Sunday, February 25, 2007

NOW AVAILABLE: Men of the Global South: A Reader, edited by Adam Jones (Zed Books, 2006; 425 pp., US $29.99 pbk). "This impressive collection is a much-needed contribution to the visibility and understanding of diversity in the lives of men from the South" (Dr. Dubravka Zarkov, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague).

Genocide Studies Media File
February 19-25, 2007

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"Atrocity Survivors Still Wait for Justice"
By Paul McGeough
The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 2007
"[...] On Tuesday the upper house voted overwhelmingly -- 50-16 -- to endorse a bill passed in the lower house last month that gives immunity to all accused of atrocities in the Afghan wars, dressing it up in an argument that letting them off would be an act of national reconciliation. Urging Afghans to respect and honour the warlords, the bill states: 'All political parties and belligerent groups who fought each other during the past 2½ decades ... will not be pursued legally or judicially.' Such is the fear today of the old mujahideen warlords and powerbrokers who have seamlessly taken control of the parliament and much of Afghanistan's new government, that the simple act of attending last Friday's memorial service was an act of courage. President Karzai is in a bind. He has endorsed a report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that sets out a detailed national reconciliation plan, and he has said that he cannot accept the amnesty bill passed by the parliament. After Tuesday's vote, a presidential spokesman said Karzai would seek advice on the legality of the amnesty bid, but its backers claim they can override a presidential veto if they can muster a two-thirds vote in the parliament. Karzai has publicly defended some of his most powerful advisers and functionaries who are among the accused, and refused to release or to act on a damning United Nations report on alleged war crimes that was handed to him almost two years ago. When the New York-based Human Rights Watch named the suspected war criminals in a widely accepted report last year, Karzai dismissed it as 'incorrect and regrettable.' ... There is a yearning among Afghans for a South African-style truth-and-reconciliation process to somehow draw a line under the horror of three decades. But there is neither truth nor much hope of reconciliation in the smokescreen bill rammed through the parliament by the warlords and their minions. [...]"

"Afghans in No Mood to Forgive Killers"
By Hafizullah Gardesh and Wahidullah Amani
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 20 February 2007
"Forgive and forget may be a noble aspiration, but it is not playing well in Afghanistan today. A wide spectrum of public opinion, both at home and abroad, has weighed in against a parliamentary resolution passed on January 31, which would grant blanket immunity for war crimes. The resolution, passed by parliament's lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, states that all those 'who fought each other for various reasons during the past two and a half decades should be [included in] the national reconciliation process and should forgive each other. They should not be dealt with through legal and judicial channels.' The resolution, which still has to be passed by the upper house and approved by the president before becoming law, would make it impossible to prosecute those responsible for numerous crimes against humanity during the past 25 years of Afghanistan's long and bloody history. Given the deep and lasting scars from the successive conflicts -- jihad, civil war, the fight against the Taleban -- there are multiple layers of enmity to unravel, and dozens, if not hundreds, of war crimes suspects. Many of those who stand accused of war crimes by human rights organisations are now in positions of power within the government. There are several behind the resolution itself. ... 'Parliament has changed to a safe haven for war criminals and human rights violators,' said Malalai Joya, the young firebrand parliamentarian whose harsh criticism of the warlords has made her a target of death threats and even, on one occasion, of physical violence in the house of parliament itself. 'These people are vipers in our bosom.' Afghan human rights activists also voiced their anger at the proposed law. [...]"


"No Shame in Slaughter"
By Stefan Christoff
ZNet (from the Montreal Mirror), 22 February 2007
"[...] During the explosive events of World War I, Ottoman repression resulted in genocide, with an estimated 1.5 million Armenians massacred and expelled from the crumbling empire. The Armenian genocide persists as a matter of international controversy, one that Turkish activist and scholar Taner Akçam continues to confront. As one of the first prominent Turkish historians to call the slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 a genocide, Akçam's work has garnered international attention. His celebrated new book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, incorporates archival material from British, German, U.S. and Ottoman records. Akçam will be delivering two lectures in Montreal this weekend. 'An official recognition of the Armenian genocide must take place in Turkey,' Akçam tells the Mirror. 'The Armenian diaspora seeks a clear recognition of this historical injustice, which present-day Turkish pro-democracy advocates must support. Despite the international attention toward my book, there has not been one single book review published in Turkey,' he says. 'People in Turkey can't touch the book publicly due to pressure from government authorities.' [...]"


"Aboriginals Sue U.K. Museum Over Bones"
Associated Press dispatch in, 19 February 2007
"A Tasmanian aboriginal group is suing Britain's Museum of Natural History to keep it from conducting tests on bones, teeth and skulls taken from the island, saying Monday that the experiments would desecrate the corpses. The museum agreed last year to return the bones -- mostly obtained during the 1940s -- to Australia, but indicated it wanted first to run tests on them, as they represented some of the few remaining pieces of objective data about the region's original inhabitants. Tasmanians were almost completely exterminated after the 19th-century arrival of white settlers to their island. Out of a population of 4,000, only 200 remained in the 1830s, and the last full-blooded Tasmanian died in 1876. Those who remain today are of mixed descent. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, which has been awarded custody of the remains, said any tests on the bones would defile the remains of victims of genocide. 'They would never dare to do these experiments to the human remains of Jews or Roma or Scots or Manx Islanders,' the center's lawyer, Michael Mansell, said in a statement. 'They intend to mutilate our ancestors without our consent.' The museum said would meet with the aboriginal group, but that it would continue to fight the suit, which goes to court on Thursday. The museum wants to measure, photograph, X-ray and make casts of the bones, along with drilling and shaving off microscopic bits of material from the teeth and skulls to extract genetic material. The group from Tasmania, a southern island state of Australia, questioned whether the experiments would yield any useful information. 'The Natural History Museum's tests were "genetic prospecting" which would desecrate the spiritual beliefs of the community from whom the skulls and bones were taken by grave robbery,' Mansell said. Aboriginals believe a soul is in torment unless the body rests in its native land. [...]"


"'Extraordinary Bad Taste' -- Nazi Camp Site in Nude Photos", 18 February 2007
"Accusations of 'extraordinary bad taste' were levelled Sunday after details emerged of an Austrian designer snapping nude photos at a former Nazi concentration camp. Gudrun Geiblinger, an up-and-coming poster designer, used the memorial site at the former Mauthausen death camp as backdrop for nude photos of herself, the news magazine Profil wrote in its latest edition. The photos, shot in the late 1990s, show Geiblinger naked, wearing only white stockings and high heels, in sensual poses in front of a camp watchtower and hugging a sculpture depicting a dying soldier. Profil quoted Geiblinger, among whose clients are the Austrian army, Siemens and the Austrian Federal Railways, as saying the photos were an 'artistic thought experiment.' She justified the photoshoot by saying she worked on a project at an art school, doing a poster series for Amnesty International and the photos were used for 'brainstorming.' Prison walls, barbed wire and a naked woman -- those images were intended to 'provoke,' she said. 'By coincidence' she discovered Mauthausen had what she needed. 'I did not want Mauthausen as such, what I needed was a prison,' Geiblinger said. However, the provocative project was never realized. Shooting the photos had been easy, she added. Naked beneath her coat, she simply shed it when necessary and had her photographer snap the pictures. In initial reaction Wolfgang Neugebauer, head of the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance, a research instute focusing on Nazi crimes, called for changes in the way the Mauthausen memorial site was run. While Austrian police said the actions would not be considered a criminal offence, initial public reaction spoke of 'extraordinarily bad taste' and little sensitivity for the victims of Nazi crimes. [...]"


"A Serb Raid, But Pressure Eases on War Suspects"
By Beth Kampschror
The Christian Science Monitor, 23 February 2007
"Before dawn on Tuesday, NATO troops seeking indicted Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic raided the homes of relatives who they suspect have been aiding his 11-year flight from justice. But rather than a stepped-up campaign to capture Mr. Karadzic and other men charged with genocide by the UN in 1995, the raid appears to be a last-ditch effort to catch the fugitive and his former associates. Close friends of Karadzic have been recently acquitted of charges that they were helping to finance his life in hiding, and the European Union has backed away from demands that Serbia, which has provided refuge to a number of Bosnian Serb leaders charged with war crimes, give the men up as a precondition for ascension to the EU. NATO officials said Tuesday's raid, which targeted the homes of Karadzic's grown son and daughter in Pale, nine miles east of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, was conducted as part of an effort to expose the shadowy network that Karadzic relies on. But the efforts to break up his logistical and financial support network have been disjointed at best. Though Karadzic's wife, Ljilijan Zelen-Karadzic, and his son, Sasa, are banned from EU travel as part of a series of measures to pressure the family to give him up, his daughter, Sonja -- whose home was raided on Tuesday -- has been exempted. ... The sputtering effort to capture Karadzic has many causes, analysts say. The prosecution of his friends has been marked by incompetence and infighting among prosecutors on Bosnia's internationally supported courts, court members say; in Serbia, former associates like Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is accused of ordering the massacre of 7,500 unarmed Bosnians at Srebenica in 1995, are seen by many as heroes; and for the EU, its concerns over justice in the former Yugoslavia are being weighed against its desire to convince Serbia to allow its largely Muslim province of Kosovo to gain more independence, European diplomats say. [...]"


"U.N. Audits Khmer Rouge Trial"
Associated Press dispatch on, 23 February 2007
"A U.N. agency said it has audited the finances of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, as local and foreign officials involved in the judicial process were divided Wednesday over recent corruption allegations against it. The announcement by the United Nations Development Program, which is managing some of the tribunal's funds, added weight to allegations of corruption made last week by a New York-based legal monitoring organization. The findings of the audit have not yet been announced. The Open Society Justice Initiative alleged in a statement that Cambodian judges and other court personnel had kicked back some of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court. The UNDP said in a statement that its decision to conduct an internal audit action had been prompted by 'various reports' late last year that 'raised concerns about transparency of hiring procedures' of the tribunal. 'UNDP takes such matters very seriously,' it said, adding that findings of the audit -- conducted from January 29 to February 2 -- are being prepared. It did not say if or when they would be released. 'Appropriate action will be taken to respond to the internal audit recommendations,' it said. Corruption permeates the society and administration of Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries. [...]"


"Mass Exodus as Forgotten Tragedy Explodes in Central African Republic"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 21 February 2007
"[...] The Central African Republic has become enveloped in a humanitarian crisis so serious that one-quarter of the population of four million has been affected. Bandits kidnap children, rebel groups destroy villages and rape women, and soldiers kill civilians with impunity. Already 60,000 refugees have crossed into Chad; 30,000 more have fled to Cameroon. At least 150,000 are displaced within CAR itself and humanitarian workers believe up to one million people could soon be on the move. Most are walking -- often for up to 10 days -- to reach safety. Others are selling everything they own to buy a place on one of the trucks operated by CAR's growing number of people traffickers. The shadow of Darfur looms large. The Sudanese region borders CAR's northeast and there has been a sharp increase in ethnically driven attacks in the area. A UN team last month reported that 40,000 of the area's 200,000 residents had been driven from their homes. Unidentified aircraft, rumoured to be Sudanese government planes, have been landing in the area. Darfur rebels and janjaweed alike have been using CAR as a base to launch attacks inside Sudan. In November, Jan Egeland, the UN aid chief at the time, warned of a 'really dangerous regional crisis.' The conflicts in Darfur, Chad and CAR are, he said, 'intimately linked.' The presidents of Sudan, Chad and CAR agreed at a summit in Cannes last week to refrain from supporting rebellions within each other's countries but few experts believe it will make much difference. 'The situation is dire,' said Bob Kitchen, head of mission for the International Rescue Committee, one of the few aid agencies working inside CAR. 'It is very similar to Darfur but this is a forgotten crisis and it is getting worse.' [...]"


"Paramilitary Scandal Takes Colombian Elite by Surprise"
By Juan Forero
The Washington Post, 22 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Col. Hernán Mejía was among Colombia's most decorated officers, a young, strapping warrior with five medals for valor on his chest and a reputation for being a relentless adversary of the Marxist guerrillas who operated in the dusty hamlets of northeast Colombia. But after disclosures that have astonished many Colombians, Mejía has been removed from his post, and the attorney general's office is investigating him for having worked with right-wing paramilitary groups to kill peasant farmers and guerrilla sympathizers. The allegations, announced by Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos in January, mark the first time the military has turned over one of its own to civilian prosecutors on suspicion of collaborating with the death squads. The Mejía case comes as this country -- a linchpin in an unstable region, and the Bush administration's closest ally in Latin America -- is undergoing an imperfect but remarkable judicial process that has produced nearly daily disclosures of ties between death squad leaders and Colombia's political and military establishment. Human rights groups have long contended that the military has used paramilitary groups as a proxy force in its war on rebels, but the depth of those connections -- and the degree to which senior political and military officials are being prosecuted -- has shaken the country. The disclosures also have provided a glimmer of hope for a genuine catharsis in a country that has been enmeshed in conflict for decades. [...]"

