Indonesia Proposes to Criminalize Same-Sex Relations

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

JAKARTA,  Indonesia – The United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized Indonesia parliament’s proposal to criminalize gay sex and extramarital sex. During a three-day visit the world’s largest Muslim- majority nation, the UN chief raised his concerns with President Joko Widodo.

Man gets caning in Banda Aceh, Indonesia for having gay sex. Photo courtesy of Ulet Ifansasti.

The UN chief in a briefing stated that “the hateful rhetoric against the LGBT community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions.” He further stated that the proposal was “discriminatory.”

He told journalists that “Islamophobia is wrong. Discrimination on the basis of the religious beliefs and color is wrong. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or any other status is wrong.”

Zeid, a member of the Jordanian royal family expressed that Indonesia was among the most progressive states in the Southeast Asia on human rights.

The parliament is currently debating whether to adopt a Dutch colonial-era criminal code. This proposal would outlaw sex outside marriage, same-sex relations, and co-habitation. Except for the Islamic province of Aceh, Indonesia does not regulate homosexuality.

Last month, police in Aceh reportedly detained 12 transgender individuals at hair salons. The individuals were forced to cut their hair, beaten, and made to wear male clothing. Recently, by the request of the Indonesian government, Google removed one of the world’s largest gay dating apps from their online store.

With a largely conservative voter base ahead of presidential and legislative year elections, the proposed revisions have broad support in parliament. Although President Widodo’s officials have expressed support for the LGBT community, President Widodo has said that Indonesia’s cultural and religious norms do not acknowledge the LGBT movement.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Indonesia wants to criminalise same-sex relations – 7 February, 2018

Business Insider – Indonesia is considering making extramarital and gay sex illegal, and the UN calls it ‘hateful’ – 7 February, 2018

Channel NewsAsia – Indonesia’s plan to outlaw same-sex relationships worrying: UN human rights chief – 7 February, 2018

Reuters – U.N. rights chief slams Indonesia proposal to outlaw gay, extramarital sex – 7 February, 2018

Myanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Since the increase in violence against the Rohingya in September of 2017, 362 villages were destroyed in the violence. Recently, Human Rights Watch released satellite images that depict further damage to Rohingya villages.  This time it’s the complete demolition of villages.

The images reveal what appears to be a deliberate and systematic action on behalf of the Myanmar government.  Previous areas that showed buildings and greenery now show empty brown space. So far Human Rights Watch identified 55 villages that were bulldozed.

Satellite Image of village before and after bulldozing. Photo Courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

Many of these villages were scenes of the ethnic violence against the Rohingya.  Now with the state bulldozing over them, evidence is destroyed and hidden. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said that these villages need to be preserved so that experts can “document these abuses and can properly evaluate the evidence to identify those responsible” for the violence.

The bulldozing also serves an additional purpose. It “threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there.” The Rohingya are a minority in Myanmar who the government claims are not citizens, but illegal migrants. Their only legal claim to living in Myanmar is that they have been doing so for generations.

Additionally image of destroyed village. Photo Courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

Recently, Bangladesh and Myanmar settled on a repatriation timeline for refugees in Bangladesh. But this action may make returning home not an option.

Officials within Myanmar have stated that they have built houses in over 20 Rohingya villages. A social welfare minister stated that the bulldozing is actually part of a plan to build back villages of a higher standard on or near Rohingya places of origin for the returning refugees.

For more information, please see:

Human rights watch – Burma: Scores of Rohingya Villages Bulldozed – 23 February 2018

NPR – PHOTOS: Myanmar Apparently Razing Remains Of Rohingya Villages – 23 February 2018

Aljazeera – Myanmar accused of ‘bulldozing’ proof of crimes against Rohingya – 23 February 2018

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

Activist Returned to Tajikistan Against His Will

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Tajikistan – A Tajik man, Namunjon Sharipov, was extradited back to his come country on February 19, 2018 against his own will. Sharipov was living in Turkey at the time when Turkish forces arrested him on the 16th.

Image of Namunjon Sharipov in Turkey. Photo Courtesy of the Sharipov family.

Sharipov immigrated to Turkey in 2015 after political turmoil in Tajikistan. He is a high-ranking member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), an opposition party of the Tajik government. The party was deemed a terrorist organization after a coup attempt on the Tajik government. There were no links between the IRPT and the coup. Nevertheless, several members of the party were arrested and found guilty.

