BRIEF: Pastoralist Children in Critical Situation

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Just two months after a United Nation report predicted an acute food shortage, Ethiopia’s Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency reports that over 20 % of children in the Ogaden region are malnourished.   

The Ethiopian government has promised to ensure that humanitarian aid and food reach the people of the region. However, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONFL) has accused the government army of blocking access to the region thereby causing a man-made famine. Although the Ethiopian government has denied allegations of discrimination, neglect, and abuse, in early September the humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres complained that the government denied them access to the region. The ONFL has been fighting for the region’s sovereignty since 1984.

The arid region is the center of rebel attacks, and recent climate change has made the region almost uninhabitable. Livestock, water and grain are scarce. The lack of food and medical supplies is quickly turning the critical situation to a humanitarian emergency. 

The Ogaden region, which borders Somalia and Ethiopia, is not the only vulnerable area. According to a report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), all pastoralist children in the Horn of Africa are at risk. The region includes parts of Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

For more information, please see:

BBC- Child hunger ‘crisis’ in Ogaden – 30 October 2007

AllAfrica.com – East Africa: The Pastoralist Way of Life – A Fragile Future for Millions of Children – 30 October 2007

For more information on the Ogaden region, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Claims of Genocide in Ethiopia ; BRIEF: Blocked Aid for Ogaden Region

Darfur Refugees Forced Out

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

OTASH CAMP, Sudan – Recent reports state that Sudanese officials have been pressuring people to leave refugee camps in the Darfur province over the past weeks.  United Nations officials have said that the regime has resorted to forcibly loading some civilians onto trucks to clear them out. 

This week, UN officials announced that they have evidence Sudanese government forces were chasing refugees out of at least one camp, Otash, which houses 60,000 people on the outskirts of Nyala, south Darfur’s capital.  John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief said in a statement: “Given that security forces were threatening the displaced with sticks and rubber hoses at Otash camp, the involuntary nature of this relocation is clear.”  UN officials say this “dangerous precedent” could jeopardize ongoing Darfur peace talks, currently taking place in Libya. 

Observers say Sudan hopes to empty the camps before January when the joint United Nations-African Union force of 26,000 peacekeepers is scheduled to deploy. 

Sudanese officials have admitted they want the camps to close because they have become too big, squalid and dangerous and have made the refugees too dependent on humanitarian aid.  They deny however that any one is being forced to leave, and dismissed such allegations as “more than fabrications” aimed at “distracting attention from the Sudanese government’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire to accompany the peace talks.” 

Most Darfur refugees agree that conditions in the camp are poor but insist they have nowhere else to go, since their home villages are still too dangerous while the war between the rebels and the government continues. 

Since the conflict began in 2003, an estimated 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced.

For more information, please see:

AP – Sudan Tries to Clear Out Darfur Refugees – 31 October 2007

International Herald Tribune – Sudan government strives to force Darfur civilians out of refugee camps – 31 October 2007

BBC News – Darfur camp eviction ‘fabricated’ – 30 October 2007

Guardian Unlimited – Darfur refugees forced out by troops, UN claims – 30 October 2007

For more information on the Darfur conflict, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Peace Talks in Darfur Begin Without Rebels; Upcoming Peace Talks in Sudan in Jeopardy; New Atrocities in Darfur; Ceasefire Ends in Sudan; Ongoing Conflict in Sudan; Peace Talks on Darfur Scheduled for October 

BRIEF: ICC Report to the UN Released

The International Criminal Court’s third annual report to the United Nations, covering the period of 1 August 2006 to 1 August 2007 is now available.   The Prosecutor continued to investigate and prosecute the situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.   At the end of the reporting period, six warrants of arrest were still outstanding – two regarding the situation in Darfur, and four regarding Uganda.  The warrants for persons related to the conflict in Uganda have been outstanding since July 2005.   

Download icc_20062007_report.pdf

BRIEF: Children Tortured in Iraqi Prisons

BAGHDAD, Iraq-  Local NGOs have raised concerns regarding reports that children have been tortured and abused while being interrogated in Iraqi prisons.

