Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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

Genocide Studies Media File
February 4-27, 2008

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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"Australia Prime Minister Submits Historic Apology to Aborigines"
By Tim Johnston
The New York Times, 13 February 2008 [Registration Required]
"Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia on Tuesday asked Parliament to approve a historic apology to the country's indigenous minorities for their past mistreatment at the hands of the authorities. The apology itself will be made by Mr. Rudd on Wednesday, but he presented the text he intends to use to Parliament, which is dominated by his party and is expected to approve it. 'We apologize for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians,' the text read. The apology is aimed particularly at the 'stolen generations,' the thousands of Aboriginal and mixed-race children who were taken from their parents, in some states as part of a policy to 'breed out the color,' in the words of Cecil Cook, who went by the title of chief protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory in the 1930's. The text of the apology fulfills one of the basic demands of the people who have been calling for such a move for years: it contains the word 'sorry.' 'We apologize especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry,' the text reads. Kirstie Parker, the managing editor of the Aboriginal newspaper the Koori Mail, said she felt that the apology had hit the right note. 'I think it is a very broad but in some places quite specific statement, and I found it very moving,' she said. But she said that for many indigenous Australians the apology would fall short because the government had ruled out offering compensation to those affected by the policy. [...]"

"Australia's Finest Hour"
By Hall Greenland, 13 February 2008
"Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd went up onto the mountain and delivered. The first order of business, on the first day in parliament, of the new Labor government. Nothing would, nothing could, and nothing did take precedence over the apology. Kevin Rudd's 'Sorry' to the stolen generations of indigenous Australians was social democracy's finest hour. It was long overdue. It was delivered after a decade of denial and delay by the previous John Howard government. Bringing Them Home, the report on the enforced removal of up to 50,000 mixed-blood children between 1900 and 1970, had recommended a simple but historic Sorry back in 1997. We had to wait until now for moral leadership at the national level. It's not to denigrate the man to say that never again will Kevin Rudd reach such noble heights. Rather it is to signal the sheer decency of his achievement. And he did it without flamboyance, but with a quiet, genuine eloquence. There was not a trace of grandstanding in his delivery. There were tears in Kevin Rudd's eyes as the parliament, the crowded gallery and huge crowd outside rose to give him a standing ovation. And there was not a dry eye among the thousands that assembled at the open-air broadcast in Eveleigh Street in the Sydney suburb of Redfern -- Australia's little Harlem. All over Sydney the Aboriginal flag flew from town halls, schools and even Sydney University two blocks from Eveleigh Street. ... For many kids this day will be like the day of the moon landing, or the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, or Che murdered, or JFK shot, was for previous generations; they will remember where they were if only because lots of schools watched the apology. It means these rising generations will inherit an Australia which has, if not a clean sheet, at least an honest one. [...]"


"Khmer Rouge Defendant Weeps at Site of Mass Graves"
Associated Press dispatch in the International Herald Tribune, 26 February 2008
"The former head of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture center was moved to tears Tuesday when he was taken by Cambodia's genocide tribunal to one of the country's notorious 'killing fields' to which he is accused of sending thousands of people to their deaths, an official said. Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role three decades ago as commandant of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. He was taken into custody by the UN-assisted tribunal last year pending trial. An estimated 1.7 million people died during the 1975-79 Communist Khmer Rouge regime, which cut off contact with the outside world and forced the entire population into agricultural collectives, leading to starvation and disease. The regime tortured and executed untold thousands of people. Duch, 65, is one of five former high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials being held for trial by the joint UN-Cambodian tribunal established in 2006 to finally bring aging top Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. The so-called re-enactment Tuesday, closed to the public and the news media, was part of an investigative process that involves taking the accused to the crime scene to be questioned about what happened in the past. Duch wept during the three-and-a-half-hour visit as 'the accused explained what happened' when he commanded S-21, according to Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesman. 'We noticed that he was feeling pity, tears were rolling down his face two or three times,' Reach Sambath said. Duch was especially moved when he stood before a tree with a sign describing how executioners disposed of child victims by bashing their heads against its trunk, the spokesman said. There are several similar displays among the shallow graves, which contain skeletal remains and ragged clothes. Some 16,000 men, women and children who had been at S-21 were killed and buried at Choeung Ek, which is now a memorial site and a tourist attraction. [...]"

"Discussing Genocide"
By Cindy Cantrell
The Boston Globe, 24 February 2008
"While a person's name and birth date are major components of one's identity, Sayon Soeun of Lowell says he can't be sure either of his is accurate. Both were assigned to him by a refugee camp relief worker in Thailand. Born in the Takeo province of Cambodia around 1967, Soeun was taken away from his parents and siblings by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s to be trained as a child soldier. 'I was trained to fight,' said Soeun, who carried a gun and witnessed executions, forced labor, and widespread illness and starvation. 'They taught me not to trust anybody. They taught me to hate. It has been a very long road to becoming the person I am today.' Soeun credits his inner strength and the support of 'many wonderful people' with helping him on his journey. In 1979, he fled to Thailand, where a church matched him with his adopted parents, two brothers, and a sister, whom he joined in Connecticut. In 1990, he moved to Lowell, where he is now executive director of Light of Cambodian Children Inc. Although Soeun has not returned to his native country, he hopes next year to travel to Cambodia in search of his birth siblings -- four brothers and two sisters, according to his memory. 'It's very sad to remember what happened in Cambodia, but sharing my story helps me heal,' said Soeun, who will discuss his experiences this week as part of a genocide series at Northern Essex Community College. 'Even people who are not rich in this country have the luxury of freedom. It should not be taken for granted.' [...]"


"Righting a Great Wrong"
By Cathryn Atkinson
New Statesman, 15 February 2008
"[...] Billy, like 80,000 other aboriginal people across Canada, is due to receive compensation from the federal government for being forced into a Catholic residential school as a teenager in the early 1970s. Stuck 135km away from Waiwakum, she was expected to drop everything that made her who she is. Now considered by many as a nationally implemented racist policy of cultural and actual genocide, residential schools took children away from their families, their languages and histories, and often left them to the mercy of sadistic guardians, subjected to widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Native activists believe up to 50,000 children died at the schools, which were first operated in Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the 1840s, while Canada was still a British colony. In 1928, a government official predicted that the country would end its 'Indian problem' within two generations. Church-run by various denominations, including Anglicans and Presbyterians, the government-funded residential schools for native children were supposed to prepare them for life in white society. But the system backfired, of course, the aims of forced assimilation leaving deep and abiding scars. By 1898, there were 54 schools nationwide, which increased to 74 schools in 1920. In the same year, the Department of Indian Affairs decided to make such schooling mandatory for children aged seven to 15. The 1950s were the peak of the residential school era, with 76 schools in operation. However, the numbers started to go down as rumours about the treatment of the children spread. ... Aboriginal people have demanded, and received, official apologies from the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic churches for their treatment. As more former pupils come forth with stories about abuse, some religious authorities who administered the schools are being criminally charged. In November 2005, a truth and reconciliation commission was established with an aim similar to that of the South African commission established a decade earlier: to allow native people to tell their stories of almost 500 years of oppression. As part of this, a final compensation package worth $2bn came into effect last autumn for those who attended the residential schools, settling dozens of class-action lawsuits. [...]"


"Canadian Inquiry Blames Israelis for Deaths in 2006"
By Ian Austin
The New York Times, 2 February 2008 [Registration Required]
"A Canadian military inquiry's report released Friday blames Israeli forces for the 'tragic and preventable' deaths of a Canadian soldier and three other United Nations observers in Lebanon in July 2006. The board of inquiry was convened because of the death of Maj. Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a Canadian assigned as a United Nations observer in southern Lebanon when Israel invaded the region during fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah. A censored version of its report was made public on Friday. While Israel does not deny that it killed the observers, it says the episode was unintentional. The four observers were killed by a 1,100-pound G.P.S.-guided bomb dropped by the Israeli military that destroyed most of their observation post. The Canadian inquiry found that the fatal bombing was the third in a series of attacks on the post over several hours on July 25, 2006. The first two attacks, which included artillery and aerial bombing, damaged the post and led United Nations commanders to schedule its evacuation for the following morning. The attacks prompted increasingly strong messages from United Nations commanders to Israeli military liaisons asking them to stop attacking the post. About 40 minutes before the final bomb fell, the report said, a United Nations commander told the Israeli military, 'You are killing my people.' The report said that because the Israeli military offered limited cooperation with the inquiry, it could not determine exactly why the bomb was dropped. But it said Israel apparently ignored warnings to stop the attack. The report said that while the Israeli Army 'has acknowledged the receipt of the protests from the U.N. it has failed to explain why the attack was not halted.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"China, in New Role, Presses Sudan on Darfur"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 23 February 2008 [Registration Required]
"Amid the international outrage over the bloodshed in Darfur, frustration has increasingly turned toward China, Sudan’s biggest trading partner and international protector, culminating in Steven Spielberg’s decision last week to withdraw as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics. And it may be working. China has begun shifting its position on Darfur, stepping outside its diplomatic comfort zone to quietly push Sudan to accept the world’s largest peacekeeping force, diplomats and analysts say. It has also acted publicly, sending engineers to help peacekeepers in Darfur and appointing a special envoy to the region who has toured refugee camps and pressed the Sudanese government to change its policies. Few analysts expect China to walk away from its business ties to Sudan, but its willingness to take up the issue is a rare venture into something China swears it never does -- meddle in the internal affairs of its trading partners. 'China in my view has been very cooperative,; said Andrew S. Natsios, the former special envoy of President Bush to Sudan. 'The level of coordination and cooperation has been improving each month.' ... The conflict has also inspired one of the largest protest movements in the United States since the battle to end apartheid in South Africa. China, with its vast commercial interests and sensitivity to criticism around the Olympics, presents a unique leverage point for this movement. Like Mr. Spielberg, Mia Farrow, an actress and Darfur activist, has said China can do more, specifically by pushing for the full deployment of 27,000 peacekeeping troops in Darfur, supplying some of the helicopters needed for the mission and demanding an end to aerial bombardment of civilian areas. [...]"


