Friday, April 18, 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
April 1-18, 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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"Maria Barragan Succeeds in Getting Adoptive Parents Jailed"
By Mike Elkin
The Times, 5 April 2008
"In a landmark decision, a court in Buenos Aires sentenced a former military officer and the adoptive parents of one of the country's many babies 'stolen' during the dictatorship to prison for concealing the child's identity and falsifying adoption documents. Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragán, 30, had brought charges against the three after discovering her true identity seven years ago. Ms. Sampallo is one of hundreds of people who were snatched from their parents or born in captivity during the country’s dictatorship of 1976-83, but she was the first to face her adoptive parents in court. Osvaldo Rivas, 65, and MarÍa Cristina Gómez Pinto, 60, her adoptive parents, were sentenced to eight and seven years in prison respectively. Enrique Berthier, a former army captain who handed Ms Sampallo over to the couple when she was a baby, received ten years. 'These are not my parents,' Ms. Sampallo said at a press conference on Monday. 'They are my kidnappers ... there is no emotional bond that binds me to them. These are my parents,' she said, picking up photos of her biological parents. Argentina's military regime arrested Leonardo Sampallo and Mirta Barragán, suspected leftist dissidents, in December 1977. Soon after Ms. Sampallo was born, her parents died in prison and the infant was given to Captain Berthier to pass on to another family, which hid her real identity. Ms. Sampallo learnt about her past from the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They have found 88 people like Ms. Sampallo, children of their own sons and daughters who 'disappeared.' The Argentine military imprisoned tens of thousands of people suspected of being subversives and killed as many as 30,000. The junta also decided to 'rehabilitate' its enemies' children by placing them with families that supported the dictatorship. Many of the children were given to the families of men who may have participated in the torture and deaths of their parents. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]


"The Battle for Aboriginal Rights"
By Jaimie Kaffash
New Statesman, 15 April 2008
"Britain was furthered by Rudd’s apology to the Aboriginal people for the 'profound grief, suffering and loss' that his predecessors inflicted upon them, leading to an outpouring of emotion that could at least be compared to, if not rival, the death of Diana. It is not often that the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, weeps while watching CNN, though this is what he claimed happened while watching Rudd’s historic moment. But are words enough? As John Pilger quite rightly pointed out on these pages, the answer is 'no'. By focusing on past injustices -- including the 'Stolen Generations,' which saw indigenous children taken from their families up until, unbelievably, the 1960s -- there is a danger that present inequalities could be quietly swept under the carpet. And these inequalities are all too real: an infant mortality rate that is almost three times higher than the non-indigenous population, rates of death from treatable and preventable conditions ranging from three times to eight times higher than for non-indigenous Australians and, for some, a lack of access to adequate health care, housing, food or water, according to Human Rights Watch. All this in one of the world's wealthiest nations. Critics correctly point to the lack of a move to allow the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act with regards to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response -- which deals with alleged child abuse in the region -- thereby continuing the legalisation of discrimination of the indigenous population. As well as this, there have been calls to alleviate the lack of funding for the Aboriginal Legal Aid services, which is to blame for the indigenous legal service's inability to deal with the civil and family law issues, according to a recent article in Criminal Law Journal. Words, however, are undoubtedly a start, especially when they are backed up by Rudd’s latest promise, announced in London this week, to use the first day of parliament every year to provide an update on progress to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2030 -- which incredibly stands at 17 years at the moment. [...]"


"Bulgaria's Ruse Recognizes Ottoman Genocide over Bulgarians and Armenians" (Sofia), 17 April 2008
"The Municipal Council of the northern Bulgarian city of Ruse approved Thursday a declaration denouncing the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire and later its Young Turks' government against its Armenian and Bulgarian population. 'With the adoption of this declaration, the city counselors proved their responsibility and their compassion to the universal human values, and demonstrated their civic consciousness and morals,' announced the representatives of the nationalist Ataka party, which initiated the voting of the declaration. Ataka expressed its hope that similar declarations would be adopted by the city and town councils around the country. These declarations should be treated as a kind of referendum, with whose decisions the Bulgarian government and parliament would have to comply. The city of Burgas already approved a declaration recognizing the Armenian genocide at the end of February. This lead to a harsh reaction on part of the Turkish city of Edirne, which terminated all common projects, and severed all connections between the two cities."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"War Reporter Jon Swain Pays Tribute to Dith Pran"
By Jon Swain
The Sunday Times, 6 April 2008
"[...] I first met Pran in 1972. Although his loyalty was always to Schanberg, he was ready to give help and advice to me and all the other journalists. Never more so than on April 17, 1975 -- the day of the fall of Phnom Penh. On that same day Schanberg, Al Rockoff, an American photographer, and I were captured by the Khmer Rouge. A squad of teenage soldiers with hate-filled eyes forced us into a captured armoured personnel carrier (APC). Pran, realising we were going to be executed, selflessly argued to be allowed to join us inside, knowing full well that without his communication skills we were doomed. It is this story that is told in The Killing Fields. And it was Dith Pran himself, by the way, who coined the phrase 'killing fields' after seeing the grim piles of corpses and skeletal remains on his desperate trek to freedom. That was in the future. Back when Pran volunteered himself as a prisoner, there seemed little hope of escape for any of us. First we were taken to the banks of the Mekong river; then the rear door of the APC opened and a pair of Khmer Rouge soldiers, pointing rifles, beckoned us out. We knew they were going to shoot us. Pran got out first and began to talk softly and firmly, as he always did. He told the Khmer Rouge that we were neutral journalists who had come to report on their historic 'liberation'; and, after a while, our would-be killers began to calm down. The tension suddenly evaporated and we were freed. A few days later we tried to doctor one of my two British passports for Pran so that he could be evacuated with us to Thailand as a foreigner -- but we failed. The Khmer Rouge forced him to go into the countryside -- by now becoming a giant labour camp -- where he somehow survived torture, starvation and a life of unremitting hard toil. When he emerged four years later, 50 members of his family had perished. Mercifully, Schanberg had evacuated Pran’s wife, Ser Moeun, and his four beloved children before Phnom Penh fell and they were safely in America. [...]"


"Canada: Maybe Feds Can't Handle the Truth?"
By Andrew Hanon
The Edmonton Sun (on, 16 April 2008
"'What's the point?' the woman asked. 'What's the point of having a truth and reconciliation commission if the perpetrators of the abuses are not there to face the people they've victimized?' It wasn't the first time I'd heard skepticism about the commission, that is expected this spring to begin work on building a comprehensive public record of the abuses that took place at native residential schools. The commission is one part of a settlement agreement between native people, the federal government and the churches that ran the schools for the feds. It will spend five years poring over church documents and gathering testimony from ex-students about what went on at the schools, that operated from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Alberta had 19 residential schools, where native children were taken from their parents and sent to in an effort to eradicate native language, culture and spirituality. The plan, according to the twisted, racist bastards who developed the program, was to elevate native children from their 'condition of savagery' and assimilate them into mainstream society. Instead, thousands of innocent kids were subjected to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse by the people entrusted to raise them better than their parents could. The end result has been generations of dysfunction and anguish, ruined families and devastated communities, from which Canada's First Nations are still struggling to recover. ... Many former residential school students say one critical component for justice to be served is for them to have the opportunity to face the individuals who violated them. Now they fear it'll never happen. Other critics, notably the Vancouver-based Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, simply don't trust anything that the federal government or the churches had a hand in organizing. The group announced last week it's put together its own inquiry to look into the charge that thousands of children were buried in unmarked graves around dozens of the schools, including four in northern Alberta. The inquiry will be run by several hereditary chiefs from across the country and organizers are trying to get the United Nations involved. They've announced that they'll begin work this week. Meanwhile, the $60-million truth and reconciliation commission can't even nail down an exact start date for its work, other than to say it'll begin in early 2008. [...]"


"UN Chief Joins the Olympic Boycott Relay"
By David Usborne and Jerome Taylor
The Independent, 12 April 2008
"Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, has indicated he will skip the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics this summer, capping an extraordinary week of public relations disasters for the Chinese government as it struggles to contain international anger over its policies towards Tibet and Sudan. Officials fudged the reasons for Mr Ban's decision citing scheduling conflicts. But he is only the latest world leader in recent days suddenly to have found reasons to duck the opening events, after a similar move by Gordon Brown. Mr Ban's absence will be especially symbolic as the UN and the Olympics are meant to share global ideals. Making matters still worse for the hosts -- and also for an increasingly jittery International Olympics Committee (IOC) which has been meeting this week in Beijing -- has been the near pandemonium that has attended nearly every stage so far of China's much-heralded torch relay around the world. Yesterday, protests in Buenos Aires included the unfurling of a giant 'Free Tibet' banner on the torch route and a rival march organised by members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China. Although the protesters were in smaller numbers than were seen during the relays earlier in the week in London, Paris and San Francisco, more than 6,000 Argentinians had signed up to a petition calling on China to talk to the Dalai Lama before the torch had even arrived on Thursday. China is becoming increasingly aggrieved at the demonstrations and the gathering pressure for it to distance itself from the government of Sudan because of the continuing violence in Darfur -- and the crackdown in Tibet. [...]"

"IOC Chief Speaks Out over Tibet As Protests Continue"
By Tania Branigan
The Guardian, 7 April 2008
"The president of the International Olympic Committee has told colleagues at a meeting in the Chinese capital that he is 'very concerned' about unrest in Tibet, as protests continue to flare in other parts of the country. Jacques Rogge's statement -- his strongest to date -- comes in the wake of repeated attempts to disrupt the Olympic torch relay. Police in London arrested 37 people for public order offences as the flame passed through the city yesterday and protesters have already gathered along the route through Paris today. But Rogge said there was 'no momentum' for a boycott of the August event as he addressed the IOC and national Olympic committees in Beijing. 'I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's happening in Tibet,' he told today's meeting. 'The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet,' he said. He said that violence 'for whatever reason' was 'not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic games.' 'We need the unity of the Olympic movement to help us overcome the difficulties. Our major responsibility is for offering good games to the athletes who deserve them,' he said. Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, accused protestors in London of a 'disgusting' form of sabotage. The government has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting trouble in an attempt to damage the games and foster the cause of Tibetan separatism. But the Tibetans' spiritual leader in exile has said supporters should not disrupt the Olympics and insists he seeks only autonomy. [...]"


