Police Uncover More Than 150 Cases of Rape and Assault in Remote Norwegian Municipality

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – More than 150 instances of rape and assault have been uncovered by police in a remote region in Norway.

Sign for Tysfjord Municipality in Norway. Photo Courtesy of Tore Meek.

An investigation was conducted by police beginning in June 2016, after a Norwegian newspaper published accounts from 11 men and women who said they were assaulted. The police report documents 151 assaults spanning the period of 1953 to 2017.

Approximately 90% of the suspects and victims are part of the indigenous Sami community, who originally inhabited northern Scandinavia. The Sami community now lives in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The community has an estimated population of 40,000 to 60,000.

The crimes span several generations, with some of the assaults dating back to 1953. The most recent crime occurred this past August. All of the crimes took place in a rural municipality called Tysfjord, which has a population of only 2,000.

Forty-three of the assaults were rapes, including of three children. Sexual intercourse with children under fourteen years of age is alleged to have occurred in 40 of the cases. The youngest victim is four years old.

Ninety-two suspects have been identified. They range in age from ten to eighty.

The Sami Parliamentary Council is an elected body representing the Sami people’s interests in Norway. Its president, Vibeke Larsen, called the scandal “a national tragedy” and urged Norwegian authorities to assist.

Larsen cited mistrust of the police as one of the reasons for the crimes going unreported. The Sami “don’t trust the police as much as the Norwegians do,” Larsen said. The Sami people have been told to become “good Norwegians and leave their own culture, language and symbols behind. That’s why they have distrust in the system.”

Head of Nordland County, Tone Vangen, acknowledged that the police “didn’t do a good job”, but also noted that the mechanisms within the Sami environment make it more difficult for police to investigate such crimes.

Anne Lindboe, ombudsman for the children involved, said “there has been a huge failure in the whole safety net that should have been around the children who have been subjected to abuse in Tysfjord.”

The police have acknowledged the mistakes made and stated that one of the aims of the investigation is to instill greater trust of Norwegian police in the Sami community.

Two people have been charged in ten cases so far, but many have been dropped due to the statute of limitations expiring.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Norway Police Uncover 150 Cases of Rape and Assault in Remote Region – 29 November 2017

Time – Rape and Child Sex Abuse in Remote Area Have Gone Largely Unreported and Uninvestigated, Police Say – 29 November 2017

USA Today – Norway Reeling After Multiple Rapes, Sex Assaults Uncovered Near Lapland – 29 November 2017

The Independent – Norwegian Police Uncover More Than 150 Rapes , Including of Children in Remote Region – 30 November 2017

European Parliament Members Join #MeToo Movement

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – As part of a campaign to speak out against sexual harassment and assault, several Members of the European Parliament have recently joined the viral #MeToo movement.

Members of the European Parliament Display ‘#MeToo’ Placards. Photo Courtesy of Patrick Seeger. 

At a meeting in Strasbourg, France to discuss sexual harassment, men and women from across parliament displayed placards in front of them with the phrase “#MeToo.” Several members spoke out about their experiences and discussed ways to combat the problem.

The #MeToo movement originated in the late 90s, when activist Tarana Burke, program director for Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equality, was a youth camp director. She spoke with a young child about the heinous sexual abuse she had been subjected to and came up with the mantra “me too” as a statement of strength and solidarity.

The movement has gained worldwide attention in recent weeks following the torrent of accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano recently revitalized the statement, and it has since taken off on social media.

The debate in Europe comes amid contentions that European authorities are not doing enough to address sexual harassment, assault and rape.

“At least one in every three women has been victim of some sort of physical or sexual violence,” European Commissioner for Trade Cecelia Malmstrom said during the debate. “But these statistics do not tell enough personal stories, and the reason we are debating this today is of course because of the global movement of #MeToo.”

Terry Reintke, a Green Party parliament member, said “Me too. I have been sexually harassed, just like millions of other women in the European Union, and I think it’s about time that we say that we should not be ashamed, but that the perpetrators should be ashamed.”

Many victims are afraid to make official complaints because of the stigma associated with coming forward and for fear that their careers may be ruined if they do.

Members of Parliament wrote a letter addressed to Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, calling for external investigations into sexual harassment at the institution in response to allegations. The letter also demands that gender awareness and harassment training be provided to all parliamentary staff.

Several lawmakers also support adoption of the Istanbul Convention. This would require members to establish comprehensive systems aimed at preventing sexual violence against women.

The convention has thus far been ratified by 15 of the EU’s 28 member states.

