Norway Plans to Ban Semi-Automatic Weapons

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

OSLO, Norway – Almost seven years after the last mass shooting in Norway, the country is making moves to ban semi-automatic weapons.

Flags and Flowers Adorn a Memorial Site Neat the 2011 Utoya Massacre in Norway. Photo courtesy of Lefteris Pitarakis.

If the new legislation is passed, semi-automatic weapons and other previously legal weapons will be reclassified as “military-style” and banned. Citizens would be required to surrender any semi-automatic weapons in their possession. Future sales would be prohibited.

The law has been in talks since 2011, when on July 22nd  Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people, mostly children, in a bombing and mass shooting on Utoya Island. There has not been a mass shooting in the country since then. However, the incident led the country to review existing laws and propose tightened ones.

A 2012 report by a commission formed in response to the Utoya massacre recommended a ban on semi-automatic weapons as one of its 31 recommendations to combat gun violence.

Øystein Mæland, Norway’s police chief, called for stricter laws pertaining to semi-automatic weapons after the attack.

The legislation comes at a time when gun violence is a considerable problem in the world, especially in the United States of America. Norway has 1.11 gun deaths per 100,000, compared to 10.54 per 100,000 in the United States.

Norway is one of many countries wishing to strengthen their gun laws. In Australia, 57,000 citizens recently surrendered firearms to the government during a gun amnesty in the country. With the recent high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, activists are calling for heightened measures to combat gun violence.

Norway already has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, requiring background checks and secure gun storage, among other things. Certain categories of guns are banned altogether.

The country has a high rate of gun ownership, but boasts low levels of gun violence, thanks in part to the strict gun laws in place. Most residents use them for hunting and outdoor sports.

The ban is planned to take effect in 2021, a decade after the mass shooting.

Petere Frlocih, a Conservative member of Parliament’s committee on judicial affairs, said “today it has become clear that there is a parliamentary majority in favor of the government’s proposal. Semi-automatic weapons will therefore be banned in Norway.”

“This decision is a very good thing, even if it comes belatedly,” said Lisabeth Kristine Roynemand, the head of a support group for victims of gun violence and their families. Her eighteen-year-old daughter was killed in the 2011 massacre.

Not everyone supports the proposed legislation. Farmers and hunters in the nation are protesting the measures.

For more information, please see:

Chicago Tribune – Norway and Australia Move Forward With new gun Control Measures, as U.S. Debate Rages on – 1 March 2018

The Guardian – Norway set to ban Semi-Automatic Guns From 2021, 10 Years After Utoya Shooting – 27 February 2018

Huffington Post – Norway Ready To Ban Semi-Automatic Weapons Starting In 2021, Says Lawmaker – 28 February 2018

Reuters – Norway set to ban Semi-Automatic Weapons – 1 March 2018

Washington Post – As U.S. gun Debate Rages on, Australians Hand in 57,000 Firearms, and Norway is set for a Broad ban – 1 March 2018

Religious Leaders Condemn Iceland’s Proposal to Ban Male Circumcision

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Religious groups are criticizing legislation being considered in Iceland that would ban male circumcision for non-medical reasons.

A Jewish religious male circumcision ceremony is performed. Photo courtesy of Anton Podgaiko.

Iceland’s Parliament is debating legislation that would impose a six-year prison term for circumcisions performed for non-medical reasons.

The legislation was proposed in response to the country’s outlaw on female genital mutilation in 2005. It would outlaw circumcision on children and establish an age of consent after-which an individual could undergo the procedure.

Supporters of the legislation believe that children should be old enough to give informed consent before undergoing the procedure. They believe that the practice infringes on the rights of individuals who are not yet capable to make the decision on their own. They also point to potential risks of the procedure, which include bleeding and infection.

“We are talking about children’s rights, not about freedom of belief,” said Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, a lawmaker who proposed the new legislation. “Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come about the right to believe.”

Jewish and Muslim religious leaders are condemning the proposal as an attack on religious freedom.

Circumcision is a procedure where the foreskin is removed from the penis. It is usually performed shortly after birth or during childhood. Jews and Muslims perform circumcisions as religious rituals to mark a child’s relationship with God.

“Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case this concern is instrumentalized, without any scientific basis, to stigmatize certain religious communities,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Catholic Church in the European Union.

“It’s… part of our faith,”said Imam Ahmad Seddeeq at the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland. “It’s something that touches our religion and I believe that this is… a contravention [of] religious freedom.”

The practice is not limited to religious reasons and is commonly practiced throughout the world across all ethnicities. An estimate by the World Health Organization in 2009 found that one in three men in the world are circumcised.

The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a review in 2012, finding that the benefits of circumcision outweigh any risks associated with the procedure and issuing the following statement: “The health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis. Circumcision also lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime; reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life.”

