Xinjiang: China’s Anti-Terrorism Campaign Is Linked to Its Persecution of Uighurs

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

For years, unrest in China’s Xinjiang region has led to the injury and deaths of hundreds of people. Muslim people in the region, predominantly the Uighurs, have experienced persecution under the Chinese government, which claims that such actions are part of its growing campaign against terrorism.

For years, there has been violence between Chinese security forces and the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)
For years, there has been violence between Chinese security forces and the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Previously, Xinjiang was a short-lived independent state named East Turkestan, before China asserted control over the region in 1949. Xinjiang was historically not considered part of China before that point.

The ethnic majority in Xinjiang is made up by the Han Chinese. About 10 million Uighurs also live in Xinjiang, and make up nearly half of the population in the region. Many Uighurs live in southern Xinjiang, which is the poorest area in the region.

Xinjiang is rich in natural resources like oil, coal, and natural gas, and because of those resources, the Chinese government has provided incentives to Chinese citizens in order to facilitate their moving and settling there. Due to these incentives, many Han Chinese have migrated to the Xinjiang region. The presence of the Han Chinese in the region has grown exponentially in recent years, with an increase from the Han making up 6.7% of the population in the region to over 40% of the population in 2008. That migration is yet another factor impacting the presence of conflict in Xinjiang.

China’s government states that the violence in the area is due to the mobilization of Islamic separatist and militant groups and that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uighur Muslim separatist group, is the primary instigator of tension in the region.

ETIM is an al-Qaeda affiliated militant group and is concentrated in nearby states Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group has fought for some time to establish an independent state for the Uighurs. China blames ETIM for over two hundred terrorism-related attacks thatoccurred from 1990-2001, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, a United States based independent think tank.

While ETIM was officially considered an active terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda by both the United States and China in 2002, some experts on the region have questioned how active the group has remained in Xinjiang. Prior to recent years, the violence in the region appeared be directed toward local governments in response to their treatment of the Uighurs.

Rather than ETIM, human rights groups believe it is truly Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs fueling the ongoing conflict in Xinjiang. According to their view, it is the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uighurs, including its blaming of the Uighurs for fueling terrorist uprisings in the region and its curtailment of the Uighurs’ religious and cultural practices, that has contributed to that unrest.

Uighurs in Xinjiang. (Photo courtesy of the Telegraph)
Uighurs in Xinjiang. (Photo courtesy of the Telegraph)

Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International has referred to the unrest as “homegrown self-radicalization that is made worse by repressive policies and an attempt to hollow out Uighur culture and religious practices.”

The Chinese Communist Party has an agenda against what it perceives as “three evils” of extremism, separatism, and terrorism. According to the 2015 annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the Communist Party’s campaign against the said evils has “manifested in a heavy-handed security apparatus and led to the adoption of a repressive approach to Islam in Xinjiang”.

Human rights groups state that China overstates the threat of Uighur separatists to justify its restrictions on the Uighurs. Some experts also state that the Chinese government may also be overstating the extent of ETIM’s growth in the region.

China’s repression of the Uighurs has heightened since 2009, as anti-terrorism efforts have become increasingly important to the Chinese government. As that repression heightens, conflict in the region also appears to have increased significantly.

In 2009, there were ethnic riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, which caused thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. Since 2013, there have also been attacks on a coal mine, a mosque, a market, train station, and in Tiananmen Square, all of which the Chinese government linked to Uighur militants.

Following a set of attacks in Urumqi that killed 43 people in 2014, Chinese officials began a “strike hard special operation” against terrorist forces in the country. The Chinese government has noted that that the operation facilitated the elimination of 200 terrorist groups and the execution of least 49 people.

Also in 2015, Chinese authorities hunted down alleged perpetrators of the coal mine attack in Xinjiang. Security forces killed 28 suspects in the process, women and children among them.

Following the Urumqi riots in 2009, Chinese authorities began to take measures to curb the perceived threat of terrorism in Xinjiang, such as building fences throughout the regions and closing off entire neighborhoods for security inspections. Uighurs are often required to display identification before entering their neighborhoods, while Han Chinese living in the same neighborhoods do not have to adhere to the same requirement.

Heavy security in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)
Heavy security in the Xinjiang region. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Authorities in Xinjiang maintain security checkpoints to check the ID cards and cellphones of citizens, primarily those of Uighurs. Cellphones are of particular interest to officials because they may contain apps or other software contributing to jihadist causes or allowing owners to communicate with individuals outside of China.

Uighurs are also disallowed from certain religious practices, including the covering of the head and face and accessing religious centers. Fasting during Ramadan is also strictly governed.

Many Uighurs are also discouraged from traveling, especially abroad, and some are even denied travel documents. Even those who are ultimately able to obtain travel documents go through an arduous process in order to be approved for those documents. In June 2016, the Chinese government determined that people in Yili, in Xinjiang’s north-western region, would need to present DNA or other biological evidence when applying for travel documents.

Human rights advocates that have worked to eradicate conflict in Xinjiang face repression by the Chinese government as well. One such advocate, economist and Uighur supporter Ilham Tohti, was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged separatism after he called for reconciliation between the Chinese and Uighurs. This year, two years after his imprisonment commenced, Mr. Tohti was announced as the winner of the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders. The Martin Ennals Foundation described Mr. Tohti’s work as that which fostered dialogue and understanding between the Han and Uighur populations in Xinjiang, but China’s foreign ministry stated that the activist’s case has nothing to do with human rights and is based purely on his separatist activities.

Ilham Tohti, a Uigher and advocate for mending relations between the Chinese and Uighurs, was imprisoned in 2014. (Photo courtesy of the Guardian)

Additionally, members of the media, both foreign and national, have experienced persecution for their portrayal of the Uighur plight. It is difficult for foreign press to infiltrate Xinjiang to deliver news coverage of ongoing events, so coverage is limited. Officials in the region often do not respond to requests for interviews, and the aforementioned security checkpoints keep journalists from reaching specific parts of the region.

In December 2015, a French journalist was expelled from the country for an article that criticized Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region and its treatment of the Uighurs. The journalist, Ursula Gauthier, published a story indicating that China could be using the Paris attacks to justify its crackdowns in Xinjiang. Ms. Gauthier’s expulsion was the first foreign journalist to be expelled from China since 2012.

Even those who work for state-run media are not safe from punishment for what the government perceives as criticism of its policies regarding the Uighurs. In November 2015, the editor of newspaper Xinjiang Daily, was expelled from the state’s official Communist Party and subjected to legal review for his improper discussion of clashes in the Xinjiang region.

China’s crackdown on the Uighurs may in turn have driven some Uighurs to join terrorist organizations. When news sources began to report that Uighurs were fighting alongside affiliates of al-Qaeda in 2015, it became clear that some Uighurs were vulnerable to al-Qaeda and Islamic State recruitment techniques.

Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have pointedly highlighted the Uighurs’ treatment by the Chinese in Xinjiang. In December 2015, Islamic State’s foreign media division, Al Hayat Media Center, released a recording of a chant in Chinese which called for Muslims to rise up and fight for the Islamic State. It was unclear whether the chant designated China as a target, but China was previously identified by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a state in which the rights of Muslims are seized.

Additionally, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi denounced China’s treatment of the Uighurs and other Muslims earlier this year and spoke of an Islamic state reaching from Morocco to Xinjiang.

A report released in July 2016 by the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, indicated that 114 Uighurs from Xinjiang had been recruited by the Islamic State. The report, which was based on leaked registration documents of Islamic State recruits, stated that policies enacted in the region could be a “push factor driving people to leave the country and look elsewhere for a sense of ‘belonging’.”

Earlier this year, a suicide bombing at the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan was carried out by Zoir Khalilov, an ethnic Uighur who reportedly was an ETIM member. The GKNB, the State Committees of National Security for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, reported that Uighur terrorist groups committed the attack and that Nusra Front, a splinter group of al-Qaeda in Syria, financed the attack.

The bombing was the first time a Chinese embassy has ever been attacked by a terrorist organization. Several other individuals were detained or arrested in connection with the attack.

China has increased its anti-terrorism efforts targeted at the Uighurs by joining efforts with other states. For example, in 2015, Thailand deported a group of 100 Uighurs who were attempting to reach Turkey and other nations that could offer refuge. The Chinese government claimed that the deportees were militants who intended to join the jihadist movement in Syria. Thailand’s deportation sparked protests in front of a Chinese embassy and an honorary consulate in the country.

In August 2016, China instituted an anti-terrorism alliance with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, all whom border with the Xinjiang region. China and Tajikistan held anti-terrorism drills in October, with over 400 troops participating.

China’s President, Xi Jinping, visited Saudi Arabia in 2016 to discuss expanding security cooperation in the fight against terrorism. In October 2016, China and Saudi Arabia held joint anti-terrorism drills in southwest China, with about 50 individuals participating.

Anti-terrorism forces in China. (Photo courtesy of Time)
Anti-terrorism forces in China. (Photo courtesy of Time)

At the 2016 G20 Summit in September, President Jinping and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pledged to strengthen ties in order to fight terrorism. Turkey and China previously had discord between them regarding China’s treatment of the Uighurs, who ethnically identify as Turkish. Some Muslim political groups in Turkey have denounced China’s treatment of the Uighurs, and at one point, Turkish protesters marched on the Chinese embassy and consulate in Turkey to fight that treatment. Jinping and Erdogan’s pledge to increase ties between their states seems to have overshadowed that discord at least for the time being.

President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, meeting at the G20 Summit. (Photo courtesy of International Business Times)
President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, meeting at the G20 Summit. (Photo courtesy of International Business Times)

China’s relations with Western nations regarding its anti-terrorism campaign and treatment of the Uighurs have not been as fruitful. Many critics of China’s treatment of the Uighurs and its anti-terrorism campaign point to China’s lack of transparency.

In June of this year in its annual anti-terrorism report, the U.S. State Department questioned China on its anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang, citing its lack of transparency and its effect on anti-terrorism cooperative efforts. China responded with a statement citing the need for the United States to respect China’s fight against militants in the region.

In November 2015, China’s state-run media also came out with a series of articles criticizing western nations for their failure to support China in its fight against Uighur militants in Xinjiang, stating that those nations refused to treat the Uighurs’ actions as acts of terrorism.

 

For more information, please see: 

Al Jazeera – China, Saudi Arabia Hold Joint “Anti-Terror” Drills – 27 October 2016

Associated Press – Rising Uighur Militancy Changes Security Landscape for China – 9 September 2016

Associated Press via San Diego Union-Tribune – AP EXPLAINS: How Uighur Militants are Affecting China – 9 September 2016

The Atlantic – The Limits of Chinese Isolationism – 17 October 2016

BBC –Chinese Police Require DNA for Passports in Xinjiang – 7 June 2016

BBC – China Xinjiang Daily Editor Sacked After “Anti-Terror Criticism” – 2 November 2015

CNBC – As China Fights Uighurs in Xinjiang, Complaints Rise Over West’s View – 25 November 2015

The Diplomat – China’s Nightmare: Xinjiang Jihadists Go Global – 17 August 2016

The Economist – Xinjiang: The Race Card – 3 September 2016

The Epoch Times – CHINA SECURITY: China Uses Paris Attacks to Promote Persecution of Uyghurs – 24 November 2015

The Financial Times – Syria-based Uighur Militants Linked to Chinese Embassy Bombing – 7 September 2016

The Guardian – Ilham Tohti, Uighur Imprisoned for Life by China, Wins Major Human Rights Prize – 11 October 2016

The Guardian – China Expels French Journalist Who Questioned Treatment of Uighurs – 26 December 2015

International Business Times – China’s Jinping Meets Turkey’s Erdogan; Both Countries Pledge to Step up Counter Terrorism Cooperation – 3 September 2016

The New York Times – Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown – 2 January 2016

The New York Times – ISIS Extends Recruitment Efforts to China With New Chant – 8 December 2015

Reuters – China, Turkey Pledge to Deepen Counter-Terrorism Cooperation – 3 September 2016

TIME – Five Ways China Has Become More Repressive Under President Xi Jinping – 6 October 2016

TIME – China Will Have to Get Used to Being a Terrorist Target – 31 August 2016

TIME – Uighur Extremists Joining Isis Poses a Security and Economic Headache for China’s Xi Jinping – 21 July 2016

UNPO – EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy Recognizes Persistent Threats to Minorities – 26 September 2016

UNPO – East Turkestan: Daily Harassment and Physical Segregation of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Region – 24 August 2016

UNPO – East Turkestan: U.S. Criticizes Chinese Anti-Terror Campaign – 6 June 2016

War on the Rocks – Counterterrorism or Repression? China Takes on Uighur Militants – 18 April 2016

 

Special Feature: Discrimination and Violence Against Women Remain Pressing Issues Despite International Women’s Rights Treaty

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

Discrimination and violence against women, despite international mechanisms to eradicate such treatment, are startlingly common in many states throughout the world.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, has ushered along marked success in fighting discrimination and violence against women worldwide.

CEDAW has ensured many successes in the battle against violent and discriminatory practices toward women, and has helped to develop institutions that work to decrease those practices in many states.

CEDAW’s successes are in part due to the treaty’s own structure in that periodic report submissions to the treaty’s Committee help increase state accountability. CEDAW’s successes are also due to the efforts of government bodies and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in states.

NGOs often serve a crucial role in how much effort states out toward eliminating violence and discrimination against women. They act as advocacy networks in many states, monitoring the actions of governments and issuing shadow reports to the United Nations CEDAW Committee.

Many critics of CEDAW’s progress, however, say that the change borne from the treaty is not revolutionary enough. There are numerous and differing challenges that factor in to the enforcement of CEDAW in each state.

