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UKRAINE: The first major massacre in the ‘Holocaust by bullets’: Babi Yar, 1941

The first major massacre in the ‘Holocaust by bullets’: Babi Yar, 80 years on

By Stéphanie Trouillard

 

France24 (29.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3uq3dNkOn September 29 and 30, 1941, more than 33,000 people, mostly Jews, were executed in the Babi Yar ravine near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv – one of the largest mass murders in the Holocaust. FRANCE 24 looks back at this unspeakable event 80 years on, as plans are finally underway for an official museum honouring the victims’ memory.

“A policeman told me to undress and pushed me to the edge of the pit, where a group of people were awaiting their fate. Before the shooting started, I was so scared that I fell into the pit. I fell onto dead bodies. At first I didn’t understand a thing: where was I? How did I end up there? I thought I was going inside. The shooting went on; people were still falling. I came to my senses – and suddenly I understood everything. I could feel my arms, my legs, my stomach, my head. I wasn’t even injured. I was pretending to be dead. I was on top of dead people – and injured people. I could hear some people breathing; others were moaning in pain. Suddenly I heard a child screaming: ‘Mum!’ It sounded like my little daughter. I burst into tears.” Dina Pronicheva, one of the few survivors of the Babi Yar massacre, captured its horror when she gave testimony in the trial of fifteen German soldiers in Kyiv in 1946.

At the Babi Yar ravine just outside Kyiv, 33,771 civilians were massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941, according to figures the Einzatsgruppen C (a Waffen SS travelling death squad) sent back to Berlin.

 

This followed the Nazis’ capture of Kyiv on September 19, as they stormed through Soviet territory after launching Operation Barbarossa in June. Nearly 100,000 Jews fled the Ukrainian capital before the Nazis took it. But for those who remained, it was the beginning of a nightmare.

 

As explosions planted by the Soviet secret police the NKVD rocked Kiev, the Nazis decided to eliminate the city’s Jews – driven by the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracist canard at the heart of Nazi ideology, which falsely alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for Bolshevism.

 

The German occupiers demanded that Kyiv’s Jews gather near a train station on the city’s outskirts for “resettlement” elsewhere; those who refused to go there were threatened with death.

Read the full article on the website of France24

Photo : A German Einsatzgruppen soldier talks to two unidentified women at the top of the Babi Yar ravine, where more than 33,000 people, mostly Jews, were massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941. © Wikimedia





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AFGHANISTAN: Democracy-building and Afghanistan, a challenge

Democracy-Building and Afghanistan

 

 

By David Kilgour Author & Lawyer

 

New Delhi Times (17.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3u6VD9U – With democrats everywhere grieving over recent events in Afghanistan and the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, it is worth recalling that as the first plane struck the World Trade Center tower on 9/11 all 35 Organization of American States (OAS) member governments were in Peru, signing a democratic charter, which denied membership in the organization to any dictatorship.

 

Democratic governance has expanded across much of the world since the 1970s. In 1977, only 35 of 143 nations with a population of at least 500,000 qualified by Polity as democratic. By 2017, 96 of 167 countries were deemed democratic; only 21 remained unreformed autocracies. Democratization has unfolded in a myriad of narratives.

 

in 2004, for example, 80% of Afghans risked their lives to vote in their first presidential election. One was Dr. Sima Samar, later deputy president in the Afghan Transition Team but afterwards compelled to resign for questioning religious laws. She lobbied for democracy as chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. Samar has dedicated her life to women’s empowerment.

 

The now controversial Aung San Suu Kyi spent almost 18 years under house arrest in Myanmar/Burma. In 1990, her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the majority of election votes but weren’t allowed to take their seats. On February 1, 2021, the military staged a coup following the NLD’s landslide election victory. The world is horrified that the generals have killed over 1,000 protesters to date, including children. 

 

The late Václav Havel, the Czech dissident whose dissections of totalitarian rule helped to destroy it in revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989, asked about his country’s new-found freedom. “From where did [Czechoslovakia’s] young people . . . take their desire for truth, their love of free thought, their political ideas, their civic courage…?” The answer lies in the human desire everywhere to choose the types of societies we want to build for ourselves – ones grounded on values of human dignity for all and the rule of law.

