WTF Friday, 11/7/2014

In June, around 300 members of Libya’s security forces arrived in the UK for training in “basic infantry skills and military leadership”. This week, they were sent home in disgrace after a string of sex crimes committed in the Cambridge area. Five of them will remain in court custody. Two face charges for the Oct. 26th rape of a male civilian, and three others face multiple counts of sexual assault, and one bike theft charge each.

Following the announcement that the training program would be discontinued, one cadet blamed the British government for the problems, complaining that: “They didn’t tell us about British law and what’s the difference between right and wrong here.”

I have some questions about all this:

  1. WTF?
  2. Why would anyone need advance notice that raping dudes is frowned upon in the UK? Is it legal in Libya?
  3. What’s with the bicycles?
  4. If these guys were “vetted in advance for medical, physical and behavioural suitability“, what did the reject pile look like?
  5. WTF?!

Sudanese Government Now Stealing People’s Blood?

A few weeks ago, Human Rights Watch reported that Sudanese government forces raided a dormitory of female university students in Khartoum, and beat and arrested a number of Darfuri students. Apparently, the raid was conducted in retaliation for the women’s refusal to vacate the dormitory, which the authorities viewed as evidence of “seditious intent“.

The arrested students were taken to the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) offices and interrogated about their association with rebel groups operating in Darfur. Several of them ended up in Omdurman women’s prison, and at least one was beaten badly enough to require medical attention. They were also subjected to sexual harassment and assault. According to a women’s rights group, the authorities “forced some women to undress in the dorms, photographed them, and threatened to use the photos against them.”

As if all that weren’t bad enough, one of the young women says that the Sudanese authorities gave her drugs and took her blood.

So, readers, I ask you this: What possible reason could the Sudanese government have for stealing the blood of suspected dissidents?

U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic: Um Whut?

On Friday morning, the AP ran a story about a leaked report from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic, which had concluded that it was “too early to speak of genocide or ethnic cleansing” in CAR, but that other crimes against humanity had taken place.

The first part of that conclusion surprised me. In February, Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, testified before the Security Council that his agency had “effectively witnessed a ‘cleansing’ of the majority of the Muslim population in western CAR.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both also reported that Muslims are being driven from the country en masse. What had the Commission uncovered that led it to decide otherwise?

I’ve now read the leaked report, and I still haven’t the foggiest idea.

The section analyzing the allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing is exceptionally brief – less than a page long, much of which is taken up with a bullet-pointed list of the names of different genocidal crimes. It then dismisses the allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing in a single paragraph, without citing any law or specific sources:

“As has been stated above, the origins of the present armed conflict in CAR is rooted in the struggle for political power. The actions of the parties to the dispute as of present demonstrate the fact that the conflict is still in reality a political conflict. SELEKA a mainly Muslim movement on the 8th of May declared a de facto partition of CAR, setting up a military Council and claiming the right to administer exclusively three regions of CAR. The main parties to the conflict remain SELEKA and anti-BALAKA. The fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda from certain non-Muslim quarters does not mean that genocide is being planned or that there is any conspiracy to commit genocide or even a specific intent to commit genocide. The displacement of Muslims affected by whatever party so far is a matter of protection and the preservation of human life not a matter of ethnic cleansing.”

Quoi?

Let’s break this down. First, it should go without saying that it is thoroughly possible for genocide and ethnic cleansing to take place within the context of a “struggle for political power,” or during a “political conflict.” Indeed, it would be unusual for them not to. And second, while “the fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda” is of course not in and of itself enough to prove genocide or genocide-adjacent crimes, it’s not particularly comforting, either. Those facts are not a basis on which to conclude that genocide is not taking place, they are reasons to investigate whether it is taking place. (If only there could be some sort of U.N. Commission of Inquiry tasked with finding out what’s really going on. Someone should really get on that.)

And has the Commission mistaken “ethnic cleansing” for some sort of laundry-related procedure? How else can we explain a line that dismisses claims of ethnic cleansing … by basically describing ethnic cleansing? Forcibly clearing a target population from an area by threatening the lives and safety of its members is pretty much the first chapter from the ethnic cleanser’s handbook.

This conclusion also seems to be contradicted by facts contained elsewhere in the report. For instance, in describing the difficulties faced by foreign peacekeeping forces in CAR, the Commission notes that “the MISCA and SANGARIS forces have been subject of attacks especially from the anti-Balaka militia, the majority of whom seem keen to carry out an ethnic cleansing in CAR by driving out the population or worse by killing them which would amount to genocide.” If the anti-Balaka fighters expressed their intent to commit ethnic cleansing by “driving out the population,” and then proceeded to do just that, what does the Commission need to see in order to conclude that ethnic cleansing is taking place? Engraved invitations? (“Your local anti-Balaka cordially invites you and your family to be ethnically cleansed on Saturday, June the twenty-first, two thousand fourteen. Plus-ones encouraged. RSVP.”)

Is it possible that the Commission, after a thorough investigation, determined that the anti-Balaka were all talk, and the civilians who have been displaced were merely caught up in generalized violence that was not targeted towards specific groups? Yes. But if that’s what happened, the Commission should have explained as much in the report, so that observers – and the Security Council – could weigh the credibility of the report’s conclusions. That didn’t happen.

