Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Genocide Studies Media File
November 18 - December 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 adamj_jones@hotmail.com.

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"Acid Attacks and Rape: Growing Threat to Women Who Oppose Traditional Order"
By Clancy Chassay
The Guardian, 22 November 2008
"[...] For women and girls across Afghanistan, conditions are worsening -- and those women who dare to publicly oppose the traditional order now live in fear for their lives. The Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai receives regular death threats for speaking out on women's issues. Talking at her home in central Kabul, she closed the living room door as her three young daughters played in the hall. 'You can't imagine what it feels like as a mother to leave the house each day and not know if you will come back again,' she said, her eyes welling up as she spoke. 'But there is no choice. I would rather die for the dignity of women than die for nothing. Should I stop my work because there is a chance I might be killed? I must go on, and if it happens it happens.' Barakzai receives frequent but cryptic warnings about planned suicide attacks on her car, but no help from the government. Officials advise her to stay at home and not go to work, but offer nothing in the way of security assistance, despite her requests. She said warlords in parliament who received similar threats were immediately provided with armoured vehicles, armed guards and a safe house by the government. Afghan women are feeling increasingly vulnerable as the security situation worsens and a growing number of western and Afghan officials call for the Taliban to join the government. ... Under Taliban rule, up until 2001, women were not allowed to work and were forbidden from venturing outside the home without a male escort. Afghan women who defy traditional gender roles and speak out against the oppression of women are routinely subject to threats, intimidation and assassination. An increasingly powerful Taliban regularly attacks projects, schools and businesses run by women. [...]"


"Ahenakew Testifies That He Doesn't Hate Jews, Only 'What They Do to People'"
By Chris Purdy
Canadian Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 27 November 2008
"A former aboriginal leader on trial for wilfully promoting hatred has testified that he doesn't hate Jews, only 'what they do to people.' And he said he still believes Jews caused the Second World War. David Ahenakew took the stand in his own defence Thursday and said his feelings about Jews developed when he was serving with the Canadian military in the Middle East. 'Everybody says "I'm a Jew-hater,"' he said. 'I don't hate the Jews, but I hate what they do to people.' This is the second trial for Mr. Ahenakew, 75. It's alleged that he promoted hatred against Jews during a public speech and subsequent interview with a Saskatoon reporter in 2002. Mr. Ahenakew recalled for the court how he was peacekeeping in the Gaza Strip, the coastal piece of land bordering Egypt and Israel, in 1964 and trying to maintain fences where land mines were killing children. He told the judge he believed the Israelis kept taking down the fences. ... Mr. Ahenakew testified that the fences reminded him of his own people living on reservations and brought up a lot of emotion in him. ... He became a leader with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and eventually was named national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. But his career went off the rails in 2002. During a fiery, rambling speech at a Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations health conference, Mr. Ahenakew complained about bigotry in Canada and blamed the Jews for causing the Second World War. A reporter later asked him to clarify his comments and Mr. Ahenakew suggested that the Holocaust was justified. 'How do you get rid of a disease like that, that's going to take over, that's going to dominate?' Mr. Ahenakew told the reporter. 'The Jews damn near owned all of Germany prior to the war. That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe ... That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the God damned world.' Mr. Ahenakew was asked Thursday if he still believes what he said, and he answered yes. [...]"


"Congo: Hutus and Tutsis 'Will Always Kill Each Other'"
By David Blair
THe Telegraph, 30 November 2008
"At the root of Congo's turmoil is the presence of the militias who exterminated at least 800,000 people, largely the minority Tutsis, in neighbouring Rwanda 14 years ago. Once, they called themselves the 'Interahamwe,' or 'those who kill together.' Now, they seek respectability under a new name -- the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by their French acronym FDLR -- and their fighters are deployed in Eastern Congo's lawless provinces of North and South Kivu. They are bitter enemies of General Laurent Nkunda, the renegade Congolese Tutsi who has thrown a noose around Goma, North Kivu's capital. While global attention has focused on Gen Nkunda, the FDLR's presence is the central cause of the bloodshed. Major Vincent Habamungu, who commands the FDLR's 'Tiger' unit, told The Daily Telegraph that nothing could stop their campaign. 'We are fighting every day because we are Hutu and they are Tutsis. We cannot mix, we are always in conflict,' he said. 'We will stay enemies forever.' The FDLR's official goal is to return to Rwanda and topple President Paul Kagame. Although the movement tries to disown the genocide, many believe the FDLR also wants to complete the extirpation of the Tutsis. Gen. Nkunda portrays himself as the protector of the Tutsis, who also live in eastern Congo. Hence the FLDR's presence provides the justification for his rebellion. Today, Congo is trapped in what one United Nations official calls a "vicious circle" of conflict. As long as the FLDR fights on, Gen Nkunda's campaign will continue. But the FDLR says it will only disarm if Gen. Nkunda does the same. [...]"

