Category Archives: Genocide

Gaza’s children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder


Reuters | Nov 29, 2012

The repeated exposure to violence has left many of Gaza’s children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Children, who account for more than half of the 1.7 million people in Gaza, have been back to school, but there is still a long way for them to be back to normal.

These children, who have lived through two wars with Israel, are still coming to terms with what happened during Israel’s week-long bombardment of Gaza.

Saad Hasanat, 13, who lost six of his cousins, said the memory of seeing their bodies still haunts him.

“When I remember that scene I feel my body shudder. Deep inside I imagine being in their place and people looking at my dead body. It’s too much to bear, it was so terrible,” said Saad Hasanat.

Death and destruction have become part of Gaza’s children’s life and their trauma is exacerbated by repeated exposure.

UK Shielding Israel From War Crimes Prosecutions

Gaza: “Pinpoint Accuracy” – More Child Sacrifices

Israel’s War on Palestinian Children

“It’s actually very hard to speak about post-traumatic stress disorder when the trauma keeps going on and keeps recurring. So, it’s no longer an event which happens in your life and then you have the time to deal with it but it’s something that keeps happening and that’s what these children keep witnessing,” said Karl Schembri, staff member of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 34 children were killed during the eight day war and hundreds more were wounded. Those who survived are still struggling to piece together what happened.

Mazem Rayyan, 16, and his family were at home when a missile hit their neighbor’s house. The family all managed to escape unharmed but their home was completely destroyed.

“All my life has changed. All, all, all, my life has changed from good things to bad things. You can say from one hundred to zero. It has been destroyed. I don’t know what I will do now. Really, I don’t know,” said Mazen Rayyan.

It will take time for Gaza to repair the damage of war but it will take far longer for the mental scars to heal.

Gates Foundation spends $1.7B on farming in Africa

In this 2006 photo provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates look at cassava seeds and root during a visit to a demonstration plot at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture research station in Abuja, Nigeria. The world’s largest charitable foundation announced five years ago it would spend millions of dollars to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, largely by investing in agriculture. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion, but its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work. (AP Photo/ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

It has drawn attention from a Seattle nonprofit called AGRA Watch, whose members say they are concerned about the foundation’s interest in genetically modified seeds and its relationship with African farmers.

Associated Press | Jun 1, 2011


SEATTLE (AP) — The world’s largest charitable foundation announced five years ago it would spend millions of dollars to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, largely by investing in agriculture. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion, but its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work.

The foundation has focused on ways to bring to Africa the green revolution that swept Latin America and Asia in the mid-1900s, boosting productivity in those regions. Its hope has been that helping small farmers grow more would allow them to sell their surplus, boosting their income and putting more food in hungry mouths. More than 70 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for both their food and income.

Some people have been helped, and the foundation expects more will be in years to come, but agricultural development happens slowly, said Roy Steiner, the foundation’s deputy director of global development.

As an example, he said some Kenyan farmers will receive seeds for drought-tolerant maize this year. They’ll try them out, see the results and decide whether to adopt them more enthusiastically next year. A year after that, increased production could give them more money to buy food for their families or fertilizer to improve their other crops.


“It takes years and years to shift the system,” Steiner said.

A more immediate impact might be made by buying and giving away food, and the Gates Foundation has done this indirectly with grants to groups such as Oxfam and CARE. But Steiner said the foundation doesn’t see this as a long-term solution.

“Giving food to people is certainly necessary when there’s a crisis,” he said. “But these people don’t want to be depending on outside charity. And, frankly, who is going to pay for all of that food being given?”

The foundation, he said, aims to prevent crises by strengthening agriculture systems.

It’s an approach anti-hunger organizations such as CARE and the United Nation’s World Food Programme also are taking. One-fifth or less of CARE’s budget now goes to the kind of direct food aid the nonprofit was created to provide 65 years ago. The rest is focused on agriculture development work similar to what the Gates Foundation is doing.

“This move from more of a charity approach to more of a capacity building and empowerment approach is something most of the major relief and development organizations have gone through,” said Kevin Henry, who directs CARE’s work in agriculture, economic development and climate change.

The World Bank estimates 338 million people live on less a dollar a day in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. government spends about $1.7 billion on food aid each year and about $1 billion a year on its Feed the Future Program, which focuses on reducing poverty and hunger through agriculture development.

Gates Foundation believes it can move more than 150 million in Africa out of extreme poverty by 2025 by improving agriculture. To that end, it has invested millions in seed research, buying and distributing fertilizer, improving farmers’ education and access to markets and political advocacy to get governments to spend more money on agriculture and to improve policies ranging from trade to land ownership.

Much of the work has been done through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is run by Africans with heavy support from the foundation. AGRA has used Gates money to support plant breeding programs at nine African universities, help seed companies increase their production, set up soil mapping programs and provide credit to help seed, fertilizer and equipment suppliers expand, among other things.

