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Archive for April 16th, 2011

Sri Lanka And War Crimes

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Comparatively speaking, the conflict in Sri Lanka between 2006 and 2009 was underreported in the Western media.

This is despite mass killings, horrendous atrocities and the shelling of areas known to contain civilians by the Sri Lankan army.

Towards the end, in 2009, there was increased coverage, but nowhere near the level of indignation that one might rightly expect to be found in the Western press.

The exception to that has been Channel 4, who have covered it for a number of years and reveal that the Sri Lankan government is guilty of war crimes, according to a secret UN report:

“A leaked UN report reveals the United Nations believes there is credible evidence that war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war. Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson recalls the “frustration and the tension” of trying to report on a “secret war”.

Already the government of Sri Lanka has put up its defences as the report is leaked. To nobody’s surprise Colombo’s position is that this is just so much hearsay because the United Nations team never got real access. And they have got access because Colombo banned them… and so the merry-go-round goes on.

All of it, merely the latest in a long chapter of secrecy, censorship and intimidation from both the Sir Lankan government and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) down the long years of civil war from 23 June 1983 to the Tigers admitting defeat in May 2009.

For any foreign reporter visiting the island it was generally a barely endurable excercise in frustration and the tension. Frustration at interminable briefings in Colombo from government officials telling you virtually nothing. Or highly sanitised visits “to the front” during which one would be shown next to nothing.

Any attempt to reach the other side as it were – the LTTE – was always a high- risk venture from the crossing of lines and possible minefields to the more likely danger of exposing your local fixer/translator to serious police action or worse for helping foreign reporters to try and cover both sides of the long war. “

Read Channel 4 news’ Sri Lanka: civil war special report.

Update 1: Channel 4 has updated the details:

“These alleged crimes include executions, rape and torture by Government forces. The leaked report also lists the shelling of civilians inside “no-fire zones”, the “systematic shelling” of hospitals and attacks on the UN and Red Cross.

The LTTE stands accused of refusing civilians permission to leave the conflict zone and “using them as hostages” in a “buffer zone”.

The UN panel also says that authorities “sought to intimidate and silence the media and other critics of the war through a variety of threats and actions, including the use of white vans to abduct and to make people disappear”. “

Written by modernityblog

16/04/2011 at 15:24

Vittorio Arrigoni And The Need For The Geneva Accords.

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No one should sneer or joke about the death of Vittorio Arrigoni, rather our humanity should make us think of why it happened and what the alternatives are.

The continued violence in the Middle East only brutalises people, it desensitises them and makes any settlement harder to achieve.

The on-going conflict in the Middle East is a political problem and requires political solutions, not military gung-honess, attacks on buses or the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni.

Such a political solution is the Geneva Accords.

These accords try to balance the wants and desires of all parties, and endeavour to find reasonable compromises to these seemingly intractable problems.

For peace in the Middle East a degree of realism is needed on all sides, no one is going to vanish or go away, so a modus vivendi must be found.

The Geneva Accords offer an outline of a settlement and should be given greater prominence in light of Vittorio Arrigoni’s death, lest nihilism and the status quo linger on, leading to further killings and the brutalisation of so many more.

Written by modernityblog

16/04/2011 at 01:30

Bloggers In The Middle East.

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The Economist covers the plight of bloggers in the Middle East:

“GOVERNMENTS in the Middle East are getting increasingly twitchy about their citizens’ activities online. In Egypt, on Sunday April 10th, a blogger, Mikael Sanad Nabil, was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the military” in his blog postings, after a brief trial by a military court with no defence lawyers present. Other bloggers worry they may be next. Campaigners say the mainstream media are already fearful of criticising the army.

In Bahrain, two months after anti-government protests began, bloggers have been caught up in a sweeping crackdown in which at least 450 people have been arrested for being “political activists”. Zakariya Rashid Hassan, who ran a online forum for residents of his village, Al Dair, died in custody last week, six days after being arrested for “spreading false news”. His forum has been taken down and replaced with a picture of the Saudi and Bahraini kings. Human-rights groups allege he was tortured; the authorities say his death was due to anaemia.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based lobby, says three other “netizens” remain in custody in Bahrain. At least three other bloggers have been arrested, including two who campaign against sectarianism, Mahmood Al Yousif and @redbelt, the founder of #uniteBH, an online campaign. A similar movement has sprung up in Lebanon. These three have now been released, but at a time when hundreds have been fired from their jobs for taking part—or on suspicion of taking part—in protests, their arrests have sent a clear warning to Bahrainis. Even the country’s national football team has sacked four star players for being “against the government”. “

Update 1: This is just part of a wider issue:

Iran And Bahrain, What Do They Have in Common?

Meanwhile In Iran.

The Last Days Of A Dictatorship.

Update 2: NPR’s Bahrain Detains Activist After Crackdown On Dissent is worth a read too.

Written by modernityblog

16/04/2011 at 01:06