Friday, May 31, 2013

Rwanda / United Kingdom / National Tribunals

"Emmanuel Nteziryayo, pictured in the dossier of his alleged crimes." (Jose Cendon/AFP)
Rwandans Held in Britain on Genocide Extradition Request
Reuters dispatch, May 30, 2013
"Five Rwandans accused of involvement in the genocide that killed 800,000 people in just 100 days were arrested in Britain on Thursday after an extradition request from Rwanda, London police said. Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Vincent Bajinya and Celestin Mutabaruka appeared at a London court under extradition warrants alleging genocide and murder, a police spokesman said. Four of the five were freed by the High Court in 2009, overturning a ministerial extradition order because of fears they would not get a fair trial in Rwanda. They had been in custody since 2006. During 100 days of slaughter in 1994, 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed. Rwandan prosecutor general Martin Ngoga welcomed the arrests, which took place early on Thursday, and said he hoped London would follow the example of other jurisdictions that had extradited suspects. 'They are all suspects of genocide against Tutsis and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in 1994 ... Rwanda has made significant progress since 2009 when the British Courts rejected the extradition requests to Rwanda,' he said. The five men are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates court again on June 5."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Serbia / Bosnia and Herzegovina / International Tribunals

"Jovica Stanisic, left, and Franko Simatovic, right, await judgment at the tribunal." (Martijn Beekman/AP)
Hague Tribunal Acquits Serbian State Security Chiefs of War Crimes
By Ian Traynor
The Guardian, May 30, 2013
|Two Serbian state security chiefs who facilitated the use of paramilitary murder squads in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s have been acquitted of all charges of war crimes in what is certain to be seen as a debacle for the prosecution at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Jovica Stanisic, one of the closest aides and state security chief of Slobodan Milosevic, and the late Serbian leader's sidekick and field officer, Franko Simatovic, walked free on Thursday after 10 years in detention and five years on trial. The judges found that the pair, widely seen as two of Milosevic's key henchmen in the wars of the 1990s, created, organised, directed, and funded special forces teams and paramilitary formations in Serbia whose function was to terrorise non-Serbs out of parts of Croatia and Bosnia. While declaring that the units were responsible for war crimes and mass murder, the judges ruled that the two accused could not be held responsible for any of the crimes. Apart from the continuing trials of the two Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who are both facing genocide charges, the case that concluded on Thursday was viewed as the most important in attempting to prove how Belgrade directed the vicious 1991-95 Serbian campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia. The judges found that the men 'directed and organised the formation of the [special forces] unit, organised its involvement in a number of operations in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and directed and organised its financing, logistical support, and other substantial assistance or support.' The special forces were found to have perpetrated acts of 'murder, deportation, and forcible transfer' in Bosnia in 1992. While the judges found that Stanisic and Simatovic 'organised the involvement' in the crimes, they said there was no proof the accused 'personally directed the operations' or 'issued orders or instructions.'

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bosnia and Herzegovina / International Tribunals

"(File) Bruno Stojic, left, and Jadranko Prlic appear at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2004."
6 Former Bosnian Croat Leaders Convicted of War Crimes
By Laura Smith-Spark, May 29, 2013
"Six former top Bosnian Croat leaders were handed long prison sentences Wednesday after they were convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the rape and murder of Bosnian Muslims. The offenses, which date to between 1992 and 1994, formed part of a wider conflict that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The six were accused at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of trying to 'ethnically cleanse' non-Croats from areas of the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Croat leadership, along with Croat leaders, wanted to make this territory part of a 'Greater Croatia,' said the ICTY, which is based in the Hague. In order to achieve this, they carried out crimes against Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats that included murder, rape, sexual assault, destruction of property, imprisonment and deportation, the ICTY statement said. Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric were convicted on 22 counts of the indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prlic, the former president of the Croatian Defense Council and later head of the government of a wartime Croat entity, Herceg-Bosna, was sentenced to 25 years in prison -- the toughest penalty. The other three were given prison terms ranging from 16 to 20 years in length. Two of the accused, Slobodan Praljak and Berislav Pusic, were acquitted on some of the charges against them.

