German Defense Ministry announced that Germany will pay $5,000 in compensation (3,800 euros, £3,150) to each of the families of people killed or injured in an air strike near the Afghan town of Kunduz on 4 September 2009, after a fatal air strike on two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban was ordered by a German commander and killed up to 142 people. The families of 91 Afghans killed and those of 11 injured in the attack last September are to receive compensation. The German defence ministry is still negotiating with the families of 74 victims in Kunduz, but those talks are separate from the voluntary $5,000 payment, which does not constitute an acceptance of legal responsibility, the Associated Press. This is a significant step, as AI repeatedly called on and lobbied the NATO-ISAF troop contributing states to provide compensation to the victims killed or injured as result of its operations. However, AI continues its campaigning aimed at NATO-ISAF to adopt a consistent, clear and credible mechanisms to investigating civilian casualties and injuries, caused by its operations, to assist those injured, and to bring to justice those suspected of violating international law.
The government of the Maldives formally announced on 4 August that they have requested the International Commission of Jurists to help them reform their judicial system. This was good news for the Maldives and for AI. It came after weeks of intensive AI work on the country to help prevent the reform process from derailing. The country had been in the grip of an internal political crisis. The President was accusing the opposition dominated parliament to be obstructing government activity and resisting institutional reform. This, he said, was done through a series of legislation's passed specifically to limit the powers of the government. The government also blamed the opposition for blocking the removal of some of the key figures, who were resisting reforms. They included the Chief Justice who had been appointed by the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Meanwhile, the opposition was accusing the government to be acting outside the law, trying to bypass constitutional provisions that empowered the Parliament to scrutinize and approve government proposed plans. The confrontation between the President and the opposition came to a head in late June when the entire cabinet resigned, saying their functions had become untenable because the Parliament was not cooperating with the government.
The President reinstated the cabinet, but this had to be approved by the Parliament and the Parliament was not moving. It led to a series of clashes between the supporters of the government and the opposition, and arrest of several MPs. The situation was threatening to derail the reform process.
We began our work with the researcher meeting with opposition representatives who were visiting London. The researcher, the DPD and PD met with the Maldives High Commissioner. AI issued a public statement highlighting our concerns. The researcher provided briefings to important stakeholders and lobbied them to play their part in rescuing the reform process. These actors included influential government and opposition contacts, as well as the US Embassy and the International Commission of Jurists. We also had high level contacts with the Foreign Minister. Our message to the government was that they should ask for international support to reform their judicial system. All these efforts paid off as the government followed our recommendations, announcing that they would do just that. In response, the ICJ has assigned two prominent legal experts to help reform the judicial system. There are now for the first time clear prospects for the reform of the judicial system, which is marred with fundamental flaws that facilitate human rights violations. As with any other positive solution to a human rights problem AI can only claim credit for the part we have played, but the part we have played here has been significant.
In a landmark victory for Indigenous rights in India, the Indian government last week rejected plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. This decision followed eight years of campaigning by the Dongria Kondh and other Indigenous communities who protested that the mine plans were a threat to their very existence. The Indian government found that the mine plans already extensively violated forest and environmental laws and would perpetrate further abuses. The ruling was a blow to the UK based Vedanta Resources, promoter of the mine and refinery expansion plans.
The India team/Demand Dignity teams commenced work on the issue in mid-2008 and started the campaign in May-June 2009. In February 2010, AI IS published a damning report, Don’t Mine Us out of Existence: Refinery and Bauxite Mine Devastate Lives in India documenting human rights abuses and violations of the law. Six month later, an Indian government report, which came to similar conclusions, formed the basis of the government’s decision to axe the mine. The authorities also stalled plans for sixfold expansion of the alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, at the base of the hills, and raised questions over pollution. AI's demand for a clean-up of the refinery is the only one not met so far. As part of the advocacy, Amnesty International facilitated the Dongria Kondh communities’ appeal against the environmental clearance granted to the mine. This campaign and advocacy helped stall the mine and refinery expansion plans for several months. AI UK, AI Netherlands, AI France, AI Canada, AI Germany and various other AI sections contributed immensely to the campaign which saw more than 30,000 members writing to the Indian authorities and IS and AI UK staff briefed government experts and engaged in lengthy talks with the company itself.
The research, advocacy and campaign involved extensive coordination with Dongria Kondh and other Indigenous communities on the ground, activists, lawyers and politicians in Orissa and Delhi, international non-governmental organizations including Survival International. Action Aid and London Mining Network and engagement with government appointed expert committees and the concerned companies.
Two Dongria Kondh activists illegally detained in Orissa were released after a campaign including an Urgent Action issued by the India team. Five human rights defenders in Tamil Nadu arrested in a police station were released after a campaign including a public statement issued by the India team.
The team circulated a health professional network update to a medical action which was issued on 5 May. Prisoner of conscience Filep Karma received medical treatment and would like to thank everyone who made his surgery possible, including Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA21/012/2010/en/8817a30c-7d0d-43bd-80cd-8adca64885a6/asa210122010en.pdf
Amnesty International has become part of the technical advisory team providing support to the Solomon Islands government task force on SVAW legislation. The Researcher attended and addressed the meeting of the task-force and offered advice on SVAW related policies, plans of actions and legislation to help the taskforce in its task. It is envisaged that a draft legislation should be ready by 2012 and a national policy on SVAW be adopted as early as 2011. AI has been asked to assist in the write up of the policies.
