Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Democratic Republic of the Congo / Rwanda

The UN Documents Congo's Bloodbath 
By Horand Knaup
Spiegel Online, August 31, 2010
Photo: "Rebel soldiers wait to be deployed in Goma, eastern Congo in October 1998." (Associated Press)
"Women and girls were raped. Men slaughtered. Refugees killed with machetes and sticks. A new UN report describes an orgy of violence in Congo between 1993 and 2003, meticulously documenting how law and humanity were abandoned. It also accuses Rwanda of atrocities in Congo -- something that has not gone down well in Kigali. The report is over 500 pages long. It is one of the most comprehensive investigations into war crimes in the history of the United Nations. Even though it has not even been released yet, it has caused serious diplomatic tensions in New York, Congo and Rwanda. Two dozen UN inspectors meticulously examined the mass murders in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1993 and 2003. They assessed reports, viewed film documents and interviewed thousands of witnesses. They collated everything that was considered significant. The draft report has already been leaked and it is a documentation of horror. The investigators describe how for years Rwanda-backed rebel groups hunted, tortured and massacred Hutu refugees in Congo, or Zaire as it was then known. Schools, hospitals, refugee camps, children, women, the aged -- nothing and no one was safe from the murderous gangs on both sides. By no means were the pursuers from Rwanda the only ones to perpetrate crimes. The report describes the massive country as corrupt and rotten, a place where human rights, justice and humanitarian values had lost any worth decades ago. ... The official version of the report is to be released in a few days, but already in Rwanda in particular, the first reports in the media have caused great disquiet. The Kagame government has expressly denied that it took part in any crimes that could be equated with genocide in Congo. Over the past few months the government has even tried to prevent the publication of the report, or at least to mitigate it somewhat. [...]"

Afghanistan / Sexual Violence against Boys

Afghanistan's Dirty Little Secret
By Joel Brinkley
San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 2010
"Western forces fighting in southern Afghanistan had a problem. Too often, soldiers on patrol passed an older man walking hand-in-hand with a pretty young boy. Their behavior suggested he was not the boy's father. Then, British soldiers found that young Afghan men were actually trying to 'touch and fondle them,' military investigator AnnaMaria Cardinalli told me. 'The soldiers didn't understand.' All of this was so disconcerting that the Defense Department hired Cardinalli, a social scientist, to examine this mystery. Her report, 'Pashtun Sexuality,' startled not even one Afghan. But Western forces were shocked -- and repulsed. For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means 'boy player.' The men like to boast about it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

France / Roma

Sarkozy's Crackdown on Roma Camps Adds Fuel to Criticism at Home and Abroad
By Edward Cody
The Washington Post, August 30, 2010
"Much of France has returned from summer vacation in a rancorous mood, disturbed by a crackdown ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy against illegal Roma camps and naturalized immigrant youths who attack police in troubled suburbs. The campaign, in which 50 of about 300 Roma, or Gypsy, camps have been destroyed since July, has added to political discontent already swelling over Sarkozy's plans to push back the retirement age from 60 to 62 and suggestions that a minister in his cabinet, Eric Woerth, used his influence to place his wife in a job helping manage the fortune of France's wealthiest woman. But the unease over the action against illegal Roma immigrants, most from Romania and Bulgaria, has been particularly strong, with the expulsions drawing criticism at home and abroad. For many, such policies undermine France's idea of itself as a haven for exiles and a beacon for human rights. Similar fears of intolerance were raised in July when, at Sarkozy's urging, the National Assembly passed a law banning women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public. A UN human rights panel sharply criticized Sarkozy's actions against the Roma camps last week and called on him to halt the campaign. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in French to make sure the message was received, called on Catholics to respect human diversity.

Rwanda / United Nations

Rwanda Threatens to Withdraw Peacekeepers
Associated Press dispatch in The Independent, August 29, 2010
"Rwanda threatened to withdraw its troops from United Nations peacekeeping operations if the world body publishes a report accusing the Rwandan army of committing possible genocide in Congo in the 1990s, Rwanda's foreign minister said in a letter sent to the UN. Addressed to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the letter from Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo describes the report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as 'fatally flawed' and 'incredibly irresponsible.' The letter is dated August 3 and was obtained by The Associated Press. A draft of the report leaked this week accuses Rwandan troops and rebel allies tied to the current Congolese president of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo. The attacks allegedly came two years after those same troops stopped Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus. 'The report's allegations -- of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity -- are extremely serious. However, the methodology, sourcing and standard of proof used to arrive at them most certainly are not,' Ms. Mushikiwabo's letter says. The letter asks why the investigators spent six weeks in Congo but never came to Rwanda or asked for meetings with Rwandan officials, who were given the 545-page draft two months ago. Investigators said they required two independent sources for each of the 600 incidents documented. The draft says the systematic and widespread attacks 'could be classified as crimes of genocide' by a competent court. [...]"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Russia / Chechnya

