News Monitor for February 2003
Tracking current news on genocide and items related to past and present ethnic, national, racial and religious violence.
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Addis Tribune 28 Feb 2003 AU expresses concern over new developments in Burundi The African Union on Wednesday said it was following, with deep concern, the declarations and communiqués issued recently by some of the Burundian parties regarding the peace process and the implementation of the cease-fire agreements concluded between the transitional government and the armed groups. The African Union in a release said it would like to refer, especially, to the communiqué issued by the CNDD on 21 February 2003, as well as to the press release by UPRONA, dated 22 February, and expressed its deep concern with this evolution, which would jeopardize the progress made in the restoration of peace and harmony in Burundi. The African Union noted that these developments came at a time when all factions have been exhorted to do their utmost to respect their commitments to join their efforts with those of the international community with a view to scrupulously implementing the different accords reached through political compromises in order to promote a better future for the people of Burundi, the release said. The African Union launched an urgent appeal to all the political actors and the parties signatory to the different agreements reached to show restraint and a spirit of compromise with a view to preserving the gains made and to complete the process of restoring peace to their country, it said. The African Union, whose military observers are already in Burundi, would do its utmost to help resolve all difficulties encountered on the ground, including providing for the combatants of the armed groups, the statement said.
IRIN 28 Feb 2003 Increasing attacks on civilians worries Human Rights Watch NAIROBI, 28 February (IRIN) - The UN should encourage peacekeepers due to be sent to Burundi by the African Union (AU) to make the protection of civilians their priority, says Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a briefing paper entitled "Burundi: Civilians Pay the Price of Faltering Peace Process", released in New York on Friday, HRW urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio de Mello, who was expected to arrive in the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, on Friday, "to encourage the new African peacekeeping force in Burundi to protect civilians". HRW said recent attacks by government troops, and the suspension of talks between the main rebel group, the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie, and the government, were putting Burundian civilians in growing danger. According to HRW, Burundian soldiers attacked Mwegereza hill in the eastern province of Ruyigi on 19 January. "After chasing rebel combatants from the hill, the army troops massacred civilians, including members of a Burundian church group who had gathered to pray together. Burundian soldiers also raped women from the area, burned and pillaged homes, and refused to allow people who fled to return to gather harvests and work their fields." The organisation said a ceasefire agreement signed on 3 December 2002 was supposed to have ended military operations, "but its vague wording and lack of implementation left the way open to continuing clashes". "Protecting civilians needs to be the top priority of the new African peacekeeping force," Alison Des Forges, the senior adviser to the Africa division of HRW, said in the briefing paper. "The international community should help to make that happen." [The HRW report at: http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/burundi/burundi0203.pdf]
AFP 22 Feb 2003 Army officers sentenced to four months for civilian massacre BUJUMBURA, Feb 22 (AFP) - Two Burundi army officers arrested following the massacre of 173 people were sentenced to four months in prison for failing to obey orders, according to an army spokesman on Saturday. They were immediately released as they had spent five months in prison awaiting trial. "Commander Joseph Budigoma, second in command of the fourth Ngozi commando battalion, and Lieutenant Dedite Ndikuriyo, company commander, were released on Friday after being sentenced to four months in prison by the Kayanza (northern Burundi) war council for failing to obey orders," local private radio announced. Army spokesman Colonel Augustin Nzabampema confirmed the sentencing and release: "The lenient sentence is explained by the fact that the two officers did not have direct responsibility for what happened in Itaba." The massacre happened on September 9, 2002, when the victims -- predominantly civilians -- were killed by elements of the Burundian army during fighting with Burundian Hutu rebels. The public prosecutor pressed two charges, of failure to obey orders and lack of public solidarity, and requested five months' prison. Burundi's civil war has been raging since 1993 between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebel movements. The conflict in the former Belgian colony is estimated to have claimed more than 300,000 lives, mostly civilians.
Amnesty International 26 Feb 2003 PRESS RELEASE No justice for victims of the Itaba massacre Email This Page Print This Page Posted to the web February 26, 2003 London Amnesty International condemns in the strongest terms the failure of the Burundian justice system to bring to justice members of the Burundian armed forces responsible for the massacre of between 173 and 267 unarmed civilians, many of them women, children and the elderly, who were deliberately and unlawfully killed in Itaba commune, Gitega province on 9 September 2002. "Once again it is clear that there is simply no will to hold the Burundian armed forces accountable for their actions and to bring them to justice for gross human rights violations," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. Information about the massacre was initially hidden. As details emerged and national and international outrage grew, two army officers accused of being responsible were arrested. However, on 22 February 2003, they were convicted by a military court (conseil de guerre) merely of failing to follow orders. They were sentenced to four months' imprisonment and released. An Amnesty International delegation led by Irene Khan, visited Burundi in September 2002, shortly after the massacre. The delegation met survivors, including a six-year-old girl, herself shot as she ran from her burning home, and the sole survivor of her family, eye-witnesses and others including Burundian human rights groups investigating the killings. The delegation met President Pierre Buyoya and other senior government representatives, who promised that justice would be done. "Justice, clearly, has not been done. Although we are extremely disappointed about the outcome of the trial, we cannot say that we are surprised"," Irene Khan said, "The failure to properly investigate, hold fully accountable and bring to justice members of the armed forces suspected of being responsible for gross human rights violations is almost absolute." The Burundian authorities initially claimed that the victims had been killed in crossfire between the army and combatants from the Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie - Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD), National Council for the Defence of Democracy - Forces for the Defence of Democracy. As more details came to light, it became clear that the army was solely responsible for the killings; that CNDD-FDD fighters had already left the area; that the civilian population had been deliberately targeted; and that most of the victims had been shot at point blank range. Others had been shot as they attempted to flee, or burnt alive in houses where they had hidden. Although the Burundian armed forces had admitted the killings, for reasons that are not clear, the charge of murder was dropped and lesser charges of breaching public solidarity (manquement à la solidarité publique ) and failure to follow orders (violation de consignes militaires) were introduced. Acquitted of the first charge, the officers were found guilty of failing to follow orders on the grounds that they had failed to give a report of the incident, and that even though they had received orders to fire on combatants in the area it should have been clear that they were firing on an unarmed civilian population. The military prosecutor had reportedly argued that as civilians had been given the order to leave the area whenever combatants were present those who stayed behind were correctly considered as combatants. Amnesty International calls on the Burundian authorities to: reopen investigations into the Itaba massacre, to ensure that a full, independent and impartial investigation is carried out, and that all those responsible are brought to justice in accordance with international standards for fair trial, and without recourse to the death penalty; publicly condemn human rights violations including extrajudicial executions by their forces and to make clear that such violations are criminal offences for which they will be prosecuted; institute prompt, independent and impartial investigations of all unlawful killings of civilians, to make the findings public, and to bring those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards of fair trial and without recourse to the death penalty; urgently reform the military justice system. Background The Itaba massacre was only one in a series of mass killings by the armed forces in Burundi last year alone. More than 500 unarmed civilians including scores of children were extra judicially executed in 2002. Despite hundreds of such killings each year, very few soldiers even face trial for human rights violations. In the rare prosecutions that do take place, convicted defendants receive disproportionately light sentences, which are not only insulting but serve to reinforce the impunity of the armed forces. Military jurisdictions are simply not capable of bringing to justice those accused of human rights violations. However, the inherent weaknesses of military courts persist because they are tolerated by the highest authorities who furthermore largely fail to acknowledge or condemn human rights violations by their forces. .
Côte d'Ivoire - Also read News Monitors for Côte d'Ivoire from 2002 and 2001
NYT 24 Feb 2003 On Brink of Chaos, Ivory Coast Sides Try to Save a Peace Deal By SOMINI SENGUPTA BIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Feb. 22 — In a last attempt to salvage a peace pact that could save this onetime gem of West Africa from chaos, representatives of Ivory Coast's government and the rebels who control half the country negotiated through this weekend to devise a face-saving compromise. Neither side would comment on what a compromise might entail. But the high-pitched bluster of recent weeks diminished over the past few days. International pressure intensified on President Laurent Gbagbo to seize the chance for peace. The rebels tempered their insistence on having two high cabinet posts. Optimists believe a new government of national reconciliation could be announced as early as this week. If not, renewed conflict appears imminent and will potentially be most dire if it reaches south to this heavily populated port city, the country's commercial hub. For more than five months, this country, the world's largest cocoa producer, has been split into a rebel-held zone in the north and a government-controlled area in the south — a fragile partitioning not likely to hold for long. The talks that took place in Paris today and on Friday were an effort to save the talks that took place a month ago in Marcoussis, outside Paris. The peace agreement worked out at that time had envisioned a power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Gbagbo and the rebels who have tried to unseat him since last September. News of that peace pact only led to more violence. The army said it would not tolerate rebels in the government, and the president's loyalists led street protests that degenerated, at times, into wanton looting and rioting. Rebel leaders, meanwhile, threatened to forcibly occupy Abidjan, which is still in government hands with help from French peacekeepers. France, which ruled over this country for 100 years and continues to wield enormous power here, has dispatched more than 3,000 soldiers to protect its citizens and enforce a cease-fire. France announced last Thursday that French troops, along with Western African soldiers, would ensure the protection of the new Ivorian government. Several African leaders, the United Nations and the United States have pressed Mr. Gbagbo to abide by the Marcoussis peace deal. At the heart of that pact is a government of national reconciliation, with a new prime minister, Seydou Diarra. The negotiations this weekend took place between Mr. Diarra and leaders of the main rebel group. The president's endorsement of the Marcoussis accord was lukewarm at best. He vowed to follow it but only so long as Ivory Coast's Constitution remained the highest law of the land. But much of the conflict has been driven by sections of that constitution, particularly those that impose new restrictions on who is eligible for Ivorian citizenship. The rebels, who are Northerners and largely Muslims, accuse the government of discrimination. Mr. Gbagbo is from the south, which is largely Christian and animist. The president has declined requests for interviews. Even if a new government is announced soon, some chilling questions remain. What exactly will the rebels settle for? How much power will President Gbagbo cede to his prime minister? Will he be able to control his violent supporters if and when rebels take a seat in the government? Not least for the people of this city, is there any assurance that either side will disarm? The bravado on both sides has clearly diminished in recent days. Government officials have privately said they could imagine power-sharing for the sake of peace, as long as it did not involve the crucial Defense and Interior Ministries. Just two weeks ago, in an interview, the defense minister, Kadet Bertin, compared such a proposal to letting thieves into his house. For their part, rebel leaders have said over the past few days that they were not interested in those two cabinet positions anyway. The main northern rebel group had issued an ultimatum for last Sunday, saying it would enter Abidjan by force if the government failed to live up to the Marcoussis agreement. But the deadline came and went. This week, the rebel group said the demand was not an ultimatum. "We are not obsessed with ministerial posts," Dakoury Tabley, a negotiator for the rebels, said in an interview. "If Gbagbo recognizes the Marcoussis agreement, that's essential for us."