Successful discussions with the PM's Office and Foreign Affairs in the Solomon Islands have given rise to the possibility of the the country finally ratifying the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. Also, the government is also considering voting for the UN GA Resolution on a Global Moratorium of the Death Penalty, which AI has been directly lobbying with the Solomon Is government since 2008. The Researcher has been asked to follow up with the government on these undertakings in the next few months.
In July, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Pacific Regional Office in Suva, Fiji, requested that the Researcher take the opportunity of being in Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu to lobby the Vanuatu government on the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture (since this undertaking had been given to the Special Rapporteur on Torture during his visit to the country in December 2009), given the Researcher's close contacts with and positive working relationship with the government. In a number of very positive and encouraging meetings, the country's Minister for Justice and the Attorney General, Amnesty was able to get a firm undertaking from them that Vanuatu will ratify UNCAT before the end of 2010. This has been passed on to OHCHR.
Cabinet minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said that Malaysia should abolish the death penalty (29 August). His statement follows ongoing advocacy by AI and partners, which had prompted the government to request clemency for Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian on death row in Singapore.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued a pilot guideline on 17 August setting out procedures on how supervision could be strengthened. Under the new guideline, prosecutors and police at the same administrative level must set up an information-sharing system, where the police must regularly report to the prosecutors about cases reported to them and cases they are handling. Prosecutors must also respond to complaints from citizens. The prosecutors can also ask police to explain their decision to accept or decline a case, and can order the police to accept or decline a case if certain criteria are fulfilled. The pilot guideline will take effect on October 1.
Chinese government news agency Xinhua reported on 23 August that the proposed amendments to China's criminal code may see the death penalty removed from 13 out of 68 crimes, the so-called white collar crimes such as tax fraud, and for smuggling valuables and cultural relics, that currently carry the punishment. It would also remove the death penalty as a punishment for those over 75 years of age. The draft amendments are working their way through numerous readings in China’s legislative chamber.
A Uighur asylum case being pursued in the UK, for which the China team submitted expert testimony was positively decided on by the court, after having received negative decisions for the last few years.
A Falun Gong couple who had been tried in June were sentenced to 14 months and 3 years respectively on charges relating to "using a heretical cult to disrupt the law". These relatively short sentences may be related to the active campaigning on their case, including a series of UAs and UA updates, by AI over the last year, as many other FLG practitioners have been sentenced up to 8 years on similar charges.
Indonesian Commission of Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) will collaborate with teachers to include the history of ’comfort women’ in school history text books. The commission hopes that by discussing "comfort women" at history classes in school, it can begin to erase the stigma surrounding women. The National Commission of Violence against Women is also attempting to include the history of "comfort women" into the national education curriculum.
Taliban should be prosecuted for war crimes in Afghanistan, Press Release , 10 August 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/taleban-should-be-prosecuted-war-crimes-afghanistan-2010-08-10 Following the release of UNAMA’e Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, revealing a rise in targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan by anti-government fighters, the IS Afghanistan Team called for investigation and prosecution of the Taliban and other insurgent groups for war crimes. Given the inadequate justice system in Afghanistan to address the lack of accountability, AI urged the Afghan government to seek the assistance of the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban and all other parties to the conflict. Afghanistan is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Afghan couple stoned to death by Taliban, Press Release, 16 August 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/afghan-couple-stoned-death-taleban-2010-08-16 AI condemned the stoning of a couple accused of "eloping", in a Taliban controlled village in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, and urged the Afghanistan government and religious leaders to condemn the practice of stoning, despite the pressure they are under to enter into peace deals with the Taliban.
Afghanistan IDPs/Slums Mission: The Afghanistan Researcher together with a colleague from Demand Dignity Campaign conducted a mission to Afghanistan in August. The purpose of the mission was to provide new information and follow up on the humanitarian situation of the people displaced by the recent armed conflict and due to drought and food insecurity in Afghanistan, and who are currently living in growing number of urban slums. The delegates visited some of the informal settlements (IDPs/ Slums) in Kabul and had conducted in depth interviews with the IDPs, and also met with the NGOs, OCHA, UNHCR and Ministry of Urban Development working on the informal settlements in Afghanistan. In April and May 2009 the Afghanistan Researcher conducted a preliminary research missions into the situation of IDPs and access to basic services like health, food and shelter as well as other mechanisms of protection particularly for women and girls.
AI together with other international and local human rights organizations in Afghanistan engaged in discussion with WikiLeaks requesting them to revise the military logs, which it published on its website last month, and to remove the names of individuals who have been identified as being collaborating with the international forces. The group raised its concerns for protection of these individuals who could be identified and targeted by the Taliban for reprisals. No cooperation to this appeal was received by the founder of the website, Julian Assange, who also was under significant pressure by the Pentagon to remove the sensitive military data from the public domain. Taliban announced that they were reviewing the classified military logs and identifying Afghans who aided the international and government forces, which caused further fear for the safety of the people supplying information to the military.
