[R-G] HRW Acts: Pakistan: Judges, Under Arrest Before Election; etc..
james m nordlund
realiteee1 at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 16 04:19:29 MST 2008
Pakistan: Judges Remain Under Arrest Before Election
Independent Judiciary Critical Safeguard for Free and Fair Elections
(New York, February 9, 2008) - The continued detention of independent
judges, the recent re-arrests of lawyers on spurious grounds, and the
large-scale induction of President Pervez Musharraf's appointees into
Pakistan's judiciary will have a serious impact on the credibility of the
national elections scheduled for February 18, Human Rights Watch said
Under Pakistani law, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter over any
claims of election irregularities and controversies. Judicial review of
the decisions of the Election Commission can be sought in the High Court
and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
"Days before Pakistan goes to the polls, its lawful chief justice and his
children remain under illegal house arrest, as do many lawyers who would
likely challenge election-rigging in the courts," said Brad Adams, Asia
director at Human Rights Watch. "Musharraf's systematic destruction of
institutions has seriously compromised the upcoming elections."
Since November 3, deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad
Chaudhry, his family and five other Supreme Court justices who also
to accept Musharraf's suspension of the constitution and declaration of a
state of emergency have remained under illegal house arrest. Judges at
levels of the judiciary were also deposed and repeatedly face arbitrary
detention. Meanwhile, Musharraf has replaced dozens of arbitrarily fired
judges with his own nominees.
Leaders of the lawyers' movement, including Supreme Court Bar Association
President Aitzaz Ahsan, retired Justice Tariq Mehmood, and former Bar
Council Vice Chairman Ali Ahmed Kurd, were detained under the colonial-era
Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO). They remain under house
The Pakistani constitution prohibits detention under the MPO for more than
90 days. The government released them on January 31 on expiry of that
period, but arbitrarily re-arrested them 48 hours later under a fresh MPO
"The re-arrest of these lawyers is a disgrace and makes it clear that
Musharraf is determined to ensure that many of his fiercest critics are
locked up before the election," said Adams. "Musharraf must release the
lawyers and judges immediately."
In 2007, the movement of lawyers and the growing independence of the
judiciary had made genuine progress in putting Pakistan back on the path
the rule of law and raised hopes for a free election, Human Rights Watch
said. That ended when Musharraf announced his state of emergency on
Under the revised constitution, unilaterally imposed by Musharraf, the
government now has powers to disbar lawyers involved in peaceful
anti-government activities, and the military can now try civilians for a
wide range of offenses previously under the purview of the country's
judiciary, including charges as vague as causing "public mischief."
Human Rights Watch noted that such a repressive political environment
thwarts any possibility that elections, scheduled for February 18, could
free or fair.
"The government has warned it will not tolerate the 'politics of
said Adams. "Such restrictions are contrary to human rights law at the
of times, and absolutely unacceptable in the middle of an election."
Rigging in successive elections by the Pakistani military has been
well-documented. The emergence of an independent judiciary in Pakistan
year provided the best hope in decades for a fair election. But the
dismantling of that judiciary shows Musharraf's bad faith in the months
before these elections.
"A real election campaign is impossible when a country's military
deposes the legitimate judiciary, replaces lawful judges with its
hand-picked supporters, and keeps its chief critics under arrest," said
Human Rights Watch criticized the United States and the United Kingdom,
which consider Musharraf an indispensable ally in the "war on terror," for
failing to press for the restoration of the independent judiciary headed
Chief Justice Chaudhry. Both countries should urge the immediate release
all persons arbitrarily detained and a return to genuine constitutional
"In other parts of the world, the US and UK wax eloquently about the need
for an independent judiciary and pressure governments to respect this
principle," said Adams. "Yet President Bush and Prime Minister Brown seem
have a double standard where Musharraf is concerned."
