United Nations Report Alleges Human Rights Violations in Southeastern Turkey

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — On Friday, March 10th, the United Nations Human Rights Office released a report alleging detailed depictions of mass destruction, killings and other human rights offenses committed in Southeast Turkey from July 2015 through December 2016.

Between 355,000 and 500,000 people were displaced, and more than thirty towns and “entire neighborhoods” were destroyed because of the clashes (Photo courtesy of UN News Centre)

The United Nations (“UN”) report accused Turkish security forces of violating Kurdish fighters’ human rights in the southeastern part of the country. The violations allegedly took place after a 2013 ceasefire declared between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (“PKK”) broke down. Since the end of the truce in the summer of 2015, Turkey and the PKK have been “engaged in escalating clashes.”

The UN revealed that the findings in its report were based on “remote monitoring,” namely interviews, official records, public documents, satellite images, and analysis of information provided by the Turkish government and NGOs.

The report stated that approximately 2,000 people were killed in Southeast Turkey during the specified period. The number of local residents killed was nearly 1,200. The report went on to state that of that 1,200, an unknown number may have “been involved in violent or non-violent actions against” Turkey. The UN further indicated that an additional 800 individuals belonging to security forces were killed during fighting. The report also stated that between 355,000 and 500,000 people were displaced, and more than thirty towns and “entire neighborhoods” were destroyed because of the clashes.

The UN indicated that a majority of the human rights violations took place during “unannounced, open-ended, 24-hour curfews” instigated by Turkish authorities. Satellite images referenced in the report further revealed that houses in residential areas were destroyed by “heavy weaponry[.]” The report revealed that up to 189 individuals had been trapped in basements for several weeks without food, water, medication or electricity. They were later “killed by fire induced by shelling.”

The Human Rights Chief of the UN, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, noted that Turkey denied access to investigators and “contested the veracity” of the allegations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the report after stating it was “biased, based on false information and far from professional.” The Foreign Ministry indicated that the country remains committed to sharing information regarding anti-terrorism activities with its partners. A parliament member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Mr. Taha Ozhan, stated that the PKK was responsible for the negative findings referenced in the report due to its decision to move the combat zone from rural to urban areas.

For more information, please see:

Reuters—U.N. documents human rights violations in southeast Turkey—10 March 2017

UN News Centre—Turkey: UN report details allegations of serious rights violations in country’s southeast—10 March 2017

AlJazeera—UN accuses Turkey of abuses in country’s southeast—11 March 2017

Daily Sabah—Turkey slams UN human rights body for ‘biased’ report on counter-terror operations—10 March 2017

The New York Times—U.N. Accuses Turkey of Killing Hundreds of Kurds—10 March 2017

 

Ecuador Set To Try Human Rights Violations, Postpones Start Date

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador will try five former military officers and an ex-police officer on charges of crimes against humanity. This is the first trial of its kind in Ecuador.

The trial, which was to begin on November 9 in front of the National Court of Justice, was postponed after one of the accused fell ill. Javier Arregui, legal counsel for accused Mario Apolo presented the court with a medical certificate stating that Apolo suffered health issues that prevented him from attending the preocedings.  The trial start was rescheduled, but the start date was not released.

Cordero-era victim Susana Cajas. (Photo courtesy of Latin American News Dispatch).

Ecuador’s Attorney General Galo Chiriboga said of the delay, “the logical thing would have been to begun the trial, and wait on a reaction by the hospital to know when the officer could be available.”

The charges surround alleged human rights violations committed against Luis Vaca, Susana Cajas and Javier Jarrin. All three were members of Alfaro Vive Carajo, a leftist guerilla group, active during the 1980s. The violations were reported to have occurred between 1985 and 1988, during the presidency of Leon Febres Cordero.

The defendants are accused of subjecting Vaca, Cajas and Jarrin to physical and psychological torture, as well as sexual abuse. The three were forcibly disappeared in 1985. Cajas and Jarrin were released after 15 days in detention, while Vaca remained detained for three years.

The detentions were confirmed in a statement by Ecuador’s fiscal general of state.