The Pakistan Team issued an urgent action on behalf of the disappeared Baluchistan National Front member Shams Baluch, a former Tehsil Nazim(Head of District Municipal Administration) of Baluchistan's Khuzdar district. He was abducted while travelling in an ambulance and stopped by Frontier Corps personnel at a checkpoint between Khuzdar and Quetta. Previously there have been cases of Baloch activists being abducted, tortured and killed and we fear that Shams Baloch might be ill-treated or extra judicially executed. UA Pakistani activist abducted, risks torture: Shams-ul-din Baloch , ASA 33/009/2010, 13 August 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA33/009/2010/en
Ahead of the visit of Pakistan's President Zardari to the UK, the Pakistan Team issued a press release, calling on the UK and the Pakistan President to work together to deliver human rights and development for the people of the NorthWest, including introducing legal and political reforms. AI called on the UK to adopt human rights benchmarks in how the aid money to Pakistan is used, and to push for an end to enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and mistreatment of detainees. UK pledged £600 million over five years in humanitarian aid to people affected by the conflict in the NorthWest. Pakistani president's UK visit must deliver human rights gains in NorthWest, Press Release, 2 August 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/president-pakistan-uk-visit-must-deliver-human-rights-gains-northwest-2010-08-02
In recent months garment factory employees demanding labour rights and wage increases have been demonstrating in the streets of Dhaka and surrounding areas. Scores of demonstrators and policemen have been injured during the protests. Protests by thousands of workers in late June led to the temporary closure of about 700 garment factories. Labour rights leaders had been calling for minimum monthly wages of 5,000 taka (about US$71) to meet living costs. In late July the government announced that from November 2010, the monthly minimum wage for ready made garment workers would increase from 1662.50 taka (US $24) to 3000 taka (US $43). Garment workers said the increase was too low and took to the streets again. There have been dozens of arrests and we received allegations that six female detainees had been tortured. The team initiated an Urgent Action to remind the authorities that international law places severe restrictions on the use of force by law enforcement officers. We emphasized the state’s duty to respect the right to life and freedom from torture and other ill treatment. We said we did not condone the violence that occurred during the protests, but urged the government to ensure that no one is tortured or ill-treated in custody, and no one is held in custody without a recognizably criminal charge against them. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA13/008/2010/en/32e835b1-7fbd-442b-961f-34fb6916a3db/asa130082010en.pdf
In an interview to The Guardian, the Researcher highlighted the dangers of deporting an Ahmadi woman and her daughter from the UK to Bangladesh. The UK government has rejected their claim to asylum. The authorities have informed them that they would be deported if they did not agree to return voluntarily. The researcher called upon the UK and Bangladesh governments to take their claims seriously, explaining that in Bangladesh they will be at risk of persecution for their religious beliefs. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/aug/18/asylum-seekers-child-detention-deportation/print
The Researcher and the PD attended a high level meeting between the SG and the Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK on 4 August. This was a courtesy call from the High Commissioner, but during the meeting we urged the government to ensure that the trial of people accused of war crimes is conducted in line with international fair trial standards. We called upon the government of Bangladesh to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We also asked the government to investigate the Rapid Action Battalion personnel who raided the house of a senior BNP politician in late June and beat people there during the raid. The High Commissioner agreed to forward our recommendations to the authorities.
The Researcher and the DPD met briefly with the Bangladesh Foreign Minister during a meeting at the Policy Exchange where the Minister was giving a talk. During the question and answer time, the Researcher gave a brief account of AI's concerns that police has tortured or ill-treated six detained garment factory workers and has used excessive force against the demonstrators. The Foreign Minister said she had inquired from the police and had been assured that they had not be tortured, but admitted that torture does take place in police custody.
The team liaised with AIUSA to encourage members of the lower house of Congress to sign a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, asking her to support an international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka. A total of 58 representatives signed the letter, which cites Amnesty International. Follow these links for media stories on this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10934663; http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100810/pl_afp/srilankaunrestwarcrimesusdiplomacy_20100810201329
On 12 August the Sri Lanka team hosted an advocacy meeting addressing strategy around the UN Panel on Sri Lanka with a collection of international INGOs
Submission to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
On 17 August we sent Twenty Years of Make Believe and Unlock the Camps along with some of our most relevant press releases and public statements as a submission to the President’s appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
The team issued a public statement coinciding with World Humanitarian Day (19 August), calling for justice for the killing of 17 humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka four years ago;http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA37/012/2010/en/726c0646-5bfd-4c44-8fcb-d5ecfab2fe65/asa370122010en.html.
Together with Human Rights Watch, the team sent a letter to the Minister for Justice and Human Rights calling for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience/ political prisoners in Indonesia. The letter welcomed the release of former prisoner of conscience Yusak Pakage, as well as news that the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights may be proposing the release of other peaceful political activists to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Accompanying the letter was a list of prisoners of conscience/ political prisoners, compiled by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, whose release both organizations are calling for.