"Reports Detail Congo Atrocities"
By Owen Bowcott
The Guardian, 26 November 2008
"Government soldiers and rebels fighting in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have both committed serious human rights abuses, according to the United Nations secretary general. A report presented by Ban Ki-moon to the UN security council documents atrocities perpetrated against the displaced civilian population of the vast region. Up to 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the past few months. The details of mass killings and rapes emerged as Human Rights Watch released a separate report estimating that as many as 500 political opponents of President Joseph Kabila's government had been murdered since 2006 elsewhere in Congo. It described the human rights situation in the central African state as 'a cause for grave concern' despite a current lull in fighting. The UN report, which covers conditions between July and November, said elements of the Congolese army and national police were responsible for violations including arbitrary killings, rape and torture. Rebels -- including those loyal to Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People and Rwandan Hutu fighters -- are accused in the report of 'perpetrating serious human rights abuses with impunity.' Among the Hutu fighters are said to be some who participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"'Cursed' Congo Still Shocks and Fascinates"
Reuters dispatch, 21 November 2008
By Daniel Magnowski
"Reports of massacres, rapes, looting and child soldiers have put Democratic Republic of Congo back on the world news agenda this month as Tutsi rebels battled government troops and militias in the east. The fighting may be new, but the image of Congo it projects is not, communications experts and writers said on Friday. In the West, description, discourse and even decisions about Congo are still shaped by Joseph Conrad's 1902 novel 'Heart of Darkness,' which some believe has encouraged a view of the country as being beyond anyone's help. 'Conrad's novel helped fix in the European mind the idea of Congo as ... a moral void in which barbarism is the only law,' said writer Ronan Bennett, whose 1997 novel 'The Catastrophist' is also set in the central African country. ... The idea of a dark, savage place resonates deeply in the Western psyche, to the point at which violence has become the expected national trait of Congo, and the country a canvas upon which the worst excesses of depravity have been painted. 'Ever since white outsiders have been there, it has thrown up the darker side of human behavior,' said Tim Butcher, whose 2007 book 'Blood River' retraces the eventful voyage along the Congo River of Victorian explorer Henry Morton Stanley. 'It's a dazzling place, it blinds you, but its problems are so immense, people get spooked by the scale of it and the nature of the people. There is a propensity to violence,' said Butcher. [...]"
[n.b. I haven't seen this theme addressed in press coverage until now -- the kind of atavistic image of Congo generated by Conrad's book, Leopold's depredations, and contemporary events.]

"Congo Refugees Suffer Shooting, Rape, Looting"
By Anita Powell
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 21 November 2008
"Looting soldiers tried to rape one woman and fatally shot another at a refugee camp, witnesses said Friday, as the United Nations prepared to send more peacekeepers to help protect traumatized civilians in eastern Congo. But Congo's president said the 3,100 additional troops proposed by the U.N. would not be enough to halt the unfolding disaster. Some 67,000 people have overrun the village of Kibati, just north of the provincial capital of Goma. The U.N. refugee agency said Friday it was postponing plans to move refugees from the area, which is near the front line between soldiers and rebels. 'We fear that the civilian population, already in a dramatic and desperate humanitarian situation, could be caught in the crossfire should fighting resume in the area,' the refugee agency's spokesman, William Spindler, said in Geneva. Shootings, looting and rape have plagued the already desperate lives of refugees. Tumayini Kahumba, 20, was fatally shot in the village Thursday night as she slept next to her mother and two siblings in a tent, uncle Jean-Dieu Bansi said. 'When the soldiers got here, they wanted to rape a woman. She screamed a lot and the people woke up to help her. They (soldiers) began to shoot in the air to try to spread the crowd. They were also looting,' Bansi said. One gunshot pierced the tent and hit Kahumba near the ear. Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said 20 rapes were reported in a week at a health center in Goma, the eastern provincial capital, but that probably many more go unreported. [...]"


"Rwandan Official Charged in France"
AlJazeera.net, 20 November 2008
"French judicial officials have charged a key aide of Rwanda's president over the assassination of a former president of the country, amid national protests over her arrest. Germany extradited Rose Kabuye, who now serves as chief of protocol to President Paul Kagame, 10 days after police acting on a French warrant arrested her as she arrived at Frankfurt airport. The French warrant connected Kabuye to the downing of an aircraft in 1994 in which Juvenal Habyarimana, then Rwanda's president, was killed. French officials took charge of her in Frankfurt, and she was flown to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris aboard an Air France aeroplane. From there she was transferred to the main law courts in Paris to appear before Marc Trevidic, an anti-terrorism investigating magistrate, Bernard Maingain, Kabuye's lawyer, told the AFP news agency. Judicial officials confirmed that Kabuye was put under judicial investigation -- in effect, charged -- with 'complicity in murder in relation to terrorism.' She was later released on condition she not leave France without permission and appear when requested by magistrates, her lawyers said. 'I'm not so scared because I am very innocent,' Kabuye said on the France24 television news channel after being released. 'I know that when I get a chance to explain what happened everything will be okay, so I am not scared.' Habyarimana's death sparked a genocide which consequently engulfed the country. Authorities in France began investigating the attack because the two pilots of the aircraft were French. [...]"


