Friday, November 30, 2012

United Kingdom / Rwanda / D.R. Congo

"A column of M23 rebels on the Goma to Rushuru road ." (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Britain Stops Rwanda Aid for First Time in Decades
By David Blair
The Telegraph, November 30, 2012
"Britain has stopped funding one of its closest African allies, cancelling £21 million for Rwanda's government because of President Paul Kagame's support for rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After two decades as one of Rwanda's most generous foreign donors, Britain reversed policy and withheld the next tranche of 'general budgetary support', due by Dec 15. Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, explained that 'credible and compelling reports' showed that Rwanda was fuelling civil war in neighbouring Congo by arming the 'M23' insurgents, who captured the city of Goma last Tuesday. A United Nations investigation has documented Mr. Kagame's backing for the guerrillas, who have forced at least 500,000 people to flee their homes in eight months of fighting. Last week, the Daily Telegraph interviewed two men who served in the Rwandan army in eastern Congo, showing how Mr. Kagame had covertly deployed troops to fight inside his neighbour in alliance with M23. Ms. Greening said that Rwanda's help for M23 broke the 'partnership principles' set out in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Mr. Kagame's regime. This binds Rwanda to respect human rights and international obligations. 'It's a really important decision in terms of UK policy towards Rwanda because, up until now, the UK government has tended to downplay the gravity of human rights abuses inside Rwanda as well as its support for abusive groups in Congo,' she said. 'With this decision, we hope the secretary of state is entering a new era where the UK government is going to stand by its principles.'

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Palestine, the ICC, and Genocide Studies

by Adam Jones

The vote to grant Palestine upgraded nonmember status at the U.N. is described as "a stinging defeat for Israel and the United States": 138 countries in favour (including France, Spain, and Switzerland), 9 opposed (including the fawningly pro-Israeli Canadian government), with 41 abstentions. Israel's latest attack on Gaza may have factored in some decisions to support the resolution.

Perhaps some of you followed the cynical campaign by "Israel, the US and Britain in particular" to coerce the Palestinian authority to renounce accession to the International Criminal Court as an expression of its enhanced status. "Britain said it would abstain in the UN vote [as it did] unless it received assurances that the Palestinians would not seek to extend the jurisdiction of the ICC over the occupied territories. ..." Heaven forbid that the court's writ should extend where it is needed, when the results might be consequential for the powerful.

The possibility now exists for ongoing, recent, and distant mass atrocities by Israel and its allies to be placed for the first time before an international tribunal -- together with the issues of the Gaza blockade and the ever-spiralling Israeli colonization of the West Bank. It is far from certain that referrals, indictments, and prosecutions will result, given Palestine's and the ICC's vulnerability to great-power pressure. I would hope that all students and activists of genocide and crimes against humanity would support such investigations. Unfortunately, this too seems far from likely, given that many genocide scholars have exhibited classic bystander behaviour toward these crimes, when they have not vocally endorsed them.

Text may be considered final. November 30, 2012.

Kosovo / International Tribunals

UN Court Acquits Former Kosovo Prime Minister
Associated Press dispatch in The New York Times, November 29, 2012
"A UN war crimes tribunal on Thursday acquitted Kosovo's former prime minister for the second time of murdering and torturing Serbs and their supporters in Kosovo's war for independence, setting the stage for his return to political life in the deeply divided nation. The verdict was issued in the U.N. court's first ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and KLA fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a 'miscarriage of justice' because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses. Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that was not retried, but he has served his sentence and will be released with the others. The acquittals herald a political renaissance for Haradinaj, seen by the West before his 2005 indictment as a unifying force in Kosovo, but could complicate talks between Pristina and Belgrade on Kosovo's future. 'With the consent of the people, he will soon be resuming his rightful position as the political leader of the country,' his lawyer Ben Emmerson told reporters at the court. Emmerson said Haradinaj told him he wants to lead a government representing all ethnic groups in Kosovo. 'It is time, he says, for reconciliation.' Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the ruling vindicated the ethnic-Albanian guerrilla force that fought Serbia in 1998-99. 'Our struggle for independence was just and sacred,' Thaci said in a statement.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Norway / Jewish Holocaust

