Thursday, March 02, 2006

Genocide Studies Media File
February 24 - March 2, 2006

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 To receive the Genocide Studies Media File as a weekly digest, simply send an email to


"Taliban Attacks on Schools Create 'Lost Generation'"
By Kim Sengupta
The Independent, 28 February 2006
"Ghulam Rasul was leaving school when two gunmen walked in and opened fire. The 17-year-old died instantly. As other students and teachers fled in terror, the shooting continued. Two more people were hit. The attack at Kartilaya High School in Lashkar Gar was just one in a series which is crippling Afghanistan's education system. At least 165 schools and colleges have been burnt down or forced to close so far by a resurgent Taliban and their Islamist allies. Five years after the end of the Afghan war and Tony Blair's famous pledge that 'this time we will not walk away,' it seems the Taliban and al-Qa'ida are back with a vengeance, and one of their main targets is the country's education system. The campaign is intended, say educationalists and human rights groups, to terrorise families into keeping children uneducated, unemployable, and a recruitment pool for the Islamists. Teachers are the main targets. Some have been beheaded, others shot in front of their classes. One was killed while attending his father's funeral. ... The education system of modern Afghanistan is anathema to the Taliban and Islamist extremists because it is inclusive of girls, and offers secular subjects for study. They have declared that only madrassas (Muslim religious schools) meeting their approval will be allowed to operate. There are bitter complaints from Afghans that neither their government, nor American and British forces, are doing anything like enough to stop the murderous targeting of children and schools. British commanders say they will address the problem when more troops arrive. [...]"


"Protests Greet TV Debate on Genocide"
By Maria Elena Fernandez and Matea Gold
The Los Angeles Times, 28 February 2006
"A taped 25-minute panel discussion that is to follow a PBS documentary about Turkey's role in the massacre of Armenians during and after World War I, scheduled to air in April, has prompted protests by thousands of Armenian Americans and two congressmen. ... The panel discussion was moderated by National Public Radio host Scott Simon and taped last month at a studio in Washington. One of the participants, Colgate University humanities professor Peter Balakian, said he repeatedly tried to have the session canceled but was told by PBS that the documentary would not air without it. Balakian and Taner Akcam, a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, take the position that the killings were genocide. Justin A. McCarthy, a history professor at the University of Louisville, and Omer Turan, a history professor at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, deny that a genocide took place. Finding himself between 'a rock and a hard place' because he believed that the film was too important to be killed, Balakian agreed to participate. 'This is so ethically horrid,' he said. 'It's as if we are trying to reshape history and create another side when there is no other side. We figured if we had to put ourselves in such an unethical situation, there was something to be gained by a scholar of Turkish origin and a scholar of Armenian origin speaking together. But the panel is an absurdity, something right out of the world of George Orwell.' At the heart of the protests by the Armenian American community is the point that PBS would never follow a documentary on the genocide of Jews during World War II with a panel of Holocaust deniers. In a Feb. 24 letter to Dadaian, PBS co-chief program executive Jacoba Atlas said the comparison was not analogous because Germany has taken responsibility for the Holocaust. 'Most Americans do not understand what happened to Armenians; too often news organizations have ignored this part of world history,' Atlas said. 'We strongly believe in the power of truth to come through in debate.'"

"Armenian Furor Over PBS Plan for Debate"
By Randal C. Archibold
The New York Times, 25 February 2006 [Registration Required]
"The Public Broadcasting Service's plan to show a debate after its documentary in April on the Ottoman Turks' massacres of Armenians has infuriated Armenian-Americans. The debate, which includes two people who deny that the massacre constituted genocide, has ignited an aggressive campaign against the network. This week, United States Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of Pasadena, Calif., whose Southern California district includes parts of the largest ethnic Armenian population outside Armenia, asked colleagues to join him in a letter to the network condemning the program. A major Armenian lobbying group, the Armenian National Committee of America, has also asked PBS to cancel the program, which was produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting to accompany a new one-hour documentary, 'The Armenian Genocide,' scheduled to be shown on April 17. Organizers of an Internet petition against the half-hour discussion program said more than 11,000 people had signed it on the Web site. ... PBS said that its 348 affiliates would decide independently whether to carry the film or the panel discussion and that it would not keep track of the decisions. Stations in Washington and in Plattsburgh, N.Y., which reaches the large Armenian community in Montreal, said they would run the film but not the panel discussion, while stations in Chicago and New York said they would run both. Few topics among Armenians generate as much passion as the deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians by execution, starvation or disease during a World War I era campaign by Turks in the Ottoman Empire to wipe them out. Armenians have lobbied for decades for worldwide recognition of the atrocities as genocide. [...]"


"Put Out More Flags: The Making of Another America"
By John Pilger, 23 February 2006
"[...] With no political opposition to speak of, [Prime Minister John] Howard's conquests have been in cultural life, with historiography thrown in. Siding with an unchanging clique of far-right commentators, he has effectively stifled debate about Australia's bloody colonial past while deriding the 'black armband theory of history': that is, the truth of a genocidal racism that continues to devastate the Aboriginal people. His patriotic, or 'put out more flags,' campaign is pure George W. Bush. Schools have been ordered to erect flagpoles, and on 'Australia Day,' January 26th, which 'celebrates' the 'settlement' of another people's country, flags are distributed and often displayed with gormless aggression. ... On 'Australia Day,' I made my way through the flags to Redfern, an Aboriginal area in the inner city, and celebrated what black Australians call Survival Day. Their first 'Day of Mourning and Protest' was held in 1938 on the 150th anniversary of the white invasion. Over a thousand Aboriginal men and women attended that first civil rights gathering, after having been refused use of Sydney Town Hall. A long and painful campaign for freedom and justice had begun, and endures, like an invisible presence. In Redfern Park on Survival Day, the flags were black, red and gold: colors of indigenous skin, the earth and the sun. The only report I could find of Redfern the next day was of a minor fight, which was no doubt fed to the papers by the police. Should the word 'Aboriginal' enter the public arena it must be associated, where possible, with 'no-hopers.' [...]"


