Richard Wilson's blog

richardcameronwilson AT yahoo dot co dot UK

A Place At The Table, 2nd – 19th November 2011

leave a comment »

My good friend Paul Burgess has lined up this new run of the theatre piece he produced last year with a little bit of input from me. Here’s the blurb:

A Place at the Table - Daedalus Theatre Company

In this powerful theatrical response to the on-going troubles in Burundi, Rwanda and the African Great Lakes Region, Daedalus Theatre Company invites you to take a place at the table alongside the performers in this intimate, immersive production that creates a uniquely personal experience exploring the subtle and dangerous relationship between history, identity and violence.

“A brilliant visual platform… a powerful testament to the act of bearing witness… a vital dialogue that Burundi’s many dead were denied in life.”    – Time Out

2 – 19 November 2011       Tuesday – Thursday 7pm, Friday – Saturday 7pm & 9pm

Devised by the company.
Cast includes: Grace Nyandoro, Jennifer Muteteli and Naomi Grossett
Core creative team: Cecile Feza Bushidi (choreographer), Katharine Williams (lighting designer), Matthew Lee Knowles (composer) and Paul Burgess (designer/director)
Produced by Jethro Compton Ltd

Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PYNearest Tube: Warren Street, Euston Square, Euston
Tickets: £12 (£8 concessions)               Box Office: 08444 77 1000 / www.cptheatre.co.uk
See website for details of postshow talks and other events: www.apatt.co.uk

Written by Richard Wilson

October 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Rwandan government’s $50,000-a-month PR strategy revealed

with 36 comments

Racepoint Group worked to promote “Rwanda’s visionary leader”

A detailed PR strategy prepared by lobbyists for the Rwandan government has been published by the US authorities. Under US law, lobby firms working on behalf of other governments are required to register their activities publicly.

The memo, which was prepared by “Racepoint Group” in 2009, is addressed to the Rwandan Information Minister from company bigwigs Larry Weber and Peter Prodromou – whose previous experience includes “working with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Libya to positively impact global public perception and support negotiating positions with key allies”.

The strategy aims: to “build a strong and sustained Image campaign communicating the successes of Rwanda with key stakeholders in the political and financial elite communities” and “Offset the negative and factually incorrect information of those parties with vested interests in mis-portraying Rwanda’s advancements”.

Campaign themes include “Rwanda’s Visionary Leader… highlighting President Kagame and his visionary leadership” and “The Rwandan Miracle: Healing of a Nation”. The company’s fees are listed as $50,000 per month plus $2,500 – £3,500 per month for “out of pocket expenses”. The average Rwandan has an income of $510 per year.

Racepoint suggests that Rwanda has a “significant image problem”, in part because “Certain NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, continue to advance a story of an unstable Rwanda” . Racepoint seems dismissive of this picture, alleging that Human Rights Watch and others are presenting it merely “as a means of continuing to attract donors and wield influence in the region”.

The PR firm then outlines “a consolidated set of tactics to publicize both Rwanda and President Kagame“. This will initially involve “leveraging top print and broadcast outlets to communicate the Rwanda success story… and, in the process, validate it based on their credibility”, together with “a proactive campaign that leverages the web to seed stories favorable to Rwanda”.

Racepoint singles out  the Huffington Post as a particular online media target, together with “careful seeding across the blogosphere” to “initiate an offensive to control the organic search on Rwanda and set the agenda in print and broadcast”.

“At the same time, we will blunt the online impact of our opposition by initiating a wall of defense debunking their accusations… we will identify and selectively respond to the most egregious… we will erect, on free social networks, ‘walls’ of pro-Rwandan data that debunks myths and links to Rwanda’s national web site. This will enable us to establish captive audiences on the web…”

Further elements mooted include a “Celebrity Visitor Program” a “Global College Tour” for President Kagame, and “challenging heads of NGOs that are the country’s largest detractors to public, televised debates on networks like CNN, BBC and al-Jazeera. This will provide Rwandan officials with the opportunity to debunk mythology being propagated by hostile NGOs and other detractors.”

The Guardian last year profiled Racepoint’s PR work for the Rwandan government, and highlighted critical comments by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative:

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, in a report last year, found that Rwanda has “excellent public relations machinery” which has succeeded in “persuading the key members of the international community that it has an exemplary constitution emphasising democracy, power-sharing, and human rights which it fully respects”. It concluded: “The truth is, however, the opposite.”

Rwanda’s constitution, the report said, was “a facade which hides the exclusionary and repressive nature of the regime”, “basic human rights are in an unsatisfactory state”, “censorship is prevalent” and there are “serious concerns about the level of political freedom”.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm

The Witch-Hunt Saboteurs

leave a comment »

My latest piece in The New Humanist:

Two Decembers ago, an elderly widow called Zuwana Kampalira went on trial for practising witchcraft. The judge heard evidence that Kampalira had taken a young girl on a magic plane to the village where her grandfather lived. There she pressured the girl to kill her grandfather with a magic hammer. When the girl refused, Kampalira allegedly sought to persuade her to murder her father. The defendant initially denied these charges, but later changed her plea on the advice of the police. The court took a dim view, sentencing her to 30 months imprisonment with hard labour.

In a related case, 70-year-old Namalinda Josephy was charged with teaching witchcraft to a group of small children. The court learned that Josephy had the ability to transform herself by night into a black log or a big snake, and that she had done so in the presence of the children. Despite warnings from the police that she should admit the charges to get a more lenient sentence, Josephy denied the allegations. She was also sentenced to 30 months in prison.

In January this year, Tryson Jere, Mabvuto Jere and their wives Nyabanda and Nyachunga were accused of teaching 17 children witchcraft at night, and flying with them in a basket plane to South Africa and “within the local district to play football”. The group were charged with disorderly conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, and are now awaiting trial.

These are just three of over 80 case-files compiled by the Association for Secular Humanism (ASH) in Malawi, where dozens of people have been jailed on imaginary evidence for the imaginary crime of “witchcraft”. Most are poor, elderly and from rural communities. ASH has campaigned successfully against efforts to recognise “witchcraft” as a crime. But some magistrates have been pursuing cases regardless, prosecuting people for an offence that isn’t even on the statute book. Others have been imprisoned for “pretending witchcraft”, or the catch-all crime of “disorderly conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace”. This despite the fact that Malawian law actually makes it a crime to accuse another person of being a witch.

[Read more]

Written by Richard Wilson

May 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Human, all too human…

with 5 comments

My latest in the New Humanist

If there’s someone on your radio right now telling you there are no big ideas in politics any more, or that our risk-averse society is lowering ambition and infantilising adults, or that the outpouring of anguish over Darfur says-more-about-the-anxieties-of-the-western-liberal-elite-than-the-realities-on the-ground, there’s a good chance they’ve got something to do with an organisation called the Institute of Ideas.

The Institute’s purpose, according to its founder, Claire Fox, is to “interrogate orthodoxies and debate the challenges facing society, and to make these things public activities”. It does this in the face of “politically correct etiquette” and an “illiberal liberalism” which “silences genuine public challenges to received wisdom”. The IoI’s annual debating festival, the Battle of Ideas (sponsored by Shell, The Times, Price Waterhouse Coopers and brewing giant SAB Miller), is a “public square within which we can explore the crisis of values”. The Festival “is very much a PUBLIC conversation”. Its motto is “FREE SPEECH ALLOWED”.

When a coalition of humanist, secular and equality groups rallied against the Pope’s state visit to Britain earlier this year, the IoI issued a press release (PDF) describing itself as a “leading British humanist thinktank”, denouncing the “hysterical” arguments of the Vatican’s critics and accusing “fellow-secularists” of conducting a “New Atheist witch-hunt”.

The Institute of Ideas has a close, if ambiguous, relationship with the online magazine Spiked, an outspoken scourge of environmentalism whose memorable slogans include “Bomb the Bans” and “Humanity is under-rated”. Both are orphan children of the magazine formerly known as Living Marxism (subsequently LM), which went bankrupt at the turn of the decade, following a disastrous libel defeat. Both are dominated by ex-members of the UK’s long-defunct Revolutionary Communist Party. Spiked contributors regularly feature in the Institute’s debates, and the magazine often echoes IoI concerns. Ahead of the Papal visit, Spiked ran articles attacking the reaction from secularists, including New Humanist, as a “fear-driven campaign of demonisation”.

Critics have accused the Institute of Ideas and Spiked of knee-jerk contrarianism, of empty sloganeering, of trading the garb of the far-left for that of hard-right libertarians, of being guided more by the interests of their corporate sponsors than by any coherent underlying philosophy.

But whatever else one thinks, Spiked and the IoI have a talent for getting noticed. Claire Fox gets a weekly slot on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze discussion programme. Spiked’s “editor at large”, Mick Hume, has a regular column in The Times. The Institute of Ideas is active in UK schools, as is a related organisation, Worldwrite. Whole websites have been devoted to tracking the influence of ex-RCP figures in the UK media.

So what kind of humanists are they? Do they have a genuine commitment to open debate or is this just a rhetorical conceit? And who’s really defending the legacy of the Enlightenment? I went along to this year’s Battle of Ideas festival to try to find out.