The trial will hear from 69 witnesses, 11 expert testimonials, and review more than 70 documents related to the incident.

The trial is the result of the Truth Commission launched by current President Rafael Correra in 2007 to look into allegations of rights abuses under the Cordero administration.

The victims and their families are hopeful for justice after almost 30 years of impunity.

 

For more information, please see:

TeleSur – Truth, Justice and Repatriation in Ecuador for Human Rights Day – 14 December 2014

La Republica – Ecuador celebrará juicio por crímenes de lesa humanidad denunciados por Alfaro Vive – 6 November 2015

La Hora – Militares retirados respaldan a procesados – 7 November 2015

Fiscalía General del Estado – El caso ‘Vaca, Cajas, Jarrín’, por lesa humanidad, cumple 30 años de impunidad – 9 November 2015

International Business Times – First Ecuador Human Rights Trial Begins for Crimes Against Humanity in Alleged 1980s Abuses – 9 November 2015

Latin America News Dispatch – Ecuador Proceeds with Historic Rights Abuse Case Against Former Officers – 9 November 2015

TeleSur – UPDATE: Trial in Ecuador for Crimes Against Humanity Postponed – 9 November 2015

 

Uruguay Jails Active Military Official For 1974 Murder

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – For the first time in history, Uruguay has imprisoned an active military official for human rights violations committed during the country’s 1973-85 dictatorship.

Nibia Sabalsagaray, allegedly murdered by General Miguel Dalmao in 1974 (photo courtesy of http://fronteraincierta.blogspot.com/)
Nibia Sabalsagaray, allegedly murdered by General Miguel Dalmao in 1974 (photo courtesy of http://fronteraincierta.blogspot.com/)

On Monday, General Miguel Dalmao was jailed for Nibia Sabalsagaray’s 1974 murder.  Sabalsagaray, a communist, was found hung in a prison cell after Dalmao had detained her.  If convicted, Dalmao may face 30 years in prison.  Col. Jose Chialanza was also jailed in connection with Sabalsagaray’s murder.

Sabalsagaray was found hanged in her cell shortly after being captured by Uruguayan military officers. At the time Sabalsagaray was detained, Chialanza was a battalion commander and Dalmao was a lieutenant in charge of gathering intelligence on individuals who were suspected of subversion.

Dalmao and Chialanza both claim that Sabalsagaray hanged herself.  However, Prosecutor Mirtha Guianze and lawyers for Sabalsagaray’s family presented evidence that they claim rules out the possibility of suicide.

Dalmao, who currently commands the Uruguayan army’s 4th Division, has repeatedly and steadfastly asserted his innocence.  Uruguay’s top army general, Jorge Rosales, has also publically supported Dalmao’s claims of innocence.  Nevertheless, the Uruguayan military has not issued any statements since Dalmao was officially imprisoned.

Uruguay Supreme Court’s recent ruling, declaring unconstitutional a law which made it easier for those alleged to have committed human rights violation during the dictatorship to achieve amnesty, may pave the way for not only Dalmao and Chialanza, but many others, to serve jail time for their violations.

To this point, a dozen Uruguayan military officials have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity, but all were committed outside Uruguay.  The court’s decision makes available the possibility that additional human rights violators within the country will be sought out and prosecuted.

Dalmao will remain jailed throughout the appeals process; the process will likely take several months.

For more information, please see:

The Argentina Independent – Uruguay: Military Dictatorship Crime Prosecutions – 9 November 2010

The Canadian Press – Active Uruguayan general imprisoned for aggravated murder in 1974 death of political prisoner – 8 November 2010

Kansascity.com – Active Uruguayan general imprisoned in 1974 murder – 8 November 2010

Canadian Courts Refuse Refugee Claim of Rwandan Ambassador

By William Miller

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – A Canadian federal court refused to give former Rwandan ambassador to Canada Maximin Segasayo a hearing to determine whether he was complicit in war crimes on Thursday, February 18, 2010. The court held that Segasayo could not receive a hearing because he was a senior official and was presumed to be complicit.