"Unpardonable Practices"
By Pamela Phang Kooi Yoong
The Star (Malaysia), 25 February 2006
"We were at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh and our guide Sambath had tears in his eyes. To him, as to many Cambodians, history wasn't about distant events you read about, but something that turned one's life upside down. Sambath remembered the day the Khmer Rouge called on his home. hey dragged his father and second brother out of the house, while his mother hung to the trouser legs of one of the soldiers, begging for mercy. But there was no mercy. Sambath's father told his mother: 'Go home. There are still seven more at home to feed and look after. Take care of them.' Those were the last words he remembered his father saying. Sambath was only four years old at the time but the memories of it still affects him today. The museum is a place filled with silent ghosts and the echoes of pain and torture. Every step of the way, you'll find a story to be told. Some people will tell you the place gives off disturbing vibes. My sister, who has always been very sensitive to such things, could not bring herself to walk through the gates. She chose to wait for us outside. ... The atmosphere was awful, depressing. We exited the Museum of Death with relief, glad to welcome the sunshine and fresh air, thankful we live in a time and place other than the one so horribly depicted here."


"Spanish Court Looks at Tibetan Genocide Claims"
By Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree
The Christian Science Monitor, 2 March 2006
"[...] Since the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been killed, arbitrarily imprisoned, or forced to flee their country. But when the victims of what some call genocide finally get their day in court, it probably won't be in China. Instead, Spain -- which is conducting a judicial investigation on the issue -- is likely to hold the first trial. Although Spain had no citizens affected by the suspected crimes, its National Court decided in January to investigate whether China did indeed commit genocide. The decision raises questions about whether Spain's policy of universal jurisdiction is enforceable, as well how it will impact trade. Ever since National Court judge Baltasar Garzón ordered the arrest in 1998 of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity, Spain has taken the lead among individual countries prosecuting human rights violations that occurred outside their own borders. At first, the court confined itself to cases like General Pinochet's, in which Spaniards were among the victims. But last year, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that the National Court could investigate charges brought by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Túm for killings, torture, and disappearances that occurred during Guatemala's civil war. With that decision, Spain became one of the few countries to exercise the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which gives countries the right to try individuals of any nationality for crimes committed outside that country's border. [...]"


"DR Congo: Warning of 'Huge Risk' of New Conflict"
United Nations press release on, 28 February 2006
"Warning that there is 'a huge risk for conflict to rise again' in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the top United Nations refugee official has called on the international community to provide greater support for the vast country’s transition to full democracy for the first time in 45 years. 'The scale of the problem, the complexity of the problem, and the nature of the problem are such that all our resources combined together won't easily solve it,' UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres told ambassadors from donor countries in Kinshasa, capital of a nation that is moving towards national elections in June after the most lethal fighting in the world since World War II. A six-year war cost 4 million lives, and medical experts say a further 1,200 people are still dying needlessly every day. More than 3.4 million have been displaced from their homes and 17 million don't have a steady supply of food. [...]"


"Key Ethiopia Treason Trial Starts"
BBC Online, 24 February 2006
"Ethiopia's opposition leaders are among 129 people who have gone on trial for treason and attempted genocide. None of the accused answered questions, saying the trial was political. Some wore black t-shirts and put their hands over their mouths when asked to plead. The charges relate to last November's street clashes that killed 46 people over disputed polls in May, won by Prime Minster Meles Zenawi's party. The opposition claimed the polls had been rigged -- charges Mr. Meles denies. One of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leaders, Bertukan Medeksa, a former judge, said the court was controlled by Mr Meles, who had already found them guilty. Some diplomats told the BBC they feared that the trial could drag on for a long time. They pointed out that the trial of those accused of mass murder under the former regime of Haile Mengistu Mariam is still underway 15 years after it began. [...]"
[n.b. Uh ... "attempted genocide"?]


"Vigilantes Back to Restore 'Justice' to Guatemala"
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, 28 February 2006
"The death squads have returned to Guatemala. Ten years after the signing of accords that brought an unsteady peace to the central American nation, human rights campaigners say at least 98 people have been killed by vigilantes so far this year. The true figure could be as high as 360. The killings have been carried out by gangs who target civilians they accuse of crimes or antisocial behaviour. Often, campaigners say, the bodies that show up overnight in the streets strangled and showing signs of torture are the victims of mistaken identity. 'The broader context for this is that the state has failed to enforce the rule of law,' said Daniel Wilkinson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. 'There is a climate of violence and lawlessness in which people are turning to these gangs.' Ever since a US-organised coup overthrew Guatemala's elected government in 1954, the country has been beset with violence. For more than 30 years the US supported the Guatemalan military during a war with Marxist fighters. The violence claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people -- many killed by government-backed death squads. This time, it appears many ordinary people support the vigilante gangs and say their summary justice is a form of 'social cleansing.' It is estimated that last year up to 3,000 people were murdered by the gangs. Often the vigilantes are helped by internet blogs with names such as 'We kill the gang members' and 'United against the gang members,' which publish the names and addresses of alleged criminals and then call for community action. Campaigners say many of those killed are petty thieves, or people who have personal feuds with members of the vigilante groups. 'That's the problem when people take matters into their own hands,' Mario Polanco, head of the Mutual Support Group, a victims' rights organisation in Guatemala City, told The Washington Post. [...]"