"Holocaust Train Rolls into Berlin Engulfed by Row"
By Dave Graham
Reuters dispatch, 13 April 2008
"A vintage engine steamed into Berlin on Sunday, hauling carriages filled with photos of smiling children and poignant last letters to loved ones -- the images and words of the youngest victims of the Nazi Holocaust. About 160,000 have visited the train, a memorial to the millions of Jews and others carried off to their deaths by Adolf Hitler's railways in World War Two. The train set off across Germany in November on an often tearful journey due to end, like so many of the Nazis' victims, at the notorious Auschwitz death camp in Poland With just days to go before the 'train of commemoration' terminates its journey on May 8 -- the day the war ended in Europe -- it has become embroiled in a major row. Germany's current rail operator, state-owned Deutsche Bahn, refused to allow the train to halt in the capital's central station, offering instead the eastern Ostbahnhof. Some critics have compared the heads of Deutsche Bahn with those of the Nazi-era Reichsbahn, which deported many of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Left Party parliamentarian Petra Pau said the 'blockade' by the firm, and the travel charges it had imposed on the train were a reminder of the difficulties still faced when trying to shed light on Germany's past crimes. 'The horror of the Nazi regime cannot be forgotten. It would be a betrayal of the victims and the future,' said Pau, a deputy speaker of the Bundestag lower house. [...]"


"Carter Calls Gaza Blockade a Crime and Atrocity"
By Jonathan Wright
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, 18 April 2008
"Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said U.S. attempts to undermine the Islamist movement Hamas had been counterproductive. Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being 'starved to death,' receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. 'It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It's a crime ... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on,' Carter said. Israel has been blockading Gaza mort of the time since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June last year, allowing only basic supplies to enter. Israel has not accepted Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and to Israeli attacks on Hamas personnel in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli officials say a truce would enable Hamas to rearm. Carter said Israel and its ally the United States were trying to make the quality of life in Gaza markedly worse than in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah group is in control. 'I think politically speaking this has worked even to strengthen the popularity of Hamas and to the detriment of the popularity of Fatah,' he added. The United States has been trying to achieve the opposite outcome. [...]"
[n.b. "Atrocity," "abomination," "starved to death" ... can we say "genocide" yet? See further below.]

"UN Expert Stands By Nazi Comments"
By Tim Franks
BBC Online, 8 April 2008
"The next UN investigator into Israeli conduct in the occupied territories has stood by comments comparing Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Richard Falk said he believed that up to now Israel had been successful in avoiding the criticism that it was due. Professor Falk is scheduled to take up his post for the UN Human Rights Council later in the year. But Israel wants his mandate changed to probe Palestinian actions as well. Professor Falk said he drew the comparison between the treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi record of collective atrocity, because of what he described as the massive Israeli punishment directed at the entire population of Gaza. He said he understood that it was a provocative thing to say, but at the time, last summer, he had wanted to shake the American public from its torpor. 'If this kind of situation had existed for instance in the manner in which China was dealing with Tibet or the Sudanese government was dealing with Darfur, I think there would be no reluctance to make that comparison,' he said. That reluctance was, he argued, based on the particular historical sensitivity of the Jewish people, and Israel's ability to avoid having their policies held up to international law and morality. These and other comments from Professor Falk comments are, if anything, even harsher than the current UN investigator, John Dugard, who himself has been withering about Israel's actions. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that Israel wanted the UN investigator's mandate changed, so that he could look into human rights violations by the Palestinians as well as Israel. If that were not to happen, the Israeli government may consider barring entry to the new UN investigator."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. I had not previously read Falk's article, "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust," published last June. It is by far the most searching exploration of the Nazi analogy I have seen. Falk writes: "Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."]


"Unrest in Kenya as Peace Plan Falters"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 9 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"Riots erupted in Kenya on Tuesday as opposition leaders announced that they were suspending talks with the government over a stalled power sharing agreement. According to witnesses, dozens of young men stormed into the streets of Kibera, a sprawling slum in the capital, Nairobi, lighting bonfires, ripping up railroad tracks and throwing rocks at police officers in a scene reminiscent of the violence that convulsed Kenya in the wake of the Dec. 27 election. 'No cabinet, no peace!' the protesters yelled, referring to the cabinet that has yet to be formed because of bitter divisions between the government and the opposition. The eruption was the first major riot since Feb. 28, when rival politicians signed a power sharing agreement that was billed as the only way to end weeks of bloodshed after the disputed presidential election. The post-election violence killed more than 1,000 people, and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes; most of them are still displaced. Much of the violence flared along ethnic lines and threatened to ruin Kenya’s cherished image as a bastion of stability in a chaotic region. Now, it seems, some of that instability has returned. Riots also broke out in Kisumu, in western Kenya, where witnesses said hundreds of angry opposition supporters blocked the road to the airport and stoned cars. Unruly protests were reported in several other towns. Police officials could not be reached for comment. By the close of business on Tuesday, the Kenyan currency had dropped against the dollar, reflecting the serious damage a few protests can do to an already jittery economy. The problem that set off the disturbances seemed to be the same issue that has bedeviled the reconciliation efforts from the beginning: the division of power. Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, whom opposition leaders and some Western election observers have accused of stealing the vote in December, seems reluctant to grant opposition leaders substantial power. [...]"


"Kosovo War Crimes Suspect Acquitted"
By Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 3 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"The most senior Kosovo Albanian suspect to be prosecuted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal was cleared today of all counts involving the murder, rape and torture of Serb civilians. The acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla commander and prime minister of the breakaway province, is expected to inflame tensions in the Balkans, where Kosovo's ethnic Albanians have declared independence and Serbs adamantly oppose the move. Haradinaj and two codefendants were accused of mounting a 'criminal enterprise' to abuse, kill and expel Serbs and other minorities in 1998 during the Kosovo Albanians' fight to be rid of Serbian rule. The armed conflict between ethnic Albanians and Serbian forces was ended the following year by a NATO bombing campaign that drove the Serbian military out of the province. The trial at the international tribunal at The Hague drew special attention because United Nations officials were accused of giving preferential treatment to Haradinaj. Former lead prosecutor Carla Del Ponte accused U.N. officials who have administered Kosovo since the NATO campaign of deliberately obstructing the investigation into Haradinaj's alleged crimes. Presiding judge Alphons Orie prefaced his reading of the verdict today with a lament that around 20% of the witnesses who were subpoenaed refused to testify out of fear. Several witnesses also disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances. Many of the alleged victims were fellow ethnic Albanians who did not support Haradinaj's faction. As Orie read out the not guilty verdicts, Haradinaj's supporters in the courtroom erupted in applause and cheers. In Kosovo, where television stations were broadcasting the verdicts live, celebrations were also on tap. Haradinaj and two codefendants, like him fighters in the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, were acquitted of crimes against humanity. Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj were cleared of all additional charges, while the third defendant, Lahi Brahimaj, was found guilty on two counts of torture and cruel treatment of a prisoner. He was sentenced to six years in prison."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"In Mexico, War on Drug Cartels Takes Wider Toll"
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
The Washington Post, 14 April 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] According to government figures, major army operations in nine states have led to more than 22,000 arrests and the seizure of 50 tons of cocaine and 40,000 weapons. The operations, government officials say, have shaved $9 billion a year from the cartel's roughly $23 billion drug trade. But in nearly every state where the army has deployed, residents have accused soldiers of grave human rights violations that now number in the hundreds. Here in the western state of Michoacan, Calderón's home state, more than 100 such violations have been alleged, including the fatal shooting Jan. 12 of a 17-year-old boy at a checkpoint. In an anti-narcotics plan now before Congress, President Bush has proposed sending the Mexican military $205.5 million in equipment in 2008, more than 40 percent of the proposed outlay for the year. The Merida Initiative, as the program is known, designates a portion of Mexico's proposed $950 million package for 2008 and 2009 for human rights training for police, prosecutors and prison officials, though none for the army. 'The military is committing excesses, and that is a reminder of the Dirty War,' said Sergio Aguayo, founder of the nonprofit Mexican Human Rights Academy, referring to the period in the 1960s and '70s in which government troops are accused of having killed hundreds of student protesters and civil rights activists. A few government officials were briefly jailed, but there have been no major convictions. A report issued in September by Mexico's government-sponsored National Human Rights Commission gave details of three cases that occurred during Calderón's military campaign, including in Nocupetaro. The commission concluded that 59 people here were subjected to 'cruel and degrading' treatment at the hands of soldiers, including 'arbitrary and illegal detentions,' torture and looting. [...]"


"Namibia: Germany Likely to Reject Genocide Motion"
By Brigitte Weidlich
The Namibian (Windhoek) on, 18 April 2008
"A Motion to acknowledge atrocities committed to Herero, Nama, Damara and San communities a century ago as genocide, which was tabled and debated in the German Bundestag last year, will be rejected by the MPs, the Bundestag Speaker said in Windhoek yesterday. Dr. Norbert Lammert, whose post is the second highest in the German government after the federal president, told reporters that the German MPs still had to vote on the motion of the Left Party, which had been referred to a parliamentary standing committee in the meantime. 'I got a recommendation from that committee that this motion will not find a majority in the Bundestag -- it will be rejected,' he said. Asked whether this would mean that the approximately 600 German MPs would not declare what happened under colonial rule 100 years ago as 'genocide', Lammert replied that Germany was aware of its special responsibility towards Namibia, but concrete support to Namibians, in the form of development assistance, was far more helpful. Doreen Sioka, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, who received Lammert's courtesy call, said that 'Namibia and Germany can maybe clear the past because of the history of our ancestors and the Germans, we cannot avoid it.' Sioka reminded Lammert that the Namibian Parliament adopted a motion of Herero Chief Kuaima Riruako at the end of 2006, which asked to debate on the 'genocide against Namibian people' by the German colonial government. The Namibian Government last year officially conveyed the adoption of this motion to the German government in Berlin."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Last Uprising Leader Recalls Warsaw Battle"
By Monika Scislowska
Associated Press dispatch in the Rocky Mountain News, 16 April 2008
"Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the 1943 uprising in the Warsaw ghetto by a handful of scrappy, poorly armed Jews against the Nazi army, becomes emotional when he speaks of the fighters he led. 'I remember them all -- boys and girls -- 220 altogether, not too many to remember their faces, their names,' says the 89-year-old doctor, who still works in a Lodz hospital. Edelman will lay a wreath in their honor at the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto on Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the uprising. The Nazis walled off the ghetto in November 1940, cramming 400,000 Jews from across Poland into a 760-acre section of the capital in inhuman conditions. On April 19, 1943, German troops started to liquidate the ghetto by sending tens of thousands of its residents to death camps. Several hundred young Jews took up arms in defense of the civilians -- the first act of large-scale armed civilian resistance against the Germans in occupied Poland during World War II. ... Edelman views the annual observances as 'part of educating people and fighting genocide.'"