For more information, please see:

CNN – An Activist, A Little Girl and The Heartbreaking Origin of ‘Me Too’ – 19 October 2017

BBC News – EU Parliament Members Demand Action on Sexual Harassment – 25 October 2017

The Independent – MeToo: Members of the European Parliament Protest Against Sexual Harassment – 25 October 2017

The New York Times – A #MeToo Moment for The European Parliament – 25 October 2017

Former HIV-Positive School Aide Accused of Sexually Assaulting 42 Boys

By: Sarah Louise Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

MARYLAND, U.S. – Carlos Bell, a former school aide and track coach has been accused of sexually assaulting 42 juvenile boys. Bell was a teaching aid at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School and a track coach at La Plata High School. Bell told police he was HIV positive and that he was HIV positive when he assaulted the boys and evidence corroborated the claim.

Maryland’s State Attorney’s Office has indicted Bell on 206 counts. This is the third time the indictment has been updated to reflect charges from additional alleged victims as more are discovered.

The boys are between the ages of 11 and 17. 28 of the alleged victim are identified while the remaining 14 alleged victims are unidentified according to the State Attorney’s Office for Charles County.  In December of 2016, police say an investigation was started on Bell after a tip that Bell was involved in inappropriate behavior with a student while coaching track.

Sheriff Troy Berry said, “A parent observed suspicious text messages on a child’s phone that were sexual in nature.”  The parent checked her child’s phone and found inappropriate text messages involving Bell. However, Bell was not arrested until July. At that time, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said as many as 10 boys were assaulted, 7 of which were identified by video found in Bell’s home. During the search of Bell’s home, police also found computers and other electronics that linked him to the production of child porn. Among that evidence were graphic images of Bell sexually assaulting victims.

Carlos Bell has been indicted on 206 counts in relation to his sexual assault of students while working at a middle school in Maryland. Photo Courtesy of Charles Co. Police Dept.

Bell allegedly assaulted the boys without protection. So far, the State Attorney’s Office for Charles County stated that they are not aware of any of the alleged victims testing positive for HIV. The abuse is believed to have been committed from May 2015 through June 2017. Bell is accused of abusing the alleged victims at the Middle School, his home and possibly, other locations.

At this time, the State Attorney’s Office said charges against Bell include: 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, 19 counts of second-degree sex offense, 19 counts of second-degree sex offenses, 7 counts of third-degree sex offense, 97 counts of child pornography and other offenses. If convicted of these crimes, the State Attorney’s Office will seek life in prison. Currently, Bell is being held without bail and his next court date is January 8, 2018.

The Superintendent of Schools for Charles County, Kimberly A. Hill, said they have been cooperating with authorities in a letter dated July 3, 2017.  The letter also stated that Bell has not worked in any of the school buildings since December 22, 2016. Lastly, the note also stated “To our parents and our community, who put their faith and trust in us to safeguard their children, I apologize on behalf of Charles County Public Schools.”

For more information, please see:

Fox News – HIV-infected School Aide Accused of Sexually Victimizing 42 Children in Maryland – 24 October 2017

NY Daily News – Former Maryland School Aide Who Is HIV Positive Sexually Assaulted 42 Boys, Police Say – 23 October 2017

WJLA – HIV Positive Former Md. Coach Indicted on 206 Counts; 42 Alleged Victims Reported – 23 October 2017

WJLA – Former Md. School Coach Charged with Child Porn, Assault on Male Students, Has HIV – 28 July 2017

Italian Officers Suspended Amid Rape Allegations

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Two Italian Carabinieri officers have been suspended amid allegations they raped two US students in Florence.

Outside Florence Nightclub Where Officers Picked up Students. Photo Courtesy of Time.

On Friday, September 8, Italy’s defense minister Roberta Pinotti attended a forum on women’s issues in Milan where she stated that “investigation is still underway, but there is some basis in respect to the allegations.”

The rapes reportedly occurred in the early morning hours of September 7th.

Earlier, the women, ages 19 and 21, spent time at a nightclub in Florence. Patrol cars were called to the scene to investigate a fight that had broken out at the club. Two of the three patrol cars departed after the fight had been handled.

After the women were unsuccessful in their efforts to find a taxi, the remaining officers, who were in uniform at the time, offered to drive them home. Witnesses confirmed seeing the women enter the patrol car.

Upon arriving to the residence, the officers allegedly raped the women before they could reach their rooms. The women told investigators they were too frightened to scream during the assault.

Prosecutors in Florence are investigating the incident and have conducted DNA tests to verify the accusations. The results of those tests are pending.

The United State Embassy in Rome declined to comment on the situation “due to the sensitive nature of this case and to protect the privacy of those involved.”

The accused officers have been suspended on a precautionary basis while the investigation continues. The Carabinieri provincial officer command stated that the suspension is separate from the Florence prosecutors’ investigation into the criminal allegations.

In addition to the rape charges, the officers face disciplinary charges from driving the women home without notifying superiors.