In Chechnya, A Blood Feud Ends -- and a Despot Digs In
By Simon Shuster
Time.com, August 28, 2010
Photo: "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (center), Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (right) and Head of the North Caucasus Federal District Alexander Khloponin (left) visit the Chechen settlement of Tsentoroy, June 14, 2010." (RIA Novosti / Kremlin / Mikhail Klimentyev / Reuters)
"The men of gun-loving Chechnya, long Russia's most rebellious province, are not known for turning the other cheek. When a member of a Chechen clan is killed, even in a street brawl the vendetta can pass through the generations, obliging the men on both sides to take revenge until their elders have reconciled, or one of the clans is wiped out. So many observers were baffled last week when the region's most notorious feud ended without a fight. ... This is the culmination of a long drive to force all of the Chechen clans -- there are more than a hundred -- into line behind [Ramzan] Kadyrov, who appears to have the unflinching support of the Kremlin. Over the years, the violent separatist insurgency has been pushed out of Chechnya into neighboring Russian republics, a development that human rights groups say involved widespread torture and summary executions committed by Kadyrov's men. Last year, Kadyrov also managed to turn the head of the separatist Chechen government in exile, Akhmed Zakayev, who announced last February that he was ready to return to Chechnya from London 'contribute to a long-term peace.' ... Now, the only possible challenge to Kadyrov's reign will come from Moscow. But this seems hard to imagine, says Pavel Baev, an expert on the region for the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. 'He's totally defended himself from being removed by the Kremlin, because no one else can maintain order in Chechnya.' As a further defense of his rule, Kadyrov has made sure that the Chechen security apparatus answers to him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cambodian Genocide / Genocide Tribunals

Former Khmer Rouge Chief Jailer Appeals against Conviction
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, August 25, 2010
Photo: "Khmer Rouge chief torturer and jailer Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, during his trial." (Lars Olsen/Reuters)
"The former chief jailer of the Khmer Rouge has appealed against his conviction and 35-year prison sentence, his lawyer said today. Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in July and sentenced to 35 years in prison -- reduced to 19 years by time already served and other factors. Prosecutors have already appealed for a longer sentence, saying the judgment 'gives insufficient weight to the gravity of Duch's crimes.' Duch is the only senior Khmer Rouge member held by the tribunal to admit guilt and express remorse. But in a move that stunned judges and onlookers, he and his lawyer on the last day of his trial asked that he be acquitted and freed. The ruling by a UN-backed tribunal marked the first trial of a major Khmer Rouge figure more than three decades after the regime's brutal rule in the 1970s led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from execution, disease, starvation and overwork. Duch's lawyer Kar Savuth said the appeal argues Duch should be acquitted due to legal errors made by the tribunal and because it lacked jurisdiction.

Bosnia and Herzegovina / Srebrenica Massacre

Bosnia: Bodies of Srebrenica Victims Found at Dump
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, August 27, 2010
"Forensic experts in Bosnia say they have exhumed the remains of 54 Muslim civilians killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Lejla Cengic, the spokeswoman for Bosnia's Institute for Missing People, said Friday that the skeletal remains were dug out of three mass graves buried under garbage at a dump site near the town of Srebrenica. She said five more mass graves had been found on the same site, covering 20,000 square meters, and will be exhumed. Cengic said the remains were those of victims of the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which about 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops. The mass killing in Srebrenica is the only episode of Bosnia's 1992-95 war labeled an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

South Africa / Violence against Whites

White Farmer Petitions UN, Accusing South Africa Of Genocide
Associated Press dispatch on FoxNews.com, August 25, 2010
"A white farmer has accused the South African government of genocide in a petition submitted to the United Nations. The man, who has remained anonymous for fear of reprisals, blamed the African National Congress' (ANC) policies for a wave of murders and criminal attacks against the white community, what he called the 'Afrikaner Boer.' At least 3,000 white farmers have been killed in South Africa since the end of apartheid. The petition was sent to the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Francis Deng, in a move that the South African government has dismissed as 'ludicrous.' 'There is no wholesale attempt to commit murder against Afrikaner farmers. This is ludicrous in the extreme,' government spokesman Themba Maseko told the country's The Times newspaper. The petition cites the Anglo-Boer war as the first act of genocide against the Afrikaner people, and says that 'a second act' is being committed by the ANC government.