Of all international treaties, CEDAW has the highest number of reservations submitted by party states. Many state parties to CEDAW have taken reservations to the treaty, citing cultural and religious factors that condition their ratification of and commitment to CEDAW. Cultural practices and regional differences within states themselves may also hamper states’ efforts to eliminate violence and discrimination against women.

Additionally, the disparity between national and local or regional governments in many states often makes enforcement of anti-discrimination and anti-violence laws and norms difficult.

Finally, perhaps the most significant impediment to the progress of international law mechanisms like CEDAW is that a large percentage of women in many states are simply unaware of their rights under the treaty.

There are also regional efforts at eradicating violence and discrimination against women, including bodies such as the African Union and the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Bodies such as these have achieved some limited success.

Despite the advancements made in many states as part of their commitment under CEDAW to eliminate discrimination and violence against women, there is still much progress to be made.

The following global report highlights some of the most prominent and current examples of discrimination and violence facing women in each region of the world, as well as progress made by certain states.

Asia Pacific

In Myanmar, the government has been criticized by watchdog groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who claim that it has failed to respond to serious human rights violations against women. Myanmar’s laws restricting Buddhist women from marrying outside their faith and imposing birth spacing schedules have also been denounced.

Women of the Rohingya ethnicity, a ethnic minority persecuted in Myanmar, could be the most adversely affected, as they already face legal norms preventing them from having more than a certain number of children.

Despite Myanmar having a new democratic government run by recently elected leader Daw Aung San Sun Kyi, women still experience a great deal of discrimination and domestic and sexual violence. Many international advocates of the rights of women hope that treatment of women in Myanmar will become more progressive as the new political structure continues to develop.

In Pakistan, there are high rates of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. Honor killings are a present concern in Pakistan. Such killings most often occur within the family, a punishment for women who have dishonored the family name or who have committed other supposed offenses. In June of this year, a 16 year-old girl was set on fire by her parents for marrying against their will and a school teacher was burned alive after turning down a marriage proposal. From January through May 2016, there were 212 honor killings in Pakistan, including the highly publicized honor killing of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch.

The killing of Ms. Baloch appears to have renewed Pakistan’s commitment to passing national legislation prohibiting honor killings, and a previously drafted bill will be presented before Pakistan’s Parliament later this month.

Ms. Baloch. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Although Pakistan ratified CEDAW in 1996, its commitment to preventing honor killings has been questioned by human rights organizations. Amnesty International, for example, has criticized the state for its failure to adequately investigate and prosecute such offenses.

Punjab Province in Pakistan has also made some advances in decreasing violence against women, such a law criminalizing violence against women and an online database that will include statistical data on the status of women in the province.

South America

In Argentina, one woman has been murdered every 37 hours during 2016, according to women’s rights group Casa del Encuentro. In 40 different cases, the victims had previously reported attacks by men. Some of the victims even had restraining orders against the men who killed them. There has been much public condemnation of the murder rates in Argentina, and citizens have held public protests and rallies across the country.

Argentina’s President, Mauricio Macri, announced a national plan last month which focuses on eliminating violence against women. The National Plan for the Eradication of Violence against Women is Argentina’s response to the need to “banish the cultural practices that normalize violence against women”, according to Macri. The comprehensive plan includes strategies such as equality education, a network of refuges for women, and electronic tagging of violent offenders against women.

A map showing the number of calls to a gender violence hotline in Argentina. (Photo courtesy of the Telegraph)

In Brazil, a woman is killed every two hours and assaulted every 15 seconds, reports a nonprofit group, Mapa da Violencia.

Violence against women has increased rapidly in a northern state in Brazil, Rio Grande do Norte, at a rate of 39% in four years. Police and courts generally are not responsive to the pleas of women and their families for restraining orders against violent husbands, and as a result, those women are often later killed by the same men.

While Brazil does have laws in place against gender-based homicides and violence, the laws have not effectively decreased the rates of violence in certain regions. Violence stemming from gangs and drug cartels exacerbates the problem. There are also few shelters for battered women in some regions.

There have been improvements to Brazil’s social policies toward woman generally, however. There are more women in the workplace than ever, and women have access to advanced education and employment opportunities.

Middle East

In the aftermath of the recent military coup attempt in Turkey, anti-women sentiment and violence against women has increased. Women related to soldiers involved in the attempt were viewed as spoils of the military’s defeat by some. The term of the AKP, Turkey’s ruling political party, seems to have ushered in a new wave of discrimination and violence against women.

Women were previously legally protected in many ways in Turkey, but laws protecting them have been interpreted more loosely since the AKP’s rise to power. Abortion, for example, is legal in Turkey, but women face many impediments to actually getting the procedure done. Additionally, women who seek police protection from violent spouses are often physically forced to return to their homes. In 2015, at least 284 women were murdered.

Women at the funeral of a victim of the attempted military coup. (Photo courtesy of Rudaw)

In Saudi Arabia, a state that has made advances in ensuring more rights for women in recent years, a restrictive guardianship system has remained in place. Women are required to have male guardians who have veto power over choices such as attending certain schools, getting married, and traveling.

Some women are even required to get guardian consent before obtaining healthcare services or working. Those physically or sexually abused by their legal guardians have few legal protections.

Africa

The African Union has demonstrated awareness of discrimination and violence against women – one issue in the spotlight this year is the legalization of safe abortions. In January 2016, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) called for the decriminalization of abortion throughout Africa.

The African Union also produced the Maputo Protocol in 2005, which outlines women’s right to safe abortions in instances of sexual assault, rape, incest, and when the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother or the fetus. As of today, 34 African countries have signed the protocol, but efforts at enforcing the protocol are limited thus far.

In Morrocco, a country which ranks among the worst offenders when it comes to gender equality, Amnesty International has begun to train women’s rights groups, activists, and lawyers on informing women of their rights under international law. As stated, women in many states do not know that there are mechanisms like CEDAW in place to protect their rights.

Additionally, Morocco’s House of Representatives adopted a draft bill last month which forbids gender-based discrimination, affords greater legal protections to battered women, and criminalizes violence against women, among other provisions.

A participant of an awareness event focusing on violence and discrimination against women held by participants in Amnesty International’s training programs. (Photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

In Sudan, one of only six states in the world who have not ratified CEDAW, sexual violence has been a perpetual issue throughout the Darfur conflict, which has lasted over twelve years. Sexual violence against women is particularly common during attacks on villages and displaced people in Darfur. It is also incredibly difficult to monitor crimes perpetrated by soldiers or pro-government militia.

In addition, there is great stigma associated with rape in Sudan and some women are even charged with adultery or other immoral acts after reporting rapes to police. As a result, many women and their families keep incidences of sexual violence a secret.

The poor explanation of evidence standards for proving rape and lax punishments for such crimes in Article 149 of Sudan’s criminal law only serves to increase the underreporting of sexual violence.

