Namibia Rejects Germany’s Offer To Amend For Genocide

Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast.
Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast.

 

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Tuesday said reparations offered by Germany for mass killings in its then colony at the start of the twentieth century were “not acceptable” and needed to be “revised”.

German occupiers in Namibia killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century.

In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by Germany as well as development aid.

Geingob on Tuesday was briefed by his government’s special envoy Zed Ngavirue on the status of negotiations.

The briefing took place ahead of a final round of talks for which a date has yet to be set.

“The current offer for reparations made by the German government remains an outstanding issue and is not acceptable to the Namibian government,” Geingob said in a statement after the briefing, adding that Ngavirue had been asked to “continue with negotiations for a revised offer”.

No details were provided on the offer.

The president also noted that Germany had declined to accept the term “reparations”, as that word was also avoided during the country’s negotiations with Israel after the Holocaust.

Ngavirue rejected Germany’s reference to reparations as “healing the wounds” and said the terminology would be subject to further debate, according to the statement.

Berlin was not immediately available for comment on the claims.

Germany has acknowledged that atrocities occurred at the hands of its colonial authorities and some officials have even recognised it as a genocide.

But the country has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid to the Namibian government.

Namibia was called German South West Africa during Germany’s 1884-1915 rule, and then passed under South African rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.

Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.

In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children.

German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived.

The German government has so far refused to apologise for the killings.

 

 

AFP

France Opens Probe Into Rwandan Genocide Suspect

A file photo of French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

France has opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by a top former Rwandan military official, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, during the country’s 1994 genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP Saturday that a preliminary investigation was opened after Ntiwiragabo was found hiding in the suburbs of the city of Orleans, about 100 kilometres south-west of Paris.

French investigative news site Mediapart tracked down the former Rwandan spy chief, who was identified by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as one of the architects of the genocide.

Neither the ICTR, Interpol, France nor Rwanda were actively seeking him now and had dropped arrest warrants years ago.

The revelation of his whereabouts comes barely two months after another suspected genocide architect, Felicien Kabuga, was arrested on the fringes of Paris.

Kabuga, who evaded police in several countries for 25 years, is accused of financing the genocide.

Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the United Nations court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.

France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.

A plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, from Rwanda’s Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali on April 6, 1994, unleashing the killing spree that would leave mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus dead.

 

AFP

Suu Kyi Criticised For ‘Silence’ Over Myanmar Genocide Claims

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.  Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

The Gambia condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s “silence” over the plight of Rohingya Muslims on Thursday after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate defended Myanmar against genocide charges at the UN’s top court.

Lawyers for the mostly Muslim African country said her arguments that Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown was a “clearance operation” targeting militants ignored widespread allegations of mass murder, rape and forced deportation.

“Madame agent, your silence said far more than your words,” The Gambia’s lawyer Philippe Sands told the International Court of Justice (ICJ), referring to Suu Kyi, who is officially acting as Myanmar’s agent in the case.

“The word ‘rape’ did not once pass the lips of the agent,” Sands added, as Suu Kyi sat impassively in the courtroom, wearing traditional Burmese dress and flowers in her hair.

The Gambia has taken majority-Buddhist Myanmar to the court in The Hague, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide convention and seeking emergency measures to protect the Rohingya.

Once regarded as an international rights icon for standing up to Myanmar’s brutal junta, Suu Kyi has seen her reputation tarnished by her decision to side with the military over the Rohingya crisis.

She used a dramatic appearance at the ICJ on Wednesday to say there was no “genocidal intent” behind the operation that led to some 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi defended Myanmar’s actions saying it faced an “internal conflict” and that the military conducted “clearance operations” after an attack by Rohingya militants in August 2017.

 ‘Imminent risk of genocide’ 

But Paul Reichler, another of The Gambia’s lawyers, said that those killed included “infants beaten to death or torn from their mothers’ arms and thrown into rivers to drown. How many of them were terrorists?

“Armed conflict can never be an excuse for genocide,” he said.

The lawyer said Suu Kyi had also failed to deny the conclusions of a 2018 UN investigation that found that genocide had been committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya.

“What is most striking is what Myanmar has not denied,” Reichler said.

