Global Voices

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Photo Evidence of Police Brutality in Rio de Janeiro Protests

This post is part of our special coverage page Brazil's Vinegar Revolt.

A week ago today, on the evening of June 20, 2013, Brazil was shaken by the biggest wave of protests in the country's recent history. In Rio de Janeiro, an event that began with a peaceful march from the downtown city to the mayor's office spread to other neighborhoods and ended in violent clashes between police and protesters [pt].

According to official estimates, about 300,000 people attended the rally in Rio de Janeiro. Among them, Brazilian photographer Calé recorded in photos the indiscriminate use of rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas by the military police on unarmed protesters.

The result are the testimony and photos below, handpicked by Calé for Global Voices Online:

Protest in Rio, June 20

At the beginning of the demonstration, people were dancing and partying on the way to the mayor's office, making it a joyful moment. Photo: Calé, published with permission

Last night I covered the protest in Rio, and saw the police use tear gas and rubber bullets to sweep clean the streets of downtown Rio, in a clear case of abuse of power.

Protests in Rio end with violence

A violent group started a fight with supporters of a left wing party, but police took a long time to respond and didn't arrest anyone. Photo: Calé, published with permission

For the most part it was a peaceful and joyful gathering, with bands playing carnival songs and people of all ages caring flags and posters laying their claims. There were minor incidents, like a fight between supporters of a left wing party and youngsters who disagreed the march should be exploited or connected to any political party.

Man wounded in protest

A man is wounded in the protest and helped by others in the crowd. Photo: Calé, published with permission.

Curiously, the police took a long time to react and only sent 3 motorcycles to check it out, and probably report back. No arrests were made, even though some people were bleeding and pointing out the perpetrators of the attack.

Human chain to separate protesters

Demonstrators made a human chain in front of the police to avoid skirmishes, and try to keep the protest peaceful. Photo: Calé, published with permission.

When the crowd finally made it to the square in front of the mayor’s office, there was a heavy concentration of officers protecting the building, with the cavalry standing in front the gate. Leaders of the demonstration made a human chain in front of the police to avoid skirmishes, to make sure a small group of bullies wouldn’t spoil such a nice evening.

Protests in Rio, June 2013

The bodybuilder Gabriel Campos kissing the horse of an officer, as part of his provocations. Photo: Calé, published with permission.

The demonstrators were able to keep it peaceful in front of the mayor's office, until a 29 year old bodybuilder named Gabriel Campos, who is now wanted by the police, started to insult the officers on top of their horses, despite people asking him to get out of there. At one point, demonstrators asked officers to arrest him before it was too late.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

Demonstrators used wood panels as shields and threw stones at the police. Photo: Calé, published with permission

As there was no response, the demonstrators tried to take justice in their own hands, and a fight broke out. It was just the excuse the police was waiting for. At the first sight of misbehavior they started aiming tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

Terror as people flees the Police. Photo: Calé, published with permission.

At no point was there an attempt to invade the mayor's office, the people simply became furious and started to fight back at the police with sticks and stones. What happened next was the biggest case of police abuse of the decade: special troops including Choque and Bope swept the streets of downtown Rio clean, all the way to the bohemian neighborhood of Lapa, 2,5 km away. In response, many stores and buildings were vandalized and robbed on Presidente Vargas Avenue.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

Police pass by garbage on fire, as buildings were vandalized on Presidente Vargas Avenue. Photo: Calé, published with permission

Even after the riot was over they kept throwing tear gas at peaceful demonstrators on their way home, far away from the mayor's office. There was no distinction between troublemakers and peaceful people trying to find their way back home. As the subway stations were closed, everyone had to walk their way out of the conflict zone.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

A street seller gasps for air after inhaling tear gas, as police become indiscriminate in their attacks, aiming rubber bullets and tear gas at innocent people too. Photo: Calé, published with permission

As the subway stations were closed, everyone had to walk their way out of this conflict zone. At Carioca station a group were waiting for the gates to open, when the police marched by Avenida Rio Branco. This station is located in a pedestrian corridor, perpendicular to the avenue, and when the police was almost out of sight someone shouted “Cowards, son of a b…”, and they immediately turned back and threw gas at the crowd.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

At Avenida Rio Branco, the Choque troop sweep the streets clean. Photo: Calé, published with permission

Quickly the subway crew opened a small gate for people to get in, but ended up creating a trap were people got stuck in a funnel breathing gas. Downstairs many were nauseous and laying down.

