Friday, October 31, 2008

NOW AVAILABLE: Men of the Global South: A Reader, edited by Adam Jones (Zed Books, 2006; 425 pp., US $29.99 pbk). "This impressive collection is a much-needed contribution to the visibility and understanding of diversity in the lives of men from the South" (Dr. Dubravka Zarkov, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague).

Genocide Studies Media File
October 16-31, 2008

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"Where is Julio Lopez?"
By Chris Bradley
New Statesman, 31 October 2008
"Julio Lopez may have counted himself lucky to be released from a secret Argentine detention centre in 1979 suffering only bruises, given an estimated 30,000 of his compatriots would never be seen again. As he later gave evidence in the trial of one of his oppressors, he couldn't possibly have imagined he might yet suffer a similar fate. He was wrong. If Lopez's sudden disappearance during that trial suggested Argentina still had some way to go to finally exorcise the ghosts of its violent past, over two years of botched attempts to find him have confirmed it. Major marches and protests last month brought renewed attention to the cause. However they have failed to spur on the investigation, which if anything is going backwards. Lopez's testimony helped ensure the conviction of Miguel Etchecolatz, a retired police chief responsible for illegal detention centres in Buenos Aires province during the dictatorship. In one of the first trials for human rights abuses since amnesty laws were repealed in 2005, Etchecolatz had been charged with involvement in six murders plus two cases of kidnap and torture. One of those two still alive to tell the tale was Julio Lopez. In court he described the violence meted out daily both to him and other prisoners, but he would never see justice done. The retired bricklayer vanished on 18th September 2006, the day before Etchecolatz was sentenced to life imprisonment. It gives him the dubious distinction of being the first Argentine 'disappeared' since the return of democracy. [...]"


"Radovan Karadzic Appears at Hague Hearing"
CNN dispatch, 28 October 2008
"Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared Tuesday at The Hague for a pre-trial hearing to discuss an amended indictment on war crimes and genocide charges. Radovan Karadzic has said he will represent himself at the Hague tribunal. Radovan Karadzic has said he will represent himself at the Hague tribunal. Karadzic faces 11 counts, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, stemming from the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzigovina, when he was president of a breakaway Serb republic. In late August, Karadzic refused to enter a plea on the charges. The judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf. Karadzic, who appeared in court Tuesday wearing a dark suit and dark patterned tie, has said he will represent himself. A starting date for the trial has not been set. The current indictment against Karadzic dates from 2000. Prosecutors proposed an amended indictment last month that they said would narrow and clarify the charges against him and present a more precise case. The amended indictment still includes 11 counts against the former Bosnian Serb leader. But two of the counts -- grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and complicity in genocide -- have been removed and replaced with two counts of genocide. The amended document seeks to tie Karadzic more closely with crimes he allegedly committed with others. It also reduces the number of municipalities involved in the indictment from 41 to 27 to allow the prosecution to present a more 'efficient and expeditious' case, according to a court statement. [...]"


"Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Loses Appeal for Release"
Associated Press dispatch on, 17 October 2008
"Cambodia's genocide tribunal on Friday rejected an appeal by the Khmer Rouge's former foreign minister for release from pretrial detention on charges of crimes against humanity and war atrocities. Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in 1996. Judge Prak Kim San rejected Ieng Sary's appeal out of concern he could flee if released. Peter Foster, a spokesman for the U.N.-assisted tribunal, said the judge's ruling was also based on concerns that Ieng Sary could intimidate potential witnesses. The tribunal is seeking to establish accountability for an estimated 1.7 million deaths and other atrocities under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime. Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five former senior members of the ultra-communist regime detained by the tribunal. His wife, Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, is also detained on charges of crimes against humanity. ... Ieng Sary was condemned to death by a tribunal under a communist government installed by Vietnamese troops after they toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. That tribunal was a show trial with no real effort to allow a defense. Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in 1996 as a reward for his leading thousands of his fellow guerrillas to join the government, a move that foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge's final collapse in 1999 and brought an end to the country's civil war. The pardon issue once threatened to derail negotiations between the Cambodia and the United Nations on establishing the tribunal. [...]"


"Schools Commission to Examine 'Disappearances of Children'"
By Bill Curry and Joe Friesen
The Globe and Mail, 27 October 2008
"The commission examining Indian residential schools is launching a massive new research project to find out who is buried on school grounds and what happened to the young aboriginal boys and girls who left for boarding schools and never returned home. Kimberly Phillips, a spokesperson for Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the expanded research has been approved by Claudette Dumont-Smith, one of the commissioners. The 'Missing Children Research Project,' as it has been named, will include 'an examination of the number and cause of deaths, illnesses and disappearances of children at the residential schools as well as the location of burial sites,' Ms. Phillips said. Ms. Phillips said researchers will go through all relevant church and federal government records to find information that will help families looking for lost children. They will also prepare a questionnaire, and encourage former students and people who worked at the schools to come forward with their stories. The commission's plans also suggest possible options for honouring the spirit of those who died. ... Tuberculosis was the most common reason cited for deaths at schools across the country, however, survivors have said that rumours have circulated over the years that some of the forgotten children died of neglect, abuse or even murder. The project is viewed internally as highly daunting, given the sheer volume of material available and number of former students willing to talk. It will build on preliminary research that The Globe reported on Monday. That research confirmed that several residential schools had graveyards on site, that children at some schools were tasked with digging graves, and that some of those cemeteries were unmarked or had only anonymous white crosses. [...]"


"Alta. Approves Memorial Day for Ukrainian Genocide"
Canwest News Service dispatch on, 31 October 2008
"Premier Ed Stelmach's voice cracked as he spoke about an Act introduced and passed unanimously Thursday that makes every fourth Saturday in November an official memorial day in Alberta for the Ukrainian famine and genocide, or Holodomor. 'I do this with a great range of personal emotion,' said Stelmach, whose grandparents immigrated to Alberta from Ukraine a century ago. In a speech heavily peppered with Ukrainian phrases and words, Stelmach called the famine forced upon Ukrainians in the early 20th century 'one of the most heinous atrocities of modern history.' He outlined how millions of people from his ancestral home were starved to death by Soviet policies that stripped grains from Europe's traditional 'bread basket.' 'My grandfather and grandmother were amongst those early pioneers who came to Alberta in the late 1890s,' Stelmach said. 'Marie and I still maintain the original farm that they settled on, till the same soil that they did and ...' The premier took a long pause before continuing, 'And we also give thanks for the abundant crops that soil yielded.' Sadly, he said, the dark black soil of the Ukraine his own ancestors treasured could not offer the same happy yields through the early 1930s. The Act was introduced by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gene Zwozdesky -- who is also of Ukrainian descent."


"Upping the Body Count"
The Economist, 30 October 2008
"It is the kind of outrage that Colombians hoped belonged to the past rather than the present. Over the course of this year, a score of unemployed young men disappeared from their homes in Soacha, a poor suburb of Bogotá, only to turn up dead, apparently killed in combat by the army, several hundred miles farther north. There was speculation that they had been offered jobs by paramilitary groups. But as investigations have proceeded, the truth turns out to be even worse. The young men appear to have been kidnapped, turned over to army units and then murdered in order to inflate the body count of dead guerrillas. ... Worryingly, the case of the Soacha youths may not be an isolated one. There have been reports of similar disappearances of young men in two other parts of the country. In a report released this week, Amnesty International, a human-rights group, says that the security forces were responsible for 330 'extrajudicial executions' last year, up from an average of 220 a year in 2004-06. Amnesty says paramilitaries killed around 300 civilians last year and guerrillas about 260. The government's own watchdog is investigating 930 suspected killings by the army. [...]"

"Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents"
By Simon Romero
The New York Times, 29 October 2008 [Registration Required]
"Julian Oviedo, a 19-year-old construction worker in this gritty patchwork of slums, told his mother on March 2 that he was going to talk to a man about a job offer. A day later, Mr. Oviedo was shot dead by army troops some 350 miles to the north. He was classified as a subversive and registered as a combat kill. Colombia's government, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America, has been buffeted by the disappearance of Mr. Oviedo and dozens of other young, impoverished men and women whose cases have come to light in recent weeks. Some were vagrants, others street vendors and manual laborers. But their fates were often the same: being catalogued as insurgents or criminal gang members and killed by the armed forces. Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that Colombia's security forces are increasingly murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons by the bodies or dressing the corpses in guerrilla fatigues. With soldiers under intense pressure in recent years to register combat kills to earn promotions and benefits like time off and extra pay, reports of civilian killings are climbing, prosecutors and researchers say, pointing to a grisly facet of Colombia's long internal war against leftist insurgencies. The deaths have called into question the depth of Colombia's recent strides against the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and have begun to haunt the nation's military hierarchy. On Wednesday, President Álvaro Uribe's government announced that it had fired more than two dozen officers and soldiers -- including three generals -- in connection with the deaths of Mr. Oviedo and 10 other young men from Soacha, whose bodies were recently discovered in unmarked graves in a distant combat zone. The purge came after an initial shake-up last Friday, when the army command relieved three colonels from their duties. [...]"
[n.b. Though women are surely targeted on occasion as well, all the victims cited in the article are male, suggesting that the broadly gendercidal trend in Colombian state terror continues. See the Gendercide Watch case study of Colombia for more.]

"HRW: Colombia's President an Obstacle in Probing Far-Right Militias"
By Frank Bajak
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 16 October 2008
"President Alvaro Uribe's government has consistently tried to obstruct legal efforts to rid Colombia of far-right militias and punish politicians and military officers who collaborated with them, according to a report issued by a leading human rights group Thursday. 'The Uribe administration claims it is committed to uncovering the truth and demobilizing the paramilitaries,' Human Rights Watch said in the 140-page document. 'But it has repeatedly taken steps that could undermine the progress' the Supreme Court and chief prosecutor's office have made to eradicate the drug-trafficking mafias, which have killed thousands and stolen millions of acres of farmland, operating as shadow states in many regions. Those steps have included attempts to browbeat and smear with 'unfounded accusations' judges on the Supreme Court, which has ordered more than 30 members of Congress jailed for alleged collusion with the illegal militias, the report said. The vast majority of those lawmakers are Uribe allies. ... President Uribe made peace with the militias' leaders after assuming office in 2002, only to end up extraditing 14 top paramilitary warlords to the United States in May to stand trial on drug-trafficking charges. Critics say the extraditions will allow countless crimes to go unpunished at home. [...]"
[n.b. Link to the text of the Human Rights Watch report.]