"Top Colombia Official Resigns"
By Chris Kraul
The Los Angeles Times, 20 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Colombia's foreign minister resigned Monday, the latest casualty in the country's growing investigation into ties between right-wing paramilitary forces and top politicians. Maria Consuelo Araujo, a favorite of President Alvaro Uribe and a member of a powerful clan, stepped down following the arrest Thursday of her brother and four other lawmakers for alleged links to illegal paramilitary fighters. Araujo, 35, had not been tied to paramilitary forces or the charges against her brother. However, analysts said her status as Colombia's representative abroad had become untenable at a time when the influence of right-wing fighters on various levels of government is an overriding theme. ... In a brief statement to reporters Monday, Araujo said she had told Uribe, 'I am leaving the government and I am going for one reason, and it's that I am attached not to any single job but only to what benefits the country.' As a replacement, Uribe named Fernando Araujo, a former development minister who was held captive by leftist guerrillas for six years until his dramatic escape Dec. 31. He is no relation to his predecessor. The country's Supreme Court has been probing the extent to which the paramilitary forces, labeled terrorists by the U.S. State Department, have infiltrated the highest levels of the Colombian government. Critics have charged that Uribe has not done enough to rein in the militias' influence. Formed in the 1980s as self-defense groups against leftist guerrilla armies, the paramilitary forces in time evolved into mafias that trafficked in drugs, committed murder and rigged elections. A 2003 peace agreement called on 31,000 paramilitary fighters to lay down their arms and offered their leaders relatively light sentences, but critics allege that the top commanders still direct followers' criminal activities from prison cells. [...]"


"Hitler Image on Croatian Sugar Packets"
Reuters dispatch in The Toronto Star, 19 February 2007
"Small packets of sugar bearing the likeness of Adolf Hitler and carrying Holocaust jokes have been found in some cafes in Croatia, prompting an investigation, the office of the state prosecutor said on Monday. 'The local district attorney in (the eastern town of) Pozega has opened an investigation and is currently looking at the matter,' said Martina Mihordin. The Novi List daily newspaper reported that officials at a small factory in Pozega have confirmed the sugar packs were produced on their premises. The incident will embarrass the government which has been keen to play down the country's past links with Nazism. Croatia's Ustasha regime sided with the Nazis in World War Two and enforced ethnic laws under which thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, as well as anti-fascist Croats, were killed in local concentration camps in 1941-45. The Jerusalem-based anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement it had protested the matter to Croatia's authorities. Its director, Efraim Zuroff, expressed his 'revulsion and disgust that such an item could be produced these days in a country in which the Holocaust not only took place, but was for the most part carried out by local Nazi collaborators.' 'If nothing else, this is a disgusting expression of nostalgia for the Third Reich and a period during which Jews, Serbs and Gypsies were mass-murdered (in Croatia),' it said. Zuroff urged Croatia to force the factory owners to recall the sugar packets immediately, in line with a law against racial, religious or ethnic hatred. [...]"


"Menchu Seeks Guatemala Presidency"
BBC Online, 22 February 2007
"Indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu says she will run for president in Guatemala's elections this September. Ms. Menchu will stand for a coalition of the indigenous party Winaq, which she founded earlier this month, and the left-wing Encounter for Guatemala. If elected, she will become the first president from Guatemala's indigenous Maya community. Rigoberta Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work in defence of indigenous rights. She drew attention to abuses during the Guatemalan civil war during which her parents were murdered by the Guatemalan army. She has since led a campaign for Guatemala's former military rulers to be put on trial. Rigoberta Menchu, 48, made her announcement after talks with Nineth Montenegro, who heads Encounter for Guatemala. 'We are two women who share ideas and have extraordinary teams,' said Ms. Menchu. For her part, Ms. Montenegro said that her colleague's candidacy was the start of 'a successful process that will change the country.' Winaq is a Mayan word meaning 'the wholeness of the human being.' If Rigaberta Menchu were to win, she would be the first woman to hold the office, as well as the first Maya president. More than half of Guatemala's 13 million inhabitants are descendants of the Mayans."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Mitt Romney Joins Iran's Hysterical Accusers"
By Gary Leupp, 19 February 2007
"Bizarre though it sounds, more and more public figures in the U.S., echoing Israeli officials, are accusing Iran of genocide. More accurately, of planning genocide, although past and future get all confused in the increasingly reckless rhetoric. Former Massachusetts governor and presidential aspirant Mitt Romney is the latest important politician to level the accusation. In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos February 17, he characterized Iran as 'a genocidal nation, a suicidal nation, in some respects.' ... To support his nonsensical thesis of a 'genocidal, suicidal nation,' the ex-governor adduces a statement made by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of Iran from 1989 to 1997. Rafsanjani has said many things and one can tendentiously use his quotations to make any number of allegations. Romney might for example have cited his statement in a Friday sermon on October 28, 2005: 'We have no problem with Jews and respect Judaism as a holy religion.' Or his comments in a Reuters interview in May 2005: 'I believe the main solution [to the nuclear issue] is to gain the trust of Europe and America and to remove their concerns over the peaceful nature of our nuclear industry and to assure them that there will never be a diversion to military use.' But Romney alludes instead to Rafsanjani's Jerusalem Day speech on December 14, 2001. Here's what Rafsanjani actually said, as translated by BBC: 'If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.' In other words, if the Islamic world acquires strategic parity with Israel, the imperialists' strategy (of intimidating Arab states and Iran through the threat of Israeli action) will no longer be effective. Israel fearing self-destruction will be unable to deploy its nukes, or if it does, will 'only harm the Islamic world' -- too huge to annihilate -- while suffering extinction itself. That is indeed a scenario much on the minds of 'not irrational' American and Israeli strategists. This is why some are so desperate to insure that Muslim countries never so much as acquire the technology that could permit the production of nuclear weapons. [...]"
[n.b. The author is "Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion."]


"Insurgents Use Chlorine in Deadly Bombings"
By Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian, 23 February 2007
"The US military expressed fears yesterday that Iraqi insurgents have embarked on a new phase of the war by using makeshift chemical weapons. A US military spokesman said yesterday a bomb that exploded on Wednesday killing at least five people contained chlorine, the poison used during the first world war and by Saddam Hussein's force against the Kurds in the Halabja massacre in 1988. The bomb at Bayaa, on the outskirts of Baghdad, created a chlorine cloud that left scores choking from the fumes. The Iraqi police said 35 people were still in hospital. The bomb had been on a truck loaded with canisters of the chemical. It was the second such use of chlorine in two days and the third over the past month. The fear is that the mayhem created by the chlorine cloud will encourage others to use the same methods. ... One of those in hospital told Reuters television: 'We were in the shops working when all of a sudden it exploded and we saw yellow fumes. Everybody was suffocating.' A few hours after the attack, a US military vehicle was sent to the scene to test the air. Although chlorine is regarded as safe in small doses, as when used in swimming pools or drinking water, it can be fatal in concentrated form, resulting in burnt tissue and choking. The attack came a day after an incident in which a tanker filled with chlorine exploded north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children. The first chlorine attack killed 16 people on January 28 when a truck filled with explosives and a tank filled with the chemical blew up in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. [...]"

"If Bush is a War Criminal, Then What About the Troops"
By Stephen S. Pearcy, 23 February 2007
"In addition to holding George Bush and U.S. Congress accountable for the illegal occupation of Iraq, American troops must also be prepared to accept responsibility, because we're all presumed to know the law. If we accept that fundamental legal presumption, then those of us who claim that the war is illegal must also acknowledge that the troops are unexcused aiders and abettors. Lt. Ehren Watada's case is a good example. Watada's position is that he has a duty to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq, because those orders effectively command him to pursue an illegal war. Watada correctly understands that obeying those orders could subject him to war crimes charges under a more just administration (which should try George Bush first). Publicly available information about the Iraq invasion has become plentiful over the last several years. Reasonable people contemplating service in the U.S. military should know that people throughout the world regard participation in the occupation as tantamount to aiding and abetting in mass murder, fraud, human rights violations, and international war crimes. By now, all of the troops should recognize this, and ignorance is no excuse. The frequency of U.S.-sponsored war crimes in Iraq is such that it has become the norm rather than the exception. U.S. troops have intentionally and recklessly caused the deaths of so many Iraqi civilians, and continue to do so, that we can now properly regard acts in furtherance of the occupation effort generally to be acts substantially likely to facilitate crimes such as those which have already occurred. From a legal standpoint, obeying Bush's orders is just like when Nazi soldiers obeyed Hitler's orders. And we know from the Nuremberg trials that the 'just-following-orders' excuse is invalid. Watada's case suggests that we should question all troops' willingness to follow their illegal orders. [...]"


"Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care"
By Richard Horton
The New York Review of Books, 15 March 2007
"'Nothing is changing,' says Dr. Jamil Suliman, a pediatrician and now the director of Beit Hanoun Hospital in Gaza. On a quiet January morning, he shows me a clean and well-equipped emergency room, modern X-ray facilities, a pharmacy, and a basic yet functioning laboratory. Dr. Suliman oversees a medical team of more than fifty doctors. But the outlook for the health and well-being of his community, three quarters of whom live in accelerating poverty, is not good. Beit Hanoun sits close to the border of Gaza, a twenty-five-by-five-mile strip of land that is one of the most densely populated and impoverished regions in the world today. As a meeting point between Asia and Africa, Gaza has been fiercely fought over for centuries. With the dismantling of Israeli settlements on the strip in 2005, this tract of land is now wholly Palestinian. Yet its people have hardly any control over their lives, their movements, or their economy. And so Gaza's troubles have not receded. ... In a survey completed by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, over 90 percent of children below the age of eleven experience severe anxiety, nightmares, and physical expressions of stress, such as bed-wetting. Half fear that their parents will not be able to provide essential family necessities, such as food and a home. Forty percent have relatives who died during the second intifada, which began in 2000. ... During the past twelve months, the health systems in Gaza and the West Bank have begun to disintegrate rapidly. [...]"

"Occupied Gaza Like Apartheid South Africa, Says UN Report"
By Rory McCarthy
The Guardian, 23 February 2007
"A UN human rights investigator has likened Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to apartheid South Africa and says there should be 'serious consideration' over bringing the occupation to the international court of justice. The report by John Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, represents some of the most forceful criticism yet of Israel's 40-year occupation. Prof. Dugard said although Israel and apartheid South Africa were different regimes, 'Israel's laws and practices in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.' His comments are in an advance version of a report on the UN Human Rights Council's website ahead of its session next month. After describing the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, with closed zones, demolitions and preference given to settlers on roads, with building rights and by the army, he said: 'Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.' ... Gaza remained under occupation despite the withdrawal of settlers in 2005. 'In effect, following Israel's withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed-off, imprisoned and occupied territory,' he said. [...]"

"Arabs Say Israel is Not Just for Jews"
By Richard Boudreaux
The Los Angeles Times, 22 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"A broadly representative elite of Israel's Arab minority has rejected the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and demanded a partnership in governing the country to ensure that Arab citizens get equal treatment and more control over their communities. In a manifesto that is stirring anger and soul-searching among Jews, Arab leaders have declared that Israel's 1.4 million Arab citizens are an indigenous group with collective rights, not just individual rights. The document argues that Arabs are entitled to share power in a binational state and block policies that discriminate against them. Arab citizens, who make up about one-fifth of Israel's population, have always felt alienated by the Star of David on Israel's flag and a national anthem that expresses the Jewish yearning for a return to Zion. They have long protested the disproportionate Jewish share of budget resources, public services and land. Until now, though, only small groups of Arab intellectuals had dared to advocate collective equality or the abolition of Jewish national symbols. 'The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel' is the first such sweeping demand by Israel's Arab mainstream. The manifesto was drafted by 40 academics and activists under the sponsorship of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel and has been endorsed by an unprecedented range of Arab community leaders. As such, it has set off alarms. As Jewish leaders learned of the document, which was issued in December but not widely circulated until last month, they seized on it as evidence of a growing militancy by a minority that, by and large, openly sympathized with Hezbollah guerrillas fighting Israel in last summer's war in Lebanon. The document does not address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But critics argue that adoption of its proposal to redefine Israel as a binational state would undermine Jewish support for a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a solution to which Israel's government is formally committed. [...]"
[n.b. Are we moving closer to "The One-State Solution" outlined by Virginia Tilley in her recent book of the same name?]

"Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Malnourished"
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, 22 February 2007
"Around 46 per cent of Gaza and West Bank households are 'food insecure' or in danger of becoming so, according to a UN report on the impact of conflict and the global boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The unpublished draft report, the first of its kind since the boycott was imposed when the Hamas government took office last March, says bluntly that the problem 'is primarily a function of restricted economic access to food resulting from ongoing political conditions.' The report, jointly produced by the UN's World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, paints a bleak picture of the impact on food consumption and expenditure throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. It says that the situation is 'more grim' in Gaza where four out of five families have reduced their spending -- including on food -- in the first quarter of last year alone. The report acknowledges that 'traditionally strong ties' among Palestinian families tend to reduce the possibility of 'acute household hunger.' But it warns that against a background of decreasing food security since the beginning of the Intifada since 2000 and the loss of PA salaries because of the boycott there are now 'growing concerns about the sustainability of Palestinians' resilience.' The report is the latest of a series detailing deepening Palestinian poverty as a result of both closures blocking exports from Gaza and the international and Israeli boycott of the PA. Its timing is especially sensitive, coming to light after both Israel and the US indicated that they will maintain the boycott after the planned Fatah Hamas coalition cabinet takes office unless it clearly commits itself to recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to previous agreements with Israel. [...]"