Democratic Republic of the Congo / Rwanda

UN: Attacks on Hutus in 1990s Could be Genocide
By Michelle Faul
Associated Press dispatch on Time.com, August 27, 2010
"A draft U.N. report says the Rwandan army that ended the 1994 slaughter of more than 500,000 people retaliated with barbaric killings in Congo two years later that also could be classified as a genocide. The report also says Rwanda's rebel allies, tied to the current Congolese president, helped kill tens of thousands of Hutus—the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly. 'Upon entering a locality, they ordered the people to gather together... Once they were assembled, the civilians were bound and killed by blows of hammers or hoes to the head.' The systematic and widespread attacks 'could be classified as crimes of genocide' by a competent court, the draft said. ... The report, whose publication has been delayed for a year, said Hutus in Congo -- both Rwandan refugees and Congolese -- were clearly targeted. Witnesses said the soldiers 'displayed a clear desire for revenge in their massacres of the (Congolese) Hutu Banyarwanda, targeting villages where Tutsis had been persecuted in the past.'

Democratic Republic of the Congo / Rwanda

UN Congo Report Offers New View on Genocide Era
By Howard W. French
The New York Times, August 27, 2010
"A forthcoming United Nations report on 10 years of extraordinary violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo bluntly challenges the conventional history of events there after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, charging that invading troops from Rwanda and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, including many civilians. The 545-page report on 600 of the country’s most serious reported atrocities raises the question of whether Rwanda could be found guilty of genocide against Hutu during the war in neighboring Congo, but says international courts would need to rule on individual cases. In 1994, more than 800,000 people, predominantly members of the ethnic Tutsi group in Rwanda, were slaughtered by the Hutu. When a Tutsi-led government seized power in Rwanda, Hutu militias fled along with Hutu civilians across the border to Congo, then known as Zaire. Rwanda invaded to pursue them, aided by a Congolese rebel force the report also implicates in the massacres. While Rwanda and Congolese rebel forces have always claimed that they attacked Hutu militias who were sheltered among civilians, the United Nations report documents deliberate reprisal attacks on civilians. The report says that the apparently systematic nature of the massacres 'suggests that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage.' It continues, 'The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.' ... The Rwandan government responded angrily to the report, calling it 'outrageous.' The topic is extremely delicate for the government, which has built its legitimacy on its history of combating the genocide in Rwanda. Political figures there have been accused of perpetuating a 'genocide ideology' for making claims that are similar to the report's. ... The release of the report appears to have been delayed in part over fears of the reaction of the Rwandan government, which has long enjoyed strong diplomatic support from the United States and Britain. There is concern in the United Nations that Rwanda might end its participation in peacekeeping operations in retaliation for the report. 'No one was naïve enough to think that inspecting mass graves in which Rwandan troops were involved would make Kigali happy, but we have shared the draft with them,' said a senior official at the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, which oversaw the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the findings had not been officially released. He said: 'Voices have said, "Can't we just delete the genocide references? Isn’t this going to cause a lot more difficulties in the region?" But these voices have not carried the day.'

Friday, August 27, 2010

Democratic Republic of the Congo / Rwanda

Atrocities in Congo Could Be "Genocide": UN Report
By David Lewis
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, August 26, 2010
"Crimes committed by Rwanda's army and Congolese rebels in Congo during the 1990s could be classified as genocide, a leaked draft UN report says, a charge that will stir tensions between Kigali and the UN. A Congo expert said diplomats were wrangling over whether to include the highly sensitive genocide accusation in the final version of the document. The report details crimes committed in the former Belgian colony between 1993 and 2003, a period that saw the fall of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and a five-year conflict involving six foreign armies, including Rwanda's Tutsi-led force. Millions of people died, most from hunger and disease rather than violence. After quashing the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, Kigali's army invaded Congo, ostensibly to hunt down Hutu fighters who had taken part in the killings and then fled into the east of Congo, known then as Zaire. In the process, Rwandan forces swept the Congolese AFDL rebels of Laurent Kabila to power in Congo. Both forces have been accused of a string of rights abuses against Hutu soldiers and civilians across the country. 'The systematic and widespread attacks (against Hutus in Congo) described ... reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide,' said the report, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

