Slider[Style1]

Style2

Style3[OneLeft]

Style3[OneRight]

Style4

Style5

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge genocide trial starts

Link: Long-delayed Khmer Rouge genocide trial to begin [Associated Press]

Cambodia's first genocide trial is finally underway as prosecutors launch their case against Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch). Four other senior Khmer Rouge officials are set to be tried over the next year.

Amnesty International has called for many more people to be brought to trial to deliver justice to the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have been plagued by political wrangling, corruption scandals and inadequate financing with Japan injecting $200,000 on March 20th to pay for salaries for 251 Cambodian court employees.

Link: Khmer Rouge defendant expresses 'sorrow' for crime [Associated Press]

News just in, Duch has expressed "regretfulness and heartfelt sorrow for all crimes" and he has taken responsibility for the crimes committed at S-21.

Link: Cambodia PM rejects wider Khmer Rouge trials [Reuters]

The Cambodian prime minister has warned today that putting more Khmer Rouges cadres on trial could plunge the country back into civil war. He has said that he would prefer to see the tribunal fail than have his country return to war.

This was the same excuse used to prevent a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Cambodia, which I discussed here. It is so frustrating and I cannot deny that at this stage, such things could cause great instability. When I first heard on 17 February that the "landmark" Khmer Rouge trials were starting, I could not believe that this was happening for the first time in 30 years. I had naively thought that such trials would have happened at least 25 years ago and this is why I immediately went out and tried to read up on the Khmer Rouge regime.

That is the precise problem and the lesson to be learned from all of this: it is vitally important that we react appropriately and quickly to human rights violations in order to stop them happening as they happen. In addition, commissions of inquiry must be speedily set up following such events and perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to answer for their crimes in a timely but fair manner. This is vital to ensuring healing and reconciliation and in maintaining stability following such events.

Zimbabwe - the early 20th century

Part 1: Zimbabwe - the 19th century

The Shona-Ndebele rebellions were a failure and the heroes Mlimo and Nehanda were assassinated and executed respectively. The influx of white settlers had begun in 1890 and they had withstood the siege of Bulawayo during the war. The territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland fell under British rule and became known as Rhodesia. Both the Ndebele and Shona people became the subjects of British administration.

Hut Tax
In a despicable pattern that was repeated across Africa in countries such as South Africa, Sierra Leone and Uganda, hut tax was introduced. Hut tax really was the great evil of colonialism. Huts were taxed on an individual or per-household basis. These were communities that had survived by means of cattle farming or agriculture and they had no way of actually paying these taxes. When the taxes were introduced across Africa, people often had to sell their land in order to pay for the taxes. They then moved onto smaller or less favourable pieces of land which were often overgrazed by their cattle. Cattle were then sold either to pay for the taxes or because of the overcrowding. Traditional and age old systems of allowing land to lie fallow in off-seasons tended to be disrupted due to the overgrazing and the need to produce higher levels of stock in order to pay for the taxes.

Land became over-farmed and throughout Africa droughts and floods began to have devastating effects. The primary reason for allowing land to lie fallow in off-seasons is to give the top soil a chance to replenish. Healthy soil can withstand a dry season as the soil retains water both in the water table and in roots. A healthy layer of top soil will also help land to withstand flooding and remain intact. Overused soil dries to dust in dry seasons and is simply washed away when heavy rains or floods come.

In time, unable to support themselves on the land and unable to produce goods to barter to pay for hut tax, more and more people were forced to labour under for the colonial powers and to build colonial towns, railways and mines.

South Africa: University of Witwatersrand reacts to Dalai Lama decision

It has been a long time since my alma mater, University of Witwatersrand, has said or done anything that has instilled respect in me but I was sufficiently impressed by this letter to post it in its entirety.  The emphasis in the second last paragraph is mine and communicates more eloquently what I was trying to say in my previous post on the matter.

Dear Wits alumnus/alumna

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was scheduled to deliver a public lecture at Wits University on Saturday, 28 March 2009. This event has been cancelled due to the South African government not granting a visa to the Dalai Lama. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, has issued the following statement on behalf of the University.  

