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Our Friend, the Dictator

22 June 2008 | 12:03 | English | Leave a comment (two)
Cover of Forsyths bestsellerMuch attention went to the novel like qualities of the trial against British mercenary Simon Mann. He allegedly tried to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004. The coup plot - in which the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also involved - looked a lot like that of a thriller Frederick Forsyth wrote in 1974. The striking analogy with this book, Dogs of War, was broadly portrayed in the media. But why did we hear so little about the regime in the small African country on the Atlantic Ocean? Canadian colleague Dan Gardner poses this question in his column in The Ottawa Citizen. Torture, arbitrary arrest and a corrupt judicial system makes this regime one of the most oppressive ones on earth. But still president Obiang Nguema - in power since 1979 when he toppled his lunatic predecessor who was also his uncle - can act quite undisturbedly because he has good relations with most major nations. The country also happens to be one of Sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producers.

Not a By-product

20 June 2008 | 13:05 | English | Leave a comment
All burden on women's shoulders - scene from Eastern Congo (Picture Riccardo Gangale)Not just a by-product of war, but a tactic used to ruin entire societies. Thus the UN Security Council defines rape in times of war and conflict. The Council came to this historic resolution last night on its monthly meeting in New York. It should give the United Nations more possibilities to act when mass rape occurs - previously often dismissed as inidividual excesses in war time. Retired general Patrick Cammaert, who was in command of the UN-troups in Eastern Congo for years, addressed the Council on his experiences. He stated that in times of war nowadays it is more dangerous to be a woman, than a soldier. Human Rights Ambassador Piet de Klerk stressed the role men have to play. They should be more aware that they act as role models, and openly call to account militia leaders and generals about their actions.

Wars Against Women

06 June 2008 | 00:17 | English | Leave a comment
Mother and daughter in Northern MozambiqueFrom The Guardian to The Japan Times and from Egypt to Congo: our article on the devastating effect of war at women's lives is being published all over the globe. Dutch lawyer and economist Heleen Mees and myself wrote the piece, starting an international campaign for a monument for the unknown raped woman in front of the new International Criminal Court in The Hague. Sexual violence in conflict zones is a widespread crime that usually goes unpunished. The monument would be a tribute to all women suffering in war time. And a reminder that justice should be done for those women.
The piece has been published by Project Syndicate and translated in English, Spanish, Russian, French, German, Czech and Chinese.