Sex Crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

In the South Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo, the scale of violence against women is shocking. According to UN human rights expert, Yakin Erturk, rebels, soldiers, and police in the eastern province are responsible for brutal attacks on local women. Women in South Kivu have been tortured and forced to eat human remains. Moreover, women are violently gang raped often in front of their families and communities.

This year alone, more than 4,500 rape cases have been reported in South Kivu. However, officials believe that there are many more cases that have gone unreported. Erturk stated that “most victims live in inaccessible areas [and] are afraid to report or did not survive the violence,”

While there are 16,000 UN peacekeepers in DRC, many Congolese women continue to suffer from violent rape and sexual assault. Erturk believes that “these acts amount to war crimes and, in some cases, crimes against humanity.”

Furthermore with over six million displaced Congolese people, it is a difficult task for the government to apprehend and punish those responsible for the violence against women. Presently, there has been no formal action taken against identified security personnel who have raped civilians.

For more information, please see:

AP – Sexual Atrocities `Rampant’ in Congo, UN Investigator Says – 31 July 2007

BBC – Shock at Sex Crimes in DR Congo – 30 July 2007

MONUC – South Kivu: 4,500 Sexual Violence Cases in the First Six Months of This Year Alone – 27 July 2007

Stranded Palestinians return to Gaza

When Hamas  took over Gaza in early June, Egypt closed its border crossing and stranded six thousand Palestinians.  While governments discussed the methods of returning these people to their homes, thousands were trapped in Egypt for nearly two months.  Some of the travelers brought little money with them  and consequentially could not afford lodging or food and were forced to seek refuge in mosques or help from aid organizations. 

The reason why these individuals have been trapped for this long is that Israel and Hamas have been in disagreement over which border crossing should be used when these Gazans return home.  Israel wants the stranded individuals to use border crossings located in Israel, where they would have greater control over who enters Gaza and who does not.  Hamas demands that the only crossing to be used is the Rafah crossing in Egypt.  This is because while the crossing is electronically monitored by Israel, the Israel’s control would be limited.

However, despite this disagreement between Israel and Hamas, Israel and Egypt made an agreement on July 28, that permits the return of several hundred stranded Gazans.  The agreement called for 100 Palestinians to be transported into Israel and allowed to return to Gaza on July 29 and over 500 on July 30.  While Hamas threatened to react violently if any other crossing besides Rafah was used, there have been no reports of violence.

Israeli officials approved all of the Palestinians who were permitted to return to Gaza.  As a result, there are reports of favoritism and discrimination.  Some of those left behind said that they were not able to register for return because they were members of the Hamas party, while others claim that the process was made easier for Fatah supporters.

While a small portion of those stranded in Egypt returned home, Egypt and Israel are continuing negotiations regarding the return of the remaining Palestinians.

For more information please see:

Reuters:  “Israel wounds 7 in Gaza; hundreds return from Egypt”  30 July 2007. 

Al Jazeera:  “Gazans return home via Israel”  29 July 2007. 

BBC:  “Palestinians return to Gaza Strip”  29 July 2007. 

International Herald Tribune:  “Plight of stranded Palestinians nears end as more than 100 begin journey home”  29 July 2007. 

Jerusalem Post:  “Over a hundred Gazans return home”  29 July 2007. 

Desperately Waiting

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

Zimbabwe’s condition continues to fall as the country grips the worst crisis since its independence from Britian in 1980.  In an effort to curb the continued despair of the country, President Robert Mugabe has pledged to print more money. This strategy is not likely to help the economic condition given that printing money is a “recipe for inflation”. Economists estimate the inflation rate will likely be twice as high as the current rate of 4,500 percent.

Thousands left their jobs when the government ordered companies to operate at a loss by reducing the price of goods and services by half. Unemployment is presently at 80 percent. Along with food and oil shortages, hospitals are losing kidney patients due to the lack dialysis machines. Furthermore, pharmacies are advising AIDS patients to stock up on their drugs. Roughly 20 percent of Zimbabweans have AIDS and raw materials will soon run out. Another serious problem lies in the breakdowns of water pumps.