However, the group also stated that the benefits were not enough to recommend universal circumcision.

Circumcision is currently legal throughout Europe.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Iceland’s Mooted Circumcision Ban Sparks Religious Outrage – 19 February 2018

CNN – Iceland’s Proposed Ban on Male Circumcisions Upsets Jews, Muslims – 20 February 2018

Huffington Post – Iceland’s Proposed Ban on Male Circumcision Alarms Religious Leaders – 19 February 2018

Newsweek – Iceland Angers Jewish and Muslim Leaders Over Proposal to Ban Infant Male Circumcision – 19 February 2018

USA Today – Iceland Could Become First Country to Ban Male Circumcision – 19 February 2018

Simon Wiesenthal Center Considers Travel Advisory

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, is considering issuing a travel advisory for Jews traveling to Poland.

Gate at Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland. ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Makes One Free) is written overhead. Photo courtesy of Scott Barbour.

The travel advisory is being considered in light of a recent spike in anti-Semitism in Poland following the passage of a new law imposing fines and prison sentences for individuals who suggest that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Over three million Polish Jews were murdered in the country during the genocide. Only ten percent of the Polish Jewish community survived. Several of the most deadly death camps run by the Nazi regime were constructed and run in Poland.

The “Holocaust Speech Law” has been condemned internationally and spurred a bitter feud between Israel and Poland.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the law, which takes effect on February 28th, saying “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

The travel advisory, if issued, would “urge Jews to limit their travel to Poland only to visit ancestral graves and Holocaust-era death camps,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement issued on February 22nd.

“In wake of the controversial new Holocaust Law in Poland and the anti-Semitism it has unleashed that has left the Jewish community shaken, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is considering issuing a Travel Advisory for world Jewry.”

More than 8,000 people in Poland, including many liberal Poles, troubled by the Holocaust Speech law’s passage and the rise in anti-semitism and hateful rhetoric,  have signed a letter to “our Jewish friends” denouncing the escalating wave of hatred.

Jews in Poland are fearful of discrimination and persecution in the wake of the bill’s passage. Many are worried the law’s passage could trigger violence against Jews in the country.

Matylda Jonas-Kowalik, a student at Warsaw University in Poland, worries for her safety. “This is my home. I have never lived anywhere else and wanted this to keep being my home… “But this makes me very anxious. I don’t know what to expect.”

An open letter posted to the Union of Jewish Communities website in Poland calls the Polish government to action. The letter states in part, “as representatives of Polish Jewish organizations, we call on public institutions, police, media outlets, schools, and members of the Polish public to combat anti-Semitism, and we are eager to cooperate with them in this critical mission.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Polish Jews Stunned, Scared by Eruption of Anti-Semitism – 17 February 2018

CNN – Poland’s Jewish Groups Say Jews Feel Unsafe Since New Holocaust Law – 20 February 2018

The Guardian – Poland’s Jews Fear for Future Under New Holocaust Law – 10 February 2018

Newsweek – Nazi Hunter Group Mulls Warning Jews Against Travel to Poland in Wake of Holocaust Law – 22 February 2018

Reuters – Jewish NGO Simon Wiesenthal Center Considers Travel Advisory for Poland – 22 February 2018

Polish Prime Minister Blasted for ‘Jewish Perpetrators’ Remark

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is being blasted for a remark he made at the Munich Security Conference on February 17th.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s Speaks at the Munich Security  Conference. Photo Courtesy of Thomas Kienzie.

The comment was made by Morawiecki in reference to an inquiry from an Israeli journalist regarding a new law passed in Poland making it illegal to make comments purporting that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.

The law was signed by President Andrzej Duda despite a strong push against its passage.

The legislation has been condemned internationally, with critics saying the law is intended to whitewash the role that some Poles played in the Holocaust. Many believe it is an attempt by Poland to rewrite history.

The law states that “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years”.

An Israeli journalist asked Morawiecki if it would be considered a crime in the country for him to share a story about his parents being reported to the Nazis by their Polish neighbors.

“Of course it’s not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal, to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also in attendance at the conference, called the statement “outrageous. There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people.”

In response to the outrage sparked by Morawiecki’s comment, Joanna Kopcinska, a government spokeswoman from Poland, issued a statement indicating that his comments “were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide,” and that Morawiecki  “has repeatedly and categorically opposed denial of the Holocaust — the murder of European Jewry — as well as anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Netanyahu and Morawiecki spoke on the phone after the remarks, with Netanyahu indicating to Morawiecki that his comments were unacceptable.

Both Morawiecki and Netanyahu believe that the dialogue should continue.

