Thursday, May 24, 2007

Genocide Studies Media File
May 14-24, 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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"Forgotten Women Turn Kabul into Widows' Capital"
By Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
The Independent, 17 May 2007
"There are two million war widows in Afghanistan, and their plight is easy to forget in Hamid Karzai's capital, where Western-style shopping malls, bars and French restaurants are opening up for wealthy foreign aid workers and Afghan expatriates. Every morning Gul, who was widowed when an American bomb hit her house in 2001, leaves her two daughters to go begging on the streets of Kabul. 'If I'm lucky, I'll make about 50 afghanis (80p), enough to buy two pieces of bread,' she says. Kabul, it is said, is the widows' capital of the world. As many as 50,000 women like Gul live in the city, and many make their home in the abandoned buildings that dot the suburbs, often living in horrific conditions. In a nation with a fractured infrastructure and, at £125 a year, one of the lowest per-capita incomes in the world, many widows are left without relatives able to take them in or offer even modest financial support. Gul's blue burqa at least affords her some dignity. 'The men hurl abuse at me, they make indecent gestures and I'm always being harassed, but at least they cannot see me,' she says. There is no social security system in Afghanistan. Widows are not provided pensions or housing so there is no safety net for them to fall back on. In other Muslim countries, getting remarried can resolve the economic problems of widows. But in Afghanistan's that is not so. Most Afghan men do not want to bring up children from a previous marriage. 'They are fiercely protective of their wives and the mere thought of them being married before is an insult to their honour,' says Maria Akrami, a social worker who runs a small NGO in Kabul. [...]"


"Abbbott Heckled at Stolen Generation Forum"
By Sarah Wiley, 24 May 2007
"Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has been heckled by an audience at a forum for the 10th anniversary of the report on the Stolen Generation. The 1997 report into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families accused governments of genocide and called for an apology and compensation. Members of the audience disrupted the Health Minister's speech at Parliament House in Canberra, calling for the government to say sorry. Mr. Abbott continued with his speech amid heckling and groans from the audience. Earlier, Lowitja O'Donoghue, co-patron of the Stolen Generation Alliance, criticised Prime Minister John Howard's attitude to the Stolen Generation. 'The Prime Minister either doesn't get it, or he doesn't care, and I am not sure which is worse,' Professor O'Donoghue told the forum. Indigenous people were dying of despair, while those in power looked the other way. 'It is for this reason that I have no expectation of an apology from our current Prime Minister,' she said. 'Every state government has taken this important step, and said sorry. But at a federal level, rebuilding relationships is not the name of the game.' Mr. Abbott said later that while he could understand why Prof O'Donoghue wanted a government apology, the debate had moved on. 'The important thing for reconciliation is what happens in the hearts of individual people,' he said. ... 'I'd rather focus on the good things that are happening and the good that has been done than go over old ground.' The Government has announced 22 more staff will be employed for services to help members of the Stolen Generation find their families."


"ICC Begins CAR Mass Rape Inquiry"
By Katy Glassborow
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 22 May 2007
"Prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, ICC, have launched an investigation into mass rape and killings in the Central African Republic, CAR, which took place during fighting between government and rebel forces in 2002 and 2003, following a failed coup. Launching the inquiry on May 22, the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said the conflict appears to have featured a pattern of mass rapes and sexual violence committed against civilians by armed fighters. The CAR government referred the situation to ICC prosecutors in December 2004, providing investigators and lawyers with information relating to the crimes, together with evidence collected for prosecutions in national courts. In 2005, prosecutors sent a team to Bangui, the CAR capital, and found that the Cour de Cassation -- the country's highest judicial body -- was unable to carry out necessary proceedings to investigate and prosecute crimes. The ICC can only intervene if national justice systems are 'unwilling or unable' to deal with cases domestically, and prosecutors concluded that the CAR authorities were unable even to 'collect evidence and obtain the accused.' ... Following criticism that crimes of sexual violence have not featured heavily in arrest warrants for suspects from Uganda, the DR Congo and Darfur -- the other areas the ICC is involved in -- prosecutors stressed that sexual crimes far outnumber killings in CAR. ... Reports used by ICC prosecution investigators indicate that rape has been committed against innocent elderly women, young girls and men, often featuring 'aggravating aspects of cruelty,' such as multiple perpetrators and the forced participation of family members. 'These victims are calling for justice,' said Moreno-Ocampo. [...]"


"Paramilitary Ties to Elite In Colombia Are Detailed"
By Juan Forero
The Washington Post, 22 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"Top paramilitary commanders have in recent days confirmed what human rights groups and others have long alleged: Some of Colombia's most influential political, military and business figures helped build a powerful anti-guerrilla movement that operated with impunity, killed civilians and shipped cocaine to U.S. cities. The commanders have named army generals, entrepreneurs, foreign companies and politicians who not only bankrolled paramilitary operations but also worked hand in hand with fighters to carry them out. In accounts that are at odds with those of the government, the commanders have said their organization, rather than simply sprouting up to fill a void in lawless regions of the country, had been systematically built with the help of bigger forces. 'Paramilitarism was state policy,' Salvatore Mancuso, a top paramilitary commander, said last week at a hearing in this city's Palace of Justice. 'I am proof positive of state paramilitarism in Colombia.' In a scandal that began to gain momentum last fall, investigators have revealed dozens of cases of government collaboration with paramilitary groups. But Mancuso's testimony, buttressed with remarks made in a jailhouse interview by another top paramilitary commander, represents the first time that major players in the scandal have described in detail how the establishment joined forces with them. Dozens of other top commanders are scheduled to testify before special judicial hearings in the coming days and weeks. Their testimony could help uncover the roots of the violence and drug trafficking that have plagued this country and commanded significant aid from Washington. [...]"