Police violence in Rio protests. Photo: Calé.

People at Carioca station watching police pass Avenida Rio Branco raise their hands in gesture of peace. Photo: Calé, published with permission

Many people who left the march at the fist sign of trouble decided to go to the Lapa neighborhood to have a beer, a distant and safe place in their heads. But soon the squads were there too and they were trapped inside restaurants and bars as chaos reigned in the streets. As people started shouting at the police, they irresponsibly threw tear gas inside buildings too.

Police violence in Rio protests. Photo: Calé.

Police throws tear gas at peaceful demonstrators waiting for the subway station to open. The subway staff opened a side gate for people to get in looking for shelter, but it created a funnel were they were stuck breathing gas. Downstairs many were laying down nauseous. Photo: Calé, published with permission

Yes, there were vandals in the march who broke and burnt things, but most of these acts were confined to Presidente Vargas Avenue, closer to the mayor's office. So why did the police have such a large ray of action and pointed their guns at innocent people? At gatherings and in social media, people now talk about their fear of joining new demonstrations, and some want it all to stop. Only one expression comes to my mind to explain the behavior of our police force: state terrorism.

Police violence in Rio protests. Photo: Calé.

Police pass by garbage on fire, as some started to vandalize buildings on Presidente Vargas Avenue. Photo: Calé, published with permission

All photos in this post have been published with permission from Calé, who besides working as a commercial photographer, has developed artistic and authorial projects all over the world. Some of his photos can be see at the series Buscadores (Seekers), on display at Ateliê da Imagem [br] in Rio de Janeiro. Seekers has been shown in solo exhibitions in Denmark, Russia, Argentina and Bolivia, and has been part of collective shows in USA and Irland.

Protests in Rio end with violent police reaction

Demonstrator ask for peace in the the middle of the fight. Photo: Calé, published with permission

This post is part of our special coverage page Brazil's Vinegar Revolt.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Salafists Attack Shia Homes in Egypt, Killing Four

Four Egyptian adherents of the Shia faith were killed in Egypt today when the house they were meeting in was attacked by Salafists, following two weeks of instigation against the Shia.

According to various reports, the house the Shia were meeting in, in Giza, Cairo, was attacked and burned. Al Badil News quotes a witness from the mortuary [ar] who says that one of those killed was slaughtered and the remaining three had injuries to their heads. The horrific incident unleashed anger online.

Hazem Barakat documented the crime, sharing bloodied photographs and a video of the attack (Warning: Graphic video) online. On Twitter, he says he was threatened for sharing the incident he has witnessed. He adds [ar]:

انا على اتم الاستعداد للشهاده امام النيابه وهقول كل اللى حصل بالتفاصيل وهقول على الشيوخ اللى حرضت على القتل

@7azem122: I am ready to testify at the Public Prosecutor and I will say what happened in detail and I will say that the clergymen were the ones who instigated this crime

People gather at the alley in which the house where the Shia were killed in Cairo today. Photograph shared on Twitter by @7azem122

People gather at the alley in which the house where the Shia were killed in Cairo today. Photograph shared on Twitter by @7azem122

He continues:

التحريض على الشيعه بدأ من اسبوعين فى جميع المساجد والنهارده كان التنفيذ شيوخ ولاد دين كلب ” قتلوهم وعندهم اطفال لسه صغيرين :(

@7azem122: Instigating against the Shia started two weeks ago in all the mosques and today they executed their plan. Those clergymen are sons of dogs. They killed people with young children

Five hours ago he tweeted:

السلفيين بدأو يكسرو سقف البيت اللى فيه الشيعه مشهد سيريالى رهيب

: The Salafists have started to break the roof of the house the Shia are in. It is a surreal scene.

Police remained idle as a home where Shia Egyptians were meeting today was attacked by Salafists, says Hazem Barakat (@7azem122)

Police remained idle as a home where Shia Egyptians were meeting today was attacked by Salafists, says Hazem Barakat (@7azem122)

He also claims the police, including officers, were standing by and watching as the lynching took place.

The incident was met with anger online.

Satirist Dr Bassem Youssef tweets:

النهاردة شيعي بكرة صوفي بعده قبطي قبله بهائي و بعدين مسلم مش موافق على تطبيق الشريعة بفكركم و بعدين واحد شكله مش عاجبك.

