Canada Ignores Mexican Violence in Providing Refugee Statu

27 March 2009

Canada Ignores Mexican Violence in Providing Refugee Status

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – The Canadian government is prohibiting the entry of Mexicans  seeking refuge and safety in Canada as a result of violence.

Part of the difficulty for refugee applicants is that Immigration and Refugee Board judges Mexico as a country that is able to protect its citizens.  As such, the Canadian government doesn’t believe that Mexicans are genuine refugee cases, or fleeing from genuine persecution in Mexico. Instead, the Canadian government suggests claimants can simply relocate to another part of Mexico.

Instead, the Canadian authorities assert that Mexican refugee claimants are economic migrants to Canada. This is unrealistic.  Mexico is plagued by violence, lack of protection from the authorities, corruption, and drugs. It is unconscionable that the Canadian government is prejudging asylum claims from Mexico.

More than 8,000 deaths have been linked to drug-related violence in Mexico over the past year.  The situation has also alarmed the United States government. The Obama administration sent 500 federal agents to assist the Mexican officers.

There is a high rejection rate for Mexican claimants – 90 per cent.  Some of the people rejected have received direct threats for different reasons.  They were either caught in the middle of drug cartels when they are trying to control an area, or they saw a crime or corruption. The Immigration and Refugee Board need to look closely at the nature of the claims because there are serious human rights concerns with respect to people coming from Mexico.

Because Mexicans do not require a visa to enter Canada, they are exempt from a Canada-U.S. treaty that requires refugees to make a claim in the first country they enter – called the Safe Third Country agreement. This makes the entire process for Mexican refugees easier. In cases of serious threat, this exemption is a matter of great concern.

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Canada ignores drug violence in Mexican refugee cases: advocates – 27 March 2009

Financial Post – How do you abuse a refugee system with no rules? – 26 March 2009

The Canadian Press – Canada ignoring refugees from Mexican violence: advocates – 27 March 2009

British Court Says US Asked Detainee to Drop Torture Claim

23 March 2009

British Court Says US Asked Detainee to Drop Torture Claim

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
LONDON, U.K.- A British court says U.S. authorities asked a Guantanamo Bay detainee to drop allegations of torture in exchange for his freedom. A ruling by two British High Court judges published Monday says the U.S. offered Binyam Mohamed a plea bargain deal in October. Mohamed refused the deal and the U.S. dropped all charges against him later last year. He was released last month.
Mohamed is an Ethiopian who moved to Britain when he was a teenager. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and claims he was tortured both there and in Morocco. He was transferred to Guantanamo in 2004. Mohamed alleges that he was tortured and interrogated during more than six years in detention as a terror suspect. He says his ordeal included rendition to Morocco where he was held and cut with a scalpel on his chest and penis.
Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Mr Mohamed for four years, said after the release: “The facts revealed today reflect the way the US government has consistently tried to cover up the truth of Binyam Mohamed’s torture.He was being told he would never leave Guantanamo Bay unless he promised never to discuss his torture, and never sue either the Americans or the British to force disclosure of his mistreatment. Gradually the truth is leaking out, and the governments on both sides of the Atlantic should pause to consider whether they should continue to fight to keep this torture evidence secret.”
Then-U.S. military prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld is quoted in the ruling as saying Mohamed would be given a date for his release if he agreed to the terms. Vandeveld, who has since resigned, had said Mohamed would need to plead guilty to two charges in exchange for a three-year sentence and to testify against other suspects, according to the court documents.
For more information, please see:
Associated Press- Court says US asked detainee to drop torture claim– 23 March 2009
Press Association- “Torture evidence” details released- 23 March 2009

American Soldier Seeks Asylum in Germany

22 March 2009

American Soldier Seeks Asylum in Germany

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Andre Shepherd, an American Iraq veteran who has been in hiding in Germany since April 2007 after walking off the American army base in Katterbach, is seeking political asylum in Germany. “I could no longer support this illegal war in Iraq with a clear conscience…It has been proved that Saddam Hussein was not a direct threat to the United States and the war is simply being waged in order for the U.S. to gain access to raw materials in the Middle East,” said the 31-year-old Apache helicopter mechanic.

