Friday, October 29, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Rescuers

Hero of 'Hotel Rwanda' is Declared Enemy of the State
By Daniel Howden
The Independent, October 29, 2010
"The man made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda and credited with saving more than 1,200 Tutsis during the 1994 genocide said yesterday that he fears for his life after the country's President made him 'an enemy of the state.' Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager currently living in Brussels where he says his home has been repeatedly ransacked, will be charged in Rwanda with links to a terrorist group. Rwanda's chief prosecutor said this week that Mr. Rusesabagina has been financing commanders in the FDLR, a rebel army across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo made up from ethnic Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide. Mr. Rusesabagina, who was portrayed by Don Cheadle in the acclaimed 2004 film has denied sending any money to the region and accused the government in Kigali of seeking to silence its critics. 'They are coming after me,' he told The Independent. 'While I'm in Brussels I remain in danger, they're following my every step.'


March of Jewish Extremists Inflames Arab Stronghold
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, October 28, 2010
Photo: "The right-wing protest in Ummel-Fahm, northern Israel, yesterday." (Reuters)
"Riot police protecting 30 far-right Israeli extremists who marched in the country's largest Arab town yesterday chanting 'death to terrorists' used a barrage of tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesting residents. Ten arrests were made during clashes between stone-throwing Israeli Arab youths and riot police after the arrival of the marchers, who were led by two of the country's most extreme right-wing activists, Hebron settlers Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir. Hundreds of armed police were deployed at the flashpoint on an outer edge and elsewhere in Umm el-Fahm to keep apart local Arab protesters and Jewish ultranationalists taking part in the short symbolic march, which had been permitted by Israel's Supreme Court. The court decision had fuelled tensions between some Israeli Jews and the country's Arab minority, already exacerbated by a series of legislative proposals targeting Arab Israelis and promoted by Avigdor Lieberman, the country's hard-right foreign minister. These include the demand that newly naturalised citizens should pledge loyalty to Israel as a 'Jewish state.'

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Rescuers

"Hotel Rwanda" Hero Implicated in Terror Case
By Kezio-Musoke David
Reuters dispatch on, October 27, 2010
Photo: "Paul Rusesabagina, former Rwandan hotel manager, arrives at 'Save Darfur: Rally To Stop Genocide' in Washington, DC in 2006." (Nancy Ostertag/Getty Images)
"Paul Rusesabagina, the man who saved more than 1,200 people from genocide in events depicted in the Oscar-nominated film 'Hotel Rwanda,' has been implicated in the terrorism case against a Rwandan opposition leader. Martin Ngoga, Rwanda's prosecutor general, told Reuters on Wednesday that Rwandan courts would summon Rusesabagina because investigations indicated he also funded the terrorism activities that opposition leader Victoire Ingabire is being held for. Ingabire, the outspoken head of the unregistered United Democratic Forces (UDF) party, was arrested by Rwandan police on October 14 after they said investigations into a former FDLR rebel commander facing terrorism charges also implicated her. She pleaded not guilty at a hearing Monday and was denied bail Tuesday after a court said the charges against her were of a serious nature. Ingabire says the case against her is politically motivated.

India / Kashmir

I Pity the Nation That Needs to Jail Those Who Ask for Justice
By Arundhati Roy
Times of India, October 26, 2010
" write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state. esterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer's husband and Asiya's brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get 'insaf' -- justice -- from India, and now believed that Azadi -- freedom -- was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones. In the papers some have accused me of giving 'hate-speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Germany / Jewish Holocaust

