Saturday, March 31, 2012


"Smoke rises from a road in the southern Libyan town of Sabha." (AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan Tribal Clashes Kill At Least 147 People
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, March 31, 2012
"Six days of tribal clashes in a remote desert town in southern Libya have killed 147 people, the country's health minister has said. Fatima al-Hamroush said in Tripoli on Saturday that the fighting in Sabha has also left 395 wounded and 180 people have been transported to the capital Tripoli for emergency treatment. The clashes in the oasis region some 400 miles south of Tripoli highlight the fragile authority of the Libyan government, particularly in the isolated settlements that dot the southern desert. With only a nascent national army and police force, Libya's ruling National Transitional Council relies on militias composed of former rebels to keep the peace, and the country's vast distances make it difficult to deploy them to trouble spots. Muammar Gaddafi's 40 years in power have left behind a patchwork of local rivalries. The Sabha fighting pits southern Libyan Arab tribes that reportedly had close connections to Gaddafi against the African Tabu tribe, which fought against him. Sabha residents said that the rivalry burst into open conflict on Monday after a Tabu shot a member of the Arab Abu Seif tribe, and then a delegation of Tabu elders and armed men was ambushed on its way to peace talks. The Tabu and Arab tribes fought in another oasis region, Kufra, in February, and Sabha residents said the two groups exchanged fire using automatic rifles, mortars and rockets. A spokesman for the Tabu, Mohammed Lino, said that about 70 Tabu homes were burnt and 100 families had been forced to flee the city during the past week of violence.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sudan / Genocide and Satellite Monitoring

"George Clooney on a visit to the Zamzam refugee camp in north Darfur in 2008." (Sherren Zorba/AP)
George Clooney's Satellite Spies Reveal Secrets of Sudan's Bloody Army
By Paul Harris
The Guardian, March 24, 2012
"Nathaniel Raymond is the first to admit that he has an unusual job description. 'I count tanks from space for George Clooney,' said the tall, easygoing Massachusetts native as he sat in a conference room in front of a map of the Sudanese region of South Kordofan. Close by, pins and ink scrawlings on the map detail the positions of Sudanese army forces and refugee populations in the troubled oil-producing province, where the Sudanese army is carrying out a brutal crackdown. The wall next to Raymond has a series of satellite images projected on it. At the flick of a mouse, tiny images of tanks and military vehicles hove into view, caught by a satellite hundreds of miles above. Raymond is director of the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), which aims to use advanced satellite imagery to monitor potential human rights abuses in Sudan. And it was all Clooney's idea, turning him from just another Hollywood liberal with a pet cause to a genuine expert and campaigner on Sudan. Together with John Prendergast, another campaigner, Clooney has sneaked repeatedly into the country to document the random bombing of civilians and other atrocities. After a trip last month to the Nuba mountains, Clooney dodged rockets to return with grisly footage of corpses, children with missing hands and entire villages forced to live in caves. He showed the film to the Senate foreign relations committee in Washington DC -- to great praise from the assembled politicians -- then got arrested at a protest outside the Sudanese embassy. Images of Clooney being taken away in handcuffs appeared in newspapers and on blogs around the world. But it is in the day-to-day work of the Satellite Sentinel Project that Clooney's impact is really being felt.


"Thet Sambath's first documentary about the Khmer Rouge, Enemies of the People, was shortlisted for an Academy Award."
Journalist Seeking Truth about Khmer Rouge "Fears for His Life"
By Kate Hodal
The Guardian, March 25, 2012
"One of Cambodia's leading journalists and foremost researchers on the Khmer Rouge has told the Guardian he fears for his life after a two-year harassment campaign by state security forces he claims are attempting to prevent him from completing his latest film about the Killing Fields. Award-winning film-maker Thet Sambath -- whose 2009 documentary about the Khmer Rouge, Enemies of the People, was shortlisted for an Oscar -- claims that uniformed soldiers and plainclothes 'spies' working for the Cambodian government have repeatedly followed, harassed and chased him by car and motorbike, with the intention of "'making [him] disappear'. 'They are concerned I will reveal their true crime [through the new film] and ... [that] their reputation will be destroyed,' Sambath said. 'I know too much about what really happened. They want me dead.' Sambath, a senior reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, said the harassment started in May 2010 after news reports circulated internationally about Enemies of the People. Largely regarded as a political and historical watershed, it is the only Khmer Rouge documentary with testimony from the regime's no 2 and ideological leader, Nuon Chea, whom Sambath spent 10 years tracking down and interviewing. In the film, Chea admits he and Pol Pot decided to 'kill and destroy' party members they considered enemies of the people, while lower-ranking cadres demonstrate, in graphic detail, how they implemented orders to slit the throats and dump the bodies of those targeted. The film created a huge stir abroad and locally, winning the Sundance jury prize as well as some 30 other awards, and stimulating dialogue about a traditionally taboo subject in Cambodia itself. But Sambath's follow-up film poses a greater concern for the future of the nation, he says.


"Riyadh al-Bahadli with a photograph of his brother Walid, who was killed in a Baghdad neighborhood to which he returned after fleeing during the war." (Adam Ferguson/The New York Times)
As Displaced Return to Iraq, New Tensions for Neighbors
By Jack Healy and Yasir Ghazi
The New York Times, March 24, 2012
"Even after death squads began killing his neighbors, after corpses appeared in the streets around his home and his family fled in fear, Walid al-Bahadli still believed in his once affluent and diverse neighborhood of Al Adel. A Shiite Muslim, he had grown up there during the 1960s, when Sunnis and Shiites lived side by side in palm-shaded mansions. He vowed after he and his family moved away to safety that the family would return. But as the Bahadlis have discovered, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now seeking to go back to areas they fled during the bad times, going home again is never as simple as it seems. Instead, they find themselves perched along the next front in Iraq's seemingly unending turmoil: the battle of return. Across the country, near-record numbers of displaced families are pouring back, but instead of kindling a much-needed reconciliation they are in some cases reviving the resentments and suspicions created by bloody purges that carved Iraq into archipelagos of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds after the American-led 2003 invasion. In places like Al Adel, some Shiite families view the Sunni families who stayed behind as complicit partners of the violent Sunni militants who overran many mixed neighborhoods. But many Sunni families say they now feel like they are being hounded by returning Shiites who, for the first time in centuries, have the force of the government and army at their backs. In 2011, the number of returnees to Iraq soared by 120 percent from a year earlier, to 260,690, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They were drawn back by improving security and larger government payments to Iraqis registering as returnees. It was the most since 2004, when the fall of Saddam Hussein opened the gates for thousands who had fled his brutality, forced relocations and a decade of crushing sanctions. As they continue to come home, they will test whether Iraq can move beyond a sectarian prism that distorts its politics and undercuts its security.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Israel / Iran

Some Israelis Want to Bomb Iran -- with Love
The Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2012
"Israel and Iran are at loggerheads over the disputed Iranian nuclear program, spurring talk of war. Yet some Israelis and Iranians are saying something very different: We love you. Israelis opposed to attacking suspected Iranian nuclear development sites have started an Internet campaign deluging Iranians with love, flashing peace signs and smiles behind phrases such as 'We will never bomb you' and 'We (heart) you.' 'To all the beautiful Iranian people ... We love you! We do not want any war with you ... Big hugs from Israel, HAPPY NOWRUZ!!' an Israeli identified as Roni Parnass wrote from her Facebook account. Some Iranians feel the love too. Facebook user Pirmadtanha Abdan wrote (in somewhat fractured English), 'i am an iranian and i love all people dose matter where they are come from, all we need peace if our politicians let us.' The loving logo was created by Tel Aviv graphic designers Ronny Edry and wife Michal Tamir and spread through the website and Facebook, where it has gained more than 4,000 'likes.'