Shepherd’s case rests on a European Union law guaranteeing asylum to soldiers who are likely to face prosecution for desertion of military service that violates international law. Despite such a high likelihood of prosecution in their home country, over 25,000 other American soldiers have abandoned their military bases in opposition to the war in Iraq. Rudi Friedrich, a member of Iraq Veterans Against The War, weighs in on Shepherd’s asylum situation: “For us it’s quite clear that this war is wrong and contravenes human rights – which is why anyone who refuses to take part in this war, and is threatened with punishment and prison as a result, should be protected. That is exactly what the asylum laws here guarantee.”

Shepherd is the first Iraq veteran to apply for asylum in Europe, and there are widespread fears that a positive outcome in his petition for asylum may encourage the 60,000 American soldiers based in Germany to follow his tracks. Some argue that granting asylum to Shepherd would strain U.S.-German relations by recognizing the Iraq war as illegal. Wolfgang Bosbach, Christian Democrat politician, voiced concern with granting asylum to American soldiers: “A soldier deserting the army because his conscience no longer allows him to carry out his military duties is clearly not a reason for him to be granted political asylum here.”

The German immigration office will determine the outcome of Shepherd’s request within the next few months.

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For more information, please see:

BBC – Asylum Dilemma For U.S. Deserter – 19 March 2009

Short News – U.S. Iraq Veteran Seeks Asylum in Germany – 19 March 2009

France 24 – U.S. Army Deserter Seeks Asylum – 18 March 2009

United States Delays Gun Smuggling Control Laws into Mexico

18 March 2009

United States Delays Gun Smuggling Control Laws into Mexico

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America


MEXICO CITY, Mexico
– Ninety percent of the guns that are used in Mexico to commit heinous crimes come from the United States.  Machine guns get smuggled into Mexico from the United States all the time.  While the United States has just begun to consider the violence in Mexico a threat to United States safety, the threat of lax United States gun laws have affected Mexico’s fight against drug cartels for the past year.  The United States maintains a staunch immigration policy but a loose gun control policy. These policies not only affect the violence in Mexico but human smuggling into the United States.

With the death count last year in Mexico at 6,290, more than the United States has lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Mexican officials are pleading with United States counterparts to help stop the southbound gun smuggling and focus.  Yet, the United States government has delayed any proliferation of new laws that would help gun smuggling.  In 2007, there were 7,600 federally licensed arms dealers in United States border states and 50,000 nationwide, but the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspected just 5 percent of them. As well an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 has not been renewed by Congress.

Lawmakers are not sure how high-powered weapons get in the hands of drug traffickers, but some come from the United States military.  The Department of Defense doesn’t track what it purchases, so the possibility that United States military guns end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels is extremely feasible.  Also, the weapons are becoming more sophisticated and now include .50-caliber rifles with five-inch shells capable of penetrating walls.  A law that speaks to tracking of military weapons would also assist in controlling gun smuggling into Mexico.

Federal United States efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons were clearly not enough.

For more information, please see:

Alternet – Mexico’s Drug War Bloodbath: Guns from the U.S. Are Destabilizing the Country – 18 March 2009

Los Angeles Times – U.S. shares blame in Mexico drug violence, senators say – 18 March 2009

San Francisco Chronicle – Focus shifts to flow of cash, arms into Mexico – 18 March 2009

The Washington Post – U.S. Efforts Against Mexican Cartels Called Lacking – 18 March 2009

U.S. Continues to Withhold Money from Nicaragua

15 March 2009

U.S. Continues to Withhold Money from Nicaragua

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – United States Ambassador Robert Callahan has warned Nicaragua’s Sandinista government that it will freeze $62 million in development aid until the controversy surrounding the disputed municipal elections held in Nicaragua last November is resolved. Callahan has provided a three month window for the Sandinista government to redress grievances of the alleged unfair election.

The ruling Sandinista party governed by President Daniel Ortega claimed an overwhelming victory in November’s elections. Opponents and international human rights groups have criticized the Sandinista Party of conducting fraudulent elections to secure an outcome in their favor. For instance, Ethics and Transparency, an electoral watchdog group, claims that the election was riddled with “systemic fraud.” The group found that more than ten articles of Nicaragua’s Electoral Code were violated in the electoral process. According to Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) acting Chief Executive Officer Rodney Bent, the $62 million in development aid, which is to come from the MCC, will likely be withheld because “[t]he government of Nicaragua has failed to reaffirm its commitment to democratic principles and practices since its suspension in December.”

Ortega has accused the U.S. of “taking bread” from the poor of Nicaragua by holding back the MCC aid. He attests that the election was fair and refuses to negotiate the mayorships won by his Sandinista party.

