Posts Tagged ‘impunity’

Bangladesh policeman ‘escapes’: a tale of incompetence that amounts to impunity

June 10, 2019

web-Moazzem Hossain Officer-in-Charge of Sonagazi police station in Feni

File photo of Moazzem Hossain Dhaka Tribune

Former Officer-in-Charge (OC), Moazzem Hossain, stands accused of having had a role in the murder of Feni madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi. The way the authorities bumbled his arrest warrant is told in more detail below by the Dhaka Tribune on 9 June 2019. Understandably human rights defenders raise questions about the role of the police and criticize the home minister who has confirmed that the officer in question is ‘on the run’.

…It took over a week for the authorities concerned to send copies of the arrest warrant for the former Sonagazi OC, to Feni and Rangpur police stations. But dilly dallying over sending the warrants to concerned police ranges was ‘just to help the OC flee,’ claimed some human rights defenders.

Deputy inspector of police of the Rangpur range, Debdas Bhattacharya, yesterday said they have received the warrant and OC Moazzem remains absent from his office without any prior permission. The top police official also said proper procedure was not followed in sending the warrant to Rangpur police and that he would speak to Feni police about acting according to procedure. It also took over a week for the Feni police to receive the warrant from the tribunal in Dhaka even though the warrant was issued on May 27. Kazi Moniruzzaman, superintendent of Feni Police, said the last location of OC Moazzem was in Rangpur. “Upon receiving the warrant on June 3, it was sent to the Rangpur range,” he saidd….

Noted human rights defenders slammed the government and police authorities for ‘indirectly allowing’ OC Moazzem to go into hiding, and accused the police of helping him flee the country. “When people like OC Moazzem go into hiding, a police official accused of negligence in duty in a sensational murder case that shook the whole nation,  some quarter has surely assisted him by dragging out his arrest procedure,” said Dr Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. “With his statement that Moazzem is on the run, the home minister is trying to make fools of the people. Action should be taken against everyone involved in the process, for negligence, if Moazzem is not arrested and is not placed on trial immediately,” he said.

Former Ain O Salish Kendra director Nur Khan Liton also found the slow process of delivering the arrest warrant, to be a bid to help Moazeem flee. “When an official of a law enforcement agency gets involved in a crime and we see  authorities slowing down the process of apprehending him, instead of meting out strict and speedy punishment, it indicates the process has been slowed down to help him/her flee from being put behind bars,” he said.

……
Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon, who filed the case against Moazzem, said Moazzem has fled taking advantage of police procrastination. “If he flees the country, police will have to take responsibility for that, ” he said, adding: “The inspector general of police should have initiated the required actions himself, considering the sensitivity of the case, but he did not. Since the warrant has now been received by police in both Feni and Rangpur, it is their responsibility to arrest Moazzem and produce him in court.”

[Case proceedings: According to the case details, Nusrat went to Sonagazi model police station to file a case against Sonagazi Islamia Fazil (Degree) Madrasa Principal Sirajuddaula on March 27 for sexually assaulting her the day before. Moazzem recorded a video of her statement without her consent, asking her offensive and insulting questions. The video then surfaced on various social media platforms. It was alleged that Moazzem had put up the video. Moazzem, whose voice was heard on the video, had also appeared unconcerned about Nusrat’s complaints and said the sexual assault was not a major incident. He asked Nusrat to go home, and assured her of taking steps in accordance with her written complaint. However, no action was taken against Sirajuddaula. Nusrat, 18, an Alim examinee, was set on fire by Sirajuddaula’s followers on April 6 for refusing to withdraw the rape attempt case her family had filed against him. She died from the injuries four days later.

On April 10, Moazzem was withdrawn from his post as OC and transferred to the Armed Police Battalion, after Nusrat’s family said he had not been cooperating with them. On April 11, Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon saw the video on social media, which prompted him to file a petition against Moazzem for breaking the law. Barrister Sumon then filed a case against Moazzem under the Digital Security Act on May 15. The Dhaka Cyber Tribunal ordered the OC’s arrest on May 27 when the PBI found the allegations against him to be true. Later, OC Moazzem filed a bail petition with the High Court. The hearing for the case is scheduled for June 11.]