The team issued a public statement urging the President to prioritize the establishment of strong police accountability mechanisms after he announced plans to restructure the National Police. The statement can be viewed here http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA21/018/2010/en
The team issued a public statement following the arrest of 22 activists in Maluku. In the statement Amnesty International urged the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 22 if they had been arrested solely for their peaceful political activities. Amnesty International also called on the authorities to end the criminalization of peaceful political activities in Maluku http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA21/017/2010/en
The team issued an urgent action for 10 activists who were arrested in Maluku. They were arrested for planning peaceful political activists and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA21/016/2010/en
The Pacific Researcher and representatives from the New Zealand and Australian sections did advocacy work, including a media conference on SVAW and Dignity related issues in Port Vila, Vanuatu during the Annual Pacific Heads of Government Meeting in the first week of August. The media conference and the related advocacy work was a huge success with massive media coverage in Vanuatu and the Pacific Region and supportive and congratulatory messages received from national and pacific regional organisations, especially womens rights groups and UN agencies such as UNIFEM, UNICEF, UNFPA etc. A number of Pacific governments were compelled to make statements on what they were doing on SVAW after releasing a communique that Amnesty International called 'weak' on gender based violence. The press conference was done in partnership with the Vanuatu Women's Center (Merilyn Tahi, Coordinator) and the UN Millenium Campaign Office (Minar Pimple, Deputy Director Asia Programme).
At the PIFS meeting in Port Vila, AI was able to highlight the issue of slums and access to water and sanitation and took a television crew from Maori TV in New Zealand to a slum in the city to highlight this. A documentary on the trip to the Slums was shown on national television in New Zealand on 16 August 2010. To watch the documentary, click on: http://www.maoritelevision.com/Default.aspx?tabid=349&pid=212&epid=12343
The team submitted a written statement to the Fifteenth Session of the Human Rights Council which is taking place in Geneva from 13 September to 1 October, Cambodia: Ongoing serious human rights violations must be addressed, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/IOR41/022/2010/en/c7c178fb-2433-4a21-8dfa-688125e092dd/ior410222010en.pdf. Recommendations include extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for at least three years and to call on the government to: guarantee and safeguard the independence and impartiality of the court system; end all forced evictions; respect and protect the rights of human rights defenders; ensure the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly; and ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigation of all reports of sexual violence against women and girls. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is coming up for review at the Session.
The team issued a joint statement with Human Rights Watch, FIDH and OMCT, on the sentencing of Leng Sokchoeun to two years' imprisonment and a USD 500 fine for disinformation. Sokchoeun works for human rights NGO Licadho, one of AI's partner, and is accused of disseminating anti-government leaflets in Takeo province in January 2010, with three others. Sokchoeun was in Phnom Penh at the time of the alleged offense and denies any involvement. The judicial process, including arrest and incommunicado detention, was flawed throughout. He is appealing against the conviction. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/cambodia-urged-release-human-rights-worker-2010-09-01.
The team briefed Nicole Bjerler of the EU Office, ahead of attending the second EU-Cambodia Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights, in Phnom Penh, 31 August - 1 September. The focus of the seminar was the role of civil society and human rights defenders. Participants included EU representatives, government officials, Cambodian NGO and civil society representatives, and international NGOs. The aim of the seminar is to contribute to the EU-Cambodia human rights dialogue and develop links between Cambodian and European civil society representatives specialising in international human rights. Nicole will be providing feedback to the team on the discussions and participants, as well as observations on the organization and usefulness of such seminars, in due course.
Provided a briefing on general human rights concerns in Viet Nam for a US Congressional Hearing on freedom of religion. The hearing focused particularly on an incident in May 2010 at Con Dau Parish near Danang. Some Catholics were reportedly beaten and injured when police tried to stop the burial of a woman in a cemetery on land designated for development as an "eco-city". Police were reportedly trying to prevent further use of the cemetery and used batons and electric prods against the parishioners, firing guns into the air. Around 60 people were detained, most of whom were later released, except for six charged with "disturbing public order" and "attacking state security personnel who were performing their lawful duty". One person is reported to have died in custody two days after arrest. Relatives of some of those detained were present at the hearing. The Vietnamese authorities reacted strongly in the official media criticising the resolution which came out of the meeting, and which called for an investigation into the incident. Around 40 members of the parish fled to Thailand after the incident and are seeking asylum.