Dr. Nur El Sadig, a womens’ rights defender in Sudan, also states that Sudan’s government has shut down organizations monitoring and following up on instances of sexual violence and offering aid to victims. Dr. El Sadig believes that the sexual violence in Sudan will not decrease until President Omar Al Bashir’s rule ends.

North America

In the United States, the prevalence of sexual assault and rape continue to be urgent social issues, especially on college campuses.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 and has ensured some progress in the fight to eliminate violence against women. VAWA was reauthorized in 2013 to include protections for indigenous women, who have historically experienced drastically higher rates of sexual assault and rape than other women in the nation.

The United States is another of the few states that have not ratified CEDAW. President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty in 1980, yet Congress never passed the treaty obligations into law. The Obama administration has supported ratification of CEDAW, but a majority vote in the Senate approving the ratification has not yet occurred.

However, some cities in the United States have committed to fulfill the objectives of CEDAW even without its being passed into law at the national level. San Francisco, California passed a CEDAW ordinance in 1998 that established a Department on the Status of women and worked to eliminate gender discrimination in the city. Los Angeles and Berkeley, California also passed their own CEDAW ordinance, and Portland, Oregon followed suit.

Cities for CEDAW is an national campaign encouraging American states’ commitment to CEDAW.

The 2016 Democratic platform has proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution passing the Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1972 but never ratified by the required number of states. The Democratic platform has also called for the United States to ratify CEDAW.

In Mexico, the government issued a “gender alert” in 2015 that assured citizens that emergency measures would be taken to decrease the high rates of violence against women in many regions. The alert promised measures such as a creation of a special prosecutor’s office to address gender-related crimes as well as the establishment of shelters for battered women.

The number of women killed every year because of their gender has continued to increase every year in Mexico. In 2015, there were 59 women killed at least in part due to their gender, and 39 women were murdered during the time period of January through May 2016.

Australia/Oceania

In Australia, rates of violence against women are fairly heightened. Recent statistics show that at least one woman is killed a week by a partner or former partner. Younger women, women with disabilities, and indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to violent acts.

In New Zealand, some have criticized the state’s recent periodic report submission to the CEDAW Committee, primarily because of laws which hamper safe abortion procedures. New Zealand’s Crimes Act of 1961 and Contraception, Sterlization and Abortion Act of 1977 mandate that abortion is legal only when two doctors agree that the procedure is necessary. Women who have been raped are not legally able to obtain an abortion under the laws.

Europe

In Russia, gender stereotypes factor in prominently to its laws and domestic policies. Russia has retained its legislation listing banned occupations for women, enacted during President Vladimir Putin’s first year in office and last passed as a resolution in 2000. The legislation has been amended slightly only a few times.

The list of banned occupations includes 38 branches of industry and over 450 occupations that are considered too arduous for women and their health, especially their reproductive health.

Russia is a party to CEDAW, and the CEDAW Committee has called on the state to amend and shorten the list of banned occupations, as well as to enforce safe working conditions for women in all industries with its legislation and offer equal protection for the reproductive rights of both men and women.

Svetlana Medvedeva, a woman who is not permitted to work as the captain of a boat because of Russia’s legislation barring women from hundreds of jobs. (Photo courtesy of Radio Free Europe)

In Germany, the rate of sexual assaults and rapes has sharply increased, coinciding with the influx of migrants into the country. Critics have accused Germany’s government of underreporting the statistics regarding sexual crimes by migrants in order to quell anti-migrant public sentiments.

Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has come under fire by the Scottish Nationalist political party for declining to ratify a regional human rights treaty focused on the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, was opened for signature in 2011 and has been ratified by ten states at this time.

 

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Sudan: Activists Encourage Darfuri Women to Prevent Rapes – 22 July 2016

Amnesty International – Professionals Are Taking a Stand to Stop Violence and Discrimination Against Women in Morocco – 14 January 2016

Cities for CEDAW – It’s About Time. Women Can’t Wait Any Longer  –  Accessed 3 August 2016

The Dominion Post– 1960s Abortion Law Unacceptable for 21st Century Women of New Zealand – 5 July 2016

The Gatestone Institute International Policy Council – Germany: Migrant Rape Crisis Worsens – 5 March 2016

Morocco World News – Morocco’s Lower House Adopts Draft Law on Violence Against Women – 21 July 2016

The Myanmar Times – As Myanmar Comes Under CEDAW review, rights groups present Legacy of Stigma, Victim-Blaming – 8 July 2016

The New American – Democratic Platform Proposes Two Constitutional Amendments and UN Treaty Ratification – 28 July 2016

The News – Much Awaited Law Against Honour Killing Evolves Consensus – 24 July 2016

The New Times – Africa: Good Policy Frameworks for Women’s Rights Must Be Fully Implemented – 5 July 2016

Newsweek – Saudi Women Have Had Enough of Men Saying No – 31 July 2016

The New York Times – Qandeel Baloch, Pakistani Social Media Celebrity, Dead in Apparent Honor Killing – 16 July 2016

NPR – For Brazil’s Women, Laws Are Not Enough to Deter Rampant Violence – 24 July 2016

Our Watch – Understanding Violence: Facts and Figures – Accessed 28 July 2016

The Parliament Magazine – EU Cannot Stay Silent on Rampant Honour Killings in Pakistan – 9 June 2016

Public Radio International – Women Are Being Silenced in Turkey’s Crackdown – 19 July 2016

Radio Free Europe – Barred From Hundreds of Occupations in Russia, a Few Women Fight Back – 17 April 2016

Rudaw – Violence Against Women Increases in Post-Coup Turkey – 23 July 2016

The Telegraph – Argentina’s President Announces Plan to Fight Violence Against Women – 27 July 2016

Tribal Court Clearinghouse – The Violence Against Women Act – Accessed 1 August 2016

United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – Accessed 26 July 2016

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissionier – Russia’s List of Banned Jobs for Women Violated Women’s Rights, Needs Amending – 15 March 2016

Common Space – UK Condemned for Delay on Ratifying Convention on Tackling Violence Against Women – 22 July 2016

Vice News – Emergency Measures Haven’t Slowed Rising Violence Against Women in Mexico State – 28 July 2016

The White House  – Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act  – Accessed 2 August 2016

Women’s News Network – Mapping CEDAW Toward Greater Rights for Women: One City At a Time – Accessed 3 August 2016

 

Environmentalist Mysteriously Dies While in Police Custody

 

By Christine Khamis

 

BEIJING, China –

29-year-old environmentalist Lei Yang died while in police custody last week. Police say that he was detained outside of a foot parlor near Beijing. The official cause of his death is unclear at this time.

