11-24-20 Ntabo Ntaberi: DR Congo militia leader jailed for crimes against humanity
A former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity, including mass rape. A military court convicted Ntabo Ntaberi of murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting children under the age of 15. The ruling came at the end of a two-year trial that saw 178 victims testify. The United Nations said the ruling showed "impunity is not inevitable". "This verdict is a source of immense hope for the many victims of the conflicts in the DRC: their suffering has been heard and recognised," said Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN's peacekeeping mission in DR Congo. Ntaberi, also known as Sheka, was one of the leaders of a militia group called Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC), which operated in the restive eastern province of North Kivu. Eastern DR Congo has long been wracked by conflict, fuelled by political divisions and the area's abundance of mineral resources. There was a civil war in DR Congo between 1998 and 2003, but some militias fight on and continue to commit atrocities in the east, where a UN mission is struggling to keep peace. Authorities first issued a warrant for Ntaberi's arrest in January 2011, accusing him of orchestrating raids on villages in mid-2010. During those raids, members of the NDC and two other militia groups allegedly raped about 400 people and killed almost 300. Ntaberi was on the run for nearly six years, but eventually surrendered to UN peacekeepers in DR Congo in July 2017. He was prosecuted along with three co-defendants, including a commander from another militia, who also received a life sentence for crimes committed in North Kivu. Their jail sentences were handed out at the trial in the city of Goma on Monday. "We are satisfied with this verdict, it is a strong signal to other warlords," Kahindo Fatuma, a spokesman representing the victims, told AFP news agency. "The victims will be a little bit relieved." Thomas Fessy, a researcher on DR Congo for Human Rights Watch, said Ntaberi's conviction was "an important step in the fight against impunity". Dozens of armed groups are active in eastern DR Congo. A spin off of Ntaberi's militia group still operates in eastern DR Congo under the name NDC-Renovated, or NDC/R.
11-21-20 Kenyan online cartel is luring girls to orgies, police warn
Police in Kenya are investigating an "online cartel" that targets girls stuck at home because of coronavirus and lures them under false pretences to what officers describe as orgies. The case came to light after three missing teenagers were rescued by officers in the capital Nairobi. The three told police they had seen a social media account that invited them to "parties" in the city. Police warned parents to keep a close eye on their children's activities. "The DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) wishes to inform the public that we are hunting down members of the cartel and they'll be apprehended to answer for their crimes," police said on Twitter. Cases of young girls disappearing - some after being promised jobs - have been reported in Kenyan media in recent days. Earlier this week the relative of one girl made a tearful appeal on Twitter fearing she had been kidnapped or trafficked. The relative said the girl had gone missing in Nairobi on Saturday after being lured by people who were promising modelling jobs. "My cousin along with the 16-year-old girls, six of them, have not been seen since," the woman in the video says. On Friday, police tweeted that child-protection detectives had rescued three of the seven girls reported missing. Efforts to trace the others were continuing, they said. They did not reveal details of where the girls were found or if any arrests had been made. The DCI said the cartel operated from Nairobi and was using internationally registered telephone numbers. "As investigations go on we wish to issue a stern warning to individuals taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to prey on school girls, Their days are numbered," the DCI tweeted. Earlier this month the East African country tightened restrictions as a second wave of the coronavirus caused a surge in cases and deaths. Public gatherings are banned and an overnight curfew is in place. Schools closed in March but partially reopened in October. The government has said they will not fully reopen until January. Kenya, which has a population of 53m, has reported more than 75,000 infections and 1,349 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
10-30-20 Qatar to prosecute officials over forced exams of women at airport
Qatar says several airport officials have been referred for prosecution after forced gynaecological exams were carried out on women flying to Sydney. The group - which included women from Australia, the UK and New Zealand - was checked for evidence they had recently given birth after a baby was found in a bin at Doha airport on 2 October. Qatar's government said on Friday that "standard procedures were violated". It also offered its "sincerest apology" for what the women went through. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called the referrals for prosecution an "important step". "The statement of the government of Qatar is consistent with our expectations for contrition, accountability and determination to avoid any repeat of this disturbing episode," she said. The incident came to light earlier this week after some of the Australian passengers spoke out and foreign governments said they were appalled. The women said they were ordered to disembark the Sydney-bound Qatar Airways flight at Hamad International Airport. They were then taken to ambulances on the tarmac and told to remove their underwear before being examined. The women said they were given no information by officials and that they did not have an opportunity to provide informed consent. Female passengers on nine other flights were also reportedly examined. Qatar's Government Communication Office (GCO) said on Wednesday that airport authorities took action after a newborn baby girl was "found in a trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage", in an apparent attempt to kill her. "This egregious and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights in the vicinity of where the newborn was found." On Friday, the GCO said a preliminary investigation into the actions of airport authorities "revealed that standard procedures were violated". "Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office," it added.