Kopcinska stated that Morawiecki’s comments “should be interpreted as a sincere call for open discussion of crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust, regardless of the nationality of those involved in each crime.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Israel Rebukes Poland PM for ‘Jewish Perpetrators’ Remark – 18 February 2018

Bloomberg – Poland Stokes Holocaust law Storm as Israeli Leader Lashes Out – 17 February 2018

Boston Herald – Poland Tries to Frame PM’s Holocaust Remarks as Frank Debate – 18 February 2018

Los Angeles Times – Israelis Slam Polish Prime Minister’s Remarks About ‘Jewish Perpetrators’ – 17 February 2018

Newsweek – Polish Prime Minister’s Jewish Holocaust ‘Perpetrators’ Comments Spark Outrage in Israel – 18 February 2018

Macron threatens Syria over alleged chemical attacks

President Macron spoke to reporters on February 13. Image courtesy of BBC News.

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France – French President Emmanuel Macron warned the Syrian government on February 13th that France “would strike” if evidence was found that Syria used chemical weapons on its own people.

Chemical weapons are a severe violation of international treaties. Yet the United States government, along with several others, determined that the cause of a 2013 attack in Damascus was caused by chemical weapons.

The Syrian government has denied any use of chemical weapons against its citizens.

President Macron has previously stated that Syrian use of chemical weapons is a “red line” for France.

Last May, President Macron stated that this “red line”, if crossed, would “draw an immediate response” from France.

More recently, President Macron reaffirmed this line in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this phone call, the French President reaffirmed his concerns over Syria’s alleged use of chlorine gas on its citizens.

Reaffirming the “red line” to news reporters, President Macron said, “If we have proven evidence that chemical weapons proscribed in treaties are used, we will strike the place where they are made.”

Despite these statements, many have criticized France for failing to take a hard stance against the Syrian government’s atrocities.

Some members of the United Nations Security Council, of which France is a member, have felt that the European nation has not established whether they would view chlorine gas as a “chemical weapon.”

The “White Helmets”, Syria’s Civil Defence force, urged President Macron to “stop talking” and “take real action” against Syria’s government.

However, President Macron’s government remains indecisive. Speaking to reporters, the President stated that French intelligence had yet to find evidence that Syria had used illegal chemical weapons during its civil war.

France’s foreign minister sought to clarify President Macron’s remarks on February 14th, stating that France would only retaliate against Syria if the chemical attacks were “lethal” and “carried out by government forces.”

Calls for a cease-fire in Syria by France and the United Nations have ramped up in the past several months.

Yet as the fighting continues, so too does Syria’s humanitarian crisis. The future rests unclear.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – France says Syria red line only crossed if gas attacks ‘lethal’: minister – 14 February 2018

BBC News – France’s Macron threatens Syria strikes if chemical weapon use proven – 14 February 2018

The Telegraph – Macron: ‘France will strike’ if use of chemical weapons in Syria is proven – 13 February 2018

Reuters – ‘France will strike’ if proven chemical bombs used in Syria: Macron – 13 February 2018

Deutsche Welle – Macron: France will ‘strike’ if proven using chemical arms – 13 February 2018

Protests in Italy Follow Racially-Motivated Shooting Spree

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Thousands of protesters across several Italian cities marched against racism on February 10, 2018, days after an Italian extremist opened fire on African migrants in the city of Macerata.

Far-Right Demonstrators From the Group Forza Nuova Clash With Police on February 8, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Fabio Falcioni.

Approximately 15,000 protestors showed up in Macerata in an effort to quell the rise of neo-fascist parties in Italy. Protesters also marched in Milan, Turin, Rome and other cities across Italy.

The protests came in response to a February 3rd attack on migrants. An Italian gunman identified as Luca Traini, opened fire in the city of Macerata in drive-by shootings that lasted about two hours. By the time he was apprehended by authorities, Traini had shot and wounded six African migrants.

Traini’s attack was racially motivated, partly in retaliation for the recent murder of a young Italian woman. A Nigerian migrant was arrested in connection with her murder.

The protests come just weeks ahead of elections in Italy.

Immigration has become a highly-discussed topic in Italy since the nation experienced  a wave of migrants starting in 2011.  It has been a key theme in campaigns.

Matteo Silvini, the anti-migrant leader of the political party known as the League, has pledged to expel thousands of migrants from Italy if elected. At a recent campaign rally, Silvini expressed his eagerness “to start expelling all the illegals one by one, to defend, above all, the women, the girls.”

At a rally, Silvini said the protest made him “ashamed as an Italian.”

Surveys show that many Italians believe that migrants are responsible for many violent crimes in the nation.

In anticipation of the government-authorized demonstration, schools and shops were closed down and mass-transit was halted. There was a heavy police presence at the protest in Macerata, which was held inside a fenced-off perimeter.

Far-right protests coincided with anti-fascist protests. In Piacenza, a city in Northern Italy, a far-right fringe group known as CasaPound clashed with police. Supporters of Forza Nuova, a neo-fascist party, clashed with police days earlier in an unauthorized demonstration.