[Read more]

Written by Richard Wilson

January 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

10th anniversary of the Titanic Express massacre: Statement from Burundian diaspora group Action Contre Genocide

leave a comment »

STATEMENT ON THE 10th COMMEMORATION OF THE TITANIC EXPRESS MASSACRE

On December 28th, 2000; the PALIPEHUTU-FNL terrorist organization attacked the Titanic Express bus at Mageyo in Burundi, and selectively killed all ethnic Tutsi and anyone who looked so or who happened to be travelling with a Tutsi. Twenty-one innocent people including children aged less than 5 years were thus massacred in cold blood.

As we commemorate this terrorist attack, the Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada expresses the deepest sympathy to the victims’ families and to all those who lost their loved ones in this ignoble attack.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada recalls that this anniversary is made even bleaker by the impunity that PALIPEHUTU-FNL has been enjoying together with the ruling CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU, although both parties were found by UN inquiry commissions to have prepared and carried out genocide against the Tutsi in Burundi (Report S/1998/777, pages 10-24; Report S/1996/682, page 74).

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada strongly condemns once more the sustained support that the international community has brought to these organizations despite the unspeakable atrocities that they have committed.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada condemns further the de facto amnesty that PALIPEHUTU-FNL has acquired as the United Nations and major world democracies supported peace negotiations in Burundi that put the enthronement of terrorist organizations before justice.

The Toronto branch of AC Genocide Canada recalls the United Nations that if impunity is prevailing in Burundi, it is because they have failed their obligations as parties to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which binds the signatories to punish organizations which commit genocide.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada invites the United Kingdom, Canada, and all other countries whose citizens were killed in Titanic Express massacre, to realize that:

(a) the decade-old promise by the Burundi government to investigate the Titanic Express attack has not materialized so far;

(b) as long as Burundi is governed by an organization like CNDD-FDD which, like the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, has committed genocide against the Tutsi without ever being tried, no reliable investigation can be made in the Titanic Express massacre or in any other atrocities;

(c) under Burundi’s current regime whereby the Head of State Pierre Nkurunziza, is a convict himself for his leading role in crimes against humanity, Burundi gives no hope of justice for the victims of atrocities that were committed by PALIPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU organizations;

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada urges the United Nations to assign the above investigations to a neutral, international commission, and to establish an International Tribunal for Burundi that would try the accused in accordance with the UN report S/1996/682, Paragraph 496 .

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada reaffirms her belief that granting amnesty to organizations like PALIPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU who have committed inamnistiable crimes, is double standard to the people of Burundi for whom crimes that are internationally punished, are deemed normal political activities and swept under the carpet with consent of the international community.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada calls once again for the trial of all people and all organizations like PALPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU who committed genocide and other crimes against humanity in Burundi.

Done at Toronto, December 28th, 2010.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza

Secretary,
Toronto Branch of AC-Génocide Canada www.acgenocide.blogspot.com

Written by Richard Wilson

December 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Posted in War crimes

Tagged with

Background and links on the Titanic Express massacre

with 2 comments

On December 28th 2000, twenty-one unarmed civilians, including my sister Charlotte Wilson (a British aid worker), and her Burundian fiancé Richard Ndereyimana, were murdered. They were killed after their bus, bearing the ill-fated name “Titanic Express”, was ambushed in Bujumbura-Rurale, close to the Burundian capital Bujumbura.

According to survivors, the attackers opened fire on the bus at around 3.30pm local time (1.30pm in the UK), shooting out the tyres and forcing it to crash. A large, well-armed group then surrounded the vehicle, ordered the passengers out,  robbed them, and separated them according to their ethnicity. Several Hutus and Congolese were released unharmed. The remaining passengers were stripped to their underclothes, made to lie face down on the ground, and shot. Most of the victims were Rwandan and Burundian Tutsis. Charlotte Wilson was the only European on board.

Who carried out the attack?

The Titanic Express massacre took place in an area dominated by a Hutu-extremist rebel group known for its hatred of Tutsis, Palipehutu-FNL (aka “the FNL”). One survivor recounts that the attackers specifically identified themselves, saying “We are the FNL, not your FDD” (FDD was the FNL’s largest rival at the time). Others have simply described them as “rebels”.

In March 2001 Amnesty International listed the Titanic Express attack among several believed to have been carried out by the FNL. In May 2001, the International Crisis Group attributed the Titanic Express attack to FNL “troops under the order of… Agathon Rwasa”. A Human Rights Watch report from April 2000 lists a number of  carried out a number of similar attacks in the same area earlier in 2000.

In 2002, a document emerged which appears to be a detailed report by the FNL, signed by Commandant Albert Sibomana, of the Titanic Express attack, listing what was looted from the bus, how many people were killed and how many bullets were expended in killing them. Dozens of smaller attacks were listed in the same report.

Sibomana’s track record is bloodthirsty even by the standards of Burundi’s conflict. In February 2000, he reportedly oversaw the massacre of hundreds of his own comrades, after a split within the FNL.

At the time of the Titanic Express attack, Agathon Rwasa was FNL “Chief of Operations” around Bujumbura. In early 2001, he ousted the FNL’s then leader Kossan Kabura, and assumed overall control of the whole group.

Following years of negotiations, the FNL agreed to end hostilities in April 2009, and began disarming. But amid ongoing instability, the UN recently reported that Rwasa was remobilising his forces for a “new holy war” from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Later I’ll add some links to further reading on Burundi’s recent history, and the long-promised plans for a UN-backed “Special Chamber” and Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

December 28th 2010: Justice for Charlotte – Free Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

with one comment

Video piece about Charlotte’s murder – “Rights Universal”, Channel 4, 2008

Charlotte Wilson, a British citizen, was killed in a bus massacre in Burundi on December 28th 2000. It was one of many brutal ethnic attacks by the Hutu-extremist “Forces Nationales de Liberation” (FNL). Despite repeated promises, the Burundian government has made no serious effort to investigate the killings, or prosecute those responsible.

On the 10th anniversary of Charlotte’s death, her family are urging the UK government to press Burundi to keep its promises, and bring the perpetrators of this massacre to justice.

If you have thirty seconds – please show your support by joining the Justice For Charlotte Facebook group.

If you have five minutes -please contact your MP via this website, asking them to raise Charlotte Wilson’s case with the UK Foreign Office.

Charlotte’s family are asking the UK government to press the Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, to fulfil his longstanding promise to set up a special UN-backed court to investigate the many abuses committed during the country’s long civil war, and prosecute the worst offenders. Human rights experts argue that this approach offers the best hope of achieving both justice and peace in this troubled country. Charlotte’s family believe that the establishment of this special court will be a major step towards justice for the victims of the December 28th 2000 “Titanic Express” bus massacre.

If you have ten minutes please Fax a or post a letter to Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza urging him to release the journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu.

Tragically, while the war criminals remain free, one of the Burundian journalists who has done most to highlight the Titanic Express massacre,  Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, has been languishing in prison since July. He is facing a criminal trial for “defamation” and “treason” after making critical comments about Burundi’s army.

Amnesty International have listed Jean-Claude as a Prisoner of Conscience and issued the following appeal:

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in French, English, Kirundi or your own language:

  • expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on charges of treason and defamation for criticizing the Burundian security services;
  • urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
  • reminding the authorities that, as a state party to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Burundi is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 JANUARY 2011 TO:

President

Pierre Nkurunziza, Président de la République, Présidence de la République, Boulevard de l’Uprona, Rohero I, BP 1870, Bujumbura, Burundi

Fax: +257 22 24 89 08

Written by Richard Wilson

December 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Attacks on Congolese civilians increase as Agathon Rwasa’s FNL prepare for new “holy war”

leave a comment »

Agathon Rwasa is the militia leader whose forces carried the December 28th 2000 “Titanic Express” massacre in Burundi, of which my sister Charlotte was one of 21 victims. The UN recently reported that Rwasa was remobilising his forces from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in preparation for a new “holy war”. The Banyamulenge blog  Journal Mibembwe gives more details:

From Journal Mibembwe:

As was reported recently in our news, the security continues to deteriorate in the high plateaux of Bijombo, district of Uvira, where most civilians from the Banyamulenge ethnic group are still victims of the ongoing conflicts in the region. These people, mostly pastoralists, have nothing to do with politics. Those who managed to escape, however, still face the same situation where their killers followed them even across the borders in the neighbouring countries like Burundi where many hundreds have been slaughtered in a refugee camp in August 2004.

Some of those who claimed responsibility in the killings, like Mr. Agathon Rwasa, still move around freely. Instead of being arrested and judged for his acts, credible sources say that this experienced killer, Agathon Rwasa, has found refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Banyamulenge community feel threatened by his presence in the region.

