Women's Voices e-letter July 2011

  Women's Voices e-letter  

Dear Friends,

Welcome to Women's Voices, our regular e-letter from the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice. In Women's Voices, we provide updates and analysis on political developments, the pursuit of justice and accountability, the participation of women in peace talks and reconciliation efforts from the perspective of women's rights activists within armed conflict situations, specifically those countries under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur, the Central African Republic (CAR), Kenya and Libya.

In addition to Women's Voices, we also produce a regular legal e-letter, Legal Eye on the ICC, with summaries and gender analysis of judicial decisions and other legal developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC), and discussion of legal issues arising from victims' participation before the Court, particularly as these issues relate to the prosecution of gender-based crimes in each of the situations under investigation by the ICC.

More information about the ork of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and previous issues of Women's Voices and the Legal Eye can be found on our website at www.iccwomen.org.


Libya :: Surfacing reports may point to government policy
of mass rape in Libyan conflict

At a press conference on 16 May 2011, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he had requested arrest warrants from Pre-Trial Chamber I for Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi and his brother-in-law and Head of Intelligence, Abdullah Al-Sanussi. According to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), these three individuals are the most responsible for the crimes against humanity as charged in the Prosecutor's application for warrants of arrest.[1] It is now up to the Pre-Trial Chamber to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish ‘reasonable grounds' to believe these crimes have been committed and whether arrest warrants should be issued. Although the Prosecutor did not include counts of rape in his application for arrest warrants, he stated that the OTP will continue its investigations and assessing of evidence, including into allegations of rape.

This announcement comes amid increasing accounts of sexual assault against women in Libya including the highly publicised case of Iman al-Obeidi,[2] and accusations that Qadhafi's forces were issued condoms and packets of the sexual arousal drug Viagra[3] and instructed to rape women, sometimes in front of their families, as part of a government policy to instill fear in the population. Reports of sexual violence against children and sub-Saharan Africans mistaken for Qadhafi's mercenaries on the basis of their skin colour or national origin have also been made.

According to information provided by a psychologist in Benghazi to the international commission of inquiry[4] — established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of international human rights law violations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya[5] — there were 259 reported cases of sexual abuse out of 60,000 survey respondents. Though the Commission has not confirmed the methodology or results of the study, it has indicated the need for further investigation into such crimes.

Despite the high media profile of these allegations, it should be noted that investigations are still ongoing and as yet the Prosecutor has not requested these charges to be included in the arrest warrant. The Office of the Prosecutor is trying to determine whether the accounts of rape and sexual violence can be attributed to a Qadhafi-ordained policy or ‘something that happened in the barracks.'[6]

One of the hallmarks of this case is the speed with which the UN Security Council referred[7] the situation in Libya to the ICC — on 26 February, roughly two weeks after the government's violent suppression of widespread protests — and the rapid pace with which the Office of the Prosecutor conducted its investigations and prepared the applications for arrest warrants. Many have contrasted the decisive manner with which the UN Security Council addressed the conflict in Libya and the expediency of ICC developments, with other situations where reports of possible crimes against humanity have been reported without any response from either the UN or the ICC.


CAR :: The effects of the LRA's attacks in the southeast
of the country

This year, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and one of its partners in the Central African Republic (CAR), Jeunesse Unie pour la Protection de l'Environnement et le Développement Communautaire (JUPEDEC) — a local human rights NGO that promotes community development and is actively engaged in the advocacy for supporting the return of women and children taken by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) — is launching a joint research project. The action research will focus on the effects of the LRA on communities in the south eastern provinces, the receptivity of the community to those formerly abducted, and the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of returnees, in particular of women and girls formerly abducted by the LRA.

Following the ‘Women, Peace, Justice, Power' workshop in Bangui in November 2009, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice has been advocating for the ICC to open investigations into the crimes committed by the LRA in CAR, the DRC and South Sudan, so as to reflect the scope and scale of the crimes committed by the LRA beyond Ugandan borders.

