My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Narnia and see you in two weeks!

The trailer for the Narnia movie "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is up. You can view it here. (HT to blogotional).
I have always loved the Narnia Chronicles. Especially "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The last battle". The end of the latter, when the children and the creatures from Narnia enter Aslan's country and meet Aslan make me shiver with expectation for the moment when we will meet Jesus face to face! And I just love all their adventures. Have a look at the trailer, it promises a great movie.

I wanted to post about so much more, but I don't really have the time anymore. Tomorrow my beloved and me are leaving for a two week vacation in Southern France! We'll read (I got ten books at the library yesterday), hike, swim, I might learn how to play tennis, have good food and just be lazy... I don't think I'll have access to a computer during that time.

Have wonderful two weeks, everyone, and see (read) you again the beginning of june!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Calling things by name: Genocide in Darfur?

Sudan’s Darfur region is momentarily the stage for heinous atrocities and hardly imaginable horrors. Sudanese armed forces and the Arab militia Janjaweed force people from their homes, burning and looting villages, leaving numerous murder and rape victims in their trail. Millions of people have fled Darfur. There can be no doubt that serious, gross and widespread human rights violations have been committed and are still being committed in Darfur. These surely amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But is genocide committed in Darfur?

Genocide is called the crime of crimes (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Akayesu-judgment), and considered as one of the worst crimes known to humankind (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Krstic-judgment). A very specific number of objective and subjective requirements needs to be fulfilled in order for certain acts to be represent genocide. Nobody should be found guilty of this crime lightheartedly and at the same time, nobody should escape judgment who committed genocide. Therefore, to meet both these ends, specific requirements and a strict interpretation of these requirements are paramount. The following is mainly a summary of the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (link is provided at the bottom of this post).

According to Art. II of the Genocide-Convention genocide means any of the following acts committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As you can see from this definition, there are two objective elements and one subjective element. The first objective element is one of conduct: the person must have committed one if the acts enumerated in lit. a-e. The second objective element is related to the victims, the targeted group: the conduct must be directed against a national, ethical, racial or religious group. The subjective element contains, besides the general intent necessary for committing a crime, a special aggravated intent: the perpetrator must desire that the act he committed to result in the destruction in whole or in part of the targeted group.

Through the years and the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunals and others this definition has been clarified in several helpful ways, always staying within the purpose behind the prohibition of genocide to protect from obliteration groups that are targeted because they share a certain religion or racial or ethnic features and are targeted precisely because of their distinctiveness. For a more detailed discourse on the elements of genocide I suggest reading some of the sources mentioned at the bottom of this post.

The International Inquiry Commission consisting among others of well-known and respected scholars has put together a detailed report about the situation in Darfur (176 pages). They come to the conclusion that, although there have been horrible crimes committed, genocide as far as they can decide did not take place in Darfur.
The armed forces and the Janyaweed committed many of the acts that are part of the objective element of genocide. Though there is little evidence for an objective distinction between the tribes in Darfur and other Sudanese tribes, the self-perception of the groups reveals that they consider each other to be distinct entities. As this is also an important factor, the attacks in Darfur are can be said to be targeted against a protected group.
The difficult question concerning the atrocities in Darfur is if these attacks were committed with the required special intent to destroy (and this means physically destroy) the targeted group in whole or in part. Though the scale and systematic nature of the atrocities as well as some racially motivated statements appear to show a genocidal intent, there are at the same time more indicative elements that reveal a lack of genocidal intent.
Attacks according to the Commission after hearing eyewitnesses are directed against rebels. Men are killed if they are considered rebels, not because they are members of a certain tribe. Villages are destroyed so that rebels cannot hide there. Fleeing villagers are collected in camps for Internally Displaced People by the government and eradicated by other means (e.g. starvation, no help etc.). The living conditions in those camps, as horrible as they are, are not imposed to annihilate the IDPs.
There is an intent to drive those tribes out of Darfur for political reasons (e.g. counter-insurgency) an for discriminatory motives. But there does not seem to be the required intent to destroy those tribes in whole or in part. It may be that some individuals have this special intent and therefore commit genocide (if a single perpetrator can actually commit genocide without a state practice or policy), but this is very difficult to establish and best left to the International Criminal Court.

This by no means implies that the international community should not take more decided action in Darfur. It neither means that the atrocities committed are any less horrible or punishable because they may not be genocide. Crimes against humanity are as serious crimes as genocide. The people in Darfur need our help. And they need it, no matter if genocide happens there or not. But it is important to call things by their proper name, IMO.

Sources and suggested read:
Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur
Cassese, International Criminal Law (law text book)
Schabas, Genocide in International Law (law text book)

The Darfur Collection is up!

The collection of posts on the crises in Darfur, Sudan, is up at allthings2all. Thank you, Catez, for all the work you put into it.
Go and read all those excellent posts! To read my contribution just scroll down a bit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

New quiz - which is your bible verse?

I found the link to this quiz at Carol's blog. So often there's not really an answer provided which fits what I would do, but it was fun nevertheless. So, what's your verse?

Live life with a child-like heart!
(Matthew 19:14-15)

what is your bible verse?
brought to you by Quizilla

Genocide, human rights violations, politics and the ICC

More than 2 million people have lost their homes, their land, their livelihood. Driven away by armed forces and a militia who burn the huts, kill the people, rape the women. As we celebrate the end of the Nazi regime sixty years ago, in other countries evil is on the rampage again. One of those countries is Sudan, in a state of civil war for the last twenty-one years.