"Congo Turns Over War-Crimes Suspect"
By Mike Corder
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 7 February 2008
"Congo has arrested and turned over for trial an army colonel and former rebel leader accused of leading a 2003 attack on a village in the country's lawless east that left 200 civilians dead, the International Criminal Court announced Thursday. Mathieu Ngudjolo, 37, was handed to court officials in Kinshasa on Wednesday and was expected to arrive at the court's detention unit in The Hague later Thursday, a court statement said. He is the third Congolese suspect to be taken into custody by the world's first permanent war crimes court. Mr. Ngudjolo allegedly led forces of the National Integrationist Front -- including child soldiers -- who attacked the village of Bogoro in the eastern Ituri region in 2003, the court said. Judge Sylvia Steiner at the Hague-based court who ordered the arrest said evidence gave 'reasonable grounds to believe' that his forces murdered about 200 civilians, mutilated others and captured women and girls to use as sex slaves. The arrest 'shows that justice will reach those who seem untouchable because of their official position,' said Param-Preet Singh, counsel in Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. 'The arrest brings hope to the many victims of war crimes in Ituri that other political and military officials will be held to account.' Mr. Ngudjolo is accused of three crimes against humanity: murder, sexual slavery and inhumane acts. He also is accused of six war crimes counts, including using child soldiers in the attack. [...]"


"Timor's Mass Graves to be Excavated"
By Susan Wellings
The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 February 2008
"One of East Timor's most bloody massacres is finally to be investigated by a team of Australian forensic scientists who plan to excavate a mass grave and identify up to 400 missing people. TV footage of the slaughter of peaceful protesters by Indonesian troops at the Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991 was smuggled into Australia and flashed around a shocked world, providing the catalyst for the push towards independence for the embattled population. Now comes the last act in the drama: the hastily buried remains of the dead will be exhumed and attempts made to identify them, in the hope of bringing closure to the hundreds of families still searching for their missing sons, husbands and fathers. ... Starting days after the bungled attacks on the country's President and Prime Minister which threatens to tip the country back into chaos, the project -- funded by the Australian Government aid agency AusAID and with the co-operation of the Timorese Government -- is likely to be a delicate one. But Dr Blau, 37, of the Centre for Human Identification at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, with a forensic dentist, a translator and two other forensic anthropologists from Argentina, says she hopes it will be a unifying project for the nation. ... Estimates of the number of dead from that day on November 12, 1991, vary from 200 to 400. Soldiers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in what was the first public showing in Dili of support for the resistance movement against Indonesian occupation, with banners depicting Xanana Gusmao, who later became the first president and is now the Prime Minister. The bodies, said to have been loaded on to military trucks, and injured survivors taken from hospital, have never been found. 'The atrocity has huge significance for the Timorese in terms of the move towards independence,' Dr. Blau said. 'Now, with eyewitnesses guiding us to the alleged mass grave, our primary aim is humanitarian, but we will be collecting evidence and what the Government does with that will be up to them.'"


"Sarkozy Ignites Row over Religion, Holocaust Study"
By Tom Heneghan
Reuters dispatch, 14 February 2007
"President Nicolas Sarkozy has triggered a row over religion by saying faith has a place in the public sphere and schoolchildren should study the 11,000 French Jewish child victims of the Holocaust. Sarkozy has angered secularists with repeated praise for faith and references to France's Christian roots, and he told a French Jewish organization that the violence and wars of the 20th century were due to an ;absence of God.' Ten-year-old pupils 'should know the name and life story of a child who died in the Holocaust,' he told the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) on Wednesday. He attracted criticism on Thursday from two camps -- secularists keen to keep religion out of public discourse and those worried that pupils could be traumatized by studying the Holocaust through child victims with whom they could identify. 'The president should not turn into a kind of preacher, as he is doing now,' said left-wing Senator Jean-Luc Melenchon. Centrist deputy Francois Bayrou predicted 'a clash between France's values and those of Nicolas Sarkozy.' 'I don't think we can impose remembrance,' former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said. Having pupils 'adopt' a Holocaust victim was 'something very heavy to carry around.' Sarkozy's recent speeches to Catholics and Muslims prompted charges he was violating France's separation of church and state. He was the first French president to address the CRIF annual dinner, a role the prime minister normally takes. [...]"


"Guatemala to Open Army Files to Probe War Crimes"
Reuters dispatch, 25 February 2008
"Guatemala's new President Alvaro Colom said on Monday he will open army files for the first time to make public details of massacres and torture by soldiers during the country's 36-year civil war. 'We are going to make all of the army's archives public so we can know the truth, to start building on a foundation of truth and justice,' said Colom, who beat a right-wing former general to take office in January. Almost a quarter of a million people were killed or disappeared during the 1960-1996 conflict between leftist guerrillas and the government. Over 80 percent of the murders were committed by the army, according to a United Nations-backed truth commission. The commission, which compiled thousands of interviews with victims after the 1996 peace accords, named no officials, in part because the army files were not open to the public. Colom's uncle, Manuel Colom Argueta, a leftist politician with presidential ambitions, was killed by the army in 1979 in a well-coordinated ambush. Rights groups say the new army files will help solve war crimes when matched with information in the police archive discovered in June 2005, as police collaborated with the army. Colom said all the information from the military will be turned over to the human rights ombudsman, also in charge of cleaning and categorizing the thousands of police documents left molding in an old warehouse behind a dump for rusted cars. The massive paper trail gives hope to family members who are looking for answers about their long-disappeared relatives. [...]"


"British Troops Executed 20 Captives in Southern Iraq, Say Lawyers"
By Fred Attewill
The Guardian, 22 February 2008
"British troops may have executed up to 20 captives in southern Iraq in 2004, human rights lawyers claimed today. A dossier of evidence from men taken captive after a gun battle near the Iraqi town of Majat-al-Kabir in May 2004 also suggested soldiers tortured and mutilated captives. Lawyers for five Iraqis today issued detailed witness statements, photographs of corpses and death certificates of the men who died. The allegations first emerged within weeks of the incident and have since been investigated by the Royal Military Police. The claims, which the Ministry of Defence denies, are among the most serious yet levelled against British soldiers who served in Iraq. Solicitor Phil Shiner said: 'There is the clearest evidence available of systematic abuse and systematic failings at the very highest levels of politicians, the civil service and the military.' He added: 'Until we as a nation face up to this evidence we cannot hope for the fundamental reforms required to ensure these things can never happen again. We do not want to be talked about in the same vein as the Japanese in the second world war or the Americans at My Lai, but unless we stand up and say as a nation that this cannot happen in our name, that is where we seem to be headed.' ... Detailed witness statements from the five men -- Hussein Jabbari Ali, Hussain Fadhil Abass, Atiyah Sayid Abdelreza, Madhi Jassim Abdullah and Ahmad Jabber Ahmood -- described what they heard while in detention, when they were handcuffed and forced to wear blacked-out goggles. The statements described hearing other men screaming and choking as well as the sound of gunfire. Abdelreza's statement read: 'I believed people were being killed. I have never heard anything like that sound ever before in my life. It shocked me and filled me with such terror.' The lawyers, who are bringing a damages claim in the UK courts, say the five witnesses are labourers who have lived all their lives in Majar and had 'absolutely nothing' to do with the Shia Mahdi army, who engaged British troops in the gun battle. Day said: 'The nature of a number of the injuries of the Iraqis would seem to us to be highly unusual in a battlefield. For example, quite how so many of the Iraqis sustained single gunshots to the head and from seemingly at close quarter, how did two of them end with their eyes gouged out, gow did one have his penis cut off (and) some have torture wounds?' [...]"


