China’s Government Forced to Address Water Pollution

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – As World Water Day just passed, it seems fitting to address the water pollution and water shortages plaguing southeast Asia. China has a particular difficulty with pollution and has begun to take action to counteract its consequences. Many Chinese towns and cities rely on polluted water sources, and the pollution’s effects have begun to materialize.

A severely polluted Shaying River in Henan Province, China. Photo courtesy of Dengjia/CNN.

Residents of Dawu, located in China’s Henan province, say that they are being killed by their water supply. A major water source for the region is the Ying River, which has been heavily polluted for over a decade.

The river’s poisoned water has, over time, spread its toxins to underground water sources including those used for irrigation. A villager by the name of Wu Zongjun claims to personally know twenty individuals diagnosed with cancer in his village since 2010. In 2013, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report which confirmed the correlation between the water pollution and increases in cancer diagnoses in the region.

Unfortunately, the water crisis extends far beyond the Dawu village, as many Chinese towns and cities face significant water pollution. Moreover, cities and towns, including the nations capital, suffer from frequent water shortages.

Other governments around the globe face similar difficulties in supplying clean water sources. Nearly one third of the people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have a safe drinking water supply. The World Water Council has called on governments to invest adequate amounts of their budgets towards clean water projects. World Water Day has reminded global citizens of the importance of spreading awareness to try and make a difference. There is still much to be done to supply all in need with clean water.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Can China fix its mammoth water crisis before it’s too late? – 21 March, 2017

ABC News – African governments urged to spend more on clean water – 22 March, 2017

Inter Press Service – Asia’s Water Politics Near the Boiling Point – 21 March, 2017 

Eco-Business – Fighting China’s war on pollution – 20 March, 2017

Philippine President Accused of Having Ordered Extra-Judicial Killings During Time as Mayor

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines– A retired Philippine police officer has confessed to leading a death squad on the direct orders of Rodrigo Duterte, before he became president. The retired police officer, Arthur Lascañas, spoke at a news conference on February 20. Mr. Lascañas alleges that President Duterte had personally ordered extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor of Davao. Mr. Lascañas is the second person to speak out against President Duterte. Last year, Edgar Matobato made similar claims to have received orders from Durterte to commit extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor.

Arthur Lascañas speaks at a news conference alleging that he led a death squad under direct orders of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City. Photo courtesy of: Associated Press.

These accusations come only weeks after President Duterte was accused of sponsoring extrajudicial killings in his own state-sponsored war on drugs. In early 2017, Amnesty International warned that the Philippine police are “systematically planning” such killings against criminals and drug suspects.

The recent accusations against Duterte claim that the former mayor established groups of hit-men to find and kill small-time drug dealers and petty criminals. Mr. Lascañas explained that members of these groups were paid between $400 and $1,000 for the killings, a price dependent on the status of the individuals murdered. Mr. Lascañas said that the groups received allowances for these efforts directly from Duterte’s office as mayor. Eventually, the groups were encouraged to kill not only drug offenders and criminals, but any individual critical of Duterte’s rule.

Mr. Lascañas confirmed earlier statements by Mr. Matobato which claimed that Duterte called for the murder of Jun Pala, who was gunned down near his home in 2003. Jun Pala was a radio commentator who was famously critical of Duterte during his time as mayor of Davao.

Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, urged the country’s Cabinet to declare their president unfit to rule, describing him as a “sociopathic serial killer”. De Lima is now facing arrest on charges that she was involved in the drug trade, accusations which she says were master-minded as a result of her leading an investigation of the recent allegations against Duterte during his time as mayor.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Ex-Officer in Philippines Says He Led Death Squad at Duterte’s Behest – 20 February, 2017

Reuters – Philippine senator urges Cabinet to stop ‘sociopathic serial killer’ Duterte – 21 February, 2017

Japan Times – Ex-cop says Duterte, while Davao mayor, paid him and others to kill crime suspects – 20 February, 2017

CNN – Former Davao Death Squad leader: Duterte ordered bombings – 20 February, 2017

More Than 7,000 Are Dead From Philippine Drug War

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines- In July 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched a “war” on the drug trade, authorizing police to crackdown and even open fire when threatened by suspects. More than 7,000 people have died since the launch of the anti-drug campaign.

