Thursday, December 11, 2008

Genocide Studies Media File
December 3-11, 2008

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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This will be the last Media File until January.


"Human Bones Found in Argentine Detention Center; 10,000 Fragments Confirming Torture Deaths"
By Jeannette Neumann
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 9 December 2008
"Inside a once-secret detention center where political dissidents were tortured and killed during Argentina's dictatorship 25 years ago, forensic anthropologists have discovered a pit containing 10,000 bone fragments. The first discovery of human remains inside a detention center confirms the testimonies of hundreds of survivors who have said for years that authorities tortured, killed and burned the bodies of political opponents, they said Tuesday. 'This scientifically confirms the testimonies of the detained,' said Luis Fondebrider, a forensic anthropologist who helped uncover the remains inside the former detention center in La Plata known as Arana. The 10,000 bone fragments were unearthed between February and September, and on Tuesday Fondebrider and his team announced that the remains were human. Now months of laboratory work is needed to determine even the minimum number of bodies that were destroyed in the pit. But the evidence already shows that bodies were thrown into the pit, covered in fuel and burned along with tires, to mask the smell of burning flesh. More than 200 bullet marks were found along a wall bordering the mass grave. The bones weren't completely reduced to ash, allowing for genetic analysis to identify the dead. But Fondebrider cautioned that it won't be possible to identify many of the victims, since prolonged exposure to fire destroys most DNA. 'This is the first time there is proof that Arana wasn't only a detention and torture center, but also a center of elimination,' said Maria Vedio, 47, legal chair for the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights La Plata. Some supporters of the military dictatorship have denied that detainees were tortured or killed, despite the well-documented toll from the 'dirty war' crackdown in which political opponents of the junta were made 'to disappear,' along with their spouses, children, and other innocent people unlucky enough to appear in their address books. Official records put the number of disappeared at 13,000, while human rights groups 30,000 were killed. [...]"

"Justice for the Disappeared"
By Chris Bradley
New Statesman, 8 December 2008
"When Raúl Alfonsín became Argentina's new president on 10th December 1983, he came to power on a wave of optimism. Ranking highly among those hopes was that of justice for the crimes of the ousted military dictatorship. The era of indiscriminate torture and murder, in which thousands of citizens including pregnant women, nuns, students, high-school pupils, journalists and left-leaning politicians lost their lives, was over. It was time to make amends. Initially, military leaders were rounded-up and brought before the courts, but soon -- in an act of staggering betrayal -- new laws granted them impunity. During the ensuing years hopes for justice faded but they were never extinguished. And now, as Argentinians celebrate 25 years of democracy, they do so knowing the long process of justice is finally getting somewhere. ... In 1990, new president Carlos Menem pardoned those who had already been sentenced. The scenario only changed with the 2003 election of Néstor Kirchner. 'Kirchner began everything,' says Irma Rojas of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, whose daughter was murdered and whose grandchild was only located last year, after disappearing during the dictatorship. 'He opened the door for human rights.' The torture and disappearances carried out by the military were labelled crimes against humanity and the laws against their prosecution were declared unconstitutional by Argentina's Supreme Court. The first new trial for 20 years began in 2005 but, for some human rights organisations, justice has still been dragging its feet. Chillier, however, defends the process. 'One problem was that there wasn't a clear strategy in advance,' he explains. 'The fact that so many years have passed means that there are difficulties with producing evidence, many witnesses have died, many of those accused have died and others have committed suicide; so, when you put it in context, it's definitely positive.' During the course of this year the scenario has become even more positive. According to the latest figures, 36 people have now been sentenced -- a number which has doubled in the last six months alone. Many high profile cases have come to court such as that of Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, former chief of the third army corps, who was responsible for torture centres across ten Argentine provinces. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. [...]"


"Torture Widespread, Routine in Tibet, Report Says"
By Ben Blanchard
Reuters dispatch, 10 December 2008
"The use of torture in the restless Chinese region of Tibet is widespread and routine and officials regularly ignore legal safeguards supposed to be in place to prevent it, a new report said on Wednesday. Even when detainees are released, they may die of their injuries, be scarred for life mentally or physically and not be able to afford medical treatment or be denied it completely, the Free Tibet group said. 'Despite claims by the Chinese government that there are "extremely few cases of torture," the evidence tells a different story,' Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said. 'There is no doubt that the Chinese government is permitting the use of torture as a weapon to suppress the Tibetan people.' China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment and calls to the spokesman's office of the Chinese-run Tibetan government in Lhasa went unanswered. ... Free Tibet said it had profiled numerous cases of torture carried out against people detained following the demonstrations, which spilled over into other ethnically Tibetan parts of China such as Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. ... Last month, the U.N. Committee Against Torture, in a rare public review of China's record, expressed dissatisfaction with a 'very serious information gap' about abuses in the country where criminal justice information is often considered a state secret. Free Tibet, in the report issued to coincide with International Human Rights Day, said Chinese laws aimed at protecting detainees were regularly ignored in Tibet. 'The international community can no longer hide behind sound bites condemning China's human rights track record in Tibet and must now take specific actions to reverse the worsening crisis in Tibet,' Brigden added. [...]"


