Thursday, September 28, 2006

Genocide Studies Media File
September 21-28, 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

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"The Woman Who Defied the Taliban, and Paid with Her Life"
By Kim Sengupta
The Independent, 27 September 2006
"Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work -- a fairly ordinary job in most places -- but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow. She was a target, and yesterday she was gunned down outside her home. Five years after the 'liberation' of Afghanistan by the US and Britain, with promises of a new dawn for its downtrodden women, her murder was a bloody reminder of just how far the country is slipping back into a land of darkness. Public figures, including the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, lined up to praise Ms Amajan. Yet this support was signally lacking while she lived. The former teacher worked in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and also the place where women have faced the most virulent discrimination and mistreatment. It is also where Nato forces are fighting a ferocious insurgency. Ms Amajan had asked for, and been refused, a protective vehicle, or bodyguards, despite repeated death threats. She was in a battered taxi when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire with automatic rifles. Her nephew, Farhad Jan, said: 'She died on the spot. There was no time to give her treatment.' ... A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, declared that Ms Amajan had been 'executed.' He said: 'We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed.' [...]"


"'Dirty War' Torture Witness Goes Missing"
By Tom Hennigan
The Times, 28 September 2006
"A search is under way in Argentina for a pensioner who has disappeared after giving evidence that led to the conviction of one of the country’s feared police chiefs for human rights abuses carried out during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. Relatives of Jorge Julio López, 77, fear that he was seized from his home in La Plata by current or former police officers seeking to intimidate witnesses in future trials. Señor López was a key witness in the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, a former police commissioner sentenced last Tuesday to life in prison for his role in human rights abuses carried out during military rule. Señor López told the court that Etchecolatz tortured him in October 1976 and had executed a fellow prisoner. The trial was one of the first in Argentina since amnesty laws passed under pressure from the military in the 1980s were scrapped last year. 'We cannot rule out that he [Señor López] was kidnapped to intimidate other witnesses,' said Felipe Sol, the governor of Buenos Aires province, of which La Plata is the capital. 'He could be the first disappeared of democracy.' Señor Sol suspended 60 provincial police officers after the conviction of Etchecolatz, pending an investigation into their role in abuses committed in the past. [...]"


"Bosnian Serb Cleared of Genocide, Still Jailed", 27 September 2006
"The U.N. tribunal sentenced Bosnian Serb politician Momcilo Krajisnik on Wednesday to 27 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Judge Alphons Orie pronounced him guilty of murder, extermination, deportation, persecution and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians, but said Krajisnik did not have the specific intent necessary to be found guilty of genocide. Krajisnik, a former right-hand man to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, went on trial in February 2004 charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the laws or customs of war. Krajisnik, captured by NATO-led peacekeepers near Sarajevo in 2000, pleaded not guilty to all counts. Defense lawyers had called for Krajisnik's acquittal, saying witness testimony against him was not credible. 'Mr. Krajisnik wanted the Muslim and Croat populations moved out of Bosnian-Serb territories in large numbers, and accepted that a heavy price of suffering, death and destruction was necessary to achieve Serb domination,' Judge Orie said. Krajisnik was one of the most senior politicians on trial in The Hague since the death earlier this year of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, just months before his marathon trial had been expected to conclude. Krajisnik, 61, headed the parliament of the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic during the war, and was part of the presidency together with Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. Plavsic, who admitted responsibility for atrocities in the Bosnia war and was jailed for 11 years in 2004, testified against Krajisnik earlier this year. Karadzic, who is still on the run, is charged with responsibility for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims and the brutal siege of Sarajevo."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Death Squad Policemen 'Killed Hundreds' in Revenge Attacks"
By Tom Hennigan
The Times, 23 September 2006
"Police in the Brazilian state of São Paulo summarily murdered scores of people in May during a wave of revenge killings for attacks by a criminal gang that left more than 40 police and prison officers dead. This will be the conclusion of an investigation by an independent commission that is due to report next month on the violence that rocked the South American industrial and financial centre between May 12 and 20. The week's events marked a new low in one of the world's most violent societies, where the police have a history of carrying out revenge attacks for the killing of their comrades. 'Taken together, these killings constitute the biggest police massacre in modern Brazilian history,' said Lúcio França, of the Brazilian Order of Lawyers and a member of the commission. The violence erupted when a prison gang known as the Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital, or PCC after its Portuguese initials) attacked the forces of law and order in response to the state government's policy of isolating its jailed leaders in maximum-security prisons. The scale of the PCC's offensive left in tatters the state's 'zero tolerance' crime policy, which was one of the main campaign planks of Geraldo Alckmin, who governed São Paulo until stepping down in May to run as the opposition candidate in the presidential election next weekend. [...]"


"Ramzan's World"
By Owen Mathews and Anna Nemtsova
Newsweek, 25 September 2006
"[...] The rest of the world may not have noticed, but Russia's president has won the Chechen war. He did not start it, but he prosecuted it with the full might of Russia's military. The conflict was as brutal as any Europe has known in the last century. Grozny was bombed flat, along with half of Chechnya's towns. Nearly a million Chechens were displaced; 80,000 were killed, mostly civilians, and thousands more disappeared into a nightmarish network of Russian 'filtration' camps, never to be seen again. There were atrocities, mass killings, the most flagrant of human-rights abuses. Yet all the while the Kremlin claimed that the conflict was little more than a police operation. Chalk up a victory for the politics of brutal repression. But if the war was costly in terms of blood and treasure, the 'peace' that the Kremlin has secured is not much less thuggish. It comes in the person of Ramzan Kadyrov, the handpicked 29-year-old prime minister of the new Chechnya. Kadyrov is a former rebel whom Moscow anointed as Chechnya's alpha warlord in May 2004 after the assassination of his father, President Ahmad Kadyrov. His brief: to pacify Chechnya by any means necessary. If Putin used divisions of artillery and 1,000-kilo bunker-busters to subdue the rebels, Kadyrov had another way. He got down and dirty, fighting -- and winning -- Chechen style. Those methods have been simple, violent and effective. At their core is the so-called Kadyrovtsy, a private irregular army of close to 10,000 former rebels who wear U.S. military fatigues and black T shirts with a portrait of their leader Ramzan. Their violence is less indiscriminate than the Russians' -- instead of emptying whole quarters of villages in search of guerrillas, for instance, Kadyrov's men target single households -- but more extreme. Tactics commonly include kidnapping family members as a way of persuading outlaws to give themselves up, according to the human rights group Memorial. [...]"


