Sunday, November 16, 2008

Genocide Studies Media File
November 1-17, 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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"Shards of Kristallnacht Still Cut Deep"
By Adam LeBor
The Times, 8 November 2008
"Seventy years on, the memories have not faded. Kitty Suschny was a terrified schoolgirl of 13 when the Nazis unleashed a night of violence against Vienna's Jews on November 9, 1938. 'I saw the brown shirts marching from our window but my mother pulled me inside. I heard them shouting "Jews go to hell." There was screaming, shouting, the synagogues were set on fire. Many people committed suicide,' recalled Mrs. Suschny, who was evacuated to Britain but returned to Vienna where she lives with her husband, Otto. Thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps on Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, a harbinger of the destruction to come. The dazzling era of Jewish Vienna, that brought the world the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, the writer Arthur Schnitzler and the composer Gusztav Mahler, soon evaporated in the crematoria of the Nazi concentration camps. Of the city's 185,000 Jews, one third perished in the Holocaust and the remainder emigrated. Pogroms erupted across the Third Reich that night but the onslaught against Vienna's Jews was especially ferocious. Annexed by Nazi Germany in March 1938, Hitler's homeland was his most devoted disciple. Vienna was a 'laboratory for anti-Jewish violence,' writes the historian Mark Mazower, in Hitler's Empire. This weekend Austria and its neighbours commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. But behind the diplomatic dinners and sombre speeches lies a darker reality: of a nation much of whose post-war prosperity was built on looted Jewish assets, numerous members of whose elite were personally enriched by the Holocaust, and which has only just started to face the darkest chapter in its history. [...]"


"Bolivia Asks US to Extradite Former President for Genocide Trial", 12 November 2008
"Bolivia has asked the US to extradite a former president and two ministers in his 2002-2003 administration to face genocide charges, EFE reported Wednesday. 'We have officially delivered the letters requesting the extradition of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, his defence minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain and energy minister Jorge Berindoague,' Charges d'Affaires at the Bolivian Embassy here, Erika Dueñas, said Tuesday. Bolivia's Congress in October 2004 authorized a trial of Lozada and his two ministers and in September 2007 the Supreme Court ordered the foreign ministry to request the former president's extradition from the United States. Lozada, who had previously been president from 1993-1997, resigned amid unrest Oct 17, 2003, and fled to the United States. The former president and the two former ministers face genocide charges for the death of 63 people during an uprising by coca growers, unionists and peasant farmers that erupted over his plans to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico via Chilean ports. He also faces charges on eight other counts. [...]"


"Film on Horrors of Bosnian War Wins Rome Festival"
Reuters dispatch, 31 October 2008
"'Resolution 819,' a film about the Srebrenica massacre in the last months of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, won the top prize at the Rome film festival Friday. A French production directed by Italy's Giacomo Battiato, the film tells the true story of a policeman sent by the U.N.'s highest court to investigate the disappearance of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the Bosnian town after it fell to Bosnian Serb forces. The film spares the audience little of the harrowing evidence the policeman gathers over the years on the slaughter in what was supposed to be a U.N. safe area. That evidence served as the basis for the indictment for genocide of Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who was arrested in July. His wartime commander Ratko Mladic, also indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is still at large. The title refers to a 1993 U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to armed Serb attacks on Srebrenica. 'Resolution 819' won the prize for best film awarded by members of the public. ... 'I think the public shared my point of view, and that is the anger, the pain toward the worst war since World War Two, a war that happened before our eyes,' Battiato said at the awards ceremony. [...]"


"Tibetans Meet to Rethink Autonomy", 17 November 2008
"Hundreds of exiled Tibetans have begun a landmark meeting in northern India to discuss their homeland's future with China. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, called the meeting following frustrations over repeated failed talks with the Chinese government, saying that new ideas were necessary. The gathering in Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet's government in exile, is to re-evaluate the so-called 'middle path' policy with China which espouses 'meaningful autonomy' for the Himalayan region. Talks last week -- the third round since violent anti-China protests rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in March -- failed because of 'a great divergence' between the two sides over China's policy on Tibet, according to Chinese officials. A Chinese government spokesman earlier dismissed the gathering to discuss the core of the decades-old dispute, saying that such 'separatist attempts will get nowhere.' On Sunday, the Dalai Lama's envoys to the Beijing talks said China had rejected a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their needs of autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Before Monday's meeting, the Dalai Lama urged the 500 participants to consider all aspects of policy regarding China, ensuring that the thorny issue of whether to push for full independence is tackled. [...]"


"U.N. Says Colombian Military Executing Civilians", 1 November 2008
"Colombia's U.S.-backed security forces are engaging in 'systematic and widespread' extrajudicial executions of innocent civilians as part of their counterinsurgency campaign, a top United Nations diplomat said Saturday U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in Bogota, says Colombia must rein in its security forces. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in Bogota, says Colombia must rein in its security forces. Speaking in Bogota after a weeklong fact-finding tour, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the scale of the killings could constitute a 'crime against humanity' under international humanitarian law, adding that international courts could intervene if the Colombian government was 'unwilling or unable' to handle the investigations itself. 'An offense becomes a crime against humanity if it is widespread and systematic against the civilian population,' Pillay said at a news conference. 'We are observing and keeping a record of the number of extrajudicial killings [in Colombia], and it does appear to be systematic and widespread in my view. The goal is to have the national authorities these crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. It's only when a country is unable and unwilling that the International Criminal Court, for instance, would have the power to intervene,' she added. Her comments come three days after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe fired 25 army officers and non-commissioned officers, including three generals and 11 colonels, for alleged involvement or negligence in a case involving the forced disappearance and summary executions of at least 11 young men from a poor Bogota suburb this year. It was the biggest purge in Colombian military ranks for alleged human rights abuses. [...]"