"Massacre Unfurls in Congo, Despite Nearby Support"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 11 December 2008
"At last the bullets had stopped, and François Kambere Siviri made a dash for the door. After hiding all night from firefights between rebels and a government-allied militia over this small but strategic town, he was desperate to get to the latrine a few feet away. 'Pow, pow, pow,' said his widowed mother, Ludia Kavira Nzuva, recounting how the rebels killed her 25-year-old son just outside her front door. ... In little more than 24 hours, at least 150 people would be dead, most of them young men, summarily executed by the rebels last month as they tightened their grip over parts of eastern Congo, according to witnesses and human-rights investigators. And yet, as the killings took place, a contingent of about 100 United Nations peacekeepers was less than a mile away, struggling to understand what was happening outside the gates of its base. The peacekeepers were short of equipment and men, United Nations officials said, and they were focusing on evacuating frightened aid workers and searching for a foreign journalist who had been kidnapped. Already overwhelmed, officials said, they had no intelligence capabilities or even an interpreter who could speak the necessary languages. The peacekeepers said they had no idea that the killings were taking place until it was all over. The executions in Kiwanja are a study in the unfettered cruelty meted out by the armed groups fighting for power and resources in eastern Congo. But the events are also a textbook example of the continuing failure of the world’s largest international peacekeeping force, which has a mandate to protect the Congolese people from brutality. [...]"

"Congo and Rwanda to Rein in Militia", 5 December 2008
"The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have agreed on a military plan to disband a Rwandan Hutu militia seen as a key cause of conflict in eastern Congo, according to the Congolese foreign minister. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said on Thursday that the plan to tackle the militia was agreed with his Rwandan counterpart Rosemary Museminali in Goma, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province, where weeks of fighting have displaced a quarter of a million people. The conflict pits Tutsi rebels led by renegade General Laurent Nkunda against the Congolese army and Rwandan Hutu fighters from the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Nkunda cites the presence in east Congo of the FDLR, which allegedly includes perpetrators of Rwanda's 1994 genocide of Tutsis by Hutus, as the main justification for his Tutsi rebellion, which has conquered fresh territory in recent weeks. Mwamba said the joint plan, whose details he refused to reveal, would be signed on Friday. 'The FDLR must either go back to Rwanda or become non-combatant in Congolese territory,' he told reporters. Museminali said the militia was 'actually the root cause of the insecurity that we see around.' The Congolese minister said implementation of the plan could involve friendly outside forces, such as the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC) or soldiers from the southern African SADC bloc, which has offered troops to help pacify east Congo. Nkunda has declared a ceasefire with the Congolese government army, but his Tutsi fighters are still battling the FDLR, whose existence some believe is at the heart of the persisting fighting in North Kivu. [...]"

"Rwanda Stirs Deadly Brew of Troubles in Congo"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 3 December 2008
"There is a general rule in Africa, if not across the world: Behind any rebellion with legs is usually a meddling neighbor. And whether the rebellion in eastern Congo explodes into another full-fledged war, and drags a large chunk of central Africa with it, seems likely to depend on the involvement of Rwanda, Congo's tiny but disproportionately mighty neighbor. Park rangers loyal to the CNDP make their way through the Virunga National Park near the Ugandan border in eastern Congo. There is a long and bloody history here, and this time around the evidence seems to be growing that Rwanda is meddling again in Congo's troubles; at a minimum, the interference is on the part of many Rwandans. As before, Rwanda's stake in Congo is a complex mix of strategic interest, business opportunity and the real fears of a nation that has heroically rebuilt itself after near obliteration by ethnic hatred. The signs are ever-more obvious, if not yet entirely open. Several demobilized Rwandan soldiers, speaking in hushed tones in Kigali, Rwanda's tightly controlled capital, described a systematic effort by Rwanda's government-run demobilization commission to send hundreds if not thousands of fighters to the rebel front lines. Former rebel soldiers in Congo said that they had seen Rwandan officers plucking off the Rwandan flags from the shoulders of their fatigues after they had arrived and that Rwandan officers served as the backbone of the rebel army. Congolese wildlife rangers in the gorilla park on the thickly forested Rwanda-Congo border said countless heavily armed men routinely crossed over from Rwanda into Congo. A Rwandan government administrator said a military hospital in Kigali was treating many Rwandan soldiers who were recently wounded while fighting in Congo, but the administrator said he could be jailed for talking about it. There seems to be a reinvigorated sense of the longstanding brotherhood between the Congolese rebels, who are mostly ethnic Tutsi, and the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda, which has supported these same rebels in the past. [...]"


