Asia

Indian Police Kills Alleged Maoist Rebels in Chhattisgarh

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India—Last Thursday the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killed twenty alleged Maoist rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Members of the Central Reserve Police Force being briefed at a base in Chhattisgarh. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

Nineteen of the rebels died at the scene of the clash, another died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital. Six of the paramilitary police officers were wounded in the attack.

The CRPF and the State police were undergoing a counter-insurgency operation late June 29 in dense forests located in the Maoist-dominated Bijapur district. The joint governmental forces planned to intercept a Maoist company at Silger in the Sukma district but encountered alleged Maoist rebels a mere three kilometers from their camp.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist rebels as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

Maoist rebels are active in more than a third of India’s districts. They have been mobilizing throughout India in an attempt to form a people’s government. The Maoist insurgents fight for the rights of India’s poor peasants and laborers.

In the past two years, 1611 people have died in thousands of incidents alleged to be part of the Maoist rebellion in India.

Following the June 29 encounter, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram praised the combined State and CRPF forces for their courage and skill in addressing the insurgency.

The Indian police stated that a large number of arms and ammunition were recovered from the area where the fire-fight began, some of which were the homemade variety of Maoist rebels. They also stated that the wounding of six of their officers provides proof enough that the encounter was not “fake” as the Opposition Congress declared three days following the incident.

Local tribal villagers have protested the police’s claim that Maoist insurgents were the victims of police fire but state that those killed were innocent villagers. Activists are calling the incident a “cold-blooded murder” of tribal villagers including women and children.

Former Delhi high court Chief Justice Sachar and other activists demanded a judicial inquiry into the alleged fire-fight between the police and Maoist rebels. Activists state that a delegation with President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon take place.

Their sentiment is echoed by Indians who have lost faith in India’s police system – a system where imagination substitutes for information, according to one police officer.

The chief of Central Reserve Police Force, K. Vijay Kumar stated, “We identified the Maoist and conveyed to the media on the same day. We have used extreme restraint.” When asked about the death of a teenage girl in the skirmish between police and alleged rebels, Kumar responded, “A bullet is gender blind, a bullet is age blind.”

A magisterial inquiry into the sequence of events surrounding the killings has been ordered.

For further information, please see:

The Hindu – Chhattisgarh Congress Contradicts Chidambaram on Bijapur Encounter – 2 July 201

NY Times – Controversy Grows in India Over Police Killing of Alleged Maoists – 2 July 2012

The Times of India – Chhattisgarh Maoist Encounter: Activists call it cold-blooded murder, CRPF denies allegations – 2 July 2012

BBC News – India Police Kill ’17 Maoists’ in Chhattisgarh – 29 June 2012

 

The Khmer Rouge Trial Faces A Few Obstacles

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia– Time is of the essence in the Khmer Rouge trial.  According to experts, funding and health threaten the trial of Khmer Rouge’s three surviving members for the deaths of approximately 2 million people.

King Guek Eav, the prison chief. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Nuon Chea, the chief advocate, Khieu Samphan, the head of state, and Ieng Sary, the foreign minister, face charges that include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Khmer Rouge, a Communist movement, is responsible for the execution, torture, forced labor, and starvation of millions from 1975 to 1979.  Survivors have waited a very long time for the prosecution of those liable.

“The victims, especially myself, we suffer for too long,” said Marie Chea, now 60 years old.  “I lost my family, my mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters.  I suffer, suffer, even when I am back home — I say home because I am in the United States more than 30 years.”

In 2006, voluntary contributions from various nations paid for the existing tribunal.  However, since its creation, the tribunal has cost more than $160 million and this year faces a $22 million budget decrease.  Financial stress aside, the court faces other dilemmas.

Seven months have already passed in the first “mini-trial.”  Since opening statements in late November, the court has only held trial hearings on 78 days.  On Thursday, it adjourned for about a month.  To date, the tribunal has only completed one case, the sentence of S-21’s prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, to life imprisonment.

In an effort to expedite the process, judges of a UN-supported court in Phnom Penh have divided the intricate case into smaller trials, thus leaving the most serious crimes for later proceedings.

In addition to funding troubles and slow pace, the ailing health of the Khmer Rouge’s senior members and their ability to endure the entire trial is a grave concern.  Last month, the hearings were postponed for a week because 86 year old Ieng Sary was hospitalized for bronchitis.