STATEMENT FROM WITS UNIVERSITY PERTAINING TO THE GOVERNMENT'S REJECTION OF A VISIT BY HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA TO SOUTH AFRICA

Wits University expresses its profound dismay at the decision taken by the South African government not to grant a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to attend a Peace Conference in South Africa along with other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

The University does not accept the rationale offered by the South African government to bar this stalwart of peace from entering the country. The decision of the government ridicules the values enshrined in our Constitution, and the freedoms for which so many South African have lived, and indeed died.

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to deliver a public address at Wits University on Saturday, 28 March 2009, following on a similar lecture that he delivered to a full capacity audience at Wits during his last visit to the country. To have the voice of the Dalai Lama silenced at both the Peace Conference and the Wits Public Lecture is a setback to the principle that rigorous intellectual debate and reflection is central to the defence of democracy. As part of its commitment to being a publicly engaged institution, Wits hosts numerous public engagement activities and provides an intellectual platform for robust debate. We believe that making differing perspectives and views accessible to our community is a vital part of sustaining and defending the constitutional values that we express as a country.

No country in the world has produced as many Peace Prize Laureates as South Africa, a testament both to the struggles that we have waged in this country for the principles of human rights, as well as to the great stature of the South Africans who have found transcendent ways of expressing the struggle for freedom. It is with this tradition in mind that we view the exclusion of the Dalai Lama from our shores with grave misgivings. This betrayal of a key constitutional value provides a clear window into the fragility of the democracy we are trying to sustain.

It is our responsibility as a University to express our concern at this development. Wits University takes this opportunity to strongly condemn the action of the South African government in denying His Holiness the Dalai Lama access to South Africa. We add our voice to that of other leaders, calling on the South African government to apologise to the nation for this oversight. It is a betrayal of everything that we, as South Africans, fought against during the apartheid regime and a gross violation of the values we espouse as a nation.   

Prof. Loyiso Nongxa

Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Wits University

25 March 2009

Rwanda: Joseph Mpambara sentenced to 20 years

Link: Rwandan given 20 year jail term for crimes [AFP]

Joseph Mpambara was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Hague district court for the 1994 torturing to death of two women and their four children.  He had stopped an ambulance and beaten the children to death with clubs while the women were hacked with machetes. 

An appeal court previously ruled that there was insufficient evidence to charge Joseph Mpambara with genocide.

He was the first Rwandan to be condemned in the Netherlands in a joint agreement between several European countries and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  The agreement states that genocide suspects may be tried in national courts of the participating countries.

South Africa: Government bans Dalai Lama

Link: Dalai Lama's South Africa conference ban causes uproar [Guardian]

I do try to report honestly and objectively in this blog but this is not going to be one of those times.  I have to say that I am absolutely disgusted with the South African government for bowing to pressure from the Chinese government and banning the Dalai Lama from entering the country and attending an anti-racism conference.

Thankfully, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk are sticking to their principles and are now boycotting the conference.  The conference is meant to be meeting to tackle racism ahead of the 2010 World Cup but when your government is choosing trade and economic relations over freedom, democracy and human rights, then you are left without a choice.

Fifteen years ago, South Africa emerged as the country with perhaps the most liberal constitution on the planet.  As South Africans, we believed in the Rainbow Nation and human rights were of paramount importance in our country.  Our constitution was based on the Freedom Charter and demanded equality for all regardless of race, gender, creed or religion. 

Now, in deference to a government that is accused of committing genocide against the Tibetans, our supposedly democratic and liberal government has denied entry to the Dalai Lama.

Link: S. Africa: Dalai Lama won't be welcome before 2010 [Google News]

"You can't remove Tibet from (the Dalai Lama)," Masebe said. "That becomes the issue and South Africa is no longer the issue." - Google News

Oh really? No Mr Masebe, the point is that gross human rights violations are occurring in Tibet and it is up to the world to group together and tackle these problems and overcome hatred, racism and genocide in our times.  If the world had not applied pressure 20 years ago, Apartheid may still be alive and well.  You need to remember that and remember why so many people fought for so long to overcome racial segregation.