More than 7,000 individuals have been killed in the Philippines since July 2016. Photo courtesy of: AFP
More than 7,000 individuals have been killed in the Philippines since July 2016. Photo courtesy of: AFP

In early 2017, Amnesty International accused the Philippine police of “systematically planning” extrajudicial killings and of being unnecessarily brutal in achieving its goals. The organization released a report this year in which it outlines the actions of President Duterte and his police force. The report even suggests that the killings could constitute crimes against humanity.

Eyewitnesses and families of the deceased have confirmed some unregulated and haphazard actions by the police. Amnesty International has documented several cases where witnesses described alleged drug offenders shouting their surrender at police, often on their knees or other compliant positions. It is reported that police still gunned them down.

Other organizations, including Human Rights Watch, are also concerned about the humanitarian offenses. Human Rights Watch recently called for the United Nations to lead an independent international investigation into the alleged unlawful killings by the Philippine police.

Not a single officer is known to have been prosecuted for extrajudicial killings or related crimes. President Duterte has not addressed any of these concerns. On January 29, Durterte stated in a news conference that he intends to continue his war on drugs until the last day of his term. Experts are concerned that this is an indication that the abuses will continue indefinitely.

On January 30, 2016, National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa declared a pause on the operation. The break is meant for “internal cleansing” following the alleged brutal killing of a South Korean businessman by the Philippine’s anti-drug police. Interestingly, nearly 100 Philippine police officers have been released by the department since the start of the year because they were found to be using drugs themselves.

It is unclear what is to come, but officials have made no indication to roll back on its attempts at cleansing the nation of its drugs and drug users.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Amnesty: Philippine police ‘planned’ drug war killings – 1 February, 2017

Amnesty International Report – “If you are poor, you are killed” – 2017

Human Rights Watch – Philippines: Police ‘Drug War’ Killings Need Independent Probe – 30 January, 2017

The Wire – Philippines Dismisses Nearly 100 Policemen For Drug Abuse – 12 February, 2017

UN Calls on Cambodian Government to Release Detainees

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA — In May 2016, the government of Cambodia detained five human rights defenders. The government alleges that these individuals criminally assisted a woman in making false claims while under investigation by the Cambodian Anti-Corruption Unit. On January 25, 2017, two human rights experts called on the Cambodian government to release the detainees, as the charges against them were ruled “arbitrary” by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo Courtesy of: UN Photo
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo Courtesy of: UN Photo

Cambodia is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which explicitly prohibits the “use of criminal provisions as a pretext to suppress and prevent the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and to silence human rights defenders.” In May 2016, UN human rights experts sent a joint urgent appeal to the Cambodian government on the status of the five detainees. The request has yet to be addressed.

Experts are concerned about a lack of transparency in the Cambodian legislature as well as conflicts between Cambodia’s political parties. In September 2016, a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern on this topic, noting that there is a high degree of intimidation and opposition between the country’s political groups.

Despite an international call for action, the Cambodian government has yet to respond and continues to detain the five human rights activists.

For more information, please see:

UN News Centre – Cambodia: UN experts call for immediate release of five human rights defenders – 25 January, 2017

JURIST – UN rights experts call for immediate release of 5 human rights defenders in Cambodia – 25 January, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Cambodia: Drop Farcical Investigation of Human Rights Defenders – 7 February, 2017

UN – International Convention on Civil and Political Rights – 19 December, 1966

Concerns Over China’s Labor Practices

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– China, the world’s biggest manufacturing powerhouse, has never had a strong reputation for its working conditions. China is able to offer competitive prices because it’s manufacturers cut back on other expenses, like worker’s benefits and quality work spaces.

