3-30-21 Ghislaine Maxwell: Fourth alleged victim added to charges
Two new US federal charges of sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor have been filed against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The new charges introduce a fourth alleged victim to the case against the ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Ms Maxwell is accused of recruiting an underage girl for sex with Epstein at his home in Palm Beach, Florida. There was no immediate comment on the new accusations from her lawyers. Ms Maxwell is currently in jail in New York awaiting trial. The two new charges in the amended indictment relate to the period 2001 and 2004. Before Monday Ms Maxwell had faced six charges: four relate to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14. The other two are allegations of perjury in 2016. If convicted on the first six charges, which she denies, she would face up to 35 years in prison. Ms Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, was in a relationship with financier Epstein in the 1990s. She allegedly introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family. Epstein killed himself in 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Earlier this month, Ms Maxwell's brother Ian Maxwell told BBC News his sister, who was arrested last year, was being held in "degrading" conditions in jail in Brooklyn. Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing alleged victims, told the BBC that bail should be "out of the question" as it "would be very upsetting to the victims".
3-29-21 US police bodycam video shows officers berating child aged five
Body camera footage has shown US police officers handcuffing and screaming at a five-year-old boy who had walked away from his school. The video, released on Friday by police in Maryland, shows the two officers telling the boy's mother that she should "beat him". The incident from January 2020 is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the child's mother. Her lawyers allege that the child suffered emotional trauma. The officers from Montgomery County Police Department had found the child a few streets away from the school and the body camera video shows him crying in the back of a police car as he is driven back. The officers follow a member of staff and the boy into the school. A female officer is heard to say, "that's why people need to beat their kids." Inside the assistant headteacher's office, the child begins to cry loudly and the video shows one of the officers screaming directly into the boy's face. "Shut that noise up now!" the officer says. "I hope your momma let me beat you." Later the child's mother arrives at the school and the video shows both officers encouraging her to hit her son. "We want you to beat him," one officer tells her. The mother responds that she would be worried about being sent to prison, but an officer responds: "You don't go to prison for beating your child." One officer then handcuffs the child in front of his mother, saying to the boy: "You know what these are for? These are for people who don't know how to listen and don't know how to act." The officer removes the handcuffs after about a minute. Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando - who asked for the video to be released - said the footage had made him "sick", the Washington Post reported. "We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the seat of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer's lungs, inches from his face. This is violence," he said. A statement from the Montgomery County school authority described the video as "extremely difficult" to watch. "There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way," the statement said.
3-29-21 Alabama Shakes drummer Steven Johnson arrested on child abuse charges
Steven Johnson, the drummer for Grammy award-winning US rock band Alabama Shakes, has been arrested on child abuse charges. Johnson was taken into custody at Alabama's Limestone County Jail on Wednesday, news outlets report. A grand jury indicted him on charges of wilful torture, abuse and cruelly beating or otherwise wilfully maltreating a child. Bond is set at $21,500 (£15,580) with an arraignment date set for 7 April. Johnson, 35, previously pleaded guilty in March last year to violating a domestic violence protection order in Limestone County. He received a suspended sentence of a year in jail, with 24 months on probation. Alabama Shakes have been on hiatus since 2018. The roots-rock revivalists won a host of Grammys for their 2012 debut album, Boys & Girls, and its 2015 follow-up, Sound & Colour, before lead singer Brittany Howard launched a solo career.
3-19-21 China sending children of exiled Uighur parents to orphanages, says Amnesty
China has forcibly separated Uighur families by taking young children into state orphanages, according to human rights group Amnesty International. In a new report, Amnesty has called on China to release all Uighur children being held in orphanages without the consent of their families. The charity spoke to parents who left children with relatives in China when they were forced to flee the country. Rights groups say China has detained more than a million Uighurs. The Chinese government has also faced allegations of a wide range of human rights abuses against the Uighur people and other Muslim minorities, including forced labour, forced sterilisation, sexual abuse and rape. The government denies it is holding Uighurs in detention camps in the Xinjiang region in north-western China. It says the camps are "re-education" facilities being used to combat terrorism. Because access to Xinjiang is heavily restricted by the Chinese, Amnesty spoke to Uighurs who were able to flee Xinjiang before the repression of the Uighur people intensified in 2017. Mihriban Kader and Ablikim Memtinin fled from Xinjiang to Italy in 2016 after being harassed by police and pressured to give up their passports, Amnesty said. They left four children in the temporary care of grandparents, but the grandmother was taken to a detention camp while the grandfather was interrogated by police, the charity said. "Our other relatives didn't dare to look after my children after what had happened to my parents," Mihriban told Amnesty. "They were afraid that they would be sent to camps, too." In November 2019, Mihriban and Ablikim received a permit from the Italian government to bring their children to join them, but the children were seized by Chinese police on the way and sent to a state-run orphanage, Amnesty said. "Now my children are in the hands of the Chinese government and I am not sure I will be able to meet them again in my lifetime," Mihriban said. (Webmaster's comment: While America has separated immigrant children from their parents and kept them in steel animal cages!)
