New Report Details Torture by Police in Egypt

By: Adam King
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Photo Courtesy of CNN.

CAIRO, Egypt – A new report by Human Rights Watch released  September 6, 2017 claims to shed light on a culture of torture by Egyptian police and national security forces. The report is based on interviews from multiple detainees who were interned by Egyptian police and security forces between 2014 and 2016. According to the report:

“Of the 20 cases documented by Human Rights Watch, 13 detainees were tortured in National Security offices, five in police stations, and two in both places. Six men were tortured at the National Security Agency headquarters inside the Interior Ministry near Cairo’s Lazoghly Square, a place where detainees have alleged torture for decades. In five cases, security officers used torture to force suspects to read prewritten confessions on video, which the Interior Ministry then sometimes published on social media channels.”

The report claims that detainees were subjected to harsh torture tactics such as electric shock, awkward hanging positions and threats of physical violence.  The torture could last hours on some occasions with numerous techniques being utilized interchangeably. One detainee even claims to have been raped on multiple occasions by police officers with foreign objects.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi obtained the presidency of Egypt in 2013 following a military coup of then President Mohammed Morsi. President el-Sisi continues to face accusations of rampant torture at the hands of police and security forces since taking the presidency. The report also claims that some of the deplorable techniques that characterize the reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have be reinstituted and even expanded in some instances.

Human Rights Watch is not the only organization to focus on allegations of torture in Egypt at the hands of police and security forces. The United Nations reached similar conclusions in its own report in May of 2017, “Torture appears to occur particularly frequently following arbitrary arrests and is often carried out to obtain a confession or to punish and threaten political dissenters.” 

The UN also opined that attempts at detainees to make their cases known and to seek redress against the harms have not been met with adequate procedural recourse:

“[P]rosecutors, judges and prison officials also facilitate torture by failing to curb practices of torture, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment or to act on complaints…In the view of the Committee, all the above lead to the inescapable conclusion that torture is a systematic practice in Egypt.”

Egyptian officials rebuke the claims of Human Rights Watch and, according to Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid, are indicative of “a new episode in a series of deliberate defamation by such organization, whose politicized agenda and biases are well known and reflect the interests of the entities and countries sponsoring it.”

The Egyptian Government has since blocked the Human Rights Watch website as of September 7, 2017, bringing the grand total of blogs and news websites blocked to 424.  

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Egypt blocks Human Rights Watch website – 8 September 2017

CNN – Report: Egypt police security forces ‘routinely torture political detainees – 7 September 2017

Human Rights Watch – “We Do Unreasonable Things Here” Torture and National Security al-Sisi’s Egypt – 5 September 2017

United Nations – Summary from Committee Against Torture – 12 May 2017 

The New York Times – Army Ousts Egypt’s President; Morsi Is Taken Into Military Custody – 3 July 2013 

Brazil’s Labor Minister Faces Corruption Allegations

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil —  Brazil’s labor minister, Carlos Lupi, now joins a list of six other cabinet-level officials in President Dilma Rousseff’s government with corruption allegations since she first took office in January. Reports by Veja magazine are alleging that Lupi and some of his top aids have received numerous kickbacks by private organization with government contracts. Veja cited unidentified law makers and officials in its report.

Brazil Labor Minister Faces Corruption Allegations
Brazil's labor minister faces corruption allegations. (Photo Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal).

After the allegations came out over the weekend, Lupi has come under pressure by leaders of two of the opposition parties in the lower house of the Brazilian congress to quit. Although the ministry has declined to formally comment, a note on the ministry’s web site states that Lupi denies the allegations and is calling for an investigation by the federal police into the report findings.

“I can’t permit my 30 years of public service to be dragged through the mud by cowards who hide behind anonymity in the pages of a magazine,” Lupi quotes in a note on the ministry web site.

Since the allegations, Lupi has fired one of his advisers. His party, the center-left PDT party, is planning to hold a meeting on Tuesday to go over the allegations against him and listen to his explanations.

