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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

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Race to the Ballot Box – UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

SJAC Update | December 12, 2017
Syrians cast their vote in a controversial presidential election in 2014. Although the government claimed voter turnout was at 73%, many observers criticized the process and said the results were illegitimate. | Photo from Wikimedia

Race to the Ballot Box: UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

Last week, the eighth round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition began in Geneva. Leading the talks, Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura prioritized discussion of elections. In March 2016, de Mistura had proposed an 18-month timeline for the election date, and the issue has continued to be on the top of his agenda. His emphasis on elections is likely a strategic one. Elections would symbolize a turning point in the conflict and signal that recovery is on the horizon. It would also lessen an overwhelming obstacle in the negotiations – who will lead in post-conflict Syria – by leaving the decision to the Syrian public. Despite these benefits, the Special Envoy should bear in mind lessons-learned from past transitional elections and avoid prioritizing a short-term win over adherence to best practices.

Some scholars argue the promise of early elections is vital to peace and democracy in post-conflict settings because they facilitate peace settlements, encourage international actors to contribute peacekeeping forces, and expedite democratization processes. But elections also carry a number of risks, particularly in unstable post-conflict contexts:

  1. Renewed violence: In transitional elections, security issues are a primary concern. Early elections in the absence of demobilization or disarmament efforts increases the likelihood that one side to the conflict will reject the results and return to armed conflict. This is especially true when there is no means of power-sharing and government institutions have not been rebuilt. In 2010, a presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire descended the nation into a renewed civil conflict after losing candidate Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power and forces loyal to each candidate took up arms.
  2. Inaccessible ballot locations: Insecurity and violence will also prevent voters from going to the polls. Moreover, some 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the war began. Ensuring that displaced peoples have a safe, confidential, and practical means of voting will require resources, infrastructure, and coordination with states that are hosting refugees. Without security at ballot boxes or an opportunity for the displaced to vote, the results of any election will be skewed and seen as illegitimate.
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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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China Banned Travel to North Korea Ahead of Trump Visit

Brian Kim
Impunity Watch 
Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – On Tuesday, November 7th, the Chinese government banned tourism to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. This order was issued right before President Donald Trump’s first official visit to China.

The statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images.

Based on numerous sources, Chinese tour groups based out of the border city of Dandong have been ordered to stop all trips to Pyongyang. The companies were also ordered to run only one-day trips to the North Korean city opposite of Dandong called Sinuiju. Previously, the Chinese tour companies were allowed to run three-day or longer trips to North Korea.

The government did not provide a reason for this recent ban. Although some believe that it is because there aren’t many people traveling to Pyongyang, many believe that it is connected to increasing sanctions against North Korea.

With 80 percent of all foreign visitors to North Korea coming from China, the experts believe that it will have an impact with the North Korean economy. Currently, tourism is one of few ways North Korea is able to earn hard currency. Moreover, a think-tank in South Korea has reported that tourism generates around $44 million in annual revenue for the North. In 2012, around 237,000 Chinese visited North Korea.

During his two-day trip to China, President Trump discussed with Xi Jinping on a number of issues. Most importantly, the two leaders discussed North Korea’s nuclear missile tests.

Earlier this year, the United States banned all travel to North Korea after the death of a 22 year-old student, Otto Warmbier. The University of Virginia student was held in North Korea for more than a year and died soon after arriving back to the United States.

For more information please see:

Reuters – Exclusive: China curbs tourism to North Korea ahead of Trump visit – 7 November, 2017

Independent – China ‘bans tourism to North Korea’ day before Trump visit – 7 November, 2017

Newsweek – CHINA BANS NORTH KOREA TOURISM ONE DAY BEFORE TRUMP ARRIVES – 7 November, 2017

Plague Outbreak in Madagascar Continues to Spread

By: Adam King
Impunity Rights News Reporter, Africa

WHO health worker tends to patient. Photo courtesy of Rijasolo/Agence France-Presse.

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar  — The Pneumonic Plague, a disease considered by many to be nonexistent, continues to ravage large parts of Madagascar. As CNN reports, 124 people have died from the Plague so far with estimates of upwards of 1,200 people infected. The World Health Organization provides a thorough summary of the current outbreak.