"Drunk and in Retreat, Troops Unleash Wave of Death on Their Own People"
By Patrick Barth
The Times, 31 October 2008
"It was the small hours of yesterday morning when they swept through Goma's neighbourhoods: Congolese government soldiers meant to protect the city's population, but who came instead as looters and killers. Bright red lines of tracer fire criss-crossing the night sky brought the first signs of a bloody night. ... Angry, drunk and in retreat, rogue gangs of soldiers who had given up the fight against the rebels stole what they could from homes and shops as panic gripped this tumbledown volcanic town on the banks of Lake Kivu. In one incident a Goma restaurant owner was shot dead, his bullet-riddled body left lying on the city centre's dusty, lava-blackened streets. At least eight other civilians were killed. Earlier on Wednesday evening, at the border crossing point with Rwanda, the road was clogged with vehicles and the immigration post swamped with many of Goma's civilians and foreign aid workers, desperate to leave as rumours again circulated that Nkunda's fighters were bearing down on the city. 'I've been here for hours, trying to get our exit documents. Look at them, look in their eyes -- people are gripped with fear,' said one Tutsi man fleeing with his family to the nearby Rwandan border town of Gisenyi, fearing that Hutus in Goma would carry out reprisals after the rebels' advance. Hotels on the Rwandan side of the frontier were full. The vehicles of international NGOs packed with expatriate field staff leaving Goma could be seen on the road to the Rwandan capital Kigali. ... Many of the soldiers were drawn and reticent, while some appeared traumatised by their experiences on the front lines after battling a well-armed, motivated and disciplined rebel force. [...]"

"Don't Let It Happen All Over Again"
The Economist (editorial), 30 October 2008
"[...] A rebel force is poised to capture Goma, one of Congo's main towns. Some 250,000 civilians have fled their homes since August. Perhaps most shocking of all, the UN's 17,000-strong peacekeeping force, its largest mission anywhere, is failing ignominiously in its prime task: to protect the lives of civilians. The first requirement is for the UN, on the ground and in the Security Council, to get a grip of itself. Its force commander, an experienced Spaniard, has resigned in despair seven weeks after taking over. The Indian units that make up the core of the UN force in the area under attack have given up on the Congolese army, which has disintegrated in the face of rebels from the Tutsi group. Moreover, command and control among the peacekeepers, not to mention their discipline, have been poor. The blue helmets have incurred the enmity of the locals, the rebels and the useless, predatory Congolese army. Plainly, the peacekeepers need reinforcing fast, with the right sort of troops. Instead of wringing its hands, the UN Security Council must resolve to send a robust force of extra troops forthwith. ... Diplomacy must be applied too. There are no angels in this war. But the immediate cause of the latest upheaval is the assault by the Tutsi rebels of General Laurent Nkunda on Goma and their attempt to control the province of North Kivu; the general, who says he just wants to protect his fellow Tutsis, is egged on by the Tutsi-led government of next-door Rwanda, which is a favourite of many Western governments, especially America's. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame is best placed to rein in General Nkunda's men, and must be pressed to do so, with the threat of aid withheld if he does not. [...]"

"What the World Owes Congo"
By Kambale Musavuli, 20 October 2008
"Last summer, the national news media announced the deaths of four gorillas killed in a national park in eastern Congo. A United Nations delegation was quickly dispatched to investigate. As a Congolese living in the United States and hungry for news back home, I was thankful for the coverage. But since my grandparents still live in East Congo, I would have also liked to have heard about some other recent breaking news items: women being raped, children being enslaved, men being killed, and many more horrors. I would like to hear about the nearly 6 million lives lost, half of them children under age 5 -- that every month, 45,000 people continue to die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); that the scale of devastation in Darfur happens in the Congo every 5½ months. I was granted asylum in 1998. Every day since then, I have appreciated the privilege of living in a peaceful community and pursuing a college degree at North Carolina A&T State University. But I will never forget that my people are not free—or the responsibility that comes with the privilege of living in the most powerful country in the world. Oct. 19-25 is "Break the Silence" Congo Week, a global initiative led by students to raise awareness and provide support to the people of Congo. [...]"

"Rape Victims' Words Help Jolt Congo Into Change"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 17 October 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] Congo, it seems, is finally facing its horrific rape problem, which United Nations officials have called the worst sexual violence in the world. Tens of thousands of women, possibly hundreds of thousands, have been raped in the past few years in this hilly, incongruously beautiful land. Many of these rapes have been marked by a level of brutality that is shocking even by the twisted standards of a place riven by civil war and haunted by warlords and drug-crazed child soldiers. After years of denial and shame, the silence is being broken. Because of stepped-up efforts in the past nine months by international organizations and the Congolese government, rapists are no longer able to count on a culture of impunity. Of course, countless men still get away with assaulting women. But more and more are getting caught, prosecuted and put behind bars. European aid agencies are spending tens of millions of dollars building new courthouses and prisons across eastern Congo, in part to punish rapists. Mobile courts are holding rape trials in villages deep in the forest that have not seen a black-robed magistrate since the Belgians ruled the country decades ago. The American Bar Association opened a legal clinic in January specifically to help rape victims bring their cases to court. So far the work has resulted in eight convictions. Here in Bukavu, one of the biggest cities in the country, a special unit of Congolese police officers has filed 103 rape cases since the beginning of this year, more than any year in recent memory. [...]"


"Cuban Diplomat: US Embargo is Akin to Genocide"
By Barry Schweid
Associated Press dispatch on, 31 October 2008
"Looking ahead to a new American administration, Cuba's top diplomat in Washington opened a campaign Wednesday to generate world pressure to kill a half-century old U.S. trade embargo that he likened to genocide. 'It's equivalent to genocide; its intention is strangulation,' Jorge Bolanos said in an Associated Press interview a week before Cuba plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to condemn the U.S. boycott of his country. ... 'The last eight years have seen the most ruthless and inhumane application of the blockade,' Bolanos said. It 'typifies the act of genocide' and from the start was designed to undermine the Cuban revolution of 1959 led by Fidel Castro, the diplomat said. ... Again and again, in a 50-minute interview conducted mostly in English, Bolanos returned to the U.S. embargo and its impact. He said a few sick Cuban children have been unable to receive proper medical treatment because the United States would not approve the export of catheters. Some material for the blind also is under boycott, and Cuba was unable to purchase washing machines from Mexico because they had parts manufactured in the United States, he said. [...]"


"A Woman in Berlin Opens Old Wounds over Red Army Rapes in Germany"
By Roger Boyes
The Times, 21 October 2008
"The gruff phrase 'Komm Frau!' -- Come, woman! -- still sends shivers down the spines of elderly Germans. It was the command given by Russian soldiers as they prowled Berlin and other bombed-out postwar German cities, searching for women to rape. The hidden horror of those months is about to be revealed in a new German film, A Woman in Berlin, that is likely to shock the nation, stir resentment against the Russians and provoke a debate about morality in war. The film is based on a diary written by the German journalist Marta Hillers. She began to scribble it in a dusty cellar on Friday April 20, 1945 -- Hitler's birthday, the last before his suicide ten days later. Within days of the occupation she had been raped several times by Red Army soldiers, one of many hundreds of thousands of German women abused in this way. It was the crime that no one talked about. In communist East Germany, where the Soviet Union was hailed as friend and protector, the dark days of postwar rape and abuse were forgotten; in West Germany they were locked away among family secrets. 'The German soldiers came back from the war and did not want to know about the humiliation of their wives, daughters, even mothers,' says Nina Hoss, who plays the lead role in the film that opens in Berlin this week. 'There was a double silence: the men about what they did on the front; the women about their suffering.' Hillers, who died in 2001 aged 90, wrote the book anonymously, afraid of the reaction to her confessions. It was published in Britain and the US in the 1950s but was shunned by Germans when it appeared there. Since then the question of the rapes has been tackled by historians but Germans have tried to avoid the subject: it upsets too many memories about their grandmothers. A reissue in 2003 in Germany was more widely read but often seen as a novel rather than an historical document. [...]"


"India's Persecuted Christians"
By Barbara Crossette
The Nation, 29 October 2008
"[...] In India, where a national election, next year, will pit a Hindu nationalist-led party against a more secular incumbent government, led by the Congress Party, there have been a spate of assaults on Christians. Disturbing photographs and amateur videos show ransacked Christian churches in Orissa state in eastern India, where terrified Christian families have fled to shelters to avoid the cruel choice between conversion to Hinduism or death. Bibles and prayer books have been found burned among the ruins of Christian homes. This is not the image of secular, democratic, modernizing India that its boosters want to see. But unfortunately, these are not isolated, momentary scenes. In late September, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote to President Bush, asking him to raise the issue of religious persecution with India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh. In the letter, Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee's Jacob Blaustein Institute for Human Rights and the US commission chair, called attention to more than a year of anti-Christian violence occurring in several states, and said that the national government's response had been 'inadequate.' Gaer wrote: 'If India is to exercise global leadership as the largest and perhaps most pluralistic democracy in the world, Prime Minister Singh should demonstrate his government's commitment to uphold the basic human rights obligations to which he has agreed, including the protection of religious minorities.' [...]"

"Convert or We Will Kill You, Hindu Lynch Mobs Tell Fleeing Christians"
By Gethin Chamberlain
The Observer, 19 October 2008
"[...] Relations between the Hindu and Christian communities were already at a low ebb when the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on 23 August provided the trigger for the current wave of violence. The VHP blamed Christians and the mobs descended on the homes of neighbours and friends. Those who were too slow to get away were killed. Amid the savagery, two incidents stood out: a young Hindu woman working in a Christian orphanage was burnt alive and a nun was gang-raped. Yet the VHP is unrepentant and appears to be involved, at least at grassroots level, with the campaign of forced conversions. One priest who converted 18 Christians in the village of Sankarakhole last week told The Observer that he had been approached by local VHP representatives to carry out the ceremony. ... Before the violence started, Christians outnumbered Hindus in Minia: now 115 have converted, roughly half of their original number. The rest have fled. Burn your Bibles, the men told Ashish Digal. He told them he had, but hid them instead. Every couple of days people come to his house to search, hoping to catch him out. Those people are not strangers; they are his neighbours. [...]"


"Politicians Meet Victims of Massacre in Indonesia"
NRC Handelsblad, 20 October 2008
"Several members of a Dutch parliamentary delegation to the the Netherlands' former colony of Indonesia talked to the survivors of a massacre by Dutch soldiers in the Java village Rawagede in 1947 on Friday, just hours before leaving the country. Earlier it seemed unlikely the meeting would take place. The parliamentarians were divided about whether to meet the survivors who are demanding a formal apology and compensation from the Dutch state. While the majority of the delegation felt a meeting would be 'inappropriate' in light of the legal action, some members of the group decided to go ahead. One of those was Harry van Bommel, a member of parliament for the Socialist Party, who said he was determined to visit the village which has been renamed Balongsari. Just hours before their return to the Netherlands, Van Bommel and Joël Voordewind, member of parliament for the orthodox Christian party, met Saih, the only man who survived the massacre, and the widows of two men who were killed. Labour parliamentarian Harm Evert Waalkens also joined the talks at the delegation's Jakarta hotel, despite saying earlier that he was against the meeting. Dutch soldiers looking for resistance fighters allegedly killed over 400 people in the village on December 9, 1947. A foundation which represents civilian victims of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia is now claiming compensation from the Netherlands on behalf of one male survivor and nine widows who still live in the village. After the meeting, the members of parliament said they had agreed to try to get a number of Dutch war veterans to visit the village. 'It would be nice if these people come and talk to us. Maybe next time they will bring some money,' said Saih."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. See also "Indonesians Demand Justice After More Than 60 Years," NRC Handelsblad, 17 October 2008.]


