Asia

Cartoonist Released After Arrest for his Seditious Cartoons

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – Today, authorities in India released anti-corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi from Mumbai’s main jail.

Trivedi speaking to free speech activists outside the jail. (Photo Courtesy of India Ink)

Authorities arrested Mr. Trivedi on Sunday for his seditious cartoons series, one of which depicted the Parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies.  One of Mr. Trivedi’s cartoons further illustrated three lions, India’s national symbol, replaced with three wolves whose teeth dripped blood with “Long live corruption” written underneath.  Another cartoon portrayed the Parliament as an enlarged toilet bowl.

According to CNN, Mr. Trivedi initially refused bail because he wanted the charges dropped.  However, after authorities reassured him that his case would be reviewed, Mr. Trivedi changed his mind and accepted a bail grant of 5,000 Indian rupees ($90) from Mumbai’s High Court.

“Can we speak freely in this country or not? Or are we still living under the British rule?” inquired Mr. Trivedi after his release and amongst hundreds of free speech activists.  “This fight will continue until 124A is repealed,” continued Mr. Trivedi.

In 1860, the British colonial government introduced section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.  Section 124A prohibits “words either spoken or written, or by signs or visible representation” to incite “hatred or contempt, or excited or attempts to excite disaffection,” against the government.

In 1962, the Indian Supreme Court reviewed section 124A’s constitutionality and ruled in favor of its validity.  However, its application is limited to acts “involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.”

Mr. Trivedi’s arrest was one of many against free speech activists.  Tuesday, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejiwal threatened to sit outside the jail holding Mr. Trivedi if the charges against him were not dropped.

Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh temporarily blocked access to a number of Twitter accounts, including those of which impersonated the Prime Minister.  Furthermore, the government chastised articles by foreign media censuring Mr. Singh’s record against corruption.

Moreover, in April, authorities arrested Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra in Kolkata for purportedly sharing via email cartoons disparaging the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee.  Authorities later released Mr. Mahapatra.

According the BBC, the government rebutted that they are in favor in speech but “there is a thin line between that and insulting national symbol.”

For further information, please see:

BBC – India cartoonist Aseem Trivedi freed from jail on bail – 12 Sept. 2012

CNN – Indian cartoonists facing sedition charges freed on bail – 12 Sept. 2012

Hindustan Times – Aseem Trivedi freed; Advani says current time worse than emergency – 12 Sept. 2012

Reuters – Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi freed on bail – 12 Sept. 2012

Trouble In Paradise: Police Brutality in the Maldives

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MALE, Rep. of Maldives – Amnesty International, the London based human rights watchdog, released a report on Wednesday, September 5, exposing potential human rights violations in the Maldives.

Activists and police clash on the streets. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

The report included interviews from survivors of the alleged human rights violations and their families.  Those interviewed include lawyers, activists, medical professionals, security officials and senior politicians.  The interviewees stated that military troops and police arbitrarily detained innocent citizens with unnecessary force and tortured them.

One incidence of a human rights violation involves a premarital sex affair between a 16 year old girl and a 29 year old man.  The Maldives has a history of handing down corporal punishment to women for having extramarital or premarital affairs.  The 16 year old was found engaging in sexual activity with the 29 year old man when the girl’s family went out searching for her when she was missing.  Soon after the 16 year old girl’s family filed a complaint with the local police department regarding her indiscretions.

Under Islamic religious law, girls between the ages of 13 to 18 are forbidden from having premarital sex.  The 16 year old girl was sentenced to a public flogging with a cane when she turned 18.  The public floggings were reportedly handed down by local village chiefs who act as judges.  Courts in the Maldives may not be independent of the Islamic government so the influence of the religious government could be unavoidable.  The 29 year old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his crime.

The rising violence by military troops and police may be in response to peaceful public protests regarding past human rights violations.  Protestors were reportedly beaten, pepper sprayed, and some women were perhaps sexually harassed during the military and police crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.  The public protests lead to the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, to step down from office.  Nasheed has alleged that a police mutiny and a military coup backed by Islamic extremists forced him to step down.

Nasheed’s replacement, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, is in support of the military and police actions.  Specifically, it was alleged by Asian Centre for Human Rights that Manik’s support of the military and police actions was part of a broader plan to unite Islamic fundamentalists in the upcoming 2013 election.  Despite widespread criticism by international human rights advocates, the case of the 16 year old girl’s sentence to a public flogging with a cane may not be suspended due to the new direction of the Maldives government under Manik.

