Friday, February 25, 2011

Libya / United Nations / Genocide Intervention

"Distinguished Members of the Council, Madam President,

"My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect have reminded the national authorities in Libya, as well as in other countries facing large-scale popular protests, that the heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit pledged to protect populations by preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.

"The challenge for us now is how to provide real protection and do all we can to halt the ongoing violence."

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
Remarks to Security Council Meeting on Peace and Security in Africa
February 25, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libya / International Criminal Court

Photo: Getty Images
This Evil Despot Must Be Brought to Justice
By Geoffrey Robertson
The Independent, February 23, 2011
"Colonel Gaddafi is the worst man left in the world. His bloodstained record of terrorism, torture and mass murder deserves punishment many times over and a people liberated from the moronic tenets of his Green Book might, if they get the chance, string him up in revenge. But the days of hanging dictators from lampposts are over. International justice must take the place of righteous lynch mobs. Alternatively, if Colonel Gaddafi crushes the revolt, it must ensure that he is hunted down should he set foot again outside Libya. The Security Council, disgracefully slow in responding to this crisis, has an urgent duty either to establish an international court to try Gaddafi or (more simply) to require the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate and indict him for the massacre of protesters. The ICC has been cutting its teeth on a few Congo warlords and gnashing them over Sudan's President Omer Hassan al-Bashir (although its indictment might have prompted yesterday's announcement of his early retirement). Its treaty has now been ratified by 114 nations and the irrational hostility of the Bush era has been replaced by cautious support from President Barack Obama. Libya, of course, is not a member of the ICC (and nor are any other Arab countries except Jordan and Djibouti -- a situation which new powers in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere will be advised to change). But Colonel Gaddafi can be brought within the court's jurisdiction by a Security Council direction -- as was Mr. al-Bashir when the council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor.

India / Gujarat Genocide

"The Godhra train fire killed 60 Hindu pilgrims and activists in February 2002 and triggered some of the worst communal violence in India in decades." (Sebastian D'Souza/AFP/Getty Images)
Godhra Train Fire Verdict Prompts Tight Security Measures
By Jason Burke
The Guardian, February 22, 2011
"India has imposed tight security measures across much of the western state of Gujarat following the conviction of 31 Muslim men for setting fire to a train in which 60 Hindu pilgrims and activists died nine years ago. The incident, which took place in the town of Godhra in February 2002, triggered some of the worst inter-communal violence in India for decades. More than 1,200 people, mainly from the minority Muslim community, were killed as groups of Hindus rioted in Muslim neighbourhoods and towns across the state. Gujurat security officials fear a repeat of the violence following the verdict. Public gatherings of more than four people in areas seen as prone to violence have been prohibited, local media have been asked not to broadcast images of the clashes that followed the attack on the train, and around 15,000 extra police have been deployed. The families of the more than 60 people acquitted of taking part in the train attack have been given police protection. Those convicted are to be sentenced later in the week. Many have been in jail for years, arrested soon after the violence. Special public prosecutor JM Panchal said he was satisfied with the verdict. The case has become highly politicised, reflecting deep divides in India. The chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi -- a rising star in the rightwing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) -- has been repeatedly accused of failing to stop Hindu revenge attacks. Modi has always denied such claims, but they have tarnished his image and that of the state, one of India's most successful in economic terms. A BJP spokesman said after the verdict that 'law and justice has prevailed', adding: 'There were elements who were trying to belittle [the case]. There have been politicians who tried to abuse it.' An investigation by a judge six years ago had concluded that the train fire had been an accident. However, a separate inquiry found it had been pre-planned and that the train, having been doused in petrol, was deliberately set alight by a mob. Commentators say that inter-communal strife following the verdict is unlikely. Last year, calm followed a controversial court decision over the disputed religious site of Ayodhya in northern India which granted many of the demands of Hindu religious groups, leading many to conclude that the days when sectarian issues could explode into street violence are over."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Israel / Palestine / Apartheid

"Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, addresses a news conference at the European council in Brussels." (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)
Israeli Foreign Minister Accused of Apartheid in Attempted Citizen's Arrest
By Leigh Phillips
February 22, 2011
"An Irish journalist has attempted a citizen's arrest of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, outside a meeting of the EU-Israel Association council in Brussels. 'Mr. Lieberman, this is a citizen's arrest. You are charged with the crime of apartheid. Please accompany me to the nearest police station,' David Cronin told the Israeli minister as he entered the press room of the European council. Cronin, a freelance journalist who has written for the Economist, the Inter Press Service news agency and the Guardian's Comment is Free, was restrained by security guards and escorted from the building, shouting 'Free Palestine'. It is not the first time Cronin, a member of the Brussels press corps since 1998, has attempted such a manoeuvre. Last March he placed his arm on Tony Blair and announced that the former prime minister was under citizen's arrest for his role in the invasion of Iraq. On that occasion, his press pass was revoked but returned after a warning. The reporter was released without charge after the latest incident. However, Cronin reports that the head of security for the council has informed him that this time the pass will be permanently revoked. 'He told me: "If you come into my house, you have to behave yourself." It's a price I'm willing to pay though. Apartheid -- the domination by one racial group over another -- has been recognised as a crime by the UN since 1973. Israel is an apartheid state, both in the occupied territories and in Israel itself.' ... Yoel Mester, a spokesman for the Israeli mission to the EU, said the ambassador will not be pressing for tighter security for future visits of Israeli dignitaries. 'This was utterly uncivilised, in bad taste. But Israel, like the EU, is very supportive of free speech. It's just a shame that some people take advantage of that freedom sometimes.' [...]"


Qaddafi's Grip on the Capital Tightens as Revolt Grows
By Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times, February 22, 2011
"Vowing to track down and kill protesters "house by house," Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya tightened his grip on the capital of Tripoli Tuesday, but the eastern half of the country was slipping beyond his control. A bloody crackdown drove protesters from the streets of Tripoli, where residents described a state of terror. The independent group Human Rights Watch said it had confirmed 62 deaths in two hospitals after a rampage Monday night, when witnesses said groups of heavily armed militiamen and African mercenaries cruised the streets in pickup trucks spraying crowds with machine gun fire. The death toll was likely higher; one witness said militia forces appeared to be using vans to cart away bodies. After Colonel Qaddafi's televised speech Tuesday night, thousands of his supporters converged in Tripoli's central Green Square, wearing green bandanas and brandishing oversized machetes. Many loaded into trucks headed for the outlying areas of the city, where they occupied traffic intersections and appeared to be massing for neighborhood-to-neighborhood searches. 'It looks like they have been given a green light to kill these people,' one witness said. [...] Wearing a beige robe and turban and reading at times from his manifesto, the Green Book, Colonel Qaddafi called the protesters 'cockroaches' and blamed the unrest shaking the country on foreigners, a small group of people distributing pills, brainwashing, and young people's naïve desire to imitate the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. He urged citizens to take to the streets and beat back the protesters, and he described himself in sweeping, megalomaniacal terms. 'Muammar Qaddafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution,' he declared. [...]"

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Victims of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army
By Joe Bavier
The Telegraph, February 18, 2011
"Valentine Mbolibirani was harvesting peanuts near her home in eastern Central African Republic when the gunmen arrived. It was 2009 and she was 14 years old. The men, members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the notorious Ugandan rebel group, had terrorised the nearby villages for more than a year, appearing suddenly out of the dense forest to loot and take captives before vanishing again. Yet Valentine, like most of her neighbours, knew little about them. 'They told us they'd come to surrender,' she said. ‘Villagers arrived to see what was happening. Then a man rode by on a bicycle, and they knocked him to the ground and kicked him. We knew then that we were their prisoners. I was taken with my little sister. There were 14 of us in all.' At one of the rebels' main camps, Valentine was summoned to a grass-roofed hut and told to ready herself. She was about to be raped by Africa's most wanted war criminal, Joseph Kony. Nearly 25 years ago Kony, a former altar boy and self-styled mystic, announced that he had received instructions from the spirit world, ordering him to overthrow Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, and impose the Ten Commandments as the law of the land. Today, the 50-year-old warlord's army, responsible for Africa’s longest-running armed conflict, espouses no political programme and exists primarily to shield Kony and his top commanders from war crimes indictments issued by the International Criminal Court in 2005. Theirs is a campaign of incalculable brutality. Over two decades in Uganda, LRA rebels attacked the villages of their own Acholi people, displacing some two million civilians. Untold thousands were killed; exact figures do not exist.