Cambodia / Genocide Tribunals

"Nuon Chea expressed 'condolences' to victims of the regime present in the court." (EPA)
Khmer Rouge Leader Accepts Responsibility for Cambodia's Killing Fields
Reuters dispatch in The Telegraph, May 30, 2013
"A leader of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge expressed remorse on Thursday for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people during the 'Killing Fields' regime in the 1970s and accepted responsibility for the first time. 'I am responsible for what happened during the time of Democratic Kampuchea,' Nuon Chea told the United Nations-backed tribunal, referring to the name of the country during the period, when he was the party's second-in-command. 'I am very regretful for events that happened intentionally and unintentionally. I am morally responsible,' he said, expressing 'condolences' to victims of the regime present in the court, where he faces charges including war crimes and crimes against humanity. 'Brother Number Two' Nuon Chea and co-defendant Khieu Samphan, a former head of state during the Khmer Rouge period, have until now denied responsibility or even knowledge the killings. Khieu Samphan said he regretted the 'unspeakable suffering' done to the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge and offered condolences, his first such apology in court. It was unclear why the two men had chosen to express remorse now, but Lars Olsen, a court spokesman, welcomed the admission. 'Many victims have waited more than 30 years to hear any statement of apology or regret from leadership figures in the Khmer Rouge,' he said. However, Khieu Samphan continued to insist he was simply a figurehead of the regime and knew nothing about its murderous side.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brazil / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples

"Umutima shaman in 1957: the Figueiredo report caused an outcry after it revealed crimes against Brazil's indigenous population." (José Idoyaga/Survival)
Brazil's "Lost Report" into Genocide Surfaces after 40 Years
By Jonathan Watts and Jan Rocha
The Guardian, May 29, 2013
"A 'lost' report into genocide, torture, rape and enslavement of indigenous tribes during Brazil's military dictatorship has been rediscovered, raising fresh questions about whether the government has made amends and punished those responsible. The 7,000-page Figueiredo report has not been seen for more than 40 years, but extracts acquired by the Guardian reveal hundreds of alleged crimes and perpetrators. Submitted in 1967 by the public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, the document details horrific abuse by the Indian Protection Service (widely known as the SPI), which was set up to improve the livelihoods of indigenous communities but often ended up as a mechanism to rob them of land or wipe them out with guns or poison. The document caused an international storm when it was released, leading two years later to the foundation of the tribal rights organisation Survival International. Brazil, however, failed to jail a single person despite initial charges against 134 officials alleged to be involved in more than 1,000 crimes. The report was believed to have been destroyed by a fire at the agriculture ministry soon after it came out, prompting suspicions of a cover-up by the dictatorship and its allies among the big landowners. However, most of the document was discovered recently in a musty archive and is being examined by the National Truth Commission, which is investigating human rights violations between 1947 and 1988. Although the document has not been made public since its rediscovery, the Guardian has seen a scanned copy in which Figueiredo describes the enslavement of indigenous people, torture of children and theft of land. 'The Indian Protection Service has degenerated to the point of chasing Indians to extinction,' the prosecutor writes in an introduction addressed to the interior minister. The pages -- all bound, initialled and marked MI-58-455 -- include an alphabetical list of the alleged perpetrators and the indictments against them. Most are accused of falsely appropriating land, misusing funds or illegally selling cattle or timber to enrich themselves at the expense of the communities they were supposed to be protecting. But many are implicated in far more heinous crimes. The number of victims is impossible to calculate. The Truth Commission believes that some tribes, such as those in Maranhão, were completely wiped out. In one case, in Mato Grosso, only two survivors emerged to tell of an attack on a community of 30 Cinta Larga Indians with dynamite dropped from aeroplanes. Figueiredo also details how officials and landowners lethally introduced smallpox into isolated villages and donated sugar mixed with strychnine. Among those to whom responsibility is attributed is Major Luiz Vinhas Neves, who headed the SPI from 1964 until he was sacked as a result of the report in 1968. He is cited in more than 40 counts, including financial irregularities totalling more than 1bn reals (£300,000) in today's money. Following the report, a parliamentary resolution accused him of complicity in the spread of smallpox among two remote communities in Pataxó. [...]"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indigenous Peoples / Slavery