“This is it, this is the trial. Nobody believes there’s going to be a second phase,” voiced Anne Heindel, a legal consultant to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.  Moreover, according to Jakarta Globe, Heindel fears of a “narrow judgment” that would veil “the story of what happened under the Khmer Rouge.”

The first trial piece centers on the forced transfer of city inhabitants to rural work sites.  Shortly after the evacuation, the regime allegedly killed thousands of “enemies.” The prosecution has twice requested that the judges include this crime among others in the first trial.

For many Cambodians, far worse crimes- mass purges, forced marriages, and torture – under the 1975-1979 regime may never be heard.  As Heindel stated, unaddressed crimes “would greatly diminish the legacy of this court.”

For further information, please see:

Jakarta Globe- Fear Grow for Early End to Khmer Rouge Trial- 24 June 12

The Guardian-Kmer Rouge leaders go on trial in Cambodia– 26 June 12

The Huffington Post- Khmer Rouge Trial: Kaing Guek Eav, Chief Jailer, Gets Life In Prison– 12 Feb. 12

The New York Times-Survivors Seek Answers at Khmer Rouge Trial– 20 Nov. 12

 

Chinese Authorities Bar Artist’s Attendance in Courtroom

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China -Wednesday, Chinese authorities prevented artist Ai Weiwei from attending his company’s first court hearing against Beijing tax authorities.  According to Weiwei, they proffered no explanation.

Weiwei denied court access. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

“This society has become a scary and dangerous one now, because there are too many things that violate people’s rights and that happen with no explanation,” stated Weiwei.

Despite police officers’ attempts to bar many Weiwei supporters from leaving their homes, hundreds were still able to rally outside the Chaoyang District Court.

In 2011, Chinese authorities detained Weiwei for three months.  In addition, the government sanctioned Weiwei’s design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., to a 15M yuan ($2.35M) fine for back taxes.  Weiwei’s wife and legal representative, Lu Qing, has spearheaded an appeal on behalf of the company against the fine.  Qing has also filed a separate action alleging witness and evidence mishandling by the tax bureau.

Through his work and political activism, the 54-year-old artist has earned the reverence of most in both the political and artistic communities outside of China.  The Art Review deemed Weiwei the most powerful artist in the world.

“Ai’s activities have allowed artists to move away from the idea that they work within a privileged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum.  They have reminded his colleagues and the world at large of the fact that freedom of expression is a basic right of any human being.”

Political activists and other Weiwei supporters purport that a direct correlation exists between his punishment and his criticism of the Chinese government.

Since his release, the authorities have forbidden Weiwei to travel outside of China.  Moreover, Weiwei is under steady surveillance.

“They didn’t return my passport, I just realized that,” Weiwei said.  “And they didn’t return my computers. You know, because for subversion of state power, they want to try to find every trace. But they can’t find anything, I guess. I mean, they owe me to say sorry. But of course they would never do it. It’s over, but it’s never totally over. You are still not allowed to go abroad.”

In addition to the pending litigation, Weiwei may face other charges: pornography, bigamy, and illicit exchange of foreign currency.  However, there is no certainty whether the authorities will pursue these suspected crimes.

Despite authorities’ alleged attempts to stop or at least deter criticism directed at them, Weiwei continues to fight his censure through banned social networks such as Twitter.

 

For further information, please see:

NPR-Ai Weiwei Says He is Barred From Leaving China– 21 June 2012

Voice of America-Ai Weiwei: Still Can’t Leave China– 21 June 2012

Guardian-Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police– 20 June 2012

New York Times- Chinese Artist Is Barred From His Own Hearing-20 June 2012

Bangladesh Refuses Entry to Myanmar Refugees

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh—Despite pleas from the United Nations and countries such as the United States, the Bangladesh Government has refused to grant assylum to recent Rohingya Muslim refugees escaping sectarian violence in Myanmar.

Rohingya Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar. (Photo Courtesy of LA Times)

“It is not in our interest that new refugees come from Myanmar,” Dipu Moni, the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, stated at the capital, Dhaka, on Tuesday.

Border guards turned back an estimated 1,500 Rohingya refugees over the weekend after further violence broke out between the minority Rohingya Muslims and the majority Rakhine Buddhists.