It has drawn attention from a Seattle nonprofit called AGRA Watch, whose members say they are concerned about the foundation’s interest in genetically modified seeds and its relationship with African farmers. Co-chair Janae Choquette claims the foundation hasn’t talked to enough farmers to find out what kind of help they want.

“Their analysis of solutions is not coming from these communities,” Choquette said. “We want to support of the self-determination of farmers in deciding their own path forward.”

Steiner disputed Choquette’s claim, saying the foundation gets direction for all its work from farmers. But he also said one of its biggest challenges has been a lack of education among farmers.

“We want to make sure that we are really making things better over the long term, not making them worse,” he said.

The foundation says very little of its work involves genetically modified seeds.

Another big chunk of Gates Foundation money, $66 million, has been promised to the World Food Programme to help improve African farmers’ access to markets. The idea is the World Food Program saves money by buying locally, while its purchases put money in farmers’ pockets. Thus far, the program has spent about $30 million with small farmers and small- and medium-sized traders through its Purchase for Progress program.

The head of the foundation’s agriculture department, Sam Dryden, also is pushing it to help increase African farmers’ opportunities to sell their products beyond their own communities. The foundation has invested many millions in helping cocoa, cashew and coffee farmers reach the quality and quantities they need to sell to overseas markets.

A spokesman for Kraft Foods Inc. says that effort has resulted in his company buying some cashews directly from Africa, because the nuts can now be processed there instead of having to be shipped to Asia or elsewhere for processing.

Steve Yucknut, Kraft’s global vice president for sustainability, said the company hasn’t changed the overall amount of cashews it buys, but with his company and the Gates Foundation setting up processing plants in Africa, more of the profit from growing cashews stays in countries there.

Millions of unborn girls deliberately aborted by Indian parents to ensure male heirs

Selective abortion is concentrated in families where the first child has been a girl

Its population is expanding at breakneck speed, yet its schools are empty of girls

The full extent of India’s ‘gendercide’

Independent | May 25, 2011

By Jeremy Laurance

Some call it India’s “gendercide”. In the past three decades up to 12 million unborn girls have been deliberately aborted by Indian parents determined to ensure they have a male heir.

Once, parents desperate for a son achieved the same end by infanticide. But modern medical technology, and the complicity of the medical establishment, has sanitised the process and made it more socially acceptable.

The systematic elimination of female foetuses in the world’s biggest democracy is widening the gap between girls and boys and storing up social problems for the future. In some towns there is already a shortage of brides and there are fears the growing gender imbalance will worsen attitudes to women.

The 2011 census revealed 7.1 million fewer girls than boys aged under seven, up from 6 million in 2001 and from 4.2 million in 1991. The sex ratio in the age group is now 915 girls to 1,000 boys, the lowest since records began in 1961.

Latest research shows selective abortion is concentrated in families where the first child has been a girl. Parents welcome a first daughter but want their second child to be a son. In these families the gender ratio for second births fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005, implying between 3.1 million and 6 million female foetuses have been aborted in the past decade.

Wealthier, better-educated couples are the worst offenders, the findings show, putting paid to hopes that socio-economic progress would lead to a change in attitude. Although all strata of Indian society share a preference for sons, better-off families have access to and can afford the ultrasound tests to reveal the sex of a foetus.

Couples believe their family is unbalanced without a son who will continue the family name, earn money, look after his relatives and take care of his parents in old age in a country which has no social security system. Importantly, a girl will marry out of her family, taking her dowry with her, while a boy will bring a dowry into the family, a significant economic advantage.

Publishing his findings in the journal The Lancet, Professor Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto, and colleagues from India, said: “The selective abortion of female foetuses, usually after a first-born girl, has increased in India over the past few decades, and has contributed to a widening imbalance in the child sex ratio.” They call for closer monitoring to help curb the “remarkable growth of selective abortion of girls”.

Termination of pregnancy on the basis of sex was made illegal in India under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996, but the law is routinely flouted. The Home Secretary, Gopal Pillai, has called for a “complete review” of the current policies designed to deal with the imbalance in the sexes, but few believe there is a genuine willingness among politicians to address the issue.

The market for sex determination is said to be worth at least $100m (£62m) a year, with 40,000 registered ultrasound clinics. Although attempts have been made to increase penalties under the act, out of 800 court cases against doctors in 17 states there have been only 55 convictions.

In a commentary published alongside the paper, Dr S V Subramanian of the Harvard School of Public Health, said: “The demand for sons among wealthy parents is being satisfied by the medical community through the provision of illegal services of sex-selective abortion. The financial incentive for physicians to undertake this activity seems to be far greater than the penalties associated with breaking the law.”

Efforts to reduce discrimination against girl babies have been successful in places such as South Korea. But the sex bias found among second-borns recorded in India has also been found among Indians living in the USA, where the same social pressures do not exist.