"Timothy Snyder on the Forgotten Holocaust"
By Timothy Snyder, 15 February 2008
"Though she survived the Holocaust, Ida Belozovskaya was not invoking the crematoriums of Auschwitz. In the Kiev of September 1941 that she was describing in one of the interviews published in 'The Unknown Black Book,' the Germans were killing the Jews, but without the help of gas chambers. These had not yet been invented, but the Holocaust was under way. What she was trying to describe was the fear and shame of hiding in a city where 30,000 Jews could be shot in a single day, where her father had just been seized on the street. Her references jar the ones we have come to know, but her experience is just as representative, and important, as that of Jews who lived through Auschwitz. Half of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were killed by bullets rather than by gas, in death pits rather than in death camps. Some 2.2 million Soviet Jews were killed by shooting; 350,000 more were asphyxiated in mobile gas vans. Compare this to the 1.1 million deaths at Auschwitz, or the approximately 800,000 deaths at Treblinka. Even had the death camps never existed, this eastern Holocaust would have to be regarded as the most horrible of atrocities. Yet we have all but forgotten it. The east is where the killing began. The mass murder of Europe’s Jews began not in Germany or in German-occupied Poland, but on the eastern front, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. As the German army swept forward in 1941 and 1942, four Einsatzgruppen ('Task Forces') followed them to the east, assigned to liquidate political enemies and Jews. At the end of August, the Germans killed some 23,000 Jews in the Ukrainian city of Kamenets-Podolsk. After that the total elimination of Jewish populations in Ukraine and Belarus became the norm. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]


"Rape is Weapon in Kenyan Violence"
By Katy Pownall
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 13 February 2008
"Looting, arson and murder have become hallmarks of Kenya's conflict over a disputed presidential election. Another, less talked about tactic in the violence that has degenerated into ethnic clashes: rape. Dr. Joseph Osoo, who runs a tin-roofed, two-room clinic in Nairobi's Mathare slum, said he was overwhelmed by the number of women and girls who came for treatment and by the brutality of their ordeals. 'During the days immediately after the election I was treating up to 45 rape victims a day,' he said. Usually, he treats one rape victim a week. One 10-year-old girl suffered a ruptured cervix as the result of her attack, another woman was cleaved across the top of her thighs with a machete and left to bleed to death, he said. 'What is unusual is that most cases are gang rapes, which I have never seen before,' he said. Lucy Kiama, who heads the Gender Violence Recovery Center at Nairobi Women's Hospital, said she also has seen 'a huge increase in incidences of sexual violence in the postelection period.' The hospital treated 135 sexually assaulted women and children -- one just 2 years old -- in the three weeks after the Dec. 27 election that the opposition accuses the president of stealing. Kiama said the numbers may be even higher. The general violence and lack of transport during skirmishes mean many victims never make it to the hospital to report rape, she said. [...]"


"Rwanda: Genocide Survivor Wants to Sue Belgium"
Hirondelle News Agency dispatch on, 25 February 2008
"A Rwandan genocide survivor has filed a suit in a civil court to prosecute the Belgian state and is also seeking for compensation estimated at 100,000 Euros for death of her relatives during the 1994 genocide, according to 'Le Soir' Belgium daily newspaper. The financial compensation is sought on grounds that the Belgium peace keeping force failed to protect her sister, brother-in-law and their children on April 11, 1994 at the height of the slaughter. The summon underlines responsibility of Belgium soldiers in the massacre of approximately 2,000 Rwandans who had placed themselves under the protection of the peacekeepers at the Official Technical School (ETO) Don Bosco, situated in Kicukiro. The ETO was at the time one of the main barracks, nicknamed 'Beverly Hills,' of the Belgian battalion of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) headquartered in Kigali. The plaintiff and her family had found refuge there on 8 April, just two days after the bloodbath began on April 6 following assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. 'It was decided by Colonel Marchal, then head of the Belgian battalion KIBAT of the UNAMIR to withdraw during the afternoon of 11 April 1994 peacekeepers from ETO,' claimed the summon. It added: 'By abandoning Rwandan refugees who were there and the fact that the site was encircled by armed militiamen (Interahamwe) of which everyone, including the Belgian soldiers knew that they [Interahamwe] were going to proceed to commit the massacres.' Belgium decided to withdraw its contingent of UNAMIR peacekeepers following the assassination of ten of its soldiers on 7 April 1994. However, the plaintiff has wished to remain anonymous at this stage. [...]"


"Bush Calls for Darfur Crisis to End"
Associated Press dispatch in USA Today, 19 February 2008
"Speaking on soil once stained with the blood of Rwanda's genocide, President Bush called Tuesday on all nations to step up efforts to end 'once and for all' the ethnic slaughter still continuing in Sudan's western Darfur region. The president said the U.S. is using sanctions, pressure and money to help resolve the Darfur crisis that Bush calls a genocide. But the president, frustrated at the lack of willingness of some other countries to do the same, sought to give his campaign for their increased involvement added weight by making pointed remarks on it from the Rwandan capital. 'The Rwanda people know the horrors of genocide,' Bush said after meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. 'My message to other nations is: "Join with the president and help us get this problem solved once and for all." And we will help.' Rwanda was the first to deploy peacekeepers to the violent Darfur region in a joint African Union-U.N. mission. The United States has trained nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops and spent more than $17 million to equip and airlift them into the region. The U.S. has committed $100 million to train and provide equipment for peacekeepers from several African nations deploying to Darfur. 'I'm not comfortable with how quickly the response has been,' the president said. Bush spoke after a somber visit to the haunting Kigali Memorial Centre. Exhibits there tell the story of Rwanda's 1994 genocide as well as other ethnic slaughter around the world. Mass graves on a trellis-covered hilltop outside hold some remains of about 250,000 people. Over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were shot, clubbed and hacked to death in just 100 days by extremist Hutu militias incited by the then-government. It ended when Kagame's rebel forces ousted the Hutu government. 'It's a moving place. It can't help but shake your emotions to their very foundation,' Bush said after walking through its rooms and gardens. 'There is evil in the world and evil must be confronted.' [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Paula Drumond for bringing this source to my attention.]


"Kosovo Warns Serbia as Riots Continue"
By Matt Robinson
Reuters dispatch, 26 February 2008
"Kosovo told Serbia on Tuesday it would not yield one inch of its territory, and a violent protest by ethnic Serbs in Bosnia against Kosovo's secession highlighted continued volatility in the Balkan region. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was responding to a Serbian government pledge to rule Serb-dominated parts of Kosovo following its secession from Serbia 10 days ago. Hundreds of protesters tried to attack the United States consulate in the Bosnian Serb Republic capital, Banja Luka, after a largely peaceful march by some 10,000 people. They stoned the building before being pushed back by riot police. The windows of Croat-owned shops in the centre of town were smashed and two policemen were injured in the melee, the latest in a series of violent Serb protests in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Vienna, and northern Kosovo, a Serb stronghold in the new state. 'We understand and respect peaceful reactions, guaranteed by the law, but we will not allow the territorial integrity of Kosovo to be compromised,' Thaci, a former guerrilla commander, said. 'I am constantly in contact with NATO to prevent anyone from touching even one inch of Kosovo's territory,' he told reporters in Racak, scene of a Serb massacre a decade ago. Kosovo's Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia with Western backing on February 17. Serbs in the north reject the secession, fuelling fears that the country is destined for partition, and may trigger a Serb secession from Bosnia. 'As long as we live here we will not recognise an act of violence and secession of Kosovo from Serbia,' Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik told the Banja Luka rally. [...]"

"Russia Could Use Force in Kosovo"
BBC Online, 22 February 2008
"Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned that Russia could use military force if the Kosovo independence dispute escalates. 'If the EU develops a unified position or if Nato exceeds its mandate set by the UN, then these organisations will be in conflict with the UN,' he said. In that case Russia would 'proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force,' he said. Many EU members have recognised Kosovo, but several oppose recognition. Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, backs Serbia, which has condemned the independence declaration issued by the Kosovo parliament on 17 February. On Tuesday members of the Serb minority in Kosovo attacked two border posts staffed by UN personnel and Kosovo police. The violence led the Nato troops in Kosovo -- known as K-For -- to reinforce the border with Serbia. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians are following a plan drawn up by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari for 'supervised independence,' which was rejected by Serbia. The EU will soon deploy 2,000 officials to strengthen law and order in Kosovo, which has a population of about two million. Russia argues that the mission has no legal basis. There has been a furious reaction in some Russian media to Kosovo's declaration of independence. A commentary in the Vesti Plus analytical programme, on state-run television, called the assassinated former Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, a Western puppet who had 'received a well-deserved bullet.' It said Djindjic had sold national heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The programme concluded that Serbia -- and not only Serbia -- must now decide whether to acquiesce in what has happened, or resist."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"Bosnia Serbs Play Up Secession Threats over Kosovo"
By Olja Stanic
Reuters dispatch, 14 February 2008
"Bosnian Serb nationalists stepped up threats on Thursday to secede from Bosnia if Kosovo declares independence from Serbia on Sunday. 'In case Kosovo proclaims independence, we shall request independence for the Serb Republic as well,' Branislav Dukic, the chairman of SPONA, an association gathering several Bosnian Serb war veterans groups, told a news conference. Under the Dayton accords that ended the 1992-95 war, Bosnia comprises two loosely connected autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, with little love lost between them. While Muslims and Croats want a stronger state, the Serbs want to preserve full autonomy of the region they won in the war with help from their political and economic backers in Serbia. Dukic said his association would ask the regional parliament to declare the Serb Republic's independence without referendum 'if the European Union recognizes independent Kosovo unilaterally and against international law.' 'If Kosovo's illegal parliament may declare independence, there is no reason why the Republika Srpska legal parliament would not have that right,' Dukic told Reuters. [...]"