“‘Children are being treated as adults in Iraqi prisons and our investigations have shown that they are being abused and tortured,’ said Khalid Rabia’a, a spokesman for the Prisoners’ Association for Justice (PAJ).”  (IRIN)

Mr. Rabia’a cited an example of five child prisoners who were between 13 and 17.  The children were interrogated because the Iraqi military operators had suspected that the children were supporting insurgents.  “‘The five children showed signs of torture all over their bodies.  Three had marks of cigarettes burns over their legs and one couldn’t speak as the shock sessions affected his conversation,’ Rabia’a said.” (IRIN)

The Iraqi government has denied the allegations and stated that those individuals who have abused adults or children through the prison system have been eliminated and punished.  However according to the IRIN, at least 220 children are being held in the Iraqi prisons.  An Iraqi official, who requesting anonymity, stated to IRIN that under his watch alone there were 20 children held captive and being abused.

The problem has been acknowledged by Iraqi Vice President Tarek al-Hashimy, who is beginning a campaign to end child abuse.

For more information, please see:

IRIN Middle East- IRAQ: Child prisoners abused and tortured, say activists- 25 October 2007

Nigeria’s Parliamentary Speaker Resigns After Scandal

By Meryl A. White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – Patricia Etteh, Nigeria’s House of Representatives Parliamentary Speaker, has resigned after being found guilty of awarding contracts worth five million to refurbish houses and buy vehicles. Records show that Mrs. Etteh bought twelve cars and renovated her and her deputy’s residence.

President Umaru Yar’Adua, who promised zero tolerance on corruption, did not want to intervene in this situation. This affair has gripped the attention of the nation and has become a huge embarrassment for the President. Yesterday, President Umaru Yar’Adua stated that he would not make Speaker Etteh resign from the office.

The scandal surrounding Etteh became so controversial this month that a pro Etteh MP collapsed and died at Parliament.

The Odu’a Youth Leader’s Forum (OYLF) called for Etteh to resign and for the speaker pro tempore to preside over the Idoko panel report. Moreover, members of the House threatened to impeach Etteh if she did not step down from her position.

Just today, the lower house elected Terngu Tsegba, from the opposition party as the acting speaker. Mr. Tsegba will preside over the Iroko debate, which is expected to last for one week. In the near future, the Nigerian Parliament will hold an election to replace Mrs. Etteh.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Nigeria: I Will Not Ask Etteh to Step Down – Yar’Adua – 30 October 2007

BBC- Nigeria speaker goes in graft row – 30 October 2007

All Africa – Nigeria: They Offered Me Bribe – Etteh – 22 October 2007

 

BRIEF: Israel’s AG suspends Gaza sanctions

JERUSALEM, Israel – On October 28, Israel confirmed that it began to restrict delivery of fuel to Gaza, pursuant to sanctions recently approved by Barak.  However, ten human rights groups have petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to order Israel to freeze implementation of the sanctions.  The court rejected the petitioners’ demand for a freeze, but instead required the government to justify its decision by November 2.  According to the petitioners, the sanctions are a collective punishment that would cause “irreversible damage to the health and welfare of the residents of Gaza.”  While the court ordered Israel to justify the sanctions, they refrained from banning the sanctions completely.  In response to the court order, Israel’s Attorney General, Menachem Mazouz, suspended plans to restrict delivery of fuel and electricity to Gaza.  He stated that more research is required to implement the plan without causing a humanitarian crisis.

The European Union and United Nations criticized Israel’s decision to impose economic sanctions.  The European Union called the measures “collective punishment” and while noting the distressed caused by rocket attacks, stated that collective punishment is never the answer.  Also, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his call to militants to halt their rocket attacks but called Israel’s planned response to be “unacceptable.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Israeli AG halts electricity cut to Gaza – 30 October 2007

BBC – Gaza electricity cuts suspended – 30 October 2007

Ha’aretz – Mazuz prohibits punitive power cuts in Gaza Strip – 30 October 2007

Forbes – Court orders Israel to justify Gaza sanctions – 29 October 2007

Yedioth – Petition: Prevent reduction of Gaza fuel, electricity supply – 28 October 2007

BRIEF: Heightened Fear of Another War

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – On Saturday, Eritrea made allegations that Ethiopia planned to invade the nation in November. According to intelligence agencies in Asmara, the plot was expected to take place in the first week of November. Ethiopia however has denied the allegation, referring to the plot as “absurd fabrication.”