Many marchers carried banners denouncing violence and racism. Some carried balloons bearing the names of the shooting victims.

One more coordinated anti-fascist demonstration is scheduled to take place on February 24th, a week before the election.

Francesco Piobbicchi, a demonstrator, told Reuters: “We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Marchers Protest Racism in Italy After Africans are Shot – 10 February 2018

BBC News Macerata: Anti-Racism Protest After Migrant Shooting in Italy – 10 February 2018

CNN – Italians Protest Against Fascism Following Shooting of African Migrants – 10 February 2018

Reuters – Italians March Against Racism After Shooting Spree Against Migrants – 10 February 2018

Far-Right Extremist Wounds Six in Two-Hour Shooting Rampage

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – In a rampage that lasted two hours, a right-wing Italian extremist shot and wounded six Africans on February 3rd in the small Italian city of Macerata.

Luca Traini is accused of shooting six people in Macerata, Italy. Photo Courtesy of Guido Picchio.

Draped in Italy’s tricolor flag, Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian, shot six victims in drive-by shootings that he carried out for two hours before he was detained by authorities. He specifically targeted dark-skinned pedestrians.

Traini’s rampage was in retaliation to an 18-year-old Italian woman’s murder weeks before. A 29-year-old Nigerian immigrant has been charged in her murder.

“He did it out of an ill-conceived sense of revenge,” said Lt. Col. Michele Roberti, local commander of  Italy’s Carabinieri, an elite police force.

Traini has confessed to the  racially-motivated rampage. Italian authorities discovered a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and other Nazi paraphernalia in a search of Traini’s home following the attacks.

An acquaintance of Traini said that he has become radicalized over the past six years. “More than a criminal, he’s an individual with psychological problems,” said Francesco Clerico, owner of the gym where Traini trained for a decade before being he was banned.

Italy has become one of a number of European nations to experience an influx of migrants who have come by way of crossing the Mediterranean. Since 2011, over 625,000 migrants have crossed into Italy, many having been rescued off of boats at sea.

Italy’s electoral campaign has become heated, with anti-migrant sentiments being a key theme.

Traini was an unsuccessful  candidate for Italy’s Northern League, an anti-migrant party that is now known simply as League, in elections in 2017.

As national elections approach on March 4th, anti-migrant sentiments have become prevalent, with party leaders such as Matteo Salvini vowing to expel 150,000 migrants from the country and close off the border to newcomers.

Although he denounced violence as a solution to the problem, Salvini stated that “out-of-control migration brings chaos, rage, social clashes. Out-of-control migration brings drug-dealing, rapes, thefts and violence.”

Opponents of the League criticize Salvini’s rhetoric as inciting violence in the country. Laura Boldrini, president of the lower house of the Italian Parliament , said “what happened today in Macerata demonstrates that inciting hatred and excusing fascism, as Salvini does, has consequences.”

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged leaders on both sides of the debate to end the “cycle of violence… Hate and violence won’t be able to divide us.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Hitler Book, Supremacist Flag Found in Italy Suspect’s Home – 4 February 2018

CNN – Silvio Berlusconi Says Migrants Causing ‘Serious Social Alarm’ in Italy – 5 February 2018

Los Angeles Times – Italian With Extreme Right-Wing Sympathies Suspected of Shooting 6 Africans – 3 February 2018

The New York Times – Italy’s Populists Turn up the Heat as Anti-Migrant Anger Boils – 5 February 2018

Reuters – Opponents say Berlusconi to Blame for Italy’s Migrant Crisis – 5 February 2018

The Washington Post –  Man Shoots, Wounds at Least 6 ‘People of Color’ in Italian City Amid Tensions – 3 February 2018

The Washington Post – Italy’s Berlusconi: 600,000 Migrants ‘Ready to Commit Crime’ – 5 February 2018

The Washington Post – A Gruesome Murder. A Hate-Filled Shooting Rampage. And a Reckoning With Immigration Before Italy Votes. – 6 February 2018

EU’s Top Court Condemns ‘Gay Testing’ of Asylum Seekers

European Court of Justice, Luxembourg. Photo Courtesy of Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LUXEMBOURG – The European Union’s top court issued a ruling requiring Hungary to reconsider the case of a Nigerian man whose asylum application was denied after psychological tests could not determine his sexual orientation.

Officials in Hungary administered improper psychological tests, “namely the ‘Draw-A-Person-In-The-Rain’ test and the Rorschach and Szondi tests,” on an unidentified Nigerian man seeking refuge in the country, according to the ruling. The man was seeking asylum due to feared persecution he faced in Nigeria on account of his sexuality.

In April 2015, the man, known as “F”, applied for asylum in Hungary. He was then subjected to several psychological assessment tests that were allegedly used to determined his sexuality. At the conclusion of the tests, the psychologist determined the results of the tests were inconclusive and the man’s asylum application was rejected.