"Spanish Judge Indicts Rwanda Officers"
By Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 7 February 2008 [Registration required]
"A Spanish judge Wednesday indicted 40 Rwandan army officers on charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, asserting a concept of justice championed by his nation known as 'universal jurisdiction.' Judge Fernando Andreu of Spain's National Court said he also had sufficient evidence to implicate current Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a long string of reprisal massacres after he and his forces seized power, ending the genocide. But Andreu said he could not indict Kagame because as president he has immunity. Rwandan officials reacted angrily. An army spokesman, Maj. Jill Rutaremara, said the legal case was 'nothing but an attempt to tarnish Rwanda's image,' according to reports by Agence France-Presse from Kigali, the capital. The indicted men include a Rwandan military attache stationed in Washington and a Rwandan ambassador in Asia, as well as the army chief of staff, according to people familiar with the judicial order. The doctrine of universal jurisdiction holds that some crimes such as torture and genocide are so heinous that people accused of committing them can be tried anywhere, even in countries where the crimes did not take place. Spain has the broadest universal jurisdiction law in the world, human rights experts say. With it, the country's judiciary has attempted to prosecute late Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Argentine and Guatemalan military officers accused of mass political killings of civilians, and even Osama bin Laden. And though Madrid wins praise in international-law circles for the effort, the cases have rarely resulted in convictions and have generated some controversy at home among Spanish officials who believe their courts are not equipped to take on such mammoth cases. [...]"


"Dark Anniversary for Darfur"
By Jennie Matthew
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Yahoo! News, 26 February 2008
"The deadly conflict in Darfur entered its sixth year on Tuesday with no solution in sight as Khartoum continued to resist the full deployment of a peacekeeping force amid a fresh wave of bombings. The anniversary coincides with visits to the country by Washington's special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson, and China's pointman for Darfur, Liu Giujin, for top-level talks aimed at nailing down an elusive peace. US President George W. Bush has said that genocide is taking place in Darfur, while Beijing has been accused of supplying many of the arms being used to crush the insurgency and of turning a diplomatic blind eye to the violence. The United Nations said earlier this week that new bombings were endangering thousands of lives in Darfur, seeking reassurances that more civilians would be allowed to flee to join the estimated 2.2 million already displaced by the conflict. The UN refugee agency has said that two days of heavy bombardments and attacks by the Sudanese army and Janjaweed militia earlier this month in western Darfur prompted about 12,000 more refugees to flee into eastern Chad. Ravaging one of the most remote and deprived places on earth, the conflict pits ethnic minorities fighting for resources and power against state-backed Arab militias. International organisations estimate that 200,000 people have died since 2003 with more than a third of the six-million population displaced, although the Khartoum government puts the death toll at 9,000. Around 4.2 million people in the area live on aid handouts. [...]"

"A Genocide Foretold"
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times, 28 February 2008 [Registration Required]
"The Sudanese government started the first genocide of the 21st century in Darfur, and now it seems to be preparing to start the second here among the thatch-roof huts of southern Sudan. South Sudan is rich in oil, but its people are among the poorest in the world, far poorer than those in Darfur. Only 1 percent of girls here finish elementary school, meaning that a young woman is more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to become literate. Leprosy and Ebola linger here. South Sudan is the size of Texas, yet it has only 10 miles of paved road and almost no electricity; just about the only running water here is the Nile River. The poverty is mostly the result of the civil war between North and South Sudan that raged across the southern part of the country for two decades and cost 2 million lives. For many impoverished villagers, their only exposure to modern technology has been to endure bombings by the Sudanese Air Force. The war finally ended, thanks in part to strong American pressure, in 2005 with a landmark peace agreement -- but that peace is now fraying. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is backing away from the peace agreement, and prodding Arab militias to revive the war with the South Sudan military forces. Small-scale armed clashes have broken out since late last year, and it looks increasingly likely that Darfur will become simply the prologue to a far bloodier conflict that engulfs all Sudan. Even my presence here is a sign of the rising tensions and mistrust. [...]"


"China Feels Heat as Activists Take Their Cue from Spielberg"
By Tania Branigan in Beijing, Paul Kelso and Will Woodward
The Guardian, 14 February 2008
"The Chinese authorities yesterday received an uncomfortable preview of the scrutiny and criticism likely to accompany the Beijing Olympics this summer as human rights groups hailed Steven Spielberg's withdrawal from his role as an artistic adviser to the games. Campaign groups vowed to turn their attention to the major Olympic sponsors and other high-profile supporters of the games as they celebrated the international reaction to Spielberg's decision. The director stepped down from his role as artistic adviser to Beijing late on Tuesday, citing his opposition to China's support for the Sudanese regime responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. He accused China of not doing enough to press Sudan to end the 'continuing human suffering in the troubled region. China imports two-thirds of Sudan's oil and in return is said to be the African country's biggest arms supplier. Spielberg's move, taken after months of sustained pressure form his Hollywood peers, led by actor Mia Farrow, apparently took Beijing by surprise. The state-controlled media pointedly ignored the story and the Beijing organising committee for the Olympic games is understood to be preparing a statement which is likely to be issued this morning. However, Spielberg's action is bound to anger and alarm the authorities as it comes amid growing complaints about Beijing's record on human rights and Tibet, and is likely to encourage attempts to use the Olympics as leverage on those issues. There is particular concern that the government is cracking down on critics to ensure that they do not embarrass it during the games. Human rights groups vowed to do just that by targeting other high-profile institutions and individuals [...]"

"China Lashes Out against Darfur Critics in Olympics Row"
By Jane Macartney
The Times, 14 February 2008
"China has voiced regret at Steven Spielberg's withdrawal as an artistic adviser for the Summer Olympics because of Chinese involvement in Sudan, and in its first response to his decision has lashed out at those it accused of having ulterior motives. The snub from the Oscar-winning director this week coincided with a public protest by a group of Nobel prizewinners and Olympic athletes critical of Beijing's record in Darfur, who addressed a letter to Hu Jintao, President of China. Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: 'We hope not to see such a major event anticipated by the whole world disturbed by political issues. This not in line with the Olympic spirit.' Chinese officials have consistently voiced their opposition to any attempts to politicise the Olympics, which open on August 8. Mr Liu said that China had been working with the United Nations to resolve the crisis in Darfur and had been playing a positive and constructive role to try to bring peace. 'It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur, but I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept,' he said. China commonly makes reference to 'ulterior motives' as a term to describe people it considers to be operating behind a cover and with the purpose of doing it harm. [...]"

"Spielberg Drops Out as Adviser to Beijing Olympics in Dispute Over Darfur Conflict"
By Helene Cooper
The New York Times, 13 February 2008 [Registration Required]
"Steven Spielberg said Tuesday that he was withdrawing as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, after almost a year of trying unsuccessfully to prod President Hu Jintao of China to do more to try to end Sudan’s attacks in the Darfur region. Mr. Spielberg's decision, and the public way he announced it, is a blow to China, which has said that its relationship with Sudan should not be linked to the Olympics, which have become a source of national pride. In a statement sent to the Chinese ambassador and the Beijing Olympic committee on Tuesday, Mr. Spielberg said that his 'conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual.' 'Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there,' the statement said. 'China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change.' Responding to Mr. Spielberg’s action, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington said, 'As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair to link the two as one.' Mr. Spielberg had written to Mr. Hu about Darfur twice in the past 10 months, his spokesman said, taking China to task for its 'silence' while Sudan blocked the deployment of international peacekeepers and expelled aid workers from the region. [...]"


"A Human Rights Statistician Finds Truth in Numbers"
By Jina Moore
The Christian Science Monitor, 7 February 2008
"[...] [Patrick] Ball is a statistician -- not exactly a profession usually associated with human rights defense. But the Human Rights Data Program that he heads at Benetech, a technology company with a social justice focus, is bringing the power of quantitative analysis to a field otherwise full of anecdote. In juridical terms, Ball's work on Kosovo went nowhere: Milosevic died in 2006, the trial was suspended and the evidence sealed. But nearly 20 years working on some of the world's worst human rights crimes prompts him to take the long view. Even without a ruling, his science complements the efforts of dozens of other professionals -- lawyers, forensic scientists, historians, political scientists -- to tell a truth bigger than the story abruptly silenced in the courtroom. 'The thing about human rights violations is that they occur massively. They don't occur one at a time,' he says. What turns out to be really important, he says, is whether it's thousands or tens of thousands. 'Because ... we have very different political understandings of [numbers].' Since 1988, Ball has been 'hacking code' -- writing software -- to unlock secrets from numbers. He taught himself computer programming so he could get a job that would cover expenses not included in his undergraduate scholarship to Columbia University. ... The level of expertise and discipline his work requires puts Ball on par with Olympic runners or violin virtuosos. Lara J. Nettelfield, a Balkans scholar at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, says he's 'one of the very small group of people in the world who could properly analyze and consult on [mass atrocities].' [...]"


"Rich African States 'Squander Their Wealth' As Children Die"
By Katherine Butler
The Independent, 18 February 2008
"Some of Africa's biggest 'success stories' are accused today of squandering money they could be using to help prevent millions of children dying. A report says that many of the developing countries hailed by the West as economic miracles are using little of their new wealth to tackle easily preventable diseases that kill millions of the most vulnerable, in particular newborn babies, young children and women in childbirth. The findings from Save the Children are, the aid agency says, an indictment of governments in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly half of the worst performing countries are in Africa, despite some boasting economic growth rates three times the global average. The agency has plotted rates of child mortality against UN data on per-capita income to publish an index showing which countries are making the best use of their new prosperity. Oil-rich Angola emerges worst. Although it now has a per-capita income high enough to put it in the 'middle income' category of states, more than one in four children dies before their fifth birthday. Sierra Leone is the second-worst performing, with 118 more children per 1,000 dying than should do for the amount of cash coming into the country. South Africa and Nigeria are also criticised. However, Bangladesh, despite its poverty, is one of the few countries to improve significantly child health. Its wealth per head grew at a rate of 23 per cent between 2000 and 2006, and the increased prosperity has at least partly been converted into a better deal for the poor. During the same period, its child mortality rate has fallen by 25 per cent. India's per-capita income grew 82 per cent in the same period, but it managed to cut child mortality rates by only 19 per cent. Some 10 million children die each year of illnesses related to poverty and limited access to medical treatment, and 41 countries account for 9 million of those child deaths. The 10 countries with the worst record for converting new wealth into child survival are Angola, Sierra Leone, Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon. The developing-country governments praised for having lower child-mortality rates than their income suggests include Nepal, Yemen, Malawi, Indonesia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Egypt, Madagascar, The Philippines and China. Save the Children says governments must prioritise free health care, clean water and sanitation and to support women's education. [...]"


