Posts Tagged ‘genocide’

Profile of Widad Akreyi, Iraqi human rights defender

November 5, 2019

Dr. Widad Akreyi at the award ceremony for the 2018 International Woman Harmony Award, Cortona, Italy, Nov. 23, 2018.

Azeem Ibrahim wins the 2019 Engaged Scholar Prize for his writing on Rohingya

August 20, 2019

web-Dr.-Azeem-Ibrahim--GLOBAL-SCHOLAR-PRIZE

File photo of Dr Azeem Ibrahim Courtesy

The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) has awarded academic Dr Azeem Ibrahim its 2019 Engaged Scholar Prize. Founded in 1994, the IAGS is a global, interdisciplinary, non-partisan organization that seeks to further research and teaching about the nature, causes, and consequences of genocide, and advance policy studies on genocide prevention.

Glasgow born Ibrahim has been recognized principally for his work on the genocide committed by the Myanmar state against the country’s Rohingya minority in his book “Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide (Hurst: 2016).”  Ibrahim has also researched and written extensively on the impact of displaced populations including the Syrians, Uyghur Muslims and others. His publications have appeared in prominent media outlets like New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, CNN, Daily Telegraph, Yale Global, Dhaka Tribune and many others.

Dr Ibrahim is currently a Director at the Centre for Global Policy in Washington DC and is working on creating the Rohingya Genocide Archives which aims to investigate and document the crimes committed against the Rohingyas by Myanmar and create a databank that can then be used by scholars, historians, researchers and any possible future tribunals. Dr Ibrahim was one of a handful of scholars to foresee and warn of the impending genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in 2016, when the Myanmar military undertook a policy of ethnically cleansing over 700,000 Rohingyas, forcing them into Bangladesh which now houses the largest refugee camp in the world.

IAGS has since its formation presented awards to honor both innovations in and the engaged practice of genocide scholarship. In 2017, these awards were consolidated into four categories: the Emerging Scholar Prize; the Engaged Scholar Prize; the Prize for the Arts; and the IAGS Lifetime Achievement Award. These awards are presented at the IAGS biennial conference and celebrate individuals who make exemplary contributions to the field of genocide studies.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2019/08/19/bangladeshi-academic-wins-prestigious-global-scholar-prize

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“On Her Shoulders” tells the story of human rights defender Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

October 21, 2018

Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to the world, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the international stage as the voice of her people. The film “On Her Shoulders” tells the story of Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights activist, and Yazidi survivor of genocide and human trafficking. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/]

ON HER SHOULDERS Trailer (2018) Nadia Murad Documentary © 2018 – Oscilloscope

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/murder-of-human-rights-defender-ko-ni-in-myanmar/]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/20/572197324/u-n-human-rights-investigator-barred-by-myanmar

https://www.ft.com/content/6f0674ec-e57d-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da

Patrick Desbois, French priest who uncovered Nazi killings, awarded Lantos prize

November 10, 2017

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic clergyman, whose work has uncovered millions of previously unknown victims of the Nazi genocide was awarded the Lantos Foundation’s Human Rights Prize. The Lantos Human Rights Prize is an annual award given by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, an organization founded by Tom and Annette Lantos, who were both Holocaust survivors. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

Father Patrick Desbois, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization, was recognized during a reception on Capitol Hill as a “vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice.” His scholarly reportage on the Holocaust has focused on the Jews who were killed by mass shootings by Nazi units in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Romania between 1941 and 1944. In 2004, Desbois founded Yahad-In Unum, a French organization whose sole mission was to locate the mass graves of Jewish victims from Nazi paramilitary death squads. These regiments were responsible for the mass killings of Jews, often by shooting and primarily in the former Soviet Union.

His first book, “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” was based on that work and the culmination of its discoveries. Desbois has another book — a memoir on his life as an anti-genocide activist and Holocaust scholar — due for publication in 2018.

Other than uncovering unknown truths about the Nazi’s killing operation, Desbois has also been working on collecting evidence of the Islamic State’s massacre of the Yazidi people in parts of Iraq and Syria. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/09/collecting-human-rights-prize-yazidi-lawmaker-calls-trumps-travel-ban-unfair/]

Source: French priest who uncovered Nazi killing sites awarded Lantos rights prize | The Times of Israel

Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Atrocities wins Judith Lee Stronach Award

April 8, 2017

Chang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)
Chhang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)

Chhang was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. He fled to the United States as a refugee, but memories of the suffering he endured brought him back to his homeland in the early 1990s. He founded DC-Cam and has led the organization since 1995, creating a national genocide education program. Nushin Sarkarati, a senior attorney at CJA, said that without Chhang’s dedication there would be little justice for the victims and survivors.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Beth Van Schaack, a Stanford law professor who advises DC-Cam, said the group’s orientation towards victims made Chhang a natural choice for the award. “What CJA really admires about DC-Cam is it also has a very victim centered approach, working-hard to help Cambodian victims, experience justice before the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] and DC-Cam has become in many ways a model for other documentation centers around the world that are collecting information that can be submitted to justice processes where human rights are concerned,” she said.