Norwegian Police Apologize for Deporting Jews to Auschwitz
The Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2012
"Seventy years after Norway helped send hundreds of Jews to Auschwitz, the nation's police have apologized for their role in rounding up and deporting people to Nazi concentration camps. The sober words from the Norwegian national police commissioner mark the first such apology from Norwegian police. After being invaded and occupied by Germany, Norway deported 772 Jews on ships leaving Oslo during the war. Only 32 of the people survived. The vast majority were expelled from Norway on Nov. 26, 1942, when 532 Jewish people were loaded onto the Donau. It was the first leg of their journey to Auschwitz. 'Norwegian police officers participated in the arrest and deportation of Jews,' police commissioner Odd Reidar Humlegard was quoted by Reuters as saying Monday. 'It is fitting that I express my regret for the role police played in the arrest and deportation of these completely innocent victims.' Fourteen years earlier, the country acknowledged its role in the Holocaust and offered financial compensation for seized property, but its words at that time fell short of a full apology. That changed this year, when Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg formally apologized. 'The murders were unquestionably carried out by the Nazis. But it was Norwegians who carried out the arrests. It was Norwegians who drove the trucks,' Stoltenberg said in January.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Democratic Republic of the Congo

"Thousands flee the town of Sake, 16 miles west of Goma, following fresh fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo town." (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)
Humanitarian Crisis Looming in Congo as Thousand[s] Flee Fighting
By Pete Jones and David Smith
The Guardian, November 22, 2012
"A humanitarian crisis is looming in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, aid agencies have warned, after another day of fighting sent thousands of people fleeing for safety. About half a million people have been displaced by a violent rebellion since April. With state control collapsing in large swaths of the east, there are severe food shortages and a heightened risk of cholera and other diseases. The rebel militia M23 -- widely believed to be backed by Rwanda -- holds the major city of Goma but was taken by surprise on Thursday in the village of Sake, 16 miles (26km) away, when government soldiers launched a counter-offensive, opening fire from surrounding hills. M23 sent four truckloads of reinforcements from Goma but reports indicated that the rebels were forced to pull back towards the city. M23 military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vianney Kazarama said: 'It is war, of course there is fighting.' The violence in Sake forced thousands of people to take flight, a familiar pattern in recent days that has seen huge numbers of civilians on the move with whatever possessions they can carry. At Mugunga, a sprawling refugee camp halfway between Goma and Sake, the numbers of displaced seeking shelter have soared. 'Before [the fighting] we had 15,000 people here,' said Jean Sindi Dunia, the principal police commissioner in Mugunga's third camp. 'Now we have displaced people arriving from Kanyaruchina [another camp north of Goma]. We haven't yet worked out exactly how many are here but we think the numbers have tripled.' Those fleeing in terror find only overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in the poorly-supplied camps. 'There is famine in the camp since last Sunday,' Dunia added. 'We received many displaced with nothing to eat. Even to find shelter for them is very difficult. We ask the international agencies to come to help these displaced people. The problem is food. People don't have enough to eat.'

Poland / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide and Memory

"Photos of Jews who died during World War II adorn one of the few remaining buildings on Prozna Street in this picture taken during October of 2011 in Poland's Muranow district." (Courtesy of Adam Galica)
The Ghosts of Muranow: A Journalist's Mission to Illuminate Poland's Haunted Past
By Donald Snyder, November 23, 2012
"When Polish journalist Beata Chomatowska walks the streets of Muranow, she can't stop thinking about the horrible things that happened there. 'It's a daily trauma,' she said. Present-day Muranow, a district of Warsaw, Poland, is built on rubble and the remains of Jews who perished there during World War II, but many residents are ignorant of the area's past. So Chomatowska started a website to educate them called 'Stacja Muranow,' which means 'Muranow Stop.' And in October she published a book by the same name, chronicling the haunted past of the former Jewish ghetto. 'It's a metaphor for Poland after the war, which largely erased the memory of its Jews,' said Chomatowska, 35, who is not Jewish but has long been fascinated by the history of Jews in Poland. A native of Krakow, she moved to Muranow in 2005 to start working at Rzeczpospolita (The Republic), a leading Polish newspaper, and was shocked by the silence and emptiness of her new neighborhood. 'How do people live in houses made of ghetto bricks?' she asked. 'The houses looked artificial and so did the hills. It was scary.' During World War II, the Germans packed 400,000 Jews into the 1.3 square-mile area that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto, where Muranow is located. Some 300,000 Jews were deported to the killing center at Treblinka. The final deportation, on April 19, 1943, became the prearranged signal for an armed uprising against German forces. After the Jewish resistance was crushed on May 16, 1943, most of the remaining Jews were sent to death camps and the Germans razed the ghetto. Thousands were buried in the ruins. Many hid in cellars and were killed when the buildings were flattened. Poland's post-war communist rulers, who were faced with the challenge of building housing for its many citizens left homeless by the war, found the rubble of the ghetto too extensive to clear. Buildings were constructed on the ruins using bricks from the ghetto. Built on this rubble, the street levels are uneven and often hilly.

