Saturday, February 02, 2008

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

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"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. [...]"

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