On February 2nd, Tajik officials appeared at Sharipov’s business, a tea house, to encourage him to return to Tajikistan voluntarily and denounce the IRPT. The officials offered him money and ‘whatever he wanted.’ However, Sharipov gave no definite answer.

In the following days, the interactions became more heated. The officials threatened to cause problems for Sharipov if he did not comply with their request.

Turkish police became involved on February 5th when they arrested Sharipov on the street outside his tea house. The officials at the detention house, where he was taken, notified Sharipov of the Tajik arrest warrant against him for being a terrorist. The officials went further to say that he would not be deported. They suggested that he leave Turkey and travel to a safer country.

However, neither Sharipov nor his lawyer were informed that Tajikistan filed a formal extradition order. His lawyer was preparing travel accommodations to another country for Sharipov on February 19th under the direction of Turkish officials. However on that day, Tajik officials drove Sharipov to the airport and forced him on a plane destined for Tajikistan.

While there are reports that Sharipov notified a Radio Free Europe office in Tajikistan that he was safe and free, there are doubts to the credibility of this. It is believed that he is being held against his will and being forced to make contact with outside sources. There are also concerns about torture as those arrested after the aforementioned coup were reported to have been tortured.

For more information, please see:

National Helsinki Committee – Tajikistan: Activist Forcibly Returned From Turkey – 21 February 2018

Times of Central Asia – Tajikistan: banned Islamic party activist forcibly returned from Turkey – 21 February 2018

Human Rights Watch – Tajikistan: Activist Forcibly Returned From Turkey – 20 February 2018

Pakistan’s Leading Human Rights Advocate Dies

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – On February 11th, 2018, Asma Jahangir, Pakistani’s leading human rights advocate died. According to her sister, Hina Jilani, a prominent rights activist, announced that Jahangir died of cardiac arrest.

Asma Jahangir, leading human rights activist dies at the age of 66. Photo courtesy of Arif Ali/ AFP.

In 2014, Jahangir received France’s highest civilian award and Sweden’s alternative to the Nobel Prize for her rights work. She spoke out for women and minority rights throughout her life and criticized Pakistan’s rights violations. Specifically, she was critical of Pakistan’s military, intelligence and right-wing parties. The former United Nations special rapporteur was 66.

In 1983, she was arrested for pro-democracy activities. She was again put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing military leader’s removal of Supreme Court chief justice. She also co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women’s Action Forum.  She was the first female leader of Pakistan’s Supreme Court bar association. Jahangir served as the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion and on human rights in Iran.

Some leaked documents suggested that some officers had planned to assassinate her. When the documents were leaked, she asked for an inquiry to find out “the forces who wanted to silence” her.

In the city of Lahore, thousands of people attended Jahangir’s funeral. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a statement expressed his condolences and said that her death was a great loss. Moreover, Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner called Jahangir a “savior of democracy and human rights.” The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has paid tribute to Jahangir following her death.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Asma Jahangir: Pakistan human rights champion dies – 11 February, 2018

The Straits Times – Asia Briefs: Pakistan human rights advocate dies – 12 February, 2018

Al Jazeera – Thousands pay respects to Pakistan’s ‘human rights giant’ – 14 February, 2018

Financial Times – Asma Jahangir, 1952-2018, human rights activist and lawyer – 16 February, 2018

Child Rapist Convicted in Pakistani Court

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – On 17 February 2018, Imran Ali was found guilty of rape an murder of Zainab Ansari, a 7 year old girl.  He received life imprisonment with the death sentence on four counts.

Protests spark after the rape and murder of Zainab Amin. Photo Courtesy of Mohsin Raza.

Ali confessed to raping 9 girls in total and killing 7 of them over 18 months. DNA evidence provided by the police from eight girls, including Zainab Ansari, matched Ali’s. He will sit trial for the other cases at a later point.

Zainab was declared missing on 4 January 2018 after leaving her house. She was on her way to her Aunt’s house, 30 miles away, where she was to partake in lesson on the Quran. Just 4 days later her body was found lying on a trash dump near her home.

The prosecution team provided the court with substantial evidence. Over 50 witnesses testified. The DNA matches were entered as evidence against Ali. There was also video footage from security camera show Zainab walking off with a man.