@DrBassemYoussef: Today it is a Shia; tomorrow a Sufi, and then a Copt, a before him a Bahai. Afterwards it will be a Muslim who doesn't agree with the way you want to implement Sharia (Islamic teachings) with your ideology and then it will be someone whose look you don't like

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia shares a similar thought:

و النهاردة الشيعة و بكرة جارك اللى مش متفق معاك سياسيا و فكريا

@Zeinobia: And today it is the Shia and tomorrow your neighbour who is not in agreement with you politically and intellectually

Ahmed Abou Hussein asks:

لما شيخك يكفر المتظاهرين ويلقب الشيعة بالأنجاس ماتستغربش انهم يقتلوا. يا مرسي السؤال مش انت فقدت شرعيتك ولا لأ، السؤال انت فقدتها كام مرة؟

@abouhussein7: When your clergyman [President Mohamed Morsi] says that the protestors are infidels and that the Shia are unchaste, don't be surprised when they are killed. Morsi, the question is not whether you have lost your legitimacy. The question is: how many times have you lost your legitimacy?

Ahmad Khalil is surprised at the way people are reasoning murder:

السلفيين قتلوا ٤ شيعة ، الغريب فى الامر ان من يستنكر هذا الفعل يقول دم المسلم حرام يعنى دم المسيحى حلال ، الافكار الطائفية اصابت الجميع

@ahmad_khalil: The Salafists have killed four Shia. What is surprising is that there are some among those who are condemning the act who say that spilling the blood of a Muslim is Haram [forbidden in Islam]. It is as if spilling the blood of a Christian is Halal (acceptable in Islam]. Such sectarian ideas have inflicted everyone.

Sherif Azer notes [ar]:

فيه احداث و تصريحات كتير حصلت في الفترة الاخيرة كانت بتمهد للهجوم على #الشيعة في مصر.عدم الاستعداد لموقف زي ده في حد ذاته جريمة #مصر

@sherif_azer: There were a lot of incidents and statements that have happened over the past period which prepared the scene for the attack on the Shia in Egypt. Not being prepared for such an incident is a crime in its own

And Adel Salib wonders why people are shocked that the Shia are being attacked in Egypt when the police previously attacked – and killed – Egyptian Copts:

مندهش من المندهشين ان الشرطة وقفت تتفرج علي قتل الشيعة ؛ اذا كان الشرطة كانت من شهرين بتضرب الكتدرائية انتم عالم مغيبين ولا بتستهبلوا ؟

@Adel_Salib: Someone is surprised that the police were watching while the Shia were being murdered when two months ago the police were attacking the Cathedral. Are you under a spell or just stupid?

A screenshot of a tweet by Mohammed Saber, an anchor at an Egyptian Television celebrating the murder of Shia in Egypt. Photograph shares by @Gemyhood on Twitter

A screenshot of a tweet by Mohammed Saber, an anchor at an Egyptian Television celebrating the murder of Shia in Egypt. Photograph shares by @Gemyhood on Twitter

Ali adds:

زعلان ان المسلمين السنة بيتدبحوا في بورما ..وفرحان ان المسلمين الشيعة بيتحرقوا أحياء و يتمثل بجثثهم .. انت لازم تقوم تشوف دكتور بيطري كويس

@ali4592000: Are you angry that Sunni Muslims are being killed in Burma and happy that Shia Muslims are being burnt alive in Egypt and their corpses defiled? You should see a good veterinarian

Rawah Badrawi shares some history:

@RawahBadrawi: Cairo was founded by Shias you Neanderthals. They established half its heritage sites including Al Azhar.

And Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia concludes:

نحن نعود إلى زمن الجاهليه. الإسلام بريء مما يحدث الآن من سفك الدماء. #مصر #لبنان #سوريا

@NoonArabia: We are returning to the age of Jahiliyya [ignorance]. Islam is innocent of the blood being spilled today in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria

Of course not everyone was horrified by the attack. Blogger Mohamed Beshir shares a tweet by a presenter at the Egyptian Television named Mohammed Saber, who is celebrating the murder of the Shia and calling for more deaths.

