Saturday, February 03, 2007

Genocide Studies Media File
January 28 - February 3, 2007

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to Consider inviting colleagues and friends to subscribe to Genocide_Studies and the G_S Media File. All it takes is an email to


Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2007 22:15:26 EST
Subject: Death of Eric Markusen

Dear Colleagues,

Eric Markusen died at 8:15 this morning. He had been battling cancer for some time, but death took him quickly. Eric and I had talked deeply about this illness only a few weeks ago, the day after he had decided not to pursue chemo-therapy. He had fully accepted his mortality. One of the first studies he had ever written as a sociologist was on death and dying. He told me, "Yesterday, I gave up my last bit of denial and accepted my death." Yet he also wept for the loved ones he would leave behind. He told me he was more concerned about them than about himself. That was Eric.

We have lost a great man; an inspiring leader; a passionate advocate for justice; a superb scholar; a great friend. Those of us who study and work against genocide have lost a brother.

Holding the next meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Sarajevo was Eric Markusen's idea. We should gather there in his honor in July and dedicate our meeting to Eric.

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton
First Vice President
International Association of Genocide Scholars

"Eric Markusen Studied Roots of Genocide"
By Ben Cohen
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 31 January 2007
"[...] Markusen, a professor of sociology and social work for 17 years at Southwest Minnesota State, wasn't deskbound, said Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. Markusen favored field research, visiting the scenes of genocides around the world. 'He was really willing to go into a risky situation to get evidence,' Feinstein said. Markusen, knowing his cancer prognosis, recently went to work in Ethiopia for the Danish Center, returning to Marshall just before Christmas. His work was used by the U.S. State Department and former Secretary of State Colin Powell in a presentation to the United Nations about Darfur. Markusen, the author of many articles and books on subjects such as genocide, nuclear warfare and strategic bombing, co-authored, with Harvard University's Robert Jay Lifton, 'The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat.' He is survived by his wife, Randi of Marshall; daughter Maria of Minneapolis; stepmother Jean Erickson of Rapid City, S.D., and brother Paul of Wayzata. [...]"


"Warlords Declare Amnesty on Their Murderous Past"
By Tim Albone and Richard Beeston
The Times, 2 Februar 2007
"Warlords in the Afghan parliament have granted themselves an amnesty from human rights charges in a move that has shocked the country's Western backers. Legislation approved by Kabul will prevent charges from being brought against Afghans alleged to have taken part in horrific human rights abuses over the past 25 years. The charges include 'ethnic cleansing,' torture and rape. Human rights groups say that warlords either took part in or ordered the execution of thousands of people. Witnesses have told how prisoners were beheaded, boiled alive in vats of oil or roasted in shipping containers. The rule states that anyone who fought against the Soviet Army in the 1980s cannot be prosecuted. If approved by the Upper House, the legislation would trigger a review of international human rights treaties signed recently by Afghanistan, and anyone who described an MP as a warlord would risk prosecution. After the fall of the Taleban, Britain and America encouraged warlords to lay down their arms and become MPs to help to kickstart the democratic process. Human rights groups say that the MPs have failed to keep their side of the agreement by maintaining their militias and continuing to profit from the opium trade. The resolution was tabled after Human Rights Watch, the advocacy group based in New York, published a report in December calling for war criminals to be brought to justice as a matter of urgency, and for the Afghan Government to set up a special court to try them. The report accused Ismail Khan, the Energy Minister, Abdul Rashid Dostum, the army Chief of Staff, and Karim Khalili, the Vice-President, of human rights abuses. [...]"

"1,000 Afghan Civilians Killed in 2006, Report Says"
By Mark Tran
The Guardian, 30 January 2007
"More than 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, mostly in attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces, a human rights group said today. In all, more than 4,400 Afghans died as a result of the war -- twice as many as in 2005 and more than in any other year since the Taliban fell in 2001, according to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch. The report coincided with a two-day international meeting in Berlin to assess the implementation of the Afghanistan compact. The compact, launched last year, sets out benchmarks on improving human rights and basic security in the country. 'Afghanistan hasn't really met any of the benchmarks, particularly those addressing the wellbeing of the Afghan people,' Sam Zarifi, the Asia research director at Human Rights Watch, said. 'Kabul and its international backers have made little progress in providing basic needs like security, food, electricity, water and healthcare.' Human Rights Watch said the international security effort in Afghanistan was being hampered by inadequate resources and urged the US, the EU and other donors to provide greater economic, political, and military aid to protect human rights. It also called on Nato countries to set up a financial compensation programme for civilian death, injury or property damage resulting from Nato operations. [...]"
[n.b. See the complete text of the Human Rights Watch press release. Interestingly, the release says that "many" of the civilian deaths occurred as a "result of attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces"; the news story's first sentence changes "many" to "mostly." "Mostly" may in fact be accurate, but it is not supported by the text of the HRW release.]


"Argentina Debates Whether Kidnapping Was Authentic"
By Patrick J. McDonnell
The Los Angeles Times, 28 January 2007 [Registration Required]
"A kidnapping or a political stunt? The question is reverberating here in the mysterious case of Luis Gerez, a witness in a human rights trial who went missing last month and reappeared two days later, shirtless and in shock, saying he had been kidnapped, tied up, beaten and burned with cigarettes. The case has raised troubling questions in a nation still torn by memories of a brutal military dictatorship that ended almost a quarter of a century ago, leaving as many as 30,000 people dead or 'disappeared.' Many had hoped that kidnappings as a means of political coercion were a thing of the past. In a nation inured to political skulduggery, denial and disinformation, the disappearance and reemergence of Gerez has spawned sinister theories. Most center on the actions of President Nestor Kirchner, who has made punishing past military abusers a focus of his administration, and who intervened directly in the case. Gerez, whose testimony in 2005 about being tortured during the dictatorship helped banish a powerful former police official from Congress, said he was abducted Dec. 27 while walking to a grocery store near his home north of the capital. He said men forced him into a vehicle and drove him to a warehouse or a shed, where he was kept hooded. 'I thought they were going to kill me,' he told investigators, recalling a moment when he could hear a gun being cocked. The incident came a few months after the unsolved disappearance of another human rights figure, Jorge Julio Lopez, whose testimony last year helped send a former provincial police chief to jail for life. Lopez has been called the first desaparecido, or disappeared, since the return of democracy to Argentina. Police fear that he was killed. [...]"


