Thursday, May 31, 2012

Democratic Republic of the Congo

"The number of internally displaced people in DRC is now believed to be 2 million -- its highest level in three years." (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)
Tens of Thousands Flee "Extreme Violence" in Congo
By Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, May 31, 2012
"Villagers and townspeople in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are facing 'extreme violence' with atrocities including mass executions, abductions, mutilations and rapes being committed almost daily, according to aid workers in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Fighting between the government army, the FARDC, and a group of mutineers led by a fugitive UN war crimes indictee, Bosco Ntaganda, has escalated since April. Armed militias including the notorious FDLR, a Rwandan rebel group based in Congo, have joined the fray in a multi-fronted battle for territory, money and power. But the violence has received relatively little international attention so far. 'The crisis in Congo is the worst it has been for years. The activity of armed groups has exploded, with militias making the most of the chaos to prey on the local population,' Samuel Dixon, Oxfam's policy adviser in Goma, said on Wednesday. 'Large areas of [North and South] Kivu are under the control of different armed groups -- some villages are being terrorised from all sides, with up to five groups battling for power. Local people are bearing the brunt of extreme violence, facing the risk of massacre, rape, retaliation, abduction, mutilation, forced labour or extortion ... In less than two months, more than 100,000 people in North Kivu have been forced to flee,' Dixon said. Expressing alarm at the deteriorating situation, the UN refugee agency said the violence had sent tens of thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Rwanda and Uganda, while many more people were internally displaced.

Poland / United States / Nazism

"Slight: Mr Obama made the remark when he presented former Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld (left) with the posthumously-awarded medal at a White House ceremony Tuesday."
By Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter
Daily Mail, May 30, 2012
"President Obama made a factually inaccurate and offensive gaffe Tuesday when he referred to 'Polish death camps' while praising a World War II hero. Even though he issued an apology shortly after the statement, the Polish prime minister said Wednesday that he wasn't completely satisfied with a White House explanation that the President simply misspoke, saying he wants a 'stronger, more pointed' response. The phrasing is considered hugely offensive in Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered Poles, Jews and others in death camps it built during World War II on Polish and German territory.  Poles have responded with outrage, maintaining Mr. Obama should have called it a 'German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland,' to distinguish the perpetrators from the location. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he was accepting a White House explanation that Mr. Obama misspoke but was still waiting for a 'stronger, more pointed reaction' that could eliminate the phrasing 'once and for all.' 'We always react in the same way when ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions lead to such a distortion of history, so painful for us here in Poland, in a country which suffered like no other in Europe during World War II,' Mr. Tusk said in his statement. 'We cannot accept such words even if they are spoken by the leader of a friendly power -- or perhaps especially in such situations -- since we expect diligence, care and respect from our friend on issues of such importance as World War II remembrance.'

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

Gen. Bosco Ntaganda (AP)
UN Report Says Rwandans Recruited to Fight in Congo
By Josh Kron
The New York Times, May 28, 2012
"As the Democratic Republic of Congo teetered on the edge of civil war three and a half years ago, its tiny neighbor to the east, Rwanda, was accused of stirring the conflict by supporting a Congolese rebel leader. Now a leaked United Nations report says that Rwanda may be doing it again -- this time with that rebel leader's successor. The document, first reported by the BBC, was provided to The New York Times under the condition that it not be quoted verbatim. According to the report, dated this month, rebel soldiers who have defected told United Nations officials that they were Rwandans who had been sent across the border to fight in a mutiny in eastern Congo that has displaced tens of thousands of civilians. The report goes on to say that the Rwandan authorities have been seemingly complicit in recruiting soldiers for the new Congolese rebel leader, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a statement on Monday, Rwanda denied and condemned the accusations, calling them 'false and dangerous claims.' 'Rwanda has maintained from the outset that the current instability in the eastern DRC is a matter for the Congolese government and military,' the statement said. 'Rwanda's national interest is served by containing conflict and building deeper bonds of peace with our neighbors.' The relationship between Rwanda and Congo has long been considered crucial to the stability in one of Africa’s least stable regions, an area laid waste by militias over the last two decades. Tensions began soon after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. Many organizers of the genocide fled across the border and later established a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government. Various militias supported by neighboring countries have been organized in Congo over the years. Rwanda in particular was accused of supporting Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese rebel who is also an ethnic Tutsi, and his movement, known as the National Congress for the People's Defense, or the CNDP, which in 2008 threatened to overturn the Congolese government.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Germany / Nazism

