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Archive for October 23rd, 2013

Appeal court: Will ICC rule in favour of Deputy President Ruto on Friday 25th October?

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

The Trial Chamber had granted Mr Ruto excusal from attending all sessions of his trial but the prosecution led by Bensouda appealed against it.

The appeal court will now rule on Thursday in an open court if Ruto should be granted excusal. The ruling will be delivered livestreamed in an open court.

If the court rules in favour of the Deputy President he is expected to fly to Kenya the same day in order to attend to his constitutional duties.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was granted excusal recently. It is not known, as we go to press, if Chief Prosecutor – Bensouda will appeal and demand that President Kenyatta should be present in the court at all times.

Friday

25 October 2013

Ruto and Sang
09:00 – 10:00
Appeals Chamber judgment on William Samoei Ruto’s presence at trial

 

 End

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Marginalization and sexual abuse of women: Who is to blame for their pain, And who can fix it?

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

Who is to blame for their pain? And who can fix it?

COLOMBO,  – A UK-rights group has accused the Sri Lankan government of failing to address the marginalization and sexual abuse of women living in the country’s former war zones in the north and east, an allegation officials dismiss as coming from a “diaspora-led false propaganda machinery”.

report recently published by the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) said rape and sexual harassment of women in former war zones in the north and east are continuing even after the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009, and that 89,000 widows (based on a 2010 government estimate) – including some 40,000 female-headed households – are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, exploitation and assault by army personnel, domestic tourists and others due to the women’s poverty.

In a general culture of impunity, MRG authors wrote, Tamil and Muslim women (the two largest ethnic minorities in the former war zones, 12 and 8 percent of the general population, respectively) have feared reporting crimes to police.

The report cited data from Jaffna Hospital in the north of 102 reported cases of rape and “severe violence” against women and girls from Northern Province in 2010, 182 in 2011 and 56 in just February and March of 2012.

MRG’s South Asia expert, Farah Mihlar, wrote: “Tamil and Muslim women are especially concerned for their safety and freedom, and yet have little course for redress since they fear reporting attacks against them to the authorities.”

The island’s military spokesman, Ruwan Wanigasooriya, told IRIN that of 125 people found guilty in civil courts of perpetrating sexual violence in the north between January 2007 and May 2009, seven were security forces personnel.

After fighting ended, from May 2009-2012, of 307 people found guilty in civil courts of committing crimes of sexual violence, 10 were soldiers, based on a military assessment.

He added: “We deny in the strongest terms that there is a prevailing culture of silence and impunity for sexual violence crimes,” noting that the government has taken “legal action” and that convicted soldiers are referred to the military tribunal for court martial.

Citing the army assessment, Wanigasooriya wrote in a statement recently sent to journalists: “It is worthwhile to notice that only 11 incidents out of a total 375 reported incidents [from January 2007-May 2012] can be attributed to security forces. Therefore the inference that the presence of the military contributes to insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict affected areas is baseless and disingenuous.”

Demographic changes

The demographic shift following the civil war – from a largely homogenous Tamil community to one that includes more ethnic groups, including Muslim returnees who had been forced out by Tamils in the late 1990’s, domestic tourists and, the authors wrote, the government-sponsored relocation of workers and households from the majority Sinhalese ethnic group, has heightened the threat of women being sexually exploited by armed forces and other men (sometimes from their own ethnic community) due to poverty.

“With the increasing presence of Tamil diaspora in their home towns (places of origin), community women have told us that their daughters are often being viewed as sexual objects and in some cases, been sexually assaulted,” a leading woman’s activist working in the north told IRIN in an e-mail.

For almost three decades, separatist rebels known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for an independent state in the north carved along Tamil ethnic lines. Fighting ended in May 2009 with the crushing of rebels by government forces.

“After the conflict the situation has got a lot worse. People are less disciplined. There are outsiders who have come from other areas. There are lot of army people; they are in buses, everywhere,” said a Tamil woman from Mannar District, as cited in the MRG report.

The report explained how during the war, LTTE fighters (mostly followers of Hinduism) maintained a rigid code of conduct in areas it controlled, with sexual relations monitored and restricted to married couples. “While women do not necessarily approve of what the LTTE did, nor any similar regulation of their personal lives, the current context has left many feeling disoriented and insecure,” MRG wrote.

The current commissioner of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission(appointed by the president), Prathiba Lamanmahewa, told IRIN the island is committed to investigating all rights violations but will not be “bulldozed” by groups with vested interests.

“We have come a long way in post-war recovery. Most recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the blueprint for reconciliation, have been implemented.

Adequate steps have been taken to restore civil administration in the north and now there is a provincial council there. It is a process and Sri Lanka has fared better than many other conflict-ridden countries,” he said.

But local activists and residents continue calling for more.

In interviews with some 1,800 households, a citizen group published a reportin March this year concluding “little progress” had been made on the recommendations.