"Philippines Army Accused of Killing Political Activists"
By Justin Huggler
The Independent, 22 February 2007
"Many of the hundreds of unsolved killings of political activists in the Philippines were carried out by the military, a United Nations special envoy said yesterday. The findings of Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, are a damning indictment of the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and have shaken the Filipino establishment. Since President Arroyo came to power in 2001, at least 832 people have been killed or gone missing under mysterious circumstances, 356 of them were left-wing political activists according to a local human rights group, Karapatan. After a 10-day fact-finding mission to the Philippines, Mr Alston said he was convinced a 'significant' number of the killings could be linked to the armed forces. Although he was unable to give an exact figure, Mr. Alston said: 'I am certain the number is high enough to be distressing.' ... Mr. Alston said he did not believe Ms. Arroyo had personally ordered the killings, and instead laid the blame at the feet of the military. 'I do not believe that there's a policy at the top designed to direct that these killings take place,' he said. The military has long claimed the unsolved killings were a purge of its own ranks by the NPA. But Mr Alston said that theory was 'especially unconvincing.' 'The armed forces remains in a state of almost total denial of its need to respond ... to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them,' he said. [...]"


"Rwanda Releases Genocide Prisoners"
Reuters dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 20 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Eight thousand prisoners accused of involvement in Rwanda's 1994 genocide were released Monday, prompting anger from survivors who fear new ethnic killings. Rwanda's prisons have been overflowing with thousands of inmates, some convicted and others awaiting trial in the slayings of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates by Hutu extremists. 'The group that has been released excludes key masterminds of the genocide,' said Rwanda's chief prosecutor, Martin Ngoga. Since a 2003 provisional release decreed by President Paul Kagame, the tiny Central African nation has freed up to 60,000 genocide suspects, including the sick, the elderly and minors. The Rwandan government has said the releases will ease overcrowding in the prisons and foster reconciliation. But as with the earlier releases, genocide survivors expressed outrage. They accuse freed inmates of planning or carrying out more ethnic killings. 'They should ensure that they keep an eye on these people because some of them continue to harbor a genocide ideology,' said Theodore Simburudali, president of the Ibuka genocide survivors group. Hundreds already freed have since been rearrested after committing other crimes, many while trying to destroy evidence related to their alleged involvement in the genocide. New York-based Human Rights Watch recently warned there could be more killings of genocide survivors by perpetrators of the massacre who want to eliminate evidence against them."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"UN Suspects Janjaweed Militia of Mobilising in Darfur"
Sapa-AP dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 21 February 2007
"The United Nations has warned that a significant number of Arab militia, suspected to be the pro-government Janjaweed, is assembling in Sudan's Darfur and that its purposes are not known. The Janjaweed is a militia that has been blamed by UN and African Union officials for numerous cases of rape, arson, looting and killing during the four-year conflict in Darfur. The officials accuse the Khartoum government of arming the Janjaweed and coordinating regular military operations with it -- charges the government denies. In a report released this week, the UN in Khartoum said that the militia, 'suspected to be Janjaweed' were reported gathering about 75km north-east of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. The reason for the gathering is not known, UN spokesperson Radhia Achouri said. She declined to say how many people were in the assembled militia. A telephone message left with the Sudanese government in West Darfur on Wednesday was not immediately returned. [...]"


"Eastwood's 'Letters from Iwo Jima' Elicits Gratitude -- Not Cheers"
By George F. Will, 25 February 2007
"On March 9, 1945, 346 B-29s left the Marianas, bound for Tokyo, where they dropped 1,858 tons of incendiaries that destroyed one-sixth of Japan's capital, killing 83,000. Gen. Curtis LeMay, then commander of the air assault on Japan, later wrote, 'We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo ... than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.' That was inaccurate -- 80,000 died at Hiroshima alone. And in his new biography of LeMay, Barrett Tillman writes that the general was more empathetic than his rhetoric suggested: 'He could envision a three-year-old girl screaming for her mother in a burning house.' But LeMay was a warrior 'whose government gave him a task that required killing large numbers of enemy civilians so the war could be won.' It has been hotly debated how much indiscriminate killing of civilians in the Asian and European theaters really was 'required' and therefore was morally permissible. Even during the war there was empathy for civilian victims, at least European victims. And less than 15 years after the war, movies (e.g., 'The Young Lions,' 1958) offered sympathetic portrayals of common German soldiers swept into combat by the cyclone of a war launched by a tyrant. But attitudes about the Japanese were especially harsh during the war and have been less softened by time. During the war, it was acceptable for a billboard -- signed by Adm. William F. "Bull" Halsey -- at a U.S. Navy base in the South Pacific to exhort 'Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill More Japs.' Killing America's enemies was Halsey's trade. His rhetoric, however, was symptomatic of the special ferocity, rooted in race, of the war against Japan: 'We are drowning and burning them all over the Pacific, and it is just as much pleasure to burn them as to drown them.' ... Perhaps empathy for the plight of the common enemy conscript is a postwar luxury; it certainly is a civilized achievement, an achievement of moral imagination that often needs the assistance of art. That is why it is notable that Clint Eastwood's 'Letters From Iwo Jima' was one of five films nominated for Best Picture. [...]"


"Indian Mascot to Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil"
By King Kaufman, 21 February 2007
"Wednesday night marks the final performance of Chief Illiniwek, the dancing Indian mascot of the University of Illinois. He'll perform one last time at halftime of the last home basketball game of the season, against Michigan, then be retired. Not a moment too soon, and maybe 30 years too late. After nearly two decades of active protest and almost as many years of administrative foot-dragging and committee forming and recommendation ignoring, the university has finally capitulated because the continued existence of the chief was starting to hit the school in the wallet, a very sensitive place. The NCAA had banned Illinois from hosting postseason events because of the offensive mascot. That ban will now be lifted. The argument against the chief has been that it's a demeaning, insulting symbol that perpetuates racist ideas about a culture that has been devastated, all but wiped out, by the majority culture in this country. Maybe I'm a namby-pamby, ultra-p.c. pantywaist for saying that, but I just have this funny idea that maybe the aftermath of a genocide -- an epoch that, for the people in question, lasts generations, if not centuries -- is a good time for a little extra sensitivity. The argument to keep Chief Illiniwek is built around the idea that the mascot honors American Indians. That's a fair thing to argue, and there are American Indians who feel that way. But there are a lot who feel demeaned. And I have to tell you. I'm not an American Indian or an American Indian activist. I feel no particular bond with Native Americans. Their issues are not necessarily my issues. And I've been to Illinois home games and seen Chief Illiniwek perform and it was absolutely squirm-inducing. It felt like watching a minstrel show. [...]"


"Mugabe Feasts -- As His People Starve and His Party Plots"
By John Makura Gweru and Andrew Meldrum
The Guardian, 25 February 2007
"Robert Mugabe celebrated his 83rd birthday yesterday with a lavish feast for the ruling elite while ordinary Zimbabweans faced shops with empty shelves. The hunger of his people, many of whom walked for miles simply to gaze at the tonnes of food on show, did not seem to put the President off his thickly frosted birthday cake, but he was said to be irked by a snub from one of his Vice-Presidents. ... Inside the stadium, Mugabe, his wife Grace by his side, received gifts. A stuffed crocodile was presented by cabinet ministers who said it represented the President's 'maturity and wisdom.' Critics quipped that it more aptly sums up Mugabe's cold-blooded, voracious nature. Organisers raised around £600,000 for the event, held every year for Africa's longest-serving President. Thousands of hungry Zimbabweans turned up after news filtered out that 38 cattle had been slaughtered and tonnes of corn meal ordered for the 10,000 party faithful. Even people who thought they had become inured to the country's seven-year economic slide are increasingly frightened. Inflation has hit 1,600 per cent and is predicted to soar to 4,000 per cent later this year. Unemployment is at 80 per cent and severe shortages of fuel, staple foods and medicines have caused thousands of deaths."


"Hospital Mass Grave Found as India Cracks Down on Female Infanticide"
By Jeremy Page
The Times, 19 February 2007
"Police in central India have found 390 body parts from foetuses and newborn babies -- thought to be unwanted girls -- buried in the backyard of a Christian missionary hospital. Separately, the Government said that it was setting up a network of girls' homes -- dubbed the 'cradle scheme' -- in an effort to stop poor Indians from killing their daughters. Both announcements threw a spotlight on female infanticide and foeticide in India, where an estimated ten million baby girls have been killed by their parents in the past twenty years. Sex determination tests are illegal in India, but many parents -- especially in rural areas -- still bribe doctors to find out their child's gender and to carry out an abortion if it is a girl. Boys in India are traditionally regarded as future bread-winners whereas girls are considered a financial burden because their families must pay dowries to get them married. Acting on a tip-off, police found the body parts on Saturday, some of them stuffed in plastic bags, buried behind the Mission Hospital in Ratlam, a town in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They have seized hospital records, sent the body parts for forensic science tests and taken a hospital sweeper and two doctors into custody. A group of angry neighbours attempted to gain entry to the hospital demanding that action be taken against senior managers but they were stopped by the police. [...]"

"India to Open Orphanages to Take Thousands of Unwanted Girls Who Would Otherwise Be Killed"
By Randeep Ramesh
The Guardian, 19 February 2007
"The Indian government announced a nationwide series of orphanages for girls yesterday, alarmed by the inability to stem the widespread practice of female foeticide. The news came on the day that police arrested two people near the city of Bhopal, in central India, after officers recovered almost 400 pieces of bones believed to be of newly born female babies or foetuses. The orphanage scheme is a reponse to the deepening crisis over the country's 'missing girls.' Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, estimates the number of either female foetuses aborted or newborn girls killed to be 10 million over the past two decades. 'What we are saying to the people is have your children, don't kill them. And if you don't want a girl, leave her to us,' Ms. Chowdhury told wire agencies, adding that the plan envisaged each regional centre would get an orphanage. 'We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation,' she said. There were some concerns that the new scheme would encourage parents to abandon female infants. However, Ms. Chowdhury said that 'it doesn't matter. It is better than killing them.' [...]"


"Va. Lawmakers Pass Slavery Apology"
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 24 February 2007
"Meeting on the grounds of the former Confederate Capitol, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously Saturday to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery. Sponsors of the resolution say they know of no other state that has apologized for slavery, although Missouri lawmakers are considering such a measure. The resolution does not carry the weight of law but sends an important symbolic message, supporters said. 'This session will be remembered for a lot of things, but 20 years hence I suspect one of those things will be the fact that we came together and passed this resolution,' said Delegate A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who sponsored it in the House of Delegates. The resolution passed the House 96-0 and cleared the 40-member Senate on a unanimous voice vote. It does not require Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's approval. The measure also expressed regret for 'the exploitation of Native Americans.' The resolution was introduced as Virginia begins its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, where the first Africans arrived in 1619. Richmond, home to a popular boulevard lined with statues of Confederate heroes, later became another point of arrival for Africans and a slave-trade hub. The resolution says government-sanctioned slavery 'ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding.' [...]"
[n.b. Symbolically significant, but ... the "exploitation" of Native Americans? I can think of a more appropriate word, also beginning with "ex."]

"New Fight, Old Foe: Slavery"
By Jane Lampman
The Christian Science Monitor, 21 February 2007
"The Amazing Change campaign encourages people to sign a petition to end modern-day slavery, donate to the cause, and learn how they can take an active part in the movement. A percentage of funds donated will help four nonprofit groups (Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, Rugmark, and Child Voice International) collect evidence, go to court to free people from current forms of slavery, and help former slaves establish a new life. Last Sunday, churches in all 50 states and several countries participated in 'Amazing Grace Sunday.' Praying together for freedom, the congregations also joined in singing the well-known hymn written by John Newton, a former slave trader. Newton wrote the beloved 'Amazing Grace' around 1770 after a Christian conversion led him into the ministry; he was once Wilberforce's pastor. While slavery takes different forms today, the impact remains devastating to lives around the globe, according to UN and US government statistics. An estimated 300,000 children have been forced to serve as child soldiers in more than 30 conflicts. Each year, human trafficking for sexual servitude or forced labor moves 800,000 people across international borders, including some 17,500 foreigners trafficked into the United States. Some 200,000 people are considered to live enslaved in the US. The number of bonded slaves -- men, women, and children who toil in agriculture or industries -- has reached an estimated 20 million worldwide, says Free the Slaves. Remarkably, many slaves are in the public eye, yet invisible. For example, Kim, a young teen from a family of Tibetan exiles, was surreptitiously sold by a relative to an American minister traveling in India. He brought her back to a rural town in Massachusetts in 1985, where she became his sex slave and household servant. The pastor told Kim her family would be thrown in jail if she told anyone, so while she attended school, she kept the secret for five years. Only when Kim learned her cousins were to share the same fate did she go to the police. [...]"