"Can Love Conquer Caste?"
By Emily Wax
The Washington Post, 22 November 2008
"[...] Even though India legalized inter-caste marriage more than 50 years ago, newlyweds are still threatened by violence, most often from their families. As more young urban and small-town Indians start to rebel and choose mates outside of arranged marriages and caste commandments, killings of inter-caste couples have increased, according to a recent study by the All India Democratic Women's Association. In the past month, seven so-called honor killings have targeted inter-caste couples. In the latest incident, a Hindu youth in Bihar was beaten by villagers this week and thrown under an oncoming train because he sent a love letter to a girl of a different caste. The attacks continue despite decades of government decrees intended to dismantle the bulwark of caste, which is widely seen as the glue of traditional Indian society but is considered among the most corrosive features of the emerging new India. 'The recent rise in violence actually shows that the younger generation -- especially women -- are slowly gaining individual freedom in marriage. But the older generation still cling to the old ways where marriage is still a symbol of status, not emotional love,' said Shashi Kiran, a lawyer in India's Supreme Court who married outside her caste and is handling several honor-killing cases. 'It shows a society still in transition and wrestling with deep change.' As part of a controversial incentive for inter-caste couples to marry, the government recently began offering $1,000 bonuses. That's nearly a year's salary for the vast majority of Indians. Smaller cash payments first started in 2006 after a Supreme Court ruling in which judges described several high-profile honor killings as acts of 'barbarism' and labeled the caste system 'a curse on the nation.' [...]"


"Kurds in Search of Their Dead Meet Remains"
By Asso Ahmed
The Los Angeles Times, 30 November 2008
"For more than 20 years, Aska Ali Ameen waited for her husband to come home. She knew he was dead, but getting his corpse would be better than having nothing. At least she could give him a decent burial. When Ameen finally got a peek inside the coffin given to her by government officials, though, she felt no relief. 'As I look inside the coffin, I wonder, is the man inside my husband or not?' said Ameen, standing on an airport tarmac where the coffins of 150 long-deceased Kurds had just been unloaded from a cargo plane in the northern city of Irbil, capital of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region. After so many years, Shareef Ali's remains were like the others that arrived from Najaf last month: bones and dust. There were no shreds of clothing, no jewelry, nothing personal -- only a slip of paper stating that an identification document proved these were Ali's remains. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died in the 1980s in what came to be known as the Anfal campaign, or 'spoils of war.' The campaign included gas attacks on the Kurds' northern homeland and the transfer of Kurds to southern Iraq, where many were killed. As with most of the crackdowns designed to bolster President Saddam Hussein's Sunni Arab-led dictatorship, most of the victims were civilians. The remains of Anfal victims have stayed beneath the country's sandy soil, in the deep holes where the Kurds fell after being gunned down. Identification cards are mixed among bones or tucked in pockets of whatever remains of clothing. Since Hussein's ouster in 2003, the graves have been uncovered one by one. So many, in fact, that the Iraqi government has designated May 16 as Mass Graves Day, a national day of remembrance. [...]"