The Sudanese armed forces and the government supported, trained and armed Arab militia, the Janjaweed, ruthlessly push an agenda of ethnic cleansing in the Western region Darfur. This has lead by the end of 2004 to hundreds of burned villages, 70.000 dead people and there are more than 2 million internally displaced persons. (IDPs are people fleeing from one part of their country into another; refugees are people who flee into another country. The international protection of refugees is far more advanced than the protection of IDPs.). Therefore Sudan’s internally displaced persons population grew from 4 million (from the civil war in Southern Sudan) to 6 million. Most of the IDPs, especially from Darfur, are still at high physical risk. Sudan is facing a major famine because of drought, looting and a missed planting season. Diseases are spreading due to lack of sanitation and health services. Although under international obligations the Sudanese Islamic Military Government has not followed up on disarming the Janjaweed and prosecuting them for their crimes or on improving the humanitarian situation of the people from Darfur.

The government-planned ethnic cleansing has been declared as amounting to genocide by some. There can at least be no doubt that the Darfur region is the stage for major serious and widespread human rights violations. For a full report, check out the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (over 170 pages).

Notwithstanding the involvement of the international community has not been as high or effective as one might expect. The UN Security Council has strongly condemned Sudan for not keeping its international obligation from the N’Djamena Ceasefire Agreement and a Joint Communiqué and has taking binding measure under Chapter VII of the UN-Charta. However, those sanctions are directed against support from third states. The Council is still rather weak on sanctions against Sudan itself.
In May 2004 Sudan was reelected into the UN Commission on Human Rights, having a seat until 2007.

Fortunately though, the Security Council has referred the situation of Sudan to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the first situation referred by the Security Council. The Prosecutor of the ICC will now examine the material for evidence of international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) and then decide if he will prosecute individual members of the armed forces or the Janjaweed. Although this might be a lengthy process and is unfortunately not of help right-away to the people in Darfur, it is to be welcomed that there will be accountability for the atrocities committed in Darfur. And maybe this investigation will lead to action by the Sudanese government that has a positive outcome on the Darfur people.

But for now, as States tarry in taking action, we should try to take any action to help the people in Darfur. And this starts with raising awareness of their situation. Let us not let the crisis in Darfur go unnoticed or be forgotten easily.
Catez at allthings2all has a call for papers on Darfur. Go, read her contribution and the others as they are coming in, and join the call.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Freedom at last – more remembering

About 60 years ago, on 29 April 1945, US troops entered the Nazi concentration camp Dachau (Bavaria) and the prisoners, hardly alive, finally were free. These days 60 years ago most concentration camps were liberated, but alas far too late for many victims. Millions had died in the most horrible ways, many lost their lives shortly before the camp liberations as the Nazis forced them out of the camp in so called “death-marches” to other camps.
During the reign of the Nazis more than six million Jews, Sinti and Roma (if you don’t know these names, they were formerly called gypsies, but this term is considered deragatory), political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals, Christians, Germans who tried to help their persecuted neighbors and many others were murdered.

I have already posted about German resistance during WWII and one of my “virtual” friends asked if the Nazi terror regime and the war are avoided topics in Germany. They are not, actually they are more like ever-present. You could say that what happened between 1933 and 1945 is part of the German conscience. It is taught extensively in school (at least in highschool), there are many documentaries on TV, discussions, museums, etc. It is a part of history, as horrible as it is, that Germany cannot get around and doesn’t try to either. It happened and we need to learn from it for the future (and we hopefully have learned from it!). When a famous author once said that maybe we could finally “get over it” (not his exact words, but the general impression of what he said) there was a public outcry.

If you have ever been to Germany, you may have visited one of the concentration camps. Although the Nazis tried to destroy evidence of the hideous happenings and practices, they did not succeed completely.
For the 60-year-liberation of Dachau there was a huge ceremony on the premises of the camp with 350 former prisoners. The pictures I saw in the news almost made me cry.
I have only been to one former concentration camp, Sachsenhausen close to Berlin. It is smaller than Dachau and the main killing method there was a shot in the neck. The ruins of the crematory and one gas chamber are still there as are the barracks and the “hospital”. I remember seeing three very old men walking around the premises. One of them actually spoke to us in German and told us that he had been a prisoner in that camp. They were standing close to the main killing spot, crying.
We visited the “hospital”, tiled from floor to ceiling, with drains in the examination “beds”. They conducted medical experiments on children, forcing bacteria down their throats watching them die from the illness over the following weeks.
Words cannot adequately express how I felt that day.
After its liberation Sachsenhausen was used as a prison camp by Russian forces. There were resistance fighters who were first imprisoned there under the Nazis and then imprisoned there again under Stalin.

Now we are approaching the 60 years remembrance of the end of WWII (8 May 1945). Evil ends if there are people willing to fight for what is good.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Joys and worries of moving

I just moved. That's why I haven't been blogging or commenting much. I just moved within Bonn, so it wasn't as stressful as it could have been. It's the first time since the end of 1999 that I have a place just for myself. So that's exciting!
It's "just" a studio, but it got a regular kitchen and a balcony. I really wanted to be able to sit outside and as I love cooking I really needed a regular kitchen :)
Moving includes quite some worries. There's so much to be remembered, packing, mocing, trucks, forms to be filled out etc. But I still like moving. It feels so good to put everything into the new place. I enjoy finding pictures, notes etc. that I haven't looked at in a long time and the memories they bring back.
Still lots of stuff to be done though ... have to keep on unpacking :)