Mr. Lei’s wife speaking with the media after reports of his death began to spread. (Photo courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald)

Mr. Lei worked for the China Association of Circular Economy, an environmental organization with ties to the government. His family says that he was on the way to pick up friends from the airport when he was detained. Mr. Lei apparently left his home around 9 p.m., about an hour before he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Many among the public believe that Mr. Lei was tortured or beaten to death. There has been great speculation about what Mr. Lei was doing at the foot parlor, which is a common cover for a brothel in the region.

The prosecutor’s office in Changping, the county where the foot parlor was located, says that it is investigating Mr. Lei’s death. There have been no other official government comments on Mr. Lei’s death, nor are there any surveillance videos available from Mr. Lei’s arrest and detainment.

However, People’s Daily, a newspaper closely allied with the Communist government, published an interview with an officer in charge of an anti-prostitution raid, during which Mr. Lei was reportedly picked up outside the massage parlor. The officer told People’s Daily that they had not used excessive force with Mr. Lei and that he was detained for paying for paying for sexual services. The officer also stated that Mr. Lei had bitten officers and tried to escape police custody twice.

The police also say that Mr. Lei had a heart attack while in police custody and then was declared dead at the hospital. Xinhua, a state run news source, reported that family members said they had seen bruises on Mr. Lei’s head and arms. Police responded that Mr. Lei had hit his head while trying to escape.

Mr. Lei’s family has requested an independent autopsy. Results of the autopsy are set to be released next month.

Former alumni of Renmin University, where Mr. Lei obtained his master’s degree in environmental science, circulated four petitions online following the news of his death. One of the petitions stated that Mr. Lei should not have been executed without a trial and said that his death was not an accident. It called for authorities to conduct an independent inquiry into Mr. Lei’s death.

Prostitution is illegal in China, but such an offense for solicitors is usually punishable by some form of administrative discipline.

  

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Chinese Man’s Death in Custody Prompts Suspicion of Police Brutality – 12 May 2016

South China Morning Post – Former Students Call for Full Inquiry Into ‘Suspicious’ Death of Beijing University Alumnus in Police Custody – 12 May 2016

Hindustan Times – Mysterious Death in China Raises Suspicions of Police Brutality – 12 May 2016

Radio Free Asia – Death of Man in Police Custody Sparks Anger, Raises Doubts in Beijing – 11 May 2016

 

 

Pakistan Rights Activist Killed

By Christine Khamis

 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –

Unidentified assailants gunned down a Pakistani rights activist in a drive-by shooting on Saturday in Karachi. The activist, Khurram Zaki, was known for his fight against the Taliban as well as Sunni extremist groups.

Mr. Zaki was gunned down at a restaurant while meeting with a friend by attackers on motorbikes. Two other people were wounded during the attack.

Mr. Zaki. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the shooting. Police say, however, that they are unable to verify whether the faction, known as the Hakeemullah Group, is behind the attack. The group has falsely taken responsibility for other attacks in the past.

A former journalist, Mr. Zaki was a blogger and editor for Let Us Build Pakistan, a pro-Shiite blog that supports democratic values.

He was especially well known for his campaign against Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Masjid, a prominent Sunni extremist mosque. Mr. Zaki and other activists protested outside of the mosque after Mr. Aziz refused to denounce an attack on a school in Peshawar in 2014. 152 people, most of them schoolchildren, were killed in the attack. Mr. Zaki and the other activists then filed a lawsuit against Mr. Aziz for incitement to hatred and violence against the Shiites.

Mr. Zaki is the third human rights activist to be killed in Karachi since 2013. Another influential activist as well as a human rights lawyer were also attacked and killed by extremist groups. Asad Iqbal Butt, from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, says that such groups have begun to target activists who campaign against social and religious injustice and intolerance.

Colleagues of Mr. Zaki released a statement in which they pledged to continue to stand up to militant groups.

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Activist Khurram Zaki killed in Pakistan’s Karachi – 8 May 2016

BBC – Pakistani Activist Khurram Zaki Murdered in Karachi – 8 May 2016

The New York Times – Pakistani Rights Activist Is Shot and Killed in Karachi – 8 May 2016

Voice of America – Pakistan Rights Activist Killed in Karachi – 8 May 2016

 

Indonesia Declines to Launch Criminal Investigation Into Anti-Communist Purges

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

JAKARTA, Indonesia –

Indonesia’s security minister has announced that its government will not launch a criminal investigation into anti-Communist purges that occurred in the country during the mid-1960s. The Indonesian government plans to address atrocities committed during the period in some way, but no definitive cause of action has been decided upon at this point.

A symposium was held on Monday to address the purges, where Luhut B. Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs, announced that the government would not initiate a criminal investigation. Mr. Luhut said that Indonesia’s government would instead attempt to answer questions about the purge over time. Mr. Luhut also stated at the symposium that the government would be open to official complaints from survivors of the purges. However, the government has no plans to issue a formal apology to victims.

Protesters at the symposium on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed during the purges, which occurred from 1965-1966. The purges were set off by a quashed uprising within Indonesia’s armed forces. Authorities claimed the Indonesian Communist Party had orchestrated the uprising. Soldiers, military-backed civilians, paramilitary, and religious groups carried out the purges, killing at least 500,000 people, including many who had no ties to Communism.

Many survivors of the purges were imprisoned without trial for years. Descendants of Communist Party members are stigmatized in Indonesia’s society and are prohibited from holding government jobs, including police and military positions.

Indonesia’s government has yet to formally acknowledge the purges, which many historians consider one of the worst mass atrocities to occur in the 20th century. Official government policy on the matter at this time is that the killings were justified to prevent a Communist takeover and that the death toll estimates may not be accurate. This week’s symposium is the first time that the government has engaged in a public discussion of the purges.

The National Commission on Human Rights, an independent body separate from Indonesia’s government, urged the government to initiate a criminal investigation in 2012 after declaring that the purges had violated human rights. The government failed to initiate the criminal investigation.

 

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Indonesia Takes Step Toward Reckoning With ’65-66 Atrocities – 18 April 2016

Newsweek – Indonesia Allows Talk of 1965 Anti-Communist Purge That Left Half a Million Dead – 18 April 2016

The New York Times – Indonesia Rules Out Criminal Inquiry of Anti-Communist Purges – 18 April 2016

South China Morning Post – Indonesia Vows to Resolve ‘Dark History’ Around 1965-66 Anti-Communist Massacre but Rules Out Formal Apology – 18 April 2016

 

 

 

Bangladeshi Editor Arrested for Alleged Murder Conspiracy

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

DHAKA, Bangladesh –

A prominent magazine editor was arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday for his alleged involvement in a plot to kill the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The editor, Shafik Rehman, is only one of several journalists facing criminal proceedings in Bangladesh at this time.

Mr. Rehman being escorted by police. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Mr. Rehman was arrested at his home by police officers and has been placed on a five-day police remand for interrogation. Police state that Mr. Rehman is being held due to the discovery of evidence that links him to the conspiracy to kill Mr. Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wazed.