Last time we reported a transfer of some the FARDC army commanders in the high plateaux of Bijombo, causing increased fear in the Banyamulenge community of more insecurity and threats carried out by the government troops in their villages. This is seen by many as the continuation of some politicians’ plans, like ANZULUNI BEMBE  from 1993, to exterminate the Banyamulenge under the pretext that they are ‘foreigners’ or just for who they are, like what Agathon Rwasa has done in Gatumba (Burundi) in 2004.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Marking time – December 28th 2010

with 8 comments

Video piece about Charlotte’s murder – “Rights Universal”, Channel 4, 2008

*UPDATE* – Amnesty International have issued an “Urgent Action” calling for Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s release. The Committee to Protect Journalists have visited him in prison, where Jean-Claude told them that “international pressure” would be vital to secure his freedom.

It’s just short of a decade since my sister Charlotte was murdered. She was 27 – two years older than me. We had a close, if sometimes stormy, relationship, and for a long time the world felt a lot colder and less colourful than it had done before. While my life has changed a great deal since then, the nature of this sort of experience, I think, is that one never quite sees things in the same light again.

Charlotte’s death set my life on a new trajectory, of which this blog is a small part. I left my job, did a lot of campaigning, went abroad for a while, and ended up writing a book about my sister’s life and death, which in turn led to other writing opportunities. My second book, “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, covers a very different subject area, but Charlotte’s influence is there. My sister had been taking time out to teach science in a rural Rwanda school, after finishing a PhD in microbiology. She was haunted by the effect of AIDS on the community in which she was living, and planned to pursue a career in HIV research on her return to the UK. Her passion for this issue, and in particular her belief in the need to challenge the many myths around the disease – was one of the things that prompted me to look in depth at AIDS denialism when I came to write “Don’t Get Fooled Again”.

Charlotte was killed not in Rwanda, but in neighbouring Burundi. She had recently got engaged to a Burundian teacher, Richard Ndereyimana. They were travelling to meet his family when their bus was ambushed by a Hutu-extremist militia group, the “Forces Nationales de Libération” (FNL), high in the hills above the Burundian capital, Bujumbura. Hutu passengers were released unharmed. Those presumed to be Tutsi – including Richard Ndereyimana – were lined up and shot. Charlotte was killed with them. In all, 21 people died. The attack became known as the “Titanic Express” massacre, after the bizarre and ill-fated name of the bus in which they were travelling.

The 10th anniversary of the massacre falls on December 28th this year. I’ve decided to mark it with a 24-hour “Twitter marathon”. I’ll be knocking back a lot of coffee and posting a message every 15 minutes from 1.30pm on the 28th, the time that the attack began, to 1.30pm on December 29th.

There’s a rich array of material online about Burundi’s complex, albeit often-ignored, recent history. I’ll be aiming to profile the best of it over the course of the 24 hours – from eye-opening video footage and witness testimonies to niche blogs, bizarre quotes from Richard Nixon, and painstakingly-detailed human rights reports.

Alongside this, there are two particular issues that I’ll be seeking to highlight.

Firstly, despite compelling evidence, no serious effort has been made to prosecute those who carried out the massacre in which Charlotte died, amid a climate of near-total impunity for the elites on both sides. Despite being given numerous cash payments, offers of government jobs, and “provisional” immunity from prosecution, the FNL have continued to pose a threat, and are now reported to be mobilising for a new “holy war” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Secondly, while the war criminals remain free, Burundi’s independent media has taken a massive hammering. Journalists are routinely harassed, attacked, threatened and jailed. One of those now languishing in prison is Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, who over the years has helped enormously with the campaign for justice over the Titanic Express massacre, and whose support was indispensable when I was researching my first book.

Jean-Claude was arrested in July this year and charged with “treason” after making critical comments about Burundi’s armed forces. The Burundian government has previously been responsive to international pressure in cases like these. Given all that Jean-Claude has done over the years it seems somehow appropriate that I mark the 10th anniversary of Charlotte’s death by doing what I can to highlight his case.

I’ll be available on the day to speak to any journalists who might want to cover the story, and can also be contacted beforehand via richardcameronwilson AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk, or 07969 802 830. See here, here and here for some previous media things I’ve done on this.

The Twitter stint will begin at 1.30pm UK time (3.30pm in Burundi) on December 28th – www.twitter.com/dontgetfooled

Written by Richard Wilson

November 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Guest post: “the Burundian diaspora will need to pick up signs, rally, blog, write letters to editors to educate the donors’ taxpayers” – Thierry Uwamahoro

with one comment

“Free Kavumbagu” cause makes its way to the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC – guest post by Thierry Uwamahoro

Yes, you saw right! That was a “Free Kavumbagu” sign among the thousands of other rally signs that either made you laugh or left you scratching your head as you attempted to understand what they meant or who their intended audience was.

This Saturday (10.30.10), hundreds of thousands of Americans flocked to Washington, DC to join a rally whose objective was to restore sanity in the discourse of American politics.

However, American politics are never too far from world affairs as the American people pride themselves in calling their President, the “Leader of the Free World”. As a Burundian residing near Washington, DC, I was drawn to think of a fellow Burundian – a journalist – who was not part of the “Free World” as the Rally to Restore Sanity went on.

Jean Claude Kavumbagu is an internationally-renowned journalist and human rights defender who has been unjustly arrested five times in this decade, but has never been found guilty. Today, he remains behind bars, despite promises by Burundian authorities and global calls for his release.

On July 17th, 2010, Jean Claude Kavumbagu was arrested and later jailed over an article that he published on his online journal “Net Press”. The article questioned the preparedness of the Burundian security forces, were the Somalia based militia Al-Shabab to attack Bujumbura (Burundi). The Burundian government considered the publication of such article “treason”, a charge that carries a life imprisonment sentence. Paradoxically, treason is an offense that Burundian law only recognizes when the country is at war due to external aggression. This is not the case today!

Last September, after meetings with some of Burundi’s highest officials, Omar Faruk Osman (President of the Federation of African Journalists) and his delegation left Bujumbura (Burundi) on a highly promising and optimistic note summed up in these words: “We agreed with the leadership of the country the urgency to resolve the case of Kavumbagu and our message was clear that was no longer a mere Burundian affair but an African and international press freedom case”.

Jean Claude Kavumbagu’s freedom has become a national, regional, continental and global issue. The Union of Burundian Journalists and the entire Burundian civil society, the East African Journalists Association, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, the Federation of African Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, FrontLine, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, Human Rights Watch; to name just a few – have all called for the release of Jean Claude Kavumbagu.

But all these calls have fallen on deaf ears. Mr. Kavumbagu has –this week – passed the 100 day mark behind bars in the notorious “Mpimba” prison, despite his constitutional rights to freedom of opinion and expression. The call for Kavumbagu’s freedom must not fade. This is no time to despair and quit.

But why carry the call to Washington, DC? This week, according to the journal Arc-en-Ciel, Washington hosted a high level delegation comprised of Burundian security apparatus heavyweights: the Director of military cabinet in the office of the President (Major General Evariste Ndayishimiye), the Minister of Internal Security (General Alain Guillaume Bunyoni) and the army chief of staff (Major General Godefroid Niyombare) alongside the top civilian advisor to the President. The delegation’s goal, according to trusted sources, was to promote greater cooperation between Bujumbura and Washington, and to secure funding for capacity building projects for Burundian securities forces.

If Washington and the American taxpayers are to fund these forces (the same forces that are carrying out the arrests of journalists), one can safely assume that Washington will have a greater voice in demanding that these security institutions improve their human rights record; or, at least, that should Washington voice any concern, Bujumbura would listen.

Ideally, a few months after celebrating our 48th independence anniversary, Burundians should not be expecting foreign powers’ coercion to be the safeguard to our freedoms. However, we have to be realistic. When a given government’s budget is financed at the tune of 70% by the international community, the perverse outcome is accountability to its donors (instead of its citizens). It is unfortunate! In the meantime, the Burundian diaspora will need to pick up signs, rally, blog, write letters to editors wherever they reside to educate the donors’ taxpayers. This Saturday, a few Americans learned of Burundi and of another name that they weren’t able to pronounce: Kavumbagu.

by Thierry Uwamahoro

Written by Richard Wilson

November 1, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Asbestos saga proves our feeble press watchdog has no bark and no bite

with one comment

“Getting a PCC isn’t great but all it is, is just a little apology… you get a slap on the wrist… and the PCC is run by the newspaper editors” (5m 09s) – News of the World journalist secretly filmed by ‘Starsuckers’

From Guest post at The Lay Scientist, Guardian blogs

Back in February, the Daily Mail published an article denouncing “The Great Asbestos Hysteria”, and claiming that the health risks had been grossly exaggerated by “the BBC, profiteering lawyers, and gullible politicians”.

The article was a response to a study raising concerns about the ongoing dangers of asbestos in UK schools. Those dangers were, the Daily Mail assured us, “all but non-existent”. While many older school buildings still contained asbestos, almost all of it was “relatively harmless white asbestos, encapsulated in cement or other materials, from which it is virtually impossible to extract even a single dangerous fibre”. The threat from such products was so “vanishingly small” that a study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had concluded that the danger was “insignificant”, with “arguably zero” risk of lung cancer.