"Christians On the Run in Iraq"
By Peter Wensierski and Bernhard Zand
Der Spiegel Online, 30 October 2008
"[...] Since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Christians in Mosul have had to fear for their lives. Churches have been set on fire, and priests, doctors, engineers and businesspeople have been murdered. In March, aides found the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho on the outskirts of the city. A new series of killings that began in late September has already claimed 18 lives. To stop the Christians who are fleeing Mosul, their persecutors set up fake checkpoints along the roads leading out of the city. They are often robbed, beaten and even killed. In the Sadik neighborhood, masked men recently stopped a man with his child. When they saw a Christian name on his identification card, they shot the man on the spot. When the boy said the man they had just killed was his father, they shot him as well. Church members who have not yet fled are finding flyers in their apartments with a 'Warning to all Christians.' 'If you do not leave,' the flyers read, 'you will be slaughtered in three days.' These are not empty threats. At the beginning of October, 15 masked youths broke into the house of a Christian family living on the east bank of the Tigris in Mosul. First they collected the family's mobile phone, and then one of the masked intruders held a gun to the head of the eight-year-old son. The attackers shouted that everyone in the family should abandon the house and leave their belongings behind. Then they carried in large amounts of explosives. Although the neighbors had alerted the police, they did not arrive in time to save the building, which exploded in front of their eyes and those of the victimized family. [...]"

"'We Are Killed Because We Are Christians'"
By Deborah Haynes
The Times, 27 October 2008
"One grey-haired woman understands more than most the fear that has gripped Iraq's beleaguered Christian community over the past month. Her brother, Bashar al-Hazim, was among the first to be murdered in a wave of targeted killings that has forced more than 2,000 Christian families to flee the northern city of Mosul. Masked gunmen walked up to Mr. Hashim as he stood with his two children outside their house in the east-side of Mosul in late September. They demanded to see his identity card, confirmed he was Christian and executed the 41-year-old on the spot. 'I could have died when I found out. He was a dear brother and was killed in a very despicable way,' said the woman, 60, who was too afraid to give her name. She, like thousands of other Christians who have left the city since the start of October, claims to have no idea who carried out the attack. Fear of potential repercussions appears to prevent many in the region from speaking their mind. 'We're peaceful people. When my brother was executed he had no enemies. Why was he killed? He was not a member of a party. There was no reason except for being Christian,' the woman, dressed in a black gown, said. Worried that they would be next, she and her family evacuated to Bartella, a Christian town 20 miles north of Mosul in the Nineveh Plains, which border the largely-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. They took shelter in a stone building attached to a churchyard, where some 19 other families were also gathered. Of the estimated 13,000 Christians to flee Mosul this month, some have since returned but the majority remain refugees in monasteries and convents to the north and east of the city as well as in spare rooms in the towns and villages that dot the Nineveh Plains. [...]"

"Pope Condemns Christian Killings in Iraq, India"
Associated Press dispatch on, 26 October 2008
"Pope Benedict XVI decried the killing of Christians in Iraq and India and appealed Sunday for political and religious leaders to defend them. In India, anti-Christian riots and rampages by Hindu extremists have claimed at least 38 lives since late August, destroying dozen of churches and leaving as many as 30,000 people homeless. Attacks against Christians and other minorities in Iraq had tapered off amid a drastic decline in overall violence nationwide before some 13,000 Christians were chased away by threats and extremist attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in recent weeks, according to the U.N. Sunni extremists are believed to be behind the campaign. The pope reiterated a call for 'religious leaders and to all men and women of good will about the tragedy that is developing in some Asian countries, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violence, killed, threatened and forced to abandon their homes and wander about in search of refuge.' 'I am thinking above all of Iraq and India,' Benedict told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. 'I am sure that the ancient and noble peoples of those nations have learned, through centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution that the small, but hardworking and qualified, Christian minorities contribute to the growth of their common countries,' Benedict said. He insisted that the Christians 'are not seeking privileges, but desire only to be able to continue to live in their country together with their fellow citizens, as they have always done.' Benedict called on leaders to 'spare no effort' so that 'honest and loyal citizens can count on adequate protection' from national authorities."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"UN Aids Iraqi Christians Chased from Mosul"
By Bradley S. Klapper
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 24 October 2008
"The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that it was rushing aid to thousands of Christians who fled a northern Iraqi city, while a prominent Shiite cleric appealed for unity as lawmakers consider a U.S.-Iraq security deal. Some 13,000 Christians have been chased away by threats and extremist attacks in Mosul this month, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. That number is over half the community in a city where Christians have lived since the early days of the religion. 'Many left with little money and need help,' Redmond told reporters in Geneva, where the agency is headquartered. He recounted the story of a Christian nurse who told his agency the threats started months ago with phone calls, letters and messages left on doors. Another woman said she fled when she heard of a Christian that was murdered. 'We were the hard core that never wanted to leave Iraq, even with the tense environment,' the woman, who fled to Syria, was quoted by the agency as saying. The agency has delivered relief supplies to over 1,700 Christian families now displaced in the north of the country, Redmond said. Most are living in churches, monasteries and the homes of relatives in nearby Christian villages and towns. No group has claimed responsibility but Sunni extremists are believed to be behind the campaign, which is taking place despite U.S.-Iraqi operations aimed at routing insurgents from remaining strongholds north of the capital. Attacks against Christians and other minorities had tapered off amid a drastic decline in overall violence nationwide, before picking up again this month. [...]"


"WWII Forced Labor Issue Dogs Aso, Japanese Firms"
By William Underwood
The Japan Times, 28 October 2008
"After evading the issue for more than two years, Taro Aso conceded to foreign reporters on the eve of becoming prime minister that Allied POWs worked at his family's coal mine in Kyushu during World War II. But Aso's terse admission fell far short of the apology overseas veterans' groups have demanded, while refocusing attention on Japan's unhealed legacy of wartime forced labor by Asians and Westerners. Calls for forced labor reparations are growing louder due to Prime Minister Aso's personal ties to the brutal practice, as well as his combative reputation as a historical revisionist. The New York Times recently referred to 'nostalgic fantasies about Japan's ugly past for which Mr. Aso has become well known.' Reuters ran an article headlined 'Japan's PM haunted by family's wartime past.' Three hundred Allied prisoners of war (197 Australians, 101 British and two Dutch) were forced to dig coal without pay for Aso Mining Co. in 1945. Some 10,000 Korean labor conscripts worked under severe conditions in the company's mines between 1939 and 1945; many died and most were never properly paid. Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, during the 1970s and oversaw publication of a 1,000-page corporate history that omitted all mention of Allied POWs. Aso's father headed Aso Mining during the war. The family's business empire is known as Aso Group today and is run by Aso's younger brother, with the prime minister's wife serving on the board of directors. The company has never commented on the POW issue, nor provided information about Aso Mining's Korean workforce despite requests from the South Korean government. [...]"


"Kosovo State Inevitable, Says Nobel Laureate"
By Julian Borger
The Guardian, 18 October 2008
"Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president awarded the Nobel peace prize for his mediation in Kosovo and a string of other conflicts around the world, said yesterday that Serbia would have no option but to accept the new Balkan state. In his first interview with a British newspaper since being named Nobel laureate last week, Ahtisaari shrugged off the apparent setback to his work in Kosovo inflicted when Serbia succeeded in having its declaration of independence referred to the international court of justice. The 71-year old also argued that it did not matter that the former Serbian province had been recognised so far by only 51 of the world's 192 countries. That was less important than the economic clout of the nations that did recognise Kosovo, including the US and most of western Europe. 'It really doesn't matter if Paraguay hasn't recognised,' Ahtisaari said. 'Well over 65% of the wealth of the world has recognised. That matters.' Ahtisaari was commissioned by the UN in 2005 to find a compromise solution for Kosovo's status as a way of ending the deadlock that followed the 1999 war and Nato intervention. His plan for supervised independence coupled with extensive minority rights for Kosovo's Serb minority was rejected by Serbia and Russia last year. However, Kosovo -- with western backing -- declared independence in February. Belgrade has vowed never to accept Kosovo's sovereignty, but Ahtisaari said Serbia would have to relent if it wanted eventual European membership. 'You can't be poking the EU in the eye [while] saying you want to join EU,' he said. [...]"


"Former Slave Wins Historic Case against Niger Government"
By Mike Pflanz
The Telegraph, 27 October 2008
"Hadijatou Mani, 24, was born to a mother who was herself a slave and thus immediately became the property of her mother's master, a practice still widespread in the West African nation, according to Anti-Slavery International. Her 'owner' then sold her on to another slave master for £250 when she was 12 years old, when she started her life as an unpaid worker in the man's house and fields. She was also regularly beaten and sexually abused and bore the man, El Hadj Soulemayne Naroua, three children, one of whom died. She was freed in 2005, and went on to marry another man, but was at one point jailed for bigamy by Niger's court system. Her former master argued at the time that, despite being freed, she was still automatically his wife and he started court proceedings against her for bigamy. She lost her appeal and served two months of a six month prison sentence. With the support of Anti-Slavery International and other campaign groups, she then sued her country's government at a West African regional court of justice, arguing that Niger had failed to protect her from being sold into slavery despite laws against the practice. 'I am very happy with the decision,' Miss Mani told reporters after the judgement in the Nigerien capital, Niamey. Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are still at least 43,000 slaves owned by masters in the vast, arid country on the southern edge of the Sahara. Most are born into established 'slave classes' of people whose families have been slaves for generations. They are forced to carry out household chores and work tending crops without being paid and are treated as inferior members of the household. Women are often raped by their masters and their children automatically become his property. Most West African countries have in the past decade passed legislation to outlaw this traditional practice, but until Monday none had been prosecuted for failing to uphold those laws. [...]"


"Women Run the Show In a Recovering Rwanda"
By Stephanie McCrummen
The Washington Post, 27 October 2008
"On a continent that has been dominated by the rule of men, this tiny East African nation is trying something new. Here, women are not only driving the economy -- working on construction sites, in factories and as truck and taxi drivers -- they are also filling the ranks of government. Women hold a third of all cabinet positions, including foreign minister, education minister, Supreme Court chief and police commissioner general. And Rwanda's parliament last month became the first in the world where women claim the majority -- 56 percent, including the speaker's chair. One result is that Rwanda has banished archaic patriarchal laws that are still enforced in many African societies, such as those that prevent women from inheriting land. The legislature has passed bills aimed at ending domestic violence and child abuse, while a committee is now combing through the legal code to purge it of discriminatory laws. ... The unusually high percentage of women in Rwandan government is in part a reflection of popular will in a country of 10 million that is 55 percent female. But it also reflects the heavy hand of one man, President Paul Kagame, whose photo hangs on the walls of houses, restaurants and shops. It also hovered over the swiveling leather chair of parliament speaker Rose Mukantabana as she opened a session late last week. Since the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of highly organized violence that included the systematic rape of Tutsi women, Kagame, a Tutsi, has enforced a kind of zealous social With a population that was about 70 percent female after the genocide, Kagame's new government adopted ambitious policies to help women economically and politically, including a new constitution in 2003 requiring that at least 30 percent of all parliamentary and cabinet seats go to women. The remaining 26 percent of the women in parliament were indirectly elected. [...]"