"Calif Lawmakers Press Resolution Recognizing Armenian Genocide"
By Desmond Butler
The Fresno Bee, 30 January 2007
"Democratic and Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for U.S. recognition of the World War I-era killings of Armenians as genocide. The move will likely anger Turkey and is expected to be opposed by President George W. Bush. The lead sponsors in the House of Representatives say they have commitments from more than 150 other members, who want to add their names as co-sponsors after the bill is introduced, a strong show of support in the 435-member body. The sponsors, who held a news conference Tuesday attended by two Armenian survivors of the killings, say that the move to Democratic control in Congress increases chances that the bill will reach the House floor for a vote. Similar resolutions have been introduced in the past, but were kept from a full vote by congressional leaders. 'We feel very strongly that this year is the year we're going to get this passed,' said one of the co-sponsors, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., a congressman from New Jersey, a state with a large Armenian-American community. Other co-sponsors include two Californians, Democrat Adam Schiff, who represents parts of the San Gabriel Valley, and Republican George Radanovich, who represents Fresno. Both areas have large populations of Armenian-Americans. The bill, which will recognize the deaths of the 1.5 million Armenians almost a century ago is likely to touch raw nerves in Turkey. The Bush administration has warned that even congressional debate on the genocide question could damage relations with a key Muslim ally and NATO-member. [...]"


"Victims of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Fear Derailment of Trials"
By Anthony Faiola
The Washington Post, 2 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Rather than providing a promised airing of truth, the proceedings have become mired in a debate over legal standards that has delayed indictments and pushed back the start of the trials by months. Some observers now fear the dispute could derail the trials altogether. At stake is the best chance for a reckoning of a regime that presided over the systematic mass murder of its own people with a fervor still little understood. On a radical communist crusade to create a peasant society free from foreign influence, the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 executed, tortured and starved to death Cambodians -- particularly the educated, moneyed and devout. Last Friday, a multinational tribunal of Cambodian and United Nations-appointed judges, prosecutors and defenders said it had failed to resolve all of its differences over the adoption of internationally accepted legal procedures for the trials. ... Critics say that by rebuffing across-the-board international standards, the Cambodian government is effectively trying to exert political control over the trials in a bid to limit the scope of information that will be publicly aired. The negotiations have grown so tense that senior diplomats here say U.N. officials have indicated they may simply walk out. Human rights groups are assailing the Cambodian government for stacking the court with judges who have close ties to the ruling Cambodian People's Party. In a nation where several current and high-ranking government officials have still-unclear links to the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, critics say the government's failure to appoint more independent-minded judges has gravely damaged its credibility. [...]"

"Procedural Delays Dog Khmer Rouge Trial"
By Erika Kinetz
The Christian Science Monitor, 29 January 2007
"Thirty years after causing the deaths of roughly 1.7 million people in Cambodia, all but one of the surviving leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime remain at large. Many of them have spacious villas in Phnom Penh and travel regularly to Thailand for medical checkups, both signs of unusual prosperity in this impoverished nation. The advance of international criminal justice, which began with Nuremberg and has grown since the end of the cold war, with courts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, to name a few, was meant to bring an end to this kind of impunity. But as the trials for the Khmer Rouge's aging leadership stalled once again on Friday, it seemed to the court's critics that impunity was poised to win the day. Many international observers say that the Cambodian government's repeated attempts to scuttle the trial have frustrated the UN-appointed foreign judges, who have said that they would sooner leave than participate in a show trial. Now, Marcel Lemonde, the international co-investigating judge, says April is the new ultimatum for when the international judges will withdraw if the trial is delayed further. The extension gives victims' families and human rights groups another shot at a fair, public trial. 'This is a nonnegotiable issue,' says Mr. Lemonde. 'It is not possible for international judges to participate in a trial that is not a fair trial.' Last Friday, judges from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) -- the court set up in 2003 to try Khmer Rouge leaders -- ended two weeks of tense debate on procedural rules at an impasse. Without these rules, which govern everything from defense lawyers to trial chamber design, the long-delayed trial cannot begin. [...]"