"Death-Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombia's President"
By Simon Romero
The New York Times, 16 May 2007
"President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration's closest ally in Latin America, faces an intensifying scandal after a jailed former commander of paramilitary death squads testified Tuesday that Mr. Uribe's defense minister had tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president. The revelations threaten the government of President Álvaro Uribe, who is trying to improve trade ties with the United States. Speaking at a closed court hearing in Medellín, Salvatore Mancuso, the former paramilitary warlord, said Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in the mid-1990s to discuss efforts to destabilize the president at the time, Ernesto Samper, according to judicial officials. Mr. Mancuso also said that Vice President Francisco Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in 1997 to discuss taking their operations to the capital, Bogotá. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said the minister would not comment. The spokesman said a meeting did take place in which Mr. Santos, the defense minister, discussed an effort to reach a peace plan between two guerrilla groups and the paramilitaries. The vice president, who was traveling outside the country, was not immediately available for comment. Mr. Uribe went on national television on Tuesday night, but did not address the allegations. These revelations followed the disclosure this week of an illegal domestic spying program by the national police force and additional arrests of high-ranking political allies of Mr. Uribe on charges of ties to the paramilitaries. [...]"

"Colombian Lawmakers Arrested"
By Juan Forero
The Washington Post, 15 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"The Colombian Supreme Court on Monday ordered the arrest of five more congressmen for alleged links with illegal paramilitary groups, bringing to 14 the number of lawmakers charged in the widening 'para-politics' scandal that has shaken this Andean country and its conservative government. Four of the five have been taken into custody. The attorney general's office also ordered the arrest of six former members of Congress, including Eleonora Pineda, who is well-known for her open friendship with paramilitary commanders. Authorities have accused the lawmakers -- as well as several local officials -- of meeting with paramilitary commanders in 2001 in Santa Fe de Ralito, a town the government had set aside as a haven for negotiations with paramilitary groups, and of signing a document in which they pledged to 'refound the fatherland' and 'build a new Colombia.' ... The arrests are sure to further tarnish Uribe's government. Although the president remains popular, he has seen one ally in Congress after another arrested or linked to paramilitary groups. ... The para-political scandal, meanwhile, has expanded to a point that an opposition congressman alleged in a hearing last month that paramilitary members met at Uribe's ranch in the late 1980s. The Supreme Court is also collecting evidence to establish whether the president's cousin, Sen. Mario Uribe, had met with paramilitary commanders to plot land-grabs; the senator denied any such links in a recent interview. [...]"


"Is Croatia's Judiciary Ready for Its Big Challenge?"
By Lisa Clifford
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 18 May 2007
"All eyes will be on Zagreb County Court next month when the first case transferred to the Croatian judiciary by the Hague tribunal comes to trial. Croatian generals Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac are charged with war crimes allegedly committed against Serbs in 1993. Their trial is expected to generate great interest at home but also in Brussels where EU accession officials will be looking on with keen interest when the case begins on June 18. The judiciary has been Croatia's biggest obstacle to its hopes to join the union in 2009, and observers say a well-run trial could demonstrate that legal reforms have firmly taken hold. Ademi and Norac are indicted for persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; murder; plunder of public or private property; and wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages. The charges against them relate to an attack on Serb civilians in the so-called Medak Pocket, south of the city of Gospic in Croatia. Ademi was acting commander of the Gospic military district and Norac was commander of the 9th Guards Motorised Brigade of the Croatian army during the military operation in the area. At the time, it was part of the Republika Srpska Krajina, a self-proclaimed Serbian entity in Croatia. The indictment says the Medak Pocket was wiped out during the September 9-17 attack by Croat forces and the population of 400 Serbs forced to flee. Many Serbs were killed or wounded and their property stolen. According to the indictment, Ademi and Norac, 'planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of persecutions of Serb civilians of the Medak Pocket on racial, political or religious grounds.' That includes the unlawful killing of Serb civilians and captured and wounded soldiers; cruel and inhumane treatment of local people, including stabbing, cutting of fingers, severe beatings with rifle butts, burning with cigarettes and mutilation. [...]"


"The Dreams of Others"
By Slavoj Zizek
In These Times, 18 May 2007
"[...] Like so many other films depicting the harshness of Communist regimes, The Lives of Others misses their true horror. How so? First, what sets the film's plot in motion is the corrupt minister of culture, who wants to get rid of the top German Democratic Republic (GDR) playwright, Georg Dreyman, so he can pursue unimpeded an affair with Dreyman's partner, the actress Christa-Maria. In this way, the horror that was inscribed into the very structure of the East German system is relegated to a mere personal whim. What's lost is that the system would be no less terrifying without the minister's personal corruption, even if it were run by only dedicated and 'honest' bureaucrats. Equally troublesome is the film's portrayal of Dreyman. He is idealized in the opposite direction -- a great writer, both honest and sincerely dedicated to the Communist system, who is personally close to the top regime figures. ... To ask some obvious questions: If he was such an honest and powerful writer, how come he did not get into trouble with the regime much earlier? Why wasn't he considered at least a little bit problematic by the regime, with his excesses tolerated because of his international fame, as was the case with famous GDR authors like Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Muller and Christa Wolf? ... We are still waiting for a film that would provide a complete description of the GDR terror, a film that would do for the Stasi what Varlam Shalamov, in his unsurpassed Kolyma Tales, did for the Gulag."


