Friday, February 24, 2012

United States / El Salvador

Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova.
(Marta Lavandier/Associated Press)
Salvadoran May Face Deportation for Murders
By Julia Preston
The New York Times, February 23, 2012
"An immigration judge in Florida has cleared the way for the deportation from the United States of Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former defense minister of El Salvador, finding that he assisted in acts of torture and murder committed by soldiers under his command during the civil war there, including several notorious killings of Americans. The decision by Judge James Grim of immigration court in Orlando is the first time that federal immigration prosecutors have established that a top-ranking foreign military commander can be deported based on human rights violations under a law passed in 2004, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, intended to bar human rights violators from coming to or living in the United States. Judge Grim found that General Vides assisted in the killings of four American churchwomen on a rural road in El Salvador in 1980, a crime that caused shock there and in Washington and presaged the bloody violence that would engulf the Central American nation for the next decade. The immigration judge's ruling is the first time General Vides has been held responsible for those deaths in a court of law. Five soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard were eventually convicted of the killings and served long prison sentences. General Vides was the commander of the National Guard at the time of the murders. The effort by Department of Homeland Security officials to seek the deportation of General Vides, who was El Salvador's defense minister from 1983 to 1989, is a turnabout in American foreign policy. He was a close ally of Washington throughout the war against leftist guerrillas in the 1980s, and was embraced as a reformer despite rampant rights violations by the armed forces under his command.

Canada / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples

"The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada."
Residential Schools Called a Form of Genocide
By China Puxley
Canadian Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2012
"The chairman of Canada's truth and reconciliation commission says removing more than 100,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in residential schools was an act of genocide. Justice Murray Sinclair says the United Nations defines genocide to include the removal of children based on race, then placing them with another race to indoctrinate them. He says Canada has been careful to ensure its residential school policy was not 'caught up' in the UN's definition. 'That's why the minister of Indian affairs can say this was not an act of genocide,' Judge Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba Friday. 'But the reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was -- and is -- an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world.' About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend the government schools over much of the past century. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996. The $60-million truth and reconciliation commission is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government, the Crown and residential school survivors. It is about halfway through its mandate and has visited about 500 communities, where it has heard graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse. The commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors so far and has heard from about 100 people who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said. Their legacy has left an indelible impact on Canadian society, he added. The commission has heard stories of survivors continuing the cycle of abuse with their own children. Even those who worked at the schools are not immune. Many of them were victims, too, and suffer lingering guilt and shame. 'We've had teachers come forward to us and spoken to the commission ... about how they so hated the experience of teaching in a residential school that they quickly left,' Judge Sinclair said. 'They never put the fact that they worked at a residential school on their resumé and they always kept that fact hidden from everybody, even from their own families.' Just as children of school survivors suffer with their parents' pain, so, too, do children of those who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said. Children of staff members also attended the schools and still grapple with what they saw and experienced there. Some watched their parents become deeply depressed later in life as they came to realize what they had been a part of. 'In many ways, they also feel victimized by having been in residential schools. There is a great mixture of experiences here.' The commission is expected to release an interim report shortly about what it’s heard so far. But even halfway through its mandate, Judge Sinclair said, it's clear work will take much longer to complete. There are between 200 million and 300 million government documents on residential schools policy and about 20 million photographs. The commission has only managed to copy about 14,000 photos for the record, he said. Canada will have to work hard to undo the damage done by the schools long after the commission has finished its work, Judge Sinclair suggested. Generations of children -- both aboriginal and non-aboriginal -- have been brought up on a curriculum that dismissed aboriginal culture and history as worthless and inferior. Another consequence is that there is a spiritual void in many aboriginal communities, Judge Sinclair added. Churches that once had strong congregations in aboriginal communities have moved out and elders who could pass on traditional spiritual teachings are no longer living. 'It took 130 years to create this problem. It’s probably going to take us 130 years to undo it.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Gregory Younging for bringing it to my attention.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Japan / China / Nanjing Massacre