An estimated 4,000 Zimbabweans have headed south to South Africa. The Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg has become a virtual refugee camp for 800-900 fleeing Zimbabweans.  South African President Thabo Mbeki warns that next years election in Zimbabwe must be free and fair. Political unrest continues to rise and President Mugabe’s opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), gets stronger as the country falls. President Mbeki, who continues to play mediator between President Mugabe and the MDC, adds that he is confident an agreement would be met.

In the meantime, Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the MDC has decided to intensify the campaign against President Mugabe with the joint coalition of political and social organizations. Mutambara said that the country cannot rely on foreigners to emancipate and liberate it, it must have an alternate plan.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – Mbeki Says Zimbabwe’s Vote Must Be ‘Free and Fair’ – 29 July 2007

Yahoo – South African Church Shelters Desperate Zimbabweans – 29 July, 2007

Yahoo – Mugabe Says He Will Print More Money – 28 July 2007

Yahoo – We Cannot Rely on South African Leader Alone: Zimbabwe Opposition – 28 July 2007

South Korean hostage UPDATE

The Taliban has killed one of the 23 South Korean hostages.  Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu’s bullet-riddled body was found last week and was returned to his family in South Korea.  His family will not hold a funeral or memorial service until the other kidnapped men and women with him are released.

In a turn of events, however, there is speculation that the Taliban has killed a second South Korean hostage on Monday.  This comes only hours after the Afghan government said it negotiated a stay of execution for the group of hostages.  According to the governor of Ghazni province, the Taliban agreed to extend the deadline for the other 22 surviving hostages until noon tomorrow.  Afghan officials say they have not recovered a body and could not confirm the claim.  The hostages have been held since July 17.

A video possibly showing seven of the female hostages was broadcast last night on al-Jazeera television.  The women in the undated, silent video were wearing head scarves and appeared to be unharmed.

The Taliban has set many deadlines for the release of 23 imprisoned insurgents in exchange for the lives of the 23 South Korean hostages.  Reports say, however, that it is unlikely that the Afghan government will release any prisoners in exchange for the hostages, despite Taliban threats.

In March, Afghan President Hamid Karzai approved a deal that freed five captive Taliban insurgents for the release of Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo.  Karzai was later criticized by the United States and Britain, and called the trade a one-time deal.

For more information, please see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/world/asia/30afghan.html

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/30/asia/30taliban.php

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/30/asia/AS-GEN-SKorea-Afghan-Kidnappings.php

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2169856.ece

http://news.bostonherald.com/international/middleEast/view.bg?articleid=1014262

Yemen haven for refugees

Yemen has become a haven for refugees.  Thousands of refugees have fled from Iraq, Ethiopia, and Somalia to Yemen.  They have sought shelter from warfare and to begin a new life.  This massive influx of people has overwhelmed the Yemen government and is creating a possibility of a future “human disaster.”  (News Yemen) 

Since the Iran-Iraq war, many Iraqis have fled to Yemen.  They have been treated better in Yemen than in Jordan or Syria, and thus, it is an attractive destination for educated and skilled Iraqis.  The 70,000 Iraqis in Yemen have thrived.  They have been treated by the principles of Arab Unity.  This means the Yemeni government has extended “rights to work, education, and social benefits on the basis of their being Arabs.”  (YEMEN: Iraqi migrants, refugees await brighter future IRIN.)   Although the Iraqis have spurred the Yemen economy, the Yemeni government recently passed legislation requiring Iraqis entering the country to obtain a visa to slow down immigration.