دة مذيع ف التلفزيون المصري سعيد بقتل الشيعة والناس بترد عليه يأكد ويبشرهم

@Gemyhood: This is a presenter at the Egyptian [state] television happy at the murder of Shia

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

As Kabul Gets a Bomb Attack, the Taliban Open an Office in Doha

A suicide bomb explosion shook a western district of Kabul, Afghanistan on June 18, killing at least three and injuring more than twenty. The explosion took place shortly before the international coalition (ISAF) forces were due to officially transfer responsibility for security of the remaining districts of eastern and southern Afghanistan to the Afghan national security forces. As Afghans reeled from the news of the attack, the Taliban opened their smart new Headquarters in Qatar. (more…)

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Simultaneous “Sit-ins for Freedom” Held Across Saudi Cities

Small groups of Saudi women held simultaneous “Sit-ins for Freedom” across Saudi cities on June 10, 2013, which were called for by anonymous advocacy group @almonaseron [The Supporters] to call for release of their imprisoned relatives. As a result, over 140 protesters, men and women, were arrested by Saudi forces during the previous two days.

Independent human rights sources say there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”. The detainees were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Protests in Saudi Arabia are strictly prohibited and participants risk spending many months in prison if they get caught. This, however, did not stop prisoners’ relatives from challenging the ban many times in small numbers over the past two years.

At 4.55pm, local time, @almonaseron announced the beginning of the sit-in and tweeted [ar]:

بدأ #اعتصام_الحرية نساء في عدة مناطق في آن واحد فعلى أهالي المعتقلين الإنضمام إليهم فوراً

@almonaseron: The Sit-in for Freedom just started: women from different areas [are gathering] simultaneously. Detainees’ relatives should join them right now.

In Riyadh, a group of women, several of whom were relatives of Suliman al-Roushodi, head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, gathered in front of the government-funded National Society for Human Rights, where they had protested back in February. One of the protesters was his daughter, Bahia al-Roushodi, who was given a suspended four-month prison sentence after that earlier sit-in. They were quickly surrounded by over 30 police cars [ar], and their driver was arrested[ar] and they were prohibited from leaving. One of Riyadh's main roads, King Fahad Road, was closed by police during rush hour to crackdown on the sit-in. At 6.20pm, one of the protesters, al-Roushodi's wife, tweeted:

تم اعتقالنا واعتقال اخي

@omamar1: They arrested us, and they arrested my brother.

Relatives of the arrested women protesters gathered in front of the prison where they were reportedly held. Photograph shared by @fatma_mesned on Twitter

Relatives of the arrested women protesters gathered in front of the prison where they were reportedly held. Photograph shared by @fatma_mesned on Twitter

At 11.44pm, relatives of the arrested women protesters gathered in front of the prison where they were reportedly held. al-Roushodi's granddaughter, Fatima al-Mesned tweeted:

الآن مجتمعون امام سجن الملز قسم النساء لمن اراد المطالبه بمعتصمات #الرياض انصروا من نصر أسرانا

@fatma_mesned: For those who want to demand [the release of] the protesters: We are now in front of al-Malez prison, the female section. Support those who supported our prisoners.

In Buraydah, women gathered in front of the city's Grand Court, and more than women joined the sit-in shortly. By 5.52pm, Saudi forces were surrounding the protesters [ar]. When a young man tried to provide water for the protesters, he was chased by the forces and arrested[ar]. Secret policemen wearing civilian cloths ordered the women to leave and threatened them, but they refused unless their relieves are released (video [ar]). The number of women protesters was increasing until they were forcefully arrested. At 8.24pm, @almonaseron tweeted:

الآن تم أركاب المعتصمات للباصات في بريدة بالقوة

@almonaseron: Women were just forced to ride the [police] buses.

The following day, June 11, at 5pm, a group of men and women gathered to protest the previous day's arrests. Within minutes, they were surrounded by emergency forces [ar], beaten [ar] and arrested.

Other small gathers were held in Mecca, Aljouf and Hial.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Australia: Security Storm Surrounds Convicted Egyptian Asylum Seeker

Accusations of ‘jihadist terrorism’ against an Egyptian asylum seeker have fuelled political brawling in the lead up to Australia’s election on 14 September 2013. Sayed Abdellatif was kept in low security detention for nearly a year despite an Interpol red alert for convictions during the Mubarak regime in 1999.

The Opposition parties’ election promises include turning back refugee boats and increasing funding to the intelligence and security agencies. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has responded by setting up an internal inquiry into the apparent security failure.