Police discovered that Ali was a neighbor of Zainab’s family. He was a construction worker and known for his pious demeanor. He was arrested two weeks after he killed Zainab.

The discovery of her body sent people into the streets to protest the government’s delayed response to bring justice to Zainab and her family. The case has also sparked debates on sexual abuse and how to protect women and children from sexual assault.

While her parents are “thankful to the chief justice” for the respect and sensitivity in the case, emotions are still tense as her mother said, “I want him hanged where he threw Zainab’s body. And he should be stoned. Hanging him is just ordinary for him. Everyone should take part in stoning him. And this thing about four hangings, one hanging, two hangings, what difference does it make? I want him hanged where he killed my girl.”

For more information, please see:  

The Guardian – Pakistan court sentences man to death for rape and murder of girl,7 – 17 February 2018

 The New York Times – Pakistan Serial Killer Sentenced to Death for Murder and Rape of Girl, 7 – 17 February 2018

Al Jazeera – Kasur rapist-murderer sentenced to death in Pakistan – 17 February 2018

Detained Migrants Face Forced Repatriation to China

By: Katherine Hewitt
News Reporter, Asia 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A group of 11 migrants are detained in Malaysian custody.  It is probable that these 11 are a part of a group that escaped from a Thailand immigration detention center back in November of 2017. Originally, a group of 200 were found in Thailand’s Sonskhla province.  They were detained while authorities verified their nationality.  A group of 20 escaped and 11 of them are these migrants now detained in Malaysia.

Uyghur in Turkey protesting the Chinese. Photo Courtesy of Lefteris Pitarakis.

The group identifies themselves as Turkish citizens.  However, China claims them as members of an ethnic group called Uyghurs who are a Muslim Turkish minority living in Western China.  While China demands them back, the migrants have asked to be sent to Turkey.

Many Uyghurs have fled China as a result of the authoritarian governance in the region.  The Chinese government conducts house aids and restricts islamic practices, culture, and language.  Through the years several Uyghurs have been forcibly deported back to China.  Upon their returns, they face threats of imprisonment and torture.  China rationalizes this state behavior by blaming the group for ‘terrorist’ attacks.

Malaysia and China have tightened their relationship over the past years. China has been pushing Malaysia to return the migrants.

International Customary Law holds Malaysia accountable to not send those in custody to a place where persecution, torture, and other human rights violations are a risk.

Human Rights activists like Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch want Malaysia to “allow these individuals access to a fair process to determine their refugee claims, not ship them to China based on Beijing’s demands.”

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Malaysia: Don’t Send 11 Detainees to China – 9 February 2018

Radio Free Asia – China Demands Return of 11 Uyghur Escapees Caught in Malaysia: Officials – 8 February 2018 

The New York Times – Exclusive: Uighur Thai Jail Escapees Detained in Malaysia and China Wants Them Back-Sources – 8 February 2018

Workers File Human Rights Complaint, Case Brought Against Them

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BANGKOK, Thailand – A trial against 14 workers in Thailand was brought to court on February 7, 2018. The workers are charged with criminal defamation.

A worker at a chicken farm in Thailand. Photo Courtesy of Sukree Sukplang.

In July 2016, 14 workers filed a complaint against their employer with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand on violations labor conditions. They accused Thammakaset Co. Ltd. of requiring 20-hour work days, making them work 40 days straight, forcing them to work overtime, paying below minimum wage, restricting movement, and holding onto identity documents.

While the Labor Ministry Officials mandated the company to pay 1.7 million Baht (48,600 USD) as workers compensation, the 14 have yet to receive the money. Thammakaset Co. Ltd. appealed this action in court.

Following this, Thammaskaset filed their criminal defamation case in October.   They defend that they have done no wrongdoings and that case hurts their company image.  The legal code in Thailand, in respect to criminal defamation, allows companies to take steps against those that accuse them of labor rights abuses.

Human Rights Watch and others have called for the government to oppose the criminal defamation charges against the 14 workers. The Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously stated Thailand’s commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and “actions, including enforcing a labor protection legislation that ensures fair treatment of workers and protects them from abuse and mistreatment.”

The first day of the trial witnesses of the prosecution spoke. On the following two days the workers gave their testimony.  If the 14 workers are found guilty, they could spend up to a year in jail and be fined up to 20,000 Baht (600 USD).

