Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Iraq / Violence against Christians

"Debris at the site of the attack at the marketplace in Baghdad." (Reuters)
Bombs Targeting Christians Kill Dozens in Baghdad
The Guardian, December 25, 2013
"Iraq's Christians celebrated Christmas behind blast walls and barbed wire as at least 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian areas, some by a car bomb near a church after a service. Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21, an officer said. The Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic church, Louis Sako, said the parked car bomb had exploded after a Christmas mass in the capital's southern Dora neighbourhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38. He said none of the worshippers had been hurt, and he did not believe the church was the target. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Iraq's dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, has often been targeted by al-Qaida and other insurgents who see the Christians as heretics. Other targets include civilians in restaurants, cafes or crowded public areas, as well as Shias and members of the security forces, attacked in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shia-led government and stir up Iraq's already simmering sectarian tensions.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

South Sudan / Gendercide

"A young cattle herder from the Dinka tribe carries his AK 47 rifle near Rumbek, capital of the Lakes State in central South Sudan." (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
By Daniel Howden
The Guardian, December 23, 2013
"A week ago, Simon K, a 20-year-old student living in the capital of South Sudan, was arrested by men in military uniforms. He was asked a question that has taken on deadly importance in the world's newest country in the past seven days: incholdi -- 'What is your name?' in Dinka, the language of the country's president and its largest ethnic group. Those who, like Simon, were unable to answer, risked being identified as Nuer, the ethnic group of the former vice-president now leading the armed opposition and facing the brunt of what insiders are describing as the world's newest civil war. Simon K was taken to a police station in the Gudele market district of Juba, where he was marched past several dead bodies and locked in a room with other young men, all Nuer. 'We counted ourselves and found we were 252,' he told the Guardian. 'Then they put guns in through the windows and started to shoot us.' The massacre continued for two days with soldiers returning at intervals to shoot again if they saw any sign of life. Simon was one of 12 men to survive the assault by covering themselves in the bodies of the dead and dying. Simon spoke from inside the UN compound that has become an emergency sanctuary to the remaining Nuer in the capital. Sitting on a filthy mattress by the side of a dirt road, with bandages covering bullet wounds in his stomach and legs, he recalled: 'It was horrible, because to survive I had to cover myself with the bodies of dead people, and during the two days, the bodies started to smell really bad.' In the space of seven desperate days, the UN base has been transformed from a logistics hub for an aid operation into a squalid sanctuary for more than 10,000 people. Amid the confusion of bodies and belongings, a handmade sign hangs from the rolls of razor wire. 'The lord is our best defender,' it reads. But there is no sign here of the lord's defence, as the country that gained independence in 2011 with huge international fanfare and support has come apart in the space of a week.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Central African Republic

Central African Republic: Death Toll from Clashes Increases to 300
The Telegraph, December 6, 2013
"Christian civilians have fled by the thousands to the capital's airport guarded by French forces as the mostly Muslim armed fighters who have ruled the Central African Republic since March hunted door-to-door for their enemies and the death toll from inter-communal violence increased to 300 people. Bodies lay decomposing along the roads in Bangui, where it is too dangerous for many to collect the corpses. Thursday's clashes marked the worst unrest in Bangui in nine months and raised fears that waves of retaliatory attacks could soon follow. 'They are slaughtering us like chickens,' said Appolinaire Donoboy, a Christian whose family remained in hiding. France had pledged to increase its presence in its former colony well before Christian militias attacked the capital at dawn Thursday. The arrival of additional French troops and equipment came as the capital teetered on the brink of total anarchy and represented the greatest hope for many Central Africans. About 1,000 French forces were expected to be on the ground by Friday evening, a French defence official said. As night fell across the near anarchic capital, Christians fearing retaliatory attacks by the mostly Muslim ex-rebels crowded as close to the runway as possible, laying out their woven mats in front of a barbed wire coiled fence. National radio announced that at least 280 people had died, citing figures from local Red Cross officials, but other reports put the death toll at 300.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Central African Republic / United Nations