"Free Speech, Even If It Hurts"
By Michael Shermer
The Los Angeles Times, 26 February 2006 [Registration Required]
"'More women died in the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.' Is this line more offensive to Jews than an editorial cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad with a turban bomb is to Muslims? Apparently it is, because the editorial cartoonists are still free, whereas the man who made this statement -- British author David Irving -- was sentenced this week to three years in an Austrian jail for violating a law that says it is a crime if a person 'denies, grossly trivializes, approves or seeks to justify the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity.' ... Austria's treatment of Irving as a political dissident should offend both the people who defend the rights of political cartoonists to express their opinion of Islamic terrorists and the civil libertarians who leaped to the defense of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill when he exercised his right to call the victims of 9/11 'little Eichmanns.' Why doesn't it? Why aren't freedom lovers everywhere offended by Irving's court conviction? Freedom is a principle that must be applied indiscriminately. We have to defend Irving in order to defend ourselves. Once the laws are in place to jail dissidents of Holocaust history, what's to stop such laws from being applied to dissenters of religious or political histories, or to skepticism of any sort that deviates from the accepted canon? No one should be required to facilitate the expression of Holocaust denial, but neither should there be what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the silence coerced by law -- the argument of force in its worst form.'"


"Protesters Demand an End to Plunder of Papua"
By Mark Forbes
The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2006
"A stone-age bow and arrow shoot-out between tribesmen and guards at the giant Freeport gold and copper mine in Papua has snowballed into a stand-off symbolising Papuans' push for independence and their belief that their province is being plundered. Freeport, the world's biggest goldmine, was forced to halt production in the Indonesian province last week after being blockaded by the tribesmen, who pan the tailings at the mine for scraps of gold. Although the US-owned mining company claimed last weekend to have ended the conflict with a traditional stone-burning ceremony and offers of assistance, Papuan students have continued to demonstrate daily in Jakarta. And each day this week, hundreds of police have used water cannon to prevent rock-throwing students storming Freeport's headquarters. The protesters' demands have escalated: they now want the mine closed and Indonesian soldiers withdrawn from the province. Hundreds more have staged rallies in Papua's capital of Jayapura, while a tent-city opposing the mine has been erected in Timika, the nearest town to Freeport's mine, Indonesian police said. Following a 24-hour sit-in at Papua's provincial parliament, some legislators yesterday endorsed the protesters' demands and promised to pursue them with Jakarta. One legislator, Hana Hikoyabi, said the contract between Freeport and the Government was secretive. 'The protest is an accumulation of years of disappointment,' Mr Hikoyabi said. 'We hope Freeport is willing to open up. Freeport has to realise the gold, copper and anything it mined in Timika belongs not to them, but to Papuans.' One of the Jakarta protest leaders, Marthen Goo, said the struggle was just beginning. 'We have not received anything good from Freeport. We are going to protest until Freeport is shut.' [...]"

"Papua Travel Ban Halts Abuse Scrutiny: Envoy"
By Tom Allard
The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2006
"The Indonesian Government is preventing human rights observers from monitoring the situation in Papua amid 'worrying' reports of abuses in the troubled province, says the United Nations' special envoy on the prevention of genocide, Juan Mendez. In an interview with the Herald, Mr Mendez also said the UN was prepared to step in and mediate a solution to the long-running tensions in the province. 'It's very worrying and there's evidence about violence that's continued since 1963. It's important that we look closely at the conflict now and make sure it's not getting out of hand,' he said. 'We certainly have it under our inquiry but it's hard to assess the situation on the ground ... it's hard to know what is going on in West Papua.' Asked if he was prepared to act as a mediator between the Government and separatists, Mr Mendez said 'absolutely,' although that would require an invitation from both parties. Indonesia has been tightly restricting human rights experts from the UN, academia and non-government organisations from visiting Papua for years, a ban on unfettered access that has extended to foreign media for at least the past 18 months. [...]"


"Pace: Torture, Killings Widespread in Iraq"
Associated Press dispatch on ABC News, 2 March 2006
"Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein, as lawlessness and sectarian violence sweep the country, the former U.N. human rights chief in Iraq said Thursday. John Pace, who last month left his post as director of the human rights office at the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, said the level of extra-judicial executions and torture is soaring, and morgue workers are being threatened by both government-backed militia and insurgents not to properly investigate deaths. 'Under Saddam, if you agreed to forgo your basic right to freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK,' Pace said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'But now, no. Here, you have a primitive, chaotic situation where anybody can do anything they want to anyone.' Pace, who was born in Malta but now resides in Australia, said that while the scale of atrocity under Saddam was 'daunting,' now nobody is safe from abuse. 'It is certainly as bad,' he said. 'It extends over a much wider section of the population than it did under Saddam.' [...]"

"Shiites Told: Leave Home Or Be Killed"
By Ellen Knickmeyer
The Washington Post (on, 1 March 2006
"Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher. 'It's 6 p.m.,' Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. 'We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you.' Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses. With sectarian violence rampant since last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, the families have become symbols of an emerging trend in Iraq: the expulsion of Shiites from Sunni towns. 'One of those men told me, "You started this, by burning our mosques and killing our people,"' said Rashid's grown nephew, kneeling with other men from the displaced families. Around them, black-shrouded women drank tea and children napped or played. At least 58 dislodged Shiite families have come to Shoula since late last week, said Raad al-Husseini, a cleric who is helping the families settle in. [...]"

"Iraq's Deadly Surge Claims 1,300"
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Bassam Sebti
The Washington Post (on, 27 February 2006
"Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media. Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday -- blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound -- and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. ... Aides to Sadr denied the allegations, calling them part of a smear campaign by unspecified political rivals. By Monday, violence between Sunnis and Shiites appeared to have eased. As Iraqi security forces patrolled, American troops offered measured support, in hopes of allowing the Iraqis to take charge and prevent further carnage. But at the morgue, where the floor was crusted with dried blood, the evidence of the damage already done was clear. Iraqis arrived throughout the day, seeking family members and neighbors among the contorted bodies. 'And they say there is no sectarian war?' demanded one man. 'What do you call this?' The brothers of one missing man arrived, searching for a body. Their hunt ended on the concrete floor, provoking sobs of mourning: 'Why did you kill him?' 'He was unarmed!' 'Oh, my brother! Oh, my brother!' Morgue officials said they had logged more than 1,300 dead since Wednesday -- the day the Shiites' gold-domed Askariya shrine was bombed -- photographing, numbering and tagging the bodies as they came in over the nights and days of retaliatory raids. The Statistics Department of the Iraqi police put the nationwide toll at 1,020 since Wednesday, but that figure was based on paperwork that is sometimes delayed before reaching police headquarters. The majority of the dead had been killed after being taken away by armed men, police said. The disclosure of the death tolls followed accusations by the U.S. military and later Iraqi officials that the news media had exaggerated the violence between Shiites and Sunnis over the past few days.
[n.b. If these figures are accurate -- and they have been disputed, though not persuasively, in my view -- then this is genocide/gendercide. Keep in mind that the statistics appear to be drawn only from the main morgue in a single city, Baghdad.]