Amnesty International USA 26 February 2003 Amnesty International Reveals New Details About Côte D'Ivoire Massacre (New York) -- Amnesty International today released previously unknown details about the October 2002 massacre that occurred in Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire. The human rights organization was able to reconstruct the massacre during an investigatory visit to Bouaké in December, but withheld the information until now to protect the lives of those who survived but were still being held captive. Côte d'Ivoire: A Succession of Unpunished Crimes (PDF format) an Amnesty International report, February 2003 In October 2002, armed members of the rebel group MPCI (Côte d'Ivoire Patriotic Movement) killed dozens of gendarmes and their children in cold blood at a military prison in Bouaké. According to Amnesty International's report, those responsible for this massacre justified their actions to their future victims by telling them, "Remember Yopougon, now it's your turn." In October 2000 gendarmes massacred 50 civilians at Yopougon, for which no one has ever been punished. "These massacres tragically illustrate how impunity creates a vicious circle," said Adotei Akwei, Africa Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "While nothing can justify such horrifying actions, these appalling massacres, as well as numerous other acts of ethnically-motivated violence that have been perpetrated in recent years, may have been prevented if the government had proactively confronted the issues that precipitated them." In the Bouaké case, the MPCI, who had taken control of the city on September 19, arrested approximately 60 gendarmes -- accompanied by approximately 50 of their children -- at their barracks because the MPCI suspected their involvement in an attempt by government troops to recapture the town. The gendarmes were disarmed and taken to the prison at the military camp of the 3rd infantry battalion. That same evening, armed members of the MPCI entered the prison on a number of occasions and fired a hail of bullets, killing and injuring dozens of prisoners. The massacre was staged in several phases. During the evening of October 6, armed men entered the small military prison in Bouaké on three separate occasions and shot about 50 people dead at point-blank range. The survivors were left for two days among the wounded and decomposing bodies, without being given any food. Some were forced to carry the bodies and bury them in mass graves and a dozen of them were probably killed at the mass grave itself after they had buried their companions. One survivor told Amnesty International: "I was hiding in the left cell and the wall protected us against the shots but one of the 'rebels' approached us and had a look in our cell saying: 'S___, there are still a lot of them here.' He sprayed the room with bullets, then reloaded and opened fire indiscriminately. When he left, I was covered in blood and I hid under a body to protect myself." In January 2003, Amnesty International met some of the highest officials of the MPCI in Paris, including the secretary general of the movement, Guillaume Kigbafory Soro. The MPCI officials did not deny the truth of what the organization presented to them, although they said they were not personally aware of the facts. The MPCI representatives said they would agree to an international commission of inquiry, on the condition that it would include violations committed by all parties to the conflict since the start of the Côte d'Ivoire crisis in September 2002. The Linas/Marcoussis Agreement, signed by all Ivorian parties in January 2003, expressly states that "those carrying out summary executions throughout the country….[and ] those aiding and abetting these acts must be brought to justice before an international criminal jurisdiction." The need to end to impunity also appears in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1464, adopted on February 5, 2002. "Côte d'Ivoire is on the verge of chaos, threatening the entire region with a human rights crisis of unimaginable proportions," said Akwei. "The Bush Administration's welcome condemnation of death squad abuses must be backed by high-level diplomacy to ensure that any final peace agreement has human rights concerns at its core, along with clearly identifiable mechanisms and measures to monitor its implementation." Source: Amnesty International, 322 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10001 http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/2003/cotedivoire02262003.html
AFP 26 Feb 2003 Amnesty says Ivory Coast rebels executed 60 gendarmes, children ABIDJAN, Feb 26 (AFP) - Ivory Coast's main rebel group executed about 60 gendarmes and their children in cold blood around two weeks after a rebellion broke out in September last year, Amnesty International said in a report received by AFP on Wednesday. In a report entitled "Ivory Coast: a follow-up of unpunished crimes", the human rights watchdog said the victims were forced out of gendarmerie barracks in the central city of Bouake and taken to a nearby military camp where they were shot dead. Bouake has served as the headquarters of the Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) main rebel group since the start of a military uprising on September 19. The report said the victims were hauled out of their barracks despite the fact that they had put up a white flag of surrender. The killers were "armed elements of the MPCI," the report said. "For their part, the MPCI authorities accepted that these gendarmes were killed at the start of October last year but stressed that they died in combat," with the rebels, the report said. Since war broke out in Ivory Coast more than five months ago, there have been reports of sweeping rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict and the discovery of at least two mass graves thought to contain up to 200 bodies. The international community has stepped up warnings about the rights abuses and killings by what they claim are state-backed "death squads" saying these crimes could be liable for prosecution in international courts. In December, the MPCI confirmed the existence of a mass grave of soldiers and gendarmes -- police under the defense ministry -- in its stronghold of Bouake. Amnesty said the MPCI on February 10 expressed its "surprise" at several points in the report. "If these gendarmes were killed, there must be an investigation to identify the perpetrators and if these people are to be punished to bring an end to the impunity, we will accept it," MPCI general secretary Guillaume Soro told the London-based rights group. Amnesty said its report was based on several "witness accounts", including those from some gendarmes who survived the mass execution, gathered in December by a mission sent by the international rights group to Bouake. The survivors said the victims were killed by "three rounds of fire." Those who managed to escape the bullets were made to "transport the bodies and bury them in mass graves" and "wash off all traces of blood from the walls" of the military camp where the executions were staged. "Not all traces of the massacre were erased, however, as the Amnesty International delegation saw several holes from bullets which literally went through the prison walls," the report said. An AFP journalist who was in Bouake on that day, reported seeing about 100 gendarmes rounded up by the rebels.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 Ivory Coast rebels deny Amnesty International accusations PARIS, Feb 27 (AFP) - Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro on Wednesday denied accusations by Amnesty International that his armed group carried out summary executions after a rebellion broke out last September. Soro, general secretary of the Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI), the main rebel group, told the France 3 television channel here that the fatalities occurred during fighting. In a report entitled "Ivory Coast: a follow-up of unpunished crimes", London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the MPCI executed about 60 gendarmes and their children in cold blood around two weeks after the rebellion broke out. The victims were forced out of gendarmerie barracks in the central city of Bouake and taken to a nearby military camp where they were shot dead, according to the Amnesty report. Bouake has served as the rebels' headquarters since the start of a military uprising on September 19. The report said the victims were hauled out of their barracks despite the fact that they had put up a white flag of surrender. The killers were "armed elements of the MPCI," the report said. Soro denied the charges. "At Bouake there was fighting, there were deaths on one side and the other. For sanitary and humanitarian reasons some bodies were buried swiftly. The population knew, the world knew, it's verifiable in Bouake," Soro argued. He added that the Amnesty report had been published as Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo named the humanitarian group's head in the country as justice minister in a government of reconciliation. Since war broke out in Ivory Coast more than five months ago, there have been reports of sweeping rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict and the discovery of at least two mass graves thought to contain up to 200 bodies. The international community has stepped up warnings about the rights abuses and killings by what they claim are state-backed "death squads" saying these crimes could be liable for prosecution in international courts. In December, the MPCI confirmed the existence of a mass grave of soldiers and gendarmes -- police under the defense ministry -- in its stronghold of Bouake. Amnesty said the MPCI on February 10 expressed its "surprise" at several points in the report. Amnesty said its report was based on several "witness accounts", including those from some gendarmes who survived the mass execution, gathered in December by a mission sent by the international rights group to Bouake. The survivors said the victims were killed by "three rounds of fire." Those who managed to escape the bullets were made to "transport the bodies and bury them in mass graves" and "wash off all traces of blood from the walls" of the military camp where the executions were staged. "Not all traces of the massacre were erased, however, as the Amnesty International delegation saw several holes from bullets which literally went through the prison walls," the report said. An AFP journalist who was in Bouake on that day, reported seeing about 100 gendarmes rounded up by the rebels.
Vanguard 26 Feb 2003 (www.vanguardngr.com) Nwobodo challenges Obasanjo to national debate By Ben Agande Wednesday, February 26, 2003 ABUJA—THE presidential candidate of the United Nigeria Peoples Party, (UNPP) Senator Jim Nwobodo has challenged President Olusegun Obasanjo to a national debate for Nigerians to determine who between him and the president is fit to lead in the next dispensation. Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday to unfold his programmes, Senator Nwobodo said the proposed national debate would address issues like the economy, human rights, respect for the constitution, corruption and abuse of executive power without due process by the president. Other issues to be covered by the debate, according to Senator Nwobodo include, insecurity and crime, lack of focus in foreign affairs, genocide against indigenes of Odi and Zaki-Biam in Bayelsa and Benue states. Senator Nwobodo’s press conference yesterday coincided with the formal presentation of flags to UNPP governorship aspirants for the states of the federation. According to the presidential flag bearer, the PDP led government has lost the basis to seek re-election because it has failed in all the sectors of the country. "Unfortunately, this is the lot that we have under the current President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government. His approach to governance is imposition of siege and brutal destruction of the peoples psyche. When a man cannot elevate his nation to a position of honour and prosperity, he has no basis whatsoever to seek re-election. A leader that can not lay foundation for true nationalism and patriotism must be adjudged irrelevant and anachronistic" he said. Cataloguing series of factures by the president in all sectors, Senator Nwobodo said the life expectancy of Nigerians has plummeted since the Obasanjo administration came to power. He warned: "If we leave the present situation as it is in the hands of the incumbent, Nigeria will be wasting another four years of its national life. The incumbent has wasted nearly four already, not counting the three years he wasted during the military era. Why should any one be talking about continuity" he queried. Asserting that the UNPP offers the best alternative to rebuilding Nigeria, Senator Nwobodo said his government would tackle the security situation in the country by embarking on the re-orientation of police and taking their welfare seriously. He said his government will revamp the economy by diversifying areas of wealth creation like agriculture, industrialisation and solid minerals. The presidential candidate also promised to improve on the infrastructure of the country while also working towards realizing a true free education at the primary and secondary school levels. In the area of health care, Chief Nwobodo said all the teaching hospitals would be properly equipped while more federal medical centres would be built and equipped. Chief Nwobodo emphasised that his government would tackle corruption headlong. "To fight corruption, we intend to strengthen the anti-corruption agency legally. In this light, the proposal amendments currently being pursued by the national assembly is most commendable. The act establishing the code of conduct bureau will be reviewed to empower the commission to publish assets declaration of top public officials," he said.
IRIN 28 Feb 2003 Militia violence threatens elections, says rights group LAGOS, 28 Feb 2003 (IRIN) - Violence by ethnic militias and vigilante groups across Nigeria remains a threat to security ahead of general elections due in April and May, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said on Friday. In a new report, the group said the O'odua People's Congress (OPC) whichoperates in the country's southwest poses a particular threat to the peaceful conduct of the elections. The 58-page document titled 'OPC: Fighting Violence with Violence' provides details of abuses since the end of military rule in 1999 for which the militia, that claims to defend the interests of Yoruba people, was responsible. "As pre-election violence is increasing across Nigeria, the OPC with itslarge mass membership represents a powerful force, which could be unleashed with disastrous consequences," said Peter Takirambudde of Human Rights Watch Africa division. The OPC is blamed for playing a central role in some of the incidents ofethnic and religious violence in which thousands of people died in Nigeria in the last four years. The militia group is said to have played active roles in civil violence in the country's biggest city of Lagos between Yorubas and Hausa-speaking northerners in which hundreds of people died. HRW also said that the OPC, in its self-appointed role as an anti-crime vigilante, killed and mutilated many people without having them pass through the normal judicial process. But the report observes that the militia had also been a victim of police brutality, including extra-judicial killings of suspected members, torture and dentention without trial. The report condemns state governments across Nigeria that have provided backing for militia and vigilante groups. It noted that despite the ban on the OPC announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo, the militia still provided security at the funeral of slain Minister of Justice, Bola Ige, in February last year - an event attended by senior government officials, including the president himself. "But whatever the weaknesses of the police force, government authoritieshave a responsibility to prevent the population from resorting toself-appointed vigilante groups that are known to engage in violence," Human Rights Watch said. For HRW's full report please go to http://hrw.org/reports/2003/nigeria0203/
IRIN 28 Feb 2003 New laws needed to address land rights of Batwa, NGO says NAIROBI, 28 Feb 2003 (IRIN) - The government should ensure that land rights issues faced by the Batwa, Rwanda's third and smallest ethnic group, are effectively addressed through the implementation of new national land laws, an international NGO, Minority Rights Group (MRG), says in a new report. MRG, whose objective is to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous people worldwide, said in its February report that the Batwa had not benefited from existing land rights legislation. "They continue to experience discrimination, and their rights remain vulnerable," MRG observed. "Greater action should be taken to ensure that the right to equality and to non-discrimination for the Batwa is secured in law and in practice. The Rwandan Human Rights Commission should elaborate a public education strategy to combat systematic discrimination against the Batwa," MRG recommended. Of Rwanda's estimated population of eight million, "only between 20,000 and 27,000 are Batwa", according to MRG. The Hutu and the Tutsi are the other two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, with the Hutu being the majority. The Batwa, also known as pygmies, are forest hunter-gatherers. The MRG said the Batwa were known to be the aboriginal inhabitants in Rwanda, but had been "steadily dispossessed of their lands over several centuries facilitated by their low population density, small social groups and egalitarian culture, with values that emphasise openness and sharing". The 1994 genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people, most of whom were Tutsi. MRG estimated that up to 30 percent of the Batwa, "the majority of whom were men and children, were killed as a consequence of the genocide and the ensuing war". The MRG report recommended that international development agencies operating in Rwanda should establish programme activities in cooperation with Batwa communities to help the latter overcome their situation of "extreme poverty". "Particular emphasis should be placed on supporting long-term skill training, education and advocacy, and on legal support for Batwa men and women," the report said.
Reuters Date: 27 Feb 2003 Sierra Leone truth hearings to start in April FREETOWN, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up by the government to help heal the scars caused by one of Africa's most brutal civil wars, said it would start hearings on April 7. The commission, styled on the body with the same name which helped South Africans come to terms with the apartheid era, is meant as a public forum for victims and persecutors alike to tell their stories and voice their grievances. It will have no power to punish, unlike a special United Nations war tribunal which is due to try about 20 ringleaders accused of the worst atrocities in the West African country's decade-long conflict. Sierra Leone's war, marked by crimes against civilians such as the amputation of limbs, mass rape and forced recruitment of child soldiers, was declared over in January last year after U.N. peacekeepers disarmed more than 47,000 fighters. U.N. officials have said testimonies given before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would not be used by the special court to prosecute people. The two institutions would operate independently but both would work towards the goal of addressing human rights abuses and accountability for those responsible, the officials said. The court is expected to begin proceedings in the former British colony later this year but no date has been set yet. The commission's chairman, Bishop Joseph Humper, told a news conference on Wednesday that 3,500 testimonies had so far been received and more were expected throughout March. He said the commission needed $4 million to complete its work and would shortly embark on a fund-raising mission to the United States.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 Death toll in two days of clashes in Somali capital rises to 12 MOGADISHU, Feb 27 (AFP) - At least 12 people have been killed and 18 wounded in two days of clashes in the Medina enclave of the Somali capital on Wednesday, residents said on Thursday. "Three civilians and two gunmen were killed and seven other people wounded on Wednesday, while seven more were killed and 11 wounded after violence resumed on Thursday," elders said. The fighting, said to be very heavy by local residents, involves loyalist gunmen of warlord Musa Sudi Yalahow and rival warlord Omar Mohamud Mohamed "Finish", both of whom control pockets in the divided enclave. "The fighting was started by supporters of Yalahow and he will take responsibility for the violence," Finish's top militia commander Ahmed Hassan Addow told AFP by telephone in Medina. He said that his men were only defending their positions in Medina from "aggression" by Yalahow's forces. But Yalahow immediately denied the allegations. "For me, the chapter of violence is totally over. I don't believe in violence, as most Somalis are fed up with war. I will use all my powers to stop the renewed violence with the help of elders," Yalahow told AFP by telephone from his office in north Mogadishu. "This is undesirable violence triggered by freelancers acting on their own," Yalahow said, and appealed to militia on both sides to stop the fighting unconditionally and immediately. Somalia has not had a recognised central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was deposed in January 1991 and has since been ruled by clan warlords.