Several of the scandals that surrounded six other cabinet-level officials in Rousseff’s government this year have ended with the eventual withdrawal of support by Rousseff and the resignation of the accused cabinet-level official. Several of them also initially denied the accusations.

The last official to quit was Sports Minister Orlando Silva. He was also accused by the media of receiving kickbacks from public contracts with private companies. Silva initially denied the accusations but then resigned in October, two weeks after the first allegation.

Brazil loses up to 2.3 percent of its annual economic output due to corruption. Rousseff, from the leftist Workers’Party, however, appears to be riding the anti-corruption wave recently; working hard to combat corruption in the capital Brasilia. Last month, she suspended federal government payments to private groups that have been under suspicion of giving kickbacks to government officials.

According to Claudio Weber Abramo, the president of corruption watchdog Transparency Brazil, Rousseff’s government is being more aggressive with its fight against corruption compared to Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula. “The government is taking a more vigorous approach in relation to its allies in ministries … It is saying to them: ‘We are watching you more closely’,” Abramo said.

Rousseff’s office has declined to comment on the latest accusations against Lupi.

 

For further information, please see:

MercoPress – Rousseff Could See Another Minister Out: Labour Accused of Corruption – 07 November 2011

Reuters – Brazil’s Rousseff Rides Anti-Graft Wave – For Now – 07 November 2011

Reuters – Brazil Labor Minister Latest to Feel Scandal Heat – 07 November 2011

The Wall Street Journal – Brazil Labor Minister Faces Corruption Allegations – 07 November 2011

 

Second Brazilian official resigns this month after accusations of corruption

By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — The transportation minister of Brazil, Alfredo Nascimento, resigned on Wednesday after corruption allegations appeared in the Brazilian news magazine, Veja, earlier that week. According to Veja, Nascimento used his position of power to solicit bribes and transfer payments from federal infrastructure contracts to his own political party.

Alfredo Nascimento denies any wrongdoing. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News).
Alfredo Nascimento denies any wrongdoing. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News).

O Globo, another Brazilian newspaper, also accused Nascimento of using his ties to enrich his son’s construction company which suspiciously grew in wealth from $38,500 to $32 million in only five years. O Globo attributed the rapid growth to contracts the company had reached with public entities, including a contract in particular which was directly tied to his father’s Transportation Ministry.

Nascimento, however, denies the accusations and remains that he has not done anything illegal. Nascimento stated that he hopes to clarify everything on Tuesday when he appears in front of the Senate.  In the meantime, he states that he will remain cooperative with the Attorney General’s investigation, allowing investigators access to all his personal financial data.

Nascimento is the second minister of President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet to quit this month.  Antonio Palocci, Rousseff’s chief of staff, resigned earlier this month after questions arose over his rapidly increasing wealth.  Palocci also denied any wrongdoing.

President Rousseff’s reaction to these recent scandals has taken both criticism and praise from the public.  Some people are beginning to question her ability to handle her own coalition. Others, however, are praising her willingness to question her own ministers’ spending and believe the departure of the corrupt officials will give her administration a much needed fresh start.

Reports show that both Nascimento and Palocci served in the same post under Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva. Lula’s administration, albeit successful in stimulating the Brazilian economy, was constantly under scrutiny for apparent corruption within the administration.

David Fleischer, a political science professor at Brasilia University, is satisfied with Rousseff’s stance against corruption. “She is gradually reducing the number of Lulalistas that he imposed on her,” he says. “She is branding her own government rather than making this a third term for Lula.”

For more information, please see:

NY Times – 2nd Brazilian Official Quits in Graft Case, Giving New Leader a Chance to Clean House – 9 July 2011

BBC News – Brazil’s transport minister quits in corruption scandal – 7 July 2011

International Business Times – Brazil’s Transport Minister Quits Amidst Corruption Probe – 7 July 2011

National Turk – Brazilian President Aims Fire at Corruption – 4 July 2011

Albanian Opposition Rallies, Demands Resignation of PM Over Corruption Allegations

Albanian opposition members protest corruption of ruling government party.
Albanian opposition members protest corruption of ruling government party. Photo courtesy of AFP.

