Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Congo War Leaves Legacy of Sexual Violence against Women
By Jina Moore
The Christian Science Monitor, June 30, 2010
Photo: A sign in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, reads "Never Again: Respect the Rights of Women." (Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor)
"In the Democratic Republic of Congo, sexual violence has become so common that the eastern provinces are sometimes called 'the ground zero of rape.' Tens of thousands of women here have been raped by armed combatants seeking to destroy communities by assaulting the women, who are often shunned and sometimes abandoned after sexual assaults. In Congo, it has become common to say rape is a weapon of war. Or at least it was. New data suggest that rape by combatants is on the wane in eastern Congo. But a different trend indicates that crimes of war may have changed habits -- for the worst. As the number of civilian perpetrators climbs, rape in the DRC is more than just a problem of war. An April 2010 study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) found a 17-fold increase in civilian rapes between 2004 and 2008. The study surveyed more than 4,000 women, in the same years, who sought treatment at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu.

Belgium / Congo

Belgium Revisits the Scene of Its Colonial Shame
By Vanessa Mock
The Independent, June 30, 2010
Photo: AP
"It must have been with at least some trepidation that Albert II, King of the Belgians, stepped off the plane in the Congolese capital Kinshasa this week to take part in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from Belgium on June 30 1960. Albert is the great-grandnephew of Leopold II, the Belgian king who wrought colonial terror of the worst kind in the vast central African territory which he called the Congo Free State and ruled brutally as his private property from 1884 until 1908. If that was not bad enough, Albert's late brother, King Baudouin was accused of indirectly inciting the post-independence assassination of Congo's independence hero and first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961. Lumumba's sons announced this month that they want to bring murder charges against 12 living Belgians for involvement in their father's assassination. Little wonder then that before the King was allowed to travel to the still troubled Democratic Republic of Congo, the matter triggered a heated debate in the Belgian Parliament. The mood was not helped by the declaration earlier this month by the former Belgian foreign minister, Louis Michel, who called Leopold II 'a true visionary' and 'a hero.'

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

Rwanda Takes a Strict Line on Genocide Denial. The US Should Support That.
By Richard Johnson
The Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2010
"Arrogance, ignorance, and indifference to African victims of genocide have long been hallmarks of Western treatment of Rwanda. The US government should take care not to perpetuate this unfortunate tradition in the run-up to Rwanda’s presidential election in August and fan ethnic tensions in Rwanda. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton admonished the Rwandan government on June 14 for its legal prosecution of 'opposition figures' and 'lawyers,' which she called political actions that should be reversed. Whoever drafted and vetted the secretary’s comments did her, and Rwanda, a disservice. The 'opposition figure' in question is Victoire Ingabire, a Rwandan émigrée who returned to Rwanda from Europe in January to run for president. She had been living outside Rwanda since the 1994 genocide. Upon her return this year, she was soon charged with genocide denial, stirring up ethnic hatred, and collaborating with a rebel force based in eastern Congo -- the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is led by the remnants of the military officers and politicians who planned and perpetrated the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda.

United States / Torture

Did CIA Doctors Experiment on Terror Suspects?
By Tara A. Lewis
Newsweek, June 24, 2010
"The recent allegation that CIA doctors 'conducted human research and experimentation on prisoners in US custody' adds a new wrinkle to longstanding questions about the role of health professionals during interrogations of terror suspects following 9/11. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which issued its report earlier this month, is the first to give evidence of alleged 'illegal experimentation' by CIA medical personnel. 'This current report provides evidence that in addition to medical complicity in torture, health professionals participated in research and experimentation on detainees in U.S. custody,' the report says. After releasing its findings, PHR, along with other activist groups, called for a federal investigation by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) -- part of the Health and Human Services department -- into the CIA's Office of Medical Services. PHR says that the Office of Medical Services personnel -- through 'unethical' human-subject research and experimentation, and complicity in torture -- have violated Article III of the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture, the Nuremberg Code, and the US War Crimes act.

Torture / Universal Jurisdiction

UN Rights Chief Says Torturers Will Face Justice
Agence France-Presse dispatch on, June 25, 2010
"UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday warned torturers that they could not escape justice even if they might benefit from short term impunity. 'Torturers, and their superiors, need to hear the following message loud and clear: however powerful you are today, there is a strong chance that sooner or later you will be held to account for your inhumanity,' Pillay said. 'Torture is an extremely serious crime, and in certain circumstances can amount to a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide,' she added in a statement to mark Saturday's International Day for the Victims of Torture. The High Commissioner for Human Rights urged governments, the United Nations and campaign groups 'to ensure that this message is backed by firm action.'

Cambodian Genocide

A War Revisited / "A Killing Fields Survivor"
By Robert Stokes
Westport News, June 25, 2010
"[...] Mr. Rith was 7 years old when Pol Pot came to power in April 1975, following the overthrow of the U.S.-supported government of Gen. Lon Nol. He was born in the countryside far from the capitol of Phnom Penh. 'We survived,' said Mr. Rith, 'because my family were farmers and the government needed us to produce the rice needed to feed the population. We also lived because we were not from the professional or intellectual classes.' Despite their lives being spared, Rith and his family remained under a death sentence based on how much rice they were required to produce from each harvest. 'We had to deliver three tons of rice from every harvest,' said Rith. 'If not, we would be killed. There wasn't much left for us to eat. We learned to value the nourishment of insects, frogs and rats. In those days, crickets and grasshoppers were considered delicacies. Many people died from starvation and disease caused by malnutrition.' From age 7 to 11, Rith worked in the rice paddies with his parents from dawn to after dark seven days a week.

Rwanda / Uganda / Rwandan Genocide

Uganda Reburies Lake Victoria's Rwanda Genocide Victims
BBC Online, June 25, 2010
Photo: Agence France-Presse
"The last of three ceremonies to rebury victims of Rwanda's 1994 genocide who were washed up on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda has taken place. Nearly 11,000 bodies thrown into rivers in Rwanda were recovered from the lake and buried by Ugandan villagers. Their bodies have now all been exhumed from different places and buried at three special memorial sites. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the 100-day slaughter. The BBC's Joshua Mmali at Friday's ceremony in Ggolo said officials from Rwanda and Uganda attended the reburial. Genocide survivors were also present. 'I am a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. I am happy today because at this time I am able to give my relatives burials,' Jenny, whose husband was killed, told the BBC. 'I thank the government of Uganda for this event,' she said.

Psychology of Genocide

The Narcissism of the Small Difference
By Christopher Hitchens, June 28, 2010
"Reviewing the sudden spasm of violence between the Uzbek minority and the Kyrgyz majority in Kyrgyzstan recently, many commentators were at a loss to explain why the two peoples should so abruptly have turned upon one another. Explanations range from official pandering to Kyrgyz nationalism, to sheer police and army brutality, to provocations from Taliban-style militias hoping to create another Afghanistan, but none go very far in analyzing why intercommunal relations became so vicious so fast. As if to make the question still more opaque, several reports stressed the essential similarity -- ethnic, linguistic, cultural -- between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations. But that in itself could well be the explanation. In numerous cases of apparently ethno-nationalist conflict, the deepest hatreds are manifested between people who -- to most outward appearances -- exhibit very few significant distinctions. It is one of the great contradictions of civilization and one of the great sources of its discontents, and Sigmund Freud even found a term for it: 'the narcissism of the small difference.' As he wrote, 'It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them.'

Saturday, June 26, 2010

United States / Arbitrary Imprisonment

US to Repatriate Guantanamo Detainee to Yemen after Judge Orders Him to be Released
By Peter Finn
The Washington Post, June 26, 2010
"The Obama administration has decided to repatriate to Yemen a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he was ordered released by a federal judge who cited overwhelming evidence that the detainee had been held illegally for more than eight years by the United States, administration officials said. In January, President Obama suspended the transfer of any detainees to Yemen because of concerns about the security situation in that country. But the case of Mohammed Odaini, who was 17 when he was picked up in Pakistan in 2002, has forced the administration to partially lift its suspension. Odaini was a student at a religious institution in Faisalabad, Pakistan, when he visited a nearby guesthouse for the first time. The house was raided that night, and Odaini has been in custody since. US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. 'emphatically' ordered Odaini's release after concluding there was no evidence he had any connection to al-Qaeda.