"Haitian Ex-Paramilitary Leader to Stand Trial"
Reuters dispatch, 22 May 2007
"A Haitian former paramilitary leader accused of rape and murder in Haiti will stand trial in New York for mortgage fraud, a state judge ruled on Tuesday after a human rights group argued he could escape justice if he were to return to Haiti. Emmanuel 'Toto' Constant, 50, was to have served a reduced prison term in return for pleading guilty in February to fraud and grand larceny. But State Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges rejected that plea agreement based on detailed information he recently received regarding Constant's leadership role in the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, known as FRAPH. 'These allegations, if true, are heinous, and the court cannot in good conscience consent to the previously negotiated sentence,' the judge said in a written ruling. ;The court also cannot consent to time served, as that would be a travesty.' The judge set a trial date of September 24. If convicted, Constant faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. The Center for Constitutional Rights told the judge by letter that Constant should not be deported but instead serve a full sentence for economic crimes in New York because it was likely Constant 'could evade justice in his home country; for human rights violations. The legal rights group said the ex-death squad leader of FRAPH, which formed to undermine former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, fled to New York in 1994 soon after Aristide returned to power and issued his arrest warrant. The group said Constant was a former paid CIA informant and had directly conspired in the assassination of Aristide's Minister of Justice, Guy Malary, but had been allowed to stay in the United States."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Documents From Vast Nazi Archive To Be Made Available to Scholars"
By Mark Landler
The New York Times, 16 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"Electronic copies of documents from a closely guarded Nazi archive will start flowing to several countries for the first time since World War II, following an agreement announced Tuesday by the 11 countries that govern the archive in central Germany. The decision could speed access by historians to a vast repository of material -- most mundane, some revelatory -- about 17.5 million people who passed through concentration camps or were otherwise victimized during and immediately after the Nazi period. The archive has long restricted access to the documents to Holocaust victims' family members, frustrating scholars who complained they were being deprived of access to a vital historical record. 'It is a very important decision for us because it means we can begin sending out copies of our documents as soon as we have the technical capability,' said Iris Möker, a spokeswoman for the International Tracing Service, which runs the archive in Bad Arolsen. The decision, reached at a meeting of diplomats in Amsterdam, carried an important caveat: the institutions that receive the documents, among them the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, cannot offer unfettered access until all 11 countries ratify amendments to a treaty, adopted last year, that will open the archives. France, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece have not yet ratified the treaty. Luxembourg has indicated that ratification is imminent, while the other three nations have not raised any fresh hurdles, according to people who attended the two-day meeting. 'My optimism is that the governments have authorized the digital transfer of the documents,' said Paul Shapiro, the director of advanced Holocaust studies at the museum in Washington, who lobbied the diplomats. 'That would not have happened if they didn't intend to ratify.' Mr. Shapiro added, however, that he could not rule out further delays in what he called a 'long and quite excruciating process.' [...]"


"Rwanda: France Financed Genocide, German Tells Mucyo"
By F. Kimenyi and R. Mukombozi
The New Times (Kigali) (on, 23 May 2007
"A financial expert has told the Mucyo commission that the French government used French pensioners' money to secretly finance the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Martin Marschner, a private insurance broker told the seven-man panel of commissioners that the Paris establishment diverted social security funds into procurement of arms that were sent to Rwanda. 'I became aware of what was taking place on January 12, 1994, when I found out that at least one billion French francs (about Frw 108.75 billion) of my clients' money had disappeared mysteriously,' he alleged. The German-born was testifying to the commission on Monday at Telecom House in Kacyiru on Monday. The panel is charged with gathering and documenting evidence depicting the role of France in the Genocide which claimed the lives of an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. After thorough investigations into the matter, alleged Marschner, it emerged that the funds had been spent on the purchase of fire arms that were being exported to Kigali. He also disclosed that the huge sum, which was deposited in Caisse Centrale De Reassurances, a body managing French insurance institutions, was channeled through its financing department known as Rochefort Finances. As an independent insurance broker using the same institution, Marschner said he later realised that the money amounting to Frw 1bn, including deposits of his own clients had disappeared without a clear accountability between January and August of 1994. ... In his 750-page report which he presented to the commission, Marschner highlighted that the separate accounts used by the French government to finance the flow of arms into Rwanda during the Genocide clearly indicates a syndicated move involving illegal weapons payment and delivery. 'They (French) were also aware that the deal was illegal; that is why they had to use secret accounts managed exclusively in Paris,' he said, adding that the syndicate involved high-ranking French officials in the ministry of finance. [...]"


"War Fears in Kosovo as Moscow Veto Looms"
The Observer, 20 May 2007
"[...] A crisis eight years in the making is unfolding with a giddy inevitability. For while the fighting in Kosovo stopped in 1999, the conflict itself, as diplomats here acknowledge, has never really ended. All that has been held in check has been forced to the surface again. For Kosovo's Albanians, fired up by the repeated promises of their political leaders, there is the prospect that independence may be only weeks away. It is a prospect that has forced Serbs to confront the fact that it may now likely require some act of partition on their part, a gesture that risks retaliation and expulsion of the most vulnerable Serb pockets. Suddenly all is to play for. 'During these past years we have made Kosovo. It is done,' insists Kosovo's Prime Minister, Agim Ceku, former chief of staff of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. 'We have built functioning institutions. We have built our vision for the future. The worst case scenario now is a lack of clarity, an ambiguity.' 'If you ask me what I think the risks of partition are at the moment,' says Naim Rashiti of the International Crisis Group, which issued a report last week warning of the risk of violence if the Ahtisaari plan was abandoned, 'I would say 50-50. And I am worried that, if there is partition, it has the potential to be very dirty, precisely because no one has any plan B.' [...]"