After nearly nine years, Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to feud over the small village of Badme. From 1998 to 2000, the two neighboring nations were involved in a border war that left nearly 70,000 dead. The war concluded with a 2002 ruling awarding the village to Eritrea. However, Ethiopia has not accepted the terms of the agreement. Instead Ethiopia has made several requests to the border commission concerning their decision.

In the meantime, on Monday the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that 885 people were repatriated back to their homes. During the war, thousands were expelled as national enemies.

For more information, please see:

Reuters: Africa- Ethiopia Denies Plot to Attack Eritrea – 29 October 2007

Yahoo (AFP) – Red Cross Repatriates 885 from Ethiopia and Eritrea – 29 October 2007

Migrant Construction Workers Strike in Dubai

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Thousands of foreign construction workers protested over low wages and poor working and living conditions.  Early October 27, workers, mostly of south Asian origin, took to the street to demand a pay rise, better living conditions, and better transportation to work.  The demonstration turned violent when Dubai police tried to remove a road block.  Some protesters threw stones at the police and passing motorist; one motorist sustained minor injuries.

A Jebel Ali (a construction company) representative stated that workers involved in the riot, which resulted in the damage of public property, had been detained and will be deported.  Gulf News reported that a UAE Ministry of Labour official confirmed that some rioters were in custody and that a team of ministry employees were working to cancel the workers’ visas.  In a statement following the protests, Minister of Labour Ali bin Abdullah Al Ka’abi said that the government will take the necessary measures to deport whatever number of workers responsible for the riots.  The Ministry of Labour said that it warned workers to return to work or their visas may be cancelled and they will face a lifetime ban from entering the UAE.

Despite the threat of deportation, many workers went on strike on October 28.  Foreign construction workers have gone on strike several times earlier this year.  Now, like then, the workers demand higher and/or timely wages, and better working conditions.  The demands for higher wages have become more urgent in recent months as a result of the falling US dollar.  The UAE dirham is closely tied to the US dollar.  As a result of the decreasing value and increased cost of living in Dubai, many workers are not able to save money to send to their families.  Most of the workers come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

In response to the strikes, the Minister of Labour labeled the acts as “uncivilized” and that the workers should have registered their complaints peacefully.  However, workers claim that they had no other option since their requests for higher wages and better conditions had been ignored by the construction companies.  Despite visibility of their plight, workers have seen little support from the local and international community.  Some analysts, such as Mohammed al-Shaiba, believe now is the time for the government to set a minimum wage.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Dubai construction workers strike – 29 October 2007

BBC – Dubai construction workers strike – 29 October 2007

ArabianBusiness.com – UAE threatens deportation after violent protest -28 October 2007

Guardian – Dubai strike threatens building boom – 28 October 2007

Gulf News – Workers to be deported after violent demonstration – 28 October 2007

For more information about the condition of migrant workers in the UAE, please see:

Al Jazeera – Blood, Sweat, and Tears – 15 August 2007

Human Rights Watch – Building Towers, Cheating Workers: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers – 12 November 2006

Continuing Violence in Somalia

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – The streets of Mogadishu are experiencing the worst violence in months, in the second day of protests against government-allied Ethiopian troops.  Several hundred Somalis have taken to the streets, many of them women and children, shouting anti-Ethiopian slogans, erecting burning barricades, and tossing rocks. Several people have been killed in gun battles.

The latest protests began after Ethiopia moved reinforcements and a convoy of 20 tanks and armored cars into the city on Friday. One of the vehicles struck a landmine and exploded.  On Saturday Ethiopian troops fanned out across the city, causing the recent protests by civilians.  BBC correspondents say the civilians are angry with the Ethiopian forces because of the use of artillery in the fighting, which has caused civilian casualties.