"Poland Marks Ghetto Uprising Anniversary"
By Alik Keplicz
Associated Press dispatch on, 15 April 2008
"The Jewish prayer for the dead echoed Tuesday across what was once the heart of the Warsaw ghetto as Polish and Israeli leaders marked the 65th anniversary of a doomed battle waged by young Jews against Nazi troops. Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski, led a crowd of 1,000 gathered beneath the stark granite Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto in ceremonies honoring the Jews who rose up on April 19, 1943, in the face of imminent death and held off German troops for three weeks. Survivor Hela Rufeisen, who was part of the fight as an 18-year-old, remembered the goal of the insurgency was simple. 'They are killing us, so we have to fight and hurt them, too,' recalled Rufeisen, one of a few ghetto fighters who attended the ceremony. Israeli and Polish flags fluttered in the afternoon breeze as Poland's chief orthodox rabbi, Michael Schudrich, read out the Kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead. Then, to the beat of a military drum, Peres, Kaczynski and survivors of the ghetto uprising placed wreaths at the foot of the monument, which was flanked by two large iron menorahs. Peres praised the young fighters, who he said displayed 'a heroism that our children will proudly carry with them in their hearts.' 'The majority of the uprising fighters died, murdered in cold blood. They lost the fight, but from the point of view of history, there has never been such a victory,' Peres said. 'A victory of men over human bestiality, of pure souls over fallen ones.' [...]"


"Dilemmas of the Horn"
By Scott Johnson
Newsweek, 21 April 2008
"[...] In late 2006 the United States backed Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia, designed to oust the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist coalition that had taken over much of the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. (Al-Shabaab was the Courts' military wing.) Washington accused the Islamists of harboring Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But the Courts had also brought more stability than Somalia had enjoyed in years. Somalis could walk the streets and do business again, and many welcomed the Islamists just as war-weary Afghans hailed the Taliban in the 1990s. Now, by trying to prevent another terrorist haven like Afghanistan from developing, America may have helped create another Iraq, this one in the volatile Horn of Africa. 'Every year this fighting continues, the situation worsens,' says Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abdul Salaam of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. The Islamists' eviction in 2006 left a power vacuum that the U.N.-backed government still hasn't managed to fill. Ethiopian troops are loathed as occupiers and rarely leave their heavily fortified bases. And al-Shabaab has broken off from the Courts to wage a brutal and effective insurgency. The guerrillas have overrun at least eight Somali towns this year and control parts of the capital. Where once they brought order to Somalia, they now gleefully spread chaos. Mogadishu looks like Baghdad during its darker days. Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers are hunkered down behind sandbags, concrete barriers and heavy artillery. Whenever they go out on patrol, their heavily armored convoys are blasted by roadside bombs, rockets and small arms fire. In recent weeks, al-Shabaab has stepped up a suicide-bombing campaign; an attack last week targeted a compound housing African Union peacekeepers, wounding nine and killing one. Leaflets warning of death to government collaborators likewise recall Iraq. [...]"
[n.b. The Bush administration will no doubt be glad that it is "only" Africans dying in this fiasco so far.]


"Spielberg, U.N. Chief Seek Ways to Keep Focus on Darfur"
The Los Angeles Times, 17 April 2008
"Film director Steven Spielberg has met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to brainstorm ways to keep the spotlight on the troubled Darfur region as world concern shifts to places such as Tibet and Zimbabwe. The director pitched a few ideas at the Tuesday session, but any new project is still in development, U.N. officials and Spielberg's spokesman said. 'We went there to offer help in any way that we could,' said spokesman Andy Spahn. 'We will continue to try to focus public attention on the issue and to try to arrange meetings with those who have influence in Sudan.' Ban and Spielberg discussed the possibility of a conference on Sudan around a summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations this summer. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof proposed this week that such a meeting take place in Rwanda, against the resonant backdrop of a recent genocide. Spielberg stepped down in February from his post advising on the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics to protest China's continuing support of the Sudanese government and its role in violence in Darfur. When he stepped down, he said that he had spent a year talking with Chinese officials about the issue, but was not satisfied with the results. Spielberg's friend, Chinese director Zhang Yimou, brought him onto the Olympics committee. One idea that has been floated is to bring Chinese film luminaries onto the Darfur campaign, though those present at Tuesday's meeting would not confirm that idea was in the script."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Modern India Still Prays for Boys"
By Tim Sullivan
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 13 April 2008
"Standing in front of his small brick home, in a courtyard where the dirt has been packed down by generations of barefoot children, the middle-aged mustard farmer doesn't bother to hide his exhaustion. 'Only someone who has been through something like this can understand the size of my catastrophe,' said Sukhpal Singh Tomar. For years, he has struggled to find some reason for his suffering, but has come up with little. He shrugged: 'It must be my karma.' The catastrophe? His daughters -- all eight -- so many he sometimes stumbles over their names. But his wife, Shanti, never forgets, and the words spill from her like a breathless prayer: 'Anu-Jyoti-Poonam-Roshni-Sheetal-Bindu-Chandni-Shezal.' They have been born in a country leaping headfirst into the globalized world but still holding tight to a preference for boys, enlarging an ever-widening gender imbalance in the second most populous nation on earth. Tomar, 50, said his wife had also had three abortions. Asked if the intent had been to abort female fetuses, he looked silently at the ground. 'It would have been easier to have a son. Even just one,' said Shanti, 38, whose stringy hair and worn skin make her look 20 years older. She's holding their youngest girl, 3-month-old Shezal. ... It has long been clear that India has a deep-seated preference for boys. By 2001, researchers estimated the country had anywhere from 20 million to 40 million 'missing' girls from sex-selective abortions made available through the spread of ultrasound technology. But as India modernizes -- as places like Singhpura become small towns, as towns become cities and as India's once-overwhelming poverty is slowly supplanted by an increasingly educated middle class that wants fewer children -- researchers say the problem is only getting worse. [...]"


[n.b. This is a theme I have been harping on since early in the life of the "Media File." It now seems to be exploding into political debate and public consciousness, for reasons conveyed by the title of the first article in this selection. We will be seeing a great deal more of this rioting and protest in coming months and years. To the extent that the crisis is policy-driven by western governments, ideologues, and corporations, it is the practical equivalent of locking much of the population of the Global South into Warsaw-style ghettos, and standing by idly (or congratulating ourselves on our enlightened neoliberal policies) as tens or hundreds of millions of people slowly starve. Maybe not so slowly ...]

"Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket", 14 April 2008
"Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday. 'This is the world's big story,' said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute. 'The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend,' he said on CNN's 'American Morning,' in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. 'There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States.' World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean 'seven lost years' in the fight against worldwide poverty. 'While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day,' Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers. 'The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.'s World Food Programme to meet emergency needs,' he said. 'Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now.' ... 'In just two months,' Zoellick said in his speech, 'rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family.' The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food. 'This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth,' Zoellick said. [...]"

"Soaring Food Prices Now Top Threat, IMF Says"
By Kevin Carmichael
The Globe and Mail, 14 April 2008
"The global food crisis has pushed aside fears of a recession and mounting banking woes as top priority for the world's economic leaders. Ministers representing 185 countries agreed on the weekend that soaring food prices threaten global calamity and pledged to co-operate on a solution to save the world's poorest people from starvation. But that solution remains elusive. The finance ministers and central bank governors who oversee the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank left Washington yesterday without a definitive response to agricultural prices that have surged 48 per cent since the end of 2006, sparking a wave of hoarding and riots throughout the developing world. 'If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries, including Africa, but not only Africa, will be horrific,' IMF managing director Dominque Struass-Kahn said at a press conference. 'Hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will suffer from malnutrition, with consequences on all of their lives.' That level of concern didn't translate into pledges for more food aid or concrete ideas about how food inflation might be reversed. The IMF failed to agree on a response, beyond a pledge to work with its sister organization, the World Bank, and others in an "integrated response through policy advice and financial support." The committee of ministers that directs the work of the World Bank, led by Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens, said the bank and the fund should stand ready to provide 'timely policy and financial support' to the most vulnerable countries. It also endorsed a plan by World Bank President Robert Zoellick to boost agricultural productivity in poorer countries, and urged donors to respond to the United Nations' call for an immediate $500-billion (U.S.) in extra food aid. Mr. Zoellick said only about half of that money has been committed. No new pledges came amid the alarm and worry expressed by finance ministers from some of the world's wealthiest countries. [...]"

"India's Struggle to Feed a Billion People"
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, 12 April 2008
"Vijender Vardhman knows a thing or two about rice. From his small family-run store in south Delhi he sells a remarkable 63 varieties, not to mention a multitude of pulses, grains and packaged goods squeezed tightly on to his shelves. Over the past six months the price of India's most common staple, basmati rice, has increased by up to 70 per cent and ordinary rice by about 10 per cent. 'The basmati rice is now between 80 to 100 rupees [£1-1.25] a kilo,' he says. If Mr. Vardhman seemed relaxed as he sat behind his counter yesterday evening, the Indian government is certainly not. With a billion of the three billion or so people who rely on rice every day living within its borders, India was one of the first countries to take measures to protect its domestic supplies by halting exports of all but basmati, which sells at a premium. India has been a major exporter of rice and its decision has forced other governments in the region to seek alternative supplies as the rice crisis continues. Indeed, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute has said the cost of rice, already at around $1,000 a tonne, will continue to rise as demand outstrips supply. 'We have been consuming more than we have been producing and research to increase rice productivity is needed to address this imbalance,' it stated. Of all the countries in Asia where rice is a staple, it is the Philippines that is struggling most to deal with the crisis. As a big importer of rice, the country's government has been desperately trying to secure supplies in a bid to safeguard its stocks. Last week President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to do a deal with Vietnam to buy 1.5 milion tonnes of rice at $708 (£360) a tonne, almost 50 per cent higher than the price in January. She is not the only one resorting to desperate measures in a region where for most people a meal consists of a bowl of rice and where the grain has considerable cultural significance. Cambodia, where food prices have jumped by around 40 per cent in the last year, has also imposed a ban on rice exports while Sri Lanka has been trying to negotiate a deal with the Burmese military authorities to solve a shortfall. [...]