France / Roma

Rights Panel Criticizes France Over Roma Policy
By Marlise Simons
The New York Times, August 27, 2010
"A United Nations-backed committee of experts sharply criticized France on Friday for deporting large groups of Roma and said the government in Paris should do more to combat what it called a growing racist and xenophobic tone in the country’s public debate. The 18-member committee, which issues periodic reports on racial discrimination around the world, prepared its findings on France coincidentally against a backdrop of passionate debate there over the government's moves against foreign-born Roma, also known as Gypsies. In response to the criticism, France said on Friday that it 'scrupulously' respects European law and its international obligations. On instructions from President Nicolas Sarkozy, French police have been dismantling improvised Roma camps in recent weeks and deporting Roma groups to Bulgaria and Romania. The French government said that all those flown back to the Balkans were part of a voluntary repatriation scheme and had accepted payments equivalent to about $380 per adult and $120 per child. However the report issued here on Friday questioned that assertion , saying that 'not all individuals' had given 'their free and full consent' or understood their rights. It urged France 'specifically to avoid collective repatriation' and instead seek permanent solutions for the welfare of the Roma, ensuring that 'they have access to education, health services, housing and other temporary infrastructure.' France has said it has already expelled more than 8,500 Roma this year. More were put on planes this week as the committee finalized its report.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Germany / Nazism

Hitler "Had Jewish and African Roots," DNA Tests Show
By Heidi Blake
The Telegraph, August 24, 2010
"Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the 'subhuman' races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust. Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year. A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. 'One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised,' Mr. Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack. Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population. Knack, which published the findings, says the DNA was tested under stringent laboratory conditions. 'This is a surprising result,' said Ronny Decorte, a genetic specialist at the Catholic University of Leuven. 'The affair is fascinating if one compares it with the conception of the world of the Nazis, in which race and blood was central. Hitler's concern over his descent was not unjustified. He was apparently not "pure" or "Ayran".' It is not the first time that historians have suggested Hitler had Jewish ancestry. His father, Alois, is thought to have been the illegitimate offspring of a maid called Maria Schickelgruber and a 19-year-old Jewish man called Frankenberger."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bangladeshi Genocide / Sexual Violence against Women

Bangladesh War's Toll on Women Still Undiscussed
By Nilanjana S. Roy
The New York Times, August 24, 2010
"The numbers are in dispute, but the story they tell has remained the same for four decades: 200,000 women (or 300,000, or 400,000, depending on the source) raped during the 1971 war in which East Pakistan broke with West Pakistan to become Bangladesh. The American feminist Susan Brownmiller, quoting all three sets of statistics in her 1975 book 'Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape,' compared the rapes of Bangladesh with the rapes of Chinese women by Japanese soldiers at Nanjing in 1937-38. Accepting even the lowest set of figures for Bangladesh forces a horrifying comparison -- the 1992-95 Bosnian war saw one-tenth the number of rapes as did the Bangladesh war. The rapes of Bosnian women forced the world to recognize rape as 'an instrument of terror,' as a crime against humanity. But so far no one has been held to account for the sexual violence against Bangladeshi women in 1971. As the 40th anniversary of the 1971 war approaches, the Bangladeshi government has set up an International Crimes Tribunal to investigate the atrocities of that era. But human rights advocates and lawyers fear that the mass rapes and killings of women will not be adequately addressed. They hope to ensure they are.

Anne Frank / Jewish Holocaust

Anne Frank Tree Toppled by Storm
By Natalie Stechyson
The Globe and Mail, August 24, 2010
"On Monday at 1:30 p.m. local time, pushed by winds and rains, battered by rot and moths, the Anne Frank tree fell down, breaking through its iron supports, and crashed into a courtyard in Amsterdam. The chestnut tree gave comfort to a teenage girl as she hid with her family in the secret annex of a house for two years during the Holocaust, and has come to be seen as a symbol of hope and remembrance around the world. It was about 150 years old. Anne could see the chestnut tree from a window in the attic of the annex. She wrote about the tree in her diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, three times. On April 18, 1944, she wrote: 'April is glorious, not too hot and not too cold, with occasional light showers. Our chestnut tree is in leaf, and here and there you can already see a few small blossoms.' On May 13, 1944, she wrote: 'Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It's covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.' 'Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs,' she wrote on Feb. 23, 1944. 'From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.' ...

