Archive for November, 2007

WANTED for War Crimes
November 30, 2007

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(Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo)

There is a man named Ocampo. He will bring the criminals of the regime to justice. The killing will stop and we will return to our villages in Darfur, says the women rebel to her fellow women comrades as they carry their guns through the countryside.

This man of whom the rebels speak is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor is the International Criminal Court (the first global court devoted to prosecuting crimes against humanity). He and his team have gathered evidence and are ready to try the first darfur war-crimes cases.

Can it be done? Moreno-Ocampo believes the court will be successful. His belief in his case and the court are buoyed by his involvement in the successful prosecutions of war criminals in his home country of Argentina.

His case is solid. The warrants have been issued for Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Sudan’s former Interior Minister who Moreno-Ocampo has charged with orchestrating the slaughter in Darfur and for Ali Kushayb, leader of the janjaweed militia who continue to carry out the genocide (janjaweed means devil on horseback in Arabic).

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(WANTED: Harun and Kashayb)

However problems persists. The Sudanese government does not recognize the ICC and has not turned over the men to the court. Justice may not be servede because of the world wide push for a truce in Darfur. With a negotiated peace may come some type of pardon for the criminals. “The world is complicated,” says Moreno-Ocampo.

–Debbie Orlemanski

See the documentary Darfur Now to learn more about Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC, and the continued genocide in Darfur.

Hypocrisy in Bush’s War on Terror
November 28, 2007

The Case of Luis Posada Carriles  

by Logan Puck

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(“There’s not much difference, I would like to live in Miami too…”)

“If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorists.” -President George Bush, August 26, 2003

“For me, there are two classes of terrorism, one that is condemned and another that is pardoned.”      –Panamanian President Martín Torrijos

One of the main tenets of the Bush Administration’s fight against global terrorism has been targeting foreign governments known to be harboring terrorists. George W. Bush’s claims that Saddam Hussein harbored terrorists was used as one of the pretexts to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, anti-Castro Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, a man the Justice Department recently has labeled “a dangerous criminal and an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots,” lives freely within our borders. Posada’s life is full of sordid affairs including assassination plots, civilian bombings, illegal smuggling rings and more. The Bush Administration is fully aware of Posada’s diabolical past; however, it apparently has no plans to prosecute him for his crimes, thus exhibiting the blatant double standard and hypocrisy involved in Bush’s “War on Terror.”

Luis Posada Carriles receives special treatment because the U.S. government has tacitly supported his past acts of terror. Posada served as a CIA agent from 1961 to 1967 and continued regular contact with the agency until 1976. He was trained in demolitions, a skill he later utilized with deadly results. In 1976, Posada allegedly orchestrated the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 that killed 73 passengers, many of whom were teenage members of the Cuban national fencing team. It has been called “the worst terrorist attack in Cuban history.” Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities and placed in a minimum security prison to await trial. In 1985, Posada escaped after spending nine years in jail despite before never being formally convicted or acquitted. The details of the escape are vague, however it’s rumored that the prison guards were bribed by a member of the anti-Castro Cuban-American exile community. Afterwards, Posada immediately went to El Salvador where he began illegally supplying the Contras in Nicaragua through a program financed by the Reagan Administration.

In the 1990s, Posada spent time in Central America and the Caribbean devising attacks on the Cuban tourist industry, including a 1997 bombing of a Cuban hotel that resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. In a 1998 interview with a New York Times reporter, Posada publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and showed little remorse for the casualties involved. He has never been charged for the attack.

In 2000, Posada was arrested in Panama for plotting to explode a bomb in the University of Panama’s Conference Hall, where Fidel Castro was scheduled to speak in front of hundreds of people. Posada was charged with endangering public safety and received an eight-year sentence in April 2004. However, just four months later, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned Posada a few days before she left office. Martín Torrijos, Moscoso’s successor criticized the pardon, declaring, “For me, there are two classes of terrorism, one that is condemned and another that is pardoned.”

In March 2005, Posada snuck into the United States in hopes of obtaining political asylum for having served as a past CIA agent. The Bush Administration decided to cast a blind eye to the situation as the State Department declared they were unaware Posada was in the country, even though Posada’s lawyer declared his arrival weeks beforehand. Two months after illegally entering the country, Posada forced the government’s hand by holding a press conference to deny the accusations directed towards him. Posada was subsequently arrested with seven counts of immigration fraud.