“This finding raises a difficult and provocative question for public policy: should medical technology be allowed to play a part in letting a family plan their desired composition, especially when there is an active public policy effort to voluntarily limit family size to replacement level?” Dr Subramanian says.

Baby Doc’s return viewed from inside ‘Haiti’s Auschwitz’

Haiti’s ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier Photo: AP

Victims of Baby Doc’s brutal regime are warily watching his moves after the former ruler returned to Haiti last week, writes Jacqui Goddard in Port au Prince.

Telegraph | Jan 22, 2011

By Jacqui Goddard, Port au Prince

It was known to some as Haiti’s Auschwitz, a death camp where innocent hordes met with horror at the hands of a regime determined to cleanse the country of political dissenters and democratic thinkers.

Hidden inside a slum, whose dirt-poor residents now face their own daily battles for survival, crumbled walls and concrete slabs are all that remain of Fort Dimanche, where tens of thousands were tortured and killed under the successive dictatorships of Francois Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude, from 1957 to 1986.

The stories of what happened at this notorious prison are extreme – beatings and savage abuse, blood running through cells, corpses hauled into mass graves.

“This was the Duvaliers’ torture chamber. This was their own hell they created,” said Robert Duval, one of the few who made it out of here alive.

But now it is more than just memories that are here to remind Haitians of their grim past. Holed up in a multi-million dollar villa overlooking the sprawl and suffering of Port au Prince, Jean-Claude Duvalier, 59, one of the 20th century’s most infamous despots, is back haunting Haiti once more.

Sitting stiffly at a wooden table, his speech seems slightly impeded, his voice is soft and he appears unable to move his neck and shoulders. His words, read from a sheet of paper, were similarly weak for a leader who claims to be here to promote reconciliation. There is no outright apology for his crimes – just a vaguely worded nod to the past, and a rented crowd to cheer him on.

“I take this opportunity to express once again my deep sorrow to those of my fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government,” he said late on Friday in his first public pronouncement since he arrived.

He did not outline what had happened to those who suffered under his regime but instead, speaking mainly in French, he offered “sympathies to my millions of supporters who, after my voluntary departure from Haiti in 1986 to avoid a bloodbath and to allow a swift resolution to the political crisis, were left to themselves.”

He said thousands of his own supporters were “assassinated, suffocated, interrogated, subjected to tire necklaces burnings; their houses, their possessions were pillaged, uprooted and torched” after he fled to France.

He was back, he said, to help rebuild his earthquake-scarred, politically-divided country, though he did not specify how.

“When you make sure that the bell of national reconciliation resounds in all hearts… and in each district, neighbourhood and home, then we will rapidly reach the day where all of Haiti’s children, men and women, in the country and in the diaspora, will be able to march hand in hand without exclusion and to participate together in the rebirth of Haiti,” he declared.

He shuffled off to wave grandly from a terrace to a throng who waved photographs of him and broke into song: “If Duvalier is back, there will be no hunger.”

He declared himself “impressed by the welcome I have received, especially from the crowd of young people who don’t know me.” But in fact their attendance at the villa was engineered. “We were paid 10 Haitian dollars (US$1.25) to show up,” one of the men divulged.

The luxurious rented mansion is far removed from the realities that he claims he has returned to Haiti to help fix.

From this wealthy neighbourhood of Montagne Noire, situated along a steep road up a mountainside, the rich elite gaze down from their pink bougainvillea-clad gardens upon the dusty, grey slums and camps that are home to millions. There is a courtyard with a fountain, lush plants swaying beside manicured lawns, a swimming pool and shaded balcony.

“It’s not just a house, it’s a town in there – in fact, a small country,” said one of the few passers-by.

The shocking reappearance of the despot known as Baby Doc – who ruled for 15 years after inheriting the leadership in 1971 from his late father, Papa Doc – has put another surreal kink in Haiti’s bizarre and beleaguered landscape, clouding the road to recovery after decades of political chaos, bloodshed, corruption, last year’s earthquake, last November’s fraudulent first-round elections, and an ongoing cholera epidemic.

He is reported to have been encouraged back after seeing film of graffiti in his praise, though suspicions abound as to his true motivation.

The bulk of the fortune that he left Haiti with in 1986 is said to have gone – initially on high living, but latterly on an expensive divorce – and there are questions over why he is back now, just as the international community is topping up the coffers with billions more in earthquake aid.

According to some reports he needed to show Swiss authorities that he was not wanted on criminal charges in his homeland, in order to unlock access to $5.7 million held in frozen Swiss bank accounts.

If so, his return last week backfired when he was slapped with corruption charges for looting Haiti’s treasury during his rule, and a lawsuit for crimes against humanity.

His presence has sent chills through those who survived his repression and the loved ones of those who did not.