Israel / Palestine / Genocide Studies

"Palestinians evacuate the village of Zenin in 1948. Some scholars say that what is now called 'ethnic cleansing' constitutes a form of genocide." (Getty Images)
Top Genocide Scholars Battle Over How To Characterize Israel's Actions
By Gal Beckerman, February 16, 2011
"Did Jews commit genocide in 1948? The question is provocative, and the answer for most people is an unequivocal no. But a debate over this idea has formed the crux of a heated argument among the most eminent genocide scholars in the world, and led recently to the censure of an Israeli professor by the field’s leading academic association. It's also one more reminder of the growing divide between European scholars and their American and Israeli counterparts when it comes to how they view Israel, both historically and in the present moment. The debate began in the pages of a scholarly publication, the Winter 2010 issue of the Journal of Genocide Research. Two specialists in genocide, Omer Bartov of Brown University and Martin Shaw of Roehampton University, in London, engaged in a back-and-forth exchange about whether the word 'genocide' could be applied to the expulsion and killing of Arabs in Palestine during Israel's War of Independence. During the course of the war, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes and were later prevented from returning, creating what would become one of the world’s most enduring refugee crises. Both Bartov and Shaw agreed that some form of what is now called 'ethnic cleansing' did occur. But where Bartov was not willing to think of this as genocide, Shaw confidently argued that any policies meant to destroy a group, even if not outright murder, should be seen as genocide.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poland / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Memorials

"Efforts are underway to update the exhibitions at Auschwitz. Above, Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum." (Piotr Malecki/The New York Times)
Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching
By Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times, February 18, 2011
"For nearly 60 years, Auschwitz has told its own story, shaped in the recent aftermath of the Second World War. It now unfolds, unadorned and mostly unexplained, in displays of hair, shoes and other remains of the dead. Past the notorious, mocking gateway, into the brick ranks of the former barracks of the Polish army camp that the Nazis seized and converted into prisons and death chambers, visitors bear witness via this exhibition. Now those in charge of passing along the legacy of this camp insist that Auschwitz needs an update. Its story needs to be retold, in a different way for a different age. Partly the change has to do with the simple passage of time, refurbishing an aging display. Partly it's about the pressures of tourism, and partly about the changing of generations. What is the most visited site and the biggest cemetery in Poland for Jews and non-Jews alike, needs to explain itself better, officials here contend. A proposed new exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum here, occupying some of the same barracks or blocks, will retain the piled hair and other remains, which by now have become icons, as inextricable from Auschwitz as the crematoria and railway tracks. But the display will start with an explanatory section on how the camp worked, as a German Nazi bureaucratic institution, a topic now largely absent from the present exhibition, which was devised by survivors during the 1950s. Back then they wished to erase the memory of their tormenters, as the Nazis had tried to erase them, so they said as little as possible in their exhibition about the Germans who had conceived and run the camp. They focused on mass victimhood but didn't highlight individual stories or testimonials of the sort that have become commonplace at memorial museums as devices to translate incomprehensible numbers of dead into real people, giving visitors personal stories and characters they can relate to.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Greece / Germany / Nazism