"Sarandon's Hero: Genocide Survivor Turned Refugees' Rescuer", 17 October 2008
"Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon has a long-documented career in public advocacy, but as she describes it, those efforts have been 'self-serving.' Susan Sarandon is on the advisory board of Rose Mapendo's organization, Mapendo International. 'It's [an] overwhelming time when you hear so many things going wrong and there's so little trust in the world,' says Sarandon. 'It's very self-serving to get involved because you meet people who give you hope for the future; you hear stories that make you feel there's going to be a happy ending somewhere.' For Sarandon, Rose Mapendo represents one such happy ending. Mapendo, a Tutsi, survived 16 months of harrowing atrocity in a Congolese death camp with her children before their life-saving rescue and resettlement. Her journey ultimately led to her collaborative establishment of Mapendo International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, saving and resettling endangered refugees. 'She's the story of the power of forgiveness,' says Sarandon. As victims of the genocidal campaign against Tutsis in Rwanda and the Congo, Mapendo, her husband and seven of their children landed in a refugee death camp in 1998. Captives at the prison were starved, tortured and systematically killed because of their ethnicity. There, she survived the torture and murder of her husband, fought off soldiers attempting to rape her daughter, and endured the near starvation of her family every day for months -- all while pregnant and preparing herself for childbirth. ... In an act of forgiveness and an appeal to her enemies' humanity, she named her babies after the commanders charged to kill her family. The gesture became the first in what Mapendo describes as a miraculous chain of events that ultimately resulted in her family's rescue and resettlement in Phoenix. [...]"


"The Massacre That Haunts Slovenia"
By Andy McSmith
The Independent, 21 October 2008
"[...] Slovenia is now a prosperous tourist destination, vastly different from the war-ravaged province it was in 1945. Living standards are higher than in any other former communist state. Britain's ambassador, Tim Simmons, has said that the two-day state visit by the Queen and Prince Philip will be a celebration of 17 successful years. During the years when it was part of communist Yugoslavia, nothing was said about the bloodbath in the weeks after Germany surrendered, as the communist partisans commanded by Josif Tito secured control. After independence, a special commission was formed to examine 383 mass graves. As Tito's reputation for ruthlessness spread through Yugoslavia, the mountain road from Slovenia to Austria was choked with hundreds of thousands of refugees, including German soldiers trying to get home, and large numbers of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs who had backed pro-German regimes and feared communist reprisals. The area of south Austria where they all sought refuge was controlled by 25,000 British soldiers from V Corps of the 8th Army. ... Winston Churchill had struck a private deal with Stalin, under which the Soviet dictator undertook not to aid communist guerrillas in Greece, and Britain recognised Tito's partisans as allies in the war against fascism. The 8th Army also deported thousands of Serb and Croat collaborators, who ended up in the same mass graves as the Slovenes. About 40,000 Russians and Ukrainians who had fought for the Germans were handed over to Stalin's police. Their fate has been raised on the right of British politics, but never officially by the Conservative Party, partly because so many prominent Conservatives were involved. [...]"


"The Endorsement From Hell"
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times, 25 October 2008
"[...] Today, Somalia is the world's greatest humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur or Congo. The crisis has complex roots, and Somali warlords bear primary blame. But Bush administration paranoia about Islamic radicals contributed to the disaster. Somalia has been in chaos for many years, but in 2006 an umbrella movement called the Islamic Courts Union seemed close to uniting the country. The movement included both moderates and extremists, but it constituted the best hope for putting Somalia together again. Somalis were ecstatic at the prospect of having a functional government again. Bush administration officials, however, were aghast at the rise of an Islamist movement that they feared would be uncooperative in the war on terror. So they gave Ethiopia, a longtime rival in the region, the green light to invade, and Somalia's best hope for peace collapsed. 'A movement that looked as if it might end this long national nightmare was derailed, in part because of American and Ethiopian actions,' said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. As a result, Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism have surged, partly because Somalis blame Washington for the brutality of the Ethiopian occupiers. .... Patrick Duplat, an expert on Somalia at Refugees International, the Washington-based advocacy group, says that during his last visit to Somalia, earlier this year, a local mosque was calling for jihad against America -- something he had never heard when he lived peacefully in Somalia during the rise of the Islamic Courts Union. 'The situation has dramatically taken a turn for the worse,' he said. 'The U.S. chose a very confrontational route early on. Who knows what would have happened if the U.S. had reached out to moderates? But that might have averted the disaster we're in today.' The greatest catastrophe is the one endured by ordinary Somalis who now must watch their children starve. [...]"
[n.b. I spoke in very strong terms against this policy at the time, and I think Kristof's column is an eloquent exposition of the argument. Note also the final sentence of the excerpt. Was this a perfectly foreseeable consequence? What are the consequences for a genocide-studies framework?]


"At Last, Spain Faces Up to Franco's Guilt"
By Lisa Abend, 17 October 2008
"Germany had the Nuremberg trials. Italy took justice into its own hands by executing Mussolini and hanging him upside down in Milan's Piazzale Loreto. France prosecuted its Vichy collaborators in a series of contentious trials that stretched into the 1990s. On Oct. 16, it was finally Spain's turn. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died 33 years ago, but it was only this week that Judge Baltasar Garzón of the National Court declared him and his cronies guilty of crimes against humanity and authorized a long-awaited investigation into their misdeeds. 'It's an extremely important moment,' says Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory, which filed the judicial complaints on behalf of victims of the regime. 'In 30 years of democracy, this is the first time the State has condemned the dictatorship.' Following Franco's death in 1975, Spaniards tacitly agreed to a 'Pact of Silence' that covered over the wounds of the 1936-39 civil war and the following dictatorship, and even granted amnesty to those who carried out the Francoist repression. With his ruling, which authorizes the National Court to investigate the disappearance and assassination of some 114,000 victims of the regime between the years 1936 and 1952, Garzón has brought that silence officially to an end. The ruling is based on his own finding that Franco and 34 of his generals and ministers were guilty of crimes against humanity both for initiating the 1936 military uprising against Spain's legally elected democratic government, and for subsequently attempting to systematically eliminate the regime's supposed political enemies. Garzón has also ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves from the era, including, most notably, one that is supposedly the final resting place of poet Federico García Lorca. [...]"

"Judge Orders Investigation of Executions in Franco Era"
By Dale Fuchs
The New York Times, 16 October 2008 [Registration Required]
"The crusading investigative judge Baltasar Garzón opened Spain's first criminal investigation into Franco-era executions and repression with an order Thursday to open 19 mass graves, including one believed to contain the remains of the poet Federico García Lorca. ... Judge Garzón, who has focused on terrorism cases in recent years, is often praised for his failed attempt to prosecute Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, in 1998 for crimes against humanity. But his order on Thursday raised an immediate controversy within Spain itself. Silence and a so-called pact of forgetting about past atrocities were the pillars of the peaceful transition to democracy after the nearly 40-year dictatorship of Franco, who died in 1975. In a 68-page court document, Judge Garzón accepted a petition to investigate the forced disappearances of thousands of people who, like García Lorca, were on or linked to the losing Republican side of the Spanish Civil War. The petition was filed by 13 associations of victims' families. ... Earlier this month Judge Garzón requested information from churches and city halls around the country, as well as the Catholic hierarchy, to compile a definitive list of victims' names, which now totals 114,266, according to the court document. The judge has now also requested proof from the Interior Ministry that 35 generals and ministers in the early years of Franco's dictatorship are dead. The Franco regime, Judge Garzón wrote, 'used all its resources to locate, identify and grant reparations to the victims from the winning side but did not give the same respect to the losers, who were persecuted, jailed, disappeared and tortured.' The disappearances, he concluded, constitute 'crimes against humanity.' [...]"
[n.b. Baltasar Garzón is my hero.]


"Piercing the Silence"
By Arlene Getz
Newsweek, 29 October 2008
"Too often, atrocities blur into abstractions. The burned-out villages; the camps for the desperate displaced; the brutalized women -- for all that we've seen, read and heard about Darfur, for all the celebrities who've adopted it as their own cause célèbre, it's still hard for us to get a real sense of the hideousness that has taken place there. Halima Bashir might be the person who finally pulls us through that barrier. Bashir was 24 when the Sudanese soldiers came for her. By then, of course, she was already sadly familiar with her country's political tensions. As a village child sent to school in the city, she had been taunted by members of Sudan's Arab elite for being African. As a medical student, her studies were repeatedly disrupted when the authorities closed down her campus and tried to force students to fight in what she called the 'plastic jihad' against non-Muslim Sudanese in the south. But it was when she first saw the bleeding bodies of the 8-year-old girls from the school in the remote Darfuri village of Mazkhabad that she realized 'someone had let the devil in' to her country. Bashir was the lone doctor at the village clinic as teachers and parents carried the girls in. The Arab militia known as the Janjaweed had held some 40 of the children hostage for two hours, forcing them to watch as their friends were raped, beating them in the head with sticks or rifle butts if they tried to resist and yelling at them that Sudan was for Arabs, not black dogs and slaves. Bashir wept as she sutured, trying to comfort the girls and console herself that at least they were too young to become pregnant. 'I eased little Aisha's legs open, to reveal a red, bloodied rawness,' Bashir writes in her newly-released memoir 'Tears of the Desert.' 'When that first Arab had forced himself into her, he had ripped her apart ... It was exactly as I had expected, exactly what I had been fearing. I would have to clean the wound and sew her up again, and I knew that I had no anesthetic with which to do so.' It was a week later that the three men in dirty soldiers' uniforms dragged her off. [...]"

"Indicted over Darfur, Sudan's President Feints and Punches Back"
By Nick Wadhams, 21 October 2008
"Ever since the International Criminal Court began pursuing allegations of war crimes in Darfur in 2005, its investigators have pursued a government-backed militia leader known as 'the colonel of colonels.' Ali Muhammad Ali Abd Al Rahman -- a.k.a. Ali Kushayb -- was high in the pantheon of the Janjaweed militia when a warrant was finally issued for his arrest in February 2007. Investigators said he led raids that left hundreds dead and countless homes destroyed. According to one witness, Ali Kushayb once inspected a line of naked women just before they were raped by his men. There were critical grumblings that the Sudanese government was coddling him: Ali Kushayb had been detained before but had been released for lack of evidence. So it was more than a surprise when Khartoum announced last week that it had, in fact, been holding Ali Kushayb for several months and that he would be put on trial. 'The timing of this particular claim about an arrest is certainly interesting,' says Christopher Hall, head of Amnesty International's International Justice Project. Sudan claims that the investigation into Kushayb gained speed after a special prosecutor was appointed in August. But Hall and many others suspect that Ali Kushayb's trial -- if it ever happens -- is just the Sudanese government's latest gambit in what has become a full-blown campaign to derail the International Criminal Court's investigation into its own complicity in charges of genocide in Darfur. [...]"

