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Bridging the Gap Between Words and Action: The Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention

By: Chris Kousouros, Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention Program Coordinator

RedIf working on the political side of genocide prevention has taught me anything, it’s that there is an immense amount of awe-inspiring ideas conceived and bravely put forth every day. Often the only thing more impressive than an idea itself is the distance that exists between its initial utterance and its realization, even in its most basic form. This distance has claimed the lives of so many wonderful ideas.

So how does one successfully begin a regional network of governments focused expressly on the implementation of public policies and mandatory training for public officials on genocide and mass atrocity prevention? It started with a good idea—backed up by commitment and action.

We had just completed our intensive six-day Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention in Auschwitz, but officials from Argentina, Chile, Panama, and Brazil wanted to take prevention one step further.

The Lemkin Seminar consists of six days of training in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where all participants—typically mid-to-high-level government employees from all over the world—have the opportunity to listen to and interact with some of the leading voices in genocide and mass atrocity prevention. The seminar addresses prevention from all angles: from the history of the term genocide, to specific case studies, to a theoretical analysis of R2P, to a psychological analysis of perpetrators. You name it, they learn about it. Our aim at the Auschwitz Institute is to create a community of mid-level government workers around the world who have the know-how to react appropriately to warning signs in their own countries or abroad, and to take the necessary steps towards prevention.

Not bad, right? Well apparently the participants from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Panama wanted more. Their vision was to create a regional network of governments focused expressly on the implementation of public policies and mandatory training for public officials on genocide and mass atrocity prevention. The idea was that if a network was created with the goal of pooling resources, expertise, and political will to create a regional network of genocide prevention sensitive states, and not just individuals, the output could become greater than the sum of its parts.

But how to bridge the gap between such a lofty idea and reality?

First, officials from the four countries mapped out what the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocities (the Network) would look like. They took the idea of our weeklong training seminar and figured out how to amplify its reach by developing a Latin American version of our training curriculum that would not just be offered to a handful of government officials a year, but would be implemented as mandatory training in each participating Ministry. The Network would utilize our training seminars bi-annually to develop a Latin American version of this curriculum. At the same time, the people who would attend these training seminars over the next three years (set to finish at the end of 2015) will then, in turn, pave the way for instructors who administer the curriculum in their home countries. This takes the old proverb of teaching a man to fish to the next level. Our global seminar reaches 20-25 people twice a year, but they found a way to spread this education to an entire region, making it self-sustaining at the same time. Kudos to you, Latin America.

But once again, this is only a great idea, now what? A Network like this would require a regional commitment the likes of which has never been seen, ever. But how does such a commitment take shape? Surely all 18 of the Latin American member states wouldn’t wake up one morning and decide to dedicate funding and personnel to prioritize genocide prevention in their national and regional agendas. No, surely not.

To gather the proper momentum and support, we needed the right time, place, partners, and audience for the announcement of the Network. Here’s how it went down:

Time: late March 2012. In the political context of the Arab Spring, most notably the ongoing debate on the implications for R2P (a major tool of prevention) after the Libya intervention, and only weeks after the formal indictment of Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity, signaling what could be a major step in norms of transitional justice (also a major tool of prevention).

Place: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina, a founding member and a driving force in the creation of the Network, is also a global and regional leader in the implementation of processes of transitional justice following the Dirty War, not to mention one of the more influential countries in Latin America both economically and politically.

Announcers: The launching of the Network was announced by representatives of the Argentinean Foreign Ministry, as well as the Secretariats of Human Rights in Brazil, with the Auschwitz Institute and the Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect serving as advisors and acting supporters. The idea was that if representatives from two of Latin America’s most politically influential powerhouses, backed by a reputable international NGO and the United Nations say that the Network is being created, representatives from the other countries would, at the very least, listen.

Audience: Latin Americans. More specifically, representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Justice, and Offices of the Ombudsmen from 18 Latin American countries. Why? Latin America is seen internationally as a leader in post conflict reconstruction and transitional justice, and is comprised of democratic states bearing the scars of past atrocities, in many cases assisted by the US during the Cold War. The founding members of the Network believed that the political will exists in this region to take the lead on genocide and mass atrocity prevention, and the initiative would be seen as internationally legitimate (not driven and/or controlled by the North), because some of the most ardent opponents of neo-colonialism are active members of the Network.