Press release - Malaysia should halt expansion of security force accused of abuses. AI urged the government to scrap plans to expand the state-sponsored security force of civilian volunteers known as RELA, which has a long record of human rights abuses against refugees and migrants. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/malaysia-should-halt-expansion-security-force-accused-abuses-2010-08-19
Urgent Action - Malaysia: Filipino couple facing execution in Malaysia. AI launched an appeal for a Timhar and Nurrie Ong, Filipino couple facing the death penalty in Malaysia for drug trafficking. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/012/2010/en
Press release - Philippine police responsible for torture must be prosecuted. AI called on officials to use the new Anti-Torture Law to prosecute police shown torturing a suspect in a video broadcast on TV. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/philippine-police-responsible-torture-must-be-prosecuted-2010-08-18
The China team issued an urgent action for Dilshat Paerhat, an ethnic Uighur and editor of a Uighur language website, who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on 21 July 2010 for "endangering state security". His family have not been able to meet him since he was taken away from his home in Urumqi on 7 August 2009. It is not known where he is imprisoned. and he is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The China team issued an urgent action for Fan Qihang who is at risk of execution once the Supreme People's Court upholds his death sentence. He says his conviction is based on a confession extracted through torture as a result of repeatedly tortured in an unofficial place of detention and forced to confess to crimes he did not commit. His lawyer was not allowed to meet him until he had been transferred to a detention centre. The lawyer secretly videoed interviews with Fan Qihang, in which he details his torture, shows the wounds inflicted on his wrists, and says he had attempted suicide. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/035/2010/en
The China team issued a press release in response to the proposed reforms of China's death penalty policy. Amnesty International welcomes any reform that would in practice decrease executions in China. However, the ultimate impact of any reforms to China's use of the death penalty cannot be publicly known and evaluated due to classification of execution figures as state secrets.http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/proposed-china-death-penalty-reforms-may-have-no-great-impact-executions-2010-08-23.
A China team member conducted a series of meetings and interviews in New York and Washington, D.C., including meetings with 3 bureau within the US State Department, a meeting with a staff member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, a committee of the American Bar Association that deals with China, six staff members of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, the US Committee on International Religious Freedom, and AI's New York office on the UN. The meeting focused on the engagement and work of these organizations on China, including challenges of responding to China's increased influence in a variety of contexts.
The team issued a public statement ahead of the 15 August anniversary of the end of World War II calling on the Japanese government to apologise to the survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA22/007/2010/en. The statement made by Amnesty International was part of a wider effort organised by our partners in South Korea to raise this issue for the anniversary.
The team issued an Urgent Action for Mr. Jeong Sang-un, an 84-year-old man, who is believed to be detained in a political prison camp in North Korea after he was forcibly returned by the Chinese authorities. On his return, he was known to be in poor health. Given his advanced age and the harsh conditions in the prison camp, Jeong Sang-un's life is at risk. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA24/006/2010/en
Civilian casualties: UNAMA Mid-Year Report Protection of civilians in armed conflict, August 2010: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan leapt by 31% in the first half of 2010, driven largely by the Taliban and other insurgents’ rising use of improvised explosive devices, and their increased targeting of civilians for assassination, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces accounted for more than 76% of civilian casualties and 72% of deaths. In the first half of 2010, the executions and assassinations of civilians by the Taliban and other insurgent groups increased by over 95% to 183 recorded deaths compared to the same time last year. The victims were usually accused of supporting the government. According to UNAMA, NATO-led and government forces caused 29% fewer casualties than the previous year, which has been attributed to policy changes placing greater priority on civilian protection, borne out in a 64% decline in casualties caused by aerial attacks.
Amnesty International has been told that tribal elders in various villages of Kandahar, Zabul, and Khost provinces have been fleeing rural areas, fearing systematic targeting by the Taliban. "The elders are threatened and if they don’t cooperate with the Taliban they are killed," said a Kandahar journalist. "Then the Taliban will just tell the village that the elder was an American spy and that is why he was killed." The journalist asked not to be identified out of fear of Taliban retaliation.
Taliban updated code of conduct: The Taliban issued also an updated code of conduct aiming at wining over civilians, which prescribe the death penalty for any fighter who harms civilians not siding with the Afghan government or the Nato-led coalition. However, it also spells out that people who are working for international forces or the Afghan government are "supporters of the infidels" and can be killed.
There have been few cases of reoccurrence of executions for alleged adultery in Afghanistan, including stoning - punishments that were widely practiced during the Taliban rule. On 15 August 2010 a Taliban council stoned to death a couple for "eloping", in a Taleban-controlled village in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan. This stoning is the first to be confirmed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. On 9 August, a pregnant woman in Badghis province was first punished with 200 lashes and after shot dead in public by the Taliban for alleged adultery.
10 aid workers - six Americans, a Briton, a German and four Afghans - were killed by the insurgents in Badakhshan province (North Afghanistan) after coming back from a three week mission on foot to deliver free medical care to the people living in the remotest regions of Nuristan Province, North-eastern Afghanistan. The group comprised of doctors, nurses and technicians were working for the International Assistance Mission, a Christian aid group that has operated in Afghanistan since 1966. The police in Badakhshan found their bodies, seven men and three women, on 6 August. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killings, accusing the group of aid workers of being spies and Christian missionaries. This incident against aid workers has been regarded as the most serous massacre of aid workers in Afghanistan for years, and show evidence of increasing insecurity in the northern part of the country as well as fears that the insurgents has changed their policy of not attacking aid workers.
In August, 48 pupils and teachers at Kabul's Zabihullah Esmati High School and 60 students and teachers at the Totia Girls School were hospitalized after fainting or complaining of breathing problems, dizziness and nausea. Students say they began feeling unwell after being exposed to an unknown gas spreading through classrooms. Blood samples taken from Afghan schoolgirls who collapsed in apparent mass poisoning showed traces of toxic chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides and nerve gas, the Health Ministry said. Suspicion has fallen on sympathizers of the Taliban, who have been opposing education for women and prohibited girls from going to schools, when they were in power and as the insurgency movement in the area of their control. It remains unclear how the gas spread.
About 350 Islamic clerics of the Afghanistan's highest Islamic religious body, the Council of Ulema, met in Kabul to discuss the peace with the Taliban. In a declaration, which came out from the meeting, the Ulema called on the government to more strictly enforce physical shari'a punishments, known as hudood , as a concession to the Taliban in an attempt to end the war. Under the Taliban, hudood punishments included public stoning, amputations and lashing. AI raised its concerns through media interviews and condemned this development, calling on the President Karzai to reject the declaration.
By end of August the humanitarian agencies reported that nearly 20 million people were affected by the floods across Pakistan (not all of then though are people who are in need of aid) and more than 1,600 people were killed and over 2,000 people were injured. At least 3.2 million hectares of standing crops and over 1,2 million houses have so far been damaged or lost across the country, and some 9,484 schools (180 of which in FATA) have been reported to have been fully or partially damaged. The Monsoon rain floods, which started in the end of July, devastated first the north-western Pakistan and expanded to parts of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Rescuers were struggling to distribute relief to tens of thousand people trapped in the remote areas, where the access was hindered as bridges and roads were destroyed and washed away and the communication and electricity was disrupted. Humanitarian agencies also reported that the access to areas of Khyber Pakhtukwa (formerly named NWFP) and Baluchistan was limited due to security concerns of insurgency attacks. Affected communities were suffering of inadequate shelter, food and clean water. The areas affected of the floods in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Baluchistan are home of about 1.5 million Afghan refugees and about 700,000 internally displaced people from the conflict in Pakistan's tribal areas. The flood displaced another 1million of people and made homeless another 6 million people (according to UNHCR, 23 August, the government estimates that around 700,000 people have fled their homes in Sindh and sought shelter in Baluchistan, while another 3.6 million people in Sindh are homeless. A further 400,000 have been displaced in Baluchistan because of the floods.) Health and hygiene of people in affected areas are of main concern, as waterborne diseases outbreaks are feared - increased numbers of suspected malaria cases are being recorded in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces and a higher proportion of diarrhoea cases are being seen in Charsadda, Swat, Nowshera and Peshawar, OCHA said. Some 60,000 troops were sent for rescue operations. Islamist organizations linked to militant armed groups, including also the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrek-e-Taleban Pakistan) also stepped in to provide aid to the flood affected communities, which raised concerns that the armed groups are exploiting the situation for wining sympathizers and recruiting new fighters. The Government started a clampdown on Islamist relief camps known to be wings of militants terrorist groups. US officials warned of Taliban attacks on foreigners providing relief, as earlier the Taliban called on the government to reject aid from the US and international organizations.
Members of Ahmadiya community in Punjab blamed the government for discrimination in distributing relief. The government and local clerics reportedly refused to shelter around 500 Ahmadiya flood survivors in South Punjab relief camps and Ahmadis claim that the government did not provide relief to affected Ahmadiya communities in areas in Punjab. The IS Pakistan Team is monitoring the relief efforts - to make sure that all affected communities are receiving adequate relief without discrimination and that the needs of women are also met.
Despite the humanitarian crisis as result of the floods, Taliban and armed groups continued its insurgency activities. On 23 August, insurgent groups killed up to 25 people in three coordinated attacks on pro-government tribal leaders in the north-western Pakistan. The biggest attack was a suicide attacks in a mosque in the main town of South Waziristan, Wana, which killed 18 people. It is believed that these attacks are in response of the insurgents in relation to government's actions to crackdown on the Islamist/militant relief camps.
The government has set up the International Crimes Tribunal and at least five people have already been booked for investigation by the Tribunal. We are in the process of analysing the law under which the tribunal functions, which appears in some places to be in breach of international fair trial standards.
The ruling party is seeking a constitutional amendment (the 18th amendment) that would extend the term limit of the executive presidency allowing President Mahinda Rajapaksa to remain in office when his present term expires. The amendment would do away with the constitutional council; replacing it with a 5-member Parliamentary Council that would oversee key appointments such as the Attorney General, police and judiciary. Several recent party "crossovers" means that the ruling party now has the 2/3 majority necessary to pass the measure in parliament. Opponents have challenged the move in the Supreme Court, saying that the government is using emergency measures to pass legislation when there is no emergency. They are calling for a referendum.
Kashmir: The security forces' crackdown against violent protests against extrajudicial executions and protestors continues leading to escalating violence and more killings of youth in the valley - the authorities' decision to order judicial probes into the deaths of 50 youngsters in police firing appears to have had little impact on the protestors. The deaths in police shootings during the last two months stands at 62 (as on 1 September 2010).
Chhattisgarh-Maoists: Maoist violence in several eastern and central states sees no sign of abating with Maoists striking to kill eight policemen in Bihar and abducting four policemen of whom they claimed to have killed one.
Commonwealth Games in October: The Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in October continues to face sustained questioning over the massive expenditure incurred, delays and corruption and human rights violations of workers and marginalized populations despite court orders (The India team plans to issue a statement on this).