"Iraq's Death Squads: On the Brink of Civil War"
By Andrew Buncombe and Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, 26 February 2006
"Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed. John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told The Independent on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution. The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds. 'It's being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons,' said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. 'But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior.' [...]"


"Israel's Top Brass Risks Isolation over War Crimes"
The Palestine Chronicle, 2 March 2006
"Fearing possible arrest and persecution on charges of war crimes against the Palestinians, a senior Israeli commander has cancelled a trip to Britain to join the Royal College of Defense Studies, a case seen by an Israeli rights group as indication of a growing international isolation of the Israeli army. Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, the commander of the Israeli army unit along the Gaza border, was instructed by the military establishment to scrap his summer plans, Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday, February 27. 'At this point, to send him to London, or any other officer who fought in the territories, is a danger,' a security source told the Yediot Ahronot daily. The paper said Kochavi's 'key' role in the bloody 2002 'Operation Defensive Shield' in the occupied West Bank could be used against him if he visited London. In March 2002, Israel launched an onslaught against all Palestinian cities in the West Bank except for occupied east Jerusalem and Hebron. The operation, which officially ended in May although crippling curfews continued long after that, claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly women and children. The city of Jenin took the brunt of the Israeli aggressions, with more than 54 civilian deaths. Kochavi was a senior commander in the paratroopers during the offensive. According to the Israeli media, the decision to cancel his London trip was taken in light of an arrest warrant issued six months ago against former Israeli commander of the Gaza Strip Doron Almog. Last year, Almog narrowly escaped capture after a London magistrate had issued a warrant for arresting him over his role in a 2002 bombing raid that killed 15 Palestinians, many of them children. Israel's ambassador in London Tzvi Hefetz spoke with Almog during the flight, advised him not to get off the plane. Britain is one of several European countries which allow investigations of war crimes involving foreign nationals if the suspect's own country is unwilling or unable to act. The suspect can be arrested upon his or her arrival in the UK. [...]"

"Israeli 'Ruler-in-Waiting' Plans to Starve Hamas"
By Leonard Doyle
The Independent, 2 March 2006
"She is already being spoken of as an Israeli leader in waiting. Today the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni brings to London the campaign to destabilise the incoming Hamas Palestinian government by starving it of cash. Israel's policy -- described by a spokesman as putting 'the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger' -- has left London feeling squeamish. Tony Blair and Jack Straw will today undoubtedly show solidarity with Israel, saying Britain is not in the business of funding terrorists. But in private there is anguish that the policy will bring malnutrition to innocent Palestinians and punish them for taking part in a democratic election. The Palestinians are completely dependent on foreign aid for their survival and Israel's campaign to put 3.6 million people on starvation rations is foreboding. [...] A former Mossad officer, Ms. Livni is the daughter of Zionists -- classified as terrorists by the British authorities. Her father, Eitan, was the Irgun's head of operations when it blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 28 Britons, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews and five others. The subsequent wave of terror attacks he led outraged British public opinion, leading the government to abandon the Palestinian Mandate and turn the problem over to the UN, with disastrous consequences for the Palestinians. [...]"


"Irving Expands on Holocaust Views"
BBC Online, 28 February 2006
"Jailed British historian David Irving has again said he does not believe Hitler presided over a systematic attempt to exterminate Jews in Europe. During his trial in Austria, Irving said he had changed his mind over claims the Holocaust did not happen. But, speaking from his cell later, he told BBC News the numbers killed at Auschwitz were smaller than claimed. ... Speaking from prison, where he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day, Irving told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he now believed there had been cases of Jewish people being gassed during World War II. But he said that while he accepted 1.4 million were killed in the so-called 'Operation Reinhard' camps which included Treblinka and Sobibor, he did not accept that large numbers were murdered at Auschwitz. He claimed there were two 'small' gas chambers there, not the large-scale gas chambers identified by other historians. 'Given the ruthless efficiency of the Germans, if there was an extermination programme to kill all the Jews, how come so many survived?' he said. When asked whether there was an organised programme to exterminate the Jews in Europe, overseen by Hitler, Irving told Today: 'That is absolutely wrong and nobody can justify that. Adolf Hitler's own involvement in it has a big question mark behind it.' ... Speaking on Today, Richard Evans, professor of German history at Cambridge University and a witness against Irving at a libel trial in 2000, dismissed the latest comments. 'He was, I think, arrogant enough to believe that he wouldn't be arrested,' said Professor Evans. 'But having said that, I think the Austrian action is ill-advised. I don't think that law which bans Holocaust denial is really necessary any longer and I think it's really regrettable the vast media circus that's surrounding Mr Irving now [is] just simply giving prominence to his absurd views.'"