Good news all round, then. No need for schools to worry about that crumbling asbestos roof. No need, we might think, for maintenance workers to wear protective clothing when renovating old school buildings. No need, it would seem, to employ specialist contractors to assess whether to leave asbestos undisturbed or get it removed. Those guys are, in any case, according to the Mail, a “commercial racket” with a “vested interest in exaggerating the dangers of products which are, in effect, harmless”.

Last week, seven months after the article was published, the Daily Mail issued a carefully worded correction:

“…The HSE assessments related to specific levels of exposure to white asbestos fibres, not white asbestos products, and found a risk from higher levels. The article said that asbestos in UK schools is almost all white. According to the HSE the more harmful brown asbestos was also frequently used in schools…”

Not such good news. What many reading the Daily Mail article won’t have known is that the author, Christopher Booker, has a long track record of downplaying the health risks of white asbestos. Though not a scientist himself, Booker has written at least 42 newspaper articles on this subject since 2002, making claims that run counter to the views of most experts, but are remarkably similar to those of the asbestos industry.

Several of the claims in the Daily Mail article – including that an HSE study once concluded the health risks of white asbestos cement were “insignificant” – have previously appeared in Booker’s Sunday Telegraph column, prompting a series of direct rebuttals from the HSE. The available evidence, as assessed by – among others – the World Health Organisation, the UK and US governments, and the European Union, is that white asbestos poses a serious risk to human health that needs to be carefully managed.

If the experts are right about asbestos and Booker is wrong, then this matters for at least two reasons. Firstly, there’s a danger that people may take unnecessary risks when handling the stuff, with potentially deadly consequences a couple of decades down the line. In 2008, a survey by the British Lung Foundation found widespread ignorance about the health risks, with under a third of tradespeople – the group most at risk of exposure – aware that it could cause cancer, and 28% “mistakenly assuming that some levels of asbestos are safe”. Further misinformation surely won’t help.

Secondly, for those affected by asbestos-related disease, ill-informed media reports belittling the health risks can be offensive and upsetting. I got the smallest glimpse of what that must be like when I saw that my blog had been linked to from a Facebook group set up by mesothelioma sufferers in response to Booker’s Daily Mail article.

Several members of the group had decided to report the Mail to the Press Complaints Commission, for breaching section 1 of the PCC’s ethical code: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”. I’ve been following Booker’s antics for a while – I researched his work in detail for my book Don’t Get Fooled Again, and still write about him from time to time on my blog. So I decided to support the Facebook campaigners – and test out the PCC’s claim to be “fast, free and fair” – by putting in a complaint of my own.

It wasn’t difficult to produce evidence debunking the Mail’s assertion that white asbestos was “relatively harmless”. Back in 2002, the HSE had published a summary, with references, of the peer-reviewed research linking the material to mesothelioma and lung cancer. The newspaper’s claim that an HSE study had found the dangers of white asbestos cement to be “insignificant” was also easy to disprove: Booker had made the self-same claim in the Sunday Telegraph back in 2008, and been rebutted in detail by the HSE.

Neither was it hard to show that the Mail had got it wrong in claiming that “it is virtually impossible to extract even a single dangerous fibre” from white asbestos cement. An HSE lab report from 2007 notes that “the claim that respirable airborne chrysotile fibres are not able to be released from asbestos cement products was refuted by the individual airborne fibres sampled during the breaking of the test sample with a hammer”.

In theory, this should have been the end of the matter. According to the PCC’s code, “a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence”. What happened instead, in my view, speaks volumes both about the character of the Daily Mail, and the credibility of the newspaper industry’s self-regulatory body.

After a delay of several weeks, the PCC forwarded me a dismissive response from the Daily Mail’s executive managing editor, Robin Esser. While acknowledging some minor errors, Esser insisted that the disputed HSE study did indeed back up Booker’s views on asbestos. The fact that the HSE had put out a statement explicitly rebutting this merely proved that “those responsible for HSE press releases are similarly unable to grasp the significance of findings published by their own statisticians”. For good measure, Esser accused me (falsely, just in case you’re wondering) of being “allied to a well-organised and well-funded commercial lobby”, who “stand to benefit financially” from the “anti-asbestos campaign”.

Rather than take ownership of the process, assess the various bits of evidence and come to a judgement, the PCC instead asked me to go through this new set of claims and produce a further response. Here I began to see why so many people have given up on the PCC. If a newspaper digs in its heels and simply denies all the evidence that’s been presented, there doesn’t seem to be much that the PCC can do except bat the issue back to the complainant.

It was at this stage that I learned that the asbestos campaigner Michael Lees had also submitted a detailed complaint. Michael, who has been working to highlight the dangers of asbestos in schools since losing his wife Gina, a teacher, to mesothelioma, had been singled out by name – the third time that Booker had done this. Michael took particular exception to the dismissive terms in which the article had referred to his wife’s death, adding to the offence of a previous piece in which Booker had dubbed the case “bizarre”. He was also concerned that – aside from Booker’s views on white asbestos – the article sidestepped the fact that many schools still contain large amounts of brown asbestos, whose dangers are beyond dispute.

More time-consuming exchanges followed, with long gaps in between, while we awaited a response from the Daily Mail. In the end we won, sort of. The newspaper agreed to make some amendments to the text of the article, publish a short correction, and write a private apology to Michael Lees over Booker’s comments about his wife. But to get even this far has taken seven months, and a substantial time investment, while the Daily Mail seems to have been able to drag the process out with impunity. “Free”, perhaps – but hardly “fast”, or “fair”.

Richard Wilson is the author of Don’t Get Fooled Again – The Skeptic’s Guide to Life. www.twitter.com/dontgetfooled

Written by Richard Wilson

September 30, 2010 at 6:42 am

Secret UN briefing on 1994 Rwanda atrocities – full text of the “Gersony Report”

with 3 comments

Extracted from this PDF file. Background from Human Rights Watch here.

UNITED NATIONS
HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES

11 October 1994

Dear Mrs. Molina-Abram,

We refer to UNHCR’s briefing to the Commission of Experts on Monday, 11 October 1994.

As requested by the Commission, we are forwarding herewith a written summary of Mr. Gersony’s oral presentation and copies of some field reports sent to UNHCR Headquarters by UNHCR Field Offices.

We are confident that, as agreed by the President of the Commission of Experts, these documents will be treated as confidential and only be made available to the members of the Commission.

Yours sincerely,

Franois Fouinat

Chef de Cabinet

Mrs. B. Molina-Abram Secretary to the Commission
of Experts on Rwanda Room 141.1 1 Palais des Nations

SUMMARY OF UNHCR PRESENTATION


BEFORE COMMISSION OF EXPERTS

10 OCTOBER 1994

PROSPECTS FOR EARLY REPATRIATION OF RWANDAN REFUGEES CURRENTLY IN BURUNDI, TANZANIA AND ZAIRE

Between April and August 1994, over one million Rwandans fled their country to refuge in Burundi, Tanzania and Zaire. Some 100,000 reached Burundi and Tanzania in July and August alone.

On July 27, the High Commissioner appointed an Emergency Repatriation Team to conduct a thorough, systematic and comprehensive field assessment of the prospects for repatriation and to devise mechanisms which could accelerate the safe return to Rwanda of the refugee population. In conducting its assignment, the team received information which suggested that conditions were not yet conducive for such return, its findings are briefly summarized in this document.

Assessment Procedures

During a five-week period in August/early September, the team visited 41 (28%) of Rwanda’s 145 communes, and collected detailed information about ten additional communes. In nine UNHCR refugee camps in Burundi, Tanzania, and Zaire, and in 91 locations inside Rwanda, the team conducted more than 200 individual, private interviews of about one hour each with local residents, former displaced persons, spontaneous refugee returnees and current refugees.

More than 100 additional persons were interviewed in small groups in a less private manner. Their first-hand eyewitness accounts — which comprise the main basis of this report – were detailed and credible, and they responded spontaneously to many follow-up questions, clearly describing events which they had seen. The most important elements and patterns of the Information they provided, particularly for the south/south-eastern regions, were corroborated independently by the team’s interviewees in several countries outside Rwanda and by those in different locations inside Rwanda. [These reports are also mutually corroborative with information gathered independently by UNHCR offices in neighboring countries and through contacts established in Rwanda. According to the more recent of these reports, the types of activities described later herein in the south/south-eastern region have continued during the first half of September.] These accounts, if accurate, compel certain unavoidable findings which are set forth later herein.

The Government of Rwanda permitted the team full, independent freedom of movement, without accompaniment and control, through the issuance at the outset of the mission of an official letter of authorization which, with few exceptions, was honored throughout the country.

Genocide of Tutsis

The Government of Rwanda, the UNHCR and the international community have placed considerable emphasis on the early return of all refugees, and particularly those who fled Rwanda during the past year. Of these, the refugees currently remaining in neighboring countries are in the main Hutu people. It was not within the team’s mandate, nor was it able to conduct a systematic inquiry into the killing in April 1994 of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi people and many Hutu people by soldiers, militia and surrogate forces of the former Government of Rwanda. The killings of the Tutsi people have been described” by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights in his June 28, 1994 report, as genocidal in nature.