"Canadian Court Limits Detention in Terror Cases"
By Ian Austen
The New York Times, 24 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Canada's highest court on Friday unanimously struck down a law that allows the Canadian government to detain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely using secret evidence and without charges while their deportations are being reviewed. The detention measure, the security certificate system, has been described by government lawyers as an important tool for combating international terrorism and maintaining Canada's domestic security. Six men are now under threat of deportation without an open hearing under the certificates. 'The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process,' Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the ruling. ... The decision reflected striking differences from the current legal climate in the United States. In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress stripped the federal courts of authority to hear challenges, through petitions for writs of habeas corpus, to the open-ended confinement of foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the constitutionality of that law this week, dismissing 13 cases brought on behalf of 63 Guantánamo detainees. Their lawyers said they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court. In two earlier decisions, the justices ruled in favor of Guantánamo detainees on statutory grounds but did not address the deeper constitutional issues that this case appears to present. At a news conference in Montreal, a defendant, Adil Charkaoui, praised the Canadian court's decision. 'The Supreme Court, by 9 to 0, has said no to Guantánamo North in Canada,' said Mr. Charkaoui, who is under tightly controlled, electronically monitored house arrest. [...]"
[n.b. Well, at this moment, I am pleased to be Canadian.]

"A Trial for Thousands Denied Trial"
By Naomi Klein
The Nation, 22 February 2007
"Something remarkable is going on in a Miami courtroom. The cruel methods US interrogators have used since September 11 to 'break' prisoners are finally being put on trial. This was not supposed to happen. The Bush Administration's plan was to put José Padilla on trial for allegedly being part of a network linked to international terrorists. But Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government. Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an 'enemy combatant' and taken to a Navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a 'truth serum,' a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP. According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defense. ... If these techniques drove Padilla insane, that means the US government has been deliberately driving hundreds, possibly thousands, of prisoners insane around the world. What is on trial in Florida is not one man's mental state. It is the whole system of US psychological torture."

"Is This America?"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 19 February 2007
"[...] On January 18, 2007, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy assessed how Bush's war on terrorism has affected many people around the world who do not hate us but no longer trust us as a lover of liberty and the rights of man. Said Leahy: 'The administration's secret policies have reduced America's standing around the world to one of the lowest points in our history.' I expect that future historians of our continuing decline as a source of liberty and inspiration to the world will tell the story of Maher Arar. In 2002, Arar, a software engineer and citizen of Canada, was kidnapped and flown by the CIA to Syria, where for 10 months he was held in an underground cell seven feet high, three feet wide, and six feet deep ('like a grave,' he said). The persistent tortures he underwent finally forced him to make a false confession of connections to Al Qaeda. On his release, Syrian officials admitted there was a total lack of evidence against him. Then, after a two-year inquiry and its 1,200-page report by a Canadian commission—in which the United States refused to participate—Dennis O'Connor, the chief justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, said, 'I'm able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.' ... On December 7, 2006, the commissioner of the RCMP, Giuliano Zaccardelli, resigned because he had mishandled the case, saying he had 'made a mistake' in not being aware of the false information the RCMP had given the CIA. In this country, you will not be surprised to learn, no one -- at the CIA, the Justice Department, or in Dick Cheney's office of 'dark arts' -- has resigned or admitted any error at all. [...]"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Announcement: Genocide Filmography

My Filmography of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity has just been posted to the accompanying website for Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. The filmography includes some 160 movies and documentaries, with links to relevant pages and other supplementary sources. I hope it will be an important and useful resource for scholars, teachers, and students. Suggestions for works to add to the filmography are most welcome.

Genocide Studies Media File
February 11-18, 2007

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

Consider inviting colleagues and friends to subscribe to Genocide_Studies and the G_S Media File. All it takes is an email to


"Under Siege"
By Lenora Todaro
The Village Voice, 16 February 2007
"'When I am writing fiction I am a different person with many personalitie -- and I am very daring,' says Turkish novelist Elif Shafak during a conversation at the Warwick Hotel. 'Then in my daily life I return to being a person with anxieties and fears.' Shafak is registered under an alias. She cancelled a six-city book tour (reading only in New York) after ultranationalist Turks declared her an 'enemy of the state' for passages in her novel The Bastard of Istanbul referring to the 'genocide' of Armenians 'at the hands of Turkish butchers.' Another such 'enemy' was assassinated on January 19: the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, a dear friend of Shafak's. The Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk cut short his tour of Germany after learning the news. Now Shafak is shadowed by a bodyguard, complete with earpiece and jerky, roving eye. Of the 60 or so intellectuals taken to court by the same ultranationalists for 'public denigration of Turkishness' -- a crime punishable by three years in prison -- only Shafak was called out for the words of her characters. Shafak believes the lawsuits are intended to derail Turkey's bid to enter the European Union by making the nation appear 'insular and xenophobic.' A bestseller in Turkey, The Bastard of Istanbul follows two families: one a Turkish clan living in Istanbul, the other Armenians living in California and Arizona (where Shafak teaches part of the year). Through their stories, Shafak explores a political taboo known in Turkey as 'the Armenian question,' which asks whether in 1915 the deportation and death of more than one million Armenians at the hands of the Turks was 'genocide' or (as the Turkish government contends) part of World War I. [...]"


"Alcohol 'Time-Bomb' of Aborigines"
By Phil Mercer
BBC Online, 12 February 2007
"A report from one of Australia's most respected research bodies has shown that alcohol abuse claims the life of an Aborigine every 38 hours. Suicide is the greatest cause of death among intoxicated indigenous men; for women it is liver cirrhosis or strokes. Australia's National Drug and Research Institute has described the situation as 'very bleak.' The Aborigines are twice as likely to die from the effects of alcohol as their non-indigenous counterparts. Alcohol abuse in many remote Aboriginal communities is like a plague. It is wiping out on average one indigenous Australian every day-and-a-half. Most women die of liver damage. Many others suffer haemorrhagic strokes or bleeding in the brain which can be caused by excessive binge drinking. Australia's National Drug and Research Institute has found that that sort of abuse has caused high rates of suicide among Aboriginal men. Injuries from assaults and car accidents accounted for other deaths. Researcher Dr Tanya Chikritzhs says many Aborigines turn to alcohol because they feel neglected by the rest of society. 'There's so much poverty and unemployment and lack of health services, lack of decent education,' Dr. Chikritzhs said. 'They all add up to what we call social determinants which influence the likelihood of somebody coming up against alcohol or drugs or tobacco for that matter.' [...]"


"Court to Rule in Bosnia Genocide Case Feb. 26"
Reuters dispatch, 12 February 2007
"The World Court in The Hague will deliver a judgment on Feb. 26 in a landmark case in which Bosnia accuses Serbia and Montenegro of genocide in the 1992-95 war, the court said on Monday in a statement. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, opened the case last year, 13 years after Bosnia sued the rump Yugoslav state from which it seceded in 1992, triggering a war in which at least 100,000 people were killed. This is the first case in which a state is on trial for genocide. A U.N. convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide was adopted in 1948 after the Holocaust. If Bosnia wins, it could seek billions of dollars in compensation. Bosnia's Muslims and Croats followed Slovenia and Croatia in breaking away from Yugoslavia in April 1992, against the wishes of Bosnian Serbs, who were left as a one-third minority in what had previously been a Yugoslav republic ruled from Belgrade. Backed by the Yugoslav army, the Serbs responded by swiftly capturing two thirds of Bosnia, besieging Sarajevo and launching 'ethnic cleansing' in which tens of thousands of non-Serbs were killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes. The U.N. war crimes tribunal, not far from the ICJ in The Hague, has already determined that the 1995 Serb massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, was genocide. [...]"

"Bosnian Serbs Won't Accept International Court Verdict On Genocide Case"
Associated Press dispatch on, 12 February 2007
"Bosnian Serbs will not accept any verdict from the International Court of Justice in a genocide case filed by Bosnia against Serbia and Montenegro, the prime minister said Monday. Bosnia-Herzegovina filed the case with the world court in 1993 -- the first time a state, rather than individuals, had been charged with genocide. It is seeking compensation for the loss of life and property during the 1992-95 war, when an estimated 200,000 people were killed and when entire Muslim towns and villages were devastated. No figure was named, but Serbia and Montenegro could be obliged to pay billions of dollars if found guilty. Bosnia is split into a Croat-Muslim federation and the Bosnian Serb state, known as Republika Srpska. Milorad Dodik, prime minister of the Bosnian Serb ministate, said that 'whatever it will be, Republika Srpska will not accept the verdict and will not implement it.' Bosnian Serbs fear that if the court rules that genocide did occur, Muslim officials in Sarajevo would call for the country's unification since Republika Srpska would be defined as having been created as result of genocide. Dodik's comment that his government would reject any verdict seeks to pre-empt such a possibility. Bosnian Serb officials, led by Dodik, object to any unification of the country and insist the Serb ministate must remain separate. Muslim Bosniaks, led by the current member of the Bosnian Presidency, Haris Silajdzic, claim that the country only has a future and could potentially join the European Union if it is unified. [...]"


"Antislavery Efforts Imperiled in Brazil"
By Andrew Downie
The Christian Science Monitor, 16 February 2007
"A decision by Brazil's Congress to curb the powers of labor auditors threatens to jeopardize an antislavery program that led to the release of more than 15,000 slaves and made Brazil a world leader in fighting indentured servitude, officials and activists said here this week. Brazilian lawmakers passed a new law on Tuesday that unites two federal tax bodies in a bid to streamline a complex and bureaucratic system. But one key amendment in the bill strips labor auditors and prosecutors of their power to determine the relationship between employers and employees. The amendment was included at the behest of media companies, who routinely use freelancers and who, under the existing statute, could be punished for doing so by labor auditors. Under the new law, judges are now responsible for defining that relationship. An apparently unintended consequence of the change is that auditors can no longer determine what constitutes slavery, say prosecutors, auditors, and human rights activists. 'This will make it substantially more difficult to register and document incidents,' said Walter Nunes, president of the federal judges association. The amendment also prevents prosecutors from leveling immediate fines on employers found to have deliberately kept slaves. Until now, prosecutors who accompany government auditors to track down reports of slavery in the remote outposts of the Amazon jungle had the power to fine employers they determined were keeping slaves. Last year guilty employers were forced to pay around $3 million in back pay to workers they used as indentured servants. Congress's decision was met with anger and disappointment by antislavery campaigners, who say it will neutralize all the previous work done by a government that had made eradicating slavery one of its proudest boasts. [...]"


"Painful Wait for Justice on Genocide"
By Connie Levett
The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 February 2007
"Vann Nath is a good witness, a rare survivor of Cambodia's most notorious Khmer Rouge torture prison, and he is willing to re-awaken the demons of his past in a genocide tribunal. The question is, will he survive long enough to do that? The 60-year-old is fighting serious kidney disease with twice-weekly dialysis, while the 29 judges -- 17 Cambodian and 12 international -- of the United Nations-backed genocide tribunal battle each other over the rules of engagement. There is a threat of a walkout by the international judges, amid allegations of government interference and concerns about the independence of the Cambodian judges. Many high government officials, including the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, were mid-ranking Khmer Rouge officers. At stake is justice for more than 1.7 million Cambodians who died between 1975 and 1979 under the murderous regime of Brother No.1, Pol Pot. ... Vann Nath was one of only seven survivors from the 17,000 prisoners sent to Tool Sleng, the Phnom Penh prison which was the country's largest torture and detention centre. Only three of those seven are still alive. He was spared after the prison commander, Commodore Duch, discovered his artistic talent and set him to work painting portraits of Pol Pot. The aim of the genocide trial is to bring 'senior leaders and those most responsible' to court. Pol Pot escaped justice when he died in 1998. Since 2003, when the tribunal was agreed to in principle, two more leaders have died. Duch is the only senior Khmer Rouge figure in jail awaiting trial. [...]"

"Dith Pran Recounts Cambodian Genocide"
By Robert Kopacz
Independent Press, 14 February 2007
"Dith Pran, the Cambodian journalist whose experiences in the Khmer Rouge's forced labor camps were portrayed in the 1984 movie 'The Killing Fields,' spoke about his experiences prior to a screening of the film at Drew University on Feb. 6. The film's screening and Mr. Dith's talk were the first in a three-part program entitled 'The Power of the Individual to Resist Evil,' which recalls events of genocide in the 20th century and recognizes the efforts of individuals to resist and prevail. ... Ann Saltzman, co-director of Drew's Center for Holocaust/Genocide Studies, the program's sponsor, when introducing Mr. Dith, noted, 'The Cambodian Holocaust has changed his l'fe forever. He lost 50 relatives by the Khmer Rouge, including his father, three brothers, one sister and their families. His mother died of malnutrition." Only he and one sister survived. Mr. Dith, 64, a composed and confident speaker, becomes passionate as he speaks in encyclopedic terms about the evil of the Khmer Rouge and the geopolitical forces that helped bring them to power. It is hard to believe that it is the same Dith Pran who endured the horrors depicted in the movie. Yet he assures us that not only are the horrors accurately depicted, they were the tip of the iceberg. 'The story that some of you are going to see, compared to what I went through, what the Cambodian people went through, it's a very small amount that we want to show you, because we understand that it is very hard to show the whole story,' he said. [...]"