"Report on Mexican 'Dirty War' Details Abuse by Military"
By Ginger Thompson
The New York Times, 27 February 2006 [Registration Required]
"A secret report prepared by a special prosecutor's office says that the Mexican military carried out a 'genocide plan' of kidnapping, torturing and killing hundreds of suspected subversives in the southern state of Guerrero during the so-called dirty war, from the late 1960's to the early 1980's. The report, which was not endorsed by the government of President Vicente Fox but was leaked by its authors last week, says that the genocide plan was ordered by President Luis Echeverría in 1970, and designed by Hermenegildo Cuenca Díaz, who was defense minister at the time. It is based partly on declassified documents from the Mexican military and for the first time provides names of military officers and units involved in destroying entire villages that the government suspected of serving as base camps for the rebel leader Lucio Cabañas. In those towns, soldiers rounded up all the men and boys, executed some on the spot and detained others, and then used violence, including rape, to drive the rest of the people away, the report says. Most of those detained suffered severe torture, including beatings, electric shock and being forced to drink gasoline, at military installations that were operated like 'concentration camps.' 'With this operation, a state policy was established in which all the authorities connected to the army -- the president, ministers of state, and the presidential guard, commanders of the military regions in Guerrero, and officers and troops in their command -- participated in the violations of human rights with the justification of pursuing a bad fugitive,' the report says. 'Such an open counter-guerrilla strategy could not have been possible without the explicit consent and approval of the president.' [...]"


"Suicide Bomb Film Set to Shake Oscars"
By Emma Forrest
The Observer, 26 February 2006
"[...] The tensions are rising with a week to go before the big night, which is on track to be one of the most successful and most watched ceremonies ever. The campaign against Paradise Now is gathering pace. An internet campaign against the film has quickly gathered steam. It started with an open letter from Yossi Zur, whose 16-year-old son had been killed by a suicide bomber, asking that the Academy disqualify Paradise Now 'They have been given a seal of approval to hide behind,' he said. 'Now they can see that the world sees suicide bombing as legitimate.' The petition he inspired has received more than 25,000 signatures. The nomination probably won't be rescinded, but with 70 being the median academy voter age, and Judaism the predominant religion, it is something of a surprise, even to insiders, that the film has been nominated at all, let alone that it is a strong prospect to win. Although the director, Hany Abu-Assad, and the female lead, Lubna Azabal, both live in Europe, the film is credited to 'Palestine', a country that does not technically exist. No foreign film entry has, in academy history, been attributed to such a place. It was filmed in Nablus, a West Bank town controlled by the Palestinian Authority. 'There is a likelihood,' said the show's producer, Gil Cates, 'that come Oscar night it will be attributed to "Palestinian territories".' ... Surprisingly, after Paradise Now won a Golden Globe in January, Abu-Assad took to the stage to generous applause, with no reticence or even booing. That can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the Golden Globes comprises non-US press. Come Oscar night, Abu-Assad may find a Hollywood audience less enthusiastic. Or perhaps Hollywood's perceived allegiance to Israel has changed. There are five nominations for Munich, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's deeply critical take on the hunt by Israelis for the Munich Olympic killers. [...]"


"Turning a Blind Eye to Police Brutality"
By Michael Mainville
Toronto Star, 26 February 2006
"After nine days of increasingly brutal police interrogation and torture, Alexei Mikheyev couldn't stand it any more. Given the option of confessing to a crime he didn't commit or facing more electrical shocks through wires connected to his earlobes, Mikheyev decided his only real choice was to kill himself. He broke free of his interrogators and jumped out of the second-floor window of the police station where he was being held. He landed on a motorbike and broke his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The same day, the teenage girl he was alleged to have abducted, raped and killed returned home unharmed. She had gone to stay with friends for a few days without telling her parents. [...] Reliable numbers on police brutality in Russia are hard to come by. In a statement released on Jan. 31, the internal affairs department of Russia's Interior Ministry said the number of recorded police crimes rose 46.8 per cent in 2005 and 4,269 officers, including 630 senior officers, were held criminally responsible. The statement did not provide a breakdown of the crimes and Russian authorities do not release figures on how many officers are charged with the illegal use of violence. But a poll of 634 police officers from 41 Russian cities released this month makes clear how widespread police violence is. The poll, by the respected Levada Centre, showed that 63 per cent of Russian police officers consider violence against suspects 'acceptable.' It also found that 18 per cent of officers considered it acceptable to plant drugs or weapons on suspects to fabricate evidence. Asked who they are supposed to serve, 26 per cent answered 'those who are in power' and 25 per cent said 'those who have money.' In a November 2003 report, the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said 'torture and ill-treatment are commonly employed to get a confession to a crime' during Russian police interrogations. In one nationwide poll last year, 71 per cent of respondents said they didn't trust the police; in another, 41 per cent said they lived in fear of police violence. [...]"


"Seneca College Grad Shows Story of Genocide"
By Fannie Sunshine, 28 February 2006
"When Claire Wihogora tells her story of surviving the 1994 genocide in her homeland of Rwanda, which saw 800,000 members of the Hutu and Tutsi tribes slaughtered over 100 days, including her father and brother, lips often tremble as eyes turn to swimming pools. ... 'Every day I woke up and asked God why,' she said of her loved ones' deaths. 'I missed them so much, I hoped it never happened again.' Her father was killed April 10, 1994, along with the family who was hiding him in their home, she said. His body was left to rot in the street and once the genocide ceased, Wihogora collected his bones off the road. In 1998, Wihogora, who was severely traumatized by the mass murder, moved to Toronto to start a new life, leaving her mother and sister behind. 'Sometimes it's hard saying I'm a (genocide) survivor because inside I am dead,' she said, adding she's visited her family twice in eight years. Wihogora told the students how lucky they are to be able to go to school, a luxury many children in her homeland were not afforded. ... Knowing the struggles fellow genocide survivors face, Wihogora founded Women in Rwanda, which links female genocide survivors now living in North America to form a support system. Although Wihogora suffered horrors unimaginable to most, she told the students to never give up hope. 'You are going to be successful if you chose to be,' she said, adding the two tribes in Rwanda no longer exist and the country is made up of one people. 'If you fall down somehow you have to stand up and walk again.' [...]"