Chinese City Severs Ties After Japanese Mayor Denies Massacre
By Martin Fackler
The New York Times, February 22, 2012
"The Chinese city of Nanjing has suspended its sister-city relationship with Nagoya, Japan, after Nagoya's mayor expressed doubts that the Japanese Army's 1937 Nanjing Massacre actually took place, the Nagoya City Hall said Wednesday. The falling out began Monday, when Nagoya's mayor, Takashi Kawamura, told a visiting delegation of Chinese Communist Party officials from Nanjing that he doubted that Japanese troops had massacred Chinese civilians. Most historians say that at a minimum, tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in Nanjing in one of the most infamous atrocities of Japan's military expansion across Asia in the early 20th century. The falling out underscored how differing views of history remain a problem in Japan's ties with the nations that it once conquered. While such denials are common by Japanese conservatives like Mr. Kawamura, they are rarely raised in such a public manner, or directly to Chinese officials. But there is also a widely shared perception in Japan that China’s government plays up the massacre for its own propaganda purposes. Still, the Japanese government scrambled to head off a full-blown diplomatic quarrel. The top government spokesman restated Japan's official position that the massacre did, in fact, take place. 'This is a problem that should be appropriately resolved between the cities of Nagoya and Nanjing,' said the spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Violence against Christians

"At least 24 Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo during clashes with the Egyptian Army on Oct. 9." (Thomas Hartwell /Redux)
The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World
By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Newsweek, February 6, 2012
"We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring's fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway -- an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm. The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries. The media's reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation -- a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia -- and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called 'Islamophobia' -- a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia. But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity -- and ultimately of all religious minorities -- in the Islamic world is at stake. [...]"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Italy / Germany / Nazism

Italian Push for Atrocity Justice
By Martin Daly
The Sydney Morning Herald, February 16, 2012
"Italian military prosecutors want to put a 90-year-old former German soldier on trial for his alleged involvement in the second-worst massacre of World War II, when at least 5000 Italian prisoners of war were murdered on the Greek island of Cephalonia. The killing of virtually the entire 33rd Acqui Division took place in September 1943 in a series of war crimes later retold in Louis de Bernieres' novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, subsequently made into a film starring Nicolas Cage. The charges to be laid against the unnamed soldier, who was 22 at the time, may be the last chance for a trial of the murders that rank second only to the 1940 Katyn Forest massacre of Polish army officers and police by Soviet military police. The Italians, allied with Germany, occupied Cephalonia at the start of the war. But after the armistice of September 1943, the Italians were given the choice: fight for Germany or become prisoners of war. The division's commander, General Antonio Gandin, refused to surrender their weapons. He then allowed his army to vote on what they wanted to do. They decided to fight. They were overcome by German reinforcements and then slaughtered at various locations on the island. Their bodies were dumped in crevices and caves or taken out to sea on rafts and blown up. Four years ago Italian prosecutors prepared a case against former Lieutenant Otmar Muelhauser, who commanded Gandin's firing squad. Muelhauser said Gandin refused to be blindfolded, and before he died shouted, 'Long live Italy, long live the king'. Muelhauser died before the case got to court. There are few witness accounts. Fifteen hundred soldiers died fighting, 5000 were massacred and the rest were shipped to Germany, 3000 of them drowning en route when prisoner ships hit mines."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Israel / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Education