"'Taxi to the Dark Side': How Did America Become a Country That Tortures?"
By Cynthia Fuchs
PopMatters (on, 20 February 2008
"In December 2002, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar was picked up and delivered to the Bagram Air Force Base prison. Five days later, he was dead. Sgt. Thomas Curtis, one of the Military Police at Bagram, remembers, 'There was definitely a sense of concern because he was the second one. You wonder, was it something we did?' As detailed in Alex Gibney's devastating documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, Dilawar's demise was officially termed a homicide, like the first detainee to die at Bagram, Habibullah. Captured by a warlord and handed over to the U.S. just days before Dilawar, Habibullah as deemed 'an important prisoner,' hooded, shackled, and isolated, periodically beaten for 'noncompliance.' Autopsies showed that Dilawar and Habibullah suffered similar abuses, including deep bruises all over their bodies; according to the Army coroner, Dilawar suffered 'massive tissue damage to his legs ... his legs had been pulpified.' And yet, despite initial concerns among the guards and interrogators at Bagram over an investigation, instead, the officer in charge of interrogation at the prison, Captain Carolyn Wood, was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor and, following the Iraq invasion in 2003, she and her unit were sent to Abu Ghraib. Methodically, relentlessly, Gibney's Oscar-nominated film assembles stories, evidence, and testimony from witnesses and experts (its deliberate structure recalls that of Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight, both films suggesting that, if the Bush Administration had not already put in place legal protections, more than one member might be subject to criminal charges). [...]"

Saturday, February 02, 2008

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

Genocide Studies Media File
January 22-February 3, 2008

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

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


"NATO Genocide in Afghanistan"
By Ali Khan
Middle East Online, 30 January 2008
"Sloganeers, propagandists and politicians often use the word 'genocide' in ways that the law does not permit. But rarely is the crime of genocide invoked when Western militaries murder Muslim groups. This essay argues that the internationally recognized crime of genocide applies to the intentional killings that NATO troops commit on a weekly basis in the poor villages and mute mountains of Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban, a puritanical Islamic group. NATO combat troops bombard and kill people in Taliban enclaves and meeting places. They also murder defenseless Afghan civilians. The dehumanized label of 'Taliban' is used to cloak the nameless victims of NATO operations. Some political opposition to this practice is building in NATO countries, such as Canada, where calls are heard to withdraw troops from Afghanistan or divert them to non-combat tasks. ... In murdering the Taliban, NATO armed forces systematically practice on a continual basis the crime of genocide that consists of three constituent elements -- act, intent to destroy, and religious group. [...]"
[n.b. A most intriguing argument.]


"A Mysterious Death in Argentina"
By Patrick J. McDonnell
The Los Angeles Times, 24 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"Hector Febres was the man who knew too much. And, like a character in a spy novel damned with an excess of secrets, Febres met an untimely and grisly end: He was poisoned last month in his cell. That is the conclusion of Argentine officials investigating the death of the former coast guard officer, who was awaiting a verdict on charges of torture. The case arose from Febres' service under a military dictatorship decades earlier at the country's most notorious clandestine detention center. In the early hours of Dec. 10, authorities say, someone slipped Febres, 66, a lethal dose of cyanide, possibly in a glass of water. He had lived a comfortable, if confined, existence in an ample suite at a coast guard base for much of the last nine years as the case against him proceeded, glacier-like. Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, who is overseeing the investigation, rejected speculation about suicide and ruled this month that Febres probably was slain to keep him silent. Who killed him remains a mystery. As his long-delayed trial on charges of torturing four prisoners neared a verdict, authorities say, Febres felt betrayed by his former military colleagues. He may have been on the verge of coughing up some sensational secrets from the regime's 'dirty war' against what it called communist sympathizers. Among the most anticipated potential revelations: the fate of newborn babies stolen from prisoners. The mothers were killed in one of the more macabre legacies of the 1976-83 military rule. 'Febres took all those cases to the tomb with him,' lamented Liliana Mazea, a human rights attorney. [...]"


"Australia to Apologize to Aborigines"
By Rod McGuirk
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 30 January 2008
"Australia will issue its first formal apology to the country's indigenous people next month, a senior minister said Wednesday, a milestone that could ease tensions with a minority once subjected to policies including the removal of mixed-blood children from families on the premise that their race was doomed. The Feb. 13 apology to the so-called 'stolen generation' of Aborigines will be the first item of business for the new Parliament, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose Labor Party won November elections, had promised to push for an apology, which has been debated in Australia for years. ... Macklin and Rudd have previously ruled out financial compensation for the impoverished minority, and Macklin did not mention that subject Wednesday. But she said she sought broad input on the wording of the apology, which she hoped would signal the beginning of a new relationship between Australia and the impoverished minority. ... Australia's original inhabitants, Aborigines number about 450,000 among a population of 21 million. Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. Australia has had a decade-long debate about how best to acknowledge Aborigines who were affected by a string of 20th century policies that separated mixed-blood Aboriginal children from their families -- the cohort frequently referred to as Australia's stolen generation. From 1910 until the 1970s, around 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and saving the children was a humane alternative. A national inquiry in 1997 found that many children taken from their families suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from the loss of family and culture. The inquiry recommended that state and federal authorities apologize and compensate those removed from their families. But then-Prime Minister John Howard steadfastly refused to do either, saying his government should not be held responsible for the policies of former officials."


"Jailed Khmer Rouge Leader Set to Fight Detention"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on, 3 February 2008
"Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea is to appeal Monday against his detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal, insisting there is not enough evidence to keep him behind bars pending trial. The appearance of the regime's 81-year-old ideologue, the senior-most Khmer Rouge cadre to be arrested, would be only the second public hearing since the UN-backed tribunal was convened 18 months ago. Nuon Chea, Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot's closest deputy and alleged architect of the regime's devastating execution policies during its 1975-1979 rule, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia. Cities were emptied, their populations exiled onto vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination. Tribunal judges have said they decided to keep Nuon Chea in detention after his September arrest as many documents and witness statements implicated him in crimes committed under the regime. Nuon Chea's lawyers argue that he should be freed from pre-trial detention due to lack of evidence and because the court judges allegedly violated legal procedures during their first interviews with him. He was without a lawyer for his first three appearances before the judges, but never properly waived his right to have an attorney present, the lawyers said. [...]"


"An Elusive Justice:
Seven Years After Massacre in Colombian Village, Truth of Paramilitary Attack Remains Hazy"

By Juan Forero
The Washington Post, 25 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"The ceremony to remember Chengue's dead included a puppet show for children, free groceries and bagpipes wailing 'Amazing Grace,' all courtesy of Colombia's military. And then Adm. Edgar Cely, the navy's operations chief, lamented how paramilitary fighters roared into this town seven years ago and, wielding truncheons, split open the heads of 27 villagers in one of the more egregious displays of depravity in Colombia's long civil conflict. 'We want punishment for those criminals,' Cely told families of the victims. Luis Barreto, who lost six relatives in that pre-dawn attack, could only shake his head at Cely's words. In his view, justice is still glaringly absent in Chengue -- as is the truth about the government's culpability in a crime that made this northern hamlet a monument to terror. ... The truth, as villagers see it, is that the paramilitary commanders who carried out the killings received uniforms and armaments from the military, and passed unmolested through this region, which was controlled by the navy. Once inside Chengue, the paramilitary fighters went about killing villagers they had branded rebel sympathizers. In the aftermath, only one paramilitary member was convicted, a low-level fighter who confessed after nightmares spurred by memories of the massacre haunted his sleep. Authorities implicated several officials from the navy, but none was ever convicted. Indeed, justice has been as elusive here as in the rest of Colombia, even after the official disarmament in 2006 of a powerful paramilitary army, the United Self-Defense Forces, opened the door to an extraordinary judicial process designed to catalogue paramilitary violence, punish those responsible and force them to pay reparations to victims' families. [...]"


"DRC: The Invisible War"
By Amy Goodman, 24 January 2008
"It's the deadliest conflict since World War II. More than 5 million people have died in the past decade, yet it goes virtually unnoticed and unreported in the United States. The conflict is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Central Africa. At its heart are the natural resources found in Congo and multinational corporations that extract them. The prospects for peace have slightly improved: A peace accord was just signed in Congo’s eastern Kivu provinces. But without a comprehensive truth and reconciliation process for the entire country and a renegotiation of all mining contracts, the suffering will undoubtedly continue. In its latest Congo mortality report, the International Rescue Committee found that a stunning 5.4 million 'excess deaths' have occurred in Congo since 1998. These are deaths beyond those that would normally occur. In other words, a loss of life on the scale of Sept. 11 occurring every two days, in a country whose population is one-sixth our own. ... A particularly horrifying aspect of the conflict is the mass sexual violence being used as a weapon of war. Congolese human-rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver told me about the hundreds of thousands of women and children subjected to rape: 'We are not talking about normal rapes anymore. We are talking about sexual terrorism, because they are destroyed—you cannot imagine what's going on in Congo. We are talking about new surgery to repair the women, because they’re completely destroyed.' [...]"