"Mobs Riot after Indonesia Executes Christians"
By Mark Forbes (with agency reports)
The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 2006
"Indonesian firing squads executed three Christian activists yesterday, ignoring international pleas to abandon capital punishment. The three were shot on the darkened runway of Palau Airport in Central Sulawesi province in the early hours of the morning. Amnesty International condemned the executions and expressed grave fears for the six Australian members of the Bali Nine and others on death row in Indonesia. It called on the Australian Government to take a leadership role to abolish death penalties across the region. Christian mobs rioted after the executions of Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu, torching cars and homes and smashing windows in government offices. Church leaders took to the streets to call for calm and 4000 police were deployed to prevent clashes with Muslim communities. The executions, the first carried out in Indonesia for more than 15 months, indicate the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains committed to enforcing death sentences. Many commentators claim the three Christian executions open the way for the executions of the three Islamic fundamentalist Bali bombers, Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron. Authorities in Sulawesi fear the executions will reignite a simmering religious conflict which took more than 1000 lives in 1999 and 2000. The three Christians were convicted in connection with the killing of more than 70 men, women and children who had sought refuge in a school in the Central Sulawesi town of Poso in May 2000. At their trial, no witnesses testified to seeing any of them kill anyone. Strong doubts were raised about the fairness of their trial and there were allegations the sentences were driven by pressure from hardline Muslim groups. [...]"


"Killings by Shiite Militias Detailed"
By Solomon Moore
The Los Angeles Times, 28 September 2006 [Registration Required]
"Iraq's two most deadly Shiite Muslim militias have killed thousands of Sunni Arabs since February, with the more experienced Badr Brigade often working in tandem with Al Mahdi army, collecting intelligence on targets and forming hit lists that Al Mahdi militia members carry out, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday. In some cases, death squads have been accompanied by a 'clerical figure to basically run' an Islamic court to provide 'the blessing for the conduct of the execution,' the official said. The disclosures came during a U.S. intelligence briefing that included details about Shiite militia death squad operations and links to Iranian finance and weapons networks. The military official said there were corrupt Iraqi security officers who allowed Shiite militia members to kill Sunni Arabs in Baghdad neighborhoods that had been secured by joint U.S.-Iraqi military sweeps aimed at quelling sectarian violence. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, but was one of a series of high-ranking American officials who gave detailed briefings to reporters this week, at a time when the U.S. military is struggling to restore order to Baghdad and to press the Iraqi government to move decisively against Shiite militias. The Badr Brigade, the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- a member of the leading Shiite political bloc with 30 seats in parliament -- was responsible for most of the Shiite death squad killings last year, the official said. [...]"

"Civilian Deaths Soar to Record High in Iraq"
By Peter Beaumont
The Guardian , 22 September 2006
"Nearly 7,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in the past two months, according to a UN report just released - a record high that is far greater than initial estimates had suggested. As American generals in Baghdad warned that the violence could worsen in the run up to Ramadan next Monday, the UN spoke of a 'grave sectarian crisis' gripping the country. With known Iraqi deaths running at more than 100 a day because of sectarian murders, al-Qaida and nationalist insurgent attacks, and fatalities inflicted by the multinational forces, the UN said its total was likely to be 'on the low side' because of the difficulties of collecting accurate figures. In particular, it said that no deaths were reported from the violent region covering Ramadi and Falluja. The report from the UN assistance mission in Iraq's human rights office reported evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, the growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in 'honour killings' of women. The increasing incidence of discovery of the bodies of women and teenage girls, shot in the chest rather than in the head, has been attributed to the establishment by both extremist Sunnis and Shias of secretive sharia committees, which locals say carry out killings. In a separate development, Manfred Nowak, the UN's special investigator, said torture was 'totally out of hand' and might even be worse now than under Saddam Hussein. [...]"


"'Million Bomblets' in S. Lebanon"
BBC Online, 26 September 2006
"Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon, the UN has said. The UN's mine disposal agency says about 40% of the cluster bombs fired or dropped by Israel failed to detonate -- three times the UN's previous estimate. It says the problem could delay the return home of about 200,000 displaced people by up to two years. The devices have killed 14 people in south Lebanon since the August truce. The manager of the UN's mine removal centre in south Lebanon, Chris Clark, said Israel had failed to provide useful information of its cluster bomb strikes, which could help with the clearance operation. Last month, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of 'completely immoral' use of cluster bombs in the conflict. Israel says all its weapons and munitions, as well as their use, comply with international law. Mr. Clark said Israel fired up to 6,000 bombs, rockets and artillery a day into Lebanon during the 34-day conflict. He said more than 40,000 cluster bomblets had been cleared since the fighting ended on 14 August, but many more remained scattered 'in bushes, trees, hedges and wire fences.' Mr. Clark said information Israel had provided to help with the bomblets' clearance had been 'useless.' [...]"


"Report: Bombing of Gaza Power Plant War Crime", 27 September 2006
"The B'Tselem human rights group published Wednesday a report on the implications of the bombing of the power plant in Gaza on June 28th, 2006. Findings show that the majority of residents in the Gaza Strip are only intermittently connected to the power supply and that the power cut has adversely affected medical services throughout hospitals and clinics in the Strip. The report also found that the majority of the urban population is connected to the water supply for only two to three hours a day and that the sewer system in the Strip has virtually collapsed. In addition, the mobility of many of the residents has been hindered following disruption to the elevator service and the inability to refrigerate food supplies, thus exposing many to risk of food poisoning. ... The B'Tselem organization has determined that the IDF operation was illegal and that according to international humanitarian law it is deemed a war crime as it constitutes an attack on a clear civilian target, as well as being 'a banned collective punishment.' With regards to the operation's objectives, contends the report, it came in the wake of the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and in response to the firing of Qassam rockets, and that it did not serve any military objective except for 'vengeance.' ... The report concluded that the Israeli government should launch a criminal investigation into the bombing of the power plant and bring all those responsible to justice. [...]"
[n.b. Link to the full text of the report (in MS-Word format).]