"Historic Genocide Trial of Serbian Nation Begins"
By Sam Knight and Agencies
The Times, 27 February 2006
"Serbia became the first country to be tried for genocide today, as lawyers for Bosnia argued that the state of Serbia and Montenegro attempted to annihilate Bosnia's non-Serbs during the war of 1992 to 1995. In the first case of its kind, and 13 years after the first papers were filed in the middle of the fighting, Sakib Softic, a lawyer for Bosnia, told the UN-run International Court of Justice in The Hague that Belgrade was responsible for orchestrating the deaths of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. 'The armed violence which hit our country like a man-made tsunami in 1992 ... destroyed the character of Bosnia and Herzegovina and certainly destroyed a substantial part of its non-Serb population,' he said. 'We are here because the Belgrade authorities have knowingly taken the non-Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina on a path to hell, a path littered with dead bodies, broken families, lost youths, lost future, destroyed places of cultural and religious worship.' Serbia, then part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, invaded Bosnia in 1992 to prevent the country, whose population was dominated by Bosnian Muslims and Croats, from seceding from Yugoslavia. More than 100,000 people died in the ensuing war. 'This case is not aimed at individual citizens of Serbia and Montenegro,' said Mr Softic. 'This is about state responsibility, and seeks to establish responsibility of a state which, through its leadership, and through its organs, committed the most brutal acts of violence.' [...]"

"Serbia and Montenegro on Trial for Genocide"
By IWPR Staff
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 24 February 2006
"Bosnian lawyers launching a genocide case against Serbia and Montenegro at the International Court of Justice, ICJ, the first such state-level lawsuit, will face a formidable challenge when proceedings begin on Monday, February 27, IWPR has established in a far-reaching investigation into the case. On the face of it, Sarajevo's case appears strong, drawing as it does on many years' worth of research into the atrocities that became the gruesome hallmark of the conflicts that ripped through the Balkans in the Nineties. But this first ever attempt to prove something as problematic as state responsibility for a crime as complex as genocide is set to throw up a whole host of thorny legal issues. Over a decade has passed since Sarajevo first registered its complaint against Belgrade at the Hague court, accusing what was then Yugoslavia of genocide against Bosnia’s non-Serb population. ... Prosecutors at the ICTY have established that at least one episode of the war in Bosnia -- the slaughter by Serb troops of thousands of Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica in 1995 -- constituted a genocide. Two years' worth of evidence against the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic at the same court has also thrown a great deal of new light on Belgrade’s links with this and other atrocities. The evidence that has emerged has satisfied judges that he does have a case to answer about genocide in Bosnia. But for the Bosnian team, securing a ruling in Sarajevo’s favour at the ICJ will still be no mean feat. Besides convincing a new court that the notoriously complex crime of genocide occurred in Bosnia, the Bosnian lawyers will also face the daunting task of showing that responsibility for it lay not just with a set of individuals but with an entire state. ... What is more, the way in which Belgrade is purported to have committed the crime -- largely through covert support for proxies, in a war that its own military wasn't officially involved in -- makes the case infinitely more complex. [...]"
[n.b. The best and most in-depth report I have seen on this fascinating case.]

"Mladic 'May Be Seeking Surrender'"
BBC Online, 24 February 2006
"The Dutch foreign minister has said Serbian officials have told him war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic might be ill and seeking to surrender. Bernard Bot, who visited Belgrade this week, said authorities told him Gen Mladic might be trying to negotiate his surrender with his own entourage. The move follows a flurry of reports from Serbian media suggesting that Gen Mladic may be ready to give himself up. The former Bosnian Serb commander faces war crimes charges, including genocide. Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Dirk Jan Vermeij said Mr Bot heard Gen Mladic was not well. 'The minister said that he heard during meetings in Belgrade that Mladic is sick, but that the Serbs don't know where he is,' Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. 'The rumour Bot picked up was that Mladic was negotiating with his entourage.' However Carla del Ponte, the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, told the BBC that Gen Mladic was within 'immediate reach' of the Belgrade authorities. She said she believed they could capture him 'today, if they want.' [...]"


"Peacekeepers and Diplomats, Seeking to End Darfur's Violence, Hit Roadblock"
By Warren Hoge
The New York Times, 1 March 2006 [Registration Required]
"Sudan has withdrawn its support for a United Nations peacekeeping force to replace African Union troops now in the conflict-ridden Darfur region, and is lobbying other countries to discourage the substitution, Jan Pronk, the United Nations envoy for Sudan, said Tuesday. 'The government is taking a very strong position against a transition to the U.N., and that is new,' Mr. Pronk said. 'Sudan has sent delegations to many countries in the world in order to plead its case: let the A.U. stay and let the U.N. not come.' In another development indicating a snag in the international effort to curb the violence in Darfur, John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador, conceded the failure of the American effort to produce a resolution on a United Nations mission to Sudan by the end of February, a month during which the United States has served as president of the Security Council. 'It is something we have pushed hard for, and we're going to continue to push hard, even though tomorrow is March 1, because this is something that we feel very strongly about,' Mr. Bolton said. Other members of the Council had resisted taking up the subject until the African Union made a formal request for bringing in the United Nations, a request that had been expected at a meeting of the organization this Friday. On Tuesday, that meeting was postponed until March 10. Mr. Pronk said the African Union had already made a decision 'in principle' to request United Nations peacekeepers, but he did not know whether the group would formally confirm that decision. If not, he said, 'then we are back to scratch.' He said Sudan's government was portraying a United Nations entry as a precursor to a Western takeover of the country. [...]"

"Britain Pushes for Travel Ban on Leaders to Curb Killing in Darfur"
By Anne Penketh
The Independent, 1 March 2006
"Britain is pushing for a UN travel ban and assets freeze to be applied to named Sudanese government, militia and rebel leaders in the next two weeks in the hope of curbing the killings in Darfur, diplomats said. 'We would expect measures in the next 10 to 14 days,' a senior British official said. The Security Council members Britain, France and Denmark are acting now because of a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the western Sudanese region, where about 300,000 people have died as a result of conflict, hunger and disease. The fighting has also spread across the border into Chad. Although British officials refused to release the names, diplomats said they had taken pains to draw up a 'balanced' list of up to eight leaders from both sides in the three-year conflict. They denied that the names were taken from a list of 17 people already circulating in New York, which includes the Sudanese Interior Minister, the Defence Minister, the director of national intelligence and a commander of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army. [...]"