"Seminar participants at Yad Vashem, whose international teaching branch produces materials in more than 20 languages." (Rina Castelnuovo / The New York Times)
From Overseas Visitors, a Growing Demand to Study the Holocaust
By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times, February 14, 2012
"The students were spared nothing. There were sessions on Nazi disputes over how to murder the Jews; propaganda art in the Third Reich; encounters with survivors; a history of anti-Semitism; the dilemmas faced by leaders of the Jewish ghetto councils. It was just what one might expect from a 10-day seminar at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial and museum. The surprise was the students: 35 teachers and professors from Taiwan, none of them specialists in the area, most of whom had never before met a Jew. More surprising still were the lessons some were taking away. 'Before I came, I felt worse about the Holocaust,' said Jen Hsiu-mei, a psychologist and an early childhood educator. 'This week, I learned that inside the death camps people helped each other. It gives new meaning to human values. This is not something I expected to learn here -- hope.' Seven decades after the Holocaust, with its survivors rapidly dying, the most systematic slaughter in human history is taking on a growing and often unexpected role in education across the globe. Yad Vashem alone, which opened its international teaching branch only in the 1990s, produces material in more than 20 languages, is active in 55 countries and puts on 70 seminars a year for groups of visiting educators. And while many believe that to make a universal point it is important to teach the Holocaust in the context of other genocides -- in Rwanda, Armenia and Cambodia -- the trend at Yad Vashem is the opposite, going more deeply into the human details of the slaughter of six million Jews -- most of them grim, some uplifting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Syria: The Naive, Idealistic Approach of a Spectator

Guest blog by Diana Oncioiu

In 2007 the International Criminal Justice accused Serbia of violating the UN Genocide Convention; according to ICJ, Serbia had the legal duty to prevent the genocide in Srebrenica, and it failed in doing so. Several years earlier, the obligation to intervene was raised in the Kosovo conflict. NATO, due to Russia's opposition did not have authorization of the UN Security Council to bomb Serb positions in Kosovo. There were discussions regarding the legality of an armed intervention without such a mandate. But since what was happening in Kosovo was described as genocide, there was no longer a question of legality; the intervention was legitimate and needed.

This is not a debate about how we define genocide, and how the definition is politicized and misused. It is rather about the principles and duties that the International Community assumed after the Second World War and the Holocaust. I base it on the "Never again" argument: UN Member States have agreed through international treaties to prevent genocide and punish those responsible for it.

In most of the books about genocide, at the end there is a chapter about prevention and reaction to genocide. And very often these chapters focus on how difficult it is to achieve such goals. At the same time, when reading about a specific case of genocide, there is also a discussion about how the international community failed in its obligation to prevent genocide. Sometimes prevention and reconciliation seem to be utopian goals. I do not know of a single case where genocide was prevented. In most situations the intervention occurred after killings began. What intervention did was to prevent more killings. But since genocide is seen as a process, we might say it was stopped in an early or more advanced phase.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Syria / United Nations / International Criminal Court

States Must "Act Now" to Protect Syrian Population, Pillay Tells General Assembly
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights press release, February 13, 2012
"Citing the onslaught on Homs, and reports suggesting widespread and systematic attacks on civilians amounting to crimes against humanity, as well as the rising risk of a humanitarian crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday urged states to 'act now' to protect the Syrian population. 'Each and every member of the international community must act now to urgently protect the Syrian population,' Pillay said in an address to the UN General Assembly. 'I am outraged by these serious violations,' she told the assembled State representatives. 'I am very distressed that the continued ruthless repression and deliberate stirring of sectarian tensions might soon plunge Syria into civil war. The longer the international community fails to take action, the more the civilian population will suffer from countless atrocities committed against them.' The UN Human Rights chief noted that 'the gross, widespread and systematic human rights violations have not only continued, but also sharply escalated' since the General Assembly adopted a Resolution condemning human rights violations by the Syrian authorities on 19 December. 'The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian Government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent with overwhelming force,' she added, after painting an extremely grim picture of the situation in Homs.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Syria / United Nations / International Criminal Court