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2019/06/09/home-minister-oc-moazzem-on-the-run-arrest-taking-time

 

Vito’s trial in Georgia opens – crucial to challenge raising hate crimes

April 22, 2019

Vitali Safarov – Image: Svitlana Valko

……The investigation and trial into Vitali Safarov’s murder is the first time Georgian law enforcement are dealing with an alleged hate crime murder. And proving “ethnic hatred” as a motive, and that the crime was carried out by a group, is not an easy task for the prosecution – and requires a high level of professionalism. It took more than half a year for Georgian investigators to collect evidence and witness statements, as well as to conduct several expert examinations. According to Agit Mirzoev, head of the Centre for Participation and Development, both suspects are believed to be members of a neo-Nazi group that is known for having attacked foreign citizens and homeless persons in a central Tbilisi neighbourhood. Speaking to Ekho Kavkaza on 16 April, defence counsels stated that neither Kandelakishvili, nor Sokhadze were involved in a neo-Nazi organisation.

Mirzoev says that the suspects’ social network accounts were filled with far-right images and music. Here, according to Mirzoev, Sokhadze and Kandelakishvili paid respect to Adolf Hitler, bragged about cleansing the city of homeless persons, made threats against LGBT persons, and published videos of themselves training with bladed weapons and killing stray dogs. Sokhadze, who is believed to be a leader of the group, used the nickname “Slayer” online. Sokhadze’s social media account has since been deleted after the arrest, but prosecutors and the Centre for Participation and Development have screenshots.

Human rights groups have worked hard to keep the investigation in the public spotlight and encourage Georgian law enforcement to rise to the challenge. Initially the prosecutor’s office inclined to ignore the hate motive and charged only Kandelakishvili with premeditated murder, treating Sokhadze as a passive accomplice and charging him with not reporting the crime. But public pressure has worked: on 16 April, the prosecution charged both suspects with premeditated murder, committed by a group, on the grounds of ethnic hatred. If convicted, the defendants face sentences of between 13 to 17 years in prison. Neither defendant admitted their guilt.

…….Furthermore, on 16 April, the defence lawyers asked the judge to dismiss all evidence and witness testimonies presented by the prosecution. They claimed the evidence had been manipulated “in the interest of a certain segment of the population” – clearly referring to members of civil society and others who insist that the murder was a hate crime. The judge rejected the defence’s motion, admitting all evidence and witnesses from both the prosecution and the defence. The evidence will now be presented by the parties and reviewed by the judge during further sessions of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. The next session is scheduled for 24 April.

… And the trial’s outcome is important in Georgia, a multi-ethnic country with centuries-old traditions of diversity – and where different cultures, languages and faiths co-exist. Sadly, Georgia is also a place where today the extreme right are growing in numbers and strength. Indeed, the struggle for justice for Vitali has spurred an anti-xenophobia campaign (“Georgia: No Place for Hate”), which is organised by his colleagues in the Centre for Participation and Development and other local NGOs. Right before the beginning of the hearings, over a hundred people gathered in front of the court building for a solidarity demonstration. They held photographs of Vitali and posters calling for a Georgia without hatred and racism, demanding justice and no impunity for the perpetrators. Activists and friends of Vitali wore pins reading “Never forget”, complete with his image. As he watched the participants of the action, Leri Safarov, Vitali’s father, could not hold back tears. “Only now am I starting to really know my son and understand what he was doing. Please carry on his work.”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/vitali-safarov-trial-georgia/

Maldives: Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

April 12, 2019

The families of abducted journalist Ahmed Rilwan and slain blogger Yameen Rasheed have launched a foundation in memory of the outspoken human rights defenders.  The foundation was announced Wednesday 10 April 2019 by their mothers at a private event held to mark Yameen’s 31st birthday. “This foundation will work to advocate for human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance, justice and the right to a dignified life,” Yameen’s mother Mariyam Shafeeq told reporters. The purpose of the foundation is to provide education and training opportunities for people who want to contribute in these areas.

Yameen, a satirist and IT professional, was stabbed to death near the stairwell of his apartment building on 23 April, 2017. He was killed by a radicalised group of young men who believed he was guilty of insulting Islam, according to police. Six suspects were charged with murder and preliminary hearings were wrapped up in October. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/25/sunny-maldives-murder-of-human-rights-defender-and-blogger-yameen-rasheed-tip-of-the-iceberg/]

Rilwan, an outspoken blogger and journalist with the Maldives Independent, was abducted in August 2014 outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé. Two suspects were acquitted last August with the judge blaming glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.