AFP 26 Feb 2003 New rebel group seizes west Sudan town KHARTOUM, Feb 26 (AFP) - A newly formed armed rebel group has seized a provincial capital in the western Darfur region of Sudan, an area outside the remit of peace talks aimed at end a 20-year civil war between north and south, Khartoum newspapers said Wednesday. Around 300 rebels identifying themselves as the Front for the Liberation of Darfur (FLD) seized the town of Gulu, capital of Jebel Marrah province, and installed their own administration, the papers quoted senior local government officials as saying. The rebel appointee, identified as Abdullah Korah, appealed to the people of the ethnically mixed Darfur region to join the new rebel movement, North Darfur State Governor Ibrahim Suleiman was quoted as saying by the papers, which included the independent Al-Ayam daily. Suleiman, who heads a security committee covering all three states in Darfur, told a conference held in the region's main town of Fashir on Monday and Tuesday that the rebels had set up training camps in Jebel Marrah. They were using the camps as launchpads for attacks on government positions, police and army posts and on state vehicles, he said. The FLD said it wanted to eradicate the marginalisation and injustice which had deprived the region of development projects, Suleiman told the conference, which was attended by some 400 government officials. Al-Ayam quoted the conference spokesman, Southern Darfur State Governor Adam Hamid Mussa, as saying that the rebel group was led by Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nour, a lawyer and former member of the opposition Communist Party of Sudan. The group had weapons, vehicles and modern satellite communications, he said. The rebellion constituted a serious threat to the region's security, the conference said in a closing statement carried by the Akhbar Al-Youm daily. But it recommended that negotiations be attempted with the rebels before any resort to military action and urged the establishment of a team of officials to take charge of the talks. The Darfur region has long been plagued by ethnic unrest. Rights groups have accused the Khartoum government of arming militias among Arab nomadic tribes against indigenous Fur, Zaghawa and other minorities. The east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development has been mediating peace talks since the last year between the government and the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army, which has been fighting Khartoum since 1983.
IRIN Rights group lauds presidential decree on humanitarian law NAIROBI, 27 February (IRIN) - The London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International has hailed a recent decree issued by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, ordering the appointment of a committee to bring Sudanese laws in line with international humanitarian law. "The committee should be formed of independent experts in Sudanese law and humanitarian law," the organisation said in a statement. "The Sudanese government should act decisively and speedily to ensure that breaches of international humanitarian law are ended and that the civilian population is protected." Bashir has also ordered implementation mechanisms to "execute the requirements" of international humanitarian law, Amnesty said. Although Sudan ratified the Geneva Conventions in 1957, which outline the protection of civilians in conflict, government forces - as well as the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and militias allied to both sides - have frequently violated the provisions of all four intruments, the statement said. For example, a recent report by the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) - set up last year by the US government with the agreement of both sides - found that the government and allied militias targeted civilians during January in attacks on number of oil areas of Western Upper Nile, the Amnesty statement said. An estimated two million people have been killed in the Sudanese conflict, and four million displaced. "It is high time that the government of Sudan takes concrete and effective action to put an end to such illegal practices which up to now it has condoned or encouraged," Amnesty said. It urged the SPLM/A to take similar action to ensure that laws and practices in areas under its control were in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights standards.
Natonal Post 28 Feb 2003 Top Nazi Prosecutor Assigned to Zundel Case Adrian Humphreys The Department of Justice has assigned its top Nazi war crimes prosecutor to represent the government at today's detention review hearing for Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who is seeking refugee status in Canada. Donald Macintosh, a senior federal government lawyer based in Toronto, has handled several high-profile immigration cases in Canada that involved allegations of war crimes committed in Europe during the Nazi era. Dorette Pollard, director of communication for the Department of Justice, said Mr. Macintosh's appointment is not necessarily because of his experience in dealing with Nazi atrocities. "It could simply be a question of workload. He is one of our capable lawyers, as they all are, in our immigration section," Ms. Pollard said. It is not usual practice, however, for senior federal lawyers to represent the government at detention review hearings. "Because of the nature of the case, a lawyer has been assigned," Ms. Pollard said. Mr. Zundel, 63, has remained in detention in Niagara Falls, Ont., since United States immigration officials deported him to Ontario last week. Mr. Macintosh has handled several of Canada's war crimes cases, including: Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo, Ont., who is awaiting a decision on his appeal of a deportation order. He is accused of being a member of the German Einsatzkommando, a Nazi squad that executed civilians, and then lying about his role when entering Canada. Conrad Kalejs, accused of being a leader of the Latvian Arise Commando, a group accused of murdering 20,000 Jews, was deported from Canada to Australia in 1997. Johann Dueck was accused of being deputy chief of a police unit that helped the Nazis round up and kill people in German-occupied Ukraine. He was found not guilty in 1998 of obtaining his citizenship by false representation and was later awarded $750,000 as compensation for the prosecution. Mr. Macintosh's experience and knowledge of the Nazi record make his selection to handle Mr. Zundel's case a sound one, said Keith Landy, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "Mr. Macintosh is well-known to us for the prosecution of Dueck, Kalejs, Oberlander and others," Mr. Landy said. "The more knowledgeable a person is to the views of the applicant it will allow for a deeper and more thorough inquiry into the veracity of the claims. And he is, by all accounts, a very professional and capable prosecutor. " Mr. Zundel's attempt to be granted refugee status in Canada has caused outrage and officials in Ottawa are trying to ensure he does not resume residency here, where he lived from 1958 until he left voluntarily in 2001. During his time in Canada, he published Nazi and neo-Nazi views, associated with white supremacists and sought publicity for his notion that Germany has been wrongly accused of killing six million Jews.
BBC 25 Feb 2003 Pinochet police on murder charge Manuel Contreras was a secret police commander A Chilean judge has indicted five top intelligence officials from the Pinochet era military government over the murder of a former general, Carlos Prats. Alejandro Solis also ordered the five to be arrested and held in detention. General Prats was the head of the Chilean army under President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet in a bloody coup in 1973. He and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, were killed a year later when their car was blown up in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. Judge Solis indicted General Manuel Contreras and Brigadier Pedro Espinoza, commanders of the secret police of Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship, known as the Dina, on homicide charges. He also indicted General Raul Iturriaga and his brother, Jorge, on homicide charges. Brigadier Jose Zara was indicted as an accomplice, according to Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. Extradition request The men, all now retired, reject the charges. They say the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was behind General Prats' murder. Allende's overthrow is still a painful memory Previous judicial investigations placed the blame for the bomb at the feet of Michael Townley, an American who worked for the Dina. Mr Townley now lives under a new identity in the United States. This is the first time the murders have been investigated by Chilean authorities. Proceedings began after Buenos Aires requested the extradition of the five men and Mr Pinochet himself in relation to its investigation. In turning down the extradition request, the Chilean court ruled the eventual trial should take place in Chile. Mr Pinochet has not been included in the case because the Supreme Court previously ruled that ill health precluded him from standing trial. US role Last week the current US Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged the US role in the 1973 coup in Chile. In an interview on the US Black Entertainment Television network, a question was asked about why Washington sees itself as the "moral superior" in the Iraq conflict. The Chilean coup was cited as an example of US intervention that went against the wishes of the local population. "With respect to your earlier comments about Chile in the 1970s and what happened with Mr Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Mr Powell answered. The weekend papers in Chile hailed the news as the first time the US Government had conceded a role in the affair.
Asia Times 19 Feb 2003 Khmer Rouge: 'Last chance' for justice By Tom Fawthrop PHNOM PENH - More than 24 years after Cambodia's murderous Pol Pot regime was toppled, the battle to bring his henchmen to justice is still being waged. After a step forward in December, and two steps backward in January, six member states of the United Nations have now called on the UN Secretariat to honor a resolution to resume negotiations for the establishment of a tribunal into alleged Khmer Rouge atrocities. At issue is the problem of whether a Cambodian legal tribunal would be capable of performing up to the international standards expected by the UN. Powerful critics, notably Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have stubbornly opposed the form of tribunal sought by Phnom Penh. But others, noting that the aging Khmer Rouge culprits are poised to thwart justice by following Pol Pot himself into the grave, argue that even if the standards of the tribunal are less than pristine, it would be better than nothing. Cambodia did itself no favors last month when anti-Thai rioting in the capital got out of hand, causing millions of dollars' damage to the Thai Embassy and Thai-owned businesses. Phnom Penh's failure to control the riots damaged its credibility on upholding the rule of law. Many doubt the ability of Cambodia's ill-trained lawyers and judges to play a constructive part in deliberating on matters of international justice. Also last month, UN counsel Hans Corell dropped a bombshell by proposing reinstatement of "a majority of international judges, and an international prosecutor", on to the proposed tribunal, which would mean negotiations would go back to the Square 1 of August 1999. A number of member states were astonished by this departure from the mandate contained in UN Resolution 57/288 (December 18), which got the negotiations back on track after the UN walked away from them early last year. Last Thursday six member states - Australia, France, India, Japan, Philippines, and the US - met with Corell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to insist that the Secretariat adhere to the mandate "to conclude an agreement with the government of Cambodia based on previous negotiations consistent with the provisions of the present resolution". They endorsed the assessment of David Scheffer, former US president Bill Clinton's ambassador-at-large for war-crimes tribunals and now vice president of the United Nations Association, that "it is extremely critical that both sides begin where they left off in 2001. The UN endorsed that structure in its own draft agreement between the UN and Cambodia in late 2001." With most of the suspects now in their 70s, many Cambodians fear that if the tribunal is put off much longer in the quest for legal niceties, more former Khmer Rouge leaders will cheat justice. Chea Vannath, director of Cambodia's Center of Social Development, a non-governmental organization in Phnom Penh, told Asia Times Online: "If we wait for perfect law, the Khmer Rouge leaders will all be dead." The Documentation Center of Cambodia, a genocide-research institute, has amassed a vast archive of documents, testimony and data on the mass graves and killing sites of the Khmer Rouge era. The researchers' latest estimate of those who died from execution, starvation and other unnatural causes has now reached just under 2 million - and still counting. Mountains of evidence have been collected. Hundreds of survivors are eager to testify about the horrors of the Pol Pot regime. But everything is on hold until the UN is willing to sign a memorandum of understanding and cooperation to provide vital resource and financial support for the tribunal to be held in Phnom Penh. The UN's legal team aborted the process last year, claiming the Cambodian model of a "mixed tribunal" did not meet "international legal standards, and could not guarantee an independent tribunal". It was a controversial decision that came close to killing any remaining Cambodian hope for real justice. Scheffer commented: "The distrust between the two negotiating teams and intense pressure from human-rights advocates who sought, unrealistically, to impose their ideal set of legal standards on the process propelled the United Nations legal team to walk out." In a three-year see-saw of negotiations, legal deadlocks and compromises, the UN Secretariat and especially its Office of Legal Affairs have frequently been at odds with the views of key member states. The Cambodian model for the mixed tribunal is based on substantial international participation: an international co-prosecutor, co-investigating judge and other foreign judges would all be nominated by the UN secretary general. The international co-prosecutor would have the power to move ahead with indictments. Every judicial action would require the approval of at least one international judge. The core group of nations that have actively worked for this tribunal during the past three years challenged the judgment of Corell's team, and questioned their right to abandon the process without consulting UN member states. A full-scale UN International Tribunal is unattainable - first because China has always threatened a Security Council veto, and second because the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has never trusted the UN. Among Phnom Penh's bitter memories is the strange fact that for 11 long years - from 1979-90 - the UN continued to allow the Pol Pot gang to occupy Cambodia's seat in the General Assembly. In the history of the UN there have been few occasions when the Secretariat had to be reminded so many times that that it is obliged to carry out the will of the member states. Helen Jarvis, an Australian advisor to the Cambodian side, commented: "It is a relief to know that after a year's delay, the UN legal team is soon return to Phnom Penh to resume negotiations. It's urgent to conclude a memorandum of understanding and set up the tribunal as soon as possible." Human-rights activists are unusually divided by the Khmer Rouge trial controversy. Backing those who argue that, contrary to the Amnesty/HRW stance that the tribunal must live up to international standards, Phnom Penh's tribunal law is better than nothing is law Professor Peter Leuprecht, the UN's special human-rights rapporteur for Cambodia, who calls this "the last chance". And Scheffer observed recently: "Human-rights activists' call for a United Nations-dominated international tribunal for Cambodia - an approach sought long ago and blocked - and insistence on near-perfect justice risks losing the good for the sake of the unattainable." A heavy burden now rests on both the UN legal team and the Cambodian side to put past differences behind them and to display all-out determination to reach an agreement in line with the UN mandate. Scheffer remarked on the irony that with the prospect of finally getting about seven or eight top former Khmer Rouge leaders indicted closer than it has ever been, "How tragic it would be if some advocates for international justice helped them get off the hook."