"Trial of Charles Taylor May Go Ahead in April 2007"
Sapa-AFP dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 22 September 2006
"The start of the war-crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor is 'tentatively' set for April 2 2007, Judge Julia Sebutinde announced on Friday at a procedural hearing before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) seated extraordinarily in The Hague. Taylor is seen as the single most powerful figure behind a series of civil wars in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone between 1989 and 2003 that left around 400,000 people dead. He faces a total of 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Rwanda: Graft Threatens Gacaca Courts"
By Edwin Musoni
The New Times (Kigali) (on, 27 September 2006
"Cases of corruption among Gacaca judges (Inyangamugayo) constitute a threat to the smoothness of the community-based Tribunals, a top Gacaca official has said. Domitille Mukantangazwa, the Executive Secretary of the National Service for Gacaca Jurisdictions told The New Times yesterday that corruption had eaten into some Gacaca courts, and that the government was moving in fast to curb the vice. Last week, a panel of six Gacaca judges in Nyamasheke, Western Province, was arrested on charges of taking a bribe from a suspect. A similar incident was reported in Rulindo district, Northern Province, where Police is holding three people including the president of a Gacaca tribunal, Benjamin Sengabo. Sengabo, who was heading the Gacaca court of Gatsinza cell in Bushoki Sector, and two others were on September 15 arrested for allegedly receiving Frw3, 000 from a resident in exchange for a biased ruling. Similar cases are also reported in several other parts. And, a couple of days ago, survivors in the Southern Province threatened to go on a sit-down strike in protest of the increasing corruption cases in Gacaca courts. However, Mukantaganzwa warned that stringent measures would be taken against culprits and those encouraging the vice. 'We have such problems but we have put in place stringent measures against such people; that is why we have successfully managed to trap all those who participated in that dirty game' said Mukantaganzwa She emphasised that the malpractice would be defeated since 'we have established a good partnership with the locals at the grassroots.' The Gacaca courts were reintroduced to help solve a backlog of genocide cases and to decongest prisons. A big number of those appearing before the local courts are out of prisons, and all of them fall within the second and third categories of genocide suspects."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"U.S. Says Kosovo Unstable, Needs Clarity This Year"
By Shaban Buza, 27 September 2006
"The breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo is not stable and its future must be resolved this year, a United States envoy said on Wednesday. 'We must move ahead now,' U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried told reporters in the provincial capital Pristina. '... the present situation is not inherently stable,' he said after meeting leaders of Kosovo's pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority. The comments reflect concern in the West that delaying a decision into next year on whether to grant the United Nations-run province independence risks fresh violence. 'The people of Kosovo deserve greater clarity and as we approach the end of the year I suspect they will get greater clarity,' he added. Russia, Serbia's traditional Orthodox ally in the U.N. Security Council, has cautioned against 'artificial deadlines' -- insisting Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians be given time to reach a negotiated settlement in talks that began in February. Washington and the major European powers are pushing for a decision this year. They instructed U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari last week to draw up his proposal, which Western officials say could be submitted to both sides by November. Diplomats say independence is the likely outcome, but will almost certainly be rejected by Serbia. [...]"


"Through Lens in Darfur, 'I Was a Witness to Genocide'"
By Rick Hampson
USA Today, 28 September 2006
"As an admiral's son and a former Marine officer, Brian Steidle believed that following orders and doing the right thing were one and the same. Then he went to Darfur. As an official international monitor of the vicious conflict in western Sudan, he faced a choice: respect authority and honor a code of silence or show the world what he'd seen and kiss his career goodbye. He puckered up ... and blew the whistle. 'I was a witness to genocide,' he says. 'I wanted to make a difference.' Since returning last year from Darfur, where he was a U.S. representative on an African Union observation team, Steidle has become the most vivid chronicler of one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes. His photographs -- which were supposed to be for his superiors' eyes only -- have helped make Americans care about a complex crisis in a faraway place of little economic or strategic value. Jerry Fowler of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington says Steidle 'has given people images of Darfur they can hold onto': a soldier standing next to the store he's just torched; a military helicopter firing on a village; a baby with a bullet in her back. ... 'Brian told a story others could not,' says David Del Conte, an American humanitarian worker who met Steidle in south Darfur. 'He moved Darfur onto the front page. He saved thousands of lives.' [...]"
[n.b. A new take on the old saw: a picture is worth a thousand lives.]

"Harper Pushes for UN Role in Sudan"
By Daniel LeBlanc
The Globe and Mail, 28 September 2006
"[Canadian] Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a push for a large UN role in war-ravaged Sudan at the 11th summit of the Francophonie on Thursday. Mr. Harper said that the world needs to do more in the east African country, where fighting between rebels and government-backed militias has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. 'We must act to save a desperate population, it's the responsibility to protect,' Mr. Harper said. The United Nations has called it the world's worst humanitarian disaster, and Mr. Harper said the world body has to take over the responsibility to bring peace to the area, over the objections of the Sudanese government. 'We want to promote the reform of the justice system, rebuild a security system, reduce the traffic in arms, and reinforce the institutions of government and community life. The government of Sudan will have to handover the responsibility for the African Union mission in Sudan to the United Nations at the start of the new year, under African command,' Mr. Harper said. The Sudanese government recently applied to join the Francophonie, but its candidacy was rejected because of the country's poor human rights record. Over the weekend, Sudanese President Omar El Bashir refused the proposal to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region. [...]"

"A Possible Compromise For Darfur"
By Alfred de Montesquiou
Associated Press dispatch on, 26 September 2006
"The United Nations and Sudan are discussing the deployment of U.N. military advisers to reinforce African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, in a possible compromise in their standoff over the war-torn region, officials from both sides said Tuesday. Sudan has fiercely opposed allowing a beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, despite resolutions from the Security Council that call for one. Khartoum instead has urged a strengthening of the African force already there. But Baha Elkoussy, a U.N. spokesman in Sudan, said the two sides were negotiating over sending U.N. advisers 'to facilitate the deployment of the AU.' 'There are ongoing discussions to provide the AU force with support, pending a future decision from the U.N. Security Council,' he told The Associated Press. He would not elaborate. But other U.N. officials in Sudan, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the proposal was to send more than 100 U.N. military advisers and dozens of police and civilians to reinforce the AU mission. The Sudanese government's top official on Darfur, Majzoub al-Khalifa, suggested in an interview that Khartoum was willing to accept such a compromise. 'There is a third way ... why not let the U.N. place its men, command expertise and materiel at the service of the AU mission,' al-Khalifa said. Elkoussi said U.N. personnel were ready to be sent to Darfur in the coming weeks 'as soon as there is a solid agreement with the (Sudanese) government.' [...]"