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Burmese Workers on Trail for Reporting Abuses – 7 February 2018

Reuters – Myanmar workers go on trail for accusing Thai Chicken farm of abuse – 7 February 2018

Fortify Rights – Thailand: Drop Criminal Defamation Lawsuits against 14 Myanmar Workers – 6 February 2018

North Korean leader invites President Moon to Pyeongyang

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SEOUL, South Korea – The North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un, has sent a formal invitation to the South Korean President to visit North Korea. If successful, the two countries would be meeting for the first time since 2007. The invitation was delivered by Kim Jung Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, meets President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in in Seoul. Photo Courtesy of Kim Ju-Sung.

The personal invitation was verbally delivered during a lunch hosted by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea at the Blue House in Seoul. Kim Jong Un expressed his desire to meet President Moon “in the near future.” Furthermore, he stated that he would like to meet at President Moon’s “earliest convenience.”

Upon receiving the invitation, the Blue House “practically accepted” the invitation. President Moon, through his spokesman wished to “create the environment for that to be able to happen.”

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader, joined the top delegation attending the Winter Games opening ceremony in South Korea. She is the first member of the ruling family of North Korea to visit South Korea since the war began in 1950. The delegation also included Kim Yong Nam, who served as the leader of the delegation. The 90-year-old is technically North Korea’s head of state. In addition, Choe Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee also joined the delegation. South Korea had to seek a exemption from the United Nations for Choe’s travel as he is currently under international sanctions. There are about 500 North Koreans attending the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

The invitation by the North was not well received by Washington. Vice President Pence, who led the U.S. delegation to South Korea intended to isolate North Korea. He has repeatedly called Kim’s regime “the most tyrannical” on Earth.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president for summit: South Korea – 9 February, 2018

The Washington Post – North Korea’s Kim Jong Un invites South Korea’s president to Pyongyang – 10 February, 2018

CNN – Kim Jong Un invites South Korean President Moon to Pyongyang – 11 February, 2018

 

Death Toll in Philippine Drug War Increases Under New Measures

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MANILA, Philippines – Since December, the National Police of the Philippines said officers killed 46 people in relation to drug use and dealings. In December President Rodrigo Duterte reinstated the police force as the body in charge of the war on drugs.   Since then, there have been 3,253 raids that cumulated in the deaths. Several arrests of “high-value targets” also occurred.

Police Officers visiting homes under the new regulations. Photo Courtesy of Edd Gumban.

In previous statements President Duterte announced that he would work to decrease the number of deaths in his policy to fight illegal drugs. A presidential spokesman said that the police learned from the past and would try their best to decrease the death toll.

The Chief Director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is hesitant to agree that there will be less bloodshed. He is quoted to have said, “we also have to protect ourselves, preserve our own life and the life of the stranger. Now, tell me who among the police commanders can do it… That’s impossible,” of the issue.

This new resurgence comes with new rules and regulations in an attempt to cut down on deaths. Raids can only occur during the day and not on weekends. Activists and members of the Catholic Church will accompany unarmed officers. Although, depending on neighborhoods entered, armed back up units will be available.

Officers involved in this round of raids will undergo a vetting process to eliminate corruption.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Philippine Police Resume War on Drugs, Killing Dozens – 2 February 2018

Philippines Star – PNP Chief Dela Rosa: ‘Bloodless drug war impossible’ – 30 January 2018

Business Standard – Philippines police resume anti-drug raids – 29 January 2018

Pakistan Shuts Down News Agency Office

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – On January 19, the Interior Ministry of Pakistan released an order to close the Radio Mashaal office in Islamabad. The Inter-Service Intelligence revealed the news station broadcasted programs that are “against the interest of Pakistan,” that reflect a “hostile intelligence agency’s agenda”, and that portray “Pakistan as a hub for terrorism.” The report went on to say that Radio Mashaal accuses Pakistan of harboring terrorists and of being a failed state.

Radio Mashaal was closed recently by Pakistani authorities. Photo Courtesy of Noorullah Shirzada.

Radio Mashaal is the Pashto-language part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).   RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. Congress. It is made possible by the bipartisan federal Broadcasting Board of Governors agency that oversees all international broadcasting.  Radio Mashaal was created to provide “an alternative to extremist propaganda in the tribal regions of Pakistan’s border.”

