Thursday, September 30, 2010

United Nations / Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

UN Tones Down Congo "Genocide" Report
By Frank Jordans
Associated Press dispatch on, September 30, 2010
"The United Nations has toned down a report detailing hundreds of gruesome attacks against civilians in Congo over a 10-year period but left intact the suggestion that Rwanda's army may have committed genocide there in the 1990s. Rwanda and its northern neighbor Uganda had protested a leaked draft of the report last month, threatening to pull their soldiers from UN peacekeeping missions unless changes were made to the published version.  The final report, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, shows that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rewrote sensitive sections of the 545-page document to couch them in less inflammatory language. For instance, an earlier reference to 'damning elements' that could be used by a court to conclude that genocide took place has been changed to 'inculpatory elements.' Another section elaborates at length -- compared with the earlier draft -- on a number of 'countervailing factors' that could be used to argue that such a crime didn't take place. A draft section that dismissed mitigating arguments was dropped entirely.

Sudan / United Kingdom

Wanted for Genocide ... And As a Trading Partner
By Daniel Howden
The Independent, October 1, 2010
Photo: Reuters
"The Government is courting the regime of the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir by declaring that relations with Sudan have entered a 'new epoch.' The announcement came as Britain welcomed a trade delegation from the country which has near pariah status, for the first time since warrants for President Bashir's arrest were issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, over atrocities in Darfur. Khartoum's high-level delegation met British government officials and business leaders on Wednesday to encourage investment in a country still targeted by US sanctions. It was the clearest example yet of how problematic William Hague's new foreign policy, in which commercial interests are to trump ethical concerns, will be for the Coalition to implement. The change has already seen complaints that UK diplomatic missions have been reduced to commercial agencies to drum up business. The 'Opportunities in Sudan' networking event on Wednesday brought a delegation including senior members of Mr Bashir's NCP party together with British counterparts including the UK ambassador to Sudan, Nicholas Kay. It comes after a visit by Henry Bellingham, the new minister for Africa, to Khartoum in July to boost trade and business ties. He told reporters there that Britain would be a 'candid friend' to the regime in Sudan."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Rwanda / United Nations

Dispute Over UN Report Evokes Rwandan Déjà Vu
By Howard W. French and Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, September 30, 2010
"When drafts of a United Nations study recently surfaced accusing Rwandan forces of committing atrocities against Hutu refugees in Congo in the 1990s -- crimes that could constitute acts of genocide -- the Rwandan government protested vociferously. It even threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from Sudan and elsewhere if the report was published. The dispute immediately raised some pointed questions. Would the United Nations stand its ground, or would it suppress or alter a report about the past for the sake of the present? But often lost in the debate was a salient déjà vu: The two sides had been in a similar standoff years before. In the fall of 1994, just after nearly a million people had been killed in the Rwandan genocide, a team of United Nations investigators concluded that the Rwandan rebels who finally stopped the genocide had killed tens of thousands of people themselves. But after strong pressure from both Rwanda and Washington and intense debate within the United Nations, the report was never published.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nuremberg Tribunal / Genocide Tribunals

Rare Scenes Re-Emerge From Nuremberg Trials
By A. O. Scott
The New York Times, September 28, 2010
Photo: "Justice Robert H. Jackson of the Supreme Court, the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials." (cShulberg Productions)
"[...] The United States government never released [Budd Schulberg's] documentary (though it did later adapt some of his materials into a film called 'Nuremberg: Its Lessons for Today'), and the negative and soundtrack were lost or destroyed. Sandra Schulberg, the filmmaker's daughter, and Josh Waletzky have now turned the surviving materials into something haunting and vivid -- a version of the original that is also, implicitly, a record of its partial vanishing. This 'Nuremberg' does not exactly reveal anything new. Later trials of lesser officials inspired Stanley Kramer’s 'Judgment at Nuremberg' (1961), a good, long feature with an all-star cast and a sober respect for history. And the Holocaust has been the subject of countless films of all kinds, especially in recent years, as the first-hand memory of survivors has begun to fade, and the children and grandchildren of both victims and perpetrators take up the burden of interpreting painful history. The shocking revelations that appear in Schulberg's film are now well known. But there is a raw immediacy in 'Nuremberg' that nearly closes the gap between past and present. You don’t necessarily see images of slaughter and cruelty for the first time, but you grasp some of what it must have been like to do so -- to uncover clips showing what most human beings up until then could never have imagined. You also appreciate the systematic, scrupulous nature of the trials themselves, which combined legalistic punctiliousness with deep moral passion.