"Congo Militia Chief to Face Trial"
By Chris McGreal
The Guardian, 30 January 2007
"The international criminal court gave the go-ahead for its first trial yesterday by ruling that there is sufficient evidence to try a Congolese militia leader for war crimes. The case before the new court, set up five years ago as the first permanent international court to try crimes against humanity, is a relatively minor one involving the little-known Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, who had been captured by the Congolese government. Prosecutors say that Mr Lubanga, 46, trained children as young as 10 years old to kill, and that he sacrificed their lives in combat in the Ituri region of the east of Congo in 2002-2003. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted. The judge, Claude Jorda of France, said the recruitment 'was a systematic practice ... and involved a large number of children.' While relatively minor, the case has symbolic importance, particularly as the court is embroiled in an embarrassing diplomatic tussle over the first indictment it handed down, against the Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, which the Ugandan government wants quashed to encourage a peace deal."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Holocaust Memorials Defiled by Neo-Nazis"
By Roger Boyes
The Times, 30 January 2007
"The German authorities were preparing for criticism from the Jewish community after it was revealed that a Holocaust memorial in Berlin was being used as a public lavatory by tourists and by neo-Nazi sympathisers. The disclosure, in a Berlin newspaper, will trigger a new debate about how the Holocaust should be remembered in Germany. One argument against building the monument -- that consists of 2,700 concrete slabs resembling Jewish gravestones -- was that it would become a target of anti-Semitic vandals. The managers of the memorial, which attracts 3.5 million visitors a year, have tried to play down the scandal. 'This just belongs to the teething problems of any new monument,' Uwe Neumaerker, of the Memorial Foundation, said. The German Government has been aware of the problem since the monument was completed in May 2005 but has tried to maintain a silence for fear of encouraging more vandalism. The defacing of Jewish memorial areas in Germany by followers of the far Right has become a widespread problem that is acknowledged rarely. On the eve of Holocaust Day at the weekend a group of youths set fire to a restored railway carriage -- symbolising the deportation of the Jews -- in Lower Saxony. In the eastern German port of Stralsund, concrete was poured over a memorial for a Jewish family, the Keibel-Cohns. A court in Frankfurt an der Oder, on the Polish border, sentenced three youths to between nine and 14 months jail this month for urinating on a Jewish memorial."


"Secrets of the Dead"
By Billy Briggs
The Guardian, 2 February 2007
"[...] The late 70s and early 80s ... was the most violent period of a civil war that went on for more than three decades in Guatemala between leftist guerrillas and rightwing, military-backed governments. It is a war that in many ways is still going on, despite the formal peace signed in 1996; extrajudicial executions continue, and no one has been brought to book for the atrocities that according to the country's official postwar truth commission left more than 200,000 dead or 'disappeared.' This lack of accountability has meant that hundreds of thousands of people ... have never been able to find out what happened to their relatives and friends. But that is about to change. ... Despite the barbarity of the war -- particularly during the early 1980s, when Guatemala's Mayans were killed in their tens of thousands by the government forces of General José Efraín Ríos Montt and allied paramilitaries -- a culture of impunity has remained almost impenetrable. Now this barrier is going to be broken open: the country's human rights officials have set a date for publishing the first batch of documents from a secret police archive whose existence was for years denied by the security forces. The files, which run to millions of pages, include classified information relating not only to the disappeared, but to spies, informers, government officials and clandestine death squads. The material belonged to the National Police, second only to the army as the core of the security forces during the war, an entity so inextricably linked with violence that the December 1996 peace accord ending the fighting specified that it be disbanded. Human rights investigators say the importance of these files, whose release is planned for July 5, cannot be overstated for a nation still struggling to overcome the legacy of internal conflict. [...]"

"Maya Nobel Winner Menchu Eyes Guatemala Presidency"
By Mica Rosenberg
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, 31 January 2007
"Guatemala's Maya Indian Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu said on Wednesday she may run for president this year in a bid to become the second indigenous head of state in Latin America. Menchu, a defender of Maya Indian victims of Guatemala's bloody 1960-96 civil war and who grew up speaking no Spanish, said several political parties had asked her to run as president or vice president in the September 9 election. 'We are seriously considering the proposals,' she told reporters after marking the death of her father and over 30 other human rights activists in a January 31, 1980 government raid on the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City. About 200,000 people were killed in the civil war, most of them poor Maya Indians. Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her human rights work. Guatemalans will vote for president in a September 9 election that could go through to a second round in November. If Menchu wins, she would follow the footsteps of Evo Morales who last year became Bolivia's first indigenous president. Latin America's Indian population suffers massive discrimination despite being a majority in several countries. ... Menchu's brother and mother were also tortured and killed during the Cold War-era conflict, which ended with peace accords in 1996 but left deep scars among the Mayan inhabitants of Guatemala's divided and dirt-poor countryside."
[n.b. Now wouldn't that be something!]


"Civilians Caught in Crossfire during Port-au-Prince Raids"
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, 2 February 2007
"The head of the UN mission to Haiti has publicly acknowledged international peacekeepers carrying out anti-kidnapping raids into the poorest parts of the city have to do more to avoid civilian casualties. His comments come after a series of raids in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in which witnesses said a number of innocent bystanders were either killed or wounded by peacekeepers. 'We have to improve, we have to be all the time learning from this,' said Ambassador Edmond Mulet, head of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Minustah). 'We have learned lessons every time we have [had] these actions.' Mr. Mulet made his comments to The Independent following a presentation in Washington in which the envoy outlined some of the multitude of problems facing Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere and where 70 per cent of the population survive on less than $2 a day. The envoy denied reports that UN peacekeepers had fired from helicopters, hindered Red Cross volunteers or used 'heavy munitions' in the raids on December 22, December 28 and January 5. But during his presentation this week at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) he admitted: 'There has been collateral damage. Definitely.' It is unclear how many people were killed in the December 22 raid in the densely-populated slum areas of Cite Soleil when several hundred Brazilian UN soldiers launched a pre-dawn raid aimed at capturing known gang leaders. Mr. Mulet said around 12 or 13 people were killed, of which 10 were known gang members; other unconfirmed reports have put the death toll higher. A number of people were also injured. ... Local people and campaigners point out that given the densely populated nature of the slums and the fact that the shanties in which people live offer no protection against gunfire, such raids routinely result in innocent people being killed. The UN and the Haitian National Police also claim that gang members in the slums have shot residents and then blamed the authorities for these deaths -- a claim for which no evidence has been offered. [...]"