"The Man Who Would Tear Down 'Scaffolding' of Zionism"
By Patrick Martin
The Globe and Mail, 9 December 2008
"Asked to name the forces that led to the state of Israel, almost every Israeli would say Zionism and the Holocaust. If those same people were asked just a few years ago which Israeli was likely to become prime minister, the name most often given would have been Avraham Burg -- son of a prominent rabbi and founder of the country's National Religious Party, former paratrooper, leading member of the Labour Party, speaker of the Knesset and head of the powerful Jewish Agency. For more than 20 years, Avrum Burg, as he likes to be known, was a pillar of the Israeli establishment. However, four years ago Mr. Burg turned his back on all that and wrote a powerful book, an indictment of how Zionism and the Holocaust have been used. In The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from its Ashes, Mr. Burg slams what he calls the 'omnipresence of the Shoah,' in Israeli society and urges his countrymen to move beyond Zionism. He goes even further and says that Zionism has become an excuse for racism. The statement is not far removed from the infamous 1975 UN 'Zionism is racism' resolution to which Israel, Canada and many other countries strenuously objected, and had rescinded in 1991. ... Mr. Burg says he decided to write his highly critical book in large part because Israel had become aimless. 'It's a kingdom without prophecy,' he writes. 'Where are we headed? No one knows.' He wrote to open the eyes of Israelis to a vision based on trust and optimism, not fear and loathing. He believed that the Holocaust had paralyzed Israelis. The mantra of 'never again' had meant that every possible threat to the country was treated as another potential holocaust. Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in Mr. Burg's eyes, plays on people's fears when he likens Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler and says, 'It's 1938 all over again.' 'Give me a break, Mr. Netanyahu,' Mr. Burg says. 'Did we have a state in '38? Did we have an omnipotent army in '38? Did we have the entire Western superpower world supporting us in '38? No we did not. And to equate Ahmadinejad to Hitler is actually diminishing Hitler,' he insists. 'Because of the Shoah, Israel has become the voice of the dead,' he writes in his book, arguing that even military victory cannot overcome the great bereavement. [...]"


"Rights Groups Want Religious Killings Tried As Genocide"
By Emeka Mamah
Vanguard on, 11 December 2008
"Six human rights organisations yesterday marked the World Human Rights Day in Kaduna with a call for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to ensure that those who kill in the name of religion or ethnicity are tried for genocide. The rights groups also urged President Umaru Yar"Adua to lift his government's current siege on journalists and media houses as such measures are counter productive. President of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), Comrade Shehu Sani who briefed newsmen as part of the activities marking the event said that Yar'Adua has not lived up to his promises to Nigerians on the rule of law as the bedrock of his administration even as he condemned the appointment of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a UN envoy on Congo peace mission after all his human rights violations during his eight years rule in the country. Sani however said that apart from the Federal Government's clamp down on the press, Zamfara, Sokoto and Plateau states are the worst human rights violators among the states in the country. ... 'Close to one million people have been killed in the north especially in Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi, Kano states among others owing to religious or ethnic violence. But we want to say that religious violences in the country should be treated as cases of genocide. There is no need to declare a state of emergency in states where there is religious or ethnic upheaval for only six months after the perpetrators get back to their jobs and continue as if nothing happened.'"