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

TIRANA, Albania — Tens of thousands of opposition protesters marched through Tirana on Friday, demanding the current government of Albania resign over allegations of corruption. This peaceful protest occurred almost a month after a similar protest turned into a riot and resulted in the death of four demonstrators.

Members of the opposition planned the demonstration in an effort to force Prime Minister Sali Berisha to resign and to hold an early election because of allegations of corruption and vote-rigging in the 2009 general election. Estimates of the size of the protest differ greatly, with opposition estimates at 200,000 people and police estimates at 7,000. People filled the main boulevard in Tirana, some shouting “Sali go” and “Prime Minister you are a murderer” and holding signs that said things like “Justice” and “We want early elections.” The demonstration ended outside of government headquarters, which was surrounded by dozens of police in riot gear.

Recent rallies have been in response to the publication of a video which alleges government ministers have been organizing corrupt deals. That scandal resulted in the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta. Parliament lifted his immunity from criminal prosecution on Wednesday, and prosecutors are expected to file corruption charges soon. Tensions between the ruling party and the opposition Socialist party have been high since the resignation of Meta and the protest last month that left four demonstrators dead, and involved sticks, stones, and Molotov cocktails from demonstrators and tear gas, water canons, and live ammunition from the police.

In response to the opposition protest on Friday and to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism in Albania, the Albanian government held a rally to show its strength on Sunday. The rally was held at a central square in Tirana during an open-air concert. Prime Minister Sali Berish spoke at the rally, assuring the crowd of tens of thousands of supporters that “no one will come to power through violence.”

Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, is a member of NATO and is currently seeking to join the European Union. However, the EU has stated that Albania has not done enough to cure government corruption. Both the EU and US. officials have urged restraint on both Berisha’s government and opposition forces.

“We are the only hope to give an end to the injustice and give Albania a fair governance,” Socialist leader Edi Rama said in a speech to protesters on Friday. “We do not want to come to power through demonstrations but we shall keep on demonstrating to oust this government. Here are the people asking for fresh, free and fair elections.”

For more information, please see:

AFP — Albania marks 20 years after communism — 20 Feb. 2011

AP — Albanian ex-PM loses immunity, can be investigated — 19 Feb. 2011

AFP — Tens of thousands in anti-government protest in Tirana — 19 Feb. 2011

AP — Albanians hold new anti-government protest — 18 Feb. 2011

ALBANIAN ECONOMY — Albania Opposition Plans “Anti-Mubarak” Style Rally — 18 Feb. 2011

UN Accuses Japan of Violating Activists’ Human Rights

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW YORK, United States – According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Japanese government has violated a series of human rights by detaining Greenpeace activists who uncovered corruption in the Japanese’s government’s whaling program.

While investing corruption allegations regarding Japan’s whaling program, two Japanese men, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, learned that although the program is referred to as a “scientific research,” boxes of whale meat were being shipped to whaling crews’ homes and then sold for personal profit.

Sato and Suzuki reported the embezzlement to the Japanese authorities.  Soon afterwards, the two men were arrested for theft and trespassing and were detained for a month.  Their trial is set to begin next Monday, and both men face up to ten years in prison.

The UN claims that the detention violates international covenants on human rights.  The UNHRC concluded that “[t]he rights of these two environmental activists not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty…freedom of…expression…as well as their right to engage in peaceful activities without intimidation and harassment has not been respected by the [Japanese] [j]ustice system.”

Specifically, UNHRC stated that Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political (ICCP) rights have been violated.  Japan is a party to both the UDHR and the ICCP.

Sato and Suzuki were detained without charge for 23 days, denied access to a lawyer, and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day while being tied to a chair.

Head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, said that the Japanese prime minister should order a re-examination of the allegations made against Suzuki and Sato.

Sato said, “We were investigating the corruption in the whaling industry that is funded by taxpayer’s money.  So we wanted to show the real face of the whaling industry, how corrupt this industry is, to the Japanese public.”