Stories abound about alleged terrorist Sayed Ahmed Maksoud Abdellatif. Some involve accusations of involvement with al-Qaida funding.

Others present a more positive side. On 14 February 2012 IRIN a non-profit news service funded by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs painted a much more heroic portrait of the refugee. He was in Indonesia preparing to take a dangerous boat trip:

Egyptian asylum-seeker Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif, married with six children, says he is ready to risk everything to reach Australia – even his family.

…for 41-year-old Abdellatif, who faces possible extradition and a 15-year prison sentence of hard labour in Egypt for his religious affiliations, the risk is worth it.

Australia/Pacific Correspondent for Reuters Rob Taylor tweeted:

‏@ReutersTaylor: Egypt's Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif was so “dangerous” that his story was profiled by the UN as a hard luck story!

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney also disputes the case against Abdellatif:

A refugee advocate has called for the Opposition Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison to end his “terrorism” witch-hunt, and for the government to investigate the leaking of information by the Australian Federal Police.

Claims that ‘a convicted murderer’ has been held in low security immigration facilities are simply not true. This asylum seeker has never been convicted of murder or any specific terrorism charges.

Scott Morrison’s vendetta against ASIO and the Labor government is leading to a ‘trial by media’ of an Egyptian asylum seeker whose claims for protection have still not been considered by the Immigration Department.

On the other hand, Vietnam veteran Kev Gillett’s blog has an ex-soldier’s warning that we need to defend our borders:

Anyone with skin in the game or an interest in Australia’s security have been warning all and sundry that to let people into the country when they come via boats, having destroyed identity papers en route, is dangerous. These boat people are not all they make themselves out to be.

The Oz twitterverse has taken up the challenge. After reading Doubts about convictions of Egyptian asylum seeker at heart of political storm by the new Guardian Australia on 7 June, Andrew Watson accused the leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott and his Liberal Party:

‏@Andy_Downunda: #auspol It's reasonable to believe that Sayed Abdellatif is a Hosni Mubarak #patsy [victim]. #myliberal

Todd Kirby was unimpressed with this attack:

‏@toddkirby: oh my god why are all the lefties jizzing over this Guardian article about Sayed Abdellatif?

Meanwhile a no-win situation faces successful asylum seekers in Australia who do not get a security clearance from ASIO (the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation).

Amnesty International explained in 2012:

…they must pass an ASIO security assessment – but this process is problematic. ASIO is notoriously secretive about their findings, and refugees with a negative security assessment have no ability to challenge a negative assessment.

What happens to those not granted security clearance?

Quite simply, they are stuck in detention – possibly forever. The Australian government cannot return them home due to their refugee status, nor can they enter Australia.

As AI reported, there is now an independent review process but if that fails, refugees are held in security detention indefinitely.

Rally to support refugees

Rally to support refugees

Photo: courtesy Indymedia CC BY-NC-SA licence

The inevitable lack of transparency that shrouds the work of intelligence and security agencies applies to the new review by a former Federal court judge. Takver joined the continuing criticism on Indymedia in April 2013:

55 asylum seekers have refugee status but are in immigration limbo as they have adverse security assessments from ASIO with no right of appeal or ability to question ASIO's sources.

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Rwanda: NGO's Pursuit for Justice against Perpetrators of Genocide

Rwanda remembered the start of the genocide on April 7, as they have done every year since 1994. Commemorations are held in many countries, often spread out over a long period. In the 19 years following the genocide, the hunt for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity has never ceased. These searches are carried out not only in Rwanda but worldwide by associations of survivors, their families, their friends and all those who fight to ensure the perpetrators of such tragedies do not go unpunished.

In France, the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda (CPCR) is one of the organizations that fight against impunity. Its Chairman, Alain Gauthier, agreed to answer some of our questions.

Global Voices (GV): What are the reasons that have led French people like you to create the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda (CPCR), and who are its members?

Alain Gauthier (A.G.): The idea of ​​creating the CPCR came to my wife and myself in 2001, at the end of the first trial held in Belgium. We participated in a large part of this process because it involved genocide in the region of Butare, Rwanda, which is where my wife was born. One of the victims was a friend. Some of the victims were family members. Furthermore, my brother-in-law was part of the small group, the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs, that ensured the trial would take place in Brussels. My wife, Dafroza, lost a large part of her family in Rwanda in 1994. There are so many reasons. In the spring of 2001, we decided upon our return to France to create the CPCR, the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda, with some friends. The original founding members were mostly Rwandans living in France. This first group gradually disintegrated but friends and other French people interested in Rwanda who were perturbed by the presence of genocide suspects in France joined us. There are now between 150 and 200 members.