"A view from inside a cell of the Detention Unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Hague, in this September 20, 2011 photo." (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
Syrian Officials Should Be Sent to ICC: UN Rights Office
By Stephanie Nebehay
Reuters dispatch, February 10, 2012
"Syrian officials suspected of committing or ordering crimes against humanity should face prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations human rights office said on Friday. 'We believe, and we've said it and we'll keep repeating it, that the case of Syria belongs in the International Criminal Court. This would give a very, very strong message to those running the show,' Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, told a news briefing. Pillay will address a UN General Assembly session on Syria being held in New York on Monday, Colville said. 'I believe they are considering a resolution, what it will contain I don't know,' he added. Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge, called on Wednesday for urgent international action to protect civilians in Syria, saying she was appalled by the Syrian government's military onslaught on the city of Homs. Twin bomb blasts hit military and security buildings in the northern city of Aleppo on Friday, killing 25 people in the worst violence to hit Syria's commercial hub in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The UN has stopped issuing a death toll for Syria, saying the widespread violence made it impossible to cross-check reports and provide a reliable figure. More than 5,000 people had been killed as of December 12, according to its last estimate. 'Clearly the numbers are climbing every day, and it's really a pretty disastrous situation in Homs. But we can't give you even a ballpark figure and endorse it,' Colville said. Asked who should refer Syrian figures to the Hague-based ICC for prosecution, Colville replied: 'As things stand only the Security Council can do that.'

Spain / Universal Jurisdiction

"Judge Baltasar Garzon, foreground, arrives for the last day of his trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Wednesday. Banners held by supporters read 'Justice' and 'Spain back to front, Corrupt people and fascists put a judge on trial.'" (Paul White/Associated Press)
Crusading Spanish Judge is Suspended for Career-Ending 11 Years
By Lauren Frayer
The Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2012
"Spain's most famous judge, heralded abroad for seeking to put dictators behind bars, has been found guilty of overstepping his authority in a corruption probe here.  Baltasar Garzón won global fame for indicting former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. He's been dubbed a 'dictator-hunter' abroad for championing the principle of 'universal jurisdiction,' the idea that some crimes are so heinous that they deserve to be investigated, no matter where or when.  But his crusade hit a snag Thursday in Spain. The country's Supreme Court convicted Garzón of misusing his authority while investigating alleged corruption involving figures in Spain's now-ruling conservative party. The high court barred Garzón, 56, from the bench for 11 years, a decision that cannot be appealed and that effectively ends his career in Spain because he will be past retirement age when the suspension ends. But it's unclear what effect, if any, Thursday's ruling will have on Garzón's international work. He has served as an advisor to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and has investigated political crimes and genocide in Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Rwanda and Tibet. Garzón even tried to investigate former U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales for allegedly authorizing torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That case was dropped amid fierce American diplomatic pressure.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Guatemala / Forcible Disappearances

"Alejandra Garcia hopes the discovery of the archive of 80 million pages of police records will lead to the successful prosecution of those responsible for the death of her father in 1984, during Guatemala’s civil war." (Reuters)
The XX Files: The Hunt for Victims of Guatemala's 36-Year War
By Guy Adams
The Independent, February 10, 2012
"Alejandra Garcia's most treasured memento of her father is a faded, black-and-white photo from 1984. A handsome 27-year-old, in jeans and a check shirt, he grins contentedly while holding his wife, Nineth, who in turn is cradling their newly born first child. Not long after the portrait was taken, Alejandra's father, Fernando, disappeared. On 18 February, he failed to turn up to a celebration at the family home in Guatemala City. Nineth spent days frantically searching the local streets. But he was never seen again. At the time, Guatemala was in the throes of a 36-year civil war which ranks as one of the most brutal conflicts of the 20th century. More than 200,000 people died, from a population which at the start of hostilities was about four million. Roughly 80 per cent of the casualties were suspected left-wing dissidents. Many were executed, without trial, by soldiers or police officers loyal to the country's ruling military junta. Fernando Garcia, a student activist whose only crime was taking part in several demonstrations against the government, was one such victim. In the days after his disappearance, witnesses came forward to claim he had been snatched off the streets by men who appeared to be out-of-uniform police officers. Then he was bundled into an unmarked pick-up truck and driven away. It has been 28 years since Fernando went missing, and almost 16 years since peace accords which turned Guatemala into a functioning, if somewhat troubled, democracy. But Alejandra and her family are only now on the verge of nailing those responsible.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Syria / The Responsibility to Protect