Hindustan Times 13 Feb 2003 Space invaders Bibhuti Bhusan Nandy February 13 Decades of uncontrolled illegal immigration from Bangladesh acquired the proportions of a demographic invasion years ago. Thanks to bureaucratic ineptitude and the lack of political will, successive governments slept over the problem. The presence of 15-20 million aliens — besides signalling a total breakdown of border management and immigration control — has imposed a crushing socio-economic burden on the country and is posing a serious threat to India’s national security. By its cynical and insistent denial of the very existence of illegal immigration, Dhaka has reiterated its non-cooperation in dealing with the problem, adding a sinister dimension to the not-too-happy-at-all India-Bangladesh relations. Migration occurs when the right conditions of life in a country become endangered for some reason or the other. In Bangladesh, unrelenting persecution of the religious and ethnic minorities and pauperisation of the landless rural masses are powerful ‘push factors’ that force people out of their homeland. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘pull factors’ like job opportunities, access to public distribution system, social security benefits, free education, easy acquisition of immovable property, enlistment as voters and, above all, a congenial socio-cultural atmosphere attract Bangladeshi migrants to India. The high stakes of some political parties in captive immigrant vote banks, unbridled corruption in the BSF, and organised rackets on both sides of the border promote cross-border infiltration on a massive scale. Dhaka’s facile disclaimer of the problem is easily trashed. An incisive analysis of 1991 census statistics by Sarifa Begum, a Bangladesh demographer, showed that the estimated 104.7 million population of Bangladesh had excluded 9-10 million from the computation. Additionally, the census figure was at odds with the Bangladesh government’s own projection of 112-114 million and the UNDP estimate of 116-117 million. Sarifa Begum rightly attributed the ‘missing millions’ to unregistered ‘out-migration’. Clearly, no fewer than 14 to 15 million Bangladeshis had sneaked into India during the 1981-91 inter-census decade. The much higher growth rates in the Indian districts bordering Bangladesh and significantly lower growth rates in the adjoining areas, extremely low growth in Hindu-concentrated districts and population explosion in urban pockets of West Bengal confirmed the finding. Some statistics tellingly illustrate the point: Greater Jessore and Greater Khulna districts in Bangladesh registered 1.97 per cent and 1.58 per cent growth respectively as against 3.16 per cent in the adjoining North 24 Parganas. Greater Mymensigh district in Bangladesh had a growth rate of 1.82 per cent against 3.84 per cent in the adjacent Eastern Garo Hills district in Meghalaya. Greater Comilla district (Bangladesh) showed 1.89 per cent growth against 3.36 per cent in Tripura. There is a population explosion in many semi-urban areas of West Bengal — Gobardanga (8.64 per cent), Khardah (9.5), Raiganj, (13.93), Ashoknagar (7.45), Mekhliganj (7.98) and Tufanganj (22.45) per cent — against the 2.45 per cent state average. There is also a sharply lower growth against the national average (2.02 per cent) in the Hindu-concentrated districts of Bangladesh — Baisal (1.2), Gopalganj (0.9), Munshiganj (1.1), Faridpur (1.2), Chandpur (1.2), Khulna (1.6) — confirming a heavy Hindu exodus. The number of stranded Bihari Muslims — who had opted for Pakistan after the creation of Bangladesh — has sharply fallen from 1.1 million in 1971 to 250,000 in 1991. The missing 850,000 found their way to greater Calcutta and the Katihar-Purnea-Samastipur belt of Bihar. There is no knowing the exact size of the current Bangladesh immigrant population in India. Considering that there has been no significant change in the objective demographic situation since 1991, however, the government estimate of 20 million is an eminently acceptable figure. Prior to 1947, job seekers from East Bengal used to come to Calcutta and the relatively thinly populated Assam and North Bengal districts. In the immediate post-Partition years, a pervasive sense of insecurity pushed Hindus in droves to West Bengal and other border states in North-east India. Since the 1974 famine in Bangla-desh, Muslims migrating to India far outnumber Hindu immigrants, roughly at a 1:3 ratio. This has changed the demography and the communal balance of the border population, generating inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions. In West Bengal, many Hindus of remote villages in the border belt have been relocating themselves in towns for better security and protection. Migration to border states having reached the saturation point. Many migrants, mostly Muslim, have moved to urban centres in other states in search of wider job opportunities. Illegal Muslim immigrants have been living in large concentrations in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Ajmer, Lucknow and many other cities and towns of the northern and western states. Many of these migrants often clandestinely visit Pakistan. Armed with all the trappings of Indian citizenship — ration cards, local birth and domicile certificates, voter identity cards et al — the second generation immigrants are no longer content with the underclass status of their families. They have set higher sights. Many have joined government services including the police and para-military organisations, armed forces and even other sensitive security agencies. The presence of nearly 15 per cent of another country’s population in India underscores the significant erosion of our national sovereignty. So much so that India has no say in who comes and who stays in this country. In Assam and West Bengal, votes by foreigners decisively influence election results in an increasingly large number of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and spread of the jehadi spirit in Bangladesh have turned the illegal immigrants into a potent source of subversion. In the early Nineties, pseudo-Left Bangladeshi intellectuals had demanded lebensraum — living space — for their country’s excess population in the sparsely populated North-east. At least two heavyweights in Begum Zia’s first government (one a present cabinet minister) had openly supported the demand, which was in line with maverick mass leader Maulana Bhasni’s dream of a ‘Greater Bengal’. The Indian government’s recently announced plan to identify, detect and deport the 20 million illegal immigrants is overambitious. A more pragmatic approach would be to aim at preventing further infiltration and concentrate on deporting in phases the relatively new arrivals. Implementation of even such a modest agenda is sure to run into fierce resistance from vested interests within the country and Bangladesh once deportation gets underway. Much will depend on the government’s ability to take the public on board. The agreement reached at the chief ministers’ conference last week to implement the plan is a good augury to be used to warn Dhaka that it can ignore India’s resolve to address the problem at its own peril. The immediate priorities of a coordinated action plan are: • A time-bound exhaustive census of the immigrant population and their locations. • Streamlining of border management and immigration control focused on expeditious border-fencing and smashing of immigration and smuggling rackets by liberally using powers of preventive detention under the National Security Act. • Disciplining the BSF with emphasis on weeding out of the corrupt. The force leadership at the top should be shown the door should they fail to carry out the cleansing act within a given deadline. • Creating a separate immigration service and putting in place a long-term national immigration policy. • Sustained diplomacy geared to enlisting international support for the programme and commensurate public education campaigns at home and abroad. Do we have the will and tenacity to execute this agenda? That, really, is the question. (The writer is former additional secretary, Research and Analysis Wing and retired Director-General, Indo-Tibetan Border Police)
InterPress Service 19 Feb 2003 India serious on Bangladeshi immigrants By Ranjit Devraj NEW DELHI - The seriousness with which India regards the issue of 15 million Bangladeshis it claims are residing illegally in the country was reflected in an address to parliament made on Monday by President A P J Abdul Kalam. "The problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh has assumed serious proportions and affects many states," Kalam said in his address to the joint sitting of parliament. Kalam's remarks reflected the government's mood following the recent standoff between the two countries along the 4,000 kilometer long border that they share. Border guards of each country were trying to push people they claimed were not theirs across to the other side. In an attempt to defuse the issue, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mohammad. Morshed Khan visited New Delhi last week for talks with Indian leaders on the migrant issue and other irritants between the two neighbors. According to the Atlas of Population and Environment released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the mass migration into India has been the result of pressure on land caused by a rapidly expanding population. "In the 1980s, land scarcity caused by a fast-rising population in Bangladesh led to conflicts that drove 12 to 17 million Bangaldeshis into neighboring Indian states of West Bengal and Assam," the AAAS atlas said. The Indian government, which until recently took a remarkably lenient view of the steady migration across the porous border, now believes that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has taken advantage of it for subversive activities. Kalam argued in his speech that the ISI was active in Bangladesh. "This makes the issue of infiltration even more ominous." However, the president observed that historical, cultural and ethnic affinities had shaped India's relations with Bangladesh and that even now the two countries were engaged in dialogue to sort out political and security issues. Close racial affinities between Bangladeshis and people in the adjoining Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Tripura make identification difficult especially when India does not have system of issuing identity cards to genuine citizens. In continuation of the newly initiated dialogue, the foreign secretaries of the two countries are scheduled to meet in the first week of April in Dhaka where the illegal immigrant issue will be addressed. Earlier this month, the government began a process of issuing identity cards to all Indian citizens, starting with the 13 states considered vulnerable to illegal immigration - northern Kashmir and Uttaranchal, western Gujarat, West Bengal and Tripura in the east and southern Tamil Nadu, Goa and Pondicherry and Delhi. Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani has already directed state governments to launch "special drives" starting in April to detect and deport illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a particular problem in Assam state, which saw violent agitations by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) through the eighties defused by the drawing up of Assam Accord in 1986. Under that agreement, mass deportations were to have been carried out by the central and state governments. "Assam may soon become part of Bangladesh if the central and state government do not take steps to implement the accord and stop this infiltration," said AASU adviser Sammujal Bhattacharyya at a recent press conference in Guwahati, the state capital. Bhattacharya said the AASU now planned to revive the mass agitation against the "influx of foreigners into Assam which has upset the demography of the state". Indian officials say the main difficulty is that Bangladesh officially shies away from admitting to the mass migration, leaving the Indian government no choice but to resort to rounding them up and push migrants across the border. "I don't think there is any illegal migrant from Bangladesh coming to India to live," Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mohammed Morshed Khan told journalists during his visit here last week. But Dhaka has been more responsive to Advani's complaints that it was harboring Islamic fundamentalist groups and criminal gangs that were allegedly carrying on subversive activities against India. Last week, the Khaleda Zia government banned the Shahadat-e-Hikma, a fundamentalist group said to be funded by Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian underworld don who operates out of Dubai. "After observing the activities of Al Hikma it was found to be a threat to peace and security. That's why the decision has been taken to ban it," Bangladesh Home Minister Altaf Hussain Chowdhury was reported as telling Parliament. This was the first instance of an Islamic organization being banned by Zia's Bangladesh National Party (BNP) government. which is partnered by the openly anti-India, Jamaat-e-Islami party. (Inter Press Service)
CNN 27 Feb 2003 Gujarat on alert one year on The train attack triggered months of rioting in which up to 2,000 people died, most of them Muslims. GODRHA, India -- Police in the Indian state of Gujarat have been placed on high alert at temples, mosques, stations and other public places on the first anniversary of a train attack that sparked widespread sectarian rioting. The attack on a train carrying Hindu activists near the town of Godhra led to more than three months of violence across the state in which human rights groups say an estimated 2,000 people died, the majority of them Muslims. The official death toll from the rioting is closer to 1,000. Fearing another flare-up in tensions police officers have been deployed across the state in an effort to head off renewed clashes. The violence was the worst sectarian bloodshed seen in India in over a decade. Muslim groups have said they plan to spend the day in mourning. However, Hindu nationalists have planned rallies in Godhra and elsewhere in the state. Investigations by human rights groups into last year's violence have accused police and local officials of failing to intervene to halt the rioting, in some cases actually colluding with the attackers. At the time Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi was severely criticized following reports that he had described the riots as a "natural reaction" to the train attack. Call for justice Rights groups have accused police of colluding with the rioters. In a statement marking the first anniversary of the attack Thursday human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on the Indian government to deliver speedy and independent justice to the victims of the violence. Without a full and independent investigation into the attacks and subsequent rioting, Amnesty said, the credibility of the entire Indian criminal justice system was at stake. The clashes were triggered by an arson attack on February 27 last year on a train near the town of Godhra in which 59 Hindus died. The incident, thought to have been carried out by a Muslim gang targeting a train carrying Hindu activists, sparked a series of retaliatory attacks on Muslim communities across Gujarat, particularly in the state's commercial capital, Ahmedabad. In its statement Amnesty said the manner of investigations into the rioting highlighted "a severe bias against Muslim victims and survivors." "These investigations often rely on the same police officers who were at best indifferent bystanders or at worse actively colluding with the attackers when the violence took place," the group said. Without an independent investigative body, Amnesty said, most of the cases are prejudiced before they even get to trial. "It flouts a very basic principle of justice: the same police officers cannot be the accused and investigators at the same time", the group said.