"Escapee Tells of Horrors in North Korean Prison Camp"
By Blaine Harden
The Washington Post, 11 December 2008
"In Camp No. 14, the North Korean political prison where Shin Dong-hyuk was born and where he says he watched the hanging of his mother, inmates never saw a picture of Kim Jong Il. ... Inmates did not need to know the face of their 'Dear Leader,' as Kim is called. Behind electrified fences, they tended pigs, tanned leather, collected firewood and labored in mines until they died or were executed. The exception is Shin, who is 26 and lives in a small rented room here in Seoul. He is a thin, short, shy man, with quick, wary eyes, a baby face, and sinewy arms bowed from childhood labor. There are burn scars on his back and left arm from where he was tortured by fire at age 14, when he was unable to explain why his soon-to-be-hanged mother had tried to escape. The middle finger of his right hand is cut off at the first knuckle, punishment for accidentally dropping a sewing machine in the garment factory at his camp. There are 14,431 North Korean defectors living in South Korea, according to the latest government count. Shin is the only one known to have escaped to the South from a prison camp in the North. Shin's story could not be independently verified, but it has been vetted and vouched for by leading human rights activists and members of defector organizations in Seoul. They came to know Shin when he arrived in South Korea in 2005 and was hospitalized with post-traumatic stress disorder. 'At first, I could not believe him because no one ever succeeded in the escape,' said Kim Tae-jin, president of the Democracy Network Against North Korean Gulag and a defector from North Korea who spent a decade in another concentration camp there. The No. 15 camp where Kim was confined -- unlike Shin's No. 14 -- sometimes released political prisoners, as it did Kim, if they were 'fully revolutionized.' 'I saw too many prisoners executed before my eyes for attempting to escape,' said Kim. 'No one made it out, except for Shin.' The U.S. government and human rights groups estimate that 150,000 to 200,000 people are now being held in the North's prison camps. Many of the camps can be seen in satellite images, but North Korea denies their existence. [...]"


"Civil Rights Group Claim Israeli Occupation is 'Reminiscent of Apartheid'"
By Ben Lynfield
The Independent, 7 December 2008
"Israel's leading civil rights organisation yesterday broke a taboo by describing Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank as being 'reminiscent of apartheid' in South Africa. Alleging an intensification of human rights abuses against Palestinians, the respected Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) made the comparison in an annual report that described the existence of separate legal, planning and transportation systems for Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. 'Israel has built a modern arterial road system in the West Bank intended in fact only for use by Israeli traffic, whereas the Palestinians are forced to travel for the most part on twisting and dangerous roads,' the report said. While Israel facilitates the expansion of Jewish settlements, it restricts the growth of Palestinian towns, the report added. 'This state of affairs in which all the services, budgets and the access to natural resources are granted along discriminatory and separatist lines according to ethnic-national criteria is a blatant violation of the principle of equality and is in many ways reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.' The report said. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, responded that 'the whole comparison is inaccurate and offensive. In the real world where there are real terrorist threats, the choice is between roadblocks and protracted waiting [for Palestinians] or roads for Palestinians,' he said. ACRI wrote that while South Africa had been a case of a 'racist separation criterion' the one applied in the occupied terirories is 'ethnic-national.' The group decided to drop its previous reluctance to use the South Africa comparison, often invoked by those pressing for an international boycott of Israel, because 'things are getting worse rather than better' according to spokeswoman Melanie Takefman. [...]"

"Hebron Settler Riots Were Out and Out Pogroms"
By Avi Issacharoff, 5 December 2008
"An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn't a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, 'Allahu Akhbar.' Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there. The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa'afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decide not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children crying bitterly, their faces giving off an expression of horror, sensing their imminent deaths, begging the journalists to save their lives. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. And the police are not to be seen. Nor is the army. ... Tess, the photographer, bursts into tears as the events unfold around her. The tears do not stem from fear. It is shame, shame at the sight of these occurrences, the deeds of youths who call themselves Jews. Shame that we share the same religion. [...]"

"Reports Grow of Palestinian Torture"
By Adam Entous and Alastair MacDonald
Reuters dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 4 December 2008
"Forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed Palestinian president, are rounding up suspected Islamist activists and allegations of torture and abuse of legal procedure are mounting sharply. 'They shouted "You're Hamas! Tell us what you're up to!" as they were hitting me,' one man recounted to Reuters of an ordeal last month in a Palestinian prison in Hebron. He spoke, too, of being forced to hang or stand for hours in 'stress positions.' The 25-year-old factory worker, among many to have spent time in Israeli jails on suspicion of militancy for the Islamist movement, was too afraid of the security forces to be named. But his story is one that rights monitors and Western officials say they have been hearing more often lately as a potential new crisis approaches next month in the rumbling factional warfare between Hamas, masters of the Gaza Strip, and Abbas, whose Fatah movement dominates the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Rights monitors logged four times as many torture complaints in November as had been the previous monthly average this year. Mohammed al-Hammouri said his son Amjad, a dentist who ran unsuccessfully for parliament in 2006 on a Hamas ticket and was arrested at his Hebron surgery in October, remains in a jail run by Mr. Abbas's intelligence service more than a month after the Palestinian High Court ordered his release. 'What can I do, if they ignore even the High Court?' the elder Mr. Hammouri said. The Palestinian government said in a statement that it held no political prisoners and praised security forces for tackling challenges posed by both the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and by Hamas, which it accused of crimes in Gaza. 'As for torture, ... the matter is being exaggerated and is totally untrue,' it said. 'We are determined to banish torture and we do not sanction it if and when it happens. We also remind you that interrogation is a natural part of any detention.' [...]"