Mr Duval, 57, can remember the screams that filled Fort Dimanche during the 17 months that he was incarcerated without charge in the mid-1970s. Estimates of the number killed under the Duvaliers’ rule start at 30,000. Mr Duval was one of just 106 prisoners released alive from the prison in 1977.

“Duvalier should be in prison himself right now. I was mad that he came back, angry, shocked. He is a worthless person,” he said, picking his way through the ruins of the prison he once occupied.

As a child, he remembers watching live executions on television, schoolchildren being made to go to the national stadium to watch as a firing squad pumped bullets into opposition activists, and of how they were indoctrinated into making the sign of the cross while chanting: “Au nom du pere, du fils, et Duvalier, Amen” – “In the name of the Father, the Son, and Duvalier. Amen.”

He remembers seeing neighbours hustled off at gunpoint to a place from which they never returned. He remembers the political prisoner who was strapped to a chair at the roadside and burned.

He was never told why he was arrested himself at the age of 22, other than that he “probably rubbed people up the wrong way” with pro-democracy talk.

“I found myself in a 13ft by 14ft cell with 40 other men, day in, day out, never seeing the sun. People died, two or three every day. Sometimes we kept the body in the cell to get the extra ration of food until the body would start smelling too bad. Then we’d call ‘Death’ and they’d take the body away in a wheelbarrow,” he recalled.

There were infestations of mosquitoes, faeces overflowing from the one toilet that served the cell, dogs howling at night as they gorged on the flesh of the corpses dumped outside.

Prisoners were woken at 2am to take a 30-second “shower” under a dripping tap. They slept curled on tiny mats made of banana leaves – “that was your bed, but it was also your coffin,” he said – and he got tuberculosis.

Food was scant and his weight sank to 90 pounds. “My eyes were down to here,” he said, pointing to the bottom of his face.

“Some people died because they became crazy. In Fort Dimanche, you had to be very sharp mentally to survive. You would say to yourself that surviving is a victory against the regime.”

One of his cellmates was a peasant whose “crime” was that he had associated with a man named Coniliste. Overhearing him speak the name, and mistaking it for the word “Communist”, members of the Tonton Macoute – a sinister paramilitary force set up by Papa Doc in 1959 – hauled him off to Fort Dimanche. “He died in there. All because of a word,” said Mr Duval.

But others in Haiti have a different view of the former dictator and his militia.

Roger Marbial, 59, a former member of the Tonton Macoute who claims that he never harmed a fly – “and even if I had I would not say so” – insisted that the volunteer informants were simply there “to watch Duvalier’s back” and that a small minority gave it a bad name. Duvalier, he claims somewhat naively, was a victim, not a persecutor.

“He was just 19 when he became president – it was others around him who did the bad stuff, he wasn’t the one who had the real power,” he insisted.

Fears of Duvalier’s wholesale return to power are scant; he lacks the apparatus to do so and enjoys only limited support, but there is concern over the ignorance with which some sections of the population weigh up his legacy and the potential for instability that their sympathy for him could cause.

“Particularly the younger generations, they have no knowledge of what life was really like under Duvalier, they say times were good when they weren’t. They have this false nostalgia, it’s not realistic,” said Pierre Esperance, director of Haiti’s National Network for the Defence of Human Rights.

Alix Fils-Aime was also imprisoned at Fort Dimanche after he was kidnapped by Duvalier agents in 1976 while teaching peasants farming techniques and helping them to form cooperatives.

Despite his grim experience, he says that he is ready to pardon Duvalier if he will acknowledge his crimes.

“What’s at stake here is the future of human relations in Haiti. My grandchildren now play with the grandchildren of former Duvalier henchmen so what do we tell those children – that we should live in the past and they should forge their future relationships based on conflict? I think we are past that.

“The first act of humanity Duvalier could show would be to be man enough to say ’I did wrong’…and for those who helped him beat their chests and say ’I did wrong.’ We have a great opportunity here to raise ourselves above personal suffering and political quarrels.”

Over the ruins of Fort Dimanche, a slum community has grown up, it’s residents largely oblivious to the painful history and significance of the place, and of the mass grave full of anonymous bodies.

The military police headquarters that also stood here is now just a shell. Children play chase in and out of its derelict doorways. A naked girl stands in a tin basin, being bathed by her mother. Bloated grey pigs snuffle through piles of festering, foul-smelling trash.

Mr Duval traces the perimeter of what used to be a cell, now just a line of bricks, as Dera Denord, 48, watches from his home, a structure more akin to a semi-collapsed garden shed, which stands where the prison once did.

“I know this was Fort Dimanche and that when people arrived here they never came out again. Duvalier was a mean guy, that’s accepted. But under him, things were cheaper. Now life is harder,” said Mr Denord, as Mr Duval shakes his head in despair.