WP 27 Feb 2003 Homage to Hindu Nationalist Reflects Change in India By John Lancaster Washington Post Foreign Service Thursday, February 27, 2003; Page A18 NEW DELHI, Feb. 26 -- A little more than half a century ago, Vinayak Savarkar was on trial for his life, accused of conspiring with seven other men in the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi on Jan. 30, 1948. The court acquitted Savarkar, citing insufficient evidence, but there was never much doubt about where his sympathies lay: A hard-line Hindu nationalist who wrote admiringly of Nazi Germany, he made no secret of his antipathy toward India's Muslim population or toward Gandhi, whose embrace of religious tolerance and diversity he saw as a threat to India's cultural purity. Moreover, Savarkar was personally acquainted with Nathuram Godse, Gandhi's assassin and one of Savarkar's most devoted followers. Some historians still believe that Godse would not have committed the murder without a green light from Savarkar, who died in 1966. But yesterday's suspect is today's hero. In a ceremony this afternoon, India's Hindu-nationalist government unveiled a portrait of Savarkar to hang opposite Gandhi's in the central hall of Parliament, describing him as a neglected and misunderstood patriot who deserves his place in the pantheon of India's great leaders. The ceremony reflected the degree to which hard-line Hindu nationalism has moved into the mainstream of Indian politics, drowning out debate on other topics, such as development, and alarming those who see the movement as a threat to the secular, pluralistic nature of Indian democracy. "All the political stigma has been cleared today," Savarkar's nephew, Vikram Savarkar, said after the ceremony, which was organized by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and presided over by President Abdul Kalam. "He had been kept away from history books. Now his name will be everywhere." That prospect is deeply disturbing to guardians of India's secular democratic traditions, among them leaders of the opposition Congress party, which boycotted the ceremony. Historians and civil-society groups joined the Congress party in denouncing the government's decision. Besides resurrecting questions about Savarkar's role in the Gandhi assassination, they cast doubt on his patriotism, citing evidence that he had collaborated with India's British colonial overlords and endorsed partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan at independence in 1947 -- an outcome still widely seen here as an avoidable tragedy. "He has been a figure of shame all his life, and now his portrait will go here in Parliament?" said Vishwa Nath Mathur, 90, who was imprisoned by the British during the colonial era and appeared at a news conference Tuesday organized by opponents of the portrait-hanging. "Savarkar was essentially from the beginning a very weak character." Spokesmen for the BJP and its parent organization, the National Volunteer Corps -- known as the RSS, the initials of its name in Hindi -- accused the Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, and other critics of distorting Savarkar's record for political purposes. On the charge that Savarkar was involved in Gandhi's assassination, they said the court acquittal speaks for itself. On the charge that he was unpatriotic, they released a 1980 letter from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi -- Sonia Gandhi's mother-in-law, but no relation to Mohandas Gandhi -- in which she praised Savarkar as a "remarkable son of India" who deserved to be celebrated for his "daring defiance of the British government." Born in 1883 and a onetime student at London's Inns of Court, Savarkar spent years in a British penal colony for ordering the assassination of a British official. Although some later accused him of offering to cooperate with his jailers in exchange for leniency, he is revered among Hindu nationalists for his coinage of the term Hindutva -- literally, Hinduness -- at the center of the campaign by the RSS and its offshoots to shape India as a culturally homogeneous nation. In one passage of his 1923 book, "Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?" Savarkar seems to question the patriotism of India's minority Muslim and Christian communities: "[Muslim] or Christian communities possess all the essential qualifications of Hindutva but one . . . they do not look upon India as their holy land," he wrote. "Their holy land is far off in Arabia and Palestine. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of foreign origin. Their love is divided." More controversial than Savarkar's writings was his association with the killers of Gandhi, whose peaceful protest movement is widely credited with forcing the British to leave India. Savarkar was the leader of a right-wing political organization, the Hindu Mahasabha, whose acolytes -- including Godse, Gandhi's slayer -- deeply resented what they saw as Gandhi's "appeasement" of India's Muslims. Although Godse testified at his trial that Savarkar was not involved in the assassination, he and an accomplice, Narayan Apte, were regular visitors to Savarkar's Bombay home in the months leading up to the killing, according to evidence presented at the trial. Another accomplice, Digamber Badge, who turned state's evidence, testified that less than two weeks before the assassination, he had overheard Savarkar bidding Godse and Apte goodbye with the instruction, "Be successful and return." Judge Atma Charan ultimately ruled that it would be "unsafe" to convict Savarkar without corroborating evidence. At today's ceremony, lawmakers from the BJP and other parties in India's coalition government greeted the unveiling with shouts of "Long Live Savarkar," and "Long Live Mother India." Then they formed a line and took turns throwing rose petals on the portrait, bowing before they moved on. "Today the picture is there -- the ideology will follow," said Vikram Savarkar. "This is just the beginning." Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi contributed to this report.
PTI 28 Feb 2003 Indo-Bangla border residents to get ID cards COOCH BEHAR: Residents along the Indo-Bangladesh border will be issued identity cards next week, Cooch Behar District Magistrate Chandan Sinha said on Friday. The block development officers would begin issuing the identity cards to the residents, land owners, labourers and workers from next week, he told reporters here. Meetings in this regard between the officials and local panchayat functionaries in all blocks of the district were over, Sinha added. The identity cards were being issued to minimise the problems faced by the people who have to cross the border gates daily in connection with their work.
BBC 19 Feb 2003 Bali death toll set at 202 -- 88 of the dead were Australians The final death toll from last October's bomb blasts on the tourist island of Bali is likely to be 202, Indonesian police said on Wednesday. Police spokesman Yatim Suyatmo said this appeared to be the final figure, as there will no longer be an official team on the island working on victim identification. The announcement came as police presented evidence against the alleged mastermind behind the Bali bombings, Imam Samudra. The 1,500 page dossier on Mr Samudra - together with evidence on four of his alleged accomplices - was handed over to prosecutors on Wednesday. Under Indonesian law, prosecutors decide if there is strong enough evidence to take a case to court. Identification The number of people who died in the 12 October attacks had previously been put at 194. But Bali police spokesman Yatim Suyatmo said an additional eight people had died in hospitals overseas as a result of their injuries. Imam Samudra Aged 35 Has six aliases May have learned bomb-making in Afghanistan Computer expert Click here for full profile The investigation team, which includes both foreign and local experts, has now identified all but three bodies, Mr Suyatmo said. Hundreds of body parts have also been collected, and are due to be buried on the island at a future date. The two bombs, which ripped through a busy nightclub area in the island's popular Kuta district, killed mostly foreign tourists. Australia suffered the greatest number of casualties, with 88 Australian nationals losing their lives. Thirty-eight Indonesians, 23 Britons, nine Swedes, seven Americans, six Germans and four Dutch nationals also lost their lives. In all, citizens from 21 countries were killed in the blasts. Bombing suspects Imam Samudra, 35, will be charged with organising and planning the Bali attacks, Mr Suyatmo said. "This is a big step forward for the police," he said. "We want to finish a thorough investigation of those arrested in connection with the Bali bombings." Imam Samudra was arrested on 21 November, while about to flee from Indonesia's main island of Java. Police say he has already confessed to his part in the Bali attack, as well as involvement in a bombing in Batam on Christmas Eve 2000. Under recently passed anti-terror regulations, he faces the death penalty if found guilty. Of the four other suspects whose cases were filed on Wednesday, two could face the death penalty, according to Mr Suyatmo. On Monday, police presented prosecutors with evidence against another key suspect, Ali Gufron, also known as Mukhlas. Last week they presented evidence against his brother, Amrozi, whom they accuse of buying the minivan and explosives used in the attack. So far, 29 people have been arrested in connection with the bombings. The first trials are expected to begin next month. Imam Samudra is one of three suspects accused of being part of Jemaah Islamiah, a pan-Asian network of Muslim extremists which some governments have accused of plotting the attacks.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 New group of Thai peace monitors arrive in Indonesia's Aceh BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb 27 (AFP) - A new group of 18 Thai service personnel arrived in Indonesia's Aceh province on Thursday to join an international team monitoring a peace agreement between Jakarta and separatist rebels. "The members of the peace monitoring team will be trained for about three to five days and then sent to the various peace zones," said Thai General Tanongsuk Tuvinun, the most senior foreign representative on the Joint Security Committee (JSC) which oversees the truce. Tanongsuk, who was at Banda Aceh airport to meet the new arrivals, said a Thai colonel also arrived to join the JSC. The JSC groups security forces, rebels from the Free Aceh Movement and foreign security monitors who represent the Henry Dunant Centre, a Geneva-based humanitarian organisation which brokered the December 9 peace deal. Eight of the Thais are from the army, six from the air force and four from the navy. Last month the JSC identified the first of several peace zones to be declared as a prelude to demilitarisation. There are currently six such zones. Under a demilitarisation phase which began on February 9, rebels over the course of five months should place their weapons at locations known only to themselves and to the HDC, which will verify the process. The military should relocate its forces and change its role from a strike force to a defensive force. Brimob paramilitary police, who have a particular reputation for brutality, should take over normal policing duties. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the 26-year conflict in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Violence has greatly diminished since the peace pact, which is the first to be monitored by foreign observers.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 Indonesian police say they killed Aceh rebel leader JAKARTA, Feb 27 (AFP) - Indonesian police said Thursday they have killed a man who led a unit of the Aceh separatist rebel group based in neighbouring North Sumatra province. Police killed Misran Gajah, 32, in a shootout in the district of Asahan in North Sumatra on Wednesday, the state Antara news agency said, citing a local police report. Police described Gajah as the leader in Asahan of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been fighting for an independent state in Aceh province since 1976. Officers also arrested his three accomplices, including a woman. Antara said Gajah was wanted for a series of criminal activities in the area. Officers ran into him and his accomplices at a bus station and an exchange of gunfire ensued. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the 26-year conflict in Aceh, located on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Violence has greatly diminished since last year's December 9 peace pact.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 Demilitarisation of Aceh has yet to start: rebels and Indonesian govt BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb 27 (AFP) - A demilitarisation process that was supposed to start more than two weeks ago in Indonesia's Aceh province has still not begun, separatist rebels and troops said Thursday. Under a peace pact signed in Geneva on December 9, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) should over the course of five months starting February 9 place its weapons at secret locations. The military should relocate its forces and change its role from a strike force to a defensive force. Brimob paramilitary police, who have a particular reputation for brutality, should take over normal policing duties. "Officially I have to say: not yet," said Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, senior GAM envoy on the Joint Security Committee (JSC) which oversees the truce, when asked whether the rebels had started placing their weapons. "There is already placement of GAM weapons in the field but these are not related to the (peace) mechanism...this is only a policy of the GAM field commanders," he told a press conference. Tiba said GAM has only submitted a schedule of actions to the Henry Dunant Centre, the Geneva-based organisation which has brokered the peace talks since 2000. "With the five months, we have made plans to place 20 percent of our weapons each month," Tiba said. "We are planning for 20 percent in the hope that the TNI (the Indonesian armed forces) will also relocate 20 percent (of its forces,)" Tiba said. Brigadier General Safzen Nurdin, the Indonesian senior envoy on the JSC, said his side was preparing to relocate personnel and reformulate the mission and duties of Brimob in Aceh. "The concrete step is the start of training of (Brimob) members to prepare them for the reformulation of their task, from an offensive nature to normal police duties," he said. He said there were "things that need to be synchronised" for a troop relocation to take place but gave no details. But Nurdin said there would be no pullout of troops from Aceh, only a redeployment. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the 26-year conflict in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Violence has greatly diminished since the peace pact, which is the first to be monitored by foreign observers. A group of 18 Thai service personnel arrived Thursday to join 18 personnel from the Indonesian side and the same number from GAM in monitoring the agreement. They will complement the 90 monitors from the three parties who have been working since the end of December "and will help bolster the dramatically improved security situation here," said Thai Major General Tanongsuk Tuvinun, JSC senior envoy. The committee said the arrival of the Thai peace monitors came "in a week that saw no confirmed conflict-related deaths in Aceh." Indonesian police in neighbouring North Sumatra province said Thursday they have killed a man who led a GAM unit based there. Police killed Misran Gajah, 32, in a shootout in the district of Asahan in North Sumatra on Wednesday, the state Antara news agency said.
Sydney Morning Herald 26 Feb 2003 Wiranto on charge if he leaves Indonesia By Jill Jolliffe in Darwin and Tom Allard in Canberra February 26 2003 United Nations prosecutors have charged the former Indonesian defence chief General Wiranto with crimes against humanity for his role in the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 referendum on independence. Five other officers have also been accused, along with ex-governor Abilio Osorio Soares. Stuart Alford of Dili's Serious Crimes Unit said arrest warrants for murder, deportation and persecution as crimes against humanity will be forwarded to the Indonesian Government and to Interpol. However, Jakarta has refused to extradite those accused, so they are unlikely to face trial unless they leave the country. "The evidence against General Wiranto is supported by over 1500 witness statements," Mr Alford said. "He made frequent visits to East Timor at the time of the violence, and met with key figures on the ground whose responsibility was to stop crime and punish the wrongdoers. Instead, most were later promoted." Officers charged with Wiranto, who served as a soldier in East Timor in the early years of Indonesia's occupation, are major-generals Zacky Anwar Makarim, Kiki Syahnakri and Adam Rachmat Damiri, colonels Tono Suratman and Mohammad Noer Muis, and Lieutenant-Colonel Yayat Sudrajat. Under the UN's two-track system of war crimes prosecutions, some of the accused have already been tried by Indonesia's special court on East Timor. Damiri, ex-regional military commander, and Suratman, former East Timor commander, are awaiting verdicts, while Sudrajat was cleared of involvement in the April 1999 massacre of villagers in Liquica church. Soares is free on bail pending an appeal against a four-year sentence over massacres in Dili. The indictment lists 280 murders and 10 major attacks before and after the referendum on August 30, 1999. The Serious Crimes Unit has been hamstrung by Jakarta's refusal to extradite those accused. Under the UN system, they cannot be tried in absentia. However, an Interpol warrant will prevent General Wiranto and his co-accused from travelling abroad without fear of arrest. Prosecutions have also been limited by the paralysis of East Timor's courts and the divided views of local politicians towards war crimes trials. The Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, supports them, while President Xanana Gusmao is opposed. In another development, Mr Alkatiri has described new border attacks as a deliberate action by militiamen to create instability. One man was killed and four people injured when a group of masked men fired on a bus on Monday around 20 kilometres from the West Timor border. Australian and Portuguese troops are hunting the attackers. The Federal Government has warned Australians in East Timor to exhibit "extreme caution". Travel advice issued yesterday said: "Threats against Australians ... in East Timor are high." The al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has identified Australia's role in East Timor as evidence it is an enemy of Islam.
