Former Guatemala army chief charged with genocide

Former Guatemalan army chief Gen. Héctor Mario López Fuentes was charged this week with genocide for his command role in the killings of over 300 Mayan people in 1982 and 1983. A UN-backed commission found that during Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared and security forces committed 440 massacres in indigenous communities. The commission specifically found that the military’s counter-insurgency operations in the Ixil Triangle amounted to acts of genocide , with 32 separate massacres targeting the indigenous Maya-Ixil population. Gen. Fuentes is accused of being the “ intellectual author ” of 12 massacres from 1982-1983. At the time, he was Guatemala’s military Chief of Staff, the third-highest-ranking official in the country. See Louisa Reynolds’s article for LaPress.org , and Amnesty International’s statement . During the short-lived 1982-83 dictatorship of Efraín Ríos Montt, the army launched a brutal campaign targeting indigenous communities that it accused of supporting left-wing guerillas. The strategy was known as “draining the water that the fish swim in.” Any villages where signs of guerrilla activity were found — hidden weapons or propaganda — were deemed to be “subversive”, and the villagers were systematically killed. Any villages found abandoned when terrified residents fled to the mountains were also razed to the ground, a policy known as “scorched earth.” As a result of the regime’s genocidal policies, over 10,000 Mayans were murdered and 9,000 were displaced from their land. Other former Guatemalan military and police officials have been arrested in recent months for their role in human rights abuses during the armed conflict. These include Colonel Héctor Bol de la Cruz and Jorge Humberto Gómez López, both former heads of the national police force. An army officer and a soldier who participated in a December 1982 massacre in Dos Erres village were arrested earlier this year. Guatemalan security forces tortured and killed 250 men, women and children in Dos Erres before razing the village.

Sudan’s genocide against the Nuba people

The anti-genocide group, Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), has published visual evidence of mass graves in South Kordofan where Sudanese government forces are targeting the Nuba population. The Sudanese military and allied forces have carried out systematic attacks on Nuba civilians in South Kordofan that could amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, according to a UN report obtained on Friday by AFP . See also articles by Christian Science Monitor , DPA and CNN . Many of the UN report’s findings point to the deliberate targeting of civilians because of their political and/or ethnic affiliations . The Nuba are mostly a Christian minority that has been fighting alongside the South Sudanese for independence from Khartoum. Fighting resumed in South Kordofan on July 6, just days before South Sudan declared its independence , after a half century of struggle against Sudan's Arab government. The ranks of the SPLA (Sudanese People's Liberation Army) in South Kordofan are largely filled with Nuba, and many Nuba support the SPLA’s political wing, the SPLM (Sudanese People's Liberation Movement). The UN report, the most detailed of its kind to date, documents specific instances where the army allegedly attacked civilians and churches, carried out summary executions, torture and intimidation, and bombed civilian targets in a campaign that it says will "dissipate the Nuba population" if not stopped . Tens of thousands of Nuba civilians have fled to caves to escape government air strikes, The Independent reports. "They sent Antonovs [bombers] during the day while the fighting was going on. They just threw bombs everywhere, hitting everything, everyone, " a survivor told the paper. Meanwhile, the anti-genocide group, Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), has published visual evidence of mass graves in South Kordofan.

Ban Ki-Moon on accountability and reconciliation

Comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday on the need to ensure accountability for those involved in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. “ Until all those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes face those charges and are judged, our quest for justice, and the path towards healing, will remain incomplete .” “ The emergence of respect and trust after conflict also depends heavily on bringing perpetrators to account. Truth must be told. Justice must be done.” “We recognize the burden of families and loved ones who carry the memories and pain with each step.” said...

Dutch court sentences Rwandan for war crimes

A Dutch appeals court last week sentenced a Rwandan citizen living in The Netherlands to life in prison for war crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. See AFP’s report here . Joseph Mpambara, 43, was found guilty of having carried out an attack on a church where Tutsis had fled. The lower court, which sentenced him to 20 years in prison, had previously acquitted him on this charge. "Hundreds of persons were literally slaughtered or hurt," with guns or machetes, Judge Raoul Dekkers said, who added Mpambara "encouraged others to commit (these crimes)." "The appeals court is of...

South Sudan’s dream comes true

South Sudan declared its independence on Saturday in a joyous day long ceremony in the capital Juba attended by tens of thousands of South Sudanese and senior representatives of dozens of other states. The chosen location was a fitting site – the field surrounding the mausoleum of John Garang, the late rebel army leader who is considered the father of the South Sudanese nation.

World congratulates South Sudan on independence

As the people of South Sudan declared their independence on Saturday after decades of struggle, congratulations and pledges of support swiftly came in from leaders across the world. At least twenty countries have already recognized South Sudan, including all five members of the UN Security Council - the United States , Britain , France , Russia and China – as well as India , South Africa , and Nigeria . Other countries include Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, South Korea and Switzerland. Ironically, Sudan was the first to recognise South Sudan, given Khartoum’s decades of violent efforts to deny the South’s demand independence that have resulted in over two million deaths and four million people being displaced.

South Sudan's freedom after five decades of struggle

This is the statement by ANC National Spokesperson Jackson Mthembu on the occasion of South Sudan's independence day celebrations on July 9. South Sudan has emerged as the newest state in the world, 54th state in Africa and the UN's 193rd member state. This marks the formal attainment of freedom for the people of South Sudan, after over five decades of painful struggle, war and carnage that cost millions of lives and displaced many others and left them destitute.

Plural South Sudan looks to federal constitution

As South Sudan celebrates its formal birth as Africa's newest state, its constitution, in the process of being drafted, will have an Indian hand in it, IANS reports. " South Sudan is looking at the experience of democracies like India ," said Sandeep Shastri, pro vice-chancellor at Bangalore's Jain University who is helping draft the statute of the country. "South Sudan has watched the political and constitutional developments in India with great interest and believe that there is a lot that a country like South Sudan can gain from that experience." An international consultant with the Forum of Federations, a Canada-based think-tank, Shastri is the only Indian involved with public debates being held across South Sudan, a country of over 8 million people, in the run-up to framing the constitution. The Forum of Federations was also heavily involved in the Norwegian peace process in Sri Lanka. Its representative, Bob Rae, now the Liberal Party’s interim leader, was deported from Sri Lanka in 2008.

ICC issues arrest warrant for Gaddafi

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the country’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, on charges of crimes against humanity. See Al-Jazeera’s report here . Gaddhafi has “ absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control ” over Libya’s state apparatus and its security forces, presiding judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said in reading out the ruling. " State policy was designed at the highest level of the state machinery, and aimed at quelling by any means , including by the use of lethal force ,...

Libyan footballers vote with their feet

A group of 17 leading Libyan football figures have announced their defection to the rebels opposing Muammar Ghadaffi’s rule. They announced the defection to the BBC. They include the nation's goalkeeper, Juma Gtat, three other national team members, and the coach of Tripoli's top club al-Ahly, Adel bin Issa. "I am telling Col Gaddafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya," Gtat told the BBC. BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mark Doyle says “Sports stars matter in the battle for public opinion [and] in football-mad North Africa, the defections are clearly a propaganda blow for...

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