The Oromos from Ethiopia have poorly treated in Yemen.  They have sought refuge from Eithopia.  “We have come to Yemen in order to escape persecution, torture and killings by the Ethiopian government,” according to Jamal Abdowaday, an Oromo leader in Sana’a. (ETHIOPIA-YEMEN: Oromo migrants fear deportation.   IRIN).  Their fear of the Ethiopian government has placed them in position without bargaining power, since their greatest fear is deportation.  This has made them susceptible to abuses.  Oromos claim local Yemenis mistreat them. “We are subject to harassment, arrests, and discrimination . . .  Our children can’t go to school. They are deprived of education… They have become like animals confined in small rooms. They can’t play in the streets for fear of being beaten or harassed by local children,” Abdowaday added.  Id.  However, the Yemen government denies these allegations and claims that it has treated the Oromos fairly.

The largest influx of refugees lately has been Somalis.  In July alone, 18,000 Somalis have fled Mogadishu.  This has lead to Somalis flooding to Yemen, creating dangerous situations for both the migrants and the Yemen government.  Recently, the UN reported that at least 367 Somalis have died trying to cross into the border.  (Voice of America.)   However, 10,000 Somali refugees enter in Yemen every year, bringing the Somali refugee court to about 64,000 in Yemen.  This influx of refugees has created a strain on the government as it struggles to provide for the refugees. 

The large numbers of refugees has become a difficult problem for the Yemen government.  It strains the nation’s weak economy, and compounds Yemen’s other problems, such as stabilizing the Sa’ana region and eradicating Yemen’s ties with terrorist groups.  Yemen has more closely monitored its media, furthering the problem for the refugees as the voices raising awareness of the refugees’ plight are being quieted.  This could create a future disaster for the refugees, if the Yemeni government cuts corners for the refugees and ignores them to focus on the nation’s other problems, because the plight of the refugees would not be focused on by the official state sponsored media.

News Yemen. Yemen faces critical troubles due to refugees influx. 28 July 2007.

IRIN. ETHIOPIA-YEMEN: Oromo migrants fear deportation. 30 May 2007.

IRIN.  YEMEN: Somali refugees protest perceived injustices. 27 November 2005.

IRIN. YEMEN: Iraqi migrants, refugees await brighter future. 1 July 2007.

Somalia News.  Somalia: Yemen deports Somali refugees. 26 July 2007.

Voice of America. UN: At Least 367 Somali Refugees Killed Trying to Cross Into Yemen. 10 July 2007.

Relief Web. Somalia: Situation Report. 27 July 2007.

UN Condemns Human Rights Violations in Sudan

By Impunity Watch Africa

The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) has criticized Sudan for “widespread and systematic” abuses in a report issued this week.  The HRC, comprising of 18 independent experts, monitors compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, wrapped up a three-week session during which it examined the records for three countries including Sudan.  The HRC expressed concern over reports of torture, discrimination against women, and the use of child soldiers.  There are also reported violations in Darfur, including murder, rape, evictions, and attacks on civilians.

This was the first overall review of Sudan in more than ten years, and the HRC said “widespread and systematic serious human rights violations, including murder, rape, forced displacement and attacks against the civilian population, have been and continue to be committed with total impunity throughout Sudan and particularly in Darfur.” The HRC called on Khartoum to “ensure that no financial support or material is channeled to militias that engage in ethnic cleansing or the deliberate targeting of civilians.”   The committee also expressed concern over payments of “diya,” or blood money, for murder in Sudan, as well as reports of widespread torture in prisons, persistent discrimination against women, and the use of child soldiers.

The HRC is also urging the government of Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court to make sure that human rights violations are investigated and that those responsible are prosecuted at the national or international level.  Currently, Sudanese police, armed forces, and national security forces are immune from prosecution under Sudanese law.   The ICC has already issued arrest warrants for junior cabinet Minister Ahmed Haroun and an allied militia leader, both accused of conspiring to commit war crimes, but Sudan has refused to turn over the suspects.