He also dismissed Suu Kyi’s insistence that Myanmar’s military should be left to probe the allegations itself, saying it was not credible when its own top generals have themselves been accused of genocide.

“How could anyone expect the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to investigate when six of its top generals, including Min Aung Hlaing, have all been accused of genocide by the UN fact-finding mission?” he asked.

The US on Tuesday slapped fresh sanctions including a travel ban on military chief Min Aung Hlaing over the Rohingya crisis.

The lawyer added that Suu Kyi in her speech to the court had also followed Myanmar’s “racist” policy of refusing to refer to the Rohingya Muslim minority by their name.

Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou pushed the court to impose the emergency measures, saying there was a “serious and imminent risk of genocide recurring” and that “the lives of these human beings are at risk.”

Suu Kyi was expected to make closing remarks later Thursday.

A decision on the measures could take months, while a final ruling if the ICJ decides to take on the full case could take years.

AFP

Myanmar Must ‘Stop This Genocide’ Of Rohingyas, Gambia Tells Court

UN’s International Court of Justice president Abdulqawi Yusuf chairs a three-day hearing of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Rohingya genocide case, on December 10, 2019 in the Peace Palace of The Hague.  Koen Van WEEL / ANP / AFP

 

The Gambia asked the UN’s top court Tuesday to order Myanmar to “stop this genocide” of the Rohingya Muslim minority, as a hearing attended by Myanmar’s former peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi got underway.

“All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people,” Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told judges.

Nobel Peace Laureate Kyi Arrives UN Court For Genocide Hearing

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.  Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at the UN’s top court on Tuesday to personally defend Myanmar against accusations of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Wearing traditional Burmese dress, Myanmar’s civilian leader did not speak to waiting media as she stepped out of a car and entered the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

AFP

Turkey Summons US Envoy Over ‘Armenian Genocide’ Recognition

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

 

Turkey on Wednesday summoned the US ambassador to Ankara over a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives officially recognising the “Armenian genocide”, officials at the Turkish foreign ministry said.

The US Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield was summoned to the foreign ministry over “a resolution that lacks any historical or legal basis” and a bill that imposes sanctions over Turkey’s military operation in Syria, the officials said.

Turkey Rejects US Recognition Of ‘Armenian Genocide’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey on Wednesday rejected the US House of Representatives’ official recognition of the “Armenian Genocide”, warning it risks harming ties “at an extremely fragile time” for international and regional security.

“As a meaningless political step, its sole addressees are the Armenian lobby and anti Turkey groups,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We believe that American friends of Turkey who support the continuation of the alliance and friendly relations will question this grave mistake and those who are responsible will be judged by the conscience of the American people,” it added.

Rwanda Marks 25 Years Since Genocide

(From L) African Union chief Moussa Faki, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, his wife Jeannette (2ndR), and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker light a remembrance flame for the 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 7, 2019.  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Rwanda on Sunday began 100 days of mourning for more than 800,000 people slaughtered in a genocide that shocked the world, a quarter of a century on from the day it began.

President Paul Kagame started off a week of commemoration activities by lighting a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried, mainly from the Tutsi people.

They are only some of those killed by the genocidal Hutu forces, members of the old army and militia forces called the “Interahamwe”, that began their bloody campaign of death on April 7, 1994, the day after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.

Some were shot; most were beaten or hacked by machetes.

The killings lasted until Kagame, then 36, led the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) into Kigali on July 4, ending the slaughter and taking control of the devastated country.

READ ALSO: VP Osinbajo Departs Nigeria To Attend 25th Commemoration Of Rwandan Genocide

Kagame, now 61 and who has been in power ever since is leading the memorial to the dead.

After lighting the flame, accompanied by his wife Jeanette, African Union chief Moussa Faki and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Kagame is expected to make a speech.

He will speak at the Kigali Convention Centre, a dome-shaped auditorium in the centre of the capital, a modern building emblematic of the regeneration of Rwanda since the dark days of 1994.

Kagame will then preside over a vigil at the country’s main football ground. The Amahoro National Stadium — whose name means “peace” in Rwanda’s Kinyarwanda language — was used by the UN during the genocide to protect thousands of people of the Tutsi minority from being massacred on the streets outside.

