Friday, October 28, 2011

Argentina / National Tribunals

"Former Argentine navy officer Alfredo Astiz, also known as the 'Blond Angel of Death' for his role in the1976-83 dictatorship and sought in France for the murder of French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet, appears during a trial in Buenos Aires on Thursday." (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)
Argentina's "Blond Angel of Death" Convicted for Role in Dirty War
By Sam Ferguson
The Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2011
"Nearly 30 years after the collapse of Argentina's last military dictatorship, the man most identified with perpetrating the 1976-1983 'dirty war' was convicted in a Buenos Aires criminal court on Wednesday night. Alfredo Astiz, known as the 'blond angel of death,' served as a lieutenant at the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), a torture center where thousands of guerrillas and dissidents were secretly imprisoned and executed. He and 17 other defendants were charged with various cases of kidnapping, torture, and murder relating to 86 victims. 'I'm happy. After so many years, there's finally justice,' said Carlos Muñoz, a survivor from the ESMA. The charges against Astiz centered on his role in infiltrating, kidnapping, and executing 12 human rights activists in 1977. Beginning in middle of that year, Astiz began marching with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who congregated in Buenos Aires’ central square to protest the disappearance of their children. The Mothers knew him as Gustavo Niño, a young, handsome, well-spoken man who was desperately seeking his missing brother. When Astiz suspected that his cover had been compromised, he helped organize a series of raids around Buenos Aires in December of 1977. Twelve people were kidnapped, including three founding members of the Mothers and two French missionary nuns, Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet. Several were tortured in the Naval Mechanics School, and within days the 12 activists were loaded onto navy airplanes and thrown into the South Atlantic. The ferocity of Astiz's crimes juxtaposed against his good looks and upright demeanor made him an eerie symbol of the repression.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"Volunteers in Surt removed bodies of people apparently killed in reprisal by anti-Qaddafi militias. Many had their hands bound and had been shot in the head." (Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)
In Libya, Massacre Site Is Cleaned Up, Not Investigated
By Kareem Fahim and Adam Nossiter
The New York Times, October 24, 2011
"In the parched garden of the Mahari Hotel, volunteers on Monday scrubbed signs of a recent massacre. They collected dozens of bodies, apparently of people executed on the hotel grounds several days ago, but left other evidence behind, like the plastic ties that were used to bind the hands of victims and shell casings, scattered on the dead grass in patches of blood. The volunteers said the victims included at least two former Qaddafi government officials, local loyalist fighters and maybe civilians. The killers, they believed, were former rebel fighters, belonging to anti-Qaddafi units that had used the hotel as a base in recent weeks. It appeared to be one of the worst massacres of the eight-month conflict, but days after it occurred, no one from Libya's new government had come to investigate. The interim leaders, who declared the country liberated on Sunday, may simply have their hands full with the responsibilities that come with running a state. But throughout the Libyan conflict, they have also shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of looking into accusations of atrocities by their fighters, despite repeated pledges not to tolerate abuse.

Monday, October 24, 2011


"The entrance to the Mahari Hotel in Sirte, where at least 53 persons were apparently executed. At the time of their killing the hotel was apparently controlled by anti-Gaddafi fighters from Misrata. The red graffiti on the left states 'Tiger Brigade,' the name of a prominent Misrata fighting group." (Peter Bouckaert/Human Rights Watch)
Libya: Apparent Execution of 53 Gaddafi Supporters
By Peter Bouckaert
Human Rights Watch press release, October 24, 2011
"Fifty-three people, apparent Gaddafi supporters, seem to have been executed at a hotel in Sirte last week, Human Rights Watch said today. The hotel is in an area of the city that was under the control of anti-Gaddafi fighters from Misrata before the killings took place. Human Rights Watch called on Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to conduct an immediate and transparent investigation into the apparent mass execution and to bring those responsible to justice. 'We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,' said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who investigated the killings. 'This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.' Human Rights Watch saw the badly decomposed remains of the 53 people on October 23, 2011, at the Hotel Mahari in District 2 of Sirte. The bodies were clustered together, apparently where they had been killed, on the grass in the sea-view garden of the hotel. Anti-Gaddafi fighters from Misrata had held that area of Sirte since early October, according to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Russia / Circassian Genocide