“Rape is always a serious matter. But it’s of unprecedented seriousness if it is committed by Carabinieri in uniform, because citizens turn to them and to their uniform to have assurances and security” Pinotti said at the women’s forum.

The paramilitary Carabinieri are one of two of Italy’s main police forces, the other being the state police. The Carabinieri report to the Defense Ministry.

“If this is true, and I hope that light is shed on the matter as soon as possible, then it would be an act of unheard of gravity” said Tullio Del Sette, head of the army.

For more information, please see:

Time – 2 U.S. Students say They Were Raped by Policemen in Italy – 8 September 2017

New York Times – Two American Students Accuse Italian Police of Rape – 9 September 2017

Reuters – U.S. Students’ Rape Allegation has ‘Some Basis’, Minister Says – 9 September 2017

Washington Post – 2 Italian Police Suspended After Alleged Rape of US Students – 9 September 2017

United Nations Foreign Aid Workers Gang Raped by South Sudanese Soldiers

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa 

JUBA, South Sudan– Foreign aid workers were gang raped by South Sudanese soldiers in the bathroom of a hotel in Juba.  The attack that happened on July 11th is being called a turning point for foreign aid workers in the country that was considered safe until the attack.  Calls for help were made to a United Nations compound that was nearby, but there was no response.

The Terrain Hotel where the foreign aid workers were hiding before they were attacked.  (Photo Courtesy of NPR)

“The soldiers just came to the bathroom where all the girls were hiding and they just picked us out of the bathroom one by one,” says one women who was at the hotel.  Despite the violence from the civil war this unusual attack has created shock waves in the humanitarian aid community.  Some organizations are evacuating their staff while others are reducing their activities in the area.

The United Nations were not the only one’s who did not show up to save the aid workers.  The trapped aid workers also called the United States Embassy and private security firms.  The reported reason for their failure was the fact that the streets were too dangerous from clashes that were happening outside the hotel.

The aid workers were eventually rescued, but only after 5 of them had been raped for hours.  Many civilians have also reported being raped in South Sudan.  Some of these civilians were raped while under United Nations Peacekeepers watch.  The international attention brought to the gang rape of aid workers may force change that works to prevent the further spread of sexual and gender based violence in South Sudan.  While the gang rapes were happening, over 300 people were killed during 4 days of fighting.

For more information, please see: 

New York Times Live – Shock in South Sudan as foregin aid workers gang raped by soldiers – 24 August 2016

News Deeply – Aid Worker Attacks Expose Ongoing Assault of Women in South Sudan – 24 August 2016 

NPR – Gang Rape of Aid Workers In South Sudan Is A Turning Point – 23 August 2016

Women Raped in Camp in South Sudan While U.N. Peacekeepers Allegedly Standby

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, South Sudan –Dozens of women have been sexually assaulted by government soldiers at a United Nations camp in South Sudan. The camp has over 30,000 displaced persons. Those attacked were Nuer women who had sought shelter from the continued fighting in South Sudan.  Many have been injured and two women have died from their injuries.

Young girls carry luggage in an United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) IDP camp on June 20, 2014 in Juba. According to UNMISS spokesperson Ariane Quinter, the UNMISS will be closing the IDP (Internaly Displaced Persons) site and relocating them to a new site in Jebel Area due to the congestion at the current site in Tomping. June 20 marks the World refugee day, according to statistics over 1.3 million people have been displaced from their homes due to the current conflict. AFP PHOTO / CHARLES LOMODONG (Photo credit should read CHARLES LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Young girls at the UN Camp in Juba, South Sudan.  (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

It is reported that many United Nations Peacekeepers witnessed the attacks and did nothing to stop them.  Both the South Sudanese government and the United Nations did not deny the assaults that happened; and, Chantal Persaud, a spokesman for the United Nations in South Sudan, said there was at least one incident where United Nations Peacekeepers stood by and watched.  South Sudanese soldiers were allowing the women to leave the camp to gather food and perform other tasks and then attacking the women when they returned to the camp.  The rapes included gang rapes of underage women of more than 10 men each.  The assaults may also be racially motivated many of the soldiers who are assaulting the Neur women are members of the Dinka ethnic group which is diametrically opposed of the Neur group.

The United Nations has now made a statement saying that if the United Nations Peacekeepers stood by and watched as the women were assaulted there will be severe consequences.  United Nations Peacekeepers are deployed to protect civilians and are even allowed to use lethal force if necessary.  The United Nations has increase security in the camp in order to prevent further attacks from happening.