The MCC will meet in June to make its final determination of whether to award the $62 million for infrastructure and landtitling programs.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Nicaragua Blasts U.S.’s Decision to Hold Back Aid – 14 March 2009

Miami Herald – U.S. Warns Nicaragua Over Disputed Elections – 14 March 2009

Tico Times – U.S. Maintains Aid Suspension to Nicaragua – 12 March 2009

U.S. Continues to Withhold Money from Nicaragua

15 March 2009

U.S. Continues to Withhold Money from Nicaragua

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – United States Ambassador Robert Callahan has warned Nicaragua’s Sandinista government that it will freeze $62 million in development aid until the controversy surrounding the disputed municipal elections held in Nicaragua last November is resolved. Callahan has provided a three month window for the Sandinista government to redress grievances of the alleged unfair election.

The ruling Sandinista party governed by President Daniel Ortega claimed an overwhelming victory in November’s elections. Opponents and international human rights groups have criticized the Sandinista Party of conducting fraudulent elections to secure an outcome in their favor. For instance, Ethics and Transparency, an electoral watchdog group, claims that the election was riddled with “systemic fraud.” The group found that more than ten articles of Nicaragua’s Electoral Code were violated in the electoral process. According to Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) acting Chief Executive Officer Rodney Bent, the $62 million in development aid, which is to come from the MCC, will likely be withheld because “[t]he government of Nicaragua has failed to reaffirm its commitment to democratic principles and practices since its suspension in December.”

Ortega has accused the U.S. of “taking bread” from the poor of Nicaragua by holding back the MCC aid. He attests that the election was fair and refuses to negotiate the mayorships won by his Sandinista party.

The MCC will meet in June to make its final determination of whether to award the $62 million for infrastructure and landtitling programs.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Nicaragua Blasts U.S.’s Decision to Hold Back Aid – 14 March 2009

Miami Herald – U.S. Warns Nicaragua Over Disputed Elections – 14 March 2009

Tico Times – U.S. Maintains Aid Suspension to Nicaragua – 12 March 2009

Five Mexican Indigenous Human Rights Activists Remain Unfairly Detained

13 March 2009

Five Mexican Indigenous Human Rights Activists Remain Unfairly Detained

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUERRO, Mexico – Despite insufficient evidence against them five indigenous human rights activists in Mexico are still being held in prison nearly a year after their arrest.

The activists are members of the Guerrero-based Me’ phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM). They are being held in a Guerrero state prison on charges of murder. Manuel Cruz, Orlando Manzanarez, Natalio Ortega, Romualdo Santiago and Raúl Hernández were detained on 17 April 2008. They were charged with the murder of Alejandro Feliciano García on 1 January 2008 in the town of El Camalote, Guerrero.

A federal review judge ordered the release of four of them on 20 October 2008, after ruling that the evidence presented did not implicate them. However the four remain in prison after Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal against the ruling, despite not providing further evidence in the case.

The fifth detainee, Raúl Hernández, was denied an injunction by the federal judge because two witnesses testified that he was present at the time of the murder.
Other eyewitness have testified, however, that Hernández was not present have been disregarded.

Most likely the five activists are still being detained as reprisal for their work promoting the rights of their community and exposing abuses by a local political boss and local authorities.  There has been a documented a pattern of harassment and intimidation in Guerrero state against members of Indigenous rights organizations such as the OPIM. These groups highlight cases of violations of human rights by members of the Mexican Army.

Most recently, both the Secretary and President of the Organization for the Future of Mixtec Indigenous Peoples (Organizacion para el Futuro de los Pueblos Mixtecos, OFPM) were found murdered late at night on 20 February in Tecoanapa municipality, Guerrero State.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Indigenous human rights activists unfairly detained in Mexico – 12 March 2009

Source News – Mexico: Indigenous human rights defenders still unfairly imprisoned despite government promises to UN – 12 March 2009

Upside Down World – Mapping Controversy in Oaxaca: Interview with Aldo Gonzalez, Director of UNOSJO – 12 March 2009

Jamaican Leaders in Support of Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law

05 March 2009

Jamaican Leaders in Support of Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has announced his support for the anti-sodomy law that has been on the books since British colonial rule, over 145 years. Golding’s decision flies in the face of international pressures from human rights organizations calling for the repeal of the sodomy act. He stated to Parliament: “We are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organizations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalize the law as it relates to buggery.” Fellow member of Parliament Ernest Smith took the anti-gay sentiment one step further, suggesting life sentences for homosexuality and the prosecution of LGBT rights groups in Jamaica under the country’s law “against conspiring to corrupt public morals.”