"UN Adviser Urges Combatants in Congo to Refrain from Actions That Might Encourage Genocide"
By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 7 November 2008
"A key U.N. adviser warned combatants in eastern Congo Friday against any actions that might encourage genocide, saying anyone promoting ethnic killings will be held accountable. Francis Deng, the special adviser on genocide to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said he has been 'especially alarmed by the escalation of violence in the past few weeks.' The conflict in eastern Congo is fueled by ethnic hatred left over from genocide in 1994 the claimed half-million Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda. Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, who went on the offensive Aug. 28, claims he is fighting to protect minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu rebels who participated in the genocide and fled to Congo afterward. In a statement released at U.N. headquarters, Deng emphasized 'that the belligerents in eastern Congo must refrain from actions that might encourage genocide and that they, and any actors who provide material support, will be held accountable if they fail to do so.' He said that under international law 'the intention to destroy an ethnic population group, in whole or in part, is a grave crime' and that the international community is obligated to punish violators. ... Deng, a human rights expert and former Sudanese diplomat, is responsible for determining from existing sources of information whether there is a risk of genocide in any part of the world and to alert the international community to such risks."

"Murder, Muddle and Panic"
The Economist, 6 November 2008
"'The situation is catastrophic,' says a Red Cross man. 'There's no other word.' Tens of thousands of terrified civilians are jamming the roads of Congo's North Kivu province in a frantic southbound exodus in the hope of self-preservation ... General Laurent Nkunda's mainly Tutsi rebels are poised to grab the eastern city of Goma after capturing most of the smaller towns in the area. Reports of massacres on the night of November 5th in Kiwanja, a small town north of Goma, have increased the panic. An officer in General Nkunda's force said that his men had 'neutralised' men in civilian clothes there who, he said, covertly belonged to the so-called Mai-Mai militias; they, along with the Congolese army and others, have been fighting the Tutsi rebels. A local clergyman said at least 180 civilians had been killed during the night. The UN's mission to Congo, known by the acronym MONUC, which has 17,000 peacekeepers across the country, including 6,000-odd in North Kivu, has been unable to cope. Diplomacy, hitherto fruitless, is intensifying. European diplomats, led by the foreign ministers of Britain and France, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, have visited regional capitals, calling for talks and troop reinforcements. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was set to host a summit on November 7th in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, bringing together the presidents of Congo and Rwanda, Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame respectively, who have been sponsoring some of the rival rebel armies. ... The French government suggested that a robust European force of 400 to 1,500 soldiers be dispatched urgently to protect the humanitarian missions that are struggling to give relief to hundreds of thousands of hapless and hungry civilians. So far the European Union has been loth to give the go-ahead. [...]"

"Ashley Judd's Heart Of Darkness"
By Christopher Dickey
Newsweek, 30 October 2008
"[...] 'This epidemic of rape; it's like a contagion,' said Judd. 'When one man does it, it activates other men, and then the more brutal it becomes—looking for pregnant women to rape, and children. It's so unbelievably heinous that it's hard for us to wrap our minds around. Sit with a woman, who, through word of mouth, heard there was a clinic which could help a woman who had been raped ... She had to figure out -- in the midst of being stigmatized, in the midst of her physical agony, in the midst of incontinence and starvation -- how to get herself walking, crawling to this clinic, only to find that it's overcrowded, because there are so many women, hundreds, if not thousands, just like her. And just imagine, this is a clinic that does nothing but genital reconstruction.' 'What exactly are we talking about here?' 'Well, the vagina will tear when being forced to accommodate either a rapist's anatomy or objects that are introduced: wood, rock, sticks, guns, bayonets. There will be perforation of the vaginal walls, perforation and ripping of the cervix, potentially, based on the extent of the penetration into the uterus. The wall between the rectum and vagina is ripped apart. The urethra, which goes to the bladder, is damaged. There is incontinence. The urine is constantly seeping out, because the muscles and mechanisms that hold the bladder intact are ruined; there is faecal incontinency, which of course can introduce faecal matter into the gut, which results in horrific infections. Does that paint the picture?' It did. So I asked Judd if she thought people ought to have a stronger sense of just how horrible these scenes are -- or would people simply turn their backs ... again?" [...]"
[As this excerpt indicates, this is no mere celebrity portrait, but one of the more powerful and evocative recent features on Congo that I have seen.]


"In El Salvador, A New Push for Justice in Priests' Slayings"
By Tracy Wilkinson and Alex Renderos
The Los Angeles Times, 13 November 2008
"The murder 19 years ago of six Jesuit priests by a U.S.-trained army unit was the turning point in El Salvador's long civil war, an atrocity so grave that it helped force an end to the fighting. But the soldiers and officers convicted or implicated in the slayings are free under a controversial amnesty law that is receiving new attention thanks to election politics here and a potentially landmark court case in Spain. Relatives of the priests, who were killed along with their housekeeper and her young daughter, have joined with two human rights organizations and today plan to file suit in Madrid against the generals, colonels and soldiers blamed for the killings. The plaintiffs are invoking the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which Spanish courts have championed, that allows a case of egregious human rights violation to be heard in a country even if the acts did not take place there and the defendants do not reside there. Human rights activists in the Americas and Europe said they hoped the Jesuit complaint could be used to fight impunity and bring justice to the victims' families by joining a procession of Spanish court cases that have forced Latin America to confront its violent past. These include suits against Guatemalan military officers accused in the massacre of indigenous citizens and figures in Argentina's 'dirty war' against leftist dissidents. 'This has an invaluable historic importance for El Salvador,' said David Morales, program coordinator at a legal think tank in San Salvador that specializes in justice issues. 'All Salvadoran society has been the victim here. ... Just knowing the truth has a restorative effect.' [...]"