The UN estimates that 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced during the conflict in Darfur that began four years ago. The government has been accused of sending Arab militias known as janjaweed, which are blamed for the worst human rights violations in Darfur including rape and indiscriminate killings.  The current AU peacekeeping force in Darfur is over-stretched and under-funded, and negotiations are currently taking place for a joint AU-UN force.

For more information, please see:

BBC – UN body criticises Sudan abuses – 27 July 2007

Reuters – UN Rights Body Urges Sudan to Prosecute War Crimes – 27 July 2007

Washington Post – UN Rights Committee Criticizes Sudan – 27 July 2007

VOA – UN Condemns Gross Human Rights Violations in Sudan – 27 July 2007

Gorillas in DRC Brutally Murdered to Convey Political Message

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

In Democratic Republic of Congo, four endangered mountain gorillas were found brutally murdered this week in Virunga National Park. The four silverback gorillas are known to researchers as the Rugendo family. These four animals belonged to a pack of twelve gorillas which were often visited by tourists.

Park staff and WildlifeDirect officials positioned in Virunga’s Bukima camp reported hearing gunshots at 8 p.m. on Saturday coming from within the dark forest.

Since January, seven large endangered apes have been shot dead. According to conservationists, poachers were not responsible for these vicious killings because they would have taken the bodies for food or sale.

Conversely, conservationists believe that the “senseless and tragic” killings were an act of sabotage committed by a group trying to convey the political message to keep rangers out of Virunga National Park. Presently, the protected park is under pressure from “outside exploitation,” including the lucrative charcoal trade. Mark Rose, chief executive of Fauna and Flora International, stated, “Whatever the motive underlying this tragedy, the gorillas are helpless pawns in a feud between individuals.”

Deo Kujirakwinja of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Congo programme, stated “This area must be immediately secured or we stand to lose an entire population of these animals.” According to a 2004 census, 380 gorillas, more than half of the world’s population, reside in the national park and nearby Virunga volcanoes region.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Concern Over Gorilla ‘Executions’ – 26 July 2007

BBC – DR Congo Rebel Threat to Gorillas – 21 May 2007

AllAfrica – Rwanda: Gorillas Mass Execution Reported in DR Congo – 24 July 2007

Zimbabwe = Economic Depression and Political Repression

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

A report released by Amnesty International describes the situation for Zimbabwean women as “between a rock and a hard place.” Along with struggling to provide for their family in a collapsing economy, women activist are being arrested repeatedly and tortured for peaceful protest against President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The leading group of women activists is the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). The object of their protest is the rampant hyperinflation, severe food shortage ,and the bankruptcy of many companies. To punish the anti-government activist, the police has prohibited many from purchasing food, and receiving food aid and health services. Many of the group’s members have been arrested with babies and held naked in the detainment cells.

Other women have shared accounts of unlawful detainment in deplorable conditions and random beatings. One activist was kicked in the stomach by the police while she was two months pregnant, causing her have a miscarriage.

Although thousands are protesting, women are the majority despite continual harassment and intimidation. WOZA and Amnesty International is urging African leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to pressure President Mugabe to observe African Union and U.N. human rights standards. In the meantime, Zimbabwean women have vowed to continue vocalizing the woes of the country and demanding change.

For more information please see:

AllAfrica – Zimbabwe: Amnesty Report Shows Women Activist face Increasing Repression – 25 July 2007

BBC – Zimbabwe’s Women ‘Face Brutality’ – 25 July 2007

Yahoo – Reports Say Zimbabwean Women Face Abuses – 24 July 2007

Yahoo – Zimbabwe Women Activist Face Increasing Repression: Amnesty – 24 July 2007

Myanmar human rights defender sentenced

Myanmar human rights defender sentenced

A Myanmar human rights defender was sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting unrest.  He was beaten by a pro-government mob.

Myint Naing was sentenced in the Henzeda Township Court, 60 miles northwest of Yangon, Myanmar (Burnma). 

Five people others were sentenced to four years imprisonment each.  Myint Naing and a fellow member of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network, Maung Maung Lay, were attacked and seriously wounded April 18 at Oakpon village in Henzeda.  They were headed to another village to continue to conduct human rights training.

Fify to 100 men with clubs and other homemade weapons attacked them.  The attack was carried out by the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a government-backed group accused of assaulting and intimidating the military government’s opponents.

The USDA was linked to attacks against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy supporters in the Yangon in 1997, as well as a deadly attack on the party leader and her supporters in northern Myanmar on May 30, 2003.

The junta created the USDA in 1993 as a social welfare organization. It claims more than 20 million members, more than one-third of the country’s population. Public servants and local officials come under heavy pressure to join.

The military has ruled since 1962, with the latest junta emerging after a 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The military has been widely accused of atrocities against ethnic minorities and of suppressing the democracy movement.

For more information, please see:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070725/ap_on_re_as/myanmar_human_rights;_ylt=ArDbmTo7SPgt5jINnLz3nnwBxg8F

http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2007/07/myanmar-rights-activist-sentenced-to.php

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=22345&Cr=myanmar&Cr1

International Summit to Discuss Iraqi Refugee Crisis

A summit was held in Amman, Jordan to discuss the refugee crisis.  War and sectarian violence in Iraq has caused over two million Iraqis to leave the country and over two million displaced within Iraq.  During the international conference, Muhammad Hajj Hamoud, secretary general of Iraq’s foreign ministry, warned of a humanitarian crisis.  He urged host countries to help ease the burden of the refugees and not to forcibly deport these refugees back to Iraq while Iraq remains unstable.  He also urged the international community to help the countries shouldering much of the burden by providing more aid and helping asylum-seeking refugees find permanent homes.

The two countries hosting the majority of the refugees are Jordan and Syria.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 750,000 Iraqis sought refuge in Jordan and 1,200,000 fled to Syria.  In May, Jordanian officials claimed that the government spent one billion dollars a year hosting these refugees.  However, despite this large sum of money, many children are not able to receive medical treatment or attend school.  In Syria, refugees have turn to prostitution and child trafficking as means to earn money.

A day prior to the conference, Amnesty International released a statement addressing the refugee crisis.  In the statement, the organization called for “urgent international action” to assist Syria and Jordan to supporting their growing numbers of refugees.  Without international help, especially in the form of aid money, Iraq’s neighbors will not be able to continue to support these large numbers of refugees.  If these countries are not able to support the refugees, many incoming Iraqis will be turned away at the border, forced to return to unsafe and unstable conditions.  In addition, it is likely that many more refugees will be forcibly deported back to Iraq.

For more information please see:
Amnesty International:  “Iraq refugees crisis nears breaking point”  26 July 2007. 

Amnesty International:  “Iraq:  International support urgently needed to address spiraling refugee crisis”  26 July 2007. 

Amnesty International:  “Iraq:  The situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria”  26 July 2007. 

BBC:  “Crisis warning on Iraq refugees”  26 July 2007. 

Canada.com:  “Iraq urges neighbors to end abuse of refugees”  26 July 2007. 

UNHCR:  “UNHCR deplores forced return of 135 Iraqis by Turkey”  26 July 2007. 

Boston Globe:  “Amnesty urges help for Iraqi refugees”  25 July 2007.

Egyptian Woman Tortured by Police

Shaymaa Muhammad al-Sayed was born a Muslim, but got married to a Coptic man and became a Coptic Christian in 2003. This angered her family greatly.  In 2003, she fled her family, fearing the repercussions of her conversion and marriage.  Her father submitted three missing person reports after she fled, even though she was not a minor.  Reportedly, on July 16, 2007, they saw her in Alexandria, and voiced their desire to harm her. She was arrested July 21, 2007.  According to the police, she was arrested as protective custody to protect the women from her family.  However, while she was arrested she was mistreated.  She claims that the police tortured her through beatings, electric shocks, and even took a photograph of her while she was naked.