 Deep Trauma 

In past years, ceremonies have triggered painful flashbacks for some in the audience, with crying, shaking, screaming and fainting amid otherwise quiet vigils.

For many survivors, forgiveness remains difficult when the bodies of their loved ones have not been found and many killers are still free.

A quarter of a century on, the east African nation has recovered economically, but the trauma still casts a dark shadow.

Kagame has kept an authoritarian hold as he steers the small, landlocked East African nation through the economic recovery. Growth in 2018 was a heady 7.2 per cent, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Some 10 leaders are expected to pay their respects, mostly from nations across the continent.

Former colonial ruler Belgium is sending Prime Minister Charles Michel.

French President Emmanuel Macron is not attending but expressed his “solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion to the victims and their families” in a statement Sunday.

The statement said Macron would like to make April 7 a “day of commemoration of the genocide” in France, without giving further details.

At the ceremony, France is represented by Herve Berville, a 29-year old Rwandan-born member of parliament in Paris.

Rwanda has accused France of being complicit in the genocide through its support for the Hutu-led government and of helping perpetrators escape.

Paris has consistently denied complicity in the bloodshed, though former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 acknowledged France had made “serious errors of judgement”.

On Friday, Macron appointed an expert panel to investigate France’s actions at the time.

Macron is not the only notable absence; former ally Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is also not attending, amid accusations by Kigali that Uganda is supporting Rwandan rebels.

See Photos Below:

AFP

France To Probe Role In Rwanda Genocide

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meets French representatives of the Ibuka association for the memory of Rwanda’s genocide, two days ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide, at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on April 5, 2019. PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday appointed a panel of experts to investigate France’s actions in Rwanda during the country’s genocide 25 years ago, a subject that has dogged Franco-Rwandan relations since the 1994 massacres.

The commission of eight researchers and historians “will be tasked with consulting all France’s archives relating to the genocide… in order to analyse the role and engagement of France during that period,” the presidency said in a statement.

It will look at the period from 1990 to 1994 to “contribute to a better understanding and knowledge of the genocide of Tutsis,” the statement said.

The findings of the researchers, none of them Rwandaexperts, will be used in material used to teach people in France about the genocide, it added.

READ ALSO: British Pound Steadies As Theresa May Seeks New Brexit Delay

Rwanda has accused France of being complicit in the genocide of an estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis through its support for the Hutu-led government of the day.

It also accuses the French forces who were stationed in Rwanda under a UN mandate of having helped some of the perpetrators to escape, with some seeking sanctuary in France, which critics say for years dragged its heels on bringing them to justice.

Macron announced Friday that the judicial unit in charge of prosecuting Rwandan genocide suspects would be boosted so that suspects “could be tried in a reasonable amount of time”.

The creation of the commission and announcement of extra legal resources for genocide cases aim to help further mend the ties between Rwanda and France, which the genocide left in tatters.

Paris has consistently denied claims of complicity in the bloodletting.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebel force that eventually overthrew the genocidal Hutu regime, broke off ties with France between 2006 and 2009 but relations have improved over the past decade.

Confronting France’s past 

Macron had nonetheless caused disappointment among genocide survivors and experts by turning down an invitation to attend this weekend’s commemorations in Rwanda.

Macron’s office cited scheduling issues and announced that Herve Berville, a young MP of Rwandan origin who was orphaned during the genocide and adopted by a French family, would represent France instead.

The 41-year-old president, who came of age after France’s colonial era, has already gone further than his predecessor in lifting the lid on France’s murky past in Africa.

On Friday, he became the first French president to meet with representatives of Ibuka, the biggest association of Rwanda’s genocide survivors.

And last September he acknowledged that France had instigated a system that facilitated torture during Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war, a conflict that also remains hugely sensitive in France.

He also announced that France would open up its archives on the thousands of civilians and soldiers who went missing during that war.

Franco-Rwandan relations hit their nadir in 2006 after a French judge recommended that Kagame be prosecuted by a UN-backed tribunal over the 1994 killing of Rwanda’s president Juvenal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu whose death triggered the start of the genocide.