Were German Diplomats Complicit in the Holocaust?
By Tristana Moore, October 26, 2010
Photo: "A document from German diplomat Franz Rademacher says the purpose of his visit to Belgrade in October 1941 was the 'liquidation of Jews.'"
"One of the pillars of Germany's political establishment, the Foreign Ministry, was a 'criminal organization' during the Nazi era, and the country's diplomats played a far more active role in the Holocaust than was previously acknowledged. Those are some of the troubling findings of a new 880-page government-sponsored report, called 'The Ministry and the Past: German Diplomats in the Third Reich and the Federal Republic,' which has shaken the nation. Drawn from thousands of historical documents, the report, due to be officially released on Thursday, makes for uncomfortable reading as it debunks a long cherished belief that Germany's Foreign Ministry was a hive of resistance to the Nazi regime and that German diplomats were not involved in the mass extermination of millions of Jews in Nazi death camps. 'The sheer scale of the participation of Germany's Foreign Ministry in the Holocaust is bewildering. It wasn't just one department; it was the whole institution,' Eckart Conze, a professor of modern history at the Philipps University of Marburg and one of the authors of the report, tells TIME. 'The ministry collaborated with the Nazis' violent policies and took part in all aspects of the discrimination, deportation, persecution and genocide of the Jews.'

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spain / Argentina / Universal Jurisdiction

Argentinian Judge Petitions Spain to Try Civil War Crimes of Franco
By Giles Tremlett
The Guardian, October 26, 2010
Photo: "General Francisco Franco, pictured in Vinaroz, Spain, in July 1938, during the Spanish civil war." (AP)
"In a stark reversal of roles, an Argentine judge has taken a step towards opening the first comprehensive investigation into the human rights abuses of General Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Judge María Servini has asked Spain to declare whether its own courts are investigating cases of torture, murder and disappearance of Franco's political opponents. If amnesty laws prevent Spanish courts investigating the cases cited by Servini, which date from 1936 until the dictator's death in 1975, then she might declare her own court competent to investigate and try crimes allegedly committed by Franco's henchmen. In a formal petition to Spain, Servini indicates that the court would investigate allegations of genocide, including tens of thousands of cases of 'torture, assassination, forced disappearances and the stealing of children.' Her request mirrors those made over the past dozen years by Spanish courts which, using international law allowing human rights crimes to be investigated and tried elsewhere if a country cannot do so itself, have brought cases against several military regimes in Latin America. The Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón famously used this process to order the arrest of Chile's Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998. In that case the law lords ruled that the former dictator should be extradited to face trial in Spain, although Jack Straw, home secretary at the time, finally sent the general back to Chile on health grounds in 2000. Garzón used the same principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute the Argentine navy captain Adolfo Scilingo in Madrid in 2005. Scilingo was jailed for throwing drugged political prisoners out of aircraft into the sea. Argentina later repealed its own amnesty laws and the country now tries dirty-war suspects. [...]"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Israel / Armenian Genocide

State of Denial
By Peter Balakian
Tablet Magazine, October 19, 2010
"There has been speculation about Turkey’s shifting international ties ever since the election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the Islamist AKP party, in 2003, and the Gaza flotilla incident of May created a new breach in the long-standing alliance between Turkey and Israel. Among the many issues that have emerged in post-flotilla relations between the two countries is the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The flotilla episode is fraught with complexities and ironies on both sides. While the Turkish-led mission focused on a grave human rights crisis -- Israel's oppressive treatment of Gaza's Palestinians -- Turkey's righteous indignation toward Israel both oversimplifies Israel's distress about Hamas and seems glaringly hypocritical in view of its own human-rights problems. Those problems, which include Turkey's repressive and violent treatment of its large Kurdish population, some 15 million or more, and its record of legal detention, imprisonment, and torture of Turkish intellectuals, journalists, and political activists, constitutes one of the world's worst human rights records, as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports repeatedly show, over the past 20 years. Add to that Turkey's occupation of Northern Cyprus in violation of international law and its international campaign to falsify the history of its genocide of the Armenians in 1915, and the ironies multiply.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Germany / Neo-Nazism