And they were right.

Today, after only 17 months since its inception, the Network has seen the successful completion of its first training seminar in Auschwitz, which was kicked off by words of wisdom from Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide. “The achievements of the Latin American Network, after barely 15 months of existence, are already resonating worldwide,” said Dieng.

The Network currently has 11 national initiatives fully functioning, ranging from regional high-level briefings on the Network and genocide prevention, to mini-training seminars for entire governments, peace-keeping troops, national police, and diplomatic academies on genocide and mass atrocity prevention, as well as managing relations between governments and their indigenous populations. Two national mechanisms for genocide prevention have been created within the governments of Argentina and Paraguay, which act as a structural base upon which the goals of the Network are managed by the entire government and civil society, and not just an individual focal point.

What’s more, the Network has since become an example to follow throughout the world, as shown by the recently created African Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, modeled after its Latin American counterpart. The Latin American Network is referenced constantly by high level UN and government officials as an example of regional cooperation in mass atrocity prevention, and was recently included in the UN Secretary General Report, The Responsibility to Protect: State Responsibility and Prevention.

And this just the beginning—there is much work to be done. But through the Network, Latin America has provided a clear example of how, with the right amount of political will and determination, one can indeed bridge that seemingly insurmountable distance that exists in international politics between lofty words and effective action.

The First Killings of the Holocaust,” an op-ed by Timothy W. Ryback in today’s International Herald Tribune, describes the surprising impact of Joseph Hartinger, “little more than a middle-aged civil servant with a wife and five-year-old child at home,” upon the genocidal plans of Germany’s Nazi regime.

Ryback’s article focuses on the impact mid- to low-level officials can have on government policy, an idea the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation has made a cornerstone of its genocide prevention programs. In documenting the ripple effects of such a “small fish” in the Nazi government, Ryback exposes the fallacy that many to this day continue to believe: that genocidal governments are monolithic, void of dissenters, and impossible to change from within.

On April 12, 1933, “four Jews — Arthur Kahn, Ernst Goldmann, Rudolf Benario and Erwin Kahn — were executed in precisely that order at a Nazi camp in the obscure Bavarian hamlet of Prittlbach.” Ryback marks this as the first genocidal killing of Jews by the Nazis, and notes that the main characteristics of the process by which these four men were killed — intentionality, chain-of-command, selection, and execution — mirrored (scale and efficiency aside) the distinguishing traits of the Holocaust.

Hartinger was the lawyer assigned to investigate the men’s death, and instead of accepting the initial statement from his superiors — that the four men were shot trying to escape a detention facility — he initiated a formal inquiry. To Hartinger’s suggestion that a serial killing of Jews had taken place, his boss said even the Nazis wouldn’t do such a thing, and terminated the case. Hartinger persisted, launching indictments against the commanding officer and three other SS men at Prittlbach.

Surprisingly, the commandant was removed, and the killings of Jews temporarily stopped. To Hartinger, this revealed the weakness of the still evolving Nazi regime. At the time the Nazis were still very sensitive to international opinion, and had not consolidated power in Germany enough to ignore the orders of the president, Paul von Hindenburg, who possessed the constitutional authority to dissolve the Nazi government and dismiss Hitler as chancellor. Hartinger included all of this in his memoirs, which Ryback uses to pinpoint “that tenuous phase of an emerging genocidal process when intercession could have disrupted and derailed the horrific and now seemingly inevitable outcome.”

For would-be genocide preventers, this story is important because it shows that even genocidal governments are not monolithic. Their goals may not be universally accepted or even known, which leaves them open to undermining in the early stages of their consolidation of power.

With this in mind, the Auschwitz Institute encourages the mid-level government and military officials from around the world who take part in our programs to be on the lookout for opportunities like the one Joseph Hartinger had, so when the time comes, they too can help halt the genocidal process.