 

For further information, please see:

New Age Bangladesh – Abuses rise in Maldives under new regime: Amnesty – 6 September 2012

BBC – Amnesty accuses Maldives government of beatings and torture – 5 September 2012

International Business Times – Maldives: 16-Year-Old Sentenced to 100 lashes for Pre-Marital Sex – 4 September 2012

Japan Today – 16-year-old Maldives girl faces public flogging for pre-marital sex – 4 September 2012

SAMSUNG HIT WITH ALLEGATIONS OF LABOR ABUSES IN CHINESE FACTORIES

By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – New York based China Labour Watch (CLW) uncovered evidence of potential labor abuses in Chinese factories owned by South Korean electronics giant Samsung.

Workers file into the Suzhou Samsung factory. (Photo Courtesy of The Hankyoreh)

The factories under investigation are located in Huizhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Shandong, and Suzhou.  Some of the abuses cited were long working hours in poor conditions and the hiring of children under the age of 18.  The CLW’s report cited that workers worked over 100 hours of overtime per month, stood for 12 or more hours per day, were subjected to potentially unsafe working environments, and were verbally and physically abused.

Workers were allegedly not allowed to use holidays or sick days.  Some workers reported that they went to work sick because management would dock three days of pay if they attempted to use a sick day.  Others reported that they had gone 21 days without a single day off.  During the peak seasons, workers reported that they would work at least four or five hours of overtime per day on top of their regular work schedules.  One plant under investigation reportedly has a base salary of $250 per month for factory workers.

Management has also been accused of manufacturing fake identification cards for underage workers for them to appear older so they could work at the factories.  The underage workers with forged IDs perform the same tasks as adults on assembly lines with no safeguards or special workplace considerations for children.  It is legal in China to employ workers between the ages of 16-18, however, workers as young as 14 and 15 were allegedly seen on the assembly lines of Samsung’s factories.  These young workers are subjected to the same overtime schedules as adults.  Adults can work two to three shifts amounting to 12 or more hours per day.

Labor abuses perpetrated by technology firms have recently come to light since the slew of suicides at a factory owned by Foxconn, a major electronics supplier for Apple.  Foxconn has recently responded to the tragic suicides by cutting working hours and improving factory safety for workers.  China Labour Watch has also been investigating factories that make products for tech firms including HP, Dell, and Microsoft.

Samsung has denied all allegations of labor abuses at their Chinese factories.  Since the allegations of labor abuse, Samsung has broadened inspections on suppliers such as the Chinese factories that are currently under fire for potential labor abuses.  Spokespersons for Samsung have communicated that they perform frequent checks of their factories.  The company also has a zero tolerance policy in regards to child labor, and they were allegedly unaware of the underage hiring practices in their factories.  They have yet to agree to investigations by independent third parties.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Samsung faces fresh claims on Chinese factory workers – 6 September 2012

Bloomberg – Samsung Abuses Workers at Its China Plants, Labor Group Says – 5 September 2012

The Hankyoreh – Samsung found abusing underage workers in China – 5 September 2012

ShanghaiDaily – Samsung responds to under-age claims – 4 September 2012

Detox Program for Agent Orange Victims

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – Yesterday, the Church of Scientology announced that it would treat victims of Agent Orange.  During the Vietnam War, American troops used this defoliant against communist insurgents.

Helicopter spraying Agent Orange in the Mekong delta. (Photo Courtesy of The Business Insider)

According to the Guardian, between 1962 and 1971, the United State’s military sprayed at least 20m gallons of Agent Orange, among other herbicides, on approximately a quarter of South Vietnam resulting in 5m acres of deforestation.  Furthermore, according to the Business Insider, during the late 1990s, the Vietnam Red Cross conducted a survey revealing that approximately 3 million Vietnamese men and women were affected by this toxin, including 150,000 children born with birth defects.

A doctor at the Vietnam Military Medical University, Nguyen Ba Vuong, shared with the New York Times that the Association for Better Living and Education, a group financed by the Church of Scientology, trained members of his clinic.

Moreover, Vietnamese news sources relayed to the New York Times that the program treated approximately 300 victims so far.  The “Hubbard Method” includes, among other things, vitamin and mineral intake, vigorous exercise, and sauna sessions to induce perspiration.  After 9/11 in New York City, Scientologists offered said services to those who may have been exposed to toxins.  These measures have also been used to aid in alcohol and drug-related rehabilitation.

