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

Anglican Minister Criticized for Asking Congregants to Pray for Prince George to be Gay

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LONDON, England – An Anglican minister has sparked criticism for urging Christians to pray for Prince George to be gay in order to garner support for same-sex marriages in the Church of England.

Reverend Holdsworth. Image Courtesy of Gordon Smith.

The controversial remarks can be found in a blog post titled “How to Change the Church of England”, and expound on plans for getting the Anglican Church to accept same-sex marriage. The post also asks congregants to pray “for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, when he grows up, of a fine young gentleman”.

The post was made by Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth nearly two years ago and has since gone viral when the blog resurfaced after the announcement of Prince Harry’s recent engagement to Meghan Markle.

Although same-sex marriages have been recognized legally in England since 2013, they are not recognized by the Church of England.

Reverend Holdsworth is a provost at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow and is a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a division of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is distinct from, but related to the Church of England. The Anglican Communion this year voted to allow clergy to solemnize gay marriages.

Holdsworth is known for making controversial statements. However, some found this blog post crossed the line.

Gavin Ashenden, a missionary bishop for the Christian Episcopal Church, told the BBC, “to use prayer as a mechanism for wishing this on Prince George is an unkind and destructive thing to do. It doesn’t have the prince’s best interests at heart, but uses him as a gender-political football.”

Prince George is third in line to the British throne, after his grandfather, Prince Charles and his father, Prince William. Prince George will become the head of the Church of England if he becomes the King of England.

Passages from the post have been widely disseminated on Twitter, with many users claiming that Holdworth’s post is excessively politically incorrect.

Holdsworth has since apologized for the outrage his post sparked, but indicated that his words have been misinterpreted and encouraged further discussion on the divisive topic.

“The issues about the church and its capacity to welcome same-sex couples who want to be married remain important,” Holdsworth said. “I’m not interested in continuing it through a conversation about Prince George. I would urge others, those who agree with me strongly and those who disagree with me strongly to turn our attentions to the actual matter at hand.”

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Christians Should Pray for Prince George to be Gay, Says Minister – 30 November 2017

Time – U.K. Reverend Sparks Outrage After Telling Christians to Pray for Prince George, 4, to be Gay – 1 December 2017

BBC News – Gay Prayer for Prince George Remarks ‘Unkind and Destructive’ – 1 December 2017

Huffington Post – Minister Sparks Outrage After Asking People to Pray for Prince George to be Gay – 3 December 2017

Former Cardinal Involved in Sex Abuse Scandal Dies at 86

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – The former archbishop of Boston who was instrumental in covering up child molestation by priests within the Catholic Church, died on Wednesday, December 20th in Rome.

Cardinal Bernard Law. Photo Courtesy of Ken Lambert.

Cardinal Bernard Law was a spiritual leader in Boston, America’s fourth largest Catholic archdiocese, from 1984 until he resigned in 2002 amidst the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

In 2002, The Boston Globe ‘s Spotlight Investigative reporting team published a series of stories that implicated Law in a systematic cover-up of rampant sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston diocese.

Upon learning of child molestations by priests, Law and his predecessors transferred the priests from parish to parish without notifying the victims’ parents or the police of the abuse. Cardinal Law never faced criminal charges.

When the allegations came to light in 2002, the Catholic Church in Boston faced hundreds of lawsuits. The Boston diocese went nearly bankrupt due to the scandal, and was forced to sell property to fund over 100 million dollars in settlements with over 500 victims.

More than 70 priests in the Boston area were found to have committed abuses. The investigation in Boston prompted nationwide investigations in American cities and throughout the world.

Survivors of the abuse were outraged at the Vatican’s decision to conduct a full cardinal’s funeral for Law despite his role in enabling the abuse.

After Law’s resignation from the archdiocese in Boston, he moved to Rome and served as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major until he retired in 2011.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged the Church against celebrating Law’s life and asked it instead to focus on protecting children and helping survivors. The group asked, “Why was Law promoted when Boston’s Catholic children were sexually abused, ignored, and pushed aside time and time again?”

Many of the victims of abuse feel that the decision to honor Law is opening up wounds that have never healed.

Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, apologized to victims of sex abuse by clergy and stated that there is a greater sensitivity to the situation in the church today.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that he’s had such a high-profile place in the life of the church, but I think going forward that kind of decision would not be made,” said Law’s successor, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. “But unfortunately, we’re living with the consequences of that.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Bernard Law: Disgraced US Cardinal Dies in Rome – 20 December 2017

CNN – ‘Chop Him Up:’ Accusers Seethe Over Vatican Funeral Plans for Cardinal Law – 20 December 2017

The New York Times – Cardinal Law and the U.S.-Rome Sex Abuse Divide – 20 December 2017

The Washington Post – Cardinal Law, Disgraced Figure in Church Scandal, Dead at 86 – 20 December 2017

French President Defends Migration Policy

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

CALAIS, France – Amidst continued criticism of his treatment of France’s migrant issue, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to the port city Calais, a center of the country’s migrant problem, to defend his policies.

President Macron Visited A Migrant Center in France. Photo Courtesy of Michel Spingler.

Before Macron was elected in May 2017, he campaigned as a supporter of migrants. At the time, his opponent was staunchly against allowing migrants into the country.

However, since his election, critics complain that Macron has betrayed his supporters by allowing continued expulsions of migrants and police crackdowns targeted at migrants.

The coastal city of Calais has become a symbol of France’s migrant problem. Upwards of 700 migrants are currently in the area, most hoping to make it to the United Kingdom by way of the English Channel.

Calais was once home to a migrant camp of 7,000 people that became known as the “Jungle.” The camp was dismantled in 2016.

During his visit, Macron outlined France’s stance toward immigration and asylum. He maintained that those entitled to be in France will be given shelter and support, while those who are in the country illegally will be expelled.

“To stay in Calais and build makeshift shelters and even set up squats is a dead end. The alternative is clear; people can get to the reception centers where everyone’s case will be examined and those who have the right, given asylum in our country,” Macron said in a speech while in Calais.

In his speech, Macron also called for French law enforcement officers to act with respect towards migrants. According to a Human Rights Watch Report published in the summer of 2017, French police “routinely use(d) pepper spray on child and adult migrants while they…[were]… sleeping or in other circumstances in which they pose(d) no threat.” Although Macron discredited some accounts, he maintained that if the alleged abuses did occur that they will be punished.

Macron has worked to establish checkpoints overseas in order to separate economic migrants from asylum seekers. Those who are seeking political asylum are given priority over those seeking entry into the country for economic reasons.

A new migrant policy is expected to be released next month. Plans will be unveiled to quicken the application process for those seeking asylum as well as expel those who are in the country illegally faster.

France received over 100,000 asylum applications in 2017. Approximately 85,000 migrants were refused entry into the country.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – France Will not Allow Another ‘Jungle’ Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018

The Guardian – France Will not Allow Another Refugee Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018

The New York Times – Macron Defends Migration Policy in France, Walking A Fine Line – 16 January 2018

The Washington Post – France’s Macron Pushes Back Against Angry Allies to Defend Crackdowns on Migrants – 16 January 2018

Austria Becomes Latest European Country to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

VIENNA, Austria – Beginning in 2019, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Austria.

Marchers at The Regenbogenparade, or Rainbow Parade, in Vienna. Photo Courtesy of Alex Halada.

On Tuesday, December 5th, Austria’s Constitutional Court published a ruling that lifts the ban on same-sex marriage by the end of 2018 –  unless the government lifts the ban prior to that.

The words “two people of different sex” will be removed from Austria’s marriage law and same-sex couples will have access to the same benefits and privileges as those currently granted to heterosexual partners, including adoption and support for fertility treatments.

Same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships since 2010, but have not been given the option to legally marry.

The ruling was prompted by the Court’s examination of a 2009 law, following a complaint made by two women already in a civil partnership who were now allowed to enter into a legal marriage by authorities in Vienna.

The womens’ lawyer, Helmut Graupner, spoke of the the ruling on social media and applauded Austria’s Court for recognizing equality for same-sex couples as a “fundamental human right.” All the other European states with marriage equality introduced it as (just) “the political way.”

“The distinction between marriage and civil partnership can no longer be maintained today without discriminating against same-sex couples,” the Court stated. It also noted that keeping the two institutions separate suggests that “people with same-sex sexual orientation are not equal to people with heterosexual orientation.”