"Darfur: UN Says 40,000 Displaced in Last 2 Months"
By Sarah El Deeb
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 18 October 2008
"Some 40,000 civilians have been displaced in Darfur in the last two months by fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels in the northern and central parts of the wartorn region, said the U.N. on Saturday. The estimate is based on witness accounts, a brief assessment mission and reports by the Sudanese government and aid agencies working in the area, said Gregory Alex, the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in North Darfur. 'No emergency assistance has gotten to these people,' said Alex. 'For the last five or six weeks, they have been living off assistance they are getting from other people ... or what they can scrounge for.' Most of the newly displaced are living in the desert rather than in refugee camps, said Alex. Many of them had been displaced by fighting before but had returned ahead of the recent attacks, he added. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur and up to 300,000 killed since ethnic African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated national government early in 2003. A recent round of fighting began in August when government troops attacked rebel-held areas along the border with Libya in northern Darfur -- sometimes accompanied by aircraft and Arab militias. In September, the fighting moved south toward more populated areas. But the U.N. and aid workers said they have had little access to the areas because of the continued tension. Some villages in the Jebel Marrah area in central Darfur were totally emptied by the September fighting, said an international aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government harassment. [...]"


"Genocide Dispute Bursts into SoCal US House Race"
Fresno Bee, 30 October 2008
"A Southern California contender for a U.S. House seat has received thousands of dollars of campaign contributions raised by a Turkish-American businessman opposed to the incumbent candidate's support of a failed resolution calling the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide. Charles Hahn, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, received $5,700 from fundraising and contributions by Ergun Kirlikovali, the Pasadena Star-News reported on its Web site Wednesday. Hahn has also received $2,300 from the national Turkish Coalition USA Political Action Committee, which also opposed Schiff's legislation. Kirlikovali, who runs a Web site denying that a genocide took place, said the main reason he and others at his fundraiser for Hahn supported the Republican challenger was because they disliked Schiff's resolution. 'I find Schiff's stand racist and dishonest,' Kirlikovali said. 'I'd like to support someone who can defeat him.' Schiff, whose district includes tens of thousands of Armenians, said he found Kirlikovali's involvement troubling. 'This is a pretty narrow special interest group that is devoted to eradicating the memory of genocide,' he said. The resolution failed last year after inflaming U.S. tensions with Turkey, which denies the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide. It says the toll has been inflated, and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest as the Ottoman Empire fell into disarray. Hahn said he does not deny that an Armenian genocide took place, but said he would not have supported Schiff's legislation. He said he would like to introduce legislation that Armenian- and Turkish-American groups could agree on. He would not say what specifically his bill would say or accomplish."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Pope Considers Freeze on Sainthood of Pius XII"
Associated Press dispatch in The International Herald Tribune, 30 October 2008
"A Jewish leader said that Pope Benedict XVI was considering a request to freeze the sainthood process for the Nazi-era Pope Pius XII, who critics say did not speak out enough during World War II to save Jews amid Hitler's extermination campaign. Rabbi Ravid Rosen said that the pope was asked to do so during a meeting Thursday with a Jewish group and the pontiff replied that he would give 'serious consideration' to the request to wait. Rosen spoke after the Vatican rejected Jewish groups' requests to immediately open its secret archives on Pius XII's papacy during the Holocaust years. A Vatican spokesman, Reverend Federico Lombardi, said the requests to see the wartime archives were 'understandable,' but added Thursday that it would take another six or seven years to catalogue those 16 million documents. Currently, the archives can be consulted only up through the papacy of Pius XII's predecessor, Pius XI, which ended in early 1939, a few months before World War II began in Europe. Pius XII was Pius XI's secretary of state, as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. Some scholars who have examined archive documents dealing with the future Pius XII's diplomacy say Pacelli was an indecisive diplomat as Nazism and Fascism took hold in parts of Western Europe. [...]"

"The Unholy Legacy of Pius XII"
By Peter Popham
The Independent, 20 October 2008
"The 'Pius Wars' that have long raged over the Vatican's desire to declare Pope Pius XII a saint flared up again over the weekend when the Jesuit priest in charge of the canonisation process declared that Pope Benedict XVI could not visit Israel until a disputed panel in Jerusalem's Holocaust museum, which refers disparagingly to Pius, is removed. Pius XII, the austere, bespectacled Vatican diplomat who reigned from 1939 to 1958, has long been regarded by conservative Catholics as one of the greatest of modern popes. His claim to sainthood was opened by Pope Paul VI, 'with the same sort of urgency and certainty,' the Vatican journalist Robert Mickens said yesterday, 'as when John Paul II opened the case for Mother Teresa.' But the Pius XII depicted in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is a very different figure. Included among the 'Unjust,' those responsible directly or indirectly for the Holocaust, he is castigated on a large panel in the museum for his failure 'to leave his palace, with crucifix high, to witness one day of pogrom.' 'When reports of the massacre of the Jews reached the Vatican,' it goes on, 'he did not react with written or verbal protests. In 1942, he did not associate himself with the condemnation of the killing of the Jews issued by the Allies. When they were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, Pius XII did not intervene.' 'As long as that panel remains in the museum,' Father Peter Gumpel said, 'Benedict XVI cannot go to Israel because it would be a scandal for Catholics. The Catholic Church is doing everything possible to have good relations with Israel, but friendly relations can only be built if there is reciprocity.' [...]"


"War is No Longer Chic"
By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
New Statesman, 27 October 2008
"There are acts that people commit which are so frightful and disgusting that over the centuries they have become known to some of us as 'the sins crying to heaven for vengeance.' That striking and terrible term has always fascinated me and made me think hard whenever I have come up against it. The principal one of these sins is murder committed by a person in full knowledge of what he or she is doing. Another, national and multi-national employers should remember, is that of defrauding a labourer of his wages. For decades, observing what went on around me -- the Second World War and all the subsequent hostilities, the Central American atrocities, the Great Indonesian Massacre and their attendant monsters, Hitler, Stalin, Soeharto, Beria and the Somozas -- it seemed that heaven was not taking much interest about the cries addressed to it. Now I sense that things are looking up and heaven has started to take much more notice than I had expected. Take Spain, take Chile, take the increasing rejection of the concept of war -- that anteroom for murder -- and the careless misuse of that word by politicians on both sides of the North Atlantic. ... In Madrid, Baltasar Garzón (the judge who had Pinochet banged up briefly in Britain for the atrocities he committed during his dictatorship) has reminded Spaniards of ancient crimes. He has moved to try those implicated in the overthrow of the elected government of Spain in the 1930s and the killing of the 130,000 victims by Francisco Franco. Even the generalissimo's sins are no longer to be passed over. In Chile another dictator's sins are being revisited. [...]"

"10 Years of the Pinochet Principle"
By Philippe Sands
The Guardian, 16 October 2008
"On October 16 1998, a magistrate signed a warrant for the arrest of Senator Augusto Pinochet and changed the course of history. The former Chilean head of state was arrested a few hours later, at the request of a Spanish prosecutor who charged him with a raft of international crimes, some dating back to the early 1970s. Over the next 18 months, one dramatic development followed another. The House of Lords rendered three landmark judgments in the space of five months; home secretary Jack Straw defied expectations by giving a green light to the continuation of proceedings that could lead to Pinochet's removal to Madrid; Pinochet made a dramatic appearance in the dock at Belmarsh magistrate's court; and eventually Straw decided that Pinochet was too unhealthy to stand trial and he was returned to Chile in April 2000. For the rest of his life he was dogged by legal proceedings. One central question lay at the heart of the whole affair: was a former head of state entitled to claim immunity before the English courts, where it was alleged that he had participated in crimes, in violation of international conventions, such as torture? This question had never before been decided. ... The legacy of the arrest warrant signed in Hampstead 10 years today, is the Pinochet principle, that no one is above the law. It may one day come to haunt the very people who sought to set it aside. If, that is, they ever dare to set foot outside the United States. [...]"

"Pinochet's European Vacation"
By Reed Brody
New Statesman, 16 October 2008
"In the ten years since, the world has become a smaller place for brutal despots. Indeed, today a former dictator accused of thousands of killings and 'disappearances,' as Pinochet was, wouldn't even think of a European vacation. The arrest and the subsequent decisions by the British House of Lords to reject Pinochet's claim of immunity were a wake-up call to tyrants everywhere, but more important, they gave hope to victims elsewhere that they too could bring their tormentors to justice. In country after country, particularly in Latin America, victims were inspired to challenge the transitional arrangements of the 1980s and 1990s that had allowed the perpetrators of atrocities to go unpunished and, often, to remain in power. Thanks to these efforts, former leaders in Argentina, Peru and Uruguay face human rights trials. Pinochet's arrest also strengthened a nascent international movement -- spurred by the killings in Bosnia and Rwanda, and facilitated by the end of the Cold War -- to make certain the worst abuses are punished. After the creation of UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the world established the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC is now investigating crimes in Darfur, the Central African Republic, Uganda and Congo, and in July its prosecutor requested the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of genocide in Darfur. That bold request touched off a firestorm that underlines the two great challenges facing international justice today. The first is the so-called 'peace v justice' dichotomy. Because the ICC does not recognize immunity for heads of state, it can intervene while perpetrators are still in power in an effort to prevent further crimes. But some have argued that an indictment of Bashir will make him less inclined to respond to diplomatic efforts to negotiate peace. A similar argument was made when the ICC indicted Ugandan rebel leaders. ... Another challenge is the sentiment, propagated by many African leaders, that African rulers accused of crimes are ensnared in the web of international justice while the leaders of more powerful states go free. Unfortunately, it can't be denied that a double standard does exist. What is the likelihood that US leaders will be brought to book for the crimes they authorized at Guantanamo and the archipelago of secret prisons around the world? Or that Russian officials will be called to account for war crimes in Chechnya? [...]"