Photo: Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation

On December 15 Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s de facto president during the early 1980s, delivered himself to the Attorney General’s office to ask if he would be tried for his 10-year-old charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against the indigenous populations. Mr. Ríos Montt said, “if there’s a criminal investigation against me, it should go forth according to due process and I should stand trial.” This seemingly honest move comes on the heels of a new legislature, which is to take office next month, thus losing Mr. Ríos Montt his congressional seat, and the immunity from prosecution that comes with it. In a December 20 article, the Council on Foreign Relations said this indicated nothing more than a clear grasp on the reality of what would happen after his immunity expired, especially considering the tension that exists between himself and the incoming president Otto Perez Molina. The article also pointed out that the new leader of the Attorney General’s office, Claudia Paz y Paz, has proven more than willing to pursue his case, as her office has already convicted four soldiers, and has recently pressed charges against five more for their roles in massacres that occurred during Mr. Ríos Montt’s rule. Furthermore, Spain’s National Court issued an international arrest warrant for Ríos Montt on genocide charges in 2006, making his flight potentially more dangerous than facing the charges domestically. While the article certainly does not praise Mr. Ríos Montt for his decision to turn himself in, as it is seemingly his only option, it does say that this has positive implications for Guatemala’s justice system, saying, “the fact that Ríos Montt has to engage with the charges at all shows that something may finally be right with Guatemala’s fledgling justice sector.”

Photo: prensalibre.com

* Yesterday Kenyan foreign minister Moses Wetangula announced that his government would not host the Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting dedicated to Sudan. His statement came after the Kenyan High Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, following on the International Criminal Court‘s warrants against Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in March 2009, and for genocide in July 2010. Wetangula at first criticized the Kenyan court’s decision, saying it would complicate the country’s foreign relations and disrupt its mediating role in Sudan. For its part Sudan expelled the Kenyan ambassador, recalled its own, and froze bilateral trade between the two countries. This decision was delayed following a meeting between Bashir and Wetangula, but Bashir says unless the Kenyan court reverses its ruling, Sudan will proceed with sanctions against Kenya.

* Swiss judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet arrived yesterday in Phnom Penh to replace Judge Siegfried Blunk of Germany as the UN half of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ), charged with investigating alleged crimes by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Judge Blunk resigned in October amid international criticism that he had “failed to conduct genuine, impartial, and effective investigations.” In his resignation statement, Blunk said he was routinely subject to pressure that “could be perceived as attempted interference by government officials.” Judge You Bunleng, representing Cambodia in the OCIJ, responded to Ansermet’s arrival by saying that without Cambodian government approval, “[A]ny procedural action taken by Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is not legally valid.”

The UN-backed Cambodian tribunal’s ineffectiveness has resulted in only one conviction since its conception in 2001, that of Kaing Guek Eav, commandant of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. In a December 6 article, The Investigative Fund pointed out that there is no independent mechanism to oversee the conduct of judges on the Cambodian tribunal.

Meanwhile, on November 22, after hearing opening statements by the defense and the prosecution, Nuon Chea, known as “Brother Number Two,” defended himself against atrocity charges, saying that they were committed by Vietnamese troops, and imposters disguised in the black outfits of Khmer Rouge revolutionaries.

Photo: arabnews.com

AIPR Communications Intern Christopher Kousouros files this report from a panel discussion on The Media in Srebrenica.

On Monday a panel discussion was held in New York on the media’s role in uncovering the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and, given the upsurge of citizen journalism, the evolution of the media’s structure and role in preventing future atrocities.

The discussion, organized by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, featured the following speakers: Laura Silber, an investigative journalist who interviewed Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic soon after the genocide took place; Michael Dobbs, who wrote the first in-depth article about Srebrenica; Emma Daly, communications director at Human Rights Watch, who was a journalist covering the Bosnian war at the time of the genocide; and David Rohde, the journalist who exposed the mass graves outside Srebrenica, leading to the uncovering of the genocide that took place.

Srebrenica proved indicative of the abilities and limitations of investigative journalism in the ’90s, before the advent of the citizen journalism that has so critically reshaped the media’s role today. In the early ’90s, there were journalists from all over the world in Bosnia. In fact, Michael Dobbs claimed that the media played a decisive role in creating the six safe areas, Srebrenica among them, in 1993. Professional media coverage was one of the most effective weapons Bosnians had to get the international community involved.

However, by July 1995, Srebrenica had been cut off to all journalists. Consequently, it was only when news started trickling out of the city, by way of escaped Muslim men arriving in Tuzla, that thanks to investigative reporting by people like David Rohde, the genocide was uncovered. In other words, investigative journalism at the time was capable only of exposing the genocide after the fact, but since no reporters were allowed into the city, as is usually the case in areas under threat of genocide, no one was able to get word out in time to prevent it. Dobbs was the first to write an in-depth report on the genocide, but it came in October, three months later.