"Berlin Takes Rome to Court"
Der Spiegel Online, 3 November 2008
"After a high court in Italy ruled that Germany is liable for damages stemming from a 1944 massacre in the village of Civitella perpetrated by Nazi soldiers, Berlin has asked the International Criminal Court to look into the case. Berlin worries the verdict could set off an avalanche of World War II-related court cases against the German government. On Oct. 22, Italy's highest appellate court, the Cassation, ruled that Germany must pay €1 million in compensation to the descendents of those killed by Nazi soldiers in the Italian town of Civitella in 1944. Now, Germany has taken the case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the hopes that it will rule that the payments don't have to be made. A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Berlin on Saturday confirmed a report in this week's SPIEGEL, saying that the ICC 'has been asked to clarify this question.' The October verdict in Rome also sentenced a German officer named Max Josef Milde in abstentia to life in prison. The court found that the officer was involved in the June 29, 1944 massacre which saw over 200 villagers, including the village priest, executed in revenge for the killing of three German soldiers by partisans 10 days earlier. Germany and Italy signed an agreement in 1961, which resulted in a blanket payment of 40 million deutsche marks. Of particular concern to Berlin, however, is the finding that Germany can also be held liable for the massacre. Such a precedent could trigger an expensive wave of individual lawsuits against Germany. [...]"


"Alleged Nazi Mass Murderer Could Face Trial in Germany"
Spiegel Online, 10 November 2008
"A suspected Nazi mass murderer, accused of complicity in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, could soon find himself hauled before the courts in Germany. Ivan John Demjanjuk's alleged role as a World War II death camp guard has for years made him one of the most hotly pursued targets of German investigators. And now Nazi hunter Kurt Schrimm, who heads up the world's largest investigation center for such atrocities in Ludwigsburg, Germany believes he has finally pinned him down. Following painstaking research across three continents, Schrimm and his colleagues believe they have enough material to request the extradition of 88-year-old Demjanjuk, who now lives in the state of Ohio in the United States. Public investigator Schrimm on Monday handed documentation for preliminary proceedings against the 88-year-old, remembered by those he allegedly tortured as 'Ivan the Terrible,' over to the Public Prosecutor's Office in Munich. ... The charges against the elderly man are enough to send a shiver down the spine of even the most conflict-hardened. It is alleged he trained as a guard in the SS camp Trawniki close to the Polish city of Lublin. From the end of March to the middle of September 1943, prosecutors claim he served in the death camp Sobibor in south-east Poland. Between May 1942 and October 1943, some 250,000 people were executed there. It is alleged Demjanjuk personally has the blood of tens of thousands of these victims on his hands. [...]"
[n.b. See also Spiegel's useful "Nazi Most Wanted List."]

"Blueprints for Auschwitz Camp Found in Germany"
By Erik Kirschbaum
Reuters dispatch, 9 November 2008
"The original construction plans believed used for a major expansion of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1941 have been found in a Berlin flat, Germany's Bild newspaper reported on Saturday. The daily printed three architect's drawings on yellowing paper from the batch of 28 pages of blueprints it obtained. One has an 11.66 meter by 11.20 meter room marked 'Gaskammer' (gas chamber) that was part of a 'delousing facility.' No one from the federal government's archives was immediately available for comment on the authenticity or importance of the documents. The plans, published ahead of the 70th anniversary of the 'Kristallnacht' or the Nazi pogrom that was a harbinger of the Holocaust, also include a crematorium and a 'L. Keller' -- an abbreviation for 'Leichenkeller' or corpse cellar. A drawing of the building for Auschwitz's main gate was also found in the documents that Bild said were believed to have been discovered when a Berlin flat was cleaned out. The mass-circulation newspaper quoted Hans-Dieter Kreikamp, head of the federal archives office in Berlin, as saying the blueprints offered 'authentic evidence of the systematically planned genocide of European Jews.' There were mass killings of about one million Jews before the Nazi's "Final Solution" was formulated in late 1941. The decision to kill Europe's 11 million Jews was made at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. ... 'These documents reveal that everyone who had even anything remotely to do with the planning and construction of the concentration camp must have know that people were to be gassed to death in assembly-line fashion,' Bild wrote. [...]"

"Germany Confronts Its Dark Past"
By Andrew Purvis, 8 November 2008
"Seventy years ago on Nov. 9, the Jews of Germany -- and perhaps most of Europe -- had their fate revealed to them on one frightening night. Kristallnacht, or 'Night of Broken Glass,' saw the ruling Nazi party unleash bands of thugs on Jewish communities throughout Germany and Austria, ostensibly to avenge an attack on a German diplomat in Paris by a young German Jew whose family had been forced to flee Hitler's regime. By dawn on Nov. 10, 92 Jews lay dead, among the 400 beaten, shot or driven to suicide by the abuse. Some 267 synagogues had been torched and hundreds of Jewish businesses destroyed, and 30,000 Jews had been rounded up and dispatched to concentration camps. It was, most historians believe, the pogrom that portended the systematic murder of 6 million European Jews by Hitler's regime. Germany will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Sunday through a series of events aimed at ensuring that a new generation of Germans, too young to have known anyone connected with those events, learn about the horrors that flowed from the racism of Germany's past, in the hope of guarding against any future recurrence. Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to mark the anniversary by speaking alongside the head of Germany's Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, at the Ryke Street synagogue in the old eastern part of Berlin. Although the synagogue was torched on Kristallnacht (or Reichspogromnacht, as some German Jews now prefer to call it), its structure remained intact, and it was reopened last year for the first time since World War II. The ceremony will include the screening of a documentary on the infamous night and another on the Jewish community in Germany today. Elsewhere in Berlin, a Mozart requiem and concert for violin by Felix Mendelssohn will be performed by the philharmonic chamber orchestra. [...]"