"Hungry Haitians Riot over Food Prices"
By Jonathan M. Katz
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 8 April 2008
"Hungry Haitians stormed the presidential palace Tuesday, throwing rocks and demanding the resignation of President Rene Preval over soaring food prices. Overwhelmed guards struggled to hold back the crowd until U.N. peacekeepers came to their rescue, firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But nowhere do they pose a greater threat to democracy than in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries where in the best of times most people struggle to fill their bellies. 'I compare this situation to having a bucket full of gasoline and having some people around with a box of matches,' said Preval adviser Patrick Elie. 'As long as the two have a possibility to meet, you're going to have trouble.' For months, Haitians have compared their hunger pains to 'eating Clorox' -- both because of the burning feeling in their stomachs and the skin-bleaching effects of chronic malnutrition. The most desperate have come to depend on a traditional hunger palliative of cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt. Riots broke out in the normally placid southern port of Les Cayes last week, quickly escalating as protesters tried to burn down a U.N. compound. At least five people have been killed there. The protests spread to other cities, and on Monday tens of thousands took to the streets of Port-au-Prince. On Tuesday, demonstrators in the capital barricaded streets and pelted a marketplace with rocks, and a crowd tried to break down the gates of the presidential palace, demanding Preval's resignation. 'We are hungry!' the crowd shouted. 'He must go!' Preval, who aides said was at work in the palace during the protests, has made no public statements since the riots began. [...]"
[n.b. "A traditional hunger palliative of cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt" ... Jesus. I don't know what is more frightening: that this is a "traditional palliative," or that it is now returning to prominence.]

"Grains Gone Wild"
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times, 7 April 2008
"These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way -- and it's hurting a lot more people. I'm talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans -- but they're truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family's spending. There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers -- and making things even worse in countries that need to import food. How did this happen? The answer is a combination of long-term trends, bad luck -- and bad policy. ... Where the effects of bad policy are clearest ... is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels. The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a 'scam.' This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly 'good' biofuel policies, like Brazil's use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation. And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states. Oh, and in case you're wondering: all the remaining presidential contenders are terrible on this issue. [...]"

"A 'Perfect Storm' of Hunger"
By Edmund Sanders and Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times, 1 April 2008
"For 15 years, he's been a 'grocer' for Africa's destitute. But he's never seen anything like this. Pascal Joannes' job is to find grains, beans and oils to fill a food basket for Sudan's neediest people, from Darfur refugees to schoolchildren in the barren south. Lately Joannes has spent less time shopping and more time poring over commodity price lists, usually in disbelief. ... Joannes is head of procurement in Sudan for the World Food Program, the United Nations agency in charge of alleviating world hunger. Meteoric food and fuel prices, a slumping dollar, the demand for biofuels and a string of poor harvests have combined to abruptly multiply WFP's operating costs, even as needs increase. In other words, if the number of needy people stayed constant, it would take much more money to feed them. But the number of people needing help is surging dramatically. It is what WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran calls 'a perfect storm' hitting the world's hungry. The agency last month issued an emergency appeal for money to cover a shortfall tallied at more than half a billion dollars and growing. It said it might have to reduce food rations or cut people off altogether. The most vulnerable are people like those in Sudan, whom Joannes is struggling to feed and who rely heavily, perhaps exclusively, on the aid. But at least as alarming, WFP officials say, is the emerging community of newly needy. These are the people who once ate three meals a day and could afford nominal healthcare or to send their children to school. They are more likely to live in urban areas and buy most of their food in a market. They are the urban poor in Afghanistan, where the government has asked for urgent help. They are families in Central America, who have been getting by on remittances from relatives abroad, but who can no longer make ends meet as the price of corn and beans nearly doubles. [...]"

Tuesday, April 01, 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
March 18 - April 1, 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


"Babies of the Disappeared"
By Chris Bradley
New Statesman, 27 March 2008
"As a child, María Eugenia Sampallo Barragán had a fiery relationship with her mother, who chose unusual ways of showing affection. Outbursts such as 'If it wasn't for me you would have ended up in a ditch' and 'Badly educated brat -- only a child of a guerrilla could be so rebellious' were common, but would not be fully understood until years later. The truth was finally revealed in 2001 and María Eugenia, 30, is now demanding 25-year jail sentences for the couple who raised her, Osvaldo Rivas and María Cristina Gómez Pinto, and their associate Enrique José Berthier. The trio are accused of removing her from her parents, falsifying her birth certificate and erasing her true identity. The verdict is due in a Buenos Aires court on 4 April. María Eugenia was five when a family friend told her she had been adopted after her real parents died in a car crash. Strange, then, that Rivas and Gómez were listed as her biological parents on her birth certificate. Other versions of her origins soon emerged: that she was the daughter of a maid who had given her up for financial reasons; that she was the daughter of an air hostess from Europe, who came to Argentina and became pregnant through an extramarital affair. In 2001 María Eugenia became the 72nd grandchild recovered by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group that works to find the children of their children, who were tortured and killed under the military dictatorship of 1976-83. They calculate that among the 30,000 'disappeared,' more than 400 were babies, either kidnapped along with their parents or born in captivity. Many were raised with new identities by the same military families that had had a hand in the fate of their biological parents. [...]"

"DNA Advances Set to ID 'Dirty War' Bones"
By Bill Cormier
Associated Press dispatch, 21 March 2008
"The 600 skeletons are packed into fruit cartons and stacked on shelves in the walk-in closet of a forensic lab, in the dim glow of a single bare light bulb. They are 'Skeleton No. 4' or 'Skeleton No. 21,' and nothing more. But a quarter-century after Argentina's dictatorship and 'dirty war' against its own citizens ended, DNA technology raises the possibility of finally learning the identities of these skeletons in the closet, collected from mostly unmarked graves across Argentina. Funded by U.S. taxpayers, anthropologists have launched an ambitious campaign, drawing on techniques pioneered in Bosnia and at New York's World Trade Center after 9/11. On television and radio, celebrities exhort relatives of 'the disappeared' to provide blood samples for a nationwide DNA database. A weekday call center advertises its toll-free number on banners at soccer games. 'If you have a family member who was a victim of a forced disappearance ... a simple blood sample can help identify them,' says a popular Argentine soccer sportscaster in a TV ad. The campaign began in November and is already paying off. 'We've received some 2,000 telephone calls,' said Luis Fondebrider of the independent Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which was founded in 1984 to document the missing and has since applied its know-how in more than 40 countries, from El Salvador to Iraq to East Timor. It also led the identification through dental records of Cuban revolutionary Ernest 'Che' Guevara's remains, exhumed in the 1990s. The nonprofit group hopes soon to recruit a U.S. lab to cross-match the samples with DNA from all 600 skeletons in the closet, many of which have bullet holes in their skulls or signs of torture. Large-scale DNA sampling has become quicker and cheaper since it was pioneered in Bosnia, according to Mercedes Doretti, a founder of the group and a recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Foundation 'genius grant.' [...]"

"'Dirty War' Suspect Returns to Argentina"
Associated Press dispatch on, 19 March 2008
"A former police officer suspected of taking part in 'dirty war' death squad killings was returned to his homeland in handcuffs Wednesday. Prosecutors say Rodolfo Eduardo Almiron Sena was a key aide to Jose Lopez Rega, alleged chief of the Triple A death squad, whose political killings in the mid-1970s were a grim precursor of Argentina's bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship that killed thousands of dissidents. Spain's government announced in February that it would extradite Almiron to faces charges that include genocide. Prosecutors tie him to two specific deaths. The Argentine Anticommunist Alliance is blamed for killing hundreds of leftist students, labor activists and others between 1973 and 1975. The Argentine government news agency Telam said Almiron, now 71, was brought in economy class on a regular Aerolineas Argentinas flight escorted by Interpol agents. Arriving before dawn, Almiron was then whisked in handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest to a federal court complex. Authorities said Almiron fled to Europe in 1975 and lived there for decades outside scrutiny before he was found in December 2006."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Aborigines 'Locked Out of the Real Economy'"
By Natasha Robinson
The Mercury (Tasmania), 1 April 2008 (from The Australian)
"Aboriginal people are condemned to poverty and treated as 'museum pieces' by governments whose education policies have locked a generation out of the real economy. Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth has called for an urgent solution to the chronic underfunding of remote community schools, where up to 4000 indigenous children each year in the Northern Territory have no access to secondary education. The former director of the Central Land Council, a member of the Stolen Generations who was educated at a mission school, backed the idea of boarding schools for remote indigenous students as one solution to the crisis. Mr. Tilmouth, one of Australia's most successful indigenous leaders who now works as an adviser to the Northern Territory mining company Compass Resources, said government policies on education were driven by the belief that Aboriginal people should continue living traditional lives. This had resulted in a system that routinely produced students who could not read or write after sometimes more than 10 years of schooling. It was often left to mining companies who employed indigenous people to teach them to read or write, he said. 'There should be a royal commission into the state of education in the Northern Territory of Aboriginal children, because this is an act of genocide,' Mr. Tilmouth said. 'We've got to move away from this ridiculous socialist experiment of (treating) Aboriginal people as museum pieces, living museums. We want to be able to look after ourselves, we want the economic independence. We can't do that unless we have a very good basis of education.' Indigenous children in the NT who are schooled in communities or outstations classified as 'very remote' lag severely behind in literacy and numeracy. [...]"