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Congo Terror: "200 Gang Raped" in Four-Day Ordeal
WA Today (Australia), August 24, 2010
"Rwandan and Congolese rebels gang-raped nearly 200 women and some baby boys over four days within kilometres of a UN peacekeepers' base in an eastern Congo mining district, an American aid worker and a Congolese doctor say. Will Cragin of the International Medical Corps said on Monday that aid and UN workers knew rebels had occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages in eastern Congo the day after the attack began on July 30. More than three weeks later, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo has issued no statement about the atrocities and said on Monday it was still investigating. Cragin told The Associated Press by telephone that his organisation was only able to get into the town, which he said was about 16 kilometres from a UN military camp, after rebels ended their brutal spree of raping and looting and withdrew of their own accord on August 4. At UN headquarters in New York, spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Monday that a UN Joint Human Rights team verified allegations of the rape of at least 154 women by combatants from the Rwandan rebel FDLR group and Congolese Mai-Mai rebels in the village of Bunangiri. He said the victims were receiving medical and psycho-social care.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Iraq / United States / Ecocide

Toxic Legacy of US Assault on Fallujah "Worse than Hiroshima"
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, July 24, 2010
Photo: "Children in Fallujah who suffer from birth defects which are thought to be linked to weapons used in attacks on the city by US Marines." (Getty Images)
"Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study. Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents. Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait. Dr. Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that 'to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened.' US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions. [...]"

Saturday, August 07, 2010

India / Kashmir

Kashmir Burns Again as India Responds to Dissent with Violence
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, August 7, 2010
Photo: "Srinagar residents burn an effigy of Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir." (AP)
"[...] Once again, Kashmir is burning. Buildings and barricades have been set alight and its people are enflamed. The largest towns are packed with heavily-armed police and the hospital wards are full of young men with gunshot wounds. Around 50 people have been killed since June, more than 31 in the last week alone, and dozens more have been wounded. The dead include young men, teenagers and even a nine-year-old boy, reportedly beaten to death by the security forces after he tried to walk to the local shop. And yet for all their pain, the people of Kashmir believe they are suffering alone. They say that unlike places such as Kosovo or East Timor, which both secured independence in recent years, the world is deaf to Kashmir's demands for autonomy. They blame the US and UN for not doing more and criticise Britain's David Cameron for refusing to raise the issue of Kashmir when he visited India last month, declining to upset his hosts, with whom he was seeking to boost trade and investment deals, even as he bluntly criticised Pakistan for exporting terror. ...

Friday, August 06, 2010


Rwanda Government Critics in Fear as Election Approaches
By Xan Rice
The Guardian, August 6, 2010
Photo: "Rwandan president Paul Kagame speaks to supporters on the election trail." (Marc Hofer/AP)
"The sun is still low and the city is spotless. Women sweep the streets anyway. Red, white and blue ribbons have been wrapped around poles and arches, the colours of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). In a few hours the party leader, President Paul Kagame, whose earnest face peers down from a giant billboard, will briefly pass through Butare on the campaign trail, before exiting down a road so steep that farm-strong men must push their bicycles uphill. At the bottom of the valley there is a small bridge and a river and a pair of pied crows darting overhead. A tranquil scene. A crime scene. On the morning of 13 July, a blue Toyota pickup was found here. Its windscreen was smashed. The 61-year-old owner of the car was missing. Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was the vice-president of the Democratic Green party, an opposition movement that had been refused permission to contest Monday's presidential election. His body was found a day later, about a mile up the road, among pine trees on the edge of a ravine. His head was partially severed. A butcher's knife was found nearby. Taken alone, the incident would have been disturbing -- especially in a country normally considered so safe. But this was not the first government critic to die suspiciously.