Mr. Rehman runs a monthly magazine called Mouchake Dhil. He may have been detained due to his ties with the opposition political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist party. Khaleda Zia, former prime minister and the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has demanded Mr. Rehman’s release. Mr. Rehman was Mr. Zia’s speech writer during his term as prime minister.

Before Mr. Rehman’s detainment, he had also been working with the Bangladesh National party’s international affairs committee and had recently begun to organize a pro-opposition think tank as well.

Mr. Rehman is the third pro-opposition editor to be detained by police since 2013. The others, editors of Bengali and English newspapers, were detained for crimes similar to Mr. Rehman’s alleged crime. Both face criminal prosecution for a number of alleged crimes, including dozens of counts of defamation and sedition.

Journalists and local civic groups have noted the Bangladeshi government’s increasing crackdown on dissent. That crackdown has occurred amidst a series of killings of bloggers and publishers by Islamist extremist groups.

 

For more information, please see:

Dhaka Tribune – Minister: Shafik Rehman Arrested On Specific Charge – 17 April 2016

BBC – Senior Bangladesh Editor Shafik Rehman Is Arrested – 16 April 2016

The Indian Express – Bangladesh: 81-year-old Magazine Editor Arrested For Sedition – 16 April 2016

The New York Times – Bangladesh Editor, 81, Is Accused in Plot to Kill Leader’s Son – 16 April 2016

 

Arrests Made in Connection to India Fireworks Explosion

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

NEW DELHI, India –

Police in India’s Kerala state have arrested 13 people in connection with the fireworks explosion that killed over 100 people at a temple last week. Nearly 400 people were also injured during the explosion.

The site of the fireworks explosion. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Five of the detainees are officials at the Puttingal temple, where the explosion occurred during a celebration of the Hindu new year. A spark from one of the fireworks ignited the rest of the fireworks that the temple had obtained. Many temple-goers were trapped inside the temple as the explosion caused the temple to catch on fire and collapse.

Many of the deaths occurred when the temple collapsed. Chunks of concrete falling from above crushed a number of people, and many more were trapped in the debris. Some people were also injured in a stampede following the blast. Rescue efforts were slowed by emergency workers’ late arrival and a power outage in the area.

Authorities had previously denied the temple permission to host the display. The temple decided to go ahead with the display after being pressured by the crowds gathered to celebrate the new year.

Formal judicial and criminal investigations are ongoing. Several of the temple’s officials turned themselves in to police and are being investigated for violations including culpable homicide, illegal storage of fireworks, and violation of an authority’s orders. They are expected to be formally charged in court later this week. Several other individuals, including contractors in charge of the fireworks display, are also being questioned in connection with the explosion.

The High Court of Kerala has issued an order banning noise-generating fireworks at places of worship during the nighttime hours and banning heavy-duty explosives in fireworks displays altogether.

Following the explosion, Kerala’s Home Minister, Ramesh Chennithala, stated that the government will compensate families of those killed or injured in the blast. Prime Minister Narendra Modi then announced a compensation package for the families of the dead and injured, which will be covered by the government’s Disaster Management Fund.

 

For more information, please see:

The Indian Express – Kollam Temple Fire: From the Initial Spark to the Arrests – How It All Unfolded – 12 April 2016

The New York Times – 13 Arrested in Connection With Fireworks Explosion at Temple in India – 12 April 2016

Time – Five Surrender to Police Over Indian Temple Fire – 12 April 2016

BBC News – Puttingal Temple: Five Detained Over India Fireworks Blast – 11 April 2016.

The Guardian – Five Arrests Over Deadly Fireworks Explosion at Indian Temple – 11 April 2016

 

 

 

Myanmar Releases Student Activists From Prison

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar –

Myanmar has released 69 student activists from prison. A town court dropped all charges against the activists, who were detained for over a year after protesting educational reforms last March. An additional 30 students are still being held on bail for similar charges.

A few of the newly released student activists. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

The student activists had gathered in Letpadan, a town in central Myanmar, to protest against a law restricting academic freedom. Police used violent force to break up the protests, and many of the students were charged with unlawful assembly and rioting.

The students’ release came soon after Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kii, promised to release all political prisoners in the country. Ms. Suu Kyi has taken on a parliament-created role of state adviser within Myanmar’s government, which will give her a great deal of influence over the country’s affairs. Her first statement as state adviser highlighted her pledge to release all political prisoners, many of whom were arrested prior to Myanmar’s democratic elections late last year.

Around 400 political prisoners remain in prison at this time, and Ms. Suu Kyi has stated that the release of those prisoners has been delayed by necessary legal processes. The remaining political prisoners are set to be released after the Burmese New Year holiday, which ends next week.

Amnesty International has called for Myanmar to release all remaining prisoners of conscience and to ensure reform of laws that violate civil rights including freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

In late March, Amnesty published a report on Myanmar emphasizing authorities’ use of laws to silent dissent and to imprison human rights activists. It described such laws and their enforcement as “creating a climate of fear among human rights defenders and other activists in the country.”

Myanmar’s previous government, which was military-run, routinely jailed dissidents. Ms. Suu Kyi herself spent 15 years under house arrest, and several members in her new government are also former political prisoners.

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Myanmar: New Suu Kyi Government Releases 69 Prisoners – 8 April 2016

Amnesty International – Release of Student Leader in Myanmar Must Lead to More Reform – 8 April 2016

BBC News – Myanmar Court Frees Dozens of Student Activists – 8 April 2016

The New York Times – Myanmar Releases Dozens of Student Activists From Jail – 8 April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan and China Among Countries With Highest Execution Rates

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

LONDON, England –

Amnesty International released a report this week stating that the worldwide execution rate is currently at its highest point since 1989. More than 20,000 people remain on death row worldwide.

The report noted that at least 1,634 people were executed in 2015, more than a 50 percent increase since 2014. Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty accounted for 89% of the executions. That figure excludes China, where most execution records are kept secret.

Amnesty International’s figures for highest execution rates worldwide. (Image courtesy of BBC News)

Amnesty stated in its report that China remains the country with the highest execution rate, with thousands put to death or sentenced to death in 2015. It was unable to give an exact estimate of the number of executions due to the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in China. It also stated that there were signs that China’s use of the death penalty had actually decreased in recent years, but that again, it was impossible to confirm for certain.

Pakistan executed 326 people in 2015. The country had continued a “state-sanctioned killing spree”, according to Amnesty, which followed a lifted moratorium on civilian executions in 2014. The report cited an attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, as prompting the government’s resumption of executions in 2014. The moratorium was initially lifted for any charged with terrorism-related crimes, but was subsequently lifted for perpetrators of all capital crimes.

Amnesty’s report did note, however, that most countries have fully abolished the death penalty from their criminal justice system and that countries using the death penalty are now in the minority. It stated that 102 countries had abolished use of the death penalty by the end of 2015, with four countries eliminating the death penalty during 2015. In comparison, only 60 countries had abolished use of the death penalty by year-end in 1996.