“I’m happy that Duvalier’s here, maybe he could come back to do his job,” Mr Denord continued.

“He didn’t do anything to me – I think he would be good for Haiti. The only mistake he made was when he killed all the pigs,” he said, referring to the mass slaughter in 1978 of millions of pigs due to a swine fever scare – a move that decimated livestock farming and contributed to Baby Doc’s downfall.

Drying on tarpaulins on the dusty ground between shacks are hundreds of mud cakes, made from dust and water, which count as “food” in these slums. “That’s what keeps us alive,” said Mr Denord, a father of four.

“Rene Preval doesn’t even look at us, he doesn’t do anything for us,” he adds of the current president. “Only God looks at us.”

Mr Duval is pensive, mulling difficult memories. He clenches his closed fists to his chest, as if in pain.

“When Baby Doc came back, I had the same feeling I had in the prison, like my chest closing in on me,” he said. “It’s painful. Baby Doc is back and I don’t want him here. I don’t forgive. I don’t forget.”

WikiLeaks cables: Bangladeshi ‘death squad’ trained by UK government

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have received training in ‘investigative interviewing techniques’. Photograph: Abir Abdullah/EPA

Rapid Action Battalion, accused of hundreds of extra-judicial killings, received training from UK officers, cables reveal | Dec 21, 2010

by Fariha Karim and Ian Cobain

The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”, leaked US embassy cables have revealed.

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement”.

Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as “crossfire” deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in “crossfire”. In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.

The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organisations. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out crossfire killings.

However, the cables reveal that both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the “RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade”. In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

In another cable, Moriarty quotes British officials as saying they have been “training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement”. Asked about the training assistance for the RAB, the Foreign Office said the UK government “provides a range of human rights assistance” in the country. However, the RAB’s head of training, Mejbah Uddin, told the Guardian that he was unaware of any human rights training since he was appointed last summer.

The cables make clear that British training for RAB officers began three years ago under the last Labour government.

However, RAB officials confirmed independently of the cables that they had taken part in a series of courses and workshops as recently as October, five months after the formation of the coalition government. Asked whether ministers had approved the training programme, the Foreign Office said only that William Hague, the foreign secretary, and other ministers, had been briefed on counter-terrorism spending.

The US ambassador explains in the cables that the US government is “constrained by RAB’s alleged human rights violations, which have rendered the organisation ineligible to receive training or assistance” under laws which prohibit American funding or training for overseas military units which abuse human rights with impunity.

Human rights organisations say the RAB cannot be reformed, noting that its human rights record has deterioriated still further in the last 12 months. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly described the RAB as a government death squad.

Brad Adams, the organisation’s Asia director, said: “RAB is a Latin American-style death squad dressed up as an anti-crime force. The British government has let its desire for a functional counter-terrorism partner in Bangladesh blind it to the risks of working with RAB, and the legitimacy that it gives to RAB inside Bangladesh. Furthermore, it is not clear that the British government has ever made it a priority at the highest levels to tell RAB that if it doesn’t change, it will not co-operate with it.”

Amnesty International has also repeatedly condemned the RAB, while the Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odhikar has painstakingly documented the RAB’s involvement in extra-judicial killings and torture since the creation of the force in March 2004.

Asked to comment on the rights groups’ concern about the RAB, the Foreign Office said: “We do not discuss the detail of operational counter-terrorism cooperation. Counter-terrorism assistance is fully in line with our laws and values.” At least some of the British training has been conducted by serving British police officers, working under the auspices of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which was established in 2007 to build policing capacity and standards. Recent courses for RAB have been provided by officers from West Mercia and Humberside Police.

Asked whether it believed it was appropriate for British officers to be training members of an organisation condemned as “a government death squad”, and whether courses in investigative interviewing techniques might not render torture more effective, an NPIA spokesman said the courses had been approved by the government and by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

“The NPIA has given limited support to the Bangladeshi Police and the RAB in technical areas of policing such as forensic awareness, management of crime scenes and recovery of evidence. Throughout the training we have emphasised the importance of respecting the human rights of witnesses, suspects and victims.”The purpose of our sanctioned engagement is to support the development and improvement of professional policing that supports democratic, human rights-based practices linked to the rule of law in countries that may have different laws, faiths and policing practices from our own.”

It is understood that there have been disagreements within the Foreign Office about the British government’s involvement with the RAB. Some officials have argued that the partnership with the RAB is an essential component of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy in the region, while others have expressed concern that the relationship could prove damaging to Britain’s reputation.

Successive Bangladeshi governments have promised to end the RAB’s use of murder. The current government promised in its manifesto that it would end all extra-judicial killings, but they have continued following its election two years ago.In October last year, the shipping minister, Shahjahan Khan, speaking in a discussion organised by the BBC, said: “There are incidents of trials that are not possible under the laws of the land. The government will need to continue with extra-judicial killings, commonly called crossfire, until terrorist activities and extortion are uprooted.”

