Friday, May 04, 2007

Genocide Studies Media File
April 25 - May 4, 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

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"Afghans Say U.S. Bombing Killed 42 Civilians"
By Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall
The New York Times, 3 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"Aerial bombing of a valley in western Afghanistan several days ago by the American military killed at least 42 civilians, including women and children, and wounded 50 more, an Afghan government investigation found Wednesday. A provincial council member who visited the site independently put the figure at 50 civilians killed. President Hamid Karzai said at a news conference in Kabul that the Afghan people could no longer tolerate such casualties. 'Five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue accepting civilian casualties,' he said. 'It is becoming heavy for us; it is not understandable anymore.' There have been several episodes recently in which civilians have been killed and foreign forces have been accused of indiscriminate or excessive force. That has prompted Afghan officials to warn that the good will of the Afghan people toward the government and the foreign military presence is wearing thin. The government delegation reported that three villages were bombed last week in the Zerkoh Valley, 30 miles south of the western city of Herat, and 100 houses were destroyed and 1,600 people were now homeless, Farzana Ahmadi, a spokeswoman for the governor of Herat Province, said by telephone. 'The report says that some women and children were drowned in the river, and it was maybe in the heat of the moment that the children and people wanted to escape and jumped into the water,' she said. 'This all happened just because of a lack of coordination between international forces and our forces.' A provincial council member from Herat, Naik Muhammad Eshaq, who went to the area independently, said he had visited the three bombing sites and produced a list of 50 people who had died, including infants and other children under age 10. People were still digging bodies out of the rubble of their mud-walled homes on Tuesday afternoon, he said. [...]"


"Life for Leaders of Argentina's Brutal Dirty War"
By Patrick McDonnell
The Sydney Morning Herald (from The Los Angeles Times), 27 April 2007
"Two ageing leaders of Argentina's former military junta must serve life terms in prison for 'grave violations of human rights,' a court ruled after throwing out pardons that had shielded the pair for years. The former president, Jorge Rafael Videla, and the naval chief, Eduardo Massera, were pivotal members of the military junta that oversaw a reign of terror during the 'dirty war' between 1976 and 1983 against left-wing 'subversives.' Both now 81, they were the best-known faces of the dictatorship. But Wednesday's ruling against them may be largely symbolic, since Videla is already under house arrest on charges related to the theft of hundreds of babies from murdered prisoners. Massera has been declared mentally incompetent after suffering a brain hemorrhage and is said to be in a near-vegetative state. Even so, human rights activists applauded the ruling as the latest step in finally punishing the abusers. 'This restores the route to justice and democracy,' said Andrea Pochak of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies, a human rights group that has followed dirty war cases. 'It is a gesture of vital importance for the future.' About 9000 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, according to official statistics, although human rights groups say the number was closer to 30,000. Many bodies were never recovered, the victims were often tortured, shot and buried in mass graves, or drugged and dumped in the ocean from military aircraft. The brutality of the junta set a dark standard at a time when military regimes governed much of South America. The court ruling illustrates how Argentina, under the leadership of its centre-left President, Nestor Kirchner, has moved more forcefully than any Latin American nation to make the leaders of former military governments answer for the crimes they committed. [...]"


"U.S. Author Heckled by People Denying Armenian Genocide"
By James Barron
International Herald Tribune, 3 May 2007
"As a first-time author, Margaret Ajemian Ahnert hoped that her appearance at a Barnes & Noble store here would draw attention to her new book, 'The Knock at the Door,' which deals with the Armenian genocide. Her reading and question-and-answer session Tuesday drew attention, to be sure, but not the kind she expected. A man in the audience was arrested after he and several other people disrupted the reading by shouting and passing out leaflets denying that the genocide occurred. Ahnert's 209-page book tells, among other things, how her mother survived the genocide as a teenager during World War I and eventually came to the United States. Ahnert said Wednesday that she did not mean 'The Knock at the Door' to be a political narrative. 'Here I was trying to tell the story of my mother, not making a political statement,' she said. 'It's a mother-daughter story, it's how it affected my life. It's not just about the Armenian genocide, it's about my mother growing up, my life, and events in her life that affected me. It's a mother-daughter memoir. I'm not making any historical statements.' Many historians say that the Ottoman Empire was responsible for the death of more than one million people around 1915 in a campaign intended to eliminate the Armenian population throughout what is now Turkey. [...]"

"Recast Genocide Exhibit Opens at U.N."
By Lily Hindy
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 1 May 2007
"An exhibit on the 1994 Rwandan genocide opened Monday at U.N. headquarters after organizers recast a section on the killings of 1 million Armenians in Turkey during World War I -- a reference that angered the Turks. The exhibit, originally set to open April 9, was postponed after a Turkish diplomat complained about the mention of the Armenian killings. The section now uses the term "mass killings" instead of 'murders,' does not include the number of people killed, and replaces 'Turkey' with 'Ottoman Empire.' Armen Martirosyan, Armenia's U.N. ambassador, said the reference still reflects the truth, 'to some extent.' 'This is a Turkish version of history which is not acceptable for us, but to avoid further postponement of the exhibition, we compromised,' Martirosyan said. Calls placed Monday to Turkey's U.N. Mission seeking comment on the changes were not immediately returned. [...]"