Amnesty also named Saudi Arabia, the United States, Iraq, Somalia, and Egypt on its list of countries with the highest execution rates, among others.

In a statement accompanying its report, Amnesty said that the death penalty breaches the right to life and the right live free from torture, both fundamental human rights under he United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948.

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Report Finds ‘Alarming Rise’ in Executions in 2015 – 6 April 2016

BBC News – Amnesty Highlights ‘Disturbing Rise’ in Global Executions – 6 April 2016

International Business Times – Amnesty Documents ‘Dramatic’ Rise in Global Executions in 2015 – 6 April 2016

Voice of America – Amnesty: ‘Disturbing’ Rise in Executions Worldwide in 2015 – 6 April 2016

 

 

 

 

Vietnam Bloggers Sentenced and Jailed for Anti-State Articles

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

HANOI, Vietnam – 

A blogger and his assistant, Nguyen Huu Vinh and Minh Thuy, were charged with publishing anti-state articles in a Vietnamese court last week. Mr. Vinh, who was previously connected to Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party as a police officer, received a five year prison sentence. His assistant, Ms. Thuy, received a three year sentence.

Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy at trial. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy had been detained and imprisoned since 2014. Mr. Vinh’s wife states that his health has declined during his detention.

The trial for Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy lasted only one day. A number of protesters gathered outside of the court to call for the bloggers’ release, chanting “innocent”, according to Associated Press.

Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy were charged for posting articles on a blog called “Ba Sam”, which drew millions of viewers. Mr. Vinh started the blog in 2007, with the aim of educating readers by exposing them to news coming from a variety of perspectives.

The blog published news and commentary from a number of contributors on political, social, and economic issues. The indictment against Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy listed 24 articles that contain “untruthful and baseless content” and that distort the state’s policy.

Judge Nguyen Van Pho of the People’s Court of Hanoi, where Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy underwent trial, claims that the posted articles “distort the lines and policies of the party and law of the state”, according to BBC News. Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy’s lawyers state that there is no evidence against them, and both Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy maintain that they are innocent. Ms. Thuy says that she does not know who wrote or posted the articles on Ba Sam.

While Vietnam is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a prominent human rights treaty that protects expression critical of government and leaders, it continues to weather criticism for its crackdown on dissent.

Vietnam’s only political party is the Communist Party, and its government disapproves of dissent that questions the Communist Party. Media is especially heavily monitored by authorities, because the internet has increasingly become a forum for criticism of the government.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the U.S. State Department’s embassy in Hanoi have all called for Vietnam’s authorities to drop the charges against Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy.

 

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Vietnam Sentences Prominent Blogger for Anti-State Posts – 23 March 2016

BBC News – Vietnam bloggers: Nguyen Huu Vinh and Minh Thuy Jailed – 23 March 2016

Humanrights.gov – Vietnamese Government’s Decision to Convict Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vingh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy – 23 March 2016

Human Rights Watch – Vietnam: Drop Charges Against Prominent Bloggers – 22 March 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan Bombing Kills At Least 72 People

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan 

At least 72 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan on Sunday. Over 300 people were wounded in the blast. The bombing occurred in Gulshan Iqbal Park, a public park, where Christian families had gathered to celebrate Easter.

Officials and rescuers gather at the site of the bombing. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter cell of the Pakistani Taliban, has taken responsibility for the bombing. Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan released a statement confirming that Christians had been the target of the blast. Pakistani officials deny that Christians were the target of the attack, however, and many of those killed were Muslims. Jamat-e-Ahrar has declared that there are more attacks to come, with a warning that Pakistani media may be the next target.

Mr. Ehsan also said in his statement that the bombing was a message to the government that it cannot deter Jamaat-e-Ahrar even in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. Lahore is the hometown of Pakistan’s prime minster, Nawaz Sharif. According to BBC, Mr. Ehsan referred to Mr. Sharif in his statement, saying that the war had “reached his doorstep.”

Law enforcement officials and army and intelligence forces in Punjab have begun a formal investigation into the bombing. Over 5,000 people have already been detained and questioned as part of the investigation, and any suspected terrorists have been arrested. 216 suspects remain in custody at this time.

Security forces have also begun raids to seize weapons and ammunition in Lahore and two other cities. Reports say that Pakistan’s military is working to begin a new crackdown in Punjab as well.

There have been two other bombings in Pakistan this month. One attack, a suicide bombing at a court building earlier in the month was also carried out by Jamaat-e-Ahrar. Dozens of other attacks have also occurred during recent years, including a bombing that killed around 80 people in 2013 and a school massacre that killed 134 students in 2014.

 

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Pakistan Conducts Sweeping Raids After Lahore Bombing – 29 March 2016

BBC – Lahore Attack: Pakistan ‘Detains 200’ After Easter Blast – 29 March 2016

CNN – Pakistan Bombing: Suspects, Arms Seized After Attack on Christians Kills 72 – 28 March 2016

The New York Times – Blast at a Crowded Park in Lahore, Pakistan, Kills Dozens – 27 March 2016

 

 

Indian Journalist Jailed Over Social Media Post Criticizing Police

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

NEW DELHI, India –

A journalist in eastern India has been arrested for posting a social media post that criticized police and called for legal protections for reporters.

Mr. Singh. (Photo courtesy of the Indian Express)

The journalist, Prabhat Singh, has been accused of circulating obscene material. Mr. Singh appeared in court this past week, where he claimed that he had been beaten while in police detainment. His lawyer has also stated that he was denied food while in custody. Mr. Singh requested bail, but the court denied his request.

Violence stemming from a Maoist insurgency has been ongoing for several years in impoverished tribal settlement regions. Insurgency rebels are fighting for equality when it comes to wealth from natural resources and the right to jobs.

Security officials have cracked down on insurgency rebels, often committing human rights abuses. Mr. Singh worked in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh state, a rebel center. The area is known for the rebels’ hit-and-run attacks on government soldiers, whose efforts have not lessened violence in the area much.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in the United States, has called for Chhattisgarh state authorities to release Mr. Singh, citing concerns about the arrests of journalists and their defenders. Amnesty International has also called for Mr. Singh’s release.

India’s National Human Rights Comission, a quasi-judicial body, has requested that authorities in the region submit a report on the details of Mr. Singh’s arrest and alleged rights violations.

Journalists face challenges in Chhattisgarh state because authorities often consider criticism of security forces as support for the rebel insurgency. Authorities have gone so far as to accuse some journalists of siding with the rebels. Last year, two journalists were arrested in the tribal region for allegedly supporting the insurgency. Their lawyer states that both are innocent and is still fighting the charges against them, which were filed under anti-terror laws.

Another journalist, Malini Subramaniam, was threatened and forced to leave the area after criticizing police. During her time as a journalist in the Bastar region, Ms. Subramaniam covered human rights violations and allegations of sexual violence by security forces.