Times have changed. With the advent of citizen journalism, on-the-ground coverage of events in places inaccessible to professional journalists is available virtually everywhere, whether via cell phones or social media such as Facebook and Twitter. According to Dobbs, if this kind of technology had been available in 1995, it would have been much harder to cover up and carry out the genocide in Srebrenica. However, these new technologies also present a problem, in that it is sometimes near impossible to confirm the stream of information pouring out of places like Syria and Sri Lanka, where professional journalism has been effectively eliminated.

The media, however, hardly bear all the responsibility for the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Srebrenica. Ivan Barbalić, a representative of the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations, was present at the panel discussion and said enough evidence was in fact available. He said that while technologies like cell phone video recordings and Facebook weren’t available in 1995, media institutions like Headline News and CNN were providing enough real-time coverage in Bosnia for decisionmakers to conclude that something was going to happen in Srebrenica. He believes that the writing was on the wall, and that the failure to act belongs to the international community as a whole. He points specifically to the lack of political will in institutions such as the UN.

Nevertheless, Barbalić also pointed out the decisive role that citizen journalism has played in the Arab Spring, and said that had this information been available in 1995, perhaps the genocide could have been prevented. In discussing the Libya intervention, he said, “When Libya was opening up, the information coming from the media was very important to create a complete picture: ‘If we don’t do something, there will be major bloodshed in Benghazi.’ ” The coverage provided by Libyan citizens effectively made it impossible for the international community not to intervene in Libya, but in places like Syria and Sri Lanka, where there is a virtual blackout of professional media coverage, the ability to verify information that might drive the international community to act is largely absent.

Looking towards the future, all of the panel speakers agreed that professional journalism still holds an important role in preventing and exposing mass atrocities. They believe that new technologies and citizen journalism can be a very powerful resource, but one that needs to serve a complimentary role with the professional media, which are charged with providing verifiable facts that can influence international action. Without reliable information from places like Syria, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, the atrocities being committed will not be brought to light, let alone prevented from happening in the first place.

Photo: channel4.com

Christopher Kousouros holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. 

* The UN backed trial of three of the most senior members of the Khmer Rouge began today with opening statements in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The officials included Nuon Chea, also known as “Brother Number 2,” former head-of-state Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary, who was foreign minister for the Khmer Rouge. All three defendants deny the charges, which include genocide and crimes against humanity. Each of the three defendants are in their eighties, and many fear they will die before any convictions can be handed down. Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister and Ieng Sary’s wife, was deemed physically unfit to stand trial. Since its establishment in 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has convicted only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, head of the notorious Tuol Sleng torture center.

* In Libya, human rights organizations are calling for the surrender of Saif al-Islam, a son of Muammar Gaddafi, to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Saif al-Islam is subject to an ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity in an investigation authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970. Saif al-Islam is reportedly being held in the town of Zintan by rebel forces. “The authorities will send an important message that there’s a new era in Libya, marked by the rule of law, by treating Saif al-Islam humanely and surrendering him to the ICC,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “His fair prosecution at the ICC will afford Libyans a chance to see justice served in a trial that the international community stands behind.”

Photo: crimesofwar.org

In September the Carnegie Council published the Fall 2011 issue of its journal Ethics and International Affairs, featuring a roundtable discussion on the intervention in Libya and its implications for future humanitarian interventions. This post will examine one of the six contributions to the discussion, “The Ethics of Humanitarian Intervention in Libya,” by James Pattison. (It is important to bear in mind that the articles were written nearly two months ago, while Gaddafi was still in power.)

Pattison’s thesis is that the intervention in Libya was morally permissible, but it raises three issues about the ethics of humanitarian intervention in general; the ethics of mission creep, the problems with consequentialism as a means to justify intervention, and selectivity. Specifically, Pattison claims that the moral permissibility of Libya depends on two questions: Was there just cause for the intervention? What were the intentions of the interveners?