Soviet Union / Stalinism

What Is Genocide And Why Does Stalin Get A Free Pass?, September 26, 2010
"Hitler gets a bad rap universally for his genocide but a startling subset of progressives in America view Joseph Stalin favorably despite his killing more people. Time magazine put Stalin on its cover 11 times. Then Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur were essentially ignored while Bosnia was labeled genocide and became a war crime issue despite only a few thousand actual deaths known. Nations have tugs of war over the official definition of the word 'genocide' itself -- which mentions only national, ethnic, racial and religious groups. The definition can determine international relations, foreign aid and national morale. Look at the annual international tussle over whether the 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of the Armenians counts as 'genocide.' Stanford history Professor Norman Naimark, author of the book Stalin's Genocides, argues that we need a much broader definition of genocide, one that includes nations killing social classes and political groups. His case in point: Stalin.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

UN Report on Rwanda Genocide Threatens Stability in Central Africa
By Harry Verhoeven
The Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 2010
"Until recently, President Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were the international community's aid darling, heralded for their role in stopping the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of as many as one million Rwandans. They now stand accused of a long list of crimes. A recently-leaked UN report accuses the RPF of atrocities 'that could be classified as genocide' in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1996-1997 -- mass murdering tens of thousands of Hutu refugees. The regime's legitimacy and its leaders' individual criminal responsibility are now being contested. But how wise is it to swap one set of dangerous simplifications for another? Is Rwanda the model of progress and reconciliation, or is Kagame's RPF the genocidal eye of Central African storms? And what does this tell us about international intervention in a region with an immensely troubled past?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poland / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Denial

Holocaust Tour Will Set Record Straight, Says Irving
By Matthew Day
The Telegraph, September 21, 2010
Photo: Reuters
"The controversial British historian David Irving was met with outrage in Poland yesterday as he claimed the country should be “grateful” that he was running a £1,500 a head 'unforgettable' tour of Holocaust sites, including the Treblinka death camp. Mr. Irving said he would 'set the record straight' on the Nazis' extermination of six million Jews, despite the fact that an Austrian court sentenced him in 2006 to three years in jail for his 1989 claims that there were no gas chambers in the Third Reich. He was released and deported to Britain after serving only one year and told the court that his claims had been a mistake.Holocaust survivors and anti-racism groups called on Polish authorities to block his nine-day visit. Mr. Irving told The Daily Telegraph: 'I am baffled by the reaction I've had in Poland because they should be very grateful that I am here. Here I am lecturing to the revisionists and setting the record straight. I am saying to those who believe that not a hair was harmed on the head of the Jewish community that you couldn't be more wrong.' He described people who branded him a Holocaust denier as 'criminal, lying lunatics.'

Jewish Holocaust / Primo Levi

Primo Levi's Auschwitz Survivor "Pikolo" Dies
By Jonathan Brown
The Independent, September 22, 2010
"For decades Jean Samuel chose never to discuss his wartime experiences as an Auschwitz survivor. Living quietly as a local pharmacist, a post he inherited from his father in a small Alsace town, not even his own family could guess that he was Pikolo, the diminutive and quietly spoken beacon of humanity who inspired his friend and fellow concentration camp inmate Primo Levi to immortalise him in his definitive Holocaust memoir If This is a Man. It was not until much later in life that the French Jew chose to break cover and bear witness to the horrors he had seen at Auschwitz in 1944 and on a death march to Buchenwald after a resurgence of anti-Semitism in his native country in the 1980s. Yesterday it was confirmed that Mr. Samuel had died aged 89 in Strasbourg.