German Doctors Apologize for Nazi-era Crimes
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, May 25, 2012
"Germany's medical association has adopted a declaration apologizing for sadistic experiments and other actions of doctors under the Nazis. In the statement adopted earlier this week in Nuremberg, the association said many doctors under the Nazis were 'guilty, contrary to their mission to heal, of scores of human rights violations and we ask the forgiveness of their victims, living and deceased, and of their descendants.' In addition to performing pseudo-scientific experiments on concentration camp inmates, German doctors also were key to the Nazi's [sic] program of forced sterilization or euthanasia of the mentally ill or others deemed 'unworthy of life.' The medical association says 'these crimes were not the actions of individual doctors but involved leading members of the medical community' and should be taken as a warning for the future."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

United States

"Otis G. Clark, who survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, died May 21 at age 109." (Brandi Simons/Associated Press)
Otis G. Clark, Survivor of 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, Dies at 109
By Matt Schudel
The Washington Post, May 26, 2012
"For years, few people dared to speak about what happened on the night of May 31, 1921, during one of the most deadly and devastating race riots in the nation's history. Otis G. Clark, who was 18 at the time, had grown up in Greenwood, a thriving African American section of Tulsa. During a night that history almost forgot, Mr. Clark dodged bullets, raced through alleys to escape armed mobs and saw his family’s home burned to the ground. He fled Tulsa on a freight train headed north. He would eventually move to Los Angeles, where he was the butler in the home of movie star Joan Crawford. He later turned to preaching and was known as the 'world's oldest evangelist.' But for nine decades, he remained a living witness to a night of horror, when Greenwood died. Mr. Clark died May 21 in Seattle at age 109, family members told the Tulsa World newspaper. The cause of death was not disclosed. 'Oh, child, we had what you might say a little city, like New York or Chicago,' Mr. Clark told author Tim Madigan, recalling the life of Greenwood for the 2001 book 'The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.' 'We had two theaters, two pool halls, hotels, and cafes, and stuff. We had an amazing little city.' Greenwood had 15,000 residents, a 65-room hotel, several banks and two newspapers. It also faced, on its border, growing racial resentment from an emboldened presence of the Ku Klux Klan. On the final day of May 1921, white mobs were sparked into action by rumors that a young black man had improperly touched a white female elevator operator. Armed vigilantes were deputized by the local police, giving them the legal standing of a militia, as they gathered on the edge of Greenwood. Mr. Clark had to flee his house. ... Running for his life, Mr. Clark eventually reached some train tracks, where he hopped on a freight car. He didn't get off until he was in Milwaukee. When the smoke cleared over Greenwood, 35 square blocks had been burned to the ground. More than 1,200 houses were destroyed, along with dozens of office buildings, restaurants, churches and schools. 'It looked like a war had hit the area,' Mr. Clark recalled in 2000. 'Not a single house or building stood untouched. Greenwood was a huge wall of fire, the heat so strong I felt it down the block.' The death toll was first placed at about 35, but residents recalled seeing bodies stacked in the streets or loaded on wagons. In the 1990s, when historians re­examined what is now known as the Tulsa Race Riot, they estimated that about 300 people -- 90 percent of them African American -- were killed. [...]"