"Action Call over Maternal Deaths"
BBC Online, 24 October 2008
"Urgent action is needed to reduce the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth, the World Health Organization has said. Its director of maternal health, Dr Franciso Songanem, said funding needed to be better co-ordinated. And he admitted the 2015 target to reduce maternal deaths by 75% from 1990 levels was likely to be missed. Analysis in 2007 show rates have changed little -- latest figures show 500,000 women are dying each year. The research by Harvard University, shows that between 1990 and 2005 mortality rates fell at less than 1% per year. The study said unsafe abortions, haemorrhaging and problems delivering were the major causes. Dr. Songane, director of the WHO's Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, said maternal deaths were still far too common and the 2015 target was 'unlikely to be met.' 'Some 99% of maternal deaths occur in the poorest communities of the world. Most deaths could be prevented and solutions exist, but are not available to those who need them most. Urgent global action is needed to increase investment and political commitment to scale up these life-saving services for mothers and their children.' He said the solution lay in more investment and directing funds to local projects that could make a difference. He cited a project in Matlab in the south of Bangladesh run by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, which is featured in the BBC World series Survival. Nine in 10 women in Bangladesh give birth at home without any medical intervention, with more than one in 50 dying. The scheme trains local women to offer advice about diet, run ante-natal classes and help deliver babies. Dr. Muhammad Yunnus, who is helping to run the project, said: 'We have to give all women a better chance of surviving childbirth.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NOW AVAILABLE: Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones (Routledge, 2006; 430 pp., US $33.95 pbk). See "The best introductory text available to students of genocide studies ... likely to become the gold standard by which all subsequent introductions to this enormously important subject will be measured" (Kenneth J. Campbell).

Genocide Studies Media File
October 1-15, 2008

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"Australia Drops Ahmadinejad Case"
BBC Online, 15 October 2008
"The Australian government has abandoned plans to take international legal action against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Ahmadinejad has made several anti-Israel remarks in past speeches. Australian foreign minister, Stephen Smith, told parliament he did not wish to 'give further profile to these obscene remarks.' He also cited the complexity of the issues and the high legal threshold required to bring forward a case. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd threatened in May to take Mr Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice for inciting genocide against Israel. The Islamic Republic does not officially recognise the Jewish state. Since becoming president in 2005, Mr Ahmadinejad has provoked outraged reactions by predicting that Israel is doomed to disappear. In October 2005, the Iranian president made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state. This was widely translated as a call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map,' although the precise translation of the remarks is disputed, and some suggest a more accurate rendering would be 'the regime occupying Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.' [...]"


"UN Court Upholds Ruling on Former Croatian Serb Leader"
By Mike Corder
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 8 October 2008
"UN appeals judges on Wednesday confirmed the 35-year sentence for a former Croatian Serb leader convicted for his role in a deadly campaign of ethnic cleansing in Croatia. The appeals chamber rejected virtually all of Milan Martic's 10 grounds of appeal against his conviction last year by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on charges stemming from a campaign of murder, torture and forced displacements in Croatia. The reign of terror left hundreds of non-Serbs dead and drove thousands from their homes in 1991-95. Tribunal President Fausto Pocar said the appeals judges overturned minor elements of the convictions, which had 'minimal impact on Martic's overall culpability.' He said the judges left Mr. Martic's sentence unchanged. Mr. Martic, 53, showed no emotion as Judge Pocar read the decision. He smiled and shook hands with his lawyers before being led out of court. Mr. Martic is one of the most senior Serb leaders successfully prosecuted by the court in its 15-year history, and his sentence is one of its longest. The appeals court rejected many of his arguments -- including his claim that the tribunal was biased and had not given him a presumption of innocence. He also unsuccessfully argued that the trial judges failed to consider the fact that he was part of a wider Serb political campaign steered from Belgrade. [...]"


"The Killings Go On: Targeting Unions in Colombia"
By Conn Hallinan, 15 October 2008
"There are lots of places in the world where you need to watch your step. You don't want to be a Sunni in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad (or vice versa). It's probably not smart to speak Tamal in southern Sri Lanka. You might want to keep being a Muslim under wraps in parts of Mindanao. But most of all you don't want to be a trade unionist in the U.S.'s one remaining ally in South America, Colombia. 'Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist,' says Jeremy Dear, chair of the British trade union organization, Justice For Colombia (JFC), 'In fact, more trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia during [Alvaro] Uribe's presidency than in the rest of the world [combined] over the same period.' In April, the Colombian Trade Union Confederation reported that the first part of 2008 saw a 77 percent increase in the murder of trade unionists. One of the latest victims was Luis Mayusa Prada, a union leader from Saravena. On Aug. 8, two men pumped him full of bullets -- 17 to be exact. Prada was the third member of his family to be assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries. His sister Carmen Mayusa, a nurse and leader of the National Assn. Of Hospital and Clinic Workers, is on the run from death threats. Prada, who left behind a wife and five children, was the 27th unionist to be murdered in 2008 and joins 3,000 others who have been assassinated in the past two decades. Only 3 percent of the cases have ever been solved. The fact that so many cases go unsolved is hardly surprising. The perpetrators work hand-in-glove with Colombia's police, military and, according to recent revelations, President Alvaro Uribe and his political allies. According to the Washington Post, the head of Uribe's secret police, who also served as the President's campaign manager, was arrested for 'giving a hit list of trade unionists and activists to paramilitaries, who then killed them.' Fourteen of Uribe's supporters in congress have been jailed for aiding paramilitaries, and 62 others are under investigation. [...]"


"Georgia Villages 'Torched,' Satellite Study Shows"
By Maggie Fox
Reuters dispatch, 9 October 2008
"Hundreds of houses in ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia were torched in August, after Russian troops took control of the area, according to an analysis of satellite images released on Thursday. The analysis, conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science on behalf of Amnesty International, did not show who was responsible for the damage but Amnesty said it may be evidence of war crimes. Human rights activists have criticized Russia for ignoring the looting of ethnic Georgian villages by armed South Ossetian militias during and after the war. Georgia says the looting amounted to 'ethnic cleansing.' Russia says Georgia's shelling of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali -- which sparked the war -- amounts to a genocide against the Ossetians. Both deny the other's claims. 'These images do not lie -- the additional destruction shown from August 10 to August 19 must be used to establish who had responsibility for protecting civilians from attacks by militia,' said Amnesty's Ariela Blatter. 'The destruction of civilian infrastructure highlights the need for the international community to undertake an independent investigation of abuses during the conflict, with the complete support of all parties involved.' [...]"


"Chris Hune: Don't Extradite Alleged Holocaust Denier Frederick Toben"
The Telegraph, 4 October 2008
"Australian citizen Frederick Toben was arrested on Wednesday at Heathrow, en route from the United States to Dubai, and has been remanded in custody awaiting an extradition hearing on October 17. Mr. Huhne said that individuals should not be handed over to courts abroad for Holocaust denial, which is not a crime in the UK and raised issues of freedom of speech. The former MEP said that countries could 'pick and choose' the cases in which they would apply warrants issued by fellow EU member states, citing the case of Belgium, which has said it would not send suspects to Poland on murder charges which related to abortion. ... While stressing that he was completely opposed to anti-semitism, Mr Huhne said: 'We don't in this country tend to prosecute people for issues that we regard as issues of freedom of speech. I don't think the European arrest warrant was designed to be used in this sort of case and there are good legal grounds under Article 4 of the European arrest warrant whereby we could actually refuse to participate in this. I think it is a pretty dodgy case that the Germans are bringing, both in terms of German law and in terms of the reach of it, because in fact Dr Toben didn't actually commit this offence in Germany. If somebody goes too far and incites violence or causes an attack on somebody else, then it is absolutely right they should be prosecuted, but there is a very clear distinction from something you hold as an opinion -- it may be wrong and you may completely disagree with it, and I do in this case... I think we have to hold that fundamental belief in freedom of speech.' [...]"


"Holy War Strikes India"
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent, 9 October 2008
"As she recalled her awful story, Puspanjali Panda made no attempt to halt the tears flooding down her face. Holding her daughter close, she told how a baying Hindu mob dragged her husband -- a Christian pastor -- from his bed, beat him to death with stones and iron rods and then threw him into a river. She found his corpse two days later, washed up on the bank. When she went to the police, they told her to go away. Mrs. Panda and thousands of others like her are victims of the worst communal violence between Hindus and Christians that India has seen for decades. For a country that boasts of its mutual religious tolerance, the long-simmering tension that has erupted in the Kandhamal district of the state of Orissa -- a nun being raped, churches being burned, at least 35 people killed and thousands forced from their villages -- is both a belated wake-up call and a mounting embarrassment. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, called it a 'national disgrace.' But for Mrs. Panda, sheltering in a wretched relief camp in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, it is much worse than that. The 38-year-old said she had no idea what would now happen to her and her bewildered-looking child, Mona Lisa. 'I do not want to go back. They have destroyed my home,' she wailed. ... While conversion has been an issue, the conflict here is more complex than a religious disagreement. Many activists believe the fight is an economic dispute between two of India's poorest groups, complicated by the issue of caste and ethnicity. For decades there has been conflict over land and resources between the two groups at the bottom of India's complex social system -- the indigenous people of the region officially listed as scheduled tribes (ST) and non-indigenous poor known as scheduled castes (SC). [...]"


"Exodus of Christians as Killers Step Up Religious Cleansing in Iraq"
By Deborah Haynes and Tim Albone
The Times, 14 October 2008
"As the family of Iraqi Christians sat down for dinner, a group of gunmen forced their way into the house. 'Ten or 12 men swarmed into my home like bees,' the grandmother of the family told The Times. 'They ordered us to stand up and raise our hands. They put a bomb in the living room ... and forced us outside. About ten minutes later the house was blown up.' This story of violence against Christians is one of many to emerge over the past fortnight from Mosul, a flashpoint city in northern Iraq. At least 13 Christians have been killed in that period and fear of further attacks has prompted 1,200 families to flee to nearby villages, convents, monasteries and even farther afield to Iraq's Kurdish region to the north or to Baghdad in the south. The Government has pledged to curb the violence, sending 2,500 additional police to the city -- already the focus of a security operation in May that has so far failed to bring results. The extra forces were designed to assure the Christians of the Government's commitment to their security and protection, said Ali al-Dabbagh, the Government's representative. Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, has ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the problem. Yesterday the UN expressed concern at the recent violence against Mosul's Christian community. Some Christians blame al-Qaeda for the attacks while others speculate that Kurdish elements might be involved as part of a political ploy to coerce minority sects into supporting Kurdish parties before forthcoming provincial elections. This allegation is strongly denied by the Kurdish authorities. [...]"

"Secrets of Iraq's Death Chamber"
By Robert Fisk
The Independent, 7 October 2008
"Like all wars, the dark, untold stories of the Iraqi conflict drain from its shattered landscape like the filthy waters of the Tigris. And still the revelations come. The Independent has learnt that secret executions are being carried out in the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki's 'democratic' government. The hangings are carried out regularly -- from a wooden gallows in a small, cramped cell -- in Saddam Hussein's old intelligence headquarters at Kazimiyah. There is no public record of these killings in what is now called Baghdad's 'high-security detention facility' but most of the victims -- there have been hundreds since America introduced 'democracy' to Iraq -- are said to be insurgents, given the same summary justice they mete out to their own captives. The secrets of Iraq's death chambers lie mostly hidden from foreign eyes but a few brave Western souls have come forward to tell of this prison horror. The accounts provide only a glimpse into the Iraqi story, at times tantalisingly cut short, at others gloomily predictable. Those who tell it are as depressed as they are filled with hopelessness. [...]"