Rwanda / Congo / United Kingdom

"The Dom Bosco school in Goma which has been turned into a makeshift refugee camp." (Heathcliff O'Malley)
Future UK Aid to Rwanda in Doubt over M23 Congo Support
By Mike Pflanz
The Telegraph, November 22, 2012
"British aid to Rwanda is under threat because of 'credible and compelling evidence' of its support for rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ministers have warned. Fresh details of Rwanda's backing for the M23 movement were published in a final report to the United Nations Security Council that also accused Uganda of helping the rebels in Congo. In a joint statement, William Hague, the foreign secretary, and Justine Greening, the international development secretary, they said: 'We judge the overall body of evidence of Rwandan involvement with M23 ... to be credible and compelling. We will be studying the implications of this report in full, but these allegations will necessarily be a key factor in future aid decisions to the Government of Rwanda.' On Thursday night, Prime Minister David Cameron urged Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, to pressure the rebels to withdraw from the Congolese city of Goma. Mr. Cameron, who was attending a European Union summit in Brussels, also pressed Mr Kagame to prove that M23 had no links to the Rwandan government. Britain has already committed to giving £75 million to Rwanda this year. Another £21 million was due to be delivered next month. It joined other European nations and the US in suspending donor payments to the government of Paul Kagame, Rwanda's president, after the UN report's initial findings were leaked in July. But Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary, drew intense criticism when he reinstated £16 million of aid on his last day in office at DfID. Mr. Hague and Miss Greening called Rwandan and Ugandan support for the M23, 'unacceptable, damaging to the security of the region, and in direct contravention' of Security Council resolutions. The M23 was 'a creation' of Rwanda, said Steven Hege, coordinator of the 'Group of Experts' mandated to investigate breaches of international arms embargoes in Congo, which wrote the report to the UN. The government of Rwanda sent weapons, ammunition and uniforms to Bosco 'The Terminator' Ntaganda, the titular head of the movement, and helped to smuggle the supplies into Congo. Two units of Rwandan soldiers have been permanently based in eastern Congo since before the M23 was formed in April, and its special forces fought alongside the rebels in clashes in Rutshuru in July, the report continued. James Kabarebe, Rwanda's defence minister, was ultimately in charge of the rebels, giving orders to their commanders and funding recruitment drives to boost their ranks. The investigation's final publication came as fresh fighting erupted on Thursday around Goma, the provincial capital of eastern Congo that has been in rebel hands since Tuesday. Mortars and small arms fire were heard in the town of Sake, 20 miles northeast of Goma. There were reports that Congolese government troops had begun a counter-offensive. [...]"
[n.b. How legitimate is such use of "aid as a weapon," in the case of a poor country that is notable (indeed extraordinary) for its effective and transparent use of development aid? For me, this is an open and important question.]

Genocide and Memory / Jewish Holocaust / Cambodian Genocide

Experience of Genocide as Transmitted Trauma May Not Be Universal
Science Daily, November 21, 2012
"In the fields of human rights and memory studies, giving testimony about one's personal experience of genocide is believed to be both a moral duty and a psychological imperative for the wellbeing of the individual and the persecuted group to which she belongs. Accordingly, the coping strategies proposed to victims of genocide tend to be rather uniform: tell your story and do not let the violence you suffered be forgotten. The author of this study offers two persuasive case studies that suggest that this universalizing approach to genocide is misguided. In her interviews with Jewish-Israeli children of Holocaust survivors and Cambodian-Canadians whose parents were persecuted at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Carol Kidron found that virtually all subjects rejected the pathologizing construct of transmitted PTSD. The author's research reveals key differences in the genocidal legacies of Cambodian-Canadian and Jewish-Israeli trauma descendants. While the Jewish-Israeli subjects felt that they bore some emotional scars that were passed on by their parents, they opposed the idea that they have been afflicted by these inherited traces of the Holocaust.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Germany / Jewish Holocaust / Restitution for Genocide

"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has officially signed off on revisions to the original 1952 compensation treaty for holocaust survivors." (Getty Images)

Germany Expands Pension Scheme for Victims of the Holocaust 
The Daily Mail, November 15, 2012
"Germany has announced plans to increase pension payments to Holocaust survivors as they enter their final years. It comes sixty years after a landmark accord started German government compensation for victims of Nazi crimes. Most Holocaust survivors experienced extreme trauma as children, suffered serious malnutrition, and lost almost all of their relatives -- leaving them today with severe psychological and medical problems, and little or no family support network to help them cope. In acknowledgement of that, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble  has officially signed off  on revisions to the original 1952 compensation treaty. It will increase pensions for those living in eastern Europe and broaden who is eligible for payments. Contributions to home care for survivors have already been increased.