Rwandan Editor Who Accused Officials in Shooting Is Killed
By Josh Kron
The New York Times, June 25, 2010
"A Rwandan journalist who accused the Rwandan government of trying to assassinate a dissident in South Africa was himself killed Thursday night in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Jean-Leonard Rugambage, 34, an editor and reporter for a suspended private tabloid, was shot twice and killed late Thursday night near his home, police officials said. Violent crime is exceedingly rare in Kigali, which is known as one of the safest and most orderly capitals in Africa. The shooting is the latest in a string of deadly episodes in the Rwandan capital as the country approaches presidential elections this August. Although investigations were continuing and no arrests had been made, authorities had dismissed the possibility of foul play. 'It is very unfortunate,' said a police spokesperson, Eric Kayiranga. 'He was an ordinary man. At his level, I don’t think he can be a threat.' But Jean-Bosco Gasasira, the senior editor of the local-language tabloid Umuvugizi, where Mr. Rugambage worked, claims that the Rwandan government was behind the killing and that intelligence services had been trailing his colleague for days.

Georgia / Stalinism

Georgia Knocks Stalin Off His Pedestal
By Sarah Marcus and Ellen Barry
The New York Times, June 25, 2010
Photo: Reuters
"In the predawn darkness on Friday, Georgian authorities carried out a clandestine operation in Gori's central square. Wrapping thick cables around Stalin's neck and under one of his armpits, they hoisted him off the pedestal where he has stood for 48 years and set him nose-first on the back of a flatbed truck. Georgian authorities, seeking to purge their country of Soviet monuments, on Friday removed a statue of Stalin from the central square of Gori, Stalin's birthplace. It had stood there for 48 years. By morning, the statue was long gone -- a relief to Georgia's leadership, which has been increasingly intent on moving the 20-foot monument since a 2008 war with Russia. It was a different matter for many citizens in Gori, however, whose claim to fame during the Soviet era was the brick house here where Josef Stalin was born, and where older Georgians still revere him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

South Asia / "Honour" Killings

Honour-Killing: A Sub-continental Phenomenon
By Jason Burke
The Guardian, June 25, 2010
"At least 900 so-called honour killings take place in three Indian states -- Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh -- every year, according to research to be released published next week. A large number go unreported as families try to pass them off as natural deaths. Honour killing in the south and east of India is rare. The UN Population Fund estimates around 5,000 women die in this way every year worldwide, the vast majority in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. According to one recent study, -- 172 incidents and 230 honour-killing victims worldwide -- the average age of those killed is 23. In the UK, 10 to 12 women are killed for this reason every year In March this year, a Haryana court sentenced five people to death for murdering a couple on the orders of a 'khap panchayat,' a traditional unofficial local council. Among the guilty were the girl's brother and cousins. Last week, the Indian supreme court demanded an explanation of what steps national and state governments had taken to protect young couples. The government has promised new legislation in the next few weeks."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Interestingly, despite the reference to the "couple" killed in Haryana, there is no mention of the very substantial number of men who also perish in South Asian "honour" killings, which are often linked to perceived "transgressions" by lower-caste males.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bangladesh / Bangladeshi Genocide

Int'l Peace Confce Ends with Dhaka Declaration
The New Nation (Dhaka), June 22, 2010
"The one-day International Conference on Peace, Justice and Secular Humanism ended here on Sunday with Dhaka declaration acknowledging 1971 genocide by Pakistani troops as the worst since the Second World War. '... The genocide that was committed in Bangladesh during the War of Liberation, 1971, is the worst genocide to take place after the World War II, committed by the Pakistan Army and its local auxiliary forces killing 3 million people and raping more than 200,000 women within just nine months,' the first para of the nine-point Dhaka declaration read. The declaration, read out by former Nepalese speaker Daman Dhungana, urged the international community to recognize the 'Genocide' committed during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, 1971 and 'affirm solidarity with the trial process taken by Bangladesh government strongly believing that such trial will discourage the culture of impunity.'

Bangladesh / Bangladeshi Genocide

Growing Global Support for War Crimes Trial (Editorial)
The Daily Star (Dhaka), June 22, 2010
"Delegates from 11 countries and the local organisers of the seminar on trial of 1971 war crimes, held in Dhaka on Sunday, were unequivocal in their observation that the genocide in Bangladesh was among the worst since the Second World War. This eggs us on powerfully to successfully conduct the trial of the collaborators of the Pakistan army who actively participated in the mass killing which saw three million Bengalees being liquidated in nine months. It is certainly good news that participants in the international conference extended wholehearted support to the trial of the war criminals. They had succeeded in rehabilitating themselves in the last four decades, as successive governments made no serious attempt to bring them to justice. There was a shameful hesitation and indecisiveness on this issue, a blot on the nation's collective conscience simply because the very concept of democracy and a just social order is negated by the presence of such killers in society. It is a terrible moral burden on the nation that it had to be relived of.

Israel / Palestine

UN Agency Calls for Full Lifting of Gaza Blockade
By Marwa Awad
Reuters dispatch, June 21, 2010
"Nothing short of the full lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza would allow the territory to be rebuilt, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said on Monday, a day after Israel said it would ease its siege. Israel, which sealed off the coastal territory to prevent its Hamas foes from arming, is under international pressure to lift the blockade after its forces killed nine people in an assault on an aid flotilla on May 31. Under the blockade's previous rules, any item that was not explicitly permitted was banned. Israel says it will now allow items to enter Gaza unless they are on a list of banned items, including weapons and materials that can be used to make them. However, critics say the new rules could still make it difficult to import building materials to rehabilitate the territory, damaged by war in 2008-09. 'We need to have the blockade fully lifted,' said spokesman Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. He spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Cairo. 'The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings.'
What Stands in the Way of Bosnia Reconciliation
By Heather McRobie
The Guardian, June 21, 2010
Photo: "An UN investigator removes earth from bodies in a mass grave outside the village of Cerska, near Srebrenica, Bosnia on July 15, 1996." (Odd Andersen/Getty Images)
"[...] An initiative by a German NGO is currently under way to construct a 'pillar of shame' intended to draw attention to the UN's failure to fully own up to its share of responsibility for the Srebrenica genocide 15 years after 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in the UN 'safe area.' The pillar will spell out the letters UN using 16,744 shoes, representing the numbers of the victims of Srebrenica, and intends to 'serve as a metaphor for the immense betrayal of the UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina.' The pillar will be presented at The Hague on 1 July, and in Berlin on 11 July, the day Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb army in 1995. The pillar of shame project is supported by the Mothers of Srebrenica, the group representing survivors and relatives of those who were killed in Srebrenica, who filed a law suit against the UN at the Hague, accusing the peacekeepers of failing to take necessary steps to prevent the genocide.

Spain / Nazism / Jewish Holocaust

General Franco Gave List of Spanish Jews to Nazis
By Giles Tremlett
The Guardian, June 20, 2010
Photo: "Hitler and General Franco meet on the French side of the border on 23 October 1940." (LAPI/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
"It was the list that would have sent thousands more Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz and other extermination camps run by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime during the second world war, but this time the victims were to be Spaniards. The Spanish dictator, General Francisco Franco, whose apologists usually claim that he protected Jews, ordered his officials to draw up a list of some 6,000 Jews living in Spain and include them in a secret Jewish archive. That list was handed over to the Nazi architect of the so-called 'final solution,' the German SS chief Heinrich Himmler, as the two countries negotiated Spain's possible incorporation into the group of Axis powers that included Italy, according to the El País newspaper today. The newspaper printed the original order, recently unearthed from Spanish archives, that instructed provincial governors to elaborate lists of 'all the national and foreign Jews living in the province ... showing their personal and political leanings, means of living, commercial activities, degree of danger and security category.' Provincial governors were ordered to look out especially for Sephardic Jews, descendants of those expelled from Spain in 1492, because their Ladino language and Hispanic background helped them fit into Spanish society. [...]"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bangladesh / Ecocide / Structural Violence