"The Arab Driver, Yom Kippur and How a City Was Inflamed"
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, 15 October 2008
"It began with an Israeli Arab motorist driving into a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood during the solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. It developed into the most serious clashes between Israeli Arabs and Jews for eight years. Israeli-Arab parliamentarians warned yesterday that the arrest of the motorist, Tawfik Jamal, could undermine efforts to draw a line under four days of rioting that have threatened to break the delicate balance of community relations in this ancient and ethnically mixed port city. The riots started a week ago, after Mr. Jamal drove into the predominantly Jewish eastern district of the city of Acre on the one day of the year when Israeli Jews refrain -- by custom and not by law -- from using their cars. Mr. Jamal was pursued and surrounded by a stone-throwing crowd of angry residents and his son was slightly injured. As rumours spread that Mr. Jamal had been killed, Jewish residents say that hundreds of Arabs -- many masked -- then marched on the area, breaking the windows of Jewish shops, attacking parked cars, and throwing stones at their homes. In the subsequent three nights of violence, in which 64 people were arrested, Jewish rioters attacked and burned the homes of several Arab residents, who had fled. On Sunday, Major General Shimon Koren, northern commander of the police, said that Jewish instigators appeared to be the 'dominant elements' behind the continued rioting. A massive police presence helped to prevent further outbreaks on Sunday and Monday. Police have responded with restraint in Acre after being criticised in the Or Commission inquiry into rioting elsewhere in 2000, during which they killed 13 Arab demonstrators. Yossi Beilin, of the left-wing Meretz Party, said 'nothing has been done' to implement Or recommendations on the social and economic discrimination, which some community leaders claim have again been exposed by the latest clashes. [...]"

"W. Bank Settlers' Rage Grows"
By Linda Gradstein
The Washington Post, 15 October 2008
"Avi Ben Yakov is a soft-spoken Jewish settler who loves playing with his young children in their red-roofed home in the hills above Nablus, deep inside the West Bank. But when it comes to his Palestinian neighbors, his tone hardens. 'They will not be my neighbors if I do what I have to do, which is take them back to their lands,' he said. 'We don't want them here. Expelling them is the solution.' Ben Yakov would not say if he had been personally involved in a series of recent attacks on the nearby Palestinian village of Asira Al-Qibiliyya. But he said the violence was justified by the Israeli army's failure to protect the lives and property of West Bank settlers. Such frustration has been growing in recent months, and the result has been a pronounced rise in settler attacks on Palestinians, according to military officials, human rights groups and settler organizations. While only a small proportion of settlers are involved, the attacks reflect a deep-felt anxiety that Israel may be nearing a decision to abandon some of its West Bank settlements, much in the same way it withdrew from its Gaza Strip settlements three years ago. Settlers unwilling to leave their homes say they are ready to fight for them, even if that means battling their erstwhile ally, the Israeli army. 'In the past, only a few dozen individuals were implicated in this. Today, we're talking about several hundred people -- a very significant change,' Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, the Israeli officer responsible for security in the West Bank, recently told the Haaretz newspaper. 'An extreme incident could happen at any time. These people are conspiring against the Palestinians and against the security forces.' The human rights group B'Tselem lists 429 reported settler attacks on Palestinians this year -- an increase of 75 percent over last year. [...]"


"Montenegro, Macedonia Recognize Kosovo"
Associated Press dispatch on, 9 October 2008
"Both Montenegro and Macedonia recognized Kosovo's independence on Thursday, despite opposition from Serbia, which called the moves by its Balkan neighbors a betrayal and expelled the Montenegrin ambassador from Belgrade. The moves represent a major blow to Serbia's diplomatic efforts to maintain a claim over Kosovo, considered by Serbs to be the cradle of their Orthodox Christian religion and statehood. Montenegro and Macedonia -- both seeking membership in NATO and the European Union -- have been under pressure from the United States and some EU countries to recognize Kosovo's February declaration of independence. The two coordinated with one another in recognizing Kosovo on Thursday, Montenegro's Foreign Minister Milan Rocen said. ... Serbia had threatened unspecified retaliatory measures if the two countries recognized Kosovo, which Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said earlier would be 'a stab in the back.' After Montenegro's recognition on Thursday, he said the country's ambassador 'was no longer welcome' in Belgrade. It was immediately unclear if Serbia would expel any diplomats from Macedonia, which announced its recognition of Kosovo several hours after Montenegro. [...]"


"March Marks 1968 Mexico Killings"
By Eduardo Verdugo
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 3 October 2008
"Thousands of Mexicans marched across their nation's capital Thursday to demand justice for victims of a 1968 massacre of students by government troops -- contemporary Mexico's most traumatic atrocity and one that remains unresolved. Survivors of that bloody night 40 years ago and Mexicans who had not been born then joined forces, chanting 'Dos de octubre! No se olvide!' (Oct. 2! Don't forget!) as they converged on the downtown Zocalo plaza. 'I remember how the tanks rolled over the dead and the injured, how they attacked a number of my friends with bayonets,' said Cuauhtemoc Padilla Marroquin, a teacher who was 15 when the massacre took place. The killings -- official reports put the toll at 25 to 43 but human rights groups have long maintained that the number was closer to 350 -- started when government forces opened fire on a massive but peaceful student demonstration just days before the Olympic Games were to open in Mexico City. It was a time of political effervescence in the country and across the globe, and the Mexican government of the day was eager to conceal what had happened. [...]"


"Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?"
By Amy Knight
New York Review of Books, 6 November 2008
"At 3:30 PM, Politkovskaya called her son, Ilya, to tell him she was on her way home. She never made it. At approximately 4 PM, she was fatally shot in the stairwell of her apartment building on Lesnaya Street. Her killer, disguising himself only with a baseball cap and apparently unconcerned by the posted warning of a security camera inside, knew the code needed to enter the building only moments before. Like many contract murderers in Moscow, he left the weapon, an Izh pistol with a silencer, at the scene of the crime. ... Politkovskaya faced the possibility of death with her characteristic stoicism: 'They say that if you talk about a disaster you can cause it to happen. That is why I never say aloud what I am most afraid of. Just so it won’t happen,' she says in the film. She believed that she had a mission to report on the 'dirty war' in Chechnya that the Putin regime had launched in the autumn of 1999. By the time of her death, Politkovskaya had made at least fifty trips to Chechnya, a savage and dangerous place that most other Russian journalists avoided. Her subjects were the innocent victims of the war -- ordinary civilians, whether Russian or Chechen, whose lives had been ruined by the conflict. She described maimed bodies, burned corpses, the destruction of entire villages. She also wrote about hapless Russian soldiers, conscripted into the army and sent off to Chechnya, where they were often treated like slaves by their commanders. They witnessed cruelties that went beyond the bounds of normal warfare and were themselves treated cruelly by the Chechens when captured. [...]"


"Moscow Court Backs Closure of WWII Katyn Massacre Case"
RIA Novosti dispatch, 14 October 2008
"The Moscow district military court ruled as lawful on Tuesday the closure of a case concerning the execution of Polish prisoners of war in western Russia's Katyn forest in 1940, a court spokesman said. Over 20,000 Polish military officers, police and civilians taken prisoner during the 1939 partitioning of Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were massacred in the Katyn forest, as well as in prisons and other locations, by the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for the families of those killed, told RIA Novosti she would appeal the military court's ruling in a higher court. In 2005, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office closed the 'Katyn Case' saying there was no evidence of genocide against the Polish people, and that those involved in the executions had since died. However, the relatives of the executed officers appealed the decision to close the case. The Soviet Union initially accused Germany of executing the Polish prisoners. However, in 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev officially admitted that Soviet secret police were responsible for the massacre. Russian prosecutors earlier put the number of those killed at 14,500."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Rwanda: Genocide Suspect Tried in Netherlands Court:
By James Tasamba and Agencies
The New Times (Kigali) on, 15 October 2008
"A Rwandan genocide suspect, Joseph Mpambara, went on trial Monday in the Netherlands charged with rape and murder during the 1994 Genocide of Tutsis. Prosecutors alleges that Mpambara was involved in atrocities including the massacre of Tutsis who had sought refuge at a church complex. According to the Associated Press, he is also accused of beating and hacking to death seven people dragged out of an ambulance, The crimes were allegedly committed in Mugonero in Kubuye, in Western Rwanda. The allegations against Mpambara came to light when he applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2006. Under Dutch law he can be tried for war crimes allegedly committed in another country because he was living in Netherlands at the time of his arrest. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of the war crimes of murder, rape and torture. Genocide militias killed over a million people the genocide, which raged from April to July 1994. [...]"


"Tamil Tigers Accuse Sri Lanka of 'Genocidal War'"
Agence France-Presse dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 9 October 2008
"Separatist Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday accused the Sri Lankan government of launching a 'genocidal war' against northern Tamils. Responding to concerns expressed by New Delhi and major political parties in India's southern Tamil Nadu state over ongoing military operations, the rebels accused the military of 'indiscriminate shelling and bombardments.' Writing to Tamil Nadu leaders, the head of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), B Nadesan, alleged that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's government was 'conceited in its military aggression.' Nadesan's letter described the plight of thousands of Tamils uprooted from their homes and villages and forced to seek refuge in the open due to the 'genocidal war.' 'All the Sinhala forces and parties were giving support to the war being waged by the Rajapakse government with a wrong assumption that even Tamil Nadu would not come forward to voice for Eelam Tamils,' Nadesan added. The Tamil Tigers took up arms in 1972, demanding minority rights, and in 1976 called for a separate state named Eelam. Nadesan said the LTTE hoped the 'solidarity' extended by Indian politicians would become 'practically sound political support.' The United Nations estimates 230 000 people have been displaced in the recent wave of fighting as troops move to dismantle the LTTE's mini-state in the north. Troops wrested the east from the rebels in July 2007. [...]"


"'World Has Prolonged Darfur Conflict'", 15 October 2008
"The commander of the UN-led peacekeeping force in Darfur says mistakes by the international community have prolonged the conflict and that there is no immediate prospect for peace. General Martin Agwai's comments come as the Sudanese government is set to launch an initiative on resolving the war, hoping to defer possible international legal proceedings against President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes. 'Honestly, I do not see any prospects for immediate peace in Darfur because there are too many interests,' Agwai told the BBC and AFP in an interview at the headquarters of the United Nations-African Union mission in El-Fasher. 'There is also infighting between the movements and between all the stakeholders. With that I cannot see peace coming immediately,' he added. 'When there is no agreement on even how to negotiate, then you can see it's going to be very long and that is my concern.' The first days of the conflict, which erupted in February 2003 when ethnic rebels in the western Sudanese region rose up against the Arab-led regime fighting for wealth, power and resources, has degenerated into a vastly more complex web of violence. Agwai said there were more than two dozen rebel movements in a population of six million and that the conflict was no longer simply 'African against Arab' but coloured by infighting between Africans, Arabs and rival signatories of past peace accords. He also had a strong message for the international community, whose massive engagement has failed to translate into peacekeeping boots on the ground, saying its mistakes have prolonged the conflict. [...]"