"Darfur: Three Years of Carnage; 200,000 Dead; 2.5 Million Displaced; One Question ..."
By David Usborne
The Independent, 24 September 2006
"Western leaders vowed this weekend to stop the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan as they left New York after the annual United Nations opening conclave. But once again they were unable to summon any agreement on how exactly they mean to do it. Their paralysis was on display late on Friday at a special UN Security Council meeting convened by Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. 'The violence in Darfur is not subsiding: it is getting worse,' Ms. Rice said. ... Yet the meeting, attended also by African and Arab countries, broke up with no one able to say with confidence that the action Ms Rice speaks of will be forthcoming any time soon. And all the while, the news from Darfur worsened. UN monitors reported new bombing raids on villages in northern Darfur and incidents of sexual assault and harassment further south. After three years of carnage, which has left at least 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, there was a shared recognition that Darfur can no longer be neglected. Lord Triesman, the British minister for African affairs, who attended the meeting, told The Independent on Sunday that domestic political pressure to intervene has become irresistible. 'The images of Rwanda 10 years ago are too powerful for this to go on any longer,' he said. But the Western powers, though they will not say so publicly, are stymied. The Security Council may have agreed this summer to deploy a blue-helmeted peacekeeping force in Darfur to put a stop to the violence, but -- at the behest of China, Sudan's most important friend among the big powers -- it included a disastrous caveat: the government in Khartoum must accept the force before it goes in. Thus the Security Council handed Khartoum a veto, which it is exercising with grim relish. [...]"

"AU Says Plans to Increase Troop Strength in Darfur"
By Cynthia Johnston, 24 September 2006
"The African Union plans to send more troops into Sudan to reinforce its extended Darfur peacekeeping mission, an AU spokesman said on Sunday. 'Seven thousand troops are not enough to deal with implementation of the DPA,' Noureddine Mezni said in reference to the Darfur Peace Agreement signed between the Sudanese government and one Darfur rebel faction in May. 'It will be a matter of battalions. I cannot specify how many battalions we are going to bring, but we are going to increase the number of troops,' he added. A battalion is usually composed of 600 to 800 soldiers. The African Union's mandate in Darfur had been set to expire on September 30 and the pan-African body said it could not continue beyond October because it was out of money and needed more equipment such as helicopters. The United Nations had hoped to send 20,000 soldiers and police into Darfur to replace the AU forces, which have been unable to stem the fighting that has killed an estimated 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million from their homes since 2003. ... Noureddine said more troops were also needed to bolster the operation in the arid region the size of France. 'We have additional tasks. It is important to increase the number. We are working on that,' he said, adding if approved troops could begin deploying within a matter of weeks. The soldiers would come from countries already contributing troops in Darfur -- Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal. [...]"

"Time Running Out for Darfur -- US"
BBC Online, 23 September 2006
"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has accused Sudan of failing in its responsibility to protect its own citizens in the western Darfur region. Speaking at a meeting organised on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Ms. Rice said time was running out. She hinted that, should Sudan continue to refuse access to UN peacekeepers, 'other measures' were available. Sudan's government vehemently opposes such a force, arguing that there is a hidden agenda to weaken the country. The violence in Darfur is not subsiding, it is getting worse,' Ms. Rice said. 'If the notion of our responsibility to protect the weakest and most powerless among us is ever to be more than an empty promise, then we must take action to save lives.' The US administration has described the crisis in Darfur, in which 200,000 people may have died and more than two million people have been displaced, as genocide. Earlier this week, US President George W. Bush named an envoy whose role will be to pressure Khartoum to allow a UN peacekeeping force into the country. The African Union, whose 7,000 soldiers correspondents say are ill-equipped and underfunded, voted this week to extend its mandate, due to run out at the end of the September, for a further three months. [...]"

"A Band-Aid for Darfur's Wounds"
By Lynda Hurst
The Toronto Star, 22 September 2006
"[...] Despite Bush's strong words at the UN this week and the appointment of a special envoy to Sudan, Washington has been sending a contradictory message to Khartoum, say critics, because it wants its active help in the fight against terrorism. John Prendergast, senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, points out that the regime's security chief, the man believed to be the architect of the ethnic-cleansing campaign in Darfur, has paid a visit to CIA headquarters in Virginia. It is one of a series of 'deadly mistakes' made by the U.S. on Sudan, he argued. Another crucial error: Although the U.S. crafted a Security Council resolution last year authorizing targeted sanctions, it has since imposed them on only one regime official, a retired air force commander. Prendergast said it left Bashir 'with the correct impression that there will be no accountability.' If the AU mission pulls out on Dec. 31 and isn't replaced the morning after by UN peacekeepers, it won't be Bashir alone who has that impression."

"U.N. Rights Monitors Accuse Sudan of Bombing Darfur"
By Stephanie Nebehay, 22 September 2006
"U.N. human rights monitors on Friday accused Sudan's army of bombing villages in North Darfur, killing and injuring civilians, and forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes. 'People talk about this white plane and bombs being dropped out of the back of the plane. This is a recurrent feature of reports of attacks on villages,' U.N. human rights spokesman Jose Luis Diaz told a briefing in Geneva. 'All indications are this kind of attack is continuing.' The U.N. monitors' latest report, covering the first half of September, comes as Sudan is under pressure to allow 20,000 U.N. troops to deploy in its arid west to replace 7,000 African Union troops whose mandate was extended until the end of the year. Under-funded and poorly equipped AU forces have been unable to stem the violence, which analysts say has increased since a May peace deal between one rebel faction and the government. Diaz said survivors told U.N. human rights monitors of bombings near Tabarat in North Darfur around September 9-10, which drove some 400 people into the Rwanda camp for the displaced. 'Civilians in villages in North Darfur are forced to flee due to indiscriminate aerial bombardment by government aircraft who are waging a campaign against movements that haven't signed the peace agreement,' Diaz said. Analysts say all sides of the 3 1/2-year-old conflict are looking to gain territory and solidify their positions before the arrival of U.N. troops, which if deployed in Darfur would have an expanded mandate to enforce the peace. [...]"