"Berlin Center Marks Those Who Saved Jews"
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 2 November 2008
"The 'Silent Heroes' now have a voice. A new memorial center in Berlin pays tribute to the thousands of German gentiles who risked everything to save Jews from persecution by the Nazis and documents the stories of those who sometimes spent years in hiding. The 'Silent Heroes' memorial center opened to the public last week amid a new focus in recent years on the legacy of the 'good German' -- individuals who resisted Hitler, were labeled as traitors by the Nazis and were often shunned after the war. 'Their accomplishments were totally forgotten, and this is an initiative to bring them back into our memory,' said Johannes Tuchel, director of the German Resistance Memorial Center Foundation, which is behind the new memorial. About 5,000 Jews were able to survive the war in hiding in Germany. It is not clear how many people were involved in helping them, Tuchel said. Research suggests that for each person in hiding, about 10 people aided him or her. Peter Michalski, whose family went into hiding in 1944, said it was a long overdue tribute to the Germans who helped people like him escape death. 'Where would you be now if these people hadn't existed?' he asked contemplatively while looking at an exhibit focusing on his family's plight. 'The answer is simple: We wouldn't be.' The three-room exhibition has many multimedia displays in English and German -- audio accounts, touch-screen computers focusing on 18 aspects of survival, and computers with more details on those in hiding and their rescuers. There are also personal photos, diaries and letters. The best-known subject is Oskar Schindler, whose story was told by Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film 'Schindler's List,' which showed his efforts to shield 1,000 Jews from Nazi camps by hiring them to work in his factories. Some of the lesser-known stories are just as moving. [...]"


"The GM Genocide: Thousands of Indian Farmers are Committing Suicide after Using Genetically Modified Crops"
By Andrew Malone
The Daily Mail, 3 November 2008
"[...] Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month. Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide -- a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops. It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children. As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto. 'We are ruined now,' said the dead man's 38-year-old wife. 'We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.' Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. 'He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,' she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. 'He was dead by the time they got to hospital.' Asked if the dead man was a 'drunkard' or suffered from other 'social problems', as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. 'No! No!' one of the dead man's brothers exclaimed. 'Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes. 'He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.' [...]"


"Holocaust is Over, Leading Israeli Tells Likud"
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, 1 November 2008
"Benjamin Netanyahu, a front-runner for the Israeli premiership, has been severely criticised by a former Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Jewish Agency for comparing the threat posed by Iran to that of pre-war Nazi Germany. Mr. Netanyahu, whose Likud Party is running neck and neck in the polls with Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, has gone further than his rivals in implying he might authorise a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear installations. Avraham Burg, whose new book The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes is out in Britain this weekend, says in an interview with The Independent Magazine that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is 'no doubt a problem.' Mr. Burg adds: 'He is an issue in the Western world and for Israel's sense of confidence in particular.' But he continues: 'What is [Mr. Netanyahu's] soundbite? "It is [19]38 all over again." Do me a favour. Did we have such a powerful state in '38? Did we have this onmipotent army in '38? Did we have the most important superpowers siding with us in '38? Did we have the Catholic church taking a different attitude in '38? It's not '38, however you look at it. And even Ahmadinejad, when you compare him with Hitler, you diminish Hitler.' Mr. Burg's book, in part a plea to fellow Israelis more than 60 years after the Holocaust to stop seeing themselves as 'a nation of victims,' caused furious debate when the Hebrew version became a bestseller in Israel last year. The new translation is likely to provoke similar argument, particularly in the US. Mr. Burg, a strong Barack Obama supporter, says 'a dialoguing President is better than a shooter' and that George Bush has been a 'disaster for the world and for Israel.' He argues against Israel defining itself as a 'Jewish state' instead of as a 'state for the Jewish people which belongs to all its citizens' -- including Arabs. Mr. Burg, who does not rule out a return to Israeli politics, also warns that the days for a two-state solution are 'numbered' because Israeli and Palestinian societies have been 'abducted' by fundamentalists. [...]"


"WWII Apologists Persist Despite Japanese Policy"
By Blaine Harden
The Washington Post, 3 November 2008
"Once again, a Japanese official with nationalist sympathies -- in this case, the head of the air force -- has glossed over the Asian suffering caused by Japan during World War II. Once again, China and South Korea -- principal victims of Japan's wartime depredations -- have expressed shock and anger. And once again, the government in Tokyo has restated its official policy, which is that Japan deeply regrets and apologizes for its wartime aggression. The abiding reluctance of prominent nationalists in Japan to come to grips with the past resurfaced Friday, when a hotel company announced the winner of its $30,000 'true modern history' essay contest. The winning essay was written by Gen. Toshio Tamogami, who until Friday night was chief of staff of the air force. He was fired a few hours after the essay appeared on the hotel company's Web site. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because of a 'trap' set by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Tamogami claimed in his essay, which also argued 'that many Asian countries take a positive view' of Japan's role in the war. He wrote, too, that the war was good for international race relations: 'If Japan had not fought the Great East Asia War at that time, it might have taken another 100 or 200 years before we could have experienced the world of racial equality that we have today.' The essay concluded that 'it is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation.' Explaining why Tamogami was fired, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that a senior military leader 'should not make public an opinion opposed to the government's position.' [...]"