"A still from a video filmed in Homs shows bodies wrapped in white sheets outside a hospital in the Bab al-Amr neighbourhood." (AP)
Syrian Siege of Homs is Genocidal, Say Trapped Residents
By Luke Harding, Mona Mahmood and Matthew Weaver
The Guardian, February 7, 2012
"Residents inside the besieged city of Homs claim they are under 'genocidal attack' from a Syrian regime apparently deaf to international opinion and determined to 'bomb, starve and shoot' them into submission. On Tuesday night the city was under massive continuous bombardment, witnesses told the Guardian, with rockets raining down from the sky every few minutes, and helicopters and fighter planes circling overhead. They said Syrian army tanks had encircled opposition-held suburbs, in preparation for what they feared was a final, deadly ground assault. 'The regime didn't expect us to continue our struggle against them,' activist Karam Abu Rabea said via Skype. 'They didn't think we would persist. So now it is using its last card. It is the genocide card.' Rabea described the humanitarian situation as appalling. He said the regime was deliberately attempting to starve families trapped in rebel-controlled districts. Army snipers had been positioned on the main roads, he added, and were able to mow down anyone who moved on smaller, intersecting side roads. No one could escape, he said. Two journalists -- Salah Murjan and Khalid Abu Salah, documenting the horrors of Homs -- were shot by snipers. Rabea said: 'There is no food allowed to get inside neighbourhoods opposing the regime. Especially bread. We don't have any bread. They are targeting the vital installations of the city: bakeries, the hospital, mosques. Some of the bakeries were shut by force. The regime cut off internet and phones on Monday. I have a satellite set, which is why I can speak to you. The Assad regime is trying to destroy Homs completely.'

Stuff Russia and China. Intervene in Syria Now.

"A wounded girl sits beside her mother in the Baba Amro neighbourhood of Homs as Syrian government troops shelled the city for a fourth day." (Reuters)

by Adam Jones

February 7, 2012

Russia and China have used their veto power in the United Nations Security Council to quash even a diluted United Nations resolution against Syria, and ensure that the UN can take no meaningful action in what is arguably the world’s worst current crisis. The Arab League has likewise been forced to withdraw its monitors, who proved mere spectators to the Assad regime's depredations.

These paths to ending the oppression and mass murder of Syrian civilians are thus closed for the foreseeable future. Assad's atrocities, meanwhile, are increasingly assuming a genocidal scale and character. What options are left?

It is time to impose a total sea embargo on weapons shipments to the Syrian government. This means principally Russian deliveries. The embargo could be enforced with Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) vessels and air patrols, helped openly or quietly by NATO forces.

Arab League/GCC governments could announce that they would withdraw diplomatic representatives from any country that violated the embargo. This would serve as a tripwire: thereafter, any Syria-bound vessel that refused to stop for a weapons search should be forcibly stopped. While I strongly oppose Israel's practice of disabling and immobilizing aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip, similar tactics could be followed for arms shipments. A Syrian attack or attempt to interfere could be repelled, and salutary assaults mounted on Assad's air and naval infrastructure to discourage any repetition.

The regional and extra-regional coalition would not be able to halt deliveries of arms by air. If Russia ramps these up in response to a sea embargo, however, there are many additional ways that Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev could be made to feel the heat. Is it really likely that in a crunch, Russia would fundamentally jeopardize its relations with most of the Arab world (including a post-Assad Syria), and with many western countries, just to protect a relatively minor and vulnerable client? It could well be a word from the Kremlin that in the end sends Assad packing.

Iran has also been a staunch military backer of the Assad regime. But reports suggest that Turkey is already monitoring this arms corridor, and has stopped and confiscated at least two Iranian weapons deliveries across Turkish territory, most recently in early January. Such vigilance could be strengthened.

At the same time, Turkey and Arab League/GCC countries should join with governments outside the region to sharply increase arms deliveries and special forces assistance to rebels of the Free Syrian Army. Syrians should take the lead in overthrowing the Assad regime; we should support them.