 ‘Errors of judgement’

The turning point came in 2010 when former president Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged during a visit to Kigali that France had made “serious errors of judgement” in Rwanda.

While falling short of an apology it was seen as a breakthrough in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony which France jealously defended before the genocideas part of its sphere of influence in Africa.

The relationship hit turbulence again however under Socialist president Francois Hollande, before Macron’s election set the stage for a new chapter.

During a visit to Paris last year Kagame appeared impressed by his French counterpart, later praising him for taking a “fresher”, less paternalistic approach to Africa than his forerunners.

“It’s a change from the neo-colonial positions of the past,” he told Jeune Afrique magazine.

AFP

Facebook Bans Myanmar Army Chief Over Rights Abuses

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

Facebook on Monday banned Myanmar’s army chief and other top military brass after a UN investigation recommended they face prosecution for genocide for a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

The site is the prime source of news and information for many in a country that only recently came online following nearly half a century of military rule.

But it has also been a platform for the army and Buddhist hardliners to spread hate speech and incendiary posts against the stateless Rohingya and other minorities.

The site aired support for the military’s bloody “clearance operations” last year that forced some 700,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.

UN investigators lambasted the platform earlier this year, saying it had morphed into a “beast” in Myanmar.

In recent months the tech giant has embarked on a huge PR campaign, admitting it has often been too slow to take down inflammatory posts.

It blacklisted two firebrand Buddhist monks and an Islamophobic group notorious for spreading anti-Muslim propaganda.

But this is the first time it has touched the country’s military.

“We are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organizations from Facebook — including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” the platform said, adding that it wants to prevent them from using the service to “further inflame ethnic and religious tensions”.

Facebook has some 18 million accounts in the country of 51 million people and is also relied on heavily by the government to make announcements.

Millions of followers

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing had two active Facebook accounts, one boasting 1.3 million followers and the other 2.8 million.

Posts in both English and Burmese would refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali”, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and helping reinforce the idea they do not belong in mainly Buddhist Myanmar.

His pages also featured denials of atrocities during the crackdown, which was justified by the army as a legitimate means of rooting out Rohingya militants.

Both accounts were taken down immediately as the explosive UN report circulated.

The accounts of five other top military leaders specifically mentioned in the report were also blacklisted.

A total of 18 Facebook accounts — not all the individuals listed in the ban had a presence on the network — one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages were removed.

The accounts were followed by a total of almost 12 million people, Facebook said, adding that data had been preserved.

Rights groups have long criticised the platform for taking days to delete malicious posts, by which time many had gone viral. These include calls for the killing of a Muslim journalist and the spreading of messages to both Buddhists and Muslims saying that the other community was preparing to attack them.

The UN report singled out Facebook for its “slow and ineffective” response.

It also strongly criticised civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to use her position and moral authority to stand up for the Rohingya against the military.

Neither the commander-in-chief nor the president’s office could be reached for comment.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the violence in Myanmar on several occasions including at a congressional hearing earlier this year.

He told lawmakers Facebook planned to hire more native speakers to help monitor the situation and had partnered with civil society groups to identify perpetrators of hate speech.

“We’re hiring dozens of more Burmese-language content reviewers, because hate speech is very language-specific,” he said at the April hearing in the US Senate.

“It’s hard to do it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically.”

AFP

Former Guatemala Dictator Rios Montt, Accused Of Genocide Dies At 91

In this file picture taken on April 30, 2013, former Guatemalan de facto President (1982-1983) retired General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, gestures during his trial on charges of genocide during his regime, in Guatemala City. PHOTO: Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Efrain Rios Montt, a former military dictator who ruled Guatemala between 1982 and 1983 and who was facing retrial on genocide charges, died on Sunday aged 91, sources close to his family said.

One of his lawyers, Luis Rosales, told reporters that Rios Montt “died in his home, with the love of his family and a clear conscience.”

Rios Montt is accused of being responsible for the murders of 1,771 indigenous Ixil-Maya people during his short reign, which came at the height of a brutal 36-year civil war.

A May 2013 trial delivered a conviction and an 80-year sentence against Rios Montt — the first time a Latin American ex-dictator had been convicted of genocide.

