World Court Struggles to Finish Mass Rape Cases #Vaw


By Amy Lieberman

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leaders of the international tribunal for Sierra Leone–known for its focus on gender-based crimes–are struggling to keep it open through the appeals trial of Liberia’s Charles Taylor.

 

U.N. Women's Michelle Bachelet (right) during a press conference on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Oct. 9, 2012.
U.N. Women’s Michelle Bachelet (right) during a press conference on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Oct. 9, 2012.

 

Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

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UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)– The international war tribunal set up to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war is known for its first-time indictments of rape as a war crime.

It’s the first international court run by women, both local and international.

It could also be the first international tribunal forced to shutter its doors before its mandate expires in September 2013.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone only has enough money to last through the end of October 2012 and then will rely on outstanding funding pledges to carry on its work until the first week of December, the court’s registrar, Binta Mansaray, said in a recent phone interview from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Inadequate funding could weaken the court’s capacity to protect witnesses and monitor enforcement of sentences when it moves into a wind-down or “residual” phase next October.

“In the past couple of months there has been an increase in the number of witnesses approaching us and expressing fear about their safety and security,” Mansaray said. “Mostly it is women who get more worried about their safety, but men have contacted us as well.”

It costs about $1.3 million a month to run the court, which has indicted 13 war criminals and sentenced eight. Three of those who were indicted died and one remains a fugitive.

The court has never had a fixed annual budget and relies on contributions from countries such as the United States, Switzerland and Ireland.

Charles Taylor Case Impacted

Lack of money–a recurrent problem for this court–could affect appeals cases being prepared by both the prosecution and defense in the case of former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor.

In May Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison for war crimes and is being tried in The Hague, instead of Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, because of security concerns.

The court is expected to hear the appeals next summer in its last piece of official business. If Taylor’s sentence isn’t overturned, it would count as the court’s ninth and final sentencing of war criminals.

“It [the appeals] will be affected, definitely, if the money doesn’t come through,” Mansaray said.

A lack of sufficient funding could critically impact the prosecutor’s and lead defense counsel’s ability to prepare their teams working on the Taylor appeals case, said Mariana Goetz, deputy director of programs at the London-based human rights and torture survivors advocacy organization REDRESS. But, she added, the appeals briefs have already been filed by both parties and responses and replies are due by the end of this month. The appeals judgment will then follow next fall.

The Taylor case is unprecedented, said Goetz, who has been following the trial.

“It is the first time a head of state is convicted for 11 counts of international crimes, including rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence,” Goetz said in an e-mail interview. “This case, as well as others . . .  are slowly ensuring that violence against women in the conflict contexts are not laughed off in patriarchal societies as private acts.”

If the court manages to finish out its business, it will enter a wind-down administrative phase as the Residual Court for Sierra Leone, which doesn’t have a set mandate with time limits. In this scaled-back condition the court would have an annual budget of no more than $2 million and would provide protection for victims through a witness protection program. It would also collect data and track enforcement of sentences for those convicted and jailed.

Possible Collaborations

The court is now talking with U.N. Women about possibilities for collaboration, most likely to support documentation and ongoing outreach to Sierra Leonean communities, said Nahla Valji, a New York-based expert on rule of law and transitional justice for U.N. Women.

“The support would be to the court itself, to allow them to document their lessons learned and archive their work,” Valji said.

U.N. Women is currently collaborating with the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which have also struggled with funding, to support similar initiatives. It has worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to finalize their manual on gender-based crimes and witness protection.

Mansaray and the court’s president, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, voiced their concerns for the court’s future at United Nations headquarters Oct. 9, in a briefing to the Security Council and a press conference with U.N. Women.

“My fear is that when we go into residual status we will be forgotten,” Fisher told the media. “And if we don’t get that funding we can’t fulfill the promises that we make to the people of Sierra Leone.”

Fisher’s appeal at the U.N. marked a full circle for the Special Court, which the United Nations set up with the Sierra Leone government in 2002 following its president’s request for international assistance.

At the time, a fragile ceasefire and peace agreement in the small West African country was giving way to renewed fighting between government forces and a rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, which had torn the country from 1991 to 1999.

The Most Reported Abuse

Sexual and gender-based violence was the most reported form of human rights abuse in Sierra Leone’s conflict. Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge, Mass.-based organization, found that more than half the women who encountered rebels suffered some form of sexual violence.

A significant portion of the court’s indictments against rebel-force leaders and supporters, such as Liberia’s Taylor, centered on gender-based crimes, said Alpha Sesay, a legal officer for Open Society Foundations, based in The Hague.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecuted forced marriage for the first time as a crime against humanity. It also prosecuted rape in a public setting, another first, as a war crime.

