There was speculation last week that the United Nations may be about to formally accuse Rwanda of genocide, after French newspaper Le Monde obtained a leaked draft copy of a report by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) due to be published later this month. The claims are expected to be made as part of a catalogue of offences – including murder, rape and looting – alleged to have been committed by Rwandan forces over seven years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Rwanda invaded the DRC, then called Zaire, in 1996, following the 1994 massacre by Hutu soldiers and militia of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsi population and anti-government Hutus. More than a million Rwandan Hutu’s crossed the border into Zaire in the aftermath of the initial conflict, many gathering in the UN refugee camps around the vast refugee camps at Bujavu and Goma. These became targets for Rwandan armed forces, after it was found that many of those responsible for committing violence were using them as cover.
Subseqeuntly, Rwanda is believed to have employed local allies to help round up thousands of Hutu men, women and children at a time. Many of those captured were later bayoneted, burned alive or beaten to death, while others had limbs forcibly amputated with hoes and axes. The OHCHR report goes on to describe the "systematic, methodical and premeditated nature of the attacks on the Hutus [which] took place in all areas where the refugees had been tracked down", adding that their pursuit lasted several months. On more than one occasion, “humanitarian aid intended for [refugees] was deliberately blocked, notably in the eastern province, thus depriving them of things essential to their survival".
In response, Rwanda threatened to withdraw its support for UN peacekeeping missions. Rwanda currently contributes thousands of troops to the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Dafur. Their removal, at a time when violence in Darfur is on the increase, would represent a further serious threat to stability in Southern Sudan.
Speaking to the BBC, Rwanda's justice minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, described the report as “insane”. "Anybody who would suggest the RPA [Rwandan Army] could do something close to genocide, would be called in this country... mad," he said, before going on to describe the report as a “stab in the back”.
Reports also emerged last week of the rape of more than 150 women and children – including a number of baby boys – at the hands of Conoglese rebels. The attacks took place in and around the occupied town of Luvungi over a four-day period. Violence has continued in eastern Congo in particular since the end of the country’s five-year war in 2003.
Iran successfully tests "new" missile system
Iran has successfully tested the third generation of its Fateh-110 missile, according to reports by the country’s semi-official Fars News Agency. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi described the missile – named the Qiam 1 – as benefiting from new navigation and control systems designed and built in Iran. "Being a new class of Iranian missiles, Qiam 1 has been equipped with new technical features and exceptional tactical power," he said. “It enjoys enhanced agility due to the scrapping of its fins,” Vahidi stressed, adding that the missile can hit targets with high precision, and that "the missile power of the Armed Forces will be remarkably boosted by these missiles." Expected to enter service later this month, the Qiam 1 is being reported as a significant advance on Iran’s existing surface-to-surface solid fuel Sejjil, the long-range Shahab-3, as well as the Zelzal and Fateh missiles.
Doubts arose almost immediately, however, as to whether the Qiam 1 really is a new missile. Responding both to Vahidi’s comments regarding the scrapping of fins, and to video of the ‘new’ missile’s launch, at least one commentator noted that the missile’s aft section was clearly originally fitted with fins. Further, “since it makes no sense at all to develop a new missile WITH fins and remove them at first launch, this one could be a modification of an older, well known rocket.” What does seem likely is that the new guidance systems developed for Qiam 1 to enable it to fly without fins, to be launched either from a silo or container, and to better avoid interception will find their way into subsequent ‘new’ missiles yet to be developed. These systems may well eventually come to replace those currently used by the ‘finned’ Sejil.
Only a few days later, Fars was also reporting Vahidi’s inauguration of Iran’s longest-range missile manufacturing programme yet. Iran also hopes to expand the range of its bleed system from 27 to 42 kilometers. Speaking at the ceremony, the defense minister said such advances showed sanctions against Iran have been ineffective, whilst providing further evidence of the technical and industrial advances made by the country’s arms industry.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has stressed Tehran’s opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation, and reiterated his own governent’s continued committment to non-military nuclear research and development. "The Iranian nation does not need nuclear weapons," Mottaki said. "The weapon of logic that the Iranian nation has is more powerful than any other type of weapon."
Concern grows over role of Ukrainian security service in stifling political dissent
There is mounting evidence that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has returned to tactics targeting the opposition last employed under President Leonid Kuchma, according to a recent report in the The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasion Daily Monitor. Taras Kuzio, a senior research fellow at the University of Toronto and editor of the journal Ukraine Analyst, argues that a profound lack of democratic oversight (in part stemming from the state’s failure to break with the political culture of its Soviet past), coupled with a disproportionately large intelligence and security service, has allowed successive Ukrainian presidents to use the SBU against political and business opponents, both international and domestic.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, many of the tactics currently employed by the SBU are, Kuzio claims, derived from lessons learned in the aftermath of the 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’, when large-scale popular opposition thwarted the incumbent Viktor Yanukovych's attempts to defraud the electorate. Kuzio draws on what he believes are a series of links between senior figures within the SBU, control of a significant proportion of the Ukrainian media, and the serial intimidation of Ukrainian journalists, bloggers, students, academics and activists, to paint a picture of a country alarmingly at the mercy of a political elite intent on maintaining its pre-independence hold on political power.
Kuzio's latest article is one in a series of recent publications detailing what he argues are the increasingly close ties between the Ukrainian and Russian governments, as evidenced by the advent of ever-closer commercial and financial ties between Kiev and Moscow, the so-called “Putinization” of Ukrainian security forces, and further evidence of direct cooperation between Ukrainian and Russian intelligence and military personnel at the expense of the SUB’s relationship with the CIA.
Far from calming attitudes in Moscow, however, Kuzio sees signs that such measures may in fact serve to inflame Russian territorial claims in the region under the guise of ensuring greater regional security – as, for example, with Moscow’s Mayor, Yury Luzhkov’s recent statement that “Sevastopol is a Russian city, a naval-military base of Russia which ensures the geo-strategic balance in southern Russia.” The Ukrainian city of Sevastopol is home to the Ukrainian naval fleet and is also used as the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
US fears over worldwide perception as exporter of terrorism
WikiLeaks has released classified files detailing American intelligence services’ concerns over the perception that the US is increasingly being seen as an exporter of terrorism. The secret Special Memorandum, issued on 2 February 2010 and published by WikiLeans on 25 August, was prepared by the CIA’s Red Cell group, created in 2001, which describes itself as “taking a pronounced “out-of-the-box” approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of [US intelligence service’s] analytic issues.”
“What if,” the memorandum asks, “[f]oreigners see the United States as an “Exporter of Terrorism”? It goes on to highlight several examples of US citizens directly participating in acts of international terrorism or engaging with groups believed to be responsible for acts of international terrorism over the last 40 years and beyond. These include the fundraising activities of organisations such as NORAID in support of the Provisional IRA and Jewish-American associations with the Israeli extremist group Kach.
According to the memorandum, in November 2008, Pakistani-American David Headley “conducted surveillance in support of the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba (LT) attack in Mumbai, India that killed more than 160 people. LT induced him to change his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley to facilitate his movement between the US, Pakistan, and India.” Also mentioned is the case of five young Muslim American men from northern Virginia who, it is thought, travelled to Pakistan last year with the intention of joining the Taliban, only to be intercepted by Pakistani security forces following a tip-off from US intelligence, acting on information provided by the men’s families.
In the opinion of the memorandum’s authors, “Al-Qa’ida infiltration” and other operations intended to result in terrorist attacks on US soil are in part faciliated by the ubiquity of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Youtube, and the widespread use of English as the primary means of communication. Americans, it is argued, posses not only a strong command of English, have greater access to the internet, are able to travel across international borders far more easily, and “don’t fit the typical Arab-Muslim profile”.
At the same time, the authors worry that should America come to be regarded as a global exporter of terrorism, US foreign partners may become less willing to cooperate on extrajudicial activities, “including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries.” Furthermore, “[f]oreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.” The memorandum cites the case of 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi, who was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify, as an example of how failure to achieve full cooperation over the extradition of US terrorism suspects might actively hinder its long-range anti-terrorist goals.
China-India visa dispute leads to confusion over defence exchange programme
India appeared to have suspended defence exchanges with China, then denied any such suspension, following Beijing’s refusal to grant a visa to an Indian general from the disputed region of Kashmir, Indian government sources revealed on Friday. As a result, the visit did not take place. India and China have enjoyed ever-closer trade ties in recent years, following years of mistrust over the disputed Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Indian government’s decision to offer sanctuary to the Dalai Lama. Although it is not yet clear precisely why the visa was denied, recent statements by India’s foreign ministry suggest some level of mutual suspicion still remains.