Nate Thayer, a journalist who has reported on Cambodia for some three decades, said without Chhang’s work, the Khmer Rouge perpetrators would have gotten away with their crimes. “Youk Chhang was a one-man army fighting for justice for those who suffered in Cambodia and his personal passion and devotion bringing those who responsible for mass murder to justice, to face the music, to answer for their crime.

Peter Maguire, a law professor and an author of “Facing Death in Cambodia,” called Chhang a “Cambodian national treasure” whose efforts bring more truth and reconciliation to the Cambodian people than the combined efforts of the United Nations and ECCC.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Neth Pheaktra, ECCC spokesman, told VOA Khmer that DC-Cam deserved the award as it had uncovered valuable evidence that could be used at the court. “The work that DC-Cam has done helps the ECCC save time in finding evidence by ourselves, and it shows us the way, brings us information as well as some historical documents we needed for the trials.”

Chhang is currently working on developing the Sleuk Rith Institute, a permanent hub for genocide studies in Asia based in Phnom Penh.

Source: Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Crimes Wins Prestigious Human Rights Award

Ivan Šimonovic appointed as UN special adviser on the responsibility to protect

June 28, 2016

Ivan Šimonović. UN Photo/Loey Felip

On 23 June 2016 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Ivan Šimonović of Croatia as his Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect as from 1 October. Mr. Šimonović is currently Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York. “In his role as the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Mr. Šimonović will work under the overall guidance of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide to further the political, institutional and operational development of the responsibility to protect principle, as set out by the General Assembly in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome document,” the statement said.

Mr. Šimonović succeeds Jennifer Welsh of Canada.

Source: United Nations News Centre – Ban appoints Ivan Šimonovic as special adviser on the responsibility to protect

“Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” – revealing piece by Alex de Waal

June 10, 2016

Alex de Waal {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_de_Waal} published on 6 June 2016 a long piece entitled “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong” in the Boston Review. There is no way I can give you a summary but reading the whole article is certain worth the time. It is bound to be controversial – especially within the international human rights movement – and stands out by being critical and mostly self-critical about the role of human rights monitors. The focus of the narrative is on Africa (Sudan, Rwanda) and genocide but the former HRW staff reaches out to the general questions of context and impartiality that human rights defenders struggle with, still today.  READ IT!

Read the rest of this entry »

Inaugural Aurora Prize (1 million $) goes to Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Burundian orphanage

April 25, 2016

Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi was named as the inaugural Laureate of the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. At a ceremony held in Yerevan on 24 April 2016, Barankitse was recognized for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi. Read the rest of this entry »

Evîn Bagdu, international human rights expert, discusses Kurdish genocide claims

May 13, 2015

Rudaw is a Kurdish media network funded and supported by Rudaw Company. The network aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner.  Evîn Bagdu is  being interviewed about the issue of genocide and how the Kurdish case fits into this. A long but interesting read:

Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights  law expert.
Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights law expert.

“Rudaw: Why did the Halabja and Garmiyan mass murders not get the attention from the international community as much as the recently discovered Yezidi mass graves did?

Bagdu: In the history of the human rights movement, the issue of not getting enough attention for the suffering of victims of gross violations has always been a challenge, regardless of the character of the groups or scale of the suffering.  For instance, in Sierra Leone, the news items on the widely practiced mutilation of limbs by the child soldiers couldn’t make it to the big news agencies as it “was too difficult to watch.”

On the other hand, in many cases—historically speaking—while these gross violations and atrocities took place, the victims sometimes have been isolated from the rest of the world as the matter was considered an “internal issue.” So, the doctrine of state sovereignty is frequently used as a shield in such cases.  Examples include the Armenian case in 1915, Jewish case in 1940s, Kurdish case in the Saddam Era—all have this factor in common.

This was the case when the world was unaware of what was happening in these cases. Once a case does become known, the next challenge is how to get a reaction to stop the atrocities.  And, this is the part that is immensely frustrating not only to the human rights defenders alone, but to every human being with a clear conscience. The arguments often put forward are typically:

-The reaction would aggravate the situation and cause more severe suffering for the victims;

-It would be futile;

-It is not the right time for a reaction to the event in question;

-It is not in the national interest of state actors, or against the security of their people.

In fact, prior to the Nuremberg Trials, such systematic and purposeful killings did not even have the name “genocide,” let alone codification of it, as an international crime.

At this point, I believe it is necessary to see the difference between a couple concepts which are important to consider when discussing widespread human rights abuses.  Do the issues pose a moral, political or legal challenge?  As the nature of the issue is gravely inhumane, the first instinct is to approach the issue from the moral stand point.  This usually leads to a disappointment mentioned earlier.

In comparison of the Anfal campaign of 1986-89 to the recent atrocities of 2015 against the Yezidi population, we may also consider the political dimension.  There are undeniable political aspects at stake. But, when we think of other similar incidents of such massacres, the political environment surrounding the situations always differs.