"Serbia Finally 'Willing' to Catch Fugitives"
By Aleksandar Roknic
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 5 December 2008
"The remaining two fugitives may not be able to escape trial at the Hague tribunal for much longer now that Serbia seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to track them down. While Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic are considered skilled at deception and are thought have a formidable and tight-knit network of helpers, Serb officials say they have the entire state security structures after them. 'Unfortunately, we still don’t have a trace that would lead us to Mladic, but we are doing everything we can to find him,' said Rasim Ljajic, president of the Serbian National Council for Cooperation with the Tribunal. Zoran Dragisic, professor at the Faculty for Security in Belgrade, told IWPR he believed that Belgrade was now making genuine attempts to find the suspects. '[A] lack of political will is not a problem any more and the Serbian government will send him to The Hague if they find him,' he said. Although Mladic and Hadzic have evaded capture for years, recent arrests of other war crimes suspects have raised hopes in The Hague that the two men may finally be running out of time. Zdravko Tolimir, ex-assistant commander in charge of information and safety within the main staff of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, was arrested on May 31, 2007 in Bosnia. Police apprehended him in the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska as he allegedly tried to cross into Serbia. Stojan Zupljanin, a former police chief from the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, was arrested on June 11 this year in a rented apartment in Pancevo, a Belgrade suburb. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, meanwhile, was arrested in Serbia’s capital on July 21 this year, although the details of his capture remain obscure. Yet while many have taken heart from these arrests, analysts warn that catching the final two indictees will not be easy -- and will mean hours of painstaking police work to trace those people helping them hide. [...]"


"Children 'Executed' in 1950 South Korean Killings"
By Charles J. Hanley and Jae-Soon Chang
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 6 December 2008
"Government investigators digging into the grim hidden history of mass political executions in South Korea have confirmed that dozens of children were among many thousands shot by their own government early in the Korean War. The investigative Truth and Reconciliation Commission has thus far verified more than two dozen mass killings of leftists and supposed sympathizers, among at least 100,000 people estimated to have been hastily shot and dumped into makeshift trenches, abandoned mines or the sea after communist North Korea invaded the south in June 1950. The killings, details of which were buried in classified U.S. files for a half-century, were intended to keep southern leftists from aiding the invaders at a time when the rightist, U.S.-allied government was in danger of being overrun by communist forces. Family survivors last month met with the U.S. Embassy for the first time, saying afterward they demanded an apology for alleged 'direct and indirect' American involvement in the killings. Declassified records show U.S. officers were present at one killing field and that at least one U.S. officer sanctioned another mass political execution if prisoners otherwise would be freed by the North Koreans. Uncounted hundreds were subsequently killed, witnesses reported. With thousands of citizens' petitions in hand, the 3-year-old truth commission has been taking testimony from witnesses and family survivors, poring over police and military files, both here and in the United States, and excavating mass grave sites. Before suspending operations for the winter, crews had exhumed the remains of 965 victims from 10 mass graves, out of at least 168 probable sites across South Korea. They only scratched the surface in some cases: At a cobalt mine in the far south, they penetrated just 36 feet into a vertical shaft, recovering 107 skeletons from among 3,500 bodies believed dumped there. Some mass killings were carried out before the war; many came in the first weeks after the June 25, 1950, invasion, and others occurred later in 1950 when U.S. and South Korean forces recaptured Seoul and the southerners rounded up and shot alleged northern collaborators. The executioners at times cold-bloodedly killed families of suspected leftists, the commission has found. [...]"
[n.b. This is probably the most substantial genocide of the 1950s, only beginning to be uncovered, and apparently "directly and indirectly" supervised by the United States.]