In December last year the high court in Dhaka ruled that such killings must be brought to a halt following litigation by victims’ familes and human rights groups, but they continue on an almost weekly basis. Most of the victims are young men, some are alleged to be petty criminals or are said to be left-wing activists, and the killings invariably take place in the middle of the night.

In the most recent “crossfire” killings, the RAB reported that it had shot dead Mohammad Mamun, 25, in the town of Tangail, shortly after midnight on Monday, and that 90 minutes later its officers in Dhaka, 50 miles to the south, had shot dead a second man, Taku Alam, 30. Today the RAB announced it had shot dead a 45-year-old man, Anisur Rahman, said to be a member of the Communist party in the west of the country.

Iraq War Vet: “We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us”

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”

– Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan in 2009, during a videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties. Quoted in NY Times, “Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints” By Richard A Oppel Jr., March 26, 2010.

. . .

t r u t h o u t | Apr 7, 2010

by Dahr Jamail

On Monday, April 5, posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.

As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.

“I remember one woman walking by,” said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, “She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.”

The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the US.

Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.

“During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continued, “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

“One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation…. One of the snipers replied back, ‘Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?’ The lieutenant colonel responded, ‘You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.’ After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment.”

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies.

“An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by,” he said, “This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment.”

Kelly Dougherty – then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War – blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government.

“The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a ‘few bad apples’ misbehaving, are the result of our government’s Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of US power,” she said.

Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the US attack on Fallujah in November 2004, said orders he received from his battalion JAG officer before entering the city were as follows: “You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it’s a trick and kill him.”

Brian Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

“… on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road,” he stated.

Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than “winning hearts and minds.

“There was also another motive,” Ewing said. “If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn’t attack. We used the kids as human shields.”

In response to the WikiLeaks video, the Pentagon, while not officially commenting on the video, announced that two Pentagon investigations cleared the air crew of any wrongdoing.

A statement from the two probes said the air crew had acted appropriately and followed the ROE.

Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year.

Speaking on a panel at the aforementioned hearings about the ROE, he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, “This card says, ‘Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself’.”

Kokesh pointed out that “reasonable certainty” was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Truthout there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians.

“We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear,” Kokesh said, “At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark.”

Kokesh also testified that during two cease-fires in the midst of the siege, the military decided to let out as many women and children from the embattled city as possible, but this did not include most men.

“For males, they had to be under 14 years of age,” he said, “So I had to go over there and turn men back, who had just been separated from their women and children. We thought we were being gracious.”

Full Story

Hundreds slaughtered in Nigeria religious violence

Associated Press | Mar 8, 2010

by Jon Gambrell

DOGO NAHAWA, Nigeria – The killers showed no mercy: They didn’t spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. On Monday, Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave.

Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, “Jesus said I am the way to heaven.” As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: “Jesus, show me the way.”

At least 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount, but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it.

An Associated Press reporter counted 61 corpses, 32 of them children, being buried in the mass grave in the village of Dogo Nahawa on Monday. Other victims would be buried elsewhere. At a local morgue the bodies of children, including a diaper-clad toddler, were tangled together. One appeared to have been scalped. Others had severed hands and feet.

The horrific violence comes after sectarian killings in this region in January left more than 300 dead, most of them Muslim. Some victims were shoved into sewer pits and communal wells.

Sunday’s bloodshed in three mostly Christian villages appeared to be reprisal attacks, said Red Cross spokesman Robin Waubo.

Nigeria is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The recent bloodshed has been happening in central Nigeria, in towns which lie along the country’s religious fault line. It is Nigeria’s “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.

The Rev. Pandang Yamsat, the president of a local Christian group, said he has urged his congregation not to respond violently to Muslims. However, he said he believes Muslims in the area want to control the region and that any peace talks would only give Muslims “time to conquer territory with swords.”

“We have done our best to tell our members, ‘don’t go and attack Muslims, they are your brother,'” Yamsat said. However, “‘if they come to dislodge you in your place, stand to defend yourself.'”

Barely controlled rage spilled over in the village as those gathered for the mass burial attacked a Muslim journalist covering the event. The journalist escaped, but others made threats against reporters.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, condemned the violence and said Monday that the conflict must be interpreted in the light of social, economic, ethnic and cultural factors rather than religious hatred.

The killings add to the tally of thousands who have already perished in Africa’s most populous country in the last decade due to religious and political frictions. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people. Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008.

The killings in Dogo Nahawa, three miles (five kilometers) south of the region’s main city of Jos, began early Sunday.

Chuwanga Gyang, 30, said he heard a gunshot and left his house through the back door but stopped when he realized that the attackers were shooting to herd fleeing villagers toward another group of attackers carrying machetes.

Lawyer: Khmer Rouge Chief “Enjoyed” Murder of 16,000 Men, Women and Children

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Kaing Guek Eav, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng genocide museum, is seen in the courtroom of the U.N.-backed tribunal, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009. Also known as Duch, Kaing Guek Eav is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture, and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the tribunal. AP

As Genocide Trial Winds Down, Prosecution Accuses Prison Chief of Downplaying his Role in “Awful Reality”

AP | Nov 23, 2009

The genocide trial of a prison chief for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge entered its final stage Monday, as closing arguments began in the historic effort to assign responsibility for the deaths of 1.7 million people three decades ago.

The defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, commanded S-21 prison which punished those accused of disloyalty to the xenophobic communist group. He oversaw the torture and execution of about 16,000 men, women and children during its 1975-79 rule.

If the U.N.-assisted tribunal rules him guilty, the former schoolteacher faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, as Cambodia has no death penalty.

One of the lawyers for the victims evoked the specter of the Nazi death camps of World War II in recalling the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities.

Pierre-Olivier Sur said the parents and grandparents of people of his generation had repeatedly said that “the death camps were over and would never happen again.”

“The death camps and the mass graves have survived,” he declared, referring to Khmer Rouge prisons and the infamous “killing fields,” where they dumped their victims. He called for the tribunal to not let crimes against humanity go unpunished.

As much as one-sixth of Cambodia’s population perished from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s radical policies — including the mass evacuation of towns and cities, and the ruthless persecution of alleged rivals.

With some of the handful of S-21 survivors and family members of the dead looking on, another of the victims’ lawyers charged that Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch (pronounced DOIK), pursued his role with zeal and had no empathy for his victims despite his expressions of remorse.

“Look at them, Duch. Look at these men and women who you wanted to smash, and whose parents and loved ones and children you smashed,” said lawyer Philippe Canonne.

“You can smash insects and animals but you can’t smash human beings, because one day they will come back, one way or another, or their successors to demand a reckoning,” he said.

As he watched the proceedings, Duch showed no emotion. He is expected to give his final statement as early as Wednesday, a day after the prosecution begins its summation. He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

The closing arguments will conclude Friday, while a verdict and sentence are expected early next year. Under an innovative arrangement, the victims — known as the ‘civil parties’ — were represented at the trial, and their lawyers made Monday’s presentations.

In his testimony, Duch has accepted responsibility for his role in overseeing the prison and asked for forgiveness from victims’ families. He also told the court that he was ready to accept heavy punishment for his actions.

Despite that, said lawyer Karim Khan, the impression he gave at the trial is of a man trying to downplay his part in the activities at S-21 prison, which is in Phnom Penh and is now a genocide museum.

“The accused has sought to evade or minimize his role and the reality, the awful reality, that was S-21 and the regime that operated there and the fate and the suffering that befell so many civil parties,” Khan said.

Another lawyer for victims, Kong Pisey, dismissed earlier assertions by Duch that he acted out of fear of being punished by his superiors. He portrayed Duch instead as someone who put everything he had into his job.

“He was not only proud of his job and convinced of the party line to identify and eradicate the enemy without any sense of guilt,” Kong Pisey said. “Moreover, he enjoyed the power as a power-hungry man who performed more than 100 percent without any empathy for his victims.”

Duch is the only accused Khmer Rouge leader to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are in custody awaiting trial.

He has denied personally killing or torturing the S-21 prisoners, and said he felt compelled by fear for his own life to follow the orders of senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Francois Roux, Duch’s lawyer, described his client as “nervous and anxious” about taking the stand for one last time and refused to detail what Duch would say. But he said that his client was hopeful the judges would take into consideration the fact he has admitted his guilt and apologized to his victims.

“At this moment it’s very important to give credit to Duch for his guilty plea. Duch has recognized his responsibility,” Roux said Sunday. “He has asked forgiveness from his victims.”

The trial opened March 30. Some Cambodians have expressed frustration over how long it is taking, fearing the other aging defendants may die before they can be tried.

Falluja battle zone sees huge rise in abnormal infant tumours and deformities

Huge rise in birth defects in Falluja

Iraqi former battle zone sees abnormal clusters of infant tumours and deformities  | Nov 13, 2009

by Martin Chulov in Falluja

Doctors in Iraq’s war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The extraordinary rise in birth defects has crystallised over recent months as specialists working in Falluja’s over-stretched health system have started compiling detailed clinical records of all babies born.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems – are unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

A group of Iraqi and British officials, including the former Iraqi minister for women’s affairs, Dr Nawal Majeed a-Sammarai, and the British doctors David Halpin and Chris Burns-Cox, have petitioned the UN general assembly to ask that an independent committee fully investigate the defects and help clean up toxic materials left over decades of war – including the six years since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” said Falluja general hospital’s director and senior specialist, Dr Ayman Qais. “Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.”