The law banning gay sex dates back to British colonial rule, a colonizing country that has since abolished the law and urged former colonies to do the same. Under the current law, gay sex is punishable by up to seven years in prison. The law itself is buttressed by government inaction and refusal to prosecute for hate crimes and violence directed at the gay community in Jamaica. More than thirty gay men have been murdered since 1997, with only a select few cases being brought to trial. Human Rights Watch has cited Jamaica as having the worst record of any country in the Western hemisphere in its treatment of gays and lesbians. HRW has noted that victims of violence are reluctant to appeal to police for protection because the police themselves have been known to harass and attack men perceived to be homosexual. The police are also known to actively support violence and fail to investigate complaints of abuse.

Golding has also been criticized for his refusal to allow gays in his Cabinet.

For more information, please see:

Miami Herald – Jamaica Leader Vows to Keep Anti-Sodomy Law – 4 March 2009

MSN News – Jamaica PM Vows to Maintain Anti-Sodomy Law Regardless of Criticism from International Groups – 4 March 2009

365 Gay – Jamaica PM Stands Firm on Sodomy Law – 4 March 2009

Human Rights Watch – Hated to Death – 15 November 2004

Prison Deaths Result from Inadequate Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates

04 March 2009

Prison Deaths Result from Inadequate Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – The Correctional Service of Canada broke its own regulations by holding a troubled inmate in solitary confinement for most of the year she spent in federal prisons before she killed herself.

In a critical report, Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers detailed how repeated bureaucratic failures contributed to the death of a teen who choked herself in her cell in 2007. Guards confused about response policy waited about 25 minutes to call for medical help after they noticed she was choking. They did not immediately check the teen’s vital signs or offer first aid after finally cutting the material from her neck.

The story is one that continues a disturbing and a well-documented pattern of deaths in custody which are the result of under-resources and disjointed correctional and mental-health-care system. The torment of mentally ill inmates who only get sicker behind bars is a growing problem that a buckling corrections system can’t handle.

The correctional service is assessing patients earlier, directing more resources to treatment and training staff better, but many of those changes are new, and it is unclear how well they’re working.  Prisons need to work federal and provincial health and justice and corrections officials to come up with a national strategy.

The health system’s failure to cope with the mentally ill has led to many ending up in jail.
Activists have argued that it is harder for mentally ill individuals who are sent to jails to get into the treatment facilities they really need, and that what is really needed are programs to ensure mentally ill people who break the law are diverted to treatment, rather than prisons.  Correctional facilities are not the facilities to deliver mental-health care. The government needs to ensure the mentally ill don’t get into those facilities in the first place.

For more information, please see:

National Post – System-wide failures led to Ontario teen’s prison suicide: report – 3 March 2009

The Canadian Press – Teen’s prison death ‘entirely preventable’: watchdog – 3 March 2009

The Globe and Mail – Instructed to curtail crushing red tape, guards watched girl die in her cell – 3 March 2009

The Globe and Mail – Systemic failures led to teen’s prison death: report – 3 March 2009

Freed Detainee Tells About Torture by U.S.

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
LONDON, U.K.- Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident, arrived in London on Monday after his release from Guantanamo Bay. Mohamed is the first Guantanamo detainee to be released during the Obama administration. Mohamed is a native of Ethiopia who immigrated to Britain in 1994, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 and turned over to U.S. authorities a few months later. American officials accused him of traveling to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, which he has repeatedly denied. He was initially charged with plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States and later with conspiring with members of al-Qaeda to murder and commit terrorism. All of the charges were eventually dropped.  The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been petitioning the U.S. government for Mohamed’s return since August 2007.
Mohamed stated, “It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government.” Mohamed also stated that U.S. officials flew him to Morocco and that he was tortured there for 18 months. He said he was beaten and had his penis cut with a razor. He said he was then transferred to a CIA-run site in Afghanistan and was beaten there regularly before being moved to Guantanamo in September 2004.
U.S. officials have never acknowledged taking Mohamed to Morocco; Moroccan officials deny having held him. U.S. officials have also repeatedly denied torturing terrorism suspects.
Also in contention is the Pentagon’s recent review of conditions at Guantanamo. The Pentagon found that “all detainees are well protected from violence.” Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, led a 13-day investigation at the military prison, interviewing staff and detainees and conducting announced and unannounced inspections round the clock. Human rights and civil liberties groups challenged Walsh’s findings. They have said that solitary confinement has led to the deterioration of the physical and psychological health of detainees, some of whom are force-fed because they are on hunger strikes.
A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only organization with unfettered access to the prisoners, said the group supports the recommendations for increased socialization for all detainees but disagreed with Walsh’s conclusion that force-feeding is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
For more information, please see:
Washington Post- Freed detainee in U.K. tells of abuse by U.S.- 24 February 2009
Associated Press- Former Guatanamo detainee enjoying freedom in UK- 24 February 2009
BBC News-  Release Binyam torture data– 24 February 2009