"Darfur Sanctions Deadlock as ICC Considers Prosecutions"
By Fred Bridgland
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 28 February 2006
"The United Nations is reportedly split on proposals to punish Sudanese officials and rebel leaders allegedly responsible for impeding peace efforts in Darfur, where International Criminal Court, ICC, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has launched an investigation into war crimes. As violence again flared in northern Darfur, the UN Security Council met February 27 to consider sanctions against officials deemed to be a threat to the peace effort or human rights in the area. Fighting between rebels and government-backed militias in Darfur is believed to have claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives, with more than 2,000 villages and towns in the region said to have been burned to the ground. US ambassador John Bolton, the current council president, told reporters the 15-member body wanted to 'move forward expeditiously on targeted sanctions.' 'The purpose ... is to apply pressure ... to people who are violating the arms embargo, not contributing to our effort to establish an effective peace process in Darfur and restore the deteriorating security situation there,' he said. However, conflict arose between members at a closed-door session during which China, Russia and Qatar are believed to have opposed sanctions, while the US, Britain, Denmark and France were in favour. The result: continued deadlock. Some experts estimate that as many as 400,000 lives have been lost in the Darfur conflict since 2003 with two million Darfurians internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring Chad, after their homes were destroyed by Arab janjaweed militias. The UN says Darfur is currently 'the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.' [...]"

"The 'Challenges' of Darfur"
By Eric Reeves
The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 28 February 2006
"How serious is South Africa about halting massive, ethnically targeted human destruction in Darfur in western Sudan? Is President Thabo Mbeki prepared to support the robust, international force required to protect millions of vulnerable people and the increasingly tenuous humanitarian lifeline upon which they depend? At the moment of truth for Darfur, the answers are not encouraging. This is troubling since South African leadership will be crucial at the March meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council that will determine whether the Darfur mission will be handed to the United Nations, something the AU has declared itself willing to do only 'in principle.' Without such a hand over, the current AU force will continue to prove inadequate to the tasks of civilian protection for humanitarian operations. The AU is certainly incapable of disarming the combatants, especially the murderous, Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militia. And without such security, more than two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees languishing in camps cannot return to their lands and resume agriculturally productive lives. Currently, the AU force has only 5,000 troops -- and only 7,000 personnel altogether for a region the size of France. This is well short of the AU set target, partly because South Africa has for months reneged on its commitment to a contingent, approximately 500, of civilian police. Recent assessments of the AU force highlight the lack of civilian police as one reason extreme insecurity persists in IDP camps. Most of these camps remain the site of rapes, killings, arbitrary arrests and torture. Indeed, Khartoum's Janjaweed allies are increasingly attacking camps themselves, assaults the AU is unable to halt or deter. Despite these terrible realities, Mbeki and other African leaders have retreated into the mantra of 'African solutions for African problems.' [...]"

"Refugee Crisis Grows as Darfur War Crosses a Border"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 28 February 2006 [Registration Required]
"The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises. Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country. Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs. 'You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has,' Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. 'Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad.' Indeed, the accounts of civilians in eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted. The dead included her husband, Ismail Ibrahim, who tried to prevent the raiders from burning his sorghum and millet fields. Like so many others in this desolate expanse of dust-choked earth, she fled west with her three children, much as people in Darfur have been forced to do in recent years. 'I have lost everything but my children,' she said, her face looking much older than her 20 years. She is now a refugee, with thousands of other displaced Chadians, in Kolloye, a village south of here. [...]"

"Brown University to Divest from Companies with Sudanese Government Ties"
By Ross Goldberg
Yale Daily News, 27 February 2006
"Brown University announced Saturday that it will divest from companies tied to the Sudanese genocide, 10 days after Yale made a similar promise. The Brown Corporation pledged to exclude any such investments from its portfolio, though, unlike Yale, it has not yet identified a specific list of target companies. The Providence, R.I., university's pledge will affect all future investments, including those made through its private managers. 'This is a critically important and strong statement by the university community regarding our abhorrence of the genocidal actions being supported and undertaken by the Sudanese government,' Brown President Ruth J. Simmons said in a press release. On Feb. 15, Yale blacklisted seven companies accused of facilitating the genocide, though the University owned stock in only one of them at the time. On-campus activists said they think both schools' statements are fueling national interest in Sudan. 'It would be great if Yale were involved in Brown's decision, but it's part of a greater movement,' said Ida Assefa '08, a member of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur. 'We want to harness all the energy and passion and activism that's occurring on college campuses and translate that into national legislation that will have an effect on what's occurring there.' Aside from Yale and Brown, Harvard and Stanford universities, as well as Dartmouth and Amherst colleges, have pledged to divest from their holdings tied to Sudan. The states of Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon have also divested their pension funds from companies with ties to the Sudanese government, and a bill to be considered by the Connecticut State Senate Thursday would empower Yale's home state to follow suit."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"Will Bok Sell the Stock?"
By Nicholas M. Ciarelli
The Harvard Crimson, 24 February 2006
"As interim president, Derek C. Bok will face pressure from students who want Harvard to cut its ties to an oppressive African regime. For Bok, it may seem like déjà vu. When Bok was at Harvard's helm in the late 1970s, the campus was consumed by a controversy over the University's financial links to apartheid-era South Africa. Bok, who returns to Mass. Hall on July 1, took a skeptical stance toward divestment demands. In open letters to the Harvard community, Bok wrote that he believed divestment was unlikely to help end apartheid, and might threaten the University’s academic mission and financial stability. This time, as students want Harvard to sever ties with companies that do business with the Sudanese government, Bok’s views could assume new importance. 'We can all agree that an educational institution should not inflict harm on others merely to fatten its coffers,' Bok later wrote in a 1982 book on the social responsibilities of universities. 'But it is a very different matter for trustees to use institutional funds to help redress an injustice in the outside world for which the university is not directly responsible.' [...]"


