Italian Officers Suspended Amid Rape Allegations

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Two Italian Carabinieri officers have been suspended amid allegations they raped two US students in Florence.

Outside Florence Nightclub Where Officers Picked up Students. Photo Courtesy of Time.

On Friday, September 8, Italy’s defense minister Roberta Pinotti attended a forum on women’s issues in Milan where she stated that “investigation is still underway, but there is some basis in respect to the allegations.”

The rapes reportedly occurred in the early morning hours of September 7th.

Earlier, the women, ages 19 and 21, spent time at a nightclub in Florence. Patrol cars were called to the scene to investigate a fight that had broken out at the club. Two of the three patrol cars departed after the fight had been handled.

After the women were unsuccessful in their efforts to find a taxi, the remaining officers, who were in uniform at the time, offered to drive them home. Witnesses confirmed seeing the women enter the patrol car.

Upon arriving to the residence, the officers allegedly raped the women before they could reach their rooms. The women told investigators they were too frightened to scream during the assault.

Prosecutors in Florence are investigating the incident and have conducted DNA tests to verify the accusations. The results of those tests are pending.

The United State Embassy in Rome declined to comment on the situation “due to the sensitive nature of this case and to protect the privacy of those involved.”

The accused officers have been suspended on a precautionary basis while the investigation continues. The Carabinieri provincial officer command stated that the suspension is separate from the Florence prosecutors’ investigation into the criminal allegations.

In addition to the rape charges, the officers face disciplinary charges from driving the women home without notifying superiors.

“Rape is always a serious matter. But it’s of unprecedented seriousness if it is committed by Carabinieri in uniform, because citizens turn to them and to their uniform to have assurances and security” Pinotti said at the women’s forum.

The paramilitary Carabinieri are one of two of Italy’s main police forces, the other being the state police. The Carabinieri report to the Defense Ministry.

“If this is true, and I hope that light is shed on the matter as soon as possible, then it would be an act of unheard of gravity” said Tullio Del Sette, head of the army.

For more information, please see:

Time – 2 U.S. Students say They Were Raped by Policemen in Italy – 8 September 2017

New York Times – Two American Students Accuse Italian Police of Rape – 9 September 2017

Reuters – U.S. Students’ Rape Allegation has ‘Some Basis’, Minister Says – 9 September 2017

Washington Post – 2 Italian Police Suspended After Alleged Rape of US Students – 9 September 2017

Turkish authorities detain human rights activists

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

Protesters speak out against the arrest of Amnesty International leader Taner Kilic in Turkey. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

ANKARA, Turkey – The government in Turkey detained several human rights activists on July 6 on an island off the country’s coast.

Among those detained were Amnesty International’s Turkey director, Idil Eser. It was left unclear what the individuals are being detained for. But in June, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kilic, was arrested along with 22 lawyers for alleged membership in a “terrorist” group.

The crackdown on human rights supporters comes from last year’s failed coup against Turkish President Erdogan. The government believes that Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen staged the coup.

Gulen exiled himself from Turkey in 1999, and has lived in Pennsylvania since. He has denied that he was involved in the coup. Gulen has been outspoken against the Turkish government previously.

Critics argue that President Erdogan is using last July’s failed coup and its subsequent State of Emergency as a means of suppressing dissent against his administration.

At least 50,000 people opposing Erdogan have been arrested under his authority. It has been reported that more than 100,000 people have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs.

Though it is not yet a member of the European Union, Turkey has been in the process of gaining EU membership for several years. Talks have been ongoing since 2005. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted to suspend discussions with Turkey regarding entry into the EU.

Debate has raged between European Parliament members regarding the best way to strengthen Turkey’s democratic processes. However, the EU has been weary of allowing Turkey into the Union due to the country’s stances on human rights and the death penalty.

The Turkish government’s crackdown expands beyond human rights activists and those who openly oppose President Erdogan. In June 2017, about 44 people were detained during an LGBT Pride march in Istanbul.

Turkish law enforcement used tear gas and plastic bullets against the people who attempted to gather for the parade.

The European High Commission for Human Rights (EHCR) condemned the actions. Commissioner Nils Muiznieks stating that “although a demonstration may annoy or cause offense to persons oppose to the ideas…This cannot serve as an admissible ground for prohibiting a peaceful gathering.” He also called the reports of police violence as “worrying”.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has openly spoken against Erdogan for arrests of the group’s leaders. The group’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, called the detainment “profoundly disturbing.”