Mogadishu has faced growing violence since government troops and Ethiopian allies chased out the Council of Islamic Courts in December.   The Islamic group had controlled much of southern Somalia for six months, and remnants have vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the recurrent killing of journalists and harassment of media within the country.  On 19 October the acting chairman of Radio Shadelle, Bahsir Nur Gedi, was murdered in his home.  Gedi’s killing was the latest in a recent surge of attacks against the media, and brings the number of journalists killed since August of last year to nine.  Due to the rising violence, few international journalists are willing to travel to Mogadishu.

The rising insecurity in Somalia is not limited to journalists, and has effected employees of international humanitarian organizations such as the World Food Programme.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 when rival warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and subsequently turned on each other.  The UN states that 400,000 people have fled the violence in Mogadishu in the past four months.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune (AP) – Somali protestors burn tires, throw rocks to demand departure of Ethiopian troops – 27 October 2007

BBC News – Mogadishu hit by fresh fighting – 28 October 2007

AllAfrica.com – Somalia: Country More Dangerous Than Ever for Journalists – 28 October 2007

Amnesty International – Amnesty International Calls for Probe in Killings of Somali Journalists – 26 October 2007

For more information on Somalia, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Gunned Down Journalist; WFP Officer Released in Somalia; Piracy and Kidnapping Deepens Food Crisis; Bombing Kills Two During Quest for New Government; The ‘Forgotten’ Somalia

Tunisia Sends Former Guantanamo Detainee to Prison for Three Years

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TUNIS, Tunisia – A Tunisian court convicted a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner for three years on terrorism charges Wednesday. Lotfi Lagha, a Tunisian national, had been charged with criminal association with the aim of harming or causing damage in Tunisia. Lagha plans to appeal the guilty verdict, but his lawyers allege that the Tunisian authorities had beaten him during detention.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Washington made an unprecedented decision in blocking US military’s plans to transfer a Guantanamo Bay detainee to Tunisia because the detainee may be tortured in his home country. Judge Kessler of the US District court for the District of Columbia said sending the detainee to Tunisia would be “profound miscarriage of justice” that would amount to a death sentence. Two former Tunisian detainees sent home had already reported having been abused and tortured. Human rights group report that the Tunisian security forces use sleep deprivation, electric shocks, submersion of the head in water, beatings and cigarette burns.

Yet US authorities repatriated Lagha in June after he spent five years in the detention center at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba. Abdullah al Hajji Ben Amor, another former detainee who faces trial at the end of October, was returned home at the same time as Lagha. Both Lagha and Hajji alleged that they were mistreated by the Tunisian authorities while in detention.

Lagha was arrested in 2002 on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan but it remains unclear why he was there. Lagha also alleged mistreatment while in US custodies. He told his lawyers that US medics cut his frostbitten finger unnecessarily and against his will while in the center.

Currently, ten Tunisian detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay and at least eight of them have been convicted of crime in Tunisia even though they were not present at their trials.

Tunisia denies all allegations on human rights abuses.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Tunisia jails ex-Guantanamo prisoner for three years – 24 October 2007

Guardian Limited – Ex-Gitmo detainee convicted in Tunisia – 24 October 2007

Arab News – US judge blocks Guantanamo detainee transfer to Tunisia – 11 October 2007

BBC News – US judge blocks Guantanamo move – 10 October 2007

AFP – US judge blocks repatriation to Tunisia of Guantanamo detainee – 10 October 2007

Tension Mounts between Turkey and Iran against Kurdish militia in Iraq

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey- Turkey’s likelihood of invading Iraq in order to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels has increased.  The PKK desires an independent Kurdistan for the Kurds living in Turkey.  The Turkish military reported that it has eliminated 30 terrorists that were preparing to ambush the Turkish military.  Since Sunday, 64 insurgents have been killed by the Turkish military.  (Fox News- AP)

Also, the possibility of a peaceful remedy through diplomacy between Turkey and Iraq is quickly diminishing.  Turkish Defense Minister Jassim stated that Turkey had proposed “concrete steps” to rectify the problems with Iraq.  (AFP)  According to Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan Iraq has not responded accordingly and has only said “just words” and not “concrete proposals”, which is increasing Turkish frustration. (AFP)