Although she had been arrested under the guise of protective custody by being protected from her family, five days later she was released to her family against her will.  While in prison she tried to press charged against her family but was repeatedly denied.  However, the police returned the woman to her family against her will, because of the missing person reports.  She was not a minor, and therefore should not have been returned to her family.  Furthermore, she they had openly threatened her she should have been protected from them, especially without ensuring the woman’s safety.   

The police’s action shows the Egyptian government’s willingness to cater to the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the Coptic Christians.  The woman chose to flee her family. Yet, she was arrested and tortured by the police, then returned to her family.  Although she had broken the law by converting from Islam, the police should not have released her to a family that openly expressed its desire to kill her.  According to the reports, when the woman was taken away by her family she was immediately dragged and beaten in the graveyard behind the station.  Yet, the police did not interfere.  Furthermore, she was denied her right to press charges against her family for abuse and other related charges. 

This incident by the State Security Investigation force in Egypt compounds the fears of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt. Although Mubarak takes a strong stance against the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Islam, his stance is undercut with rules making it illegal to convert from Islam to another religion or for a Islamic woman to marry a Coptic man.  These laws give radical Islamics reign to attack those who violate the law.  Also, the laws create more tension to erupt when a person converts to Islam or Coptic Christianity.  The government must eliminate such laws and take a stance to protect its citizens irregardless of the person’s religious background.

BosNewLife. Egypt Police Hands Over Christian Convert To “Fanatical Muslim” Family. 23 July 2007.
Compass Direct News. EGYPT: POLICE RELEASE CHRISTIAN TO HER VIOLENT FAMILY. 23 July 2007.
Compass Direct News. EGYPT: SECURITY POLICE TORTURE CHRISTIAN CONVERT WOMAN. 18 July 2007.

Forced Marriage a War Crime?

By Impunity Watch Africa

On June 20, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and conscripting child soldiers.  They were acquitted of sexual slavery and “other inhumane acts” related to sexual violence, including forced marriage.  On July 19 Brima and Kanu were each sentenced to 50 years in prison and Kamara was sentenced to 45.

Forced marriage was a new crime being charged for the first time at an international level.   In issuing the verdict, the trial judges stated that they saw no need to treat forced marriage as a separate crime from sexual slavery and therefore threw out the charges. Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp has announced that he plans to appeal that decision on August 2.  Rapp told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting that the separate charge of forced marriage described the experience of women who were kidnapped by the militia and forced into marriage, a crime he intended to prosecute as a crime against humanity.

Rapp will appeal the judges’ ruling that despite evidence of sexual slavery, the indictments for sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence are overlapping.  In the “interests of justice” the judges decided to consider evidence of sexual slavery under the count of “outrages upon personal dignity.”

The difficulty Rapp faces is that while rape and sexual slavery are separately and clearly set out in both the Special Court and International Criminal Court statutes, forced marriage is not explicitly listed as a crime but can be charged as an inhumane act.  Rapp stated that he thinks the judges “left it open that if you have proof of criminal activity that goes beyond sexual slavery that fits within the context of other obligations that arise out of marriage, there could still be a conviction on that count.”

Although Rapp intends to appeal this portion of the verdict, there has been overwhelming support for the convictions and sentencing of the three former junta leaders.  Amnesty International has stated that the verdicts and sentencing send a positive signal to the people of Sierra Leone that someone will be held responsible for the brutal crimes committed against them and their families.