"Sri Lanka in 'Genocide Red Alert' Watch List"
TamilNet, 9 December 2008
"New York-based Genocide Prevention Project in a report to be published Tuesday includes Sri Lanka as one of the eight "red alert" countries where genocide and other mass atrocities are underway or risk breaking out. A comprehensive list of 33 countries is also contained in the report. Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's convention on the prevention of genocide, and 20th anniversary of U.S's ratification of the treaty. 'Red alert' countries include Afghanistan, and Iraq alongside regions currently experiencing genocidal conflict such as Sudan's Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These and Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka all made the list's top eight because they appear in each of the five 'expert' indexes. The next 25 'orange alert' countries appear in at least three of the indexes. They include China, Colombia, Philippines and Indonesia as places where ongoing or simmering violence could flare to genocidal proportions. 'It is possible to identify early indicators of mass atrocity crimes. But what happens now is the international community sees what's going on, gets paralyzed and, if it acts, really only acts after the fact,' said Jill Savitt, project executive director. Savitt states three factors that are likely to change the 'political will' lacking in the past. First, the stated determination of Susan Rice, U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's choice for U.S. ambassador to the UN, to prevent future genocides after witnessing the after-effects of the 1994 Rwanda slaughter. Second, current discussion around the 60th anniversary of the genocide prevention convention, which calls on countries to prevent and punish actions of genocide. And third, the public 'guilt' over what occurred in Rwanda and Bosnia, and what she called public 'hunger for a response' to the Darfur crisis, Savitt says. [...]"


"Darfur, Another Year Later"
The New York Times (Editorial), 10 December 2008
"In January, President Bush said this about Darfur: 'My administration called this genocide. Once you label it genocide, you obviously have to do something about it.' Yet, last week -- nearly one year later -- this is what the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the United Nations Security Council about Darfur: 'Genocide continues. Rapes in and around the camps continue. Humanitarian assistance is still hindered. More than 5,000 displaced persons die each month.' The world has long declared its revulsion at the atrocities committed by Sudan’s government and its proxy militias in Darfur and done almost nothing to stop it. It took years of political wrangling to get the Security Council to approve a strengthened peacekeeping force with deployment set for Jan. 1. More than 11 months later, the Security Council has managed to send only 10,000 of the promised 26,000 peacekeepers. Large-scale military attacks against populated areas continue. Much of the fault lies with Sudan's cynically obstructionist president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. But Russia and especially China -- which has major oil interests in Sudan -- have shamefully enabled him. So have African leaders. The United States and its allies also bear responsibility for temporizing, most recently over how to transport troops and equipment to the conflict zone. President Bush said on Wednesday that the United States was prepared to provide airlift. So why has this taken so long? Now, the war crimes charges Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has brought against the Sudanese leader for his role in masterminding Darfur's horrors (the burning of villages, bombing of schools and systematic rape of woman) may -- may -- be changing the calculus in Khartoum. [...]"


"Killing Spree Leaves Albinos Living in Fear"
By Daniel Howden
The Independent, 8 December 2008
"The remote island of Ukerewe, several hours across Lake Victoria and two days overland from the capital of Tanzania, is the one remaining shelter, a place where albinos can live in relative safety. 'Life is better here on the island,' says Alphonce Kajanja. Standing in Ukerewe's main market he is just like any other fishmonger, only his hat shades a white face with swollen liquid eyes and cracked lips. He says there have been no albino murders on the island. 'People here don't believe in this satanic campaign.' Elsewhere, the killing continues. In the past week, two more Tanzanian albinos were murdered. Elizabeth Hussein was hacked to pieces by men with machetes in Shinyanga province last Tuesday. She was just 13. Then Ezekiel John, 47, was shot and had his arms and legs cut off near the city of Kigoma on Thursday. Their deaths bring the toll to 35 murders in just more than a year. There is similar violence throughout east and central Africa. And even in west and southern Africa, albinos face persecution and discrimination. The campaign is being orchestrated by witch doctors who claim they can make people rich using limbs and blood from their white-skinned neighbours. In some areas, albino children go to school with bodyguards, others hide at home, and distraught relatives pile rocks on their dead loved ones to deter grave-robbers. ... [Josephat] Torner ... believes the murders may have been going on unnoticed for many years. Countless numbers of albino babies die in childbirth. 'What's to stop a nurse killing an albino baby and saying that it died of natural causes.' Nobody knows how many disappeared before people started keeping count. The lives of many albinos have been lived in total seclusion. Inside some homes, albino graves have been dug and marked. People have grown up, he says, being told albinos are ghosts. 'We don't die,' he says. 'We just disappear.'"