Croatia / International Tribunals

Court Overturns Convictions of Croat Generals
Al Jazeera, November 16, 2012
"Appeals judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have overturned the convictions of two Croat generals for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Serb civilians in a 1995 military blitz. Neither Ante Gotovina nor Mladen Markac showed any emotion at the decision in the Hague on Friday, but their supporters in the court's packed public gallery cheered and clapped as the judge ordered both men freed immediately. The appeals court entered a 'verdict of acquittal' for Gotovina and Markac, Judge Theodor Meron said at the ICTY. Considered heroes in Croatia, the two were sentenced in 2011 to 24 and 18 years, respectively, for crimes, including murder and deportation. Crowds in Zagreb erupted with joy at the acquittals, which were broadcast live by several Croatian TV stations, clapping and cheering. The two generals would appear at a public event in a downtown square after their arrival. 'It's already full with more than 5,000 people,' said Ivan Corkalo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Zagreb. 'They'll be welcomed here in Croatia as heroes.' Prime minister Zoran Milanovic told a news conference Croatia would send a jet to pick up the pair: 'I think it is only fair to get the boys back home.' But he said Croatia, which joins the European Union next year, would fulfil its obligation to prosecute crimes from the Yugoslav wars, in which at least 100,000 people died. 'There were mistakes in the war, for which Croatia is responsible and for which it will do its debt to justice.'

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sri Lanka / United Nations

By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, November 13, 2012
"The United Nations failed miserably to protect hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in the last months of Sri Lanka's civil war, says an internal inquiry. According to the investigation, a draft of whose findings were obtained by the BBC, the organisation should in future be able 'to meet a much higher standard in fulfilling its protection and humanitarian responsibilities'. Chief among the findings of the review was criticism of the UN's decision to withdraw foreign and local staff from the war zone after September 2008 when the Sri Lankan authorities said they could no longer guarantee their safety. The review also questions why the UN failed to publish mounting civilian casualty figures that it obtained and was confident were accurate, and why -- under pressure from the Sri Lankan government -- it did not make clear that a 'large majority' of the civilian deaths were caused by government forces. Thousands of civilians lost their lives in the first five months of 2009 as government troops stepped up their operation to crush the last fighters of the once-powerful Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a movement of militant Tamil separatists. The UN later said there convincing allegations that both sides committed war crimes. The UN said at the time that 10,000 civilians may have been killed. The Sri Lankan authorities did everything they could to ensure what took place on the battlefields in the north-east of the country did so without independent witnesses.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Nigeria / Gendercide

Nigerian Forces Kill Dozens in Night Assault, Fueling Long Battle With Sect
By Adam Nossiter
The New York Times, November 2, 2012
"The spiral of violence in northern Nigeria took another deadly turn this week as security forces in the city of Maiduguri shot dead dozens of young men whom they accused of belonging to the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, according to hospital staff members, local journalists and a human rights activist there. Nigeria has waged a grinding, low-intensity war with the sect since 2009, with nearly 3,000 people killed by Boko Haram or soldiers and the police, rights groups say. This week's violence in the war's center, Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was created, added to that toll. At least 39 people, and possibly as many as 70, were killed in raids by the Nigerian Army and the police late Wednesday and early Thursday, the second such deadly assault by security forces in less than a month. As in previous raids, security forces descended on the city's poorer neighborhoods under cover of darkness, entering houses and grabbing young men -- indiscriminately, critics contend -- and then shooting them. 'They accused the young persons of being Boko Haram members, with no evidence,' said Maikaramba Sadiq, an activist with Nigeria's Civil Liberties Organization. 'In the presence of parents, they killed the children,' he said. 'They told the parents to turn back and look in a different direction, then they killed the children. This is military criminality,' Mr. Sadiq argued. 'They killed people without any evidence of offense.' Mr. Sadiq said at least 70 people were killed, ranging in age from 18 to 25. Hospital workers in Maiduguri said about 39 bodies had been deposited at their hospital. There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian military on Friday.