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Iraq tops for unsolved murders of reporters: CPJ

Children of anti-Qaeda militia chief beheaded in Iraq
Tarmiyah, Iraq (AFP) April 20, 2010 - Five family members of a local chief of an anti-Qaeda militia were gunned down in their homes in Tarmiyah, north of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, with the children also beheaded, police said. "The wife, a daughter of 22 and three boys of between 12 and 16 were shot dead, with the assassins also beheading the last three," said Colonel Tawfiq al-Janaabi, police chief of Tarmiyah, 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Baghdad. He said the local chief of the Al-Sahwa militia, identified as Abu Ali, was on duty at a checkpoint at the time of the attack.

On April 3, gunmen in army uniforms massacred 25 people from families linked to Al-Sahwa in a nighttime raid on a village south of Baghdad. The victims were tied up, tortured and shot in the head or the chest, a hospital source said. The Sahwa, made up of Sunni Arab tribes, switched allegiances to join American and Iraqi forces in fighting insurgents in 2006 and 2007, leading to a dramatic fall in violence. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last week gave his backing to calls for greater use of the former rebel militia in the efforts of Iraqi security forces and intelligence to prevent deadly bombings.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 20, 2010
Unpunished violence against journalists has soared in the Philippines and Somalia while Iraq has the worst record of solving murders of reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) said.

The New York-based media rights group published its 2010 "Impunity Index" on Tuesday, a list of a dozen countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.

The CPJ's Impunity Index "calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country's population" for the years 2000 through 2009 and ranks them accordingly.

Twelve countries made the list with five or more unsolved cases.

Iraq was number one with 88 unsolved journalist murders, or 2.794 unsolved murders per one million inhabitants.

Somalia, with nine unsolved murders, was next, a rating of 1.0 unsolved murders per million inhabitants.

The Philippines, with 55 unsolved cases, was next followed by Sri Lanka with 10, Colombia with 13, Afghanistan with seven, Nepal with six, Russia with 18, Mexico with nine, Pakistan with 12, Bangladesh with seven and India with seven.

The CPJ said the Philippines jumped to third on the list from sixth the previous year notably because of the massacre of more than 30 journalists in Maguindanao province in 2009.

The group said Brazil and Colombia, meanwhile, "made marked improvement in curbing deadly violence against journalists and bringing killers to justice."

"Recent convictions in Brazil, in fact, moved the country off the index entirely," the CPJ said.

"We've heard repeated pledges from governments that the killers of journalists will face justice, but until these promises are fulfilled, media will continue to be targeted by those who believe they are above the law and immune from consequences," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director.

"Our goal in compiling this index is to spur leaders in these nations to action," Simon said. "Many of these cases are solvable -- the perpetrators have been identified but authorities lack the political will to prosecute."

The CPJ said more than 90 percent of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security.

earlier related report
Amnesty urges Iraqi PM to probe 'secret prison' allegations
Baghdad (AFP) April 20, 2010 - Amnesty International has urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to probe allegations that his Shiite-dominant security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad.

Referring to a report in the Los Angeles Times, quoting Iraqi officials who said more than 100 prisoners were tortured by electric shocks, suffocated with plastic bags or beaten, the London-based rights group called for an inquiry.

"The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked," Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement received late on Monday.

"Prime Minister Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses cannot exonerate the authorities from their responsibilities and their duty to ensure the safety of detainees," she added.

The prisoners were detained by Iraqi forces in Nineveh province, an insurgent stronghold in the north of the country, in October as part of an operation targeting alleged Sunni fighters, according to the newspaper.

Iraqi security forces reportedly obtained a warrant to transfer them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation in a secret detention facility at the former Al-Muthanna airport in west Baghdad, it said.

Their whereabouts came to light in March after relatives of the missing men raised their concerns with Iraq's human rights ministry.

"Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public," said Sahraoui.

"This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses," she added.

Human Rights Minister Wejdan Mikhail in comments aired on state television, said the report was unfounded.

"We cannot call that prison a secret prison because there are two judges and five inspectors from the ministry of justice inside the prison," she said.

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Al-Qaeda commanders killed in Iraq
Baghdad (AFP) April 20, 2010
Al-Qaeda's top two commanders in Iraq have been killed in a joint US-Iraqi military raid north of Baghdad, dealing Osama bin Laden's global terror network a major blow, US leaders said Monday. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, who had direct links with bin Laden, were killed in a shootout early Sunday, 10 kilometres (six miles) from Tikrit, the home city of executed dictator Saddam ... read more

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