Others: A bill against prevention of torture has been sent to a select committee of the Indian Parliament's Upper House after protests that it does not conform to national and international standards on human rights (The India team is preparing a submission to the select committee). The introduction of a new mining bill, with wide ramifications on the rights of adivasis and other marginalised communities facing livelihood and resource problems, may be delayed, mainly due to protests from companies against the proposal to give 26 per cent stakes to the local communities.
Prominent Muslim cleric Abubakar Ba'asyir was arrested on 9 August for his alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Police claim to have evidence that Abubakar Ba'asyir funded a terrorist camp in Aceh. Two journalists in the provinces of Papua and Maluku were killed in July and August. Ardiansyah Matra'is, a journalist in Papua, had been missing for two days before he was found dead in a river on 30 July. Police suspect his death is connected to his coverage of local elections. Ridwan Saluman was killed in Maluku on 21 August while covering a communal clash between villagers in the province. The deaths prompted journalists nationwide to call for the police to thoroughly investigate acts of intimidation and violence against them. The Press Council warned that violence and threats against journalists in different regions are a real threat against Indonesia's press freedoms.
On 6 August five people were caned in Pidie Jaya district, Aceh. This was the district’s first public caning for violations of Sharia Law. Two people were caned for adultery and three others for gambling.
On 30 August, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said that the Ahmadiyya group "must be disbanded immediately" because it violated a 2008 joint ministerial decree that states that Ahmadiyya cannot propagate its teachings. Human rights activists have described the proposal as a setback and counter to the country’s commitment to religious freedom.
Four people were sentenced to death for drug trafficking. These are the first death sentences to be reported in well over a year. Laos continues to maintain a de facto moratorium on executions.
Lao officials began preparations for hosting the meeting of states party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in November. They are expecting representatives of 104 countries to attend. This is a major international event for the Lao PDR.
Following the first conviction at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on 26 July, both the prosecution and Duch, the head of S-21 security centre,. have appealed against the sentence. The prosecution is appealing on the grounds that the sentence - 35 years' imprisonment, reduced to 19 - is too light, that undue weight was given to mitigating circumstances, and insufficient weight was given to the gravity of the charges and offences committed. Duch is appealing on the grounds that his case falls outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Another dissident was arrested on charges of "carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing" the state. Article 79 in the national security section of the Penal Code provides for lengthy prison terms as well as the optional death penalty. Professor Pham Minh Hoang, a maths lecturer at Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic Institute has written about social justice and corruption, and supported protests against bauxite mining in the Central Highlands. He submitted testimony to the 5th Dublin Platform of Front Line Defenders in February 2010, highlighting how human rights defenders from a range of backgrounds are targeted by the authorities.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak highlighted his New Economic Model in Independence Day speech on 31 August. In October the government is expected to announce details of the policy, which will touch on longstanding issues of state-sponsored ethnic discrimination.
Over two weekends in end of July and early August, hundreds of people mostly young people from the southern Guangzhou city took to the streets to preserve their local dialect Cantonese after a local political advisory body proposed in early July that Guangzhou TV broadcast more of its news programmes in Mandarin or launch a new Mandarin channel. The local police said three people have been detained by police for disrupting public order. The Guangzhou municipal government has said that local authorities would not abolish use of the Cantonese dialect. A nationwide scheme that was in effect on 1 August, Chinese citizens could allow online access only if they have their identity cards swiped. Viewed content can then be traced down. By end of August, all internet cafes in Tibet Autonomous Region have been ordered to finish installing a surveillance system which would restrict viewed contents by identified surfers and monitor their internet activities.
On 4 August, a 22-year-old female work leapt from a dormitory in Foxconn's factory building in Jiangsu province. It was the 16th suicide attempt by a worker employed by the Taiwanese owned electronics giant among which 11 workers died. A slew of strikes across China continues over low wages, frequent overtime and unpaid overtime, working conditions, etc. A recent strike involved a Panasonic subsidiary factory in Shanghai. About 30 laid-off workers protested over inadequate compensation, forcing the factory to close for a day.
A bomb attack in on the outskirts of Aksu in south-western Xinjiang Uighurs Autonomous Region targeting a policeman and security guards killed seven people and wounded fourteen on 19 August. The Aksu prefectural government's website said the suspected attacker was a Uighur man who had ridden a three wheeled motorcycle into the security officers and civilians and detonated the explosive device. The suspect was also injured and was caught by police at the site of the blast in Yiganqi township. Witnesses said the suspected attackers were a man and a woman. An unnamed woman with the Public Security Bureau in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighurs Autonomous Region, however, denied that there was any blast in the area. Right after the explosion in Aksu prefecture, the Central Propaganda Department issued a ban for reporting by any media, including the state owned Xinhua News Agency, of an explosion in western China that killed seven people.
The Xinjiang Public Security Bureau issued a note on 26 August saying that the reward campaign was launched online, in an aim to mobilize ordinary people to help fight terror and crime. The police will pay between 10,000 yuan and 100,000 yuan for information about violent crime and terrorism. Suspects who surrender may be exempted from punishment or receive lighter sentencing in return for their cooperation.