3-15-21 Nigeria primary school children abducted in Kaduna state
Gunmen have abducted students and teachers from a primary school in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state, an official and eyewitnesses have said. This is the first time a primary school has been raided by gangs suspected to be carrying out abductions for ransom. Since December about 800 secondary school students have been seized. All of them were later released, but 39 mostly female students are still in captivity following their abduction from a college in Kaduna on Thursday. In the latest attack, gunmen on motorcycles stormed the primary school in Rama village in Birnin Gwari local government area as children were arriving for classes in the morning, eyewitnesses told the BBC. Security forces and local vigilantes are trying to pursue the gang. Kaduna state commissioner for internal security Samuel Aruwan said they were still trying to ascertain the number of pupils and teachers abducted. The abductions have raised concerns about the growing insecurity in northern Nigeria, and the failure to protect schools. Last week's abduction took place from a college, which is located near a military training academy. State authorities say that 180 students and staff were rescued by the army, but 39 students were still missing. Students and teachers are usually released after negotiations with the kidnappers. Many Nigerians believe that ransom payments are made, and this is fuelling the problem, reports the BBC's Ishaq Khalid from the capital Abuja. A recent report released by Kaduna state authorities said nearly 3,000 people in the state were killed or abducted by criminal gangs last year. Last week, neighbouring Niger state announced it was shutting all secondary schools for a fortnight for "risk assessments". Three other northern states - Kano, Yobe and Katsina - have also shut some secondary schools.
3-12-21 Circle of Hope: Boarding school couple charged after TikTok abuse allegations
The owners of a shuttered religious boarding school in Missouri, USA, are facing dozens of criminal charges after abuse allegations were made on TikTok. Boyd and Stephanie Householder face more than 100 charges, including dozens relating to child neglect and abuse. Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the pair had perpetrated "horrific, sexual, physical, and mental abuse". Their daughter, Amanda, has been vocal about exposing alleged abuse at the Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch they ran. She set up in a TikTok page in 2020 which gave a platform to people voicing allegations about the institution. After the videos gained prominence, the Cedar County Sheriff's Department opened an investigation and about two dozen girls were removed by state authorities. The couple then shut the boarding school, which they started in 2006, and placed the property up for sale, according to local reports. Both pleaded not guilty during their initial court appearance on Wednesday. Boyd Householder, 71, faces 79 felony charges and one misdemeanour charge. The charges include accusations of repeated statutory sodomy, statutory rape and sexual contact with a student under the age of 17. He also faces 56 charges of abuse or neglect of a child and one count of child molestation. Allegations of physical abuse by Mr Householder include incidents where he allegedly slapped, hit and struck girls with objects. He is also accused of pushing a victim's face into manure and pouring hot sauce down a victim's throat, among other offences. The 22 charges against Mrs Householder, 55, do not involve sexual contact but detail allegations of neglect and abuse and the use of restraints - including placing one victim in a "secluded room with no light or sound for an extensive period of time". The Missouri Attorney General said officials had identified 16 victims "so far" and described the case as "one of the most widespread... against young girls and women in Missouri history". More than a dozen former residents of the ranch previously detailed their experiences to NBC's Dateline programme, where they alleged cruel punishments like withholding food and being forced to stand at a wall for hours at time. The couple previously dismissed allegations in an interview with the Kansas City Star newspaper last year, saying the alleged victims "were angry and they're bitter" about their lives.
3-12-21 Nigeria student kidnapping near Kaduna army base
Gunmen have abducted dozens of students from a college in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, authorities say. The attackers stormed the institution in the town of Mando overnight. State authorities say that 180 students and staff were rescued by the Nigerian army in the early hours of Friday, but about 30 students remain missing. It is not yet clear who was behind the raid on the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, which is located near a military training academy. About 800 students have been seized since December in several raids on schools in northern Nigeria. They have all been released after negotiations with the gunmen. The BBC's Ishaq Khalid in Abuja say this is the first such attack on a college on the outskirts of a major city - most previous abductions from schools happened in remote areas. Our reporter says the audacious attack so close to a military site comes as an embarrassment for the Nigerian authorities, who keep assuring citizens they are trying to tackle the county's insecurity. Both the federal government and the Kaduna state government say they are averse to negotiations with armed gangs, many of whom profit from weak security infrastructure through ransom payments after kidnappings. A recent report released by Kaduna state authorities said nearly 3,000 people in the state were killed or abducted by criminal gangs last year. This week, neighbouring Niger state announced it was shutting all secondary schools for a fortnight for "risk assessments". Three other northern states - Kano, Yobe and Katsina - have also shut some secondary schools. Recent school kidnappings in Nigeria: 11 March - 13 pupils abducted from a school in Damaga in Zamfara state, 26 February - 279 schoolgirls seized in Jangebe, Zamfara state, 25 January - Gunmen kidnap seven children from an orphanage in the capital, Abuja, 17 February - One pupil killed; 42 staff, students and family members taken from Kagara, Niger state, 19 December - More than 80 schoolchildren kidnapped from Mahuta village, Katsina state, 11 December - More than 300 boys abducted from a school in Kankara, Katsina state.