Israel / Bedouins

The Destruction of a Negev Village
By Jonathan Cook
Counterpunch.org, August 6-8, 2010
"Israeli security forces destroyed a Bedouin village this week for the second time in a matter of days, leaving 300 inhabitants homeless again after they and dozens of Jewish and Arab volunteers had begun rebuilding the 45 homes. Human rights groups warned that these appeared to be the opening shots in a long-threatened campaign by the Israeli government to begin mass forced removals of tens of thousands of Bedouin from their ancestral lands in the southern Negev. The High Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel's Arab minority, vowed this week to help rebuild the village for a second time and said it would call on the UN to investigate Israel's treatment of the Bedouin. Al Araqib village, which is a few kilometres north of the Negev's main city Beersheva, has become a symbol of the struggle by about 90,000 Bedouin to win recognition for dozens of communities the government claims are built on state land. In a test case before the Israeli courts, an inhabitant of al Araqib has been presenting documents and expert testimony to show his ancestors owned and lived on the village’s lands many decades before Israel's establishment in 1948. The judge is expected to rule within months.

Laos / United States / Cluster Munitions

As Cluster Bomb Ban Takes Effect, The View from Laos
By Jared Ferrie
The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2010
Photo: "Vansoum Phim Mavong an employee of Mines Advistory Group, searches for unexploded munitions in a field in central Laos. The shells of 'bombies' a nickname for the tennis-ball-sized bomblets, litter fields all over Laos, the most-bombed country in the world per capita. A world-wide cluster bomb ban takes effect Sunday." (Jared Ferrie)
"The young woman brushes her metal detector over coarse, dry grass in a field near a primary school. Against the sound of children playing, the machine beeps as she searches for unexploded bombs dropped by American aircraft four decades ago. Most of those were cluster bombs -- shells that open midair scattering tennis-ball-sized 'bombies,' as they are known all over Laos. About 30 percent of them failed to explode upon impact, and instead remained buried in the earth. On average, one person a day is injured or killed in some part of the country by unexploded ordnance. Cluster bombs affect about two dozen nations, from Afghanistan to Zambia. But it was Israel's use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006, causing more than 200 casualties over the following year, that spurred members of the international community to act. On Aug. 1, the Convention on Cluster Munitions comes into force under international law. Countries that have ratified the treaty will be required to cease production of cluster munitions, dispose of stockpiles, and clear contaminated areas. The first gathering of the 106 member states will be held in the Laotian capital in November. Neither Israel nor the United States will attend.

Bangladesh / Bangladeshi Genocide

Bangladesh: Bringing a Forgotten Genocide to Justice
By Ishaan Tharoor
Time.com, August 3, 2010
Photo: "Police arrest Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami, center, chief of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, in Dhaka on June 29, 2010." (Lutfor Rahman/Reuters)
"Two years ago, TIME met Ali Ahsan Mojaheed at the headquarters of his far-right Islamist party, nestled amid a warren of religious bookshops and seminaries in Dhaka. He welcomed this reporter by peeling a clutch of ripe lychees. 'Our fruit is the sweetest,' said the secretary general of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami, proffering a sticky hand. But the conversation soon soured. Asked about the traumatic legacy of Bangladesh's 1971 independence -- when the territory then known as East Pakistan split from West Pakistan in an orgy of bloodshed -- Mojaheed dismissed the need for a proper reckoning with the past. 'This is a dead issue,' he almost growled. 'It cannot be raised.' But this month it finally has. Far from the protective, lackey-patrolled confines of his offices, Mojaheed and three other prominent Jamaat leaders (including the party's leader Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami) are under arrest, appearing for the first time in a war-crimes court to face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and against peace -- the last of which has not been invoked since the trials at Nuremberg. They rank among the topmost figures implicated in the systematic murder of as many as 3 million people in 1971 as the Pakistani army and ethnic Bengali collaborators attempted to quash a Bengali-nationalist rebellion. Their prosecution presents a watershed moment for this beleaguered nation of 160 million.