"Outnumbered African Force to Stay On in Darfur"
By Howard LaFranchi
The Christian Science Monitor, 22 September 2006
"The people of Darfur won't be totally left to their own devices amid marauding militias and the Sudanese government's bombing campaign, now that the mandate of the African Union force -- originally set to expire next week -- has been extended through the end of the year. But Sudan's acceptance of the three-month extension may turn out to be just a fig leaf as the government continues its fight against rebels, and pro-government militias pursue deadly harrassment of civilian populations in the vast region, US officials and other experts say. If the Sudanese government accepted an extension of the AU mandate, they add, it is because the undermanned and outgunned African force has been largely ineffective at curtailing the violence -- violence the government has stoked over past weeks. The goal of the international community continues to be deployment of a larger and better-equipped United Nations force to Darfur. But with the government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir balking, getting the already-approved UN force on the ground will take even more intense international pressure, analysts say -- including from China, which has extensive commercial ties to the energy-producing country. 'Extension of the African Union force is a positive development, because without that we faced the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people with absolutely no defense,' says Marie Clarke Brill, acting co-executive director of Africa Action in Washington. 'But that can't let the international community off the hook: Either they move ahead quickly to get the UN force deployed, or countries find another way to get peacekeeping forces on the ground.' [...]"

"Sudan's Genocidal General Wins the Delaying Game!" (Animation)
By Mark Fiore
The Village Voice, 21 September 2006
[n.b. Priceless.]


"Turkey: EU Says Ankara Must Come To Terms With Past"
By Ahto Lobjakas
RFE/RL, 27 September 2006
"The European Parliament today said it is 'indispensable' for Turkey, together with Armenia, to come to terms with its past and reiterated its call for Ankara to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians of 1915-18 as 'genocide.' The parliament toned down its original report, removing a reference to the recognition of the 'Armenian genocide' as a 'condition' for Turkey's entry into the EU. The author of the report, Dutch Member of the European Parliament Camiel Eurlings, said it was 'indispensable' for Turkey to come to terms with its past. 'Officially, formally, recognition is not a criterion [for accession], which is the truth, but it is indispensable for a country on the road to membership to come to terms with its past,' Eurlings said. 'So, let the message not be misunderstood. We really urge Turkey, together with Armenia, to get over the past.' The European Parliament said it 'reiterates its call on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as called for in previous European Parliament resolutions.' Eurlings said the change in the report was necessary to make it 'fairer.' He said that formally, recognition of the mass killings as genocide cannot be held to be a criterion for EU entry as no other candidate country has had to recognize it. The change of wording follows a heated debate in the European Parliament on September 26, in which Turkey’s supporters accused skeptics of using the Armenian issue as a proxy weapon to block Turkey's accession. [...]"
[n.b. Note that Armenia as well as Turkey is encouraged "to get over the past."]

"Judge Throws Out Charges Against Turkish Novelist"
By Nick Birch
The Guardian, 22 September 2006
"Turkey's best-known woman novelist was acquitted yesterday of 'insulting Turkishness' in the latest case to draw attention to the limitations of freedom of speech in Turkey. The judge cleared Elif Shafak on the grounds of lack of evidence, following an unexpected demand by the prosecutor for her case to be dropped. 'I'm very happy with the outcome,' the author said from the hospital where she has been staying since giving birth last Saturday. 'Writers should be answered in writing, not treated like armed criminals.' The charges stemmed from remarks made by an Armenian character in Shafak's novel The Bastard of Istanbul, published in March. 'I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915,' Dikran Stamboulian says, referring to the controversial topic of the mass murder of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. 'It was an absurd reason to start a trial and a very sensible way of ending it,' said Shafak's husband, Eyup Can, outside the heavily guarded Istanbul courthouse. Shafak was the latest public figure targeted by a group of nationalist lawyers using the notoriously vague article 301 of Turkey's penal code. Protesters linked to the group had attacked novelist Orhan Pamuk when he went on trial last December. [...]"


"Peace Versus Justice in Uganda"
By Katy Glassborow
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 27 September 2006
"[...] A year after the arrest warrants were issued [against various members of the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA], following his own approach to the ICC, [Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni] unilaterally offered amnesty to the LRA in return for an initial ceasefire and an eventual comprehensive peace deal. He has promised that none of the rebel leaders will be sent to The Hague -- raising problems for the ICC, which does not have its own police force and which was depending on the Ugandan army to find and arrest the rebels. Some ICC officials and non-government organisations believe Museveni has toyed with the court, cynically undermining its credibility. The 102 countries, including Uganda, that have signed up to the ICC entered a solemn and binding agreement under international law and cannot, as a matter of convenience, simply opt out of holding to account individuals accused of terrible crimes. 'Museveni is acting in contravention of international law,' Judge Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, told IWPR. 'His government signed the [ICC's founding] 1998 Rome Statute, and offers of amnesty violate the letter of the law.' Goldstone added that the ICC cannot be used opportunistically, 'like a convenient hot water tap that can be turned on or off.' However, Ugandans, particularly those in the north directly affected by the conflict, are frustrated by the amount of time the arrest warrants have been in the public arena without any arrest being made. ICC critics say that after two decades of war there is at last a real chance for peace across the three countries most affected by the conflict -- Uganda itself and neighbouring Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC. They feel that the international community should therefore not be doing anything that might stop the local peace initiative. Ugandan human rights lawyer Barney Afako said the fundamental question to be answered is whether the intervention of international justice is prolonging the conflict or hastening its solution. 'Justice needs to be justified in terms of lives,' Afako told IWPR. He asked how many more Acholi would need to be slaughtered before the ICC is in a position to try the LRA leaders, and went on, 'The [international] criminal justice system is isolated from the moral consequences of its intervention.' [...]"
[n.b. An important, in-depth report on one of the most serious and fascinating conundrums in international law.]

