Friday, October 28, 2005

Bush Administration Upgrades Sudan

President Bush and the State Department elevated Sudan’s status on the Trafficking in Persons Report from Tier III (the lowest possible ranking), to Tier II. Despite continued government support and orchestration of slave raids, Sudan now shares the ranking with countries such as Switzerland, Chile, Hungary, and Greece.

But, observers on the scene are describing a situation quite different. Eric Reeves writes;

A series of extraordinarily dire warnings have recently been issued by various UN officials, a last desperate attempt to force the international community to take urgent cognizance of Darfur’s deepening crisis. Full-scale catastrophe and a massive increase in genocidal destruction are imminent, and there is as yet no evidence that the world is listening seriously. The US in particular seems intent on taking an expediently blinkered view of the crisis (see forthcoming analysis by this writer at The New Republic [on-line], But European countries and other international actors with the power to speak the truth are little better; the absence of an effective voice emerging from the Blair government is especially dismaying in light of British willingness to intervene in Iraq.

Even so, there is no possible escape from the most basic truth in Darfur: Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, ever more dominant in the new “Government of National Unity,” is deliberately escalating the level of violence and insecurity as a form of “counter-insurgency” warfare, with the clear goal of accelerating human destruction among the African tribal populations of the region.

In failing to respond to this conspicuous and now fully articulated truth, the world is yet again knowingly acquiescing in genocide. But as the shadows of Auschwitz and Treblinka, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda fall more heavily over Darfur, we cannot evade this most shameful truth: we know---as events steadily, remorselessly unfold---more about the realities of ethnically-targeted human destruction in Darfur than on any other previous such occasion in history. So much the greater is our moral disgrace.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Guatemalan landslides unearth bones

The recent mudslides in Guatemala may have unearth mass graves from the genocidal civil war carried out against the indigenous populations two decades ago.

In the highland village of Las Nubes, mudslides that swept the earth away from one corner of a house revealed human bones.

Rudy Castillo, with the office of the country's Human Rights Prosecutor, is involved in the investigation. He confirms a human leg bone and shoulder bone blade were found under the house. He says there are more bones under the house.

With many people still unaccounted for, Castillo hopes an investigation will give people some answers. Castillo hopes the investigation will begin within two weeks in case future landslides destroy the evidence.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Responsibility to Protect (R2P) agreement

The United Nations Summit in September 2005 agreed on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which commits the UN to taking action to protect people from such crimes as ethnic cleansing and genocide. This agreement would justify such actions as were taken militarily in Bosnia-Herzegovina and latterly Kosovo. It could have given more impetus to intervene in Ruanda, and may well be primarily aimed at future events in central Africa.

The Summit resolved that "Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes... we are prepared to take collective action, should peaceful means be inadequate..."

This establishes the principle that governments have a duty to protect their citizens' lives and rights, and if they fail to do so, or indeed if it is a government that is actually committing those crimes, it loses its legitimacy and that the community of nations will take on that protection role even if it means infringing the sovereignty of the state.

This is an important and historic step, a change to the doctrine of sovereignty that can be traced back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. No-one who cares about humanity can mourn the demise of the idea that regimes can do exactly as they please with those who lie in their power, but on the other hand, both the political environment and the way in which R2P will be worked out needs close inspection and development.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ethnic Cleansing in the Kalahari

Most of the Bushmen living in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve have been forced out of their homes by the government in an effort to end human habitation of the reserve.

Activist groups claim that Bushmen villages have been cut off from their main soruces of food and water and outsiders prohibited from entering to provide relief for the past six weeks. Last weekend most of the remaining residents were trucked out at gunpoint.

The government denies that anyone was forced to leave, claiming that the area had been quarantined because of a disease affecting goats kept by the Bushmen. But spokesmen for the Bushman hotly deny this claim. Outside observers have prohibited from enter to observe conditions.

Once populating most of Southern Africa, Bushmen were hunted to near extinction by both by Black and White immigrants to the region; in the end driving them back to the nearly inhabitable Kalahari Desert.

Some 2,000 Bushmen lived in the Kalahari Game Reserve before the government began forced removal campaigns in 1997. Now an estimated two dozen remain.

Monday, October 03, 2005

No end to gross human rights violations in Russia's North Caucasus.

Amnesty International has released a report claiming that gross human rights violations are continuing in Chechnya and Ingushetia with the Russian authorities implicated in the torture, abduction and secret detention of civilians. Amnesty International says Russia's "war on terror" is being used as an excuse for systematic human rights abuses.

In a briefing paper, Amnesty International said it had detected a new trend in the human rights abuses in the North Caucasus. People are reportedly being arbitrarily detained and held in incommunicado detention, where they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, in order to force them to confess to crimes that they have not committed. Once they have signed a “confession” they are reportedly transferred to another detention facility where they have access to a lawyer of their choice and relatives; but the confession seems to be enough “evidence” to secure their conviction.

Amnesty International urged the European Union to pressure Russia to end these violations. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair representing the EU Presidency at next week's EU-Russia summit in London has an opportunity to make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the torture and “disappearance” of men and women is inexcusable and must stop.