"Radical Serbia Speaker Steps Down"
BBC Online, 13 May 2007
"The nationalist speaker of Serbia's parliament has stepped down after just five days in the job. Tomislav Nikolic's removal was a condition of a deal reached on Friday between the country's two main parties, who hope to form a coalition. Serbia's parliament can now vote on the new coalition cabinet, which should receive formal approval on Tuesday. The coalition partners must form government by 15 May, nearly four months after parliamentary elections. Western governments had expressed serious concern at Mr. Nikolic's election to Serbia's third most powerful position and feared the country may be abandoning its road to reform. In an emotional resignation speech in parliament, Mr Nikolic warned the new government that if it 'peacefully accepts' independence for Kosovo, his nationalist Radical Party would not 'sit calmly and wait.' 'I resign from the post ... but be sure that I will watch closely what your new government will do,' he said. Mr. Nikolic has previously called for military intervention in Kosovo if it splits from Serbia. [...]"


"UN Official Wants Inquiry into Somali 'War Crimes'"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 15 May 2007
"A senior United Nations official has called for an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, following weeks of fighting that has left more than 1,600 people dead and caused hundreds of thousands to flee. Sir John Holmes, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator, who visited Mogadishu on Saturday, said there was 'clearly a need' for an investigation by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour. Ethiopian tanks and helicopters bombarded Mogadishu residential districts during weeks of fighting in March and April as Somalia's Ethiopian-backed interim government attempted to pacify an insurgency. Civilians were caught in the crossfire of what the Red Cross described as the worst fighting in the capital for 15 years. Human rights groups and regional analysts have accused the government and the Ethiopian forces of committing war crimes. Sir John said Somalia's interim President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, and interim Prime Minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, had agreed there should be an investigation. 'They accepted it very clearly,' he said. Jose Diaz, a spokesman for Ms. Arbour, confirmed that the UN was ready to send a team of human rights investigators to Mogadishu. 'It is good to hear that this is the government's position. It needs urgent attention,' he said. Up to 400,000 people have fled the capital since the insurgency began at the end of January. A further 300,000 are believed to be displaced within the city. The fighting has made it difficult for aid agencies to reach those in need and the majority of those who fled Mogadishu are still without any humanitarian assistance. Some Somali businessmen have sought to take advantage of the situation. In some areas, the price of water has risen by 2,000 per cent, while in others a 'shade tax' has been introduced, charging women and children to sit under a tree. [...]"


"Crisis Appeal for Darfur Region"
BBC Online, 24 May 2007
"UK charities have launched an emergency appeal to save lives in Sudan's Darfur region and neighbouring countries. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) says 4.5m people are affected by the conflict in the region while looming rain threatens to bring further misery. Hundreds of thousands have been living in camps for up to four years. DEC head Brendan Gormley said: 'We are seeing one of the greatest concentrations of human suffering right now in Darfur and Chad.' Some 200,000 people have died in Darfur since a rebellion began in 2003. Pro-government Arab militias have been accused of widespread atrocities, such as mass killings, rape and looting black African villages. The DEC, which represents 13 aid agencies, says the start of the rainy season brings the risk of conditions such as diarrhoea and malaria which threaten children, pregnant women and the elderly in particular. It says malnutrition levels are already rising in some areas and "vital help" is needed to respond to a rapidly-growing crisis. The DEC said aid agencies also needed to bolster life-saving food and medicines before the rains hit anytime in the next four weeks. [...]"

"China Tries to Head Off a 'Genocide Olympics': Frederick Kempe"
By Frederick Kempe, 23 May 2007
"When I Googled the words 'China, Olympics, and Genocide,' I came up with some 774,000 hits -- and that was just in English. This focus on China, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, has prompted the country to begin pressing Sudan to end a war that has led to 400,000 deaths in the Darfur region since 2003. China is Sudan's biggest trade partner. ... It looks like China is beginning to realize that with great power comes great responsibility. Less generously put, growing external pressure on issues ranging from Sudan to economic policies are forcing China to understand what the U.S. has known for a long time: Global leadership brings increased international scrutiny. ... China's policy is shifting under the pressure of global-rights campaigners who are threatening to redub the 2008 Games in Beijing, which have been advancing under the slogan 'One World, One Dream,' as the 'Genocide Olympics.' One of the most important of the activists, Eric Reeves of Smith College, concluded long ago that only China -- as a United Nations Security Council member and Sudan's biggest economic and diplomatic partner -- could stop the killing. He and others reckoned that classic diplomacy offered little leverage compared with the threat of lumping Beijing's Olympics together with the Nazi-stained Games of 1936. Sounds like a stretch? Not to actress Mia Farrow and her son Ronan, who wrote a critical op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in late March. That turned up the heat on China as well as their Hollywood neighbor Steven Spielberg, who has visited China in preparation for helping to stage the Olympic ceremonies. 'Is Mr. Spielberg, who in 1994 founded the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust, aware that China is bankrolling Darfur's genocide,' the Farrows wrote. It's hard to know what role this campaign had in China's changed approach to Sudan, but change it has. 'We have an increasingly cooperative relationship with China on Darfur,' said Jan Eliasson, the UN special envoy to Darfur, at the Atlantic Council in Washington last week. 'There is a certain unease among the Chinese that they in the past were seen as stopping action in Darfur. And I don't think they want to be placed in that position again.' [...]"