Same-sex marriage is prohibited in Nigeria.  According to polls conducted in the country, 90% of citizens support a continued ban on same-sex relationships. Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries.

The EU ruled in 2013 that asylum could be granted to those who were jailed because of their sexual orientation.

The European Union’s top court found that the tests amounted to “a disproportionate interference in the private life of the asylum seekers.”

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reports that hundreds of asylum seekers seeking refuge in European Union are homosexuals fearing persecution in Africa, the Middle East and Chechnya.

In a similar case  in the Netherlands in 2014, the EU ruled that sexuality tests there violated the rights of asylum seekers.

The Court allows countries to seek expert opinions in assessing “the facts and circumstances relating to the declared sexual orientation of an applicant” but mandates that the procedures respect the EU Charter’s guaranteed fundamental human rights. Additionally, authorities may not base decisions on expert opinion alone and expert opinions must be considered as non-binding.

The use of psychological tests has been criticized for their intrusion into “the most intimate aspects of life”, according to the judgment. In 2010, authorities in the Czech Republic were criticized for their use of pornography in psychological tests.

The ruling has been called an “important step against one of the many problems and humiliations LGBT refugees still face in many EU member states” by Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director for ILGA-Europe, a human rights advocacy organization in Europe.

The ruling is binding in the 28 member states of the EU.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Asylum Seekers Must not be Forced to Take ‘gay’ Tests – 25 January 2018

Newsweek – ‘Gay Tests’ for Refugees in Europe Should be Banned, Says Court – 25 January 2018

NPR – EU Court Rejects ‘Gay Test’ for Asylum Seekers – 25 January 2018

Reuters – EU Court Bars ‘Gay Test’ for Asylum Seekers – 25 January 2018

Poland’s Holocaust Bill Stirs International Condemnation

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – A controversial new Holocaust speech bill that would impose jail terms for individuals suggesting Poland was complicit in the Holocaust is drawing international condemnation.

Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, leaves a meeting with the Polish Senate on February 1, 2018. Photo Courtesy of Agencja Gazeta.

In a 57-23 vote and two abstentions, the Polish Parliament passed the measure on Thursday, February 1, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The law must be signed by President Andrzej Duda before becoming law.

If passed, the law will impose at a minimum fines and at a  maximum three-year prison sentences for individuals who mention phrases like “Polish death camps.”

The legislation specifically states that “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years”.

Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939. Death camps built by Germans were operated on Polish land. Three million Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Under mounting international pressure, President Duda has agreed to review the bill to determine whether he will sign it, but has stated that “we, as a state, as a nation, have a right to defend ourselves from an evident slander, an evident falsification of historical truth, which, in this case, for us is a slap in the face.”

Congress has urged Polish officials not to pass the bill, stating concerns that the bill will inhibit freedom of speech and threaten Poland’s international relationships.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister called the law “baseless; I strongly oppose it,” in a statement released on Saturday. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

International organizations such as Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles have also condemned the legislation.

The bill has resulted in a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the country. Anti-Semitic comments on social media in Poland have increased, with minority groups calling on President Duda to “counteract all forms of xenophobia, intolerance and antisemitism.”

A number of Polish artists, journalists and politicians have signed an open letter calling for the bill’s repeal.

The pending legislation has been in preparation for more than a year. President Duda has three weeks to decide whether to pass the law.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Minority Groups in Poland Decry Aggression, Anti-Semitism – 4 February 2018

BBC News – Poland’s Senate Passes Controversial Holocaust Bill – 1 February 2018

The New York Times – Poland’s Holocaust Blame Bill – 29 January 2018

The New York Times – Poland Tries to Curb Holocaust Speech, and Israel Puts up a Fight

Reuters – Pressure Mounts on Poland to Back Away From Holocaust Bill – 3 February 2018

Drive-by shootings injured six, shaking Italian city


Bystanders near the location of the shootings. Image courtesy of EPA/BBC News.

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

MILAN, Italy – Italian police detained a suspected gunman on the morning of February 3rd in the town of Macerata.

The arrest comes after the man opened fired on several people, all of whom are foreign nationals. It has been stated that all six victims of the shootings were black.

The shootings were likely racially motivated. Reports indicate that the man, 28-year-old Luca Traini, gave a Fascist salute upon arrest.

Additionally, Italian news organizations speculate that the shooting may have been in response to the murder of an 18-year-old girl by a 29-year-old Nigerian migrant.

The homicide of Pamela Mastropietro sparked outrage by many locals. Shortly after the arrest of the murder suspect, several people took to the victim’s mother’s social media pages to post racially-charged comments.

Many of these comments urged revenge against foreign migrants.