The decision brings Austria in line with more than a dozen other European countries that have recently legalized gay marriage. The Netherlands was the first. That decision came in 2001. There are now 25 countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriage. Several European countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, have yet to follow suit.

The decision did not come without criticism. The far-right Freedom Party claimed that the ruling disrespected the concept of traditional marriage. “Now there is equal treatment for something that’s not equal,” said the party’s secretary general, Herbert Kickl.

The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schöborn, told news outlets that he remained hopeful that the decision would be overturned in Austria, a largely Roman Catholic nation.

Despite the push-back, the Austrian People’s Party, led by Sebastian Kurz, winner of the general election in October, said it would accept the ruling.

“We are very happy,” said The Homosexual Initiative of Vienna chairman Christian Hoegl. “We want to use the opportunity for a renewed call for a fundamental reform of marriage.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News = Austrian Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage – 5 December 2017

Chicago Tribune – Austrian Constitutional Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage – 5 December 2017

The Independent – Austria Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage From Start of 2019, Ruling all Existing laws Discriminatory – 5 December 2017

The New York Times – Austria Allows Gay Marriage in Court Ruling – 5 December 2017

Reuters – Austria’s Supreme Court Paves way for Same-Sex Marriage From 2019 – 5 December 2017

Female Leaders Tackle Gender Equality at Summit in Iceland

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Over 400 political leaders from around the world gathered in Iceland on Wednesday, November 28th to discuss gender equality.

Former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Photo Courtesy of David Keyton.

The group, comprised mostly of female political leaders, convened to address barriers to progress in the quest for gender equality.

The summit, held annually, is sponsored by the Women Political Leaders Global Forum, an organization intent on increasing the number of female political leaders in the world, in collaboration with the Council of Women World Leaders, a network for female prime ministers and presidents.

The theme of this year’s summit was “We can do it!”, a reference to Iceland’s success in achieving gender equality.

Iceland is known for being a champion of gender equality. For the past nine years, the World Economic Forum has identified the country as having the smallest gender gap, with pay being a factor considered along with life expectancy and access to educational opportunities. Iceland has the highest employment rate of females worldwide, with 8 out of 10 women there employed.

Iceland was the first country in the word to elect a female president. In 1980, Vigdis Finnbogadottir defeated three male candidates.

There is a great disparity in the ratio of male to female political leaders in other parts of the world. Women make up only 7 percent of heads of state and comprise less than a quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide.

The pay gap is another topic of concern. The World Economic Forum’s most recent index suggests that under current trends it will take another 217 years for the pay gap to close between men and women. In Iceland, the pay gap is projected to close by 2022.

On November 20th, the European Union recommended a two-year plan to close the gender pay gap. The plan recommends sanctions for companies that do not provide equal pay as well as the monitoring of policies to ensure discrimination is not taking place.

On average, women earn 16.3 percent less hourly than men. This number has remained steady for the past five years.

In addition to addressing pay gaps and the lack of political diversity, the summit addressed the recent tide of allegations of rampant sexual harassment throughout the world.

“That kind of behavior, which is now deemed widely unacceptable, has been one of the barriers to women getting ahead,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. “Lots of sectors — parliaments, film industries and others — are having to face their past and say, ‘We are going to do it better.’”

While strides have been made in terms of achieving greater gender equality, proponents believe there is much left to be done. At the summit, Finnbogadottir received an honorary award at and addressed the crowd.  “Gender equality has changed tremendously in Iceland since then but we still got some ways to go,” she said.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – EU Proposes Two-Year Plan to Close Gender Pay Gap – 20 November 2017

The Guardian – Only 23% of the World’s Politicians are Women. It’s Time for That to Change – 29 November 2017

Press Herald – Iceland Summit Stresses Gender Equality in Politics – 29 November 2017

The Washington Post – Women Leaders Tackle Gender Equality at Iceland Summit – 29 November 2017

The New York Times – A Man Among Female Leaders: ‘The Risk of Mansplaining Is Very High’ – 2 December 2017

FIFA Advisers Warn Fans of Homophobia and Racism Ahead of World Cup Games

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – FIFA’s anti-discrimination advisers are warning LGBTQ soccer fans that displays of affection at next year’s World Cup games could be met with violence.