"Aboriginal Health '100 Years Behind' Other Australians"
By Barbara McMahon
The Guardian, 1 May 2007
"The standard of health of Aborigines lags almost 100 years behind that of other Australians, with some indigenous people still suffering from leprosy, rheumatic heart disease and tuberculosis, according to a report for the World Health Organisation. The report said that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, which make up about 2.5% of Australia's population, have an average life expectancy 17 years below their fellow countrymen. The average age of death for Aboriginal men in some parts of New South Wales is 33. 'On many levels, indigenous health remains unacceptably low and at levels experienced nearly a century ago by our non-indigenous peers,' said Dr Lisa Jackman Pulver, from the University of News South Wales indigenous health unit. The findings are similar to a survey released last month by Oxfam and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. It reported that Australia ranks last for health in a table of wealthy countries with indigenous populations. Commenting on the latest report, Australia's minister for health, Tony Abbott, acknowledged the gap between the life expectancy of Aborigines and other Australians and said his government had done more than its predecessors to try to find a solution. He said the situation was 'something which no one can be happy about but if it were easy to tackle it would have been tackled a long time ago.' He dismissed a suggestion in the report that the government should publicly acknowledge the 'stress, alienation, discrimination and lack of control' suffered by Aborigines which contributed to poor indigenous health. 'It's all very well to talk about formal apologies but I think indigenous people and the general population are much more interested in seeing better practical outcomes than in gestures, however meaningful those gestures might be to some,' said Mr. Abbott. [...]"


"Canada Probes TB 'Genocide' in Church-Run Schools"
By Debora Mackenzie
New Scientist, 5 May 2007
"Canada is to investigate claims that tens of thousands of native Indian and Inuit (First Nation) children died of tuberculosis at church-run residential schools in the early 20th century, and that their deaths were hushed up. Campaigners allege that school officials did nothing to halt the march of TB despite warnings, and charge that their inaction was tantamount to genocide. Christian churches ran up to 88 boarding schools for aboriginal children across Canada between 1874 and 1985. Their stated aim was assimilation; children were forbidden to speak their native languages. Some 200,000 children passed through the schools, attendance was mandatory and the Mounted Police rounded up truants. Their experiences were often brutal, and Canada is finalising a C$1.9 billion ($1.7 million) class-action settlement for 80,000 surviving former inmates, with extra payments for those who suffered physical and sexual abuse. So far there have been no lawsuits over deaths at the schools, although survivors tell of children disappearing and secret burials. Under pressure from campaigners, Indian Affairs minister Jim Prentice announced last week that his department would find out 'why [children] didn't return and where the bodies are.' Kevin Annett, who led the campaign, says he found reports of high rates of TB at residential schools in records, held at the University of British Columbia, which the government has since sealed. In 1907 Peter Bryce, a chief medical officer for the federal Department of Indian Affairs, recorded that 24 per cent of pupils at 15 schools had died of TB over 14 years. At one school, 63 per cent of the children died. Other documents show that officials knew death rates were high until the 1940s, Annett told New Scientist. They record children being admitted with active, contagious TB, with no quarantine or even ventilation in their rooms, the only ways to control TB before antibiotics. Former students say they slept in crowded dormitories with sick children, and were often hungry: hunger lowers immunity and exacerbates the spread of TB. ... The question now is whether methods such as quarantine could have prevented deaths, and whether the schools' inaction constitutes genocide. According to Annett, the University of British Columbia records reveal Bryce's thoughts on the matter: yes, on both counts."
[n.b. No reader interested in the issue of mortality in the Canadian residential schools should miss Ward Churchill's staggering chapter, "Genocide By Any Other Name," in my edited volume, "Genocide, War Crimes & the West: History and Complicity."]


[n.b. The following items are presented in chronological order.]

"Russia Threatens Estonia over Removal of Red Army Statue"
By Jenny Booth and agencies
The Times, 27 April 2007
"Russia is threatening to break off diplomatic relations with Estonia in the escalating row over the 'blasphemous' removal of the Red Army memorial in the centre of Tallinn. The statue of the Bronze Soldier was taken down and shifted to a secret location as an emergency measure at 3am this morning, after it became the focus of rioting last night in which one person died, 12 police officers and 44 protesters were injured, and more than 300 were arrested. Estonian police were forced to fire flash grenades and wield rubber batons to hold back the more than 1,000 pro-Russian demonstrators, many of them drunken youths hurling rocks and bottles, as six hours of rioting and looting unfolded, in the worst scenes of unrest since Estonia won its independence from the collapsed Soviet Union in 1991. To show its extreme displeasure that the statue has been moved, the Federation Council -- the upper house of the Russian parliament -- today voted unanimously to recommend withdrawing the Russian ambassador from Tallinn. ... The six ft (2m) statue of the Bronze Soldier inspires powerful and conflicting emotions. For Russia, and for the large Russian ethnic minority in Estonia, it is the symbol of liberation from Nazism and victory after the atrocities carried out by Nazi troops. The belief that dead Red Army soldiers are buried beneath the monument increases its mystique, and any attempt to remove it is described as fascist. For ethnic Estonians, however, the statue symbolises the horrors of nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation. 'In our minds, this soldier stands for deportations and murders, the destruction of our country, not liberation,' said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Estonian President. 'It is a monument to mass murder.' The Estonian Government voted last year to move the monument to a less prominent spot than at the centre of a square in the heart of Tallinn, the Estonian capital. The vote was prompted by scuffles around the memorial between pro-Russian and ethnic Estonian groups. [...]"

"Russian MPs Visit Estonia as Soviet War Statue is Re-erected"
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, 1 May 2007
"A statue commemorating Soviet soldiers killed during the second world war was re-erected in a military cemetery yesterday, three days after its removal from a square in central Tallinn provoked unrest from ethnic Russians. The so-called Bronze Soldier was immediately open for public viewing at the defence forces cemetery in the capital, said a defence ministry spokeswoman. Police clashed with Russian-speaking Estonians angered by the move to relocate the statue and nearby war grave, which some ethnic Estonians consider a bitter reminder of the Soviet occupation. One man was stabbed to death, more than 150 people were injured and some 1,100 detained in three nights of rioting, the worst violence since Estonia won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. A delegation of Russian MPs arrived in Estonia yesterday to try to defuse tensions between the two countries, which have traded harsh words, including Russian officials speaking of 'blasphemous' acts, and Estonia accusing Russian media of spreading lies. 'The main purpose of the visit is to create dialogue,' said an Estonian foreign ministry official. One member of the delegation, Nikolai Kovalyov, said he and others in Russia's parliament blame the Tallinn government. His comments were branded 'extremely regrettable' by Sven Mikser, an Estonian MP. Estonian Russians -- nearly one-third of the country's 1.3 million people -- view the monument as a shrine to Red Army soldiers who fought Nazi Germany, but ethnic Estonians consider it a painful reminder of Soviet rule. [...]"