Libya / Forensic Investigations

"It is thought that hundreds of people were buried in mass graves following the Libyan uprising."
Libyans Struggle with Secrets of Mass Graves
By Wyre Davies
BBC Online, March 19, 2012
"As the Libyan authorities try to secure the extradition of the former head of intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, the BBC has been told that there could still be as many as 8,000 missing or disappeared people in the country, from both sides of the conflict, as the BBC's Wyre Davies reports from Tripoli. On a sandy stretch of waste ground a few miles outside Tripoli, a small crowd of militiamen gather almost excitedly around a large yellow earthmover. The digger is excavating a huge hole in the ground. From the pile of earth at the side of the hole a few bones are sticking out. Bones that are immediately recognisable as belonging to humans: long leg bones and pieces of skull. This is a mass grave. At this particular site, Ahmed Atar, a medical student and militia member, tells me there may be as many as 30 or 35 bodies. 'These were people killed right at the start of last year's revolution,' he tells me. 'When the regime wanted to clean the streets of Tripoli, so it could show off to the foreign press how much it was in control, they shot protesters and buried their bodies here.' Hisham Sharif is hoping his brother has not met a similar fate. I went back with him to En Zara prison. This is where 40-year-old Tarek was last seen after he was detained at the clinic where he worked as a doctor. As long as there is a chance his brother may be alive, or that he can at least recover his body, Hisham will try anything and has already given a DNA sample to a central data bank. 'I don't know if he's dead or alive,' Hisham says with tears in his eyes as we look over the prison courtyard, now full of captured Gaddafi loyalists. 'I just need to know where Tarek is.'

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Iraq / Emocide

"Ban, a teenage girl in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf in 2010, rebelled by dressing as an emo under her head scarf and robes." (Ned Parker/The Los Angeles Times)
Iraq Killings Said to Target "Emos" for Nonconformist Style
The Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2012
"Unconventional youths who call themselves 'emos' have reportedly been threatened or killed in a recent round of attacks in Iraq, where some see their long hair and alternative style as gay. Though 'emos' are known as a specific subculture that mixes goth and glitter in the West, the term has become a catchall phrase for all kinds of nonconformists in Iraq, said Samer Muscati, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch. Gay and effeminate men have been lumped into the category. 'They are grouping us all together, anyone who is different in any way, and we are very easy targets,' a 22-year-old gay man in Baghdad told Human Rights Watch after getting death threats on his phone. The Iraqi government has dismissed the problem; the Interior Ministry has characterized emos as 'Satanists', according to human rights groups. A coalition of international organizations is pushing the Iraqi government to take the problem seriously, calling for an investigation to bring the killers to justice.

Sudan / South Kordofan

Thousands Flee South Kordofan Fighting
Al Jazeera, March 18, 2012
"Thousands of people have fled villages in Sudan's South Kordofan region amid an assault by Sudanese forces. They say the army has launched a deliberate campaign to bomb and starve civilians in the disputed region where it is fighting rebels aligned with South Sudan. Almost every day, villages are hit by bombs, rockets and artillery. Many are sheltering in caves, and food is running scarce. The UN estimates about 300,000 people in the Nuba Mountains might starve if they do not get help. Al Jazeera's Peter Greste travelled to the remote region for this exclusive report."

Friday, March 16, 2012

International Criminal Court / D.R. Congo

"This picture taken June 3, 2003 shows UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) leader Thomas Lubanga during a rally in Bunia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The International Criminal Court on March 14, 2012 found the African militia leader guilty of recruiting and deploying child soldiers. It is the ICC's first verdict since the court was launched in 2002." (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)
ICC Finds Thomas Lubanga Guilty of Using Child Soldiers
By Erin Conway-Smith
Global Post, March 14, 2012
"The International Criminal Court has found Thomas Lubanga, the Congolese warlord, guilty of recruiting and deploying child soldiers. It is the ICC's first verdict since the court was launched in 2002. In a unanimous decision, the three judges in The Hague convicted Lubanga, saying he was responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers while leading the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) during a bloody five-year war that ended in 2003. Humanitarian groups say an estimated 60,000 people were killed during the inter-ethnic conflict, centered on the remote, gold-rich Ituri region of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. 'The chamber reached its decision unanimously that the prosecution has proved Thomas Lubanga guilty of crimes of conscription and enlisting children under the age of 15 and used them to participate in hostilities,' Judge Adrian Fulford told the court, Agence France-Presse reported. 'The evidence demonstrated that the children were deployed ... and took part in the fighting,' Fulford said, according to AFP. Lubanga, 51, who was arrested in 2005, will be sentenced at a later hearing. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch described the verdict as 'a first step in bringing justice to the tens of thousands of children forced to fight in conflicts.'

