Five killed in Pakistan and India Border Conflict

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – Tensions between India and Pakistan have been increasing recently in relation to control over Kashmir. A new round of conflict began late on March 17, 2018 and continued into the next day. Both India and Pakistan were involved in heavy shelling around the Line of Control, which is the de facto border between the two nations in the Kashmir region.

As a result, several civilians on both sides were injured or killed. In the village of Devta Dhar five people were killed and two were injured on the Indian side of the border by Pakistani troops. All are members of the same family. A shell hit a civilian’s house killing the mother, father, and three sons. The two daughters were hospitalized with critical injuries.

One of the injured daughters being transported to the hospital, after her family home was shelled by Pakistani forces. Photo courtesy of Channi Anand.

At least 6 others were injured on the Indian controlled side of Kashmir. On the Pakistani controlled side Indian shells wounded 9 people, including 5 women.  Both sides claim that the other side started the firing, and they were just returning fire.

Indian officials see this as a violation of the 2003 cease-fire agreement between the two nations. An Indian military spokesperson said of the situation, “They are specifically targeting civilian areas. Army troops retaliated strongly and effectively to silence Pakistani guns.”

For more information, please see:  

Reuters – Five Indians killed in cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops – 18 March 2018

Gandhara – Five Killed In Pakistani Shelling In Disputed Kashmir – 18 March 2018

The Washington Post – India: Pakistan shelling kills 5 family members in Kashmir – 18 March 2018

The Philippines plan to withdraw from the International Criminal Court

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines – In a statement on Wednesday, March 14, President Duterte announced that he plans to remove the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In accordance with the ICC treaty, the withdrawal will take place a year after official notification of intent to withdraw is received.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to the ICC. Photo courtesy of Noel Celis.

The Court opened a preliminary examination into the Philippines as of February 8, 2018 in the context of its “war on drugs.” Findings would be used to determine if investigations for a criminal case should take place. The Court is following the extra-judicial killings that began in July 2016.

Duterte originally allowed the preliminary examination to proceed hoping that the investigation would end accusations of crimes against humanity. However, in his speech, Duterte said his withdrawal was because of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” and the ICC prosecutor seeking jurisdiction “in violation of due process and presumption of innocence.”

Authorities believe that there is no need for the ICC to get involved in the situation. In the ICC founding statute, the Court has jurisdiction over a situation only when the country is unable or unwilling to investigate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Harry Roque, spokesman for Duterte, said that local authorities and the national criminal justice system are capable of carrying out investigations and plan to look into those who violate the laws. Duterte also states that these killings are not crimes against humanity but rather accidental killings of self defense during legitimate police operations.

Yet, international human rights organizations don’t agree. No public evidence of in regards to the extra-judicial killings is available. Human Rights Watch reported, “No one has been meaningfully investigated, let alone prosecuted, for any of the ‘drug war’ killings.”

  For more information, please see:

CNN- Philippines to withdraw from International Criminal Court – 14 March 2018

The Washington Post – The International Criminal Court moved to investigate Duterte. Now he wants out. – 14 March 2018

International Criminal Court – Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on opening Preliminary Examinations into the situations in the Philippines and in Venezuela – 8 February 2018

NPR – Duterte Pulls Philippines Out Of International Criminal Court – 14 March 2018

Sri Lanka Declares a State of Emergency

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – After recent acts of community violence between religious groups in Kandy, Sri Lanka, the government declared a state of emergency. Soldiers are now patrolling civilian areas in the city of Kandy. The declaration will last 10 days, after which the parliament will need to vote on furthering military action.

Sri Lankan soldiers remove debris after an attack in Digana, a suburb of Kandy. Photo courtesy of Pradeep Pathiran/ AP.

The violence in Kandy began in March 2018 when a group of Muslim men were accused of killing a Sinhala Buddhist man. Buddhists represent 75% of the population of Sri Lanka. In response, they targeted Muslim-owned businesses, homes, and a mosque, burning them down. Upon their arrest a group of Buddhist monks, known for violence, traveled to Kandy to attempt to release the men. However when they were not successful in their mission, they turned to creating violence in the city. The police stepped in arresting several and setting a curfew.

This is not the first attack against Muslims by Buddhists in Sri Lanka.  Since the end of the Civil War in 2011, tensions between the two religious groups have grown more tense.  A Sri Lankan expert at International Crisis Group notes that Buddhist attacks on Muslim populations occur quite regularly.

The government is concerned about the potential spread of religious violence throughout Kandy and the nation after this last wave. The Prime Minister posted on Twitter “As a nation that endured a brutal war we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity & freedom. The Gov[ernment] condemns the racist & violent acts that have taken place over the last few days. A state of emergency has been declared & we will not hesitate to take further action.”

The state of emergency also widens the power of the police to detain suspects. Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, Biraj Patnaik, is afraid that these powers could threaten the rights of minority groups and cautions the Sri Lanka government to follow obligations under International Human Rights Law.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Sri Lanka: State of emergency must respect human rights – 6 March 2018

The Guardian – Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after communal violence – 6 March 2018

Human Rights Watch – State of Emergency Declared in Sri Lanka – 7 March 2018

China Proposes Lifting President Xi’s Term Limit

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – The legislatures open its annual session with a constitutional amendment to end the two-term limit for President Xi Jinping’s presidency. This move was predicted when President Xi did not nominate a clear successor in October. By removing the two-term limit, President Xi’s status will be elevated to president for life. Since 2012, President Xi Jinping has been tightening control over the country. Over the past five years, he has solidified himself as a father figure and cracked down on his opposition.