The biggest problem is how spineless and transparent this move is though and how the government have obviously chosen to please their financial partners.  Then again, this was the government that refused to apply economic pressure on Zimbabwe, so what did we expect?

That has what it has come to.  You can no longer trust or believe in the South African government.

Sudan: Obama announces special envoy for Sudan

Link: Obama picks 'humanitarian' general for Sudan [Taiwan News]

President Barack Obama has selected a special envoy to Sudan and has described retired Air Force major general J. Scott Gration as a humanitarian.

Obama denounced the expulsion of humanitarian organisations in Sudan as 'disastrous' and has called the Sudan situation as a priority for his administration. He has said that the Sudan government would be held accountable for lives lost in Sudan.

J Scott Gration [Google News]
[photo source]

Balkans: Momcilo Krajisnik sentence cut

Link: Bosnian Serb leader sentence cut [BBC news]

The appeals chamber of the ICTY has overturned Momcilo Krajisnik's convictions for the murder, extermination and persecution (other than that based on deportation and forcible transfer) of non-Serbs in the 1992 - 1995 Bosnian war.  His sentence for the deportation, forcible transfer and persecution of civilians was upheld though and he will still serve 20 years in jail.

Radovan Karadzic testified at Krajisnik's trial and said he was not a member of the the presidency during the war. 

Sri Lanka: Genocide against Tamils

Link: Sri Lanka's Genocide [Moggy's Blog]

This is a previous post on Moggy's excellent blog. If, like me, you are a newcomer to the situation in Sri Lanka, this will give you a good introduction and it is a good place to start.

Within the last six weeks, I've watched Sri Lanka's 25-year ethnic conflict become a full-scale genocide against the Tamil population (the primary minority group in the country). Some of the more obvious indications include:

1. The government is in the process of putting approx. 300,000 Tamil civilians into military-run camps, which are, for all intents and purposes, Holocaust-style concentration camps: forced labor, lack of basic necessities and sanitation, indiscriminate killings and generally dire conditions.

2. A few weeks ago, the military began systematically raping the women being held in these camps.

3. In mid-January, the Sri Lankan military created a "safe zone" for Tamil civilians who were still in the war zone so that they would not be "caught in the crossfire". Once the civilians moved into the area, the military started bombing it, even hitting a hospital multiple times.

4. The government instituted a mandatory registration last month whereby all Sri Lankan citizens are legally required to provide the government with such details as their name, ethnicity and home address.

That last point sounds frighteningly similar to what the Rwandan government did just before the genocide in 1994.

Link: Repeating Rwanda: The Consequences of Euphemizing Genocide [Moggy's Blog]

This excellent article warns of the danger of euphemising what is going on in conflicts around the world. It does not help to call it "ongoing conflict" or "humanitarian crisis" no matter how much we want to bury our heads in the sand.

It is genocide, plain and simple and we need to identify who is doing what to whom so that the international community can exert pressure and action can be taken.

Link: Thousands call for international help to end 'genocide' in Sri Lanka [harrowtimes.co.uk]

Earlier this month a memorial service was held for Murugathasan Varnakulasingham, a 26-year-old from Harrow, London. Last month he burned himself to death in front of the UN headquarters in Geneva in protest of the Tamil deaths in Sri Lanka. Comments on this article have raised the question as to why the world is remaining silent about the conflicts when they have raised their voices about the Palestinian situation.

Link: Thousands of Tamils decry Sri Lankan 'genocide' [google.com/AFP]

Thousands of supporters of a Tamil state protested in Brussels, Belgium on Monday against the genocide in Sri Lanka. Presently, up to 50 to 100 Tamils are being killed a day in so-called protected areas.

Protestors also demonstrated outside of the UN's headquarters in Geneva and said that the world body was complicit in the genocides. This seems to be because UN calls for a cease fire in northern Sri Lanka were not heeded. Now up to 170,000 civilians are trapped in the crossfire between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Tamil Protests [Google News]
[photo source]

Darfur: Take action today!