Guatemala / National Tribunals

"Former Guatemalan special forces soldier Pedro Pimentel Rios at his trial for his role in the Dos Erres massacre." (Moises Castillo/AP)
Guatemalan Ex-Soldier Jailed for 6,060 Years over Dos Erres Massacre
The Guardian, March 13, 2012
"A former Guatemalan special forces soldier has been sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the killings of 201 people in a 1982 massacre. Pedro Pimentel Rios was the fifth member of the elite military force to be sentenced to 6,060 years or more for what became known as the Dos Erres massacre after the killings in the northern Guatemala village during the 1960-96 civil war. The sentence handed down by a three-judge panel is largely symbolic since under Guatemalan law the maximum time a prisoner can serve is 50 years. It specified 30 years for each of the 201 deaths, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity. Pimentel Rios, 54, is a former instructor at a training school for the military force known as the Kaibiles. He lived in Santa Ana, California, and worked in a clothing factory for years until being detained by immigration authorities in May 2010. He was extradited to Guatemala last year. The civil war claimed at least 200,000 lives, with the country's US-backed army being responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission. In December 1982, several dozen soldiers stormed Dos Erres, searched homes for missing weapons and systematically killed men, women and children. Soldiers bludgeoned villagers with a sledgehammer, threw them down a well, and raped women and girls before killing them, according to court papers filed in a case brought by US prosecutors against another former kaibil.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Iraq / Violence against Christians

"At monasteries in Qosh, Christians who fled Baghdad's strife for the Kurdish north are now abandoning the area, ground down in part by a lack of jobs." (Adam Ferguson/The New York Times)
Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians' Slow Decline
By Jack Healy
The New York Times, March 10, 2012
"Iraq's dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country's north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them. Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples. Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen by more than half since the 2003 American invasion, and with the military's departure, some Christians say they lost a protector of last resort. Their flight is felt in places like the wind-scoured village of Tenna, which has sheltered dozens of Christian migrants over the past nine years. The families fleeing Baghdad's death squads and bombings found safety here beneath the hulking mountains, but little else besides poverty, boredom and cold. Villagers estimate that half of the 50 or so Christian homes are now empty, their families abroad. Walid Shamoon, 42, wants to be the next to leave. He said he left Iraq's capital in January 2011 after a confrontation with Shiite militia members set off a nightmare of escalating death threats and an attempt on his life. A brother had already been killed in a mortar attack six years earlier, so he said he quit his contract job with the Australian Embassy, giving up a $1,500 monthly salary, and came here. These days, all he can think about is his application to emigrate to Arizona. 'This is not a life,' he said one recent afternoon, as a blizzard raced down from the mountains. 'There is no improvement. There is no work.' Many of the people now struggling in Iraq's Kurdish north came in the wake of a suicide attack in Baghdad at Our Lady of Salvation Church in October 2010. It was the single worst assault on Iraq's Christians since the war began, one that left 50 worshipers and 2 priests dead and that turned the church into a charnel house of scorched pews and shattered stained glass.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Israel / Jewish Holocaust