"Greek civilians look on as the Germany army makes its way to Thessaloniki in April 1941." (Getty)
Athens Backs Villagers' Fight for German Compensation over 1944 SS Massacre
By Helena Smith
The Observer, February 13, 2011
"A Nazi massacre remembered by Greeks as one of the worst atrocities of the second world war is threatening to plunge relations between Athens and Berlin to a new low amid rising criticism of Germany's failure to pay compensation. The diplomatic dispute erupted last month after the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, pledged his government would support the compensation claims of survivors and relatives of the massacre in the village of Distomo in June 1944, which left 218 people dead. No previous administration has dared touch the case for fear of tensions with Germany. 'This is about history. This is not anti-German,' the Socialist leader told the Observer. 'It is about something that happened over 60 years ago, of honouring the memory of Greek citizens who were sacrificed for their country.' At a time when Athens is fighting off bankruptcy with austerity measures – demanded by international creditors after the biggest bailout in history -- Papandreou's move is popular. Under Nazi occupation from April 1941, more than 300,000 Greeks starved to death, 130,000 were executed in reprisals, and most of the Jewish community was sent to the gas chambers. The tragedy at Distomo, near Delphi, is ingrained in the national consciousness. Children are taught that on 10 June 1944 some 218 men, women and children were slaughtered by a Waffen-SS unit in reprisal for an ambush on German troops outside the village. It occurred on the same day as the SS massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Bodies were found dangling from trees by the road to the village when a Red Cross team visited days later.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

United States / Switzerland / Universal Jurisdiction

Bush Trip to Switzerland Called Off Amid Threats of Protests, Legal Action
By Peter Finn
The Washington Post, February 5, 2011
"A planned trip to Switzerland next week by George W. Bush was canceled after human rights activists called for demonstrations and threatened legal action over allegations that the former president sanctioned the torture of terrorism suspects. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and several European human rights groups said they were planning to file a complaint against Bush and wanted Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal case against him once he arrived in the country. In what would have been his first European trip since leaving the presidency, Bush was scheduled to speak in Geneva on Feb. 12 at a dinner in honor of the United Israel Appeal. A lawyer for the organization said Bush's appearance was canceled because of the risk of violence, and that the threat of legal action was not an issue. 'The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain,' the lawyer, Robert Equey, told the Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve. A spokesman for Bush said the former president regretted that his speech was canceled. 'President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office,' David Sherzer said in an e-mailed statement.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Rwanda / Media and Genocide

One Man's Rwanda: Philip Gourevitch Softens Some Hard Truths
By Tristan McConnell
"There had been ethnic massacres in Rwanda before, but nothing on the scale of the genocide that began in April 1994. The killing had been over for nearly a year when a young American reporter, Philip Gourevitch, set foot in Rwanda for the first time the following May. The bodies of the dead were reverting to bone but memories were still raw. Gourevitch wrote of accidentally crushing a skull beneath his foot, so thick were the dead at a massacre site, and of the eerie emptiness of a country where so many had died so violently and so recently. In his first dispatch from Rwanda for The New Yorker, seven months after arriving, he wrote, 'It almost seemed as if, with the machete, the nail-studded club, a few well-placed grenades, and a few bursts of automatic rifle fire, the quiet orders of Hutu Power had made the neutron bomb obsolete.' Over three years, Gourevitch spent months at a time in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, committing himself more wholly to the story of the genocide's aftermath than perhaps any other foreign journalist. The New Yorker ran eight of his lengthy articles during this period as he travelled tirelessly across Rwanda, to remote villages and regional towns as well as the capital. He met ordinary Tutsi survivors, imprisoned Hutu perpetrators, and the leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, the rebel army that had ended the genocide and taken control of the country. Gourevitch developed enduring contacts within the upper echelons of the RPF. He often interviewed Major General Paul Kagame, the head of the army, who would, years later, become president. From his first New Yorker article about Rwanda, Gourevitch portrayed Kagame as calm, intelligent, thoughtful, and questioning -- a man who, having stopped a great evil, was working against immense odds and in difficult circumstances to fix his broken country. That portrayal has remained fixed over the years. ...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Endorsing Denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi: Open Letters to Professor Noam Chomsky

By Roland Moerland
Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University, Netherlands
February 3, 2011

Dear Professor Chomsky,

In 1967 you published a special supplement to The New York Review of Books in which you critically addressed the responsibility of intellectuals. Intellectuals, you wrote, have a deep responsibility “to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, […], through which the events of current history are presented to us.”