"'If We Did Anything Questionable in the War, We Should Have the Maturity to Admit It and Learn from It'"
By A.C. Grayling
New Statesman, 27 February 2006
"Did America and Britain commit a war crime by bombing civilian populations in the cities of Germany and Japan during the Second World War? I examine this question in my book Among the Dead Cities, and unequivocally answer 'yes.' This has caused a predictable outburst of controversy among historians who believe they own the war and who, besides resenting any trespass on their terrain, are not predisposed to thinking in these terms about any aspect of our endeavours in 1939-45. I have always accepted this was a just war for the Allied side, against dangerous and wicked aggressors. Losing it would itself have been a crime, as well as a disaster. And yet, if we did do anything questionable in the course of that war, we should have the maturity and courage to acknowledge it, and learn from it, because we are still fighting wars, and may have to fight yet more. My critics focus on three areas. They defend the bombing campaign against Germany by saying that it hampered the Nazi war effort because it kept troops, guns and aircraft on the home front, thus weakening the eastern and western military fronts, and slowed industrial production. Second, they say that to describe area bombing of civilians as a war crime is to make a judgement of hindsight, using concepts -- particularly that of the 'war crime' -- which did not come into existence until later. Third, because most of them have touched on the bombing controversy in their own books, they say that my discussion contains nothing new. They are wrong on all counts. [...]"


"Mahatma Bush"
By Norman Solomon, 28 February 2006
"Evidently the president's trip to India created an option too perfect to pass up: The man who has led the world in violence during the first years of the 21st century could pay homage to the world's leading practitioner of nonviolence during the first half of the 20th century. So the White House announced plans for George W. Bush to lay a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi this week. While audacious in its shameless and extreme hypocrisy, this PR gambit is in character for the world's only superpower. One of the main purposes of the Bush regime's media spin is to depict reality as its opposite. And Karl Rove obviously figured that mainstream U.S. media outlets, with few exceptions, wouldn't react with anywhere near the appropriate levels of derision or outrage. Presidential rhetoric aside, Gandhi's enthusiasm for nonviolence is nearly matched by Bush's enthusiasm for violence. The commander in chief regularly proclaims his misty-eyed pride in U.S. military actions that destroy countless human lives with massive and continual techno-violence. But the Bushian isn't quite 180 degrees from the Gandhian. The president of the United States is not exactly committed to violence; what he wants is an end to resistance. 'A conqueror is always a lover of peace,' the Prussian general Karl von Clausewitz observed. Yearning for Uncle Sam to fulfill his increasingly farfetched promise of victory in Iraq, the U.S. president is an evangelist for peace -- on his terms. [...]"

"The CIA's 'Black Sites'"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 24 February 2006
"[...] Bush, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al. regularly intone, in chorus, that the U.S. does not torture and always acts within the law. But if the fearful facts in the darkness in those CIA prisons are ever documented by an independent prosecutor in a future administration, it will finally be proved that, as Human Rights Watch emphasizes, the CIA is responsible -- along with the president who gave it 'special powers' -- for 'serious violations of U.S. criminal law, such as the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Statute. ... The mistreatment of detainees also violates the [International] Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which the United States has ratified, and the laws of war.' There is a rising focus around the country on this year's midterm elections. During the campaigning, will there be any mention of the screams in the CIA's underground prisons of darkness? And if there is, how many Americans will care enough to be repelled by their own silent, passive complicity in the growing moral darkness of this nation's leadership? [...]"

"A Judicial Green Light for Torture"
The New York Times (Editorial), 26 February 2006
"[...] The maltreatment of Mr. Arar [Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent by 'extraordinary rendition' to Syria] would be reprehensible -- and illegal under the United States Constitution and applicable treaties -- even had the suspicions of terrorist involvement proven true. But no link to any terrorist organization or activity emerged, which is why the Syrians eventually released him. Mr. Arar then sued for damages. The judge in the case, David Trager of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, did not dispute that United States officials had reason to know that Mr. Arar faced a likelihood of torture in Syria. But he took the rare step of blocking the lawsuit entirely, saying that the use of torture in rendition cases is a foreign policy question not appropriate for court review, and that going forward would mean disclosing state secrets. It is hard to see why resolving Mr. Arar's case would necessitate the revelation of privileged material. Moreover, as the Supreme Court made clear in a pair of 2004 decisions rebuking the government for its policies of holding foreign terrorism suspects in an indefinite legal limbo in Guantánamo and elsewhere, even during the war on terror, the government's actions are subject to court review and must adhere to the rule of law. With the Bush administration claiming imperial powers to detain, spy on and even torture people, and the Republican Congress stuck largely in enabling mode, the role of judges in checking executive branch excesses becomes all the more crucial. If the courts collapse when confronted with spurious government claims about the needs of national security, so will basic American liberties."

"A Growing Afghan Prison Rivals Bleak Guantánamo"
By Tim Golden and Eric Schmitt
The New York Times, 26 February 2006 [Registration Required]
"While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. Pentagon officials have often described the detention site at Bagram, a cavernous former machine shop on an American air base 40 miles north of Kabul, as a screening center. They said most of the detainees were Afghans who might eventually be released under an amnesty program or transferred to an Afghan prison that is to be built with American aid. But some of the detainees have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years. And unlike those at Guantánamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as 'enemy combatants,' military officials said. ... While Guantánamo offers carefully scripted tours for members of Congress and journalists, Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it opened in 2002. It bars outside visitors except for the International Red Cross and refuses to make public the names of those held there. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance. From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard. [...]"

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