The Venezuelan government immediately filed multiple extradition requests for Posada so that he could be properly put to trial for the 1976 airliner bombing. According to a bilateral agreement signed in 1922, the United States is bound by law to either extradite Posada to Venezuela or try him for the same charges in the United States. Nevertheless, a judge ruled that Posada could not be extradited to Venezuela for fear that he would be tortured. No efforts were made to properly try Posada within U.S. borders either.

Instead, Posada was sentenced to go to trial for the immigration charges on May 11, 2007. The case, however, was dismissed by Judge Kathleen Cardone, who wrote in her 38- page ruling, “In addition to engaging in fraud, deceit and trickery, this court finds the government’s tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice. As a result, this court is left with no choice but to dismiss the indictment.” Posada was hence released and currently lives freely in the United States to the outrage of citizens across the world.

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Posada’s newfound freedom completely contradicts the Bush Aadministration’s commitment to combating terrorism and sets a dangerous precedent for other nations to follow. The government’s refusal to extradite Posada or properly try him exhibits their willingness to harbor those who murder and terrorize civilians. The Bush Administration cannot expect foreign nations to prosecute or hand over suspected terrorists hiding within their borders when they blatantly flaunt international treaties and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 which “calls upon states to cooperate, particularly through bilateral and multilateral arrangements and agreements, to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks and take action against perpetrators of such acts.” The United States government must restore its credibility on in the War on Terror by prosecuting [or extraditing] Posada and bringing justice for the victims of his fatal attacks.

–Logan Puck

TAKE ACTION:

  • Write a letter to your local newspaper expressing your disgust with the U.S. government’s handling of Luis Posada Carriles and its contradictory stance towards harboring terrorists. A major reason why Posada has not been prosecuted is because most Americans have never heard of him or his case. Change will not occur until the general public is made aware of the Bush Administration’s complicity with allowing an admitted terrorist to live freely on our national soil.
  • Write a letter to your representative and or senators expressing your concern about Posada’s release and demand he either be extradited to Venezuela or be tried in the United States for his involvement in the 1976 bombing of Cubana flight 455. (It’s easy to write your representative online and write your senator online)

The Crime Without a Name
November 13, 2007

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(Two young girls who were raped in the DRC and are too young for fistula surgery. It is not permitted to show the faces of these young girls.)

I have been thinking about a response my sister made to one of my posts about rape as a weapon of war (“Women in the Congo” 10/09/07). She wrote:

Do you think all of the focus on the word “genocide” makes issues like this one harder to act on internationally, when a gender, not a race or ethnic group or nationality, is being attacked, and not necessarily being “exterminated” but attacked with a specialized, sexualized tactic of brutality? Have there been political or anthropological analyses of this outbreak/growth of extreme violence against women in the Congo?

At the League of Nations conference in 1933 Raphael Lemkin, a polish Jew, argued to outlaw “race murder”. He was laughed out by people who believed that this crime took place too seldom to legislate. In 1941, Lemkin managed to escape the Holocaust with his life and became convinced that the “crime without a name” needed a word that would connote the ultimate moral imperative and thus trigger action. He invented the word “genocide” in 1944. The word genocide today signfies the massive and intentional annihilation of an entire group (the specifics of the legal definition are more detailed) based upon nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion.

But what if there existed an unlegislated horror as hideous as extermination? An unparalleled tool of destruction that leaves its victims silent and mutilated, but alive. And what if, to an unprecedented and undeniable degree, the victims were targeted not for what they had done, said, or believed–but for what they were?

In the same way that Raphael Lemkin was moved to speak out about race murder after over 1 million Armenians were annihilated by the Turk regime in the early 20th Century, so too have a few brave witnesses been willing to speak out about the tens of thousands of women brutally raped every year in the Congo. U.N. crisis expert Kathleen Cravero has said that although rape has always been used as a weapon of war, the type of brutality inflicted on women today is unprecedented. She notes that not even history’s most notorious warmongers would have mutilated women’s bodies in the same way as the Congolese rebels and militia are doing. We are in the midst of a 21st Century crime without a name.