Link: Why you should oppose the genocide in Darfur before 10:00a.m. Mountain Time on March 17th [examiner.com]

darfurlogoThis is exciting news and YOU can take action today if you live in the US.

Today, members of the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to sign letters to three allies of Sudan asking for them to take action on the situation in Darfur. Congressmen Capuano and McCaul have authored the letters and they will be addressed to the Chinese President Hu Jintao, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa and African Union Chairman Muammar Qadhafi.

If you would like to participate, instructions for those living in the US:

"A national hotline: 1-800-GENOCIDE, has been assembled to make it easy to contact elected officials in D.C. on this issue. Please contact your representative before 12:00p.m. Eastern Standard Time and 10:00a.m. Mountain Time on March 17th and ask your representative to sign the letters. The letters urge these leaders to send the clear message - that expelling humanitarian aid agencies from Sudan and putting Darfuri lives at even greater risk - is unacceptable.

You will need to wait through the option to connect to Secretary of State, Clinton. After that, press 1 to connect to your Representative. The 800 number has a prompt for entering your zip code and will connect you to the appropriate representative" - examiner.com

Sudan: Appeal to be launched in Bashir ruling

Link: World court prosecutor to appeal Bashir genocide ruling [Reuters]

It is without a doubt the most important location of genocidal atrocities in the world today and yet I have not given any attention in this blog to Darfur or Sudan. I have been stalled by my inability to understand the situation and my concurrent desire to do it justice when I do post about it.

The world can't wait until I get my head around it though and important motions are taking place at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been indicted last week on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but he was not charged with genocide. ICC prosecutors intend to appeal this decision as they would like genocide charges to be brought against Darfur.

This is an incredibly important event as it has taken so long to get international recognition that a genocide is even happening in Sudan.

An award

When I started this blog, I didn't think anyone else would be too interested in reading what I had to say.  Basically, the blog is a labour of love (it really is!) and it is just my attempt to understand this strange world of ours.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an award then from Dr Lauren (of Friends Revolution and The Ancient Digger fame). 

The text accompanying the award is as follows:

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.”

 

Of course, the award then goes on to state that I should nominate five other people but I never like doing that.  Instead, I'll ask you to visit Dr Lauren's blogs and please click on the important blogs in my blogroll and show them some support.

Rwanda: Intended Consequences exhibition

Anquan, a visitor to my blog, shared the following link with me.

Link: Intended Consequences [FLYP Media]

FLYP is an exciting online magazine touching on politics, art and media in America.  The current issue has an article on Jonathan Torgovnik, who presently has an exhibition at New York's Aperture Gallery entitled Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape

"Torgovnik's work includes portraits of the women with their children in and around their homes, as well as each woman's story.  He says that many have not told their children the truth about the attacks they suffered.  The mother's fear the children will be rejected by society, in the same way that others who have told their secret to surviving members of their families have been disowned" - FLYP Media

The exhibition continues until May whereafter it will tour nationally.

Zimbabwe - the 19th Century

It’s not always appropriate or even advisable to look at the ancient history of a country in order to understand its current political affairs. (Naturally, my mind turns to all of the events of the 19th century that had direct bearing on today’s world, for example, the industrial revolution!) On the other hand, we don’t look to Queen Victoria’s rule in order to understand the increase of knife crime amongst teenagers in London. My point is that you have to look towards relevant history when making a socio-political inquiry and it is important that you not get distracted by less pertinent historical events, no matter how colourful or tragic they were.

With this in mind, I do believe that any analysis of the current political situation in Zimbabwe needs to begin in 1888 because discourse on the events at that time have coloured political agendas and propaganda ever since and have strengthened divisions within the country.

The Key Players

For two thousand years, the Shona cluster of tribes lived in the part of Africa now known as Zimbabwe and part of Mozambique. Great civilisations existed as is evidenced by ruins at Great Zimbabwe and other sites and at various times, the area played an important role in trade with the Phoenicians and later the Arabs. War with Portuguese settlers left the area in near ruin by the early 17th century. In 1834, the Ndebele people (pronounced Matabele by the English), a tribe of Zulu origin, arrived in the area fleeing from Shaka Zulu. They made the area their new empire and it became known as Matabeleland [Wikipedia].