On the question of just cause, Pattison suggests relying on the parameters set by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty; the presence of large scale loss of life (genocidal intention not required), and/or ethnic cleansing. Pattison believes that Libya fulfilled these requirements for five main reasons. First, he claims that the intervening forces in Libya did not exceed the scope of the intervention—a no-fly zone with no troops on the ground. However, the presence of French, American, and British Special Forces in Libya, even if they were present only as advisors and trainers, could call this claim into question. Second, Resolution 1973 gave NATO permission to intervene, which made it an internationally sanctioned intervention. Third, the imminent military attack on Benghazi, combined with Gaddafi’s famous “no mercy” speech, and his call to cleanse Benghazi, justified forgoing preventative measures for the sake of saving innocent civilians under immediate threat of annihilation. Fourth, the intervention was supported by regional states and organizations, most importantly the Arab League. However, this support was second-guessed only a day after the intervention began. Lastly, Pattison claims that the mission had a reasonable hope for success in its short-term goal of protecting the citizens of Benghazi, but he also points out that the long-term hope of success was uncertain at best. Pattison makes a point of saying these facts support the moral permissibility of humanitarian intervention, but not the pursuit of regime change.

Regime change inherently holds higher risks than humanitarian intervention. A policy of forced regime change is more costly in economic and military terms, more collateral damage can be expected, and generally threatens the stability of the country and the entire region more than a humanitarian intervention. Therefore, Pattison states that the requirements to justify regime change should be proportionally higher given its consequences. Therefore, Pattison claims that a forced regime change in Libya was not justified. Although the intervention included forced regime change as only a secondary goal at first, Pattison claims that due to mission creep it became the main goal of the Libya intervention. This view is supported by British General Sir David Richards calling for an expansion of NATO targets to oust Gaddafi. This expansion of the NATO bombing campaign made many who supported the intervention backtrack. Mission creep is the first of three major issues Pattison believes the Libya intervention reveals about humanitarian intervention in general.

The second issue is the justification of interventions through a consequentialist point of view. In Libya the short-term consequences, namely the protection of the civilians in Benghazi, certainly justified intervention. However, the long-term consequences were less clear, and failed to reveal themselves even when the conflict drew to an end. Pattison states that the inconclusive nature of the long-term consequences puts justification of the intervention into doubt. if one focused only on the long-term consequences in Libya, intervention would not have been justifiable, since the long-term consequences were so unclear, and were constantly debated throughout the intervention. Instead, Pattison suggests that a different approach should be adopted, one that focuses on more assessable considerations, such as whether or not the intervention has the requisite legal authority.

The third and final issue the Libya intervention raises is that of selectivity. Many have disagreed with the Libya intervention in light of the fact that interventions were not undertaken in similar situations in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. Many claim that this reveals the inconsistency of international moral standards and the presence and influence of self-interest in the UN’s decision to intervene in Libya. Pattison disagrees with this outlook, claiming that there should be selectivity, as many situations are dissimilar enough that an intervention could conceivably be permissible for one and not the other. He also says this critique misses its target; instead of proving that the Libya intervention was not justified, these facts actually reveal the moral failure of the international community in not intervening in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. In an August 26 article, Foreign Affairs agrees with Pattison, saying that the Libya intervention reveals the inevitability of selectivity in humanitarian intervention.

For Pattison, the real problem of selectivity is that given the assumption that the goal is to save the most lives with the lowest cost to the interveners, there were many other places that deserved intervention, where more lives could have been saved.  Notwithstanding, Pattison claims that an intervention in Libya and nowhere else is certainly morally permissible compared to no intervention at all.

Photo: informationliberation.com

On November 3 the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, at Columbia University in New York, hosted a roundtable discussion called “Peace and Justice in Burma: Serious International Crimes Continue Despite Talk of ‘Change.’ ”

The discussion featured a presentation by Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, outlining the current situation in Burma, specifically in Kachin State.

Stothard began with a brief history of the conflict in Kachin State. In 1994, after decades of fighting, the Burmese government signed a ceasefire agreement with the Kachin Independence Organization and its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Despite the ceasefire, the Kachin people did not see their pleas for a representative government realized. In 2009 the Burmese government demanded that all opposition forces, the KIA included, incorporate themselves into the Border Guard Forces of the Burma Army. In light of the KIA’s refusal, the Burmese government launched an offensive against the KIA in Kachin State and Northern Shan State in June 2011. This war has caused large-scale displacement and a dramatic increase in human rights violations committed by the Burmese army in conjunction with its “four cuts strategy.”