"Chinese Official Decries Attempts to Link Darfur, Olympics"
By Edward Cody
The Washington Post, 19 May 2007 [Registration Required]
"China's new foreign minister on Friday denounced U.S. and European efforts to link the Beijing Olympics with Chinese policy in Darfur, saying they run counter to the Olympic spirit. The comments, from Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, underscored China's determination to prevent anything from spoiling the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which are viewed by the public and government as an international endorsement of China's rising status and its effort to cultivate friendly relations with countries around the world. 'There is a handful of people who are trying to politicize the Olympic Games,' Yang told reporters after meeting with the visiting British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett. 'This is against the spirit of the Games. It also runs counter to the aspirations of all the people in the world, and so their aims will never be achieved.' A group of 108 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Chinese government last week warning that the Beijing Olympics could be endangered if China did not change its policies in Sudan. The Bush administration, while praising China for recent steps, has long complained that Beijing is not doing enough to pressure the Sudanese government to accept a full U.N. peacekeeping force in the embattled Darfur region. In addition, some U.S. entertainment figures have raised the threat of an Olympic boycott unless China moves more forcefully to use its influence in Khartoum, with which it has deep economic and military ties. [...]"

"China Up Against the Wall"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 15 May 2007
"[...] As the organizing effort compelling China to get its partner Sudan to end the genocide takes shape, I will be alerting those of you who want to get involved. Already, there is a grassroots, staffed operation that can provide a range of information: Olympic Dream for Darfur ( Its companion website is The leader of Olympic Dream for Darfur is Jill Savitt, formerly with Human Rights First. Senior adviser to the project is Smith College's Reeves, who has done more than anyone I know to keep a meticulously accurate record—and analysis—of Sudan's multiple crimes against humanity. His website is worth looking at regularly, including its 'Genocide Olympics' pages: Olympic Dream for Darfur is not a boycott operation. Its focus is on organizing activities to put persistent pressure on China to force Sudan to end the mass murders and mass rapes. Among such actions, with more to come, are international teach-ins, rallies, vigils, and counter Olympic relays in a series of countries to vividly call attention to China's complicity in genocide. That's for openers. Also coming, Savitt tells me, 'will be other creative actions that people can dream up.' I've told her that I expect that many of those contacting Olympic Dream for Darfur will also—on their own—get involved in boycotts of the Summer Olympics and of its corporate sponsors. Unlike Eric Reeves and his colleagues, I am not opposed to boycotts of the Olympics or the corporate sponsors of the games. But all I can do is write. Jill Savitt, Eric Reeves, and all the others involved in Olympic Dream for Darfur are not just writing and talking—they are doing something, and I hope you will keep in contact with them. And if you intend to visit the Summer Olympics, don't just sit there. [...]"


"Why There's Little Coverage of the Andijan Massacre in Uzbekistan"
By Michael J. Jordan
The Christian Science Monitor, 15 May 2007
"Two years ago this week, Uzbekistan's security forces opened fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Andijan, killing 187 people. That's the official number. The actual figure was likely hundreds more, say most observers. With the anniversary of the 'Andijan massacre,' one would expect Western journalists to flood into this ex-Soviet republic. They would be expected to write stories about how a predominantly Muslim nation in Central Asia that Washington had enlisted in its 'War on Terror' had since clamped down on dissent. They would likely note that Freedom House, the pro-democracy watchdog based in Washington, now ranks Uzbekistan as among "the worst of the worst" abusers of human rights and civil liberties in the world. Instead, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has effectively gagged the media. Besides persecuting independent local journalists and blocking critical news websites, Tashkent has barred entry to most foreign correspondents. 'It's easily explained: [Mr.] Karimov doesn't want any foreign witness to what's going on,' says Elsa Vidal, head of the Europe desk for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. Yet, Uzbeks are puzzled -- and upset -- by this lack of foreign coverage. Revealing the depth of their isolation, one Uzbek journalist asked me at a recent videoconference to mark World Press Freedom Day, 'Why are no foreign journalists in Uzbekistan? Not interested?' [...]"


"Why Africa Won't Rein in Mugabe"
By Scott Baldauf
The Christian Science Monitor, 16 May 2007
"When African leaders nominated Zimbabwe -- a country with 2,200 percent inflation, looming famine, and authoritarian tendencies -- to chair the UN Commission for Sustainable Development this past week, they may have been sending the world a message. By giving Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the yearlong chairmanship, Africa has signaled defiance of the West, which has attemptedto isolate Zimbabwe for alleged human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. Many African nations have grown increasingly frustrated by the development policies of Western donors that they see as intrusive and harsh. When Australia cancels a cricket tour to Zimbabwe, as it did this week, or when the European Union refuses to hold an EU-Africa summit, as it has for the past six years, because of Mr. Mugabe, many Africans see the pressure as neocolonial habits that must be broken. For many across the continent, Mugabe's muscular land confiscation from white farmers and talk of social justice still have appeal. ... While most African leaders recognize that following Zimbabwe's anti-Western stance would be an act of economic suicide, Mr. Kagwanja says that Africa is throwing its support behind Zimbabwe to show its disinclination to be pushed around by the powerful West. ... For the West, Zimbabwe is a pariah nation. British newspapers regularly refer to Mugabe as 'Mad Bob,' and Australia said Monday it would spend $15 million backing Mugabe's critics, just a day after banning the cricket tour. But for many in Africa, Mugabe is something of a hero. He's seen as a man who took land away from whites whose ancestors swindled or stole the land from blacks nearly a century ago. [...]"