UK/Pakistan: Brown Should Press Musharraf on Rights
Press Release, January 26, 2008
Pakistan: End Persecution of Lawyers and Judges
Press Release, December 18, 2007
Destroying Legality: Pakistan's Crackdown on Lawyers and Judges
Report, December 19, 2007
Pakistan 2008 Country Summary
World Report Chapter, January 31, 2008
Gaza: Israel's Energy Cuts Violate Laws of War
Attacks by Palestinian Armed Groups No Excuse for Collective Punishment
(New York, February 7, 2008) - Israel's cuts of fuel and electricity to
Gaza, set to escalate today, amount to collective punishment of the
population, and violate Israel's obligations under the laws of war, Human
Rights Watch said today.
These cuts, which Israel says are intended to pressure Palestinian armed
groups to end their unlawful rocket attacks against civilians in southern
Israel, are having a grave impact on Gaza's hospitals, water-pumping
stations, sewage-treatment facilities, and other infrastructure essential
for the well-being of Gaza's population.
Starting today, Israel will reduce the electricity it sells directly to
by 1.5 megawatts over the next three weeks. This adds to a series of
measures since 2006 that have caused a 20 percent shortfall in Gaza's
electricity needs. The Israeli Supreme Court approved the most recent cuts
last week, rejecting a petition by 10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights
"Israel views restricting fuel and electricity to Gaza as a way to
Palestinian armed groups to stop their rocket and suicide attacks," said
Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "But the cuts are
seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed
groups, and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war."
Human Rights Watch said that indiscriminate Palestinian rocket and suicide
bomb attacks against Israeli civilians constitute war crimes, but Israel's
attempts to suppress those attacks must not also violate international
Israeli officials have implicitly acknowledged that the fuel and
cuts amount to collective punishment. "There is no justification for
demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and
rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards at Sderot and other
communities in the south," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on January 24.
Morever, Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said on January
"If Palestinians don't stop the violence, I have a feeling the life of
people in Gaza is not going to be easy."
Israel normally sells to Gaza 120 megawatts of electricity per day,
delivered by 10 feeder lines across the border. Gaza's sole power plant
currently produces 55 megawatts. Its full capacity is 100 megawatts, but a
2006 Israeli Air Force attack and subsequent fuel restrictions have
prevented the plant from operating at capacity. An additional 17 megawatts
come from Egypt.
The electricity that Israel sells to Gaza is paid for by taxes that Israel
collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. In addition, the Israeli
company Dor Alon sells the industrial fuel on which Gaza's power plant
depends. The funds for these purchases come from the European Union.
According to the United Nations, Gaza requires roughly 240 megawatts of
power per day during the winter. The 48 megawatt deficit has forced the
Electricity Distribution Company to institute rolling blackouts of up to
eight hours per day in most areas. In addition to private homes, these
blackouts affect hospitals, water pumps, schools and sewage-treatment
facilities without distinction. Further cuts of industrial diesel fuel for
Gaza's power plant will make the deficit grow.
During power outages, hospitals and health clinics rely on generators that
require regular diesel fuel, as do residential buildings. Restrictions on
the supply of diesel in recent months and prohibitively high prices have
limited the use of generators. Citing security concerns, Israel has
restricted the import of spare parts to repair overused generators. At
al-Shifa Hospital, power surges following outages have caused equipment to
The problems have been exacerbated by a strike of the Gaza Petrol Station
Owners Union, which from January 16 to February 5 refused to distribute
fuel sold by Israel out of protest to the cuts. The union deputy head told
Human Rights Watch that, while they blocked delivery of gasoline for cars
and regular diesel, which would affect generator use, they did not
cooking gas or the industrial diesel fuel used by the power plant. He said
the union also delivered diesel fuel as fast as possible to all hospitals
that requested it, but poor communication and mismanagement of government
institutions at times made delivery difficult.
The authorities in Gaza also have obligations to ensure the well-being of
the civilian population under its control, including facilitating the
delivery of humanitarian supplies, Human Rights Watch said.
Israel claims the cuts are not depriving Palestinians in Gaza of their
"essential humanitarian needs." But Human Rights Watch, as well as major
humanitarian agencies, says that civilians are paying a heavy price.