"Sex Slave Victims Press for Apology"
By Jun Hongo
The Japan Times, 26 November 2008
"Victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery were joined by international activists and lawmakers Tuesday to demand what they call a proper apology and compensation from the government for its past atrocities. 'The government has kept its eyes shut and ignored the issue,' Upper House member Azuma Konno of the Democratic Party of Japan said at the ninth Solidarity Conference for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The group, which held a three-day meeting in Tokyo over the weekend, demands redress for women who were forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military during the war. 'To build our future, we cannot remain blind to the past,' Konno said, emphasizing that many countries, including the United States, have passed resolutions requesting Tokyo formally apologize. The event brought together activist groups from Asia, including South Korea and China, as well as victims of wartime sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army. The conference released a resolution Monday urging the government to enact legislation to compensate victims, issue an official apology, give an account of the matter in school textbooks and refute comments that question the authenticity of sexual slavery. Lee Soo San, who said she was raped by Japanese troops at Mudanjiang in Manchuria, demanded immediate compensation for her suffering."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Oldest Holocaust Survivor Tells a Story of Faith and Courage That's Out of the Ordinary"
By Isabelle de Pommereau
The Christian Science Monitor, 1 December 2008
"Leopold Engleitner's blue eyes still burn bright. Last month, the 103-year-old traveled to Frankfurt, from his home in Austria to tell his story at the world's largest publishing event. Mr. Engleitner, a former farmer from the Salzburg region, is a Jehovah's Witness. And he is the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust. At first no one seemed interested in the facts of his life, which included an unwavering faith and enduring internments in the Buchenwald, Wewelsburg, and Ravensbrueck camps run by German Nazis. Then a young Austrian filmmaker met Engleitner by chance and ended up listening to his stories for hours on end. The filmmaker, Berhnard Rammerstorfer, was captivated by what he heard and eventually dropped everything he was doing to write Engleitner's biography. 'What impressed me was that a simple farmer had the courage to withstand Hitler, to refuse to go to war although millions of people did go to war, that he had the strength to adhere to his own conscience,' says Mr. Rammerstorfer. He first published 'Unbroken Will: The Extraordinary Courage of an Ordinary Man,' in German in 1999. It was republished this year, and an English edition is scheduled to be released in 2009. Walter Manoschek, a political scientist at the University of Vienna who has worked on a project sponsored by the Austrian government to rehabilitate Austrian victims of the Nazi regime, says that Engleitner's story brings to life one of the least-known groups of Nazi victims that also included Gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, and the mentally and physically disabled. Nazis targeted Jehovah's Witnesses mainly because as religious conscientious objectors they eschew swearing an oath to any earthly authority and refused to serve in the German Army. Refusal to serve under Hitler was regarded as treason, punishable by death. Among the 3,200 Witnesses interned in concentration camps, thousands were killed, according to historians. Unlike other groups -- most notably, of course, millions of Jews -- they could have walked out free had they agreed to renounce their faith. [...]"


"Nazis and the Movies"
By Annette Insdorf
Newsweek, 28 November 2008
"[...] The Holocaust movie is one of Hollywood's most unlikely staples in any season. There's an inherent tension between commercial films and depicting the 20th century's most unimaginable atrocity. The nature of narrative in general, and of mainstream movies in particular, is to be reassuring. But the Shoah offers few resolutions that can fit neatly into a two-hour package. In order to offer the requisite feel-good conclusion that reflects the triumph of the human spirit, the horrors often get sanitized. 'Defiance' tells the true story of three brothers who escape the Nazis and lead a Jewish uprising in the Belarussian forest. It is the rare Hollywood Holocaust movie that puts Jews at its center, perhaps because the scale of their destruction during World War II far outweighs the few tales of uplift. As Frank Rich once pointedly noted, the Jews in 'Schindler's List' were relegated to background players, extras in their own drama. But ever since 'Anne Frank' and 'Judgment at Nuremberg' -- the first major-studio movies on the Holocaust -- American films have done a noble job telling World War II stories in ways that illuminate rather than exploit the inherent drama. They are still as much a product of their times as of their historical inspiration. ... By the late 1970s and '80s, Americans had grown accustomed to images of violence from the Vietnam War, so Holocaust movies could challenge more concretely the limits of what we could bear to watch -- even if they usually found some way to give viewers a Hollywood catharsis. What's remarkable about this year's releases is the acknowledgment that we no longer need the neat Hollywood ending. [...]"

"Never Forget. You're Reminded."
By A.O. Scott
The New York Times, 21 November 2008
"This holiday season the multiplexes, the art houses and the glossy for-your-consideration ads in publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter will be overrun with Nazis. A minor incursion of this sort is an annual Oscar-season tradition, but 2008 offers an abundance of peaked caps and riding breeches, lightning-bolt collar pins and swastika armbands, as an unusually large cadre of prominent actors assumes the burden of embodying the most profound and consequential evil of the recent past. David Thewlis, playing a death camp commandant in 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,' will be joined by Willem Dafoe, who takes on a similar role in 'Adam Resurrected,' Paul Schrader’s new film. In 'The Reader,' directed by Stephen Daldry and based on Bernhard Schlink's best-selling novel of the same name, Kate Winslet plays a former concentration camp guard tried for war crimes. Tom Cruise, the star of Bryan Singer’s 'Valkyrie,' wears the uniform of the Third Reich though his character, Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, was not a true-believing Nazi but rather a patriotic German military officer involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. And of course there will be plenty of room on screen for the victims and survivors of Hitler's regime. Adam, the title character in 'Adam Resurrected,' is a Berlin nightclub performer, played by Jeff Goldblum, who finds himself, after enduring the camps, confined to an Israeli asylum somewhere between 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'King of Hearts.' And in Edward Zwick’s 'Defiance,' Daniel Craig transmutes his James Bond action-heroism into the moral heroism of Tuvia Bielski, the real-life leader of a group of Jewish partisans who fought the Germans in the forests of Belarus. Meanwhile the wave of European cinema dealing with Nazism and the Holocaust ... continued this fall with the American releases of 'A Secret' and 'One Day You'll Understand,' two quiet, powerful French-language films exploring themes of memory and its suppression. [...]"