3-4-21 Nigeria kidnapped girls: Shots fired at Zamfara reunion ceremony
A reunion of kidnapped daughters and their parents in Jangebe, Nigeria, turned violent on Wednesday when armed forces reportedly opened fire. At least three people were reportedly shot at the official handover ceremony. It is unclear if there were any deaths. Parents were said to have become frustrated at how long the ceremony was taking and started throwing stones at government officials. The 279 girls were kidnapped by armed men while at school last Friday. They were then freed on Tuesday They were kept in the custody of the Zamfara state government, and given medical treatment in the state capital Gusau, before Wednesday's official handover ceremony. UN experts have called for the traumatised pupils to receive urgent rehabilitation. One mother at the reunion told AFP news agency that parents became angry at the length of the reunion because they wanted to get back home before dark, as the roads were unsafe. The Zamfara state government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Jangebe in response to the shootings. Authorities also demanded that all market activities in the town stop until further notice, claiming that they had found evidence that such activities were helping criminals operate in the area. The government's spokesperson did not explain how this was connected with Wednesday's incident. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a no-fly zone across the state on Tuesday, and banned all mining activities. No group has yet said it carried out the kidnapping. But it is believed to be the work of criminal gangs who often stage kidnaps for ransom in Zamfara, rather than the Boko Haram Islamist group behind the 2014 kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok, hundreds of miles away.
3-2-21 Nigeria school abduction: Hundreds of girls released by gunmen
A group of nearly 300 girls who were kidnapped from a school in north-western Nigeria last week have been released, a local official says. The girls were abducted by unidentified gunmen from their boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara state, on Friday and taken to a forest, police said. The state's governor said on Tuesday that the group had been freed and the girls were now safe. Such kidnappings are carried out for ransom and are common in the north. Dozens of the girls were seen gathered at a government building in Zamfara after they were taken there in a fleet of mini-buses. "It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students... from captivity," Governor Bello Matawalle wrote on Twitter. "This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts," he added. "I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe." The authorities said 279 girls had been freed, adding that a figure given last week by police that 317 had been kidnapped was no longer accurate. One official told Reuters news agency that the discrepancy was because of the fact that some girls had fled shortly after being abducted. "Most of us got injured... and we could not carry on walking," one of the girls told the BBC. "They said they [would] shoot anybody who did not continue to walk," she added. "We walked across a river and they hid us and let us sleep under shrubs in a forest." The group's release was secured through negotiations between government officials and the abductors, authorities in Zamfara state told the BBC. Mr Matawalle has denied paying for the girls to be released, but last week President Muhammadu Buhari admitted state governments had paid kidnappers "with money and vehicles" in the past and urged them to review the policy. President Buhari said he felt "overwhelming joy" at the news of the girls' release. "[I am] pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident," he said.
3-1-21 Nigeria's school abductions: Why children are being targeted
Since December, more than 600 students have been abducted from schools in north-west Nigeria, highlighting a worrying development in the country's kidnap-for-ransom crisis. Friday's kidnapping of 317 students from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state, was the second mass kidnap from schools in less than 10 days. Twenty-seven boys and their teachers who were taken from a school in Kagara, Niger state on 17 February were released on Saturday. The authorities say recent attacks on schools in the north-west have been carried out by "bandits", a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers, Fulani herdsmen and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money. Many here believe that a weak security infrastructure and governors who have little control over security in their states - the police and army are controlled by the federal government - and have resorted to paying ransoms, have made mass abductions a lucrative source of income. It is an accusation the governors deny. Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle, who in the past has promised "repentant" bandits with houses, money and cars, said people "not comfortable [with his] peace initiative" were sabotaging his efforts to end the crisis. Until now, kidnap victims have generally been road travellers in Nigeria's north-west, who pay between $20 and $200,000 for their freedom, but since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students. Kidnapping hundreds of students rather than road travellers, guarantees publicity and government involvement in negotiations, which could mean millions of dollars in ransom payments. Security expert Kemi Okenyodo believes that this has made the abductions lucrative for criminal gangs.
2-27-21 Nigeria kidnappings: Hunt for 300 girls as second abducted school group freed
Police in Nigeria have launched a search and rescue operation for 317 girls kidnapped from a school in the state of Zamfara. The operation comes as 42 people kidnapped from a boarding school in a similar incident last week in Niger state were released. The kidnappings are carried out for ransom and are common in the north. President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the latest kidnapping as "inhumane and totally unacceptable". The United Nations Children Fund also condemned the abduction of the girls and called for their safe release. The 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs. Nigerian police said in a statement that "a co-ordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets" was under way. Two helicopters have been deployed. Police also appealed for calm. Residents of the town of Jangebe, where the abduction took place, have reacted angrily, attacking vehicles that entered. The Vanguard newspaper said that a convoy of journalists was attacked by a mob. Friday's attack happened at 01:00 local time (midnight GMT) when a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe. Some reports say the girls, aged 12 to 16, have been taken to the Dangulbi forest. Zamfara state has closed all boarding schools. No group has so far admitted carrying out the attack. A total of 42 people including 27 students, kidnapped from a boarding school in Kagara in the north-central state of Niger 10 days ago, have been freed. An armed gang had stormed the school when the pupils were asleep. One boy was killed. The group was also taken to a nearby forest.
2-26-21 John Geddert: Ex-US Olympics coach found dead after sex assault charges
A former US Olympics gymnastics coach has killed himself hours after he was charged with sexual assault and human trafficking, officials say. Michigan's attorney general confirmed the death of John Geddert, hours after outlining 24 charges against him. Geddert was head coach of the women's gymnastics team in 2012 and worked closely with team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in jail in 2018 for abusing more than 250 girls from his position. The widespread abuse revelations have caused intense scrutiny of USA Gymnastics and criticism of how it safeguards athletes. Geddert, 63, had owned the training facility in Michigan where Nassar had served as the gym's doctor. A number of gymnasts accused him of abusive behaviour when they testified during Nassar's trial. British gymnasts take legal action over alleged abuse. He was expected to turn himself in on Thursday afternoon but did not appear, the attorney general's office said. "My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel later said in a statement. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved." Earlier, Ms Nessel had announced 24 separate charges against Geddert that "focus around multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple young women". Two of the counts involved the alleged sexual assault of a girl between the age of 13 and 16. He also faced 14 human trafficking charges for allegedly subjecting "his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm". Geddert "neglected those injuries that were reported to him by the victims and used coercion, intimidation, threats and physical force to get them to perform to the standard he expected," the attorney general's statement said. A lawyer for some of Geddert's alleged victims had earlier welcomed the interpretation of human trafficking laws in the case and said it marked "an important step in child protection" to potentially deter similar actions by others.
2-26-21 Nigeria's Zamfara school abduction: More than 300 Nigerian girls missing
More than 300 schoolgirls have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a school in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara state, police say. Security officers have been dispatched to the town of Jangebe where the girls were seized early on Friday morning. Local officials have confirmed the attack but have not given more details. This is the latest mass abduction targeting schools in recent weeks. Armed gangs often seize schoolchildren for ransom. At least 42 people, including 27 students, who were kidnapped last week in Kagara, in neighbouring Niger state, are yet to be released. The 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs. Friday's attack happened at 01:00 local time (midnight GMT) when a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe town with pick-up vehicles and motorcycles, a teacher told news site Punch. Some of the gunmen were dressed as government security forces, the report said, adding that they forced the schoolgirls in the vehicles. But other witnesses have told the BBC that the armed men arrived on foot at the school. The witness told BBC Hausa that more than 100 gunmen entered the school. "They broke the school gate and shot at the security man. Then they moved into the hostels and woke up the girls, telling them it was time for prayers. After gathering all of them, the girls were crying and they took them away to the forest. They were also shooting in the air as they were marching to the forest," the witness said. Distraught parents have gathered outside the school and some have gone out into the bush to look for their daughters, witnesses say. A teacher told the BBC that of 421 students in the school at the time, only 55 had been accounted for.
2-24-21 Ghislaine Maxwell offers to give up UK and French citizenship for bail
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has offered to give up her UK and French citizenship in exchange for bail. Ms Maxwell is accused of helping the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein groom young girls, which she denies. She is due to stand trial in July. In a court filing, her lawyers said she had no desire to leave the US. She would be willing to renounce her foreign citizenship "to eliminate any opportunity for her to seek refuge in those countries", the filing added. Her lawyers also proposed that her and her husband's assets be placed in a monitored account, to prevent her being able to use the money to leave the country. Ms Maxwell has been in jail in Brooklyn, New York, since she was arrested last July at her secluded mansion in the state of New Hampshire. This is her third application for bail, after two previous attempts were unsuccessful. In her last bid for bail in December, her lawyers proposed that she be allowed to return home with armed guards to prevent her from escaping. Prosecutors then said there was a risk that, if bailed, Ms Maxwell could use her wealth to flee to France or the UK where she is a citizen and suggested she might try to avoid extradition. Ms Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, was in a relationship with financier Jeffrey Epstein in the 1990s. She allegedly introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York, Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family. Epstein took his own life in prison in August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Four of the charges against Ms Maxwell relate to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016. She faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted in her trial in July.
2-21-21 Greece #Metoo: Prominent actor Dimitris Lignadis held over rape accusations
Prominent Greek actor and director Dimitris Lignadis has been arrested over underage rape allegations. Mr Lignadis, 56, is accused of raping a 14-year-old boy in 2010, and of a second assault, details of which have not been made public. The former artistic director of the National Theatre of Greece denies all the accusations, his lawyer said. He said Mr Lignadis was arrested after turning up voluntarily at a police station in Athens on Saturday. He is being held in custody pending an appearance before an examining magistrate, according to the Ekathimerini newspaper. Mr Lignadis resigned as director of the National Theatre of Greece earlier this month, complaining about a "toxic climate of rumours, innuendo, and leaks". His arrest comes weeks after former Greek Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou revealed she had been sexually assaulted by an unnamed Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) executive, prompting a #Metoo movement in the country.
2-17-21 Nigeria gunmen raid Kagara school and abduct boys
Gunmen have killed a school pupil and abducted 27 other children in a night-time raid on their boarding school in north-central Nigeria, state governor Abubakar Sani Bello has said. Three members of staff and 12 of their relatives were also abducted, he added. About 600 boys were asleep in their dormitories when the school in Kagara town in Niger state was raided, the principal Danasabe Ubaidu told the BBC. The security forces have been deployed to help with rescue operations. The motive for the attack is unclear, but criminal gangs often carry out kidnappings for ransom in parts of Nigeria, says the BBC's Ishaq Khalid in the capital Abuja. On Monday about 20 people who were returning from a wedding ceremony were abducted after an attack on their bus in Niger state. Their fate is unclear. In December more than 300 schoolboys were seized in the town of Kankara in the north-western state of Katsina. They were later released following negotiations with the gunmen. In the latest attack, the gunmen wore military uniforms and stormed the state-run boarding school for boys in huge numbers, before taking students into a nearby forest, the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed security source and an official as saying. Troops with aerial support were trying to track down the attackers, AFP quoted the security source as saying. Mr Ubaidu told the BBC that some of the children had managed to flee into nearby bushes and were now returning. An uncle of four children at the school said that all his nephews survived, but another pupil was killed. "They told us that some people in military uniforms knocked at the doors of their dormitories and asked them to come out for morning assembly. But the students dispersed in different directions. "One of them said his colleague was shot dead beside him by the gunmen as he tried to flee," the uncle said in an interview with BBC Hausa.
2-8-21 Dutch suspend foreign adoptions after abuses found
The Netherlands is suspending all adoptions from abroad with immediate effect, after an official inquiry found many abuses. The investigation focused on the adoption of children from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka from 1967 to 1998. Minister for Local Protection Sander Dekker said Dutch governments had failed for years to intervene. The abuses included coercing or paying birth mothers to give up children. The investigative committee found that Dutch government officials were aware of wrongdoing and that some were involved in abuses, though it did not find evidence of bribery. Mr Dekker said officials had failed by "looking away from abuses for years". "The government has not done what should be expected of it and should have taken a more active role in preventing abuse, and that is a painful observation. There are apologies for this. And I therefore offer these apologies to the adoptees today, on behalf of the cabinet." One Dutch woman who is searching for her birth parents in Indonesia told the BBC she welcomed the government's decision, saying the current system had encouraged the trafficking of children. Widya Astuti Boerma, 45, said "Dutch inter-country adoption is still based on a money incentive procedure and this motivates trafficking. "Today, inter-country adoption is still focused on adoption parents who are looking for a child, and this should actually be the other way around." Jerome Wirawan of the BBC Indonesian Service reports that more than 3,000 Indonesian children were adopted by Dutch nationals during the decade until 1984, when Indonesia all but banned the practice. Indonesia - formerly the Dutch East Indies - declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945. The investigative committee led by Tjibbe Joustra, a top civil servant, concluded that things had also gone wrong before and after the period of 1967-1998, on which it had focused. The system was still susceptible to fraud, and abuses still occurred "up to the present day", the report said.
2-6-21 French couple jailed after boy's fatal beating revealed accidentally in call
A French couple have been jailed over the death of the woman's toddler - from a beating she inadvertently revealed in a call to emergency services. Loïc Vantal, 28, got a 20-year sentence for dealing the blows that killed three-year-old Tony in November 2016. The mother, Caroline Létoile, aged 19 at the time, called emergency services to report that the boy was unconscious. While on hold, and unaware the call was being recorded, she told her partner: "I said he fell down the stairs." Létoile was also heard saying: "The stair will do, right? The stairs to the apartment… And I'm hiding all the stuff from the argument." When medics arrived at Létoile's flat in the eastern city of Reims, they found the child's lifeless body covered in bruises. He was pronounced dead later that night at the hospital. When police confronted Vantal, he admitted hitting the child repeatedly since he had met Létoile three months earlier. On Friday, after a week-long trial in Reims, he was convicted of using "deliberate violence leading to death". Létoile received a three-year jail sentence for "failing to report physical abuse".
2-5-21 Gregory Dow: US missionary jailed for sex crimes in Kenya orphanage
A US man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for abusing underage girls in an orphanage in Kenya. Christian missionary Gregory Dow set up the orphanage with his wife in 2008. "Gregory Dow was the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing," said the FBI's Michael Driscoll. Last year, Dow pleaded guilty in the US to four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place. The orphanage was partly funded by churches in Lancaster county in the US state of Pennsylvania and was in operation for almost a decade before Dow fled in 2017. Kenyans were outraged when it emerged that Dow had left Kenya soon after the abuse allegations came to light. How he had managed to flee? This is one of many questions this abuse scandal has brought up. People asked why someone who had been previously convicted of similar crimes was allowed to open an orphanage. Given that he was jailed in the US, some are now questioning Kenya's ability - or willingness - to bring foreign sex offenders to justice. The FBI acted on a tip-off and Mr Dow was charged in July 2019. That tip-off was from a Kenyan woman living in the US who had returned to the area near the orphanage to care for her mother, reports the Washington Post. The newspaper says Margaret Ruto found her family's village "in uproar" after two girls, aged 12 and 14, had escaped the orphanage and shared stories of sexual abuse. She "turned detective" and took down the testimonies of the abused girls herself. Acting on the information provided by Ms Ruto, the FBI confirmed that Dow had sexually abused at least four teenage girls between 2013 and 2017. "Two of the girls were as young as 11 years old when the abuse began. "The defendant's wife even transported the victims to a medical clinic to have birth control devices implanted into their arms, which allowed Dow to perpetrate his crimes without fear of impregnating his victims," the US attorney's office said in a statement after Dow was sentenced. Dow was already a known sex offender before he started the orphanage. In 1996 he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, for which he received two years' probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender for a decade.
2-3-21 The migrant girl, 9, detained by US for 531 days and counting
A mother and her daughter, both from El Salvador, have spent more than 500 days at an immigration detention centre in the US, despite a rule limiting the detention of under-age migrants to a maximum of 20 days. Luisa* has the sweet voice of a nine-year-old girl, but she sometimes sounds wise beyond her years. She has had to write letters to legislators, asking authorities to release her and Ariana*, her mother, from a US government detention centre for migrant families. (*Both "Luisa" and her mother, "Ariana", are under assumed names in this report. They have asked to stay anonymous because they are at risk of deportation.) As of 2 February, she has spent 531 days in US government custody together with her mother, as they try to avoid deportation following an unsuccessful asylum request. According to legal aid organisations operating in the country's three migrant family detention centres, Luisa, who is from El Salvador, is currently the migrant child who has spent the longest time in the custody of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). She has spent almost all that time at the South Texas Family Residential Centre, in Dilley, Texas. "All my friends left already. Me and my other friend, we are the only ones left," she says over the telephone. According to existing US rules, migrant children must be released after spending a maximum of 20 days in detention by ICE, following the so-called Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997. However, Luisa and four other children aged 3 to 16, together with their mothers, have spent more than 500 days at the same facility. Luisa could have left the detention centre to stay with another relative in the US. But mother and child decided to stay together while they fight in the courts against government efforts to deport them. Ariana says: "Nobody can replace a mother. I can't leave my daughter with them [her relatives in the United States]. My daughter is very young, she needs me to take care of her. How could I leave her?" Immigration lawyers and advocates say that ICE should release the families instead of putting them in a position to decide to separate from their children while detained and at risk of deportation. During the past electoral campaign, US President Joe Biden spoke against family detentions and demanded in June that migrant children and their parents be released "immediately". Luisa's case shows the complications of an immigration policy that has often been described as "dysfunctional".
1-27-21 The child environmentalist receiving death threats in Colombia
An 11-year-old boy who received death threats after calling for better access to education during the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised by the UN for his activism. Francisco Vera is well-known in his native Colombia for his environmental campaigns and defence of children's rights. On 15 January he received a death threat from an anonymous Twitter account after posting a video urging the government to improve internet connectivity for children studying online. Now the UN has hand-delivered a letter to Francisco, congratulating him for his pioneering work in the South American country where it is not uncommon for environmental activists to be killed. In an interview with the BBC, the school student says he welcomes criticism but that violent threats are unacceptable. The incident sparked outrage in Colombia, where violence against human rights activists and environmental leaders is on the rise. It also renewed calls for more civility on social media. "These type of threats are common in Colombia and they often go unpunished," said Lourdes Castro from Somos Defensores, a group that documents attacks against community leaders. "But to threaten an 11-year-old just shows you that we have reached new levels of intolerance and lack of respect for freedom of speech," she explains. In a letter signed by Michelle Bachelet, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organisation thanks Francisco for his activism and says that the world needs more young people with his "passion to protect the planet". "We also agree with you that internet connectivity needs to be improved for boys and girls around the world," the letter adds. It was delivered personally to Francisco by Ms Bachelet's delegate in Colombia. Francisco said he was happy to get recognition and hopes to continue working with his peers on environmental projects this year, including a campaign to ban single-use plastics in Colombia. "Criticism is part of life, and I welcome it as long as it is constructive and respectful," the student told the BBC. "But there is obviously no place for insults and threats."
1-25-21 Malka Leifer: Israel extradites ex-principal accused of child sex abuse in Australia
Israel has extradited to Australia a former principal accused of sexually abusing girls at a school in Melbourne, following a six-year legal battle. Malka Leifer, who is wanted in Australia on 74 sexual assault charges, went to her native Israel in 2008 after allegations of abuse surfaced. She fought her extradition, claiming she was mentally unfit to stand trial, but Israel's Supreme Court rejected her final appeal last December. Ms Leifer has denied the charges. An organisation representing her alleged victims said it was "an incredible day for justice". Ms Leifer, who is in her 50s, faces dozens of charges of child rape and abuse relating to the period when she was headmistress of the Adass Israel School for ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls. Photographs published by Israeli media appeared to show prison officials leading Ms Leifer to a plane at Ben Gurion airport early on Monday. The Ynet news website reported that her ankles and wrists were shackled, and that she was met on board by Australian law enforcement officials. She is flying to Melbourne via Frankfurt, Germany. Israel's justice ministry and Ms Leifer's lawyer later confirmed that she had been extradited. A spokesman for Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the Australian government "does not comment on logistics involving extradition arrangements against individuals until the extradition process has been concluded", according to Reuters news agency. Voice against Child Sex Abuse (VoiCSA), an Australian organisation representing her alleged victims, said in a statement: "So many people have been involved to ensure this day would finally arrive. "Regrettably, many have also been involved in trying to ensure this day would never arrive - despite their significant efforts, they have failed. "We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing."
1-19-21 Olivier Duhamel: French incest allegations prompt victims to speak out
Tens of thousands of people have responded to a social media campaign in France designed to shed light on the problem of sexual abuse within families. The campaign, featuring the hashtag #MeTooInceste (after the #MeToo movement) was started over the weekend by NousToutes, an organisation battling sexual violence in France. Incest in French is used to mean sexual abuse by relatives, including those who are not related by blood. It followed accusations against a prominent political commentator, Olivier Duhamel, who has been accused by his stepdaughter of abusing her twin brother 30 years ago. Mr Duhamel has described the allegations as "personal attacks". The Twitter campaign began late last week with a message by a 67-year-old NousToutes activist known as Marie Chenevance. "It was now or never to break the omerta [code of silence] around this issue," Marie said. In earlier years, she said, activists had met a "wall of silence" when they shared their stories of family abuse. More than 80,000 people have responded to the campaign since Saturday, the organisation says. Mié Kohiyama was one of those who shared her story, alongside a drawing she made when she was five years old. The picture shows a child with no mouth, alongside the words "Help Me" ("au secours", which she spelt "o scour"). Back then, it was her way of speaking about the abuse, she said, but no-one heard the message. "On Saturday, when I posted this tweet," she told me, "it's strange to say, but I was proud of the little girl who drew this picture. "I tell myself that now people can understand these kinds of drawings. Forty years before, it was not possible." Part of the reason the accusations against Mr Duhamel have had such an impact, activists say, is that the account of his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner in her book La Familia Grande describes not just the alleged behaviour itself, but the culture of secrecy that she says surrounded the family. Muriel Salmona, a leading psychologist specialising in sexual violence, says that the issues raised by Mr Duhamel's stepdaughter along with the launch of the new hashtag opened up a "safe space" for victims to speak out. Historically, she says, there has been "almost-total impunity in France" for family abusers, with less than 1% of rape cases against minors ending up in court. "The figures on violence against children are bad for most of Europe," Dr Salmona explained. "But in France there is a current that tolerates sexual violence against children."
1-12-21 Irish government to apologise over mother-and-baby homes
The Irish government is to apologise after an investigation found an "appalling level of infant mortality" in the country's mother-and-baby homes. Established in the 19th and 20th centuries, the institutions housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage. About 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions under investigation. The government said the report revealed the country had a "stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture". Taoiseach (Irish PM) Mícheál Martin said the report described a very dark and difficult chapter in Irish history. "As a nation we must face up to the full truth of our past," he said. The greatest number of admissions was in the 1960s and early 1970s. Many children born in the homes were adopted or taken to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The report said "the women and children should not have been in the institutions" and that many women suffered emotional abuse. The investigators say it appears there was "little kindness" shown to the mothers and "this was particularly the case" during childbirth, which many of the women found "a traumatic experience". The Irish government will apologise for the hurt experienced by the residents of the homes. Mr Martin said "one hard truth" was that "all of society was complicit" in the scandal. "We did this to ourselves as a society - we treated women exceptionally badly; we treated children extremely badly," he said on Tuesday. "We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction. "As a society we embraced judgementalism, moral certainty, a perverse religious morality and control which was so damaging. "But what was very striking was the absence of basic kindness. Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman said the report showed that for decades a "pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future".
11-10-21 Albania races to rescue children from jihadist camp
Eva's pale, triangular face glows in the frame created by her coal-black shawl and hood. Her pale brown eyes gaze straight into the camera. Now 16, she was kidnapped by her father Shkelzen and taken to Syria when she was nine. After seven years of war and then captivity, she looks like she is from another world, capable of nothing, or anything. We cannot print her photograph because it might endanger her life. She is still in the al-Hol camp in northern Syria, where she was taken with over 70,000 other orphans and widows of jihadist Islamic State fighters, when Barghuz, the last IS stronghold, fell in March 2019. Her brother Endri, 14, is luckier. He was brought home from Syria by Albanian special forces in late October 2020, with a woman and three other children. Frail, thin as a rake, he grins with his uncle Xhetan, who is barely able to believe he can hold his nephew again in his arms. "That camp," Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj tells me, "is hell on Earth, as witnessed by our police officers." In the UK, the al-Hol camp is better known as the temporary home of former London schoolgirl and "IS bride" Shamima Begum, who joined the jihadists in 2015 and later had her UK citizenship revoked. The interior minister in Tirana says it is currently home to 30 Albanian children and 10 Albanian women - and the bottom line for Albania is to get all the children home in the next few months. "We think there is a moral obligation to repatriate at least the kids, because they are not terrorists, they are victims of their irresponsible parents," he told the BBC. "But they could be raised up into real monsters if we leave them in the camps and ignore them." Their mothers, on the other hand, should face trial, he believes. Negotiations are going on with both the Kurdish authorities, who run the camps, and the mothers to allow repatriation.
1-5-21 South Korea: Child rapist's release sparks demand for change
The reduced sentence and subsequent release of a man convicted of brutally raping a child has raised fresh debate around South Korea's legal system, reports BBC Korean's David Oh. Twelve years ago, on the morning of 11 December, an eight-year-old girl was walking to school in Ansan, south-west Seoul, when she was kidnapped by Cho Doo-soon, a 56-year-old ex-convict. He took her to a toilet in a nearby church, where he brutally beat and raped her. Na-young - not her real name - survived. But she still suffers physical injuries and mental trauma from the attack. And now, she has had to move: her rapist has been allowed to return to Ansan, where he committed the crime. Cho's new residence is less than 1km (0.6 miles) from Na-young's house. "We didn't want to run away but had no choice. I also wanted to deliver a message that the government did nothing but forced the victim to go into hiding," her father told me just days after Cho was freed, having served a reduced sentence of 12 years. He added that Na-young was reluctant to move because she did not want to leave her close friends. The family were also afraid of exposing their identities by moving. But they felt that it was still their only option. "Many years have passed but still nothing has changed. The burden still falls entirely on the victim," he said. Cho's case sparked massive criticism of the country's judicial system for being lenient on sex offenders. He was initially sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. But an appeal court later reduced the term to 12 years, as he claimed he was drunk when he raped the girl. That's because in South Korea, penalties for crimes committed under the severe influence of alcohol carry far more lenient punishments. The country's criminal code, Article 10 (2), also known as "Sim Sin Mi Yak", says a court can reduce a sentence when a person "who, because of mental disorder, is unable to make discriminations or to control one's will". Meanwhile, the law "Joo Chi Gam Hyung" states that "substance abuse" impairs a person's mental state. (Webmaster's comment: Her life was destroyed! His life should also be destroyed!)
1-4-21 Outcry as 'bean dad' forces hungry child to open tin can
A dad in the US who boasted about his parenting skills after telling his hungry nine-year-old daughter to open a tin of beans or go without food has caused outcry on social media. After six hours the child successfully opened the tin and was finally allowed to eat, he said in now-deleted tweets. The dad, a podcaster, claimed it was a victory for "good parenting". But other parents accused him of neglect, while some suggested he invented the story to get attention. Twitter users nicknamed the father "bean dad" as the incident caused another heated debate on social media, where parenting methods are a frequent cause of disagreement. John Roderick, who is also a musician, shared the story on Saturday on Twitter, explaining that it began when his daughter asked him to make baked beans. After she brought him a tin-opener and can of beans, he asked her how she thought a tin-opener worked, he said. When she said she didn't know, he said he realised "a teaching moment just dropped into my lap". "Apocalypse dad was overjoyed," he added. Explaining that he wanted his daughter to learn how to open a tin of beans, he said she tried for six hours. "She was next to me grunting and groaning trying to get the thing. I should say that spatial orientation, process visualization and order of operation are not things she… intuits. I knew this would be a challenge," he said. Eventually she opened the tin and ate the beans, he explained. The tweets were quickly shared widely as other users condemned the incident, suggesting it was poor parenting. "I feel like it's super valuable to teach kids that they're not alone in the world and that there's no shame in asking other people for help and support," wrote journalist Jason Schreier. Another user suggested Mr Roderick's approach was "ridiculous" - and that he should simply have fed his daughter, and then showed her how to use a can opener.
1-4-21 Nóra Quoirin: 'Misadventure' verdict for girl found in Malaysian jungle
A girl whose body was found in a jungle during a holiday in Malaysia died by misadventure, a coroner has recorded. Nóra Quoirin, 15, from Balham, south-west London, was discovered dead nine days after she went missing from an eco-resort in August 2019. The family said they were "utterly disappointed" with the verdict, which ruled out any criminal involvement. They believe "layers of evidence" that were heard at the inquest point towards Nora having been abducted. The family were staying in Sora House in Dusun eco-resort near Seremban, about 40 miles (65km) south of Kuala Lumpur, when they reported Nóra missing, the day after they had arrived. Nóra, who was born with holoprosencephaly - a disorder which affects brain development - was eventually found by a group of civilian volunteers in a palm-oil plantation less than two miles from the holiday home nine days after vanishing. The Quoirins, whose lawyers had asked the coroner to record an open verdict, said in a statement after the ruling that they have a number of reasons for the abduction theory. These include: Professionally trained canines were unable to follow Nóra's scent. There was an opened window to the chalet with unidentified fingerprints found on the outside. Nóra had "neither the cognitive, nor physical means" to leave the chalet by the window on her own. Hundreds of people relentlessly searched the surrounding area, including where Nóra was found, on the day of or immediately preceding the day of her death. They found no signs of human life. There was a "lack of major physical damage" to Nóra's body despite her "inability to handle terrain as complex as the Seremban jungle". In the statement, issued through the Lucie Blackman Trust, the family said they witnessed 80 slides presented in court as the verdict was given, adding that none of them "engaged with who Nóra really was - neither her personality nor her intellectual abilities". They said: "The coroner made mention several times of her inability to rule on certain points due to not knowing Nóra enough. "It is indeed our view that to know Nóra would be to know that she was simply incapable of hiding in undergrowth, climbing out a window and making her way out of a fenced resort in the darkness unclothed."