Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Three journalists held since 2001 die in Eiraeiro Eritrea prison camp

Reporters Without Borders  August 30, 2012

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Eritrean abuses

In 2001, 15 members of the ruling party – including high-level ministers – signed an open letter to Isaias calling for political reform. Shortly after, 11 of the 15 (known as G-15) were arrested and detained without charge along with 10 journalists. Nearly 11 years later, little is known about the prisoners’ condition or whereabouts save for some unconfirmed accounts from those who have managed to flee the country.

After several weeks of investigating reports from sources in Eritrea and from prison guards who fled the country, Reporters Without Borders has been able to confirm that three more journalists – Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab and Wedi Itay – have died in the northeastern prison camp of Eiraeiro. All three had been held since late 2001.

Another journalist arrested in February 2009, whose identity has not been established with certainty, has also reportedly died in detention – in his case, in Abi Abeito military prison near the capital, Asmara.

The only good news is that Tesfalidet “Topo” Mebrahtu, a well-known sports journalist who worked for state-owned radio Dimtsi Hafash and state-owned Eri-TV, was “released on bond” (he is still under surveillance, with relatives acting as guarantors) in early 2012 after being held for 10 months.

“While all eyes are turned on Syria, another, less visible, tragedy is being played out in Eritrea, a country forgotten by the international community although it is the world’s leading media freedom violator and Africa’s biggest prison for journalists ” Reporters Without Borders said.

“In Eritrea, journalists have been thrown in prison just for daring to express their opinions. Some have been held for more than 10 years and are disappearing one by one. Located in the northeast of the country, Eiraeiro is not a prison, it is a death camp.”

Reporters Without Borders first revealed details about conditions at Eiraeiro in January 2008 (http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-new-revel…), after meeting a former camp guard. Further details were provided in 2010, on the basis of statements made by another former guard, Eyob Bahta, shortly after he fled to Ethiopia. What follows is based on new eyewitness accounts from this death camp.

I – Three more of the journalists held since 2001 die in detention

Please read more here

 

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Journalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CPJ: Impunity Plagues Cases of Journalists in Kurdistan and Iraq

01/06/2011 04:43:00  By WLADIMIR VAN WILGENBURG    at Rudow

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan — In a report released on June 1, Iraq is ranked first on the 2011 impunity index of the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ). CPJ criticizes the Kurdish government for its unsatisfactory handling of the murder case of Kurdish writer Sardasht Osman in 2010.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has come in for fierce criticism by human rights and press organizations such as Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CPJ and Human Rights Watch in the last few months for the way it dealt with demonstrations and the media.

On May 30, the KRG responded to the allegations and didn’t deny violations by Kurdish security forces and ill-treatment of protestors.

“We can assure you, however, that these incidents have occurred despite KRG’s clear directives for strict adherence to the law and the rights of the protesters,” the KRG said in the statement.

CPJ’s impunity index includes Kurdistan and Iraq. The Index examines journalist murders that have occurred between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2010 and are still unsolved. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index, a threshold reached by 12 countries this year.

According to CPJ 93 journalists have been murdered in Iraq with their cases still unsolved. After a brief decline in targeted killings, journalist murders spiked in 2010. Among the four murder victims in 2010 was Sardasht Osman, a contributor to several news outlets in the Kurdistan region who had received numerous threats for reports that accused Kurdish officials of corruption, CPJ said.

Please read the entire article here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Casualties, Iraq, Journalists | , , | Leave a comment

Video of Journalists’ Death Answers Some Questions, but Raises Others

by Marian Wang, ProPublica  T Christian Miller contributed to this story

April 7: This post has been corrected.

On Monday, WikiLeaks made a big splash when it released a still-classified military video [1] from 2007 that shows a U.S. helicopter gunship shooting down a group of men in a suburb of Baghdad.

Reactions to the video range [2] widely: Some believe it betrays a possible war crime; others find it completely justifiable. Interestingly enough, many commentators fail to mention that, in recent weeks, the military itself has made some serious admissions about shooting civilians.

During a videoconference to answer soldiers’ questions in March, military officials said that U.S and allied forces had killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others during shooting incidents at Afghan checkpoints and during convoy runs, the New York Times reported in a little noticed story [3]. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that military inquiries into the incidents revealed that none of civilians had turned out to be threats.

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” McChrystal said during the videoconference, the Times reported.

Earlier this week the U.S. military did an about-face and admitted that American forces killed three Afghan women [4] during a nighttime raid in February. The military had previously denied involvement in their deaths.

Same Video, Different Interpretations

The aerial footage of the attack begins with several men walking down a street in Baghdad. The audio of transmissions between the helicopter pilots and gunners indicate that they believe some of the men in the group are armed, but it’s unclear from the video whether they are. The military personnel request permission to engage, and it is granted. They fire on the men, most of whom are struck down immediately. One in the group is wounded and proceeds to slowly crawl away. An unmarked rescue van pulls up, and two men get out of the vehicle to help the wounded man and transport him elsewhere, but the personnel in the helicopter request permission to shoot the van, and when it is granted, they fire on it. Later, ground reconnaissance reveals that two Iraqi children are in the van and are wounded. Both the man who had been crawling and another man who was killed in the first round of fire were later identified as journalists working for Reuters [5].

Please read the story in it’s entirety at ProPublica

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment