Friday, September 30, 2011

Germany / Namibia / Herero Genocide

"The Namibian delegation attended a service in Berlin." (Associated Press)
Germany Returns Namibian Skulls Taken in Colonial Era
BBC Online, September 30, 2011
"Namibian tribal leaders have visited Berlin to collect the skulls of 20 compatriots who died under Germany's colonial rule in the early 1900s. German scientists took the heads to perform experiments seeking to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans over black Africans. The skulls were uncovered three years ago in medical archive exhibits. A ceremony was held in the German capital to return the remains as a gesture of reconciliation. But chaotic scenes accompanied the speeches, particularly an address by German Deputy Foreign Minister Cornelia Pieper. A handful of demonstrators shouted 'reparations', 'apology' and 'genocide'. In the 1880s, Germany acquired present-day Namibia, calling it German South-West Africa. In 1904 the Herero, the largest of about 200 ethnic groups, rose up against colonial rule killing more than a 120 civilians. The German response was ruthless. Gen. Lothar von Trotha signed a notorious extermination order against the Herero, defeated them in battle and drove them into the desert, where most died of thirst. Of an estimated 65,000 Herero, only 15,000 survived. It is thought about 10,000 Nama people also died. In 1985, a UN report classified the events as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, and therefore the earliest attempted genocide in the 20th Century. In 2004, Germany's ambassador to Namibia expressed regret for what happened. Germany has consistently refused to pay reparations to its former colony, arguing that it has given much development aid to Namibia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rwanda / France

Rwandan Request to Extradite Widow from France Fails
By Pierre-Antoine Souchard
The Independent, September 29, 2011
"The widow of Rwanda's former President, wanted in connection with the 1994 genocide, has won her court appeal against extradition from France. Agathe Habyarimana has been sought by the Rwandan state prosecutor since 2009 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. She denies the accusations. The Paris court's reasons for the decision were not immediately available. Rwanda could make a second request, but an extradition now appears unlikely. Rwanda's genocide was triggered when President Juvenal Habyarimana died after his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994. Some 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus, were massacred by radical Hutus in under 100 days. The massacres ended when Tutsi-led rebels under the current President, Paul Kagame, defeated the Hutu extremists in July 1994. French forces flew Mrs. Habyarimana out of Rwanda shortly after the violence began and she has lived in France for years. The head of the Rwandan government's National Commission for the Fight against Genocide last year claimed Mrs Habyarimana was the 'main architect' of the genocide. French police detained the widow last year, but she was released on condition that she check in regularly with police. At the court, Mrs. Habyarimana said she was 'delighted' with the decision."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Vatican / Sexual Crimes / Torture

"Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by bishop Pietro Marini, Master of Liturgical Celebration walks at the end of a Holy Mass in Ancona' s shipyard, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011." (Associated Press)

Vatican Calls "Ludicrous" Attempts by Clergy Sex Abuse Victims to Seek Court Case against Pope
By Mike Corder and Rachel Zoll
Associated Press/Canadian Press dispatches, September 14, 2011
"Clergy sex abuse victims upset that no high-ranking Roman Catholic leaders have been prosecuted for sheltering guilty priests have turned to the International Criminal Court, seeking an investigation of the pope and top Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity. The Vatican called the move a 'ludicrous publicity stunt.' The Center for constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal group, requested the inquiry Tuesday on behalf of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, arguing that the global church has maintained a "long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence" despite promises to swiftly oust predators The Vatican's US lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, called the complaint a 'ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes' in a statement to The Associated Press. The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, partly in his former role as leader of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in 2001 explicitly gained responsibility for overseeing abuse cases; Cardinal William Levada, who now leads that office; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state under Pope John Paul II; and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who now holds that post. Attorneys for the victims say rape, sexual violence and torture are considered a crime against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court's mandate. The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network, said going to the court was a last resort. 'We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won't,' she told The Associated Press. 'If the pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.' The odds against the court opening an investigation are enormous. The prosecutor has received nearly 9,000 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002, when the court was created as the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, and has never opened a formal investigation based solely on such a request.

Monday, September 12, 2011


"Libyan rebels gather on armoured vehicles outside Sirte, one of the last strongholds of the fugitive leader Muammar Gaddafi." (Ciro Fusco/ANSA)
Murder and Torture "Carried Out by Both Sides" of Uprising against Libyan Regime
By David Smith
The Guardian, September 12, 2011
"The civil war that brought down Muammar Gaddafi has been marked by widespread atrocities on both sides, according to Amnesty International. In one of the most comprehensive reports yet on the human cost of the six-month conflict, Amnesty offers harrowing testimony of the war crimes, killings of unarmed protesters and arbitrary detentions by Gaddafi's security forces. But it also lifts the lid on a catalogue of reprisal attacks that have gained less international attention during the revolution. 'Opposition fighters and supporters have abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed former members of the security forces, suspected Gaddafi loyalists, captured soldiers and foreign nationals wrongly suspected of being mercenaries fighting on behalf of Gaddafi forces,' Amnesty says. 'No independent or credible investigations are known to have been carried out by the NTC [opposition National Transitional Council], nor effective measures taken to hold to account those responsible for these abuses.' One chapter of the report, the Battle for Libya: killings, disappearances and torture, focuses on opposition abuses which, though on a 'smaller scale' than those of the regime, are said to have been often ruthless and deadly. The report says that in the first days of the uprising, groups of protesters killed captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries in al-Bayda, Derna and Benghazi. 'Some were beaten to death, at least three were hanged, and others were shot dead after they had been captured or had surrendered,' the report says. Those who tried to distance themselves from Gaddafi's military apparatus were often shown no mercy, Amnesty's researchers found.

Rwanda / France

"President Sarkozy receives President Kagame at the Élysée Palace- Paris, 12 September 2011." (Flickr)
Rwandan Leader, in Paris, Seeks to Ease Tensions
By Steven Erlanger
The New York Times, September 12, 2011
"President Paul Kagame of Rwanda met President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday in a fence-mending exercise on the Rwandan’s first visit to France since the genocide in his country in 1994. Rwanda and Mr. Kagame have accused the French military of aiding the government, then Hutu-dominated, as it massacred up to 800,000 Rwandans, mainly Tutsi. That government was overthrown by Mr. Kagame, a Tutsi, with help from Uganda. Diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France broke off in 1996 after a French judge implicated Mr. Kagame and his alliesin the 1994 downing of a plane carrying the president at the time, a Hutu, which the government used as a pretext for the genocide. Mr. Sarkozy visited Rwanda last year and said that 'a kind of blindness' had prevented France from seeing the 'genocidal aspect' of the Hutu government. Mr. Sarkozy said he regretted 'mistakes,' but gave no apology. Mr. Kagame said Monday that he would not demand an apology from France and had spoken to Mr. Sarkozy of the future. 'The whole purpose is to find ways of overcoming our differences over the past and going forward with a better relationship,' he told Agence France-Presse in an interview. In an address to the French Institute of Foreign Relations, Mr. Kagame dismissed the complaints of human rights advocates who accused him of jailing opponents and limiting press freedom and said he was emphasizing economic progress and development. His visit coincided with accusations made by Robert Bourgi, a onetime aide to former President Jacques Chirac, that Mr. Chirac and former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin received suitcases of cash from the leaders of former French colonies in Africa to finance French election campaigns. Lawyers for both men deny this. [...]"

South Africa / Violence against Whites

Shoot the Boer: "That's How a Genocide Can Start"
The Mail & Guardian, September 12, 2011
"A South African court on Monday ruled that ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was guilty of hate speech for singing an apartheid-era song that advocated the killing the white farmers. 'I find the words uttered by Malema constitute hate speech,' said Judge Collin Lamont. Malema was ordered to pay court costs in the civil case that did not carry a criminal penalty. The verdict against Malema, a vocal proponent for the nationalisation of mines, comes as he is fighting for his political survival in a separate disciplinary case brought by the African National Congress, which has charged him with bringing the party into disrepute. The 30-year-old Malema, who is seen as a future leader of the ANC, was not present in court. The case was brought to the South Gauteng High Court by the Afrikaner civil rights group AfriForum Youth, which claimed white farmers felt vulnerable because of the song 'dubul' ibhunu', ('shoot the boer'). In his judgment, Lamont said words were powerful weapons that could lead to disastrous actions and even genocide. 'The words of one person inciting others ... that's how a genocide can start,' he said in his judgment. Lamont said in determining the outcome of the case the court had to analyse the meaning of the words in the song and its effect on society. He said single words and a group of words had 'elastic meanings'. The words Malema sang had not been forgotten as they were derogatory and hurtful. He said the response of the public was relevant to analyse the entirety of its context. Genocide was defined as 'the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, religious, or national group'. [...]"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Austria / Holocaust Denial