The increased tension has been encouraged by the PKK and possibly militant factions within the Turkish military.  The PKK waged a constant war with Turkey from 1984-1999.  At the end of the war the PKK lost support as its supporters got tired of the warfare.  The PKK could benefit from a Turkish invasion of Iraq, because it would probably create animosity toward the Turkish government by the 15 million Turkish Kurds, which the PKK hopes it can translate into its supporters.  This prolonged warfare was very difficult on the nation of Turkey.  Generally, the people of Turkey have appreciated the relative peacefulness they have experienced since the end of the war.  However, since the war has ended the Turkish military has not occupied the limelight.  This has led some analysts believe that some militant factions in Turkey are inciting violence in order to restore prominence back to the Turkish military, which would come through another war with the PKK.  (Independent Online)

The situation has gotten worse as the Iranians have simultaneously expressed their anger towards the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). The PJAK is a militia seeking to create an independent Kurdistan and is affiliated with the PKK and has recently increased its attacks on security forces in northwestern Iran.  The Iranians also have expressed their belief that the situation can be resolved peacefully.

Although the direct diplomacy between Turkey and Iraq has been faltering, Turkey has stated that it will not invade Iraq until after the Prime Minister Erodgan’s diplomatic visit with President Bush on November 5.  Also, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning to visit Ankara on November 1.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera- Turkey Delays PKK attack decision- 27 October 2007

Al-Jazeera- Turkey-Iraq talks on PKK ‘fail’- 27 October 2007

Al-Jazeera- Turkey troops kill Kurdish fighters- 28 October 2007

AFP- Turkish leaders increase pressure on US, Iraq- 24 October 2007

Fox News (AP)- Turkey: U.S. Will Not Stop Iraq Incursion; 64 Suspected Rebels Killed- 25 October 2007

Guardian Unlimited- Turkish Forces Clash With Rebel Kurds- 28 October 2007

Independent Online-   Turkey reluctantly prepares for attack on Kurds- 28 October 2007

UPDATE: Al-Badawi still detained by Yemen

SANAA, Yemen –September 26’s website, run by the Yemeni Defense Ministry, claimed that an Interior Ministry source said that Jamal al-Badawi is still detained and not freed, as security officials stated earlier.  The unnamed source said that al-Badawi is a detainee of the Interior Ministry and is under investigation by the concerned authorities.  Yemen’s official news agency, SABA, printed a short statement that a security source confirmed that al-Badawi is still is custody.  The Interior Ministry source stated that al-Badawi was not completely free, but did not clarify whether he was in prison or under house arrest.  According to the Yemen Observer, more than one security official at Aden Central Prison confirmed that al-Badawi was in prison.  A source stated that he “will remain in prison and under close scrutiny.”

On October 25, security officials claimed that al-Badawi was released to house arrest after pledging allegiance to Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh and promised not to participate in terrorism.  Members of al-Badawi’s family told Reuters that his sentence was commuted to house arrest and that they visited him at his home.  Also, witnesses told the Associated Press that al-Badawi received family and friends at his home in Aden.

Al-Badawi was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in planning and carrying out the 2000 attack on USS Cole.  The sentenced was later commuted to 15 years in prison.  Two weeks ago, he turned himself in after escaping from prison in 2006.

For more information, please see:

Almotamar – Al-Qaeda militant al-Badawi in custody and under interrogation – 28 October 2007

International Herald Tribune – Mastermind of USS Cole attacks still in detention, 2 Yemeni government web sites say – 28 October 2007

NewsYemen – Yemen denies al-Badawi release – 28 October 2007

Reuters – Yemen says bomber of U.S. destroyer Cole still detained – 28 October 2007

SABA – Al-Badawi is in custody: official source – 28 October 2007

Yemen Observer – Jamal al-Badawi is in jail – 28 October 2007

BRIEF: Peace Talks in Darfur Begin Without Rebels

SIRTE, Libya – Darfur peace talks began in Libya on Saturday, with key rebel groups missing.  The absence of major rebel leaders is dampening hopes of successful talks. Mediators have already downplayed the goals of the conference, stating that the focus will now be to “create conditions” for effective peace talks to take place.