"Congo's Death Rate Unchanged Since War Ended"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 23 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"Five years after Congo’s catastrophic war officially ended, the rate at which people are dying in the country remains virtually unchanged, according to a new survey, despite the efforts of the world's largest peacekeeping force, billions of dollars in international aid and a historic election that revived democracy after decades of violence and despotism. The survey, released Tuesday, estimated that 45,000 people continue to die every month, about the same pace as in 2004, when the international push to rebuild the country had scarcely begun. Almost all the deaths come from hunger and disease, signs that the country is still grappling with the aftermath of a war that gutted its infrastructure, forced millions to flee and flattened its economy. In all, more than 5.4 million people have died in Congo since the war began in 1998, according to the most recent survey's estimate, the latest in a series completed by the International Rescue Committee, an American aid organization. Nearly half of the dead were children younger than 5 years old. Perhaps most alarming, while the death rate has slightly decreased in eastern Congo, the last festering node of conflict, it has actually increased in some parts of central Congo, though the area has not seen combat in several years. The study's authors and other aid organizations said the focus of aid dollars on the east and neglect of the region by government were the most likely explanations for the changes. These surprising findings demonstrate the depth and complexity of Congo's continuing crisis, said Richard Brennan, health director for the International Rescue Committee and one of the survey's authors. 'The Congo is still enduring a crisis of huge proportions,' Dr. Brennan said. 'Protracted elevations of mortality more than four years after the end of the war demonstrates that recovery from this kind of crisis is itself a protracted process. The international engagement has to be sustained and committed for years to come.' [...]"

"Congo War-Driven Crisis Kills 45,000 a Month -- Study"
By Joe Bavier
Reuters dispatch, 22 January 2007
"War, disease and malnutrition are killing 45,000 Congolese every month in a conflict-driven humanitarian crisis that has claimed 5.4 million victims in nearly a decade, a survey released on Tuesday said. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which carried out the study with Australia's Burnet Institute, said Democratic Republic of Congo's 1998-2003 war and its aftermath had caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War Two. 'Congo's loss is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark or the state of Colorado perishing within a decade,' George Rupp, president of the aid group, said in a statement. The findings were published on the day Congo's government and warring eastern rebel and militia factions were due to sign a ceasefire in the hope of halting fighting in the east which has raged on since the nominal end of the 1998-2003 war. Rupp said that although Congo's war formally ended five years ago, 'ongoing strife and poverty continue to take a staggering toll.' 'The conflict and its aftermath, in terms of fatalities, surpass any other since World War II,' he added. Malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by conflict, were the top killers in Congo, the survey said. 'Most of the deaths are due to easily treatable and preventable diseases through the collapse of health systems and the disruption of livelihoods,' said IRC director of global health programmes Richard Brennan, one of the survey's authors. Congo has the lowest spending on health care of any country in the world at an average of just $15 per person per year. [...]"


"Survivors Detail Suharto-Era Massacres"
By Anthony Deutsch
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 27 January 2008
"Hiding out in the dense, humid jungle, Markus Talam watched Indonesian soldiers herd manacled prisoners from trucks, line them up and mow them down with round after round of automatic weapons fire. It was 1968, and the killings were part of a final offensive by forces under Gen. Suharto to wipe out the communist party and secure his position as leader of Indonesia, now the world's most populous Muslim nation. 'They gunned them down and dumped their bodies in a mass grave dug by other prisoners. I remember the sound of the guns clearly: tat-tat, tat-tat, tat-tat ... over and over again,' said Talam, 68, who was later jailed for 10 years after being named a leftist sympathizer. Suharto, who died on Sunday at a Jakarta hospital, seized control of the military in 1965 and ruled the country for 32 years, suppressing dissent with force and supported by an American government at the height of the Cold War. Estimates for the number killed during his bloody rise to power -- from 1965 to 1968 -- range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia's history. It was the worst mass slaughter in Southeast Asia's modern history after the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia. A frenzy of anti-communist violence stained rivers with blood and littered the countryside with the bodies of teachers, farmers and others. 'They used to dump the bodies here,' recalled Surien, a 70-year-old woman who lived near a bay used as an execution ground. 'People called it the beach of stinking corpses because of the smell.' The CIA provided lists of thousands of leftists, including trade union members, intellectuals and schoolteachers, many of whom were executed or sent to remote prisons. Another 183,000 died due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness during Indonesia's 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor, according to an East Timorese commission sanctioned by the U.N. Similar abuses left more than 100,000 dead in West Papua, according a local human rights group. Another 15,000 died during a 29-year separatist rebellion in Aceh province. [...]"


"Iraq Conflict Has Killed a Million Iraqis: Survey"
Reuters dispatch, 30 January 2008
"More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups. The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 2,414 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that 20 percent of people had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, rather than natural causes. The last complete census in Iraq conducted in 1997 found 4.05 million households in the country, a figure ORB used to calculate that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war, the researchers found. The margin of error in the survey, conducted in August and September 2007, was 1.7 percent, giving a range of deaths of 946,258 to 1.12 million. ORB originally found that 1.2 million people had died, but decided to go back and conduct more research in rural areas to make the survey as comprehensive as possible and then came up with the revised figure. The research covered 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Those that not covered included two of Iraq's more volatile regions -- Kerbala and Anbar -- and the northern province of Arbil, where local authorities refused them a permit to work. [...]"


"Web Site in Arabic Battles Holocaust Denial"
By Aron Heller
Associated Press dispatch on, 2 February 2008
"Israel's Holocaust memorial has launched an Arabic version of its Web site, including vivid photos of Nazi atrocities and video of survivors' testimony, to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world. Among those featured on the Yad Vashem site is Dina Beitler, a survivor of the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews in World War II. Beitler, who was shot and left for dead in a pit of bodies in 1941, recalls her story on the site, with Arabic subtitles. 'Holocaust denial in various countries exists, and so it is important that people see us, the Holocaust survivors, that they'll listen to our testimonies, and learn the legacy of the Holocaust -- also in Arabic,' Beitler, 73, said at Yad Vashem. Last year, Yad Vashem presented a similar version of its Web site in Farsi, aimed at Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called the Holocaust a 'myth' and said Israel should be 'wiped off the map.' He has also hosted a conference that questioned whether the Holocaust took place. On the Arab street, many are indeed hostile to Israel, but Ahmadinejad's comments stand out as much harsher than those of any mainstream Mideast leaders. A range of sentiments toward the Holocaust exists across the Arab world, from simple ignorance about its details to outright denial, to a more complicated belief -- often expressed by many Arabs -- that the Holocaust did happen but does not justify what is viewed as Israeli persecution of Palestinians. Nazi literature is accessible in many Arab cities, and some of the media engage in anti-Semitic incitement. However, even Iran last year permitted the broadcast of a television miniseries that told the story of an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helped Jews escape the Holocaust -- and viewers were riveted. Still, Holocaust denial is quite common [...]"

"German State Railway Confronts Holocaust Role"
By Kate Connolly
The Guardian, 24 January 2008
"Germany's state railway company admitted the central role its Nazi-era predecessor played in the Holocaust yesterday, saying that without the cooperation of the network the systematic murder of millions of people would never have been possible. Launching its first touring exhibition about the Holocaust, Deutsche Bahn (DB) said the tracks and freight of the Reichsbahn were integral to the Nazis' extermination plan. 'Without the Reichsbahn the industrial murder of millions of people would not have been possible,' said DB's in-house historian, Susanne Kill. At least 3 million Jews and Roma -- including 1.5 million children -- were gathered from across Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe and transported on the Reichsbahn to extermination camps. Adult prisoners and children over four were even charged a fare, earning the railways millions of Reichsmarks. Trainloads of 400 or more, which amounted to massive overcrowding, received a 50% discount. But the exhibition, whose title translates as Special Trains to Death and which opened in central Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, has been controversial. The head of DB, Hartmut Mehdorn, long resisted the idea of showing it at a working railway station, lest it 'put off' commuters from using the trains. But supporters said exhibiting it at a railway station would increase its impact and the numbers of people who saw it. Yesterday the transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, who pushed for the exhibition to proceed, told the Guardian: 'I'm glad that people will be confronted with this topic in a public place on their way to or from work, because the question is still one for everyone, not just the railways to answer: "how was it possible that people allowed such crimes to happen?"'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"In Orphans' Twilight, Memories of a Doomed Utopia"
By Dina Kraft
The New York Times, 23 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"They are in their 80s now, the last living links to Janusz Korczak, the visionary champion of children’s rights who refused to part with his young charges even as they were herded to the gas chambers. When they speak of him, the old men are young again: transported to their days in his orphanage, a place they remember as a magical republic for children as the Nazi threat grew closer. 'It was a utopia,' said Shlomo Nadel, 85, one of the surviving orphans who managed to flee Poland before the Jewish orphanage was forced into the ghetto. Mr. Nadel and the others were witness to life on 92 Krochmalna Street in Warsaw, the orphanage that became a laboratory for Korczak’s democratic educational theories, boasting a court and parliament run by the children. 'A child is a person at every stage of his or her development and has rights, the same rights as an adult, and needs to be treated accordingly,' said Yitzhak Belfer, 85, who can recite by heart the system of points and punishment meted out by the children's court. 'That's how it was with us.' Korczak's ideas for a declaration of children's rights were posthumously adopted by the United Nations, and dozens of Korczak associations exist worldwide. Last year, a compilation of his advice for parents was published under the title 'Loving Every Child.' Its message: listen to children at their level, celebrate their quirks and dreams. His work at the orphanage was interrupted in 1940 when the Nazis forced him and his orphans into the Warsaw Ghetto. A pediatrician, educator and writer, he was born Henryk Goldszmit (Korczak was a pen name) to a Jewish family in 1878. He was beloved in Poland for his children's stories and the radio show on which he counseled parents. Friends offered to smuggle him out of the ghetto, but he refused to abandon the children. When it came time to be deported to the Treblinka death camp in 1942, he led them, each clutching a favorite toy or game, in a silent march of protest to the train that would carry them to their deaths. [...]"