The missing journalist’s family said the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”

On Wednesday, the families condemned the outgoing parliament’s refusal to grant investigative powers to a presidential commission formed to investigate deaths and disappearances. “We have seen that powerful politicians and criminal gangs have continued to use state institutions and the courts to bury the truth. The fact that the bill seeking legal powers for the presidential commission investigating unresolved murders and enforced disappearances have been put on the parliament’s agenda thrice, only to be held up in parliament is clear evidence that influential persons are working to pervert justice,” the families said in a statement.

For queries about the work of the Rilwan and Yameen Foundation email rilwanyameenfoundation@gmail.com.

Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

FIDH dares to publish a report on ‘key human rights issues of concern’ in Kashmir

March 17, 2019

On 15 March 2019 the International Federation for Human Rights and its partner organizations Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) published a briefing note detailing key human rights issues of concern in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir. I use the term dare in the title as wading in to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is always tricky and leads rot furious reactions from governments and media.

Human rights violations began to be formally reported in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir in 1990 in the midst of counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army to contain an armed struggle against Indian rule. These military operations were marked by excessive and disproportionate use of force. Since 1990, more than 70,000 people have been killed, more than 8,000 have been subjected to enforced disappearances, several thousands have been arrested and detained under repressive laws, and torture and other acts of inhuman and degrading treatment against protestors and detainees have been routinely used by Indian security forces.

ILLUSTRATION: MIR SUHAIL QADRI.

The NGOs have demanded full and unfettered access to Jammu & Kashmir to UN bodies and representatives, foreign and domestic human rights organizations, and foreign and local journalists. The groups also called for establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of all human rights violations perpetrated in Jammu & Kashmir, as recommended in the report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir through diplomatic missions in New Delhi and Islamabad.

The note details “continuing crime of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, torture used as punitive action, systematic impunity for grave crimes, use of arbitrary and administrative detentions to curb dissent, military operations threatening human rights, rights to freedoms of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion or belief being curbed, human rights defenders under threat, sexual violence used a tool of repressions, lack of safeguards continue to place children in danger,” among other crimes.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/30/parveena-ahangar-and-parvez-imroz-in-kashmir-awarded-rafto-prize-2017/

US NGOs react furiously to visa restrictions imposed on ICC investigators by Trump administration

March 16, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new visa restrictions in a press briefing on Friday. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

Human rights defenders expressed outrage on Friday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that the Trump administration is revoking or denying visas for any International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel who try to investigate or prosecute U.S. officials or key allies for potential war crimes. The move, Pompeo confirmed is a direct response to ongoing efforts by the ICC to probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the war in Afghanistan. There was an immediate and almost unanimous outcry by the key human rights NGOs in the USA:

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU‘s Human Rights Program (the ACLU currently represents Khaled El Masri, Suleiman Salim, and Mohamed Ben Soud, who were all detained and tortured in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008): “This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt international accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day,” Dakwar said. “It reeks of the very totalitarian practices that are characteristic of the worst human rights abusers, and is a blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses.”

Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it “an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of U.S. conduct.” He encouraged ICC member countries to “publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for the ICC and will not tolerate U.S. obstruction.”

Daniel Balson, advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, noted that this is just “the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.” Visa bans, as Balson pointed out, are “powerful tools typically reserved for the most serious of human rights abusers.” But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC—an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under international law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

The move is “is highly indicative of [the administration’s] culture of disregard for rights abuses,” said Balson. “Throwing roadblocks in front of the ICC’s investigation undermines justice not only for abuses committed in Afghanistan, but also for the millions of victims and survivors throughout the world who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law.

Pompeo’s announcement came after John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, threatened to impose sanctions on court officials in September if they continued to pursue an investigation of potential crimes by U.S. civilians or military personnel in Afghanistan….”These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent,” Pompeo added. “Implementation of this policy has already begun.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/03/15/blatant-effort-intimidate-and-retaliate-pompeo-imposes-visa-ban-icc-staff-probing-us

See also later development: https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1R328X-OCATP

Marielle Franco: one year after her killing in Rio

March 13, 2019

A long piece in Open Democracy of 12 March provides more details and links tentatively the murder to the State:

Three moments have been key in unravelling the truth regarding this political crime. The first, the detention in December 2018 of Marcello Moares Siciliano, also a counselor in Rio de Janeiro. He was identified as the supposed intellectual author of the crime and he is being directly accused of being involved in the murder. The State Prosecutor and the Police searched his home and found material connected to the murder that also pointed towards two ex-military police officers who were also detained as possible complices.