Genocide Claims Muddle Russian Olympics
By Thomas Grove
Reuters dispatch on, October 13, 2011
"Muhammed Cherkesov remembers his grandparents whispering about the Russian soldiers who drove his forefathers at gunpoint from their mountain homes down to the Black Sea coast in the mid-19th century. The forced migration of the Muslim Circassians into the lowlands in and around Sochi where they were deported beyond the Russian Empire's borders killed about a third of the population through disease, starvation and exposure to the elements. A century and a half later Russia wants to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in the very same broad valleys and mountain slopes around Sochi that Circassians say hold the bones of their ancestors. 'We're talking about holding the Olympics over a mass grave of Circassians,' said Cherkesov, a leader for the minority in Karachay-Cherkessia province in the North Caucasus, a patchwork of mostly Muslim regions along Russia's southern flank. Many Circassians believe 1.5 million of their predecessors perished as Russian soldiers embarked on a mass expulsion of their people to ease the czar's conquest of the Caucasus region. European and Russian imperial historians say that number may be closer to 300,000. Circassian extremists say they want to turn back the clock and gain independence from Russia. Most stand behind an increasingly vocal campaign to urge Russia to recognize the killings as genocide and to pave the way for the large Circassian diaspora to return to its historic homeland. Russia has said the deaths were among the tragedies of war that both sides suffered as the czar was closing his grip on the Caucasus Mountains region, but denies that amounted to genocide. 'We are not asking for any material compensation from Russia, we want Russia itself to say that unjust actions were taken against the Circassians and that this was the land of Circassians,' said Cherkesov, speaking to Reuters in his spartan office surrounded by pictures of his forefathers dressed in traditional long red coats and high black boots. Of the nearly 8 million Circassians worldwide, only about 700,000 live in Russia. The rest are the descendants of the men and women who refused to bow to Russian rule and were carried off by the ships of the Ottoman Empire, which resettled them in the far-flung stretches of its territories. [...]"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

El Salvador / Forced Transfer of Children

"Enma Orellana holds out hope she might one day find her daughter, who was 4 when seized by soldiers during El Salvador's civil war in 1982." (Alex Renderos)
Court Orders El Salvador to Investigate Children's Disappearances
By Ken Ellingwood
The Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2011
"Human rights advocates are hailing an international court decision ordering the government of El Salvador to fully investigate the cases of hundreds of children who disappeared during the nation's civil war three decades ago. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose, Costa Rica, found rights violations in the cases of six youngsters who vanished after being taken away by soldiers in 1981 and 1982. One of the six children, Gregoria Contreras, 4 years old when she disappeared, was reunited with her family many years later after being tracked down by a Salvadoran group, the Assn. for the Search for Missing Children, also known as Pro-Busqueda. The group's enduring search for children who went missing during the conflict was chronicled earlier this year by The Times here. In its ruling, issued to the parties late last week, the court found what it called a 'systematic pattern of forced disappearances of children' by army personnel battling leftist rebels. Many of the children, seized during raids, were placed into the lucrative international adoption market and raised abroad. Since 1994, Pro Busqueda has received reports of more than 800 children who vanished during the war. The group has located nearly half of them.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Argentina / Forced Transfer of Children

"Victoria Montenegro was abducted as a newborn by a military colonel. She testified last spring in the trial over baby thefts." (Joao Pina/The New York Times)
Daughter of "Dirty War," Raised by Man Who Killed Her Parents
By Alexei Barrionuevo
The New York Times, October 8, 2011
"Victoria Montenegro recalls a childhood filled with chilling dinnertime discussions. Lt. Col. Hernán Tetzlaff, the head of the family, would recount military operations he had taken part in where 'subversives' had been tortured or killed. The discussions often ended with his 'slamming his gun on the table,' she said.The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who lost children during Argentina's military dictatorship, protesting in Buenos Aires in 1977. It took an incessant search by a human rights group, a DNA match and almost a decade of overcoming denial for Ms. Montenegro, 35, to realize that Colonel Tetzlaff was, in fact, not her father -- nor the hero he portrayed himself to be. Instead, he was the man responsible for murdering her real parents and illegally taking her as his own child, she said. He confessed to her what he had done in 2000, Ms. Montenegro said. But it was not until she testified at a trial here last spring that she finally came to grips with her past, shedding once and for all the name that Colonel Tetzlaff and his wife had given her -- María Sol -- after falsifying her birth records.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Germany / Jewish Holocaust / National Tribunals

"Accused former Nazi functionaries of the Treblinka death camp try to hide their faces at the beginning of the Treblinka trial in Dusseldorf, western Germany, on Oct. 12, 1964." (Associated Press file)
Hundreds of Nazi Probes Reopened in Germany
By David Rising
Associated Press dispatch on, October 5, 2011
"Prosecutors have reopened hundreds of dormant investigations of former Nazi death camp guards and others who might now be charged under a new precedent set by the conviction of retired U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk, The Associated Press has learned. Given the advanced age of all of the suspects -- the youngest are in their 80s -- the head of the German prosecutors' office dedicated to investigating Nazi war crimes told the AP that authorities are not even waiting until the Demjanjuk appeals process is over. 'We don't want to wait too long, so we've already begun our investigations,' prosecutor Kurt Schrimm said. Meantime, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's top Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, told the AP he would launch a new campaign in the next two months -- a successor to his Operation Last Chance -- to track down the remaining Nazi war criminals. He said the Demjanjuk conviction has opened the door to prosecutions that he had never thought possible in the past. 'It could be a very interesting final chapter,' he said by telephone from Jerusalem. 'This has tremendous implications even at this late date.'