Chinese couriers stand by a pile of packages out for delivery. Photo courtesy of: NY Times
Chinese couriers stand by a pile of packages out for delivery. Photo courtesy of: NY Times

China’s courier services have recently drawn attention in the international media. The world’s largest market for package delivery employs largely unskilled workers, and the job can be low-paying and difficult. Labor activists and legal experts are concerned that many couriers face harsh working conditions and unmanageable hours of employment. Almost one quarter of Beijing’s couriers work more than 12 hours each day, seven days a week, according to a survey conducted by Beijing Jiaotong University.

Most couriers make between $300 and $600 each month, a salary roughly equal to wages earned in China’s migrant factories. Chinese workers lack the right to organize their own worker’s unions. Instead, collective representation of workers falls under the sole authority of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, an organization of officials appointed by China’s communist party. This poses the concern that individuals have no remedy for grievances like low wages and poor working conditions.

Recently, China has showed some interest in expanding investments in Africa. Currently, China relies on Africa to supply a constant influx of natural resources to sustain its massive manufacturing industry. China, in turn, sells its manufactured products back to African states, builds infrastructure, and provides foreign direct investments. Critics of China’s policies in Africa are concerned that China is establishing itself as a colonial power. Human rights organizations are paying close attention to ensure that China’s labor practices, specifically the sate’s tendency to neglect labor rights, doesn’t carry over into the African labor sector.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – For Couriers, China’s E-Commerce Boom Can Be a Tough Road – 31 January, 2017

World Politics Review – China’s Complicated History With Workers’ Rights – 25 January, 2017

Harvard Political Review – China’s Investment in Africa: The New Colonialism? – 3 February, 2017

Financial Times – China labour unrest spreads to ‘new economy’ – 1 February, 2017 

Human Rights Watch Warns of Chinese Government Actions

By Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Human Rights Watch (HRW) released their annual rights report on January 12, 2017. The report outlines HRW’s concerns for human rights violations in Southeast Asia, voicing particular concern over Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia. The report discusses a continuation of limits on free speech, with increasing signs of state suppression and censorship in various countries. The report’s summary on China speaks of similar concerns.

The wife of a human rights lawyer stood outside the Tianjin court in protest of her husband's trial (2016). Photo courtesy of: AP Photo
The wife of a human rights lawyer stands outside the Tianjin court in protest of her husband’s trial (2016). Photo courtesy of: AP Photo

Human rights organizations have paid particular attention to China in light of the state’s nationwide sweep of rights lawyers and advocates in the summer of 2015. Xie Yang, a Chinese lawyer who was interrogated by the Chinese government, recently spoke out about his abuse while detained. Mr. Yang is one of about 250 individuals detained by the government on charges of subverting the one-party state. Though most individuals were released, the government’s use of torture against them shows that international and domestic mechanisms for preventing torture have not worked.

In early 2017, the Chinese government also began to regulate the operation of Non-Governmental Organizations within its borders.  In order to continue their work within China, foreign NGO’s must find government sponsors, register with the local police, and meet other requirements like submitting annual finance reports.  Chinese president Xi Jinping claims such foreign entities are undermining China’s domestic interests.

Critics of the new legislation are concerned that the “Law on Management of Domestic Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organizations” will hinder the efforts of nonprofits in fields such as human rights. Whether those concerns actually materialize remains to be seen.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Deteriorating Outlook for Human Rights in SE Asia – 13 January, 2017

Human Rights Watch – World Report 2017 – 12 January, 2017

New York Times – Punches, Kicks, and the ‘Dangling Chair’: Detainee Tells of Torture in China – 20 January 2017

Quartz – NGOs are under threat in China’s latest crackdown against “foreign forces” – 4 January, 2017

Hong Kong Free Press – Torture accusations as EU ambassador raises case of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang – 25 January, 2017 

 

China’s Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Missing Again

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – “President Obama, as the father of two girls yourself, please ask President Hu Jintao of China to tell this daughter where her father is…If the Chinese government has murdered my father, I beg President Obama to ask President Hu to let us bury him.” These are the desperate words from the daughter of China’s leading Human Rights attorney, whose profession has become another example of how China silences critics.

Human Rights attorney has become a case of chinese politics
Human Rights lawyer becomes a case of chinese politics

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mr. Gao hasn’t had the privilege of courts and jails but has simply disappeared, without any official word on the circumstances of what his family and most observers believe to be his detention by the government.