The rise in frequency is stark – from two admissions a fortnight a year ago to two a day now. “Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs,” he said. “There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years [old] with brain tumours. This is now a focus area of multiple tumours.”

After several years of speculation and anecdotal evidence, a picture of a highly disturbing phenomenon in one of Iraq’s most battered areas has now taken shape. Previously all miscarried babies, including those with birth defects or infants who were not given ongoing care, were not listed as abnormal cases.

The Guardian asked a paediatrician, Samira Abdul Ghani, to keep precise records over a three-week period. Her records reveal that 37 babies with anomalies, many of them neural tube defects, were born during that period at Falluja general hospital alone.

Dr Bassam Allah, the head of the hospital’s children’s ward, this week urged international experts to take soil samples across Falluja and for scientists to mount an investigation into the causes of so many ailments, most of which he said had been “acquired” by mothers before or during pregnancy.

Other health officials are also starting to focus on possible reasons, chief among them potential chemical or radiation poisonings. Abnormal clusters of infant tumours have also been repeatedly cited in Basra and Najaf – areas that have in the past also been intense battle zones where modern munitions have been heavily used.

Falluja’s frontline doctors are reluctant to draw a direct link with the fighting. They instead cite multiple factors that could be contributors.

“These include air pollution, radiation, chemicals, drug use during pregnancy, malnutrition, or the psychological status of the mother,” said Dr Qais. “We simply don’t have the answers yet.”

The anomalies are evident all through Falluja’s newly opened general hospital and in centres for disabled people across the city. On 2 November alone, there were four cases of neuro-tube defects in the neo-natal ward and several more were in the intensive care ward and an outpatient clinic.

Falluja was the scene of the only two setpiece battles that followed the US-led invasion. Twice in 2004, US marines and infantry units were engaged in heavy fighting with Sunni militia groups who had aligned with former Ba’athists and Iraqi army elements.

The first battle was fought to find those responsible for the deaths of four Blackwater private security contractors working for the US. The city was bombarded heavily by American artillery and fighter jets. Controversial weaponry was used, including white phosphorus, which the US government admitted deploying.

Statistics on infant tumours are not considered as reliable as new data about nervous system anomalies, which are usually evident immediately after birth. Dr Abdul Wahid Salah, a neurosurgeon, said: “With neuro-tube defects, their heads are often larger than normal, they can have deficiencies in hearts and eyes and their lower limbs are often listless. There has been no orderly registration here in the period after the war and we have suffered from that. But [in relation to the rise in tumours] I can say with certainty that we have noticed a sharp rise in malignancy of the blood and this is not a congenital anomaly – it is an acquired disease.”

Despite fully funding the construction of the new hospital, a well-equipped facility that opened in August, Iraq’s health ministry remains largely disfunctional and unable to co-ordinate a response to the city’s pressing needs.

The government’s lack of capacity has led Falluja officials, who have historically been wary of foreign intervention, to ask for help from the international community. “Even in the scientific field, there has been a reluctance to reach out to the exterior countries,” said Dr Salah. “But we have passed that point now. I am doing multiple surgeries every day. I have one assistant and I am obliged to do everything myself.”

Bill Clinton unveils statue of himself in Kosovo


Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks in front of his statue in the capital Pristina, November 1, 2009. Clinton is in Kosovo where he unveiled the statue on Clinton’s Boulevard.  Reuters

Thousands of ethnic Albanians braved low temperatures and a cold wind in Kosovo’s capital Pristina to watch Bill Clinton, the former US president, unveil a golden statue of himself on Sunday.

Telegraph | Nov 1, 2009

The 11-foot statue, dedicated to the US president to thank him for launching a Nato bombing campaign to halt the killing of ethnic Albanians by Serbian troops in 1999, sits on a boulevard also named for Mr Clinton.

“I am profoundly grateful that I had a chance to be a part of ending the horrible things that were happening to you 10 years ago, giving you a chance to build a better future for yourself,” Mr Clinton told the crowd.

“I never expected … anywhere someone will make such a big statue of me,” he said after the statue was unveiled.

He urged Kosovars to build a multi-ethnic country with the minority Serbs and other minorities and said the United States would always help Kosovo’s people.


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Kosovo declared independence from Serbia last year and was recognised by the United States and major European Union powers – a total of 62 countries worldwide – but not by its former ruler, Serbia, Russia or China.

Kosovo Albanians regard Mr Clinton, Tony Blair and Madeleine Albright, Mr Clinton’s Secretary of State, as their saviours and have even named babies after them.

“In 1996 everybody was saying that Clinton is a good man and he will help us and then my father named me after him,” said 13-year-old Klinton Krasniqi.

Around 10,000 Albanians were killed as Serb forces moved to wipe out an ethnic Albanian guerrilla force. Eight times that many were expelled to neighbouring Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.