And is now a good moment to point out that the Commission limited its investigation to Bangui, and is thus not really in a position to make pronouncements about ethnic cleansings and genocides that may or may not be going on in the rest of the country? I understand that the security situation made it difficult for the investigators to travel to other parts of CAR, but am quite confused as to why they did not at least interview refugees in neighboring countries.

In the interest of fairness, I should note here that the report has not officially been released yet, so it is possible that the version I saw was merely a partially-completed draft, and not yet in its final form. That would certainly explain why it is a mere 26 pages long, 13 of which are taken up with a history of the conflict and a description of the difficulties the Commission faced in conducting its investigation. (Turns out there’s a war on!) However, the fact that the document was accompanied by a letter from Ban Ki Moon submitting it to the Security Council on May 27th suggests that it was the final version.

If that is the case, then I am tremendously disappointed. The Commission had a mandate to:

“investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and abuses of human rights in the Central African Republic, by all parties since 1 January 2013 and to compile information, to help identify the perpetrators of such violations and abuses, point to their possible criminal responsibility and to help ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

And yet, after six months of work from a team of six full-time investigators, the Commission appears to have produced a report that details little in the way of investigation, identifies perpetrators only in generalities, contains almost no documentation of specific violations or abuses, and provides no useful analysis that would ensure future accountability.

Not good enough, Commission of Inquiry. Do better.

WTF Friday, 2/7/2014

How did I miss the fact that the Austrian government has appointed a 27 year old as Foreign Minister?

At an age when a quarter of Americans are apparently still living with their parents, this dude is a Cabinet-level official. And I bet he has his own apartment, too.

By way of comparison, my proudest accomplishments at 27 were the following:

  1. Finally getting in the habit of flossing regularly;
  2. Leaning how to work my voicemail;
  3. Drinking whisky without making a squinchy face;
  4. Writing this blog.

You’ll note that nowhere on this list does “designing and executing the foreign policy of an entire nation” appear. Admittedly, it’s only Austria, but it still overshadows even the most exemplary dental hygiene.

WTF Friday, 1/17/2014

OMG you guys, stop the presses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has FIGURED OUT WHAT CAUSES GAYNESS.

M7Yes, that’s right. One of the great mysteries of our time has been solved by the same scientific genius who brought us tear gas as sedative.

Per M7, “random breeding” in degenerate Western societies has produced the “abnormality” of homosexuality. For men, anyway. Lesbianism is obviously explained by “sexual starvation”. (Vitamin D deficiency, amirite?)

Somehow, this breathtaking exercise of logic led him to refuse to sign the draconian anti-gay law. So… yay?

 

*Photo of the man himself, probably hard at work developing cold fusion, from the Wiki.

WTF Friday, 12/13/2013

Um, Scary Spice is going to Rwanda for Christmas?

There are so many reasons to WTF this, but I’m going to focus on just one: Mel B apparently expects to see tigers on her trip. Explaining her plan to the Daily Mirror, she said “I said to the kids do you want to go to Africa and see lions, tigers and bears, or stay at home and watch TV all day? It was a no brainer.”

Sorry dude, but bears and tigers don’t live in Africa, and lions are extinct in Rwanda. (Although I hear they might be bringing some new ones in from South Africa.) Maybe try Kenya?

WTF Friday, 12/6/2013

This week’s double helping of WTF comes to you from South Africa, which in addition to suffering the loss of its iconic leader and moral lodestar, Nelson Mandela, also has to put up with this crap:

This Kerala Tourism Board Video is Going to Haunt My Nightmares

The Kerala Tourism Board has an important message for everyone, which is that Kerala is a good vacation destination because of the high prevalence of demonic possession, some of which occurs during spa treatments.

Another good activity to do in Kerala, apparently, is to get cloned, dress your clone in an outfit that matches yours, and sit in a daze in the middle of a lake as your doppelganger gets paddled around you in a canoe.

Or, if you would prefer, you can have a psychotic breakdown in the woods, during which a group of silent men and boys will dress you in burlap, tie your hands together, and watch silently as you writhe in agony. This will make your hair really, really messy.

(The elephant at the end clearly regrets his decision to appear in this ad. You can tell from his face that he is counting down the seconds until the shot is over so that he can call his agent and berate him for sending him out on this terrible job.

He is going to be all “Bernie! What the hell? I trained with the Paris Opera. I want to do La Bayadere, not La What-the-hell-is-this-lady-doing-to-my-trunk-adere.)

h/t The Daily Dish

Mysteries Abound

I love the internet (bringer of light and knowledge), but sometimes I don’t understand it.

For instance, why has this year old story of a Nigerian businessman, who died after allegedly being raped by 5 of his 6 wives, jealous over his preference for the sixth, suddenly gone viral this week?

Does it capture the zeitgeist in some manner I can’t quite follow? Is it a metaphor for our trying times? For Syria, maybe? Like, the businessman is Art. 2(4) and the first five wives are prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons and targeting of civilians. And the sixth wife is… Sergei Lavrov? No?

Somebody please enlighten me. And in the meantime, someone get cracking on a follow-up story clarifying whether the wives were charged or convicted. Inquiring minds want to know.