"Kristallnacht 70 Years On"
By Karen Pollock
New Statesman, 8 November 2008
"[...] If we are to learn anything from Kristallnacht it is a reminder to us all of where unchecked racism and intolerance can lead and underscores our responsibility as human beings to ensure that such evil is always confronted whenever and wherever it occurs. The Holocaust did not begin with the gas chambers at Auschwitz, it did not even begin with Kristallnacht -- it began with words and was reacted to with silence. The extermination of European Jewry took place at the end of a long road, a long history marked by centuries of age-old antisemitism and prejudice dating back to the middle ages and most significantly it was a long road marked by indifference. Nor was the Holocaust a mere symptom of the time; the era. As we have seen repeatedly in the years that have followed the Holocaust genocide and atrocities have plagued every corner of the globe and continue to do so. We cannot and must not consign the terror and cruelty of that night to our history books or fool ourselves into believing that it was a history belonging to a different era. To remove ourselves in this way is to remove our own responsibility in fighting racism and intolerance today. This year, many of us have no doubt felt helpless as far-right parties continue to gain a foothold in local councils, and even in the London Assembly -- the body representing one of the most diverse cities in the world. And make no mistake about it -- these are politicians who exploit community divisions, and whose ideology is based on the same racism and prejudice exhibited during the Holocaust. But we do have the ability to halt racism in its tracks. [...]"


"Kenyan Police Units 'Murder Hundreds'"
By Jon Swain
The Times, 16 November 2008
"A damning report containing evidence of a high-level policy to murder suspected criminals and troublemakers in Kenya threatens to undermine the reputation of the government of President Mwai Kibaki. The report, by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, reveals that in the past 18 months about 500 young men have been killed or have disappeared in a police campaign carried out with the apparent connivance of political leaders. The dead and missing were suspected of being members of the Mungiki, a feared criminal gang that had itself committed gruesome murders. The Mungiki was outlawed in 2002 following a spate of slum violence. It is a quasi-religious group from the dominant Kikuyu tribe and had become one of Kenya's largest crime and extortion rings. In a speech on June 1 last year, Kibaki warned gang members they should expect no mercy. Two days later more than 300 Mungiki members were arrested and 20 killed. John Michuki, the internal security minister, said: 'We will pulverise and finish them off. Even those arrested over the recent killings, I cannot tell you where they are today. What you will certainly hear is that so and so's burial is tomorrow.' Since then the commission has compiled the names of at least 300 men who have been killed or have disappeared. It also said there were about 200 victims whose identities could not be established since they were booked into the mortuaries as unknown. Initially the police shot most suspects but then, the commission said, they turned to strangulation, drowning, mutilation and bludgeoning in an attempt to make the public believe rival gangs were responsible for the killings. Several witnesses told the commission that police death squads carried machetes, iron bars, ropes and other crude weapons in their cars. Its evidence is being studied by the United Nations committee against torture. [...]"


"Chronic Malnutrition in Gaza Blamed on Israel"
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, 15 November 2008
"The Israeli blockade of Gaza has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the strip, according to a leaked report from the Red Cross. It chronicles the 'devastating' effect of the siege that Israel imposed after Hamas seized control in June 2007 and notes that the dramatic fall in living standards has triggered a shift in diet that will damage the long-term health of those living in Gaza and has led to alarming deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D. The 46-page report from the International Committee of the Red Cross -- seen by The Independent -- is the most authoritative yet on the impact that Israel's closure of crossings to commercial goods has had on Gazan families and their diets. The report says the heavy restrictions on all major sectors of Gaza's economy, compounded by a cost of living increase of at least 40 per cent, is causing 'progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70 per cent of Gaza's population.' That in turn is forcing people to cut household expenditures down to 'survival levels.' 'Chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micronutrient deficiencies are of great concern,' it said. Since last year, the report found, there had been a switch to 'low cost/high energy' cereals, sugar and oil, away from higher-cost animal products and fresh fruit and vegetables. Such a shift 'increases exposure to micronutrient deficiencies which in turn will affect their health and wellbeing in the long term.' Israel has often said that it will not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza and the report says that the groups surveyed had 'accessed their annual nutritional energy needs.' But it warned governments, including Israel's, that 'food insecurity and undernutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies' were occurring in the absence of 'overt food shortages.' [...]"


"Rwanda President: Aide Arrested in Germany Was on Government Business"
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 11 November 2008
"Rwandan President Paul Kagame said today his country's sovereignty was violated when an aide visiting Germany was arrested in connection with an attack that set off Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Rose Kabuye, Kagame's chief of protocol, was arrested Sunday at Frankfurt International Airport on a warrant from France, where she is wanted in connection with the fatal April 1994 attack on the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Hutu extremists accuse Tutsi fighters -- then led by Kagame -- of shooting down the plane and killing Habyarimana, a Hutu. Other speculation, though, has focused on hard-line Hutus hoping to create a pretext for mass violence against Tutsis. Kagame visited Kabuye today at the Preungsheim women's prison where she is being held. He told reporters afterward that her case was politically motivated and added it could affect Rwanda's cooperation with the European Union in regard to the fighting in Congo. ... French authorities, who are investigating because Habyarimana's two pilots were French, suspect Kabuye housed the commando unit blamed for shooting down the plane. Forster said Kabuye denies involvement. Ties between Rwanda and France have been strained since a French judge's decision to issue warrants for nine associates of Kagame, including Kabuye, over the crash, All nine are in Kagame's government. The Tutsi-led government and genocide survivor organizations by contrast have often accused France of training and arming the Hutu militias and former government troops who led the genocide. [...]"
[n.b. Does the shootdown of Habyarimana's plane now count as the most significant unsolved act of homicide anywhere in the world?]