"Cambodia: The High Cost of Closure"
By Susan Postlewaite
Business Week, 1 April 2008
"Dressed in a khaki shirt and slumped in his chair, eyes closed as the judges read the proceedings, the frail and white-haired 'Brother No. 2' doesn't look the part of a mastermind of the 1970s reign of terror in Cambodia. Arrested at home near the Thai border last September, 82-year-old Nuon Chea is the top-ranking Khmer Rouge official to face trial for his role in the Cambodian genocide. But with his health deteriorating, the court worries he may die before the trial's conclusion. So haste is of the essence. That's one factor that international aid donors must consider when deciding whether to foot the $170 million bill for the U.N.-sponsored trials of Nuon Chea and four other former Khmer Rouge officials. Trying them is proving far more costly than organizers had planned. The court's budget, originally $53 million for three years, has ballooned to $170 million for five years. And after a year and a half of operations, the hybrid court (run by both the U.N. and the Cambodian government) is running out of money. The Cambodian side has announced it runs out of funds in April. Nearly 30 years after the end of the 'killing fields' that left 2 million people dead, many Cambodians are wondering whether getting justice is worth the expense. Some think the trials in Cambodia are, as the former U.N. Secretary-General's representative in Cambodia Benny Widyono says, 'a little too late.' [...]"

"Dith Pran, 65; Helped Reveal 'Killing Fields'"
By Elaine Woo
The Los Angeles Times, 31 March 2008
"One day during the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970s, American journalist Sydney Schanberg asked his Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran, a gnawing question. How would Dith respond to the American diplomat in Phnom Penh who had been publicly criticizing Cambodians for not rising up against the communist insurgents, who were killing innocent countrymen every day? Was it because, as the diplomat insinuated, Cambodians did not value human life as highly as Westerners did? The question hung in the air for long minutes until Dith found the words to respond. 'It's not true. You have seen for yourself the suffering,' he told Schanberg softly. 'The only difference, maybe, is that with Cambodians the grief leaves the face quickly, but it goes inside and stays there for a long time.' For slaughter on the scale inflicted by the Khmer Rouge -- an estimated 1.5 million died of starvation, executions, overwork and torture -- the grief could be immobilizing, but not for Dith. He saved Schanberg from death at rebel hands before facing it himself many times during the four years of the Khmer Rouge's bloody reign. When Schanberg won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for his Cambodia reporting at the New York Times, he shared the honor with Dith. How the scrappy Cambodian managed to survive was incomprehensible even to Dith. Yet he prevailed and with Schanberg's help began life anew in the United States as a staff photographer for the Times. Dith emerged as an eloquent spokesman for the victims of the Cambodian slaughter, a role he filled until his death from pancreatic cancer Sunday at a hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., Schanberg said. He was 65. 'A clear-eyed reporter who lived through horror and survived to tell his story in his own words, for 30 years Dith Pran ... played a key role in bringing the crimes of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime to world attention, especially in the United States,' said Ben Kiernan, founding director of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University. [...]"

"'Killing Fields' Survivor Dith Pran Dies"
By Richard Pyle
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 30 March 2008
"Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born journalist whose harrowing tale of enslavement and eventual escape from that country's murderous Khmer Rouge revolutionaries in 1979 became the subject of the award-winning film 'The Killing Fields,' died Sunday, his former colleague said. Dith, 65, died at a New Jersey hospital Sunday morning of pancreatic cancer, according to Sydney Schanberg, his former colleague at The New York Times. Dith had been diagnosed almost three months ago. Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant for Schanberg in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War reached its chaotic end in April 1975 and both countries were taken over by Communist forces. Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind after the capital fell; they were not reunited until Dith escaped four and a half years later. Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for the Times. It was Dith himself who coined the term 'killing fields' for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom. The regime of Pol Pot, bent on turning Cambodia back into a strictly agrarian society, and his Communist zealots were blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million of Cambodia's 7 million people. 'That was the phrase he used from the very first day, during our wondrous reunion in the refugee camp,' Schanberg said later. With thousands being executed simply for manifesting signs of intellect or Western influence -- even wearing glasses or wristwatches -- Dith survived by masquerading as an uneducated peasant, toiling in the fields and subsisting on as little as a mouthful of rice a day, and whatever small animals he could catch. After Dith moved to the U.S., he became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, dedicated to educating people on the history of the Khmer Rouge regime. [...]"


"Dalai Lama Says 'Demographic Aggression' is Making Tibetans a Minority in Their Homeland"
By Ashok Sharma
Associated Press dispatch in The Oakland Press, 31 March 2008
"A Chinese government policy of 'demographic aggression' is threatening Tibetan culture as increasing numbers of non-Tibetan Chinese move into the region, the Dalai Lama said Saturday. He also told reporters that China risks instability because of its human rights record. In Lhasa, the region's ancient capital, there are now 100,000 Tibetans but twice as many outsiders, the Tibetan spiritual leader said. The majority of those are Han Chinese, the country's ethnic majority. 'There is evidence the Chinese people in Tibet are increasing month by month,' he told reporters, calling the population shift a 'form of cultural genocide.' He also said that a million more people are expected to be settled in Tibet after this summer's Olympics. He did not say how he received that information. The comments from the Dalai Lama, who has been based in India since fleeing his homeland decades ago, came as diplomats were preparing to leave the Tibetan capital after a quick overnight visit. The visit was the latest move by China to show it is in control of the region after deadly anti-government protests more than two weeks ago. Beijing blames the unrest on the Dalai Lama and his supporters. The Dalai Lama also warned that China risks instability because of its human rights record and he worried about his 'Middle Way' dialogue with Beijing, which calls for autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule. 'China looks stable, but underneath [there is] a lot of resentment,' he told reporters, calling Beijing a police state with a 'rule of terror.' The protests in Tibet and other regions with large Tibetan populations have brought immense unwanted attention to China and its human rights record ahead of the Beijing Olympics. [...]"

"In China, An Appeal for Change On Tibet"
By Jill Drew
The Washington Post, 23 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"A group of 30 Chinese intellectuals appealed to the Chinese government Saturday to admit that its policy of crushing dissent in Tibet and blaming the ensuing violence on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was failing. 'The one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation,' the group said in an open letter posted on, a Web site for overseas Chinese. It was the first time a Chinese group had publicly urged the country's leaders to rethink their response to two weeks of protests in Tibetan areas across western China. The government's response to the Tibetan protests is a highly sensitive topic in China, and few people are willing to be quoted questioning its actions. Many of the 30 people who signed the open letter are regular contributors to Web sites and blogs that provide alternative views of government policies. One other regular contributor, Hu Jia, went on trial this week on charges of incitement to subvert state power for posts he made on and comments in interviews with foreign media. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. Dissident author Wang Lixiong is the first name on the petition. He and his wife, Tibetan poet and essayist Tsering Woeser, have been under house arrest in Beijing since the protests began, Wang told Radio Free Asia on Friday. The Chinese government-controlled media, after initial silence on the protests, has provided extensive coverage focusing on a March 14 riot in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. [...]"

"Witnesses to Tibet Violence Describe Scenes of Horror"
By Barbara Demick
The Los Angeles Times, 22 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] Tibetans randomly beat and killed Chinese solely on the basis of their ethnicity: a young motorcyclist bludgeoned in the head with paving stones and probably killed; a teenage boy in school uniform being dragged by a mob. ... A young Chinese motorcyclist is struck by stones. Witmore utters a silent scream to the man, 'Keep moving!' but the motorcyclist stops, as if to reason with the mob. Soon his flashy gold helmet is off and the mob is pounding his head with stones and pipes. Witmore, who was watching from the lobby of her hotel, retreats into the courtyard in horror. Other tourists say later that they believe the man was killed. Balsiger [a foreign journalist] sees the crowd pull a Chinese-looking man off a bicycle. A teenage boy is bludgeoned on the head, but as he staggers, bleeding on the pavement, barely conscious, a tall foreign man steps in and pulls him to safety. Police flee, and by early afternoon the mobs have the run of the city. They go after Chinese shopkeepers, who these days dominate the commercial life of Lhasa. 'They thought we Han Chinese people were coming to steal from their rice bowls,' says the manager of Top of the World Hotel on Ramoche Street, near the temple. She cowers in her courtyard as the crowd sets fire to many of her neighbors' businesses. ... Riots spread to the Muslim quarter, targeting the Hui, Chinese Muslims who have been opening businesses in Tibet. Rioters smash holes through metal shop gates and pour in gasoline. A Muslim family later describes to Chinese journalists how they hid in a bathroom as flames spread around them. The main gate of the mosque is set on fire, but the mob doesn't get inside. [...]"

"Tibet: Try the Hong Kong Solution"
By Malcolm Rifkind
The Times, 21 March 2008
"It is easy to get depressed about the trauma of Tibet and the suppression of Tibetan cultural and political aspirations. It is, after all, almost half a century since the Dalai Lama fled his country. He has never been able to return and recent events make it highly unlikely that he will in the foreseeable future. Over that half century the Soviet Union has collapsed into 15 independent states, apartheid has been defeated in South Africa, colonial empires have disappeared, and the United States could be about to elect its first black president. But Tibet and the Tibetans remain under the iron hand of Beijing, denied not just self-government but also the free expression of their unique cultural and religious identity. Pessimism about the future may seem inevitable but it need not be. A solution is already available that would not only meet Tibetan aspirations but would do so in a way that should be acceptable to China. China is the country that invented the concept of two systems in one country. It did so in order to absorb Hong Kong back into the motherland without killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. It was the inspiration of Deng Xiaoping and it has been brilliantly successful. Instead of insisting that the Hong Kong Chinese had to accept a communist economic system combined with political uniformity, the people of Hong Kong have been able to continue to live as a Western, capitalist enclave within the Chinese body politic. Although there are clear limits to its freedom and democratic rights, Hong Kong enjoys real autonomy, a functioning rule of law and a liberal press and media that have no equivalent in most of China. Similar freedoms have been conceded to the former Portuguese colony of Macao. Nor is there any doubt that the Chinese Government would be delighted to conclude a similar arrangement with the Taiwanese if the latter could be persuaded to accept reunification with mainland China in the years to come. If China is, therefore, able to live with genuine autonomy and cultural freedom in Hong Kong and Macao, and if it would be only too happy to concede it to Taiwan, why can a similar offer not be made to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people? [...]"