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds two letters, one of which he read from, as he addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 5, 2012." (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Israelis Criticize PM's Iran-Holocaust Parallels
By Daniel Estrin
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, March 7, 2012
"The Israeli prime minister's linking of Iran to Nazi Germany evoked ringing applause this week at a gathering of a pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington. Back home, though, it drew some heavy criticism. The Nazi Holocaust of World War II is a delicate and charged topic in Israel, and many felt Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated equating of the Nazis with the possible modern-day threat of a nuclear-armed Iran went too far. In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday, Netanyahu introduced a Holocaust survivor Israeli Cabinet minister who traveled with him to Washington. He also held up Holocaust-era documents that he said he keeps in his office desk: An 1944 exchange of letters between the World Jewish Congress, imploring the United States to bomb Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp, and the U.S. reply that it would not do so. 'As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation,' Netanyahu declared. 'Today we have a state of our own. And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future,' Netanyahu said to waves of applause. 'Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again.' His parallels were clear: Just as the Nazis tried to exterminate European Jewry during World War II, Netanyahu implied that Iran's apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons is part of a plot to wipe Israel off the map. 'Never again' is the signature phrase of the Jewish pledge that the Holocaust must not be repeated. Critics accused Netanyahu of both cheapening the memory of the Holocaust and unnecessarily escalating tensions at a time when the US was urging restraint.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Syria / Srebrenica Massacre

"2012: Electricity, communications and water are cut off as temperatures plummet. Food supplies, especially for children, are said to be dangerously low, and many people are too scared to venture out." (Associated Press)
Is Homs an Echo of What Happened in Srebrenica?
By Robert Fisk
The Independent, March 7, 2012
"No entry to the International Red Cross. Not yet. Maybe in a few days, when the area has been secured. Men and boys separated from the women and children. Streams of refugees. Women, children, the old, few males. Stories of men being loaded on to trucks and taken away. Destination unknown. Devastation. No journalists, no freedom of movement for the UN. The place was called Srebrenica. Parallels are seductive, dangerous, frightening, often inaccurate. Nasser was the 'Mussolini of the Nile' to Eden in 1956, Saddam the 'Hitler of the Tigris' to Bush and Blair in 2003. Standing up to tyrants -- unless they happen to be 'our' tyrants -- has been quite the thing. It's only when we don't stand up to them that we get a bit queasy and start asking awkward questions. Why did we 'stand idly by'? Hafez el-Assad's massacre of his Sunni Islamist opponents at Hama in 1982 comes to mind. Saddam's massacre of his Shia and Kurdish opponents in 1991. Srebrenica, of course. And now Homs. In Libya, as Gaddafi advanced on Benghazi, it was 'chocks away!' During Homs, our chaps lingered at dispersal and the 'scramble' never sounded. Yes, the phantoms of Srebrenica move across our planet faster than we realise, high-speed ghosts whose shadows darken the prisons of Libya and then the towns of Syria. Or maybe those ghosts of -- Hama of the nouriya water-wheels, still creaking away as the Syrian Defence Brigades battled their way through the city's underground tunnels 30 years ago, fighting Islamist suicide girls with grenades strapped to their bodies -- had visited Srebrenica before its fall in 1995. Mass killings, executions are a kind of revolving wheel. Now you see them. Now you don't. And afterwards, we all ask 'why?' How did we let it happen?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Syria / Violence against Christians

"Greek Orthodox priests in Damascus pray during a Mass in January for a Christian boy who was killed in the fighting in the central Syrian city of Homs." (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images/January 9, 2012)
Syrian Christians Worry about Life after Bashar Assad
By Alexandra Zavis
The Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2012
"For 40 years, Um Michael has found comfort and serenity amid the soaring pillars and ancient icons of St. Mary's Greek Orthodox cathedral. But as a priest offered up a prayer for peace one recent Sunday, the 70-year-old widow dabbed tears from her eyes. 'I was wishing that life would go back to the way it used to be,' she said. At night, Um Michael can hear the echoes of fighting near her home in Bab Touma, the centuries-old Christian quarter of Damascus. Like many Christians here, she wonders whether Syria's increasingly bloody, nearly yearlong uprising could shatter the veneer of security provided by President Bashar Assad's autocratic but secular government. Assad has portrayed himself as the defender of the nation's religious minorities, including Christians and his Alawite Muslim sect, against foreign-backed Islamic extremists. Opposition activists scoff at that notion, saying he has deliberately exploited sectarian fear to stay in power. But warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon. Many here fear revenge attacks against minorities, who helped buttress four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family, and the emergence of what they describe as a new dictatorship by the Sunni Muslim majority. 'If the regime goes, you can forget about Christians in Syria,' said George, a 37-year-old dentist who, like others interviewed, asked to be identified by either a first name or nickname. 'Look what happened to the Christians of Iraq. They had to flee everywhere, while most of the churches were attacked and bombed.'