Germany's Neighbours from Hell
By Tony Paterson
The Independent, October 19, 2010
Photo: AFP/Getty
"It's hard to escape the menacing ideology that prevails in Jamel -- a tiny hamlet of 10 crumbling red brick Prussian-era farm houses set among the remote fields and beech woods of east German Mecklenburg. 'Braunau am Inn 855 kilometres' proclaims a home-made signpost at the village entrance pointing in the direction of Adolf Hitler's birthplace. At a sandy crossroads between the houses, a huge stone carries the slogan: 'Jamel Village Community: Free, Social and National' -- the choice of adjectives is as close to the term 'National Socialist' as one can legally get in a country where the swastika and Nazi slogans remain outlawed. Jamel, a village of some 40 inhabitants a few kilometres inland from the Baltic port city of Wismar, is almost a pure neo-Nazi stronghold. Seven of its 10 houses are occupied by families whose members either belong to Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) or support the movement unequivocally. Horst and Birgit Lohmeyer are the exception in Jamel. Six years ago, the couple moved from Hamburg to their secluded house on the edge of the village, hoping for a life of rural bliss. Their expectations were soon shattered. 'A few months after we arrived, the far right started driving out the locals and buying up the houses en masse,' said Mrs. Lohmeyer. 'They want to turn this place into a Nazi-only village.' The Lohmeyers are determined to resist. 'You have to have strong nerves to live here,' said Mr. Lohmeyer. Every summer the couple organises an anti-Nazi rock festival in their large garden as a show of resistance against the rise of the far right in eastern Germany. But this summer the event was marred by a nasty incident caused by a gang of drunken neo-Nazis who attacked one of the festival-goers and broke his nose. 'We are not going to give in to these people -- why should we?' asks Mr. Lohmeyer. Yet it is difficult to see how the far right's dominance of life in Jamel can be curbed. [...]"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Japan / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Rescuers

Old Photos Reveal Tale of Japan, World War II Jews
Associated Press dispatch in The Charleston Daily Mail, October 17, 2010
Photo: "A diary owned by Japan Tourist Bureau employee Tatsuo Osako is displayed during an interview in Tokyo. The photographs are part of a recently discovered group of prints which throws more light on a subplot of the Holocaust: the small army of Japanese bureaucrats who helped shepherd thousands of Jews to safety." (Associated Press)
"The young man's monochrome portrait is at least 70 years old, the whites all faded to yellow, but it is still clear he had style. His hair is slicked down, eye arched, suit perfect with matching tie and handkerchief. He also had the good fortune to escape Europe in the early days of World War II. The photo, a gift to the man who helped him escape, is one of seven recently discovered snapshots that cast light on a little known subplot of the war -- even as Germany sought to seal Jewish Europeans in, a small army of tourism officials from its main ally, Japan, helped shepherd thousands away to safety. 'My best regards to my friend Tatsuo Osako,' is scrawled in French on the back of the picture, which is signed 'I. Segaloff' and dated March 4, 1941. His fate is unknown. An effort is under way to find the people in these portraits or their descendants, all of whom are assumed to be Jewish. Personal photos of such refugees, who often fled with few possessions, are rare. The photos were found in an old diary owned by Osako, who was a young employee of the Japan Tourist Bureau at the time, and died in 2003. Akira Kitade, who worked under Osako and is researching a book about him, has contacted Israeli officials for help and visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The museum said he gave it about 30 photographs that he is trying to identify, and received a list of over 2,000 Jews who received travel papers that enabled them to reach Japan. Nissim Ben Shitrit, the Israeli ambassador to Japan, says he has passed on the information to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which tracks and honors victims of the Holocaust, and is optimistic some of the individuals can be tracked down. 'I thought that we discovered almost everything about the horror of the Holocaust,' Shitrit said. 'And yet there is more to discover.'