Japan / United States / Nuclearism

Nuclear Powers Honour Japan's Darkest Day
By Eric Talmadge
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, August 5, 2010
"The U.S., Britain and France participated for the first time Friday in the annual commemoration of the A-bomb attack on Hiroshima, in a 65th anniversary event that organizers hope will bolster global efforts toward nuclear disarmament. Hiroshima's mayor strongly welcomed the Washington's decision to send U.S. ambassador John Roos, saying he hoped this year's event -- which began Friday morning with an offering of water to the 140,000 who died -- would boost denuclearization around the world. Hiroshima is also hoping that US President Barack Obama will visit their city, an idea that he has said he would like to consider but which would be highly controversial and unprecedented for a sitting US president. ... The site of the world's first atomic bomb attack echoed with the choirs of schoolchildren and the solemn ringing of bells Friday as Hiroshima marked its biggest memorial yet.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Cambodian Genocide

Former Khmer Rouge Talk about Massacres in New Doc
By Robin McDowell
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, August 3, 2010
Photo: "In this film publicity image provided by International Film Circuit, filmmaker Thet Sambath, left, interviews Nuon Chea for the film 'Enemies of the People'." (AP Photo/International Film Circuit)
"For more than three decades, Cambodian villages have been home to silent killers: Former Khmer Rouge commanders who slit the throats of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of victims before dumping their bodies into shallow graves. Filmmaker Thet Sambath spent 10 years combing the countryside trying to find those who carried out massacres so they -- together with the genocidal regime's ideological leader, Nuon Chea -- could reveal the truth about one of the 20th century's darkest chapters. Their stories are told in the groundbreaking documentary 'Enemies of the People,' which is playing in limited release in the United States, with more theaters to be added each week into the fall, its distributor says. At least 1.7 million people -- a quarter of the population -- died from execution, disease, starvation and overwork when the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge tried to turn the country into a vast, agrarian paradise from 1975-79. In the film, Soun, a former militia commander, sits beneath a tree and gazes out at what are now sparkling green rice paddies. 'I come back here to where I killed people,' he says wearily, pointing to a half dozen spots where swollen bodies used to pile up. 'I feel terrible ... My soul, my body is spinning inside. All the things I did are flashing through my mind.' ...

Serbia / Bosnia and Herzegovina / International Tribunals

Serb Officials Accused of Sheltering Mladic
By Daniel McLaughlin
The Irish Times, August 5, 2010
"A senior US diplomat has called for a crackdown on the Bosnian 'support network' of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic and accused security service agents in the country's Serb-run region of helping him evade capture. Raffi Gregorian said Gen. Mladic, who is accused of genocide for his role in the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, was being assisted by members of his family who live in Bosnia and former bodyguards, 'who are now employed in various security agencies of the Republika Srpska.' Gen. Mladic is believed to be hiding somewhere in Serbia, where he is also thought to receive protection from loyal allies who are current or former members of the security services. ...

European Union / Roma

EU Turning Blind Eye to Discrimination against Roma, Say Human Rights Groups
By Leigh Phillips
The Guardian, July 30, 2010
Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images
"The European Union was today accused of 'turning a blind eye' as countries across Europe carried out a wave of expulsions and introduced new legislation targeting the Roma. Human rights groups criticised the EU for failing to address the real issues driving Europe's largest ethnic minority to migrate in the first place and for choosing not to upbraid countries for breaking both domestic and EU laws in their treatment of them. The criticism came after France announced it would round up and expel illegal Roma immigrants and destroy hundreds of their encampments. Elsewhere, it emerged that the city of Copenhagen had requested Danish government assistance to deport up to 400 Roma, and that Swedish police had expelled Roma in breach of its own and EU laws. In Belgium a caravan of 700 Roma has been chased out of Flanders and forced to set up camp in French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Italy, which in 2008 declared a state of emergency due to the presence of Roma, and evicted thousands of them, mainly to Romania and Bulgaria, is continuing to implement the policy to this day.

Rwandan Genocide / International Tribunals

Rwandan Ntawukulilyayo Gets 25 Years for Genocide Crime
BBC Online, August 3, 2010
"The United Nations tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced a Rwandan former official to 25 years in jail for his role in the 1994 genocide. Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, 68, was accused of transporting soldiers to an area of the southern Gisagara district where Tutsis had taken refuge. Thousands of people who had been promised protection were killed. About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu militias in 100 days during Rwanda's genocide. Ntawukulilyayo was indicted by the indicted the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is based in Tanzania, in 2005 and was arrested in December 2007 in Carcassonne in France. He fought his extradition but transferred to the ICTR in June 2008. Ntawukulilyayo, who was the deputy administrator of Gisagara district during the genocide, was acquitted of other charges of complicity in genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Ntawukulilyayo's lawyer told AFP news agency that he would appeal against the verdict. 'This ruling which was not reached unanimously opens the possibility that Dominique Ntawukulilyayo has high chances of getting an acquittal on appeal,' Maroufa Diabira said."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Israel / Palestine