"Some Wounds Too Deep to Heal in People Battle-Scarred by 20 Years of War"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 2006
"[...] The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for five of the army's leaders. Joseph Kony, the self-styled 'spirit guide' who has led the army for 20 years, has been charged on 33 counts. He is accused of abducting tens of thousands of children, forcing the boys to become child soldiers and the girls sex slaves. The world is keen to see Kony and his fellow leaders taken to The Hague in the Netherlands to face justice. But Kony's victims think otherwise. Instead of justice in a faraway land, they would prefer army fighters to face traditional Acholi justice at home, known as mato put, meaning blood atonement. Much is at stake. For the United Nations and supporters of the court, revoking the indictments would be seen as a defeat for international law. But Ugandans fear that if the indictments remain, Kony and the army's leadership will refuse to surrender. 'If Kony goes to The Hague, he has TV, flushing toilet,' said Mr Otto. 'The man will be better off than when he was in the bush. Here, he would have to publicly apologise for all the crimes under his leadership. There are victims here who are saying: "Yes, I lost my lips, I lost my arm, but I forgive." Who is the ICC to say no?' The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, has offered Kony an amnesty and pledged to protect him from the court if a peace agreement is signed. While international arrest warrants have been produced for the army's leadership, people in northern Uganda are beginning to ask when the Government will face justice for the crimes committed by its own soldiers. This has not been a one-sided war. Human rights groups have uncovered thousands of cases of abuses committed by Uganda's government forces. [...]"


"Nation Remembers 1941 Babi Yar Victims"
Wire reports in The Los Angeles Times, 28 September 2006 [Registration Required]
"Bells gently tolled as Ukrainian and foreign dignitaries commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Nazi massacre of Jews at a ravine known as Babi Yar on Kiev's outskirts, placing flower-encircled candles at the foot of a giant monument. At least 33,771 people were killed in 48 hours. In the following months the number topped 100,000. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Israeli President Moshe Katsav led the solemn procession behind an honor guard of Ukrainian soldiers carrying a garland of white flowers. Hundreds of mourners watched, many of them Jews who had traveled from around the world."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Outcry over Toxic Waste Widens as Death Toll Rises"
The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2006
"Ivory Coast has asked Estonia to detain a Panamanian-registered tanker after an eighth person died from exposure to toxic waste unloaded from the vessel and dumped in the West African country last month. Officials from the French embassy said toxic matter recovered from the 13 sites where it was dumped in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan would be shipped for disposal in France. The chief of staff to the Justice Minister said two French executives of the Dutch-based oil-trading firm that chartered the vessel, Trafigura, had been charged under toxic waste and poisoning laws and had been remanded in custody. Tens of thousands of people made sick by toxic fumes sought medical care for vomiting, stomach pains and other symptoms. The Government's slow reaction to the crisis so enraged Ivorians that the cabinet was forced to resign. In a letter sent to the Estonian Environment Minister, the judge heading the Ivorian Government investigation commission, Fatou Diakite, asked Estonia to take 'all measures to immobilise the ship Probo Koala.' 'The aim is to have at our disposal the ship and its crew because we think they can give us the information we need for our inquiry,' Judge Diakite said. Greenpeace activists are blockading the ship in the Estonian port of Paldiski and demanding a European inquiry. [...]"


"Students Walk Across U.S., Pass Through Q-C"
By Steven Martens
Quad-City Times, 28 September 2006
"A group of college students is walking the highways of America to educate people about genocide and what they can do to stop it. The students are participating in the Journey for Humanity, a walk across the country that began in Los Angeles on June 27 and is scheduled to end Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C. Along the way, the students are participating in rallies and meeting with elected officials to talk about genocide, including the current situation in Darfur, Sudan, that has claimed the lives of 400,000 civilians, according to the group. The issue is personal for the students -- Edward Majian, 22, Vahe Abovian, 30, Hasmig Tatiossian, 23, Albrik Zohrabyan, 23, Levon Sayadyan, 24, and Sarkis Nazaryan, 28 -- who are of Armenian descent. From 1915 to 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Majian said the Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge the deaths happened. Majian said the purpose of the walk is to remind people that genocide is not just part of history. 'As we walk, there is genocide going on in Darfur today,' he said. 'People think it will never happen again, but the fact is that it is happening now.' Tatiossian said news reports have not adequately explained to the American people what is going on in Darfur, and that schools also should do a better job of educating young people about the issue. 'It's not taught as a problem that is taking place in the world,' she said. [...]"


"West Bars Arab Bid at IAEA to Rap Israel Atom 'Threat'"
Reuters dispatch, 22 September 2006
"Western nations foiled a bid by Arab and Islamic states on Friday to declare Israel's reputed nuclear arsenal a threat that must be removed in a politically charged vote at a U.N. atomic watchdog meeting. Canada sponsored a 45-29 'no-action' ballot that prevented International Atomic Energy Agency member states from voting on a motion demanding Israel use atomic energy only for peaceful purposes and help set up a Middle East nuclear arms-free zone. But the gathering voted 89-2 for a milder resolution on Israel, also initiated by Arab states, 'affirming the urgent need for all states in the Middle East to accept full-scope IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear activities.' Israel neither admits nor denies having atomic weapons but most experts believe it has about 200 nuclear warheads. Feverish negotiations failed to dissuade Arab delegates from pushing the two resolutions to a vote due to heightened resentment over Israel's battering of south Lebanon in war with Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas. Diplomats said many Arabs were fuming at the West's perceived slowness to stop Israel's heavy bombing of Lebanon that killed mainly civilians before an August 14 ceasefire imposed by a U.N. Security Council resolution. 'The (Western) blocking manoeuvre is astonishing when innocent blood has not yet dried in Lebanon,' said Syrian delegate Ibrahim Othman. He said Israel's exclusive nuclear might in the region caused a destabilising imbalance of power. The United States, European and other Western allies combined to stifle the 'threat' resolution. They said it was politically divisive and undermined the IAEA's traditional consensual approach. Israel said a regional nuclear arms-free zone was a noble idea in principle but dangerous for it so long as some neighbors continued not to recognize the Jewish state, with Iran openly calling for its destruction. 'Current realities in the Middle East ... force Israel to entertain no illusions. The fundamental goal as in other regions is attaining peace with security and stability, not arms control per se,' said Israel Michaeli, Israel's envoy to the IAEA. [...]"