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Armenian Genocide / Genocide Denial

Apology for Vilifying One Man, Yet No Apology for Killing 1.5 Million
By Harut Sassounian, October 7, 2010
"In 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based non-profit civil rights organization, published an article titled, 'State of Denial: Turkey Spends Millions to Cover Up Armenian Genocide.' It was a hard-hitting exposé of the Turkish government's elaborate and sinister efforts to pressure U.S. politicians and entice academics to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide. According to the SPLC article, 'Turkey exerts political leverage and spends millions of dollars in the United States to obfuscate the Armenian genocide .... Revisionist historians who conjure doubt about the Armenian genocide … are paid by the Turkish government.' Going beyond such general statements, SPLC specifically referred to Guenter Lewy as 'one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide ....' Lewy, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, had qualified the Armenian Genocide in his lectures and writings as a 'bungling misrule' rather than a deliberately planned and executed mass murder. He had made similar claims in his controversial book published by the University of Utah Press in 2005: 'The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide.' Shortly after publication of SPLC's article, an $8 million defamation lawsuit was filed against the civil rights group on behalf of Prof. Lewy by attorneys David Saltzman and Bruce Fein from the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF), which is 'generously supported by the Turkish Coalition of America,' according to TALDF's website. Before a jury could judge the merits of the charges in court, however, SPLC agreed to settle the case by issuing 'a retraction and apology' and promising to pay an undisclosed sum to Prof. Lewy. Had SPLC not settled the case, TALDF would have had a difficult task proving in court that Prof. Lewy was actually libeled.

Germany / Nazism / Genocide and Memory

Hitler Exhibit Explores a Wider Circle of Guilt
By Michael Slackman
The New York Times, October 15, 2010
Photo: Michael Sohn/Associated Press
"As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets -- an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by village women. But the exhibits that opened Friday at the German Historical Museum are intentionally prosaic: they emphasize the everyday way that ordinary Germans once accepted, and often celebrated, Hitler. The household items had Nazi logos and colors. The tapestry, a tribute to the union of church, state and party, was woven by a church congregation at the behest of their priest. 'This is what we call self-mobilization of society,' said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. 'As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.' This show, 'Hitler and the Germans: Nation and Crime,' opened Friday. It was billed as the first in Germany since the end of World War II to focus exclusively on Adolf Hitler. Germany outlaws public displays of some Nazi symbols, and the curators took care to avoid showing items that appeared to glorify Hitler. His uniforms, for example, remained in storage. Instead, the show focuses on the society that nurtured and empowered him.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bosnia and Herzegovina / Sexual Violence against Women

Jolie Questions Decision to Deny Her Film Permit
Associated Press dispatch in The New York Times, October 15, 2010
"Angelina Jolie has questioned Bosnia's decision to withdraw her film permit, saying Friday it was based on false rumors that her movie will be a love story about a Bosniak woman and a Serb man who raped her during the country's war. But the actress, and two members of her film crew in Sarajevo, declined to say what the plot of her directorial debut will be, and that could make it difficult to allay the concerns of the movie's main opponents: Bosnia's wartime rape victims. Jolie said in a written statement Friday that it will be a shame if 'unfair pressure based on wrong information' prevents her crew from shooting her film in Bosnia. It's working title is 'United Love Story.' She offered to meet with wartime rape victims in Bosnia and to clarify misunderstandings that led Sarajevo's culture minister, Gavrilo Grahovac, to deny the permit. 'My hope is that people will hold judgment until they have seen the film,' Jolie said. The movie was supposed to be shot partly in Bosnia in November, but Grahovac revoked the permit this week under pressure from the Association of Women, Victims of War, which represents the several thousand mainly Muslim Bosniak women who were raped during Bosnia's 1992-95 war

Monday, October 11, 2010

Congo / France / International Criminal Court

France Arrests Rwandan Over Congo Atrocities
By Marlise Simons
The New York Times, October 11, 2010
"French police on Monday arrested a Rwandan believed to be a leader of a movement involved in a recent terror campaign in the Kivu region of Congo in which thousands of civilians have been killed and raped. Armed with an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in The Hague, police detained the Rwandan, Callixte Mbarushimana, 47, shortly after dawn at his home in Paris, a court official said. He is wanted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a statement from the court. The Rwandan's activities had been tracked for more than 18 months in several countries including France, Germany, the Congo and Rwanda, the court official said. Mr. Mbarushimana, who has the status of political refugee and has lived in France for several years, was to appear later Monday before a local judge, who must decide on his transfer to the international court in The Hague. The process could take several days, because the decision can be appealed. The prosecutor's office in The Hague in a statement said that Mr. Mbarushima was one of the top leaders of the Rwandan rebel group FDLR, that from its base in the Congo was fighting to gain power in Rwanda and was using massive crimes against civilians to demonstrate its power.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Israel / Turkey / International Criminal Court