It is difficult to perceive any realistic alternative to these policies, if the "responsibility to protect" civilians from genocide and crimes against humanity means anything at all. The indications are that Assad is settling in for the long haul. Will the Arab region and the wider world stand by and watch on satellite TV and YouTube as dozens or hundreds of civilians are killed each day? Will people struggling for freedom from despotic rule continue to be slaughtered by their rulers, just because the dictatorship enjoys the support of a few others of its kind?

I suspect that defections from Assad's ranks would increase rapidly if measures like those proposed here were adopted. When his regime falls, large numbers of Arab League/GCC and NATO/UN peacekeepers should be dispatched immediately, to manage a transition and prevent the massacre of members of Assad's Alawite minority in "revenge" attacks.

Under these circumstances, perhaps even Russia and China would come on board, to protect the remaining constituency of their old ally. Consideration of such matters can be postponed, though. The time for decisive, multilateral intervention is at hand.

[Adam Jones, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, Canada. He is the author of Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (2nd edition, 2010), and has published widely on Arab and Middle East affairs. This text may be freely reprinted and reposted if the author is credited. Text may be considered final: February 8, 2012.]

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Turkey / France / Genocide Denial / Raphael Lemkin

Genocide Denial Bans: What Would Raphael Lemkin Do?
By Douglas S. Irvin
France 24 Blogs, February 3, 2012
"The French Senate's recent decision to criminalize denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide prompted backlash from the Turkish government and charges of hypocrisy. While Turkey officially denies the systematic destruction of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, in Turkey, a common response to the French ban on Armenian genocide deniers is that French occupation of Algeria constituted genocide. Many find it strange to equate the two. The Armenian genocide appears to be the prototype of violent attempts to destroy entire groups of people. France certainly didn't attempt to kill all of the Algerians. How could they compare? To answer this question, it serves us to investigate the origins of the term. In his 1944 'Axis Rules in Occupied Europe,' Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term 'genocide,' described the concept as 'a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.' Genocide had two phases: 'One, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.' This destruction of groups could be equally waged through economic policy, the law, or violence. Thus for Lemkin, the Nazi occupation of Europe, Stalin's attempts to destroy the Ukrainian people through religious persecution and famine, the Belgian colonization of Congo, and the Ottoman massacres of Armenians were all genocide. They were not genocide because of the killing that occurred, but because they were all purposeful attempts to destroy the way of life of the oppressed. On the Algerian genocide, Lemkin wrote that a nation-wide campaign of violence and torture targeted Algerian national consciousness while colonial land and resource policy brought decimating poverty and disease upon the Algerian population. He believed these coordinated policies were purposeful attempts by the French colonial government to destroy Algerian culture. This was no different from the Ottoman Empire's genocide of the Armenians, Lemkin believed.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Germany / Italy / Nazism / Restitution Claims

"A sceengrab from the International Court of Justice website."
Courts "Cannot Sue" in Nazi Cases
Reuters dispatch in The Irish Times, February 3, 2012
"The United Nations' highest court ruled today that Italy's courts were wrong to allow victims of Nazi war crimes to claim compensation against Germany because it has legal immunity from being sued. Te ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is expected to end a wave of claims for damages stemming from a Nazi massacre in Italy during the second World War and will also prevent other countries such as Greece from using Italy's courts to pursue a flood of similar compensation claims. Italy's top court ruled in 2008 that Germany should pay around €1 million in compensation to the families of nine victims of the killings, committed by the German army in Civitella, Tuscany. A total of 203 people died in the 1944 massacre. 'The Italian Republic has violated its obligation to respect the immunity which the Federal Republic of Germany enjoys under international law by allowing civil claims to be brought against it based on violations of international humanitarian law committed by the German Reich between 1943 and 1945,' the ICJ said in a statement. The ICJ, set up in 1945 as a world court for disputes between nations, said that Italy must now ensure that decisions taken by its courts which infringed Germany's immunity under international law must cease to have effect. 'In a way, we expected it,' Italy's representative, Paolo Pucci di Benisichi, told reporters after the ruling.Germany has paid billions of euros in reparations and compensation since the end of the second World War Two. It filed a lawsuit against Italy at the ICJ in December 2008 saying an Italian court erred in ordering Berlin to pay damages for the massacre and that by allowing the ruling to stand, hundreds of additional cases could be brought against it by private individuals."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Libya / Torture

Dear Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the Libya Transitional Government,

The atrocities running rampant within your country’s detention centers must be stopped. It is inexcusable that detainees face such brutalities as torture, extrajudicial executions, and rape.