“This is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country,” he added.

Despite critics, President Erdogan still remains more popular than not in Turkey. In April 2017’s referendum, 51.4% voted to expand the president’s executive power.

Amnesty International continues to call for the release of the detainees.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Amnesty calls for release of rights activists held in Turkey – 6 July 2017

The New York Times – Turkey Detains a 2nd Amnesty International Leader – 6 July 2017

BBC News – Turkey police hold rights activists including Amnesty chief – 6 July 2017

The Telegraph – Turkey police detain Amnesty director and 12 other rights activists – 6 July 2017

CBS – Turkish police arrest dozens at Istanbul’s banned LGBT pride event – 26 June 2017

The Guardian – Turkey arrests Amnesty International head and lawyers in Gulenist sweep – 6 June 2017

BBC News – Turkey referendum: Vote expanding Erdogan powers ‘valid’ – 17 April 2017

The New York Times – Turkey and E.U. Near Breaking Point in Membership Talks – 23 November 2016

53 Charged After Celebrating Gay Wedding in Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

LAGOS, Nigeria– 53 men have been arrested in the Nigerian state of Kaduna after celebrating a gay wedding.  The group was charged with conspiracy, unlawful association, and unlawful society.  Currently homosexual acts are illegal in Nigeria.  If caught for performing homosexual acts one can face up to 14 years in prison.

KENYA-NIGERIA-HOMOSEXUALITY-RIGHTS-DEMO

Kenyan gay and lesbian organizations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

Upon being charged the group plead not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and unlawful society.  The groups defense lawyer, Yunusa Umar, claims that the group was illegally detained for 24 hours.  He also said that most of the group is students.  Gay rights group claim that the group was celebrating a birthday rather than a wedding.  Maria Sjodin, deputy executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, said she believes the gay wedding story is just an “excuse” and part of the police’s attempt to “crackdown on an emerging LGBTQ movement” in Nigeria.

Homosexual acts were made illegal in Nigeria in 2014.  The creation of this law came from the two conservative parts of the country: evangelical Christianity in the South and Islam in the North.  Human Rights Watch and other rights group claim that the law was also created to legitimize abuse in the LGBT community.  “Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence” are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, Human Rights Watch said in a 2016 report.  The country also bans gay marriage.

Currently the group is out of jail on bail pending a hearing on May 8th.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Nigeria ‘gay wedding’ bust leads to charges – 20 April 2017

Deutsche Welle – Nigeria arrests 53 over Gay Wedding – 20 April 2017

The Journal – Nigeria charges 53 men with conspiracy to organise a gay wedding – 20 April 2017

NBC News – 53 Arrested in Nigeria for Celebrating Gay Wedding, Police Say – 20 April 2017

 

Zambia Opposition Leader Charged in Convoy Clash

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LUSAKA, Zambia–Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been charged with treason after interfering with the presidential motorcade.  Hichilema was traveling in a convoy near the President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.  Hichilema’s motorcade refused to move for President Lungu’s convoy and President Lungu’s convoy subsequently tried to overtake Hichilema’s motorcade.  Zambian police claim that Hichilema endangered the life of the President by refusing to pull over.

Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

In Zambia, treason is a severe offense and the accused cannot be released on bail.  The charge also carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.  Police chief Kakoma Kanjanga made a statement regarding Hichilema’s arrest.  “It has been established that the opposition leader disobeyed police orders to clear the way, thereby putting the life of the head of state in danger.  We have today jointly charged and arrested Mr Hichilema and five others with treason.”  Kanjanga continued by stating “I wish to reiterate that the actions by the opposition leader were unreasonable, reckless and criminal. Therefore members of the public are being warned that as police we are not going to watch such kind of behavior by any person, irrespective of their status,” he added.

Hichilema narrowly lost the Zambian presidency to President Lungu last year.  Many in Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), do not see Lungu as the legitimate president of Zambia.  Tensions are rising between parties as the details of Hichilema’s arrest are reported.  Armed police raided Hichilema’s home during the night of Tuesday April 11th.  Hichilema was subsequently arrested and detained.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – Zambian opposition chief gets treason charge for blocking presidential convoy – 12 April 2017

Al Jazeera – UPND Leader Hakainde Hichilema Charged with Treason – 13 April 2017

BBC Africa – Zambia Police Hichilema over motorcade clash – 12 April 2017 

Bloomberg Politics – Zambian Police Charge Opposition Leader Hichilema With Treason – 12 April 2017

Situation in Congo Worsens as Aids Workers and Police Killed

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo– Violence has increased in the Kasai region of the Congo as more than 40 police officers were decapitated.  The police officers are said to have been fighting with regional militia known as Kamuina Nsapu.  The Kamuina Nsapu are also said to be responsible for the recent deaths of an American and Swedish aid worker.