Sunday, May 27, 2012


"A girl in Putis, where at least 19 of the bodies recovered from the 1984 massacre were of children." (Tomas Munita/The New York Times)
Peru Forced to Confront Deep Scars of Civil War
By William Neuman
The New York Times, May 26, 2012
"During a scorched earth military campaign that threatened to topple the government here, the Maoist guerrilla group known as the Shining Path terrorized Peru with assassinations, bombings, beheadings and massacres. So Peruvians were rattled last year when a group of former guerrillas began collecting signatures to create a political party to participate in the democratic process they had once sought to destroy. Among their goals was an amnesty for crimes committed during the war, which lasted from the early 1980s to 2000; it would allow the release of jailed Shining Path leaders, including the group's reviled founder, Abimael Guzmán Reynoso. More than a decade after the struggle largely ceased, the rebels' attempt to move into politics has stirred emotions that are still raw and reopened a searing national debate on what the war meant and how to move on. 'We are at this moment in a fight over what to remember and how to remember,' said José Pablo Baraybar, executive director of the Peruvian Team for Forensic Anthropology, which has exhumed bodies from several mass graves from the war years. What alarmed many Peruvians about the Shining Path's effort to reinvent itself was that many of the hundreds of thousands of signatures the former guerrillas collected came from college students too young to recall the turmoil of the war. Driving home the point, a television station broadcast interviews with young people who were unable to identify a photograph of Mr. Guzmán, whose bearded face was once as recognizable as that of the president. 'It showed that many young people don't know anything about what happened,' said Fernando Carvallo, national director of the Place of Memory, a three-story museum being built in Lima to commemorate the conflict. In a sign of how deep the wounds remain, even a project intended to be as evenhanded as this one was initially opposed by the previous president, Alan García, and has depended on foreign financing, mainly from Germany and the European Union. In January, election officials rejected the effort to create a new Shining Path-linked party, ruling that the group adhered to anti-democratic principles and had failed to meet some technical requirements of the election law. ... Part of the difficulty here is that both sides, the Shining Path and the government forces, were responsible for horrific abuses. That makes the process of agreeing on what happened more complex than it was in countries like Chile or Argentina, which have tried to come to terms with human rights abuses committed by military dictatorships.

Guatemala / United States / Genocide Tribunals

"Aura Elena Farfan, who heads an organization for families of the war's disappeared, inside her office in Guatemala City, surrounded by pictures of Guatemalans who were killed or disappeared during the 36-year-long civil war." (Arturo Godoy)
Seeking Justice for Guatemalan Village Where Hundreds Were Raped, Tortured, Killed
By Lomi Kriel
The Houston Chronicle, May 26, 2012
"In 1982, the Guatemalan Army attacked a tiny village in the desolate northern region of Peten, raping, torturing and killing at least 200 peasants, including pregnant women and infants, tossing their bodies in a well and wiping the village off the map. For years, no one revealed what had occurred because they were afraid. It was only 12 years later -- as Guatemala's civil war was drawing to a close -- when some relatives confided in their priests, setting in motion two decades of seeking justice. Culminating with a judge's ruling this week, the massacre of Dos Erres could make Guatemala the first Latin American nation to try a dictator for genocide -- a remarkable feat for a country riddled with impunity and whose military, until now, has seemed untouchable. Thanks to a series of extraordinary events, prosecutors were able to obtain detailed information about what happened at Dos Erres, including eyewitness accounts from soldiers themselves - unprecedented, as the military refused to release practically any information about its wartime role. After years of international pressure forced the nation's courts to act, the case last year became the first of 626 massacres allegedly committed by the military to send army soldiers to prison. On Monday, a Guatemalan judge ruled Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the dictator overseeing the darkest wartime chapter, should also stand trial for the massacre. 'It's huge, both because it sets a precedent in the Americas but also because this was a tremendous wound on the psyche of Guatemalans,' said Eric Olson, senior associate at the Mexican Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