Segasayo came to Canada in 1991 to serve as Rwanda’s ambassador to Canada. He served in that position until 1995 when Rwanda ordered him to return. Segasayo refused to return and was granted refugee status in Canada.

In 1998 Canada declared that the Rwandan government had “engaged in gross human rights violation, genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity” during the 1994 genocide. During the genocide, members of the Hutu tribe killed 800,000 members of the Tutsis tribe. The genocide ended when a rebel group overthrew the Hutu controlled government and seized control of Rwanda.

Seqasayo was denied status as a landed immigrant in 1998 because he was a senior member of the Hutu tribe. The Canadian government has been trying to deport him ever since.

On Thursday, Federal Judge Sean Harrington found that Segasayo was not entitled to a federal hearing because there was an irrebuttable presumption that senior officials in a regime were complicit in war crimes. As a result, Segasayo a senior member of the Hutu tribe was not eligible for a hearing to determine if he was complicit in the war crimes.

The judge also held that the case was not ripe for adjudication in court because Segasayo had not yet exhausted all avenues of appeal.

This is the third time Segasayo has lost in federal court during his twelve year fight to stay in Canada. During that time he has also sought a ministerial exemption stating that he was not implicit in any of the atrocities that took place during the Rwandan genocide. An attempt to obtain refugee status from the immigration board claiming that as a member of the Hutu tribe he would be subjected to persecution if returned to Tutsis controlled Rwanda.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Canadian Court Denies Rwandan Envoy’s Refugee Bid – 19 February 2010

Montreal Gazette – Former Diplomat Loses Fight to Stay – 19 February 2010

Ottawa Citizen – Former Rwandan Ambassador Loses Key Court Fight to Stay In Canada – 18 February 2010

Iran to Execute Two Sisters by Stoning

y Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – Two sisters are facing execution by stoning for adultery in Iran. On Thursday, Amnesty International called on the authorities to commute the sentences immediately, while both the EU and the US have already expressed their disapproval of Iran’s apparent human rights violation.

Iranian police arrested the two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat, in February 2007 after Zohreh’s husband filed a complaint against her, her sisters, Azar’s husband, and another man. Zohreh’s husband claimed that they had ‘illicit relations’ and submitted as evidence video footage from a camera he had secretly installed in his house.

In March 2007, An Iranian court sentenced the five to flogging for “having illicit relations.” Zohreh also received five years’ imprisonment for forming ‘a center of corruption.’ But after the sentence was carried out, fresh charges of “committing adultery while being married” were brought against Zohreh and Azar mere three months later. A court found both sisters guilty and they were sentenced to death by stoning.

A new lawyer representing the sisters believes the trial was unfair. “The case has fundamental problems, since a person can not be tried twice for the same crime. Yet these two sisters have been tried twice in the same case, and two sentences have been issued for them,” he said. Furthermore, the prosecution was unable to satisfy the circumstances that are required to prove adultery under the Iranian law – confession by the accused on four different occasions that can be corroborated by the testimony of four eyewitnesses to the alleged crime.

As local and international clamor to halt execution by stoning became louder, both the EU and the US have expressed their concerns on Iran’s current human rights record. The EU was particularly “dismayed” that Iran is again carrying out execution by stoning despite the moratorium ordered by the Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi in December 2002. The US was also concerned that Iran has already executed at least 36 people since January of this year.

Iran regime’s ambassador, however, criticized the reports on abysmal record of human rights violations in Iran and called on the rights groups to respect such inhuman punishments as “local traditions.” “Our laws establish that we amputate a hand of those who steal. It is not accepted in the West, but local customs must be respected,” he said.

For more information, please see:

NCRI – Iran regime’s ambassador defends amputation and hanging – 9 February 2008

The Times of India – US concerned at upsurge of executions in Iran – 7 February 2008

M & C News – EU “dismayed” by human rights violation in Iran – 7 February 2008

Amnesty International – Two sisters face execution by stoning – 7 February 2008

Human Rights Watch – Judiciary must prevent imminent execution by stoning – 6 February 2008