"Colombian Troops Kill Farmers, Pass Off Bodies as Rebels"
By Juan Forero
The Washington Post, 30 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"All Cruz Elena González saw when the soldiers came past her house was a corpse, wrapped in a tarp and strapped to a mule. A guerrilla killed in combat, soldiers muttered, as they trudged past her meek home in this town in northwestern Colombia. She soon learned that the body belonged to her 16-year-old son, Robeiro Valencia, and that soldiers had classified him as a guerrilla killed in combat, a claim later discredited by the local government human rights ombudsman. 'Imagine what I felt when my other son told me it was Robeiro,' González said in recounting the August killing. 'He was my boy.' Funded in part by the Bush administration, a six-year military offensive has helped the government here wrest back territory once controlled by guerrillas and kill hundreds of rebels in recent months, including two top commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But under intense pressure from Colombian military commanders to register combat kills, the army has in recent years also increasingly been killing poor farmers and passing them off as rebels slain in combat, government officials and human rights groups say. The tactic has touched off a fierce debate in the Defense Ministry between tradition-bound generals who favor an aggressive campaign that centers on body counts and reformers who say the army needs to develop other yardsticks to measure battlefield success. ... The victims are the marginalized in Colombia's highly stratified society. Most, like Robeiro Valencia, are subsistence farmers. Others are poor Colombians kidnapped off the streets of bustling Medellin, the capital of this state, Antioquia, which has registered the most killings. Amparo Bermudez Dávila said her son, Diego Castañeda, 27, disappeared from Medellin in January 2006. Two months later, authorities called to say he had been killed, another battlefield death. They showed her a photograph of his body, dressed in camouflage. [...]"
[n.b. Gendercide.]

"Extrajudicial Slayings on Rise in Colombia"
By Chris Kraul
The Los Angeles Times, 21 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"Street vendor Israel Rodriguez went fishing last month and never came back. Two days later, his family found his body buried in a plastic bag, classified by the Colombian army as a guerrilla fighter killed in battle. Human rights activists say the Feb. 17 death is part of a deadly phenomenon called 'false positives' in which the armed forces allegedly kill civilians, usually peasants or unemployed youths, and brand them as leftist guerrillas. A macabre facet of a general increase in 'extrajudicial killings' by the military, 'false positives' are a result of intense pressure to show progress in Colombia's U.S.-funded war against leftist insurgents, the activists say. Rodriguez's sister Adelaida said he had served three years in the army and was neither a guerrilla nor a sympathizer. 'He never made any trouble for anyone,' she said, adding that she believed the army killed her brother to 'gain points.' Such killings have spread terror here in the central state of Meta. Last year the state led Colombia in documented cases of extrajudicial killings, with 287 civilians allegedly slain by the military, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, a human rights group. That's a 10% increase from the previous year Although there appear to be no official -- or unofficial -- tallies of 'false positives,' human rights activists say they believe such incidents are on the rise, along with the overall increase in killings by the military, based on their discussions with victims' families and analyses of circumstances surrounding individual cases. ... The killings have increased in recent years amid an emphasis on rebel death tolls as the leading indicator of military success, the human rights groups say. Even Colombian officials acknowledge that soldiers and their commanders have been given cash and promotions for upping their units' body counts. [...]"


"Merkel Pledges to Stand by Israel"
By Richard Boudreau
The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 2008
"In an emotional tribute to victims and survivors of the Holocaust, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the Nazi genocide 'fills us Germans with shame' and pledged to stand by Israel's side against any threat, particularly from Iran. 'This historic responsibility is part of my country's fundamental policy,' Dr. Merkel said in a speech delivered in German to a special session of the Israeli parliament. 'It means that for me, as a German chancellor, Israel's security is non-negotiable.' The address on Tuesday capped a three-day state visit in which the German leader marked the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding by formally upgrading an already warm relationship between the countries. Dr. Merkel's visit stirred traumatic memories. Six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II, and about 250,000 elderly survivors live in Israel. It took 20 years after Germany's defeat in 1945 for the two countries to establish full diplomatic relations. Even today, many Israelis refuse to buy German-made goods or visit Germany. Seven of the 120 members of the Knesset boycotted the session, saying they could not bear to join in an event with a German official or hear the German language. 'This is the language my grandparents were murdered in,' said Arye Eldad, a right-wing politician. But the protest was overshadowed by a standing ovation for Dr Merkel by politicians and about 1000 guests, including Holocaust survivors and Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. Politicians changed their rules to allow her to address them, even though she is not a head of state. [...]"


"Iraq's Christians Living Out the Passion This Easter"
By Peter Lamprecht, 21 March 2008
"Days after the body of a kidnapped archbishop was found buried in northern Iraq, fresh kidnappings and murders continue to haunt the country's Christians this Passion Week. 'We have people threatened, people kidnapped, people killed -- this is Holy Week,' Kirkuk's Chaldean Archbishop Luis Sako said. Danger in Mosul may be great enough to effectively cancel Easter in the city this year, one clergyman said. 'We could close our churches in Mosul to protect ourselves and say to everyone that we don't accept the situation,' Dominican Father Najeeb Mikhail said. 'Or we can hold all the celebrations, and maybe we will receive some bombs or attacks.' Fr. Mikhail affirmed that Mosul's Christian denominations planned to remain in the city despite the attacks. His comments came yesterday, only hours before meeting with Mosul's Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholic bishops to decide how to help the city's now leaderless Chaldean flock. Chaldean Archbishop Paulus Faraj Rahho, kidnapped last month while leaving a Mosul church, was found dead last Thursday (March 13), buried in a shallow grave. The specifics of Rahho's death remain uncertain, but Mikhail said that, according to an autopsy, he had died five to seven days prior to his discovery. The archbishop had been in poor health and on several medications, none of which were with him when he was kidnapped on February 29. Rahho's funeral was held last Friday (March 14) at the Mar Addai church in the town of Karamlis, 20 miles east of Mosul. ... 'Christians in Mosul have made so many sacrifices for the freedom of the Iraqi people, and this kidnapping, God willing, will be the last disaster,' a representative of Mosul's mayor said at the funeral mass, according to Iraqi Christian website [...]"

"Iraq's Civilian Dead: Why US Won't Do the Maths"
By Jonathan Steele and Suzanne Goldenberg
The Sydney Morning Herald (from The Guardian), 21 March 2008
"[...] In the first survey [by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in the Lancet] in 2004, 990 randomly selected families in representative locations across Iraq were asked to produce the death certificates and list the names of members who died between January 1, 2002, and the start of the invasion, and those who died thereafter. Subtracting the former from the latter, this produced an 'excess' rate, used to calculate the deaths in excess of normal fatality rates in the country's total population. The first survey found at least 98,000 such deaths up to October 2004. The second survey, in the summer of 2006, interviewed a separate but also randomly chosen sample of 1849 households and found an excess of 655,000 deaths up to June 2006, of which 601,027 were said to be from violence rather than natural causes. This amounts to 2.5 per cent of Iraq's population, or more than 500 deaths a day since the invasion. The estimates were explosive and were widely reported around the world. They met instant dismissal from the White House and London. 'I don't consider it a credible report,' Mr. Bush said. Mr. Blair's spokesman said the study's result 'was not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate.' The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, admits the figure 'seems crazy.' 'But the second study validated the first one. The pre-invasion mortality rate is the same in both, and the upward lines of the post-invasion rate are exactly the same.' He is particularly pleased by information unearthed last year by a freedom-of-information request by the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones. This found that the chief scientific adviser to the British Ministry of Defence described the methods used by the second survey as 'close to best practice.' The adviser warned the Government to be 'cautious' about criticising the findings. ... More recent data suggests an even higher figure. The British polling firm Opinion Research Business asked 1720 Iraqi adults last summer if they had lost family members by violence since 2003; 16 per cent had lost one, and 5 per cent two. Using the 2005 census total of 4,050,597 households in Iraq, this suggests 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion."


"Attacks in Kenya 'Meticulously' Organized, Rights Group Says"
By Stephanie McCrummen
The Washington Post, 18 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"Post-election attacks on villagers in Kenya's Rift Valley were often 'meticulously' organized by local opposition leaders who called for 'war' against people from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group, according to a detailed report released Monday by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch. The report also describes killings of hundreds of opposition supporters by Kenyan police, especially in the slums of Nairobi and the opposition stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya. In other instances, it says, police failed to use adequate force to protect people who came under attack by militias and gangs. Based on 200 interviews with witnesses, police officers, politicians and others, the report also found evidence suggesting that senior government officials had been aware of planned reprisal attacks by Kikuyu gangs against opposition supporters in several western towns. 'This was not done by ordinary citizens, it was arranged by people with money,' said one young man who took part in the revenge attacks, according to the report. 'They brought the jobless like me.' Violence following Kenya's disputed Dec. 27 presidential election is estimated to have killed at least 1,000 people and displaced half a million, with most of the unrest taking place across the volatile Rift Valley, where successive Kenyan governments have failed to address long-standing grievances over land. Although Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga struck a power-sharing deal last month aimed at ending the crisis, sporadic attacks have continued across the Rift Valley. Dozens of white-tented camps remain full of displaced people. In many towns and villages, all the Kikuyus have been driven out, their farms and homes burned. Some local leaders have said that if the Kikuyus return, they will be attacked again. [...]"
[n.b. See the full text of the HRW report, "Ballots to Bullets: Organized Political Violence and Kenya’s Crisis of Governance."]


"The Troubled Birth of Kosovo"
By Charles Simic
The New York Review of Books, 3 April 2008
"The decision of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and a number of other countries to break with international law, which regards the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states as sacrosanct, and to permit Albanian separatists in Kosovo to declare independence from Serbia was an act so extraordinary in international relations that it had to take place outside the United Nations, where its illegality would have been hard to justify. The excuse given for this initiative is that the ethnic cleansing and humanitarian catastrophe caused by Serbia in 1999 exempted the countries that hurried to recognize Kosovo on February 17, 2008, from the rule stipulating that international borders can be changed only with the agreement of all parties. After congratulating the Kosovars on their independence, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was to be 'a special case,' the sole exception ever to the rule of territorial integrity of nations under international law, and that separatists elsewhere ought not to look upon this act as a precedent. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, and Romania -- nearly a third of the member states of the European Union -- were unimpressed by her explanation and have so far refused to recognize Kosovo. They also doubt that the brutal treatment of Kosovars by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevi´c is the only reason for the United States' decision. As is almost always the case when it comes to the Balkans, a local dispute has been used by the great powers to advance their own national interests, which have little to do with the desire to have justice done. [...]"
[n.b. The first time I have written "Kosovo/Serbia" atop a story, as opposed to "Serbia/Kosovo." Feels good.]