The 19th Century

In 1888, the Ndebele King Lobengula agreed the Rudd Concession which granted mining rights of Matabeleland to Cecil John Rhodes. Lobengula was deceived during these negotiations in that he was promised that no more than ten white men would mine at any one time but this was left out of the actual written agreement. In 1889, Rhodes used this concession to obtain a royal charter from Queen Victoria to form the British South Africa Company (BSAC) to administer, govern and police Matabeleland and its subject state Mashonaland.

This is highly significant today. The 2006 book House of Stone featured interviews with a Mashona woman, Aqui. Aqui revealed the extreme bitterness that the Shona people feel to this day against Ndebele people as they recall that Lobengula gave away their country. They blame this on his stupidity and greed. I was interested in this recurring theme that ran through the book. This antagonism has also been used repeatedly by Robert Mugabe over the years, as I will discuss in a later post.

On realising that the British had really intended to colonise the area, the Ndebele warriors entered into war with the British and the First Matabele War began. The British were equipped with the Maxim gun and this led to the devastating losses amongst the Ndebele ranks. Lobengula died in January 1894 and it is unsure whether he died of small pox or dysentry or whether he in fact committed suicide. In House of Stone it is noted that Shona people often like to believe the latter as evidence of his cowardice and weak character.

The second significant event occurred shortly before the end of the 19th century. The First Chimurenga or Second Matabele War was the Ndebele-Shona rebellion against the white settlers. “Chimurenga” is the Shona word for “struggle”. The rebellions were not exactly coordinated and the Ndebele were led by their hero, Mlimo. In House of Stone, Aqui made repeated reference to Nehanda Nyakasikana, the spirit medium who provided inspiration for the Shona rebellion. Nehanda became synonymous with the idea of a Shona struggle during the liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s.

It is clear therefore, that while these events occurred over 100 years ago, they are events that have been taught to generations of Zimbabweans and which remain significant to them to this day.

Part 2: Zimbabwe - The early 20th century

Tibet: 50th Anniversary of failed uprising against Chinese

Link: Free Tibet [DaithaiC.blogspot.com]

Daithai C has written an excellent and comprehensive post about the history of Tibet and the oppression that the Tibetans have experienced under Chinese rule. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese forces that resulted in the exile of the Dalai Lama to India. The post includes excerpts from the UN General Assembly following the events in 1959 as well as the International Commission of Jurists 1959 report into whether a genocide had occurred in Tibet.

Excerpt:

"His Holiness,The Dalai Lama of Tibet
The Dalai Lama has launched a fierce attack on Chinese rule in his Tibetan homeland, saying his people had experienced "hell on Earth". Five decades of Chinese rule had caused "untold suffering", Tibet's exiled spiritual leader said, accusing Beijing of creating a climate of fear.
He also repeated his demand for Tibet's "legitimate and meaningful autonomy". His words came on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese troops which led to his exile. It is 50 years today that the Tibetans rose up against Chinese rule causing the Dalai Lama to flee his homeland and campaign peacefully for over 50 years for autonomy for Tibet.

With China’s (let us remind ourselves, still a repressive Communist dictatorship with no credible claim to democracy or the rule of law) attempts to rewrite history and continue to tell the “Big Lie” let us remind ourselves what actually happened in 1959 which was nine years after the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet in 1950"
- daithaic.blogspot.com

I must admit that until reading this post, I had not known about the International Commission of Jurists' findings. I find this passage taken from their website to be quite chilling:

Link: Tibet - New Report : "The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law [ICJ.org]

"There is prima facie evidence that the Chinese Communists have by acts of genocide attempted to destroy the Tibetan nation and the Buddhist religion in Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists announced in a preliminary report "The Question of Tibet and The Rule of Law" published here today. There is evidence, the report states, that the Chinese have by killing Tibetans and by the forcible removal of Tibetan children committed acts contrary to the Genocide Convention of 1948. There is also evidence that these acts were intentionally directed towards the destruction of the Tibetan religion and the Tibetan nation" - ICJ.org

University degree in genocide and human rights

Link: Human Rights and Genocide Studies MA

I really wish I had the resources to take 18 months off work and go back to school. I would study this master's degree through Kingston University in London.