"Jewish Sect Ostracized over Iran Meeting"
By Ravi Nessman
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 27 January 2007
"For decades, the Jewish community just barely tolerated a small, fiercely anti-Zionist sect as its members traveled the world, denouncing
Israel's existence and embracing its enemies. But when a delegation from Neturei Karta hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a conference questioning the Holocaust last month, that was too much. Now, the ultra-Orthodox group is being ostracized on three continents, denounced by rabbis, banned from synagogues and harassed in the streets. 'They brought shame on the Jewish people,' said Rabbi Shimon Weiss, a leader of the Eida Haredit, an umbrella group of anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews based in Israel. 'If they come to a synagogue, they will be kicked out. They disgust us.' In telephone interviews from their home cities in England, the U.S., and Israel, members of the group say they were misunderstood, never denied the Holocaust and were simply trying to protect Jews from Iranian attack if war breaks out in the Middle East. 'We know what we have done, we know the value of what we have done, and we think that in the course of time that will come out clearly,' said Rabbi Ahron Cohen, a Neturei Karta member from Manchester, England. When Cohen returned from
Iran, he needed police protection. His house was barraged by hundreds of eggs, his window smashed by a brick and a billiard ball and he continues to be pelted with pebbles, eggs and insults in the street, he said. Last week, two tires on his Volvo were slashed, he said, and his synagogue has closed its doors to him. [...]"
[n.b. Orthodox Jews having their houses pelted with eggs, their windows smashed, their car tires slashed? I can only assume the assailants were anti-semitic thugs ...]


"Mass Grave Discovered in Southern Iraq"
Sapa-AFP dispatch in Independent Online (South Africa), 2 February 2007
"A grave containing the bodies of between 200 and 250 Kurdish prisoners has been found in the deserted province of Muthanna near the border with Saudi Arabia, a provincial official said on Thursday. Amin Mohammed Amin said the grave was found west of the town of Salman after tip-offs from inhabitants of the sparsely populated region. A five-member commission has been set up to verify the find and exhume the bodies from mass grave, located less than a kilometre from a former detention camp. The corpses of between 200 and 250 prisoners held by the former regime of Saddam Hussein had been found, and were almost certainly Kurds in light of the traditional clothes they wore, Amin said. The grave extended over more than 200 square metres and included the bodies of men, women and children, he added. The commission consists of a judge, a representative of the Samawa provincial council, the provincial deputy prefect and two municipal officials, he said. Work to unearth the bodies and rebury them according to Islamic rites has already begun, Amin said. More than 180,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed during the Anfal military campaign in northern Iraq in 1987-88, when thousands of villages were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Six former officials of Saddam's regime are currently on trial in Baghdad for their roles in those operations, including the late dictator's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid -- also known as 'Chemical Ali' -- who has been charged with genocide. [...]"

"Palestinians: 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Iraq"
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post, 1 February 2007
"After 18 members of her family were brutally murdered by Shi'ite militiamen in Baghdad, Nadia Othman, a 36-year-old Palestinian mother of three, finally managed to escape to Jordan together with hundreds of Palestinian families that had been living in Iraq for decades. In 2006, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in the Iraqi capital in what Palestinian leaders and political activists are describing as a 'systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing.' Thousands of Palestinian families have been forced to flee Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, but many still have no place to go to. Iraq's Arab neighbors, Syria and Jordan, have imposed stringent restrictions on the entry of the refugees, leaving many of them stranded along the border in harsh and inhuman conditions. Until three years ago, the number of Palestinians living in Iraq was estimated at 30,000. Under Saddam, Palestinians enjoyed many privileges that only a few Iraqis were entitled to: free accommodation, free health services and free education. Today, Nadia said, 'There are less than 10,000 Palestinians living in Iraq and most of them are afraid to walk out of their homes. ...' Nadia's decision to leave her home came shortly after one of her brothers, Muhammad Rashid, was killed by Shi'ite gunmen as he was on his way to the school where he worked as an Arabic language teacher. 'The murderers stopped him in the street, asked for his ID documents, and when they saw that he was a Palestinian refugee, they immediately fired three bullets at his head,' she said. 'On the same day, they kidnapped and murdered Farid Al-Sayed, chairman of the Palestinian-controlled Haifa Sports Club in Iraq.' Another Palestinian who fled Iraq and was recently reunited with his family in the northern West Bank described the campaign against the Palestinians in Iraq as 'genocide.' The Shi'ites, particularly the pro-Iranian Mahdi Army, are waging a war to eliminate the entire Palestinian population in Iraq, he told The Jerusalem Post. 'This is a real genocide. Why isn't the international community doing anything to stop this? How come none of the Arab countries has even issued a statement condemning the atrocities?' [...]"

"A 'Soft Partition' of Iraq May Reduce Contact, Conflict"
By David Brooks
The New York Times (in, 31 January 2007
"Iraq is at the beginning of a civil war fought using the tactics of genocide, and it has all of the conditions to get much worse. As a Newsweek correspondent, Christian Caryl, wrote recently from Baghdad, 'What's clear is that we're far closer to the beginning of this cycle of violence than to its end.' As John Burns of The New York Times said on PBS' 'Charlie Rose' recently, 'Friends of mine who are Iraqis -- Shiite, Sunni, Kurd -- all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that would absolutely dwarf what we're seeing now.' Iraq already has the warlord structures that caused mass murder in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. Violent, stupid men who would be the dregs of society under normal conditions rise amid the trauma, chaos and stress and become revered leaders. They command squads of young men who leave the moral universe and have no future in a peacetime world. They kill for fun, faith and profit -- because they find it more rewarding to massacre and loot than to farm or labor. They are manipulated by political leaders with a savage zero-sum mind-set, who know they must kill or be killed, and who are instituting strategic ethnic cleansing campaigns to expand their turf. Worse, Iraq already has the psychological conditions that have undergirded the great bloodbaths of recent years. Iraqi minds, according to the most sensitive reporting, have already been rewired by the experiences of trauma and extreme stress. Some people become hyperaggressive and turn into perfect killers. Others endure a phased mental shutdown that looks like severe depression. They lose their memory and become passive and fatalistic. They become perfect victims. Amid the turmoil, the complexity of life falls away, and things are reduced to stark polarities: Sunni-Shiite or Shiite-Sunni, human-subhuman. Once this mental descent has begun, it is possible to kill without compunction. [...]"