"You Must Remember This", 9 February 2007 [Transcript of NPR radio broadcast]
"In the 28 years since the fall of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, a skeptical generation has come of age, too young to remember the horror of Pol Pot's regime. Megan Williams reports on a new effort to help them understand those years in hell. BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's been 28 years since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the murderous Communist regime led by Pol Pot. Between April 1975 and January 1979, nearly two million people, about a quarter of the population, were killed or died from starvation, overwork and disease. This year, a United Nations tribunal is set to try the leaders of the regime, at least those who are still alive. But, as Megan Williams reports, there are many in Cambodia who are too young to remember and find it hard to believe what their parents say about those years in hell. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Chris Gombeski for recommending this item.]


"Scandal in Colombia Grows"
By Chris Kraul
The Los Angeles Times, 16 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"The scandal involving alleged links between Colombian lawmakers and illegal paramilitary groups widened Thursday with the arrest of five more members of Congress, including a senator who is the brother of Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo. The arrests of Sen. Alvaro Araujo and the others could further tarnish President Alvaro Uribe, who since being reelected to a second term in a landslide last year has been rocked by allegations that some close legislative supporters have ties to the right-wing armies. The arrests are also bound to increase calls that Maria Araujo resign. The others arrested were Sens. Dieb Maloof, Mauricio Pimiento and Luis Eduardo Vives, and Rep. Alfonso Campo Escobar. Rep. Jorge Luis Caballero was still at large. The orders were issued by the Supreme Court, which handles criminal investigations involving members of Congress. All those arrested are staunch Uribe supporters. No specific charges were revealed Thursday night, although a spokesman for the attorney general's office confirmed that the arrests had been made. Without offering details, a Supreme Court source said the charges were related to illegal dealings with the paramilitary groups. Further complicating Foreign Minister Araujo's situation was the revelation Thursday that her cousin, Gov. Hernando Molina of the northern province of Cesar, is also under investigation in connection with alleged dealings with the paramilitaries, including illegal campaign financing. ... Uribe has been hurt by revelations that some paramilitary leaders have continued to run their criminal empires from jail since demobilizing and pleading guilty in exchange for lighter sentences. Investigations in some cases have confirmed that politicians at the local and national levels who support Uribe were complicit in militia crimes. [...]"


"East Timor Asks for Help as Street Violence Escalates"
By Lindsay Murdoch
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 2007
"The East Timorese Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, has urged the United Nations to bolster security in his country as Australian and other forces in the capital, Dili, struggle to stop violent street attacks. Dr. Ramos-Horta told the UN Security Council in New York that security in the country was 'still fragile and precarious' less than two months before presidential elections scheduled for April 9. He urged the UN to approve sending more police from Portugal to join 1313 international police already in East Timor. The call comes amid growing fears in Dili that groups are plotting to disrupt campaigning before the elections. Some people in the capital were told this week to pay protection money or their businesses would be destroyed. Even though some key gang leaders have been arrested, teenagers are being killed in street fighting almost every day. In the past 48 hours a 13-year-old boy was stabbed three times and a 17-year-old died after being attacked with a machete. One group is planning rallies to protest against the former prime minister Mari Alkatiri being cleared of allegations he was involved in providing weapons to a hit squad set up to eliminate political opponents. Angela Freitas, a 38-year-old East Timorese who was educated in Australia, announced yesterday that she would contest the presidency. Dr Freitas, who is in Darwin, described the situation in East Timor as 'shameful.'"


"French Nazi-era Collaborator Papon Dies"
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 17 February 2007
"Maurice Papon, a former Cabinet minister who was convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews during World War II and became a symbol of France's collaboration with the Nazis, died Saturday. He was 96. Papon, who underwent surgery on his pacemaker at a clinic east of Paris last week, died in his sleep on Saturday, said his lawyer, Francis Vuillemin. Papon was the highest-ranking Frenchman to be convicted for a role in the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. The April 2, 1998, guilty verdict was the culmination of a trial that offered a painful look at one of the darkest periods in modern French history. However, Papon -- who at one point fled France to avoid prison -- lived out his final years a free man, released from Paris' dour La Sante prison on Sept. 18, 2002, because of failing health. In a February 2001 letter to the justice minister, Papon said he had neither 'regrets nor remorse for a crime I did not commit and for which I am in no way an accomplice.' Papon served only three years of a 10-year sentence for ordering the arrest and deportation of 1,690 Jews, including 223 children, from the Bordeaux area to Nazi death camps. 'We fought ... so that he would pay,' said Michel Slitinsky, a Bordeaux historian who narrowly escaped a Papon-ordered roundup and who uncovered documents implicating him. 'He paid. Sadly, he only spent three years in prison, a golden prison, at that.' [...]"


"Jail for German Holocaust Denier"
BBC Online, 15 February 2007
"A German Holocaust denier who regularly lavished praise on Adolf Hitler has been sentenced to five years in jail by a German court. Ernst Zuendel was convicted of 14 counts of inciting racial hatred and for denying that the Nazis killed six million Jews during World War II. He received the maximum sentence under German law which bans Holocaust denial. Zuendel moved to Canada in 1958 but was judged a national security threat and deported back to Germany in 2005. The 67-year-old once published a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, and described the former Nazi leader as 'a decent and very peaceful man.' During his trial in the western German city of Mannheim, he was accused of using 'pseudo-scientific' methods to try to rewrite the accepted history of the Nazi Holocaust in 14 pieces of written work and internet publications. Zuendel had denied the charges, asserting his right to free speech, and questioned the constitutionality of the laws being used against him. Germany hopes to make Holocaust denial a crime across the EU as part of a package of laws it wants to introduce during its presidency of the bloc. Berlin is also set to outline plans to ban Nazi symbols like the swastika, which, like denying the massacre of the Jews, is already outlawed in Germany. However, correspondents says such moves may be seen as curtailing freedom of speech and could prove controversial in several member states."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Great, so now this charlatan is a martyr.]


"Assassinations, Terrorist Strikes and Ethnic Cleansing: Bush's Shadow War in Iraq"
By Chris Floyd, 15 February 2007
"[...] In early 2005 -- not long after Bush's directives loosed the 'Salvador Option' on Iraq -- the tide of death-squad activity began its long and bloody rise to the tsunami-like levels we see today. Ironically, the first big spike of mass torture-murders, chiefly in Sunni areas at the time, coincided with 'Operation Lightning,' a much ballyhooed effort by American and Iraqi forces to 'secure' Baghdad. ... As investigative reporter Max Fuller has pointed out in his detailed examination of information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public Pentagon documents, the vast majority of atrocities then attributed to 'rogue' Shiite and Sunni militias were in fact the work of government-controlled commandos and 'special forces,' trained by Americans, 'advised' by Americans and run largely by former CIA agents. As Fuller puts it: 'If there are militias in the Ministry of Interior, you can be sure that they are militias that stand to attention whenever a U.S. colonel enters the room.' And perhaps a British lieutenant colonel as well. With the Anglo-American coalition so deeply embedded in dirty war -- infiltrating terrorist groups, 'stimulating' them into action, protecting 'crown jewel' double-agents no matter what the cost, 'riding with the bad boys,' greenlighting the 'Salvador Option' -- it is simply impossible to determine the genuine origin of almost any particular terrorist outrage or death squad atrocity in Iraq. ... If these covert operations really are intended to quell the violence, they clearly have had the opposite effect. If they have some other intention, the pious defenders of civilization -- who approve these activities with promotions, green lights and unlimited budgets -- aren't telling."
[n.b. This article is one of the most careful and systematic treatments of the "Salvador option" unleashed by the US in Iraq. Though much remains uncertain in this "shadow world," the sickening torture and mutilation evident on the corpses discovered in Iraqi ditches and garbage dumps bears a striking similarity to the corpses of Salvadorans murdered by genocidal "security" forces that were trained, advised, supplied, and politically supported by the CIA and other US agencies.]

"Shia Rivalry Sparked Battle of Zarqa"
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 15 February 2007
"When the 'Battle of Zarqa' erupted on January 28 in the date palm orchards of Zarqa, 16 kilometres northeast of the holy city of Najaf, the conflict seemed clear. Gunmen battling Iraqi and US forces in a fierce, day-long fight were, say the Iraqi government, a large group of Sunni militants affiliated with al-Qaeda en route to attack the holy shrines in Najaf and the high-ranking Marjaiya clerics, as well as Shia pilgrims, gathering for the ten-day religious festival of Ashura. The group was heavily armed and even managed to shoot down a US helicopter, killing two American soldiers. Sunni attacks on Shia pilgrims during holy days have occurred before. Thus the claim of government ministers in Baghdad and the Iraqi national security adviser, Muaffaq al-Rubaii, seemed plausible. Najaf was about to be attacked by al-Qaeda elements, they claimed, and in an effort to avert the attack, “hundreds of foreign fighters” had been killed. The successful assault thus seemed a major victory for the embattled Iraqi government in its effort to assert authority, especially in Najaf which, along with US forces, had taken control over security in the holy city only the month before. But only one day later the picture looked quite different. The approximately 300 fighters killed in the battle turned out not to be Sunni insurgents as the government had claimed but Shia members of the little-known cult Jund al-Samaa, or Soldiers of Heaven. This religious sect was led by a man named Dhia Abdul Zahra al-Garawi, who claimed he was the Imam Mahdi, whom Shia believe to be the Muslim messiah. So why were they attacked, and into what kind of battle did the Iraq government draw US forces? [...]"

"Iraq's Death Toll is Far Worse Than Our Leaders Admit"
By Les Roberts
The Independent (on, 14 February 2007
"On both sides of the Atlantic, a process of spinning science is preventing a serious discussion about the state of affairs in Iraq. The government in Iraq claimed last month that since the 2003 invasion between 40,000 and 50,000 violent deaths have occurred. Few have pointed out the absurdity of this statement. There are three ways we know it is a gross underestimate. First, if it were true, including suicides, South Africa, Colombia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia have experienced higher violent death rates than Iraq over the past four years. If true, many North and South American cities and Sub-Saharan Africa have had a similar murder rate to that claimed in Iraq. For those of us who have been in Iraq, the suggestion that New Orleans is more violent seems simply ridiculous. ... Finally, there was a study, peer-reviewed and published in The Lancet, Europe's most prestigious medical journal, which put the death toll at 650,000 as of last July. The study, which I co-authored, was done by the standard cluster approach used by the UN to estimate mortality in dozens of countries each year. While the findings are imprecise, the lower range of possibilities suggested that the Iraq government was at least downplaying the number of dead by a factor of 10. ... The consequences of downplaying the number of deaths in Iraq are profound for both the UK and the US. How can the Americans have a surge of troops to secure the population and promise success when the coalition cannot measure the level of security to within a factor of 10? How can the US and Britain pretend they understand the level of resentment in Iraq if they are not sure if, on average, one in 80 families have lost a household member, or one in seven, as our study suggests? If these two countries have triggered an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide, and have actively worked to mask this fact, how will they credibly be able to criticise Sudan or Zimbabwe or the next government that kills thousands of its own people? [...]"


"The Palestinian Accords; Facing Mecca"
By Uri Avnery, 17 February 2007
"Must a Native-American recognize the right of the United States of America to exist? Interesting question. The USA was established by Europeans who invaded a continent that did not belong to them, eradicated most of the indigenous population (the 'Red Indians') in a prolonged campaign of genocide, and exploited the labor of millions of slaves who had been brutally torn from their lives in Africa. Not to mention what is going on today. Must a Native-American -- or indeed anybody at all -- recognize the right of such a state to exist? But nobody raises the question. The United States does not give a damn if anybody recognizes its right to exist or not. It does not demand this from the countries with which it maintains relations. Why? Because this is a ridiculous demand to start with. ... So why is this weird demand addressed to the Palestinians? Why must they recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State? I am an Israeli patriot, and I do not feel that I need anybody's recognition of the right of my state to exist. If somebody is ready to make peace with me, within borders and on conditions agreed upon in negotiations, that is quite enough for me. I am prepared to leave the history, ideology and theology of the matter to the theologians, ideologues and historians. Perhaps after 60 years of the existence of Israel, and after we have become a regional power, we are still so unsure of ourselves that we crave for constant assurance of our right to exist -- and of all people, from those that we have been oppressing for the last 40 years. Perhaps it is the mentality of the Ghetto that is still so deeply ingrained in us. But the demand addressed now to the Palestinian Unity Government is far from sincere. It has an ulterior political aim, indeed two: (a) to convince the international community not to recognize the Palestinian government that is about to be set up, and (b) to justify the refusal of the Israeli government to enter into peace negotiations with it. [...]"
[n.b. A trenchant and superbly-crafted analysis.]