Gaza Flotilla Attack: Calls for International Criminal Court to Step In
By Afua Hirsch
The Guardian, October 8, 2010
Photo: "Israeli navy commandos intercept the Mavi Marmara on its way to Gaza in May." (Kate Geraghty/Sydney Morning Herald/Getty Images)
"The international criminal court is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defence force for the raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship. Turkish victims have formally requested an investigation, the Guardian has learned. Lawyers acting for Turkish citizens injured or killed when Israel intercepted the flotilla in May have written to Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court's prosecutor, claiming there is an 'overwhelming' case for prosecution. The request is a significant step towards a criminal investigation by the court, which experts say has jurisdiction to prosecute those involved in the raid despite Israel not recognising its jurisdiction. 'The attack on the flotilla occurred in international waters, which directly violated many parts of international law as well as international public and criminal law,' said Ramazan Ariturk, a partner at Elmadag Law Office, the Turkish legal body that is representing the Turkish victims and the human rights group IHH. 'The crimes committed by Israeli Defence Forces should be prosecuted and the International Criminal Court is the sole authority which is able to do that.' There is mounting pressure on Israel after a UN report into the incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, accused Israel of violating international law. The report, published last month, said Israel 'betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality' during the raid on the flotilla and it 'constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.' Israel condemned the report as 'biased and distorted.' It has created its own state-appointed inquiry, headed by retired supreme court justice Jacob Turkel. [...]"

Sudan / United Nations

UN Delegation Presses Sudan to Allow a Referendum and Avert a New Civil War
By Mark Landler
The New York Times, October 8, 2010
"After languishing as what many experts worried was the world’s most neglected foreign-policy problem, Sudan is now in the spotlight: a high-level delegation from the United Nations Security Council arrived in the capital, Khartoum, on Friday, to press the government not to disrupt a coming referendum that is considered likely to result in partition. The diplomats, including the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, had earlier toured southern Sudan to monitor preparations for the voting, which many analysts fear could reignite a north-south civil war if it is mishandled. The visit comes two weeks after President Obama publicly warned the Sudanese at the United Nations to allow a credible vote. Voters in the south will be asked whether they want their region to become independent, and it is widely expected that the answer will be yes. There are growing fears that the referendum will not be held on time because of delays in registering voters. Beyond that, some fear that the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, which depends on the oil-rich south for revenues, will try to rig the vote or cancel it. 'There's tension, there's anticipation, there's anxiety and there's fear that this moment will be stolen from them,' Ambassador Rice said Friday from Khartoum. While she said the referendum's official managers assured her that it would proceed on Jan. 9, as scheduled, she added, 'It's going to be very tight.'

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Misrepresenting a famine image

A correspondent has posted to my blog and elsewhere convincing evidence that Bloomsbury, publisher of Frank Dikötter's 2010 book Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, has misrepresented the cover photo of an orphan begging during a 1946 famine in Nationalist China as an image from the mass famine of the Great Leap Forward period under Mao Zedong's Communist Party (1958-62).

The cover of Dikötter's book:

Here's a scan I made of a close-up of the apparent victim of "Mao's great famine":

And finally, the 1946 photo from LIFE (Mao's Communists did not seize national power until 1949):

(Link to the version of the image as posted on the LIFE site, captioned: "May 1946: Starving child holding out an empty rice bowl during famine.")

I think Wayne is deeply naive about the nature of Mao's rule and the devastation of the Great Leap Forward period. I discuss the famine and its terrible toll in my revised Chapter 5, "Stalin and Mao," for the second edition of my textbook, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. But this is clearly a serious error that the author and publisher need to address promptly.