But that verdict was overturned just days later by Guatemala’s constitutional court because of a “procedural error,” and a new trial was ordered.

That trial of Rios Montt and his spy chief, Jose Rodriguez, was halted in 2016 after an appeals court ruled each man should be tried separately.

Rios Montt’s lawyers sought to block further proceedings against their client, arguing his health was too poor and he suffered from dementia.

Denied charges

According to the UN, some 200,000 people died or were made to disappear during the Guatemala’s long, brutal civil war, which ended in 1996.

Rios Montt was accused of orchestrating an extermination policy against the indigenous population, which was perceived to be collaborating with left-wing guerrillas waging war against government forces.

He denied the charges in his original trial.

“I never authorized, never signed, never ordered an attack against a race, an ethnicity or a religion. I never did it!” he said at the time.

Short in stature and vigorous into old age, the former dictator had a humble beginning, with little to suggest a rise to national power.

He was born in Guatemala’s remote Huehuetenango province, near the border with Mexico.

He enlisted in the army as a teenager and rose through the ranks, receiving training courses at the US-run School of the Americas, where Latin American officers learned harsh tactics used in crackdowns on dissidents.

Politically, Rios Montt came to the forefront in 1974 when, as a brigadier general, he was put forward as a coalition presidential candidate.

Historians say he won an overwhelming victory, but electoral fraud prevented him from taking office. Another general, Kjell Eugenio Laugerud, took power instead.

As a consolation prize, Rios Montt was sent to Spain as the military attache.

US support

Upon returning home three years later, he turned away from Catholicism, his religion of birth, and became a fervent evangelical Christian.

On March 23, 1982, he took power in a bloodless coup, deposing Lucas Garcia.

During his 18-month rule, ruthless even by the standards of Latin American dictators, Rios Montt engaged in a “scorched earth” policy against dissidents, wiping out entire rural towns where leftists were suspected of living or having support.

He appointed so-called faceless judges who mounted summary trials and ordered numerous alleged criminals — often leftist rebel sympathizers or militants — executed.

Rios Montt also used his office to preach to his people: every Sunday night, dressed in a combat uniform, the dictator would take to the airwaves and talk about God, morality and politics.

He claimed in one such sermon that a “good Christian” lived their life “with a bible and a machine gun.”

As conflicts raged in nearby Nicaragua and El Salvador, then US president Ronald Reagan praised Rios Montt in 1982 as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment.”

Congressional immunity

But as evidence of gross human rights violations mounted, Rios Montt’s defense minister, General Oscar Mejia, ousted him from office in August 1983.

In 1989 Rios Montt founded the right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), which reached national power with the election of Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004).

Portillo was arrested in 2010 on corruption charges and ended up being extradited to the United States, where he spent a little over a year in prison for money-laundering.

Rios Montt managed to avoid prosecution by entering Congress, where he enjoyed parliamentary immunity.

The ex-general served as a legislator between 1990 and 2003, including a stint as head of the chamber.

He also launched three unsuccessful presidential bids.

Courts blocked two of those attempts on grounds that he led a coup to take office, and by the time his lawyers won the right for him to run in 2003 his popularity had waned considerably.

When Rios Montt’s final term in Congress ended in 2012, along with his parliamentary immunity, he was slapped with charges of genocide and put under house arrest.

AFP

‘Mladic To Appeal Life Sentence’

Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic (R) enters the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on November 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial. PHOTO: Peter Dejong / POOL / AFP
Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic is to appeal his life sentence, his son said Wednesday, calling the judgement by a United Nations war crimes court “war propaganda”.
“This sentence is unjust and contrary to the facts and we will fight it on appeal to prove that this judgement is wrong,” Darko Mladic told reporters shortly after his father was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide and war crimes in the 1990s Balkans conflict.

 

“Today justice has been replaced by war propaganda,” Darko Mladic said.

United Nation judges earlier today, November 22 sentenced former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of genocide and war crimes in the brutal Balkans conflicts over two decades ago.

The trial of the man dubbed “The Butcher of Bosnia” was the last before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and comes as the court prepares to close its doors next month.

AFP