You must seize authoritative control over each prison within Libya’s borders in order to extradite the influence of fiefdoms being created by individual commanders. By placing every detention facility under the supervision of judicial authorities, you can end the brutal torture of prisoners by renegade militia members.

I am urging you to protect the human rights of your prisoners. Please take action and take control of the prisons within Libya to stop the inhuman treatment of detainees.

[Your Name Here]
[n.b. I have signed this petition and urge you to do likewise.]

Iran / Israel

"Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has labelled Israel a 'cancer'." (AP)
Iran: We Will Help "Cut Out the Cancer of Israel"
The Telegraph, February 3, 2012
"Iran will help anyone willing to 'cut out the cancer' of Israel, its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today. The religious leader also told worshippers at Friday prayers that the country will continue its controversial nuclear programme. He warned that any military strike by the West would only make Iran stronger. 'From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this,' said Khamenei. He said Israel is a 'cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut'. Iran has been repeatedly defiant to hints that the US and Israel may at some point launch military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. But any statement by Iran's Supreme Leader, who has final say on all matters of state, makes it all the more unlikely that Tehran will switch tack. Khamenei also said that Iran had assisted militant groups like the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas -- a well-known policy, but one that Iranian leaders rarely state explicitly. 'We have intervened in anti-Israel matters, and it brought victory in the 33-day war by Hezbollah against Israel in 2006, and in the 22-day war,' between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, he said.

Cambodia / Genocide Tribunals

"Former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch sits in a dock during his appeal hearing at the Court Room of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 3, 2012." (Reuters/Nhet Sokheng/ECCC/Handout)
UN Court Gives Life Sentence to Khmer Rouge Torture Chief
Reuters dispatch in, February 3, 2012
"The UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia ruled on Friday that the Khmer Rouge's prison chief should serve the rest of his life in jail, extending a 19-year sentence handed down in July 2010 that outraged survivors of the 'killing fields' regime. The Supreme Court Chamber handling an appeal by Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, ruled that the former chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng Prison should take full responsibility for the estimated 14,000 people killed there during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror. 'The penalty must be harsh to prevent similar crimes, undoubtedly among the worst in human history,' the president of the court, Kong Srim, said in reading the verdict. Duch stood up to hear the verdict and showed no emotion as the judge reeled off the crimes he had committed, including torture, murder, execution and enslavement. Kong Srim described Duch as a 'shocking and heinous character' who had overseen a 'factory of death.' Duch, 69, was found guilty in July 2010 in the only ruling by the multi-million-dollar Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia since it was established in 2005. He had been given a 35-year jail term but that was immediately commuted to 19 years because of time already served in military detention, a decision that caused tears and anger among the families of those killed at the converted school, where thousands were subjected to torture at Duch's behest.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Nazism / Stalinism / "Bloodlands"

(Gianpaolo Pagni)
"The Suffering Olympics"
By Roger Cohen
The New York Times, January 30, 2012
"The 'double genocide' wars that pit Stalin's crimes against Hitler's are raging in wide swathes of Europe and every now and again along comes a gust from the past to stoke them. The 70th anniversary this month of the Nazi adoption at Wannsee of annihilation plans for the Jews provided one such squall. Yes, the past is still treacherous beneath Europe's calm surface. Memory swirls untamed in the parts of the Continent that the American historian Timothy Snyder calls 'Bloodlands,' the slaughterhouses from Lithuania to Ukraine that Hitler and Stalin subjected to their murderous whim. To mark the Wannsee anniversary, over 70 European Parliament members, including 8 Lithuanians, signed a declaration objecting to 'attempts to obfuscate the Holocaust by diminishing its uniqueness and deeming it to be equal, similar or equivalent to Communism.' It also rejected efforts to rewrite European school history books 'to reflect the notion of "double genocide."' All of this was too much for the Lithuanian foreign minister, Audronius Azubalis, a conservative, who blasted the Lithuanian social democrat signatories as 'pathetic.' His spokeswoman declared that the only difference between Hitler and Stalin was the length of their mustaches. She said legal qualifications of the crimes they committed were 'absolutely the same': genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Spain / Fascism