Due to the nature of its mission, the team’s findings concern principally the conduct of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military forces of the current Government, with respect to the Hutu residents of Rwanda. [Previously known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), this force has since been redesignated as the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and is referred to throughout this document as such.] However grave the team’s findings with respect to RPA conduct, they do not mitigate, nor should they be permitted to obscure, the genocidal violence unleashed against the Tutsi people in April 1994 by forces of and associated with the previous Government.

Principal Findings

Based on information gathered through the procedures described earlier, following are the principal findings of the Emergency Repatriation Team which affect the prospects for an early large-scale repatriation of Hutu refugees currently residing in neighboring countries:

WITH RESPECT TO BUTARE. KIBUNGO. AND PARTS OF KIGALI PREFECTURES…

1. Significant areas of Butare Prefecture, Kibungo Prefecture, and the . southern and eastern areas of Kigali Prefecture have been — and in some cases were reported to remain as of early September – the scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of the civilian Hutu populations by the RPA.

These activities are reported to have begun, depending on location, between April and July 1994, immediately following the expulsion from each area of former Government military, militia and surrogate forces. These RPA actions were consistently reported to be conducted in areas where opposition forces of any kind – armed or unarmed – or resistance of any kind – other than attempts by the victims of these actions lo escape — were absent. Large-scale indiscriminate killings of men, women, children, including the sick and the elderly, were consistently reported. The reported violence includes:

— Mass killings at meetings. Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about “peace,” “security” or “food distribution” issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers by other means. Large-scale killings which did not involve such “meetings” were also reported.

House-to-house killings, and attacks on villages and displaced populations. — Pursuit of hidden populations. In response to the above actions, significant segments of the peculation flee into hiding in swamps, bush areas, banana plantations and other areas of difficult access to RPA soldiers. In many cases, they remain in hiding for extended periods of time. RPA soldiers’, in a few more recent cases accompanied by civilian Tutsi surrogates armed with spears and other manual weapons, were reported to actively pursue the hidden population through:

–Sudden, apparently well-coordinated attacks with gunfire;

–Silent attacks in which hidden groups are killed with manual weapons;

–Burning of swamp areas to prompt movement by civilians who are then killed;

–Periods in which operations are suspended, followed by invitations to the hidden families to return home in peace. Shortly thereafter the villages are attacked and returnees are killed.

– Killing of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers – particularly those fleeing from Rwanda in a southerly direction towards Burundi are reportedly systematically intercepted, ambushed and killed in significant numbers. These actions are reported with particular frequency in the commonly-used routes via road and through the countryside which pass through Matongo and Musenyi in southern Birenga Commune, and in areas close to the river which defines the Rwanda/Burundi border.

– Killing of returnees. Hundreds of Rwandan refugees in Burundi have heard Government of Rwanda radio broadcasts inviting and calling on the refugees to return home, and some of the refugees tried to do so. Some attempted to return to Rwanda with their entire families; others sent one or two individuals as “advance scouts” to confirm that conditions are peaceful. Still others traveled to their home areas to find and/or bring their relatives back to Burundi, or to harvest food to bring back to Burundi for their own consumption or for sale. Regardless of the motivation for their return, those who attempted to return and who were able to flee back to Burundi report consistently eye-witnessing killings and seeing the relatively fresh bodies of their Hutu neighbors and relatives.

–Killing of sick and elderly. Some individuals who are too old or too sick to flee to a neighboring country or to hide in the swamps, remain at their homes. Reports indicate that at least some of these are killed by RPA soldiers.

The foregoing activities have not been reported to be carried out throughout the geographical areas described above, nor carried out simultaneously in the areas which are affected. Nonetheless, an unmistakable pattern of systematic RPA conduct of such actions is the unavoidable conclusion of the team’s interviews.

More than 80% of the interviewees in this region — both inside Rwanda and in six refugee camps in neighboring countries provided detailed, credible reports of the conduct summarized above.

As the team traveled extensively within Rwanda through some areas close to the borders with Burundi and Tanzania, no RPA military personnel or checkpoints reported or alerted me team to security danger in these areas which it might encounter, or made reference to the fact or possibility of armed conflict between the RPA and former Government soldiers or militia conducting incursions into these areas. During its journey, the team often took care to check with RPA military personnel and was always assured that it faced no security problems in the conduct of its travels.

[Two incidents of the killing of Tutsi returnees by Hutu men armed with machetes were reported by Tutsi interviewees in two locations. The interviewees characterized the events as isolated incidents. One incident involved the killing of a Tutsi returnee from Burundi who appropriated the house of the Hutu owner who was still hiding in a nearby area. The second incident involved the killing of a Tutsi family by six Hutu men armed with manual weapons said to have returned to their home area from Burundi.]

2. Manner of killings. According to the interviewee reports, a common manner of effecting these killings is through the use of hoes to the skulls of the victims, or of machete blows to their heads and necks. The burning of victims in rural houses which have thatch roofs was widely reported. Gunfire is reportedly used in large-scale massacres and attacks. Otherwise, according to the interviewee reports, it seems to be used judiciously, and principally against fleeing males, who appear to be the priority — but by no means exclusive -targets of these actions.

3. Disposal of bodies. When local residents remain in an area where such killings have taken place, particularly when they know the victims and the number of bodies is manageable for them, and after RPA forces withdraw from the area, the remaining local residents themselves undertake some burial or covering of bodies. Eyewitness reports indicated that RPA forces sometimes burn or otherwise dispose of large numbers of bodies of those killed in public buildings. Large numbers of bodies are reported to remain above the ground, where some are partially consumed by dogs. Some formerly displaced persons and others have reportedly been ordered or obliged by RPA forces to bury some of the remaining bodies.

4. Culpability of victims. It appeared that the vast majority of men, women and children killed in these actions were targeted through the pure chance of being caught by RPA. No vetting process or attempt to establish the complicity of the victims in the April 1994 massacres of the Tutsis was reported.

5. Number of deaths. It is estimated that from late April/May through July, more than 5,000, and perhaps as many as 10,000 persons per month may have been killed in the manner described above. During August, while some 60,000 new refugees were arriving in Burundi and Tanzania, the number killed may have been somewhat less than in previous months, but probably at least 5,000. By that time, the people in many cases no longer responded to calls to attend RPA meetings and fled their homes when RPA soldiers approached. Also by then, many were dead or in exile in Burundi and Tanzania.

Through extensive travel on secondary and tertiary roads, the team observed that significant geographical areas of southern Kibungo and southern and eastern Butare prefectures were virtually deserted, while others were partially populated with varying degrees of apparent stability and security. In order to not compromise the security of the interviewees, the team declined the frequent offers of local residents to visit locations which they asserted were within walking distance to observe what they described as the relatively fresh bodies of Hutu people killed in the incidents which they had reported. Nonetheless, the team directly observed 150 bodies which appeared to have been dead for about 7 -10 days and which included men, women and children. The strong smell of deteriorating bodies was often present in the areas visited by the team.

During the last few days of August and the first days of September, new refugee arrivals to Tanzania diminished somewhat, but remained substantial. The lower arrival rates could be attributable to the factors described in the preceding paragraph. The systematic interdiction and killing of asylum seekers, described earlier, may be discouraging those who feel compelled to flee from attempting to do so. The communal origins of the latest arrivals suggest that reported RPA actions may, at that time, have been concentrated in areas more distant from the border, for example inTeastern Kigali Prefecture. It could also be that such actions were, at that time, at least temporarily diminished. With the exception of the returnee cases reported within paragraph one, above, no significant return to Rwanda of Hutu people from Burundi or Tanzania was reported or observed during this period.

WITH RESPECT TO RUHENGERI PREFECTURE…

6. Ruhengeri Prefecture.- In striking contrast to the southern and southeastern regions described above, refugee returnees from Zaire (of whom there were more than 100,000) and local residents in parts of western Ruhengeri visited by the team (including many who had been temporarily internally displaced in July and had since returned to their homes) reported overwhelmingly that conditions in their area were secure, stable and peaceful at the time of the team’s visit in early August. A liberal border-crossing policy by local authorities permitted families to walk home for brief exploratory visits, confirm for themselves the security situation, and return to Zaire to bring back their families.

7. Killing of returnee group. Based on credible reports gathered by the UNHCR office in Zaire from two seriously wounded survivors, it appears that on August 3 a group of up to 150 refugee returnees, including entire families of men, women and children who were walking from Zaire to northern Ruhengeri, were intercepted, questioned and killed by RPA soldiers just at the Zaire/Rwanda border north of Kinigi. To date it appears that, if the report is accurate, this mayihavo, been an isolated incident in this prefecture.

WITH RESPECT TO GISENYI PREFECTURE…

8. Unclear situation. In several Gisenyi communes visited by the team, less than 10% of the normal population appeared to be present. The proportion of population present in other communes was considerably higher, though in general lower than Ruhengeri Prefecture at that time.