Arsenic Could Kill Millions in Bangladesh -- Study
By Julie Steenhuysen
Reuters dispatch, June 18, 2010
"Tens of millions of people in Bangladesh have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from drinking contaminated groundwater, putting them at risk of an early death, U.S. researchers said on Friday. They said more than 20 percent of deaths in a 10-year study of 12,000 Bangladeshis were caused by arsenic exposure from contaminated drinking water. 'Tens of millions of people there are at high risk of dying early. Something needs to be done urgently to reduce the exposure to arsenic for this population and find alternative, safe drinking water sources,' said Dr. Habibul Ahsan of the University of Chicago Medical Center, whose study appears in the Lancet. Arsenic causes cancer and is toxic to the liver, skin, kidney and the cardiovascular system. Ahsan said the West Bengal region of India, Argentina, Chile and parts of Mexico and the US states of Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire have areas where people drink groundwater from arsenic-contaminated wells.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

American in Rwanda Freed, But Still Faces Genocide Denial Charge
By Scott Baldauf
The Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2010
"Peter Erlinder, an American lawyer accused of denying the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has been granted an unconditional release by a Rwandan court in Kigali today. Mr. Erlinder was arrested last month and charged with denying and minimizing the genocide, soon after arriving in Rwanda to defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire on similar charges of genocide denial. Erlinder has reportedly promised to return to Rwanda to face the charges against him, although he is currently in a hospital in Kigali for an ailment related to blood pressure. Erlinder's family, reached by phone in the US, says that they are relieved to hear the news and that the US Department of State has confirmed that Erlinder has been granted unconditional release. ... Rwanda's Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said in a statement: 'Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder -- it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticizes was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental wellbeing. This will not deter the prosecution as we finalize the case against Mr. Erlinder.' [...]"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

The Politics of Denialism: The Strange Case of Rwanda
By Gerald Caplan, June 17, 2010
"[...] All of this is mere preliminary for Herman and Peterson. Their main target, which is none of the cases mentioned so far, can be found squarely in the heart of the book. It's chapter 4, the longest single section, and its purpose is to show that the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened. In fact the entire 'genocide' in Rwanda is an elaborate American conspiracy to 'gain a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals' influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo.' The authors' greatest bete noir is Paul Kagame, commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels during the 1990-94 civil war and 1994 genocide, long-time president of post-genocide Rwanda -- and leading Yankee stooge. Yes, in order to blame the American empire for every ill on earth, Herman and Peterson, two dedicated anti-imperialists, have sunk to the level of genocide deniers. And the 'evidence' they adduce to back up their delusional tale rests solidly on a foundation of other deniers, statements by genocidaires, fabrications, distortions, innuendo and gross ignorance. In this Grimm fairy tale, everyone who contradicts their fantasies is an American/RPF pawn -- Paul Kagame, human rights investigator Alison des Forges, the head of the UN military mission in Rwanda during the genocide General Romeo Dallaire, and entire human rights organisations.

Kyrgyzstan / Russia / Stalinism

Stalin's Latest Victims
The Economist, June 17, 2010
"Faced with the difficulty of ruling a region as tumultuous as Central Asia, Stalin divided it into a patchwork of states whose borders were designed to fracture races and smash nationalism. He succeeded in preventing ethnic groups from uniting against him, and also in ensuring that each state is a hotbed of ethnic rivalry. The latest victims of his legacy are the Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan. Hundreds have been killed, and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes, in a pogrom against the ethnic minority in this poor country of 5.4m people. Inflamed by economic hardship and the rise of radical Islam, the conflict could spread. The fear is that this is not an isolated explosion of interethnic tension, but the future of Central Asia.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mexico / Central America

Illegal Migrants Risk Kidnapping, Rape, Torture on Journey through Mexico
By William Booth
The Washington Post, June 17, 2010
"As the Mexican government condemns a new immigration law in Arizona as cruel and xenophobic, illegal migrants passing through Mexico are routinely robbed, raped and kidnapped by organized criminal gangs that often work alongside corrupt police, according to human rights advocates. Mexico's strict laws to protect the rights of illegal migrants are often ignored and undocumented migrants from Central America face a brutal passage through Mexico, say immigration experts and Catholic priests who shelter the travelers. They are stoned by angry villagers, who fear the Central Americans bring crime or disease, and fleeced by hustlers. Mexican police and authorities often demand bribes. Mexico detained and deported more than 64,000 illegal migrants last year, according to the National Migration Institute. This is far fewer than the 200,000 undocumented migrants that Mexico detained annually just a few years ago. The lower numbers are the result of tougher enforcement on the US border, the global economic slowdown and, say some experts, the robbery and assaults migrants face in Mexico. The National Commission on Human Rights, a government agency, estimates that 20,000 migrants are kidnapped each year in Mexico. While they are held for ransom, increasingly at the hands of Mexico's powerful drug cartels, many migrants are tortured -- threatened with execution, beaten with bats and submerged in buckets of water or excrement.


400,000 Flee in Kyrgyzstan, UN Says
Associated Press dispatch in The New York Times, June 17, 2010
"An estimated 400,000 people -- nearly one-twelfth the population -- have fled their homes to escape Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence, the UN said Thursday as throngs of refugees huddled in grim camps along the Uzbekistan border without adequate food or water. That figure represents half the roughly 800,000 ethnic Uzbeks who lived in Kyrgyzstan's south before Central Asia's worst ethnic violence in decades erupted there last week. More than 200 people -- possibly many more -- have been killed, and Uzbeks have been all but purged from some parts of the south. Ethnic Uzbeks on Thursday accused security forces of standing by or even helping ethnic-majority Kyrgyz mobs as they slaughtered people and burned down neighborhoods. Col. Iskander Ikramov, the chief of the Kyrgyz military in the south, rejected allegations of troop involvement in the riots but said the army didn't interfere in the conflict because it was not supposed to play the role of a police force.

United States / Torture / Arbitrary Imprisonment

Nowhere to Hide: Ignoring Maher Arar Won't Make His Torture Claims Go Away
By Dahlia Lithwick, Posted June 16, 2010
"This week the Supreme Court denied, without comment, the appeal of Maher Arar, a dual citizen of Canada and Syria who was arrested in transit through JFK airport in 2002, then shipped off to Syria and tortured for 10 months. Arar's abuse allegedly included repeated beatings with electrical cables and confinement in a cell the size of a grave. When they realized they had the wrong guy -- the really, totally, and utterly innocent guy -- Arar was released without charges. He was then completely exonerated of any link to terror by the Canadian government, which impaneled a commission to investigate the incident, issued a 1,000-plus-page report on the matter, held its own intelligence forces responsible for their role in the screw-up, then apologized and paid Arar $9.8 million. Whereas the US government ... has never apologized, never acknowledged any wrongdoing, never held anyone responsible, and, on President Barack Obama's watch, has only redoubled its efforts to prevent Arar from having even a single day in court.


Kyrgyzstan Killings Are Attempted Genocide, Say Ethnic Uzbeks
By Luke Harding
The Guardian, June 16, 2010
Photo: "An ethnic Uzbek boy walks amid debris of a ruined building in Osh, Kyrgyzstan." (Kazbek Basayev/Reuters)
"It was early afternoon when the mob surged down an alley of neat rose bushes and halted outside Zarifa's house. The Kyrgyz men broke into her courtyard and sat Zarifa down next to a cherry tree. They asked her a couple of questions. After confirming she was an ethnic Uzbek, they stripped her, raped her and cut off her fingers. After that they killed her and her small son, throwing their bodies into the street. They then moved on to the next house. 'They were like beasts,' Zarifa's neighbour, Bakhtir Irgayshon, said today, pointing to the gutted bedframe where she had been assaulted. A few pots and pans remained; the rest of the family home was a charred ruin. Zarifa's husband, Ilham, was missing, Irgayshon said, probably dead. Only his mother, Adina, survived the Kyrgyz-instigated conflagration that engulfed the neighbourhood of Cheremushki last Friday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vietnam / United States / Agent Orange

$300 Mln to Cope with Agent Orange in Vietnam
By Margie Mason
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, June 16, 2010
Photo: "In this photo taken Monday May 10, 2010, Nguyen Tuan Tu, a second generation Agent Orange victim who was born without eyes, rests at the Center of Nurturing Old People and Disabled Children at Ba Vi, outside Hanoi, Vietnam." (Nick Ut/AP)
"Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, a $300 million price tag has been placed on the most contentious legacy still tainting U.S.-Vietnam relations: Agent Orange. A joint panel of US and Vietnamese policymakers, citizens and scientists released an action plan Wednesday, urging the US government and other donors to provide an estimated $30 million annually over 10 years to clean up sites still contaminated by dioxin, a toxic chemical used in the defoliant. The funding would also be used to treat Vietnamese suffering from disabilities, including those believed linked to exposure to Agent Orange, which was dumped by the US military in vast quantities over former South Vietnam to destroy crops and jungle cover shielding communist guerrilla fighters. Washington has been slow to address the issue, quibbling for years with its former foe over the need for more scientific research to show that the herbicide sprayed by U.S. aircraft during the war caused health problems and birth defects among Vietnamese.