"Chemical Ali Admits Razing Kurd Villages"
By Jay Deshmukh
The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 2007
"A cousin of Saddam Hussein on trial for genocide has defended ordering a military campaign against Kurdish villagers. Ali Hassan al-Majid -- who earned the nickname Chemical Ali for allegedly ordering the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds -- and five co-defendants are charged with slaughtering 182,000 Kurds in the so-called Anfal campaign in the 1980s. A defiant Majid said he had not made any 'mistake' when issuing orders during the campaign, in which Kurdish villages were methodically bombed and thousands of men, women and children killed. 'I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers,' Majid said. 'The army was responsible for carrying out those orders. I gave the army instructions. I am not defending myself. I am not apologising. I did not make a mistake.' Majid faces a possible death sentence on the genocide charge, while the others are being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. His statement came after a prosecutor presented what he said was proof that linked the former defence minister to chemical strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan and orders for the demolition of dozens of villages. ... Majid denied knowledge of detention centres where Kurds say they were detained and tortured. [...]"

"Iraqis Abandon Their Homes in Middle East's New Refugee Exodus"
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, 29 January 2007
"Iraq is experiencing the biggest exodus in the Middle East since Palestinians were forced to flee in 1948 upon the creation of Israel. 'We were forced to leave our house six months ago and since then we have moved more than eight times,' said Abu Mustafa, a 56-year-old man from Baghdad. 'Sectarian violence has now even reached the displacement camps but we are tired of running away. Sometimes I have asked myself if it is not better to die than to live like a Bedouin all my life.' Iraqis are on the run inside and outside the country. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said 50,000 Iraqis a month are abandoning their homes. Stephanie Jaquemet, regional representative of the UNHCR, said that two million Iraqis have fled abroad and another 1.5-2 million are displaced within the country -- many of them from before the fall of Saddam Hussein. They flee because they fear for their lives. Some 3,000 Iraqis are being killed every month according to the UN. Most come from Baghdad and the centre of the country, but all of Iraq outside the three Kurdish provinces in the north is extremely violent. A detailed survey by the International Organisation for Migration on displacement within Iraq said that most people move after direct threats to their lives: 'These threats take the form of abductions; assassinations of individuals or their families.' There are fewer mixed areas left in Iraq. In Baghdad, militias now feel free to use mortars to bombard each other knowing that they will not hit members of their own community. Shia and Sunni both regard themselves as victims responding to provocation. The most common destinations are Jordan and Syria which have taken 1.6 million people. At first it was the better-off who fled, including half of Iraq's 34,000 doctors. Now it is the poor who are arriving in Amman and Damascus with little means of surviving. Only Syria has formally recognised a need for temporary protection for Iraqis. Others, including the US and UK, are loath to admit that one of the world's great man-made disasters is taking place. The UNHCR thinks every Iraqi should qualify as a refugee because of the extraordinary level of violence in the country. 'This is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world,' Kenneth Bacon, president of Refugees International told the US Senate Judiciary Committee. [...]"


"Israel May Have Violated Arms Pact, U.S. Officials Say"
By David S. Cloud and Greg Myre
The New York Times, 28 January 2007
"The Bush administration will inform Congress on Monday that Israel may have violated agreements with the United States when it fired American-supplied cluster munitions into southern Lebanon during its fight with Hezbollah last summer, the State Department said Saturday. The finding, though preliminary, has prompted a contentious debate within the administration over whether the United States should penalize Israel for its use of cluster munitions against towns and villages where Hezbollah had placed its rocket launchers. Cluster munitions are anti-personnel weapons that scatter tiny but deadly bomblets over a wide area. The grenadelike munitions, tens of thousands of which have been found in southern Lebanon, have caused 30 deaths and 180 injuries among civilians since the end of the war, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service. Midlevel officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have argued that Israel violated American prohibitions on using cluster munitions against populated areas, according to officials who described the deliberations. But other officials in both departments contend that Israel's use of the weapons was for self-defense and aimed at stopping the Hezbollah rocket attacks that killed 159 Israeli citizens and at worst was only a technical violation. Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter. But sanctions against Israel for misusing the weapons would not be unprecedented. The Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on cluster-weapon sales to Israel in 1982, after a Congressional investigation found that Israel had used the weapons in civilian areas during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. One option under discussion is to bar additional sales of cluster munitions for some period, an official said. [...]"


"In the Era of the Holocaust, 29 Who Made a Difference"
By Peter Steinfels
The New York Times, 3 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"The book is called 'Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust,' and perhaps the most telling thing about it is that it is very slim. Richard C. Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations, made that point during a ceremony, held Jan. 24 at Park East Synagogue on Manhattan's East Side, to mark the book’s publication. During the years of Nazi persecution and then mass murder of Jews, Mr. Holbrooke noted, Europe's embassies and consulates were filled with thousands of officials, but very few of them proved willing to toss aside protocol and instructions to save the lives of people threatened with death in the camps. 'Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust' is a documentary record of 29 exceptions. It was written by Mordecai Paldiel, director of the department at Yad Vashem -- the main Holocaust memorial museum in Israel -- that designates non-Jewish rescuers of Jews with the honorific title Righteous Among the Nations. Stationed in cities either already or about to be under the control of the Third Reich, this small minority of determined and ingenious officials issued passports giving Jewish refugees new citizenship status, sometimes to unlikely places, like El Salvador. They issued exit and entry visas and letters of protection so that Jews could pass to safer territories. They accepted fake documents or even helped people procure them. They made up phony stamps and created new documents to impress local officials and border guards. They bluffed and they threatened and, in many cases, personally sheltered or hid Jews or accompanied them to border crossings. Defying their own governments’ policies against assisting refugees, and especially Jewish refugees, was often as necessary as defying German power. Feng Shan Ho, for example, China’s consul general in Vienna after Austria became part of the Nazi Reich, earned a reprimand and then loss of his post for freely issuing visas to Shanghai. Approximately 18,000 Austrian Jews actually escaped to China, while others used their visas to reach safety elsewhere. [...]"


