. Orban vehemently opposed the proposal, and in June of 2015 erected a barrier fence along the southern border of Hungary.
During his campaign, Orban refused to speak to opponents or the media, instead choosing to limit his appearances to rallies for is supporters.
Opponents of Orban believe that he is weakening the democratic system and attempting to concentrate too much power in too few hands. He has responded to these observations with assurances that “Hungary continues to stand on constitutional foundations. Within those, we will do everything that serves the interests of the Hungarian people.”
By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WICHITA, Kansas — On Monday, March 19, the trial began for the three Kansas militia members who attempted to bomb an apartment complex that houses Somali refugees.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen—the ‘Crusaders’—each face charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights for allegedly planning to detonate truck bombs in an apartment complex of Garden City, a small rural town in southwest Kansas, the day after the November 2016 Presidential election. The ‘Crusaders’ are a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force with violent anti-government and anti-Muslim views.
In 2014, the International Rescue Committee opened an office in Garden City, Kansas, to resettle refugees from war-ravaged countries like Somalia, many of whom are Muslim, and many of whom found jobs within the local meatpacking industry. Witnesses testified that the Pulse Nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016, was the catalyst that shifted the Crusaders’ attitudes from ugly bigotry and complaints of “they’re taking our jobs,” to actual violent ideation and attempts at recruitment of other like-minded individuals.
Curtis Allen, who was in charge of writing the group’s manifesto to frame the terror attacks as a patriotic defense of the US Constitution against Muslim immigrants, also had prior convictions for domestic battery. On October 11, Allen’s girlfriend called 911 to report he had beaten her, and the arresting agents found him illegally possessing two dozen firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his home.
Patrick Stein sought material support from an undercover FBI agent to acquire materials to make explosives. He was arrested shortly afterwards by the FBI on October 14, 2016, after delivering to them 300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer—which is the same raw material that was used by Timothy McVey in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He regularly referred to Muslims as “cockroaches,” and had nicknamed himself “Orkin-man” in reference to the extermination company.
The alleged plan was to detonate truck bombs around the apartment complex and shoot the survivors afterward in an attempt to do the maximum amount of damage.
The three men were indicted in October 2016 and pled not guilty to the charges.
During the jury selection process, the defense team argued that the pool of jurors for the case was drawn from more urban areas close to the federal courthouse in Wichita, and that this selection would exclude rural and conservative jurors. The presiding judge informed the defense attorneys that the surrounding area included rural jurors as well. One of the defense attorneys told the judge that the difference in belief systems between rural jurors around Wichita is substantially different from that of the population of rural southwest Kansas. The prosecution cited case law that finds groups of prospective jurors are not considered distinctive groups by geographic location.
The theme of the defense team’s argument has been that defendants were swayed to action by fake news on Facebook and undercover FBI involvement. The defense team has also sought to suppress evidence of 28,000 pages of defendants’ Facebook material, including anti-Muslim posts, pro-Trump memes, and fake news stories.
According to the Huffington Post, one of the defense attorneys cross-examined an FBI agent and asked why the FBI did not inform local police about the possible attack so that the police could have warned the defendants against the attack. “Hey knucklehead,” the attorney suggested the police say. “We know what you’re talking about. Knock it off.”
On redirect, the prosecution asked the FBI agent if it was standard procedure to respond for law enforcement officers to a plot to bomb buildings and commit mass murder by calling the suspect a “Knucklehead” and asking them to “Knock it off.” The agent said it was not.
By: Katherine Hewitt Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – On April 14 and 15, several attacks occurred across Afghanistan late at night and early in the morning. It appears that three of the attacks were coordinated, targeting government posts. Two all-girls schools were also attacked. No organization has claimed responsibility, but the government suspects the Taliban attacked the government facilities.
Two government checkpoints were attacked in the Sancharak District of Sar-i-Pul. This region has a history of bouncing back and forth between Taliban and government control. Naqibullah Daqiq, the governor, said Taliban forces attacked with night-vision equipment and sniper rifles. One guard was killed in the initial confrontation. When local pro-government militiamen arrived, they attempted to engage the attacking forces. Another 10 were killed.
An attack in the Helmand province left 4 young children dead after a rocket hit their home and another child was wounded in a separate attack.
In Faryab province, the district of Dawlat Abad, 2 more government checkpoints were attacked. The police chief, Nematullah Tofan, reported that 4 government defenders were shot in the head by Taliban snipers and consequently died.
An additional two checkpoints in the Jaghatu district of Ghazni Province were attacked early in the morning on April 15. Eight officers in this encounter died with another 4 wounded.
On Sunday afternoon, a group attacked three university guards in Jalalabad, who were on break for worship. The men rode by on motorcycle and opened fire while the men were praying. Two died on site. The third guard ran but was killed shortly as the gunmen followed him.
Earlier in the week on April 11, a group attacked a girls’ high school in Logar Province. They attacked and locked up the guardsmen and proceeded to burn down the school.