Violence against women

Military sexual assault survivors face major obstacles in accessing support services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2012
Contacts:  Equality Now: Kristen Berg, 212-586-0906, kberg@equalitynow.org
                  SWAN: Katy Otto, 240-478-9387, katy@servicewomen.org

United States: Sexual assault of women in the military must be stopped

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Oct 2
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 13
Update: 

20 AUGUST 2013 UPDATE: Recent developments indicate some Congressional and military momentum to address sexual assault in the military:

On 15 August, the US Department of Defense (DOD) gave an update on sexual assault prevention and response measures, during which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s seven new initiatives to “strengthen and standardize the department’s sexual assault prevention and response effort” were outlined. Though Equality Now welcomes the DOD’s acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue, the initiatives do not make the structural changes needed for violence to be prevented and for victims to access justice. As our partner SWAN stated, “small-scale military sexual assault solutions will not stem the cultural tide created by years of victim blaming and retaliation." Therefore we will continue to advocate for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) which would professionalize the military justice system and bring much needed justice to victims of sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand will be calling for a full Senate floor vote on the MJIA bill following the August Congressional recess. If you are in the US, please ask your Senator to support passage of this bill.

We are also encouraged by the House of Representatives’ passage in July of two amendments in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 (HR 2397), offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), relating to the handling of sexual assault cases. This follows a recent report by the DOD Inspector General who found serious failures in the handling of military sexual assault investigations. Out of 501 investigations, 418 had “deficiencies” which compromised the victim’s chance of obtaining justice, and, overall, 399 of these cases had interview and post-interview deficiencies. Weaknesses were found in the interview process, collection of evidence, lead development and crime scene photography. The amendments address the pervasive misuse of ‘personality and adjustment disorder’ as a diagnosis of victims of sexual assault and provide additional funding to train investigators of sexual assault crimes. We hope the Senate will also show bi-partisan support for those that have suffered sexual assault in the US military by passing this bill.


24 MAY 2013 UPDATE: On 7 May, the US Department of Defense released their 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.  The report plainly showed that efforts to combat sexual assault in the military are not having the desired effect, and in fact, sexual violence and the culture of impunity are getting worse. Shockingly, the number of reported sexual assaults rose in every branch of the military with a 35% increase overall since 2010, from 19,300 service members in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012. Coming on the heels of the arrest for sexual battery of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer in charge of US Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and followed by revelations that two other US Army sexual assault prevention officers were accused of sex crimes, including an allegation linking one to a prostitution ring, it is abundantly clear that current efforts to address sexual assault in the US military are not being taken seriously.

Therefore, Equality Now welcomed the 16 May introduction of the
Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a bi-partisan bill which would remove the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transfer it to professional prosecutors. Equality Now and our partner SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) have been consistently advocating for this reform and will be following the bill closely as it moves through the legislative process to ensure that sexual assault victims have access to justice in the military.


13 FEBRUARY 2013 UPDATE: Senator Jon Tester and Representative Chellie Pingree introduced the “Ruth Moore Act of 2013.” Named in recognition of Navy veteran, military sexual assault survivor and activist Ruth Moore (subject of our Action), the bill would lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD for survivors so that they can receive benefits and necessary services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The passage of this bill would fulfill one of the three objectives of Equality Now's campaign, and we will be following this process closely as it progresses.


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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and our partner SWAN in calling on:


The Secretary of Defense and the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs to:
  • Reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
Email: chuck.hagel@osd.mil

Congressman Buck McKeon
House Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2184 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-1956
Fax: +1(202) 226-0683
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BuckMcKeon
Twitter: @BuckMcKeon

Senator Carl Levin
Senate Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-6221
Fax: +1(202) 224-1388
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carllevin
Twitter: @SenCarlLevin

The Secretary of Defense, the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs, and the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairs to:

  • Allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer – the U.S. military – accountable for sexual harassment and assault.

 Send letters to:

The Honorable Chuck Hagel, Congressman Buck McKeon, Senator Carl Levin (contacts listed above)

Senator Patrick Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
437 Russell Senate Bldg
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-4242
Fax: 202-224-3479
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorPatrickLeahy
Twitter: @SenatorLeahy

Congressman Lamar Smith
House Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2409 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-4236
Fax: 202-225-8628
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LamarSmithTX21
Twitter: @LamarSmithTX21

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the House & Senate Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairs to:

  • Provide survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault with the services they need to recover from their trauma by lowering the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Eric Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: +1(800) 827-1000
Email: Eric.Shinseki@va.gov

The Honorable Allison Hickey
Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 1.800.827.1000
Email: Allison.hickey@va.gov