"Cluster Bombs Cause Decades of Harm, Says Study"
By Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, 17 May 2007
"Millions of people will be endangered by up to 132m cluster bomblets that have not yet exploded, causing lasting economic and social harm to communities in more than 20 countries for decades to come, a leading charity warned yesterday. Handicap International studied data from nine countries most heavily affected by the weapon and found that about 440m cluster bomblets had been dropped there since 1965. Based on failure rates of 5-30%, the group estimated that 22m-132m of the devices remain unexploded. The vast majority of cluster bomb casualties occur while victims are carrying on their daily lives, says the report, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities. The huge numbers turn 'homes and crucial social areas of the people living in affected countries into de facto minefields,' says the Brussels-based charity. 'As men and boys are the traditional earners and the majority of casualties, the economic loss for both the short term and the distant future cannot be underestimated.' In Afghanistan, boys between five and 14 who are tending animals are most likely to be casualties. In Laos, more than 1,000 people were killed by submunitions while weeding or sowing crops. In many cases people knowingly enter contaminated areas out of economic necessity, the report says. In southern Lebanon cluster munitions contaminate approximately 90% of the land used for farming. The contamination of essential land is reflected in the rise of cluster bomb casualties from two per year prior to 2006 to two per day in the months following last summer's conflict with Israel. In Iraq, the repeated use of cluster bombs has left a devastating legacy that continues to severely restrict the lives of its people, the charity reports. More than 4,000 civilians have been killed or injured by failed cluster munitions since the end of the 1991 Gulf war. Some 60% of the casualties have been children. [...]"
[n.b. For the full text of the Handicap International report, see I was personally not aware of the enormous disparity in the gender of victims, with men and boys standardly comprising 80 percent or more of the victims.]


"Nestlé 'Bypasses' Baby Milk Code"
By Joanna Moorehead
The Guardian, 15 May 2007
"Thirty years after a boycott of Nestlé products was launched to highlight its unethical marketing of baby formula in developing countries, baby formula manufacturers are still failing in their responsibilities towards the world's poorest mothers and babies, Save the Children claims today. It says around 1.4 million children die each year of illnesses such as diarrhoea that could have been prevented if they were being breastfed. But -- despite the dangers of mixing infant formula with dirty water and using unsterile bottles -- food companies continue to use aggressive marketing techniques to keep their share of a multi-million pound market. Since 1981, baby milk manufacturers have been bound by a World Health Organisation-ratified code which bans direct marketing to mothers and free samples, which can undermine successful breastfeeding. But, the report says, 'manufacturers are still flouting the code by heavily promoting manufactured baby milk and food.' A Guardian investigation in Bangladesh found widespread use of 'prescription pads,' where Nestlé reps give health workers tear-off pads, with pictures of their products, for them to pass on to mothers. Nestlé spokesman Robin Tickle said he did not believe the pads equated to promotion of the company's formula milks. The device was 'a safety measure,' to help mothers to be sure the milk they were buying was the right kind for their baby."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


[n.b. The following items are presented in chronological order.]

"Pope Assails Marxism and Capitalism"
By Victor L. Simpson
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 13 May 2007
"[...] Touching on a sensitive historical episode, [Pope] Benedict said Latin American Indians had been 'silently longing' to become Christians when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors took over their native lands centuries ago. 'In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture,' he said. Many Indians, however, say the conquest of Latin America by Catholic Spaniards and Portuguese lead [sic] to misery, enslavement and death. [...]"

"Brazil's Indians Offended by Pope Comments"
By Raymond Colitt
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, 14 May 2007
"Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's 'arrogant and disrespectful' comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and a revival of their religions would be a backward step. In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were 'silently longing' for Christianity, he said. Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement. Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society. 'It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs,' said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab. Several Indian groups sent a letter to the Pope last week asking for his support in defending their ancestral lands and culture. They said the Indians had suffered a 'process of genocide' since the first European colonizers had arrived. Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples, although some later defended them and many today are the most vociferous allies of Indians. 'The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians but they already asked forgiveness for that ... so is the Pope taking back the Church's word?' said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state. [...]"