"Queen Flies into PC War over Fate of American Indians"
By Sarah Baxter
The Sunday Times, 29 April 2007
"The Queen is being urged to apologise for the slaughter of American Indians and the introduction of slavery when she visits Virginia this week as guest of honour to mark the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in the New World at Jamestown. She will be landing in the middle of a row over political correctness after officials in Virginia banned the use of the word 'celebration' for the anniversary. It is being called a 'commemoration' out of respect for the suffering of native Americans, who were attacked after the colonists arrived in 1607. Africans begin to appear in the English settlement’s records as indentured servants in 1619 and were later codified in Virginia's statutes as slaves. Virginia passed a resolution earlier this year expressing 'profound regret' for the enslavement of millions of Africans. 'Leaders and heads of state have a responsibility to set the tone and it would be a welcome move for the Queen to express regret,' said Virginia state representative Donald McEachin, a descendant of slaves, who sponsored the resolution. ... A Buckingham Palace spokesman said she would also meet 'native Americans and representatives of the African American community to recognise that they formed part of the early history of America and not necessarily in a particularly constructive way.' He added: 'It is not an entirely backwards looking gesture but is one that recognises the diversity of Virginia today.' [...]"
[n.b. This is really too precious. It's not "a row over political correctness," it is a "row" over genocide and massively destructive slavery. As for the Buckingham Palace spokesman's recognition that Native Americans and African Americans "formed part of the early history of America and not necessarily in a particularly constructive way," the less said, the better.]


"The Accursed: Widows of Iraq's Torn-Apart Society"
By Hala Jaber
The Sunday Times, 29 April 2007
"When Um Noor's husband was blown to pieces by a car bomb last year, she drew comfort from the thought that she and her five children could at least depend on their close-knit community for support. But Um Noor, a fragile figure barely 5ft tall, was a Sunni in the predominantly Shi'ite Baghdad district of Amil, and sectarian strife was taking the city by storm. Soon her brother was murdered by a Shi'ite gang that spotted him in the street and chased him into a neighbour's house where he was shot in cold blood. Then the death squad burst into Um Noor's own home and dragged away her eldest son and a nephew only six years old. They, too, were shot, just for being the sons of Sunnis. Um Noor fled to a Sunni area where she believed she would find sanctuary, only to be warned that her remaining children were at risk from hitmen on her side of the sectarian divide. The reason: her husband had been Shi'ite. That made her children Shi'ites -- potential targets for Sunni gunmen with a particular distaste for mixed marriages. She now keeps the children locked in a borrowed house: two sons and two daughters aged 11 to 22 who hardly dare to feel the sun on their faces, let alone go to school or earn some much needed cash. Um Noor has resolved to keep them there along with her late brother's children -- the eldest aged seven, the youngest a girl of six months -- until order is restored in Baghdad. The way the US-Iraq security plan for the city is going, they could be in for a long and perilous wait. [...]"
[n.b. The "collateral damage" of gendercide against civilian men.]

"UN Accuses Iraq of Covering Up Rise in Civilian Deaths"
By Julian Borger
The Guardian, 25 April 2007
"The UN yesterday accused the Iraqi government of trying to cover up a rise in civilian casualties from sectarian violence since the troop surge ordered by George Bush earlier this year. Iraq's government had withheld civilian casualty statistics because it feared the data would be used to depict a 'very grim' security situation, claimed the UN officials in Baghdad. Amid growing political sensitivity to death toll figures, it also emerged yesterday that Canadian scientists had complained that the British government last week denied a transit visa to an Iraqi colleague, Riyadh Lafta, an epidemiologist and co-author of a Lancet report that had estimated the Iraqi war dead at more than 650,000. The Foreign Office said yesterday that it was investigating his case. The availability of official numbers of the civilian dead and wounded seems to have declined since President Bush gambled with an increase in troops in Iraq -- a last-ditch effort to turn the tide on the insurgency and sectarian bloodshed. A human rights report published yesterday by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) estimates that the death toll is rising, despite 30,000 American reinforcements being ordered into Baghdad and a security clampdown since February. ... In October, the Lancet medical journal published the epidemiological study that estimated that since the March 2003 invasion 655,000 Iraqis had died who would otherwise have lived, a number far in excess of any official estimates. The methodology behind the report, which was overseen by Johns Hopkins University in the US, was criticised by the American and British governments and questioned by other medical researchers. Dr. Lafta had arranged to present the findings of the report at the University of Washington last year but was denied a US visa. Last Friday he was due to present a paper at Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, Canada. This paper looked at the rise in cancer levels among Iraqi children since the invasion. He was issued a Canadian visa, but British consular officials in Jordan refused last week to grant him a transit visa to pass through London, said Tim Takaro, an associate professor at the university. Dr Takaro said: 'Why would an academic physician not be granted a visa? I've grown accustomed to this from the US, but I was very disappointed the British would not even give him a transit visa to pass through an airport.' [...]"
[n.b. God forbid that the truth emerge: in this, the UK and US are bedfellows.]