Dr. Denis Mukwege works in the Congo to provide support and treatment for women who have been raped and tortured during the conflicts that officially ended in 2003 but have raged unabated for the women of the region. “At the beginning I used to hear patients’ stories,” Dr Mukwege says. “Now I abstain.” The stories I have read are descriptions of hell too hideous to report here. Recounting the traumas, tortures, and the hell lived by these women on such an undistiguished forum seems trivializing. I can imagine few forums with the strength to bear the weight of their stories.

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(Women at Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital)

And just as others dismissed the universal importance that Lemkin argued of race murder, people today claim that the accounts coming out of the Congo are unique and specific to that conflict–not something that could affect the greater part of the world. But the changing nature of conflict, a root cause according to Cravero of the increasing vulnerability and brutalization of women, is not limited to the Congo. Wars are being waged to a much lesser extent between countries with formal armies and increasingly within countries between militias and rebel groups without formal observances of conduct rules. Sudan, Iraq, Israel-Hezbollah, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Colombia… This changing nature of conflict isn’t unique to the Congo. Unfortunately neither will the sexualized tactic of brutality against women, as Julie succinctly described it, be contained in its heart of darkness.

Like Lemkin we must name the horror. Eva Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, calls it “femicide”–the attempted destruction of women. The word has been used quietly in places like Guatemala and the border towns of Mexico for years, but never has the international community acknowledged it with an international convention. The word in unknown, the crimes are unnamed, and we are poised to make the same mistake. “Lemkin,” they said, “this crime that you describe takes place to seldom to legislate.” Six years later Hitler would invade Poland, and Lemkin would lose 49 member of his family in the Holocaust.

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(Kathleen Cravero stands with her arms crossed on her chest to show support for the effort of ‘Stop Rape Now: UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict’ the new joint initiative involving 10 UN agencies.)

  • November 14th, 6-7:30, Center for American Progress 10th Floor (1333 H Street NW, Washington DC 20005) Attend a presentation by Dr. Mohammed Ahmed on “Today in Darfur: What’s Really Happening on the Ground.” Dr. Ahmed, who treats torture survivors in Darfur, has worked tirelessly to create a network of health providers to care for victims of torture and sexual violence, which has become a hallmark of the brutal genocide in Darfur. He is in town to receive the 2007 RFK Human Rights Award. Talk to Matt, I’m pretty sure he’s planning on going.
  • Educate Yourself
  • UNICEF campaign to end the femicide in DR Congo. Write a letter addressed to His Excellency, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange. Demand that he take action to stop the attacks on women and support the hospitals and services that are helping women to heal. Send it to:

    U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict,
    P.O. Box 3862
    New York, NY 10163

    Your letter will be delivered to Kabila.

  • Run for Women in the Congo

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie

Darfur Now
November 8, 2007

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Hejewa Adam’s village was attacked and destroyed by Janjaweed militias and government forces. When she fled, her three-month-old son was beaten to death as he clung to her back. Faced with abandoning her home forever or bringing justice and peace back to Sudan, she joins the rebels.

Each of the six stories including Hejewa’s in the new documentary Darfur Now is an inspiration for people everywhere to become involved to resolve the conflict and bring hope and peace to the people of Darfur. The struggles of each of these individuals outlines a different facet of the ongoing crisis in Darfur – but they all point to the need for immediate action.

View the film trailer:

Genocide Intevention Network’s Adam Sterling tells about his appearance in the documentary “Darfur Now”:

What do George Clooney, Don Cheadle and presidential candidates John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and Sam Brownback have in common? They all appear with me in the new documentary Darfur Now!

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to Ted Braun, the director of Darfur Now. We met for coffee in Los Angeles and about a week later he gave me a call and asked if he could follow me around with a camera crew for a couple of days. I had just finished college at UCLA and was working as a waiter five days a week and traveling to Sacramento to lobby for our Sudan divestment bill the other two days. I told Ted that I had to work the next day and to my surprise, he showed up at my restaurant! It was a unique experience and it took me a few weeks to stop talking to the cameras (a big “no-no” in documentary filmmaking).