Slave Descendants Seek Equal Rights from Cherokee Nation
By Marcos Barberry, May 22, 2013
"On an oppressively hot evening last May, David Cornsilk addressed a room of so-called 'black Indians' at Gilcrease Hills Baptist Church in northwest Tulsa. He wore a leather-braided bolo tie clasped by an emerald quartz. Though Cornsilk never formally studied law, his voice bellowed with the rhetorical ire of a white-shoed seasoned litigator. 'By a show of hands, how many folks here tonight are Freedmen?' Cornsilk asked into the microphone. Each raised an arm. Visibly dismayed, Cornsilk shook his head. It was a trick question. 'No,' Cornsilk said. 'The Freedmen died a long time ago. You are not Freedmen. You are Cherokee, and it is time that you begin to recognize who you are.' Cornsilk is Cherokee, and a self-taught civil rights advocate and genealogist. He traces his slave-owning ancestors back to their aboriginal lands of Georgia and Tennessee -- to a period before the Trail of Tears. [...] Headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation and its wholly owned business arm earned over a billion dollars last year through a myriad of businesses such as gaming, U.S. Department of Defense contracts, and federally funded programs. Today, taxpayers help support the Cherokee Nation through federal grants. The brutality committed by whites against American Indians -- especially the Trail of Tears -- has become a part of our national conscience. Yet it is hard to imagine that during this period an even more poorly documented atrocity was being perpetrated: The Cherokee were slave owners long before their forced removal from the southern states. By the time gold was discovered in Georgia at the dawn of the 19th century, Cherokee slave codes were indistinguishable from those enacted by the rest of the South. Soon after, when the US Indian Removal Act forced Cherokee and other Indians to relinquish their native land and move west, countless blacks enslaved by Cherokees crossed into the frontier bound and shackled. These black slaves suffered a far more violent experience than their Indian masters.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Guatemala / Genocide Tribunals

Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt. (Johan Ordonez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
Genocide Trial of Guatemalan Ex-Dictator May Have to Restart
By Elisabeth Malkin
The New York Times, May 21, 2013
"A day after Guatemala's highest court threw out the genocide verdict against a former dictator, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, lawyers on both sides of the case said Tuesday that his entire trial would probably have to be repeated. In a contentious 3-2 decision, the Constitutional Court on Monday ordered that the clock on the trial be turned back to April 19, part of an awkward remedy to resolve what it decided was a procedural irregularity. By that point in the trial, the prosecution had presented a month of chilling testimony from survivors of Army massacres carried out 30 years ago during one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala's long civil war. Experts in the trial described how the Army had marched into remote hamlets in the Maya Ixil region in search of leftist guerrillas during General Ríos Montt's 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. Soldiers killed all those who could not flee, burning down houses, killing livestock and destroying crops. The court's split decision to rewind the trial to April 19 means that everything that came after that point -- including closing statements, the genocide conviction and the general's 80-year prison sentence -- is invalid. Rather than simply restarting the case at that juncture, however, lawyers on both sides said that it would probably have to go before a new panel of judges -- one that had not already convicted the general. And because those new judges would need to rule on the evidence themselves, the trial would probably need to start over from the beginning, possibly dragging out the case against the 86-year-old general for months, if not longer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


"An image from Bayda, Syria, released by a group, the Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Assad." (Via Associated Press)
An Atrocity in Syria, With No Victim Too Small
By Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtgada
The New York Times, May 14, 2013
"After dragging 46 bodies from the streets near his hometown on the Syrian coast, Omar lost count. For four days, he said, he could not eat, remembering the burned body of a baby just a few months old; a fetus ripped from a woman's belly; a friend lying dead, his dog still standing guard. Omar survived what residents, antigovernment activists and human rights monitors are calling one of the darkest recent episodes in the Syrian war, a massacre in government-held Tartus Province that has inflamed sectarian divisions, revealed new depths of depravity and made the prospect of stitching the country back together appear increasingly difficult. That mass killing this month was one in a series of recent sectarian-tinged attacks that Syrians on both sides have seized on to demonize each other. Government and rebel fighters have filmed themselves committing atrocities for the world to see. Footage routinely shows pro-government fighters beating, killing and mutilating Sunni rebel detainees, forcing them to refer to President Bashar al-Assad as God. One rebel commander recently filmed himself cutting out an organ of a dead pro-government fighter, biting it and promising the same fate to Alawites, members of Mr. Assad's Shiite Muslim sect. That lurid violence has fueled pessimism about international efforts to end the fighting. As the United States and Russia work to organize peace talks next month between Mr. Assad and his opponents, the ever more extreme carnage makes reconciliation seem more remote. Nadim Houry, the director of Human Rights Watch in Beirut, said he sensed 'a complete disconnect between diplomacy and events on the ground.' 'The conflict is getting more visceral,' he said. Without concrete confidence-building measures, he said, and with more people 'seeing it as an existential struggle, it's hard to imagine what the negotiations would look like.'