According to the UN's top humanitarian official, UN Deputy
John Holmes, Gaza in October already faced a "serious humanitarian
On January 29, the United Nations said that border closures and fuel and
electricity cuts have had the following effects in Gaza:
. The World Food Program was unable to provide full food rations to 84,000
of its poorest beneficiaries;
. Around 50 percent of households in Gaza had access to running water for
only four to six hours per day; and
. Due to a partially functioning wastewater system, up to 40 million
of untreated sewage were being dumped daily into the Mediterranean Sea.
On January 25, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called
the humanitarian situation in Gaza "critical." A health worker for the
said hospitals in Gaza were cold because the heating units had been
off to conserve fuel, and the gas to cook meals for patients and staff was
running low. One patient on a ventilator at Ahli Arab hospital died while
the hospital switched from the power plant to its generator during a
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 21 expressed
concern. "Whilst the frequency of electricity cuts and limited power
available to run hospital generators is extremely serious for all hospital
services, its impact is particularly felt in intensive care units,
theatres and emergency rooms," the report said. As of January 21, three
of the 11 Ministry of Health hospitals were facing "severe shortages of
fuel," the WHO said.
On February 6, Human Rights Watch visited the al-Nasser Pediatric Hospital
and the Psychiatric Hospital in Gaza City. Both facilities were facing
average daily blackouts of nine hours, forcing them to rely on backup
generators. The pediatric hospital had enough diesel fuel to run its
generator for nine hours. The psychiatric hospital had enough fuel for
hours of generator use.
On January 25, the pediatric hospital ran out of diesel fuel entirely, the
director said. The hospital had to close the X-ray department, diagnostic
lab, and its four general pediatric wards, keeping open only the intensive
care unit and the department with incubators, thanks to a smaller reserve
A diesel truck that the hospital uses to transport food, laundry, and
samples has not been in operation for the past week, the director said.
The deputy head of the petrol station owners' union said the hospital had
not contacted the union to request a delivery.
"The impact on civilians in Gaza is clear," Stork said. "Children, the
mentally ill, and others with no connection to armed groups are suffering
from the Israeli cuts and mismanagement by Gaza authorities amidst the
confusion, and at least one person has died."
Israel's pressure on Gaza's civilians began after Hamas took over the
Palestinian Authority in March 2006, following its electoral victory the
previous January. Since then, Israel has increasingly limited the flow of
people and goods into and out of the territory.
Israel further clamped down on the movement of goods and people after
violently seized power in Gaza from Fatah in June 2007. Israel also
restrictions on people with emergency medical needs who need care only
available outside Gaza. The border closures have forced 85 percent of
factories to close or to operate at less than 20 percent of their
frozen 95 percent of construction projects, and driven unemployment to
record highs. Eighty percent of the population relies on food aid.
The Israeli government says the border closures and fuel and electricity
cuts are in response to ongoing indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel by
Palestinian armed groups. On February 3, in the first suicide attack in a
year, a suicide bomber from Hamas killed a 73-year-old Israeli woman and
injured 11 in a shopping area in the town of Dimona. Israel retaliated the
next day by killing nine Hamas militants in Gaza.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly condemned suicide-bombing attacks that
target civilians as war crimes.
According to the latest statistics provided by the United Nations, during
the third week of January, Palestinian armed groups in Gaza fired 147
rockets and 82 mortars toward Israel, injuring three Israeli civilians.
During that same time, Israeli military operations from the ground and air
killed 23 Palestinians and wounded 70 inside Gaza. At least seven of the
dead and 40 of the wounded were civilians, although the information from
UN was inadequate to determine whether those casualties resulted from any
Israeli violations of international humanitarian law.
Human Rights Watch said that cutting fuel or electricity to the civilian
population violates a basic principle of international humanitarian law,
the laws of war, which prohibit a government that has effective control
a territory from attacking or withholding objects that are essential to
survival of the civilian population. Such an act would also violate
duty as an occupying power to safeguard the health and welfare of the
population under occupation.