Consistent reports in Gisenyi Prefecture described a systematic pattern of arbitrary arrests and disappearances of adult males, all of whom were alleged to be suspected of being militia elements associated with the former Government. Of an estimated 400 or more arrests, it appeared that half may have been refugee-returnees from Zaire, some of whom were intercepted as they attempted to cross the first checkpoints in the prefecture. In some cases, an informal (though unevenly administered) vetting process to determine if those arrested were, in fact, militia or had participated in the April 1994 massacres, was reported. The execution of at least dozens of those arrested was credibly reported.

Both arrests and physical abuse of local residents were credibly reported in some areas of Gisenyi prefecture to which refugees had returned from Zaire and in some sectors from which the population had never fled. Local residents stated that they were considering fleeing to Zaire. In fact, a small trickle of refugees was noted to have arrived in Zaire from southern Gisenyi during the team’s visit to the Goma area during the following days. Finally, the liberal border-crossing policy which permitted refugees to visit their homes to assess the situation and then return for their families was tightened up. An attitude of impatience with the fefugees who had thus far failed to return to Gisenyi was manifested by some local civilian surrogates of the RPA. Such attitudes had been entirely absent in Ruhengeri during the team’s visit.

WITH RESPECT TO REASONS FOR FLIGHT TO ZAIRE…

9. Reason for flight. Contrary to early working assumptions, Rwandan refugees interviewed in Zaire did not refer to calls by Radio Mille Collines for their departure from Rwanda as determining factors in their decisions to flee. Roughly half of the interviewees in Zaire indicated that they had been urged to flee by former Government civilian and military officials in their home areas, or that on their own volition they had decided to flee with or immediately ahead of former army soldiers because of a general fear of the RPA not necessarily linked to direct negative experience. Many simply cited panic as their motivation. Those reporting these motivations tended to come from western Ruhengeri Prefecture and from parts of Gisenyi Prefecture.

However, half of the interviewees in Zaire reported eyewitnessing at the time’of their flight or in earlier contact with the RPA acts of violence by the RPA against Hutu civilians which were similar in type — though far less in frequency — to those reported in Kibungo, Butare and southern and eastern Kigali Prefectures. They included meetings which evolved into massacres and attacks on civilian villages. Those reporting such violence tended to-come from eastern Ruhengeri and some parts of Byumba Prefecture.

WITH RESPECT TO REASONS FOR RETURN FROM ZAIRE TO NQRTHERN RWANDA…

10. Reason for return. Returnees to Ruhengeri Prefecture from Zaire cited their perception of its relative security, and the messages they had received from [illegible] effect, as their principal motivations for return. A survey on one day [illegible] August of eighty returnee families who were walking along the Gissnyi/Ruhengeri road bound for different destinationsln Rwanda revealed that in these families, one out of five of the Immediate family members with whom they had arrived In Zaire had died there. The mortality rate reported by the families still living In the refugee camps In Zaire was reported by them to- be significantly less. This appeared to substantiate assertions by refugees still in Zaire that those who were In the worst physical condition and who had the least food were a high proportion of those who had overcome their fear and decided to return to Rwanda.

The confiscation by force from refugee families In Zaire by soldiers and militia of the former Government of the food, blankets and plastic sheeting provided (In some cases by airlift) by the intemational community through UNHCR and Its implementing partners was reported as a widespread problem which was affecting the relief operations. The deprivation caused by such actions appeared to be contributing to the hunger and sickness which seemed to be driving at least some of the refugees to return home at that time.

Other observations

11. The overwhelming majority of refugees in Burundi, Tanzania and Zaire expressed a wish to return as quickly as possible to their homes. If they were in good physical condition, most could probably return home by foot in a journey of a day or so. They stated that their main –.and in most cases their only constraint to doing so was the fear of being killed in their home areas, either upon their return or at a later time. Many asked that the United Nations intercede with the current Government of Rwanda (and particularly with the RPA) to cease the killing so that they could return home promptly.

12. In order for both spontaneous and organized repatriation to proceed, the Government of Rwanda must create conditions conducive for the return in safety of the refugees. Progress will have to be closely monitored by the UN system both in towns along the main road and through deployment in a permanent and sustained manner particularly in off-the-road rural areas (such as specific commune capitals) to insure that the actions reported herein are promptly and durably stopped.

UNHCR Emergency Repatriation Team

Written by Richard Wilson

September 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Alexis Sinduhije: “The international community, obsessed with stability… chose a rigged election managed by a police state rather than a vibrant democracy where the opinions of all are respected”

leave a comment »

From Alexis Sinduhije in The East African:

John, 35, the youth leader of UPD, the Union for Peace and Development, was arrested by Burundi intelligence in early June and accused of being a security threat to the state.

He was taken to their secret offices where he was tortured, his right ear cut off and his penis and testicles shoved into a gourd.

He was later moved to the central prison but the damage has been done; he is now infertile.

//

Many members of different opposition parities have been arrested, tortured and threatened throughout the country.

The official count according to human-rights organisations is 200 but that is only those we know of; many more incidents are happening in military posts and police stations across the country.

Those that have been arrested, threatened and tortured are the lucky ones – others have been killed in broad daylight, in their homes.

On June28, Ladislas Ntiharirizwa and his wife Christine were at home in Muramvya province relaxing after their evening meal when grenades were thrown into their house and they were both killed, leaving behind a small baby of 3 months and a child of 3 years.

Their crime was to be members of MSD, the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy.

The same night, in the same town, a grenade was thrown into the house of a Frodebu leader killing his 7-year-old son and leaving him gravely injured.

Later, in the far east of the country, in the small town of Gisuru bordering Tanzania, the Imbonerakure (the youth militia of the ruling party CNDD-FDD) with the support of the police, attacked several families, members of the FNL party, in their homes with clubs, pangas and jembes.

The result was the death of four and the hospitalisation of five others, most of whom are still in hospital.

//

Many young members of the opposition have fled their homes and jobs across the country. Their future is uncertain.

They thought they were growing up in a period of democracy in Burundi, after the years and years of war that their parents and grandparents suffered through.

However, they have learned that today, in Burundi, being a member of a political party that is not the one that is in power is a crime and your life will be destroyed.

They have learned that freedom of expression and opinion is a right held only by the party in power.

The opposition does not have much room to manoeuvre in.

The one choice open to them that they should not even consider is to cease to function.

The opposition in Burundi cannot afford to disappear or become puppets of the regime.

Although the political space is growing smaller and smaller as Burundi falls under the influence of the Kagame regime next door, political diversity is a must in this country that knows too well the impact of decades of military dictatorship.

The second choice is to flee the country and operate from exile as has happened across Africa under oppressive regimes.

Already this option is being witnessed as three leaders of opposition parties have fled the county fearing for their lives and many members of opposition parties have gone into hiding within the country.

//

This is hardly surprising given the large number of arrests and assassinations that have already taken place.

The third option is to return to the violence and permanent civil unrest that the country has known since Independence.

This is not a choice that the opposition, or any citizen would welcome.

However – given the fact that all attempts at dialogue requested by the opposition have been refused and that the international community has sat quiet while electoral fraud, abuse of human rights and violence has taken place this option – sadly may yet become a reality.

The international community, obsessed with stability has turned a blind eye to all these manoeuvrings and abuses of human rights and of freedom of expression; they chose a rigged election managed by a police state rather than a vibrant democracy where the opinions of all are respected.

In June the opposition leaders called for support from the East African Community.

They naively thought that the leaders in the neighbouring paper democracies would insist on transparent electoral processes.

They had hoped that the region’s leaders would call upon the party in power to stop arresting, torturing and assassinating the political opposition.

//

But they forgot that the East African Community was an old boys’ club and no one was going to rock the boat in this period of multiple elections across the region.

They forgot that leaders across the region have the same attitude to democratic elections; that across the region elections are rigged and the results of the elections known before the populace even goes to the polls. The EAC has chosen to support the perpetrators of abuse and not the victims.

We realise that if democracy is to be saved, it is for us to do it.

Political opposition and civil society need to stay strong and courageous in Burundi. We cannot return to the dictatorships that have oppressed our country for decades. We, the political opposition of Burundi, need to be an example to the region. We need to show how political pluralism can build a country, not destroy it.

What is the value of the East African Community if its members hide their heads in the sand and support oppressive regimes that do not respect basic human rights?

If we are serious about democracy in Africa we need to stop this Mickey Mouse game.

We have power holders who create fake opposition parties merely to show that there is “competition” – while there is no real diversity of opinion.

The naiveté of the foreign ministers in the region was is revealed in statements such as the one Kenya’s Moses Wetangula made in June when he said, “The EAC will insist on the democratisation of all member states to avoid a situation that could lead to disharmony and to ensure that they contribute positively to the wellbeing of the region.”

What form of democracy is he talking about?

Is it a democracy where parties that speak out against the regimes in power are destroyed, their members arrested, killed and tortured?

We need to hold our leaders accountable so that all can have their basic needs met and their rights respected.

As Achille Mbembe, the Cameroonian political scientist says: “If Africans want democracy, they must be willing to pay the price. No one will pay it for them. Nor will they obtain it on credit.”