In Sochi, Protests Against Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law Took Place at the Winter Olympic Games in 2014. Photo Courtesy of Tatyana Makeyeva.

Fare, an anti-discrimination organization that campaigns for equality in soccer, is partnering with FIFA to control fan behavior at the World Cup games next year.

Hate crimes against LBGTQ people in Russia have doubled since the country instituted a law banning “gay propaganda” in 2013. The law has thwarted gay pride marches and allowed gay rights activists to be detained. It is also believed to have incentivized and condoned violence against LGBTQ people.

Similar concerns were raised at the 2014 Winter Olympics Games in Sochi following the enactment of the “gay propaganda” law.

The legislation was deemed illegal by Europe’s top human rights court in June, but Russia says it will not honor the ruling.

“(Offenders) have become more aggressive and less fearful,” said Svetlana Zakharova, a Russian LGBT Network Board Member. “It seems to them that, to some extent, the government supports their actions. Many perpetrators openly talk about their crimes as noble deeds.”

Researchers say that the number of hate crimes that has occurred in the country in recent years is likely to be much higher than documented, as many crimes go unreported or are not investigated or prosecuted.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 but remained classified as a mental illness until 1999. Russia was ranked the second least-LGBT friendly nation in Europe, behind Azerbaijan, in 2016.

For the first time in FIFA’s 113 year history, the organization has added a human rights element to its statute.

“If there are any cases of abuse, or even possibility of human rights defenders or journalists being forced into a difficult corner, then according to our statutes and human rights policy FIFA will intervene,” said Federico Addiechi, Head of Sustainability and Diversity at FIFA.

FIFA and Fare will have crowd-monitors at the games. They will be on the lookout for displays of racism, political extremism and homophobia. Matches will be stopped or abandoned if such displays occur and persist.

Fare plans to administer cautionary guides to fans traveling to the tournament. The guides will include information about the current LGBTQ situation in Russia and will advise people to use caution when traveling in areas not considered to be welcoming to the LGBTQ community.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – LGBT Hate Crimes Double in Russia After Ban on ‘Gay Propaganda’ – 21 November 2017

Newsweek – Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes Double Since ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law in Russia – 23 November 2017

The Guardian – Gay Fans Warned Holding Hands at Russian World Cup Will be Dangerous

The New York Times – Ahead of World Cup, Fans Are Warned About Homophobia and Racism in Russia – 28 November 2017

NBC News – ‘Danger’ for Gay Fans at World Cup in Russia, FIFA Advisers Warn – 29 November 2017

Ratko Mladic Found Guilty of Genocide, Sentenced to Life in Prison

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Cheers erupted as Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander responsible for mass murder and other crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War, was sentenced to life in prison by an international tribunal on Wednesday, November 22nd.

Mother of Srebrenica Massacre Victim Reacts to Sentencing of Ratko Mladic. Photo Courtesy of Phil Nijhuis.

The verdict was read by presiding judge Alphons Orie, who called Mladic’s crimes “among the most heinous to humankind.”

Between 1992 and 1995, Mladic oversaw some of the most brutal and horrific crimes against humanity carried out in Europe since World War II. During these years, he lead the Bosnian Serb forces on a relentless ethnic cleansing campaign to rid the country of non-Serbs and became known as the “Butcher of Bosnia.”

The war began after Bosnian Muslims and Croats voted for independence in a referendum strongly opposed by Bosnian Serbs. The country soon descended into war between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs.

Mladic was in charge of the army until the conflict came to an end in 1995, at which time he was indicted on war crimes and went on the run. He was captured in 2011.

In the worst atrocity committed in Europe since World War II, Mladic directed the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims at a town called Srebrenica in July 1995. Men and boys between the ages of 12 and 77 were rounded up and machine-gunned by troops in a field outside of town and then buried in mass graves.