Monday, September 20, 2010

China / Maoism / Great Leap Forward

Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe (1958-62) (book review)
By John Gray
New Statesman, September 20, 2010
"When François Mitterrand visited China in 1961, Mao Zedong mocked reports of famine in the country. There was no famine, he said, only 'a period of scarcity,' an assertion that Mitterand -- who described Mao as 'a great scholar known in the entire world for the diversity of his genius' -- was happy to accept. Returning to France after his three-week tour, Mitterrand had no doubts about his account of events: 'I repeat in order to be clearly understood -- there is no famine in China.' Western politicians of the right shared the French Socialist leader's view. After touring China in late 1960, the Conservative MP for Chester, John Temple, reported that communism was working and that the country was making 'great progress.' At the time these western dignitaries were making their escorted tours through China, it was in the grip of the largest famine in history, a man-made catastrophe in which at least 45 million people were starved, beaten, tortured or worked to death. Though Mao's Great Leap Forward was celebrated in the west as a major advance, the reality was captured by the name villagers gave to the vast irrigation schemes on which they were forced to labour -- they called them 'the killing fields.' At least 2.5 million of the famine's victims died violently. Assaults against women were pervasive, including rape by party cadres and beatings for women who miscarried while being forced to work during the last stage of pregnancy. In some collectives, people were divided into groups and food distributed according to capacity for work -- a type of 'performance feeding' similar to that practised in the Nazi labour camps, with similar results (the old and infirm soon perished). In order to punish their families, those who died of beatings in rural communes might be left unburied; in some cases, their bodies were rendered into compost.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Afghanistan / United States

US Military in Afghanistan Uncovers Sadistic Death Squad in Ranks
By Ben Farmer
The Telegraph, September 19, 2010
"A group of American soldiers are facing murder charges for a five-month killing spree in which they randomly targeted Afghan civilians for sport, a US military investigation has reported. In at least one attack, a soldier threw a grenade to pretend they were being ambushed as a pretext to then shoot dead an innocent villager. The soldiers also dismembered and photographed bodies and kept bones and skulls as trophies in some of the most grisly accusations against US troops since the invasion in 2001. All were reported to deny wrongdoing and military investigators will hold a pre-trial hearing at their home base in Washington later this year. American commanders fear details of the incidents could cause widespread anger in Afghanistan, where civilian deaths have fostered deep resentment against coalition forces. Five soldiers are accused of forming a 'kill team' and murdering three people in Kandahar province between January and May this year.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

Rwanda's Other Genocide
By Tristan McConnell
The Nation, September 17, 2010 
"[...] There are two things you can -- indeed must -- talk about in Rwanda. The first is the genocide. Seemingly every town has its own genocide memorial, mausoleums with neatly arranged rows of skulls and bones on wooden shelves. They are eerie places, and impossibly moving. The second is that Kagame and his troops halted the genocide and have shown a single-minded determination to rebuild the country ever since. Last month a draft United Nations report was leaked that questions this dominant discourse, forcing Rwandans to confront something else that cannot be talked about in Rwanda: what happened in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo after the genocide? For seven months a team of researchers from the UN's Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights consulted documents (more than 1,500 of them) and interviewed witnesses (over 1,200) across Congo's vast territory. They concluded that Kagame's own troops were responsible for a litany of atrocities and massacres after the Rwanda genocide was over. Some journalists, human rights activists and others have long argued that Rwanda's invasion was a 'counter-genocide,' but never have the allegations been leveled in such detail, and by an international body like the UN.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Violence Spirals Out of Control in East Congo
By Michelle Fault, September 17, 2010
"First the rebel soldiers told residents of the villages in the mineral-rich eastern Congo not to worry. They were just there for a rest and would do no harm. But as dusk fell, the fighters encircled five villages simultaneously, and the gang rapes began. Six or seven men lined up to take their turn. The victims ranged from a month-old baby boy to a 110-year-old great great-grandmother. They forced husbands and children to watch as they gang-raped the villagers for four days. Some victims told doctors the fighters raped them with their fists, saying 'We're looking for the gold.' It took days for help to arrive, even though the villages are 12 miles (20 kilometers) from a camp of UN peacekeepers from India. The UN says the peacekeepers actually drove through one of the villages while it was being held by the fighters, but said peacekeepers took no action because no one told them what was going on. Violence is reaching new levels of savagery and spiraling out of control in this corner of Congo, where the competition for control of mineral resources has drawn in several armed groups, including the Congolese army. Rape has become a military strategy by the various groups of fighters to intimidate, punish and control the population in the mining areas.