UN vehicle in Tshimbulu, Kasai province, 20 March 2017
The United Nations Mission in Kasai. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

The situation in the Congo has worsened since the beginning of the year with violence escalating to include the death of two humanitarian aid workers: American Michael Sharp and Swede Zaida Catalan.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke after the two aids workers death “Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people. We will honor their memory by continuing to support the invaluable work of the Group of Experts and the whole UN family in the DRC.”

The United Nations has continued its work in the country despite the increase in violence and has helped to uncover ten mass graves and seven other mass burial sites.  Since last October over 400 have been killed in the country and over 200,000 displaced.  This has only contributed to the many other humanitarian crisis’ that the United Nations is dealing with in Africa and around the world.  The United Nations has said that as of this year they are dealing with the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

For more information, please see: 

ABC News – Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 police: Officials- 25 March 2017

BBC Africa – Militia fighters decapitate 40 police officers in DR Congo – 25 March 2017

New York Times – Congolese Militia Beheads Dozens of Police Officers – 25 March 2017

Washington Post – Congolese rebels behead 42 police officers in dramatic escalation of conflict – 26 March 2017 

 

8 Dead as a Result of Stampede for Food in Zambia

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LUSAKA, Zambia– 8 are dead after a stampede in Zambia.  The stampede happened as people were trying to receive food aid in the capital city of Lusaka.  A church called the Church of Christ was handing out food aid at the Olympic Development Centre to about 35,000 people when the stampede happened.  Many of the people the church hoped to serve are residents of Lusaka’s slums.

Police spokeswomen Esther Katongo. (Photo Courtesy of ZNBC)

Police spokeswomen Esther Katongo confirmed that eight were dead.  Six of the victims were female, one male, and one male juvenile.  Five died at the scene while the three other succumbed to their injuries at the hospitals that they were rushed to.  After the chaos police ordered the church to halt the handouts of food, but some still stayed hoping to still get food.  An official statement reads “The victims are among the 35,000 which the group called Lesedi seven, had invited for prayers at OYDC. The group had also organized food hampers to distribute to people. This Lesedi seven is a grouping under Church of Christ.”

Zambia like many other countries near the horn of Africa is experiencing an extreme drought that is crippling resources.  Food prices have also risen which has made food unaffordable for many.  Zambian police are inquiring into all eight deaths as well as the other twenty or so people that were injured.  Despite the chaos Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja has said he has had a hard time convincing people to go home.  Many families are so desperate for the food they will risk their lives to get it.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – Zambia: 8 dead, 28 Injured in stampede for free Church food – 6 March 2017

Al Jazeera – Zambians seeking food aid killed in stampede – 6 March 2017

Stuff – 8 die in as crowd stampedes to get food handouts in Zambia – 6 March 2017

ZNBC – 8 die in stampede – 6 March 2017

Two Transgender Pakistanis Killed by Saudi Arabian Police

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — On Tuesday, February 28th, two transgender Pakistanis were killed in Saudi Arabia after allegedly being beaten and tortured by Saudi Arabian police.

Amna and Meeno were arrested for violating the country’s laws against cross-dressing and engaging in homosexual activity (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

The two transgender individuals, Amna and Meeno, were allegedly killed by Saudi Arabian police while in custody following a house raid which took place during “Guru Chela Chalan” festivities. The celebration is one in which the Pakistani transgender community elects a “guru” to lead their group. Amna and Meeno were reportedly arrested for cross-dressing and engaging in same-sex relationships, which are prohibited under Saudi Arabian law. It is claimed that the two were “packed in sacks,” kicked, “thrashed with sticks and tortured to death[.]” The police force spokesperson indicated that the house was under surveillance for possible violations of the country’s clothing ban.

The raid resulted in the arrests of thirty-five transgender people. Eleven of those arrested paid a fine of over $40,000 for their release, whereas twenty-two were still in custody. While sex-change operations are illegal in the country, homosexual activity is punishable by death.