Israel withdrew its military forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip in
2005. Nonetheless, Israel remains responsible for ensuring the well-being
Gaza's population for as long as, and to the extent that, it retains
effective control over the area. Israel still exercises control over
airspace, sea space and land borders, as well as its electricity, water,
sewage and telecommunications networks and population registry. In
Israeli military forces can and have re-entered Gaza at will.
Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention places a duty on an occupying
power to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well
to permit and facilitate the consignments of humanitarian relief. In the
conduct of a conflict, each party must allow and facilitate rapid and
unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to civilians. A deliberate
to permit access to these supplies in response to military action can
constitute collective punishment or an illegal reprisal against the
Collective punishments are prohibited as a matter of customary
law in all forms of conflict. Under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention, which governs occupations, collective punishments and all
measures of intimidation are explicitly prohibited. Reprisals against
civilians and their property are also prohibited under both customary law
and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
"Israel should understand the danger of policies that appear to justify
targeting of civilians," Stork said. "Having suffered so much from such
attacks, it should reject anything that suggests that the targeting of
civilians is acceptable."
Israel's Energy-Supply Cuts to Gaza
Israel's policy of reducing Gaza's electricity began in June 2006, after a
Palestinian armed group from Gaza captured the Israeli soldier Gilad
On June 28, the Israeli Air Force fired eight missiles at Gaza's sole
plant, rendering the plant's six transformers inoperable. Israel
subsequently delayed or blocked the delivery of material needed to repair
the plant. Today, the plant is capable of producing at 80 percent of its
former capacity (80 megawatts per day out of an original capacity of 100
The pressure intensified after Hamas took control of Gaza by force in June
2007. On September 19, the Israeli cabinet declared Gaza a "hostile
territory" and decided to restrict "the passage of people to and from
and to reduce supplies of fuel and electricity.
On October 28, a group of 10 Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups
petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court, seeking an injunction against the
and electricity cuts, which they said, among other concerns, amounted to
collective punishment. The court rejected the injunction request as it
applied to deliveries of fuel, and Israel began to reduce its deliveries
EU-funded diesel fuel to the power plant from 2.2 million liters per week
1.75 million liters. At the time, the power plant had 3.5 million liters
reserves to compensate for the reduced supply in diesel fuel.
On November 29, in an interim decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the
fuel cuts could continue because they would not cause a humanitarian
At the same time, it requested more information from the state before the
electricity cuts could proceed.
On January 5, the low level of industrial diesel fuel reserves at the
plant forced a reduction in output. On January 18, following a surge in
fighting between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian groups, Israel fully
closed its borders with Gaza, denying the delivery of all food, medicine,
and fuel, including humanitarian aid. On January 20, the reserves ran out
and the plant stopped production altogether for two days. Two days later,
the plant restarted at partial capacity after Israel allowed restricted
and limited humanitarian deliveries. On January 23, Hamas helped
Palestinians break through sections of the wall and fence separating Gaza
and Egypt, to the west of Rafah, allowing tens of thousands of
to flood into Egypt, where they bought goods, many of them essential,
including fuel. Egyptian forces, with cooperation from Hamas, resealed the
border on February 3.
The temporary border breach did not change Gaza's near-total dependence on
Israel for fuel and electricity, nor could it, given the time it takes to
develop alternative energy supplies. Israel still allows fuel deliveries
come only through its Nahal Oz crossing with Gaza.
On January 30, the Supreme Court issued its final ruling on the human
groups' petition, saying the fuel and electricity cuts could proceed,
because it understood that the state was going to "fulfil the essential
humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip."
The ruling garnered little media coverage in Israel because that same day
the Winograd Commission, which looked into Israel's conduct of the 2006
Israel-Hezbollah war, released its much-anticipated final report.
The Supreme Court ruling said the state could do the following:
. Order a reduction of up to 5 percent on three of 10 power lines (1.5
megawatts total) in the electricity sold to Gaza by Israel's electric
. Restrict the amount of industrial diesel for Gaza's power plant to 2.2
million liters a week (the plant needs 3.5 million liters per week to
operate at capacity);
. Cut supplies of gasoline to Gaza to 75,400 liters a week (compared with
400,000 liters a week delivered in October 2007); and
. Cut supplies of diesel fuel to 800,000 liters a week (compared with 1.4
million in October 2007).