"Peace Operations in Crisis"
By Olivia Ward
The Toronto Star, 25 September 2006
"Calls for troops for Afghanistan are falling on deaf ears. The United Nations is struggling to keep a fragile peace in Lebanon. Thousands of international troops are authorized for blood-spattered Darfur, yet few believe they will arrive in time to stop massive slaughter. 'If the notion of the responsibility to protect the weakest and most powerless among us is ever to be more than an empty promise, then we must take action to save lives,' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told an emergency meeting on Darfur last week. Conflict in Darfur is the world's festering sore, even though the UN authorized a 20,000-strong peacekeeping mission to relieve understaffed and underfunded African Union troops already there. The AU yesterday offered to send more soldiers with a tougher mandate to protect civilians, an option Sudan's government prefers to a UN force. But as demand for peace missions rises, and the supply of ready troops and administrators falls short, worldwide peace operations are in crisis. The UN is poised to boost its peace forces by 40 per cent, stretching its operational capacity and its troop contributors to the breaking point. 'When you talk about finding troops to deploy, we're in trouble,' says Beth Cole De Grasse, a senior program officer for the United States Institute of Peace. 'Add on the other layers of reconstructing countries and we're up the creek with one broken paddle.' From 1999 to 2005, the number of UN peacekeepers rocketed from 12,700 to 60,300, with mandates to deploy a record 90,000 blue helmets. Even that record is shattered, says Bruce Jones, series editor of New York University's Annual Review of Global Peacekeeping Operations 2006. 'When the review came out, we described peacekeeping operations at the UN as in a state of overstretch. But since Darfur and Lebanon, the total would be well over 120,000, and the total ... staff for all the UN mandates would be about 140,000. It's obvious we're in real trouble.' [...]"


"Genocide He Wrote"
By Alexis Soloski
The Village Voice, 25 September 2006
"Even allowing that your play concerns mass murder, it's rather daring to kill off your main character in the first two minutes. But that's how Catherine Filloux begins Lemkin's House, an afterlife-set biography of Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide. After his fatal heart attack, Lemkin finds himself in a crumbling manse. He attempts to relax with New York Times crosswords and a spot of home repair, but must contend with the Hutus, Tutsis, Bosnians, and Serbs who beset his living room. His mother, gassed in the concentration camps, also appears. Lemkin had believed that the law he lobbied so tirelessly for, rendering genocide an international crime, would end such bloodshed. He learns, however, that though the U.S. passed his law in 1988, becoming the 98th country to do so, genocide shows little sign of ceasing. Lemkin had thought the law might serve as epitaph for the 50-odd family members he lost in the pogroms and in World War II. He's saddened to discover what an ineffectual memorial he's made. 'I can see,' he says wryly, 'that Lemkin's law is just another bad Polish joke.' Catherine Filloux, who has written four plays about the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, researched her subject impeccably but lent her play a dreamlike tone that offsets any dryness or didacticism. Yet she has afforded it a somewhat lopsided structure—nearly all of those who assail Lemkin are Rwandan, with just a bit of Bosnia tossed in at the end and throwaway mentions of Cambodia and Darfur. She does, nevertheless, script penetrating dialogue and brief, affecting scenes, ably staged by director Jean Randich and the fine cast. Lemkin may despair, 'When I was alive I was haunted by the dead. Now I'm dead and I'm haunted by the living.' But this play should haunt, and possibly inspire, much of the audience as well."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. I saw "Lemkin's House" on the same day this article was published. It is an exceptional piece of theater that avoids many of the pitfalls one might expect in a treatment of this subject: sentimenality, preachiness, holier-than-thou posturing. And kudos to the very versatile and inspired cast. I recommend the play to anyone who's able to catch it before it ends its current run. Link to ticket information.]


"Breaking Chains of Hidden Past"
By Karen Palmer
The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 2006
"Even in the dank and dim corners of Elmina castle, behind half a metre thick whitewashed walls made of stone, the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore can still be heard. For nearly 400 years that ocean pounding the west coast of Africa carried millions of its people, packed tightly in ships, to the Americas for a life of labour, humiliation and cruelty. As Ghana marks its 50th anniversary of independence next year -- the first African country to cast off its colonial ruler -- it will conduct an unprecedented tourism campaign aimed at black people scattered across the globe by the slave trade. Project Joseph is an invitation to black people to reconnect with the land of their ancestors -- and it comes with an apology, not from the countries most commonly associated with slave masters or slave traders, but from Ghanaians themselves. 'The reason why we wanted to do some formal thing is that we want to be seen to be saying sorry to those who feel very strongly, and who we believe have distorted history, because they get the impression that it was people here who just took them and sold them,' said Emmanuel Hagan, director of research and statistics at Ghana's Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations. 'It's something we have to look straight in the face and try to address because it exists. So we will want to say something went wrong, people made mistakes but we are sorry for whatever happened.' [...]"

"Cosby: Let's All Give $8 Each to Build Slavery Museum", 22 September 2006
"Bill Cosby on Friday called on each American to contribute $8 to help build a national slavery museum amid the battlefields of the Civil War. Cosby, who already has committed $1 million to the project, joined Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder on Friday in launching a new campaign to raise $100 million toward the Fredericksburg museum's $200 million price tag. 'The incentive is that they would join in with the rest of the United States of America in saying yes, as an American, I gave $8 to help build something that tells the story,' he said in a teleconference with Wilder. In a nation of some 300 million people, even a tepid response would surpass the $100 million goal, Cosby said. He admitted this kind of campaign 'generally fails badly. But I'm going to try again because I'm going to present this national slavery museum as a jewel that's missing in a crown.' The campaign marks the latest attempt at fundraising for the U.S. National Slavery Museum, a project in the works for more than a decade. Wilder struggled to find a location before settling on a site near the Rappahannock River, a region where many Civil War battles were fought. For Wilder, $8 has symbolic significance in a campaign to create what is billed as the first national museum dedicated solely to telling the story of American slavery. 'The figure 8, in shape, is both of the shackles, which is the symbol of slavery,' said Wilder, a former Virginia governor and the grandson of slaves. He thought up the museum concept during a visit to Goree Island, the infamous slave shipping post in West Africa. 'If you turn it on its side, it's the symbol of infinite freedom,' he said. Wilder said the museum has about $50 million on hand."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. So where do I send my $8??]