Jakarta Post 27 Feb 2003 No more safe haven for Wiranto , Jakarta The failure of Indonesia's rights tribunal to bow to international demands for the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses in East Timor has prompted the indictment of several high-ranking officers, including former military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, observers said. Munir, a cofounder of the National Commission for Missing Person and Victims of Violence, said East Timor's indictment of the seven military generals and the then East Timor governor was the result of the dissatisfaction with Indonesia's failure to bring to justice all those responsible for crimes against humanity before and after the August 1999 UN-sponsored referendum in the former Indonesian province. He said the ad hoc rights tribunal set up by Indonesia to try those accused of abuses in East Timor should have handed down prison terms of at least 10 years for the perpetrators, as mandated by Law No. 26/2000 on ad hoc human rights tribunals. Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, said the indictment meant the seven officers and the former governor faced the possibility of arrest and extradition to East Timor should they travel outside of Indonesia. "Wiranto and the other seven men could be arrested by Interpol if they travel overseas. They would then face extradition to East Timor if the country where they were arrested had an extradition agreement with the former Indonesian territory," Hikmahanto said. Both Hikmahanto and Munir said the indictment did not violate the principle of nebis en idem, or double jeopardy, should "East Timor consider the ongoing trials in Jakarta to be unwilling and unable to bring these perpetrators to justice". In Kuala Lumpur, President Megawati Soekarnoputri said Indonesia was not obliged to send Wiranto to East Timor because the countries did not have an extradition treaty. "We have to be very careful in responding to such demands. So far the government has yet to receive any official request from them (East Timor)," the President said on Wednesday during a press conference in Malaysia, where she was attending the recently concluded Non-Aligned Movement summit. "We also have to see whether such a request is legally possible as we do not have any arrangements to send our citizens to stand trial there (in East Timor)," the President said. Megawati said she met with East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao on the sidelines of the summit and "he did not mention anything about any request to arrest Indonesian officials. We only discussed how we could improve our relations as neighbors". Those indicted besides Wiranto were Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, Maj. Gen. Adam Rachmat Damiri, Col. Suhartono Suratman, Col. Mohammad Noer Muis, Lt. Col. Yayat Sudrajat and former governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares. Late on Wednesday, Wiranto held a press conference to pronounce his innocence and say he did everything in his power to prevent the violence in East Timor before, during and after the 1999 ballot by promoting reconciliation between pro-Jakarta and proindependence groups. printer friendly
Japan Times 23 Feb 2003 IN TAMA-CHAN'S WAKE Foreigners seek same rights as seal By HIROSHI MATSUBARA Staff writer YOKOHAMA -- A group of foreign residents and their supporters demonstrated in Yokohama's Nishi Ward on Saturday, demanding the same rights as a stray seal known as Tama-chan. Foreigners and their supporters imitate the seal Tama-chan in Yokohama as part of their campaign to win resident registry for foreigners. HIROSHI MATSUBARA PHOTO The seal was awarded a resident registry card by the ward earlier this month and the demonstrators were calling for local governments to recognize other non-Japanese residents. In seal costumes or with whiskers painted on their faces, about 20 protesters said residence ID cards should be granted to long-term foreign residents so they can enjoy the same rights as Japanese when, for example, they apply for drivers' licenses or housing loans. The campaign was conceived after Nishi Ward granted Tama-chan a residence ID card. The seal has made the banks of the Katabira River in the ward his home for the last five months. The male seal was last spotted in the river early Friday morning. The Law of the Basic Resident Registers excludes foreigners -- including those with permanent residency, such as many ethnic Koreans -- from residence registry. Instead, foreigners are required to carry a certificate of alien registration at all times under the terms of the Immigration Control Law. This system is unique and discriminatory, the demonstrators said, adding that it causes problems for foreigners when they have to deal with officialdom at public offices or financial institutions. "I thought Nishi Ward's action was interesting because a usually inflexible local government took such a step," one of the protesters said. "But then I had mixed emotions, given that I am not eligible for the ID even though I have been here for longer than he (Tama-chan) has." In March last year, the home affairs ministry issued a written notice recommending that local governments include, if requested, the names of foreign spouses on the part of the residency card for Japanese family members that is set aside for other information. The proposal was intended to avoid causing "unnecessary problems" for the families, ministry officials said. Many local governments, including Nishi Ward's, are adhering to the proposal. Debito Arudou, a lecturer at Hokkaido Information University and one of the organizers of the campaign, said that step is still dismissive of permanent or long-term foreign residents who have no Japanese relatives. "Also, it seems wrong that a name of a partner, who is legitimately engaged, is mentioned only in a reference column," said Arudou, who is a naturalized Japanese.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 28 Feb 2003 Vietnam wants more tourists at massacre hamlet Facilities at the site of the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam are to be renovated, to attract more tourists to the area. Authorities in Ngai Quang province say around 760-thousand U-S dollars will be spent, repairing damage caused to the hamlet by natural calamities such as typhoons. A new two-storey museum also will be built which, a provincial government spokesman says, will document the atrocities committed by the US troops. Le Van Doi says an existing monument to the victims of the My Lai massacre will be repaired, as part of the renovations. On March 16, 1968, U-S troops slaughtered 504 civilians - most of them women, children and the elderly - in the hamlet of My Lai and its surrounds. Authorities say more than three-thousand Vietnamese and international tourists visited the area in the first two months of this year.
ICRC 4 Feb 2003 ICRC News 03/14 Belarus : War crimes seminar At the end of January, the Belarusian committee tasked with adapting national legislation to conform with international humanitarian law held a joint seminar on preventing and punishing war crimes. Some sixty people attended this ICRC-supported event, including personnel from the Belarusian supreme court, other civilian courts and military tribunals, plus academics and members of the armed forces. A Belgian judge, a lawyer from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and a Russian professor of criminal law also attended in their capacities as specialists. Belarus introduced a new penal code in January 2001, with particularly comprehensive provision for the repression of war crimes. This seminar was an opportunity to look at the new code in detail, and provided much-needed training for judges on its humanitarian law aspects. Similar seminars will be taking place shortly in other CIS countries that have adopted a new penal code. From its regional delegation in Kyiv (Ukraine), the ICRC is working to promote international humanitarian law in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, and encouraging the authorities to implement this branch of the law.
Pravda 4 Feb 2002 english.pravda.ru Mikhail Gorbachev Going To Genocide Trial? - Azerbaijan government accused Mikhail Gorbachev of genocide crimes Six months before the presidential election in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the government of this country found a brilliant PR method to guarantee the victory to incumbent President Geidar Aliyev (or to his protege). This method does not require great energy, or big money. Most likely, the opposition will have to acknowledge its defeat at the election, in spite of the fact that it was seriously going to compete with the government of the republic. President Aliyev became a national hero just in a few days. Everyone started liking and respecting him. All that was possible to achieve owing to only one statement. As it was officially announced by the Azerbaijan government, the country was going to institute criminal proceedings against former President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. The ex-president is accused of the genocide of the Azerbaijan people in January of 1990 and of inciting the Karabakh conflict (Azerbaijan lost a part of its territory as a result of the conflict). As a matter of fact, each citizen of the Azerbaijan republic got an explanation to the reasons of all troubles in the country. Geidar Aliyev became a super-persona, who administers justice, as the republic-s people think. This retaliation was initiated by a very respectable person in Azerbaijan v the head of the Caucasus Muslim administration, Allahshukur Pashazade. It is curious that his personal initiative was quickly backed by the republic-s Office of the Prosecutor General. As it turned out, the office finished the investigation on the matter in 1994. However, the facts to prove Gorbachev-s guilt were hidden from the public eye for years. Nobody knows the reason why. A spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor General stated that Mikhail Gorbachev violated several articles of the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan Constitutions. Particularly, Gorbachev made a decision to institute a state of emergency in Azerbaijan in 1990 without any coordination with the republic-s government. Azerbaijan-s Office of the Prosecutor General believes that the illegal actions of the Soviet Union administration resulted in the bloody events in Baku (the capital of the republic) 13 years ago. About 20 thousand military men of the Soviet Army, Alfa special group and a group of KGB commandos participated in operation Blow in January of 1990. According to the official information, ?establishing the constitutional order¦ resulted in 134 casualties, 700 civilians were wounded and 12 were missing. The incumbent government of the republic lays all responsibility for further events in the republic on Mikhail Gorbachev. President Alieyv said that the suggestion to institute the criminal persecution against Gorbachev was a ?right suggestion.¦ This statement became news number one not only in Azerbaijan, but also far abroad. However, mass media did not pay attention to a very important stipulation: Gorbachev trial will become possible only if all procedure formalities are observed. Those formalities make a criminal case against the former president of the Soviet Union absolutely impossible. Yury Kolosov, a specialist of law from the Moscow State University of International Relations said in his interview to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper: ?The given situation looks like the one with Pinochet, from the legal point of view. Mikhail Gorbachev is a foreign citizen for Azerbaijan. Needless to mention that he will not rush to yield to the Azerbaijan government. As a matter of fact, Baku will have to address to Moscow with a request to deliver the genocide crime suspect. However, there are no bilateral agreements between Russia and Azerbaijan to deliver criminals. Russia is a member of the European Convention for delivering criminals, although Azerbaijan is not. This means that the only thing that Baku can do about it is to put Mikhail Gorbachev on Interpol-s wanted list. Azerbaijan should have very weighty arguments to prove Gorbachev-s guilt at that. If Mikhail Gorbachev goes somewhere abroad, Interpol agents will be authorized to arrest him then.¦ Another well-known lawyer, the chairman of the Moscow Bar, Henry Reznik, believes that no country will ever get involved in the intrigue of the Azerbaijan government: ?Interpol will ask them to get the hell out of their office! v laughs Reznik. v there is a notion of statute of limitation. They accuse Gorbachev of power abuse? I am sorry, but it-s been 13 years, the statute of limitation was over in ten years. I don-t know, maybe, they want to equate those events in Baku with crimes against humanity that do not have the statute of limitation. However, one can hardly compare genocide and the institution of a state of emergency. As a lawyer, I believe that President Aliyev should identify those PR technology people and fire them.¦ Even the people from the Azerbaijan-s Office of the Prosecutor General could not clarify anything about their own actions. Furthermore, they even felt a doubt about the whole matter, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, the Azerbaijan society perceived the statement of its government with great optimism. After the deployment of Soviet troops in Azerbaijan, the people of the republic have been bearing malice about it for years. The USSR management arranged a massacre in the republic under the disguise of constitutional law and order slogans. They simply did not want to let Azerbaijan pull out from the USSR. Rasim Musabekov, Azerbaijan-based scientist of politics believes that the whole scandal was ultimately arranged as a way to win electors: ?They do not like Mikhail Gorbachev in Azerbaijan. People think that he is responsible for the lives of thousands of people, who fell victims to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is easy to organize a pre-election PR campaign against such a background,¦ said he. Dmitry Oreshkin, the manager of the analytical group Merkator, pointed out: ?Geidar Aliyev is an experienced fighter. He has proved it again that he can manipulate the public opinion.¦ Indeed, the republic-s people like those home policy victories that Aliyev makes effortlessly. More importantly, those victories do not cost anything for the treasury. By the way, it is curious, but all Gorbachev Foundation employees were rather lazy and unwilling about their comments on the situation. As they say, it is all about political motives.
Guardian UK 20 Feb 2003 Whistle blown on Eurovision singer linked to neo-Nazis Andrew Osborn in Brussels Belgium's participation in this year's Eurovision song contest ignited controversy last night when the state security service accused a singer of having links with the country's neo-Nazi movement. Anxious to spare the nation's blushes, the Sûreté de l'Etat took the highly unusual step of divulging the contents of its files on Soetkin Collier, 25, a singer in Urban Trad, the band performing Belgium's entry. Branding her a "far-right militant with a strong belief in Flemish nationalism", the security service warned the state broadcaster and Eurovision selector, RTBF, that Collier had a dark past. So concerned was the security service that it also wrote to the prime minister, the justice ministry and the ministry of audiovisual and cultural affairs. Most seriously, it alleged that Collier had attended a commemorative event in honour of the Nazi leader Rudolf Hess in Antwerp in 1996 and that she had belonged to various far-right groups. It also noted with concern that she had participated in militant actions aimed at denigrating French-speaking culture and mocking the first world war, and that her parents used to run a "far-right cafe" frequented by Belgian fascists. Collier does not deny the allegations but insists she should not be punished for her distant past. She says she no longer has any sympathy for the far right and is no longer politically active. However, the embarrassed Belgian organisers said they had no idea of Collier's past when Urban Trad was chosen for the Eurovision contest. Politicians are piling pressure on RTBF to drop the singer. "If these facts are confirmed we have to act," Richard Miller, the minister in charge of French-speaking audiovisual culture, told the daily newspaper La Dernière Heure. "We can't let a singer with such opinions represent our country." RTBF says it is waiting for "supplementary information" about the case before it takes a final decision on Collier's participation in the contest which takes place on May 24 in Latvia.