"Army Blamed for Hundreds of Murders"
By Carmel Crimmins
The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 2007
"Philippine soldiers have murdered hundreds of left-wing activists since 2001 and their commanding officers should be held responsible, the head of a government inquiry has said. Jose Melo, a retired Supreme Court justice, said yesterday that 'elements in the military' were behind the fatal shooting of hundreds of left-wing activists, community workers and farmers. 'It's a small group in the military who are doing these things with the tolerance of some commanders, but it is not the policy of the entire armed forces of the Philippines,' Mr. Melo said. ... Mr. Melo recommended that commanding officers face military tribunals for extrajudicial killings in their areas. 'They should have known what was happening and they just kept silent,' he said. ... The military's chief-of-staff, Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, told the Melo Commission in September that there was no official policy to kill 'suspected enemies of the state.' The military and government has previously blamed communist rebels for the recent surge in killings, saying the New People's Army was purging its ranks, as it had done in the 1980s. The shootings -- often carried out in daylight by masked gunmen on motorbikes -- have continued into 2007. Many of the victims were members of organisations the military views as fronts for the group. The Philippines, also fighting Muslim insurgencies, has been battling the New People's Army since 1969 in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. [...]"


"Rwanda Leader Backs Crash Probe"
By Fergal Keane
BBC Online, 30 January 2007
"Rwandan President Paul Kagame has told the BBC he would co-operate with an international inquiry into the death of former leader Juvenal Habyarimana. The downing of Habyarimana's plane in 1994 sparked the Rwandan genocide. In a rare interview, Mr Kagame accused France of using the crash to cover its role in training and arming those who committed genocide. Mr. Kagame also angrily said: 'Would I care that bloody Habyarimana died? I don't give a damn.' Mr. Kagame rejected claims that he had discussed the killing of President Habyarimana in the presence of bodyguards. He said he would not do that unless he was the most stupid man in the world. But significantly the president said he would be willing to co-operate with an independent inquiry into the shooting down of the plane. It remains to be seen whether the UN -- which backed away from such an inquiry in the past -- would be keen to take him up on this. ... The claims of one key witness who spoke to the BBC could prove troubling for French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who has alleged that Mr. Kagame ordered the attack to seize total power. Innocent Marara, who says he was a former bodyguard of Mr. Kagame, claims the judge tried to get him to join a rebel group fighting the Rwandan president and arranged for him to give intelligence to French defence officials. Judge Bruguiere could not be reached for comment."


"China's Hu Tells Sudan It Must Solve Darfur Issue"
By Opheera McDoom
Reuters dispatch, 2 February 2007
"Chinese President Hu Jintao told Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday Khartoum had to resolve the four-year-old conflict in Darfur, a source said after talks between the two leaders. The source did not elaborate on the comments by Hu, who Western leaders hoped would use his first trip to Sudan, China's third-largest African trading partner, to press Bashir to accept U.N. peacekeepers in the western region. The Chinese leader did not refer to the Darfur conflict in a statement afterwards in which he said he envisaged a new level of cooperation and stronger economic ties with Sudan, China's fourth-largest source of crude oil imports in November. But Hu, on an eight-nation African tour to boost ties at a time of huge Chinese demand for raw materials to meet its rapid industrial expansion, did pledge 40 million yuan ($4.8 million) in humanitarian aid for Darfur. Hu told Bashir 'Darfur is a part of Sudan and you have to resolve this problem,' said the source, declining to be named. The Chinese president signed several economic deals as he started his visit, including an interest-free loan of 100 million yuan for Sudan to build a new presidential palace. He wrote off up to $70 million in Sudanese debts to China. [...]"

"Chad Says World Still Has 'Head in Sand' on Darfur"
By Pascal Fletcher
Reuters dispatch, 30 January 2007
"Chad President Idriss Deby accused Sudan on Tuesday of waging a genocidal 'racial war' in Darfur and complained that African and international leaders were shying away from confronting Khartoum squarely on the issue. In an interview with RFI French radio, Deby criticised what he called the world's 'head in the sand' attitude over Sudan's actions in its Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in ethnic and political conflict since 2003. He welcomed the decision by African Union leaders on Monday to withhold the AU chairmanship from Sudan because of the international outcry over the Darfur bloodshed, which Chad says is spilling over the border into its territory. 'I think (the decision) could be seen as a relief for the whole continent,' Deby told Radio France Internationale (RFI). Ghanaian President John Kufuor was given the AU chairmanship in a consensus move that overruled Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's bid for the post for the second year running. But while Deby praised the AU decision as wise, he chided his African colleagues at the summit in Addis Ababa for failing to take Bashir to task directly for his stance on Darfur. 'Nobody is capable of telling him, Mr. Bashir, you are wrong,' Deby said in the RFI interview, monitored in Dakar. 'Sudan is continuing to play this macabre game of a racial war, which others refuse to talk about ... people simply look to a policy of putting their heads in the sand,' he added. [...]"

