Headlines for Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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Former Liberian President takes the stand in war crimes trial at the Hague
At the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor took the stand today to defend himself against charges of war crimes, including terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and forcing children to serve as soldiers. Taylor, the first African president to stand trial on such charges, proclaimed his innocence:
“It is quite incredible that such descriptions of me would come about – very, very, unfortunate that the prosecution because of disinformation, misinformation, lies, rumors would associate me with such titles or descriptions.”
The charges against Charles Taylor stem from atrocities that occurred in Sierra Leone during his administration from 1997 – 2003.
Local Rwandan official sentenced to life in prison for genocide
In Tanzania, at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a former Rwandan municipal official and military officer has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Diane Bailey reports for UN Radio.
The International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda on Tuesday, found Tharcisse Renzaho guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes but acquitted him of complicity to commit genocide. Mr. Renzaho, who was the prefect of Kigali-Ville and a Colonel in the Rwandan army at the time, was accused of supporting the killings of Tutsis at roadblocks set up under his directives. The tribunal found that he ordered the distribution of weapons to kill Tutsis and supervised the selection of Tutsis at a refugee site who were abducted and killed. In addition, Mr. Renzaho participated in an attack at a church where more than 100 Tutsis were killed, the court said. He also made remarks encouraging the sexual abuse of women and was found criminally liable for the rapes that followed. Tharcisse Renzaho was arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and transferred to the United Nations Detention facility in Arusha in September 2002. His trial began in January 2007 and closed that September after hearing more than fifty witnesses, including Mr. Renzaho himself. Diane Bailey, United Nations Radio.
Fujimore back in court – admits crime, but not culpability
Peru's former dictator is on trial again -- this time for corruption. Pamela Cueva has more.
Alberto Fujimori admitted in court yesterday that he paid 15 million dollars to his intelligence service chief. However, he did not accept criminal responsibility for his actions because he says the money was returned to the public coffers. Former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos has already testified, both before the judge and the National Congress, that Fujimori ordered him to buy Congress members` consciences to obtain more votes in parliament. This is the first corruption trial for Fujimori. The prosecutor is calling for an eight year sentence. Fujimori is currently serving a 25 year sentence he received last April for his role in death squad murders during his 1990-2000 rule. Pamela Cueva and Alfredo Cuadros, FSRN Peru.
Honduran official says she’s worried about a return to the 80s
The de facto government in Honduras has become increasingly repressive with hundreds of political prisoners, censorship of all unfavorable press and suspension of civil liberties. FSRN’s Nan McCurdy has more from Managua.
Honduran Chancellor Patricia Rodas, who was kidnapped for 20 hours during the coup and finally exiled to Mexico was in Managua on Monday. She said she is afraid the repression against the media and movement leaders marks a return to the disappearances and murders by the Honduran dictatorship in the 80’s.
“In the past exactly the same thing happened. First a state of emergency and curfew. Then they suspended the curfew to begin selective persecution. When they’ve used up selective persecution, they move on to the process of disappearance, imprisonment and assassinations.”
Rodas says those in charge today are the same ones who directed these operations in the past.
“We’re thinking they’re reorganizing the death squads, called the 316 in Honduras. At the head is an ex member -- or current member -- Billy Joya, who is one of the spokespersons for the de facto regime. He was charged by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the OAS for crimes against humanity against Honduran students in the decade of the 80’s. Among them our ex-chancellor and member of the constitutional commission for mediation in Costa Rica , Milton Jimenez Puerto.”
President Zelaya has asked Costa Rican Presdent Oscar Arias to set up one more mediation session with the de facto government this week. Nan McCurdy, FSRN, Managua.
Disparity divide still deep between black and white students in the US
A report released today by the Institute of Education Sciences says that black students across the country are improving their math skills – but they still lag behind their white counterparts. Some progress was made in narrowing the divide in 15 states – but an achievement gap persists in every state for which data is available. The gulf between black and white students in reading remains largely unchanged. Black students in just three states began to catch up with their white peers in fourth grade, but there was no progress reported in eighth grade. While the report did not say why the disparity exists, it did note that children living in poverty had lower scores and a disproportionate number of them are people of color. Closing the disparity in academic achievement between various groups of students was a major goal of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.