Congressman Jeff Miller
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2416 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-4136
Fax: +1(202) 225-3414
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepJeffMiller

Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-2621
Fax: +1(202) 224-0238
Twitter: @PattyMurray

Letters: 

Letter Regarding Reform of the Justice System

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that instead of an independent party, an officer within the perpetrator’s chain-of-command is charged with investigating sexual assault complaints and is given an enormous amount of discretion, which can lead to conflicts of interest and abuse of power, especially as both the survivor and perpetrator may be under the same officer’s command. In addition, commanders have an incentive to downplay or cover-up sexual assaults happening within their chain-of-command, as these crimes reflect poorly on the unit.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military, to ensure justice for survivors, and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This Convention requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.
I urge you to reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases, and I urge you to consider this approach.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair


Letter Regarding Civil Remedies

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that unlike civilians, military rape survivors have no way of holding their employer – the U.S. military – accountable through civil litigation for failing to protect them from sexual assault or harassment.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to ensure survivors are able to obtain justice violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I urge you to ensure that military women can pursue and obtain justice for harassment and sexual violence they endure.  I call on you to allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer accountable for sexual harassment and assault and can obtain the justice they deserve.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair
Congressman Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Committee, Chair


Letter to Veterans' Affairs

Eric Shinseki
Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the many obstacles sexual assault survivors face in accessing the services they need to recover. There are approximately 19,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. military each year. Sexual assault and harassment cause the same rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in women veterans as combat does in men.

However, sexual assault survivors face particular challenges in accessing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as VA employees often disbelieve survivors’ accounts of assault – even when backed up by physician’s reports – and require evidence from other sources that corroborate the survivor’s account. This disbelief and failure to provide needed services serves to re-victimize those who seek assistance. Tellingly, only 32% of PTSD claims related to sexual assault are approved by the VA, while 54% of overall PTSD claims are approved. The VA must lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD and accept the survivor’s testimony alone as proof that the sexual assault occurred.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I would like to urge you to revise your policy to ensure that survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault are provided with the services they need without undue delays. I call on you to lower the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
The Honorable Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
Senator Patty Murray, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair
Congressman Jeff Miller, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair

Pakistan: Protect human rights defenders and ensure justice for murdered activists

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Aug 2

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What You Can Do: 

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Please join Equality Now and the End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA by calling on the Pakistani government to:

  • ensure that Farida Afridi’s and Zarteef Khan Afridi’s murders are immediately and fully investigated and all perpetrators prosecuted for their crimes to the full extent of the law 
  • ensure the safety of human rights defenders, particularly women, and criminalize intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks upon persons 
  • criminalize public statements or decrees inciting actual violence against human rights defenders

Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Alert with your friends.

Letters should go to:

Mr. Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani
Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Email: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

Mr. Amir Haider Hoti
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Chief Minister House
Fort Road
Peshawar Cantt
Pakistan
Tel: +92 91 9213574, +92 91 9211719
Fax: +92 91 9210718, +92 91 9210743
Email: pskhyberpakhtoonkhwa@yahoo.com

Barrister Syed Masood Kausar
Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Governor House Abdul Qayum Road
Peshawar
Pakistan
Fax: +92 91 9210087

Mr. Mutahir Zeb
Political Agent Khyber Agency
Office of the Political Agent Khyber Agency Bara Road
Peshawar Cantt
Pakistan
Fax: +92 91 9211900

Letters: 

Dear Prime Minister/Chief Minister/Governor:

I am deeply concerned about the recent attacks and threats upon human rights defenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and FATA.

In particular, I am troubled by the 4 July 2012 murder of Farida Afridi, Executive Director of women’s rights organization Sawera based in FATA, who after facing threats for her women’s rights work, was shot to death outside her home. Additionally, in December 2011, Zarteef Khan Afridi, a coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was similarly murdered, reportedly by extremist elements in FATA. A suspect has been arrested in Farida’s murder but the perpetrators in Zarteef Khan Afridi’s case remain at large.

According to NGOs in the area, threats to the lives of human rights defenders are common in KP province and FATA. Reportedly, during a sermon on 4 May 2012, a politically influential religious cleric, Maulvi Abdul Haleem, from Kohistan district in KP province warned women NGO workers against entering Kohistan and threatened to forcibly marry violators to locals. Such statements have led to fear amongst NGO workers, particularly women. I am troubled that the provincial government has not taken any steps to protect human rights activists in the region and rights groups working in KP and FATA are losing staff whose lives and safety are threatened.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders specifies the obligations of States to guarantee and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Pakistan also has a duty to protect all human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Article 2), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Article 2) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (Article 3). The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo have both taken note of violations against human rights defenders working on women’s rights in Pakistan and have highlighted the State’s responsibility to investigate and promptly ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. Additionally, in the June 2008 report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan, Pakistan was called upon to ‘combat impunity for attacks on human rights defenders by effectively investigating allegations and by prosecuting those responsible.’