"Aid Agencies May Quit Sudan After Police Sexually Assault Woman"
By Jonathan Erasmus and Gethin Chamberlain
The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2007
"AID workers have described how they watched helplessly as Sudanese police officers dragged a United Nations worker from an aid agency compound in Darfur and subjected her to a vicious sexual attack. Staff said they feared for their lives when police raided their compound in Nyala, dragging one European woman into the street by her hair and beating several other staff before arresting a total of 20 UN, aid agency and African Union staff. The attack, the latest in a series of assaults on international aid workers, has forced relief agencies to consider pulling out of the troubled region. The UN and Britain have condemned the brutality and demanded action from the Sudanese authorities. 'We were terrified,' one aid worker who witnessed the assault told London's Sunday Telegraph. 'The police were armed and threatening us at gunpoint. A few of the guys were beaten to the floor as they tried to calm the situation. The police were being really aggressive, laying into us with sticks and kicking us.' At this point, he said, one of the female UN workers was pulled aside. 'They forced her into a back alley where she was sexually assaulted by police officers. There was nothing we could do to stop them separating her; they were shoving rifles in our faces and pounding us with batons. They pushed us out onto the street, dragging one of the girls along the floor by her hair. They forced us to the ground again, loading others into police cars. Locals started attacking us, throwing punches, and the police did nothing to stop them. I seriously feared for my life because the situation had got so out of control.' The UN said it planned to make a formal protest over the incident. ... Militias backed by the Sudanese Government have used rape as a weapon against women in Darfur since the start of their campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2003. [...]"

"Sudan's Peace Deal, Seen as a Bush Success, Is Endangered"
By Glenn Kessler
The Washington Post, 28 January 2007 [Registration Required]
"A peace agreement that two years ago ended Africa's longest-running conflict -- and that the White House considers one of President Bush's signature achievements -- is in danger of unraveling because of inattention by top U.S. officials and growing tensions between Sudan's government and the former rebels who signed the deal, according to experts and congressional officials. The two-decade civil war, which pitted the Islamic government in the north against rebels based in the mostly animist and Christian south, left 2 million people dead, primarily from famine and disease, and 4 million homeless. Christian evangelical groups -- a key part of Bush's political base -- had pressed hard for a resolution, and the administration made a peace agreement one of its top diplomatic priorities. ... But now experts warn that the Khartoum government's unwillingness to abide by the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could lead to a new outbreak of war. 'The CPA is eroding,' said Roger Winter, a former State Department official who was involved in the negotiations. 'It is not dead by any means, but it is eroding and Khartoum wants it to erode.' He said he sees signs that the Sudanese government is no longer interested in the peace deal and has taken steps to prepare for another conflict. Many experts said the administration, distracted by war in the Middle East and an unrelated conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, has failed to recognize the peril lurking in the south. (Similarly, many now believe that the administration let the Darfur conflict spiral out of control in 2003 because it was so focused on reaching a peace accord in the south.) [...]"


"Christianists on the March"
By Chris Hedges, 28 January 2007
"[...] These Christian utopians promise to replace this internal and external emptiness with a mythical world where time stops and all problems are solved. The mounting despair rippling across the United States, one I witnessed repeatedly as I traveled the country, remains unaddressed by the Democratic Party, which has abandoned the working class, like its Republican counterpart, for massive corporate funding. The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic -- to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true -- the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens. We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture and can lock up citizens without trial. Arthur Schlesinger, in 'The Cycles of American History,' wrote that 'the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense -- not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, torture and genocide.' [...]"


"Barclays' Millions Help to Prop Up Mugabe Regime"
By Antony Barnett and Christopher Thompson
The Observer, 28 January 2007
"Barclays bank is helping to bankroll President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, providing millions of pounds of support for his vilified land reforms, The Observer can reveal. Mugabe's opponents describe the bank's activities as a 'disgrace' and an 'insult' to the millions who have suffered human rights abuses. Barclays is the most high-profile of three British-based financial institutions, which, in total, have provided more than $1bn in direct and indirect funding to Mugabe's administration. The other two companies are Standard Chartered Bank and the insurance firm Old Mutual. According to influential newsletter Africa Confidential, that first disclosed the Barclays' loans, the British organisations provide an economic lifeline keeping Mugabe's regime afloat. A spokesman for Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, likened the bank's actions to its support of South Africa's apartheid regime and urged a boycott. One of the most controversial of Barclays' Zimbabwe loans is the £30m it provides to a state-sponsored agricultural 'facility' aiming to sustain land reforms that saw Mugabe seize white-owned farmland and drive more than 100,000 black workers from their homes. The government has expelled more than a million opposition supporters from Harare and Bulawayo, dumping them in the countryside. [...]"


"EU Plans Far-Reaching 'Genocide Denial' Law"
By Bruno Waterfield
The Telegraph, 2 February 2007
"People who question the official history of recent conflicts in Africa and the Balkans could be jailed for up to three years for 'genocide denial,' under proposed EU legislation. Germany, current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, will table new legislation to outlaw 'racism and xenophobia' this spring. Included in the draft EU directive are plans to outlaw Holocaust denial, creating an offence that does not exist in British law. But the proposals, seen by The Daily Telegraph, go much further and would criminalise those who question the extent of war crimes that have taken place in the past 20 years. The legislation will trigger a major row across Europe over free speech and academic freedom. Deborah Lipstadt, the professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, believes the German proposals are misplaced. 'I adhere to that pesky little thing called free speech and I am very concerned when governments restrict it,' she said yesterday. 'How will we determine precisely what is denial? Will history be decided by historians or in a courtroom?' Berlin's draft EU directive extends the idea of Holocaust denial to the 'gross minimisation of genocide out of racist and xenophobic motives,' to include crimes dealt with by the International Criminal Court. ... The draft text states: 'Each member state shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable: 'publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in'... the Statute of the ICC.' [...]"
[n.b. This is madness.]