"Italy and Croatia Reopen Old War Wounds"
By Ian Traynor
The Guardian, 13 February 2007
"A furious row was raging across the Adriatic today over the second world war after the presidents of Croatia and Italy traded accusations of racism and barbarism. Italian diplomats called off visits to Zagreb and summoned the Croatian ambassador in Rome for a stiff talking-to; and the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, attacked Croatia after its president, Stipe Mesic, accused his Italian counterpart of racism and trying to rewrite history. Croatia and Slovenia were stunned by a weekend speech by Italy's president, Giorgio Napoletano, devoted to the suffering of Italians in former Yugoslavia towards the end of the second world war. Describing the pogroms of Italians by Yugoslav communist partisans as 'the barbarism of the century,' 'ethnic cleansing' and a campaign of annexation of Italian territory fuelled by 'Slav bloodthirsty hatred and rage,' Mr. Napoletano stirred a storm of controversy and appeared to raise questions about Croatia's bid to join the European Union. Mr. Prodi and his foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema waded into the row yesterday, with Italian officials implying that while Italy had faced up to its fascist past, Croatia had yet to do so. 'We don't need any lessons in fascism from Italy,' quipped a Croatian politician after Mr Mesic said the Italian statesman's speech smacked of 'open racism, historical revisionism, and political revanchism.' The dispute has to do with the pogroms and population shifts enforced at the end of the second world war all across central Europe, but it also touches on sensitive current property claims and compensation demands. Just as millions of Germans were kicked out of central and eastern Europe and many of them killed when the Third Reich collapsed, so, after the fall of Mussolini and the capitulation of Italy, were Italian fascist occupiers and indigenous Italian communities expelled from the eastern Adriatic -- the areas of Dalmatia and Istria that belonged to Yugoslavia and now form parts of Croatia and Slovenia. It is estimated that 150,000 Italians were kicked out by vengeful communist partisans under Josip Broz Tito, and that 15,000 were killed. Many of the corpses were dumped in the thousands of caves that perforate the limestone karst of Dalmatia and Istria. [...]"


"Otto Frank's Hunt for a Visa"
By Marjorie Backman
Time Magazine, 15 February 2007
"About a year before Anne Frank began her diary in June 1942, her father started a writing project of his own. Though most of the world now is familiar with Anne's private musings while her family was in hiding from Nazis, Wednesday's release of the Otto Frank file -- whose discovery was first reported by in January -- by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City reveals yet another side of that family's life and what those who tried to survive the Holocaust were facing. The 65 documents -- typed letters, handwritten notes, telegrams, many browning with age -- show Otto Frank's determined effort, enlisting family and friends, to contact officials to extract his wife, mother-in-law and daughters from Nazi-occupied Holland. For nine months, they tried to secure visas -- first to the U.S. and then to Cuba -- until that window shut. Just three letters of the file were written by Otto Frank, all addressed to university friend Nathan Straus Jr., son of a co-owner of Macy's department store and head of the U.S. Housing Authority. Straus and Frank's brother-in-law, Julius Hollander, regularly corresponded with two private Jewish agencies, the National Refugee Service in New York and the Boston Committee for Refugees. Straus also contacted the State Department on Frank's behalf. Hollander and his brother arranged affidavits from their employers, Jacob Hiatt of E.F. Dodge Paper Box Co. and Harry Levine of the New England Novelty Co., both of Leominster, Mass. New York University professor David Engel likens the correspondence to a blind chess game. The U.S. immigration rules kept changing; the players waited for letters to slowly arrive by mail. [...]"

"Anne Frank's Family Sought U.S. Visa, Letters Show"
By Tom Hals
Reuters dispatch, 14 February 2007
"The father of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose diaries of life hiding from the Nazis became world famous, sought money and help obtaining a U.S. visa from a wealthy New York friend in hopes of escaping Europe, according to documents released on Wednesday. Frank asked for $5,000 from college friend Nathan Strauss Jr., whose father at the time owned Macy's department store, as he tried to escape Holland with his wife, mother-in-law and daughters Margot and Anne, according documents from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City. 'This is the first concrete evidence that he did actually pursue the possibility of escape from Holland,' said David Engel, a New York University professor. A YIVO volunteer discovered the correspondence among the millions of documents in its archives in mid-2005, but the institute had to resolve copyright issues before putting them on display. The letters, telegrams and government documents date from April to December 1941 and show efforts by Otto Frank to get to the United States and Cuba before going into hiding in 1942, a period Anne Frank described in her diary before she eventually died aged 15 in a German concentration camp in 1945. 'It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance,' Otto Frank wrote in a letter to Strauss, who was the head of the U.S. Housing Authority. 'You are the only person I know that I can ask.' Frank asked for $5,000 to cover a deposit related to getting a U.S. visa, but the money was ultimately not needed because the visa was not granted. [...]"


"Liberia: Government Doing Little to Ease Pain of Haunted Past"
Amnesty International Press Release, 15 February 2007
"Amnesty International today revealed that the Liberian government has done little or nothing to bring to justice thousands of people accused of serious human rights violations that took place during the country's protracted armed conflict, in which hundreds of thousands were killed, raped or tortured. Launching a new report, Truth, justice and reparation for Liberia's victims, the organization urged Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to immediately put in place a plan to ensure that perpetrators of past human rights abuses are brought to justice so that the cycle of violence that plagued Liberia for years can finally come to an end. 'Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission currently in place is an important first step, much more can and should be done by the government to address past human rights abuses,' said Kolawole Olaniyan, Amnesty International's Africa Programme Director, speaking in Monrovia. 'The government should not wait for the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before beginning the process of deciding when and how those suspected of committing human rights abuses will be brought to justice -- nor should victims wait to receive reparations. Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has an important role to play in establishing the truth of many of the horrific incidents that took place during the years of conflict in Liberia, it is not a substitute for a court of law. It cannot establish individual criminal responsibility or provide for full reparations to victims,' said Olaniyan. It is difficult to estimate how many were killed in massacres during the 14 years of conflict in Liberia, which was characterized by mass killings and rape. At least sixty percent of the population is estimated to have suffered some form of sexual violence. [...]"


"Genocide? 'I Deny the Lot'"
By Alex Duval Smith
The Observer, 18 February 2007
"The woman regarded by many as an architect of genocide is on the verge of tears. Agathe Habyarimana has been driven to despair by a prosaic reality of everyday life in France. Stateless, without so much as an ID card to show at the post office, an alleged mastermind of the Rwandan massacres is living an administrative nightmare. 'I am so disappointed. I thought this was the land of asylum and human rights,' she said after hearing on Thursday that, 13 years after France's military saved her life, its refugee officials have turned her down on appeal. In a rare interview granted to The Observer in her Paris lawyer's office, Habyarimana, 64, flanked by four of her sons, pre-empts questions : 'It's all lies. I deny the lot.' Glued to her chair, her hands on her lap, she avoids the word 'genocide' to describe the killing of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994, stumbling over her syllables to produce a mumbled 'jonocide'. Her 21 years as first lady ended on 6 April 1994 when the jet carrying her husband, President Juvenal Habyarimana, was shot down over the capital, Kigali. Three days later, this Hutu noblewoman was spirited out of the country by the French military, leaving behind a bloodbath which survivors claim had been planned by her and her associates at least since 1992. [...]"

"President of Rwanda Blamed in Assassinations"
By Sebastian Rotella
The Los Angeles Times (in the Mercury News), 18 February 2007
"[...] In a report to French prosecutors late last year, magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused the Tutsi leader who is now president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, of ordering the assassination. ... Among the dozen Tutsi dissidents who testified in the French inquiry was Aloys Ruyenzi, a former Kagame bodyguard with the wary, melancholy look of a man who has spent years looking over his shoulder. Ruyenzi, 35, says he fled to Europe because Rwandan operatives tried to kill him when he turned against the government. During an interview, he spoke in careful, accented English as he confirmed the testimony he gave to Bruguiere. ... Ruyenzi said he stood guard March 31, 1994, as Kagame and five top aides discussed shooting down Habyarimana's plane. Col. Theoneste Lizinde, a military adviser, was a key plotter, Ruyenzi said. 'Lizinde was from Rwanda, not an exile, so he knew the territory more than the others,' Ruyenzi said. 'Lizinde gave the report on where the plane should be shot. The place was near the airport. 'My testimony was not hearsay. I was an eyewitness. I heard what Kagame said. I was in the room. His quote was: "If the president does not die, we could not win the war."' [...]"


"Isolated But Defiant, The Serbs Trapped by Blood and History"
By Catherine Philp
The Times, 17 February 2007
"To the outside world, they are the bullyboys of Europe. The Serbs have a rather more romantic image of themselves; not so much Roman-style imperialists as the plucky Gauls of Asterix fame. Like the cartoon character's besieged village, Serbia is surrounded by enemy garrisons, according to a postcard on sale in Mitrovica. 'One small country of indomitable Serbs still holds out against the invaders.' But it is in this western corner of Kosovo, beneath the jagged peaks of the Mountains of the Damned, that the real siege is taking place. The Serb enclave of Gorazdevac is surrounded not by hostile Roman garrisons but Albanian villages peopled by bitter survivors of Belgrade's war against them. Instead of wooden stockades, they are protected by the tanks and soldiers of an Italian peacekeeping force. When Serb and Kosovan leaders sit down next week to discuss UN plans for the province’s future, it is the fate of enclaves like Gorazdevac and its Kosovan Serbs that present the greatest threat to stability. A few miles from here, along the Bistrica river are some of the holiest Serb places -- the domed roofs of the Patriarchate of Pec monastery, the sacred seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the striped stones of the Decani monastery, where black-robed monks tend the tomb of St Stefan, the medieval Serbian king. Now, they might as well be on the moon. The villagers do not go there, nor do their children play in the clear waters of the river, not since a gunman in the woods opened fire, killing two teenage boys. [...]"

"U.N. Commander in Kosovo Resigns After Demonstrators' Deaths"
By Nicholas Wood
The New York Times, 15 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"The commander of the United Nations police in Kosovo resigned Wednesday, days after violent clashes between the police and demonstrators left two protesters dead and another critically injured. The commander, Stephen Curtis, a former British police officer, resigned under pressure from the mission’s most senior official, Joachim Rücker. On Tuesday, autopsy reports showed that the two protesters, both men, had been killed by rubber-coated bullets. Television pictures of the demonstration on Saturday in the center of Pristina, the regional capital, showed members of a Romanian riot squad attached to the United Nations firing rubber bullets into the crowd. A third man remains in critical condition in a military hospital, United Nations officials said. ... The United Nations mission has come under substantial pressure to accept responsibility for the handling of the demonstration, which was held in protest of terms set out in a United Nations plan for Kosovo. In the plan, Kosovo is granted de facto statehood -- an army, a constitution and a flag -- but it would still be protected by NATO and overseen by the international community for the indefinite future. ... The United Nations is planning to withdraw from the region by the end of summer and grant the province substantial self-rule, subject to approval by the Security Council. The mission first took over administration of the province in June 1999, after a 78-day NATO-led bombing campaign drove out the Serbian-dominated security forces who were accused of widespread atrocities against the ethnic Albanian population that forms the majority of Kosovo. [...]"

"Serbian Parliament Rejects U.N. Kosovo Plan"
Associated Press dispatch in The Washington Post, 14 February 2007 [Registration Required]
"Serbia's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a U.N. plan that would give virtual independence to the breakaway province of Kosovo. The rejection sends a strong signal that Serbia will be unlikely to compromise over its southern province, meaning a resolution to the dispute over Kosovo's final status will probably have to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council. The proposal, drawn up by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, does not explicitly call for Kosovo's independence but envisions granting the province its own flag, anthem, army and constitution. Serbian President Boris Tadic told parliament that the plan 'essentially opens the way for an independent Kosovo, which is a violation of the essential principles of the U.N. charter that guarantees inviolability of internationally recognized states.' The plan was rejected by a vote of 255 to 15. Tomislav Nikolic, a leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, which controls parliament, said that 'no one can create a new country on Serbia's territory without Serbia's consent.' Kosovo's prime minister said Serbia's views would have no impact on the province's future status. Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when NATO bombing halted then-President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in the province. Belgrade has offered broad autonomy for Kosovo. But Kosovo Albanians, who account for 90 percent of the population, are pushing for complete secession."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"U.S. Slammed for Backing Off 'Genocide' Charge"
By Aaron Glantz, 18 February 2007
"Human rights groups spoke out this week, condemning the United States Special Envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, for claiming the crisis in Darfur no longer constitutes genocide. 'The term genocide is counter to the facts of what is really occurring in Darfur,' Natsios told a gathering at Georgetown University February 7th. The statement shocked many observers since both President Bush and the State Department have used the term 'genocide' to describe the situation in western Sudan. ... Activists point out the killing continues unabated despite ongoing negotiations with the Sudanese government in Khartoum. On Wednesday, the United Nations Mission in Sudan reported that fresh violence has displaced at least 110,000 people in southern Darfur since December. ... On Monday, the European Union Council released a statement from Brussels protesting what they called 'an unsustainable level of insecurity' for humanitarian workers attempting to help refugees seeking relief from the killing. Attacks on relief workers and their property have become common, the aid groups said. There have been at least five car-jackings this month. Those actions prompted a fresh reaction from the U.S. Envoy, Andrew Natsios, on Wednesday. The same man who said 'genocide is counter to what's occurring' told Reuters 'the government has lost control. There is anarchy in large parts of Darfur. The risk is that if the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) leave, the UN humanitarian agencies leave ... there will be no one to care for these people in the camps who can be trusted.' But those statements drew criticisms from campaigners as well. Far from losing control, they argued, the Sudanese government is itself behind much of the violence and displacement. [...]"