President Xi’s two-term limit is expected to be removed at the annual meetings of China’s top legislative bodies. Photo courtesy of Mark Schiefelbein.

The presidency in China combines the three pillars of power in China: president, party chairman, and head of the Central Military Commission. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping established the collective leadership model. Since its formation, every leader was expected to hand the power over to its successor for a smooth transition.

Based on Xi’s rule, many analysts believe that the Chinese politics has shifted from collective autocracy to one-man rule. Xi has laid out his vision to turn china into a top innovative nation by 2035. By achieving the “China Dream,” he has proposed to fully modernize the country by mid-century. Moreover, he has lead a campaign to end corruption and end poverty by establishing the National Supervisory Commission.

Xi has also laid out his vision to eclipse the United States as the world’s largest economy and pushing it out of the Asia-Pacific sphere.

On March 4th, the spokesman for the congress defended the constitutional amendment publicly. Zhang Yesui stated that the move is “conductive to uphold the authority of the (Communist Party) Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core.”

Although the constitutional amendment is expected to pass with near-unanimous approval, the proposal has been criticized by independent political commentators.

Business Insider – Xi Jinping’s permanent presidency has terrifying ramifications for the Chinese people – 3 March, 2018

The Guardian – Eight signs that Xi Jinping was planning to cement his grip on China – 3 March, 2018

The Washington Post – Xi term-limits controversy looms at China political meeting – 4 March, 2018

China to Consider Banning Term Limits on President

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – At the Party Congress meeting held in late 2017, no successor was named for Chinese President, Xi Jinping. At the time this broke with tradition and left many people with questions about the future of Chinese leadership and governance.

Image of Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Photo Courtesy of Chris Ratcliffe.

In late February 2018, the Communist Party of China provided an answer to the questions. In a meeting, the party proposed to do away with term limits on the President of China. Since 1982, the numbers of years a president could serve was restricted to two five-year terms. Now, Jinping could be president for life. Some are likening his power and prestige to former Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong.

It is suspected that this proposal will be accepted at the March 5, 2018 meeting. Analysts believe that the Party Congress will justify this action by referencing that Jinping desires a modern and wealthy China by 2050 and only he can deliver on that promise. Hu Xingdou, a political commentator in Beijing, says that keeping Jinping in power “is beneficial to pushing forward reforms and the fight against corruption, but it’s impossible for China to have lifetime tenure again.” He believes term limits will return once Jinping leaves power.

For more information please visit: 

NPR – China Plans To Abolish Term Limits For President Xi Jinping – 28 February 2018

The Diplomat – The CCP’s Proposed Term Limit Change Shocks China – 26 February 2018

Time – Proposal to Scrap China’s Term Limits Could Allow President Xi Jinping to Stay in Office – 25 February 2018

Indonesia Proposes to Criminalize Same-Sex Relations

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

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

Myanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

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

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

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

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

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

Additionally image of destroyed village. Photo Courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

Human Rights Organizations call for the Release of 2 Uzbek Journalists

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BISHKEK, Uzbekistan – On February 14, various human rights organizations called for Uzbekistan to investigate the claims of torture and mistreatment of two journalists currently in jail – Bobomurod Abdullaev and Hayot Nasriddinov. The statement also called for the immediate release of the two as well as other journalists detained. Twelve groups partook in this petition: Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.

Left: Hayot Nasriddinov. Right: Bobomurod Abdullaev. Photo courtesy of AsiaTerra and Fergananews.

Both were arrested in the later half of 2017. Abdullaev was a reporter for Fergana. He was arrested for “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” by the National Security Service (SNB). His articles were described as ‘extremist’ and as part of a conspiracy theory to overthrow the government. The charge comes with a 20 year jail sentence. He told relatives of his torture and mistreatment.

Nariddinov was a blogger and economist. The reasoning for his arrest is unclear, but it is believed to be similar to Abdullaev’s. He could also face up to 20 years of prison if charged. There are concerns that he is also facing ill-treatment.

Abdullaev shared his abuse with his mother and wife, when they visited him in January. He said he was approached by SNB who did not show identification. He was beaten, a bag thrown over his head, and pushed into a car. He was kept naked standing in freezing jail cell with no food for 5 days.

On January 31st, the chief of the SNB was replaced. Under his tenure there were multiple cases of torture and ill treatment. Two SNB officers involved in the abuses have been suspended from the case, reportedly.

Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said, “At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation.”

For more information, please see:

 Committee to Protect Journalists – CPJ joins call for Uzbekistan to investigate claims jailed journalists were tortured – 14 February 2018

Human Rights Watch – Uzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist- 14 February 2018

Article 19 – Uzbekistan: Investigate torture of journalist – 14 February 2018

Activist Returned to Tajikistan Against His Will

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

Pakistan’s Leading Human Rights Advocate Dies

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

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

Child Rapist Convicted in Pakistani Court

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:  

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

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

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

Detained Migrants Face Forced Repatriation to China

By: Katherine Hewitt
News Reporter, Asia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

Workers File Human Rights Complaint, Case Brought Against Them

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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

North Korean leader invites President Moon to Pyeongyang

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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


Death Toll in Philippine Drug War Increases Under New Measures

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please see:

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

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

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