"People viewed the bodies of victims said to have been killed by government forces in Houla, a village near Homs, on Saturday." (Shaam News Network)
Syrian Activists Claim Death Toll in Village Soars
By Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad
The New York Times, May 26, 2012
"Syrian opposition organizations on Saturday accused government forces of carrying out a massacre in a village near Homs, leaving about 100 people dead, many of them children, with gory images of the aftermath prompting an emotional outpouring across the country. That toll would make it one of the worst episodes of carnage anywhere in Syria since the uprising began 15 months ago. The deaths, which took place Friday in the village of Houla and its surroundings were sure to call into question the continued effectiveness of a United Nations-negotiated truce that has failed to stop daily violence. News of the massacre prompted large, angry street demonstrations throughout the country, including some in Aleppo and several restive neighborhoods in Damascus. The reaction also took on a dark, sectarian tone. Activists claimed that much of the killing had been carried out by pro-government thugs or 'shabiha' from surrounding villages. Houla is a Sunni Muslim town, while three villages around it are mostly Alawite and a fourth is Shiite Muslim. Since the president and the core of the security services are also Alawites, an unorthodox offshoot of Shiite Islam, there were angry calls for sectarian revenge. A man in a black knitted mask who appeared on one YouTube video, for example, said it was time 'to prepare for vengeance against this awful sectarian regime.' But the government of President Bashar al-Assad claimed that it was a 'terrorist' attack, its blanket term for the opposition. State television broadcast repeated pictures of members of one household that had been massacred, calling it 'part of the ugly crimes that the terrorists are committing against the Syrians with the financial support of some Arab states and others.' The station interviewed civilians who said armed gangs had burned the hospital and shot up checkpoints. One man interviewed blamed fighters from Rastan, a nearby stronghold of military defectors who have held out against fierce daily government assaults. But there has been a pattern of similar government assaults in recent months against villages sympathetic to the opposition.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sudan / United States / International Criminal Court

President Obama Needs to Make a Phone Call Against Genocide
By Rafael Medoff
The Huffington Post, May 24, 2012
"President Obama has a special envoy to Darfur. He has a senior national security adviser who authored a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide. He even has a newly appointed 'Atrocities Prevention Board.' Yet the leader of a small, deeply impoverished African country this week did more to combat genocide than all of the president's envoys, advisers, and boards put together. Joyce Banda is the new president of Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa. It is one of the most underdeveloped and overcrowded nations in the world. With a frighteningly high rate of AIDS and other deadly disease, life expectancy is 50 years. But Malawi's problems did not stop Ms. Banda, in her very first month in office, from striking an important blow against genocide by announcing that she will not allow Sudanese president Omar Bashir to attend an upcoming African Union summit in Malawi. President Bashir was indicted in 2009 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his central role in the Darfur genocide. It charged him with 'war crimes' and 'crimes against humanity' for sponsoring Arab militias that have carried out a campaign of 'extermination, rape and torture' against the people of Darfur. Despite his indictment, Bashir has traveled openly to numerous Arab and African countries, including some that are major recipients of U.S. aid. Yet the Obama administration has made no effort to capture Bashir. In fact, it has been noticeably reluctant even to criticize the countries that have hosted the man with the well-earned title, 'the Butcher of Darfur.'