International Criminal Court / Crime of Aggression

ICC Adds Aggression to List of Crimes Despite US Opposition
By Jenna Greene
The National Law Journal (on, June 15, 2010
"In a move that international lawyers describe as 'a giant leap,' members of the International Criminal Court agreed to add aggression to the court's short list of prosecutable crimes. The United States opposed the resolution, but as a non-member of the eight-year-old court, had no ability to block the adoption. Still, it was notable that the United States even showed up for the debate. State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp led a sizeable US delegation to a two-week meeting in Kampala, Uganda. It ended early in the morning on Saturday with the consensus adoption of the definition of aggression and mechanisms for triggering an investigation. The resolution will not go into effect until at least 2017, and the court has no jurisdiction to bring aggression chares against nationals from non-ICC member countries, which include the US, Russia and China.

Kyrgyzstan / Uzbekistan

Rape, Torture in Kyrgyzstan, June 15, 2010
"Struck mute by shock after a brutal gang rape, three sisters -- refugees from the violence in Kyrgyzstan -- sobbed wildly as a doctor narrated the horror they had endured. From their broken stories, doctor Mukaddas Majidova said the girls, aged between 16 and 23, had been raped in front of each other by a mob of ethnic Kyrgyz men and were rendered speechless by the trauma. 'These girls were raped recently and by a lot of men and for several hours, according to their injuries,' she said. Majidova and other doctors in eastern Uzbekistan's Andijan border region are struggling to treat the flood of tens of thousands of terror-stricken refugees fleeing five days of bloody clashes in Kyrgyzstan. Every new patient told a horrifying story, they said. 'We treated today a 28-year-old man who was tortured. He had signs of knife wounds on his neck, burned skin from scalding water and had been shot. We took out the bullet,' said Kozim Mahkamov, a doctor at the hospital in Andijan city. Uzbekistan has issued an urgent plea for international aid to cope with estimates of up to 100 000 refugees now inside the country as it strives to cope with the escalating humanitarian catastrophe. The Central Asian state shut its border to all but wounded refugees on Monday, leaving thousands marooned on the Kyrgyz side. [...]"

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

ICTR Calls for Immediate Release of Peter Erlinder from Rwandan Prison ...
San Francisco Bay View, June 15, 2010
"According to Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune writer Jeremy Herb in a story just posted to the newspaper's staff blog: 'The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the United Nations court that has tried Rwanda's genocide crimes -- and where St. Paul attorney Peter Erlinder is head of the defense attorney association -- has called for Erlinder's immediate release. "The tribunal, in a two-page letter to Erlinder's Rwandan prosecutor and the Rwandan minister of foreign affairs, wrote that Erlinder should not be prosecuted because the case against the William Mitchell College of Law professor involves his work as a defense attorney in the tribunal, where his clients were Rwandans accused of genocide. The ICTR hereby notifies the Rwandan authorities that Prof. Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests therefore, his immediate release," the letter said.' [...]"

Sudan / Darfur / International Criminal Court

Sudan Rebel Leaders Surrender to Warcrimes Court
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Yahoo! News, June 16, 2010
"Two Sudan rebel leaders arrived in The Hague on Wednesday after surrendering to the International Criminal Court to answer to accusations of war crimes in Darfur, the court said. 'Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, both suspected of having committed war crimes in Darfur, Sudan, arrived voluntarily this morning at the International Criminal Court,' a statement said. ... The men face three counts of war crimes allegedly committed in an attack on the Haskanita military base in north Darfur on September 29, 2007, that killed 12 African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) peacekeepers and injured eight. The attack was allegedly carried out by fighters of the Sudanese Liberation Army-Unity under the command of Jerbo, and splinter forces of the Justice and Equality Movement led by Banda.

United States / Israel / Armenian Genocide

Suddenly, The Israel Lobby Discovers a Genocide
By Mark Arax, June 16, 2010
"Some of the most powerful leaders in the American Jewish community have stepped forward in recent days to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkey. On the surface, this would seem unremarkable. As victims of the Holocaust, Jews might be expected to stand beside the Armenians and their tragedy. After all, the massacres and death marches across Anatolia during the fog of World War I became a model for Hitler himself. But this sudden embrace of the Armenian Genocide actually marks a shameless turnaround for the major American Jewish organizations. For decades, they have helped Turkey cover up its murderous past. Each year, the Israel lobby in the US has played a quiet but pivotal role in pressuring Congress, the State Department and successive presidents to defeat simple congressional resolutions commemorating the 1.5 million Armenian victims. Genocide denial is not a pretty thing, they now concede, but they did it for Israel. They did it out of gratitude for Turkey being Israel's one and only Muslim ally. Now the game has changed.


Priest Faces Criticism for Shining Light on Human Rights Abuses in Colombia
By Javier Giraldo
The Washington Post, June 12, 2010
[Photo: Juan Forero/WP]
"The ruling issued this week was one of the most severe ever handed down in Colombia against a member of the security forces: 30 years in prison for a retired army colonel found responsible for the disappearance of 11 people in 1985. And it happened in part because of the tireless work of a mild-mannered Catholic priest, the Rev. Javier Giraldo, who sought out evidence from witnesses and made sure that the relatives of the victims were heard by prosecutors and journalists. For 30 years, Giraldo has been investigating some of the most heinous human rights abuses committed during Colombia's shadowy war and blaming those he says are responsible -- often US-backed security forces. In recent weeks, that work has garnered attention like never before, with his adversaries issuing public threats against the man they call 'the Marxist priest,' and even President Álvaro Uribe leveling criticism against him.

Israel / Palestine

Gaza Flotilla: Global Citizens Must Respond Where Governments Have Failed
By Stéphane Hessel
The Huffington Post, June 16, 2010
"Israel's illegal and immoral attack on the Freedom Flotilla humanitarian aid convoy, which left at least nine dead and dozens injured, has rightfully stunned the world. The all-civilian convoy of 6 ships carried over 10,000 tons of critically-needed humanitarian aid and nearly 700 citizens from 40 countries. The Flotilla was an ambitious attempt to break the siege imposed by Israel on the 1.5 million Palestinians of the occupied Gaza strip, since 2007. ... The Israeli attack on the unarmed aid convoy in international waters was '[a clear] violation of international humanitarian law, international law of the seas, and [by most interpretations] international criminal law,' to use the words of Richard Falk, Professor of International Law and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It is a sad reality that world governments have for too long become either complicit or apathetic to Israel's crimes and fostered its culture of impunity, under a shield of unquestionable backing by the US.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kyrgyzstan / Uzbekistan

Uzbeks Run for Cover as Rioting Youths Seize Army Equipment
By Rayhan Demytrie
The Independent, June 15, 2010
[Photo: "An Uzbek man lies injured after ethnic violence in Osh yesterday" (Victor Drachev/AFP/Getty]
"The sound of crying fills the air at this makeshift refugee centre just inside Uzbekistan where hundreds of Uzbeks fleeing mob violence in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan have found shelter. There are no young men, just women, children and the elderly. Most of the working-age men were not allowed across the border, and many stayed behind to defend their property after marauding Kyrgyz gangs embarked on three days of killing in the worst ethnic violence in the country for two decades. As mobile phone networks crashed, none of the women here are able to contact their male relatives back in Kyrgyzstan where at least 124 people have died during days of unrest. None of them know if their husbands and sons are still alive. This is one of several camps that the Uzbek authorities say they have set up for refugees who surged across the border over the weekend. The border has now been closed to further traffic, leaving thousands stuck.