Human rights activists strongly condemned the actions taken by the Saudi police. Qamar Naseem, a transgender rights activist, cried out against the abuses inflicted upon Amna and Meena by stating the inhumane nature of “[t]orturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks[.]” He indicated that the twenty-two transgender individuals remained in police custody and that no one would save them because transgender lives are “not of any value to anyone, not even our own government[.]”

Further outcries came in the form of transgender individuals’ inability to practice their religion. Farzana, a transgender woman in Saudi Arabia, indicated that the government prohibited transgender individuals from carrying out their annual pilgrimage to Mecca or their Umrah pilgrimage. She stated that this prohibition is considered “inhumane” due to the religious mandate that all Muslims must complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. The Saudi Arabian embassy, however, indicated that the government had not issued a ban prohibiting transgender individuals from traveling to the holy land for pilgrimage.

LGBTQ activists around the world called upon Saudi Arabian authorities to provide answers into the deaths of Amna and Meeno as well as the arrests of the thirty-five transgender individuals. Naseem further urged the government to release information due to the fact that the transgender community is feeling “delicate and scared” as a result of the “very confusing situation[.]”

For more information, please see:

Independent—Two transgender Pakistanis ‘tortured to death’ in Saudi Arabia—3 March 2017

Daily Mail—Two transgender Pakistanis ‘are packed into sacks and thrashed to death with STICKS’ by police in Saudi Arabia—1 March 2017

International Business Times—Saudi Arabia: 2 transgender Pakistanis allegedly tortured to death by police in Riyadh—2 March 2017

Sputnik News—Two Pakistani Transgender People Beaten to Death by Saudi Police, 33 Arrested—2 March 2017

The Daily Dot—Saudi police torture and kill 2 transgender Pakistanis—3 March 2017

Zambian Police Banned from Marrying Foreigners

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LUSAKA, Zambia– Zambian police have been forbidden from marrying foreigners.  The Head of Police in Zambia issued a memo on Monday January 23 advising Zambian police to not marry foreigners effective immediately.  This ban is put in place in order to protect the Zambian people.

Zambian police officers arrive at the University of Zambia where students protest against the government’s removal of fuel and mealie meal subsidies on May 17, 2013 in Lusaka

Zambia police in the capital of Lusaka. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

For police officers who already have foreign spouses have to register their spouses by Monday January 29th.   If they do not register their spouses they will face disciplinary action.  Many are upset about this law which some are claiming is unconstitutional.  However, police spokesperson Esther Katongo defended the order by saying, ““Issues of security are delicate. If not careful, spouses can be spies and can sell the security of the country’’.

She also stated that this law has always been on the books, but given the new security situation in Zambia, it is now being enforced.  Action was being taken in order to ensure that police were complying with this previous requirement.  Some are criticizing the move saying that instead of worrying about spouses the police should better train their officers to be more professional.

For more information, please see: 

Africa Review – Outrage after Zambia police banned from marrying foreigners – 23 January 2017

BBC Africa – Zambia police banned from marrying foreigners – 23 January 2017

News Agency of Nigeria – Zambia police ban foreign wives – 23 January 2017

Vanguard – Zambia bans police officers from marrying foreigners – 23 January 2017

 

South African Students and Police Clash

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa Desk 

CAPE TOWN, South Africa–Protests continue across South Africa as students act out against rising tuition costs.  Protests have been widespread and happening at many universities across South Africa.  Protests are becoming violent as police seek to put an end to the protests to allow universities to hold classes.  Many universities classes have been suspended in the mist of the protests.

The Associated Press

Police use stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up protests at the University of the Witwatersrand. (Photo Courtesy of US News)

University of Witswaterand students led a march to the Chamber of Mines on Wednesday September 28 in order to give a memorandum that called for officials to get behind the idea of free education. Students would like the Chamber of Mines to help lobby the government on their free education stance.  University of Wiswaterand, known as Wits, have been engaging in protests for over a week, in some cases vandalizing property.  In one incident a fire extinguisher was used in a campus building and a cleaner died as a result.  University officials have blamed students for the death.

Meanwhile on Wednesday September 28th at Rhodes University in Grahamstown 10 students were arrested as a result of the protests.  Rhodes like Wits has been shut down since the previous week, and both students and professors alike are growing concerned that classes may not start up again.  Professors and students alike are growing increasingly concerned that the rest of the term will need to be cancelled, especially after the University of Cape Town was forced to cancel its graduation.