"Sudan Arrests Militant Genocide Mastermind", 14 October 2008
"Sudanese officials said they arrested the man charged by an international court with coordinating mass murders in Darfur. Officials did not reveal where janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb -- also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman -- was being held nor say whether the government would turn him over to the international court, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported. 'We are investigating him to see if he has committed crimes in Darfur or not,' government spokesman Rabie Atti told the Times. In July, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague (OTCBB:HGUE), Netherlands, formally requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, saying he 'masterminded' massacres in Darfur and should be tried for genocide. The request touched off a concern among African and Arab leaders who said prosecution of Bashir could lead to a backlash against civilians and aid workers and lessen prospects for peace in Darfur. Analysts told the Times Kushayb's arrest might help Sudanese authorities appear to be cooperating and possibly head off the potential ICC prosecution of Bashir. [...]"

"Sudan Makes Case Abroad While Still Bombing Darfur"
By Heba Aly
The Christian Science Monitor, 9 October 2008
"During the US vice presidential debate last week, Sen. Joe Biden (D) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R) found common ground on at least one topic: Both support imposing a no-fly zone in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Some 6,000 miles away, Darfuris fleeing their homes welcome such talk, especially after a recent spate of indiscriminate government bombings. 'The government said it was only looking for rebels. It said it didn't want to harm the people,' says villager Abdullah Isshac, who spent one week hiding in the countryside after a government attack on the village of Khazan Tungur. 'But the rebels are out in the mountains, not in the village.' To the outside world, Sudan's government sings a different tune, claiming since July -- when the International Criminal Court (ICC) sought an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for his role in the Darfur conflict -- that the prosecution of its leader would jeopardize the peace process. But as the situation on the ground here grows worse, Darfuris are asking: 'What peace process are you talking about?' Among the many symbols of war in Darfur – sprawling five-year-old camps for displaced people and an ever-growing African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission -- the bumpy road between Tabit and Tawila, two small villages in northern Darfur, offers a striking reminder that this conflict is still going strong. [...]"

"Sudan's Beshir Rejects 'Made Up' War Crimes Claims"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Yahoo! News, 9 October 2008
"Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir rejected the allegations of war crimes against him as 'made up' and said mass rape 'does not exist' in Darfur, in an interview broadcast here Thursday. Beshir, who is accused by the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor of genocide and crimes against humanity in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, told Channel Four News the sources for the claims were 'all hostile.' 'These allegations are not correct. Everything is fabricated and made up. Anything saying that we ordered killing people is untrue,' he said, according to a translation provided by the programme. 'The sources used by the ICC prosecutor are all hostile; they are from the rebels who revolted against the state.' Beshir also denied reports of mass rape in displaced persons camps. 'The women inside the camps are under the influence of the rebels and some are even relatives of the rebels. That's why they make these claims,' he said. Beshir said there may be individual instances of rape in Darfur, but this happened all over the world. 'Mass rape does not exist,' he said. [...]"


"Darfur Killings Soften Bush's Opposition to International Court"
By Michael Abramowitz and Colum Lynch
The Washington Post, 12 October 2008
"As his administration draws to a close, President Bush appears to be backing down from his long-held and fierce opposition to the International Criminal Court, an institution the president and his top advisers have rejected as a possible forum for frivolous cases against U.S. military and civilian officials. The shift is related to what may be an even greater imperative for Bush: bringing to justice the perpetrators of what the president has labeled 'genocide' in Darfur. Few issues have symbolized the perceived unilateralism of the Bush administration more than the president's hostility toward the ICC. But as the court weighs a formal arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes, the administration is emerging as an unlikely defender of the court in the face of efforts by Sudan and others to derail the prosecution. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Richard S. Williamson, have made clear to senior Sudanese officials that Bush will resist attempts by African and Islamic countries to push the United Nations to defer prosecution of Bashir. They have signaled that the Bush administration would veto a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution deferring the prosecution by one year unless Sudan dramatically improves its humanitarian practices and takes tangible steps toward peace in Darfur. ... Supporters and opponents of the court regard the administration's change as reflecting both a greater flexibility by the administration in Bush's second term and the president's personal investment in the Darfur issue. They also say the administration considers an indictment useful leverage over Bashir, who has frustrated Bush by not delivering on promises to improve conditions in Darfur. [...]"


"A War-Crimes Trial in Florida"
By Johnny Dwyer
Time Magazine, 3 October 2008
"Monday morning, Chucky Taylor stepped into a federal courtroom wearing a gray blazer and black slacks, looking more like a museum security guard than an accused war criminal. But his trial on torture charges that opened this week will test a never before invoked federal law criminalizing torture, a statute that the Bush Administration examined closely to ensure CIA agents and other civilians involved in the War on Terrorism would not be exposed to prosecution. 'Crimes such as these will not go unanswered,' said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher when the indictment was announced in December 2006. The Liberian government has not commented on the prosecution but has deferred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia the accounting for crimes committed during the 14-year civil war. Human-rights groups view the prosecution as a shift toward greater accountability for human-rights violators who enter the United States. Taylor, also known as Charles Emmanuel, is the 31-year-old American son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, currently behind bars in the Hague, where he faces 11 counts of crimes against humanity before a U.N.-sponsored court. Born in Boston and raised in the suburban sprawl of Orlando, Fla., Taylor Jr. moved to Liberia as a teen and allegedly commanded the militia called the Anti-Terrorist Unit, also known as the 'Demon Forces.' The trial, which Taylor's attorneys expect to last another seven weeks, is the first prosecution under the Extraterritorial Torture statute, a 14-year-old law dusted off by the Department of Justice to prosecute Taylor. It is also a unique experiment in international justice: all of the crimes of which Taylor stands accused -- summarily executing people, ordering beheadings, forcible sodomy, the slashing and electrocution of genitals -- were committed in far-off Liberia, in the midst of a bizarre and brutal region-wide conflict. [...]"


"McCain Linked to Group in Iran-Contra Affair"
By Pete Yost
Associated Press dispatch on, 7 October 2008
"Barack Obama has his William Ayers connection. Now John McCain may have an Iran-Contra connection. In the 1980s, McCain served on the advisory board to the U.S. chapter of an international group linked to ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. The U.S. Council for World Freedom aided rebels trying to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. That landed the group in the middle of the Iran-Contra affair and in legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, which revoked the charitable organization's tax exemption. The council created by retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub was the U.S. chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. After setting up the U.S. council, Singlaub served as the international league's chairman.... In 1983 and 1984 for example, columnist Jack Anderson linked the league's Latin American affiliate to death squad political assassinations. The Latin American affiliate was kicked out of the league. At the time, Singlaub told the columnist the Latin American affiliate had 'knowingly promoted pro-Nazi groups' and was 'virulently anti-Semitic.' 'That was putting it mildly,' Anderson wrote in a Sept. 11, 1984, column on alleged death squad murders, an article that appeared two months before the U.S. election day. Two weeks after Anderson's column, a letter from McCain addressed to Singlaub asks that the congressman's name be taken off the board because he didn't have time for the council. [...]"

"Considering the War-Crimes Trial of the Bush Administration"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 1 October 2008
"Over the weekend of September 13 and 14, a historic gathering in Andover, Massachusetts, took place and garnered little media attention. But at that two-day conference, serious plans were laid for a war-crimes trial of the Bush administration. ... Obviously, the American defendants in these proposed trials wouldn't be charged with anything on the order of the Holocaust and its many millions of ghoulishly murdered victims. But Philip Gourevitch, in his book Standard Operating Procedure (Palgrave Macmillan), points out how much the Bush administration has gotten away with so far: 'Nobody was ever charged with torture, or war crimes, or any violation of the Geneva Conventions. Nobody ever faced charges for keeping prisoners naked, or shackled, [or exposed to systematic torture] ... or for arresting thousands of civilians without direct cause and holding them indefinitely, incommunicado, in concentration-camp conditions.' The conference set about planning trials to determine the guilt of key actors in the Bush administration (and their authorizing lawyers) for having committed war crimes under both American and international law, and to determine the appropriate punishments. Among the items on the conference's agenda: 'Creating an umbrella Coordinating Committee with representatives from an increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases; [c]reating a Center to keep track of and organize ... relevant briefs and facts on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals; [e]stablishing a Chief Prosecutor's Office such as Nuremberg's.' [...]"


"Pope Defends Pius XII over Holocaust"
By Frances D'Emilio
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 9 October 2008
" Pope Benedict XVI gave World War II pontiff Pius XII a push toward possible sainthood and defended his memory from accusations that he did little to spare Jews from the Holocaust. Benedict contended that Pius XII acted silently to save as many Jews as possible and expressed hope that efforts aimed at beatification would proceed smoothly. Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood. Benedict, wearing red vestments, celebrated a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius, who became pontiff in 1939, a few months before World War II broke out in Europe. Some writers and Jewish leaders have accused Pius of not doing enough to try to stop the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews died. The Vatican has steadfastly defended Pius, contending he used behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to help the Jews. It says he was cautious about public denunciations of Adolf Hitler's treatment of Jews for fear of worsening their plight. ... Among those who mourned his death on Oct. 9, 1958, Benedict said, was the Israeli foreign minister at the time, Golda Meir, who praised him for working on behalf of the war's victims. Church officials have begun efforts that could lead to Pius' beatification, but they say that would be years away. [...]"


"Aid Agencies: 5m Face Starvation in Zimbabwe"
By Jan Raath
The Times, 14 October 2008
"Death is stalking Zimbabwe’s children, as a potentially catastrophic famine gathers momentum. Aid agencies say that half the population, about five million people, face starvation, two-thirds of children are out of school and water shortages have led to deadly cholera outbreaks. The Times went on a 600-mile (965km)journey through the eastern province of Manicaland and discovered a country whose reserves of food are exhausted and where the diseases of hunger -- kwashiorkor, marasmus and pellagra -- are appearing to a degree never seen in the country before. Emaciated children are dying in hospitals, many more are being turned away to die at home. At one Manicaland hospital a doctor said that they were getting more cases of hunger-related diseases than ever before. 'Half of the admissions end up in the mortuary,' the doctor said. The situation is the same across the country, including urban areas. 'In the 32 years I have worked in Zimbabwe as a paediatrician I have never known a more serious situation,' said Greg Powell, chairman of the Zimbabwe Child Protection Society. 'We can predict an exponential increase in cases of kwashiorkor and malnutrition over the next six months.' Six weeks ago President Mugabe relaxed partially a three-month-old ban on food distribution by aid agencies but restrictive regulations still handicap the delivery of relief severely. [...]"