10-26-20 Australia seeks Qatar response after female passengers strip-searched
Australia says it has raised "grossly disturbing" reports with Qatar that women were strip-searched and examined before a flight from Doha to Sydney. The women were checked for signs of having recently given birth after a newborn baby was found abandoned in a toilet at Hamad International Airport. The unidentified baby has been cared for since being found on 2 October. The searches came to light when Australian women spoke out. Women from other countries were also examined. All adult women on the Qatar Airways flight were required to disembark to be body-searched, two of the women told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Thirteen Australian women were taken to an ambulance on the tarmac and told to remove their underwear before being examined, reports said. Kim Mills told the Guardian she was among those taken off the flight and led into a dark car park, where three ambulances were waiting to perform medical examinations. However, officials did not subject her to the examination due, she suspected, to her being in her 60s. Even so, she said, the experience was horrifying. "My legs were just wobbling. I was terrified they were going to take me away somewhere. Why didn't they explain to us what was going on?" she said, adding that airplane staff later told her they didn't know what was happening. "It was absolutely terrible. I can't imagine what it was like for those poor young girls." Passengers had boarded the flight before women were told to get off, witnesses told Australian media. Fellow passenger Wolfgang Babeck told the ABC that he watched as the women re-boarded the flight, noting "many... were upset, one of them was in tears - a younger woman". Qatar's government is yet to respond to the incident. It is not clear if other flights were also involved.
10-12-20 Bangladesh to introduce death penalty for rape
Bangladesh is to introduce the death penalty for rape cases, following days of protests about the country's high level of sexual violence against women. Law Minister Anisul Haq told the BBC that the president would issue an ordinance on Tuesday making it law. There was widespread outrage in Bangladesh last week after footage of a brutal gang assault on a 37-year-old woman went viral on social media. At least 1,000 rapes have been reported in Bangladesh this year, activists say. (Webmaster's comment: And over 70,000 this year so far in the United States!) But many cases go unreported because women fear they will be stigmatised, according to human rights advocates, and in cases that are reported conviction rates are extremely low. Protesters galvanised by last week's viral video have demanded faster trials and changes to the way rape cases are prosecuted. An investigation by Bangladesh's National Human Rights Commission found that the woman in the viral video, who was attacked in the southeastern district of Noakhalim, had been raped repeatedly over time and terrorised. Eight men were arrested after the video emerged. In a separate case another woman was allegedly gang raped last week in a hostel in the northern district of Sylhet, leading to the arrest of several members of the student wing of the ruling party. Bangladesh was rocked over the weekend by an unprecedented level of protest. Demonstrators carried signs reading "Hang the rapists" and "No mercy to rapists". In the capital Dhaka, a mock gallows was erected by protesters. Responding directly to the protests, the government decided to make the change by way of an ordinance, since parliament is not sitting - effectively passing it directly into law.
10-10-20 The Gretchen Whitmer abduction plot is a window into American misogyny
On Thursday, 13 men were charged by the FBI for a plot to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, allegedly in retaliation for "tyrannical" executive orders the governor made to close businesses and shut down travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes after a series of armed protests at the Michigan state capitol, as well as Whitmer's home, in the spring of this year. Whitmer is not the only Democratic swing-state governor who has implemented strict lockdown measures during the pandemic. But she is the only one of those governors who is a woman, and it is no coincidence that she has also been the target of the most violent reactionary right-wing extremism. The serious threats to Whitmer's physical safety are an indication of the growing danger today's political and cultural climate poses for women. The protests in May were in reaction to the pandemic control measures Whitmer introduced to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and were notable both for the extreme show of force and the violent, misogynistic language many of the protestors used. Though many governors across the country imposed similarly severe restrictions during the first major wave of coronavirus infections, and though armed protests sprung up in several states, the Michigan protests were perhaps the most disturbing. Hundreds of protestors, some of them armed, stormed the Michigan state capitol building in Lansing, brandishing racist paraphernalia including Confederate flags, and making explicit calls for violence against Whitmer. In one of the most reprehensible examples, a Republican state House candidate hung an unclothed brown-haired doll — Whitmer in effigy — by a noose. Female Michigan lawmakers wore bulletproof vests to work and reported feeling afraid for their lives. Meanwhile on Facebook, people in private groups posted calls for Whitmer to be lynched, beaten, or beheaded, referring to her as an evil witch or wicked queen. She's been likened to a menopausal teacher, an overbearing mother, and a "tyrant b*tch." One post called for "watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants." Many pointed to President Donald Trump's tweets urging supporters to "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" as a catalyst for the protests. And indeed, rather than condemn the violence espoused by the violent protesters, the president urged Whitmer to "give a little," arguing, "These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!" The conspirators plotting to kidnap Whitmer met during a Second Amendment rally in June before reaching out to the Michigan militia group, Wolverine Watchmen, according to The Detroit News. In the FBI's affidavit, one of the group's leaders, Michigan resident Adam Fox, is quoted as saying, "Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f***in' Governor. Just grab the b*tch," and, "She f***ing goddamn loves the power she has right now."
10-6-20 Hathras case: Dalit women are among the most oppressed in the world
"We are victims of violence because we are poor, lower caste and women, so looked down upon by all," a Dalit woman told researcher Jayshree Mangubhai some years ago. "There is no one to help or speak for us. We face more sexual violence because we don't have any power." Last week, it was reported that a 19-year-old Dalit woman (the Dalits were once called "Untouchables") was allegedly gang raped and assaulted by a group of upper caste men in Uttar Pradesh state again. The news shone the spotlight again on the rampant sexual violence faced by India's 80 million Dalit women, who like their male counterparts languish at the bottom of India's unbending and harsh caste hierarchy. These women, who comprise about 16% of India's female population, face a "triple burden" of gender bias, caste discrimination and economic deprivation. "The Dalit female belongs to the most oppressed group in the world," says Dr Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters. "She is a victim of the cultures, structures and institutions of oppression, both externally and internally. This manifests in perpetual violence against Dalit women." The aftermath of the recent rape and murder of a woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, allegedly by upper caste men, played out the way it usually does when a Dalit woman is attacked: police are slow to register a complaint; investigations are tardy; officials raise doubts there was a rape; there are insinuations it had nothing to do with caste; and authorities appear, perhaps, to be complicit in siding with the upper caste perpetrators of violence. Even some of the media, from newsrooms dominated by upper caste journalists, question why sexual violence should be linked to caste. In other words, the state and parts of society in India conspire to downplay or erase the links between sexual violence and the hierarchies of caste. (Webmaster's comment: In America just substitute Black for Dalit.)
10-2-20 Hathras case: Are Indian state police trying to discount a woman's story of rape?
Days after the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang raped and assaulted in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state, a senior state police official appeared to imply the woman was not raped because semen was not found. Additional Director General Prashant Kumar told reporters on Thursday that the forensic report had found "no semen or semen excretion" in the viscera sample of the victim, and the cause of death was due to "trauma caused by the assault". Mr Kumar also claimed that the woman's family had not mentioned rape in the initial complaint. But in fact the victim had given a statement to the police in the presence of a magistrate in the hospital saying that she had been gang-raped. A dying declaration by a rape victim is admissible evidence in India's courts. And he said there had been attempts to stir caste tensions and disrupt peace by "putting out twisted facts in the media" - possibly an allusion to the widespread coverage that the teenager, a Dalit, had been gang-raped and murdered by upper-caste men. Dalits sit at the bottom of India's caste system and are some of the country's most downtrodden citizens. They face widespread discrimination, despite laws to protect them. Taken together, Mr Kumar's remarks appeared to suggest that the teenager was not raped, and that the reported absence of semen in the viscera sample was significant evidence. Except it was not. Seven years have passed since India introduced an anti-rape law which expanded the definition of rape to include oral sex and penetration with objects. The law also says explicitly that the absence of a physical struggle doesn't equal consent. "The law is extremely clear about the definition of rape," Gopal Hosur, a retired senior police official, told me. "Police officers should not jump to conclusions. The presence or absence of semen by itself does not prove rape. We need a lot of other circumstantial and other evidence," he said.
10-1-20 Australian jailed for Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman
An Australian man who punched and stamped on a pregnant woman in a suspected Islamophobic attack has been jailed for three years. Stipe Lozina, 44, attacked Rana Elasmar, 32, in Sydney last November. Ms Elasmar, then 38 weeks pregnant, had been with friends in a cafe when Lozina entered and approached their table, asking for money. When she refused, he launched into a "vicious" assault fuelled by religious prejudice, a trial heard. Prosecutors said he had yelled "you Muslims wrecked my mum" before leaning over and punching Ms Elasmar to the ground. He struck her at least 14 times and stamped on the back of her head before other customers managed to pull him away. Security video of the attack outraged people across Australia. Sentencing judge Christopher Craigie previously described it as a "wicked and deplorable" attack from an "obviously unwell" man. "The assault was one with a grave potential to cause very serious harm to both the victim and her unborn child," he said on Thursday. Ms Elasmar told the court in September she had felt targeted because of her religion, and had feared for her baby's life and her own. "If nobody intervened, I could have been killed," she said. "I made a conscious decision to turn my abdomen away from his punches. I wanted to protect my baby." She suffered minor injuries and gave birth to a boy three weeks after the attack. But the court heard she had suffered lasting trauma since, including fears about being in public and explaining the attack to her four children. "Islamophobia needs to end. Violence against women needs to stop," she said last month. Lozina refused legal help and represented himself in court. During his trial, he made many incoherent rants, Australian media reported. The judge noted that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a "longstanding struggle with mental illness". He will be eligible for parole in 2022.