Sesay, who is from Sierra Leone and monitors the Special Court, says he thinks the necessary money will ultimately come through. “It just means there will be some effort,” he said.

The Special Court has helped ground an understanding in Sierra Leone about the strength of law, said Ibrahim Tommy, executive director of the Freetown-based Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law. But the legal and human rights activist doubts the court has been able to spawn a strong foundation for prosecutions of gender-based violence or crimes on a national level.

There is one registered lawyer in the country’s northern province, two in the southern province and two more in the western province, he said.

“A lot has happened in this country since the war ended, but there remain serious challenges in terms of prosecuting sex and gender-based violence crimes,” he said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the sophistication that is required.”

Amy Lieberman has served as a correspondent out of the United Nations headquarters for the past several years. Originally from New York City, she most recently was living in and reporting from Colombia.

 

A day before Kasab’s hanging, India voted against abolition of death penalty at UN


NDTV, Nov 21. 2012
United Nations: A record 110 countries backed a resolution voted every two years at a UN General Assembly committee calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly’s rights committee.
Thirty-six countries abstained.
Israel voted against its strong US-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa among major countries backing the motion.
Norway, which played a leading role campaigning for the resolution, said on its Twitter account that the increased support was a “great result”.
At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.
France’s new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure.
A world congress against the death penalty is to be held in Madrid in June.
According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
Amnesty International says that China executed “thousands” of prisoners in 2011 though exact figures are hard to determine. It says that other countries put to death at least 680 people with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia major users of capital punishment.
Amnesty says that progress is slowly being made however.
Even in the United States, Illinois last year became the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty.

 

PUCL writes to Human Rights Community


Letter to the Human Rights community

                                                                                       21st November, 2012

To:

All the Many persons – friends of PUCL, members of PUCL – present and former, and others from the human rights fraternity  who contacted the PUCL.

I thank all of you who wrote or spoke to us to express your sense of outrage, anger and opposition to the selection of Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of UIDAI to deliver the 6th Tarkunde Memorial Lecture with the demand that PUCL disassociate with the event. Many persons also wanted clarification on our stand on the UIDAI. We had issued a statement where we made explicit that our opposition to UDIAI has not changed nor our continuing to oppose the UID project. We had also spoken to and followed by writing to the organisers informing our stand on UIDAI, that selection of a person like Mr. Nilekani is  contradictory to the very ideals that Justice Tarkunde’s  work and persona reflected, and therefore the demand for calling off the lecture as also that we did not want to be associated with the event. The organisers had also accepted our request and agreed not to associate PUCL with the event .

We share with the human rights community both our statement as also the communication to the organisers of the Lecture.

This entire incident has made us realise the tremendous sense of respect and good will that PUCL has amongst the human rights community in India and the onerous responsibility that it casts on us to continue to contribute and strengthen the human rights movement in India.

I would like through this mail, to extend an invitation to all those who have contacted us as also the many others in the  human rights community who shared the sentiments of those who actually wrote or contacted us, to continue to dialogue, interact and involve themselves with the PUCL movement.

I would also like to extend an invitation to all friends from the rights movement to participate in the XI PUCL National Convention that is to take place in Jaipur on 1stand 2nd December, 2012 on the theme, `People’s Insecurity in the name of National Security: Citizens’ Rights, Democracy and State Terrorism. The invitation and details of the thematic sessions can be found in the PUCL website.

In solidarity,

Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary (Elect), PUCL

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE-PUCL’s letter to Tarkunde Memorial Foundation


 

20th November, 2012

To

Ms. Manik Karanjawala,

The Tarkunde Memorial Foundation, New Delhi.

 

Dear Ms. Manik,

We are writing to you about the 6th Tarkunde Memorial Lecture to be addressed by Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, UIDAI on 23rd November, 2012.

PUCL has consistently opposed the UIDAI project and unequivocally opposed the project on grounds of being an unacceptable intrusion by the State into citizen’s right to privacy, as having questionable motives and constituting a serious threat to human rights, amongst other reasons. We have also opposed UIDAI as being part of a larger corporate-centric and driven project seeking to push technocratic solution to critical issues of governance failures which cannot be rectified by UIDAI. This being our stand, we find ourselves unable to associate ourselves with the choice of Mr. Nandan Nilekani as speaker for the lecture.   (Please see the attached letter issued on this way back in 2010 in which Mr. Kannabiran was also a signatory).

We are informed that Sacharji has already spoken to you about this and that you had agreed not to associate PUCL’s name with the lecture. We thank you for accepting our request and dropping the name of PUCL from the publications, banners or publicity material connected with this lecture which you confirmed to Kavita Srivastava too.