"Warrants over Rwanda Genocide Imminent: Sources"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on, 11 November 2008
"Rwanda is poised to issue indictments and arrest warrants against 23 French military and political officials over their suspected role in the country's 1994 genocide, judicial sources said on Tuesday. Indictments against France's late president Francois Mitterrand and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin among others would mark a new step in the judicial escalation between the two countries. The threat of warrants against top French officials -- several of whom are still active -- came as hundreds demonstrated in Kigali against the arrest by Germany, acting on a French warrant, of a top aide to the Rwandan president. ... Rwandan prosecutors had spent the past three months examining a 500-page report drafted by a special commission tasked with probing France's role in the genocide and released on August 5 by the justice ministry. It names former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres. Dominique de Villepin, who was then Juppe's top aide and later became prime minister, was also among those listed in the Rwandan report. It also names 20 military officials, involved notably in Operation Turquoise, a 1994 French military mission to Rwanda which Kigali charges was used to assist Hutu genocide perpetrators. The justice official speaking to AFP on Tuesday did not specify who were the 23 officials facing indictment. [...]"


"Spanish Court Suspends Opening of Franco-Era Mass Graves"
The Telegraph, 7 November 2008
"A court in Spain has halted the opening of mass graves of victims of the nation's 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing dictatorship as ordered by top judge Baltasar Garzon while it analyses the legal basis for his decision. A panel of judges belonging to the National Audience, Spain's top criminal court, ruled to suspend the order by 10 votes to five in response to a demand by the public prosecutor. ... National Audience judge Baltasar Garzon, on October 16, ordered the opening of 19 mass graves, including one near Granada where Spain's most widely acclaimed 20th century poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, is thought to be buried. He ordered four more mass graves to be opened on Thursday as part of an investigation into the disappearances of some 114,000 people during the war and the early years of General Francisco Franco's right-wing dictatorship. Judge Garzon decided to open Spain's first criminal investigation into Franco-era executions and repression in response to a petition filed by 13 associations of victims' families. He based his decision on the grounds that he was probing a case of crimes against humanity that he says has no statute of limitations, an argument he has used in the past to try to prosecute atrocities that took place under military rule in Argentina and Chile that affected Spaniards. But the public prosecutor's office appealed his decision, arguing that it violated an amnesty agreed by political parties in the spirit of national reconciliation in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule. The opposition conservative Popular Party has argued that the judge's move would open up old wounds in Spanish society, but last week Judge Garzon's move got the backing of the UN Commission on Human Rights which called on Spain to abolish its 1977 amnesty law. [...]"


"Obama is Asked to Focus on Darfur"
By Elise Labott, 13 November 2008
"Human rights groups are asking President-elect Barack Obama to pay early attention to the crisis in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, where government forces have waged a bloody war against militias that some international critics have characterized as genocide. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has agreed to a cease-fire with rebels, which could give the U.S. an opening. 'We've seen the military surge in Iraq. We've seen the development surge that NATO's announced for Afghanistan,' said Darfur activist John Prendergast. 'What's really needed in Sudan and the broader Horn and East Africa region is a peace surge.' Prendergast's ENOUGH organization to combat genocide is a project of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank run by Obama's transition co-chairman, John Podesta. Prendergast and other Darfur activists penned a recent letter to Obama, asking him to designate a team to focus solely on the Darfur issue within the first 100 days of his administration. ... During the presidential campaign, Obama called the crisis in Darfur 'a collective stain on our national and human conscience' and said he would make ending it a priority on 'Day One.' Obama has promised to appoint a special envoy to deal with the Darfur issue and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the decades-long civil war between the North and South. That agreement could be a model for a peace process in Darfur, Prendergast said. Although the United States does not have to lead the peace process, it could be an active partner in the global effort to develop a strategy for getting the various parties in Sudan together, he said. [...]"

"Sudan President Offers Ceasefire in Darfur, Other Steps Aiming to Show Ready for Peace"
By Mohamed Osman
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 12 November 2008
"President Omar al-Bashir offered a ceasefire in Darfur on Wednesday and promised to disarm militias, a top rebel demand, in a new push by his government to show it is serious about ending the nearly 6-year-old conflict. Darfur rebels dismissed the moves, saying they don't trust al-Bashir and want to see disarmament of the feared janjaweed militias before agreeing to a ceasefire. Al-Bashir's announcement is part of a high-profile campaign by Khartoum to display its readiness amid attempts to cobble together new Darfur peace negotiations mediated by the Arab nation Qatar and a U.N. envoy. It comes as the Sudanese president is trying to fend off possible genocide charges by the International Criminal Court over atrocities in Darfur. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in the vast region of western Sudan since fighting erupted in early 2003. The war pits troops from the Arab-led Sudanese government against ethnic African rebels, and Khartoum is accused of backing Arab militias known as janjaweed said to have carried out widespread atrocities against ethnic African civilians. The government has repeatedly called ceasefires in Darfur in the past, but they have quickly broken down. ... The call appeared to stop short of ordering a unilateral ceasefire by government troops in Darfur. [...]"


