Sex Crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo

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:

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.