Sunday, February 25, 2007

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. [...]"

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