Monday, May 21, 2012

Genocide Denial / Rwandan Genocide / Srebrenica Massacre

My Fight May Be Hopeless, But It Is As Necessary As Ever
By George Monbiot
The Guardian (UK), May 21, 2012
"The term genocide conjures up attempts to kill an entire people: the German slaughter of the Jews or the Herero; the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians; the near-extermination of the Native Americans. But the identity of the crime does not depend on its scale or success: genocide means 'acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group'. Though, in 1995, the women and children of Srebrenica were first removed from the killing grounds by Bosnian Serb troops, though the 8,000 men and boys they killed were a small proportion of the Bosnian Muslim population, it meets the definition. So the trial of Ratko Mladic, the troops' commander, which began last week, matters. Whatever one thinks of the even-handedness of international law, and though it remains true that men who commissioned or caused the killing of greater numbers of people (George Bush and Tony Blair, for instance) have not been brought to justice and are unlikely to be, every prosecution of this kind makes the world a better place. So attempts to downplay or dismiss this crime matter too -- especially when they emerge from the unlikely setting of the internationalist left. I'm using this column to pursue a battle which might be hopeless, and which many of you might regard as obscure. Perhaps I have become obsessed, but it seems to me to be necessary. Tacitly on trial beside Mladic in The Hague is a set of ideas: in my view the left's most disturbing case of denial and doublethink since the widespread refusal to accept that Stalin had engineered a famine in the Ukraine. I first raised this issue a year ago, when I sharply criticised a book by two luminaries of the left, Edward Herman and David Peterson. The Politics of Genocide seeks to downplay or dismiss both the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica in 1995 and the genocide of Tutsis committed by Hutu militias in Rwanda in 1994. Their claims are extraordinary: that the cause of death of the 'vast majority' of the Bosniaks at Srebrenica remains 'undetermined'; that rather than 800,000 or more Tutsis being killed by Hutu militias in Rwanda, 'the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million', while members of the Hutus' Interahamwe militia were the 'actual victims' of genocide. What has changed since then is that the movement to which I thought I belonged has closed ranks: against attempts to challenge this revisionism, against the facts, in effect against the victims of these genocides.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

United States / United Nations / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples

"A Native American at his home on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, which has some of the US's poorest living conditions." (Jennifer Brown/Star Ledger/Corbis)
US Should Return Stolen Land to Indian Tribes, Says United Nations
By Chris McGreal
The Guardian, May 4, 2012
"A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combatting continuing and systemic racial discrimination. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes. Anaya said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and 'numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination'. 'It's a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level,' he said. Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

United States / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples / Genocide and Memory

Senate Republicans Reject "Genocide" to Describe Treatment of American Indians
By Simon Moya-Smith
Indian Country Today Media Network, May 2, 2012
"It was 1:30 p.m. April 19 when I received a frantic phone call from Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, who said she had less than 24 hours to resurrect the Recognition of the American Indian Genocide resolution of 2008. By noon the next day, the original draft of the new 2012 American Indian Genocide resolution, SJR12-046, was dead on the senate floor, and what was left was a watered-down euphemism that still reeks of sugarcoating and naiveté. What was contentious to the republican state senators was the use of the word 'genocide.' The bevy of right-leaning Reagan fans had nothing but acrimonious things to say about American Indians, including myself, who assert that genocide was inflicted upon the first peoples of this continent. And the most boisterous polemic of the bunch that day was republican State Senator Ellen Roberts of District 6. Her argument, which she repeatedly reiterated at the podium, was that she didn't feel the death of millions of American Indians since Columbus qualified as genocide because American Indians are not extinct. 'When I look up the word "exterminate" it is to destroy totally,' she argued. 'And my problem with this resolution is I thank God that we have not destroyed totally the Native American people. And one of my challenges ... is (the) wording; that is as if they are extinct, because they are not.' It is curious then that the day prior Roberts added her name as cosponsor to Senate Joint Resolution 32 -- concerning the declaration of April 16 through 22, 2012, as Holocaust Awareness Week. Today, Germany is home to more than 200,000 Jewish people. Jews are not extinct. Then, on the same day Sen. Roberts voted down the American Indian Genocide Resolution, she signed on as cosponsor to Senate Joint Resolution 33 -- Concerning the Colorado Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. Today, the Armenian population in Armenia is more than 3 million. Eo ipso, Armenians also are not extinct. So, naturally, I'm prompted to wonder: How could Sen. Roberts, based on her logic, support two resolutions that recognize the genocide of both the Armenians and Jews when neither group has been expunged completely? Indeed.