While it remains to be seen whether the alleged shooter was motivated by revenge for Pamela Mastropietro, Macerata’s mayor believes the killings were racially motivated.

The mayor of Macerata, Romano Carancini, told CNN he “believes” the drive-by shootings “to be connected to the recent slaying” of Ms. Mastropietro.

“The closeness of these two events makes you imagine that there is a connection,” Mr. Caracini said.

It also appears that the shootings occurred close to where Ms. Mastropietro’s body was found earlier this week.

More information about the alleged shooter is slowly being released.

The alleged shooter was formerly a candidate in the close by town of Carridonia. His party affiliation was with the Northern League, a right-wing anti-immigration group in Italy.

Italy’s general election for a new national government will be held on March 4th. The newly revamped “Northern League” is now called simply “the League”.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, has used the murder of Ms. Mastropietro in his campaign for control over Italy’s government. The League has joined a coalition of other far-right wing parties, including the 5-Star Movement.

Meanwhile, current Prime Minister of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni, has suspended his own campaign in reaction to the shootings.

“One thing is certain,” Mr. Gentiloni stated, “horrendous crimes and criminal behavior will be prosecuted and punished. This is the law.”

“Hatred and violence will not succeed in dividing us.”

Mr. Caracini echoes this sentiment, telling CNN, “we must be united against hatred.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – The Latest: Italy PM condemns drive-by shooting of Africans – 3 February 2018

CBS News – Italy, Macerata attack: Gunman targets black foreigners in drive-by shooting – 3 February 2018

The Independent – Italy drive-by shootings: Gunman ‘targeting black people’ opens fired on pedestrians in city of Macerata – 3 February 2018

CNN – Man arrested in Italy in drive-by shootings of foreigners – 3 February 2018

BBC News – Italy drive-by attack targets immigrants in Macerata – 3 February 2018

Advocate General Supports Residency Rights for Same-Sex Spouses in EU

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – In a major step forward for the European Union, an advocate general of the European court of justice said that residency rights should be accorded to all same-sex couples regardless of whether the member country legally recognizes same-sex marriages.

Clay Hamilton, left, and Adrian Coman fought for Hamilton’s residency in Romania. Photo Courtesy of Vadim Ghirda.

In an opinion published on January 11th, Melchior Wathelet, a European court of justice advocate general in Luxembourg, issued an opinion stating that gay spouses had residency rights even in member countries where gay marriage is not authorized.

“Although member states are free to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex or not, they may not impede the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his or her spouse of the same sex, a national of a non-EU country, a right of permanent residence in their territory,” Wathelet said.

The European court of justice is the highest court in Europe. The court of justice still needs to rule on the case. Opinions given by advocate generals are non-binding, but they are usually followed by the court in full.

The opinion arose out of a case in Romania surrounding Arian Coman, a Romanian national, and his husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton. The couple married in Brussels in 2010. A few years later they wanted to move to Romania from their residence in New York, but Hamilton was denied the right to residence there because he could not be classified as the spouse of Coman in the country. Romania does not recognize same-sex marriages.

In his opinion, Wathelet stated that the European Union was neutral on the gender of a spouse. Current law permits non-European Union spouses to move to the member nation of his or her spouse.

Coman and Hamilton are thrilled with the verdict. “Romanian citizens can’t be divided into good and gay. We can’t be treated as inferior citizens, lacking equal rights, based on prejudices that some have about homosexuality,” Coman said in a written statement.

Currently, 22 of the 28 member nations of the European Union either legally recognize same-sex marriages or have some protections in place.

“In view of the general evolution of the societies of the member states of the EU in the last decade in the area of authorization of same-sex marriage” recognition of marriage as “a union between two persons of the opposite sex” is no longer an appropriate categorization.

Legislation which would legally recognize same-sex marriages remains to be enacted in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – EU top Court Told Same-Sex Spouses Have Residence Rights – 11 January 2018

The Guardian – Gay Spouses Have Rights in all EU Countries, Says European Court Official – 11 January 2018

The New York Times – Same-Sex Spouses Should Have E.U. Residency Rights, Court is Told – 11 January 2018

Reuters – EU Court Adviser Backs EU-Wide Recognition of Same-Sex Spouses – 11 January 2018

U.S. News and World Report – Gay Couples Merit EU Residency Rights, Court Adviser Says – 11 January 2018

Iceland Becomes First Country to Enact Mandatory Equal Pay Law

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Iceland has enacted a new law that requires all companies and government agencies to pay men and women equally.

Iceland’s Parliament in Reykjavik. Photo Courtesy of Frank Augstein.

The legislation was announced by Iceland’s parliament, which is approximately 50 percent female, on International Women’s Day.

The new law, known as the Equal Pay Standard, requires that all companies with more than 25 employees obtain an official certification showing they provide equal pay for work of equal value. The law is not voluntary, as opposed to many existing equal pay laws currently in existence throughout the world.

In order to remain compliant, companies must analyze their salary structures every three years. The analysis must then be provided to the government for recertification. Companies not in compliance will face penalties including fines.

Iceland has been at the forefront of the push for wage equality. However, despite strides that have been made in recent years, gender pay gap problems have not been eliminated.

Demonstrations occurred in October 2016 to protest the wage gap. In one instance, thousands of women coordinated a walk-out from their jobs at a coordinated time of 2:38 pm. Women’s rights groups calculated this to be the time when women stopped being paid for equal work and began working for free.

Ms. Valdimarsdottir, one of the organizers of the walk-out, said “We have come a long way and we are in the forefront of gender equality in the world. But we are so far from having equality in Iceland.”

Iceland has maintained the best overall score on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for the past nine years. This report measures wage differences between men and women in areas such as health, economics, politics and education in 144 countries. Iceland ranks 5th in the report for wage equality.

The law is largely supported by the general population in Iceland, with just 21 percent in opposition.

While critics say that the cost of audits will be expensive, many proponents believe that the law will be of greater benefit to society as a whole.  “This is a cost that… we decided that… would be of benefit to society and that was of more benefit than… saving companies money” said Brynhildur Heidar- OG Omarsdottir, managing director of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.

Iceland has vowed to eradicate the gender pay gap entirely by 2022.

For more information, please see:

CBS News – Women of Iceland are now Required to Earn Equal pay to men – 3 January 2018

The New York Times – Iceland Makes Companies Prove That They are not Paying Women Less – 3 January 2018

NPR – New Law in Iceland Aims at Reducing Country’s Gender pay gap – 5 January 2018

Murder of Human Rights Lawyer Sparks Protests in Kiev

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – A well-known human rights lawyer and activist was murdered just days after helping to block an influential Ukrainian judge’s nephew from being released from jail.

A Photo of Iryna Nozdrovska Adorns her Coffin. Photo Courtesy of Efrem Lukatsky.

Iryna Nozdrovska’s body was discovered in a river by a passerby in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev on January 1st. She had been stabbed multiple times.

Nozdrovska rose to fame in Ukraine for her role in preventing the release of the driver who ran down her sister while under the influence of drugs and alcohol in 2015.

Dmytro Rossoshansky was sentenced to seven years in jail this past May for the death of Svitlana Sapatanyska, Nozdrovska’s sister. Rossoshansky ran down Svitlana while she walked to work. He was found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Rossoshansky had served just eight months of his sentence before applying for amnesty. Nozdrovska spearheaded a public campaign to bring awareness to the case and help prevent Rossoshansky from being released. His application was denied in December.

Nozdroska received several death threats before and after the original trial as well as during the hearing on appeal this past December. Rossoshansky’s father told Nozdrovska at the appeal “this will end badly for you.” Nozdrovska was steadfast in her efforts despite these threats, and said of the case, “I will win…if it costs me my life.”

A rally outside the police headquarters drew hundreds of supporters on January 2 in Kiev in response to Nozdrovska’s murder. The protesters called for an investigation into her death.

Nozdrovska’s murder comes at a time when calls for reform in the criminal system have risen. A staggeringly low 0.5 percent of Ukrainians said that they trusted Ukrainian judges in a survey conducted in 2016.

Mykhailo Zhernakov, a former judge and the current director of a judicial reform group, Dejure, said, “It’s almost a cliché case, where a relative of a judge avoids punishment and the person who tries to fight this injustice is herself punished in the most horrible way.”

Corruption is deeply rooted in Ukraine’s court-system. Nozdrovska’s struggle for justice and ultimate victory for her sister became a symbol in Ukraine for the fight against corruption.

The governments’ response to the murder is “a test of our society’s ability to protect female activists and to ensure justice as a whole,” the Ukrainian foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin said.

Despite her mother’s murder, her daughter, Anastasia Nozdrovska, is studying law at university in Kiev. “She always fought injustice in this country. She wanted me to be a fighter, too,” Nozdrovksa said.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Ukraine Murder Probe Over Lawyer Nozrovska’s Death – 2 January 2018

The Guardian – Killing of Lawyer Sparks Protests Against ‘Criminal System’ – 4 January 2018

The New York Times – In Ukraine, a Successful Fight for Justice, Then a Murder – 9 January 2018

NY Daily News – Funeral Held for Lawyer Found Stabbed in River – 9 January 2018

Irish Times – Ukraine Claims it has Caught Killer of Campaigning Lawyer – 9 January 2018

1,000 Danes Charged With Distribution of Child Pornography

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Over 1,000 adults and teens are facing charges for distribution of child pornography in Denmark.

Danish Authorities are Charging Approximately 1,000 People With Distribution of Child Porn. Photo Courtesy of Dan Kitwood.