In 2009, in the article “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” which was published on the Internet, Gao Zhisheng described the atrocious torture inflicted on him by police during his imprisonment in 2007, including cruel beatings, shocking his gentiles with electric batons, damaging his eyes by blowing cigarette smoke into them for hours, inserting toothpicks into his penis, etc. Gao’s exposé shocked the international community. (Epoch Times)

The teenage daughter, Grace Geng, one of China’s most respected human rights advocates has pleaded to President Barack Obama for help finding answers to questions few can answer.

Grace Geng, her mother and brother finally fled China with her mother last year, and are now living in the United States.

In an open letter to the president, saying her father had been tortured and she too had been beaten by police and barred from going to school, 17 year-old Grace, wrote a letter published by the Wall Street Journal with the words: “Six months ago last week the Chinese government kidnapped my father. He was abducted for exercising his right to freedom of speech.”

In what has been five years of tracked oppression by the hands of the world’s leading economy, Gao Zhisheng, since: 2005: authorities have closed down Gao Zhisheng’s law practice; Dec 2006: Convicted of subversion and sentenced to house arrest; Sept 2007: Says he was tortured during a period of detention; Jan 2009: Disappears; last seen accompanied by security officials; Mar 2010: Reappeared for a month before disappearing again.

Accompanied by Beijing lawyers Teng Biao and Li Heping, Gao Zhisheng’s eldest brother Gao Zhiyi recently reported the case to Xiaoguan Police Station in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, but police refused to register the case or take a written statement. (BBC)

In an interview with Sound of Hope Radio Network, Li Heping said that communist authorities often illegally torture petitioners, political dissidents, and rights defenders. Citizens are arrested for seeking redress of grievances. Lawyers who defend them are also implicated and persecuted.

Mr. Gao’s circumstance alongside Liu Xiaobo’s, the jailed academic awarded the Nobel Peace Prize months ago, are patterns of the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing persecution of human rights defenders in China.

Li Heping worries that the Chinese people cannot do anything about the communist state’s illegal practices. “Another way to put it is that this is the regime’s scoundrel way. What can you do about it?” 

For more information, please see:

Wall Street Journal – Again, Where Is Gao Zhisheng? – 28 October 2010

BBC – Daughter pleads for missing China lawyer Gao Zhisheng – 28 October 2010

The Epoch Times – Beijing Police Refuse to Register Gao Zhisheng’s Missing Case – 24 October 2010

Vietnamese Bloggers Held Indefinitely for Government Critiques

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – In South Vietnam, the police arrested two bloggers in a new crackdown on public criticism against the state. The government’s politically motivated prosecutions of independent bloggers and critics of the government violates their rights guaranteed under international law and spotlights the country’s poor human rights record, Human Rights Watch said.

The current governing Communist Party is planning to hold its five-year congress in January, when party leaders will be selected in a secretive election process and will map the country’s course for the next five years. The “pre-Party Congress crackdown” have heightened their scrutiny and government critics are being targeted.

“The Vietnam government is shameless in constructing charges and rationales to keep peaceful critics like Dieu Cay behind bars,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. ”

It was the latest in a series of rights violations against politically-oriented bloggers, Human Rights watchdogs said.

“In a country where the state controls all traditional media outlets, independent bloggers have emerged as important sources of news, information, and social commentary,” Robertson said. “The government should embrace the key role that independent bloggers are playing in society instead of harassing and imprisoning them.”

“They’re just making it up as they go along,” he said.

“The Vietnam government is shameless in constructing charges and rationales to keep peaceful critics like Dieu Cay behind bars,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ”

Authorities submitted an unofficial statement saying Dieu Cay, the name for a traditional pipe, was being investigated under Penal Code Article 88, which covers “propaganda against the state”.

Dieu Cay is the founder of an independent group called the Club of Free Journalists. The tax charges were widely viewed as a pretext to muzzle his criticism of the government and its policy toward China. On October 18th, police in Ho Chi Minh City also arrested Phan Thanh Hai, another member of the group. Two other members, Ta Phong Tan and Uyen Vu, both bloggers, were placed under intrusive police surveillance at their homes. Police also briefly detained a democracy activist, Do Nam Hai, on October 19 according to the New York based Human Rights watch dogs.