"Please Send UN Troops, Say Desperate Refugees in Chad"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 17 February 2007
"[...] Sudan's janjaweed militia, armed Arabs on horseback responsible for so much of the violence in neighbouring Darfur, are carrying out attacks in Chad daily. Chadian Arabs, who have long lived peacefully with non-Arab tribes in eastern Chad, have joined the janjaweed in their attacks on civilians. It is a conflict that United Nations officials are warning could become a genocide. ... As the bloodshed rises in Chad, there are calls from humanitarian agencies working in the region for UN troops to be deployed. A UN technical assessment team visited Chad earlier this month and will recommend to the Security Council next week a force of eight battalions, some 6,000 troops, be sent to the region to quell the violence. Officially, more than 120,000 Chadians have been displaced by the violence -- the number has quadrupled in the past nine months as attacks on villages have soared. The word 'displaced' does not do justice to the terror the janjaweed have inflicted. Men armed with AK-47s, M14s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers have attacked their village, burning huts, raping women and throwing babies into the fire. Their cattle and their goats, their horses and their donkeys have all been stolen. Their harvest has been destroyed. Every last item that they owned has gone and they have been driven from their home -- land their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born on. They have fled to the refugee camps set up by the UN High Commission for Refugees, the nearest thing there is to a safe haven in eastern Chad for the 230,000 people who have crossed the border from Sudan fleeing the violence in Darfur. [...]"

"STAND to Spread Petition on Sudan"
By Rahul Kanakia
By Stanford Daily, 16 February 2007
"Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) plans today to ask students to send letters to Congress, urging lawmakers to expedite the deployment of a 20,000-member peacekeeping force to the war-torn region of the Sudan. The United Nations (U.N.) authorized the mission last May to quell ethnic violence that has resulted in the deaths of over 400,000 people, but the operation has stalled after protests from the Sudanese government. At tables in White Plaza, as well as in Stern, Wilbur and Lagunita dining halls and various other locations on campus, STAND will ask students to sign pre-written letters to their senators and representatives. The campus-wide event will last from noon until 8 p.m. and will begin with a performance by Talisman in White Plaza. Students who sign three letters at Moonbeans will get a free cup of coffee. The letters call on the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Sudan and to put diplomatic pressure on the U.N. to deploy the authorized peacekeeping force without the consent of the Sudanese government; the letters also ask the U.S. to commit to funding the effort and for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states to deploy additional forces. The purpose of the event is to re-energize student activity on the Darfur issue. STAND co-coordinator Nikki Serapio '07 warned against ennui on the part of students, pointing to progress over the years. [...]"

"Darfur Rebel Group Says Accepts Ceasefire, Talks"
Reuters dispatch, 15 February 2007
"One of the biggest Darfur rebel factions said on Thursday it would respect a ceasefire and was ready to resume peace talks with the government to try to halt violence in the region that has killed some 200,000 people. Peace talks have faltered in the past, and only one of three main rebel factions signed a 2006 deal. Since then the rebels have fragmented into numerous factions, but the group which has agreed to the ceasefire is one of the largest. 'We will respect the ... ceasefire and ... once we have our commanders conference we will attend peace negotiations,' rebel commander Jar el-Neby told Reuters. U.N. Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim earlier met Darfur rebel commanders who rejected the 2006 deal. The U.N. Security Council is expected to consult next week on proposals for a mission to protect civilians in eastern Chad, where attacks launched from Darfur have exacerbated ethnic conflicts and displaced tens of thousands. At a French-African summit in the southern French resort Cannes on Thursday, Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic agreed not to support rebels attacking each other's territory, Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said. 'There is a commitment in this agreement that each country will respect the sovereignty of the other countries and no country will support any rebellion within its territory,' Akol told reporters after the meeting. [...]"

"China: Partner in Genocide"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 12 February 2007
"[...] Except for Sudan Tribune, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, and especially Eric Reeve -- who has written thousands of pages of painstakingly documented accounts of the genocide and its perpetrators -- the press has overlooked an especially cunning and vicious strategy by General al-Bashir to avoid any serious negotiations with the various rebel forces for a true, durable peace. ... Absent any current likelihood that NATO or another combination of countries will, by force, make al-Bashir obey the U.N. resolution to admit over 200,000 U.N. forces to stop the genocide, the only alternative may be what Eric Reeves emphasizes: 'All necessary pressure must be brought to bear on China [the dominant player in the oil exploration in Sudan], which alone has the power to force a re-thinking on Khartoum's part.' But on January 16, as China's Hu Jintao was preparing to be the first chief executive of that nation to visit Khartoum, the Chinese assistant foreign minister for Africa, Zhai Jun, said in Khartoum that China would not exert any such pressure on the Sudanese government. And in the January 25 Financial Times, Zhai Jun confidently declared: 'With Sudan we have cooperation in many aspects, including military cooperation. In this we have nothing to hide.' Last year, when 48 African leaders joined in a summit in Beijing, it was General al-Bashir who raised a glass to his hosts in a toast to Sudan's 'partner in many projects.' The general cited oil as being among those projects, but he did not include genocide, facilitated by China's money and weapons. Since the world has allowed more than 400,000 black Africans to be extinguished in this genocide, will China lose face in the world if it invites General al-Bashir to be an honored guest when China hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics? By then there could be more than a million corpses. [...]"

"Visa Row: UN Team Cancels Darfur Visit"
By Robert Evans
Reuters dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 14 February 2007
"United Nations human rights investigators on Wednesday called off a visit to Darfur after Sudanese officials demanded the removal of the UN's former top rights official from the group. The six-member team, set up last December by the UN Human Rights Council after fierce debate between countries defending Khartoum and others accusing Sudan of war crimes in Darfur, said it would pursue its work without entering the country. The group had been due to arrive in Sudan on Tuesday on the second stage of a two-month mission to look into alleged abuses against civilians in the vast, arid region where experts estimate that 200,000 have been killed and 2.5-million driven from their homes in four years of conflict. The Sudanese government, which has been accused of arming Arab militia groups, disputes the death toll and blames continuing violence on rebels who have refused a peace deal. Earlier this week, Sudan's Foreign Ministry said it would not let the new UN team -- headed by 1997 Nobel Peace co-laureate Jody Williams -- into the country unless it dropped one member. Sudanese Foreign Ministry sources said the objection was to Bertrand Ramcharan, a Guyanan who was the UN's Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2003/2004 and sent the world body's first rights team to Darfur. [...]"

"Darfur Rebels Accuse Sudan Govt of Attack"
By Opheera McDoom
Reuters dispatch in The Mail & Guardian, 13 February 2007
"Government forces have attacked Darfur rebel positions ahead of a critical meeting between rebel leaders and African Union and United Nations envoys trying to revive a stalled peace process, rebels said on Tuesday. 'There was an attack from the Janjaweed and government of Sudan early in the morning on the Sudanese Liberation Army [SLA] and on civilians,' said Osman al-Bushra, a rebel commander in Darfur. 'They took livestock and killed civilians,' he added. The civilian deaths could not be immediately confirmed. A Sudanese army spokesperson in Khartoum said he had not been informed of any operations in the past few days in the area. AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim and UN envoy Jan Eliasson plan to travel to Darfur on Wednesday to meet rebel leaders and urge them to form a more unified position to allow peace talks to resume. A May 2006 peace deal was signed by only one of three rebel-negotiating factions and a new rebel coalition has since renewed hostilities with Khartoum. The rebel conference has been delayed many times, twice because of government bombardment, but Darfur rebel commander Jar al-Neby said commanders had begun to arrive from all over Darfur and the meeting should begin on February 19. The army spokesperson denied any operations in Fanga in east Jabel Marra. [...]"


"US Genocide Bill Angers Turks"
By Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, 16 February 2007
"It seems an odd way to treat a friend. Washington's relations with Turkey, a key Nato ally, have been on the slide since 2003 when Ankara's parliament refused to allow US troops to transit into Iraq. That infuriated the Bush administration. Ensuing chaos in Iraq and the impetus the occupation has given Kurdish secessionism infuriated Turks in their turn. Iran and Hamas are other points of strain. One recent poll found that 81% of Turks disapprove of US policies. Now the relationship is heading for a potentially spectacular rupture following the decision of the US House of Representatives' newly installed Democratic leadership to follow France in endorsing a bill officially recognising as genocide the 1915 killings of Christian Armenians by Muslim Turks. As matters stand, there is sufficient bipartisan support to pass the measure if, as expected, it is put to a vote in the next few weeks. ... Calls are already being heard in Turkey for a downgrading of bilateral military cooperation, including logistical assistance to US forces in Iraq. General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the Turkish general staff, went to the Pentagon this week to spell out the possible damaging consequences. 'Turkey is playing the security card against the genocide bill,' wrote columnist Mehmet Ali Birand of the Turkish Daily News. That meant reminding the Americans of Turkey's contributions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, its supportive ties to Israel -- Ehud Olmert was in Ankara yesterday -- and the way it 'actively participates in communications between Iran and the US.' The White House opposes the bill but may be unable to stop it. Meanwhile, the US is urging Turkish 'outreach' to Armenia in the wake of the Hrant Dink murder. [...]"


"A Film Star in Kampala, Conjuring Amin's Ghost"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 18 March 2007 [Registration Required]
"[...] Amin, a charismatic army sergeant and fearsome boxer, seized power in 1971, promising to shake off the vestiges of colonialism. Instead, he plunged his country into a bloodbath, brutally eliminating his enemies -- sometimes quite personally, with a hammer -- until he was overthrown in 1979. More than 300,000 people are believed to have been killed. The movie ['The Last King of Scotland'] tracks those events through a fictional relationship with a young, gullible Scottish doctor, but one reason it seems to resonate with audiences here is because so much of it is true. 'This is not a bad attempt at history,' said Henry Kyemba, the author of 'A State of Blood,' a book he published in exile in 1977 about his years as a minister in Amin's government. ... Some Ugandans said the attention surrounding the film was bittersweet, because many people in the West would now associate Uganda with a shameful period of its history. But those days are over. It took some years after Amin was deposed (he died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003) for Uganda to pull itself together, but today it is one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa. It is a leader in the fight against AIDS, and such a reliable Western ally that as soon as donor nations suggested sending African peacekeepers into chaotic Somalia, Uganda was the first to volunteer. [...]"


"Medical Apartheid in America"
By Margaret Kimberly, 14 February 2007
"'There isn't a better candidate for torture than a person who isn't really considered a person.' The name Josef Mengele is so infamous that it needs no introduction. Mengele was the German doctor who performed medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp. An American doctor, James Marion Sims was equally monstrous, but his name is less well known. Sims was a doctor who routinely performed unnecessary and sadistic surgeries on slaves in Alabama. He opened the skulls of babies and performed gynecological surgeries on women. They were forced to endure unimaginable treatments, all without the ether that had by then become available as an anesthetic. Of course, being enslaved people, they had no choice in any decisions that Sims made about their bodies or their lives. Sims allegedly sought to treat vaginal fistulas caused by complications of child birth. One woman underwent this treatment, without anesthesia, 30 times. He obviously didn't cure her of anything. Because Sims' victims were black Americans their stories remained largely untold. They were not the first or the last black Americans to be subjected to what can only be called torture in the name of scientific investigation. Sims is called 'the father of gynecology' and eventually became president of the American Medical Association. He has been immortalized in a monument that still stands in New York's Central Park. ... A newly published book[,] Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, is a comprehensive chronicle of surgeries performed without anesthesia, the notorious Tuskegee experiments that prevented 400 men from being treated for syphilis over a 40 year period, and forced sterilizations. [...]"

"Utah Mall Gunman Was Srebrenica Survivor, Cousin Says"
Reuters dispatch on, 14 February 2007
"The 18-year-old gunman who shot five people to death in a Salt Lake City, Utah, shopping mall was a survivor of the siege that ended in the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Bosnia's 1992-95 war, a cousin said on Wednesday. Sulejman Talovic, who was killed by police after Monday's shooting spree in which he also wounded four people, fled his village with his family during the Bosnia war to Srebrenica, a U.N.-protected enclave, Redzo Talovic said. They spent two years in the town, during which Bosnian Serb forces besieged the enclave and Talovic's grandfather was killed by shellfire, Redzo Talovic said. When the Bosnian Serbs overran the town in 1995, taking away and massacring some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Talovic and his mother were evacuated by the United Nations and later reunited with his father, Redzo Talovic said. 'They were a good, quiet family, and I remember that he was a nice kid when he was 4 or 5, maybe a little bit playful,' he said, standing in front of the burned-out shell of the Talovic family home in the village of Talovici, eastern Bosnia. 'No one could have supposed that he was going to do such a thing,' Redzo Talovic said. 'Who knows what made him do that?' He could not say what marks Talovic's childhood memories of wartime Bosnia had left on him. Redzo Talovic said he was shocked at the news. 'I couldn't believe it. I heard that his parents are dumbfounded, they can't believe he did that,' said Redzo Talovic, one of the few villagers to have returned to Talovici. Talovic and his family never visited Bosnia or kept in touch after moving to the United States as refugees in 2000, his cousin said. Police said Sulejman Talovic and his mother had lived in Salt Lake City for a few years, during which he had four minor incidents with police as a juvenile. The teenager, dressed in a trench coat and carrying a shotgun, a .38 caliber pistol and what police said was a 'backpack full of ammunition,' opened fire at random on Monday evening, sending terrified shoppers running for cover. [...]"