Although your article was written and published more than forty years ago, the argument is highly relevant, because abuses of power still lead to vast human suffering. I believe that much of what you have written after 1967 up to your recent publications reflects these ideas and principles.

I was therefore shocked and disappointed to find out that you, as a highly distinguished intellectual, should write the foreword to the book The Politics of Genocide, which in chapter 4 includes one of the most flagrant cases of denial of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that I have ever seen. I find it extremely hard to understand why you would endorse such a gross denial of human suffering. [...]

[Read the full text of the open letters.]

Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Memorials

"This picture taken Jan. 28, 2011, shows people walking through the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The red brick barracks that housed starving inmates are sinking into ruin, and officials launched a global campaign to raise euro120 million ($165 million) to create a 'perpetual fund' whose interest can be drawn on indefinitely to repair barracks, watchtowers, crematoria and other structures at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum and memorial in southern Poland." (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)
"Ravages of Time" Leave Auschwitz Decaying
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press dispatch on, February 3, 2011
"The red brick barracks that housed starving inmates are sinking into ruin. Time has warped victims' leather shoes into strange shapes. Hair sheared to make cloth is slowly turning to dust. Auschwitz is crumbling -- the world's most powerful and important testament to Nazi Germany's crimes falling victim to age and mass tourism. Now guardians of the memorial site are waging an urgent effort to save what they can before it is too late. Officials last week launched a global campaign to raise euro120 ($165 million) to create a 'perpetual fund' whose interest can be drawn on indefinitely to repair barracks, watchtowers, crematoria and other structures at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum and memorial in southern Poland. The Nazis opened Auschwitz soon after invading Poland in 1939, the act that triggered World War II, using it first as a concentration camp for Poles and political prisoners. As they implemented a plan to exterminate Europe's Jews, Gypsies and others, they built the neighboring death camp of Birkenau. The Germans ended up transporting people in cattle cars from across the continent to the death camp in the heart of Europe, and murdered at least 1.1 million in gas chambers or through other acts of barbarity. Museum director Piotr Cywinski made an emotional appeal for help during ceremonies last week marking the 66th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Soviet troops, as he launched the fundraising campaign. Called 'Intervene Now,' the campaign's message has been spread on Facebook, in newspapers and elsewhere. 'There are no more remains of Treblinka, Kulmhof, Sobibor and Belzec,' Cywinski said, referring to extermination camps that the Nazis destroyed in an effort to hide their crimes. 'Let us not allow the biggest of these death camps -- and the only one that is still recognizable -- to fall into decay due to the ravages of time and our indifference.'

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Spain / Spanish Civil War / Genocide and Memory

Francisco Franco. (Keystone/Getty)
Barcelona Topples the Final Reminder of Franco's Regime
By Alasdair Fotheringham
The Independent, February 1, 2011
"Almost 72 years to the day after Nationalist troops swept into Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, the city's last monument to General Francisco Franco and his dictatorship has finally been taken down. The removal of the four-metre-high bronze 'Victory' statue -- situated in the central Avenida Diagonal, the boulevard down which Franco's forces advanced on 26 January, 1939 -- was watched by a small crowd of about 200. Thanks to the law of Historic Memory passed in 2007 by Spain's socialist government, monuments of all kinds to the general who ruled Spain for nearly 40 years, from statues to street names, are gradually being removed. In fiercely nationalist Catalonia, where Franco outlawed the region's language and abolished local government, the town halls have been singularly thorough at weeding them out. And in a city like Barcelona, famous for its hard-headed entrepreneurs, only the risk of traffic jams for shoppers rushing to January sales provided a last-minute delay on the statue's removal. 'Franco's triumph represented a great defeat for Catalan culture and values,' said Barcelona's Mayor, Jordi Hereu, as 'Victory,' erected in 1940, came down. 'It was nothing to be proud of at all.' But he added: 'We've been one of the cities that's been fastest to apply the [2007] law.' ...