I have an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology and I took psychology to Honours level. Work placement forms part of the course so it seems possible that I'd find a job in the field afterwards.

Unfortunately, this is just a dream for me right now and not one that I am even close to realising. Maybe I can set it as a seven-year plan?

Gallop Poll Shows Record Disapproval of UN

Link: Americans Disapprove of U.N. in Record Numbers [Fox News]

I may be naive but to me, a world without the UN is a very scary world indeed.  Time and again we have these polls where we question why we have the UN if they fail so spectacularly.  The UN is a monstrous bureaucracy that has remained in the sidelines and allowed some of the worst atrocities in written history to occur in the past 20 years.

"The U.N.'s numbers took a similar nosedive in the mid-1990s amid the conclusion of the Bosnia War (which it tried unsuccessfully to stop) and the Rwandan genocide, in which it did not intercede" - Fox News

That is not true in the strictest sense of the word. The fact is that the UN were in Rwanda already and they were not the only body that ignored reports that a bloodbath was brewing.

Link: As genocide raged, general's pleas for help ignored [CNN.com]

This excellent article details what happened at that time. It is no secret that Romeo Dallaire is my hero.

I think any analysis of the UN has to focus on how we are going to make them work and what changes can be made.With people like the Senegalese president denying there is a genocide in Sudan, we need the UN more than ever. We need International Criminal Tribunals and we need a body to look after the human rights of the world. Again, call me naive but I will always go back to the fundamental reason the UN was started back in 1942. Then again, the United Nations was built out of the ashes of the League of Nations because the latter had been unable to prevent World War II.

An interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Link: Tutu candidly talks about war, racism, genocide [The Desert Sun]

I thought this was an interesting interview and that Archbishop gave interesting answers to the questions posed.  I especially like his answer to the question as to whether Apartheid still exists in South Africa (the interview was conducted in Palm Springs, USA):

“You don't get rid of racism just by the stroke of a pen. You see it here — when did you have your Civil Rights law?”

1964.

“Yes. Is there still racism here?”

Absolutely.

“Yes. You remove, I think, the legal support for racism, but racism itself is in the hearts of people. You can't legislate for or against. You can make it costly for someone to behave badly.

“In South Africa, because a lot of the attitudes were also buttressed by the way the country operates, even today the best parts of the country are largely in the hands of white people.”

Tutu has interesting views on Sudan, Gaza and terrorism too. Good interview!

Zimbabwe: Morgan Tsvangirai's wife killed in car accident

Link: Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife killed in crash as lorry hits their car [Timesonline]

Morgan Tsvangirai has been injured in an accident that has claimed the life of his wife.  Immediately last night, news stations in the UK were talking about an assassination attempt and while there is no clear evidence to support this, live video of the crash has been confiscated.

Link: Analysis: What Susan Tsvangirai's death means for Zimbabwe [Telegraph]

Link: Fatal Tsvangirai crash 'was not accident', says MDC [Telegraph]

It's difficult to say but there have been numerous suspicious deaths in recent years and this does seem to fit into a pattern of Zanu-PF silencing political adversaries.

We'll have to wait and see.  I just hope this doesn't create too much political instability in an already volatile country.

Recommended books

I've written reviews for two highly recommended books on genocide and people at war:

21JjHZKDVmL__SL500_AA180_ Review link

Amazon link
image Review link

Amazon link

Guinea-Bissau: President Assassinated

Link: President Joao Bernardo Vieira of Guinea-Bissau 'assassinated by army' [Times Online]

Link:  Guinea-Bissau president assassinated by military: official [AFP]

"The country will start up now. This man had blocked any momentum in this small country," Induta said.- AFP

I don't like the sound of that at all. It sounds like the country is heading straight back to military rule after their democratically elected president has been assassinated.