“Since August 2017, Madagascar is experiencing a large outbreak of plague affecting major cities and other non-endemic areas. From 1 August through 30 October 2017, a total of 1801 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, including 127 deaths, have been reported by the Ministry of Health of Madagascar to WHO. Of these, 1111 (62%) were clinically classified as pneumonic plague, including 257 (23%) confirmed, 374 (34%) probable and 480 (43%) suspected cases. In addition to the pneumonic cases, 261 (15%) cases of bubonic plague, one case of septicaemic plague and 428 cases (24%) where the type has not yet been specified, have been reported (Figure 1). As of 30 October, 51 of 114 districts of Madagascar have been affected (Figure 2 and 3). Since the beginning of the outbreak, 71 healthcare workers have had illness compatible with plague, none of whom have died.”

While 127 deaths seems to be low, a continued trend in the current direction could reach epidemic levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not ascribe a  certain numerical figure to an epidemic, but rather where an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent can be effectively conveyed from a source to the susceptible hosts.” That appears to be how this strain of plague is being characterized.

“Pneumonic plague is more virulent or damaging and is an advanced form characterized by a severe lung infection that can be transmitted from person to person via airborne droplets such as through coughing or sneezing, for example. The incubation period is short, and an infected person may die within 12 to 24 hours.”

WHO does not believe that the infection will spread beyond Madagascar’s borders.

“WHO and the Malagasy government have stepped up screening at airports but say the infection is more likely to spread within Madagascar than it is to spread to other countries. But international spread is not a big threat, because pneumonic plague shows up quickly after someone is exposed to the bacteria. Exit screening at airports — like checking for fever — can help stop people from carrying the infection abroad.”

The difference between the widely known bubonic plague and the pneumonic version that is currently in Madagascar is the method of transference. Pneumonic is much more dangerous because it can be spread through contact between infected and uninfected people. Bubonic is transmitted from the bite an infected animal, which in the case of the plague in centuries ago in Europe, such as a rats or mosquitoes.

Despite these numbers, some opine that the outbreak is waning and new cases are on the decline.

“The large plague outbreak that began in Madagascar in August appears to be waning, according to government case counts and local news reports… A World Health Organization spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, confirmed reports in Malagasy media that both deaths and new cases were declining and most hospitalized patients had recovered.”

For more information, please see:

NBC News — ‘Unusually Severe’ Plague Strikes 1,800 in Madagascar’ — 3 November 2017

The New York Times — ‘Deadly Plague Outbreak in Madagascar Appears to Wane’ — 2 November 2017

World Health Organization — Plague – Madagascar — 2 November 2017

BBC News — ‘124 dead, nearly 1,200 infected with plague in Madagascar’ — 25 October 2017

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — ‘Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice’ — 18 May 2012

International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus – Grassroots Truth Telling in the US

ICTJ World Report
October 2017
In Focus ›
Is the United States Ready for a Truth-Telling Process?
Fania Davis thinks the time has come for a truth-telling process about racial injustice in the United States, and she is working to make it a reality. We sat down with her and her colleague, Jodie Geddes, to discuss their vision for a national process, what they hope it would achieve, and what they have learned from their conversations with local leaders so far.
Read More ›
Publications ›
Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies ›
Media and Transitional Justice: A Dream of Symbiosis in a Troubled Relationship ›
Other News
To Prevent Enforced Disappearances, Rethink the Justice and Security Equation
With enforced disappearances on the rise, ICTJ President David Tolbert says the path to prevention is clear: the international community must reorder its priorities and change its approach. The disproportionate attention on counterterrorism takes us further away from accountability and prevention, Tolbert writes. He urges the international community to lead the way in unequivocally censoring governments that use enforced disappearance as a political tactic — and ensuring there can be no impunity for this crime.
Read More ›
A Noble Dream: The Tenacious Pursuit of Justice in Guatemala
Bring General Rios Montt and other high ranking members of the military to trial in the Guatemalan courts for genocide? In 1999 it was a noble dream for justice, but one with little apparent possibility of ever coming true. Walk the long path to justice that led to this historic trial.
Read More ›
Upcoming Events ›
October 17 – 22, 2017
22nd Workshop in Budapest: Practices of Memory and Knowledge Production ›
Location: Budapest, Hungary
November 09, 2017
Reckoning with Racial Injustice in the United States ›
Location: NYU School of Law’s Lipton Hall, 110 West Third Street New York, NY 10012
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