"African Union Head Warns Summit of Genocide in Kenya"
Associated Press dispatch on, 31 January 2008
"Africa is facing a genocide in Kenya and must make resolving the crisis a priority, the head of the African Union told the continent's leaders -- among them the Kenyan president -- at Thursday's opening of a three-day summit. Alpha Konare, head of the African Union, talks at the AU summit Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 'Kenya is a country that was a hope for the continent,' African Union chairman Alpha Konare said. 'Today, if you look at Kenya you see violence on the streets. We are even talking about ethnic cleansing, we are even talking about genocide. We cannot sit with our hands folded.' Others have said that while Kenya is in crisis, the violence is not genocide. 'If Kenya burns, there will be nothing for tomorrow,' Konare said. More than 800 people have been killed across Kenya and tens of thousands have fled their homes since a December 27 vote that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is accused of stealing. Much of the violence has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu. Kibaki listened to Konare Thursday from the front row, among about 40 heads of state meeting in the Ethiopian capital. World Bank President Robert Zoellick and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also were in attendance. [...]"

"Kenya Violence Becomes 'More Organised'"
By Mike Pflanz
The Telegraph, 28 January 2008
"Kenya was experiencing a 'sinister step change' in violence, Britain's minister for Africa has warned, as it emerged that dozens of people had been killed in tribal bloodletting over the weekend. Mark Malloch Brown said in the capital, Nairobi, that the violence had turned from spontaneous to 'something more organised.' His warning came as machete-armed mobs rampaged through towns in the Rift Valley, burning shops and homes and setting up road blocks. 'We are greatly concerned at what we see as a step change in the violence from something bloody and ugly but perhaps spontaneous to something much more organised and sinister,' he said. 'What is so alarming about the last few days is that there are evidently hidden hands organising this now. Militias are appearing, street gangs are being organised.' More than 800 people have died and 250,000 been forced from their homes since clashes broke out after presidential election results a month ago handed Mwai Kibaki a win over his challenger, Raila Odinga, amid claims of widespread vote rigging. Lord Malloch Brown met both President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, but expressed pessimism that they could agree on an urgent solution to the crisis. 'I felt that they were talking about two different crises, with a different view of the facts and differing scenarios about what must happen and what needs to be done.' The pretty lakeside town of Naivasha, where 22 people died overnight, was again the focus of anger between tribes as police struggled to keep them apart. 'There are boys everywhere armed and shouting, they are ready to kill again,' said Charles Njoroge, a mechanic hiding in his shuttered-up shop in Naivasha. 'We cannot move, there are people who will protect us, but there are others who want to kill us. It is chaotic.' [...]"

"Death Toll Nears 800 as Post-Election Violence Spirals Out of Control in Kenya"
By Xan Rice
The Guardian, 28 January 2008
"Ethnic clashes were spreading across Kenya's Rift valley last night with at least 19 people burned in their homes or hacked to death in the popular tourist town of Naivasha, 65 miles from Nairobi. The month-long violence, in which nearly 800 people have died, was sparked by the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki, has now changed into a raw ethnic conflict pitting mainly Kalenjins and Luos, who supported the opposition, against Kibaki's Kikuyu community. There are fears that the cycle of attack and retribution is already beyond the control of the security forces -- and may soon be beyond that of political leaders too. Despite the effort of Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, who brought Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, a Luo, together on Thursday for the first time since the election, the violence, rooted in decades-old tension over land and access to resources and political power, has escalated dramatically. Until late last week, the southern Rift valley escaped serious clashes. But yesterday Katee Mwanza, the district commissioner for Naivasha, told Reuters eight people were burned and 11 others hacked to death as rival tribal gangs fought running battles. In Naivasha, the hub of Kenya's huge flower industry, gangs of young Kikuyus armed with bows and arrows, clubs and machetes yesterday set alight homes and cars belonging to Luos in the poorest estates, as well as the city centre. ... In Nakuru, the lakeside town that hosts the country's most popular national park, more than 60 people have been killed since Friday. The Mungiki, a feared Kikuyu criminal gang, is widely reported to have been deployed in Nakuru and other towns to lead revenge attacks on communities suspected of supporting the opposition. [...]"


"Rebel Returns to Liberia to Confess to 20,000 Deaths"
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 22 January 2008
"One of this country's most notorious rebel commanders, known as Gen. Butt Naked for charging into battle wearing only boots, has returned to confess his responsibility for 20,000 deaths. Joshua Milton Blahyi, who now lives in Ghana, returned last week to face his homeland's truth and reconciliation commission, this time wearing a suit and tie. His platoon's practice of charging naked into battle was a technique meant to terrify the enemy. Blahyi is urging other former killers to come forward as the country founded by freed American slaves in 1847 struggles to recover from past horrors. 'I could be electrocuted. I could be hanged. I could be given any other punishment,' the 37-year-old Blahyi said in a weekend interview after his truth commission appearance last week. 'But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go.' The civil war, which killed an estimated 250,000 people in this nation of 3 million, was characterized by the eating of human hearts and soccer matches played with human skulls. Drugged fighters waltzed into battle wearing women's wigs, flowing gowns and carrying dainty purses stolen from civilians. 'More than 20,000 people fell victim' to Blahyi and his men, he said, beginning in 1982, when he became responsible for making human sacrifices before battle. The commission, modeled on the one in post-apartheid South Africa, has been taking testimony from victims and former rebels for two years, urging a full accounting of wartime atrocities. While the commission cannot charge killers with a crime, it can recommend charges be brought."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Mexico to Focus on Crimes Against Women"
By E. Eduardo Castillo
Associated Press dispatch on, 31 January 2008
"Mexico has created a new federal position to prosecute violence against women and human exploitation, as rights groups urge the government to do more to investigate the killings of women, especially along the U.S. border. The position, announced on Thursday, will replace a similar post created in 2006 and will add migrant smuggling, child labor and other human exploitation to its caseload. The new prosecutor, Guadalupe Morfin -- who previously served in a similar post aimed at combating violence against women in Ciudad Juarez -- will report to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora. The attorney general told Radio Formula that he welcomes the expanded role for his office. Human exploitation 'is a serious problem that we see daily, and we don't have the adequate structure to deal with it,' Medina Mora said. Since 1993, an estimated 423 women have been killed in Ciudad Juarez, across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas -- at least 89 between 2004 and 2008, the National Human Rights Commission reported Tuesday. In about 100 of the Juarez killings, women were abducted, often sexually abused and strangled before their bodies were dumped in the desert. Many were last seen in the city's downtown area or taking buses, and their bodies often did not resurface for months. Commission President Jose Luis Soberanes called the investigations into the deaths 'terrible.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Peter Prontzos for bringing it to my attention.]


"The Blockade of Gaza: Worse Than a Crime"
By Uri Avnery, 26-27 January 2008
"It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate. It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet -- to feel so even when it is your own government that erected the wall in the first place. The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair. That is the lesson of Gaza, January, 2008. ... Even before that, [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army. The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people. It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers. ... The brutal blockade was a war crime. And worse: it was a stupid blunder."

"Gaza Escape: Too Little, Too Late"
By Ed O'Loughlin
The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2008
"[...] Aid agencies warn that the goods coming across from Egypt this week, on foot and in donkey carts, cannot even begin to compensate for the thousands of daily tonnes of imported fuel and supplies cut off by the now near-total Israeli blockade. 'What everybody should realise is just how desperate the situation here continues to be,' said John Ging, the director of the UN's Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, now by default the biggest employer and provider in Gaza. 'Last week we had something in the order of 100 trucks a day of humanitarian supplies coming into Gaza. Yesterday we had 10, the day before 16, today none at all. Before June there were 400 trucks coming in a day -- and that to an economy that was already very severely damaged.' UNRWA and the UN's World Food Program, which together feed around 1.1 million of Gaza's 1.5 million people, only have enough stocks of basic foodstuffs -- flour, rice, lentils and sugar, for a month, and these are being rapidly depleted. 'Dairy products, fresh meat, all the things that are needed to supplement our distribution are disappearing from Gaza,' said Ging. 'We only give people 61 per cent of the minimum calorie intake. You can't live just on what the UN gives you. The situation is very bleak.' Hamas's dramatic initiative in blowing open the Egyptian border crossings early Wednesday has created a public relations problem for Egypt and Israel. Neither government wants to be seen to publicly slam the door on desperate civilians whose purchases -- mainly small quantities of food, medicine and fuel -- underline the urgency of their plight. But Israel, with strong support from the United States, believes that its blockade can force Gaza's people to rise up against the Hamas militants who seized control of the strip last June from the rival US-backed Fatah party. This in turn, it is argued, would end the cross-border bombardment which has terrorised the town of Sderot and killed 10 Israeli civilians over the past seven years. [...]"