"Writers Risk Backlash with Apology for Armenian Genocide"
By Robert Tait
The Guardian, 8 December 2008
"Academics and writers in Turkey have risked a fierce official backlash by issuing a public apology for the alleged genocide suffered by Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces during the first world war. Breaking one of Turkish society's biggest taboos, the apology comes in an open letter that invites Turks to sign an online petition supporting its sentiments. It reads: 'My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathise with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologise to them.' The contents expose its authors -- three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a journalist, Ali Bayramoglu -- to the wrath of the Turkish state, which has prosecuted writers, including the Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, for supporting Armenian genocide claims. Turkey rejects the assertion of many historians and Armenia's government that up to 1.5 million Armenians died in a wave of expulsions that amounted to state-sanctioned genocide. Officials claim the death toll was much lower and that most of the victims died from disease. They also say many Turks were killed by Armenians, who have long been accused of allying themselves with enemy Russian forces against the Ottoman empire. The letter has triggered a furious response from ultranationalists, who have labelled it a 'betrayal' and an 'insult to the Turkish nation.' However, Aktar, a professor of EU studies at Istanbul's University of Bahcesehir, said Turks needed to apologise for being unable to discuss the issue because of official policy, which has long repressed open debate on the Armenians' fate. 'Today many people in Turkey, with all good intentions, think that nothing happened to the Armenians,' he told the newspaper Vatan. 'The official history says that this incident happened through secondary, not very important, and even mutual massacres. They push the idea that it was an ordinary incident explainable by the conditions of the first world war. Unfortunately, the facts are very different.' He added: 'This is a voice coming from the individual's conscience. Those who want to apologise can apologise, and those who do not should not.' The letter coincides with a tentative rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. [...]"


"Obama's First Problem is US War Crimes"
By Andrew Sullivan
The Sunday Times, 30 November 2008
"[...] The question remains: what is to be done? It is not Obama's style to launch into a prosecutorial investigation of intelligence officials or to open new partisan wounds by subjecting Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld and others to war crime charges. He is intent on unifying the country, not further dividing it. He needs the professionals running the antiterror effort and, after eight years of Bush-Cheney, it is hard to find people not tainted by torture. There is also the possibility that Bush himself might make a preemptive strike and, upon his departure from Washington, issue a blanket pardon for all his aides and underlings who aided and abetted war crimes in the past seven years. Leaving those pardons in place while prosecuting low-level officials or CIA agents would be deeply unfair. That was the rationale behind the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which gave retroactive immunity for war crimes to civilians in the administration, but not to the military grunts who enforced the policy, and which carved out a continuing exception for torture to CIA agents. So perhaps the sanest way forward is a truth commission, modelled on those in Chile and South Africa that maintained governmental continuity for a while but set up a process that allowed for a maximal gathering of the relevant facts and names. The president could appoint a powerful and respected prosecutor to begin the process. The commission would focus not just on the military and CIA but also on the Bush justice department and Office of Legal Counsel, and the abuse of the law and its interpretation that gave Bush and Cheney transparently phoney legal cover for war crimes. At the end of the second world war, US officials prosecuted Nazi lawyers and civilians who tortured no one themselves but came up with legal flimflam to turn war crimes into legal policy. Why not apply the same logic to Bush's legal architects -- the men who declared the president was bound by no law and no treaty in subjecting prisoners to torture up to the very edge of death? [...]"


"Zimbabwe Villagers Face Starvation"
By Robyn Dixon
The Los Angeles Times, 3 December 2008
"[...] The twin miseries of crop failure and economic collapse have left Zimbabwe's villages without food. Millions survive on nothing but wild fruit, and many have died. There are no official statistics. But ask people here in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South province whether they know anyone who died of hunger recently, and the answer is nearly always yes. Sometimes it's four or six people in the last couple of weeks. Sometimes they just say 'plenty.' 'Children are dying out in the bush,' one foreign doctor says, on condition of anonymity. 'We are all guarded. We have to keep quiet or else we'll be kicked out' by the government. The crisis has been exacerbated by President Robert Mugabe's decision in June to suspend humanitarian aid during the run-up to his one-man presidential runoff. The long-ruling Mugabe, stunned when he won fewer votes than opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round in March, accused aid agencies of supporting the opposition and didn't lift the ban until August. Critics say the regime, which has a history of denying food to opposition areas, was using hunger as a political tool to force people to vote for Mugabe. In past years, groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Zimbabwean rights group Solidarity Peace Trust have reported that the Grain Marketing Board, the state monopoly responsible for distribution of maize, the nation's staple, has routinely denied food to opposition supporters. But this year, there is virtually no grain from the board -- and in many areas, no humanitarian aid either. 'The food always ends up in the hands of ZANU-PF,' says villager Solomon Nsinga, 66, referring to Mugabe's ruling party. 'The guys in charge of distribution are ZANU-PF. This is where the problem is. ZANU-PF gets it first.' [...]"