Beyond the misrepresentation, may I also suggest that the very extensive airbrushing, replacement/grafting of background, colourization and so on of the original image is curiously reminiscent of communist practice under Mao and Stalin?

I have not yet read Dikötter's book, but it is at the top of my list.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Rwanda / Democratic Republic of the Congo

It's Time to Hold Rwanda Accountable For Its War Crimes
By Mvemba Phezo Dizolele
The New Republic, October 5, 2010
"The Senegalese poet Birago Diop once wrote that the dead are not really dead. They live on in the wind, forests, and rivers, their pleas for justice echoing among the living. So it is today in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than five million people have been killed in the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. But the calls for justice by the dead and the living have been repeatedly muted in several classified or sanitized United Nations reports, all to protect a handful of powerful—and likely guilty—parties in the supposed interest of peace and stability. Today, the international community finds itself at a crossroads concerning Congo. In late August, a draft report by the UN High Commission for Human Rights was leaked to the French newspaper Le Monde. It documented more than 600 incidents of gross human rights violations by Congo’s warring factions and their allies in Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Burundi. Amid the more serious allegations, the report accuses Rwandan Tutsi soldiers and their allies in Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s rebel alliance of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and alleged acts of genocide against tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo. Some of the victims were génocidaires from Rwanda, but others, including women and children, were not.


George Clooney in Southern Sudan over War Worries
By Maggie Fick
The Huffington Post, October 6, 2010
Photo: Associated Press
"American actor George Clooney is visiting the little known region of Southern Sudan. The UN Security Council arrived to a raucous welcome on Wednesday, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also made a recent trip here. The high-level visits are putting the spotlight on the Texas-sized area of Sudan that is far less known to Americans than the western region of Darfur, where mass atrocities have been committed over the last decade. Southern Sudan is three months from a Jan. 9 independence vote that could see Africa's largest country break in two. The vote -- and the potential of a new north-south war because of it -- are the reason behind the rash of visits. 'If you knew a tsunami, or Katrina or a Haiti earthquake was coming, what would you do to save people?' Clooney said, according to a blog post by Ann Curry, a reporter for NBC who is accompanying Clooney. Clooney spent the past week traveling to remote, conflict-prone areas of Sudan's south with John Prendergast, the founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide advocacy group. One photo posted by Curry showed Clooney pointing over a field that Curry wrote was the site of a mass grave from 2008. That was in Abyei, a town that was largely burned to the ground after southern and northern armies clashed there, prompting an estimated 60,000 people to flee. The UN reported at the time that at least 140 people died. Clooney, who declined a request for comment, also visited the town of Malakal, where elements of Sudan's northern and southern armies have clashed twice since the end of the 21-year north-south civil war in 2005.

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Congolese Rebel Commander Responsible for Mass Rapes Arrested
The Telegraph, October 6, 2010
Photo: "Zaina Niangoma who was raped along with her 15-year-old daughter (not pictured) by three members of the Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda." (AFP/Getty Images)
"UN and Congolese forces have arrested a rebel commander allegedly responsible for mass rapes in eastern Congo. The UN has been criticised for failing to stop the attacks after it took days for help to arrive, even though the villages are 12 miles from a camp of UN peacekeepers from India. The UN said a peacekeeping patrol drove through one of the villages while it was being held by the fighters, but said peacekeepers took no action because no one told them what was going on. Rape has been increasingly used by various groups of fighters in eastern Congo to intimidate, punish and control the population, especially in the mining areas. Dr. Chris Baguma, of the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, said that he had seen many, many rape victims in the area 'but I have never seen anything so planned, so systematic, so animalistic.'