"Del Ponte Retiring as Head of UN Court"
By Arthur Max
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 30 January 2007
"The chief prosecutor of the UN war-crimes tribunal confirmed Tuesday that she will retire in September, marking the end of an era in international law. Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal's third and longest serving chief prosecutor, will be remembered primarily for overseeing former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's genocide trial, which ended before a verdict could be reached after he died of a heart attack in his cell in March. 'After eight years, I have done my work. It's time for me to go back to a normal life,' she told reporters Tuesday in The Hague. In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Ms. Del Ponte said that in the dozens of trials she has supervised -- including 20 in which the defendants pleaded guilty -- 'I never saw one (defendant) who had real remorse.' Expressions of regret were designed only to ease their sentences, she said. Ms. Del Ponte warned that the two former Bosnian Serb leaders most wanted by the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal could go free unless they are caught before it is closed in 2010 and if the UN Security Council takes no further action. Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb political leader, and his top general, Ratko Mladic, have evaded arrest since the UN tribunal issued indictments against them in 1995 for genocide and other war crimes committed during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. The Security Council has instructed the tribunal to finish its last trials by 2008 and conclude the appeals process within another two years, before closing down. [...]"


"Nuclear Plans in Chaos as Iran Leader Flounders"
By Peter Beaumont
The Observer, 28 January 2007
"Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology. Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes. Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace -- in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US -- a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production. ... Talking to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Mohamed El Baradei appealed for all sides to take a 'time out' under which Iranian enrichment and UN sanctions would be suspended simultaneously, adding that the point at which Iran is able to produce a nuclear weapon is at least half a decade away. In pointed comments aimed at the US and Israel, the Nobel Peace prize winner warned that an attack on Iran would have 'catastrophic consequences.' ... Recent months have seen leaks and background briefings reminiscent of the softening up of public opinion for the war against Iraq which have presented a series of allegations regarding Iran's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the 'genocidal' intentions of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its 'connections' with North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. It also emerged last week in the Israeli media that the country's private diplomatic efforts to convince the world of the need for tough action on Iran were being co-ordinated by Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad. [...]"


"U.N. Human Rights Report Confirms Iraqi Gay Killings"
By Doug Ireland, 27 January 2007
"For the very first time, an official United Nations human rights report released last week has confirmed the 'violent campaigns' against Iraqi gays and the 'assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq. Attacks on homosexuals and intolerance of homosexual practices have long existed, yet they have escalated in the past year,' says the latest bi-monthly Human Rights Report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), released on January 16. 'Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them. There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq,' the report says. Including a section entitled 'Sexual Orientation' for the first time, the 30-page report goes on to say that the UNAMI Human Rights Office 'was also alerted to the existence of religious courts, supervised by clerics, where alleged homosexuals would be "tried," "sentenced" to death, and then executed. The trials, presided over by young, inexperienced clerics, are held ... in ordinary halls. Gays and rapists face anything from 40 lashes to the death penalty,' the UNAMI report says, citing a report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, adding: 'One of the self-appointed judges in Sadr City believes that homosexuality is on the wane in Iraq. "Most [gays] have been killed and others have fled," he said. Indeed, the number who have sought asylum in the U.K. has risen noticeably over the last few months ... [This judge] insists the religious courts have "a lot to be proud of. We now represent a society that asked us to protect it not only from thieves and terrorists but also from these [bad] deeds."' Among a number of assassinations detailed in the UNAMI report, it says that 'at least five homosexual males were reported to have been kidnapped from Shaab area in the first week in December by one of the main militias. Their personal documents and information contained in computers were also confiscated. The mutilated body of Amjad, one of the kidnapped, appeared in the same area after a few days.' [...]"


"Germany Seeks 13 over CIA 'Kidnap'", 31 January 2007
"Arrest warrants have been issued for 13 suspected CIA agents in connection with the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen of Lebanese descent in Afghanistan. The arrest warrants list charges of kidnapping and severe battery, the Munich state prosecutor's office said Wednesday. All the names on the warrants are aliases, but the office told CNN they are believed to be CIA operatives. Khaled El-Masri said he was kidnapped in late 2003 while on holiday in Macedonia. In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, he said after having been interrogated in Macedonia for several days, he was flown to Afghanistan where he was held in a secret prison for several months and severely beaten in interrogation sessions. El-Masri contends he was dumped five months later along the side of a road in Albania without explanation from those who held him. The 13 suspects are believed to be the crew of the plane that flew El-Masri to Afghanistan, including the two pilots, the Munich state prosecutor told CNN. German authorities obtained information from the Spanish police and the state prosecutor in Milan, Italy -- which eventually led to the arrest warrants being filed. The chances of the suspects actually standing trial in Germany are slim as German arrest warrants are not binding in the United States. If, however, any of the suspects should enter a European country, they would be arrested immediately, the Munich state prosecutor's office said. In his interview with Die Zeit, El-Masri said he tried to travel to the United States to file a lawsuit there but was not allowed to enter the country. The case has also led to a German parliamentary investigation into when the government under German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was informed about the kidnapping. [...]"


"PNG Women Killed over 'Sorcery'"
By Phil Mercer
BBC Online, 26 January 2007
"Police in Papua New Guinea say four women accused of using sorcery to cause a fatal road crash have been murdered. It is believed the victims were tortured by fellow villagers in a remote highland region 400km (250 miles) north of capital Port Moresby. Police believe they were forced to confess to witchcraft after they were stabbed with hot metal rods. Human rights campaigners say it is not uncommon in Papua New Guinea for women suspected of witchcraft to be killed. These four women had been accused by fellow villagers of using sorcery to cause a car crash in which three prison guards died. A senior police officer said it appeared the killings took place last October and that a tip-off from tribal elders had eventually alerted the authorities. The women's bodies were found hidden in an old pit. It is not clear if any charges will be laid. [...]"

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