Vietnam bans opposition political parties and independent media require all associations, religious groups and trade unions to come under government control.

The 17th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which begins on October 28th in Hanoi, provides an excellent opportunity for ASEAN heads of state and other governments to raise concerns about the persecution of government critics, Human Rights Watch said.

Dieu Cay, charged with tax evasion was sentenced to a 30 month jail sentence after inspiring people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City shortly before Beijing Olympics. Cay criticized China’s policies in Tibet and Vietnam’s handling of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

For more imformation, please see:

Human Rights Watch –Vietnam: Free Peaceful Bloggers and Government Critics – 22 October 2010

Qatar Tribune – Vietnam blogger’s jail-term ends, but yet to be freed – 26 October 2010 

GMA News – Vietnam arrests 2 bloggers over anti-govt remarks – 26 October 2010

1.3 Million Votes Corrupted in Afghan Elections

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch, Asia

In what was a pivotal test for Afghanistan’s inexperienced democracy spell business as usual. Recent evidence of fraud has presented the questionably elected President Karzai with a stained reputation.

Turnout was 40% amid widespread fraud and voter intimidation
Turnout was 40% amid widespread fraud and voter intimidation

After the devastating announcement on Monday that the Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission released of ballot-box stuffing and bribery have tainted the vote.

Meanwhile, the UN-backed Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission is investigating more than 4,000 formal complaints.

Since then 1.3 million votes of the total of 5.6 million ballots have been cancelled out because of fraud.  That means about 23 percent of the total votes were tossed out, the election commission said Wednesday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged to cut corruption and increase transparency after he was re-elected in August 2009 election that was later deemed fraudulent by the United Nations and other vote-monitoring organizations.

More than 220 candidates are being investigated for fraud in the election, turnout for which was around 40%.

More than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga. Sixty-eight seats have been set aside for women.

The current parliament is stacked with former warlords and power brokers, and many of the candidates in September’s election have ties to Afghanistan’s old elite.

Final results are not expected before the end of the month once poll investigators finish their work.

“Turnout is around 5,600,000, the valid vote is 4,265,347, and the invalid vote is around 1, 300, 000,” Fazil Ahmad Manawi, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said on Wednesday.

Deputy chief of election commission, Zekria Barikzai, cautioned that the number of votes thrown out was similar to the votes thrown out in the presidential election which cast Karzai the victor.  “In parliamentary election some of the powerful local people tried to influence the process,” Barikzai said.

Paul Wood, BBC News, said despite the throwing out of 1.3 million votes, there will probably be no rush by the international community to condemn the election.

Ultimately, the poll’s measure of success will be how it affects the stability of the country. There was widespread intimidation during the vote, with Taliban insurgents threatening people not to take part.

Many observers had hoped that the parliamentary elections would show the Afghan government’s commitment to reforming its corrupt bureaucracy.

“These elections will do little to alter Afghanistan’s system of patronage politics, and will certainly not alter the balance of power,” a Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The official said the parliamentary poll represented “politics as usual, just as corrupt and just as violent as last year”.

It is an outcome that NATO and the international community can live with and so these elections will no doubt be judged a success, said Wood.

Afghanistan lacks political parties and parliamentary blocs form according to ethnic or geographical alliances.

Despite weak parties, powerful patronage networks, and entrenched corruption, the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) acts as a check on the power of President Hamid Karzai.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera English –Afghan officials cancel 1.3m votes – 20 October 2010

BBC – Afghanistan rules 1.3m paralimentary votes are invalid – 20 October 2010

CNN World – More than 20 percent of vote thrown out in Afghan election – 20 October 2010

Commonwealth Games: Reported Child Labor Laws Broken in India

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India –“Not just kids playing in the dirt or using a hammer as a toy”, Harvard fellow and trafficking expert Siddharth Kara told Becky Anderson of CNN.

Children are working for as little as three dollars a day on Commonwealth Games construction sites in Delhi.
Children are working for as little as three dollars a day on Commonwealth Games construction sites in Delhi.

As the Commonwealth games approach, the Indian government has been marred by construction delays, corruption scandals, a fever outbreak due to sweltering temperatures, the failure of a footbridge near the main stadium and security concern after last weekend’s shooting where two tourists outside Delhi’s Jama Masjid mosque, reported John Coats of the BBC

New evidence has surfaced showing children from age seven being used in the preparation stage of building.

In the exclusive interview with CNN International, Harvard fellow and trafficking expert Siddharth Kara reported that child labor was a widespread and well known issue in New Delhi. He also stated that he tried numerous attempts to contact the Dehli department of labor, with no success.

In a few day of observation Kara documented 32 cases of forced labor and 14 cases of child labor, all for production interconnected with the Commonwealth Games.

Kara, a renowned expert on the subject of human trafficking, also outlined the harsh conditions these children were forced to work under. “The children I saw were the ones where I felt I had documented child labor — where children were working, picking up hammers, banging stones, paving entry ways and planting grass along the roads to beautify them, hours and hours at a time. I documented children aged seven, eight, nine, ten years old working alongside their families in this mad rush to get the construction completed.”

Kara reported that, “[t]he conditions are sub-human and that’s really the only word I can apply,”…”[t]hey live in the dirt, they go to the toilet behind bushes and trees …[t]he children, especially the young ones, don’t have a sense of what’s going on. They’re told to do the work and they just do the work. They don’t know that they should be in school or that they should be playing.” 

Several Indian unions have launched attacks against the government in effort to stop the dangerous labor practices done in preparation for the Games. Many of the same Indian unions have ruled out claims about child labor being used at the construction sites.

Based on government figures there is an estimated 13 million child laborers currently in India. Earlier this week Thursday, as part of an international commitment to eliminate child labor, India announced it had prepared a roadmap to eliminate the worst forms of “bonded labor, hazardous work, drugs, prostitution, trafficking by 2016”.

The Australian Olympic committee President John Coates, expressed on the Australian radio Friday that, “the Games shouldn’t have been awarded to New Dehi”. And due to an under resourced Federation, they don’t have the man power to monitor progress.

Athletes have withdrawn their Commonwealth participation because of health and safety concerns. Notable athletes include Australian world discus champion Dani Samuels and English world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu.

Delhi has had seven years to prepare, though very little work was done until 2008.

For more information, please see:

TIME – Let the Games Not Begin – 24 September 2010

CNN – Hard Evidence of Child Labor at 2010 Commonwealth Games – 24 September 2010

BBC – Games should not have gone to Delhi, says Australia – 24 September 2010

AFP- CGames: Child Labor Help ‘beautify’ Dehhi streets – 24 September 2010

Kashmir Protest Government Human Rights Violators

By David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SRINAGAR, India – Anti-India protesters continued to defy government imposed, round-the-clock curfews. Indian troops continue to fight Kashmiri protesters in street battles that claimed 91 this summer and left hundreds wounded, in the deadliest day in what has been a summer of violence challenging Indian rule in the disputed territory.

Kashmiri protesters run for cover as Indian policemen (not in picture) gave chase during an anti-India protest in Srinagar
Kashmiri protesters run for cover as Indian policemen (not in picture) gave chase during an anti-India protest in Srinagar

Top separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, called for sit-ins outside Indian army garrisons across the Himalayan region of Kashmir. “Peaceful sit-ins should be held outside the army camps to remind the troopers that they should stop human rights violations and leave Kashmir,” according to reporters at his home in Srinagar on Thursday.

On the same day, nine militants were killed in gun battles with the Indian military in the small town of Tral and in the frontier of Gurez.

As reports of the Quran “desecration in the United States, angers intensified, with activists chanting ‘Down with America’ and burning an effigy of President Barack Obama in a rare anti-U.S. protest”.

The outbreak of Monday’s violence came as Indian officials discussed “whether to make goodwill gestures to try to ease tensions in the war-wracked region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and fully claimed by both”.

