Islamist leader Ghulam Azam, 91, was sentenced to 90 years by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) on July 15 for crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 independence war. The tribunal stated that Azam deserved capital punishment, but was given a prison term because of his advanced age. Bangladesh maintains that Pakistan's army killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women with the assistance of local collaborators during the war. From 1969 to 2000, Azam was the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is accused of organizing the collaborationist attacks. He is the third Islamist leader to be convicted in recent months for violence in the 1971 war. At least three people died in clashes in Dhaka after the verdict was announced. (AP, NYT, BBC News, AFP, Al Jazeera, July 15)
Thousands of Bosnians again marched cross-country on July 11, along the path that refugees took when they fled the massacre at Srebrenica on that day in 1995. They arrived at the Potočari memorial cemetary outside the town for a ceremony where 409 more bodies were laid to rest. Among the interred remains were those of a baby girl who was born during the massacre; the mother took refuge at the Dutch-run UN "peacekeeping" camp outside the town, and gave birth there. She was told the baby was stillborn and would be buried; then the beseiging Serb forces overran the camp, meeting no resistance from the "peacekeepers." The baby ended up in a mass grave—one of several used to hide the bodies of more than 8,000 of Srebrenica's men and boys, summarily killed by the Serb rebel troops.
Indigenous leaders in Colombia's Cauca department last month exchanged letters with FARC commander Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" AKA "Timoleón Jiménez" to discuss a face-to-face dialogue over guerilla aggression against native peoples. "Timochenko" wrote to indigenous leaders on May 13, appealing to them "to reach understandings that will allow us satisfactorily to advance towards our mutual goals of peace and social justice." He denied recent accusations by native leaders that the FARC is complicit in the "genocide of the indigenous" of Cauca, and broached a personal meeting. The indigenous leaders reponded on May 16 with an open letter accepting the invitation to direct dialogue, but adding: "However, our communities want to see the dialogue does represent changes to our conditions; that you stop killing, accusing and dividing us." The letter protested the FARC's accusation that the indigenous leadership are a "counterinsurgency force."
The usual frustrating mess. The ascendance of Samantha Power, longtime advocate of "humanitarian intervention," as Obama's new UN ambassador (replacing Susan Rice, named for National Security Advisor), is applauded by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (NBC)—and, we may be certain, opposed by both the anti-war left and the paleocon right. Google results reveal that the paleocons have beat the lefties to the punch. A Fox News report picked up by World Net Daily taunts: "'Nazi' Problem for Obama's UN pick?"...
Osiel Gabriel, an indigenous Terena, was killed on May 30 when Brazilian federal police violently removed a group of Terena protesters who had been occupying the Buriti estate in Sidrolandia, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, since May 15. At least three indigenous people and one police agent were treated at a local hospital with light injuries; eight protesters were arrested. The occupiers reportedly fought back with wooden clubs and bows and arrows and set some of the estate's buildings on fire. The authorities claimed police agents only used rubber bullet and tear gas; according to state police superintendent Edgar Paulo Marcon, the protesters fired on the agents.
Syrian elite troops are backing up an offensive apparently led by Hezbollah against rebels in the strategic town of Qusayr, as the UN Human Rights Council debates a resolution condemning the assault. Russia meanwhile protests a European Union decision to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels, and says it will respond by supplying Damascus with S-300 air-defense missiles. This, in turn, is decried as a "threat" by Israel, which warns it could launch air-strikes to destroy any deployed missiles. "The situation is beginning to show worrying signs of destabilizing the region as a whole," said UN rights chief Navi Pillay.
Thousands of Guatemalans marched in Guatemala City on May 24 to protest a decision four days earlier by the Constitutional Court (CC) overturning the historic May 10 conviction of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) for genocide against the Ixil Mayans in El Quiché department. Organizers said 6,000 people participated in the march, which passed by the offices of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF)—whose leaders had called for the reversal of the ex-dictator's conviction—and ended with a sit-in outside the Constitutional Court. Protesters denounced the judges as "promoters of impunity."
The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.