I support the Charter of Demands drafted by the End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA and join them in urging you to:

  • ensure that the murders of Farida Afridi and Zarteef Khan Afridi are immediately and fully investigated and all perpetrators prosecuted for their crimes to the full extent of the law
  • ensure the safety of human rights defenders, particularly women and criminalize intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks upon persons
  • criminalize public statements or decrees inciting actual violence against human rights defenders

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Liberia: Enact a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2012 Jun 26
Update Date: 
2013 Mar 12
Update: 

25 MARCH 2015 UPDATE: In the two years since the Liberian High Court upheld the decision against the members of the Sande secret society who had forcibly-mutilated Ruth Berry Peal, the assailants have yet to be arrested and imprisoned. Instead, they are residing and working freely in Monrovia and Bomi (Bomi is the same county where Ruth and her family live). Ruth, meanwhile, still suffers from the trauma and continues to receive verbal and physical abuse from her community who are tormenting her for exposing the secrets of their culture. Our partner, Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET), has raised the failures in the case with Liberia’s Ministry of Justice but no action has been taken.

On a positive note, as a result of an indefinite government ban on Sande School operations to help curb the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease, FGM has reportedly been reduced in Liberia. During a February meeting with WOLPNET, the Traditional Council adopted a resolution pledging to only initiate girls at the age of consent and stopping forceful FGM initiations. However, this still does not go far enough; FGM is a human rights violation that should not be performed on any women or girl regardless of their age or granting of consent. Equality Now continues to advocate for zero tolerance for FGM and system to ban it in Liberia.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf also continues to speak out on the issue of violence in Liberia, including FGM. At an international event on gender equality this month, she publicly stated, "too many of our countries have yet to muster the courage to ban the irreparable harm inflicted by genital mutilation on young girls in traditional societies." The Liberian Minister for Gender also spoke on the topic during a radio interview, stating "we are working with our traditional people to see how they can learn from what people have done in other countries that practice similar rituals so that they can now see how they can empower themselves to move away from FGM."

We are hopeful that these types of declarations from the highest levels of the Liberian government will finally result in a law banning FGM. Equality Now and our partners are engaging with policy makers to fulfill on their pledges to adopt a law and to ensure that survivors of FGM such as Ruth are able to access justice and health services. Please renew the call for justice and security for Ruth and her family, and for a law against FGM in Liberia.


MARCH 12, 2013 UPDATE: On 17 January 2013, Ruth Berry Peal's lawyer, Deddeh Wilson, informed Equality Now that she had filed a motion requesting the court to dismiss the defendant’s appeal of their jail sentence for failure to complete the appeal process. On 24 January 2013, the court dismissed the appeal case on grounds that 'the defendants did not file an approved bill of exceptions or did not secure the approval of the trial judge on the purported bill of exceptions.' On 26 February, the court issued a letter commanding the Sheriff of Montserrado to arrest the defendants.

Although Ruth has finally gotten justice for being forcibly mutilated, it has not been easy for her, as she continues to receive threats.  Mrs Speare, director of Women NGO Secretariat Liberia (WONGOSOL), stated that social and cultural circumstances in Liberia do not allow girls and women to oppose FGM or to escape, though girls sometimes resort to running away and hiding due to the lack of laws to protect them from the practice.  Ruth has been advised by the gender ministry to relocate to Monrovia but is reluctant to do so because her husband and children still live in Bomi, Liberia. Therefore, we are calling on the Liberian government to support and protect Ruth, as well as to build on indications made by the Minister for Internal Affairs in 2011 to enact and enforce a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency.