Urgent Call for UN Troops to "Prevent Genocide" in Central African Republic
By Mike Pflanz
The Telegraph, November 20, 2013
"Thousands of United Nations peacekeepers should be dispatched urgently to halt Christian-Muslim fighting in the Central African Republic that risks spiralling into genocide, Ban Ki-moon and aid agencies have said. Months of violence have pushed the country into near-anarchy with thousands of people killed or kidnapped and over half a million forced to flee their homes. On Tuesday, Amnesty International warned there was 'no time to wait' in deploying a UN mission, citing large scale human rights abuses and possible 'crimes against humanity'. The group's call came after the UN secretary-general urged the Security Council to immediately authorise the dispatch of 6,000 blue berets to bolster an existing but ineffective force of 2,500 African peacekeepers, which is all that currently stands between Muslim former rebels and Christian vigilante groups. A further 3,000 UN peacekeepers should be on standby in case the situation deteriorates, Mr. Ban told the Security Council late on Monday. 'This cycle, if not addressed now, threatens to degenerate into a country-wide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation, including atrocity crimes, with serious national and regional implications,' Mr. Ban warned. Already, human rights groups say that both sides may have committed war crimes, and a UN expert on genocide said that the situation could worsen. 'We are seeing armed groups killing people under the guise of their religion,' said Adama Dieng, the UN's special adviser on the prevention of genocide. 'My feeling is that this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other which means that if we don't act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occurring.' Despite deposits of gold, diamonds and uranium, the Central African Republic is one of the poorest and most politically unstable nations in the world, and has weathered repeated coups since independence from France in 1960. The current fighting began soon after Michael Djotodia, leader of the Seleka rebels, ousted Francois Bozize, the former president, in the latest coup in March.

China / Tibet

"China's former President Jiang Zemin looks up while President Hu Jintao gives his speech during the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 8, 2012." (Reuters/Jason Lee)
China Dismisses as Absurd Spanish Arrest Warrants over Tibet
Reuters.com, November 20, 2013
"Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and ex prime minister Li Peng could face arrest when travelling abroad over allegations they committed genocide in Tibet, a Spanish court ruled on Tuesday, in a case Beijing has dismissed as absurd. Two Tibetan support groups and a monk with Spanish nationality brought the case against the former leaders in 2006 using Spanish law, which allows suspects to be tried for human rights abuses committed abroad when a Spanish victim is involved. The two former leaders and three other high-ranking officials who worked in the government in the 1980s and 1990s, are accused of human rights abuses in the Himalayan region. Although it is unlikely the leaders will end up in a Spanish dock, the case is reminiscent of the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998 after a warrant was issued by former Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon. Last month, another ruling by the same Spanish court indicted former Chinese president Hu Jintao for alleged genocide in Tibet. China's government denounced that move as interfering with its internal affairs. China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a daily news briefing that Beijing has 'sought clarification from Spain' about the latest ruling. Tuesday's court order will now trigger arrest warrants which in turn could result in the suspects being arrested when they travel to Spain or other countries which recognize orders signed by Spain.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guatemala / Genocide Tribunals

New Court Ruling Another Obstacle in Genocide Prosecution of Guatemala's Rios Montt
By Benjamin Reeves
McClatchy News Service, October 25, 2013
"The human rights prosecution of former Guatemalan dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt, whose brutal rule in the early 1980s saw the deaths of tens of thousands of the country's indigenous people, has hit another obstacle, with one of the country's two high courts saying the retired general may be entitled to amnesty. The court's declaration, which was leaked this week to a Guatemalan news outlet, orders the lower court that is trying Rios Montt to reconsider whether a 1986 amnesty law applies in his case. The court previously had ruled that it did not. The court's declaration and supporting documents have not been provided to either the defense or the prosecution in the case, and the court's precise arguments are yet to be reviewed by the lower court. But should the lower court accept them, it would be a major setback for human rights advocates, who've long viewed Rios Montt's prosecution as a milestone in Guatemala's assigning responsibility for one of the bloodiest period’s in Latin American history. Rios Montt, who enjoyed the support of the Reagan administration at the time, is accused of genocide for a bloody three-year campaign of rural pacification that drove nearly 1 million people from their homes and killed countless others. Massacres, disappearances and torture were common during his rule, which his government justified as being necessary to crush a communist-inspired rebellion among Guatemala’s indigenous people. On May 10, Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and war crimes, the first time that a former head of state was convicted of crimes against humanity in his own country. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison. However, the Constitutional Court overturned Rios Montt's conviction just 10 days later, citing disputes over jurisdiction.