57 Malawian Children Rescued from Trafficking

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LILONGWE, Malawi – 57 children were rescued from alleged traffickers in South Africa.  Three Malawi men had taken the 57 from Malawi to South Africa in a truck.  The children were discovered when South African authorities opened the truck up and two children fell out.  Officers pulled over the truck in the north west providence after it was speeding.  The children inside were all undocumented and ranged in age from 11 to 21; 18 were girls and 39 were boys.


The 57 children that were rescued and the truck they were transported in (Photo Courtesy of Nyasa Times)

The three men accused of trafficking the children appeared in Rustenburg Regional Magistrate’s Court on 57 counts of human trafficking.  Their case is postponed until September 13th.  The children were taken to the Department of Social Development and will be under the care of the department until things can be sorted out.

This isn’t the first time that officers have the stopped the endangerment of children in the area.  About a week ago in an area east of Johannesburg officers rescued 16 girls between the ages of 15 and 18 from prostitution.  In the case of the 57 children it was unclear the reason the children were being trafficked.  Officers equated the children’s transportation as similar to goats.

South African authorities will be working with their Malawi counterparts in order to further investigate the three men responsible for the transportation of the 57 children.

For further information, please see:

Eyewitness News – 57 Children Rescued from Suspected Human Traffickers– 26 July 2016

Nyasa Times – 57 kids trafficked from Malawi found at back of window-less delivery truck: Rescued in South Africa – 27 July 2016

Times Live – Police Rescue 57 Children Trafficked from Malawi – 26 July 2016

Guilty Verdict for Farmers in Paraguay

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

ASUNCIÓN, PARAGUAY—Skepticism of the Paraguayan justice system grows after the sentencing of 11 farmers to prison following the deaths of 6 police officers in the Curuguaty massacre. The sentences ranged from 4 to 35 years in prison.

U.N. commissioner for Human Rights expresses his concerns following the conclusion of the Curuguaty massacre trial. (Photo Courtesy of UN News Centre)

On July 18 the formal guilty verdict was read at the Paraguay Palace of Justice. Due to fears of unruliness the government dispatched 1500 police officers to the palace. 500 individuals, including families of the farmers and activists were in attendance to hear the verdict. The guilty verdict comes after a year long trial that solely focused on the deaths of the 6 police officers and disregarded the deaths of several farmers. An investigation in their death has not been opened by the Attorney General despite the demand for an investigation from both families and activists. Since the massacre, several organizations have called attention to irregularities in the investigation. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee implored Paraguay to allow an “immediate, independent and impartial investigation.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zid Ra’ad Al Hussein, released a statement expressing his concerns by stating, “The conviction of 11 peasants in the Curuguaty case following a trial that allegedly did not respect judicial guarantees is deeply troubling.” He continued by adding that, “I’m also deeply concerned by the fact that, up to now, the deaths of 11 peasants, killed in the same incident, have not been investigated by Paraguayan authorities, nor have the allegations that some were summarily executed after being subjected to torture and other human rights violations.”

The Curuguaty Massacre occurred when police forces were sent to the Morumbi property to evict farmers who were occupying 2000 acres of land. The property was given to Blas N. Riquelme, a politician and businessman during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. During his dictatorship, land was given to the military and political elite. Farmers in Paraguay have long voiced their demand for land reform—about 80% of the agricultural land belongs to 2.5% of the population.

For more information, please see:

Fox Latino—Paraguay Police out in Force for Curuguaty Verdict—18 July 2016

Reuters—U.N. Rights Boss ‘Troubled’ by Conviction of Farmers in Paraguay Land Killings Case—20 July 2016

UN News Centre—U.N. Rights Chief ‘Deeply Troubled’ by Conviction of Land Reform Activists in Paraguay—20 July 2016

Belarusian Journalist Murdered in Car Bombing

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine —  Prominent Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed this past week after an explosive device placed on his car detonated in Kiev, Ukraine.  Sheremet worked for the news reporting website Ukrainska Pravda, and was traveling to host a morning radio show at the radio station Radio Vesti when the explosive was detonated.   Ukrainska Pravda is a respected site known for its tendency to cover media topics relating to corruption.

The car Sheremet was driving exploded on a main road in Kiev, Ukraine (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Investigators suspect a homemade explosion device attached to the bottom of the car with 400-600 grams of a substance similar to TNT was detonated via remote control.  The explosion itself occurred about a half mile away from a popular protest site in Ukraine.  At the time of the explosion, Sheremet was driving his partner Olena Pritula’s car.  Pritula is the owner of Ukrainska Pravda, leaving police to wonder whether Sheremet was actually the target of the explosion.

Many speculate that Sheremet was targeted because of his line of work.  Sheremet was one of several well-known journalists who moved from Russia to Ukraine, where restrictions on the media are known to be looser than they are in Russia.  Sheremet was previously jailed for his critical reports regarding political oppression against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and was known to be an advocate for independent media in Ukraine.  As an expert in political corruption, Sheremet was widely known for his criticism of the Kremlin and mistakes made by Ukraine in its 2014 revolution and ensuing separation from Russia.

Police are investigating the possibility that the attack was an attempt by Russia to destabilize Ukraine, however the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced this notion.  The Ministry labeled Sheremet as a “known and respected journalist in Russia and a top professional.”  Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, stated that the Kremlin was “seriously disturbed” by the attack, and expressed his hopes for a “rapid and impartial investigation.”

Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko, however, is “not excluding the possibility of some foreign interest” in the explosion, and hints at the involvement of Russia in the killing.  Poroshenko has requested the assistance of foreign agencies from the United States and the European Union to assist in the investigation.


For more information, please see:

BBC — Pavel Sheremet: Murdered Journalist Buried in Belarus — 23 July 2016

NBC — Car Bomb Murder of Pavel Sheremet Dashes Hopes in Post-Maidan Ukraine — 23 July 2016

CNN — Journalist Pavel Sheremet Killed in Kiev — 20 July 2016

The Guardian — Car Bomb Kills Pioneering Journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kiev — 20 July 2016

NY Times — Pavel Sheremet, Journalist in Ukraine, is Killed in Car Bombing — 20 July 2016

SYRIA DEEPLY – Weekly Update – July 23, 2016


The Basics · The Government · ISIS · The Opposition · Global Players


July 23, 2016

Dear Readers,
Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:

Northern Syria was the site of some of of the country’s most violent battlefields this week, and cities under siege saw an increase pro-government forces advances as civilians and opposition forces in the area came under heavy aerial bombardment.

The opposition-held eastern part of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, officially came under siege over the weekend. The only supply route into the eastern areas of the city, Castello Road, came under regime fire on July 7, but forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian air power, seized the actual road over the weekend.

Food and fuel supplies are running critically low and besieged areas have not received any aid since the beginning of this month, according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The latest Syrian government advance on Aleppo and subsequent retaliation from several opposition forces over the last three months have killed at least 955 civilians, including 219 children, and injured some 6,000 others, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The situation is devastating and overwhelming. We hear that dozens of civilians are being killed every day and scores more injured from shells, mortars and rockets. The bombing is constant. The violence is threatening hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, homes and livelihoods,” Marianne Gassers, head of the delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said in a statement.

In northern Aleppo province, along the Turkish border, the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pushed forward in their ground offensive against ISIS militants in the city of Manbij. The SDF has been fighting to push ISIS out of Manbij since May but this week saw a notable advancement in the operation. On Tuesday, the SDF was able to seize an ISIS headquarters in the town that had been set up in a hospital. By the end of the week, the SDF issued a 48-hour ultimatum for ISIS fighters to clear the area “in order protect civilian lives and property.”

The U.S. came under fire for its aerial bombardments over Manbij this week. At least 56 civilians, including children, were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike over Manbij on Tuesday. At least 167 civilians have been killed in coalition airstrikes in Manbij since the coalition began its operation against ISIS there in May, according to the Observatory.

Opposition forces south of Manbij, west of the capital Damascus have not had the same successes as those in Manbij. Forces loyal to Assad launched a major offensive this week on the rebel-held and government-besieged city of Darayya.

Last month Darayya received the first aid delivery it has seen in the last four years of siege, but opposition forces said the new government offensive began soon after the humanitarian drop, preventing any additional supplies from reaching the city. Since the start of July, some 700 barrel bombs reportedly hit Darayya.

The week ended with a United Nations call for several, local 48-hour cease-fires across Syria to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries into besieged and hard-to-reach areas. As of Friday, none of Syria’s many warring factions had agreed to the truce.