Memorial: Eternal rest for the victims of human folly. Photo: abkodo2

Memorial: Eternal rest for the victims of human folly. Photo: abkodo2

GV: Do you maintain relationships with similar organisations in Rwanda and elsewhere?

A.G.: We have maintained ties with our friends in Belgium, although the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs who inspired us in Brussels is no longer really active. In France, we have collaborated with associations that filed complaints before the CPCR existed, but complaints that I would call “dormant”; that is to say that the judges in charge of the dossiers were not very active or that the complaints were lacking in evidence or witnesses. The associations are Survie, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Rwandan Community of France. The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) [fr] also collaborated with us as a civil party in a large number of cases.

In Rwanda, we have links with the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), but we work mostly with individuals rather than associations. In fact, to my knowledge, there are very few organisations in the world that are like ours.

GV: What are the activities that have been carried out so far?

Memorial for victims of genocide. Photo: abkodo2

Memorial for victims of genocide. Photo: abkodo2

A.G.: If at first our work was to “feed” the existing six complaints, we were very quickly alerted to the presence of many genocide suspects in France and our work has focused on the search for witnesses in Rwanda. We go to Rwanda whenever we can to collect statements from both victims and killers and we prepare records that we translate and give to our lawyers who are responsible for drafting the complaints before they are submitted. In 12 years we have been able to submit 19 new complaints which are all currently in the hands of the investigating judges of the new “crimes against humanity pole”, recently created by the Paris Court of First Instance. This collection of statements is essential to our work.

GV: On the CPCR's blog, the collective says civil cases (alone or with other non-governmental organisations) have been filed in a number of French cities. Could you specify the number and the results?

A.G.: Currently there are about 25 complaints in the hands of French judges, the last 19 of which were initiated by the CPCR. No trials have yet taken place, but recently the judges decided to bring the first Rwandan accused of genocide before a criminal court. The accused, Pascal Simbikangwa, is a former captain of the Rwandan army and is currently incarcerated at Fresnes prison. He was arrested in Mayotte three or four years ago and then transferred to Paris. This should be the first trial held in France. It will be an historical process.

Wanted for genocide. Source:

Wanted for genocide. Source: commons

Two other genocide suspects are also in prison and could well be the next to be held to account judicially. They are Octavien Ngenzi, who was also arrested after being found in Mayotte, and Tito Barahira, recently arrested in Toulouse, where he was also forced to come out of hiding.

GV: Have there already been trials held in other countries for those accused of participating in the genocide?

A.G.: Other countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Germany and the Scandinavian countries have organised trials. For a long time in France there have been political barriers. The genocide was committed at the time of the coalition and neither the left nor the right wanted to organise trials. The role of the French state in the genocide is still not very clear.

GV: Can you expand on that?

A.G.: President François Mitterrand and the French government of 1994 had supported the Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana before the genocide, they came to the president's rescue in 1990, they then supported the government in power during the genocide following the death of President Habyarimana, and they allowed perpetrators of the genocide to take refuge in Zaire during the French Opération Turquoise at the end of the genocide. So there were many reasons why nobody in France wanted to hold a trial at the risk of opening Pandora's box. A trial would not fail to mention the role of the French state.

In addition, the French justice system had not made it possible for genocide suspects to be taken to trial. It was not until the creation of the Crimes against Humanity office of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (Paris Regional Court) that the French justice system moved up a gear. The three appointed full-time judges and the investigating police officers frequently address themselves to Rwanda in letters rogatory. It was about time… I must say that the genocide of the Tutsis and the prosecution of perpetrators of genocide are not topics that really interest our citizens.

GV: How are the alleged perpetrators identified?

Memorial: Eternal rest for victims of human folly. Photo: abkodo2

Memorial: Eternal rest for victims of human folly. Photo: abkodo2

A.G.: We are virtually the only ones to track down the perpetrators on French soil. If the CPCR or other associations had not filed complaints, no suspected perpetrators of genocide would so far have been prosecuted. The Public Prosecutor has never himself decided to pursue genocide suspects. As a diplomat recently said to me, “The judges prefer to prosecute offenders causing problems for neighbourhood life rather than perpetrators of genocide who live in peace, without bothering anyone”. These comments are shocking but true.

