Armenian Government Arrests Protesters

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YEREVAN, Armenia –  Protests erupted in Armenia after 2 government appointments were announced.

Protesters gather in the main square of Yerevan. Photo Courtesy of Artyom Geodakyan.

The previous president, Serzh Sarkisian, second term ended on 9 April 2018.  Yet, the Parliament elected him Prime Minister just 8 days later, elongating his time in power.  The vote was 76 to 17 with no abstentions.  Parliament also elected Armen Sarkisian, who Serzh Sarkisian endorsed, as the new President.

People have been gathering in the capital city of Yerevan over the past few days to protest this change in power.  Crowds have been so large that traffic has been blocked and the Those there were waving Armenian flags and shouting “Armenia without Serzh.”  The protest leader Nikol Pashinian, an opponent Parliament member, said, “Sarkisian lacks legitimacy and has earned the hatred of Armenians.”

The protests have been mainly peaceful; however, olice warned that the protests were illegal and that they would be “discontinued.”  On 16 April, the demonstrators clashed with the police.  Forty-six people were injured, including 6 policemen.

On 18 April police detained 87 demonstrators.  Only 30 were held on administrative charges such as “holding rallies in violation of the established procedures,” or “participation in mass riots.”  The rest were detained as witness in ongoing investigations about the protests.

Under Armenian Law, witnesses can be detained for interrogation if they don’t respond to a summons to appear. Additionally, they can only be detained for three hours without be recorded or released.  In the case of the arrests made during the protests, many people were held up to 9 hours.

For more information please visit:

 Human Rights Watch – Police in Armenia Detain Dozens of Demonstrators – 19 April 2018

Voice of America – Tens Of Thousands Protest In Yerevan, Other Armenian Cities Against Sarkisian As New Prime Minister – 17 April 2018

AlJazeera – Why are Armenians protesting against the new prime minister? – 19 April 2018

Chilean students and teachers march against Pinera administration

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – On Thursday, thousands of students and teachers held a massive demonstration in Chile. They gathered to denounce profit-making in higher education under President Sebastian Pinera’s administration.

Demonstrators take part in protest in Santiago, Chile. Image Courtesy of Rodrigo Garrido.

Organizers estimated around 120,000 participants in the demonstration along central Alameda Avenue in Santiago. Similar protests took place in other main cities of Chile such as Coquimbo, Valparaiso, and Temuco. The march was called by the National Confederation of Students of Chile (Confech) and was the first major protest under the month-old administration of conservative President Pinera. They demanded an end of profit-making, student debts, and sexism in higher education.

This protest follows a recent decision by the country’s constitutional court to overturn a law that prohibited for-profit companies from controlling universities. While profit-making from higher education is illegal, critics have long claimed that some companies that operate universities have found ways to exploit loopholes in the law. These companies find ways to turn a profit without re-investing the money in reduced tuition or improved education.

Young people consider higher education a business that is putting them and their families in debt. One spokeswoman for the students, Sandra Beltrami, said “the demands of the student movement are still valid and remain the same. We want to be in the classrooms, we want to have classes, we want to study a career in order to be someone in life and have a profession like many people in this country, and we cannot do it because there is still profit in Chile.”

Students and teachers marched through downtown Santiago and made their point by banging drums, toting banners, and sometimes throwing rocks and blocking traffic. There were small confrontations with police who occasionally used tear gas to disperse protesters.

President Pinera is a conservative billionaire who served a term as president from 2010 and 2014. His first term was marred by massive student protests seeking an education overhaul. Earlier in the week, President Pinera sent a bill to Chile’s Congress to increase public financing for technical colleges. In a move that many thought was intended to defuse tension with students, he promised that access to free education was “here to stay.”

Higher education was free in the country until 1981 when Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship pave the way for the development of private universities with no constraints on tuition fees. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that Chile has the fourth-most-expensive university system in the world.

For more information, please see:

Sputnik – Chilean Students March Against Unfair Education – 20 April 2018

FMT News – Chile’s students launch first protest under Pinera administration – 20 April 2018

The Santiago Times – Pinera administration faces first student march in Chile – 19 April 2018

Telesur – Over 120,000 Chilean Students March Against Profits and Sexism – 19 April 2018

Democracy Now – Chile: Massive Student Mobilization Protests Privatization of Education – 20 April 2018

 

Disability has been Added on Twitter’s User Reporting Form

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

North Carolina, USA – Twitter has added a new word for when people want to submit a report about inappropriate behavior on their platform. The word disabled as been added to the list of reasons for reporting someone. This change has been a long time coming according to some. In early April, Twitter revised its’ reporting form so that those who were being targeted for their disability could more accurately report it.

“It’s against our rules to directly attack or threaten someone based on their protected category, including disability,” Twitter stated in a tweet that was posted April 2. “You asked us to clarify this in our reporting flow, and we’ve updated it to be more specific.”

Natalie Weaver, her husband Mark and their children Sophia, Lyla and Alex. Photo Courtesy of the Weaver family.

Twitter brought about the change after Natalie Weaver suggested they revise their reporting form. Natalie Weaver called on Twitter after her daughter’s photo was used in an offensive tweet that promoted eugenics. Weaver’s daughter, Sophia, has Rett Syndrome. Sophia is only nine years old. Rett Syndrome is a genetic brain disorder that effects a person’s language, walking and coordination. Weaver said she faced some opposition from Twitter by them refusing to take down the offensive tweet, but then they removed the account completely.

“People with disability experience hate and discrimination every single day just because they are disabled,” Weaver said to Today. “It is very important to have that distinction.”

Weaver said to The Mighty, “Many people with medical conditions and/or disabilities receive hate and harassment every day on Twitter and no violations are found. I am hopeful that this change will create a safer environment for people with medical conditions and disabilities. I hope that Twitter support will be more consistent now in finding violations. I will continue my work to ensure that Twitter support follows through on this”

Melissa Blake, a freelance writer says the change has been a long time coming. “Disabilities may make people uncomfortable. I’m sure my disability and my wheelchair has made people uncomfortable in the past. But that doesn’t give people the right to use it against me and vilify me for it. Twitter’s change in policy gives me hope. Hope that perhaps, finally, we’ve moved the needle of dismantling centuries of negative misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities,” Blake wrote in an article for CNN.

Weaver took on a social media platform and called them out for not protecting disabled individuals. By getting Twitter to respond by changing their reporting form, she won.

For more information, please see:

CNN – On Disability, Twitter is Better Late Than Never – 13 April 2018

Today – Mom Fights Twitter After Cruel Troll Mocked Child’s Appearance – 5 April 2018

Mighty – Twitter Changes Reporting Form to Include Hate Against People with Disabilities – 3 April 2018

Lawyers Physically Try to Prevent Rape Case

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Asia 

NEW DELHI, India – A major confrontation occurred outside a state courthouse in India- governed Jammu and Kashmir on 9 April 2018.  The crime branch of the police were on their way to file a chargesheet against 7 men and a boy for the gang rape and murder of an 8 year old Muslim nomad girl on 10 January to 17 January 2018.

The men accused are a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar.   Lawyers representing these men, from the Kathua Bar Association, physically attacked the police in an attempt to stop them from filling the chargesheet.  However, they were unsuccessful in preventing the filing.  The  Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba said in a statement, “The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.”

A separate chargesheet is being created and will be filed for the juvenile boy involved in the case.

The protesting lawyers want an investigation done by the CBI, which would be  a federal investigation.  They believes that the local court does not “understand the sentiments of the people.”

Many, including the family of the 8 year old girl, Asifa Bano, believe that the gang rape and murder was done to drive Muslims out of the community.  Asifa was kidnapped on 10 January, drugged, gang raped, murdered in a temple, and left in the forest.  Over 100 witnesses have testified and corroborated evidence that the police have.

Many of the supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling Hindu party, and Hindu Ekta Manch, and affiliated party, have supported the lawyers protests.  Typically, this party has taken a strong stance against rape and sexual violence crimes.   At the same time the BJP has been criticized as not supporting minority groups.

Protests breakout over religious differences in the rape and murder case of 8 year old Asifa Bano. Photo courtesy of Mukesh Gupta.

Religious tensions have been growing in the community as a result.  A Hindu strike, demanding the release of the accused, shut down the town (Kathua) where Asifa was from.  Economic groups in Kathua and Kashmir are threatening economic  agitation if the perpetrators are not brought to justice.  Muslim groups believe that because those investigating are also Hindu, they will be biased and not bring justice to Asifa.

For more information please visit:

Human Rights Watch – Prejudice Flares After Rape, Murder of Muslim Child in India – 10 April 2018 

Free Press Kashmir – Kathua rape and murder case: Valley traders threaten state wide agitation if justice not delivered – 9 April 2018

The Hindu – Chargesheet submitted in Kathua rape and murder case – 9 April 2018 

The New York Times – An 8-Year-Old’s Rape and Killing Fuels Religious Tensions in India – 11 April 2018