"When Does Genocide Purify? Ask Pope Benedict"
By Adam Jones, 18 May 2007
"Pope Benedict XVI's recent trip to Brazil seems to have done little to shore up the Catholic Church's declining power in its Latin American heartland. It went a long way, however, towards confirming Benedict's reputation as a reactionary bigot. ... On the last day of his visit, in the city of Aparecida, the Pope 'touch[ed] on a sensitive historical episode,' in the blandly understated language of an Associated Press dispatch (May 13). In other words, he ripped the bandages off a still-suppurating wound. According to the official text of Benedict's comments on the Vatican website, the Pope declared that 'the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean' were 'silently longing' to receive Christ as their savior. He was 'the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it ...' Colonization by Spain and Portugal was not a conquest, but rather an 'adoption' of the Indians through baptism, making their cultures "fruitful" and "purifying" them. Accordingly, 'the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.' So there we have it. The invasion and conquest of the Americas, which caused the deaths of upwards of 90 percent of the indigenous population, was something the Indians had been pining for all along. They weren't just 'asking for it,' as sexist cranks depict women as complicit in their own rapes. They were actually 'longing' for it, since salvation and 'purification' came with it. ... Benedict's astounding comments attracted barely a flicker of media attention in the West -- almost all of it on the wire services, and some of it problematic in itself. A May 13 Reuters dispatch noted blithely that, contrary to Benedict's claims, 'many Indian groups believe the conquest brought them enslavement and genocide.' This is rather like writing that 'many Jewish groups believe that the Nazi Holocaust brought Jews enslavement and genocide.' The reality exists independently of the belief. As blogger Stentor Danielson points out: 'In the real world, it's a basic historical fact that the Indians were enslaved. It's a basic historical fact that entire tribes were wiped out. The reason [that] "many Indian groups believe" these historical facts is because people like Reuters' craven reporters won't admit when there's a fact behind the claims.' [...]"

"Pope Recognizes Colonial Injustices"
By Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2007
"Confronted with continued anger in Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday acknowledged that the Christian colonization of Indian populations was not as rosy as he portrayed in a major speech earlier this month in Brazil. The pope did not apologize, as some indigenous and Latin American leaders have demanded. However, he said it was impossible to ignore the dark 'shadows' and 'unjustified crimes' that accompanied the evangelization of the New World by Roman Catholic priests in the 15th and 16th centuries. 'It is not possible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon,' the pope said. 'Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelizing the Latin American continent.' Still, he said, recognizing the sins should not detract from the good achieved by the missionaries: 'Mentioning this must not prevent us from acknowledging with gratitude the marvelous work accomplished by the divine grace among these people in the course of these centuries,' he said. Benedict was addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly public audience. Benedict made his first papal voyage to the Americas this month, visiting Brazil. In his final and most important speech of the five-day visit, he gave what many saw as a revisionist account of history. Indigenous populations, he said at the time, welcomed their European colonizers because they were 'secretly longing' for Christ 'without realizing it.' Conversion to Christianity 'did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture,' he said. The pope made no mention of forced conversions, epidemic illnesses, massacres, enslavement and other abuses that most historians agree accompanied colonization. Indigenous rights groups, plus the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, were incensed. [...]"


"Where Anti-Arab Prejudice and Oil Make the Difference"
By Roger Howard
The Guardian, 16 May 2007
"In a remote corner of Africa, millions of civilians have been slaughtered in a conflict fuelled by an almost genocidal ferocity that has no end in sight. Victims have been targeted because of their ethnicity and entire ethnic groups destroyed -- but the outside world has turned its back, doing little to save people from the wrath of the various government and rebel militias. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a depiction of the Sudanese province of Darfur, racked by four years of bitter fighting. But it describes the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has received a fraction of the media attention devoted to Darfur. The UN estimates that 3 million to 4 million Congolese have been killed, compared with the estimated 200,000 civilian deaths in Darfur. A peace deal agreed in December 2002 has never been adhered to, and atrocities have been particularly well documented in the province of Kivu -- carried out by paramilitary organisations with strong governmental links. In the last month alone, thousands of civilians have been killed in heavy fighting between rebel and government forces vying for control of an area north of Goma, and the UN reckons that another 50,000 have been made refugees. How curious, then, that so much more attention has been focused on Darfur than Congo. There are no pressure groups of any note that draw attention to the Congolese situation. In the media there is barely a word. The politicians are silent. Yet if ever there were a case for the outside world to intervene on humanitarian grounds alone -- 'liberal interventionism' -- then surely this is it. The key difference between the two situations lies in the racial and ethnic composition of the perceived victims and perpetrators. In Congo, black Africans are killing other black Africans in a way that is difficult for outsiders to identify with. The turmoil there can in that sense be regarded as a narrowly African affair. In Darfur the fighting is portrayed as a war between black Africans, rightly or wrongly regarded as the victims, and 'Arabs,' widely regarded as the perpetrators of the killings. In practice these neat racial categories are highly indistinct, but it is through such a prism that the conflict is generally viewed. It is not hard to imagine why some in the west have found this perception so alluring, for there are numerous people who want to portray 'the Arabs' in these terms. [...]"
[n.b. I'm not persuaded by this analysis. Those who are most dedicated to the Darfur cause -- student activists on university campuses around Norht America -- are the most cosmopolitan, least reflexively anti-Arab people on the continent. There is a reasonable point to be made about the lack of attention to Congo; but I do not think racism and political favoritism go very far to explain it.]


"Climate Change to Force Mass Migration"
By John Vidal
The Guardian, 14 May 2007
"A billion people -- one in seven people on Earth today -- could be forced to leave their homes over the next 50 years as the effects of climate change worsen an already serious migration crisis, a new report from Christian Aid predicts. The report, which is based on latest UN population and climate change figures, says conflict, large-scale development projects and widespread environmental deterioration will combine to make life unsupportable for hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the Sahara belt, south Asia and the Middle East. According to the development charity, the world faces its largest movement of people forced from their homes. 'Forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor nations,' said John Davison, the report's lead author. 'Climate change is the great, frightening unknown in this equation.' About 155 million people are known to be displaced now by conflict, natural disaster and development projects. This figure could be augmented by as many as 850 million, as more people are expected to be affected by water shortages, sea level crises, deteriorating pasture land, conflicts and famine, the report says. The authors admit that the figures are uncertain 'because there are no recent, authoritative global figures on the number of people who could be displaced by climate change.' 'But the lack of knowledge must not lead to a neglect of what can be done now to prevent displacement and to help people who are affected,' says the report, which says the best way to reduce people's vulnerability would be to reduce global poverty. [...]"