Alexis Sinduhije is president of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Support Jean-Claude Kavumbagu – Guest blog for Index on Censorship

leave a comment »

From Index on Censorship, Free Speech blog:

While Burundi’s war criminals go unpunished, my friend faces “treason” trial over critical article, says Richard Wilson

What do you do when someone you love gets murdered in a distant country you know almost nothing about? A decade ago my sister Charlotte died in a massacre in the small Central African state of Burundi. In the years that followed I was consumed by a need to understand why she had been killed, who had been responsible, and what, if anything could be done to bring them to book. Only a handful of people in the world could help me. Almost all were journalists. One of them was Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, editor of Burundi’s Netpress news agency.

The information, advice and contacts Jean-Claude gave me proved vital when I came to write the book about my sister’s life and death, Titanic Express. With truth comes a certain kind of cartharsis. To the extent that one ever can, I’ve “moved on” from what happened. But I will always remain endebted to those who helped my family find answers, asking nothing in return but that we do what we could to focus attention on the outrages happening in their country.

Jean-Claude has been a thorn in the side of successive governments in Burundi, both Hutu and Tutsi. His views are often controversial, but there is no questioning the price he has paid for them. In 1999, a year before my sister’s death, Jean-Claude was arrested by the Tutsi-led regime of Pierre Buyoya and held for two weeks on charges of operating an unregistered newspaper. He was detained again in 2001 by the same regime, and accused of insulting the public prosecutor. 2003 saw the installation of a new, Hutu-led government, which loudly proclaimed its commitment to peace, democracy and human rights. Three months later, Jean-Claude was arrested yet again and charged with “insulting the authorities”.

Elections in 2005 saw a landslide win for the Hutu ex-rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza, who has gained plaudits for his talk of “forgiveness” and “reconciliation”. Sadly, Nkurunziza has been markedly unforgiving of critical coverage by the independent media. While no serious efforts have been made to prosecute those responsible for the ethnic massacres that have plagued Burundi over the last two decades, in recent years dozens of independent journalists have been detained or threatened over their work.

[Click here for full article]

Written by Richard Wilson

August 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Censorship, Democracy

Tagged with

V for Vendetta: “Don’t Get Fooled Again” cited in UK High Court defamation strike-out

with one comment

Click here to support the campaign for Libel Reform.

From the UK High Court, case HQ09X02688 (published by 5RB), March 2010:

THE CLAIM

2. Professor Bridle, who is the managing director of the Second Claimant company, brings this defamation claim against Mr Williams, a Health and Safety inspector employed by the Second Defendant, the Health and Safety Executive, (‘the HSE’) at the HSE’s offices in Cardiff. The claim is made in slander in respect of words allegedly spoken by Mr Williams, when acting in his capacity as an HSE inspector, on or about 24 July 2008, to representatives of the University of Wales Lampeter, Mr Cennydd Powell, the University’s Head of Estates, and his assistant Mr John Fowden.

3. The words complained of were that Professor Bridle “is not a real professor as he claims” and that Mr Powell and Mr Fowden (and by implication also the university and all other third parties generally) “should not believe a word that he says”. It is further said that in telephone conversations between Mr Williams and Mr Powell between 24 July and 31 July 2008, Mr Williams repeated to Mr Powell the alleged defamatory statements…

Summary of Defendants’ Submissions

…48. The Defendants submit that publications by the journalists referred to and by the author Richard Wilson in his book ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again’ contain far more serious allegations than those complained of in these proceedings. They are in permanent form, have received and continue to receive far wider publication and would inevitably have caused much greater damage to reputation than the alleged slander by an HSE inspector to the University’s estate manager and his assistant.

49. Richard Wilson’s book contains a Chapter entitled ‘Fake Experts and Non-Denial Denials’ which is almost entirely devoted to attacking Professor Bridle. It disparages his academic qualifications, and brands him as a ‘charlatan’ and a ‘liar’. An article in ‘The Guardian’ dated 30 June 2008 by Peter Wilby refers to Professor Bridle and Asbestos Watchdog in disparaging terms and suggests that his scientific credentials should be subject to careful scrutiny. A critical article suggesting that Professor Bridle was not a neutral expert and was linked to the Asbestos Cement Product Producers Association was published in CMAJ [ a scientific journal] by Kathleen Ruff on 22 December 2008. Critical comments have been published on a blog run by Richard Wilson in September 2008. Julie Burchill wrote an article critical of Professor Bridle and Christopher Booker in The Guardian on 2 November 2002.

50. It is therefore submitted that the incident giving rise to this claim is a peg on which Professor Bridle hopes to hang the next round of his campaign. It is submitted that he has been waiting for the opportunity to “get HSE in the dock” and this action is a contrived way of seeking that. It is submitted that were this action allowed to proceed it would also cause harassment and prejudice beyond that usually encountered in litigation…

CONCLUSIONS

…82. It is, I consider, apparent from the correspondence exhibited to the witness statements that the dominant motive in bringing the proceedings is to cause embarrassment and prejudice to the HSE because of the Claimant’s anger at the HSE’s refusal to accept his views on the subject in question. It is apparent from the evidence that Professor Bridle believes that a claim against the HSE will be likely to bring the debate about the difference in scientific views to a public forum more readily than a claim against an individual journalist would do. Thus I have concluded that, whilst I would not go so far as to characterise the claim as ‘vindictive’ in the same league as the claim in Wallis v Valentine, it does, in my view, fall into the category of a ‘vendetta’ as outlined in that case and in Bezant v Rausing.

83. I note particularly the fact that no defamation proceedings have been brought by Professor Bridle against any of the authors of some of the attacks made against him in the press, in the book by Richard Wilson and on the internet. The content of those publications are mostly in terms far more pejorative than the words alleged to have been spoken by Mr Williams, and will have had a much larger audience. The fact that such publications are widely available will inevitably put into issue the extent to which Professor Bridle’s reputation has been damaged by the alleged publication in this claim. I do not consider that Professor Bridle’s explanation as to why no such proceedings have been brought is credible when compared to the issue of these proceedings for words spoken in either a private meeting or a telephone conversation to either one or two persons (depending upon the evidence).

84. In the light of the lack of any convincing evidence as to why the HSE have been singled out for a claim, and the publishers of the publications referred to have not had proceedings brought against them, and on the basis of the evidence relied on by the Defendants, I have concluded that there is an improper collateral purpose to the claim against Mr Williams and the HSE, rather than simply vindication of reputation…

Accordingly the Defendant’s application for summary judgment and for strike out succeeds in its entirety.

*See also*: “Asbestos critic was ‘pursuing a vendetta’ against HSE”

Written by Richard Wilson

July 28, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Censorship, libel terrorism

Tagged with

Review of “Secret Affairs” by Mark Curtis

leave a comment »

By me, from the New Humanist

Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam by Mark Curtis (Serpent’s Tail)

When Iran’s last democratically elected Prime Minister set about nationalising the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Britain sought to replace him with a “dictator” – in the words of our then Ambassador to Tehran – who would “settle the oil question on reasonable terms”. In the process, the Foreign Office actively supported a man they saw as “a complete political reactionary,” Ayatollah Kashani, whose hard-line followers organised the large-scale protests that preceded the 1953 coup, which installed the arch-conservative – but pro-Western – Shah. Kashani went on to mentor Ruhollah Khomeini, who in 1979 overthrew the Shah and installed the repressive theocracy that continues in power today.

In Secret Affairs, Mark Curtis delivers an unsettling verdict on the conduct of British foreign policy over the last hundred years. In pursuit of our national interest, the UK has repeatedly sided with the most brutal and conservative forces of political Islam – and aggressively conspired against democratic governments around the globe. While this has yielded temporary gains, in the long run the policy has proved enormously costly, even in its own cynical terms.

Across the Muslim world, for most of the past century, Britain’s chief enemy has been not religious extremism but the secular nationalists who sought to wrest back control of their country’s resources from the former colonial powers. Time and again, from Egypt to Iran to Indonesia, we have sought to undermine such leaders by arming and training their extremist opponents, while giving generous support to Islamist dictators willing to do business on favourable terms. In the process, we have contributed directly to the growth of radical Islam worldwide, and the consequences are now coming home to haunt us.

Eager to retain a strategic foothold in South Asia – in Churchill’s words, to “keep a bit of India” after independence in 1947 – Britain was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, an artificial state with little to hold it together but its identity as a Muslim nation. In recent decades, successive Pakistani governments have sought to bolster their power by fanning religious fervour at home, and backing militant Islamists across the region. Yet Pakistan has long been treated as a key UK ally, and a favoured recipient of military aid – even as, so Curtis claims, Pakistani intelligence services have continued backing the jihadi groups now fighting British forces in Afghanistan.

Closer still has been our relationship with Saudi Arabia, whose modern form Britain also helped shape, at the close of the colonial era. Seeking to position itself as the leader of the Muslim world, the Saudi state has, since the 1970s, spent an estimated $50 billion promoting its fundamentalist brand of “Wahhabism” around the globe, in what one US think-tank describes as the “largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted”. In positioning the UK as a favoured trading partner for Saudi oil, arms and, latterly, financial investments, Labour and Conservative governments alike have systematically played down the true character of the regime, and its links to global terror.