"Tanzania's Macabre Trade: Albinos Killed for Body Parts"
The Telegraph, 7 November 2008
"Tanzanian albinos are living in terror following 30 murders in the east African nation by people apparently seeking their body parts for witchcraft, a campaigner said. The government says most of the killings happened in the last 10 months. The latest three occurred just after a rally held in Dar es Salaam last month to denounce the practice. 'Our biggest fear right now is the fear of living. If you leave work at night as an albino, you are unsure of reaching home safely. When you sleep, you are unsure of waking up in one piece,' Zihada Msembo, secretary general of the Tanzania Albino Society said. 'We marched, the president (Jakaya Kikwete) received us and we said "now we can have some peace" and slept soundly that night. Next morning, we hear yet another albino was killed that very night.' The government says most of the murders occurred in western Tanzania. Police have arrested 53 suspects. The killers sell body parts such as arms, legs, hair, skin and genitals, according to police and albino groups. Those involved in witchcraft, especially in mining and fishing industries, believe these will enrich them, President Kikwete said last month, calling it a 'stupid belief.' Local media have reported several incidents of victims left to bleed to death. [...]"


"Kiev Famine Tribute Irks Medvedev"
The Moscow Times, 17 November 2008
"President Dmitry Medvedev accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday of distorting history for political gain by commemorating a famine engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. 'We clearly see that this theme, along with persistent attempts to secure an invitation to NATO's "prep classes," has in recent years all but become the main element of Ukrainian foreign policy,' Medvedev told Yushchenko in a letter. 'Such steps can hardly be explained by a bid to restore historical justice or to honor the victims' memory. They are more likely aimed at dividing our peoples as much as possible,' he said. The dispute over this week's anniversary of the 1932-33 famine is part of a long series of disputes between the neighbors over Kiev's shift toward the West, which includes seeking membership of NATO and the European Union. Historians say 7.5 million people died in the famine, intended to break the spirit of Ukraine's independent farmers. Medvedev said the famine was 'the consequence of drought and forced collectivization. ... To suggest that the main aim was to destroy Ukrainians is to fly in the face of the facts and paint a general tragedy in nationalist tones.' Ukrainian authorities, led by Yushchenko, have sought to have the famine internationally declared a genocide. Several days of commemorations this week include a conference to be attended by regional leaders, the unveiling of a monument and a solemn procession to honor victims."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"Ukrainians Remember Famine-Genocide of 1933"
By Lori Sherman
Niagara This Week, 14 November 2008
"Mary Burtatynsky was once a happy child, playing in the fields and helping her mother, while growing up with her brother and sister in a small village in the Ukraine. But that childhood was short-lived and soon the happy memories were overshadowed by horrible atrocities most cannot fathom. At the tender age of eight, Burtatynsky endured Holodomor - the widely unknown genocide inflicted by means of a Soviet government-engineered famine that wiped out millions of people across the Ukraine in the early 30s. Burtatynsky joined 19 other survivors at a 75th anniversary commemoration ceremony this weekend at the Ukrainian Black Sea Hall on Welland Avenue. 'We suffered. We suffered so much,' said Burtatynsky, clutching a tissue and wiping away tears from her aging face. 'My father hid a bag of wheat in our home. I remember watching the soldiers go through. They took everything, but they didn't find the bag of wheat.' That bag fed her family of five for over a month, each eating a cup a day mixed with leaves from trees and flowers from the gardens. 'My family survived, but so many did not. My neighbours died. The houses were empty. My street was empty.' Burtatynsky recalls seeing people dying in the streets of her village, some even resorting to cannibalism to feed their starving bodies. ... Until recently, Holodomor, which roughly translates to suffering through starvation, was not recognized by the world as a form of genocide. It wasn't until this year that the European parliament recognized Holodomor as a crime against humanity. Canada has also now followed the lead of other nations in recognizing the event as a deliberate attempt by Josef Stalin to torture and ultimately kill Ukrainians and as such, Canada has now proclaimed the fourth Saturday of November as a memorial day for the victims of Holodomor. [...]"


"Our Haven for War Criminals"
By Ken Macdonald
The Guardian, 8 November 2008
"... There are serious gaps in our law. Suspects can be tried for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed abroad only if they are UK residents or nationals, and if they committed their crimes after the International Criminal Court Act was passed in 2001. Quite illogically, this differs from hostage-taking and torture, which are fully prosecutable here, wherever the offences took place, and have no nationality or residency requirements. So foreign torturers and hostage-takers who commit their crimes overseas can be prosecuted, but Rwandan génocidaires living in the UK are protected. British residents committing war crimes abroad in 2002 may face justice here, but those whose crimes occurred in 1992 are immune. These distinctions lack all humanity and their consequences are ugly. At present, four suspected category-one genocidaires are appealing against an order for their extradition to Rwanda. If they succeed we shall be unable to prosecute them for genocide in our courts. These men, each accused of mass murder, will simply be released to live contentedly among us. The Aegis Trust, an organisation that campaigns on genocide issues, proposes two changes to the law. First, we should move from a strict 'residency' requirement for prosecution, and embrace something closer to a basic 'presence' requirement. This would deal with situations where suspects are found temporarily visiting our country, for example to enjoy medical treatment. It would also bring the UK into line with other common law countries. Second, our courts should be given jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, genocide and all war crimes from the point at which these offences were recognised under international customary law. This would greatly extend our reach into the past. It would largely scrub away the stain of impunity. [...]"


"Obama Election Spurs Race Crimes around Country"
By Jesse Washington
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 16 November 2008
"Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting 'Assassinate Obama.' Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars. Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America. From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders. There have been 'hundreds' of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes. One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: 'I hope Obama gets assassinated.' That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said. She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear. 'I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it,' said Millner, who is black. 'But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking.' Potok, who is white, said he believes there is 'a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them.' [...]"