"Death Toll More Than 300 in Nigeria Violence"
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 29 November 2008
"Mobs burned homes, churches and mosques today in a second day of riots, as the death toll rose to more than 300 in the worst sectarian violence in Africa's most populous nation in years. Sheikh Khalid Abubakar, the imam at the city's main mosque, said more than 300 dead bodies were brought there today alone and 183 could be seen laying near the building waiting to be interred. Those killed in the Christian community would not likely be taken to the city mosque, raising the possibility that the total death toll could be much higher. The city morgue wasn't immediately accessible today. Police spokesman Bala Kassim said there were 'many dead,' but couldn't cite a firm number. The hostilities mark the worst clashes in the restive West African nation since 2004, when as many as 700 people died in Plateau State during Christian-Muslim clashes. Jos, the capital of Plateau State, has a long history of community violence that has made it difficult to organize voting. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people. The city is situated in Nigeria's 'middle belt,' where members of hundreds of ethnic groups commingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south. Authorities imposed an around-the-clock curfew in the hardest-hit areas of the central Nigerian city, where traditionally pastoralist Hausa Muslims live in tense, close quarters with Christians from other ethnic groups. The fighting began as clashes between supporters of the region's two main political parties following the first local election in the town of Jos in more than a decade. But the violence expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with Hausas and members of Christian ethnic groups doing battle. [...]"


"UNRWA Chief: Gaza on Brink of Humanitarian Catastrophe"
Reuters dispatch in Haaretz.com, 21 November 2008
"Gaza faces a humanitarian 'catastrophe' if Israel continues to prevent aid reaching the territory by blocking crossing points, the head of the main UN aid agency for the Palestinians said on Friday. Karen AbuZayd, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the human toll of this month's sealing of Gaza's goods crossings was the gravest since the early days of a Palestinian uprising eight years ago. ... Israel closed the crossings after Palestinian militants responded with daily rocket salvoes to an Israeli army incursion on Nov. 4 into the Hamas-run territory, where a five-month-old, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire had largely been holding. At present, UNRWA provides rations for 820,000 people classed as refugees and the United Nations' World Food Program aids a further 200,000 people, AbuZayd told Reuters in Amman. 'They often bring us to the brink but they never have let us really be frightened about whether we are going to have food tomorrow or not,' AbuZayd said. Israel had restricted goods into Gaza despite the truce, which calls on militants to halt rocket attacks in return for Israel easing its embargo on the territory. 'This time throughout this whole truce since June none of us have been able to bring in anything extra that would create a reserve so we had nothing to call upon,' she said. ... Ailments associated with insufficient food were surfacing among the impoverished coastal strip's 1.5 million population, including growing malnutrition. 'There is a chronic anemia problem. There are signs that's increasing. What we are beginning to notice is what we call stunting of children ... which means they are not eating well enough to be bigger than their parents,' AbuZayd added. The humanitarian plight of Gazans was by far the worst among the more than 4.6 million Palestinian refugees across the region. 'They are not just under occupation, they are under siege,' AbuZayd said."


"Nationalism of Putin's Era Veils Sins of Stalin's"
By Clifford J. Levy
The New York Times, 26 November 2008
"For years, the earth in this Siberian city had been giving up clues: a scrap of clothing, a fragment of bone, a skull with a bullet hole. And so a historian named Boris P. Trenin made a plea to officials. Would they let him examine secret archives to confirm that there was a mass grave here from Stalin’s purges? Would they help him tell the story of the thousands of innocent people who were said to have been carted from a prison to a ravine, shot in the head and tossed over? The answer was no, and Mr. Trenin understood what many historians in Russia have come to realize: Under Vladimir V. Putin, the attitude toward the past has changed. The archives that Mr. Trenin was seeking, stored on the fourth floor of a building in Tomsk, in boxes stamped 'K.G.B. of the U.S.S.R.,' would remain sealed. The Kremlin in the Putin era has often sought to maintain as much sway over the portrayal of history as over the governing of the country. In seeking to restore Russia’s standing, Mr. Putin and other officials have stoked a nationalism that glorifies Soviet triumphs while playing down or even whitewashing the system’s horrors. As a result, across Russia, many archives detailing killings, persecution and other such acts committed by the Soviet authorities have become increasingly off limits. The role of the security services seems especially delicate, perhaps because Mr. Putin is a former K.G.B. officer who ran the agency's successor, the F.S.B., in the late 1990s. To historians like Mr. Trenin, the closing of these archives reflects a larger truth. Russia, they say, has never fully grappled with and exposed the sins of Communism, never embarked on the kind of truth and reconciliation process pursued by other countries, like South Africa, after regimes were overthrown. [...]"