Advocacy Project 6 Feb 2003 ROMA HOLOCAUST REPARATIONS CLAIM SPARKS ERIDER TRAINING IN CZECH REPUBLIC Two Roma women in the Czech Republic have documented the persecution of Roma during the Holocaust with such diligence that they have inspired a wider group of Roma women to acquire the skills to use computers and e-mail. This in turn has provided an unexpected catalyst for the Advocacy Project’s program of training for community-based IT specialists (‘eRiders’) among the Roma of East Europe. The German government has agreed to provide reparations for victims of the Holocaust, which destroyed much of Europe’s Roma population. The two women, both volunteers, were asked to collect testimonies from Roma Holocaust survivors in the Czech Republic by the director of Manushe, a prominent Roma NGO. Not only did they collect 120 testimonies, which will be forwarded to the Czech Department of Defense, but in the process they taught themselves how to use computers. They have been profiled in a local paper and one has even secured a paying job with the local government offices. Their success has inspired such a demand for IT skills from other Czech Roma women, that Manushe has asked Gabi Hrabanova, a Roma eRider from the Czech Republic trained by the Advocacy Project, to organize training for its members. The first training for 20 women will take place in March in Ostrava. Ms. Hrabanova is one of the several Roma eRiders in East Europe being trained by AP in partnership with the Network Women’s Program, Roma Participation Program and the Information Program of the Open Society Institute. Together with two other Roma eRiders, Ms. Hrabanova will participate at the forthcoming annual Circuit Riders conference in Oakland, California. www.advocacynet.org
KurdishMedia.com 22 feb 2003 Restrictions on Al-Khazraji renewed - By Bryar Mariwani London (KurdishMedia.com) 23 February 2003: A Danish high court has renewed the restrictions on the Iraqi suspected war criminal, Nizar Al-Khazraji. The ruling means that Al-Khazraji cannot leave the country, and has to surrender his passport and must report to police three times a week. Al-Khazraji was the head of the Iraqi military during the 1980s. He is suspected of being responsible of the Anfal genocide operations conducted against the Kurds by the Iraqi government during the 1980s. Danish immigration authorities denied Al-Khazraji’s asylum application when he arrived in Denmark in 1999, suspecting he was involved in chemical weapon attacks on Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan in the late 1980s, but allowed him to stay in Denmark under special rules applied to people thought to be at serious risk if returned home. The Danish High Court’s ruling is valid until March 21, when a local court will examine the situation again. Investigations by the Danish police will continue until then. The Iraqi government conducted a series of genocide operations against the Kurds in which more than 200,000 innocent people disappeared. The fate of the Anfal victims is not clear yet.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting 25 Feb 2003 Debut for Euro troops A new European force is brought in to keep the peace in Macedonia. By Evridika Saskova in Skopje (BCR No 409, 25-Feb-03) The European Union's fledgling Rapid Reaction Force is expected to perform its first spell of duty in the next few weeks when it takes over from NATO's peacekeeping mission in Macedonia. The Greek ambassador to Brussels, Aristidis Agathocles, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, confirmed that the new force is set to deploy in the Balkan republic. "We anticipate all the necessary issues will be solved very quickly and if I am not mistaken we would be prepared to send the contingent to FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) by March 15," he said last week. The authorities in Skopje hope that after the force's six-months mandate expires there will be no need for further foreign military presence in Macedonia. Senior government officials confirmed to IWPR that the foreign ministry was already working on details of the agreement to regulate the legal status of the European contingent. EU foreign ministers approved the mission on January 27 after Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski, in a letter to the union's foreign and security chief, Javiar Solana, invited the rapid reaction force to take over the NATO mission. The officer who will lead the new mission, German Vice-Admiral Rainer Feist, told the European parliament in Brussels on February 18 that it would consist of 300 soldiers. "It will be a small but a significant operation," he said. About 700 NATO troops were deployed in Macedonia in August 2001, after the peace agreement that put an end to the six-months-long conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and the Macedonian authorities. Trajkovski agreed to take the Euro troops after Solana visited Skopje on January 15. The latter said the EU was ready to take over the Alliance Harmony mission, the third one conducted by NATO in Macedonia after Essential Harvest and Amber Fox. In a recent TV interview, Solana stressed that deployment of European troops in Macedonia was entirely at the invitation of the Skopje government. The rapid reaction forces became operative in December when differences between Greece and Turkey over the new operation were overcome. Solana said he expected no difficulties over the transfer from NATO to EU control. The Macedonian ambassador to NATO, Nano Ruzin, told the daily Makedonija denes on January 23 that Skopje's parliament should ratify an agreement on the status of the new troop contingent, similar to the one that now governs relations with alliance forces. He said the operation would cost EU countries 4,700,000 euro. The Macedonian authorities welcomed the fact that some NATO presence would remain, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said during his visit to Belgrade on January 18. "NATO will not completely leave Macedonia after March or April because there will still be its advisory body relating to reforms of the Macedonian military in order to prepare ourselves for faster integration into NATO," the premier said. NATO representatives expressed confidence the Euro force will be successful even though this is its first mission. "These forces and other European troops are trained to the same standards as those in the alliance," NATO spokesperson Mark Laity told the state information agency, MIA. Some Macedonian parliamentary deputies are sceptical about the new force. Tito Petkovski, president of the parliamentary committee on defence and security, complained that the EU was using Macedonia as an experiment. "Our leadership agreed to the Euro deployment without consulting parliament," said Petkovski, who belongs to the Social-Democratic Union, SDSM, the biggest party in the ruling coalition. "We haven't reviewed all aspects of the agreement, details have not been agreed and I have not been told what reasons guided our leadership." For the Albanian bloc in the current government a foreign military presence in Macedonia remained crucial. "For us the international military presence in Macedonia is of prime interest no matter whether it comes under an EU or a NATO mandate," said Ermira Mehmeti, spokesperson of the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, a ruling coalition member. "We support the arrival of Euro forces because we believe it is essential for the maintenance of peace and stability and the return of trust." Evridika Saskova is a journalist with the Skopje newspaper Makedonija denes.
Reuters 4 Feb 2003 Nazi hunters praise new Polish war crimes probes By Reuters WARSAW - Nazi hunters on Tuesday praised Poland's decision to open new war crimes investigations and expressed hope they would at last bring to justice men suspected of the mass murder of Jews in World War Two. Prosecutors launched a probe on Monday into three men, two living in the United States and one in Germany, suspected of committing genocide as SS death camp guards from 1942 to 1944. Another investigation was opened in January by Poland's Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) into another suspect now thought to be in Costa Rica. The IPN investigates crimes committed by the Nazi and communist regimes before 1989. "The renewed judicial activity of the IPN is one of the most positive developments in efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice," Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, told Reuters by telephone. The IPN said it was too early to say if the investigations would lead to the extradition and prosecution of old men suspected of committing war crimes 60 years ago. "If these crimes have not expired under the statute of limitations, we have an obligation to investigate them," said Witold Kulesza, chief IPN war crimes investigator. "But I can't say what chances we have of securing the suspects' extradition." Of six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, an estimated three million died in German-occupied Poland, many in the gas chambers of death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka. Poland held a series of war crimes trials after the war, but nearly a decade elapsed after the collapse of communism before that effort was renewed with the creation of the IPN in 1998. "It has an immense moral and pedagogical significance that these crimes do not go unpunished," said Feliks Tych, head of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. "In many cases, nothing has been done for decades and murderers have been living in peace in Latin America, the U.S. or in a village near Lublin (Poland). The passage of time does not matter; these matters must not be left buried in ash," he added. The IPN's prosecutor in Lublin said he was confident of gathering sufficient evidence to file charges against and seek the extradition of U.S. residents Bronislaw H. and Jacob R., and Dymitro S., who lives in Germany. The three are suspected of undergoing SS training before joining the "Aktion Reinhardt" operation to wipe out Jews living in the General Government, German-occupied southern and central Poland, where most death camps were sited. "It is our intention to extradite them, but first we must gather sufficient evidence to present formal charges in Poland," prosecutor Andrzej Witkowski told Reuters. The suspects are thought to have been born in what is now Ukraine. Witkowski also wants to establish the real identity of a notorious camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible", who was stationed at the Treblinka camp northeast of Warsaw where over 800,000 Jews were killed. Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk was found in 1993 not to have been Ivan the Terrible by the Israeli Supreme Court, which overturned an earlier death sentence after evidence pointed to another suspect. The IPN's branch in southern Katowice is also investigating a suspect called Bogdan Koziy, who allegedly killed dozens of Jews while serving as a policeman in then eastern Poland. "He is currently living in Costa Rica. We will most likely apply for his extradition," prosecutor Ewa Koj told Reuters.
Reuters 4 Feb 2003 Poland Launches New 'Ivan the Terrible' Probe Tue February 4, 2003 07:08 AM ET (clarifying in first paragraph that probe is attempt to establish identity, not build a case; adding in fourth paragraph that Demjanjuk was cleared in Israel) By Marcin Grajewski WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland Monday launched a probe into World War II mass murders of Jews by four alleged Nazi henchmen, marking a new attempt to establish the identity of a feared SS death camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible." The four are suspected of committing genocide between 1942 and 1944 in Nazi death camps sited in Poland and the liquidation of urban ghettoes into which Jews were rounded up. (clarifying in first paragraph that probe is attempt to establish identity, not build a case; adding that Demjanjuk was cleared in Israel) "One of the suspects is Ivan the Terrible," prosecutor Andrzej Witkowski, of the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), told Reuters. "We hope to reach significant conclusions in the first half of this year." The IPN, responsible for prosecuting crimes against the nation, said in a statement that John Demjanjuk had been identified as "Ivan the Terrible" at a 1986 trial in Israel, even though he was cleared later in Israel based on evidence another man was the sadistic killer. Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who emigrated to the United States in 1952, was sentenced to death at a sensational trial before the verdict was overturned by Israel's Supreme Court. The IPN said it was launching its investigation with the help of evidence from the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem and German prosecutors. Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, an estimated three million died in Poland, many in the gas chambers of purpose-built Nazi death camps. SUSPECTS IN GERMANY, U.S. The other three suspects were identified as Dymitro S., now residing in Germany, and Bronislaw H. and Jacob R., who live in the United States. The IPN alleged the four had undergone training at an SS camp in Trawniki before joining the "Aktion Reinhardt" operation to wipe out Jews on the territory of the General Government, or German-occupied central and southern Poland. They were also suspected of committing genocide at Poland's Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, the Poniatowa labor camp and the liquidation of the Bialystok, Czestochowa, Lublin and Warsaw ghettoes. An estimated 840,000 Jews died at the Treblinka camp, 50 miles northeast of Warsaw.
AFP 27 Feb 2003 -More than 1,600 missing since outbreak of Chechen war: prosecutor MOSCOW, Feb 26 (AFP) - Around 1,660 civilians, soldiers, and police officers have gone missing in Chechnya since war broke out in the separatist republic in 1999, Vladimir Kravchenko, prosecutor for Chechnya, said Wednesday. The number falls below the 2,800 figure previously given by pro-Russian officials in the war-torn republic. These estimates, in turn, have been questioned by human rights groups -- in particular the respected Memorial, which has said the count stands much higher, without releasing its own numbers. Russian troops, who swept into the southern republic in October 1999 to put down a separatist insurgency, have been accused of widespread human rights abuses. Rights groups have particularly criticized the so-called "clean-up operations," in which federal troops round up male villagers in an attempt to weed out separatist rebels. Many detainees are never heard from again. More than 160 investigations of crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops in Chechnya have been opened, including 14 murder investigations, since late 1999, said Alexander Mokritsky, military prosecutor for Russian troops stationed in the Caucasus. More than 50 troops have been found guilty, he said, quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency. Last month, prosecutors appealed a military court's decision to clear Russian Colonel Yury Budanov of criminal responsibility for killing a young woman while serving in Chechnya.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 28 Feb 2003 Government to offer compensation for damages suffered by civilians in Chechnya Speaking at a cabinet meeting on 27 February, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that in March the government will begin paying compensation to residents of Chechnya whose property was damaged or destroyed during military operations in the republic, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 February. "They are citizens of Russia who have lost their shelter and have become hostages of international terrorism," Kudrin said. "And we should compensate their losses." Kudrin said that President Putin has ordered the compilation as quickly as possible of a list of those entitled to compensation. VY RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP SAYS CHECHENS INTIMIDATED IN RUN-UP TO REFERENDUM... The head of the Memorial human rights group, Oleg Orlov, told journalists in Moscow on 27 February that "death squads" have intensified their activities in Chechnya, creating "an atmosphere of fear and terror" in the run-up to the 23 March referendum on a new draft constitution and election laws, Reuters and chechenpress.com reported. Orlov said that while the number of "sweeps" in Chechnya has fallen in recent months, there has been an increase in the number of Chechens snatched from their homes at night. Many of the victims are subsequently found dead, bearing clear signs of torture, Orlov said. He added that only a few such cases are officially documented and even fewer investigated. Orlov said that while most such abductions are carried out by Russian military personnel, some could be the work of Chechen fighters. LF ...AS CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY SAYS ALL CHECHENS SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE Retired police General Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who is Chechnya's deputy to the Russian State Duma, told a roundtable on Chechnya in Rostov-na-Donu on 27 February that all Chechens currently not resident in Chechnya should have the opportunity to vote in the 23 March referendum, Interfax reported. Aslakhanov argued that the constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees every citizen the right to participate in referendums. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said in Grozny on 26 February that no provisions will be made to enable displaced Chechens to vote in camps in Ingushetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2003). Aslakhanov also announced on 27 February that he plans to convene a congress of people of Chechnya in Moscow on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Two earlier attempts by Aslakhanov to convene such a gathering, in 2001 and late 2002, were thwarted by the Kadyrov administration (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 9 April 2001 and 12 December 2002). Following the second failure, Aslakhanov had tentatively scheduled the congress for late this month. LF
NYT 27 Feb 2003 Serb in Court in The Hague, Playing to a TV Audience at Home By MARLISE SIMONS Vojislav Seselj, one of Serbia's most hard-line and most articulate nationalists, appeared at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague yesterday to answer charges that he ran a band of volunteer fighters that killed and robbed non-Serbs during the Balkan wars of the 1990's. With the abrasive style that first saw him jailed under the Communists in Yugoslavia, Mr. Seselj, who drew thousands of supporters onto the streets of Belgrade before he turned himself in to the tribunal this week, presented himself as a victim, rather than perpetrator, of the wars, and listed several objections. First, he told the judge, "I have been physically tortured and mistreated this morning" because he had been forced to wear a thick 45-pound flak jacket on the way from his cell to court. "I had to crawl into the vehicle," he said. "I consider this to be intolerable." Further, he said, clearly playing to a nationalist audience at home that can follow tribunal proceedings on television, he could not enter a plea of guilty or not guilty because in the Serbian language version of the indictment there were several Croatian words he could not understand. The two languages are considered almost interchangeable, but Croats made a conscious attempt to alter words after they declared independence in 1991. The most unusual of his objections was his distaste for the red robes and black gowns that are the normal attire of the United Nations war crimes tribunal. In Serbia, he said, people in court wear civilian clothes. "I feel frustrated with judges in strange clothing," he said. "They remind me of the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church." This was another indirect play to the audience in Serbia, where the main religion is Orthodox, as opposed to the Roman Catholicism that predominates in Croatia. Judge Wolfgang Schomburg, a German, calmly explained the customs and rules of the tribunal, and suggested that Mr. Seselj, who was trained as a lawyer, should appoint a defense counsel. Mr. Seselj, 48, who came second in Serbian presidential elections in December with one-third of the votes cast, said he would act as his own lawyer. A reporter from The Associated Press traveled from Belgrade with Mr. Seselj, who told the journalist that he was surrendering to the court to "defend the dignity of my 10,000 fighters who fought gallantly during the wars." He said he was going voluntarily "to prove my people's innocence" and "to destroy the evil tribunal, an American instrument against the Serbs." Mr. Seselj's paramilitary troops became known in the early 1990's for their violent role in driving non-Serbs from lands, first in Croatia and then in Bosnia, which he and other Serb leaders like former president Slobodan Milosevic, who is also on trial at the tribunal, wanted to annex into an ethnic Serb area. Mr. Seselj's indictment charges him with eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes, including persecution, torture, killing and destruction of homes and mosques. The full indictment was read out in court today at Mr. Seselj's request. The reading took close to three hours; at the end, the clerk enumerated a seemingly interminable list of individual names, said to be the victims of Mr. Seselj's fighters. The accused listened in silence, apparently unmoved.