The violence Kashmir faces has been common since armed Kashmiri insurgency erupted against Indian rule in 1989, but with the recurrence of over a hundred deaths, reports confirm this summer’s violence the worst in a decade.

Since 1989, a violent, separatist insurgency and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people.

“The separatists are indeed misleading the ordinary masses and trying to create a wedge between the army and the people for its vested interests,” defense spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar said at a news conference. “This is a deliberate attempt to embroil the army in the ongoing agitation and distract it from its primary role.”

Analysts see recent protests as the prevalent challenge to Indian rule in Kashmir for 20 years. Correspondents have agreed that sit-ins could pose unforeseen challenges to security forces struggling to restore order.

On Wednesday, “Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired an all-party meeting over continuing violence in Kashmir and the separatist leaders dismissed the gathering as a public relations ploy”.

In the past three summers, predominantly Muslim demonstrators have filled the streets, throwing stones and demanding “that the Himalayan region be given independence from Hindu-dominated India or be allowed to merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan”.

A doctor at Srinagar’s main hospital is said to have received 25 or more wounded citizens with bullet wounds in recent weeks. He agreed to speak under strict conditions of anonymity because the government barred health officials from conversations with the press.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani said “lifting the security laws would not satisfy Kashmiris. ‘We want end to Indian occupation here and have already laid out our proposal for initiating a dialogue”.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Separatist leader calls for sit-ins at Indian posts across Kashmir – 16 September 2010
Huffington Post – Kashmir Protests Leave 15 Dead, 45 Wounded – 13 September 2010
BBC –Two die as Kashmiri protesters defy curfew – 17 September 2010

50 Dead: Pakistan’s Holiest Shrine turned Murder Scene

David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch Reporter; Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The death toll climbed to 50 on Friday after a pair of suicide bombers detonated their explosive vests at one of Pakistan’s holiest shrines, police said.  Police are on high alert in Pakistan as demands grow for a tougher crackdown on armed religious groups in the central Punjab province after bombers targeted a popular Muslim shrine.

Sufi shrine of Data Darbar mosque, Lahore Pakistan where thousands visit daily
Sufi shrine of Data Darbar mosque, Lahore Pakistan where thousands visit daily

The targeted shrine was that of an 11th century Sufi saint, Ali bin Usman, commonly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, who traveled throughout the region spreading Islam with a message of peace and love.  His shrine is the most revered and popular of Sufi shrines in the nation.

More than 200 people were injured in the blasts outside the Data Darbar, a famous Sufi shrine complex.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed alarm over the attacks and called on both the government and Muslim clerics to stand up to extremism.

Security has been tightened at Sufi shrines across the country, but many Pakistanis, already frustrated by a troubled economy and crippling power cuts, are calling for the resignation of Punjab government officials.

About 2,000 people, some armed, staged protests in Lahore on Friday, shouting “Down with Shahbaz Sharif”, the chief minister of Punjab

“This sickening poison of extremism will be driven out of our nation and we will not be cowed,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari, in a text message to CNN.

“Peaceful worshippers have once again been targeted by those who want to destroy the fabric of this great country.  We will not forgive or forget and we will get justice for all Pakistanis murdered in cold blood — be they Muslim, Christian, Ahmadi or of any other faith.”

Talat Masood, a defence analyst and former Pakistan military officer, said Taliban-linked groups are exploiting the uncertainty over the government’s response to such attacks.

“At the moment there is lukewarm support from the people, and the people have no confidence in the government and their governance,” he told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“America is killing Muslims in Afghanistan and in our tribal areas, and militants are attacking Pakistan to express anger against the government for supporting America,” explained Zahid Umar, 25, a frequent visitor to the Lahore shrine.

For more information, please see: 

Al Jazeera English – Pakistan on alert after shrine raid – 2 July 2010

CNN World – Explosions at famous shrine in Pakistan kill dozens – 2 July 2010

The Huffington Post – Pakistanis Blame U.S. After Shrine Suicide Attack Kills 42 – 2 July 2010

Afghan Tribal Leader Killed By Blast

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Aghanistan– A suicide bomber has killed an influential Afghan tribal chief in eastern Nangarhar province, officials say.  In addition 14 other people were killed.