"Chinese Forced Laborers Lose Japan Court Battle"
Reuters dispatch in The New York Times, 27 April 2007 [Registration Required]
"Japan's top court on Friday rejected two compensation claims by Chinese who suffered at Japanese hands during World War Two, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to soothe anger in Washington over his comments on wartime sex slavery. The Supreme Court rulings against forced laborers and women forced into sexual servitude will effectively halt a raft of wartime damages cases being fought mainly by Chinese and Koreans, because lower courts look to the top court for guidance. Two Chinese women who were kidnapped and forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War Two lost their Supreme Court appeal for damages. That claim had already been settled under a 1972 Japan-China joint statement, the court said. Their lawyer called on the government nonetheless to provide some form of damages to the surviving of the two women, who is 80 years old. 'I hope that the government admits to the truth and takes specific measures to compensate the victim while she is in good health,' said lawyer Sadahiko Sakaguchi. In another case, five Chinese who were forced to work for Japanese firm Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. during World War Two lost their fight for compensation when the Supreme Court overturned a landmark ruling that had ordered the company to pay them. That claim had also been settled under the 1972 joint statement, the court said. 'The ruling is disgraceful in light of friendly relations between Japan and China,' said Shinzo Tsuchiya, a supporter of the former laborers. [...]"

"Japan's 'Atonement' to Former Sex Slaves Stirs Anger"
By Norimitsu Onishi
The New York Times, 25 April 2007
"Facing calls to compensate the aging victims of its wartime sexual slavery, Japan set up the Asian Women's Fund in 1995. It was a significant concession from Japan, which has always asserted that postwar treaties absolved it of all individual claims from World War II. But the fund only fueled anger in the very countries with which Japan had sought reconciliation. By the time it closed as scheduled last month, only a fraction of the former sex slaves had accepted its money. Two Asian governments even offered money to discourage more women from taking Japan's. Critics inside and outside Japan complained about the Japanese government's decision to set up the fund as a private one, making clear that the 'atonement' payments came from citizens. They saw this as another tortured attempt by Tokyo to avoid taking full responsibility for one of the ugliest aspects of the war. 'It was not directly from the Japanese government; that is why I did not accept it,' said Ellen van der Ploeg, 84, a Dutchwoman who was taken from a prisoner of war camp in Indonesia and forced to work in a Japanese military brothel for three months in 1944. 'If you have made mistakes in life, you must have the courage to say, "I'm sorry, please forgive me." But the Japanese government to this day has never taken full responsibility.' 'If this were a pure government fund, I could have accepted it,' Ms. van der Ploeg said in a telephone interview from Houten, the Netherlands. 'Why should I accept money from private Japanese people? They were also victims during the war.' [...]"


"French Troops Advised on Rwanda Genocide -- Author"
By Arthur Asiimwe
Reuters dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 4 May 2007
"French troops advised Rwandan Hutu extremists how to hide their gruesome work from spy satellites, the author of a new book on the central African nation's 1994 genocide said on Thursday. 'Silent Accomplice,' by British researcher and author Andrew Wallis, gives what the author says is new evidence of French complicity in the 1994 slaughter of Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus, by militias formed by the Paris-backed Hutu government. Kigali has broken ties with Paris in a nasty diplomatic spat, saying France has never admitted its role in helping foster the killing of 800,000 people. Paris, whose troops had a long military presence in Rwanda, vehemently denies abetting the genocide, saying it only acted in a humanitarian capacity as the murders unfolded. Wallis said some troops became aggravated by corpses floating on rivers -- images picked up by spy satellites. 'So the French soldiers were telling them you have to slit off the bellies of these Tutsi that you kill so that they sink and satellites do not see them,' Wallis told Reuters in Kigali. Rwanda's river Akagera feeds into Lake Victoria, and carried thousands of dead bodies into neigbouring Uganda at the time of the slaughter. Some Ugandans reported finding human teeth in fish they ate after the killings. Wallis said the French role went far beyond arms deals with the pro-Hutu government, saying that before and during the genocide, French special forces armed and trained soldiers who later become the militias that carried out most of the killing. [...]"


"UN Ends Kosovo Tour, Says No Deadline for Decision"
By Matt Robinson
Reuters dispatch, 28 April 2007
"U.N. Security Council envoys wound up a mission to Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo on Saturday, saying they would deliberate on a disputed proposal for its independence without setting deadlines. The fact-finding mission visited Kosovo at the suggestion of permanent Council member Russia, which backs Serbia in opposing independence for its Albanian-majority province, as proposed by a U.N. mediator after a year of fruitless talks. 'Deciding on important issues should never be hostage to predetermined deadlines,' Belgian ambassador and mission head Johan Verbeke told a news conference. Negotiation is a natural process, he said. 'You have to give it natural space and time in order for all parties of the Security Council to feel at ease with the solution.' The tour by the states that may soon decide Kosovo's fate is a concession by NATO powers, which favor independence, to Russia, which supports Serb insistence that Kosovo, its cultural and religious heartland, must forever remain part of Serbia. The United States says it expects a decision in May, warning of unrest if Kosovo's limbo status continues much longer. But Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he believed the visit would force a rethink on Kosovo by some Council members. [...]"


"How the War in Somalia Could Spread"
By Olivia Ward
The Toronto Star, 29 April 2007
"Starved and terrified civilians fleeing their homes. The stench of death hovering over the steaming streets. Tanks and missiles blasting through the night. Cholera victims dying in the dust. A plague of war has descended on the Somali capital, Mogadishu, claiming more than a thousand lives and displacing an estimates 300,000 people, as the country's transitional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, continues to battle for power with supporters of an ousted Islamist regime. It's one of those complex regional wars that attract little international attention -- but this conflict is closely watched in Toronto and other centres of the Somali diaspora. What much of the world doesn't realize is that this little war threatens a humanitarian catastrophe that could have spillover effects in the region, and the West, for years to come. 'It's a genocide in the making,' says Mohamad Elmi, an Ottawa-based partner in Mogadishu's independent HornAfrik broadcasting network. 'People are fleeing in every direction, but they're being wounded and killed and there's nobody to help them. Now, all the political agendas are merging, and everything we've feared is happening. If it continues this way the whole Horn of Africa will be in flames.' [...]"