"Darfur Getting More Dangerous: UN Humanitarian Chief"
By Jennie Matthew
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Yahoo! News, 30 November 2008
"Sudan's war-torn Darfur is becoming ever more dangerous, warned the UN's top humanitarian official on Sunday, calling for rapid progress towards a political settlement after a government ceasefire. 'The longer this conflict goes on, the more dangerous it becomes in terms of the ability to return to normality as it was before,' John Holmes, UN emergency relief coordinator, told a news conference after a six-day visit to Sudan. The Darfur conflict began in February 2003, when two rebel groups in the western part of the country rose up against the Arab-led Sudanese government. Since then, the conflict has mushroomed into a hugely complex web of violence fought between myriad groups and marred increasingly by banditry. ... 'The situation has not changed fundamentally in five years, except for its gradual deterioration in camps, still there five years later,' said Holmes. 'The environment becomes ever more politicised and more difficult to operate in, and what is happening there in the camps (for displaced people) and elsewhere becomes more difficult to unravel,' he added. UN officials say security in Darfur has worsened considerably in 2008, with 11 humanitarian workers killed, 172 assaults on humanitarian premises, 261 vehicles hijacked and 170 staff temporarily abducted so far this year. [...]"

"ICC Warrants Sought for 3 Sudanese Rebel Chiefs"
By Nora Boustany
The Washington Post, 21 November 2008
"Vowing to protect Sudanese civilians, the International Criminal Court prosecutor yesterday requested arrest warrants for three rebel commanders he accused of war crimes in an attack that killed 12 African Union peacekeepers in the Darfur region of Sudan. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the commanders were responsible for the storming of an A.U. camp in Haskanita on Sept. 29, 2007. The attack, which involved 1,000 rebels, was one of the bloodiest against peacekeepers since the conflict erupted in 2003. 'Attacking peacekeepers is a very serious crime,' he said. 'This means civilians have no protection.' Four months ago, Moreno-Ocampo charged Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir with genocide -- the court's first charges against a sitting head of state. 'No one is above the law,' Moreno-Ocampo said yesterday. The sealed warrants against the three commanders, who lead offshoots of the main rebel movement, were part of a strategy to get rebel support, Moreno-Ocampo said. Their names will remain confidential for now, he added. Leaders of the mainstream groups indicated they would cooperate with the court. Suleiman Jamous, a top Sudan Liberation Army-Unity commander, said his group was not guilty of crimes in Darfur but if named would go to court to prove its innocence. [...]"

"Darfur Peacekeepers Short of Men, Gear: General"
By Andrew Heavens
Reuters dispatch, 25 November 2008
"Overstretched peacekeepers in Darfur lack vehicles, helicopters and other equipment and could be in trouble if seriously attacked, the force's deputy commander said on Tuesday. The joint U.N.-African Union force now has about 12,000 soldiers and police, less than half of a promised 26,000, almost a year after it arrived in Sudan's violent west. Major General Emmanuel Karenzi told reporters the mission was severely short of equipment, including a total lack of transport and attack helicopters. 'I wouldn't say we are helpless,' he said at UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur. 'If you are talking about a fully-fledged attack on UNAMID with big weapons we may find ourselves in a difficult position to defend ourselves.' A total of 11 UNAMID peacekeepers have been killed in Darfur in ambushes and other incidents since the force replaced an African Union mission at the beginning of the year. The peacekeepers, who are supposed to cover a remote region about the size of France, have often found themselves caught up in a chaotic conflict involving bandits, government forces, insurgent factions and militias. In the single bloodiest attack on peacekeepers since the start of the conflict, 12 African Union troops were killed when gunmen stormed their base in Haskanita in September 2007. Karenzi said officers were still hoping to build up the international force to 60 per cent of its promised deployment by the end of the year. But he said the impact of a simple increase in troop numbers would be minimal. [...]"


"Holodomor Survivors Recount Tragic Tales of Soviet Genocide"
By Chris Mitchell
The London Free Press, 1 December 2008
"At the tender age of 11 and in defiance of an empire, Stephan Tischenko searched for food to feed his three starving brothers. It was 1932 and the Soviet government was deliberately starving people in Ukraine, a tactic aimed at destroying any hopes of independence. 'The government took everything. We had nothing left,' Tischenko said yesterday as about 200 people attended a memorial service at the London Ukrainian Centre to honour the survivors and remember the victims. He recalled going out to find any food he could, knowing if the authorities caught him, he could be shot on sight. He picked rotten potatoes and weeds. 'When I came home, there was one brother dead -- the youngest.' Again he went out to find food and when he returned, another of his brothers had died. Tischenko's tragic story is only one from the Holodomor, a famine that killed as many as 10 million people in Ukraine. 'Ukraine remembers -- the world acknowledges,' said Mykola Wasylko, president of the Ukrainian Centre, in an address to the crowd at yesterday's ceremony. This year is the 75th anniversary of the famine, which until only recently was almost unknown outside Ukraine. Survivors were afraid to speak of the tragedy in public until the Soviet Union collapsed. In May, Canada recognized the Holodomar as an act of genocide. At yesterday's ceremony, the crowd ate bread baked by one of the 12 survivors who attended. It symbolized 'the bread that was forcibly taken from the mouths of the dying,' Wasylko said. [...]"

"Ukrainian-Canadians Mark Famine's 75th Anniversary"
CTV.ca, 22 November 2008
"Ukrainian-Canadians spent Saturday marking the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, the nightmarish famine that killed millions in the Ukraine in the early 1930s. The famine is largely blamed on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's forced collectivization of grain and other foodstuffs that left millions of people without adequate food supplies. Estimates put the number of dead anywhere between two and 10 million. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper supported a private member's bill that acknowledged the famine as a genocide, following the lead of a dozen or so other countries. National Holodomor Awareness Week in Canada begins this weekend with candlelight vigils and other events Saturday, and memorial services at Ukrainian churches across the country on Sunday. 'This is the bare minimum which we, as Ukrainians, should do not only for the millions of victims, but more importantly, for our descendants who must always remember the Holodomor and heighten the international community's sensitivity to the re-occurrence of similar tragedies,' the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said in a statement on its website. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney marked the anniversary of the famine in Kyiv alongside leaders from the Ukrainian-Canadian community. The Canadian delegation is expected to participate in a forum on the famine. 'Our government is committed to remembering the victims of communism and heightening international awareness of genocide, and we are proud that our Conservative government recognized the Holodomor as a genocide,' Kenney said in a statement issued by the UCC. 'We take such actions to help ensure that similar atrocities never happen again.' Ceremonies across the Ukraine Saturday were marred by opposition from Russia, which objects to Ukraine's campaign to have the famine recognized worldwide as a genocide. [...]"


"A Massacre Explained" (Review of Karl Jacoby, "Shadows at Dawn")
By Tim Morrison
Time.com, 24 November 2008
"In the predawn hours of April 30, 1871, a group of attackers ambushed an encampment of Apaches in Aravaipa Canyon, outside the town of Tuscon. 144 people -- overwhelmingly women and children -- were slaughtered. This much we know at the outset of Shadows at Dawn, by Brown University historian Karl Jacoby. We also know who these attackers were, for the most part: an unlikely alliance of white settlers, Spanish-speaking landholders known as vecinos and members of an opposing tribe, the Tohono O'odham. But rather than tie these four groups' tales together into a standard history of what became known as the Camp Grant Massacre -- one of the most brutal and sensational acts in the American Southwest of the late 19th century -- Jacoby breaks them out separately, to better unpack what he calls the 'palimpsest of many stories' surrounding the massacre. The goal is to add nuance to the accepted narratives of the American frontier as cowboy vs. Indian, good vs. bad, Manifest Destiny vs. native Americans' ancient claim to the land. ... On the increasingly brutal attitude of white settlers towards the Apache[, he writes]: 'The civilian scout leader [King] Woolsey, for example, was blunt in his embrace of such tactics. "As there has been a great deal said about my killing women and children," he wrote to the territory's military authorities, "I will state to you that we killed in this Scout 22 Bucks 5 women & 3 children. We would have killed more women but [did not] owing to having attacked in the day time when the women were at work gathering Mescal. It sir is next to impossible to prevent killing squaws in jumping a rancheria even were we disposed to save them. For my part I am frank to say that I fight on the broad platform of extermination."' [...]"
[n.b. A chilling quote which you will be seeing in the next edition of my "Genocide" textbook.]


"Obama's Choice for UN is Advocate of Strong Action against Mass Killings"
By Peter Baker
International Herald Tribune, 1 December 2008
"President-elect Barack Obama has chosen his foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, to be ambassador to the United Nations, picking an advocate of 'dramatic action' against genocide as he rounds out his national security team, Democrats close to the transition said Sunday. ... The choice of Rice to represent the United States before the United Nations will make her one of the most visible faces of the Obama administration to the outside world aside from Clinton. It will also send to the world organization a prominent and forceful advocate of stronger action, including military force if necessary, to stop mass killings like those in the Darfur region of Sudan in recent years. To reinforce his intention to work more closely with the United Nations after the tensions of President George W. Bush's tenure, Obama plans to restore the ambassador's post to cabinet rank, as it was under President Bill Clinton, according to Democrats close to the transition. ... Rice at 44 would be the second-youngest ambassador to the United Nations. A Rhodes scholar who earned a doctorate in international relations at Oxford University, she joined Bill Clinton's National Security Council staff in 1993 before rising to assistant secretary of state for African affairs at age 32. ... During her first run at the State Department, Rice was a point person in responding to Al Qaeda's 1998 bombing of United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But her most searing experience was visiting Rwanda after the 1994 genocide when she was still on the NSC staff. As she later described the scene, the hundreds, if not thousands, of decomposing, hacked up bodies that she saw haunted her and fueled a desire to never let it happen again. 'I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,' she told The Atlantic Monthly in 2001. She eventually became a sharp critic of the Bush administration's handling of the Darfur killings and last year testified before Congress on behalf of an American-led bombing campaign or naval blockade to force a recalcitrant Sudanese government to stop the slaughter. Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, praised the pending Rice nomination on Sunday, calling it a powerful sign of the new president's interest in the issue. The coalition is urging Obama to begin a 'peace surge' of sustained diplomacy to address the continuing problems in Sudan. 'It sends a very strong signal about his approach to the issue of Sudan and Africa in general,' Fowler said. [...]"