For more information, please see: 

All Africa – South Sudan: Report: Soldiers Raped Women Outside UN Camp – 28 July 2016

Breitbart – South Sudan: Soldiers Rape UN Camp Girls by the Dozen While Peacekeepers Watch – 27 July 2016

New Europe – Dozens Raped near UN Camp in South Sudan – 28 July 2016

New York Times –  Dozens of women have reportedly been assaulted and raped at U.N. camp in South Sudan – 28 July 2016

Dutch Woman Arrested in Qatar After Reporting Rape

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DOHA, Qatar – – A Dutch woman was arrested after making a rape claim to local authorities in Qatar following her alleged rape. The woman has been held since mid-March and could face charges of having sex outside of marriage.

Dutch Woman Was Arrested After Alleging Rape in Doha (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

A Dutch woman, who’s identity has not been revealed and was referred to as “Laura” by the Dutch foreign ministry, was on holiday in Doha when the incident occurred. Laura was having drinks at a bar in a hotel with friends. After one of the drinks Laura stated she felt “unwell.” She woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar apartment and realized she had been sexually assaulted.

Laura immediately reported the incident to local authorities and was subsequently arrested. She has been detained by Qatari authorities since mid-March and could face charges of adultery and alcohol-related offenses. Laura’s attorney, Brian Lokollo, says that no charges have been officially filed and that she will appear before a judge on June 13. The alleged assailant has also been arrested and denies the rape allegations. He stated that the sex was consensual and that she had asked for money. Laura denies those accusations.

Adultery, or having sex outside of marriage, is a crime in Qatar like many other Gulf Arab nations. Under Qatar’s Penal Code, “anyone who copulates with a female above sixteen without compulsion, duress or ruse is convicted to no more than seven years in prison. The same penalty is also imposed on the female for her consent.”

Qatar’s former justice minister, Najeeb al-Nauimi, says to convince a judge her defense will have to prove that there were “no voluntary actions” between her and the alleged assailant. Even evidence that would suggests she walked next to the alleged assailant might give a judge doubt to the actions not being voluntary. Signs of force would need to be proven.

There have been similar incidents in the Gulf Arab region. In 2013, a Norwegian woman reported a rape in the United Arab Emirates and was subsequently arrested, charged, and convicted of indecent behavior, perjury and alcohol consumption. She received a sentence of 16 months, but was later pardoned and returned home.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera-Qatar: Dutch Woman Who Alleged Rape to Appear in Court-12 June 2016

BBC-Dutch Woman Arrested in Qatar After Making Rape Claim -11 June 2016

CNN -Dutch Woman Jailed in Qatar After Reporting Rape May Face Charges – 12 June 2016

The Guardian-Dutch Woman Arrested in Qatar After Reporting Rape to Appear in Court-12 June 2016

A Call to end Sexual Violence

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—The alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl from a Favela in Brazil has stirred numerous protests. Thousands of protesters have poured to the streets of Brazil condemning the alleged rape, causing individuals and groups to stand up against gender violence and the “machismo” attitude against women in Brazil.

A protester in Sao Paulo. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

In Rio De Janeiro, about 2,000 individuals chanted and held signs against rape with slogans such as “No means No.” In Sao Paulo, hundreds gathered for a simultaneous protest. The protesters’ goal is to end gender violence and to call upon the government to act. The alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl has highlighted the deeply rooted acceptance of violence against women in Brazil. Crimes against women have been dismissed by the public. Brazil has the fifth highest rate of femicide. Studies have shown that 7.5% to 10% of women in Brazil will report an incident of sexual violence. Protest coordinators want to let women know they do not have to be silent but to report the crime.

Coincidentally, in Argentina, protests against gender violence have also taken place. Thousands gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires to voice their condemnation of the alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl in Brazil and of the killing of three 12-year-old girls in Argentina. The slogan for the protest was “Not one less.” In Argentina, 275 gender based killings occurred last year. In 30% of the cases the attacker was a current partner of the victim, and an ex-partner in 49% of cases. Social media is proving to be an outline for victims of crime and to raise awareness through out Latin America.

A short video of the alleged gang rape of the 16-year-old girl in Brazil surfaced on twitter. It showed 30 to 33 men boasting about the rape. She was naked, drugged and semi-unconscious in the video. The video received hundreds of likes and blamed the girl for the rape. The girl in a statement stated that she had gone to her boyfriends and woke up the next day in a different location surrounded by men raping her. The family of the girl allege her boyfriend was behind the rape in order to punish her. Some arrests have been made since the video became public, but police continue to search for the rest of the men involved.

For more information, please see:

CNN—Brazilian Teen Speaks out About Brutal Gang Rape—30 May 2016

CNN—2 men Arrested, 4 Sought in Brazilian Gang Rape, Government Says—31 May 2016

The Guardian—Brazil and Argentina Unite in Protest Against Culture of Sexual Violence—3 June 2016

Fox Latino— Thousands March in Argentina to Protest Violent Attacks on Women—4 June 2016

SBS—Thousands Protest at Brazil Rape Culture—4 June 2016