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Japan / Second World War / Rape as a Crime against Humanity

"Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto." (Associated Press)
Forced Prostitution of Women for Use by Japanese Soldiers during World War II Was "Necessary" Claims Mayor of Osaka
Associated Press dispatch in The Telegraph, May 14, 2013
"An outspoken nationalist mayor said the Japanese military's forced prostitution of Asian women before and during World War II was necessary to "maintain discipline" in the ranks and provide rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle. The comments are already raising ire in neighbouring countries that bore the brunt of Japan's wartime aggression and that have long complained that Japan has failed to fully atone for wartime atrocities. Toru Hashimoto, the young, brash mayor of Osaka who is also co-leader of an emerging conservative political party, also told reporters that there wasn't clear evidence that the Japanese military coerced women to become what are euphemistically called 'comfort women.' 'To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time,' said Hashimoto. 'For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That's clear to anyone.' Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nigeria / Gendercide

"The hospital morgue in Maiduguri, Nigeria, where large numbers of bodies have been brought." (Adam Nossiter/The New York Times)
Bodies Pour In as Nigeria Hunts for Islamists
By Adam Nossiter
The New York Times, May 7, 2013
"A fresh load of battered corpses arrived, 29 of them in a routine delivery by the Nigerian military to the hospital morgue here. Unexpectedly, three bodies started moving. 'They were not properly shot,' recalled a security official here. 'I had to call the JTF' -- the military's joint task force -- 'and they gunned them down.' It was a rare oversight. Large numbers of bodies, sometimes more than 60 in a day, are being brought by the Nigerian military to the state hospital, according to government, health and security officials, hospital workers and human rights groups -- the product of the military’s brutal war against radical Islamists rooted in this northern city. The corpses were those of young men arrested in neighborhood sweeps by the military and taken to a barracks nearby. Accused, often on flimsy or no evidence, of being members or supporters of Boko Haram -- the Islamist militant group waging a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian state -- the detainees are beaten, starved, shot and even suffocated to death, say the officials, employees and witnesses. Then, soldiers bring the bodies to the hospital and dump them at the morgue, officials and workers say. The flood is so consistent that the small morgue at the edge of the hospital grounds often has no room, with corpses flung by the military in the sand around it. Residents say they sometimes have to flee the neighborhood because of the fierce smell of rotting flesh. From the outset of the battle between Boko Haram and the military, a dirty war on both sides that has cost nearly 4,000 lives since erupting in this city in 2009, security forces have been accused of extrajudicial killings and broad, often indiscriminate roundups of suspects and sympathizers in residential areas. The military's harsh tactics, which it flatly denies, have reduced militant attacks in this insurgent stronghold, but at huge cost and with likely repercussions, officials and rights advocates contend.

Guatemala / Genocide Tribunals

"The former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt waited for his verdict to be read on Friday. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison." (Moises Castillo/Associated Press)
Former Leader of Guatemala Is Guilty of Genocide Against Mayan Group
By Elisabeth Malkin
The New York Times, May 10, 2013
"A Guatemalan court on Friday found Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator who ruled Guatemala during one of the bloodiest periods of its long civil war, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. The verdict marked the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country. Judge Yasmín Barrios sentenced General Ríos Montt, 86, to 80 years in prison. His co-defendant, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, who served as the director of intelligence under the general, was acquitted of the same two charges. 'We are completely convinced of the intent to destroy the Ixil ethnic group,' Judge Barrios said as she read the hourlong summary of the ruling by the three-judge panel. Over five weeks, the tribunal heard more than 100 witnesses, including psychologists, military experts and Maya Ixil Indian survivors who told how General Ríos Montt's soldiers had killed their families and wiped out their villages. The judge said that as the commander in chief of Guatemala’s armed forces, the general knew about the systematic massacres of Ixil villagers living in hillside hamlets in El Quiché department and did nothing to stop them or the aerial bombardment of the refugees who had fled to nearby mountains. The crowd packed into the courtroom was quiet for much of Judge Barrios's reading. But cries of 'Justicia! Justicia!' erupted when she pronounced the lengthy sentence and ordered General Ríos Montt to begin serving it immediately. As the general tried to walk out a side door, Judge Barrios shouted at him to stay where he was and called for security forces. An hour after the verdict and sentence were read, General Ríos Montt was escorted from the courtroom by a dozen police officers. He said he was ready to go to prison. How long he will stay there is less clear than the verdict.