"Maria Martin recalled how her mother
was one of three women and 27 men
shot dead." (EPA)
Franco Victims' Relatives Relive the Horror
By Fiona Govan
The Telegraph, February 1, 2012
"For many it was more than 70 years overdue, but on Wednesday in a courtroom in Madrid, atrocities committed by Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil war and ensuing dictatorship were voiced for the first time. In a barely audible voice choked with emotion, a bowed old lady, dressed in black and supported by a Zimmer-frame, called for the justice her family had been waiting for since 1936. 'They took her out and they took her away,' wheezed Maria Martin, 81, from the witness box. 'I never saw my mother again.' She was the first of a string of witnesses called to defend Spain's crusading judge Baltasar Garzon, 56, who stands accused of overstretching his judicial powers with an attempt to investigate Spain's darkest era. The investigating magistrate is accused of breaching a 1977 amnesty law to explore the fate of the more than 114,000 victims who disappeared during the 1936-39 civil war and ensuing 36-year dictatorship and whose bodies lie in unmarked graves across Spain. His defence team hope that by introducing the stories of just a few of those who originally petitioned the judge to open 'a truth commission' into the Franco era, his motives will become clear.

South Africa / Violence against LGBT

South Africa: 4 Given 18 Years in Jail for Killing Lesbian, February 1, 2012
"In a landmark decision in post-apartheid South Africa, four men were given 18 years in jail on Wednesday for stoning and stabbing to death 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana for living openly as a lesbian. A crowd outside the court in Cape Town township cheered and danced after the sentencing was announced, the BBC News reported. Mbulelo Dama, Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase and Luyanda Londzi -- juveniles when the crimes were committed -- were convicted of Nkonyana's murder last year, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.  Five others were acquited. While rights groups complained throughout the trial that proceedings were taking too long -- they took almost six years -- and involved more than 40 postponements, the verdict was a watershed, an official at a South African NGO that fights discrimination against gay, lesbian bisexual and trans-gender people told 'It is the first case in South Africa where sexual orientation and identity was named and recognized as an aggravating factor in a murder trial,' said Marlow Newman-Valentine, Deputy Director of Triangle Project. The magistrate in the case said hatred and homophobia were clearly the motive for the killing, and Wednesday's sentence was meant to send out a signal that violence based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated, the BBC reported. South Africa's constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual preference but homophobia is rife in the country. In addition, the country's female homicide rate six times the world average, according to a June-2011 study in The British Journal of Criminology. [...]"


"Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, who is to face trial for corruption." (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
Baby Doc Avoids Human Rights Abuse Charges in Haiti
Reuters dispatch in The Guardian, January 31, 2012
"Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier will face trial for corruption but not for human rights abuses, the judge handling the case said on Monday. A 20-page ruling on the charges was delivered to the government prosecutor's office on Monday, Carves Jean, the judge responsible for investigating the case, told Reuters. It does not include charges for the murders, disappearances, torture and other rights abuses allegedly committed during Duvalier's 15-year rule. 'I did not find enough legal grounds to keep human rights charges and crimes against humanity against him,' he said. 'Now my job is over. The case is no longer in my hands.' Duvalier would face up to five years in prison if convicted of corruption. No trial date has yet been set. Duvalier inherited power from his father, François 'Papa Doc' Duvalier in 1971 and ruled Haiti until he was overthrown in 1986. Under the father-and-son dictatorship, thousands of people were murdered, or tortured in jails, such as the dreaded Fort Dimanche.