Monday, June 14, 2010

International Criminal Court / Crime of Aggression

State Aggression is Finally a Crime ... But How is it Punished?
By Chandra Lekha Sriram
The Guardian, June 14, 2010
"The crime of state-to-state aggression was discussed at the review conference of the international criminal court (ICC), which I attended in Uganda last week. It reminded me of the classic description of US political dealmaking in action: like watching sausages being made. Various options were sliced and diced, sometimes beyond recognition, and the result was not necessarily attractive. The convenor of the working group on aggression, Prince Zeid of Jordan, sought to find consensus, or at least promote compromise, among divergent state and non-state parties speaking in the working group. As the debates wore on, the plenary discussions were repeatedly suspended in order to facilitate bilateral and smaller multilateral negotiations. Plenary sessions were held past midnight on Thursday and Friday, with a final agreement secured early on Saturday morning. The result, in short, was a definition of a crime, but no operative mechanism for punishing it. The stakes could not have been higher in discussions that could result in adding aggression to the list of crimes over which the ICC can exercise jurisdiction. ... Yet the discussion in Kampala nearly obscured the importance of addressing aggression in a slow, complex deliberation of what appear to be technical legal issues. [...]"

Israel / Palestine

Israel Promises to Ease Its Three Year Blockade of Gaza
The Times, June 14, 2010
"Tony Blair announced today that Israel would agree to re-open crossings into Gaza for everyday goods within days, bringing to an end its strict three-year crackdown on supplies. The Middle East envoy said that Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, had agreed in principle to change its current approach -- deemed illegal today by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) -- by drawing up a list of specifically prohibited items to replace the current narrow list of permitted goods. Mr. Blair also welcomed Mr. Netanyahu's announcement last night of an inquiry into its bloody storming last month of an aid flotilla. Israel has appointed Lord Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, as one of two international observers to its inquiry being held by a senior Israeli judge.

Israel / Palestine

ICRC Says Israel's Gaza Blockade Breaks Law
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC Online, June 14, 2010
"Israel's blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said. In a statement, the ICRC describes the situation in Gaza as dire, saying the only sustainable solution is a lifting of the blockade. It says Israel is punishing the whole civilian population of Gaza. It also urges Hamas movement to allow ICRC delegates to visit a detained Israel soldier Gilad Shalit. The ICRC, a traditionally neutral organisation, paints a bleak picture of conditions in Gaza: hospitals short of equipment, power cuts lasting hours each day, drinking water unfit for consumption. 'The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law,' the agency said in the statement. And the ICRC blames differences between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for some of Gaza's shortages. But the key message from the body which rarely publicly criticises governments is that Israel's blockade of Gaza must be lifted. [...]"
[See the complete text of the ICRC statement.]

Iraq / United States / Ecocide

America Leaves Iraq a Toxic Legacy of Dumped Hazardous Materials
By Oliver August
The Times, June 14, 2010
"American troops going home from Iraq after seven painful years are leaving behind a legacy that is literally toxic. An investigation by The Times in five Iraqi provinces has found that hazardous material from US bases is being dumped locally rather than sent back to America, in clear breach of Pentagon rules. North and west of Baghdad, engine oil is leaking from 55-gallon drums into dusty ground, open acid canisters sit within easy reach of children, and discarded batteries lie close to irrigated farmland. A 2009 Pentagon document shown to The Times by a private contractor working with US soldiers mentions 'an estimated 11 million pounds [5,000 tonnes] of hazardous waste' produced by American troops. But even this figure appears to be only a partial estimate.


Kyrgyz Gangs Accused of 'Genocide' as Death Toll Rises
By Shaun Walker
The Independent, June 14, 2010
"In the worst ethnic violence this Central Asia nation has seen in 20 years, marauding Kyrgyz gangs were last night accused of 'committing genocide,' burning ethnic Uzbeks out of their homes and embarking on a three-day rampage of killing, which some human rights activists on the scene estimated has killed more than 500 people. Uzbekistan's Emergencies Ministry said that more than 75,000 people -- mainly women, children and the elderly -- had fled across the border to escape the rampage of killing, which began in Kyrgyzstan's second city of Osh and across the south to Jalalabad. Speaking from behind the barricades he had erected to protect his home, Takhir Maksitov of the human rights group Citizens Against Corruption said he believed there could be a political dimension to the slaughter. 'This is genocide, because there are many Uzbeks here, and if we were to create our own party and go to the polls ...' he told Reuters,

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Fear and Shock as Ethnic Uzbeks Flee Kyrgyz Clashes
BBC Online, June 13, 2010
"Hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks are trying to cross the border into Uzbekistan after ethnic clashes in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. The BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports on chaos and panic at the border nearby. Anwar Artykov needs medical help. He is in a state of deep shock after his house on the outskirts of Osh was burnt down on Saturday. Anwar doesn't know where his wife and children are and saw his neighbours being shot dead. Now he is hiding in a house in the area with dozens of other ethnic Uzbeks, many of them women, children or elderly. 'I am not afraid of death,' he says. 'We are asking for the United Nations to help us. We do not trust the government,' said one Uzbek teacher on the border on Sunday.

Palestine / Israel / Anti-Semitism

Don't Single out Helen Thomas
By Saree Makdisi
The Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2010
"Unconscionable. Offensive. Hurtful. Bigoted. Terrible. Hateful. These are the words being used to describe Helen Thomas' recent comment about Israel and Palestine. Editorialists across the country have condemned her statement that Jews should 'get the hell out of Palestine' and 'go back' to Europe. Let's agree that she should not have said those things, and that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East fundamentally requires reconciliation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. ... Insisting that either people does not belong is not merely counterproductive; it lies at the very root of the conflict. If, however, it is unacceptable to say that Israeli Jews don't belong in Palestine, it is also unacceptable to say that the Palestinians don't belong on their own land. Yet that is said all the time in the United States, without sparking the kind of moral outrage generated by Thomas' remark. And while the nation's editorialists worry about the offense she may have caused to Jews, no one seems particularly bothered by the offense felt every day by Palestinians when people -- including those with far more power than Thomas -- dismiss their rights, degrade their humanity and reject their claims to the most elementary forms of decency.

Kyrgyzstan / Russia

Kyrgyzstan Begs Russia's Help to Quell Ethnic Violence
Agence France-Presse dispatch on, June 12, 2010
"Kyrgyzstan imposed a state of emergency in a second southern city as its interim leader warned ethnic violence is spiralling 'out of control' and asked Russia to send in troops. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva appealed to Moscow to intervene militarily after at least 75 people were killed and 977 wounded, according to the health ministry, in nearly three days of unrest. 'Since yesterday the situation has got out of control. We need outside military forces to halt the situation. For this reason we have appealed to Russia for help,' said Otunbayeva in a nationally televised address. But while Moscow said it was rushing humanitarian aid to the former Soviet Central Asian republic, a spokeswoman for President Dmitry Medvedev said it would not yet send troops.