Genocide suspects have gone back to square one in France: they help out with charitable organisations, they are good neighbours, good family men, good husbands, good doctors… It is difficult to assess their complicity, and especially difficult to prove anything. Some are, surprisingly, protected by the church in France. Some genocide suspects are former Rwandan soldiers. How did they get to France? Who helped them? Perhaps future trials will help us to see a little more clearly.

GV: Regarding reconciliation, apart from Gacaca courts, what has been done and what are the obstacles?

A.G.: Reconciliation is a difficult topic. The Gacaca courts are probably allowed to know what really happened on the hills or in the cities. They had the opportunity to apply for pardons. But for me, forgiveness is a personal matter. If a killer asks me for forgiveness, I can forgive him. But I can also refuse. In whose name or for what do I grant forgiveness? The victim is no longer here. Can I forgive in his name? Reconciliation should be a national issue.

Rwandans are condemned to live together, especially in the hills. Each person must realise what they can and cannot do to one another. If the request for pardon is a tactic to avoid living on the outskirts of society, if repentance is not sincere (and how can we know?), reconciliation will not happen. And yet to rebuild, to live in peace (and not just superficially), true reconciliation is essential. But it will take several generations to get there.

The trauma lives deep inside the victims. But it is also deep within the killers. How is it possible to go on living when we have committed such crimes? And how can we go on living when we are the victims of such crimes (massacres, rape, humiliation…)?

via Global Voices » Feature

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Istanbul Protests Through the Eyes of a Ukrainian Journalist

Turkey has long been a popular vacation and business travel destination for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, but few of these visitors can boast much knowledge of the Turkish politics. Now, however, as the anti-government protests and police brutality in Turkey are making top headlines globally, many Ukrainians have started to follow the situation there with much interest, expressing support and admiration for the peaceful protesters, noting similarities with the 2004 Orange Revolution as well as with more recent events in Ukraine, and wishing for the political awakening of the Ukrainian people.

Tear gas used by the police against the protesters in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by George Haddad, copyright © Demotix (01/06/13).

Tear gas used by the police against the protesters in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by George Haddad, copyright © Demotix (01/06/13).

On Facebook, one of the primary sources of updates, photos and insight from Istanbul has been Osman Pashayev [ru, uk, tr], a Ukrainian journalist of Crimean-Tatar descent, the Istanbul bureau chief of the Crimean Tatar ATR TV channel. As journalist Kristina Berdinskikh wrote [ru],

The best news agency of the past few days is Osman Pashayev.

And Facebook user Iryna Panchenko wrote this [uk]:

It's good that Osman Pashayev is in Istanbul – we have access to relevant information on the events there, without having to wait for international news [outlets to wake up] and for [Ukrainian news outlets] to copy – and, possibly, distort – [the reports of their international colleagues].

Below are some of Pashayev's recent posts [ru, uk, tr].

Friday, May 31, 20136:50 PM (Istanbul time):

I've seen the crackdown on [left-wing activists] during the 2009 IMF summit in Istanbul, I've seen rallies of the opposition in Tbilisi [the capital of Georgia], a crackdown on the Arab protestors in Jerusalem, an anti-terrorist operation in northern Iraq, but I've never seen such a savage treatment of peaceful protesters before. I cannot get to [Taksim Square] – 100 meters, gas that [irritates] the eyes is everywhere. I bought two lemons and poured [juice] over myself and one Turkish girl. Eyes are itchy from lemon, but at least it makes breathing easier after a couple minutes. Many here are 18-25 years old. The police are waging a war against citizens.

7:24 PM:

Our country – Ukraine – even under [the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych] is almost an exemplary democracy. Today's Turkey resembles Russia a lot more, though not yet Belarus [...].

Saturday, June 1, 201312:07 AM:

Do not pity Turkey. It is wonderful. And [PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is like a virus in quantities sufficient for the immune system to finally start working. [...]

2:28 AM:

I'm teaching the Turks some of the rules of the Orange Revolution – to chant “Police are with the people” [one of the popular slogans in Ukraine in 2004]. A few more resignations by police officers and the generals will stop giving antihuman orders.