In the Saddam era, there was an Iran/Iraq War, Saddam was a head of state enjoying certain immunities, and holding immense power to control any communication with the outside world.  Today, however, Iraq has a lot more international presence in the country, and media coverage is much more widespread. Therefore, flow of information regarding the facts of the case is easier.

In the Yezidi case, there is an international conflict carried out by a non-state actor against more than one state and the citizens thereof.  It is a conflict that many of the nations of the world see as a global threat to their common peace and security. So, the attention of the international community is more intense in the Yezidi case.  But this was the case in Srebrenica as well.

This brings us to the last concept; the legality.  There is a historic lesson for the Kurds too that needs to be taken from each one of the past gross human rights violations against civilian populations. Other nations have used international legal mechanisms to address the harm done in the past.  It of course is important to get political recognition by states, and in the Anfal case Iraq itself recognized the case as genocide.

But genocide is a crime under international law and such recognition must come from the international courts.  It needs to be investigated, evidence that could clearly substantiate the facts needs to be obtained and then utilized by the court.   But if not proven through the standard, fair, legal processes, by impartial courts, all these events will continue to be referred to as alleged “atrocities,” “campaigns,” and “gross human rights and humanitarian law violations.”  If not thoroughly dealt with, the perpetrators will go free and there will always be a lesson for them that they could get away with it.  The phrase “never again” will turn into “always possible.” This is important, because it relates to the rule of law commitments, it sheds unbiased light on history and more importantly it brings justice therefore some closure to the survivors of such horrible events.
   
Rudaw: Could these mass graves serve as something Kurds could use to get attention to their identity and issues revolving around recognition of their identity?

Bagdu: I will hold my criticism of the usage of terms such as “mass graves” or “martyrs” to refer to certain topics in Iraq for another time (I am saying in Iraq because such usage is not specific to the Kurds only).  What you are asking me is I believe, if Kurds could change the game in their favor by bringing these issues to international attention.  My answer is, absolutely yes! 

The reason there is such an emphasis on proving the genocide is that it is an internationally recognized form of a crime that could only be committed against a group because of the group’s identity.  It does provide a picture to the background of these identity issues, for example: 
 
-how difficult it is to have such identity under regimes which violate their citizens’ human rights (and especially minorities’ rights);

-how to properly observe rights based on group identity;

-to what degree safeguards are provided and needed for the protection and continuity of these identities, and so on and so forth.
 
The current conflict itself is telling so much about this.  While the whole world “absolutely again” is watching or passing resolutions, or in better cases “providing support” while this armed group was making advances into what is called “Iraqi cities,” in the north, it was the Peshmerga and the Kurdish fighters that were defending the civilians and the land. Other armed forces in Iraq simply fled, leaving even their arms behind.

When studying the subject of “indigenous populations’ rights,” the idea of attachment to the land was one element that captured my attention that differed from the ties citizens of modern states hold to the land they live on. To me, these things we have seen in the most recent conflict have demonstrated this phenomenon very well.

Rudaw: Jewish people were also the victims of the genocide by the Nazis and this helped them to get support from the world to help realize their cause.  Why couldn’t the Kurds turn these mass murders into an element to help their suffering get recognition?

Bagdu: To be fair to the Kurds, once there was an opportunity to act, they have done almost everything in their capacity to address their issues.  For instance, regarding Anfal and Halabja after the fall of Saddam, and the emergence of post-Saddam Iraq, Kurds have invested in every aspect of addressing the mass killings and the missing person issue throughout Iraq as a whole. At the time of the Coalition Provisional Authority, they assisted with reconnaissance and exhumation of mass graves and the identification of remains. 

There was a law necessary to address the issue, and they drafted a simpler version of the missing persons law (The Law on Protection of Mass Graves).  A ministry needed to serve as a leading institution, and they held two important ministry seats (namely, the human rights ministry and the foreign ministry) in the national parliament.  They worked with the leading international organization on missing persons issues to duplicate successful practices around the world, (a work still in progress as we speak).

But since you are making a comparison between the Kurdish efforts and the Jewish efforts in addressing the mass murders against their populations, allow me to highlight a couple differences. 

The Jewish Diaspora consisted of very well educated, very committed individuals who did everything in their personal capacity to inform the world of what happened to their people.  In fact, it was because of work done by a Jewish lawyer that genocide took a codified form in statutes.  Even the word genocide was pioneered by Raphael Lemkin. Also, after the atrocities ceased, many of the survivors personally got involved in the hunt for concentration camp guards, military commanders and decision makers in the Nazi army in order for them to be tried before national and international tribunals.

Kurds also have a diaspora scattered around the world.  So, in this sense I believe while the Kurds on the ground are fighting to stop the atrocities, the Kurdish diaspora must assume responsibility to inform the world of the wrong done to their people, as well as documenting and investigating the cases as much as possible.  In the Kurdish case it is worth noting that such efforts have been undermined in the past by states that oppressed their Kurdish populations, and neighboring countries where Kurds live in large numbers. This might remain the case for future attempts as well.”

Rudaw interview with Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights.