Sudan’s Inadequate Rape Laws

By Impunity Watch Africa

Refugees International issued a report on Friday concluding that Sudan must overhaul its rape laws in order to protect its citizens.  Rape victims currently have almost no access to medical care or justice and may even risk being prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage.   The report also stated that government soldiers and related militia are often responsible for the attacks.  Khartoum however continues to deny that rape has been used as a weapon of war in Darfur and says that Sudan already punishes rape harshly enough.

Since the conflict in Darfur began four years ago, more than 2 million people have been displaced and it is estimate that at least 200,000 have died.  According to the report, the rape of women in Darfur has been occurring on a massive scale.  The government military, security services, police and border guards, and Janjaweed militias are all granted immunity.  The report also stated that the government continues to harass non-governmental organizations who work with rape victims and doctors who provide treatment.

Refugees International states that the government is more likely to punish and take action against those who report the rape, rather than those actually guilty of the crime.  The report states that although the high incidence of sexual violence against women and girls has been highly documented, existing regulations make it “all but impossible” to prosecute the rapists.  Women who report a rape are often prosecuted for having sex outside the marriage, punishable by 100 lashes or death by stoning.

The report includes 24 recommendations for changes, including the need for more judges and police officers, and expanding its definition of rape to include sexual assault with objects, such as rifle barrels.
Download the full report

For more information, please also see:

AllAfrica – Urgent Need to Reform Rape Laws, Says NGO – 29 June 2007

BBC – Sudan Rape Laws ‘Need Overhaul’ – 29 June 2007

Sudan Tribune – Sudan Must Reform Law to End Rape in Darfur – Aid Group – 29 June 2007

Reuters – Sudan Must Rewrite Rape Laws to Protect Victims – 28 June 2007

Niger Rebels Release 30 Wounded Soldiers

By Impunity Watch Africa

Rebels in Niger released 30 wounded soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today in the Sahara desert.  The rebel group Niger Movement for Justice (NMJ) has carried out a number of raids on military targets in the northern region.  Last week they killed 15 soldiers and took dozens hostage during a raid on a remote army outpost.   The 30 most seriously wounded were released, however several hostages still remain.

Niger is a former French colony whose vast desert has long been a location and hotbed of dissent, which has largely been beyond the government’s control. Niger’s government, more than 1,000 km away in the capital, is hoping to cash in on the vast reserves of uranium by granting dozens of new exploration permits, particularly to the Chinese.

The NMJ has come out strongly against this proposed plan.  A spokesman told Reuters that they “condemn what’s being done: giving extraction, exploitation and exploration permits to China. … They’re not welcome because they don’t work with locals, they don’t employ locals, and they respect the environment even less.”

The MNJ claims their campaign against the government is also in retaliation for the arbitrary arrests and killing of civilians in the north during security clampdowns. At least 33 soldiers have been killed since the rebels launched their campaign in February.

For more information please see:

BBC – Niger Rebels Free Wounded Troops – 29 June 2007

Independence – Niger rebels hand prisoners to Red Cross – 28 June 2007

Reuters – Niger rebels hand wounded prisoners to Red Cross – 28 June 2007

Reuters – Sahara Uranium – 27 June 2007

Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands face danger

The Galapagos Islands might become listed as “in danger” by Unesco at their World Heritage Committee occurring this week in New Zealand.  Ecuador, the territory’s ruler, submitted an application to Unesco to further protect the Galapagos because of their fragile ecosystem.  Unesco protects 830 sites all over the world, called World Heritage Sites, that are considered to have “outstanding universal values.”  The islands gained World Heritage Site statues in 1978.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa declared in April that since the islands were home to many endangered species and unique plant and animal life that are at risk, the islands were a priority for national action.  Species on the islands include tiny penguins, marine iguanas, and venerable giant tortoises.  The islands are Ecuador’s top tourist draw.  However, because of the drastic increase in tourists the islands are suffering an environmental and social crisis and are in dire need of restrictions.  Tourism has increased by 12% annually with over a 150% increase on passengers from cruise ships in the past 15 years alone.  This drastic increase is leading to the decline of the islands.  The islands face invasive species that are brought with tourists and migrants that compete and destroy the native species.

The increased rate of tourism has brought workers from the mainland to work in construction, restaurants and cruise ships which brings the total residents of the islands to 20,000.  There is a large need for cheap labor on the islands because of the industries that come along with tourism such as restaurants, hotels, and cleaners.  Thousands of migrants coming into the country has been a large source of the problem with the islands ecosystem.

In May 2007, rangers in an ecological reserve were in dispute with the Ecuadorian Armed Forces about illegal fishing in protected waters.  This dispute showed how many practices are damaging the site.  Ecologists say that the problem in the Galapagos is deeper then the government has publicly acknowledged.  The increase in people and of non-native species is threatening the ecosystem throughout the islands.

Ecuador may soon need to place restrictions on outsiders coming into the islands in order to protect them.  There is a need to redo the tourism model for the islands by reducing the amount of tourists while maintaining high revenues.  In the past year, the tourism in the islands brought in $486 million for Ecuador which is the fourth largest source behind oil, bananas, and fishing.  Fernando Ortiz, head of Conservation International, states that action needs to be taken to stop tourism as “this place could turn into another Disneyland.”  However, some argue that the tourism is not the reason for the decline as most visitors stay on cruise ships.  Rocio Martinez, who is president the islands Chamber of Commerce, argues that the islands are based on tourism and they should take advantage of the environment and benefit from the tourism.

For more information, see:

http://environment.independent.co.uk/article2697805.ece

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-22-galapagos_N.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6241416.stm http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19281278/

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N26367053.htm

Police Raid Brazil Slum

Police in Rio De Janeiro raided the city slum, Alemao, arresting drug traffickers and confiscating drugs and weapons. Armed cars and over 1,300 policeman entered the slum on June 27 in an effort to show their force before the Pan American Games next month.

Gangsters placed barricades and oil slicks in alleys to prevent the armed cars and police from getting into the slum. The raid lasted for five hours as police battled gang members. According to state security, 13 suspects were killed and one policeman and 10 others were wounded. Police arrest four more suspects. Since May 2, 40 people have been killed and 80 injured since conflict in the Alemao started with the killing of two police officers.

The tactics of Brazil’s police force has been opposed by many human rights groups saying that police shoot indiscriminately and target people who are “suspected traffickers.” Human rights groups also criticize the police of victimizing the poor who live in the slums. Rio De Janeiro is home to one of the highest murder rates in the world, comparable to war zones in some places. In the first quarter of 2007 over 1,800 people were killed.

Officials announced that 2,000 more police officers will be sent to Rio De Janerio in order to increase security of the Pan American Games.

For more information, see:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N27321895.htm

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/27/america/LA-GEN-Brazil-Violence.php

IDF Operations in Gaza and West Bank

On June 27, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) carried out two operations in Gaza, one in Gaza City and the other in the southern city of Khan Younis.  The IDF states that the purpose of the incursions was to disrupt the terrorist infrastructure inside Gaza by finding and seizing militants and their weapons.  The incursions consisted of air strikes, as well a ground assault led by tanks.  The IDF claims that it “hit” 15 militants, while the media reports that 11 militants were killed, along with 2 civilians.  In addition, 40 people were injured, some in critical condition, and several dozens were arrested.  IDF reported that two soldiers were injured in these operations.

Then, early June 28, IDF went into the West Bank city of Nablus.  Witnesses stated that around 80 jeeps filled with Israeli soldiers entered the city.  Israeli troops interrupted radio and television programs and warned Palestinians to remain at home.  Again, IDF justified the incursion by stating that Nablus is a “hotbed” for terrorism and that the goal was to disrupt terror activity.  Israeli troops arrested two men suspected of being Fatah fighters and confiscated weapons.  Five IDF soldiers were wounded in a bombing in Nablus.  Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed branch of Fatah claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Both Fatah and Hamas leadership condemned Israel’s actions.   Hamas accused Israel and Fatah of conspiring to pressure Hamas in Gaza.  While Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the emergency Palestinian government, viewed the aggression as Israeli attempts to undermine the Palestinian government’s attempts to end the chaos.  Abbas condemned both of these military operations; calling the IDF’s actions as “criminal”.  He added that Fatah is against violence of any kind and criticized the launching of Qassam rockets.  Recently, Abbas vocalized his desire to disband all militias in both Gaza and the West Bank, even those affiliated with Fatah.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera:  “Israeli troops raid Nablus”  28 June 2007. 

Gulf News:  “Israel raids downtown Nablus”  28 June 2007. 

Gulf News:  “Israeli raids stoke war fears”  28 June 2007. 

IDF:  “Nablus:  an officer and soldier severely injured”  28 June 2007. 

Washington Post:  “At least 14 Palestinians killed as Israeli military enters Gaza”  28 June 2007. 

Al Jazeera:  “Israel launches deadly Gaza raids”  27 June 2007. 

IDF:  “A summary of today’s events in the Gaza Strip”  27 June 2007. 

International Herald Tribune:  “Israeli raids into Gaza leave 13 dead”  27 June 2007. 

New York Times:  “Israelis kills 11 militants inside Gaza; 2 civilians die”  27 June 2007.