The second, in January of this year, was the major revelation that these two military police officers have dark connections to Flavio Bolsonaro, the son of president Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently a senator. The accused are suspected to be members of the militia group ‘Escritório do Crime’, one of the most dangerous criminal groups currently in the west of Rio de Janeiro.

The third, is the unexpected arrest of a military police officer and another ex-police officer only a few days before commemorating one year since her murder. One is accused of pulling the trigger, and the other of driving the vehicle used for the attack. These appear to be the first concrete results of a complex investigation that remains plagued with uncertainty that would confirm the Brazilian state’s role in the murder…

What is certain is that the investigation has also suggested a link between Marielle’s opposition to the militarisation of Rio de Janeiro and her murder. She had discovered some worrying conexions, which could imply her death was caused by powerful mafias that wished to silence her. The complexity and the difficulty of clarifying the events surrounding her death show there are powerful interests impeding the investigation.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/who-killed-marielle-1-year-later-few-answers/

Profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, human rights defender in Mexico

March 13, 2019

On 8 March 2019 LEXICON marked International Women’s Day  – in partnership with Peace Brigades International,- with a profile of Valentina Rosendo Cantu, a human rights defender in Mexico. This is the story of a woman who fought for her dignity and transformed her trauma and suffering into resilience. Her case led to a groundbreaking verdict by the Inter-American Court in June 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »

Son of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia tells UN impunity continues

February 26, 2019

Andrew Caruana Galizia

As the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its 40th session in Geneva, the son of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Andrew Caruana Galiziasaid her targeted assassination was a culmination in failures of government protection, followed by libel suits against her estate, as reported by  on 25 February 2019. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/human-rights-defenders-issues-in-the-40th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

Caruana Galizia spoke of the difficulty in maintaining international media and political attention around cases, and how weakening multilateralism made that even harder. It has fallen on her family and her children to sustain that, he said. He spoke at HRC urging them to ensure Malta accepts specific recommendations made at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) five months ago for an independent public inquiry into his mother’s death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/11/maltas-aditus-foundation-urges-government-to-improve-relationship-with-human-rights-defenders/]

The NGO Article 19, which organised the panel, stressed that impunity for attacks against journalists must end. It listed worrying trends of human rights violations, all of which pose a major threat to freedom of expression globally:

  • Continued impunity for attacks against journalists;
  • Failures by States to combat religious intolerance, while also failing to secure the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression;
  • The abuse of counter-terrorism laws to target civil society and dissenting voices;
  • Attacks against women human rights defenders and environmental and land defenders.

https://theshiftnews.com/2019/02/25/impunity-persists-son-of-murdered-journalist-tells-un-human-rights-council/

Impunity with Canadian flavor

February 5, 2019

Brent Patterson posted on Rabble.ca on 4 February, 2019 a piece entitled: “Impunity for human rights violations must be challenged from Guatemala to the Wet’suwet’en territories“. It looks at the concept of impunity, especially in the context of indigenous people in Latin America and..Canada. Read the rest of this entry »

Jestina Mukoko’s 150.000 $ triumph in Zimbabwe: gives hope to all torture victims

October 8, 2018

In a rare case of triumph over impunity, the Zimbabwean High Court, on 27 September 2018, ordered the state to pay $150 000 to Jestina Mungareva Mukoko, a pro-democracy campaigner and Director of Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP). In a Deed of Settlement endorsed by the High Court, the defendants have been ordered to pay $100.000 to Jestina in respect of her claims while a further $50.000 will be paid as a contribution towards her legal costs (before 31 October 2018).