The stakes are high for both Sato and Suzuki being that Japan has a 99.8% conviction rates for criminal cases.  However, their lawyer said that they do have a strong argument since research activities done by NGO members based on whistleblower evidence are given the same degree of freedom and rights as activities done by investigative journalists.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Anti-whaling activists to front court – 8 February 2010

Common Dreams – United Nations: Japanese Authorities Breached Human Rights of Greenpeace Anti-Whaling Activists – 9 February 2010

The Huffington Post – UN: Japanese Authorities Breached Human Rights of Greenpeace Anti-Whaling Activists – 8 February 2010

TreeHugger – UN Says Japan Violated Anti-Whaling Activist’s Human Rights – 10 February 2010

UPDATE: Tonga’s People’s Rep is Cleared of Riot-Related Crimes; PNG Accused of Ignoring Government Minister’s Corruption Charges; UPDATE: Minister Urges PNG to Develop Plan for Refugees

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga — The number two people’s representative in Tonga, who was charged with crimes relating to the November 2006 riots, has been cleared of those charges.

Tonga’s April elections had been the first since 2006, when the pro-democracy movement turned violent, causing the death of eight and destroying Tonga’s capital city, Nuku’alofa. The riots erupted after the Legislative Assembly of Tonga adjourned for the year without employing promised reforms. Five of the six newly elected candidates faced criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the riots.

Isi Pulu was the first of the people’s representatives to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the riots.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Tonga’s number two People’s Rep cleared on riot-related charges — 14 July 2008

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — The PNG government is under pressure for allegedly ignoring reports that a government minister took 40 million US dollars from logging deals.

Since 2002, a Senior Minister in the PNG government, who remains unnamed, allegedly took 2.1 per cent of each log exported out of the country. The Post Courier, a PNG newspaper, reported that the money was kept in two Singapore accounts and managed by a consortium.

Bart Philemon, PNG’s deputy opposition leader, believes the government has chosen to ignore the issue:

“The government has been reluctant to deal directly with a lot of these issues. Like any other issues that have come up, it would appear that the government takes a non-active involvement in trying to find out whether there’s substance to some of these allegations or not.”

A public petition is currently circulating which calls on the Prime Minister to make inquiries into the corruption allegations.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand — PNG govt under pressure to investigate corruption allegations — 14 July 2008

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — A senior minister in Papua New Guinea (PNG) told Parliament last week that the country has no clear plan to deal with refugees currently squatting in the country.

Foreign affairs, Immigrations, and Trade minister, Sam Abal, has announced the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is responsible for deciding whether refugees in PNG should be resettled. The question is whether the refugees prefer to remain in PNG or move to a third country.

Some refugees are uncertain as to whether, after 30 years of living in PNG, they have the same rights as Papua New Guineans, or whether they will only become permissive residents. Mr. Abel says that residents are subsequently confused about their status because of the government’s lack of a clear policy.

Mr. Abel maintains that all refugees currently squatting in Port Moresby have the right to apply for citizenship.

For more information, please see:

The National/ PacNews — No clear policy on West Papuans –Abal — 14 July 2008

BRIEF: Tension in Nigeria’s House

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s House of Representatives erupted in chaos on Wednesday during a parliamentary session to debate corruption allegations against the Speaker, Patricia Etteh.  Ettech is accused of irregularities in spending US $5 million of government money to buy 12 cars and renovate 2 official residences.  Members of Parliament traded blows and one later died of a heart attack.

Etteh was held captive on the floor of the House yesterday for several hours.  A group of those opposed to the Speaker, the Integrity Group, held her hostage insisting that they could not adjourn until she stepped down.

This issues is seen as a test for newly elected President Umaru Yar’Adua, who vowed to stamp out corruption.  Nigeria has vast oil resources, but has been torn apart by corruption, poverty, and lack of development.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Nigeria lawmakers throw punches during corruption row – 17 October 2007

AllAfrica.com – Nigeria: Etteh Held Hostage – 17 October 2007

VOA News – Nigeria’s National Assembly Continues Debate on Controversial Contract Awards – 17 October 2007