Authorities in Denmark have charged approximately 1,000 Danes with distribution of child pornography after a video depicting sex between two fifteen-year olds was shared online.

The Danish national police’s cyber crimes unit reported that all but eight of the individuals charged are under the age of 25. Several fourteen-year olds who distributed the video are being spared charges.

The video clips in question, one fifty seconds long and one nine seconds long, were distributed through the Facebook Messenger App. The videos were recorded in March of 2015 and depict two teenagers engaging in sexual acts.

The videos reportedly depict a girl being penetrated with foreign objects. The girl stated she consented to the sex but not to the video being recorded or distributed. In a 2016 interview, she stated, “I tried to forget that evening. I knew that it was filmed, but I didn’t realize they would think of passing the videos on to others.” She later stated that the video was used in order to blackmail her in to sending nude photos of herself to the individual who recorded it.

After the clip was posted to the live feed, Facebook contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States, who in turn contacted Dutch authorities.

Consensual sex between fifteen-year olds in Denmark is legal. However, the distribution of videos of teens engaged in sex violates Denmark’s child pornography laws. The minimum age for legal distribution of pornography is 18.

If convicted, those found guilty could face up to 20 days in prison. The conviction would remain on their records for ten years, during which time they could not become law enforcement officers or take certain positions working with children.

Mira Bech, a nineteen-year old who stated she saw the video and stored it, claimed “This will ruin my life. The world’s most ridiculous case. I couldn’t tell that the people in the video were under 18.”

The topic of explicit images being shared over social media without consent is not a new topic in Denmark. Emma Holten, who campaigns against bullying, said, “Four years ago, I would have felt sorry for them,” she said. “Back then you could have argued that they were not aware of that it was illegal, but today they know.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Danish Police Charge 1,000 Young People With ‘Distribution of Child Porn’ – 16 January 2018

Newsweek – Child Porn Video Gets More Than 1,000 People Charged in Denmark for Sharing it – 16 January 2018

The New York Times – 1,000 Danes Accused of Child Pornography for Sharing Video of Teens – 16 January 2018

The Washington Post – Hundreds of Teens in Denmark Suspected of Sending Child Porn – 16 January 2018

Police Uncover More Than 150 Cases of Rape and Assault in Remote Norwegian Municipality

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – More than 150 instances of rape and assault have been uncovered by police in a remote region in Norway.

Sign for Tysfjord Municipality in Norway. Photo Courtesy of Tore Meek.

An investigation was conducted by police beginning in June 2016, after a Norwegian newspaper published accounts from 11 men and women who said they were assaulted. The police report documents 151 assaults spanning the period of 1953 to 2017.

Approximately 90% of the suspects and victims are part of the indigenous Sami community, who originally inhabited northern Scandinavia. The Sami community now lives in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The community has an estimated population of 40,000 to 60,000.

The crimes span several generations, with some of the assaults dating back to 1953. The most recent crime occurred this past August. All of the crimes took place in a rural municipality called Tysfjord, which has a population of only 2,000.

Forty-three of the assaults were rapes, including of three children. Sexual intercourse with children under fourteen years of age is alleged to have occurred in 40 of the cases. The youngest victim is four years old.

Ninety-two suspects have been identified. They range in age from ten to eighty.

The Sami Parliamentary Council is an elected body representing the Sami people’s interests in Norway. Its president, Vibeke Larsen, called the scandal “a national tragedy” and urged Norwegian authorities to assist.

Larsen cited mistrust of the police as one of the reasons for the crimes going unreported. The Sami “don’t trust the police as much as the Norwegians do,” Larsen said. The Sami people have been told to become “good Norwegians and leave their own culture, language and symbols behind. That’s why they have distrust in the system.”

Head of Nordland County, Tone Vangen, acknowledged that the police “didn’t do a good job”, but also noted that the mechanisms within the Sami environment make it more difficult for police to investigate such crimes.

Anne Lindboe, ombudsman for the children involved, said “there has been a huge failure in the whole safety net that should have been around the children who have been subjected to abuse in Tysfjord.”

The police have acknowledged the mistakes made and stated that one of the aims of the investigation is to instill greater trust of Norwegian police in the Sami community.

Two people have been charged in ten cases so far, but many have been dropped due to the statute of limitations expiring.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Norway Police Uncover 150 Cases of Rape and Assault in Remote Region – 29 November 2017

Time – Rape and Child Sex Abuse in Remote Area Have Gone Largely Unreported and Uninvestigated, Police Say – 29 November 2017

USA Today – Norway Reeling After Multiple Rapes, Sex Assaults Uncovered Near Lapland – 29 November 2017

The Independent – Norwegian Police Uncover More Than 150 Rapes , Including of Children in Remote Region – 30 November 2017