"U.S. Gets 'Sovietized'"
By Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun (on, 26 September 2006
"In the late 1980s, I was the first western journalist allowed into the world's most dreaded prison, Moscow's sinister Lubyanka. Muscovites dared not even utter the name of KGB's headquarters, calling it instead after a nearby toy store, 'Detsky Mir.' I still shudder recalling Lubyanka's underground cells, grim interrogation rooms, and execution cellars where tens of thousands were tortured and shot. I sat at the desk from which the monsters who ran Cheka (Soviet secret police) -- Dzerzhinsky, Yagoda, Yezhov, Beria -- ordered 30 million victims to their deaths. Prisoners taken in the dead of night to Lubyanka were systematically beaten for days with rubber hoses and clubs. There were special cold rooms where prisoners could be frozen to near death. Sleep deprivation was a favourite and most effective Cheka technique. So was near-drowning in water fouled with urine and feces. I recall these past horrors because of what this column has long called the gradual 'Sovietization' of the United States. This shameful week, it became clear Canada is also afflicted. We have seen America's president and vice president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, advocating some of the same interrogation techniques the KGB used at the Lubyanka. They apparently believe beating, freezing, sleep deprivation and near-drowning are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. So did Stalin. [...]"

"Torture is a Moral Issue"
The Nation, 23 September 2006
"As religious leaders in Connecticut we are deeply concerned, indeed horrified, that Congress is poised to legalize torture. Earlier this week, at a press conference at Hartford Seminary, we spoke in one voice to say emphatically: No torture anywhere anytime -- no exceptions. We joined our voices with those of national religious leaders in the National Religious Campaign Against Torture who published an advertisement signed by national figures in Washington's Roll Call on the same day. We are compelled to speak again because the just-announced Republican 'compromise' threatens to compromise the rule of law and the laws of God. Torture is a moral and legal issue; it is also a profoundly religious issue, for it degrades the image of God in the tortured and the torturer alike. Our moral compass is swinging wildly. To tolerate, or worse decriminalize, torture jeopardizes the soul of our nation. If we were not to raise our voices in outrage at this time, the very stones would cry out. [...]"

"Our Torturer-in-Chief"
By Rosa Brooks
The Los Angeles Times (on, 22 September 2006
"[...] True, one man's degradation may be another man's idea of a rousing good time. But unless the administration is claiming that U.S. detainees are grateful for the opportunity to wear dog collars and be dragged around on leashes, 'degrading treatment' isn't a terribly vague concept in practice. And are there people -- other than psychopaths -- who honestly can't figure out whether repeatedly suffocating a prisoner while pouring water over his mouth and nose is cruel or inhuman? If in doubt, take any of the 'alternative' methods that Bush wants to use on U.S. detainees and imagine someone using those methods on your son or daughter. If the bad guys captured your son and tossed him, naked, into a cell kept at a temperature just slightly higher than an average refrigerator, then repeatedly doused him with ice water to induce hypothermia, would that be OK? What if they shackled him to a wall for days so he couldn't sit or lie down without hanging his whole body weight on his arms? What if they threatened to rape and kill his wife, or pretended they were burying him alive? What if they did all these things by turns? Would you have any problem deciding that these methods are cruel? Behind the antiseptic talk of 'alternatives,' 'dietary modification' and 'stress positions' lie methods designed to break human bodies and human minds. Legally and morally, many of the alternative interrogation methods championed by our president are torture, plain and simple. And there is no doubt at all that they're cruel, inhuman and degrading. That's what the president is so worried about. He knows, too well, that the practices he authorized or ordered violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. The recent Supreme Court decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld made that explicit, but the court's holding shouldn't have come as a surprise. It only confirmed what most legal scholars (and military lawyers) have been telling the White House for years. [...]"

"The Pro-Torture Pact"
By Ari Berman
The Nation, 22 September 2006
"Democrats chose to outsource their policy on military tribunals to John McCain. And McCain did what he's done best the last year: capitulate to Bush. 'Senators Snatch Defeat From Jaws of Victory: US to be First Nation to Authorize Violations of Geneva,' Georgetown University law professor Marty Lederman writes of the so-called 'compromise' between Senators McCain/Graham/Warner and President Bush. Says Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office: 'The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a "get out of jail free card" to the administration's top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years. Also under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is -- and what is not -- a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound. In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement. The agreement would also violate time-honored American due process standards by permitting the use of evidence coerced through cruel and abusive treatment. We urge lawmakers to stand firm in their commitment to American values and reject this charade of a compromise.' Adds the Washington Post editorial page: 'In effect, the agreement means that US violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent.' [...]"

By Alexander Dryer, 22 September 2006
"[...] On the surface, the senators seem to have beaten back President Bush's efforts. The Los Angeles Times certainly plays it that way, calling the agreement a 'major concession' on Bush's part and citing the approval of at least one major human rights group. But the New York Times explains that while the Bush administration agreed not to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, an international treaty, the senators agreed that the War Crimes Act, a domestic law, should define what constitutes 'grave breaches' of the conventions. As for less serious violations of the conventions ('those lying between cruelty and minor abuse,' as the Post puts it), the senators agreed Bush should be given the authority to judge the conventions' 'meaning and application.' (He will have to publish his interpretation, but details remain sketchy.) In short, the deal seems to be redefinition once removed, and the Post indicates that may have been all the McCain side wanted from the beginning. The 'biggest hurdle' in negotiations, the paper reports, 'was convincing administration officials that lawmakers would never accept language that allowed Bush to appear to be reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions' [emphasis added]. Certainly presidential counselor Dan Bartlett views the 'compromise' as one of perception only: 'We proposed a more direct approach to bringing clarification. This one is more of the scenic route, but it gets us there,' he says in the pages of the NYT. As for the other main point of contention -- secret evidence -- the senators made more headway; the Post reports defendants will be allowed to see it in 'summary or redacted form.' (Of course, the extent of the redaction is critical: "We are sentencing you to death because of evidence you ???? on ???? with ????' isn't very helpful.) [...]"

NOW AVAILABLE: Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones (Routledge, 2006; 430 pp., US $33.95 pbk). See "The best introductory text available to students of genocide studies ... likely to become the gold standard by which all subsequent introductions to this enormously important subject will be measured" (Kenneth J. Campbell).

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