Israeli Rabbi Preaches "Slaughter" of Gentile Babies
By Jonathan Cook
Counterpunch.org, August 2, 2010
"A rabbi from one of the most violent settlements in the West Bank was questioned on suspicion of incitement last week as Israeli police stepped up their investigation into a book in which he sanctions the killing of non-Jews, including children and babies. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira is one of the leading ideologues of the most extreme wing of the religious settler movement. He is known to be a champion of the 'price-tag' policy of reprisal attacks on Palestinians, including punishing them for attempts by officials to enforce Israeli law against the settlements. So far the policy has chiefly involved violent harassment of Palestinians, with settlers inflicting beatings, attacking homes, throwing stones, burning fields, killing livestock and poisoning wells. It is feared, however, that Shapira's book The King's Torah, published last year, is intended to offer ideological justifications for widening the scope of such attacks to include killing Palestinians, even children. ... In the 230-page book, Shapira and his co-author, Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, also from Yitzhar, argue that Jewish law permits the killing of non-Jews in a wide variety of circumstances. The terms 'gentiles' and 'non-Jews' in the book are widely understood as references to Palestinians.

Germany / Second World War

Charges of Historical Revisionism Stir Up Berlin
Spiegel Online, August 4, 2010
Photo: "Displaced Germans in Berlin in 1945." (DPA)
"Polish suspicion of the League of Expellees has never been in short supply. The group represents the interests of ethnic Germans expelled from parts of Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Eastern Europe after World War II, and has even succeeded in getting government backing for a Berlin museum documenting their plight. Poland, though, has long seen the group as a bastion of historical revisionism, attempting to recast Germans as the real victims of Adolf Hitler's orgy of violence. A conflict currently gaining steam in Berlin appears to be giving skeptics a boost. The dispute focuses on two deputy members of the recently-established board of trustees overseeing the Berlin museum project. The two, Arnold Tölg and Hartmut Saenger, both functionaries in the League of Expellees, assumed their roles on July 8 when they, along with the rest of the board, were approved by German parliament. Since then, however, opposition to the pair has been growing in both breadth and volume.

Iraq / Ecocide

Restoring the Paradise That Saddam Destroyed
By Samiha Shafy
Spiegel Online, August 3, 2010
Photo: "Saddam Hussein drained the unique wetlands of southern Iraq as a punishment to the region's Marsh Arabs who had backed an uprising. This picture shows a Marsh Arab village in the marshes in 1974." (Corbis)
"Azzam Alwash is an anomaly in Iraq, a country devastated by war and terrorism. As he punts through the war zone in a wooden boat, his biggest concerns are a missing otter, poisoned water and endangered birds. Who thinks about the environment in southern Iraq, and who is willing to risk his life to save a marsh? ... Alwash, 52, a citizen of Iraq and the United States, is a hydraulic engineer and the director of Nature Iraq, the country's first and only environmental organization. He founded the organization in 2004 together with his wife Suzanne, an American geologist, with financial support from the United States, Canada, Japan and Italy. His goal is to save a largely dried-up marsh in southern Iraq. In return for giving up his job in California, Alwash is now putting his safety and health at risk. ... Of course, this isn't just any old marsh. Alwash is fighting for a marsh which Biblical scholars believe is the site of the Garden of Eden, and which some describe as the cradle of civilization. ...

Sudan / Darfur

Violence Said to Be Rising in Sudan's Darfur Region
By Neil MacFarquhar
The New York Times, August 4, 2010
"Violence in the turbulent Darfur region of Sudan has spiked over the past several months, Alain Le Roy, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, said Wednesday. He attributed the increase to a combination of factors, including fitful peace talks, renewed tribal rivalries and overall tension in Africa's largest nation as its south prepares for an independence referendum. Calling the situation a 'bleak picture,' Mr. Le Roy told a news conference that security had deteriorated significantly as optimism for a cease-fire in 2009 faded. Recent United Nations statistics indicated that killings this year already rivaled the 832 violent deaths recorded for all of 2009. May alone, with 400 deaths, was the bloodiest month since peacekeeping forces were deployed in December 2007. It is difficult to boil down the complicated tapestry of actors in the region, especially as rebel movements have splintered and increasingly well-armed criminals have flourished in the seven years the war has dragged on. Some recent bloodshed was even pegged to a Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of their savings. [...]"