"Gerd Honsik, center, sits in the court room in Vienna's main court, in Austria, on Monday, April 20, 2009." (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Austrian Holocaust Denier, Gerd Honsik, Gets Parole
Associated Press dispatch in The Huffington Post, September 8, 2011
"An Austrian court official says a far-right author who has questioned the Holocaust has been paroled after serving three years in prison for glorifying Nazi ideology and backing Nazi-era beliefs. Gerd Honsik was serving concurrent four-year and two-year terms for writing books and in right wing publications that praised the Hitler era and contained anti-Jewish sentiments. He still had over a year left to serve. Court official Gerhard Hinger said Thursday the decision to release the 68-year-old Honsik was reached Monday. He says he does not know when Honsik actually left prison or where he is now. Officials said the parole decision was based on age and the fact that he is well-integrated in Spain, where he lives with his family."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Iran / Violence against Homosexuals

"Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United Nations 'we don’t have homosexuals'." (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Iran Executes Three Men on Homosexuality Charges
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan
The Guardian, September 7, 2011
"Three Iranian men have been executed after being found guilty of charges related to homosexuality, according to a semi-official news agency. The men, only identified by their initials, were hanged on Sunday in the south-western city of Ahvaz, the capital of Iran's Khuzestan province. 'The three convicts were sentenced to death based on the articles 108 and 110 of Iran's Islamic penal code, for acts against the sharia law and bad deeds,' the Isna agency quoted a judiciary official in Khuzestan as saying. Iran Human Rights, an independent NGO based in Norway, said the men were charged with 'lavat' -- sexual intercourse between two men. It is not clear whether the three men were homosexuals or merely smeared with homosexualityaccused of being gay. Isna said the men were also convicted of robbery and kidnapping. Three other people were also executed on the same day on charges related to drug-dealing, rape and robbery. It is believed that the execution of the three men is the first time for many years that any Iranians have been given death sentences on the basis of their sexuality. In the past, Iran has executed convicts for homosexuality but they were typically simultaneously convicted of other charges that carried the death sentence, such as male rape. 'The executions for sodomy might be among the rare cases where the Iranian authorities admit to having executed men convicted of homosexual acts ... Iranian authorities normally present such cases as rape, but rape has not been mentioned in this case,' said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, a spokesman for IHR.

Srebrenica Massacre / International Tribunals

"Momcilo Perisic, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav army, under guard before hearing his sentence at The Hague." (Peter Dejong/Reuters)
War Crimes Tribunal Jails Former Yugoslav Army Chief for 27 Years
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, September 6, 2011
"The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal has sentenced the former chief of the Yugoslav army to 27 years in prison for providing military aid to Bosnian Serb forces responsible for the Srebrenica massacre and for a deadly four-year campaign of shelling and sniping in Sarajevo. The verdict on General Momcilo Perisic is the first time the United Nations court has convicted a civilian or military officer from Yugoslavia of war crimes in Bosnia, and underscores the Yugoslav army's support for the Serb rebels in Bosnia and Croatia who committed the worst atrocities of the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s. The link between the disintegrating Yugoslav federation and Serb forces in the breakaway republics has been a matter of dispute and was the keystone of the trial in The Hague of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. That trial ended without a conclusion when Milosevic died in his cell in 2006 of a heart attack. The former Yugoslavia is now divided into independent states that include Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. Perisic is a former Milosevic ally who remained Serbia's military chief until 2008 -- three years after the Bosnian and Croatian wars ended. He turned against the dictator after the Bosnian war and warned Milosevic's regime against fomenting conflict in Kosovo, where fighting erupted after he left his post.