According to an October 7 report by Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), these human rights violations include extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and rape (often gang rape), the use of child soldiers, enslavement and forced labor, and torture. The report says these violations are a direct policy of the Burmese government, both regularly and widely perpetrated impunity, which suggests they could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The conflict in Kachin State has created hundreds of thousands of refugees who are currently housed in six makeshift refugee camps, five of them on the China–Burma border. The Burmese government has blocked aid to these refugee camps, creating a humanitarian crisis that Stothard says is not being addressed by the international community because of a lack of political will.

KWAT is one of many organizations calling for a UN inquiry and a subsequent referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (Burmese organizations cannot request a referral to the ICC themselves, since Burma is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.)

Stothard told the audience that a referral to the Security Council was being blocked by Russia, a major arms dealer to the Burmese government, and China, which has multiple financial interests in Burma, including oil. So far there are 16 countries in favor of a UN inquiry into human rights violations in Burma, but Stothard says the initiative is also opposed by ASEAN, for fear of light being shed on human rights violations in most of its member states.

Photo: mizzima.com

Tensions have erupted in Liberia during an initially peaceful protest outside the headquarters of the leading opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), in the country’s capital of Monrovia. The exact circumstances surrounding the violence are still unknown, but there is a general consensus regarding the chain of events.

Various reports agree that the CDC originally called for its supporters to gather peacefully outside the CDC headquarters to protest and boycott the second round of elections, set to take place tomorrow, following CDC opposition leader Winston Tubman’s loss to sitting president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the first round of voting. It has been agreed that Tubman had little to no chance of winning the second round. The Huffington Post said, in an article this afternoon, that international observers approved the first round of elections, and consequently this move by Tubman is seen as an attempt to discredit a fairly run election that did not turn out in his favor. These elections mark the second time voters have gone to the polls since the end of Liberia’s 14-year-long civil war in 2003.

The Huffington Post reported one death today, saying, “It was not immediately clear what set off the violence, but it appeared to have degenerated when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.” Meanwhile the Liberian Journal reported five people killed in the violence, writing, “The Liberian police, without any provocation, began to fire in the air, even after they barricaded the main entries to the opposition facility, provoking further tension and the chaos that followed.”

On today’s violence, the International Crisis Group’s West Africa Director said, “It’s motivated by the fact that they (Tubman’s party) think they don’t have a chance. It’s a way to stain the election. To create a problem of credibility for the president.” A Liberian Church leader offered another version: “I think members of the Liberia police force are provoking a problem, to justify their premeditated actions against a party that has chosen to exercise its full political and constitutional rights.” U.S. photojournalist Glenna Gordon, who is in Liberia, reported that she witnessed a confrontation between the Liberian riot police and UN peacekeepers. She also said she heard CDC supporters chanting “Tonight, tonight there will be a massacre.”

Ellen Margrethe Loj, the UN Secretary General’s special representative and head of the UN mission in Liberia said today, “Peaceful, credible, and transparent elections are important to ensure that peace in Liberia is maintained.”

Photo: http://www.scarlettlion.com/2011/11/riot-in-monrovia.html

* Egypt’s military council has assumed control over investigations into the massacre of Coptic Christians that took place on October 9 in Maspero, leaving at least 27 civilians dead. In an October 25 report Human Rights Watch said, “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt’s military rulers, should transfer the investigation from the military prosecution to a fully independent and impartial investigation.” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the same report,

“The military cannot investigate itself with any credibility… The generals seem to be insisting that they and only they investigate the Maspero violence, which is to ensure that no serious investigation occurs. The military has already tried to control the media narrative, and it should not be allowed to cover up what happened on October 9.”

The October 9 massacre was in response to peaceful protests surrounding the burning of a Coptic church in Marinab on September 30, which Mustafa El Sayed, the mayor of Aswan, justified by saying the church was built without a permit.

* On October 20 large numbers of Janjaweed militias were reportedly flown into Blue Nile, Sudan. On October 23 Yasser Saeed Arman, secretary general of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) told Radio Dabanga that the National Congress Party was now using Janjaweed forces on the ground in Blue Nile. Janjaweed militias were among the groups involved in the genocide in Darfur, which began in 2003. The conflict in Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan, began on September 1.

Photo: lacopts.org

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