"Why Can't We Hold Torturers Accountable and Still Find Out the Truth?"
By Dahlia Lithwick
Slate.com, 26 November 2008
"[...] It's sweet and fanciful to think that with a grant of immunity and a hot cup of chai, Bush-administration officials who have scoffed at congressional subpoenas and court dates will sit down and unburden themselves to a truth commission about their role in the U.S. attorney firings. ... I just cannot bring myself to believe that the full story will ever be told to our collective satisfaction. Even if every living American were someday to purchase and read the truth commission's collectively agreed-on bipartisan narrative, weaving together John Yoo's best intentions and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's torment on the water board, sweeping national reconciliation will elude us. As my friend Jack Goldsmith points out in an op-ed today, we already know the truth of what happened. Not all of it, to be sure, but we know a good deal about who made which critical decisions and when. Just read Michael Ratner's devastating new book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld. Read Philippe Sands' Torture Team. Read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side. Read this painfully detailed new report from U.C.-Berkeley, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, chronicling the experiences of former detainees held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These writers are not crackpots. We may not have every memo, and we may not be able to name every name. But do truth commissions alone ever reveal the full story? If we decline to hold lawbreakers to account, we may find out a whole lot of facts and arrive at no truth at all. Is the truth that if the president orders it, it isn't illegal? Or is the truth that good people do bad things in wartime, but that's OK? Is the truth that if we torture strange men with strange names, it's not lawbreaking? What legal precedent will this big bipartisan narrative set for the next president with a hankering for dunking prisoners? [...]"


"The World's Most Heinous Crime"
CNN.com, 1 December 2008
"They share a deep sorrow: an idealistic American who tried to protect the Kurds of Iraq, a Canadian general who refused to follow orders in Rwanda, a French priest who fought for the soul of Cambodia. Each one tried to focus the world's attention on the world's most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else's problem. To understand why, CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, 'Scream Bloody Murder.' Having reported on mass atrocities around the world, this time Amanpour traced the personal accounts of those who tried to stop the slaughter. The yearlong CNN investigation found that instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive. December marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.'s Genocide Convention, when -- in the aftermath of the Holocaust -- the nations of the world pledged to prevent and punish future attempts to eliminate ethnic, religious and national groups. 'The Genocide Convention should have stopped genocide, but it didn't,' said Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Intervention is a daunting challenge, he believes, because of a tendency to minimize accounts from refugees and victims. 'It's better not to believe, because if you believe, you don't sleep nights. And how can you eat? How can you drink a glass of wine when you know?' [...]"


"War Crime Tribunals Facing Crisis as Staff Quit"
By Afua Hirsch
The Guardian, 29 November 2008
"Two tribunals at the centre of efforts to bring war criminals to justice are under threat because of insecurity among staff, the Guardian has learned. The international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) face losing staff at a record rate, putting existing trials, including that of the former Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadzic, in jeopardy, sources inside the tribunals say. Many staff contracts are due to end next month, reflecting the tribunals' initial mandate to complete their caseload by the end of 2008. Despite extensions allowing the cases to continue at least until the end of 2009, up to 40% of foreign staff are expected to abandon their jobs, uncertain whether their positions will be renewed. Turnover rates topped 14% in 2007 and are expected to be even higher in 2008. Karadzic's trial is one of 43 cases still being heard by the ICTY, the Hague-based tribunal which also tried the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The ICTR, a tribunal established in Tanzania to try suspects from the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has more than 30 cases under way and is struggling to track down suspects hiding in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of those leaving, including lawyers, investigators and detention officers, have specific skills, such as translators with expertise on autopsy evidence from mass graves. Senior figures inside the UN have expressed alarm. The secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, described it as a potential exodus, and said he shared 'concern that there may be difficulties in retaining and recruiting key staff as the tribunals complete their mandates.' ... There are also concerns about the safety of staff from the former Yugoslavia when they return home from The Hague. [...]"

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