For allegations of sexual abuse, the MRG report called on the police to create Tamil-speaking desks in all police stations in former conflict zones, boost female representation among government officials in the north and east, as well as prosecute perpetrators.

dh/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

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Legal migration options needed – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the Lampedusa port, escorted by the coastguard (file photo)

JOHANNESBURG,  – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years, but until two weeks ago, their deaths rarely generated headlines. The sheer scale of the tragedy that occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October, however, was hard to ignore.

A boat, which disembarked from Libya carrying an estimated 500 Eritrean asylum seekers, was only half a mile from Lampedusa’s coast when it caught fire and capsized. So far, Italian authorities have pulled over 350 bodies from the water.

The disaster has precipitated much discussion about what the European Union (EU) and its members states should be doing to prevent further loss of migrant lives at sea, even as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to mount, with dozens of Syrian and Palestinian refugees losing their lives on 11 October when another boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa.

Compared to last year, 2013 has seen a marked increase in the numbers of migrants attempting sea crossings to Italy and Malta. While some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers reached the two southern Mediterranean countries in 2012, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 32,000 have arrived so far this year. The spike in numbers of migrants using the so-called Central Mediterranean route – which usually involves departures from Libya, but also includes those from Egypt and the Turkish coast – is not unprecedented. Following the collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Libya in 2011, 60,000 migrants used the route, with most of them arriving inLampedusa.

The Italian website Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths, estimates that since 1988, nearly 20,000 people have died trying to penetrate Europe’s borders, the vast majority of them at sea.

Responsibilities unclear

Most of the discussion since the recent tragedies has focused on increasing search-and-rescue capacity. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed that the role of EU border agency Frontex be expanded from the patrols it currently coordinates off the Italian coast to span the entire Mediterranean. Such a move could address the current lack of clarity surrounding which countries are responsible for rescuing boats in distress and where their occupants should disembark. But the six member states with Mediterranean coastlines have already voiced their opposition to a proposed regulation that would govern Frontex-coordinated operations, arguing that international laws already deal with such matters.

“Prospects for it to be adopted soon are quite low,” said Kris Pollet, a senior legal and policy officer with the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “There’s no real sign that this is going to be a decisive moment.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just approved a new state-of-the-art border surveillance programme called Eurosur, which will implement a system for monitoring the EU’s external borders and sharing information between various national border security agencies. Eurosur will launch in December and, according to Malmstrom, could also be used to more quickly identify migrant boats in distress.

However, Philip Amaral of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe pointed out that Eurosur has been in the pipeline for several years, long before the recent tragedy in Lampedusa. “The real basis is to tighten borders and prevent irregular migration; there’s a heavy emphasis on the use of satellite imagery and drones,” he told IRIN.

“A byproduct could be that more lives would be saved at sea, but it doesn’t establish clear lines in terms of which countries are responsible for migrant boats in distress. We think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said.

Amaral also lamented the fact that the Eurosur regulation does not include language that would absolve ship masters from criminal responsibility when rescuing migrant boats. “In Italy, they’re very reluctant to rescue ships in distress because they fear, rightly so, that they’ll be prosecuted” for aiding irregular migration, he said.

Ensuring that shipmasters cannot be prosecuted for facilitating the smuggling of migrants is among a list of 10 urgent measures that UNHCR is calling for to prevent further loss of life and increase burden sharing across the EU.

“It is shameful to witness hundreds of unwitting migrants and refugees drowning on Europe’s borders,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a 12 October statement. He expressed particular concern that Syrian asylum seekers were among the casualties of recent boat tragedies. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum,” he said.

In the absence of any EU-wide agreement on how to handle irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy announced on 14 October that it would triple its air and sea presence in the southern Mediterranean to better respond to potential shipwrecks. The following day, Italian authorities reported that 370 migrants had been rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily.

Amaral welcomed the move by Italy but emphasized that the responsibility for search and rescue should be shared with other member states. “The EU is all about solidarity, so it can’t just be left to Italy and Malta. Other countries need to pitch in and help out,” he said.

Legal migration options needed

EU Commissioner Malmstrom has joined migrant rights organizations in pointing out that, in the longer term, the only way to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from paying smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean in rickety vessels is to provide them with more legal channels for entering Europe.

“Currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far from that”

However, Pollet of ECRE said there was little willingness among member states to even engage in a debate about opening up legal channels for low-skilled migrants and asylum seekers to enter Europe. “At the moment, it’s a very hypocritical approach,” he said.

“The whole discussion is focusing now on increased search and rescue capacity and trying to prevent irregular migration; it’s really focused on the symptoms of the problem rather than the root causes. There’s very little talk about how are these people supposed to get into Europe.”

Amaral agreed. “There is definitely a needed [legal] channel, especially for asylum seekers,” he said. “But currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far away from that.”

ks/rz sourcce http://www.irinnews.org

 

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