During the Afghan civil war in the 1990s, Mohammad Haji Zaman was a powerful mujahideen warlord.  He led tribal forces in the Tora Bora region during the 2001 US-led Afghan invasion but is suspected of allowing al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden to flee.  No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.  Mohammad Haji Zaman, also known as Haji Zaman Gamsurek, was addressing a gathering of refugees in the Khogyani district of Nangarhar when the blast went off.

Police official Col Abdul Ghafour told the AFP news agency the suicide bomber set off his explosives after approaching a group of tribal elders at the gathering.  The attack in the eastern province of Nangargar occurred when provincial authorities were distributing land titles to poor people in the Dashte Chimtala area.  General Ayoub Salangi, the provincial police chief, said  “The attack killed 15 people and around 15 others were injured.”

Mohammad Haji Zaman has been living in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, only recently returning to Afghanistan.

The wounded in Monday’s attack included Abdul Rahman Shams, the chief of the refugee department in the province.  It was not known who was the prime target of the attack.  Taliban spokesman were not immediately available for comment.  Also in the eastern region, NATO said Monday that their forces killed four insurgents and injured five others after the militants attacked their joint patrol with Afghan forces in Taqab district of north-eastern province of Kapisa.

There were no casualties among the combined forces on Monday;s firefight, the alliance said in a statement.

Chris Morris of the BBC says that Nangarhar is a province that, under the guidance of local tribal leaders, had become more peaceful in recent months.  But it is on the border with Pakistan, an important target for militants wishing to smuggle arms.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Suicide Blast Kills Afghan Tribal Chief in Nangarhar– 22 February 2010

M&C News- Suicide Attack Kills 15 Afghans including Tribal Leader-22 February 2010

ABC News- Tribal Elders Killed In Suicide Blast-23 February 2010


Detained Publisher is Freed

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka- A court in Sri Lanka has released the Tamil publisher of a monthly magazine after he was detained in March 2008 under anti-terrorism laws.

Vetribel Jaseeharan, a publisher for North Eastern Monthly, and his wife Vadivel Valarmathi, were charged with conspiracy to discredit the government.  He and his wife were detained for articles they published in their magazine.  They were acquitted of all charges.  

The judge stated that a confession where Jaseeharan admitted to supporting the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels was gained while under duress and that the medical records presented showed signs he had been tortured.  A court official said, “The attorney general withdrew the charges as the judge noted that the confession was not made voluntarily.”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were a rebel group in Sri Lanka who had been fighting the government for the last two decades, with armed uprising beginning in 1983.  Government troops finally defeated the Tamil Tigers in May, when the Tigers finally laid down their guns, ending a long civil war.  International press groups however, say that Sri Lankan Journalists are still burdened with major restrictions on reporting. 

J.S. Tissainayagam, a reporter for the North Eastern Monthly, and the man who wrote the two articles which Jaseeharan and his wife published, was in August sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The found him guilty of “causing communal disharmony”, “racial hatred” and raising money for “terrorism” through his writings about the victimized Tamils during the war.  The international Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest organization of journalists condemned the judgment, which in addition sentenced Tissainayagam to hard labor while in prison. 

The court stated that the only offense of Jaseeharan was to publish the articles written by Tissainayagam.  

Several Sri Lankan reporters have been killed in recent years by unidentified groups.  Lasantha Wickrematunga, a leading anti-establishment editor was among the many victims, he was shot dead near his office.  Government figures show that nine journalists were killed and another 27 assaulted in the past three years, with activists stating that more than a dozen journalists have been killed.

For information, please see:

International New 24/7- Tamil Reporter Jailed for 20 Years on Terror Charges – 31 August 2009

BBC NEWS- Detained Tamil Publisher is Freed  – 26 October 2009

Khaleej Times- Sri Lanka Frees Publisher Held for 19 Months – 26 October 2009

The Peninsula- Colombo Frees Publisher Held for 19 Months -27 October 2009

Global Security.Org- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam