Showing posts tagged as "lawrence sheets"

Showing posts tagged lawrence sheets

7 Jun
Libya now ruled by the law of retribution | Los Angeles Times
By Glen Johnson 
TRIPOLI, Libya — Blood pours from the man’s head, collecting in a pool on the concrete floor. Minutes before he had stood stripped to his underwear and pleading.
At first, former Libyan rebels from the coastal town of Zuwarah slapped him about the face, accusing him of being an informant for Moammar Kadafi. Then the beating increased in intensity as the man, Ahmed Salel, collapsed, hands stretched above his head.
The scene, recorded on a cellphone, ends with Salel, a former Libyan soldier abducted from a market in December, lying motionless but alive.
Retribution is the new law of the land in Libya. Summary executions, arbitrary arrests, torture and indefinite detention have emerged while the judicial system remains in a state of paralysis.
The result, rights groups charge, is an environment of impunity. In a country whose revolution’s defining moment was arguably the apparent execution in October of Kadafi in captivity — a possible war crime that remains unpunished — dangerous precedents have been set.
Rights activists point out that although suspected supporters of the longtime Libyan leader are subject to arrest, former rebels who committed abuses, increasingly well-known and documented, roam free.
FULL ARTICLE (LA Times)
Photo: AP TV News

Libya now ruled by the law of retribution | Los Angeles Times

By Glen Johnson 

TRIPOLI, Libya — Blood pours from the man’s head, collecting in a pool on the concrete floor. Minutes before he had stood stripped to his underwear and pleading.

At first, former Libyan rebels from the coastal town of Zuwarah slapped him about the face, accusing him of being an informant for Moammar Kadafi. Then the beating increased in intensity as the man, Ahmed Salel, collapsed, hands stretched above his head.

The scene, recorded on a cellphone, ends with Salel, a former Libyan soldier abducted from a market in December, lying motionless but alive.

Retribution is the new law of the land in Libya. Summary executions, arbitrary arrests, torture and indefinite detention have emerged while the judicial system remains in a state of paralysis.

The result, rights groups charge, is an environment of impunity. In a country whose revolution’s defining moment was arguably the apparent execution in October of Kadafi in captivity — a possible war crime that remains unpunished — dangerous precedents have been set.

Rights activists point out that although suspected supporters of the longtime Libyan leader are subject to arrest, former rebels who committed abuses, increasingly well-known and documented, roam free.

FULL ARTICLE (LA Times)

Photo: AP TV News

6 Jun
Amid Clashes, Talk of War Stirs in Azerbaijan | Wall Street Journal
By Joe Parkinson
CHIRAXLI, Azerbaijan—Soldiers based in this village, on the front line of a territorial battle with Armenia, trade gunfire almost daily with Armenian snipers under 100 yards away.
Some villagers, such as Sabina Shukurov, get caught in the crossfire. “Every day we’re reminded we’re still at war,” said Sabina’s 70-year-old father, Khosrov, gesturing from his backyard toward a line of posts marking Armenian trenches, the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh just beyond them. “But the world will see that Azerbaijan is getting much stronger now; we know the time is coming closer that we will go and liberate our lands.”
A growing number of Azeris, exasperated with diplomacy and emboldened by their government’s expanding military and hawkish rhetoric, are calling for a military solution to the dispute. Azerbaijan on Tuesday accused Armenia of violating its border and killing five of its soldiers in renewed fighting along the neighbors’ northern frontier, a day after Armenia said Azeri forces killed three of its soldiers in the same area, more than 250 miles from Nagorno-Karabakh.
FULL ARTICLE (WSJ)
Photo: Mathias Depardon/WSJ

Amid Clashes, Talk of War Stirs in Azerbaijan | Wall Street Journal

By Joe Parkinson

CHIRAXLI, Azerbaijan—Soldiers based in this village, on the front line of a territorial battle with Armenia, trade gunfire almost daily with Armenian snipers under 100 yards away.

Some villagers, such as Sabina Shukurov, get caught in the crossfire. “Every day we’re reminded we’re still at war,” said Sabina’s 70-year-old father, Khosrov, gesturing from his backyard toward a line of posts marking Armenian trenches, the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh just beyond them. “But the world will see that Azerbaijan is getting much stronger now; we know the time is coming closer that we will go and liberate our lands.”

A growing number of Azeris, exasperated with diplomacy and emboldened by their government’s expanding military and hawkish rhetoric, are calling for a military solution to the dispute. Azerbaijan on Tuesday accused Armenia of violating its border and killing five of its soldiers in renewed fighting along the neighbors’ northern frontier, a day after Armenia said Azeri forces killed three of its soldiers in the same area, more than 250 miles from Nagorno-Karabakh.

FULL ARTICLE (WSJ)

Photo: Mathias Depardon/WSJ

29 May

Azerbaijan protests take shine off Eurovision | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Reports about alleged rights violations in Azerbaijan are capturing international attention as the country prepares to host this year’s Eurovision song contest.

Eurovision is the most prestigious cultural event in the country since independence from the Soviet Union, and authorities had hoped it would boost the ex-Soviet state’s image.

Slick footage from Baku’s Crystal Hall shows competitors prancing and posing their way through rehearsals, but images of police breaking up opposition rallies and seizing protesters have caught the attention of many.

"This is part of a broader diplomatic charm offensive to put Azerbaijan on the map, but if you get a lot of attention, you are also much more open to criticism," Lawrence Sheets, Caucasus project director at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said.

READ FULL ARTICLE (ABC)

80,000 at Opposition Rally as Georgia Nears Crossroads | The New York Times 
By Andrew E. Kramer

Opponents of the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, staged a sprawling political rally in the capital on Sunday in a stronger-than-expected opening to their campaign for a parliamentary election scheduled for this fall.


The strong showing came as Georgia approaches a new crossroads in its post-Soviet politics.
Mr. Saakashvili, who studied law at Columbia University before going into politics in his homeland, is nearing the end of a tumultuous two terms as president. He will have to step down in 2013.
He is now bumping up against the paradox of success for politicians who espouse democratic reforms in the former Soviet Union: the risk of being thrown out by voters or having a career ended by term limits. As Mr. Saakashvhili’s time in office winds down, the crowd on the streets on Sunday demonstrated, yet again, that “there are a lot of dissatisfied people” who would like to see him removed from power, Lawrence Sheets, a project director at the International Crisis Group who is based in Tbilisi, said in a telephone interview.
The rally in Tbilisi “was big because it was possible,” he added, because the opposition groups were granted parade permits that allowed the main street to be closed off to traffic.
The rally supported Georgian Dream, an opposition party led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s wealthiest businessman. It demonstrated that he has significant popular support, at least in the capital, to augment his financial resources.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: George Abdaladze/AP

80,000 at Opposition Rally as Georgia Nears Crossroads | The New York Times 

By Andrew E. Kramer

Opponents of the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, staged a sprawling political rally in the capital on Sunday in a stronger-than-expected opening to their campaign for a parliamentary election scheduled for this fall.

The strong showing came as Georgia approaches a new crossroads in its post-Soviet politics.

Mr. Saakashvili, who studied law at Columbia University before going into politics in his homeland, is nearing the end of a tumultuous two terms as president. He will have to step down in 2013.

He is now bumping up against the paradox of success for politicians who espouse democratic reforms in the former Soviet Union: the risk of being thrown out by voters or having a career ended by term limits. As Mr. Saakashvhili’s time in office winds down, the crowd on the streets on Sunday demonstrated, yet again, that “there are a lot of dissatisfied people” who would like to see him removed from power, Lawrence Sheets, a project director at the International Crisis Group who is based in Tbilisi, said in a telephone interview.

The rally in Tbilisi “was big because it was possible,” he added, because the opposition groups were granted parade permits that allowed the main street to be closed off to traffic.

The rally supported Georgian Dream, an opposition party led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s wealthiest businessman. It demonstrated that he has significant popular support, at least in the capital, to augment his financial resources.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: George Abdaladze/AP

8 Mar

One frigid day nearly 19 years ago, I found myself standing along a muddy, rutted road in the foothills of Azerbaijan’s 3,000 meter-high Murov mountain range. Hundreds of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons — from the strategic Kelbajar region — were arriving on foot, some nearly frozen to death after a multiday trek through the icy mountain passes.
They were the latest casualties in the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. An autonomous region in Soviet times, it is still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The dispute over who owns the “historical rights” to the rugged, sparsely populated territory goes back decades or centuries. The collapse of the Soviet Union simply let the genie out of the bottle. The majority Armenians always wanted the region to be part of Armenia.


Kelbajar, of course, was not part of autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh and no Armenians lived there, but the conquest of Kelbajar by Armenian forces in 1993 was a seminal moment in the war. Through a combination of highly motivated strategizing on the Armenian side and very poor planning (and even treachery) by bickering Azeri “commanders” Kelbajar, a picturesque area of hot springs and waterfalls, fell almost without a fight. The Armenians justified its taking — and the ejection of the entire local population of about 60,000 people — as part a “security belt” they were establishing to protect Nagorno-Karabakh from shelling.
Those first 100,000 displaced people would soon increase to 600,000. As chaos reigned in Azerbaijan during the summer and autumn of 1993, Armenian forces conquered district after district of Azerbaijan, seven in all — either fully or partially. They are now a wasteland of ghost towns. Four U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the Armenians withdraw from the occupied territories were ignored; and Armenian officials now, years later, often refer to them as “liberated territories,” even though only an estimated 14,000 Armenian “settlers” have moved there. New maps show the occupied territories as Armenian territory.
And the ongoing war, to call it by its real name, is also too often ignored by the rest of the world as an obscure “frozen conflict.” Given all the conflicts on the planet today, this is an understandable but grave mistake.
Russia, along with France and the United States, are the co-chair countries for the “Minsk Group,” an O.S.C.E.-led peace process which has now run aground.
Russia is also a declared Armenian ally. Azerbaijan has close military ties with NATO member Turkey. Iran, which borders both, is the biggest wildcard; although Shiite Muslim like Azerbaijan, Tehran reviles Baku because of Azerbaijan’s secular orientation, its close ties with Israel, and fears about separatist tendencies among Iran’s large Azeri minority. Iran, ironically, has far better ties with Christian Armenia.
Whatever the case, such a combination of bedfellows could mean any new full-scale conflict going regional, with unpredictable consequences.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan, buoyed by its newfound petrodollars, have been acquiring staggering amounts of sophisticated weapons — not just the AK-47s or basic artillery seen before the 1994 “cease-fire,” but offensive systems — mostly of Russian provenance. These include “Smerch” (Russian for “Tornado”), an advanced rocket system capable of hitting targets 45 miles away — within range of towns and cities.
As for the 600,000 internally displaced Azerbaijanis, the government — too weak, poor and embarrassed to do much to help them until a few years ago — has made progress in building better housing and dramatically lowering poverty rates. It spends one of the highest percentages of its budget — 3 percent — on internally displaced people of any country in the world. Still, 400,000 displaced people remain in substandard housing. The government seems torn between trying to better integrate them into society — which it fears will be a tacit acceptance of the status quo — and keeping their cohesiveness as a group alive along with the promise of one day going home. It should maximize the extent to which the displaced can participate in their country’s political and economic life.
Meanwhile, despite the “cease-fire,” skirmishes along the front lines cause dozens of deaths and injuries each year. The opposing trenches have moved so close — less than 40 yards in some places — that soldiers on both sides sometimes hurl rocks at each other. Only six international monitors occasionally visit, there are no investigation mechanisms and snipers terrorize civilians living in the area.
Maintaining the status quo is not an option. The opposing forces will either reach compromises — and thus peace — probably only through increased international pressure. If not, another round of more intense violence will erupt, raising the danger of dragging in the regional heavyweights.
World leaders need to think about that threat, and the refugee flows, disrupted energy supplies and destruction and death such renewed warfare could cause.
Lawrence Scott Sheets is director of the South Caucasus Project for the International Crisis Group, which released the report, “Tackling Azerbaijan’s IDP Burden” last week. He is also the author of “Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-year Journey through the Soviet Collapse.”
READ ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: karpidis/Flickr

One frigid day nearly 19 years ago, I found myself standing along a muddy, rutted road in the foothills of Azerbaijan’s 3,000 meter-high Murov mountain range. Hundreds of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons — from the strategic Kelbajar region — were arriving on foot, some nearly frozen to death after a multiday trek through the icy mountain passes.

They were the latest casualties in the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. An autonomous region in Soviet times, it is still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The dispute over who owns the “historical rights” to the rugged, sparsely populated territory goes back decades or centuries. The collapse of the Soviet Union simply let the genie out of the bottle. The majority Armenians always wanted the region to be part of Armenia.

Kelbajar, of course, was not part of autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh and no Armenians lived there, but the conquest of Kelbajar by Armenian forces in 1993 was a seminal moment in the war. Through a combination of highly motivated strategizing on the Armenian side and very poor planning (and even treachery) by bickering Azeri “commanders” Kelbajar, a picturesque area of hot springs and waterfalls, fell almost without a fight. The Armenians justified its taking — and the ejection of the entire local population of about 60,000 people — as part a “security belt” they were establishing to protect Nagorno-Karabakh from shelling.

Those first 100,000 displaced people would soon increase to 600,000. As chaos reigned in Azerbaijan during the summer and autumn of 1993, Armenian forces conquered district after district of Azerbaijan, seven in all — either fully or partially. They are now a wasteland of ghost towns. Four U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the Armenians withdraw from the occupied territories were ignored; and Armenian officials now, years later, often refer to them as “liberated territories,” even though only an estimated 14,000 Armenian “settlers” have moved there. New maps show the occupied territories as Armenian territory.

And the ongoing war, to call it by its real name, is also too often ignored by the rest of the world as an obscure “frozen conflict.” Given all the conflicts on the planet today, this is an understandable but grave mistake.

Russia, along with France and the United States, are the co-chair countries for the “Minsk Group,” an O.S.C.E.-led peace process which has now run aground.

Russia is also a declared Armenian ally. Azerbaijan has close military ties with NATO member Turkey. Iran, which borders both, is the biggest wildcard; although Shiite Muslim like Azerbaijan, Tehran reviles Baku because of Azerbaijan’s secular orientation, its close ties with Israel, and fears about separatist tendencies among Iran’s large Azeri minority. Iran, ironically, has far better ties with Christian Armenia.

Whatever the case, such a combination of bedfellows could mean any new full-scale conflict going regional, with unpredictable consequences.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan, buoyed by its newfound petrodollars, have been acquiring staggering amounts of sophisticated weapons — not just the AK-47s or basic artillery seen before the 1994 “cease-fire,” but offensive systems — mostly of Russian provenance. These include “Smerch” (Russian for “Tornado”), an advanced rocket system capable of hitting targets 45 miles away — within range of towns and cities.

As for the 600,000 internally displaced Azerbaijanis, the government — too weak, poor and embarrassed to do much to help them until a few years ago — has made progress in building better housing and dramatically lowering poverty rates. It spends one of the highest percentages of its budget — 3 percent — on internally displaced people of any country in the world. Still, 400,000 displaced people remain in substandard housing. The government seems torn between trying to better integrate them into society — which it fears will be a tacit acceptance of the status quo — and keeping their cohesiveness as a group alive along with the promise of one day going home. It should maximize the extent to which the displaced can participate in their country’s political and economic life.

Meanwhile, despite the “cease-fire,” skirmishes along the front lines cause dozens of deaths and injuries each year. The opposing trenches have moved so close — less than 40 yards in some places — that soldiers on both sides sometimes hurl rocks at each other. Only six international monitors occasionally visit, there are no investigation mechanisms and snipers terrorize civilians living in the area.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option. The opposing forces will either reach compromises — and thus peace — probably only through increased international pressure. If not, another round of more intense violence will erupt, raising the danger of dragging in the regional heavyweights.

World leaders need to think about that threat, and the refugee flows, disrupted energy supplies and destruction and death such renewed warfare could cause.

Lawrence Scott Sheets is director of the South Caucasus Project for the International Crisis Group, which released the report, “Tackling Azerbaijan’s IDP Burden” last week. He is also the author of “Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-year Journey through the Soviet Collapse.”

READ ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: karpidis/Flickr

27 Feb
International Crisis Group

Azerbaijan's IDP Burden

In the 1990s, the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia generated one of the world’s largest populations of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azeris fled their homes in the face of Armenian forces. Lawrence Scott Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director, discusses how IDPs have fared and the prospects for a deal that could permit their return. 6:38

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BBC News: Nagorno-Karabakh - Remembering the victims of Khojaly

Damien McGuinness


Azeris around the world have been remembering the 20th anniversary of the bloodiest episode in their country’s recent history, when Azerbaijan says more than 600 civilians, including women and children, were killed.

It was one of many violent incidents in Azerbaijan’s brutal war with Armenia, which erupted in the 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now there are growing fears the conflict could flare up again.

It was a freezing, snowy night when Armenian troops marched into Ramila’s home town of Khojaly. She fled with her family into a nearby forest.

Her daughter with whom she was pregnant at the time is the only child she has left. Those events still haunt Ramila today.It was there that her husband was shot dead. She survived only because she was carrying her two-year-old son on her back. As she ran, he was shot instead of her.

"I can’t forget," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "It’s like it happened yesterday. I re-live it every single day."

Azerbaijan’s government says that in one night alone, on 26 February 1992, 613 Azeri civilians died, including 169 women and children.

According to Azerbaijan, they were either shot dead by Armenian soldiers or froze to death as they tried to flee Khojaly in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia disputes the account and the number of deaths. It says that Azeri soldiers were also involved in the violence that night and accuses Azerbaijan’s authorities of failing to move their civilian population out of the area in time.

'Dehumanising Armenians'

To commemorate Khojaly’s anniversary on Sunday, tens of thousands of people gathered in the Azeri capital, Baku, and in the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Ankara. Turkey is a close ally of Azerbaijan.

Across the US and Europe, Azerbaijan’s government staged exhibitions and films and ran newspaper ads about the killings.

Armenian political analyst Alexander Iskandaryan says this illustrates how the government of Azerbaijan uses the Khojaly killings as a propaganda tool to demonise Armenia and win international sympathy.

"It happens in every conflict in the world. You have to explain to your people that the enemy is aggressive and not good," he said. "It’s a way of de-humanising Armenians."

But what is clear is that the 1990s war has had catastrophic consequences for both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Up to 30,000 people on both sides were killed. And, according to Azeri government figures, almost one million people were forced to leave their homes, before a tenuous ceasefire was agreed in 1994.

Humanitarian crisis

Today the region is in Armenian hands. And those Azeri civilians who fled during the war have not been allowed back.

This flood of displaced people has led to a humanitarian crisis with which Azerbaijan is still struggling.

For almost two decades, thousands of people have been living as refugees in terrible conditions. 62-year-old Saleh Karimov and his family of eight share a tiny 20-sq-m (215 sq ft) room in a crumbling former student dorm.

It’s stuffed with the carpets and the few treasured possessions they were able to carry when they fled the war.

Twenty-one families on this floor share one dirty toilet and shower. And even those don’t always work. “We used to have comfortable houses and good jobs,” Saleh said. “But now we are just suffering, dying second by second.”

"We would rather die fighting the Armenians than stay living in these conditions," said one mother, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Some human rights activists say the Azeri government is now finally starting to take the refugee crisis more seriously and is organising better accommodation.

But Azerbaijan is also investing heavily in weaponry, and now spends more on its military than the entire budget of Armenia. The main aim, says the Azeri government, is to win back the disputed territory - by force if necessary.

Lawrence Sheets from the International Crisis Group (ICG) believes this arms race increases the risk of a conflict, which could then drag in regional allies such as Russia, Armenia’s military ally, or Turkey, which has close ethnic links to Azerbaijan.

"Both sides have been arming themselves, and building weaponry, and engaging in hostile rhetoric," he said.

"There are hundreds of incidents every month of firing between the two sides. Several dozen people die each year on both sides of the front lines. The danger is that these minor incidents could spiral out of control into a larger war."

FULL ARTICLE (BBC News)

Photo: AFP