While students are mainly protesting for free education, they are also calling for the removal of Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande who called for the raise in tuition for the next year.  Protests started peacefully, but were met with police force late last week.  Police began firing rubber bullets and using stun grenades to stop the protests.  As of Friday September 30th protests were still continuing.

For more information, please see:

Citizen – Live Report: Wits Students March to the Chamber of Mines – 28 September 2016.

Daily Maverick – Student Protests Spread, While Wits Marks a Worker’s Death – 27 September 2016.

Fox News – South African Police Clash with Student Protesters – 28 September 2016.

Marxist – South Africa: Rising Anger as Mass Student Protests Return – 28 September 2016.

US News – Shuttered South African Universities Seek End to Protests – 27 September 2016.

Police and Protesters Clash in Zimbabwe as Protests Turn Violent

HARARE, Zimbabwe— Police and protesters clashed in Harare and other towns in Zimbabwe on July 4th.  Minibus and taxi drivers were protesting excessive road blocks where police often collect bribes.  Drivers said that the payment of these bribes is costing them nearly $50 a day.  This is in a country where most of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

 

zimbabwe

Protests turn violent as police clash with protesters. (Photo Courtesy of VOA)

The protests started out peacefully, but negotiations soon broke down between police and protesters.  Protesters began to set up barriers to mock the road blocks that they deal with from the police.  Local businessmen tried to negotiate between the police and protesters, though violence broke out despite their efforts. Police launched tear gas and water cannons to clear the crowds. A warning against public violence was also published by the government and said that “all those who are inciting and engaging in violence that such misconduct will be severely dealt with.”  Media reports show that 30 protesters have been arrested.

Zimbabwe has been facing economic difficulties since gaining independence from Britain in 1980.  The country’s leader President Robert Mugabe has faced criticism over his inability to stimulate the economy since he came to power.  Most recently, banks have run out of notes and government employees have not received their paychecks.  These unpaid government workers are were expected to strike by Tuesday if not paid.

For more information see:

Africa News – Zimbabwe police cracks down on protesting drivers – 4 July 2016

Al Jazeera – Taxi drivers’ protest turns violent in Zimbabwe – 4 July 2016

BBC – Zimbabwe police clash with rioting minibus drivers – 4 July 2016

VOA – Riots Rock Zimbabwe – 4 July 2016

Peru Declares State of Emergency Following Protests

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru — Four people have died following clashes with police during protests in Apurímac, in the Cotabambas province in southern Peru. Another fifty protesters and police officers were injured, and about twenty-one protesters were arrested.

Protesters at the Las Bambas copper mining project in Peru. (Photo courtesy of the BBC).

The demonstrations were against the Chinese-backed mining project at Las Bambas, owned by China’s MMG Ltd. The copper mine will be Peru’s largest, and is scheduled to begin production in May or June of 2016.

The communities in the area initially supported the Las Bambas project, but attitudes changed after an adjustment to the environmental impact assessment was made without consulting area residents. There are concerns that the mine could contaminate water sources and that the project isn’t creating enough jobs for residents.

The demonstrations, which began last Friday, escalated on Monday once protesters began gathering on mine owned land near Challhuahuacho. The official and alleged eyewitness accounts of what happened differ.

Peruvian authorities reported that police used non-lethal weapons until they were attacked by protesters breaking into Las Bambas property. Others have claimed that police began shooting live bullets as soon as the protesters tried to enter the property.

The state of emergency allows for a suspension of constitutional rights, including freedom of assembly and movement. Police will be allowed to search homes without a warrant.

Protesters have agreed to a 24 hour truce in the hopes of holding talks with the government.

Protests in Peru over mining projects have increased in recent years, with frequent escalation. Demonstrations against the Tia Maria copper mine back in May turned deadly and prompted a sixty day state of emergency.

The Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Peru reports more than 200 active social conflicts.

Peru is ranked third in the world for copper exports, representing about one tenth of the country’s economic output and 58% of its exports.

For more information, please see:

Argentina Independent – Peru: State of Emergency After Four Killed in Anti-Mining Protests – 30 September 2015

BBC – Peru declares state of emergency in mining region – 30 September 2015

Buenos Aires Herald – Four killed in anti-mining protests in Peru – 30 September 2015

LA Times – Peru protesters lift blockade at China-funded mine in hopes of talks – 30 September 2015

Latin America News Dispatch – Peru Declares State of Emergency Over Anti-Mining Protest Deaths – 30 September 2015