Dipu Moni also cited a strain on resources as a reason for turning back boats traveling across the Naf river to the Bangladeshi border. Bangladesh already houses around 30,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees in two camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

Human Rights Watch refugee program director Bill Frelick stated,“Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives.”

The UN refugee agency reported that boats transporting women, children and some wounded have been turned back even within reach  of locals trying  to give assistance to the refugees. The agency indicated that the refugees are in need of food and medical care.

However, Bangladesh emphasized that the Myanmar and Bangladeshi governments are trying to “to ensure that developments in the Rakhine state do not have any trans-boundary spillover.”

Still, thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the fighting thought to have been sparked last month by the rape and murder of a Rakhine Buddhist woman followed by an attack on a bus carrying Rohingya Muslims, which left 10 people dead. Twenty-nine people are estimated to have died and many homes have been burnt to the ground in the western Rakhine region.

Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency after rioting began a little over week ago in the town of Maung Daw which spread to the capital, Sittwe, and other nearby villages. The violence highlights the delicate nature of the relations between ethnic groups in Myanmar.

The Rohingya have been deemed a “stateless” group by both Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship while Bangladesh argues that the Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries and should be recognized as citizens.

According to The United Nations, Myanmar’s 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

For further information, please see:

NY Daily News – Violence Highlights Myanmar’s Sectarian Tension –  16 June 2012

Aljazeera – Bangladesh ‘Turns Back’ Myanmar Refugees – 15 June 2012

BBC News – UN Urges Bangladesh to Take in People Fleeing Burma Violence – 15 June 2012

Los Angeles Times – Bangladesh Rebuffs Pleas to Admit People Fleeing Myanmar Violence – 13 June 2012

Talwars’ Review Plea Dismissed Despite Lack of Evidence in Double-Murder

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India —The trial of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for the murders of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Aarushi Talwar, and their domestic helper, Hemraj, began Friday in the Ghaziabad Court after the Supreme Court dismissed the Talwar’s review plea to escape the standing trial.

Aarushi Talwar, age 14. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

The Talwars are charged with the May 16, 2008 murders of Aarushi and Hemraj. The couple is also charged with destruction of evidence. Rajesh Talwar is charged with misleading investigators in the double-homicide case.

The Court began hearing testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses on Friday. The couple continues to claim their innocence as to all charges against them.

The Talwars live in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, outside New Delhi, where Rajesh Talwar works as a dentist. Their daughter’s body was found in her bedroom at their home on May 16, 2008, and the battered body of Hemraj was found the next day on the terrace of the home. Both were found with their throats slit and other similar injuries.

However, there is no hard evidence linking the Talwars to the murders. The Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s federal police service, states that the circumstantial evidence suggests that Aarushi’s parents were involved in the murders. The murder weapon has yet to be recovered but the CBI believes the fatal injuries to the neck were made with surgical precision and thus, implicate the Talwars in the crimes. A golf stick recovered at the crime scene also inflicted identical injuries on the two victims.

The Talwars have called for re-investigation of the case because there were lapses present in the initial investigation of the case. They have stated that they believe they are being blamed for the murders because the CBI could not find evidence to link the real perpetrators to the murders.

The police and government investigators are accused of making successive failed inquiries into the double-murder four years ago and then pursuing the Talwars as the culprits to cover their failed investigative attempts.

Much of the forensic evidence in the home was either destroyed by the police themselves or by the media who were allowed full access to the crime scene. Postmortem evaluations were also deemed inconclusive. Additionally, police inquiries have contradicted each other in regards to key elements of the murders. The case has brought to the fore Indian concerns over the efficiency of their police and the criminal justice system.

While Rajesh is on bail for the crimes, on Thursday, June 7, the Supreme Court rejected Nupur Talwar’s petition for bail. She is held in Dasna jail, Ghaziabad. The Court stated that they were not “inclined to interfere in the trial court’s order.”

The couple stated that despite the Supreme Court’s denial of their review petition they continue to believe that “justice will one day prevail.”

For further information, please see:

Hindu – Talwars’ Plea Rejected, but Couple Unbowed – 8 June 2012

International Business Times – Aarushi-Hemraj Double Murder Case: Talwars’ Trial Begins  – 8 June 2012

BBC News – India Aarushi Talwar Murder Trial Begins – 4 June 2012

The Guardian – India’s Middle-Class Murder Trial Stokes Concerns About Changing Values – 11 May 2012