The Supreme Court accepted without challenge the state's proposal to
maintain a "minimum humanitarian standard," which has no basis in
international humanitarian law. Israel has never defined what constitutes
Gaza's minimum humanitarian needs, nor how it will determine if those
were not being met. The government's proposal is also not the appropriate
standard for such a long-term occupation as Gaza's.
The court had said that two Palestinian utility officials, Rafiq Maliha,
project manager at Gaza's Power Generating Company, and Nedal Touman, an
official from Gaza's Electrical Distribution Company, could testify at the
January 30 hearing regarding the affidavits they had submitted about the
effects of the cuts on their operations. But on that day, the Israeli
military prevented them from crossing into Israel in time to testify.
Rafiq Maliha told Human Rights Watch that both men arrived at the Erez
crossing at 7:30 a.m. on the day of the hearing, but they were not allowed
to cross into Israel until 11:30 a.m.
"When we arrived in Jerusalem, the court session was over and we were
to give our testimonies," Maliha said. "We were going to show the court
needs of the station from a technical side and explain for them that the
amounts of fuel are insufficient for normal functioning of the station."
A Petition to stop electricity and fuel cuts to the Gaza Strip
Gaza: Israel's Fuel and Power Cuts Violate Laws of War
Press Release, October 29, 2007
B'tselem: Act of Vengeance: Israel's Bombing of the Gaza Power Plant and
More of Human Rights Watch's work on Israel and the OPT
US: Electric Chair Banned as Cruel, Unusual Punishment
Nebraska Ruling Brings US Closer to Ending This Inhumane Form of Execution
(New York, February 8, 2008) - The Nebraska Supreme Court's ruling today
that use of the electric chair violates the state constitution's ban on
cruel and unusual punishment is an important step toward eliminating
inherently inhumane executions in the United States, Human Rights Watch
Nebraska is the only state to use the electric chair as its sole method of
execution; all other US death penalty jurisdictions use lethal injection.
"This ruling abolishes the barbaric practice of electrocutions in the
of Nebraska," said Sarah Tofte, US researcher at Human Rights Watch and
co-author of a 2006 report on executions by lethal injection in the United
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled today that execution by electrocution
violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment found in Article I,
9 of the Nebraska Constitution. "Condemned prisoners must not be tortured
death, regardless of their crimes," the court wrote.
Since 1994, Nebraska has electrocuted three condemned prisoners. Since the
death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976, there have been at least
visibly botched electrocutions, including the 1997 electrocution of Pedro
Medina in Florida. During his execution, flames shot out from the
filling the execution chamber with a cloud of thick smoke and gagging the
two dozen official witnesses. An official then threw a switch to manually
cut off the power and prematurely end the two-minute cycle of 2,000 volts.
Medina's chest continued to heave until the flames stopped, and then he
As a result of today's ruling, the task falls to the Nebraska legislature
consider an alternative method of execution if it wishes to retain the
penalty. Although the court contends that lethal injection "is universally
recognized as the most humane method of execution," Human Rights Watch
the Nebraska legislature to carefully examine the risk of suffering posed
the three-drug protocol currently used in lethal injections in other
In January, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality
lethal injection. Pending the court's decision, there is a de facto
moratorium on lethal injections in the country.
"Lethal injection is not as humane as it might appear to be," said Tofte.
"There is mounting evidence that condemned prisoners are at risk of
suffering excruciating pain. With today's ruling, the Nebraska legislature
has an opportunity to reject methods of execution that cause inhumane pain
Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an
inherently cruel and unusual form of punishment and a violation of
fundamental human rights.
To view the Nebraska Supreme Court opinion, please click here.
So Long as They Die: Lethal Injections in the United States
Report, April 24, 2006
HRW's Work on the Death Penalty
Thematic Page, February 8, 2007
© Copyright 2003, Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA
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