Vestiges of Slavery Alive in the Caribbean

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe – The Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe have seen turmoil in the past month due to protests over extremely low wages and high living costs. The weeks long protests are in response to the pervasive level of inequality in the economy of the islands with just one percent of the population, known as the bekes (the primarily white, elite slaveholder descendants), owning most of the industries and sources of economic clout in the islands. Many demonstrators, mostly afro-Caribbeans, believe that their current dire circumstances are a manifestation of the legacy of racism and slavery on the French colony islands.

France dispatched 450 riot police to tame the protests that have been characterized by gunfire, looting, arson, and the death of longtime activist and union member Jacques Bino, who was shot and killed in a housing project in Point-a-Pitre. Three police officers were also reported injured, one of whom was shot in the eye. Protest leader Domota said the violence was prompted by the police, who have been accused of harassing protestors with racist insults.

The social and economic disparities between the two groups runs deep according to recent statistics, with an unemployment rate of 23 percent and a poverty rate of 12 percent, compared to 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively, on the overseas mainland of France.

Serge Romana, president of an association commemorating the abolition of slavery in the French territories, has said that French President Nicholas Sarkozy “must absolutely abolish all traces of neocolonialism and vestiges of slavery in the overseas regions.” This call for respect and equality has barriers in systemic processes, however, as beke Jean-Luc de Laguarigue has said: “Tensions have festered over generations because France and its islands have not explored the painful past…The protests are not a call for war, but for dignity.” He noted there was no known slavery museum in France and the subject is pretty much taboo in the educational system.

On Sarkozy’s part, he promised a $250 monthly raise for low-income workers and a lowering of prices on 100 products by 20 percent. Protest leaders and government officials are currently negotiating for lower housing, gasoline, water and electricity costs.

For more information, please see:

Houston Chronicle – Unrest in France’s Carribbean Islands Claims 1 – 18 February 2009

Associated Press – Unrest in Carribbean Has Roots in Slavery Past – 22 February 2009

Star Tribune –  On Martinique and Guadeloupe, Anger Over Soaring Living Costs Has Roots in Past Slavery – 22 February 2009

United States’ Lax Gun Laws Play Major Role in Mexico Violence

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Guns and ammunition going to Mexico from the United States has been fueling a war between drug cartels and law enforcement — a war that left thousands dead last year.

More than 5,000 people were murdered in Mexico last year alone, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and 95 percent of the weapons recovered from those killings were traced back to the U.S. This is because it’s easier to buy guns in the U.S. and smuggle them across the border than it is to get them in Mexico.

Guns are coming to Mexico from all over the U.S. The weapons and ammunition are being bought mostly from licensed dealers. Any adult with a valid ID and no criminal record can buy as many as he or she wants.

Another part of the problem is that the United States does not enforce a ban on importing assault weapons. The ban was implemented under the administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, and the U.S. government can enforce it under provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act.  Many such guns are later smuggled south to arm Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels. The guns come to the United States from Europe and other places, and they make their way down to Mexico.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, has quietly abandoned the ban in recent years. The ATF declined to comment.  Mexico has long demanded that the U.S. do more to stop the flow of weapons south.

For more information, please see:

NPR – Guns From U.S. Play Key Role In Mexican Violence – 20 February 2009

Forth Worth Star Telegram – U.S. lawmakers want ban on importing assault weapons enforced – 19 February 2009

Associated Press – Lawmakers: US must enforce assault-gun import ban – 18 February 2009

Mass Strikes Over Living Conditions in El Salvador’s Prisons

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Fourteen of El Salvador’s nineteen prisons are now embroiled in mass protests over prisoner living conditions. Inmates have refused to return to their cells, take part in workshops and other activities, allow prisoners to enter or leave the facilities, or allow visitors or medical personnel in. Prisoners are demanding better living conditions before they cooperate with authorities, who are currently on standby in case intervention is needed to restore order.