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What You Can Do: 

>> TAKE ACTION NOW! Please join Equality Now and our Liberian partners, Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), in calling on Liberian authorities to:

  • Ensure that Ruth Berry Peal’s case is swiftly and justly concluded
  • Ensure the enforcement of  the government’s suspension of Sande FGM activities
  • Honor Liberia’s international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation against FGM, as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf    
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 644 4696 
Email: ebfasama@emansion.gov.lr
etoles@emansion.gov.lr

Hon. Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh
Minister of Justice
P.O. Box  0123
Ashmun Street   
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 669 7205
Email: sannohb@aol.com

Hon Julia Duncan Cassell
Minister for Gender and Development
P.O. Box 10-1375
110 UN Drive & Gurley Street
1000 Monrovia 10
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 651 6434  
Email: libgenderminister@gmail.com

Hon Morris Dukuly
Minister of Internal Affairs
Executive Mansion Ground
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 651 3358 
Email: mmdukuly04@gmail.com
http://www.mia.gov.lr

With a copy to: Special Assistant Mr. Jefferson F. Cooper
Email: nfcooper68@gmail.com
http://www.mia.gov.lr

Letters: 

Dear [   ]

I welcome steps by the government to suspend Sande FGM activities. However, I am alarmed that a law banning FGM is still not in place despite declarations from the highest levels of the Liberian government in support of an end to harmful traditional practices.

President Sirleaf’s pledge to make women’s rights and health a national priority in Liberia, but the lack of a unified stance by government officials undermines the efforts the government is making to end FGM.

I urge you to ensure that the government’s suspension of Sande FGM activities is enforced. Furthermore, please honor Liberia’s international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation against FGM as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Sudan: Stop the stoning of Intisar Sharif Abdalla

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Jun 6
Update Date: 
2012 Jul 3
Update: 

UPDATE 3 July 2012: On 22 June, an appellate court vacated Intisar Sharif Abdalla’s sentence and ordered a new trial based on defects in the original trial. On 3 July, the trial court found no evidence to proceed with the trial and dismissed the charges. Intisar has been freed from prison. Thank you for taking action.

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What You Can Do: 

Please write to Sudanese officials to call for:

  • the immediate and unconditional release of Intisar Sharif Abdalla;
  • the establishment of a moratorium on death by stoning;
  • the commutation of all sentences of death by stoning;
  • the prohibition by law of all cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, such as torture, flogging and stoning in accordance with Sudan’s obligations under the African Charter and the ICCPR;
  • a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Act of Sudan, 1991, in particular Article 146, and the removal of all provisions that discriminate against, or have a discriminatory impact on, women, including those regarding adultery and fornication, in accordance with Sudan’s own constitutional provision on the right to equality and non-discrimination based on sex. 

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Please send your letters to:

President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Office of the President
People’s Palace
PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan
Email: info@sudan.gov.sd

Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Dr. Moaz Tango
Advisory Committee on Human Rights
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Jalal al-Din Mohammed Osman
Chief Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
P.O Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Letters: 

Dear ______:

I write to you with grave concern over the 13 May 2012 sentencing of Intisar Sharif Abdalla, a mother of three, to death by stoning for adultery under Article 146 of the Sudanese Penal Code.

The prescribed punishment of death by stoning violates Sudan’s International legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that clearly prohibit all forms of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment. In addition, the death penalty for the crime of adultery does not fall within internationally accepted concept of ‘most serious offences’ warranting a death penalty as reiterated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (currently the Human Rights Council) and Human Rights Committee.

Moreover, it appears that Intisar’s trial did not meet the standards of fair trial under Sudanese or international law. It is particularly concerning that her sentence was imposed based on a coerced admission after she was tortured by her brother. Confessions extracted under torture and duress should not be admissible in Court and cannot form the basis of a death sentence. Moreover, I believe that Intisar was denied the right to legal representation despite the guarantee under Article 34 (6) of the Interim National Constitution that “Any accused person has the right to defend himself/herself in person or through a lawyer of his/her own choice and to have legal aid assigned to him/her by the State where he/she is unable to defend himself/herself in serious offences.” In addition, Intisar was apparently not able to understand the proceedings against her that were conducted in Arabic, not her native language. The execution of persons after a trial that does not meet international fair trial standards amounts to a violation of the right to life.

I respectfully urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Intisar Sharif Abdalla, declare a moratorium on death by stoning, commute all sentences of death by stoning and prohibit all cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, such as torture, flogging and stoning, in accordance with Sudan’s obligations under the African Charter and the ICCPR.

I further urge you to conduct a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Act of Sudan, 1991, and in particular Article 146 with a view to removing all provisions that discriminate against, or have a discriminatory impact on, women including those regarding adultery and fornication, in accordance with Sudan’s Constitutional provisions on the right to equality and non-discrimination based on sex.

Respectfully yours,

Sidra Humayun

Confronting Sexual Violence Head On in Pakistan
Sidra Humayun

1. Can you describe the hurdles that female victims of sexual violence typically face in seeking justice and help in Pakistan?