Ethnic Rioting Spreads in Kyrgyzstan, with 80 Dead
By Sasha Merkushev and Leila Saralayeva
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, June 13, 2010
"Ethnic rioting spread Sunday in southern Kyrgyzstan, where at least 80 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded. Thousands of Uzbeks fled after their homes were torched by roving mobs of Kyrgyz men. Fires destroyed much of Osh, the second-largest city in a Central Asian country that hosts US and Russian military air bases. Stores were looted and the city was running out of food. Gunfire rang out Sunday in another major southern city, Jalal-Abad, where the day before a rampaging mob burned a university, besieged a police station and seized an armored vehicle and other weapons from a local military unit. Thousands of Kyrgyz men brandishing sticks, metals bars and hunting rifles gathered at the city's horse racing track, shouting anti-Uzbek slogans while police stayed away.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

United States / Arbitrary Imprisonment

Federal Judge Calls Guantanamo Inmate's Detention "Unlawful"
By Michael Doyle
McClatchy Newspapers, June 10, 2010
"A federal judge has forcefully put Yemeni citizen Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini on the path to freedom after eight years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a 36-page opinion formally released Thursday, US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. called Odaini's continued detention 'unlawful' and said he'd 'emphatically' grant Odaini's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The ruling issued secretly last month but published Thursday sets the 26-year-old Odaini up for potential release, though when and where he'll go remains unclear. The ruling also represents the latest defeat for US officials in their efforts to keep Guantanamo detainees behind bars.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Finland / Rwanda / Universal Jurisdiction

Finland Sentences Rwanda Preacher to Life for Genocide
BBC Online, June 11, 2010
Photo: Agence France-Presse
"A Finnish court has sentenced a Rwandan preacher to life in jail for his participation in Rwanda's genocide. Francois Bazaramba, 59, moved in 2003 to the Nordic country, which allows prosecutions for crimes against humanity wherever they are committed. The court said he had intended to 'destroy in whole or part the Rwandan Tutsis as a group,' AP reports. About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu militias in the 100-day slaughter in 1994. His lawyers told Reuters news agency that he would appeal against the sentence.

Canada / India / Delhi Massacre

Sikh MP's Motion on 1984 Riots Divides Indo-Canadians
Sify News, June 10, 2010
"Two Canadian MPs, including Punjab-born Sukh Dhaliwal, gave a notice to table a petition in the nation's parliament Wednesday asking the Canadian government to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India as an act of genocide. But because of urgent government matters, the petition could be not [sic] tabled Wednesday. Andrew Kania, who represents the Punjabi-dominant Brampton West constituency on the outskirts of Toronto, has joined Dhaliwal in moving the petition in the House. Dhaliwal, who moved to Canada in 1984, represents another Sikh-dominant constituency of Newton-North Delta on the outskirts of Vancouver. Both the MPs, who belong to the opposition Liberal Party, say the petition has been signed by 10,000 people even as their party boss Michael Ignatieff has condemned the move.

India / Nazism

Why Bollywood's Film about Hitler is Profoundly Misguided
By Alex von Tunzelmann 
The Guardian, June 11, 2010
"A first-time Indian director, Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, has announced that he will make a movie about Adolf Hitler. Dear Friend Hitler stars Indian actors Anupam Kher and Neha Dhupia as Hitler and Eva Braun, and will focus on what the director claims was 'Hitler's love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence.' ... For many westerners, Hitler remains history's ultimate evil. In India, awareness of the Holocaust is limited. Characters in Bollywood films jokingly refer to bossy family members as 'Hitler' -- provoking a sharp intake of breath from many western viewers, who associate Hitler with crimes significantly worse than telling you to do your chores. In 2006, a Nazi-themed cafe opened in Mumbai with the name Hitler's Cross. ... Dear Friend Hitler has not yet been made, and it is too early to say whether it will be any good or not. What can be said is that the reported comments of Kumar and one of his producers display a shocking ignorance of historical fact.

Holodomor / Genocide Documentaries

Holodomor Survivors Tell the Sad Truth
By Randall King
Winnipeg Free Press, June 10, 2010
"The Ukraine famine of 1932-33 claimed as many as four million lives and is widely considered a deliberate genocide by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Almost 80 years later, Stalin's active role in creating the famine is still debatable, even among Ukraine presidents. ... To get the viewpoint that matters most, Ukrainian documentary filmmaker Anna Gin went right to the source in her documentary Stone Mill ... Gin, 36, interviewed many now-elderly survivors of the famine from every corner of Ukraine's Kharkiv region, which experienced the highest death toll and is where she is from. On the ground level of the actual events, there can be no doubt that farmers in the Ukraine produced crops in 1932, only to watch helplessly as apparatchiks and party goons raided every granary, barn, cupboard and attic in the region. The searchers sometimes employed long steel rods to dig through the hiding places, looking for hidden caches of grain or produce. In most cases, they left no food whatsoever to the families whose toil produced it. The sad testimonies of the survivors are punctuated with records of official meetings and correspondence that suggest that whatever Stalin's intentions towards the people of Ukraine, the result was a virtual genocide. [...]"

Croatia / Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croatia Extradites Genocide Suspect To Bosnia
By Nidzara Ahmetasevic
Eurasia Review, June 11, 2010
"Croatia has extradited to Bosnia a Slovenian national wanted for his role in the genocide in Srebrenica. Fran Kos was arrested this April in Croatia on a warrant issued by Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian State prosecution suspects that Kos, as a member of the 10th sabotage detachment of the Army of Republika Srpska, VRS, took part in the killing of civilians in July 1995 when more than 8,000 men and boys were killed and around 25,000 women, children and the elderly were forcefully deported. Kos was arrested in April on a bus at a border crossing with Serbia after Bosnia issued a red alert through Interpol. His former comrades, Vlastimir Golijan, Zoran Goronja and Stanko Savanovic, were arrested this February in Bosnia. All four are suspected of participating in the killing of about 1,000 civilians at Branjevo military farm in Pilica.

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

The Law Society of Upper Canada and Genocide Denial in Rwanda
By Gerald Caplan
The Globe and Mail, June 11, 2010
"[...] Everything Ms. Ingabire says and does can be characterized as deliberately provocative, testing what she can get away with, seeing how far she can trample on laws against both genocide denial and exacerbating ethnic tensions. It's only 16 years since the genocide, the country remains fragile, and the government has many avowed mortal enemies. Ms. Ingabire has consorted with many of them. Ms. Ingabire may acknowledge the genocide out of one corner of her mouth. Yet she tells reporters that she doesn't know whether more Tutsi or more Hutu were killed. There are two interpretations of this statement. At best, it implies an equivalency between the number of Tutsi and Hutu killed -- a bald-faced lie. At its worst, it means accepting the assertions of a lunatic fringe of deniers that more Hutu than Tutsi were actually slaughtered. It is hardly possible that she's unaware of this loaded ambiguity. Ms. Ingabire succeeds in enraging the government.

Srebrenica Massacre / International Tribunals

Officers Guilty of 1995 Massacre in Srebrenica
By Vesna Peric Zimonjic
The Independent, June 11, 2010
Photo: "Guilty: Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara in court" (EPA).
"Two high-ranking military enforcers of ethnic cleansing for the wartime Bosnian Serb leadership were yesterday convicted of genocide for the 1995 murders of almost 8,000 men and boys after their troops overran the safe enclave of Srebrenica. The men were jailed for life, the most severe sentences ever handed down by the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, for a massacre considered the worst act of violence in Europe since the Second World War. Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara were key lieutenants of the fugitive head of the Bosnian Serb army, General Ratko Mladic and are the only people with convictions for genocide for atrocities committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Amnesty International Issues Warning over Iran Human Rights Abuses
By Ian Black
The Guardian, June 9, 2010
Photo: "Supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi during the election protests in Tehran" (Sipa Press/Rex Features).
"Concerns about Iran's nuclear programme should not prevent international action over human rights abuses by the Islamic regime since last year's disputed election, Amnesty International warns today. Cataloguing intensifying repression by the regime and its shadowy intelligence services, Amnesty also calls for a 'concerted and robust response towards the failure of the Iranian authorities to address human rights concerns.' Its report, From Protests to Prison, says at least 5,000 people have been arrested since the mass protests that erupted a day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory over Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Green movement leader, in the disputed presidential election of 12 June last year. Torture, beatings, rape and solitary confinement have all been used, with hundreds sentenced after unfair trials to lengthy prison sentences.