"U.N.: 'Rock-Solid' Proof of Serbia's Hand in Kosovo Violence"
By Andrew Wander
The Christian Science Monitor, 21 March 2008
"In the wake of this week's violence in Kosovo, the worst since it broke away from Serbia Feb. 17, the United Nations and the International Crisis Group (ICG) have accused Belgrade of actively undermining the newly declared state. While there have been rumors over the past month of Serbian provocation, these claims suggest a more concrete entrenchment of Belgrade against international efforts to enforce Kosovo's independence. On Wednesday, the UN accused Serbia of complicity in events leading up to riots earlier this week in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. After Serb protesters took over a courthouse last week, UN peacekeepers stormed the building Monday, prompting fierce clashes that left an international policeman dead and hundreds of people wounded. During the violence that followed its return to UN control, several members of the Serbian Interior Ministry were arrested. ... Serbia has denied that it had any government representatives in the courthouse. ... But a report published this week by the Brussels-based ICG, a think tank that advocates broader international recognition of Kosovo's independence, says that Serbia 'is implementing a sophisticated policy to undermine Kosovo statehood.' To achieve that, the report says, Serbian institutions are being built up in Serb-dominated parts of Kosovo, and Serbs who may be inclined to work with the Kosovo government or the international community are being intimidated into suspending their cooperation. The ICG report also accuses Belgrade of 'facilitating violence' in February, when Serbs attacked customs and border posts in the north. Many Serbs believe that Belgrade should have control of Serbian areas of Kosovo, while Pristina insists it has jurisdiction over the entire territory. The report claims that Serbia is seeking to split Kosovo on ethnic lines, and concludes that Kosovo is in danger of slipping into a 'frozen conflict' unless the international community implements a clear plan to prevent Serbia from extending its influence in Kosovo. [...]"


"Rwanda's Kagame blasts Spanish Genocide Indictments"
By Arthur Asiimwe
Reuters AlertNet, 1 April 2008
"Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tuesday angrily dismissed a Spanish judge's indictment of 40 Rwandan military and political leaders on charges they engaged in reprisal killings after the African country's 1994 genocide. In February, Judge Fernando Andreu of Spain's National Court set out his case accusing the officials of genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including nine Spaniards. He said he also had evidence to implicate Kagame, but the Rwandan president had immunity. In his first reaction to the case, Kagame scoffed at the charges. 'Imagine the arrogance involved -- how can a Spanish judge sit in some town or village in Spain and sees it is his duty to indict the whole leadership of a nation,' Kagame told reporters in Kigali. 'This is part of perceived authority over us to decide how we live or not. He has no moral authority in doing that. ... If I met him, I would tell him to go to hell -- they have no jurisdiction over Rwanda, over me or over anybody.' Spain's high court has in the past prosecuted South American leaders, including former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, on human rights charges. Kagame said the Spanish judge's dossier was meant to undermine his ruling party, credited with stopping the 1994 murder of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu gangs. Most of the indicted officers belonged to the contingent that protected Kagame during a four year guerrilla war. They include Rwanda's chief of general staff and his deputy, as well as a Rwandan ambassador in India. The Rwandan government denies it had any role in reprisal killings."
[n.b. This is the full text of the dispatch. It looks like Mr. Kagame is in favour of universal jurisdiction when it suits him. This indictment may prove a watershed in taking the shine off Kagame and the undeniably atrocious actions of the RPF in the late stages of the Rwandan genocide, and thereafter.]

"Rwanda: Rusesabagina to Testify in UK Genocide Trials"
Rwanda News Agency dispatch on, 31 March 2008
"The 'Hotel Rwanda' film personality is scheduled to testify this week in the ongoing trail of Rwandan Genocide fugitives in Britain who are awaiting extradition to Rwanda, RNA reports. The four men are fighting their extradition to Rwanda on grounds that they may not have a fair trail [sic throughout]. Human rights campaigners have also called on the British legal system to carry out the trails. The men have been in detention since January last year. Among the men includes Mr. Vincent Bajinya, 47, a medical doctor who changed his names to Vincent Brown since securing asylum in Britain and worked for a refugee charity in there. Mr. Charles Munyaneza, 50, had been a local mayor in Rwanda and was alleged to have planned 'tens of thousands of killings' of Tutsi, but was working as a cleaner in Britain before his arrest. A third man, Celestin Ugirashebuja, 55, the former mayor of Kigoma in Kigali rural, 'organized roadblocks in the commune to prevent the escape of Tutsis and again is responsible for many thousands of Tutsi lives,' according to the legal team arguing for Rwanda. Another, Mr. Emmanuel Nteziryayo, a former local mayor, appeared at a separate hearing of the same court after being arrested in Manchester, in northwest England. Mr. Paul Rusesabagina will on Thursday tell Westminster magistrates in London that four accused men will not face a fair trial in Rwanda, The Independent reported yesterday. 'The evidence I will give will be about the human rights situation in Rwanda. There are men who have been held in prison for 14 years without trial. When you are in prison in Rwanda it is up to your family to look after you,' Rusesabagina told The Independent. 'In the name of genocide everything is possible, and the government is able to lock up its potential or actual political opponents.' [...]"


"Somalia's Government Teeters on Collapse"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 29 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] By its own admission, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is on life support. When it took power here in the capital 15 months ago, backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops, it was widely hailed as the best chance in years to end Somalia’s ceaseless cycles of war and suffering. But now its leaders say that unless they get more help -- international peacekeepers, weapons, training and money to pay their soldiers, among other things -- this transitional government will fall just like the 13 governments that came before it. Less than a third of the promised African Union soldiers have arrived, the United Nations has shied away from sending peacekeepers and even the Ethiopians are taking a back seat, often leaving the government’s defense to teenage Somalis with clackety guns who are overwhelmed. The Islamists have been gaining recruits, overrunning towns and becoming bolder. The new prime minister, credited as the government’s best -- and possibly last -- hope, is reaching out to them, and some are receptive. But it is unclear whether he has the power within his own divided government to strike a meaningful peace deal before it is too late. The looming failure is making many people here and abroad question the strategy of installing the transitional government by force. In December 2006, Ethiopian troops, aided by American intelligence, ousted the Islamist administration that briefly controlled Mogadishu, bringing the transitional government to the city for the first time. The Bush administration said it was concerned about terrorists using Somalia as a sanctuary. The hunt for them continued with a recent American cruise missile strike aimed at a suspect in southern Somalia, but it missed, and wounded several civilians and promptly incited protests. Many Somalis, European diplomats and critics in Congress also question the State Department’s decision this month to label a Somali resistance group a terrorist organization, which many fear will only raise its profile among the increasingly disillusioned populace. [...]"
[n.b. I was scathing in my criticism of the U.S./Ethiopian "intervention" at the time, and apart from the thousands of people killed in the coup against a moderate Islamist government, the ensuing period has been one of total incompetence, corruption, and administrative breakdown. By far the best option, in my view, is for the Islamists to return to power, as bloodlessly as possible, and to begin re-establishing a Somali state structure. Let us just hope they have not been soured by their brutal repression at U.S. hands, and that they do not return with a desire for vengeance, as has so often been the case in the past (see "Cambodia," above).]


"'Dirty War' Suspect Ricardo Cavallo Extradited from Spain to Argentina"
By Bill Cormier
Associated Press dispatch in the Charleston Daily Mail, 1 April 2008
"Ricardo Cavallo, accused of torturing and illegally kidnapping dissidents under Argentina's last military dictatorship, was extradited from Spain on Monday. Cavallo is one of the most notorious alleged human rights violators from the crackdown on dissent that officially claimed nearly 13,000 lives from 1976 to 1983. He is accused of being a top interrogator at the Argentine dictatorship's main clandestine torture center, known as the Navy Mechanics' School. Cavallo arrived in Buenos Aires Monday in a bulletproof vest with his hands cuffed in front of him and was hustled past gawking tourists at the Ezeiza International Airport. He showed no emotion and made no statements as he was taken to the federal court complex. The government's official news agency, Telam, said he faced an initial hearing later Monday, in which his lawyer denied accusations against him. Cavallo faces charges of illegal kidnappings, torture and extortion. His apprehension is one of a series of prosecutions, including that of former naval Capt. Alfredo Astiz, known as the 'Angel of Death,' that represent steps in Argentina's treatement of its 'dirty war' past. After the junta leaders themselves, Cavallo was among a small group of high-profile figures tied to the Navy Mechanics' School, where thousands of prisoners were tortured or executed. Some 5,000 people are believed to have passed through the colonnaded, red-brick campus, most in chains. Many were made to 'disappear' -- killed without any word to relatives -- as part of a crackdown on leftist students, trade unionists, academics and other dissidents during the era of the military junta. Cavallo had been extradited to Spain in 2003 from Mexico, where he was living under an assumed identity while operating a motor vehicle registry -- until a former political prisoner spotted him. Cavallo had immunity under Argentina [sic] law at the time, and Spanish law allows courts to try cases of genocide even if committed overseas."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. And this is big news. With other scholars and activists, I toured the torture chambers of the Navy Mechanics' School in Buenos Aires this past November. A powerful experience, and impressive to see Mr. Cavallo finally facing justice for his crimes.]


"Call For UN To Confront Sudan Over Alleged War Criminals"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on, 31 March 2008
"The letter, distributed by U.K. charity The Aegis Trust -- which campaigns against genocide worldwide -- called on members of the Security Council to 'visit Khartoum at the earliest possible opportunity to demand that the suspects are handed to the ICC (International Criminal Court).' Among the signatories are Carla del Ponte and Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutors for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda respectively, former U.K. justice minister Charles Falconer and former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler. They called on the council to freeze the personal assets of Sudanese government officials harboring the two suspects -- Ahmed Haroun and Ali Koshieb -- and any others suspected of committed war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. 'The government of Sudan has no serious intention to investigate past or ongoing crimes in Darfur,' the letter read. Haroun, Sudan's secretary of state for humanitarian affairs, and pro-government Janjaweed militia leader Koshieb have both been issued arrest warrants for war crimes by the ICC. More than 2 million people have fled their homes and at least 200,000 have died from the combined effects of famine and conflict since Khartoum enlisted militia allies to put down a local revolt in Darfur in 2003, according to the U.N."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch, and the link is so long and ugly that I won't include it.]

"US Wants 3,600 New Troops in Darfur Soon"
By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 1 April 2008
"The United States has urged the United Nations to get 3,600 new peacekeepers on the ground in conflict-wracked Darfur by June, according to a letter obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Ambassador Richard Williamson, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the letter that additional troops are the best hope of increasing security in the Sudanese region. A joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force took over in January from a beleaguered AU force to try to stem the violence. But it only has about 9,000 troops and police on the ground, out of a total of 26,000 that have been authorized. 'We believe that the deployment of 3,600 new African troops by June -- a target number based on the U.N.'s planning schedule -- will bring increased security and stability to the people of Darfur,' Williamson wrote. 'At this crucial moment, the deployment of new troops as quickly as possible is our best hope to change the course of this tragedy.' The U.N. believes that far more than 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Fighting has raged in Darfur since 2003, when ethnic African tribesman took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by the Sudanese Arab-dominated government. Khartoum has been accused of unleashing janjaweed militia forces to commit atrocities against ethnic African communities in the fight with rebel groups. Williamson said the United States has committed $100 million to train and equip African peacekeepers pledged to deploy as part of the AU-U.N. force, 'and we will work to assist troop contributing countries in meeting the U.N. deployment schedule.' [...]"
[n.b. I'm all in favour of that $100 million from the US. I also note that it amounts to two-and-a-half days' spending on the Iraq war ($12 billion a month).]

"Peacekeeping in Darfur Hits More Obstacles"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 24 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] A week spent this month with the peacekeeping troops based here at the headquarters of Sector West, a wind-blown outpost at the heart of the recent violence, revealed a force struggling mightily to do better than its much-maligned predecessor, but with little new manpower or equipment. Despite this, the force is managing to project a greater sense of security for the tens of thousands of vulnerable civilians in the vast territory it covers, mounting night patrols in displaced people's camps and sending long-range patrols to the areas hardest hit by fighting. But these small gains are fragile, and if more troops do not arrive soon, the force will be written off as being as ineffective and compromised as the one before. ... The deployment of the biggest peacekeeping force in modern history in one of the most remote, hostile and forbidding corners of the globe was bound to be a logistical nightmare. Darfur is landlocked, water is scarce, the roads are rutted tracks crossed by the mud and sand traps of dry riverbeds. But those problems pale in comparison with the diplomatic and political struggles the mission faces. When previous large missions were organized in Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the central governments in those countries had collapsed or were so weak that they had little choice but to accept peacekeepers. The government of Sudan agreed to accept United Nations-led peacekeepers in Darfur only after a long diplomatic tussle and under a great deal of pressure. The progress to get the mission in place has been slow, and much of the blame for this has been placed at the feet of the Sudanese government. [...]"

"China's Genocide Games"
By Eric Reeves
The Boston Globe, 22 March 2008
"In preparing to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, China has engaged in a massive campaign to dissemble its role in the Darfur genocide in western Sudan, now entering its sixth year. Such a task was unexpected by Beijing. The regime knew it would encounter strenuous protests over the continuing destruction of Tibet, although the recent violent crackdown in Lhasa suggests Beijing hadn't anticipated how deeply Tibetan anger runs. China's leaders also knew they would draw fierce protests over their callous support of the brutal Burmese junta. Condemnation of Beijing's own gross domestic human rights abuses was equally predictable. But the effectiveness of Darfur advocacy in highlighting China's role in Sudan took Beijing by surprise. Steven Spielberg's resignation as an artistic director for the Games -- a decision of conscience stressing China's role in Darfur -- sharply intensified China's dismay. Thus Beijing has pulled out all the stops to counter advocacy success in emphasizing China's longstanding diplomatic protection and economic support for the Islamist regime in Khartoum. Though Khartoum's genocidal counterinsurgency campaign against Darfur's African tribes has been authoritatively documented for years, Beijing seeks to obscure this grim reality through distortion, half-truths, and outright mendacity. In turn, nothing encourages Khartoum more than China's refusal to speak honestly about violent human destruction in Darfur, where growing insecurity has brought the world's largest humanitarian operation to the brink of collapse. [...]"

"United Nations: Sudan Carried Out Mass-Rapes in Darfur"
By David Byers
The Times, 20 March 2008
"The United Nations today accused the Sudanese government of being directly involved in the mass-rape of girls and women in the crisis-hit region of Darfur -- a damning indictment of the part played by the country's Islamist dictatorship in the humanitarian catastrophe. A report by the UN high commissioner for human rights says it has evidence that the Sudanese Army was involved alongside Arab militia in looting at least three towns, raping girls and women and killing at least 115 people. The attacks on Sirba, Sileia and Abu Suruj on February 8 by helicopter gunships and aircraft caused 30,000 to flee their homes, Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in her report. The study is the latest authoritative UN report, based on eye-witness testimonies and evidence from aid workers, suggesting that President Omar al-Bashir's administration is providing help and support to the brutal Arab janjaweed militia, who have reportedly robbed villages and murdered, raped or displaced their residents. Last year, a UN report produced photographic evidence that the Sudanese government was carrying out secret bombing raids by disguising its jets as United Nations aid planes. Sudan denies the claims. The UN says that the crisis afflicting the wartorn Darfur region has so far killed up to 400,000 people, and displaced a further 2.3 million, and campaigners have called on governments worldwide to isolate Mr al-Bashir's regime for its involvement. 'The scale of destruction suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy,' the nine-page report on the rapes said. [...]"


"The Tall Tale of Tuzla"
By Christopher Hitchens, 31 March 2008
"[...] I remember disembarking at the Sarajevo airport in the summer of 1992 after an agonizing flight on a U.N. relief plane that had had to 'corkscrew' its downward approach in order to avoid Serbian flak and ground fire. As I hunched over to scuttle the distance to the terminal, a mortar shell fell as close to me as I ever want any mortar shell to fall. The vicious noise it made is with me still. And so is the shock I felt at seeing a civilized and multicultural European city bombarded round the clock by an ethno-religious militia under the command of fascistic barbarians. I didn't like the Clinton candidacy even then, but I have to report that many Bosnians were enthused by Bill Clinton's pledge, during that ghastly summer, to abandon the hypocritical and sordid neutrality of the George H.W. Bush/James Baker regime and to come to the defense of the victims of ethnic cleansing. I am recalling these two things for a reason. First ... I can tell you for an absolute certainty that it would be quite impossible to imagine that one had undergone that experience at the airport if one actually had not. Yet Sen. Clinton, given repeated chances to modify her absurd claim to have operated under fire while in the company of her then-16-year-old daughter and a USO entertainment troupe, kept up a stone-faced and self-loving insistence that, yes, she had exposed herself to sniper fire in the cause of gaining moral credit and, perhaps to be banked for the future, national-security 'experience.' This must mean either a) that she lies without conscience or reflection; or b) that she is subject to fantasies of an illusory past; or c) both of the above. Any of the foregoing would constitute a disqualification for the presidency of the United States. ... But here is the historical rather than personal aspect, which is what you should keep your eye on. Note the date of Sen. Clinton's visit to Tuzla. She went there in March 1996. By that time, the critical and tragic phase of the Bosnia war was effectively over, as was the greater part of her husband's first term. What had happened in the interim? In particular, what had happened to the 1992 promise, four years earlier, that genocide in Bosnia would be opposed by a Clinton administration? [...]"
[n.b. Hitchens's answer to that closing query is well worth reading, and adds an extra dimension to the controversy over Clinton's preposterous and offensive claims to have landed in Tuzla under fire.]


"India's Debt-Ridden Farmers Committing Suicide"
By Jason Motlagh
San Francisco Chronicle, 22 March 2008
"On a recent afternoon, Seetabai Atthre heard a faint cry from the edge of a vineyard that her family has cultivated for more than 40 years. Through the furrows, she found her husband, Vishal, smoldering on the ground next to an empty can of kerosene. He had lit himself on fire and died three days later in a local hospital. Atthre attributes her husband's suicide to a $5,600 debt. The farm located on the arid plains of northern Maharashtra state near the town of Nashik had not turned a profit in more than two years, and 65-year-old Vishal could no longer secure a bank loan to pay off interest on the debt. 'This is wrong, and it's killing us,' Sanjay Gangode said at a gathering of debt-ridden grape farmers in the region. 'There is no future here.' While India's economy surges forward on the crest of globalization, thousands of farmers are taking their own lives every year to escape mounting debt and an uncertain future. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, at least 87,567 farmers committed suicide between 2002 and 2006. In Maharashtra state, there were 4,453 suicides in 2006, the last year for which statistics were made available, an increase of 527 compared with 2005. Sharp increases have also been reported in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states. Last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged more than $930 million in relief to bail out struggling Maharashtra farmers and 'relieve the misery.' Analysts cite several factors for the suicides, including crop failure due to agrochemicals and climate change, lower prices due to U.S. farm subsidies, state restrictions on export trade, and the dumping of surplus crops in an oversaturated domestic market. [...]"


"One Man's Personal Mission To End Slavery in Mauritania"
By Nora Boustany
The Washington Post, 23 March 2008 [Registration Required]
"Boubacar Messaoud remembered strolling from the flatlands of Mauritania toward the southern town of Rosso, a watermelon poised on his head. Beyond a riverbank, he could see a row of children in a yard. Messaoud, then 7, stopped to find out what was going on, with the pure curiosity of a child. He found out that the children were being signed up for school. Messaoud, the son of slaves who toiled in the fields of landowners, recalled that he was still unaware of the privations separating him from others. Among a knot of parents, Messaoud noticed the cousin of his family's owner and asked him to help him enroll, too. 'I can't,' the man replied. 'What will your master say?' Messaoud put down his watermelon and cried. The ancient tradition of slavery endures in Mauritania, although it was officially abolished in the 1980s. There are roughly half a million slaves among the country's population of 3.3 million, and at least 80 percent do not have access to a formal education, Messaoud said. Many remain illiterate. Messaoud was in Washington this month to speak at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and to lobby legislators on the issue, with assistance from the Open Society Institute, which promotes civil society and democratic institutions, and London-based Anti-Slavery International. Messaoud, who founded the anti-slavery group SOS Slaves in 1995, has waged many battles on behalf of slaves since that day more than 50 years ago when he faced his first obstacle to breaking the shackles. ... Slavery has been perpetuated in Mauritania by the persistence of tradition, distorted notions of religious obligation and a reluctance by some law enforcement agents to apply the law, especially in rural areas. Slaves are unaware that they are entitled to equal rights and don't know how to seek justice, so their bondage continues, Messaoud said. [...]"