Amin Mudaqiq is the head of Radio Mashaal which broadcasts out of Prague. He denies that fact that Radio Mashaal is a part of foreign intelligence. He also stated that Pakistani intelligence had been questioning the integrity of the news produced for a while.

The president of RFE/RL said,” Radio Mashaal is an essential source of reliable, balanced information for our Pakistani audience.” The Coordinator of the Asia Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steven Butler said of closure, “The order to close Radio Mashaal’s office in Islamabad is a draconian move by Pakistani authorities and a direct threat to press freedom in the country.”

For more information, please see:

Committee to project Journalists – Pakistan orders closure of US-funded Radio Mashaal office in Islamabad – 19 January 2018

Voice of America – Pakistan Orders Closure of US-funded RFE/RL Bureau in Islamabad – 19 January 2018

Reporters Without Borders – RSF decries Pakistan’s closure of Radio Mashaal bureau – 23 January 2018

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – Watchdog Condemns Pakistan’s Move Against RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal – 20 January 2018

Five Mass Graves Found in Rakhine

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – According to a recent report by the Associated Press (AP) news agency, many Rohingya villagers have been massacred and buried in five mass graves. AP reported that around 400 Rohingya villagers were murdered by members of Myanmar’s military.

New mass graves were found in Myanmar according to AP. Photo Courtesy of Manish Swarup.

The survivors of the massacre told the Associated Press that the killing took place on August 27. The attack happened in the village of Gu Dar Pyin. According to Noor Kadir, a survivor of the massacre, he found six of his friends buried in two separate mass graves. Kadir stated that he was only able to identify his friend by the color of his friend’s shorts.

The attack began around noon when 200 soldiers attacked the village. Based on a video that was obtained after the fact, it showed the soldiers using acid to remove traces of evidence. The survivors told the Associated Press that the Burmese military tried to cover up evidence of murder.

Previously, Myanmar had admitted responsibility for one mass grave site in the village of Inn Din. However, the government is denying the massacre that allegedly occurred in Gu Dar Pyin.

Since the attack, Myanmar has denied access to Gu Dar Pyin. Due to this reason, it is difficult to get the accurate number of deaths. However, based on the satellite images gathered from DigitalGlobe, the village is reported to be wiped out.

Myanmar is denying AP’s investigation. The government in a statement reported that 17 government officials investigated the matter in Gu Dar Pyin. When they spoke with the community leaders, they informed the agencies that “no such things happened.”

Since the conflict began, around 680,000 Rohingya minority have fled Myanmar and relocated to Bangladesh.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Evidence of Rohingya mass graves uncovered in Myanmar – 1 February, 2018

The Guardian – Myanmar: UN and US deeply troubled over new report of five mass graves – 1 February, 2018

ABC News – Myanmar government denies AP report of Rohingya mass graves – 2 February, 2018

Reuters – Myanmar denies report of new mass graves in Rakhine – 2 February, 2018

Forced Labor on Thai Fishing Boats Persists

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – Despite reforms in the fishing industry of Thailand, there has been some resistance regarding the acceptance of new regulations. Migrant workers from neighboring countries continue to be trafficked into the fishing industry.

Fishing Boat in Port. Photo Courtesy of Daniel Murphy.

There are restrictions regarding movement between employers, delays in payment, withholdings of contracts and workers information, and reductions in wages to levels below minimum wage. Employers keep employment cards, known as ‘pink cards’, to prevent laborers from leaving. Interviews also told of 16-hour work days. One man reported leaving the port at 6 am and returning to land after sunrise the next morning, only to sort the fish.

Thailand has yet to create an effective monitoring and inspection protocol for the fishing industry. In contrast to investigations carried out by Human Rights Watch, Thai investigations declared no cases of forced labor or poor working conditions. Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in every major fishing port in Thailand. Within 34 groups, there were 20 forced labor cases. Another investigation carried out by the International Justice Mission reported that more than 1/3 of fishers are trafficking victims.

The representative of Thailand’s National Fisheries Association, Mongkol Sukchararoenkana, noted in an interview, “There is no exploitation like in the past. The consumers of the USA and Europe can eat our seafood. Everything is fine. Every problem has been fixed by the current government. The boats are correct and the workers are correct. There is no more forced labor.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented, “… there has been significant improvement in the labour situation in the fishing industry in many areas. Disappointedly, the Report of HRW contains many outdated references… [and] does not take into consideration the current progress and efforts made by Thailand in solving labor problems.”