This exceptional decision was welcomed by many NGOs, including the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

My good friend and long-time Zimbabwean human rights defender Arnold Tsunga said the following: “I think it’s a very good resolution of the case. The damages are significant but the case was also quite serious including the torture meted out on Jestina that the damages seem to fit the case. In a way it’s a double benefit in that the abduction and torture resulted in criminal case against her collapsing and on top of that she gets paid. Hopefully the security sector have learnt a lesson. It is also good that the judiciary is getting stronger and confident to pronounce itself this way“. Especially the latter is an important outcome!

ackground Information (Jestina Mukoko Triumph: The Facts):
Jestina was abducted by some unidentified armed men from her home in Norton on 3 December 2008, and her whereabouts together with two ZPP employees Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, who were also abducted later in December 2008 remained unknown until December 24, 2008, when they first appeared before the Harare Magistrates Court, after weeks of being held incommunicado and being tortured. In court, Jestina and her colleagues and dozens of other pro-democracy campaigners were accused by government of plotting to topple Robert Mugabe’s administration through recruiting people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana. After her release from a torturous three months stay in prison, Mukoko with the assistance of her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, a member of ZLHR, took legal action against the state.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court granted a permanent stay of prosecution in favour of Jestina due to the violation of several of her fundamental rights by state security agents as she had been subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment including simulated drowning, being locked in a freezer and being subjected to physical assaults as her tormentors tried to make her confess to plotting to overthrow the administration of Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe.

In 2017, the High Court ruled that those who had illegally arrested her could be held liable in their own individual capacities and the case culminated in lengthy protracted negotiations that have led to this outcome. During this time, Jestina was called different names such as ‘regime change agent, reactionary and other unprintable words in a bid to delegitimise her legitimate human rights activism. She was portrayed as a criminal, a tag which remains today but this settlement in the court vindicates her and her work in defending human rights.

Jestina Mukoko herself added the following piece on the Significance of my case” (which I reproduce almost in full as it is such a good lessons learnt):

..The patrimonial settlement cannot atone for the trauma and suffering that I suffered and went through at the hands of the state security agents who were ruthless, merciless and very evil. It will not make for lost time as my liberty and all other human rights accorded to me by virtue of my being human was unjustifiably curtailed nor will it provide solace for my traumatised family – my mother, son, brothers, sisters in law, extended family, friends and other peace loving citizens.

However, it is a victory for the rule of law, constitutionalism and a mortal blow to impunity. The High Court’s decision is proof that the justice system is still able to prove the involvement of the state and its representatives in gross human rights violations, and bring them to account, with justice being done for the victims like myself.

It sets a landmark precedent and shows that the state actors can be held accountable for their illegal conduct. It also sends a message to the overzealous enforcers of orders and in this case very illegal orders to violate a plethora of my rights that they will be held responsible for their actions and this can even be in their personal capacity.

I hope my story will inspire many other victims. To some extent, justice has now been done and this case will stand as an example in the continuing fight against impunity for state crimes and excesses.

My resort to litigation and the subsequent victory in court sends a strong signal that state sponsored crimes cannot go unpunished.

It is also an encouragement to human rights defenders that the dangers of their work will not be in vain. I hope this case will embolden younger activists to pursue social justice in the comfort that they can rely on this case to hold the state or anyone accountable who may threaten their liberties. It is also a vindication of the advocacy work done by all human rights activists and those who have invested in promoting and protecting human rights that even though the fruits of this cumbersome and often arduous journey may come late , they eventually come. This is a victory for everyone who has been in the trenches with me and who has walked this risky journey of human rights work.

I hope that this victory will set an example, particularly to the Zimbabwean authorities, who must now prosecute the perpetrators of abductions and enforced disappearances which is a heinous crime.

The High Court’s decision sends a clear signal to the Zimbabwean authorities, who must do everything in their power to guarantee victims access to impartial justice and to put an end to the endemic impunity that is enjoyed by torturers and the perpetrators of serious human rights violations.

This settlement comes at a time when the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has started its work to establish the facts around the circumstances that led to the death of six people on 1 August 2018 in Harare after members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces opened fire against protesters. It must be established whether the force used by members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was proportionate to the threat posed by unarmed protesters. It must also be established whether in doing so they overstepped their mandate and therefore should be held liable or the state vicariously liable. This case must form the basis for national rejection of all forms of impunity and the same principles must be followed by the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence.

In conclusion, I, Jestina through the Zimbabwe Peace Project, which plays a critical role in documenting human rights abuses, will continue to join hands with other civil society organisations such as ZLHR to champion human rights in the post-Robert Mugabe era without fear or favour. The journey to full implementation of the Constitution and compliance with the supreme law of the land continues.

https://www.zoomzimbabwe.com/2018/10/05/high-court-awards-jestina-mukoko-150000-in-damages-for-state-torture/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/08/zimbabwe-celebrates-by-arresting-2-women-per-day-over-the-last-two-years/