The picture that emerges is of a nation locked into a series of uncomfortable alliances – of questionable overall benefit even to our narrow self-interest – whose nature our government is unable fully to acknowledge. The issue seems exacerbated by the extraordinary levels of secrecy around UK foreign policy, hindering effective debate about the decisions being taken in our name. Many of the files surrounding Britain’s abortive intervention in Suez, for example, still remain classified half a century later. Due to the UK’s controversial “30-year rule”, much of the more recent historical record is simply missing.

Curtis seems nonetheless to have done an excellent job with the sources available, assembling an impressive array of leaks and government admissions, to argue that, at least in ethical terms, UK foreign policy has changed little in recent decades. He makes a compelling, if somewhat disheartening, case.

Written by Richard Wilson

July 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Book reviews, terrorism

Tagged with

The grim reality of the European Union’s “African success story”

with one comment

Burundi’s brutal government has been heavily bankrolled by the European Union for years, with donors falling over themselves to applaud their “African success story”. Complaints by Burundians of corruption and authoritarian behaviour by the ruling elite have been largely ignored.  Now we’re seeing the results…

Written by Richard Wilson

June 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Who shot Kayumba?

with 18 comments

Rightly or wrongly, Rwanda’s de facto one-party state has a reputation for brutality and lawlessness, and this latest episode will only increase it.

The BBC reports a botched assassination attempt, on South African territory, against the exiled dissident former Rwandan army chief Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a critic of Rwanda’s president, remains in a critical condition after being shot outside his Johannesburg home.

Rosette Nyamwasa said it was an assassination attempt as the lone gunman had made no demand for money or goods before shooting her husband.

Rwanda’s government denies the claim, saying it does not condone violence.

Lt Gen Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach and has been undergoing surgery in a Johannesburg clinic.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that since leaving Kigali in February, Lt Gen Nyamwasa had been a thorn in the flesh of President Paul Kagame, whom he accuses of corruption

Once a close ally of  Paul Kagame, and a senior figure within the RPF forces which defeated the genocidal government of 1994 (whilst also committing a series of atrocities in their own right), Nyamwasa recently fled the country and became a vocal critic of Kagame’s harsh, authoritarian rule.

Kagame gets an extraordinarily good write-up in the British and US media, which I find surprising given his government’s track record since 1994. More than five million people are believed to have died in the vicious resource war in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a war in which Kagame and his forces are deeply implicated. The press in Rwanda is very tightly controlled, and it is difficult for any genuinely independent opposition party to operate freely. During Kagame’s time in power, a number of his critics have been murdered overseas, and many others inside Rwanda have been killed or “disappeared”.

Britain is one of Rwanda’s most generous international donors, and we have also supplied military support. During his time as Rwandan army chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa visited the UK for military training – I know this because I met him briefly during such a visit in 2001 and he talked about it.

I hope that Kayumba makes a good recovery. I can’t imagine that South Africa – another key UK ally in the region – will take kindly to terrorist attacks being carried out on their territory. Rwanda will, of course, deny all responsibility, but they do have form in this area. According to Kayumba’s wife, Rosette Nyamwasa:

“[Mr Kagame] said it in parliament that he will actually kill my husband, that wherever he is he will follow him and kill him,”

A rethink of the UK’s relationship with this dubious regime seems long overdue…

Written by Richard Wilson

June 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Save a life, slash the UK government’s subsidy of the libel industry

with 2 comments

While accident and emergency services face cuts,
frivolous libel cases receive a generous subsidy

The endemic abuse of the UK’s dysfunctional libel system to suppress inconvenient scientific evidence is now widely understood to be a threat to public health.

The enormous fees that libel lawyers are able to charge mean that a defendant can face crippling, unrecoverable costs even if they win their case.  The situation is now so bad that the media is routinely exercising self-consorship over contentious public health issues rather than face the risk of legal action.

But there is another issue here, which has also has serious implications for public welfare, and which merits more scrutiny. While the claimant and defendant in a libel case have to foot the bill for their respective lawyer’s legal fees (with the majority of the costs typically falling on whoever loses the case), there are many other costs involved in a case – from the judge’s salary to the cost of heating and lighting the courtroom – that they never have to worry about.

These “invisible” costs are generously met by the UK state, using money from taxpayers that many of us might prefer to be put towards a more worthy cause – saving our local accident and emergency unit from closure, reducing class sizes in an inner city school, providing better equipment for our armed forces, or simply returning the money to taxpayers so they can decide for themselves how to spend it.

A typical salary for a High Court judge is in the region of  £172,000. If the judge works for five days a week, 46 weeks of the year, this would equate to a  rate of more than £740 per day. The judge is supported, in turn, by a whole team of clerks and other administrative staff. The court room itself must be kept warm, clean, and in good repair. Meticulous records must be kept of the court proceedings, with those records being filed and maintained for many years afterwards.

Without all of these “invisible” costs being met, there would simply be no lucrative court case for libel firms like Carter Ruck and Schillings to cash in on.  So what’s actually happening here is that the UK taxpayer is indirectly subsidising the libel industry.

So what kind of cases are we subsidising? Well there’s the tennis player who sued the Daily Telegraph (unsuccessfully) for calling him the “world’s worst tennis pro”. There’s the Icelandic professor who got sued in the UK courts over a comment posted on the website of the University of Iceland. There’s the Ukrainian businessman who sued a Ukrainian news website in the UK courts over comments made on that website, in Ukrainian. There’s the now-notorious failed libel action by the British Chiropractic Association against science writer Simon Singh over his criticism of their scientific claims. There’s the two-year (and also famously unsuccessful) libel case by the blogger Joanna Kaschke against another blogger, Dave Osler, which was thrown out after two years on the basis that there was actually no case to answer.  There’s the defamation case brought by John Bridle against the Health and Safety Executive, over comments allegedly made over the phone by an HSE inspector – the case was also thrown out (after much deliberation), with the court ruling that Bridle had been pursuing a “vendetta” against the HSE.

On top of the considerable costs imposed on the defendant, all of these cases required a hefty subsidy from the taxpayer in the form of court staff time and other administrative expenses – while (in most cases) the claimant’s law firm raked in the profits.  It’s difficult to put a precise figure on how much money we are wasting each year on frivolous or trivial defamation cases like these – but it’s easy to think of better ways that this cash could be used.

Written by Richard Wilson

June 18, 2010 at 10:36 am

Independent breaks UK media silence over Trafigura trial in the Dutch courts

with one comment

With help from the newly-elected Green MP Caroline Lucas, The Independent  newspaper has taken a clear lead in the “Trafigura challenge” – the race to see which UK media outlet will be the first to report fully on the upcoming trial in the Dutch courts of the controversial oil company.

No UK newspaper or broadcaster has yet made any mention of  allegations made to Dutch prosecutors by Greenpeace – and widely featured in the Dutch media – that Trafigura and their law firm MacFarlanes sought to bribe witnesses in an earlier London court case. But the Independent has, by citing Caroline Lucas’ remarks, at least been able to reference the ongoing legal proceedings.

Under the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, “correct copies” of any Parliamentary publication may freely be republished without fear of legal action, including, crucially, any action under the UK’s notoriously expensive and one-sided libel laws, which Trafigura has been ruthlessly exploiting.

In a message on Twitter last night, Caroline Lucas promised an “EDM [Early Day Motion] and PQs [Parliamentary Questions] to follow”, so with luck the UK press may soon have more opportunities to cover this story freely.

From The Independent

Caroline Lucas used her maiden speech to raise concerns that the British media are unable to fully report legal proceedings involving the commodities trading company Trafigura.

The Green MP pledged to use her new position in Parliament to raise the issue after legal claims were launched in the Netherlands against the company, which chartered the ship whose toxic sludge was illegally dumped in the Ivory Coast in 2006.

The Dutch-based oil trader caused outrage last year when a High Court injunction issued on its behalf had the effect of blocking coverage of parliamentary proceedings involving its activities. The “super-injunction”, obtained by the law firm Carter Ruck, was amended after it was accused of infringing the supremacy of Parliament by preventing the reporting of a question tabled by an MP. Politicians from all sides criticised the legal manoeuvre.

The law firm agreed to change the injunction and insisted there was no question that Trafigura had sought to gag the media from reporting parliamentary proceedings.

In her maiden speech to the House of Commons, Ms Lucas said she was still concerned that proceedings in foreign courts were not being reported in Britain. She said: “Last year honourable members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

“There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly. This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here. And these are the kind of issues I would like to pursue.”

In unrelated proceedings, a court in Amsterdam is due to start hearing the trial next week of Trafigura for the alleged infringement of Dutch waste export laws relating to the Probo Koala, the chartered tanker whose waste was dumped at sites around the Ivorian city, Abidjan.

The company is accused along with the captain of the vessel, the municipal authorities in Amsterdam and a waste treatment company of breaking rules when the ship attempted to offload the waste in the Dutch city before it then departed for West Africa. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

Written by Richard Wilson

May 28, 2010 at 7:51 am