For more information, please see:

AllAfrica – Amnesty Welcomes Sentences of AFRC Indictees – 24 July 2007

Institute of War and Peace – Forced Marriage Appeal May Influence the ICC – 24 July 2007

UN News – UN-Backed Court Sentences Former Rebel Leaders – 19 July 2007

South Korean hostage deadline extended

Twenty-three South Koreans, including 18 women, were kidnapped on Thursday, July 19, while riding a bus through the Ghazni province in Afghanistan.  Korean negotiators accompanied by Afghan elders and clerics met face-to-face with the kidnappers of the hostages on Tuesday in Afghanistan, as a threatened Taliban deadline to execute them passed by once again.  The rebels have pushed back their ultimatum on the Koreans’ fate at least three times.

Ghazni villagers demonstrated, demanding the hostages be released.  The province’s police chief, Mohammad Zaman, said the Taliban should release the hostages as they are guests in the country and they want them to be safe.

Originally, the rebels have threatened to kill the South Koreans unless 23 Taliban prisoners held by Afghan authorities are released and Seoul withdraws its 200 soldiers from Afghanistan.  Now, it is reported that the militants are demanding monetary payment for the South Korean hostages’ release. 

The 200 South Korean troops serving in the US-led coalition in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave by the end of 2007.  The hostages  were said to be involved in medical and volunteer aid. 

For more information, please see:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/25/1987410.htm

http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2007/07/23/afx3941168.html

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/24/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Kidnappings.php

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Afghan-Kidnappings.html?ex=1185854400&en=5fb2bf217bf9406f&ei=5070&emc=eta1

UN Investigates Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Ivory Coast

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

The United Nations is investigating allegations of sexual abuse and exploitations by Peacekeepers residing in Ivory Coast. Presently, Moroccan UN troops in Bouake have been confined to their base and have been banned from conducting routine peacekeeping activities. The allegations in the Ivory Coast were uncovered by internal inquiry, and the UN is currently conducting a full investigation. While the exact nature of the offense is undisclosed, troops are alleged to have had sex with underage girls.

In the past, sexual abuse scandals had provoked ex UN chief Kofi Annan’s “zero tolerance” policy to punish “utterly immoral” crimes. In 2003, six Nepalese troops in DR Congo were found guilty of sexual abuse. Moreover, in 2004, two peacekeepers repatriated after accusations of abuse in Barundi. In 2006, UN personnel were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan. Then in 2006, UN personnel were accused of rape and sexual assault in Haiti, and Liberia. In total, over 300 members of UN peacekeeping missions worldwide have been investigated for sexual exploitation since 2004.

The existing suspension in Ivory Coast “complies with the United Nations zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse.” In New York, UN Department of Field Support personnel and Moroccan officials are analyzing the current situation. The suspected Moroccan UN peacekeepers will be “held accountable to the highest standards of behavior” according to UN spokesperson, Marie Okabe.

For more information, please see:

AP – UN investigates peacekeepers in Ivory Coast – 23 July 2007

BBC – UN Probes Abuse in Ivory Coast – 23 July 2007

UN News Centre – Côte d’Ivoire: UN, Moroccan Officials Meet to Address Allegations of Sexual Abuse – 23 July 2007

Indonesian provincial legislature considers HIV-microchip implants

The Papua legislature is now debating whether to approve a bill allowing microchips to be implanted in people infected with HIV. The proposal is a way of preventing the spread of HIV in Indonesia.  However, health workers there strongly oppose the bill.

About 2.4% of Papuans are known to be HIV-carriers. Infection rates are estimated at 15 times the national average.

A member of the parliament’s health committee made the proposal. He said that microchips could track people who continued to infect others. The bill also proposes mandatory testing of every Papua resident. Also considered was tattooing HIV-positive people.

The Papua AIDS Commission has rejected the bill. It said the proposals were illogical and a violation of human rights.

To become law, the bill would need to be approved by government, health and legal experts and pass a public consultation.

The province has just over 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and there have been 356 deaths reported. Papua has a population of about 2.5 million.

For more information, please see:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6913869.stm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/24/1987295.htm

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070724075657.4w2f978g&show_article=1

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/afp/20070724/ttc-health-indonesia-papua-aids-b4393f8.html