Cambodia / Genocide Tribunals

Khmer Rouge Leaders Indicted
By Seth Mydans
The New York Times, September 16, 2010
"A United Nations-backed court in Cambodia formally indicted four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge on Thursday on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and murder as the tribunal moved forward with its second case, after the conviction in July of the director of the main Khmer Rouge prison. The four leaders have been in custody since late 2007, and all have denied the charges against them. They are due in court in January for a procedural hearing, followed by substantive court sessions later in the year. The charges against them involve the deaths of 1.7 million people by execution, starvation, overwork and disease from 1975 to 1979. The defendants are Ieng Sary, 84, who was foreign minister; his wife, Ieng Thirith, 78, who was minister of social welfare; Khieu Samphan, 78, who was head of state; and Nuon Chea, 84, known as Brother No 2. The top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. In the earlier case, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for overseeing the torture and death of at least 14,000 people in the Tuol Sleng prison. Though the trial of Duch, with its testimony about torture and killings, was gripping, experts said the second case was more important, both in the stature of the defendants and in the process of the tribunal, which tries to apply international standards of justice within the Cambodian court system.

Russia / Stalinism / Anti-Semitism

Stalin-era Repressions "Justified" Claims New "Anti-Semitic" Russian Textbook
The Telegraph, September 16, 2010
Photo: AP
"Stalin-era repressions, including the Gulag camp system and the deportation of entire ethnic groups were justified according to a new history textbook published in Russia, which critics claim is anti-Semitic. 'A History of Russia, 1917-2009,' written by two Moscow State University academics, Alexander Barsenkov and Alexander Vdovin, attempts to justify forced collectivisation and the mass arrests and executions of the 1930s. Supporters say the book is filled with patriotism and love of the Motherland. But critics claim the textbook offers a pro-Stalinist and anti-Semitic view of Soviet and Russian history. Describing the mass arrests and executions of the 1930s, the authors write that the authorities had a justified fear of enemies within the Soviet Union. 'All those millions of people offended by the policies of the Soviet authorities formed a potential for a "fifth column" that was far from imaginary,' they write.' The textbook also offers a rationalisation for Joseph Stalin's deportations of whole peoples, including the Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingushs and Kalmyks to Siberia and Central Asia.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

France / Roma

EU Calls France's Roma Expulsions a "Disgrace"
By Katrin Bennhold and Stephen Castle
The New York Times, September 14, 2010
Photo: "Roma families at the check-in desk for flights to Romania as part of a voluntary [sic] repatriation program at the airport near Marseille, France, on Tuesday." (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)
"In blunt language, the European Commission on Tuesday called France's deportation of Roma a 'disgrace' and threatened legal action against the French government, claiming that it had misled European officials and that it was breaking European law. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces record low approval ratings at home, has called Roma camps a source of crime and prostitution. Over the summer, his government expelled about 1,000 Roma, also known as Gypsies, in a move criticized by human rights groups and the Socialist opposition. Over the weekend, a French directive was leaked that singles out the Roma as an ethnic group in the crackdown, contradicting repeated assurances by the government to the contrary. The European Union justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, said that it was 'shocking' that assurances given by French ministers in Brussels were being directly contradicted by actions in Paris. 'My patience is wearing thin. Enough is enough,' a visibly angry Ms. Reding said at a news conference in Brussels. 'No member state can expect special treatment when fundamental values and European laws are at stake.'