Weekly Highlights:

Sowing Hope and Weeding Out Siege Profiteers
As sieges have spread across Syria, people in the besieged areas have discovered a secret weapon that’s difficult to detect and almost impossible to defeat: seeds. In many of Syria’s besieged areas, people are turning to urban gardening to make up for the lack of humanitarian aid and exorbitant cost of black-market food.

Seedlings in old food ration tins from the World Food Program. Amrha
Economics Trumps Politics in Syria’s Proxy War
Instead of driving a wedge between regional players, the Syrian conflict’s duration and intractability have forced proxy powers to prioritize cooperation over rivalry for their wider interests, according to Middle East analyst Sharif Nashashibi

From left, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioglu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Arabia Adel al-Jubeir and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov meet in in Vienna. Carlo Allegri/Associated Press

My Days in Damascus Entry 1: Contagious Fear
In her first diary entry for Syria Deeply, Farah, a young woman living in Syria’s capital city, discusses the daily struggles of trying to maintain a normal social and professional life in a country where residents are plagued by fear.

An oil lamp in Bab Sharqi, one of seven ancient gates in Damascus’ old city. Wisal Ahdab/ Wikimedia Commons

Additional Reading:

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Top image: A child holds up a picture of a Pokemon character that reads “I am from Syria… Save me!” Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office

Turkish Government Arrests Thousands After Failed Coup

By Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — Following a failed military coup, the Turkish government has arrested thousands of officials across all levels of society for suspected involvement. Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, stated that reinstating the death sentence was possible for suspected “plotters.”

Military Personnel Detained After Failed Military Coup (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

After the attempted coup was thwarted last Saturday morning, the Turkish government has arrested or detained more than 10,000 military personnel. A portion of those arrested were soldiers directly involved in the failed coup. This has also included 118 generals and admirals.

Along with the military more than 50,000 civil service officials have been arrested, detained, fired, or suspended. Directly following the coup, approximately 3,000 judges and prosecutors were detained or fired. Another 9,000 Ministry of Interior personnel have been suspended. This purge has also reached the education sector with 21,000 teachers having their licenses revoked and 1,500 deans being asked to resign. Multiple broadcasting stations have also had their licenses revoked.

President Erdogan has vowed to punish all responsible for the failed military coup and wouldn’t rule out the death penalty. The death penalty was abolished in 2004 as Turkey made a bid to join the European Union. President Erdogan said if the people wanted the death penalty to return and the Turkish Parliament passed the legislation, then he would uphold the will of the people.

President Erdogan also imposed a three month state of emergency. He said the purpose of the state of emergency was to restore order and capture and punish all involved in the coup. Under the Turkish Constitution, Erdogan would gain the powers to suspend fundamental rights of freedom so long as it doesn’t violate international law. The Turkish government is also going to suspend its participation in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Many within Turkey and around the world have expressed concern with the purge arguing that Erdogan is using the coup as a way to eliminate opposition and consolidate power. A local chef at a restaurant in Istanbul, said Erodgan is setting a trap and will use the coup as a way to gain more power. The United States of America has expressed concern with the expansiveness of the purge particularly against non-military officials. America called on Turkey to preserve the rule of law and democracy. The European Union has stated that if the death penalty were to return, then Turkey would not be allowed to join the European Union.

Erdogan was elected to President in 2014. After winning 52 percent of the vote many argued election fraud. Shortly after the election, Erdogan attempted controversial constitutional amendments to give more powers to the president. Some have argued the purge of the judicial officials after the coup was to replace them with supporters of his constitutional changes.

The attempted coup occurred early last Saturday morning with a faction of the military blocking bridges leading to Istanbul. President Erdogan called on the people to fight off the coup. Later Saturday morning the coup had been defeated with the soldiers involved laying down arms and surrendering. The coup left 300 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

Turkey has had multiple military coups it it’s brief history as a country. There were successful military coups occurring in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The political divide within Turkey pits the secular and western military class against an increasingly conservative and popularly elected Islamist political parties in the country such as President Erdogan’s party, Justice and Development Party.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Turkey coup attempt: Erdogan signals death penalty return — 19 July 2016

CNN — Turkey declares three-month state of emergency — 20 July 2016

CBS News — Thousands jailed after failed Turkey coup — 20 July 2016

NBC News — Turkey’s Parliament to Give Erdogan Sweeping New Powers as Crackdown Widens — 21 July 2016

Reuters — Turkey says no return to past repression despite state of emergency — 21 July 2016

Washington Post — Turkey rounds up thousands of suspected participants in coup attempt — 16 July 2016