Liberian Jury Delivers "Guilty" Verdict on Ruth Berry Peal's Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11 July 2011
Contact: NAIROBI: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913, equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, (01) 212-586-0906, media@equalitynow.org

Liberia: Ensure justice in the case of Ruth Berry Peal who was forcibly subjected to FGM

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2011 Mar 24
Update Date: 
2011 Jul 8
Update: 

Following a month of deliberation, a guilty verdict was announced on July 8, 2011 by the jury in Ruth Berry Peal’s case on charges of kidnapping, felonious restraint and theft.  The sentencing of the two women will take place this week by the judge, who in closing made references to the Liberian Constitution and Article 4(1) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol), which states: “Every woman shall be entitled to respect for her life and the integrity and security of her person. All forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”

Equality Now and its Liberian partners, the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), welcome the jury’s decision and are eagerly awaiting the sentencing of the perpetrators.  We are also continuing to urge the government of Liberia to take expeditious action to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation, and, to this end, calling on the Liberian government to stop issuing permits to the FGM practitioners, to initiate the process towards enactment of a law criminalizing FGM and to invest in public education against the practice.

We are grateful to you for your steadfast advocacy for the rights of women and girls. Together we can make a difference, and a better world. Please continue to write to the Liberian government to enact a law against FGM and to stop issuing permits to FGM practitioners.  We will keep you informed of future developments.

Ruth Berry Peal
What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Liberian authorities noted below urging them to honor Liberia’s international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation against FGM as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM. Furthermore, urge the Minister of Internal Affairs to immediately cease the practice of issuing permits to schools where FGM is conducted. Also ask them to ensure that Ruth Peal obtains justice and remedy for the abuse she suffered. Because Ruth is threatened by members of the secret society and traditional heads who support the secret society, please request that the government provide her with immediate protection.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 644 4696     
Email: info@emansion.gov.lr

Dr. Christiana Tah
Minister of Justice
P.O. Box 0123
Ashmun Street
Monrovia, Republic of Liberia
Tel:            + 231 669 7205     
Email: info@moj.gov.lr
ctah@aol.com

H.E. Vabah K. Gayflor
Minister for Gender and Development
P.O. Box 10-1375
110 UN Drive & Gurley Street
1000 Monrovia 10
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 651 6434     
Email: veegayflor@yahoo.com

H.E. Harrison Kahnweah
Minister of Internal Affairs
Executive Mansion Ground
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 651 3358     
Email: hkarnwea@yahoo.com
http://www.mia.gov.lr

Letters: 

Dear [Your Excellency/Minister]:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the high incidence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. It is estimated that Over 58 percent of Liberian women have undergone the practice of FGM, which is carried out through a politically influential female secret society known as the Sande society, as part of an initiation rite into womanhood. Many girls are subjected to FGM at traditional schools for the Sande society.  I am concerned to learn that Liberian Ministry of Internal Affairs issues permits to women who run these schools and carry out FGM on the girls in attendance.  

Women from non-FGM practicing communities may also be subjected to FGM in Liberia either through marriage into practicing groups or by force as was the case with Ruth Berry Peal, who was subjected to this practice in 2010 due to an order issued by a Gola chief presiding over her dispute with two women from an FGM practicing community.  Ruth was abducted from her home by the women and was taken to the ‘bush’ where she was forcefully genitally mutilated. She has filed a suit against the two women who mutilated her   and, as a result, has been receiving threats from the community to drop the case.

Despite the Liberian constitution which guarantees the rights of life, liberty and security of person to all Liberians and your ratification of various international and regional human rights treaties that mandate the protection of women and girls from the practice of FGM, (including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), the Liberian government has failed to provide protection to the women and girls from being subjected to FGM.

Significantly, I note that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the treaty body that monitors compliance with CEDAW, in examining your country’s report in 2009, urged you to “enact without delay . . . legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation and to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and punished in accordance with the severity of this violation” and to “immediately stop issuing permits to practitioners as currently being done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” It encouraged Liberia to “extend and accelerate implementation of programmes designed to sensitize and provide alternate sources of income for those who perform female genital mutilation” and to “strengthen its awareness-raising and educational efforts, targeted at both women and men, including government officials at all levels, chiefs and other traditional and community leaders, . . to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation and its underlying cultural justification.”

I urge you to take immediate action, as is your obligation under Article 5 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and under other international human rights treaties, and enact and enforce a law prohibiting FGM; to immediately cease the practice of issuing permits to FGM practitioners; and to institute other protective mechanisms that will guarantee protection to all women and girls in Liberia from undergoing FGM. I also respectfully request that you do all in your power to ensure that Ruth Berry Peal receives justice and protection. 

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

 

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