Sudan / Darfur

Darfur Sees Bloodiest Month in Two Years -- UN
By Andrew Heavens
Reuters dispatch, June 7, 2010
"Nearly 600 people died in rebel and tribal fighting in Sudan's Darfur region in May, the bloodiest month that the territory has seen in more than two years, UN officials said on Monday. Violence in the seven-year-old conflict has spiked since one of the main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), announced in early May it was freezing its participation in peace talks. The death toll underlined the challenge facing mediators seeking to resolve a conflict that has continued in the face of pressure from Washington, war crimes prosecutions by the International Criminal Court and campaigning by activists. ... The data was released as Sudan's government was due to resume troubled peace talks with an umbrella group of small Darfur insurgent factions in Doha, capital of Qatar.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

Rwanda Genocide Tribunal Lawyers Fear for Their Safety after Colleague's Arrest
By Afua Hirsch
The Guardian, June 8, 2010
Photo: AP/Marc Hofer
"Lawyers defending suspects at the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda say they fear for their safety, after a high profile defence lawyer remained in police custody. Peter Erlinder, a US lawyer leading the defence case of top genocide suspects, was denied bail today by the Rwanda authorities, two weeks after his arrest on charges of denying genocide. The arrest has prompted other defence lawyers at the UN tribunal, which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, to refuse to participate in proceedings. In a joint statement to the court and the UN security council, seen by the Guardian, more than 30 defence lawyers have said they fear for their own safety and have demanded Erlinder's immediate release.

South Africa / International Tribunals

Malema May Face Charge in The Hague
Sapa dispatch in Cape Argus, June 8, 2010
"ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema is facing a possible genocide charge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday. An unidentified Rustenburg farmer and his family left South Africa last week for safety fears after deciding to lay the charge against the Youth League leader. Their lawyer, Fanie van der Walt, said the accusations against Malema were sent in writing to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands on Monday. The charges relate to Malema singing 'Shoot the Boer,' which the Rustenburg farmer interpreted as inciting Youth League supporters to commit genocide against Afrikaans boers. Shortly after being rebuked by the ANC, Malema changed the words to 'Kiss the boer.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Israel / Palestine

Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire Accuses Israel of "Slow Genocide"
Belfast Telegraph, June 8, 2010
"Irish Nobel peace prize winner, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, whose ship was blocked from delivering aid supplies to Gaza has accused the Israeli government of committing “slow genocide” against the Palestinian people. The Nobel Laureate was deported with fellow campaigners from the MV Rachel Corrie after the vessel was seized by the Israelis as it attempted to break the blockade of Gaza. After landing in Dublin with four other Irish crew members, Mrs. Corrigan Maguire pledged to return to the war-torn territory and renew her efforts to help those who live there. 'Gaza has been cut off from the world for over three years. The people of Gaza don't have enough basic things for their needs,' she said. 'It's Israeli policies that are causing this -- there is a slow genocide of the Palestinian people.'

Rwanda / International Tribunals

UN Tribunal Hands Over Files on Genocide Fugitives to Rwanda 
By Felly Kimenyi, June 8, 2010
"A United Nations court set up to prosecute perpetrators of Rwanda's 1994 genocide handed over 25 case files to the Central African country for further investigation. The cases involve suspects still at large and for whom indictments have yet to be issued, Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said in a phone interview today from the capital, Kigali. The files were handed over to Rwanda by Boubacar Jallow, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Tanzania-based court was set up in 1997 to try masterminds of the 100-day genocide, which followed the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in the violence. The tribunal is due to complete its work by the end of next year.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Rwanda / United States

American Denied Bail in Rwanda Genocide Case
By Hereward Holland
Reuters dispatch, June 7, 2010
"A Rwandan court denied bail on Monday to a US lawyer arrested ten days ago on charges of genocide denial and threatening state security, despite pleas from his legal team that he be freed on health grounds. Peter Erlinder, the first foreigner accused under Rwanda's 2008 genocide ideology law, pleaded not guilty at a hearing last Friday and his four-lawyer team said they will appeal the bail ruling. He faces a minimum sentence of ten years prison. ... Erlinder came to Rwanda to defend outspoken opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, head of the United Democratic Forces movement. She was arrested under accusations of genocide denial and belonging to a terrorist organization in April and released on bail.

India / Structural Violence

Seven Union Carbide Employees Convicted over 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster
By Jeremy Page
The Independent, June 7, 2010
Photo: "Shemon Gonsalves, 8, one of hundreds of children born with disabilities after the pesticide leak at the Union Carbide plant" (Reinhard Krause/Reuters).
"An Indian court found seven people guilty of negligence today for failing to prevent a gas leak in the city of Bhopal that killed thousands of people in 1984 in one of the world's worst industrial accidents. But the seven former employees of Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary face a maximum sentence of just two years in prison, outraging activists who said the penalty was the same as that for causing a traffic accident. Those convicted included Keshub Mahindra, the 86-year-old multi-millionaire chairman of tractor maker Mahindra & Mahindra who was chairman of Union Carbide India Ltd at the time of the accident. The seven men -- all Indian -- could be the first people to face jail in a 26-year legal battle that has highlighted the inefficiency of India's judicial system, and stirred a global debate about corporate liability for industrial accidents. However, their maximum sentence is limited because the Supreme Court reduced the charges in 1996 from culpable homicide to criminal negligence. Activists and relatives of the victims, many of whom gathered outside the court today, denounced the verdict as 'too little, too late' and warned that it could lead to further industrial accidents. [...]"


The UN Must Try Iran's 1988 Murderers
By Geoffrey Robertson
The Guardian, June 7, 2010
"[...] It happened in the summer of 1988, after the war with Iraq ended in a bitter truce. Iran's prisons were full of students sentenced for protesting against Ayatollah Khomeini in the early 1980s -- Marxists and leftists of all varieties and supporters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation -- a guerrilla sunni-Marxist movement. They had been sorted by prison officials into groups of those who remained 'steadfast' in their political beliefs or who were apostates. The regime decided they should be eradicated so they would not trouble the postwar government, and Khomeini issued a secret fatwa authorising their execution. Revolutionary guards descended on the prisons and a 'death committee' (an Islamic judge, a revolutionary prosecutor and an intelligence ministry official) took a minute or so to identify each prisoner, declare them mohareb and direct them to the gallows erected in the prison auditorium, where they were hanged six at a time. Later their bodies were doused in disinfectant and transported in meat trucks to mass graves.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Genocide and Structural Violence

Disaster in the Amazon
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times, June 4, 2010
"BP's calamitous behavior in the Gulf of Mexico is the big oil story of the moment. But for many years, indigenous people from a formerly pristine region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador have been trying to get relief from an American company, Texaco (which later merged with Chevron), for what has been described as the largest oil-related environmental catastrophe ever. 'As horrible as the gulf spill has been, what happened in the Amazon was worse,' said Jonathan Abady, a New York lawyer who is part of the legal team that is suing Chevron on behalf of the rainforest inhabitants. It has been a long and ugly legal fight and the outcome is uncertain. But what has happened in the rainforest is heartbreaking, although it has not gotten nearly the coverage that the BP spill has. What's not in dispute is that Texaco operated more than 300 oil wells for the better part of three decades in a vast swath of Ecuador's northern Amazon region, just south of the border with Colombia. Much of that area has been horribly polluted. The lives and culture of the local inhabitants, who fished in the intricate waterways and cultivated the land as their ancestors had done for generations, have been upended in ways that have led to widespread misery.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

International Criminal Court

Accused of War Crimes, and Living With Perks
By Doreen Carvajal
The New York Times, June 3, 2010
Photo: ICTY
"Since the days after World War II when people accused as Nazi criminals awaited their fates in the grimness of Nuremberg Prison, reformers have dramatically reshaped the standards under which suspects accused of the vilest war crimes are being held. Beyond the brick towers of a Dutch prison just east of here is a compound where former Congolese warlords, Serbian militia leaders and a former Liberian president accused of instigating murder, rape and enslavement are confined in two detention centers with private cells stocked like college dormitories, with wooden bookcases, television sets and personal computers. Among the other amenities are a gym, a trainer, a spiritual room and a common kitchen where some former enemies trade recipes and dine on cevapi, or Balkan meatballs. Three warlords whose cases are before the International Criminal Court are also receiving free legal aid at a monthly cost of about €35,000, or $43,000.