Monday, October 04, 2010

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Frenzy of Rape in Congo Reveals UN Weakness
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, October 3, 2010
Photo: "United Nations peacekeepers protecting civilians by escorting them home from a market in the Democratic Republic of Congo." (Michael Kamber/The New York Times)
"Four armed men barged into Anna Mburano's hut, slapped the children and threw them down. They flipped Mrs. Mburano on her back, she said, and raped her, repeatedly. It did not matter that dozens of United Nations peacekeepers were based just up the road. Or that Mrs. Mburano is around 80 years old. 'Grandsons!' she yelled. 'Get off me!' As soon as they finished, they moved house to house, along with hundreds of other marauding rebels, gang-raping at least 200 women. What happened in this remote, thatched-roof village on July 30 and continued for at least three more days has become a searing embarrassment for the United Nations mission in Congo. Despite more than 10 years of experience and billions of dollars, the peacekeeping force still seems to be failing at its most elemental task: protecting civilians. The United Nations' blue-helmets are considered the last line of defense in eastern Congo, given that the nation's own army has a long history of abuses, that the police are often invisible or drunk and that the hills are teeming with rebels. But many critics contend that nowhere else in the world has the United Nations invested so much and accomplished so little.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Roma/Gypsies / European Union

Outsiders: The Trouble with the Roma
By Peter Popham
The Independent, October 4, 2010
Photo: "An elderly woman in a camp on the outskirts of Rome." (Agence France-Presse)
"[...] Gypsies have been emigrating to Italy from the Balkans since the 15th century. Today, the Romany population of Italy is thought to be around 180,000, perhaps twice that of Britain. Most of them have been sedentary for centuries. As elsewhere, what has kept them distinct from the majority population is their language, culture and folkways. What has changed over the past 20 years is the arrival in the West of relatively large numbers of Romany immigrants from eastern Europe: from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, fleeing the wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early Nineties; and from Romania following the death of Ceausescu, the fall of the Communist regime, and the opening of the borders around the same time. The single most critical moment was the entry of Romania into the EU on 1 January 2007, which enabled Romanian citizens to move around the EU at will. Hundreds of thousands of migrants poured into Italy as a result, more than into any other country. The panicky realisation that they could not easily be removed led to a mood of crisis. A small but very visible fraction of them -- no one knows how many -- were Romanies. As in Italy, the Romany populations of Romania and Yugoslavia had been settled for hundreds of years. ... But while Italy's Romanies remained socially marginal and relatively deprived, Tito and Communism had given those in Yugoslavia the opportunity to improve their lives. ... Today, Romanies in Serbia have TV and radio news programmes and newspapers in their own language, and are represented by Romany politicians. In Romania, too, most of the community led settled lives for centuries, though their conditions of life were much worse than in Yugoslavia: Romania's gypsies were slaves until the mid-19th century; most are still very poor, and they still suffer from the prejudices of the majority community. This, as well as the arrival of mass unemployment, explains why many chose to go west. Reaching Italy, they found the affluent land they had heard about -- but became victims of their new country's prejudices. Eighty-four per cent of Italians still believe gypsies to be nomads, and it was as such that they were treated.

France / Jewish Holocaust

Disclosed: The Zealous Way Marshal Pétain Enforced Nazi Anti-Semitic Laws
By Lizzy Davies
The Guardian, October 3, 2010
Photo:  Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images
"The direct role played by France's collaborationist leader in the second world war persecution of the Jews was emphasised today after the draft of a decisive memo, annotated by Philippe Pétain, was made public for the first time. A hitherto unseen copy of the original statute on Jews, vehemently antisemitic legislation passed in October 1940 after defeat by the Nazis, reveals that Pétain 'completely redrafted' the memo to make it even harsher and wider-ranging, according to France's foremost Jewish historian. 'The statute on Jews was a statute that was adopted without pressure from the Germans, without the request of the Germans: an indigenous statute,' Serge Klarsfeld, a veteran lawyer, told French radio. 'And now we have decisive evidence that it was the desire of Marshal Pétain himself.' Handed by an anonymous donor to the Holocaust memorial in Paris and authenticated by experts, the papers show for the first time how Pétain, the reactionary head of Vichy, wrote his personal antisemitism into the politics of the new-born French state. Led by the Vichy government, that state would go on to aid the deportation of 77,000 Jews to concentration camps until liberation in 1944.