 

For more information, please see:

The Express Tribune – Indian Journalist Arrested Over Social Media Post – 24 March 2016

ABC News – Indian Reporter Arrested After Posting Criticism of Police – 23 March 2016

Associated Press – Indian Reporter Arrested After Posting Criticism of Police – 23 March 2016

The New York Times – Journalist Jailed in Eastern India Over Social Media Post – 23 March 2016

 

 

U.S. State Department: Myanmar’s Persecution of Rohingya Does Not Rise to Genocide

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

The United States State Department announced on Monday that it had determined that Myanmar is persecuting its religious minority, the Rohingya Muslims, but that the country’s persecution of the Rohingya has not risen to the level of genocide.

The State Department issued a report to Congress regarding the issue, saying that while it was “gravely concerned” about the persecution of Rohingya, that treatment of the Rohingya did not amount to mass atrocities.

The United States Congress passed legislation in 2015 that called for Secretary of State John Kerry to determine whether Buddhist extremists in Myanmar had committed atrocities against the Rohingya. Part of his directive included the task of consulting with governments and human rights organizations in Myanmar to make his determination of whether atrocities against the Rohingya had in fact occurred.

Mr. Kerry’s report stated that the State Department remains concerned about the persecution and discrimination against the Rohingya and that displacement and violence were ongoing through 2015. The report called for Myanmar’s government to pursue solutions to address the human rights violations and to grant or restore citizenship to the Rohingya and other stateless individuals.

In 1948, the United Nations defined genocide to include acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Such acts include killings and violence against members of a group and deliberate infliction of poor conditions of life meant to bring about a group’s physical destruction.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have left Myanmar since 2012, fleeing from persecution and poverty amidst anti-Muslim violence. Many Rohingya who have remained in Myanmar live in camps, and are denied official legal status and some basic human rights. International critics have called for the investigation into what they view as evidence of genocide against the Rohingya.

Rohingya refugees in a camp for internally displaced persons in Myanmar. (Photo courtesy of Time)

As Aung San Suu Kyi’s new government prepares to take power on April 1, her government will be under pressure to address the contentious issue of persecution against the Rohingya. Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD) has been criticized so far for how little it has addressed the issue.

The United Nations and European Union stated on Monday that the hope that conditions for the Rohingya will improve under Ms. Suu Kyi’s new government has, in turn, contributed to a decline in the number of migrants fleeing the country.

 

For more information, please see:

Time – Burma’s Treatment of the Rohingya Is Not Genocide, Says U.S. – 22 March 2016

The New York Times – Myanmar: State Dept. Says Persecution of Muslims Does Not Rise to Genocide – 21 March 2016

Reuters – U.S. Says Myanmar Persecutes Rohingya, But Not Genocide – 21 March 2016

Voice of America – What is Genocide? – 15 March 2016

Journalist Jia Jia Believed to Be Detained by Chinese Authorities

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia  

Chinese journalist Jia Jia is believed to be held by authorities for his connection with a published letter calling for President Xi Jinping’s resignation. Mr. Jia was likely detained on Tuesday as he boarded a flight to Hong Kong.

Mr. Jia, a well-known Chinese journalist. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Mr. Jia is a freelance writer based in Beijing. He is known for his writing on topics designated as sensitive by China’s government and has critiqued corrupt officials and the Communist Party in the past. Despite his critique of the Communist Party, Mr. Jia had not previously written anything calling for a regime change.

Regardless, Mr. Jia has been accused of writing the letter, posted on a state-linked news website this month, which condemns Mr. Xi’s leadership and includes threats to Mr. Xi if he does not resign from office. It is unclear who wrote the article, which was signed only with a byline of “loyal Communist supporters.”

Mr. Jia stated before his disappearance that he did not write the letter. He did, however, warn a friend and editor at Wujie News about reposting the article on Wujie’s own website.

According to friends of Mr. Jia, he had feared detainment in connection to the letter before his disappearance. He and some of his family members were previously questioned about the letter.

There is currently no other information about Mr. Jia’s whereabouts or his detainment. His phone has been shut down, and he failed to appear to deliver a scheduled lecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong last Thursday. Beijing law enforcement officials have not responded to requests for comment on Mr. Jia’s disappearance.

Mr. Jia is one among many others who have been accused of dissent and have been detained or imprisoned by authorities. The Chinese government has detained and imprisoned a growing number of individuals since Mr. Xi came into power, including lawyers, activists, and journalists.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC – China columnist Jia Jia ‘goes missing’ en route to HK – 18 March 2016

The New York Times – China Is Said to Be Holding Jia Jia, a Journalist, Over Xi Jinping Letter – 18 March 2016

CNN International – Lawyer says missing Chinese journalist Jia Jia didn’t write anti-Xi letter – 19 March 2016

Voice of America – Well-known Chinese Columnist Disappears – 17 March 2016

North Korea Sentences American Student to 15 Year Hard Labor Sentence

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

  

PYONGYANG, North Korea –

North Korea has sentenced Otto Warmbier, an American college student, to 15 years of hard labor for his alleged removal of a political sign in a hotel. Mr. Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginina, had traveled to Pyongyang on trip with Young Pioneer tours, a company conducting trips from China to North Korea and was arrested in early January.

State-run media sources have reported that North Korea’s highest court has convicted Mr. Warmbier of subversion. Mr. Warmbier was charged with committing a hostile act against North Korea, and authorities claim that he was encouraged to commit such an act by a member in his Ohio-based church. During court proceedings earlier this week, officials submitted fingerprints and surveillance photos connecting Mr. Warmbier to the alleged hostile acts.

During a press conference last month, Mr. Warmbier admitted that he had attempted to take a banner containing a political slogan from his hotel in Pyongyang. According to official reports, Mr. Warmbier took a sign bearing the name of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or Kim Jong-un’s father or grandfather.

Mr. Warmbier also issued a public apology in addition to his confession. It is not known at this time whether Mr. Warmbier was under duress at the time of his statement.

Mr. Warmbier during his publicized confession and apology. (Photo courtesy of NPR)

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner says that the sentence given Mr. Warmbier is “unduly harsh” and calls for his release. Mr. Warmbier’s sentence comes amidst increasing tensions between North Korea and the United States due to North Korea’s recent nuclear weapons and missile testing.

Some U.S. officials and analysts believe that North Korea seeks to use Mr. Warmbier, among other detained American citizens, as political pawns. Mr. Warmbier is currently one of three North American detainees in North Korea. Because the United States has no embassy in Pyongyang, Sweden carries out consular relations on behalf of American citizens in North Korea.

 

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – U.S. Student Runs Afoul of North Korea’s Devotion to Slogans – 17 March 2016

CNN – North Korea Sentences U.S. Student to 15 Years Hard Labor – 16 March 2016

The New York Times – North Korea Sentences Otto Warmbier, U.S. Student, to 15 Years’ Labor – 16 March 2016

NPR – N. Korea Sentences American Student To 15 Years Of Prison, Hard Labor – 16 March 2016