"Mogadishu Slides Toward Chaos"
By Alex Perry
TIME Magazine, 25 April 2007
"If there is one lesson to be learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, it's not to invade a country without a plan for the aftermath. When the new Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi rode into Mogadishu behind a column of invading U.S.-backed Ethiopians in January, he did have a plan: build a new government as quickly as possible, and leave business well alone. Unfortunately, he hasn't stuck to it. And that may be why, a little over three months later, Mogadishu is engulfed in some of the most savage fighting it has ever seen. Eight days of firefights pitting Islamist and clan fighters against Ethiopian and Somali government troops has seen close to 400 killed. Earlier this month, 1,000 were killed in four days. And more than 300,000 residents have fled the city, leaving behind bodies in the streets. ... Gedi has given lucrative government jobs to members of his clan, tried to rein in private enterprise -- legitimate as well as illegitimate -- and imposed a 300% tax at the ports. Now reports filtering out of Mogadishu indicate that alongside Islamist rebels, the Ethiopians and Somali government troops are fighting private clan armies and even entrepreneur associations trying to protect their businesses. As the Ethiopians pounds insurgent positions in the city with tanks and artillery, the New York Times reports that businessmen are even buying up missiles to use in counterattacks. [...]"
[n.b. The summary of this article reads: "Blood flows in the streets of Somalia's capital because the Ethiopian and U.S.-backed government has failed to meet the standards of governance set by the Islamists they deposed." 'Nuff said; and hundreds of thousands more innocent people become victims of the "war on terror."]


"Spain Cracks Open Dictatorial Past"
By Lisa Abend
The Christian Science Monitor, 26 April 2007
"[...] In the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards were arrested, tried, and in many cases summarily executed for having supported the democratically elected Republican government during the civil war. Well into the 1960s and '70s, Franco's Tribunal of Public Order punished thousands found guilty of 'rebellion.' With only one exception, the families of those political prisoners, many of whom lost their homes and businesses as a result of their affiliation with the persecuted, have never managed to have the sentences overturned. The original draft of the Law of Historical Memory, which among other things provides pensions for soldiers who fought in the Republican army and requires symbols of the Franco regime to be removed from public places, was opposed by parties on the left which felt it did not go far enough. As a result, the bill languished for more than four months. Now, with the Socialists' agreement to include a provision that denies the legitimacy of Franco's political trials, the United Left (IU), and the Catalan Green Initiative (ICV) have added their support, bringing with them enough votes to pass the law. ... Still the Socialists have stressed that the legislation does not automatically annul previous convictions. 'This is a law that neither breaks anything, nor dredges up the past,' said Vice President Maria Teresa Fernández de la Vega. 'It simply recognizes and extends the rights of those people whose rights were harmed during the civil war and the dictatorship.' But many are convinced that it will have a judicial impact. 'Our final objective is to nullify the sentences,' says a source within the leadership of the United Left party. 'We agreed to the legislation because we see the term "illegitimate" as the door that opens the way to annulment.' [...]"


"Hague Court Issues First Darfur War Crimes Warrants"
By Xan Rice
The Guardian, 3 May 2007
"The international criminal court announced yesterday that it had issued arrest warrants for a Janjaweed militia leader and a Sudanese government minister suspected of involvement in murder, torture and rape in Darfur. However, Khartoum said it had no intention of handing over the men -- Ali Muhammad al Abd-al-Rahman, known as Ali Kushayb, and Ahmad Muhammad Harun, the state minister for humanitarian affairs, who are accused of 41 and 50 counts respectively of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The men are alleged to have had lead roles in joint army and militia attacks on four West Darfur villages in 2003 and 2004, where hundreds were murdered. Human rights groups applauded the action, which was a first for Darfur. Presenting his case to the international court in February, the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had requested the two men be summoned to The Hague, a move that would have put pressure only on Sudan to ensure their appearance. But the three sitting judges yesterday chose to go further by issuing arrest warrants. This puts the onus on all countries that recognise the court to help apprehend the suspects. The court said yesterday there were 'reasonable grounds' to believe that Mr. Harun, 43, a former judge, encouraged attacks on civilians while he was government head of the Darfur security desk. Mr. Rahman, 50, described by the prosecution as a 'colonel of colonels,' is accused of personally participating in attacks by the Janjaweed, the mainly Arab militia sponsored by Sudan's government. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said yesterday that the government had 'a legal duty' to arrest the two men. But Sudan's government, which fears that further prosecutions could hit ministers all the way up to the president, Omar al-Bashir, yesterday repeated its insistence that the court had no jurisdiction over it. [...]"

"UN Sees Gains in Darfur Refugee Crisis"
By Tarek El-Tablawy
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 1 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"The international community has made progress in easing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, but those efforts could unravel because of the 'total failure' to bring lasting security to the Sudanese region, the top U.N. refugee official said Tuesday. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres' assessment came as he took stock of the refugee situation in Sudan and Iraq -- two of the world's biggest refugee challenges. Guterres, who recently returned from Darfur, applauded gains made in Sudan on the humanitarian front, saying the U.N. had assisted in the return of 30,000 refugees there in the first four months of the year, a figure that trumped repatriation levels for all of 2006. But for that level to be sustainable, security must be realized in the region, and this can only be accomplished through a comprehensive and effective peace agreement, Guterres said. 'It is crucial ... for the international community to be fully engaged in putting pressure for a comprehensive, effective peace agreement to be established as quickly as possible, involving all the parties,' Guterres told reporters, arguing that not enough attention has been paid to ongoing negotiations. The United Nations has been pushing hard to end the four-year conflict in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million displaced in fighting between ethnic African rebels and government forces and their allied Arab militia, known as the janjaweed. Attempts to broker peace have largely failed, with forces on both sides accused of abuses. [...]"