Sierra Leone: Landmark forced marriage ruling

Link: Sierra Leone Court Convicted Three Former Leaders of the RUF Issuing Pioneering War Crimes Ruling [Somali Press]

This is an excellent result and a step up from existing developments in the prosecuting of rape as an act of genocide and sexual slavery.

"Our position is that sexual slavery is a horrendous crime," lead prosecutor Stephen Rapp told journalists after the verdicts. "Victims would be held for days or weeks and forced into sex acts. Forced marriage is all of that plus essentially being consorts to the rebels."

The result, he said, is stigma, with the women seen as responsible for the crimes of their "husbands" - Somali Press

Somali Press is an excellent current affairs blog on Africa and well worth adding to your reading list.

Cambodia: An interview with Cambodia's Himmler

Link: Kang Khek Ieu: 'They all had to be eliminated' [The Independent]

This February 2008 article contains extracts of a 2006 interview with Kang Khek Ieu, the man known as "Duch". (His full name has also been romanised as Kaing Guek Eav among other versions).  This is the man currently on trial in Cambodia for his role in torturing between 15,000 and 17,000 people to death in the infamous S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. 

"Confessions were extracted by primitive torture: prisoners were strapped to iron beds, suspended upside down from ropes, threatened with drowning, tormented with knives and pincers, locked in tiny cells. Then, at night, they were taken by lorry to the outskirts of Phnom Penh and killed in the rice fields. The Khmer Rouge were obsessed with killing by night" - Valerio Pellizzari, Independent.co.uk

The article is currently available on PDF from the Cambodia Tribunal website, cambodiatribunal.org and is cited as "The Killing Fields confession".  He does confess to his crimes in the interview but his claim that he was merely a pawn and that they were holding his family hostage leaves me feeling dissatisfied.  That type of empty claim is not going to give people the peace and healing that they need. 

The problem of course, is that this is a genocide trial taking place over 30 years after the crimes.  People are rarely going to speak openly and honestly about their motives and immoral behaviour as they look to spend the rest of their natural lives in prison.  They just lie and say that they had no choice and hold on to the mistaken belief that this will save them from a life sentence.

I compare this to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Liberia.  There, people often spoke openly of their crimes in exchange for amnesty.  As a South African, I saw the healing effect that it had as people finally received the recognition that they deserved for the crimes committed against them and they finally found out the truth behind what happened to the countless people who "disappeared".

I'm not suggesting for one minute that TRC hearings replace genocide tribunals.  I just wonder if there isn't a place for these type of hearings in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and even Cambodia so that those people who led work camps, for example, can admit to their parts in the conflict and perhaps provide answers as to what actually happened to the countless numbers of people who disappeared.

I see that a press release from the South African Department of Justice TRC site stated that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was going to assist Cambodia in setting up a TRC.

Link:  Documenting the Truth [Khmer Institute]

This is a good article by the Khmer Institute regarding why such a commission may not work in Cambodia.  There are fears that a commission could cause instability and that in the end the proceeding may no be successful in achieving their goal:

"Since many Khmer Rouge soldiers defected in 1996 and integrated into Cambodian society, many Cambodian victims have had to live side by side with their tormentors. Although some may want retribution, it is also clear that they have shown tremendous tolerance. Many victims have, in fact, expressed a desire to forgive their tormentors and move on with their lives. Clearly, a Cambodian truth commission will face social and political controversy and difficulties in obtaining and documenting the truth. Clearly, not all victims and perpetrators will have an incentive or desire to testify. Nevertheless, it is also clear that any process dealing with the Khmer Rouge must seek to heal and educate Cambodian society, goals that tribunals alone may not be adequate in achieving" - Khmer Institute

It seems that my question has been answered then. The current Cambodia Tribunal, a joint effort between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations will hopefully achieve, as much as is possible, this goal of healing and educated Cambodian society and indeed the world.


Top