Other crimes committed under Mladic’s unrelenting reign included mass rapes of Bosnian Muslim women and girls, the indiscriminate murder of civilians, deportations and destructions of homes and mosques. Many were imprisoned in camps where they died of malnourishment and disease. Upwards of 100,000 lives were lost between 1992 and 1995.  Another 2.2 million people were displaced.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found him guilty on one count of genocide and nine crimes against humanity. The trial lasted for 530 days and included over 500 witnesses and 10,000 exhibits. Mladic has denied all the charges against him and plans to appeal.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’as al-Hussein called Mladic “the epitome of evil,” and said that his prosecution was “the epitome of what international justice is all about…Mladic presided over some of the darkest crimes to occur in Europe since World War II, bringing terror, death and destruction to thousands of victims, and sorrow, tragedy and trauma to countless more.”

For more information, please see:

BBC  News – Ratko Mladic, the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ – 22 November 2017

CNN – Ratko Mladic Guilty of Genocide, Sentenced to life in Prison – 22 November 2017

NPR – Remembering the ‘Monstrous’ Legacy of Ratko Mladic – 22 November 2017

The New York Times – Mladic Conviction Closes Dark Chapter in Europe, but New Era of Uncertainty Looms – 22 November 2017

The Washington Post –  Ratko Mladic, the ‘Butcher of Bosnia,’ Guilty of Genocide in Last Balkan war Crimes Trial – 22 November 2017

BBC News – Ratko Mladic Jailed for Life Over Bosnian War Genocide – 23 November 2017

Huffington Post – Ratko Mladic Sentence – 26 November 2017

60,000 Far-Right Demonstrators March In Poland

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – An estimated 60,000 far-right demonstrators marched through Warsaw on Poland’s 99th Independence Day.

Aerial Photo of Far-Right March. Photo Courtesy of Radek Pietruszka.

On Saturday, November 11th, tens of thousands of people gathered in what is being described as one of the biggest gatherings of far-right supporters in recent years.

The march, organized by far-right groups, is held annually on Poland’s Independence Day. The march has become an international magnet for far-right supporters and white supremacists.

The crowd welcomed far-right leaders from Britain and Italy. Richard Spencer, the American white nationalist who organized the Charlottesville, Virginia protest that killed a young counter-protester, was scheduled to attend but cancelled his plans after the Polish government advised him that he was not welcome in the country.

The National Radical Camp (NRC) was one of the lead organizers of the march. The NRC has previously marched against Muslim immigration into the country, gay rights and the European Union. Anything that is considered to undermine Polish Catholic values is a target of the nationalists.

Tomasz Dorosz, a member of the NRC, took the stage on Saturday. “Europe and the world is in decay: culturally, politically, economically. We Poles have to be the alternative,” said Dorosz. “There will be a national Poland or none.”

Demonstrators wearing masks carried signs containing such phrases as “Clean Blood”, “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust” and “Europe Will Be White.”  They threw red-smoke bombs as they marched.

One far-right demonstrator interviewed by a Polish television station said he was on the march to “remove Jewry from power.”

“It’s 50,000 to 100,000 mostly football hooligans hijacking patriotism,” said one counter-protester. “For me, it’s important to support the anti-fascist coalition, and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today.”

The march has grown in numbers steadily since it began in 2009. Nick Loweles, member of the anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, said that “the numbers attending this year seem to be bigger and, while not everyone on the march is a far-right activist or fascist, it is undoubtedly becoming more significant and is acting as a magnet for far-right groups around the world.”

A smaller group of about 5,000 counter-protesters showed up at the march. Several counter-protesters carrying a banner that read “Stop Fascism” were injured when nationalists pushed and kicked them. A heavy police presence and separation of the groups kept further violence at bay.

Many criticize the Polish government and believe that its behavior has fostered intolerance and xenophobia and emboldened the nationalists.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Warsaw Nationalist March Draws Tens of Thousands – 11 November 2017

The New York Times – Nationalist March Dominates Poland’s Independence Day – 11 November 2017

Aljazeera – Why 60,000 People Joined a Nationalist March in Poland – 12 November 2017

CNN – Thousands of Nationalist Protesters Disrupt Poland Independence Day – 12 November 2017

The Guardian – ‘White Europe’: 60,000 Nationalists March on Poland’s Independence Day – 12 November 2017

The Washington Post – ‘Pray for an Islamic Holocaust’: Tens of Thousands From Europe’s Far-Right March in Poland – 12 November 2017