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Syria / Gendercide (?)

"Syrian refugees walk outside their camp, just at the border with Syria, in Reyhanli, Turkey, Sunday, March 4, 2012. Some 10,000 Syrian refugees have trickled into neighboring Turkey over the past year fleeing fighting in Syria." (AP Photo/Gaia Anderson)
Syria Eyewitness: Homs Refugees Tell of "Slaughter"
By Paul Wood
BBC Online, March 5, 2012
"The car headlights picked out a ragged group of men, women and children walking up the road towards us. Night had just fallen. There was a bitterly cold wind. They had endured a month of bombardment in Baba Amr then fled, panicking, before ground troops arrived. 'We're homeless,' a woman shouted. 'Why? Because we asked for freedom?' She said they had been walking for three days. Their journey was so long because they walked across fields and through orchards to avoid the army checkpoints. A terrible fear has seized people here about what the government forces are doing now that they are back in control. In a nearby house we sat with six women and their 17 children. They had arrived that day. There were no men. 'We were walking out altogether until we reached the checkpoint,' said one of the women, Um Abdo. 'Then they separated us from the men. They put hoods on their heads and took them away.' Where do you think they are now, I asked. The women replied all at once: 'They will be slaughtered.' We met the Ibrahim family by chance while filming an aid delivery of cooking oil. They told us that on Friday, in the Jobar district of Homs, they had witnessed a massacre. Ahmed Ibrahim told me that 36 men and boys were taken away. Among them were four members of his own family including his 12-year-old son, Hozaifa. All were dead now, he said.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Syria / Gendercide (?)

Assad's Troops Slaughtered Us Like Sheep, Claim Refugees
By Alastair Beach and John Lichfield
The Independent, March 6, 2012
"Refugees fleeing though farmland from marauding Syrian troops have claimed forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad are committing war crimes against civilians in Homs, slitting the throats of children and slaughtering their victims 'like sheep'. Human rights groups have said that gunmen who seized the Homs district of Baba Amr last week were rounding up anyone [male?] over the age of 14, torturing them and killing them. The Independent, meanwhile, has spoken to activists inside the city who have said that dozens of civilians have been savagely murdered during the past few days by the feared shabiha militias. Yesterday there were further reports of atrocities, with some of the 2,000 refugees who have fled across the border to neighbouring Lebanon in the past two days telling the BBC that young children who had remained in Baba Amr had their throats cut by advancing troops. One mother said that soldiers had detained 36 men and boys on Friday before executing them. Her husband saw a soldier pin down their 12-year-old son's head with a boot while another slit his throat. 'I could hear their screams,' he said. Another woman said: 'They took our husbands. They took them at a checkpoint. They will slaughter them like sheep.' In further evidence of the catalogue of horrors being meted out by the Syrian regime, Channel 4 News reported the torture of patients in government hospitals. The report, based on footage smuggled out of Syria, included testimony from one medical worker who described the torture of patients in the wards: 'They twist the feet until the leg breaks.' Last night, volunteers from the International Committee of the Red Cross were still waiting for government approval to enter the devastated neighbourhood of Baba Amr. Locals say the Syrian regime's reluctance to grant the Red Cross access is due to the 'clean-up' being conducted by government forces. Damascus claims its generals are trying to clear up the wreckage left by terrorists and armed groups. The regime's crackdown continued yesterday as hundreds of troops were dispatched to Deraa, the southern city which was the cradle of Syria's uprising. [...]

