General Augusto Pinochet is dead, but Chile continues to wrestle with the legacy of his 17 years of brutal military rule. Under the leadership of President Michelle Bachelet, who was herself jailed and tortured by the Pinochet regime, the elected government of Chile has launched a campaign to commemorate the Pinochet years with museums and the preservation of historic sites. Minister of National Properties Romy Schmidt told McClatchy Newspapers: “Our plan would involve practically all the police stations and military regiments in the country, which could get uncomfortable. But that would be a meaningful step because it would show the whole government was involved in the abuses.” The military and police forces are deeply implicated in investigations into human rights abuses under the old regime.
A former Serbian leader accused of the massacre of thousands of Muslims in the mid-1990s has been apprehended, but several other accused war criminals remain at large. Radovan Karadzic’s arrest Monday leaves Bosnian army chief Ratko Mladic and the former president of Croatia’s Krajina province, Goran Hadzic, wanted for crimes related to the Balkans’ civil wars. Observers are saying Karadzic’s arrest will give new life to the hunt for Mladic, who is believed to have assumed a different identity and is living in Serbia, reported The Guardian. “There have been no sightings in the past five years or more,” a Serbian official said. “But obviously there is more optimism now that Mladic will be caught.
A new school curriculum in Japan is opening old wounds for its neighbors. South Korea has recalled its ambassador to protest a government educational guideline that considers two contested islands to be Japanese territory. The islands, referred to as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, have been under South Korean control since 1953, according to the Korea Herald. The newspaper reports that Japan’s new guidelines also target four islands currently claimed by Russia. The new guidelines are set to take affect in April 2012, and recommends stating in both instances that the Korean and Russian claims are in dispute.
Some Latin American nations are wondering if the return of the U.S. Navy’s Fourth Fleet to their coastlines signals the return of “gunboat diplomacy” as well, Agence France-Presse reports. Representatives of Argentine president Cristina Kirchner have raised the question with visiting U.S. officials during a recent economic summit. The fleet, which dates from World War II, was reactivated on July 1 after being mothballed for 58 years. The Navy maintains the fleet is not equipped for offensive maneuvers: It would be used only for humanitarian assistance and preventing drug traffic, and will respect national sovereignty. However, left-leaning governments in Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba believe the United States is using the fleet to flex its military muscle and for surveillance and intelligence operations.
Thousands of Colombians who have “disappeared” over the decades were commemorated in prose and pictures at a June conference in Bogota on political kidnappings, Inter Press Service reports. “Without a Trace,” a photography and short-story contest, debuted as part of the three-day International Seminar on Forced Disappearance, an event that drew human rights activists from Latin America, Europe and the United States. Columbian writer Jorge Eliecer Pardo was lauded for his story “No Names, No Faces, No Traces,” which one judge praised for both its subtlety and impact. “There are no obvious, straightforward words denouncing atrocities or morbid descriptions … there is respect for words and for what happened, which is much harder-hitting than a raw description,” he said.
Several new reports reveal that Somali and Ethiopian refugees, fleeing drought and violence at home, often face renewed danger crossing the ocean to Yemen and in South African refugee camps. According to the aid group Doctors Without Borders, 20,000 such refugees crowded into overloaded boats during the first five months of 2008. They endure beatings and abuse by smugglers, and at least 400 died en route. Once the refugees reach their final destination, their troubles often deepen. A post the Boston Globe Web site noted that a group of Somalis in a South African refugee camp threatened to commit suicide en masse last week to protest their living conditions.
A freelance journalist in Manchester, England, may reveal some, but not necessarily all, of his source material on a book about al-Qaida terrorists to police, a panel of judges said. The panel ruled the police order for Shiv Malik to hand over all materials, including an interview with a suspected British operative, was too broad. Malik said the decision was a “victory for common sense” that protects journalists everywhere, The Guardian reports. He will return to court on June 26 to hear specific terms on what he must divulge under Britain’s Terrorism Act. — T.J. Johnston/Newsdesk.org
“Shiv Malik: Journalist claims victory in terrorism sources case”
The Guardian, June 19, 2008
A self-professed militia member in Pennsylvania has allegedly threatened to shoot African Americans and public officials, and said that if Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama were elected a revolution would ensue. However, a federal judge declined to jail Bradley Kahle, 60, of Clearfield County, citing lack of evidence that he was willing to carry out those threats. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Kahle was one of several people swept up in a raid that netted automatic weapons and homemade bomb materials. Kahle, a Vietnam veteran, allegedly told undercover agents that he would engage in sniper-style killings of African Americans from a Pittsburgh skyscraper, and that he would also target public officials if he became terminally ill. Two of Kahle’s associates remain imprisoned at this time.
Activists and diplomats from around the world are in Dublin, Ireland, this week to try to establish a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, which they say pose unacceptable risks to civilians. The United Nations and over 100 countries have pledged their support to the ban, according to news reports, as did Pope Benedict XVI. The BBC quoted the pontiff as saying, “It is necessary to heal the errors of the past and avoid them happening again in the future. I pray for the victims of the cluster munitions, for their families and for those who will join the conference too, wishing that it will be successful.” Opposing the ban are some of the world’s leading manufacturers and users of cluster bombs, the United States, Russia, China and Britain.
Since Cyclone Nargis ravaged Burma earlier this month, the military junta that rules the nation has been roundly condemned for its handling of the emergency, but Australian newspapers took an unusual tack; several publications revealed that children of Burmese military leaders are residing in Australia as students. Some newspapers went so far as to publish the names of some of these students. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, privacy laws prevent Australian universities from commenting to the press about individual students, but the Herald, along with the Age and other publications, found other sources who identified the Burmese students. The number is apparently small; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation cites an activist who says there are about eight such students in the country, compared to about 10,000 ordinary Burmese also in residence there. The ABC notes that there are strict limits on money transfers into Australia from members of the Burmese junta.