Friday, September 10, 2010

Violence against Christians

The Fires of Religious Fury Are Easily Lit But Hard to Put Out
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, September 10, 2010
"In the Pakistani town of Gojra in Punjab just over a year ago word spread among Muslims that a local Christian had burned a copy of the Koran. It was untrue, but within hours a mob had started setting fire to Christian houses in Gojra. In one of them, a man, a woman and four children were burned to death. The persecution of Christian communities across the Muslim world has escalated rapidly since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Christians are often seen as the natural allies of western occupiers and, as a minority, are highly vulnerable to retaliation. In one case in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul a few years ago US soldiers damaged a mosque with their vehicle and Sunni Arab insurgents retaliated by bombing two churches. Christian communities that date back 2,000 years are finally being extinguished. Their numbers in Iraq are estimated to have dropped by 50 per cent to about 400,000 since the US-led invasion of 2003. The Iraqi variant of al-Qa'ida has targeted them along with Shia Muslims. In Baghdad Christians are too few to have their own militia to protect them as they do in Christian villages around Mosul. And last night's statement from Pastor Jones comes too late for St George's church in Baghdad, where four people were reported killed.

United Nations / Rwanda / Congo

UN Chief Ban Urges Rwanda to Keep Troops in Peace Forces
By Robyn Dixon
The Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2010
Photo: "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to journalists after meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali, the Rwandan capital." (AFP/Getty Images)
"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday pressed Rwanda to keep its forces serving on peacekeeping missions despite its anger over a draft report accusing the African nation's troops of atrocities and possible genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame has threatened to pull 3,500 troops from UN operations in the Darfur region of Sudan because of its outrage over the world body's draft report, which was leaked recently to the French newspaper Le Monde. ... The draft was leaked last month after Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo sent a letter to Ban describing the report as cynical and dangerous, and calling for it to be 'dismissed.' ... The leak appears to have undermined Rwanda's effort to suppress the report. The UN instead promised to publish Rwanda's criticisms of the final document. 'This report is long overdue,' said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. 'The facts speak for themselves. These were major massacres. It goes to the very heart of the legitimacy of Kagame's government in Rwanda.' Bouckaert said he did not believe the final report would be watered down. 'The draft report is based on factual cases of over 600 major massacres. The language in the draft report was already quite nuanced,' he said. He called for a hybrid court in Congo involving Congolese and international judges to try any cases tied to the massacres. [...]"
[n.b. The full text of the draft UN report is now available in PDF format on]

Thursday, September 09, 2010

India / United Kingdom

Winston Churchill Blamed for 1m Deaths in India Famine
By Dean Nelson
The Telegraph, September 9, 2010
Photo: PA
"According to a new book on the famine, Sir Winston ignored pleas for emergency food aid for millions in Bengal left to starve as their rice paddies were turned over to jute for sandbag production and supplies of rice from Burma stopped after Japanese occupation. Between one and three million died of hunger in 1943. The wartime leader said Britain could not spare the ships to transport emergency supplies as the streets of Calcutta filled with emaciated villagers from the surrounding countryside, but author Madhusree Mukerjee has unearthed new documents which challenge his claim. In her book, Churchill's Secret War, she cites ministry records and personal papers which reveal ships carrying cereals from Australia ... bypassed India on their way to the Mediterranean where supplies were already abundant. 'It wasn't a question of Churchill being inept: sending relief to Bengal was raised repeatedly and he and his close associates thwarted every effort,' the author said.

Poland / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Denial

Controversial Historian David Irving to Tour Nazi Death Camps in Poland
Daily Mail, September 8, 2010
Photo: EPA
"Controversial historian David Irving will go on a week-long tour of World War II death camps this month, it has been revealed. Irving, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to denying that the Holocaust took place, will be shadowed by the Polish secret service on a series of guided tours around Treblinka. He is also due to visit the Warsaw ghetto and the country's wartime Nazi headquarters. More than 800,000 Jews died in Treblinka between 1942 and 1943 during the German occupation. Polish government officials said they were powerless to stop the visit, but will be watching Irving from the minute he arrives. A spokesman for the Polish embassy in London said: 'The secret service in Poland and in the UK are aware of the visit and that he has previously visited Treblinka. The visit at the end of September will be under strict observation by the Polish authorities.' He added: 'However, because there’s no warrant out for his arrest by either the British or any other EU state there’s nothing else we can do and therefore he’s free to visit Poland and Treblinka.' In 2006 Irving was jailed in Austria for Holocaust denial."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing it to my attention.]