The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels stated from the beginning that they would not attend the peace talks until the African Union and United Nations deploy their joint force of 26,000 peacekeepers.  The peacekeepers are not due to arrive until January.  On Friday, the leader of the rival Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) announced that he was boycotting as well due to the extension of invitations to smaller, less representative rebel factions.   Both the SLA and JEM argue that the smaller factions are just stooges for the Sudanese government.

The talks were initially scheduled in early September by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to try to end over four years of fighting which has left more than 200,000 dead and over 2 million displaced.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Darfur talks open without rebels – 27 October 2007

International Herald Tribune – Darfur peace talks open to a grim start with main rebel groups absent – 27 October 2007

Yahoo (Reuters) – Darfur peace talks to begin without key rebels – 27 October 2007

For more information on the Darfur conflict, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Upcoming Peace Talks in Sudan in Jeopardy; New Atrocities in Darfur; Ceasefire Ends in Sudan; African Union Peacekeepers Attacked in Darfur; Ongoing Conflict in Sudan; ICC Prosecutor Demands Arrests in Sudan; Secretary General Urges Sudan President to Commit to Ceasefire; Peace Talks on Darfur Scheduled for October

BRIEF: Rebels in Sudan Accuse Government of Attacks

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Darfur rebels have accused the Sudanese government of attacking an area along the border of Chad in violation of a unilateral ceasefire declaration given at the opening of peace talks in Libya.  Two factions, who did not attend the talks, claim that the government attacked the Jabel Moun area on Saturday, at the same time the government was announcing the ceasefire.  A Sudanese army spokesman has denied the reports.

Peace talks have been scheduled since early September, however key rebel groups have refused to participate.  Repeated efforts to create a lasting peace in the region have been unsuccessful. 

Experts estimate that since the conflict began in 2003, 200,000 people have died and over 2 million have been displaced.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Darfur rebels say government attacks despite ceasefire – 29 October 2007

Sponsors Agree to Delay Armenia ‘Genocide’ Vote

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

YEREVAN, Armenia – On Thursday, supporters of a bill in the US Congress labeling 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as “genocide” have agreed to postpone the measure.

In early October, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bill censuring World War I killing of Armenians.  But support for the bill deteriorated later in the month when Turkey recalled its US ambassador and the Turkish government’s angry reaction fueled fears within Congress that it would cripple the ties between the two nations.

Turkey is a key US military and diplomatic ally in the Middle East region.  Declining relations with a rare Muslim ally could deny American access to Incirlik airbase, or other supply lines vital to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Once this potential geopolitical impact became known, the White House also began to persuade the bill sponsors for postponement.

Eventually, the four main sponsors of the bill – Democrats Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Anna Eshoo and Frank Pallone – bowed to White House pressure.  Still, the four believe the bill still has significant backing in Congress and their colleagues will vote for it when “timing is more favorable.”  Democrats also argued that “by refusing to condemn the Armenian massacres as ‘genocide,’ the United States will encourage impunity for current and future crimes against humanity.”

Republican House minority leader John Boehner, in contrast, agreed with the decision to delay the vote.  Although he acknowledged that “the suffering the Armenian people endured was tragic,” “this 90-year-old issue should be settled by historians, not by politicians.”

Many Western historians say the killing of at least 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1917 by the Ottoman Empire was genocide.  While Turkey accepts there were mass killings, they dispute the number of dead and the depiction of the killings as genocide.  On Friday, Armenian officials said they were “surprised” that concerns on US-Turkey relations had been allowed to stall this non-binding, symbolic “verbal acknowledgement.”

For more information, please see:

News.com.au – US vote on Armenia ‘genocide’ delayed – 27 October 2007

Reuters – Armenia ‘surprised’ at storm over genocide – 26 Octboer 2007

BBC News – US delays Armenia ‘genocide’ vote – 26 October 2007

AFP – Backers of Armenia genocide bill agree to delay vote – 25 October 2007