"Darfur Protests Draw Thousands in London, Washington"
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 30 April 2007 [Registration Required]
"Thousands of people protested Sunday outside Prime Minister Tony Blair's residence to demand decisive action to end the violence in Darfur, holding up a 7-foot hourglass filled with artificial blood. Protests also were held in the United States, Israel and other countries on what campaigners designated a global day of action. In London, protesters handed a letter to Gareth Thomas, a minister of state for international development, calling for the quick deployment of a strong peacekeeping force in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where a four-year war has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. The letter, addressed to Blair, urged the prime minister 'to use your influence to push the international community to call for action.' 'Time is running out for the people of Darfur, and we urge you to keep the pressure on the government of Sudan until there is an effective peacekeeping force on the ground protecting civilians,' the letter said. Organizers said 3,500 people attended the London rally. The United States and Britain have been working on a proposal calling for sanctions against Sudan if it does not agree to the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to help a beleaguered African Union force. In Washington, actress Mia Farrow spoke to protesters in front of the White House. A large sign in the background read, 'Peace and Protection Now.' Celebrities including Farrow, Elton John, Mick Jagger and George Clooney issued a statement Sunday calling for an end to the bloodshed in Darfur and accusing the international community of failing to act. [...]"

"War without End"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 30 April 2007
"If Mohammed Izadein had met Elsadiq Elzein Rokero last year, he would have tried to kill him. Today, he calls him 'brother.' Sitting on a straw mat in a simple mud hut in the village of Sabun, deep in the heart of the Jebel Marra, a fertile mountainous region in the centre of Darfur, Mr. Izadein recounts how the two men -- one Arab, one Fur -- have become unlikely allies against the Sudanese government. Mr. Rokero, a Fur, is a general in the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). Mr Izadein, an Arab from the Talba tribe in the Kass region of south Darfur, was a janjaweed fighter, attacking villages in SLA territory. 'Now, this man is my brother,' Mr. Izadein says, reaching out an arm towards Mr Rokero. It is an alliance that symbolises the changes taking place in Darfur's four-year-long conflict -- a war that has claimed the lives of at least 200,000 people and forced nearly three million from their homes. What began as a rebellion by three non-Arab tribes against perceived marginalisation by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government has escalated into a complex multi-layered conflict. Mr. Izadein signed a peace agreement with the SLA in Jebel Marra at the end of last year. He claims he now leads a group of 3,000 former janjaweed fighters from 12 different Arab tribes who have switched sides and taken up arms against the government they once served. There are Arabs fighting alongside the rebels and Africans siding with the government. Arab tribes are fighting other Arab tribes -- some are even fighting themselves. Desertification has increased tensions, between everybody, as tribes fight to gain control over precious water points. If it was ever as simple to describe the conflict as a 'genocide' of black Africans by an Arab government -- and few analysts in Sudan believe it was -- it certainly is not now. [...]"

"Britain Gives Sudan Days to Meet Demands or Face New Sanctions"
By Julian Borger
The Guardian, 30 April 2007
"Sudan has 'days not weeks' to curb military operations in Darfur and accept an international peacekeeping force or face tougher sanctions, the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, has warned. On a day of protests around the world to mark the fourth anniversary of the conflict and to call for UN intervention, Mrs Beckett sought to inject a sense of urgency into the diplomatic effort that has so far failed to contain the crisis. At least 200,000 people have been killed in the region and 2.5 million people displaced since 2003. A declaration last month by Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, saying he would no longer stand by an earlier agreement to accept a 22,000-strong UN force, triggered the move by the US and the UK to impose tougher sanctions on Khartoum. President Bashir has since relented, allowing 3,000 UN peacekeepers with six attack helicopters to reinforce 7,000 African Union troops already acting as observers. But Mrs. Beckett made clear the Sudanese leader would have to do more to fend off new punitive measures. She said the work on sanctions would 'give a little breathing space to see if there would be progress,' but thought there was 'a general feeling this must not be allowed to be a recipe for more deliberate delay.' She added: 'If we don't see progress in days rather than weeks, we will have to move ahead with a fresh sanctions resolution.' Scepticism has been reinforced by Sudan's continuing air raids, including an attack on a rebel meeting yesterday in north Darfur. [...]"

"I Fought As A Child Soldier in Sudan. And I Say Act Now on Darfur"
By Emmanuel Jal (from The Independent), 29 April 2007
"[...] Today marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur, the perpetrators of which are members of the Janjaweed militia, known to be armed and funded by the Sudanese government. In four years as many as 400,000 civilians have been brutally killed, approximately three million forced to live in camps bereft of supplies or sanitation, and women and children raped on a daily basis. After Rwanda, the world leaders made a promise that nothing like this would happen again. Yet they have persistently ignored warnings that Darfur would become the greatest humanitarian disaster this century, allowing the violence to spread to neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic. As an African, I feel the international community has much to do to prove that black African lives are worth more than profitable oil and arms deals. It must do better than what it has achieved so far in Darfur. Sixteen resolutions, including the imposition of sanctions against the Sudanese government, have been passed, yet not one has been imposed. ... Eighteen months ago UN member states agreed that they had a 'responsibility to protect' victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing or war crimes. Yet the UN's excuse for not dispatching a hybrid force to protect the civilians of Darfur is that it awaits a written invitation from the very perpetrators of the crimes, i.e. the Sudanese government. This isn't good enough. [...]"