The protests began on Saturday with eleven prisons and had spread to fourteen by Monday. El Salvador’s prison system is notorious for being massively overcrowded and affording very minimal rights and protections for the prisoner population, which is currently numbered at 20,000 in a prison system that was built to house only 8,000 people. The government has been called upon consistently in the past to address the mass imprisonment of El Salvadorans.

Prisons director Gilbert Caceres blamed the uprisings on inmates who were being manipulated by gangs involved in organized crime.

For more information, please see:

The Earth Times Mass Protests in El Salvador Prisons – 16 February 2009

Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Unrest in El Salvador’s Overcrowded Prisons – 16 February 2009

Mexican Border Towns Protest Federal Troops Violence

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MONTERREY, Mexico – Hundreds of people in Mexico have blocked key crossings into the US in protests against army deployment and operations to fight drug traffickers.  Traffic was brought to a halt on a number of bridges in several border towns in northern Mexico.  The protesters accused the army of abuse against civilians. The protesters blocked bridges in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. Government officials claimed drug gangs, which paid people to do so, had organized the blockades and the protests.

Police chased protesters away with water cannons.  The protesters chanted “Soldiers out!” and “Stop abuse by the Federal Preventative Police!” The demonstrators also shut roads in the industrial city of Monterrey.

Mexico’s President Calderon has sent 45,000 troops and federal police across Mexico to fight drug gangs since late 2006. According to Mexican officials, more than 5,400 people were killed in drug-related violence last year.  In some parts of the country, the army has taken over the role of the police, which have often proved easily corrupted when bribed or threatened by the gangs.

Many of the protesters said border towns had become more dangerous since President Felipe Calderon sent the army in. On Tuesday, for example, ten people died and fifteen were wounded in a gun battle between federal troops and a drug hitmen in Reynosa. Human rights activists say there are legitimate complaints about reported abuses by the troops, including alleged cases in which army patrols have fired on civilians at checkpoints. Calderon, however, has Washington’s support for using the army. Bloodshed across the Mexican border has prompted some experts in recent months to issue dire warnings about Mexico’s future stability and the potential security risks to the United States.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Mexicans block US border in anti-army protest – 18 February 2009

BBC News – Marchers block Mexico-US border – 18 February 2009

Reuters – Mexicans protest army campaign against drug cartels – 18 February 2009

Pelosi says U.S. Won’t Press Allies on Guatanamo Inmates

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America


ROME, Italy-
U.S. President Barack Obama is not expected to ask Washington’s allies to host inmates from Guantanamo prison unless they have citizens detained there, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday.Obama has ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year, but the fate of the prisoners there remains a big question, particularly those who cannot return to their own countries.

Obama had been expected to ask EU states to take in some of the roughly 245 remaining detainees.
“I don’t think we’ll see a situation where the president will be asking countries to accept people unless it happens to be the country of origin,” Pelosi told reporters during a trip to Italy. “And then it’s up to the country’s discretion as to whether they would accept them or not.”

President George W. Bush’s administration failed to persuade its allies, in particular those in the 27-nation EU, to take in inmates who were unable to return to their home country and who the United States did not want to accept either. They included Chinese Muslim Uighurs who Washington said cannot return to China because they would face persecution, together with Libyans, Uzbeks and Algerians also seen at risk.

Pelosi recalled that Obama ordered a review process to look at the nature of the detention of Guantanamo inmates, some of whom have been held for years without trial. “President Obama has said that he will have a review of every situation, every person, at Guantanamo to establish the facts of why they are there,” she said.”When that is determined, there will be some resolution of what to do with these people, some going back to their country of origin.”

The Pentagon says some 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo since 2002. About 60 others have been declared eligible for transfer or release but remain at the prison pending discussions with other governments. “One thing is for sure: Guantanamo will be closed and the president intends to do it correctly,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said that the US administration is committed to a “new era of cooperation” with its allies
She added: “We have to make a judgement. … And I mean we, Italy, the European Union, the United States, NATO — all of us — as to what is in our national security interests, and we have to make a commitment that is commensurate with that but which is not … impossible to achieve.”

For more information, please see:
AFP- Pelosi pledges ‘new era of cooperation’ between US, allies-16 February 2009

International Herald Tribune- Pelosi says U.S. won’t press allies on Guantanamo inmates– 16 February 2009

AP- Officials say Italy will not take Gitmo inmates– 16 February 2009