As the co-founder of the Sudan Divestment Task Force and member of the Genocide Intervention Network, it has truly been an honor to appear as one of six featured subjects in Darfur Now, a theatrical documentary produced by Participant Productions (Inconvenient Truth) and Warner Independent Pictures. Although I may be biased, it is truly a wonderful film and a great advocacy tool that has the potential to shine a powerful light on the crisis in Darfur.

Darfur Now opens nationally this weekend, and I strongly encourage everyone to check out the film. Depending on how well it does, the distributors will determine how many more theatres to send it to. We’ve got a chance to see Darfur Now across the country next to movies like Saw IV and Fred Claus, so please check out the showtimes below and spend a couple of hours checking out Darfur Now this weekend. And don’t forget to bring friends!

 

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– Adam Sterling, Genocide Intervention Network

  • Click here for Darfur Now showtimes
  • Email us for more information on group sales, Darfur Now house parties, and special promotions (including a phone call with Don Cheadle!)

Pakistan: It’s Complicated
November 6, 2007

In an attempt to understand why Pakistan has made the front page of the Washington Post and the NYTimes over the past two days, I did some researching. The following is a summary of what I read–and it took me long enough just to establish the broad, take-home points in my mind. One definate that I can say with confidence: things are complicated. Nuclear arms; Al-Queda; the choice between a weak, fragile democracy with nukes or a strong, controlled military regime with nukes; Kashmir; Bhutto; where did the Constitution go? I’m going to revisit this stuff and try to get more in depth. Stay posted. Anyone else have insight?

Katie

 

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CrisisWatch recently publicized a list of nine conflict situations that have deteriorated during the month of October. Pakistan ranked high on the list, being at risk for escalating conflict in the unfolding month of November.

Currently under the military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf—and more recently his emergency rule—Pakistan suffers from thirty years of corruption, drugs, military rule, rising Islamist extremism and a general decline in education and health standards. Religious extremists play an increasingly important role in providing education and other services to the poor, resulting in the radicalization of areas of the country.

Pakistan’s Kashmir conflict with India has caught the world’s attention with both states employing high-profile nuclear brinkmanship. The conflict in Pakistan’s Balochistan region is less well-known. Musharraf’s government has used increasing force to impose force over the region in which Baloch militants are demanding political and economic autonomy citing the absence of real democracy in Pakistan.

 

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Provincial elections are supposed to be held later this year or in early 2008. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on October 18th to lead her party—the Pakistan Peoples Party—in the parliamentary elections scheduled to begin early 2008. Benazir Bhutto has twice served as Prime Minister of the country before living in exile for 8 years due to corruption charges that some say were politically fabricated. If she can win a change in the law, she will run for prime minister for a third time, something now legally barred.

Bhutto’s triumphant return to crowds of hundreds of thousands was literally blasted into chaos by two bomb explosions that killed 140 of her supporters and nearly missed her bus. Bhutto remains a polarizing figure with an outspoken stance on terrorism, publicly criticizing suicide bombings as being against the teachings of Islam—a unique stance among Pakistani politicians. Some argue that allegations of her corruption, her pro-American agenda, and the questionable murder of her brother in 1996—a time when Bhutto ruled and her brother may have been challenging her power in the Pakistan Peoples Party—is jeopardizing the hard-won progress in grassroots democracy within the country.

Gen. Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday, November 3rd justifying the move with pro-democracy and anti-terrorist jargon. It is difficult to imagine that the suspension on the Constitution, the dismissal of the Supreme Court (the Supreme Court could bar Mucharraf from another term as president), the silencing of privately owned television stations, and the arrest of human rights activist and other lawyers will have any affect on the tribal regions of Pakistan where Al-Queda and other groups reside. After a meeting with Musharraf, Western diplomats say their fears that the general was vanquishing his political rivals more than fighting terrorism were reinforced

Protests to Musharraf’s emergency rule began on Monday and have continued today. Some 3,000 protesting lawyers (out of Pakistan’s 12,000 lawyers) have been rounded up by authorities in clashes with batton-weilding police officers. The ousted chief of justice of the Supreme Court urged people to continue defying the emergency rule. “The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the Constitution,” the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers on speakerphone at a meeting of the Islamabad Bar Association before his cellphone line was cut. He urged them to go to “every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice. I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”

 

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