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Slovenia / Yugoslavia / Second World War

Mass Grave of 700 People Found in Slovenia
By Matthew Day
The Telegraph, September 8, 2010
Photo: "Human skulls and bones at a mass grave discovered in Prevalje, Slovenia." (AP)
"Investigators in Slovenia have found a mass grave containing the remains of 700 people murdered in the weeks that followed the end of the Second World War in Europe. The grave was discovered in a forest in Slovenia close to the Austrian border and is thought to contain Nazi collaborators, around 100 Austrian citizens, and civilians that Yugoslavia's fledgling communist regime deemed as 'class enemies' and a threat. Acting on information given by eyewitnesses investigators unearthed a trench three metres wide and 21 metres long packed with human remains. 'Some were killed kneeling, with hands tied behind their backs, and their bodies revealed traces of gunshot wounds,' said Marko Strovs, head of the Slovenian government's commission for mass graves, but he added that other victims appeared to have been killed with an axe. The scale of the massacre surprised officials, who had originally thought it had involved no more than a hundred victims, and investigators explained that the presence of shoes in the grave indicated that some of the victims were civilians. Eye witnesses said that in May 1945 a convoy of 19 lorries carried the victims into the forest where they were probably killed on the site of what is now the grave. The latest discovery is further evidence of the tremendous bloodletting that engulfed the former Yugoslavia in the weeks and months that followed the German surrender. Josip Tito's victorious communist government sought to eliminate anybody considered a fascist collaborator or a possible opponent of the new regime. Slovenia alone has an estimated 600 mass graves containing the remains of at least 100,000 people.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cuba / Iran / Anti-Semitism

Fidel to Ahmadinejad: "Stop Slandering the Jews"
By Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic, September 7, 2010
"[...] Castro's message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the 'unique' history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence. ... He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. 'This went on for maybe two thousand years,' he said. 'I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.' The Iranian government should understand that the Jews 'were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here's what happened to them: Reverse selection. What's reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.' He continued: 'The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.' I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. 'I am saying this so you can communicate it,' he answered. [...]"

France / Roma

Europe Accuses Nicolas Sarkozy of Roma Gipsy "Witch-Hunt" 
By Bruno Waterfield
The Telegraph, September 7, 2010
Photo: "Thousands of people took to the streets in Marseilles to protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy." (AP)
"Nicolas Sarkozy hoped his plan to expel the Roma would help his faltering presidency back on track. But it has made him even more enemies.  During a debate in the European parliament, MEPs expressed grave concerns over Mr. Sarkozy's policy or returning the Roma from illegal camps to Eastern Europe. Social Democrat, Labour and Liberal MEPs will vote on Thursday a European Parliament resolution condemning the French President's policy to expel Bulgarian and Romanian gipsies. A draft text expresses 'deep concern regarding the recent measures taken by the French government to repatriate and return thousands of Roma EU citizens to their countries of origin.' MEPs also criticised the European Commission for failing to enforce freedom of movement rights for EU citizens. Martin Schulz, the German leader of Social Democrat MEPs accused President Sarkozy of carrying out 'a witch-hunt against a minority' in order to boost his flagging popularity at a time of economic crisis. He accused José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President of 'kowtowing' to Mr Sarkozy by not enforcing rules allowing EU citizens freedom of movement. Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister and leader of Liberal MEPs, said: 'What's taking place in France is unacceptable, and unfortunately is not an isolated case. Several governments while confronted with the difficulties of the economic crisis, are sliding towards populism, xenophobia, and racism.' France has expelled more than 1,000 gipsies in the past month, bringing the total this year to more than 8,000. The expulsions have been condemned in France and abroad. [...]"

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Iran / Jewish Holocaust

Senior Iranian Cleric Dismisses Nazi Holocaust as "Superstition"
Daily Mail, September 5, 2010
"A senior Iranian cleric has dismissed the Nazi Holocaust during World War II as a 'superstition' created by the West. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi -- among the highest authorities in Shiite Islam -- said in reports released yesterday. 'The Holocaust is nothing but superstition, but Zionists say that people of the world should be forced to accept this,' he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. 'Americans and Westerners are affected by newly appeared superstitions such as the Holocaust.' He continued. 'The truth about the Holocaust is not clear, and when the researchers want to examine whether it is true or the Jews have created it to pose as victims, they jail the researchers,' said Makarem Shirazi, who is a 'marja,' or among the highest authorities in Shiite Islam. Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly branded the Holocaust a 'myth' in his frequent anti-Israel diatribes drawing international condemnation, but Iran's prominent clergy have rarely echoed such comments.