(Hong Kong) Hao Tiechuan, head of the liaison office's publicity department commented in a speech that during social unrest, the top priority of the media was to help the government restore order. His comment angered the academics and rights group who said the first duty of journalists was to tell the truth.
US President Barack Obama has signed an executive order mandating new financial sanctions on North Korea, senior administration officials say. The sanctions will hit eight North Korean "entities" and four individuals, targeting the trade in arms, luxury goods and narcotics. Following heavy floods, the military has been deployed to aid rescue work in North Korea. China and North Korea have evacuated thousands of people from their homes after heavy rains burst the Yalu river, flooding areas near their border. North Korean state media reported that 5,000 people had been moved in the city of Sinuiju and nearby villages. South Korea's Red Cross has offered 10bn won ($8.3m, £5.3m) worth of flood aid to its impoverished neighbour.
North Korea has opened a twitter account. Using the Twitter username @uriminzok – Korean for "our people" – North Korea has taken to the micro blogging site as part of a rejuvenated digital PR campaign. Last month the country's government also opened a YouTube account, uploading 78 news clips in four weeks. The regime's first tweet roughly translates as: "Website, 'our nation itself' is a Twitter account." In other tweets posted so far, the account links to past speeches praising the regime's "dear leader" Kim Jong-il, and a denunciation of reports the country's military sank a South Korean navy ship. South Korea government has asked domestic Internet service providers to block South Korean citizens’ access to a North Korean Twitter Inc. account because it breaches the South’s national security laws.
A prominent clergyman has been arrested crossing back into his native South Korea from North Korea after an unauthorised visit. Han Sang-ryol paid a two month visit to communist North Korea, to which Seoul bans unauthorised trips. The pro-reunification pastor was reportedly given a warm reception in the North. Unauthorised visits to North Korea are illegal under the National Security Law in South Korea.
On 11 August, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Religions released the Blue Book of Religions in China, revealing that there are an estimate of 23 millions of Christians in China. The research over the past two years was combined household sampling and in-depth investigation in selected areas. The survey collected more than 60,000 questionnaires in nearly 3,000 villages in 321 counties across the mainland. It shows that nearly 70 per cent of Christians are female and about 67 per cent have been baptized. It also showed that most mainland Christians live in the east and around the Yangtze River region, with nearly three-quarters in eastern and central areas of the country. The survey results suggested that about a quarter of Christians engage in religious activities at home. The officials said it is a breakthrough in China's academic world to reveal such figures based on household sampling and all previous figures have sparked controversy. Other estimates have ranged from 40 million to 130 million Christians. Recent research has suggested there are about 54 million Christians on the mainland, according to the Christian Examiner. The number, however, excluded those unrecognized ones officially.
Police interrogations at five Beijing prisons must now be recorded by surveillance cameras in an effort to make the law enforcement process more transparent. The regulation, released by the Qinghe branch of the capital's prison bureau and in force since 10 August, prohibits police from interrogating or conversing with prisoners in areas not covered by surveillance cameras. Officers have also been equipped with tamper-proof mobile video recorders. However, it generate concerns that the surveillance cameras should be applied to all mainland prisons and especially detention centres and it also raises doubts also that there was absence of any scrutiny by a third party. Some said police could evade the rule by claiming a surveillance system had broken or by getting senior prison officials to delete incriminating videos. (Hong Kong) The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the top legislature in China, approved two amendments to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region regarding the method of selecting Hong Kong's Chief Executive and the formation of the Hong Kong's Legislative Council. One amendment increases from 800 to 1,200 the number of electors in the Election Committee that will elect the chief executive; and the other will increase the number of Legislative Council seats from 60 to 70.
Ichiro Ozawa, a member of the governing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), on August 26 took on Prime Minister Naoto Kan, 63, declaring his candidacy for the party leadership. The party vote is due to take place 14 September with the winner also becoming the Prime Minister.
On Friday 27 August Japan allowed the media to visit the site of executions in the Tokyo Detention Centre. Executions in Japan are by hanging. The move to invite the media to view the gallows was initiated by Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba and aimed at sparking public debate on the death penalty. Ms. Chiba oversaw the execution of 2 death row inmates on 28 July despite being personally opposed to the death penalty. A review within the Ministry of Justice has been ordered to review the death penalty but the Ministry is seen as being overwhelmingly in favour of the death penalty casting doubt about the value of the review. Two sessions of the review were held in August. A third session is due to take place in September and will invite outside experts to hear their opinions.
American citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced to 8 years hard labour in North Korea and fined $700.000 has been allowed to return to the US. He after arrested in April after illegally crossed into North Korea. Former President Jimmy Carter arrived in North Korea to collect Gomes who was granted a release. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il visited China for the second time in three months. Kim Jong-il rarely travels sparking speculation that the visit might be aimed at laying the groundwork for a transfer of power to his third son, Kim Jong-un. There is also speculation that Kim may also be seeking more aid following devastating floods in North Korea. Reports emerged that the North Korean government executed three leaders of an underground house church and jailed 20 others with them in May. North Korean police raided a house in Kuwal-dong in Pyungsung county, Pyongan province, and arrested all 23 people in attendance who had gathered for a "religious function." The 20 people are believed to have been taken to Yodok political prison camp.