 

Democratic governance implies freedom of speech, association, assembly and belief/non-belief – essentially the freedom for individuals to express who they are and what they believe as long as they do not infringe on the freedom of others. Along with strong non-governmental groups – such as unions – democracies must enshrine freedoms and responsibilities in constitutions, laws and cultures.

 

Fundamental to any democracy is an independent judiciary. Independent judges, with power to strike down unconstitutional acts passed by legislators, are necessary safeguards, making it possible for minorities and marginalized groups to live as equal members of society.

 

In the 54-nation Commonwealth, shared governance values were reflected in the Harare Declaration of 1991, when governments pledged their commitment to the protection and promotion of the Commonwealth’s democratic political values and rule of law. Members in good standing must have civilian, democratically elected governments.

 

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) enhances democracy from “Vancouver to Vladivostok” through monitoring democratic processes among 57 participating states.

 

La Francophonie comprises 88 member governments and observers that share French as a common language.  It represents 300 million Francophones on five continents. Canada has worked with it to support democracy, undertaking several informal political initiatives in countries at risk.

 

Representative democracy appears indispensable for a peaceful, prosperous world with equality for all, although the roads to open democratic societies are challenging. With the economic crisis arising now from COVID-19, democracies face both enormous pressures and new opportunities. This turmoil tests our commitment to democratic principles and best governance practices.

 

Democracy works in tandem with the spread of the rule of law and the enhancement of human dignity. International institutions must accord incrementally more weight to human rights, the rule of law, and multi-party democracy. We must safeguard and enhance our democratic practices and help to strengthen democracies abroad, remembering always that it begins with each of us as individual citizens.

 

In Afghanistan, the 20-year struggle to build democracy faced many significant failures. Its present situation illustrates what can result if democratic governance-however imperfect-is replaced by intolerance and violence against fellow citizens.

 

 

Photo credits: Getty Image & The Epoch Time

 





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TAIWAN: Tai Ji Men’s denial of justice as seen by a former judge

Tai Ji Men’s denial of justice as seen by a former judge

On 15 September, Prof. Tsan-Tu Lin, a former judge, analyzed the miscarriage of justice concerning Tai Ji Men during a webinar co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers

See the video on YouTube https://youtu.be/Z6QoKl7KJzE and the background of the case on https://bitterwinter.org/tai-ji-men-and-the-tai-ji-men-case-a-background/

HRWF (22.09.2021) – I used to be a judge and now work as a professor at a university. I’d like to take a judge’s perspective on the Tai Ji Men case. First and foremost, I’d like to discuss the context of the Tai Ji Men case. The first, second, and third criminal decisions all found Tai Ji Men not guilty.

 

The not-guilty decisions show that there isn’t a tax problem. However, taxes were levied on Tai Ji Men by Taiwan’s National Taxation Bureau of the Central Area from 1991 to 1995. No tax should be charged on Tai Ji Men because the not-guilty decisions were issued. They were the same case, for the five tax years. Finally, the years 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1995 were declared to be tax-free. The National Taxation Bureau, on the other hand, upheld the 1992 tax bill. This contradicts itself. Since 1992 is no different from the other years, why was Tai Ji Men subjected to taxation for that particular year?

 

The underlying facts for the five years were the same. When the taxation bureau made a mistake, it could revoke the tax bill itself under Article 117 of Taiwan’s Administrative Procedure Act. Even if the tax authorities do not revoke the tax bills on their own, the people can request revocation through Article 128 of Taiwan’s Administrative Procedure Act.

 

There is a question over whether the five-year statute of limitations applies in this case. Our government agencies have clearly made a mistake and should correct it on their own. As a result, the paragraph about Taiwan’s five-year statute of limitations is quite contentious. I believe the law should be altered, particularly when the executive branch makes a mistake that needs to be remedied.

 

There is also the issue of recusal in the 1992 tax case. Tai Ji Men’s appeal was rejected by Judge Huang, who handled the case in a lower court and heard it again in the Supreme Administrative Court. A judge cannot hear the same case in a higher court if he or she participated in judging it in a previous trial, according to Taiwan’s Administrative Litigation Act.  The rationale for this is to keep a judge from being swayed by his or her preconceived notions about a case. To put it another way, it is designed to prevent a judge who has already made a mistake from repeating it in a higher court. It is difficult for a court to make an unbiased conclusion if the same judge hears a litigant’s case in both the first and second trials, and this is a particularly questionable component of the Tai Ji Men case.