4:02 AM:

First aid points to the injured on [Istiklal Avenue]. Hotels are letting the protesters inside, shop owners are giving out water for free and administering first aid. Cab drivers are transporting those with serious injuries for free. It resembles the unity in Kyiv [during the 2004 Orange Revolution].

4:52 AM:

A heartrending tweet [Pashayev's quick translation into Russian; the Turkish-language original, by Aykut Gürlemez/@aykutgurlemez, is here]. “Dear Prime Minister, you have no idea how grateful I am to you today. You have no idea what a good deed you've done for the country today. Today, for the first time, I've seen a fan of [Istanbul's Fenerbahçe football club] was helping a [rival Galatasaray] fan to get up from the ground after the police order “to kill” came about. Today, Turks and Kurds were sharing water and bread. Today, women you call prostitutes, walked out of the brothels to wash the wounds of the injured in their cheap hotel rooms in [Tarlabaşı]. Lawyers and medical doctors were distributing their phone numbers, offering help. Today, [stores and coffee houses located on ground floors] turned off their Wifi passwards, and hotel owners were letting the tired and the beaten ones in. Today, our eyes are filled with tears not because of your pepper gas, but because of our pride for our Turkey.” [...]

5:27 AM:

In Turkey, 7.5 million users are watching the #TürkiyemDireniyor hashtag (“my Turkey resists”). Will Erdoğan have the guts to arrest them all? )))

5:51 AM:

[Fans of football clubs Beşiktaş], Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray. In the Ukrainian translation this will be “East and West together” [another popular slogan of the 2004 protests in Ukraine, referring to the political and cultural divide between eastern and western parts of Ukraine].

10:05 AM:

With great pleasure I've blocked everyone on Facebook who are being ironic about the violence taking place in Turkey. [...] A whole bunch of wisecracks who point out that I've just arrived here and don't understand something ))). Maybe I don't understand anything at all, but I do understand that violence against peaceful people is evil. And I've seen it with my own eyes. I've worked [as a TV journalist] in Turkey dozens of times since 2002, and for the first time now I've seen police officers lowering their gaze, ashamed. If cops are feeling ashamed, it means they are indeed doing something that's not very good.

8:20 PM:

The most amusing pictures are of Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray holding hands. Hard for us to understand, but it's almost as if [Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the far-right Ukrainian VO Svoboda party] showed up at a gay pride parade wearing [a Jewish kippah cap].

Sunday, June 2, 20134:21 AM:

No more than 2,000 people remain at Taksim. Everyone is moving to [the Beşiktaş area], where clashes with police continue. The [Turkish] opposition is toothless and not interesting. Young people and non-political groups are much brighter. [photos]

8:30 PM:

If Erdoğan and other officials are being sincere, if they are telling the world that the protesters are part of a junta, the military's fans and other marginal scum, then why are the city's web cameras are turned off only at Taksim, while the rest are working? Let the Turks and the world see for themselves the faces of the protesters, their numbers, and their eyes. The real pictures says much more than a thousand words ))))

Pashayev continues posting his update on Facebook and filing his stories on the protests in Turkey for Ukrainian TV channels. Another Ukrainian journalist, Mustafa Nayyem [ru], has now joined him in Istanbul and is also posting reports, videos and photos (here and here) on his Facebook page.

Roman Shrike, the founder of a popular Ukrainian website, wrote this [ru] on his Ukrainska Pravda blog, linking to one of Pashayev's posts and re-posting some of the photos of the Istanbul protest:

A good revolution always begins suddenly.

In Istanbul, the police violently cracked down on the defenders of a parl. No big deal, you'd think… But the last straw usually happens to be nothing but a very tiny straw. [...]

Ukrainian politician and former journalist Volodymyr Ariev re-posted the photo of thousands of Istanbul residents crossing the Bosphorus Bridge early on Saturday on their way to Taksim, and wrote [uk]:

This is how people should defend their rights and freedoms from infringements of transitory authoritarian rulers. Way to go, Turkey!

Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Danylyuk wrote [uk]:

What do the events in Istanbul tell us? That it's enough for the Kyiv residents to drag their behinds off their couches for just a few days, and Yanukovych & Co. will come to them on their knees, bringing a capitulation document signed with their snot. But the majority [of Ukrainians] keep crying as they keep getting stung by this cactus they keep eating.

via Global Voices » Feature

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