Syria / Gendercide (?) / Torture / Arbitrary Imprisonment

"Syrian rebels gather in front of the remains of a burnt military vehicle belonging to Syrian government forces, Homs province." (Associated Press)
Syrian Forces "Carrying Out Mass Arrests and Executions" in Homs
By Ruth Sherlock and David Blair
The Telegraph, March 5, 2012
"Syrian forces are carrying out mass arrests and summary executions in Baba Amr, the former rebel stronghold in the city of Homs, according to a growing body of evidence. The accounts of atrocities coincide with the regime's continued refusal to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to enter Baba Amr, which was captured by the army last week. President Bashar al-Assad's regime has broken an earlier assurance that the ICRC would be allowed in, suggesting that his army is trying to cover up the aftermath of the fighting. A resident of Homs styling himself Abu Abdo told the Daily Telegraph how his 17-year-old cousin was caught up in a bloody reprisal attack in Baba Amr carried out by government troops and militiamen from Mr Assad's Alawite sect. 'They laid the men on the ground. Their hands were tied behind their backs, and their faces pressed to the floor,' said Abu Abdo. 'The soldiers began jumping and dancing across the bodies of the alive men, and hitting them on their backs with their rifle butts.' As they beat their victims, the militiamen, known as the 'Shabiha', were laughing and jeering. Abu Abdo's cousin remembered them saying: 'Do you think you will get your freedom now oh terrorist?' After tormenting their captives, the soldiers and militiamen began executing them. 'They used bayonets on the ends of their guns to stab the men in the back. One grabbed a prisoner by the hair and slit his throat,' said Abu Abdo. Four men were killed in this way.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Syria / Gendercide (?)

"Free Syrian Army supporters chant anti government slogans under snowfall on the outskirts of Idlib , north Syria, Wednesday, February 29, 2012." (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Activists Allege Execution-Style Killings in Syria
By Bassem Mroue
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, March 2, 2012
"Syrian activists accused regime forces of carrying out execution-style killings and burning homes Friday as part of a scorched-earth campaign in a restive neighborhood in the city of Homs, while the Red Cross headed to the area following a bloody, monthlong siege to dislodge rebel forces. ... Syrian forces retook control of the district, called Baba Amr, on Thursday, and there were growing fears of revenge attacks after the rebels withdrew. The Red Cross reached Homs, but had yet to enter Baba Amr. Bassel Fouad, a Syrian activist who fled to Lebanon from Baba Amr two days ago, said a colleague there told him Friday that Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen known as shabiha were conducting house-to-house raids. 'The situation is worse than terrible inside Baba Amr,' Fouad said. 'Shabiha are entering homes and setting them on fire.' His colleague said the gunmen lined 10 men up early Friday and shot them dead in front of a government cooperative that sells subsidized food. He said Syrian forces were detaining anyone over the age of 14 in the three-story building. 'They begin at the start of a street and enter and search house after house,' he said. 'Then they start with another street.' The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said it had received reports of 10 people slain in front of a co-op and called on the Red Cross team heading to Homs to investigate claims by residents the building is being used a prison. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, said 14 were killed. The claims could not be independently verified.

France / Armenian Genocide

"France's President Nicolas Sarkozy will reword the bill and try again." (Reuters)
French Council Strikes Down Bill on Armenian Genocide Denial
By Scott Sayare
The New York Times, February 28, 2012
"The French Constitutional Council on Tuesday struck down a draft law that would have criminalized the denial of an Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks, legislation that has soured relations between France and Turkey. The controversy over the bill is likely to persist, however. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who backed the legislation, vowed to submit a new bill with revised language. He has in the past indicated that he would push to see that denial of an Armenian genocide is made a crime even if the council ruled against the draft law. Mr. Sarkozy offered no indication on Tuesday as to how he thought a new bill might overcome the objections of the council, which ruled that 'the legislature did unconstitutional harm to the exercise of freedom of expression and communication' in approving the legislation. After passage of the bill in the French Senate last month, dozens of lawmakers from across the political spectrum submitted appeals to the council, insisting that the legislation violated free speech rights and that it was not the place of the legislature to impose its own explanation for the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deaths that began in 1915, amid the chaos of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The government in Ankara, Turkey's capital, shared that assessment, and hailed the council's decision on Tuesday. Turkish leaders will meet to consider the lifting of economic sanctions imposed because of the bill and the reinstatement of political and military cooperation with France, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Tuesday.