 

Despite the fact that a final judgement on the matter was rendered, the National Taxation Bureau of the Central Area had already corrected the taxes to zero for four of the five years. The final decision on the 1992 tax bill is questionable. Why is there a retrial in a court of law for a matter that has already been decided? Judges are human, and they can make mistakes; as a result, we have recourse. To protect people’s basic rights, a judge should not be allowed to judge the same case in both lower and higher courts.

 

An administrative matter will be forwarded to the Administrative Enforcement Agency for enforcement after a decision is made. The requirements of Taiwan’s Compulsory Enforcement Act are implemented since the applicable rules are insufficient. In other words, the auction can only take place if the seizure is legal.

 

The parties have the right to object to the enforcement agency’s enforcement and to express their dissatisfaction with specific features of the enforcement. Tai Ji Men had already communicated its dissatisfaction in the Tai Ji Men case, but the enforcement officers failed to investigate the situation and failed to follow the standard enforcement procedure.

 

This case is completely out of the ordinary, and it raises the question of whether the administrative authorities failed to follow the appropriate rules and regulations when conducting the auctions. This case leads us to believe that the entire process did not adhere to the relevant laws and regulations. As a result, I believe the Enforcement Agency’s handling of the matter was highly problematic.

 

Thanks to Tai Ji Men’s hard-work and advocacy over the years, we hope that the incomplete provisions of the law mentioned earlier can be corrected by amending the law, so that justice can be done to the people.

 

Photo credits: Bitter Winter





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RWANDA: 25 years in prison for Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda’s hero

25 years in prison for Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda’s hero 

 

HRWF with family (20.09.2021) – Yesterday, 20 September,  the Show Trial of Paul Rusesabagina, a 67-year old Belgian/ Rwandan citizen, ended with a guilty verdict on eight of nine charges and was sentenced to 25 years prison. A guilty verdict was expected from the beginning. Paul was pre-judged by the Rwandan regime years ago as a human rights critic and perceived enemy of the state. The only question was whether the Rwandan government would attempt to make themselves look better by finding him not guilty on some charges, or by limiting the sentence. An innocent man, kidnapped and held as a political prisoner, was wrongfully convicted today.

 

The Rusesabagina family released the following statement after the verdict was announced: 

“Our husband and father, Paul Rusesabagina, was kidnapped, tortured and held in solitary confinement. He was forced to undergo a show trial this past year. We knew from the day he was kidnapped that the verdict would be “guilty” on some or all of the false charges. We are happy that the charade of the trial is ending.  

 

Paul Rusesabagina is a humanitarian who crusades for the human rights and liberties of the Rwandan people. He has been a critic of every Rwandan regime when they have abused human rights. He has criticized Paul Kagame’s human rights abuses for nearly two decades.  Kagame made it clear over that time that one of his main goals was to silence our father. He is in a dictator’s clutches. They have finished this sham by finding him guilty today. We have told the world over and over that there is no fair trial process in Rwanda, and the past months have shown that. There is no independent judiciary, and there will be no justice for our father. All we can do now is make this clear to everyone – a dictator will be jailing a humanitarian this week. If the international community does not step in, he will probably be in jail for the rest of his life.”

 

The allegations of founding, supporting and funding terrorist groups were never proven in court. No credible evidence was provided on any charge. Sadly this is par for the course in Rwanda, where an independent judiciary does not exist in high profile cases. There is no rule of law there. Paul was found guilty because of politics, not because of any legal proceedings or evidence. And politics in Rwanda are such that no one, inside or outside of the country, dares to challenge the record or the actions of the government or President Paul Kagame. 

Rusesabagina’s legal team was unsurprised by the verdict. American lawyer Peter Choharis notes that: “In truth, the verdict was delivered long ago: the trial has been fundamentally unfair and has lacked due process. And despite that, the prosecution still did not produce any evidence linking Paul to the attacks in question.”