Gendercide / Violence against Women and Girls

Tens of Millions of "Missing" Girls, September 5, 2010
"Discrimination against women and girls takes a staggering toll around the world, says author Sheryl WuDunn. It leads to as many as 100 million fewer females than males in the world. Ending the oppression of women is the great moral challenge of the 21st Century, a cause she compares to fighting slavery in the 19th century and totalitarianism in the 20th Century. WuDunn, a former reporter for The New York Times who is now an investment banker, and her husband, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, wrote 'Half the Sky,' a book focusing on the role of women in the world. She spoke about their findings at the TED Global conference in Oxford in July and in an interview with CNN. During their time as correspondents in China, WuDunn and Kristof learned of the phenomenon of an estimated 30 million 'missing' baby girls in the nation. WuDunn says part of the gap could be attributed to infanticide by families who were determined to have a male child under China's one-child policy and in part to the development of the sonogram.

Mexico / Violence against Migrants

Tortured Mexican Kidnap Victim Says: "I Would Sit There Wondering How People Could Be That Bad"
By Jo Tuckman
The Observer, September 5, 2010
"Félix survived his ordeal at the hands of the Zeta cartel, one of Mexico's most ruthless drugs gangs. But he knows of many fellow migrants who suffered the same grisly fate as the 72 who were shot at an isolated ranch 70 miles from the border city of Reynosa. 'There are lots more dead migrants, they just haven't found them,' says the 20-year-old Honduran, speaking at a shelter for migrants run by nuns in Reynosa. Unlike those at the ranch who were travelling in one large group and kidnapped by an armed commando, Félix (whose name has been changed) was alone when he was picked up by a policeman. In an example of the official collusion that human rights activists have long claimed endangers migrants in Mexico, the officer took him to a Zeta safe house and left him there. For a week he was a side-show for gunmen who beat him with planks and pistol handles and gave him electric shocks to intensify his screams when they put him on the phone to his poverty-stricken family, demanding money for his release. The rest of the time, he says, he was forced to watch his captors going about the more serious business of torturing information out of captured members of the Gulf cartel by cutting off different pieces of their bodies each day for about a week. Then they were killed, their mutilated bodies burnt to dust on the mountainside.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Hungary / Roma

Far-Right Party Calls for Camps for Hungary's Roma
By Daniel McLaughlin
The Irish Times, September 3, 2010
Photo: "A supporter of Jobbik at a rally in Budapest last year." (Laszla Balogh/Reuters)
"Hungary's far-right Jobbik party has called for 'anti-social' members of the Roma community to be forced from their homes and placed in special guarded camps, as France comes under increasing scrutiny over its drive to send gypsies back to the Balkans. Jobbik's claim that Hungary’s large Roma minority is riddled with criminals and benefit fraudsters has struck a chord with many people. Since last June the party has won its first three seats in the European Parliament and secured third place in a general election with almost 17 per cent of votes. It is now campaigning hard for next month’s local elections and hopes to prevent the ruling conservative Fidesz party taking control of several councils, particularly in poor regions where unemployment is high, crime is a major problem and the Roma community is large. Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said his was the only party brave enough to 'face realities and have the guts to say what ... 90 per cent of the Hungarian population say during their family lunch on Sundays, namely that the integration of the Roma population has failed. We need entirely different solutions if we want to avoid civil war in the country,' he added.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

United Nations / Congo / Rwanda

UN to Release Congo "Genocide" Report in October
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, September 2, 2010
"A report detailing hundreds of gruesome attacks against civilians in Congo over a 10-year period won't be released until October, the UN's top human rights official said Thursday, after Rwanda angrily protested the findings in a draft version. Drafts of the report -- circulated to governments earlier this year and leaked to the media last week -- accused Rwandan troops and rebel allies tied to the current Congolese president of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo in the 1990s. Rwanda has reacted angrily to the claim that this may have constituted genocide or crimes against humanity, and threatened to pull its troops from UN peacekeeping missions if the report was published unchanged, claiming the five-year study was 'fatally flawed' and 'incredibly irresponsible.' UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement that the report will now be released Oct. 1 in order to allow affected governments time to publish their comments alongside the final version. ... Rwanda, a small country in East Africa, contributes thousands of soldiers to peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan. It would create a headache for the United Nations if Rwanda made good on its threat and withdrew its troops. ...