"Peacekeepers Alone Can't Help Darfur -- UNHCR Chief"
By Alaa Shahine
Reuters dispatch, 24 April 2007
"Even a force of 100,000 peacekeepers could not secure peace in the Darfur region of western Sudan, the head of the U.N refugee agency said on Tuesday. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said only a comprehensive political solution to the crisis would end the four-year-old conflict in Darfur, in which the United Nations say around 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million people displaced. 'Without peace, there is no miracle. No security force will be able to guarantee security in the whole of Darfur. Darfur is very big,' he said during a meeting with the so-called sheikhs of the displaced people at the Krinding Camp in El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state. 'Even if you have 100,000 policemen in Darfur, they will not be able to cover the whole territory,' he told the men, who gathered inside a small hut. The Krinding camp is home to more than 30,000 people who live in small huts and complain about deteriorating security, abject poverty and the lack of educational services. Sudan recently agreed to a 'heavy support package' for the African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur, to include some 3,500 military and police personnel. Khartoum, however, has rejected a U.N. demand to let in around 20,000 peacekeepers. U.S. President George W. Bush warned Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last week he had one last chance to stop violence in Darfur or the United States would impose sanctions and consider other punitive options. Sudan said it would not respond to 'Western blackmail.' Guterres, speaking later in an interview with Reuters, said: 'There needs to be a political solution first. Of course we need peacekeepers, but peacekeepers can do only so much if there is no peace. In any humanitarian crisis, there is always behind it a political problem. If you don't solve the political problem, you will never solve the crisis.' [...]"


"Uganda War Victims Prefer Peace over Punishment"
By Tim Cocks
Reuters dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 30 April 2007
"Pasca Lakob doesn't see much point in punishing the Ugandan guerrilla leader whose fighters murdered many of her family and friends. 'His atrocities are so evil, there's no punishment that could fit the crime. They might as well pardon him,' she said of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony. Many Ugandans living in the north agree, despite having borne the brunt of a vicious two-decade insurgency that killed tens of thousands of people and spawned 1,7-million refugees. Peace talks aiming to end one of Africa's longest wars restarted on Thursday in southern Sudan, but their success hinges on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. Kony and four other commanders are wanted for war crimes by the ICC and the fugitive rebel leader has said he will never make peace unless international tribunal drops the charges. ... Since peace talks started, a wave of popular opposition to the ICC amongst northern Ugandans -- the main victims of Kony's cult-like rebel group -- has dismayed rights groups. Northerners say only a lifting of the indictments will bring lasting peace. 'That is what is going to decide the future of Uganda,' northern politician and peace campaigner Norbert Mao told Reuters. 'The ICC ... must stay out of the process.' Traditional leaders from Kony's Acholi tribe want him and his henchmen to undergo a reconciliation ritual. Traditional, or Mato Oput, justice involves a murderer facing relatives of the victim and admitting his crime before both drink a bitter brew made from a tree root mixed with sheep's blood. The ICC has said it will not withdraw its warrants and United Nations officials have said those who blame the tribunal for holding up the peace process are engaging in revisionist history. [...]"


"Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps"
By Naomi Wolf, 28 April 2007
"Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down -- the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel and took certain activists into custody. They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy, but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps. As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated in the United States by the Bush administration. ... It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable -- as the author and political journalist Joe Conason has put it -- that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realize. [...]"


"Armenian Genocide Dispute Erupts at LAT"
By Kevin Roderick, 24 April 2007
"A dispute that has been quietly bubbling in the Times newsroom went public today when the publisher of the California Courier demanded that LAT managing editor Doug Frantz be fired for blocking publication of an article on the Armenian genocide by senior staff writer Mark Arax, who is of Armenian origin. According to Harut Sassounian, a widely quoted leader of the Armenian American community, Frantz feels Arax is biased on Armenian issues. Arax has lodged a discrimination complaint and threatened a federal lawsuit, says Sassounian. Arax, who lives in Fresno and writes for West magazine, told me he couldn't comment, but I've confirmed there is an internal investigation at the paper. [...]"


"Acknowledging A Massacre: Sand Creek Site Critical"
By Clint Talbot (from the Boulder Daily Camera), 1 May 2007
"The initial judgment was that the Cheyenne and Arapaho people had it coming. It wasn’t a massacre but a 'battle.' There weren't victims, only 'savages.' And the butchers were heroes. That was the view of the Rocky Mountain News in 1864, shortly after Col. John Chivington led 700 members of the Colorado milita in the unprovoked slaughter of 160 Native Americans camped on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. The feat of 'warfare' involved the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans, many of them elderly, women and children, who'd been told they would be safe encamped on this spot. Even when the Indians unfurled the American flag and the white flag of surrender, the militia men continued the killing. 'If there were any savages that day, it was not the Indian people,' said former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, the Associated Press reported. On Saturday, Campbell was among those who gathered to dedicate the newly opened Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. That is fitting, as Campbell sponsored legislation that led to the official site's formation. The wonder is that it took so long. Even in the 1860s -- before Colorado attained statehood -- the attack at Sand Creek was recognized as a massacre. Congress launched an inquiry and later condemned Chivington. President Lincoln fired territorial Gov. John Evans, who sanctioned the massacre. But many Coloradans were loath to accept what really happened. Capt. David Nichols, who was instrumental in founding the University of Colorado at Boulder, joined Chivington at Sand Creek, yet Nichols' name was memorialized on a dormitory until 1989. (The dorm is now called Cheyenne Arapaho Hall.) At the state Capitol, a Civil War memorial listed Sand Creek as one of several 'battles.' A corrective plaque was not added until 2002. [...]"


"U.S. Troops Used Japanese Brothels after WWII"
Associated Press dispatch on, 27 April 2007
"Japan's abhorrent practice of enslaving women to provide sex for its troops in World War II has a little-known sequel: After its surrender -- with tacit approval from the U.S. occupation authorities -- Japan set up a similar 'comfort women' system for American GIs. An Associated Press review of historical documents and records -- some never before translated into English -- shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan's atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war. Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to U.S. troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut the brothels down. The documents show the brothels were rushed into operation as American forces poured into Japan beginning in August 1945. 'Sadly, we police had to set up sexual comfort stations for the occupation troops,' recounts the official history of the Ibaraki Prefectural Police Department, whose jurisdiction is just northeast of Tokyo. 'The strategy was, through the special work of experienced women, to create a breakwater to protect regular women and girls.' [...]"