"Discrimination against Girls 'Still Deeply Entrenched'"
By Terri Judd and Harriet Griffey
The Independent, 15 May 2007
"Almost 100 million girls 'disappear' each year, killed in the womb or as babies, a study has revealed. The report, 'Because I am a Girl,' exposes the gender discrimination which remains deeply entrenched and widely tolerated across the world, including the fact that female foeticide is on the increase in countries where a male child remains more valued. The report highlights the fact that two million girls a year still suffer genital mutilation, half a million die during pregnancy -- the leading killer among 15 to 19-year-olds -- every 12 months and an estimated 7.3 million are living with HIV/Aids compared with 4.5 million young men. Almost a million girls fall victim to child traffickers each year compared with a quarter that number of boys. Of the 1.5 billion people living on less than 50p a day, 70 per cent are female, with 96 million young women aged 15 to 24 unable to read or write -- almost double the number for males. ... Statistics show that 62 million girls are not even receiving primary school education while an estimated 450 million have stunted growth because of childhood malnutrition. 'Why, in an era that saw the term "girl power" coined, are millions of girls being condemned to a life of inequality and poverty?' the report asks. Graça Machel, the children's rights campaigner from Mozambique, said: 'The study shows that our failure to make an equal, more just world has resulted in the most intolerable of situations. To discriminate on the basis of sex and gender is morally indefensible; it is economically, politically and socially unsupportable.'"
[n.b. At the same time as this report was released, international media were obsessing over the search for one English girl missing on holiday in Portugal. Will the media ever devote one day of such coverage to 100 million missing girls? Link to the the full text of the Plan International report.]


"US Treats World as 'Giant Battlefield,' Says Amnesty"
By Philippe Naughton
The Times, 23 May 2007
"Amnesty International launched a scathing attack on the United States today, accusing it of trampling on human rights, and using the world as 'a giant battlefield' in its War on Terror. The criticism came in Amnesty's 2007 worldwide report, in which the human rights watchdog complained of a return to the geopolitical polarisation of the Cold War era and said that the global agenda was being largely driven by fear. 'Human rights -- those global values, universal principles and common standards that are meant to unite us -- are being bartered away in the name of security,' wrote Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary-general, in a foreword to the report. 'Like the Cold War times, the agenda is being driven by fear -- instigated, encouraged and sustained by unpincipled leaders.' Amnesty said that President Bush had invoked the fear of terrorism to bolster his executive power after the attacks of September 11, 2001, 'without Congressional oversight or judicial scrutiny.' But he was not alone -- John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, was accused of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security to help secure his re-election. The Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, 'whipped up fear among his supporters and in the Arab world that the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur would be a pretext for an Iraq-style, US-led invasion.' 'Meanwhile,' it added, 'his armed forces and militia allies continued to kill rape and plunder with impunity.' ... But it was Amnesty's criticisms of the United States - far stronger than those levelled against any other major Western democracy -- which will grab most attention. 'Unfettered discretionary executive power is being purused [sic] relentlessly by the US administration, which treats the world as one big battlefield for its "war on terror": kidnapping, arresting, detaining or torturing suspects either directly or with the help of countries as far apart as Pakistan and Gambia, Afghanistan and Jordan,' Ms. Khan said. ... Amnesty said that international investigations had shown that hundreds of people had been unlawfully transferred by the US and its allies to countries such as Syria, Jordan and Egypt -- out of the reach of legal protection. [...]"

"The Price of a Life"
By Tom Engelhardt
The Nation, 14 May 2007
"[...] Recently, through a Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU pried loose some of the requests for compensation payments submitted by Iraqis and Afghans (and the military's decisions on them, including denials of payment). They make grim reading. Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher offered this description: 'What price (when we do pay) do we place on the life of a 9-year-old boy, shot by one of our soldiers who mistook his book bag for a bomb satchel? Would you believe $500? And when we shoot an Iraqi journalist on a bridge we shell out $2,500 to his widow -- but why not the measly $5,000 she had requested?' Back in 2005, Iraqi payments already seemed to average about $2,500 for a wrongful death. ... We don't know who exactly decided on the value in US dollars of the life of a 16-year-old Afghan girl, slaughtered while carrying a bundle of grass to her family farmhouse, or on the basis of what formula for pricing life the decision was made. We know a good deal more about how the US government evaluated the worth of the lives of slaughtered American innocents. For that, however, you have to think back to the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The family or spouse of a loved one murdered on that day was also given a monetary value by the US government -- on average $1.8 million, thanks to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, created by an act of Congress, signed into law by President Bush thirteen days after the attacks, and put into operation thanks to thirty-three months of careful, pro bono evaluation of the worth of an innocent American life by Special Master of the fund Kenneth Feinberg. ... So there we have it. ... The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered by Al Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 to his or her family: $1.8 million. The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered at Haditha, Iraq, by US Marines: $2,500. The value of an innocent civilian slaughtered by US Marines near Jalalabad, Afghanistan: $2,000. Never say that the US government is incapable of putting a price on the deaths of innocents."

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