Israel / Simon Wiesenthal

Wiesenthal Worked for Israeli Spy Agency, Book Alleges
By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times, September 2, 2010
Photo: "Simon Wiesenthal in 1999." (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)
"Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who gained worldwide fame for decades as a one-man Nazi-hunting operation, was in fact frequently on the payroll of the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, a new biography asserts. The assertion, based on numerous documents and interviews with three people said to be Mr. Wiesenthal's Mossad handlers, punctures not only a widely held belief about how he operated; it also suggests a need to re-evaluate the standard view that the Israeli government took no interest in tracking down Nazis until the 1960 capture in Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, and little thereafter. Mr. Wiesenthal died in 2005 at the age of 96 in his Vienna home. 'This requires us to adjust in some small way our view of history,' said Tom Segev, the author of the new book 'Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends,' which is being published by Doubleday this week in the United States and simultaneously in six other countries. Mr. Segev, who is Israeli and a columnist for the newspaper Haaretz here, is the author of half a dozen other books, mostly about Israeli history. In a telephone interview, he said he had been given unfettered access to Mr. Wiesenthal's papers -- some 300,000 of them, previously closed to the public -- by Mr. Wiesenthal's daughter, Paulinka Kreisberg. While reading through Mr. Wiesenthal's correspondence, Mr. Segev came across names he did not recognize and discovered they were Mossad agents and handlers. He interviewed three of them and named two in the book.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Mexico / Violence against Migrants

Massacre of Migrants Leaves Trail of Anguish Across Latin America
By Randal C. Archibold
The New York Times, September 1, 2010
Photo: "Gilmar Morales’s father and widow, who asked that their names not be used because of fears of reprisals, mourned at the family home in Agua Caliente." (Daniel Hernandez-Salazar/New York Times)
"He was warned the journey north would be hard, so Gilmar Morales beefed up on eggs and sausage, bought some ham sandwiches from the bodega across the street, told his mother he loved her and set off with two other relatives on a path well-traveled by young people here in one of Latin America’s poorest countries. Then, a few weeks later his mother, watching a television news show, looked hard at a picture of the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants killed last week in northeast Mexico near the Texas border. Was that Gilmar, the one with the familiar yellow-and-white striped T-shirt, his blue pants? 'They told us they are sending his body this week,' said Mr. Morales's father inside the small cinder-block family home here, next to an altar of flowers and candles in honor of Mr. Morales, 22, and his companions headed north, later confirmed to be victims of the massacre. Despite all the hardships and perils that stand before them -- a raging drug war in Mexico, walls, border agents, National Guard troops, anti-immigrant fervor and a fragile economy if they even make it -- they still come. And they still die, often in the deserts of the Southwest, sometimes at the hands of thieves and kidnappers and now, in a startling twist, apparently at the hands of a drug gang seeking money or possibly recruits, officials said, though nobody knows for sure.

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Number of Victims in Congo Mass Rape Increases: UN
By Louis Charbonneau
Reuters dispatch, September 1, 2010
"The number of reported victims of a recent mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo has grown by nearly a hundred over the last week, the United Nations said on Wednesday. UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that the world body's MONUSCO peacekeeping force in Congo has received further reports of rapes committed over the course of several days in a town in the eastern part of the country, bringing the number well above the 154 reported last week. 'They (MONUSCO) have received by now reports of more than 240 victims of rape in the eastern Congo,' Haq said. MONUSCO has said it was only informed of the incident more than a week after it happened, even though they had a base just 20 miles from the scene in the country's violent east. That led UN Security Council members to suggest, at an unscheduled meeting called last week by the United States and France, that the 20,000-strong MONUSCO force needed at least to improve its communications with the local population.