"Zambia Loses 'Vulture Fund' Case"
BBC Online, 15 February 2007
"[...] Vulture funds -- as defined by the International Monetary Fund and UK Chancellor Gordon Brown among others -- are companies which buy up the debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off, then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest. There are concerns that such funds are wiping out the benefits which international debt relief was supposed to bring to poor countries. A Zambian presidential adviser and consultant to Oxfam, Martin Kalunga-Banda, said $42m was equal to all the debt relief it received last year. He told the BBC that this would take a serious toll on education in Zambia. 'It also means the treatment, the Medicare, the medicines that would have been available to in excess of 100,000 people in the country will not be available,' he added. Mr. Kalunga-Banda added that while the repayment might be legal, it arose from debts accrued when the country was under 'an undemocratic system. The consequences of the debt are impacting on the people of Zambia,' he said. 'The Zambians at that time did not even have even the capacity to know this was happening and that is probably what brings in this issue of unfairness.' ... In 2002, Gordon Brown told the United Nations that the vulture funds were perverse and immoral. 'We particularly condemn the perversity where vulture funds purchase debt at a reduced price and make a profit from suing the debtor country to recover the full amount owed -- a morally outrageous outcome.' Jubilee Debt campaigner Caroline Pearce said that vulture funds 'made a mockery' of the work done by governments to write off the debts of the poorest -- a key theme of 2005's Live8 concert. 'Profiteering doesn't get any more cynical than this,' Ms. Pearce said. 'Zambia has been planning to spend the money released from debt cancellation on much-needed nurses, teachers and infrastructure. This is what debt cancellation is intended for, not to line the pockets of businessmen based in rich countries.' [...]"

"'Vulture Fund' Company Seeks $40 Million Payment from Zambia on $4 Million Debt", 15 February 2007
"[...] In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush declared the United States was taking on the challenges of global hunger, poverty and disease, and urged support for debt relief, which he called the best hope for eliminating poverty. But what exactly are wealthy nations doing to reduce the debt of impoverished countries? Today we take a close look at companies known as 'vulture funds.' Vulture fund companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay. For an in-depth look at this issue, we turn to a BBC Newsnight documentary by investigative reporter Greg Palast. [...]"


"How Do We Stop Genocide When We Begin To Lose Interest After The First Victim?", 18 February 2007
"Follow your intuition and act? When it comes to genocide, forget it. It doesn't work, says a University of Oregon psychologist. The large numbers of reported deaths represent dry statistics that fail to spark emotion and feeling and thus fail to motivate actions. Even going from one to two victims, feeling and meaning begin to fade, he said. ... It is thought that every life is equally important and thus the value of saving lives rises linearly as the numbers of people at risk increase. However, models based on psychology are unmasking a haze on the issue. One model suggests that people react very strongly around the zero point. 'We go all out to save a single identified victim, be it a person or an animal, but as the numbers increase, we level off,' he said. 'We don't feel any different to say 88 people dying than we do to 87. This is a disturbing model, because it means that lives are not equal, and that as problems become bigger we become insensitive to the prospect of additional deaths.' ... His new research follows up an Israeli study published in 2005 in which subjects were presented three photos. One depicted eight children who needed $300,000 in medical intervention to save their lives. Another photo depicted just one child who could be helped with $300,000. Participants were most willing to donate for one child's medical care. The level of giving declined dramatically for donating to help the entire group. Slovic and colleagues Daniel Vastfjäll and Ellen Peters used the same approach but narrowed the focus. Participants in Sweden were shown a photo of a starving African girl, her individual story and the conditions of the nation in which she lives. Another photo contained the same information but for a starving boy. A third photo showed both children. The feelings of sympathy for each individual child were almost equal, but dropped when they were considered together. Donations followed the same pattern, being lower for two needy children than for either individually. 'The studies just described suggest a disturbing psychological tendency,' Slovic said. 'Our capacity to feel is limited.' Even at two, he added, people start to lose it. [...]"


"Drug Company Tries to Block Generic Rival"
By Sarah Boseley
The Guardian, 15 February 2007
"A drug company will sue the Indian government today in a case that campaigners fear will drastically cut the chances of people in poor countries getting cheap medicines that could keep them alive. Novartis is fighting to obtain patent rights in India on its cancer drug Glivec, which will stop generic manufacturers making cheap copies of the $30,000 (£15,000) a year medicine. It argues that without patent laws, investment in new drugs will be jeopardised. However, campaigners fear that if the company won the case the effect could be to block the flow of copycat drugs to the poorest countries in the world. The company argues that India has a 'booming middle-class' that can afford its drug and promises to donate it for free to the poor who cannot. But Oxfam, Médecins sans Frontières and others say donation programmes are 'a short-term fix' and will not ensure a continuous supply of the medicines that poor people need. Novartis wants to overturn the Indian rule that patents are not granted for medicines unless they are genuinely innovative. The Indian government rejected the application on the grounds that Glivec was an existing drug with a minor alteration. If Novartis wins the case, which opens today in Chennai, critics say other drug companies will find it easier to get patents on their drugs and will be able to extend them by minor alterations. This will block the generics companies who, at the moment, produce most of the cheap Aids drugs used in Africa and half the essential medicines distributed in developing countries by Unicef, the UN children's fund. However, in an interview with the Associated press last month, Paul Herrling, head of Novartis's corporate research, said: 'We are deeply convinced that patents save lives. If the patent law is undermined the way it is happening in India, there will be no more investment into the discovery of lifesaving drugs.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Let me urge readers to pick up a copy of Marcia Angell, M.D.'s book, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It (New York: Random House, 2005). Among other things, it demolishes the notion that high drug prices and patent extensions promote "the discovery of lifesaving drugs."]


"EU Anti-Hate Law Sparks Debate on Nazi and Soviet Crimes"
By Renata Goldirova, 16 February 2007
"With Germany reviving its proposal on EU-wide minimum sentences for incitement to racial hatred and genocide denial, some EU states are taking a firm anti-communist stance demanding that totalitarian regimes become part of the bill's scope. Estonia, Poland and Slovenia -- all carrying the burden of a communist past -- demand that denial of the crimes of totalitarian regimes, including communism, should be explicitly mentioned in the text, with one EU diplomat saying 'the aim is to achieve morally equal treatment of the crimes of the Nazis and communism.' But even the camp of post-communist countries is divided over the issue, with, for example, Slovak justice minister Stefan Harabin saying 'we cannot place the two [fascism and communism] on the same level.' According to diplomats, some EU capitals favour the idea of having a separate proposal on political crimes, as the current German proposal is linked to hatred based on race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethic origin. German justice minister Brigitte Zypries, speaking on behalf of Germany's presidency of the EU, was reluctant to reveal details of Thursday's debate which saw no real progress on the issue as yet. But she said that 'all EU states want to give a strong signal of being ready to combat racism and xenophobia' adding there is unanimous support for 'a legal instrument' to be put in place. The current draft proposal outlines two groups of acts that should be punishable by one to three years' of imprisonment throughout the 27-nation bloc. [...]"


"'Honor' Killing Spurs Outcry in Syria"
By Rasha Elass
The Christian Science Monitor, 14 February 2007
"Sixteen-year-old Zahra Ezzo died at the hospital last month after a brutal attack. But it was her brother who confessed to killing her -- and her family who appointed him to carry out the murder. Some experts estimate that 200 to 300 honor killings like Zahra's occur every year in Syria. Most receive little or no attention. But Zahra's murder -- in part because it happened in the capital and not a rural area -- has compelled Syria's grand mufti, cleric Ahmad Hassoun, to publicly condemn the crime, calling for the first time for the immediate protection of girls at risk and for legal reform on the basis that such crimes are un-Islamic. President Bashar al-Assad has also promised to find a solution. Among the public, too, debate is rising about the practice and the laws that protect men who carry out such killings. A key question is whether the brother should go on trial for premeditated murder -- the family had planned it for months -- or as someone who had no choice because the clan's honor was at stake. Syria's law is lenient on a man who kills or injures his female relative if he catches her in 'illegitimate sexual acts with another,' or in a 'suspicious state with another.' If Zahra's brother is tried under this law, he might get out of jail in three months. 'This is what we're trying to change,' said Yumun Abu al-Hosn, a founding member of the Association for Women's Role Development, one of the few nongovernment organizations in Syria. The association runs the girls' shelter where Zahra took refuge in her final months. 'We may not be able to stop honor killings overnight, but at least if the crime is tried as premeditated murder, then Zahra and others like her will have some dignity in death.' [...]"


"CIA Agents Must Be Charged over 'Kidnap and Torture,' Says Judge"
By Richard Owen
The Times, 17 February 2007
"An Italian judge yesterday ordered 26 Americans, most of them believed to be CIA agents, to stand trial for the kidnapping and torture of a Muslim cleric. In the first criminal court case arising from the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme, the judge also indicted five Italians, including the former head of Italy's military intelligence. The trial threatens embarassing revelations over the CIA programme in which terror suspects were seized in one country and taken to another. The tactic has been one of the most controversial in the US led War on Terror. Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was allegedly kidnapped on a Milan street in February 2003 by CIA agents in collusion with their Italian counterparts. He was flown from Aviano to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and then to Egypt, where he claims that he was tortured. He was released in Cairo this week. The trial is likely to encourage prosecutors in other European countries to pursue similar cases. A prosecutor in Munich has issued arrest warrants against 13 people for an alleged kidnapping of a German citizen. It will also increase pressure on other European Governments to disclose the extent of their cooperation with the rendition programme. The Government in Spain has agreed to declassify an intelligence report on the CIA’s use of Spanish airports after a request from a judge. [...]"

"EU Governments Accused over CIA Flights", 14 February 2007
"European governments and secret services accepted and concealed secret U.S. flights taking terrorism suspects across Europe, the European Parliament said on Wednesday. EU lawmakers backed a final report concluding a year of investigations into allegations that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency secretly held terror suspects in Europe and flew some to states that practise torture. The article adopted by deputies said the European Parliament 'condemns extraordinary rendition as an illegal instrument used by the United States in the fight against terrorism. (It) condemns, further, the acceptance and concealing of the practice, on several occasions, by the secret services and governmental authorities of certain European countries.' Lawmakers criticised Italy, backing the conclusions of an Italian prosecutor who wants to try 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, and six Italians for their role in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan. Lawmakers rejected an amendment by the conservative European People's Party that said there was limited hard evidence the government of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was aware of the abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar. The EU assembly has no legal powers over the matter and can only make recommendations. The vote followed a debate in which socialists, liberals, greens and leftists condemned a 'dirty war' waged with European complicity, while conservatives said the probe had yielded little evidence and was fuelled by anti-Americanism. [...]"


"Activist Genocide Scholar"
By Linda Melvern
The Independent, 14 February 2007
"The genocide scholar Eric Markusen spent most of his life trying to understand genocide, trying to fathom how perpetrators and accomplices could act as they did, and to explain the willingness of governments, and their citizens, to engage in the mass killing of innocent people. Markusen's research took him to former Soviet satellites, Cambodia, Croatia and Bosnia, Poland, Serbia, the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, to Rwanda and to Chad. ... Markusen was the author of many articles and books on genocide, but also on nuclear warfare and strategic bombing. At the outset, his interest had been the mass slaughter of civilians in the probable effects of nuclear war, and he had wanted to challenge how the national security policies of powerful states relied on a threat to kill millions of people. ... It was in 1981, while studying nuclear weapons issues at Princeton University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, that Markusen met Robert Jay Lifton and helped Lifton research The Nazi Doctors (1986), for which dozens of former Nazi doctors, as well as surviving victims were interviewed. Markusen and Lifton later co-authored The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi holocaust and nuclear threat, published in 1990. There are today courses on genocide studies at a growing number of universities around the world and in the early Nineties Markusen welcomed the newly emerging field of the study of genocide and the establishment of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. He believed it necessary for new generations of students and citizens to appreciate just how serious the epidemic of genocidal killing had become. While the study of genocide was a profoundly distasteful task, it did require a critical and realistic look at modern society. ... Eric Markusen was gentle, straightforward, committed and decent. He was teacher, a researcher but also an activist for genocide prevention. He was pivotal in the world of genocide scholarship and in July the 2007 conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, to be held at Markusen's suggestion in Sarajevo, will be dedicated in his memory."