"'Breakout into Israel' Ahead"
By Abraham Rabinovich
The Australian, 26 January 2008
"A senior Hamas official warned yesterday that the next breakout from the Gaza Strip could be into Israel, with 500,000 Palestinians attempting to march towards the towns and villages from which they or their parents fled or were expelled 60 years ago. 'This is not an imaginary scenario and many Palestinians would be prepared to sacrifice their lives,' said Ahmed Youssef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Israeli minister Ze'ev Boim said the threat must be taken seriously in light of the successful Hamas breakout into Egyptian territory on Wednesday, adding: 'We must learn from what has just happened there.' Egypt moved last night to end the great Gaza breakout, which had reverberated throughout the region as all sides tried to come to grips with its implications. Egyptian security forces announced by loudspeaker in towns near the border with the Gaza Strip that it would be closed from 3pm (midnight AEDT), with an unknown number of Palestinians still in Egypt. Riot police turned water cannon on Palestinians trying to cross into Egypt, despite Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak saying earlier that he would not allow the people of Gaza to starve. Hamas, riding high on its operational success, sought to parlay it into political gain by seeking Egyptian approval for new border arrangements that would give Hamas for the first time a role in the vital crossing point at Rafah, between Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. [...]"


"Book on Polish Anti-Semitism Sparks Fury"
By Ryan Lucas
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 24 January 2008
"The newly released Polish edition of a book by a Princeton University professor has dredged up painful memories here, forcing the country to confront a difficult chapter in its history: the deaths of Jews at the hands of Poles in the aftermath of World War II. Jan T. Gross' 'Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz' hit bookstores in Poland earlier this month, and has sparked a debate about anti-Semitism in this Eastern European country, which saw its Jewish population -- once Europe's largest -- nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. The book was first released in the United States in 2006, where it was greeted with warm reviews. In Poland, however, the book has been sharply criticized in newspaper editorials and reviews and by historians accusing Gross of using inflammatory language and unfairly labeling all of postwar Polish society as anti-Semitic. ... Gross, who was born in Poland to a Jewish father and a gentile mother, left the country in 1968 during a wave of anti-Semitism sponsored by Poland's then-communist regime. He has said he wrote 'Fear' as a Pole. 'I would like for my book to show people what an incredibly strong toxic poison anti-Semitism is in the general psychology of Poles, because it made us incapable of withstanding temptation,' Gross told a crowd of some 250 people who crammed into a cultural center in Kielce, a town of 200,000 inhabitants, some 110 miles south of Warsaw. [...]"


"Rwanda Genocide Will Haunt World for Generations: UN Chief"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Yahoo! UK & Ireland, 29 January 2008
"The Rwandan genocide will haunt the world's conscience for generations, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday as he visited a memorial for victims of the 1994 massacre during a landmark trip to Kigali. The United Nations secretary general's visit comes as Rwanda seeks to mend ties with the international community, despite simmering resentment over the world's failure to prevent the genocide. 'The 1994 genocide will haunt the United Nations and the international community for generations,' Ban said, after laying a wreath over a mass grave, where some 250,000 people were buried. 'The 1994 genocide shocked our consciences. The United Nations have learnt profound lessons from the genocide,' he added. Ban, who arrived late Monday with his wife and a large delegation, observed a long moment of silence in respect for the 800,000 people who died in the genocide, mainly members of President Paul Kagame's Tutsi minority. Ban also held talks with Kagame and several other officials. His spokeswoman, Michele Montas, described the trip as being akin to 'a pilgrimage ... a way of paying homage to a country which has recovered from an extremely painful period.' The last time a UN secretary general visited Rwanda was in 2001, when Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan held talks in Kigali. Annan had also visited the small central African nation in 1998. Resentment towards the United Nations for failing to prevent the genocide is still rife in Rwanda, and Annan had on several occasions admitted the world body's failure to take appropriate action. [...]"


"Arun Gandhi Quits Peace Institute in Flap Over Blog Posting"
By Michelle Boorstein
The Washington Post, 26 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"The grandson of Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi resigned yesterday as president of the board of a conflict resolution institute after writing an online essay on a Washington Post blog calling Jews and Israel 'the biggest players' in a global culture of violence. ... Gandhi's comments were part of a discussion about the future of Jewish identity on the religion blog On Faith at He wrote that Jewish identity is 'locked into the holocaust experience,' which Jews 'overplay ... to the point that it begins to repulse friends.' The Jewish nation -- Israel, he wrote -- is too reliant upon weapons and bombs and should instead befriend its enemies. 'Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. You don't befriend anyone, you dominate them. We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity,' he wrote. The posting drew 438 comments -- an exceptionally high response for an On Faith essay -- and prompted such a backlash that Gandhi later posted an apology. The Web site also apologized. [...]"


"Fidelity May Get 'Genocide-Free' Proposal"
By Mark Jewell
Associated Press dispatch in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 3 February 2008
"Activists pressing mutual-fund firms to adopt so-called 'genocide-free' investment policies have won an initial victory that's expected to bring such a proposal before shareholders of Fidelity Investments' biggest equity fund and others in coming months. Four other big fund companies are also targeted in a campaign emboldened by a recent Securities and Exchange Commission staff decision. The decision is expected to prevent Fidelity from blocking shareholder votes at several of its funds, including a March 19 shareholder meeting for Fidelity's $81 billion Contrafund. Observers say the SEC staff finding also could trigger similar votes at Barclays, Franklin Templeton, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard -- the other firms that have received shareholder proposals authored by Boston-based Investors Against Genocide. The proposals would require fund boards to direct managers to screen out investments that the board determines are tied to human-rights violations and genocide in places like Sudan's Darfur region. Boston-based Fidelity, the nation's largest mutual fund firm, asked SEC staff in November for assurance that it wouldn't recommend enforcement action against the company if it left the proposal off shareholder ballots. ... Dan Lefkovitz, lead Fidelity analyst at Morningstar Inc., predicted Fidelity shareholders would defeat the activists' proposal. 'Fidelity has never purported to use any social criteria in choosing its investments,' he said. Eric Tyson, author of the book 'Mutual Funds for Dummies' and a former management consultant, agreed chances of passage are slim. 'But to the extent that Fidelity feels forced to put this before shareholders, this organization is getting some attention to the issue, and Fidelity will have to take a stand,' Tyson said."
[n.b. The statement that "Fidelity has never purported to use any social criteria in choosing its investments" is about as concise a summary of the relationship between capitalism and genocide as I have yet read.]

"Genocide Prevention: 60 Years of Abject Failure"
By Eric Reeves
The Christian Science Monitor, 30 January 2008
"This year marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948, the Convention reflects the tireless work of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish linguist and Jew who had survived the Holocaust. But in the long and too often darkened years that followed, the Convention has never prevented a single genocide, even as 'prevention' receives pride of place in the ponderous convention title. ... But if the primary purpose of the Genocide Convention is prevention, the UN and international community must act before there is juridical or historical certainty. We are obliged to act when there is compelling evidence of large-scale destruction of a 'national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.' We might wish for a more detailed account of the mechanism for prevention than is offered in Article 8 of the Convention, but the obligation to act is clear. Instead, failure beyond doubt, beyond mitigation is too often in evidence, whether we look to Bosnia, Rwanda, or Kurdish Iraq. Continuing international acquiescence before genocide is not a matter of an imperfect document but of moral cowardice or a ghastly solipsism. Nowhere is this clearer than in Sudan's Darfur region. Only a hopelessly constrained reading of the Genocide Convention, or a refusal to look at the systematic nature of ongoing ethnic destruction, can sustain diffidence or agnosticism. [...]"


"US Herbicides Exact High Toll on Indigenous Populations"
By Thomas D. Williams, 2 February 2008
"Despite years of ongoing, critical public health controversies in Colombia and Ecuador over the US-assisted aerial herbicide spraying of coca and poppy crops while trying to reduce illegal cocaine and heroin production, US State Department officials are pursuing that very same spraying strategy today. In fact, a couple of months ago, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's administration temporarily cast aside the latest of several State Department exhortations to begin massive herbal spraying operations on poppy crops producing heroin there. Colombian aerosol dusting of a mix of Roundup Ultra, Cosmo-Flux and other plant-penetrating agents began seven years ago. (In 2006 alone, the United Nations reported the spraying of approximately 172,025 hectares of coca crops, producing cocaine. That equals a bit over 664 square miles.) In the meantime, untold thousands of Colombians and Ecuadorians have become sick from the blended chemical spray. Studies have shown the environmental dangers of inhalation and skin and eye saturation of the floating mist. And critically valuable maize, yucca and plantains have been destroyed in large swaths of the fertile country. For years, DynCorp International of Fort Worth, Texas, has had the lucrative US multimillion-dollar annual contract for Colombian aerial spraying operations. The company is being sued in Washington, DC, and US District Court by a class of 3,000 Ecuadorians who claim spray blown over the border from Colombia has sickened them. [...]"