"Bush Torture Memo Slapped Down by Court"
By Johnny Dwyer, 3 November 2008
"As the curtain falls on the Bush Administration, one set piece of the Administration's policy on torture has finally been ushered offstage. The Bybee Memo, a 2002 opinion authored by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was brushed aside last week by a federal judge overseeing the nation's first-ever criminal trial of an American accused of torture abroad. The public defenders representing torture suspect Chucky Taylor, a U.S. citizen and the son of former Liberian military strongman Charles Taylor, submitted it for consideration as part of potential jury instructions. But Federal Judge Cecilia Altonaga rejected the terms laid out in the memo, saying, 'I will not give an instruction that relies upon that memorandum as its authority.' It was a humiliating epilogue to the Bush Administration's attempt to integrate what many critics describe as undeniable torture into U.S. military and intelligence policy. The Bybee memo, (named for Jay Bybee, then head of the Office of Legal Counsel) was largely authored by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of General Counsel. ... Rejected now by both court and bureaucracy, the Bybee Memo may have no effective existence. But its notoriety is certain to outlive this Administration. Indeed, critics believe it will be part of the Bush legacy. Says Martin Lederman, visiting professor with the Georgetown University Law Center and former adviser to the Office of Legal Counsel: 'the memo will be seen as one of the most extreme deviations from the rule of law and from the President's obligation to take care that the law is faithfully executed.'"


"Catholic-Jewish Controversy Slows Path to Sainthood for Pope Pius XII"
By Justin Ewers
US News & World Report, 14 November 2008
"A half-century after the death of Pope Pius XII, the pontiff who led the Vatican during World War II, the passionate debate over his wartime actions and his qualifications for sainthood shows no signs of fading. Critics have long insisted that Pius was no saint, accusing him of turning a blind eye to the fate of the Jews when he failed to publicly condemn the Holocaust. Pius's defenders disagree, and the former pope's legacy has become the center of a ferocious battle among the Vatican, church historians, and the Jewish community -- a struggle, many experts believe, that has delayed Pius's sainthood for years. Last month, when the Vatican commemorated the 50th anniversary of Pius's death, high-ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church seemed determined to renew the push for Pius's beatification -- a declaration that he is blessed and worthy of veneration, and the last step before sainthood. Pope Benedict XVI himself, in one of the most forceful defenses by a pope of Pius to date, declared that his predecessor, who led the church from 1939 to 1958, had done all he could -- and more than most -- to stop the Holocaust. ... Seeming to excuse Pius's silence during the Holocaust, when the Vatican, like the rest of Europe, was threatened by the Nazis, Benedict insisted the pope's wartime interventions were 'made secretly and silently precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews.' This increasingly muscular defense of Pius, which experts viewed as an attempt to pave the way to sainthood, outraged many in the Jewish community. [...]"

"Holocaust Group to Lobby Pope over Pius Sainthood"
By Philip Pullella
Reuters dispatch, 7 November 2008
"Holocaust survivors and their descendants will lobby Pope Benedict to stop the process of making his wartime predecessor Pius XII a saint, saying beatifying him would be a tragedy for Catholic-Jewish relations. The plan, involving appealing to the pope by lobbying his ambassadors around the world, was approved Thursday night in New York and will be announced formally Monday, a leader of an organization spearheading it told Reuters Friday. 'Beatifying Pius XII would be a tragedy for Catholic-Jewish relations, which have become so warm in recent years,' said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants (AGJHSD). Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked silently behind the scenes and helped save many Jews from certain death during World War Two. Steinberg, who is also executive director emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, said survivors' groups around the world would seek meetings with Vatican nuncios (ambassadors) to express their concern. This is believed to be the first time Holocaust survivors have organized a global campaign to lobby the Vatican. The American group has about 60,000 members. Thursday, Pope Benedict's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Jewish accusations were 'outrageous' and that no one could tell the Vatican whether Pius should be made a saint. [...]"


"UN Court on Rwandan Genocide Expects Its Term to Be Extended"
By Sarah McGregor, 12 November 2008
"The United Nations-backed war crimes court on the Rwandan genocide expects that its term will be extended until the end of next year to allow more time to handle a backlog of cases, spokesman Roland Amoussouga said. The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has handed down 32 convictions and five acquittals, while one case is on appeal, Amoussouga said yesterday in an interview in Arusha, Tanzania. Another 37 detainees are on or awaiting trial, the ICTR said on its Web site. Thirteen people suspected of genocide-related crimes are still at large, Amoussouga said. 'The tribunal made a presentation to the Security Council in June and requested it be granted an extension in order to complete the cases,' Amoussouga said. 'We are waiting a final decision, but already there are indications that we should be granted such an extension at least until the end of December 2009.' As many as 800,000 people, or more than a 10th of Rwanda's population, died in the three-month long slaughter of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus by ethnic Hutu militias, following the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. Habyarimana died when a plane he was traveling in was shot down as it prepared for landing in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The term of ICTR judges already has been extended to next year, Amoussouga said. The tribunal was established in 1994 with a mandate to conclude first instance cases by the end of this year and appeal trials by 2010. Verdicts on three cases, including that of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora who is an alleged mastermind of the killings, will be delivered next month, Amoussouga said. 'We have reached our cruising altitude and now many decisions are coming,' he said. Operating the Arusha-based tribunal and its offices at the Hague and in Rwanda have cost an average of $90 million a year, Amoussouga said."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

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