The PUCL and the larger human rights community holds  Justice Tarkunde in high esteem even today, for  his incredible contribution as a civil liberties champion along with his role in founding and shaping an  organisation like the PUCL. There is a lot of outrage that the speaker chosen to deliver the lecture should be associated with an issue which the human rights community finds contradictory to the very ideals that Justice Tarkunde’s  work and persona reflected.

It is for these reasons the demand for calling off the lecture by the larger human rights community should be appreciated and respected.

We are sorry if we have caused you any embarassment.

With regards,

                  Dr. V. Suresh,

                  National General Secretary (Elect), PUCL.

Public Meeting- Freedom of Speech and Thackerya’s Legacy @21Nov #Mumbai


COMMITTEE FOR THE PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

MUMBAI

INVITES YOU

TO

A PUBLIC MEETING

ON

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THACKERAY’S LEGACY

IN THE CONTEXT OF

ARRESTS OF SHAHEEN DHADHA AND RAINU SRINIVASAN

 

ADDRESSED BY

 

JUSTICE H. SURESH, Retired Judge, Bombay High Court

JATIN DESAI, Journalist

SACHIN KALBAG, Editor in Chief, Midday

 

 

AT THE PRESS CLUB OF INDIA

(Opp. BMC, Nagar Palika Marg )

BETWEEN 5 PM TO 7 PM

ON

21ST NOVEMBER 2012

 

 

The shameful arrests of two women, Shaheen Dhadha and Rainu Srinivasan for expressing an opinion shared by many on the Mumbai shut down due to Thackerey’s death is not only condemnable because of an increasing intolerance of voices raised against fascist forces but also reflective of the state fascism. One needs to strongly protest against such attempts by the state to misuse the law to curtail the democratic right of the citizens to speak their mind and express their opinions freely especially of political dissent in order to protect our constitutional rights which have been achieved after long political struggle.

 

Please attend the meeting and circulate this invite so that a strong collective voice can be raised against these repressive measures against our democratic right to dissent.

 

P. A SEBASTIAN

GENERAL SECRETARY, CPDR

PUDR Statement condemning arrest of facebook users


November 20, 2012

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

Press Statement – 20th November 2012

People’s Union for Democratic Rights strongly condemns the arrest of two facebook users, Shaheen Dhada who questioned the total shut down of Mumbai for Bal Thakeray’s funeral on Sunday, 18th November 2012, and Rini Shrinivasan, who indicated that she agrees with the post. Though they have been released on bail, the duo were initially charged under S. 295-A, IPC [outraging religious feelings] and S. 66A, IT Act [sending offensive messages through communication services etc.]. On 19th November, a rampaging mob, comprising 40-50 cadres of the Shiv Sena vandalized the clinic of Dr. Abdul Dhada, uncle of Shaheen Dhada. Despite withdrawing her post, the two were questioned by the police and arrested the following day, 20th November. Criticisms over the arrest compelled the police to modify the offence from u/s 295-A to S. 505 IPC [statement promoting and creating enmity and hatred among classes], order an internal probe into the matter and, detain a ‘few persons’ in connection with the incident of vandalism in Dr. Dhada’s clinic.

Ironically, the arrests prove the validity of the facebook comment posted by Dhada. The news media’s uncritical representation of the Mumbai shutdown after Thakeray’s death as a spontaneous one resulting from ‘respect’ is called into question by the severity of the police action against the two women. If the Palghar shakha of the Shiv Sena had not reacted as strongly to Dhada’s comment, perhaps the enforcement of the shutdown by the state machinery may never have been revealed.

Beginning with heavy police deployment when the rumour of Thakeray’s death emerged late last week, and culminating in the Mumbai Police’s call on Saturday evening to stay off roads and trains unless there is an emergency, very little of the shutdown was about ‘respect’. It was mainly about fear. Mumbai citizens chose to stay home after having been beaten into powerlessness by years of hooliganism by the Shiv Sena, acting in collusion with the state machinery.

The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right granted to all citizens and its brazen and illegal violation by officials of the state in collusion with fascist organizations is a crime. The fact that posting a critical comment online can lead to such repression is an indication of the extent of the Shiv Sena control and clout over the state administration. It is shameful that the young women have had to withdraw their post, even apologize for it, in a place where fascist goons have legitimated, circulated and acted upon the hate speeches of Bal Thakeray and his followers.

PUDR demands:

· Immediate revocation of charges against Dhada and Shrinivasan

· Criminal proceedings against officials involved in the arrests

· Compensation to Dr. Dhada for financial losses

· Compensation to the two women for harassment and trauma

· Criminal proceedings against Shiv Sena activists involved in vandalism and intimidation.


Preeti Chauhan
Paramjeet Singh
Secretaries, PUDR