Human Rights Watch acknowledges the attempts as improvements but notes that numbers have not changed from 2012, when 1 in 5 fishers worked in some variation of forced labor conditions. 

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Forced Labor, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets – 23 January 2018

CNN – Abuse of migrant workers ‘rampant’ in Thai fishing fleets, rights group says – 25 January 2018

Thomson Reuters Foundation – ‘It was torture’: Grim tales in Thai fishing sector despite reforms – 23 January 2018

Japanese Citizens Petition Human Rights Court to Prosecute North Korean Leader

 By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

TOKYO, JapanRoughly 16 years after North Korea openly admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, families of the victims hope to bring an International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.

Kim Jong Un waves to onlookers at a military parade on April 15, 2017. Photo courtesy of Damir Sagolj, Reuters.

While Pyongyang says only 13 Japanese citizens were kidnapped, Tokyo officially reports 17 abductees. The U.N. believes the number is closer to 100. Moreover, the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea quotes 470 disappearances related to North Korean kidnappings.

During negotiations in 2002 about the kidnappings, North Korea returned 5 Japanese citizens. They reported that the rest had died. However, Japan believed that the information provided to confirm the deaths was insufficient and suspicious.

Eight Japanese citizens will travel to the ICC in The Hague. Several members of this party had families members taken.  They believe that their family members are still alive and are severely repressed.

Their goal is to petition the ICC to open a case against Kim Jong Un for crimes against humanity. The charge is for not providing adequate information regarding the deaths of the kidnapped Japanese. The petition calls for an investigation of more than 100 kidnappings. Yet, these events happened under Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather.

The representatives hope this decision (and ensuing criminal case) will bring an international focus to the kidnappings.   

For more information, please see:

Straits Times – Families of missing Japanese to urge prosecution of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at Hague court – 19 January 2018

The Japan Times – Abductees’ kin will urge ICC to prosecute Kim for human rights abuses – 19 January 2018

Newsweek – WILL KIM JONG UN GO TO JAIL? RELATIVES OF JAPAN KIDNAPPING VICTIMS ASK COURT FOR JUSTICE – 19 January 2018

Afghan Military Units Accused of Child Rape Receive U.S. Aid

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, AfghanistanIn a report released on January 18, 2018, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction noted ‘gross human rights abuses’ by the Afghan military. Several of these included child sexual assault, though the full scope of the sexual abuse is unclear as a result of a lack of resources and access.

Of a total of 75 incidents recorded from 2010-2016 by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, “7 involved child sexual assault, 46 involved other gross violations of human rights, and 22 were classified at a level above Secret because of the sensitivity of the information or the sources and methods used to obtain the information.” However, the U.S. Military personnel reported 5,753 human rights violations for the same time span.

Afghan Military Units continue to receive U.S. Military Aid despite child sex abuse cases. Image courtesy of Ghulamullah Habibi.

The cases of child sexual abuse by members of the Afghan military frequently refer to widespread practice of bacha bazi (boy play), where underage boys are kept as sex slaves for Afghan commanders.

According to the Leahy Law, U.S. military aid cannot be given to foreign military involved in human rights violations. However, U.S. aid has continued to flow to the Afghan military despite the 5,753 reports and 75 confirmed incidents. Additionally, many of the U.S. servicemen have seen negative consequences (even death) as a result of reporting child rapes and sexual abuse.

How does the U.S. military evade the Leahy Law? There is a loophole called the “notwithstanding clause” that states the Afghan military should receive aid no matter what. In this manner, 14 Afghan units continued to be supported despite allegations of child rapes against them.

A U.S. Senate committee hopes that this report will be a step forward to closing the legal loophole.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Afghan Pedophiles Get Free Pass From U.S. Military, Report says – 23 January 2018

The Washington Examiner – Senate targets loophole Defense Department used to support Afghan forces accused of human rights abuses – 23 January 2018

The Washington Post – Pentagon and watchdog at odds over efforts to prevent sexual abuse of children by Afghan troops – 23 January 2018

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction – (U) Child Sexual Assault in Afghanistan: Implementation of the Leahy Laws and Reports of Assault by Afghan Security Forces – 18 January 2018

The Guardian – US military fails to tackle sexual abuse of children by Afghan allies, report finds – 24 January 2018