Australian lawyer Kate Gibson said that: “Paul Rusesabagina’s inevitable conviction is the end of a script that was written even before he was kidnapped in August 2020.  The only thing that has been surprising in watching this horror show unfold over the last year, has been the brazenness and openness with which the Rwandan authorities have been willing to systematically violate all of the fair trial rights to which Paul was entitled.”

 

Canadian lawyer Philippe Larochelle, reflecting on the verdict, stated “this trial started with kidnapping, torture and denial of legal representation.  Once local lawyers were appointed, they had no time to prepare for trial.  Some co-accused detailed how they had been forced into making false accusations against Rusesabagina. Witnesses who had made false allegations in the sham trial against Victoire Ingabire were simply recycled in this trial.  The whole Rwanda opus in the end raised only one question: why kidnap, torture and deny fair trial rights if you have reliable evidence supporting the allegations against the accused?  The answer is quite obvious: there is not a shred of reliable evidence. There is no other explanation for the absence of due process and complete disregard for Rusesabagina’s most fundamental rights.”  

 

Bob Hilliard, lawyer on the GainJet lawsuit said, “Kangaroo Courts are only capable of kangaroo verdicts. Paul’s bravery in Rwanda was undeniable. Yet now,  a proud  life’s work against a strong man rests in the corrupt hands of the worst kind of leader, someone who is a stranger to the truth and  rules a wasteland of his own making. Paul should be immediately released and the World join together to condemn this puppet court and its mendacious puppeteer.”

 

 

Specifics from the verdict:

 

In court today in Kigali, the judges read a long verdict against Paul and the co-accused. The only surprises came when additional “evidence” was fabricated in the verdict that was not was not heard before in court, including in any document or statements submitted during the trial. This featured multiple accusations that Paul funded terrorist activities not previously discussed. In particular, there was a brand new allegation that Paul fund raised over 300,000 euros for the FLN. 

 

On the guilty charges, the vast majority of the “evidence” cited by the court came from two sources: statements made by Paul under duress in late August and early September, and the Belgian dossier. These statements were allegedly made by Paul shortly after he was tortured and without benefit of any counsel present. Paul’s first statements in open court included denying that this testimony was accurate and clarifying that he was forced to sign the documents. The court also made various claims about evidence that they received from Belgium in the “Belgian dossier.” This was the conclusion of the Belgian investigation into Paul’s activities, made at the request of Rwanda starting in 2019. Accusations included WhatsApp messages and emails that the court purports show Paul’s guilt. Paul’s team has access to and has reviewed this document. As expected, none of the supposed “evidence” mentioned in the court’s ruling exists. The Rwandan government apparently does not expect others to read this dossier, and thus is claiming evidence from it that is completely fabricated.

 

Underlying this entire case is the fact that the Rwandan prosecutors claim that three attacks were perpetrated against Rwandan civilians by the FLN, and these are blamed on the MRCD and Paul Rusesabagina by association. These attacks were NEVER documented in court. No credible evidence was ever provided that these attacks occurred. No evidence was provided at all outside of statements by the prosecutors without documentation, and some coerced statements from the co-accused. These are the same attacks that Paul and the MRCD leadership denied when they occurred. The MRCD in late 2019 argued strongly that the Rwandan government was behind the attacks, and called for international investigations by the United Nations to find the truth. Victims during the trial described being attacked, but never identified the attackers. Paul and the co-accused were not identified by anyone as attackers. And the FLN was not identified as the group that committed the attacks.

 

All charges in this case are based on the existence of these alleged attacks. No credible evidence was presented that these attacks ever happened. If they did not occur, the entire trial is a fraud. 

 

Background on the trial is available at: https://www.prlog.org/12886050.html

 

 

What happens next? 

 

As the trial concludes, the Rusesabagina family and team are looking forward to the next steps needed to free Paul. As Belgian lawyer Vincent Lurquin notes, “Paul is a political prisoner, so the solution must be political.”  

 

There was no fair trial in the case of Paul Rusesabagina. Anyone who understands politics in Rwanda knew from the start that this was never a possibility. Justice in Rwanda for high level critics of President Paul Kagame is a political process, and all answers go through the office of the President. 

 

Now is the time for the world community to step up and stand up for human rights in Rwanda. Paul Rusesabagina and the rest of the Rwandan people were abandoned by the world during the genocide in 1994. Paul’s family urges the world to not abandon him again. 