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

Rwandan Law on "Genocide Ideology" Impossibly Vague
By Robin Phillips
Minnesota Public Radio, June 4, 2010
"[...] The Rwandan genocide ideology law falls far short of what international human rights law requires. It has been characterized by one human rights organization as 'a very broad, imprecise and even confusing array of activities and expression' which includes 'terms which are widely open for abusive interpretation -- such as "marginalising," "laughing," "mocking," "boasting," and "creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide which occurred" and "stirring up ill feelings" -- or which very obviously have no place in any law -- such as "propounding wickedness."' The evidence suggests that potential abuses of this vaguely worded crime have come to pass. Human rights organizations and the US government alike have denounced the law for having been used to silence those who oppose the government. Erlinder himself went to Rwanda to defend a political opposition leader accused of genocide ideology. Amnesty International reports that at last count there were 912 people in prison, either awaiting trial or serving sentences, on genocide ideology charges.

Rwanda / United States

US Hopes Rwanda Will Free Erlinder on Compassionate Grounds
Radio Netherlands Worldwide, June 4, 2010
"The United States called Thursday for Rwanda to release on 'compassionate grounds' Peter Erlinder, a controversial US attorney jailed in the African nation last week and who has been hospitalized. 'We are pressing the Rwandan government to resolve this case quickly, and we would like to see him released on compassionate grounds,' State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. Crowley said Erlinder is 'still in the hospital.' Rwandan police said Erlinder tried Wednesday to commit suicide in custody in Kigali, but Erlinder's defense counsel questioned the claim. Erlinder was detained on charges of denying the 1994 Tutsi genocide. Rwanda is prosecuting Erlinder for 'denying the genocide, in what he writes and what he says. If denying the genocide is not a crime in his country then it is in ours,' prosecutor Martin Ngoga told AFP.

Canada / Holodomor

Quebec National Assembly Recognizes Ukrainian Genocide
Montreal Gazette, June 4, 2010
"The Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted Bill 390 yesterday, declaring the fourth Saturday of November to be Holodomor Memorial Day, commemorating the 1932-1933 genocide of millions of Ukrainians. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered that food be withheld from Ukraine and as a result as many as 5 million people died. The bill was sponsored by Louise Beaudoin, the Parti Québécois MNA for Rosemont."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Friday, June 04, 2010

Israel / Palestine

Israel -- Increasingly Paranoid and Isolated, Dominated by Fundamentalists, Armed with Over 200 Nukes
By Robert Parry, June 3, 2010
"After Israel's lethal attack in international waters on a civilian flotilla carrying relief supplies to Gaza, a troubling question arises: Have Israeli authorities, who possess a major nuclear arsenal, become dangerously erratic? This question can't be posed publicly in the American mainstream news media nor in US political circles, where fear of the pro-Israel lobby remains strong. But it is a concern that is being discussed quietly by foreign policy analysts around the world. Even as America's commentariat again generates the predictable excuses for Israeli latest actions, the political reality inside Israel is one that is shifting more and more toward a society dominated by Jewish fundamentalists, including an aggressive and racist settler bloc. The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party is now in the Likud ruling coalition and holds important Cabinet posts such as housing. Shas leaders have made it clear that they favor a country segregated not just between Arab and Jew but between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews. If these fundamentalist elements continue to consolidate their political power, the world could soon be facing an isolated and paranoid religious state with some 200 to 400 nuclear warheads along with a sophisticated collection of chemical and biological weapons.

Israel / Palestine

Who Are the Friends of Israel?
By Rick Salutin
The Globe and Mail, June 4, 2010
"Israel's claim this week that its soldiers killed nine civilians in self-defence on an aid-to-Gaza flotilla it had boarded is at best tone deaf. It strains credibility. You attack unarmed ships at sea and when people resist, shoot them and then blame them. It's beyond Orwellian. The analogies occur to anyone: Home invaders kill residents who try to stop an assault, etc. At least there, no one would assert self-defence. I know elaborate arguments have been unfurled to justify the claim but that's not my point. Whether the claim is right or wrong isn't even the point. It just won't fly with most people. To them, it's implausible on its face. That's where tone deafness comes in. Whence this tone deafness? It seems to me that Israel's leaders have grown mindlessly, habitually dependent on asserting their own victimization. This was often effective, based largely on sympathies rooted in revulsion at the Holocaust and the history of Western anti-Semitism. But this has gradually changed, due partly to the arrival of generations who, as it were, knew not Hitler and aren't inclined to feel even indirectly guilty for him.

Iraq / Syria

Iraqi Refugees Haunted by Horrors They Left Behind
By Alistair Lyon
Reuters dispatch, June 4, 2010
Photo: "UN workers take down the names of Iraqi families at a refugee centre in Damascus in this July 19, 2007 file photo." (Reuters/Khaled al-Harir)
"Nahla and her pharmacist husband Malik were prospering in the Shi'ite city of Kerbala, despite the sectarian and criminal violence unleashed by the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. They even bought a new house. Then one day in 2006, Usama, the eldest of their five children, stepped out to buy a sandwich. He never came back. A kidnap gang demanded a ransom of 12 million Iraqi dinars ($10,000). Nahla and Malik sold their home and paid up, but 12-year-old Usama still didn't come back. A week later his naked, mangled body was found in the desert. Nahla, whose surname is withheld to avoid possible danger to relatives in Iraq, talked as she sat on a plastic mat over the concrete floor of a flat in the poor Damascus area of Sayyida Zeinab, where the family settled after fleeing Iraq in 2008. 'I die a hundred times a day, my husband too,' she wept. 'But we have to think of the children and their future. Our only hope is resettlement. We can't go back to Iraq.'

Thursday, June 03, 2010

International Criminal Court / Crime of Aggression

A Jurisdiction the International Criminal Court Does Not Need
By David Kaye
The Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2010
"[...] Placing the power to investigate claims of aggression in the hands of the ICC's prosecutor -- even with judges' approval -- would undermine the court's independence and legitimacy. It would be buffeted by political attacks, adding to the charges of politicization it already fields and distracting from its historic role of bringing the worst criminals in international law to justice. The court's very existence could be at stake. It if becomes a place for governments to argue about who was responsible for armed conflicts, ICC parties such as France, Britain and Canada may become disillusioned. Those who favor humanitarian intervention -- for instance, to stop a genocide or bring assistance to a war-torn region -- may back away if there is a chance that their action will be seen as contrary to a new rule against aggression. And adding aggression to the court's jurisdiction would only strengthen its opponents in the United States, which is not yet a party to the ICC.

United States / Pakistan / United Nations

Leading UN Official Criticises CIA's Role in Drone Strikes
By Declan Walsh
The Guardian, June 3, 2010
"A senior UN official has called on the US to end CIA involvement in the drone strike programme which, he warned, risks creating a 'PlayStation mentality' that could spread to other countries. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council today, Philip Alston delivered a withering critique of the secretive programme that has killed hundreds of people, mostly in Pakistan's tribal belt, since 2002. Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, accuses the US of inventing a 'law of 9/11' to issue the CIA with a 'licence to kill' that, if copied by other countries, could lead to 'chaos.' 'Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,' Alston said. The strongly-worded report comes days after one of the drones' greatest successes -- the death of Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al-Qaida's main liaison with the Taliban in Afghanistan and a close ally of Osama bin Laden. Yazid was killed along with his family during a strike on a remote compound in North Waziristan on 21 May. ...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Israel / Palestine

Israel's Latest Violation
By Stephen Zunes
Foreign Policy in Focus, June 2, 2010
"[...] The bottom line is that under no circumstances does Israel, or any other country, have the right to board humanitarian aid vessels, guns blazing, in international waters. By most definitions, this is piracy, pure and simple. International maritime law gives the crew of ships attacked in international waters the right to defend themselves. Certainly it would have been better if the largely Turkish crew of the ship where most of the fatalities took place had not fought back. But it was well within their legal right to do so. ... Critics of the flotilla are partially correct in observing that the purpose of the voyage was not just to deliver badly needed aid, but to 'provoke a confrontation.' This, however, is part of the great tradition of nonviolent direct action. For example, civil rights activists in the 1960s were similarly criticized for provoking confrontation by sitting in at lunch counters, marching across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, and demonstrating in downtown Birmingham. It was only through such confrontations, revealing the brutality of the oppressor, that change was made. ...