“I hope my wife and I will fully recover completely and will not suffer after-effects to pass on to my descendants,” said Nguyen Dai Sang to the Viet Nam News daily.  Though those in Mr. Sang’s situation are hopeful, many researchers doubt the “Hubbard Method.”

“I would not expect that it would lower the body burden of dioxin in a given person,” stated Dr. Marcella L. Warner, a research epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley.  Dr. Warner has studied the long-term health effects of dioxin exposure.  Though she is not well versed in the “Hubbard Method,” Dr. Warner believes a program’s emphasis on excessive perspiration is not effective.

In addition, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Hanoi, Christopher Hodges, stated, “We are not aware of any safe, effective detoxification treatment for people with dioxin in body tissues.  The best way to reduce health risks associated with dioxin is to prevent human exposure to dioxin.”

Although the United States purports that no link between Agent Orange and health problems exists, last month, it initiated a project to clean the toxins from a former airbase, where American troops previously stored and mixed the toxin.  Furthermore, since 2007, Vietnam has received approximately $60m from the United States for forest restoration and social services.

For more information, please see:

The Business Insider – Vietnamese Citizens are Turning to a Scientology Detox Program to Cure Effects of Agent Orange – 06 Sept. 2012

Fox News – Vietnam Agent Orange Victims get Scientology ‘Detox’ – 06 Sept. 2012

The Guardian – Agent Orange Victims in Vietnam to get Scientology ‘Detox’ Treatment – 06 Sept. 2012

New York Times – Agent Orange Victims Get Scientology Treatment – 05 Sept. 2012

London High Court Blocks Inquiry Into the 1948 Killing of 24 Malaysians

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Yesterday, London’s high court thwarted an inquiry into the killings of 24 unarmed Malayan rubber plantation workers in 1948.

Relatives of fallen victims. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

With the support of over 568 Malaysian groups comprised of schools, temples, and professional groups, relatives of the fallen victims requested the court to launch an inquiry into the 1948 killings.  As a result, this past May, London’s High Court heard their case.

According to Reuters, at the time, officials reported the killing as an operation against anti-communist insurgents or supports attempting to escape.  However, in 1970, soldiers formerly involved admitted to a British newspaper that the killings were in fact pre-meditated.  The soldiers were allegedly ordered to cover the truth.

Sir John Thomas, the president of the Queen’s Bench division, and Justice Treacy rejected the government’s argument that treaties in effect at the time, transferred responsibility to Malaysia.  However, the London’s court rejected the claimants’ argument that the government had a legal duty to hold an inquiry; however,  laimants’ counsel, John Halford, anticipates appealing this decision.

“There is evidence that supports a deliberate execution of the 24 civilians at Batang Kali,” read Tuesday’s judgment.  “The first matter in relation to the purpose of inquiry is to consider whether it can establish the facts.  There are obviously enormous difficulties in conducting an inquiry into a matter that happened over 63 years ago.  Most of the contemporary documents are missing and most of those who were engaged are dead.  Nor, in our view, would it be any easier to determine whether the use of force was reasonable or proportionate.”

“Many of the shameful events at Batang Kali have been firmly established, as has the UK’s ongoing legal responsibility for them,” voiced Mr. Halford.  “If ministers can find the moral courage within themselves to address it, they can do so immediately.  If they fail to act decisively to end the ongoing injustices at the heart of this case, the survivors and families of the Batang Kali massacre will continue to pursue legal action and complete the work this court has begun.”

The Scots Guard beheaded claimant Lim Kok’s father.  “Though the court found the government did not need to hold an inquiry on technical grounds, the fact is that the Scots Guards shot innocent civilians, my father included,” shared Mr. Kok to the Guardian.

Chong Koon Yin’s father Chong Voon suffered the same fate.  “The truth has not been fully revealed.  Without a proper inquiry or a proper acceptance of fault, the government held legally responsible for the killing remains unaccountable.”

For further information, please see:

The Guardian – Relatives lose court case for inquiry in to 1948 Malaya ‘massacre’ – 04 Sept. 2012

The Independent – Judges block 1948 Malaya ‘massacre’ probe – 04 Sept. 2012

Reuters – Britain held responsible for 1948 mass killing in Malaya – 04 Sept. 2012

BBC – British ‘massacre’ in Malaya in 1948 to be reviewed – 08 Sept. 2011