"The Real Scandal At The World Bank:
The Bank is Killing Thousands of the Poorest People in The World"

By Johann Hari (from The Independent), 26 April 2007
"While the world's press has been fixated on the teeny-weeny scandal over whether the World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz helped to get his girlfriend a $300,000-a-year gig next door, they have been ignoring the rancid stench of a far bigger scandal wafting from Wolfie's Washington offices. This slo-mo scandal isn't about apparent petty corruption in DC. It's about how Wolfowitz's World Bank is killing thousands of the poorest people in the world, and knowingly worsening our worst crisis -- global warming -- every day. ... These victims are not merely an anecdote soup; they are an accurate summary of the World Bank's effect on the poor. Don't take my word for it. The World Bank's own Independent Evaluation Group just found that barely one in ten of its borrowers experienced persistent growth between 1995 and 2005 -- a much smaller proportion than those who stagnated or slid deeper into poverty. The bank's own former chief economist, Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, says this approach 'has condemned people to death ... They don't care if people live or die.' Why? Why would a body that claims to help the poor actually thrash them? Because its mission to end poverty has always been mythical. As George Monbiot explains in his book The Age of Consent, the World Bank was created in the 1940s by US economist Henry Dexter White to be a further projection of US power. The bank's head is invariably American, the bank is based in Washington, and the US has a permanent veto on policies. It does not promote a sensible mix of markets and state action -- the real path to development. No: the World Bank pursues the interests of US corporations over the poor, every time. [...]"


"Talk But No Action on Genocide"
By Carol Goar
Toronto Star, 25 April 2007
"Every seat in the hall was filled despite the stirrings of spring outside. 'Even though it's a fine and lovely day, I will depress you deeply,' warned Gerry Caplan, who was about to deliver the annual public lecture at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics. He was true to his word. The topic Caplan had chosen, 'The Swift, Painful Death of Genocide,' would have been grim in and of itself. But what was really disheartening was his conclusion. 'It has gotten worse in our lifetime. We don't seem to be able to prevent it at all. Those of us who believe in progressive liberal internationalism have great difficulty figuring out how to move ahead.' Caplan spent most of his 90-minute address showing how the great lesson of the Holocaust -- 'never again' -- has been systematically ignored. The phrase, once so powerful, has become meaningless. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, has become a testament to humanity's impotence in the face of profound evil. By Caplan's count, there have been between 30 and 50 mass exterminations since World War II. No continent has been spared. No violence-free interlude has lasted. 'This litany does not suggest we have seen the end of this scourge of scourges.' He dissected several of the more horrific slaughters -- the killing fields in Cambodia in the 1970s, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia in the early 1990s, the massacre of Rwanda's Tutsi minority in 1994 and the current bloodbath in Darfur -- angrily impugning those who abetted the murderers, those who chose not to act out of self-interest and those who wrung their hands helplessly. He included the Catholic Church, the United Nations and the victims of past genocides on his list of the guilty, although he laid the greatest blame on the United States. Lest anyone was feeling complacent, Caplan pointed out that Canada had its own sins to answer for. [...]"


"Why Genocide is Difficult to Prosecute"
By Robert Marquand
The Christian Science Monitor, 30 April 2007
"As public consciousness of the grim situation in Darfur grows, the difficulty of prosecuting what is often popularly called genocide is becoming clearer. For years, the term genocide was used to describe the ultimate crime. But that crime was rarely -- if ever -- charged, since international courts were too weak. Now, the mechanics of international justice are modestly rising to confront man's inhumanity to man: take, for example, the International Criminal Court and the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals here at The Hague. Yet at the same time, the political sensitivity surrounding a genocide charge, which requires nations to intervene under international law, is creating friction. The cases of Rwanda, Bosnia, and now Darfur demonstrate this. Sunday, protesters in 35 nations and more than 280 US cities marched against what a UN mission calls 'apocalyptic' scenes still emerging from the Darfur war, now spreading from Sudan to Chad. Protest groups, including Amnesty International, called on Britain and the US to help create a peacekeeping force. So is Darfur a genocide? A US Holocaust Memorial Museum committee and Colin Powell have said it is. So do at least two human rights reports. One French expert, Marc Lavergne, calls it 'worse than a genocide' since mass killings are not done out of racial hatred, but because Darfurians are simply 'in the way' of Sudan's plans to control land. Yet many Sudanese experts and an International Criminal Court (ICC) don't term it genocide. They say it doesn't fit the 1948 Geneva Convention definition to win a case. This requires absolute proof of 'mental intent' to kill or displace based on national, ethnic, or religious identity. Hence, an ICC prosecutor this winter did not charge a Sudanese interior minister and a rebel Janjaweed militia leader with 'genocide,' but crimes against humanity. [...]"

"Pol Pot Men To Be Tried"
Reuters dispatch in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 2007
"The Cambodian Bar Association has removed the last barrier to the long-delayed trial of Pol Pot's top surviving henchmen for the 'Killing Fields' atrocities. The United Nations had balked at the $US4900 fee the association wanted to charge foreign defence lawyers, triggering a row that threatened to scuttle the UN-backed trial before it got under way. 'We decided to lower the legal fees to $US500 because we want to see foreign lawyers take part in the Khmer Rouge trials to seek justice for the victims,' a spokesman said. After nearly 10 years of tortuous negotiations, Cambodia and the UN agreed the outline of the joint court and donors gave $US53 million to pay for it. The trial is expected to last three years. The main defendants are likely to be 'Brother Number Two,' Nuon Chea; the former foreign minister, Ieng Sary; the former president, Khieu Samphan; and Duch, head of the Tuol Sleng interrogation and torture centre. 'Brother Number One,' Pol Pot, the architect of the ultra-Maoist regime, died in 1998."[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

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