NYT 28 Feb 2003 Gypsies in Slovakia Complain of Sterilizations By PETER S. GREEN PRESOV, Slovakia — The morning after Zita, a young Gypsy mother, gave birth to her second child at age 17, a nurse shoved a piece of paper in front of her. Zita, who is illiterate, says she marked three crosses on the paper, and thus unwittingly agreed to be sterilized. "I don't know what was there," Zita said. "I can't read. I don't care what was on it, because I was in pain." That was on Feb. 6, 1998. Today Zita is a slim 22-year-old with a sad, shy smile and not much of a future. She and her husband, Krystian, live on the outskirts of this eastern Slovak city in what is commonly called a Gypsy settlement — actually a shantytown of shipping containers and wattle-and-daub huts with no running water. When a second nurse told her she would no longer be able to have children, Zita recalled, "I started to cry and I screamed for the doctor." Among Slovakia's poorest Gypsies, it is a woman's habit — in the eyes of most, their duty — to have many children, and women often have half a dozen or more by the time they are in their late 20's. According to a team of foreign and Slovak investigators for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which published a report last month, doctors in eastern Slovakia have sterilized at least 110 young Gypsy women against their will since the fall of Communism in 1989. The most recent case they documented in visiting only 40 of Slovakia's 600 Gypsy communities was last fall, and the investigators suggest that despite strenuous denials from doctors, the practice continues. "Roma women are being sterilized against their will and without their consent, and it's a violation of their rights," said Barbara Bukovska, a lawyer with the Counseling Center for Citizenship and Civil and Human Rights in Prague, and an adviser to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Slovak doctors deny any form of discrimination, noting that Gypsy women rarely visit doctors before birth and often have infections, in part because of the conditions in which they live. "Why would we do that?" Dr. Marian Kysely, head of the obstetric ward at J. A. Reiman Hospital, said when asked about the reported sterilizations. The report says a number of Gypsies — or Roma, as they call themselves — were involuntarily sterilized or coerced into agreeing to sterilization in Dr. Kysely's clinic, but he denied that. "We have no interest to do it," he said, noting that a quarter of the children born in his ward are Gypsies. "Whether they are Roma or white, we do everything to have a healthy population." "The Roma from the settlements have no toilets, no showers," Dr. Kysely said. "They are different from the point of view of hygiene." Some Gypsy women who complain of coerced sterilization, he said, may be suffering from untreated gynecological problems. In its report, the Center for Reproductive Rights said it had uncovered "clear and consistent patterns" that showed doctors and nurses in eastern Slovakia "are complicit in the illegal and unethical practice of sterilizing Romany women without obtaining their consent." The center's investigators, who included Slovak lawyers, Gypsy social workers and foreign doctors, lawyers and human rights experts, also said that Gyspy women were forced to deliver by Caesarean section far more often than ethnic Slovaks, and that Gypsy women often received substandard care and were put into segregated wards. To date, the Slovak government has made only a brief inquiry, although the deputy prime minister for minority rights, Pal Csaky, has asked for a criminal investigation of the alleged sterilizations. At the same time, Mr. Csaky has warned that he may file charges against the center and its Slovak representatives. "If we confirm this information," said Mr. Csaky's spokesman, Peter Miklosi, "we will expand our charges to the report's authors, that they knew about a crime for a year and did not report it to a prosecutor. And if we prove it is not true, they will be charged with spreading false information and damaging the good name of Slovakia." Ms. Bukovska is now fighting Slovak prosecutors' requests that she turn over all of her clients' records to prove she is not spreading false information. Dr. Karol Holoman, a prominent Slovak gynecologist sent recently by the Health Ministry to investigate, returned after a few days and denied the charges. "The first conclusion is that it is not true that doctors prefer to sterilize Romany women," Dr. Holoman told the Slovak newspaper Sme. He said there was no evidence of segregation or of Gypsy women being forced to deliver by Caesarean section more often than ethnic Slovaks. Every medical file in Ms. Bukovska's records was marked by doctors with a large capital letter R for Romany. Health workers almost never visit the shantytowns, where unemployment is almost universal and families subsist on government handouts. Gypsies say the police have been harassing those who have spoken to news organizations since the report was released. The Gypsy women who spoke to this reporter agreed to talk only on condition that their full names and the names of their villages were not used. Zita's neighbor Maria, who is also illiterate and says she is either 26 or 27, has seven children, aged 4 to 14, and says she can have no more. When she went to the old maternity ward in Presov to give birth to her youngest child, she said she was lying in a birthing chair when a nurse took her hand and forced her to sign a paper. "They took me into the room, and I don't know what they did," Maria said. "They told me to sign this paper." "Now," she said, "what I have is not normal." According to Ms. Bukovska, who is her lawyer, medical records show that Maria was sterilized on Jan. 29, 1998. Ms. Bukovska says there is simply a typed notation, "The patient requests sterilization." Maria said she did not speak Slovak well enough to ask the doctor to explain what had happened to her.
UPI 11 Feb 2003 Analysis: Turks edge toward faith freedom By Uwe Siemon-Netto WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Turkey gradually seems to adjust its religious freedoms to European norms as it tries to win acceptance into the European Union, a top Roman Catholic expert told United Press International Tuesday. "Curiously, Christians and radical Islamists in Turkey favor their country's attempt to get into the EU because they know the Turkish authorities would have to play by its rules," said the Rev. Hans Voecking, Islamic affairs adviser to the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Europe. While there is little discrimination against Jews and most Christians in daily life, according to a U.S. State Department analysis, religious freedoms in Turkey are far from complete. For example, neither members of religious minorities nor radical Islamists may become officers in the military or attain senior positions in the state bureaucracy, Voecking related. The reason for this is the secular nature of the Turkish state. "The Turks would like Europeans to believe that their country adheres to similar principles as France (whose constitution affirms the strict division between church and state). This is not quite so," explained Voecking, a member of the White Fathers, a missionary order. To begin with, the government's Directorate of Religious Affairs, called the Diyanet, oversees Muslim religious facilities and education, the State Department reports. Some groups claim that the Diyanet reflects only the beliefs of the Sunni Islamist mainstream. It regulates the operation of the country's more than 70,000 mosques, whose imams are civil servants, as are the muftis (religious jurists). Many of the sermons delivered every Friday from Turkish pulpits were written at the Directorate, Voecking said. Helmut Wiesmann, a senior official in the Catholic Bishops Conference of Germany, claimed in a recent article in Herder Korrespondenz (www.herder-korrespondenz.de), a Catholic publication, that the Diyanet employed 123,000 people from theologians to cleaning men. According to Voecking, the government finances more than 20 university-level Muslim divinity schools. "Mosques are mushrooming all over the place, often paid for by Saudi Arabia," he continued, "while no new churches are allowed to be built and the cost of the renovation of olds ones must not exceed $400." United Press International tried to verify these and other claims in telephone calls to the press and religious affairs counselors at the Turkish Embassy in Washington Tuesday. They did not return UPI's calls. The State Department says that 99 percent of the 65.6 million Turks are Muslims, primarily Sunnis. However, some 12 million Turks adhere to the Alawi Muslim minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Their religious leaders do not receive government salaries. The Alawis claim that their doctrines are not taught in the religious instruction classes that are mandatory at secular schools for all Muslims and also members of those Christian denominations that are not covered by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty between the Turkish government and the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the Jews. This means that young Protestant and Catholic pupils at primary and secondary schools must submit to instruction in the Islamic faith. The same applies to young members of the ancient Syrian Orthodox (Syriac) Church, which -- like the Chaldeans (Assyrian Christians affiliated with Rome) -- have been caught in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in southeastern Anatolia, according to Freedom House scholar Paul Marshall. Most of its members have fled to Istanbul and other large cities, where they have no churches of their own. They may not build new sanctuaries and if they use the churches of denominations recognized by the Lausanne Treaty, these can be confiscated. Should they celebrate Mass in private dwellings, they risk arrest. Wiesmann reported that Christians in Turkey were stigmatized by the numerical code 31 in their identity papers -- much as the letter "J" in passports or ID cards identified Jews in Nazi Germany. "This has stopped several years ago," said Voecking, with some satisfaction. Perhaps it is worth remembering that more than 20 percent of all Turks at the beginning of the 20th century were Christians; today their share has dwindled down to 0.6 percent. Much of the decline was of course due to the genocide of between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenian Christians immediately following World War I. There are no more than 45,000 Armenians left in the country. The State Department, Voecking and Paul Marshall are cautiously laudatory about Turkey's advances in the area of religious freedom. But, as Voecking says, "much has to be done to make Turkey a pluralistic society according to European standards -- and that may take decades."
Ukraine - Also read News Monitors for Ukraine from 2001 and 2002
NYT January 29, 2003 Mother's Poignant Farewell, as Nazis Brutalize Ukraine By ELVIS MITCHELL Few filmmakers have an appreciation of faces like the documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. His understanding of the strength in a simple image — fixing his camera on a speaking person as the words spill out — amounts to an overwhelming trust in the power of directness. This belief is evident in his wealth of documentaries, pictures that range from his early, innovative works "Titicut Follies" (1967) and "High School" (1968), through later films like "Domestic Violence" (2001). That faith is also the foundation of his riveting and short new fiction film, "The Last Letter," opening today at the Film Forum. Mr. Wiseman has found an actress worthy of that trust in the Comédie-Française's Catherine Samie, whose elegant face and elongated, gaunt cheeks are as eloquent as the previous subjects who have taken their places before Wiseman's camera. He takes full advantage of a luxury — casting — that, until this point, had been left to forces beyond his control, and he proves himself to be as able a selector of talent as Fate. Filmed in black-and-white, "The Last Letter" has a stark premise. Ms. Samie recites a poignant letter written in 1941 by a Jewish woman to her son depicting the destruction of her community after the fall of her tiny Ukrainian town to the Nazis. This story is derived from a chapter in "Life and Fate," Vasily Grossman's epic novel of the Russian struggle against Germany during World War II. Mr. Wiseman is drawn to the same kind of austerity in material here that he has made the foundation of his nonfiction films. Much of the film is Ms. Samie, discoursing in her craggy rasp of a speaking voice, unyielding in its firmness as she recites the vanished pleasures of her life, contrasting them with the mounting inhumanities inflicted by the invaders and, worse, neighbors she thought she knew. "The air is purified," she quotes someone as saying, remarking that it no longer smells of garlic, associated with the Jews. Mr. Wiseman does something new in "Letter": he documents a performer's deftness, and Ms. Samie rises to the occasion by dousing this assessment of her character's former neighbor with pity, instead of making herself an object of sympathy. Though it is a monologue, Mr. Wiseman stylizes "Letter," staging Ms. Samie's entrance with a boldness that he would never use in one of his on-the-fly documentaries. She is captured as a dying essence — her long shadow is cast against a wall. As she goes on, she is dramatically lighted as she is surrounded by a village of her own shadows — four or five figures loom as she delivers speeches about being dehumanized, not overemphasizing the battering her soul is taking. Yet much of "Letter" could be from any Wiseman film, and there are those who find his technique — and unfettered straightforwardness — irritating. Given that "Letter" is a one-woman show that builds not only brick by brick, but through the careful application of mortar, those same people may find this film definitely not suited to them. Like Ms. Samie, Mr. Wiseman is a resolute old hand, and his determination is part of his technique. It is as much a signature as the florid need to jerk tears that other documentary filmmakers find attractive. Mr. Wiseman's stubbornness is manifest in his work, and you will fall for the same quality in "The Last Letter" if you have any affection for his past work. "Letter" is paired with a 10-minute short made in Poland, "Jewish Life in Cracow," in Yiddish with English subtitles. This 1939 film, made before the Nazi invasion of Poland, has the same rapt tone of the nonfiction films that treat their subjects like charming lower forms of life. The narration is simplified to the point of condescension, but there is an ominous quality here. The innocence is about to disappear. An end title reminds us of the atrocities that occurred shortly after "Cracow" was completed. THE LAST LETTER Directed and edited by Frederick Wiseman; written (in French, with English subtitles) by Vasily Grossman, based on his book "Life and Fate"; director of photography, Yorgos Arvantis; produced by Pierre-Olivier Bardet and Idéale Audience and Zipporah Films in association with the Comédie-Française; released by Zipporah Films. At the Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, South Village. Shown with a 10-minute Yiddish-language short, Yitzhak Goskind's "Jewish Life in Cracow" (1939). Running time: 61 minutes. This film is not rated. WITH: Catherine Samie. -
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
(the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia, with a special project on the
Yugoslav war crimes tribunal)