 

Now that the trial is over, an innocent man sits in jail, waiting for the world to hold Rwanda to account for the appalling and profound violations of his human and legal rights. In 1994, Rusesabagina reached out to the international community to help stop the Genocide. They were silent. Will they be silent again, or will they stand up for human rights and real justice. 

 

Contact: Kitty Kurth

Phone: 312-617-7288

Email: kittykurth@me.com

 

###

 

On September 21, 2021 the legal team and family will hold a press conference to go over the trial and verdict in the case of Paul Rusesabagina. 

 

The press conference will be held in person on Tuesday, September 21 at 2:00 pm in Brussels, Belgium at Rue Froissart 95, 1000 Brussels at the Press Club. The conference will also be broadcast live on Zoom. You will find the instructions to register for the Zoom webinar at the end of this email. The video will also be posted on Facebook. 

 

  To RSVP for the Press Club press conference in person please email kitty@kurthlampe.com

  (Just a reminder, 2:00 pm Brussels is 8:00 am in Washington, DC)  

 

To RSVP for the virtual press conference please register here: 

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vaz6xj1dQqGJjZ8_b0JxZA

The press conference will also be available to be viewed on the #FreeRusesabagina Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreePaulRusesabagina

 

Background 

In late August, 2020, Paul Rusesabagina, the international human rights icon whose story of saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide was told in the film Hotel Rwanda, was flown against his will from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Kigali, Rwanda. He has been on trial in Rwanda since February 17, 2021 and the verdict is expected on September 20, 2021. 

 

 

#FreeRusesabagina 

Website:                      www.hrrfoundation.com

Twitter:                       @freethehero 

Facebook:                   @FreePaulRusesabagina 

Instagram:                   #FreeRusesabagina

TikTok:                       #FreeRusesabagina   

 

 

Photo credits: The Guardian





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UKRAINE: Children’s right to school education under threat despite EU funding

The children’s right to school education under threat despite EU funding

 

Teachers paid around 100 EUR per month

 

By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (15.09.2021) – At the beginning of September, the EU Delegation to Ukraine announced the implementation of a number of projects related to school education in Ukraine with EU funding, such as the renovation of School Nr 41 in Odessa under the European Investment Bank’s Ukraine Early Recovery Programme (UERP). A press release published by the EEAS (European External Action Service) stresses that 4000 pupils will benefit from this renovation. There is however no reason to boast.

 

Despite the EU financing renovation of school premises in Ukraine, the future of children’s education is under real threat because teachers and professors are dramatically underpaid and leave their job. For the same reason, young people do not want to teach for a miserable wage.

 

A comparative study

 

A recent study has revealed dramatic figures. In average, Ukrainian teachers are paid

5 times less than in Russia

13 times less than in Poland

27 times less than in France

33 times less than in the US

42 times less than in Germany

 

In 2020, the minimum wage for teachers was 2,800 UAH (90 EUR) from January to April. From May to November the minimum salary was considered to be 3000 UAH. At the beginning of 2021, the minimum wage rate was increased to 3,300 UAH (110 EUR).

 

After three years of service the teacher is required to attend an in-service training course, after which his pay increases by 150 UAH (5 EUR). After three years of seniority he/she is entitled to a raise of 10% of his/her salary.

 

Some in Europe may think life in Ukraine is very cheap but it is not. According to an article published earlier this year by LB/UA/Economics, the cost of communal maintenance of a one-room apartment for January was 2300 UAH (about 75 EUR). It is easy to calculate how much is left for teachers to “survive.”

 

With such a situation, you cannot expect to see many Ukrainian teachers spending their holidays on the beaches of Spain or Italy.

 

They prefer to look for another job in Ukraine or to emigrate. While they make their studies in their own country on the state budget, the return on investment is dramatically collapsing and the quality of state education is following the same curve downwards.

 

Another issue impeding the quality of school education that never makes the headlines in Ukraine and in EU countries is the closure of school premises for weeks and months for lack of heating due to the lack of budget to this end.

 

The full and detailed report about the situation of teachers can be found here. Using the Deepl.com website will make it easy to understand the content of the research work.

 

Photo credits: visasam.ru


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