"Nearly a Billion People Worldwide Are Starving, UN Agency Warns"
By Julian Borger and Juliette Jowitt
The Guardian, 10 December 2008
"Almost a billion people go hungry each day after food price rises pushed 40 million more people around the world into the ranks of the undernourished, the UN food agency reported yesterday. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food prices have more than halved from their historic peaks a few months ago, but the cost of basic staples measured by an FAO index is still high: 28% higher on average than two years ago. That has led to an increase in the number of people unable to afford to eat enough calories to lead a normal, active life. There are now estimated to be 963 million people, 14% of the world's population, going hungry in 2008, up by 40 million from last year. The FAO's hunger report, the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008, found that the majority of the hungry live in the developing world, 65% of them in just seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. The worst affected are landless families, particularly households headed by women. 'For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream,' said the FAO's assistant director general, Hafez Ghanem. 'The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality.' ... At an emergency food summit in Rome in June, world leaders agreed to increase agricultural aid in order to help boost food production in the developing world, but the credit crunch combined with a recent fall in food prices have taken away some of the urgency behind the international effort. 'This sad reality should not be acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century,' the FAO's director general, Jacques Diouf, said in a speech to launch the report. 'Not enough has been done to reduce hunger and not enough is being done to prevent more people becoming hungry.'"


"Bipartisan US Panel Offers Blueprint to Prevent Genocide"
By Jim Lobe
Inter Press Service dispatch on, 9 December 2008
"A bipartisan task force of former top national security policymakers is calling on the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to make the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities overseas a top U.S. foreign policy priority. In a report released here Monday, the group, which was co-chaired by former President Bill Clinton's Pentagon chief, William Cohen, and secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, argued that mass atrocities threaten core U.S. national interests and that the national security bureaucracy should be reformed to reflect that priority. Its release came on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the U.N.'s adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the 20th anniversary of its final ratification by the United States. In particular, the group called for the creation of an Inter-Agency Atrocities Prevention Committee in the National Security Council, incorporating guidance on preventing and responding to genocide into U.S. military doctrine, and requiring the intelligence community to report in its annual analysis on possible threats to the U.S. to include possible genocidal situations around the world. Its report, 'Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers,' also called for building the capacity of international institutions -- including NATO, regional organisations, and the United Nations -- to prevent genocide and mass atrocities and for earmarking 250 million dollars each year in the foreign aid budget for dealing with urgent situations, unilaterally if necessary. ... The report, which was published jointly by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the Endowment of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), is the latest of many by think tanks and other organisations that hope to influence the incoming Obama administration. The bipartisan character of this task force should make it one of the more attractive to the new administration. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Peter Prontzos for bringing this source to my attention.]

"60 Years On, Genocide Convention Still Prompts Debate"
Deutsche Welle, 8 December 2008
"Sixty years ago, the UN adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This week, historians, lawyers and politicians discussed the convention's future at a conference in The Hague. Why is it that a massacre, as horrific as it may be, is not considered genocide? At what point can we begin using the word genocide to describe the worst crime committed human beings can perpetrate on each other? These were the types of questions being posed at a conference in the Hague on Monday to mark 60 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260, better known as the convention on genocide. Among the guest speakers was Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo. And it's no coincidence that the conference is being held in The Hague, which, due to its many international courts, has developed into the 'legal capital of the world,' former UN General Secretary, Boutros Gali, once said. Among the program points was a discussion about the definition of genocide as it was laid down in the UN Convention on December 9, 1948. The most important criterion is the intention to completely obliterate an entire race. That's why genocide doesn't always involve massacres -- a single murder will do. Even if all the women of a certain population are to be made infertile, or all the children are to be kidnapped, it can still be genocide if the purpose is to wipe out that population. It's the most decisive criterion, and for the prosecutors, the hardest to prove. The Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin -- a pioneer in the field of international justice -- coined the term genocide. He was responding to the mass murder of Armenians at the hands of the Turks in 1915 -- a massacre that even today, is not legally classified as genocide. This also applies to the Holocaust. It was never explicitly defined as genocide before a court, and not a single defendant has ever been found guilty of genocide towards the Jews. The usual verdict was 'crimes against humanity.' Only in the last 15 years have courts ever found defendants guilty of genocide, in two cases -- Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In the judges' opinions, the mass murder of the Tutsis and the murder of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica were clear cases of genocide. At the Rwanda tribunal, a large number of political leaders were given life sentences in prison. [...]"

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