In February and March 2011, the Women's Initiatives conducted a literature review of over 20 articles, media sources and reports on the LRA activities in the Central Africa Republic. Unlike their original platform in Uganda, the LRA has never claimed to have a political agenda with regard to CAR itself. Their presence appears to be about the ‘survival' of the militia group and an attempt to distance the group from the UPDF (Ugandan Army) whilst maintaining cross-border activity with the Congo and a secure presence in Sudan.

The literature review analyses the chronology of the LRA's presence in CAR, including details of 130 separate attacks during a three-year period, an analysis of the modes of commission, and the effects of the LRA on the local population in these areas and on the region as a whole. The review found that from February 2008 to March 2011 at least 290 people have been killed and 874 abducted during attacks carried out by the LRA.[8] These are estimates based on the lowest possible figures provided, and the exact numbers for both are undoubtedly much higher. It is also estimated by Oxfam International that 100% of the girls who are abducted by the LRA are raped.[9] It should be noted that there are significant discrepancies between reports regarding the numbers attacked and affected by the LRA's activities due to the difficulties in gaining access to these locations.

It is estimated that nearly one-third of those abducted by the LRA are children who are forcibly recruited into the LRA as fighters and as sex slaves.[10] Therefore, a significant portion of the militia is composed of those who are not voluntarily a part of the LRA's political or military agendas and activities.[11] The joint research, the first of its kind, will focus on the factors which may deter or encourage low to mid-ranking LRA commanders from considering escape or surrendering given they are unlikely to be subjected to prosecution upon their return. In addition, experience indicates that when LRA commanders escape or surrender they often bring others with them, including women and children. The research will also focus on the needs of returnees, in particular of women and girls, regarding their particular rehabilitation and reintegration challenges. The impact of the LRA on these communities will also be analysed in an effort to provide the CAR government, the UN and other key players with indications to how to assist the prospects of surrender and the support needed by returnees and their communities.

JUPEDEC is one of the few organisations addressing the impact on communities affected by LRA attacks, including on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and returnees. In the last year, JUPEDEC with the support of Conciliation Resources, UNDP and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, organised four workshops in the southeast prefectures for local community leaders, IDPs, civil society and women's groups to increase knowledge about the challenges faced by the communities affected by the LRA and to build conflict prevention capacities of local actors. While all of these workshops included discussions on gender-based violence and the impact of the LRA on women and girls, the meeting in Zémio, on 13 and 14 December 2010, specifically focused on the participation of women in peace initiatives in the areas most affected by the LRA. This workshop was attended by 77 participants, including women victims/survivors of the LRA from different areas of the Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou prefectures, Congolese women refugees in the CAR, and local authorities.

The testimonies of women victims/survivors contributed to the formulation of recommendations on the different actions that should be taken to support victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, such as the establishment of a centre for the support of victims and their reinsertion in the socioeconomic system at the local level, literacy programmes, and income-generating activities. Recommendations were also made regarding activities aimed at encouraging the return of those held in captivity by the LRA, including radio programmes and the organisation of support groups for the families of origin.


DRC :: Update on the special mobile gender courts

From 13 April to early May 2011, a special mobile gender court held a series of trials in the village of Kamituga, Mwenga territory, in the South Kivu province of eastern Congo. These trials followed one held in the town of Baraka in February 2011 during which 10 soldiers of the regular Congolese Army (FARDC) were condemned for crimes against humanity involving the rape of more than 60 women on New Year's Day in Fizi, South Kivu.[12]

During the trials in Kamituga, involving soldiers and policemen implicated in ten different rape cases, 16 victims/survivors came forward to testify before five judges[13] about rapes and sexual violence committed against them. The cases in question all involved incidents of sexual violence that occurred in villages and towns along National Road 2, which, for more than two decades, has been considered a notorious scene of conflict and violence, including gang rapes, sexual violence and killings of women. Based on the information available on the Open Society Foundations website,[14] most of the rape cases involved sexual violence perpetrated against minors, the youngest victim being 8 years old. The majority of cases resulted in prison sentences ranging from three (for one case involving sex with consent) to 20 years.[15]

Victims/survivors of these cases were granted between 3,000 and 10,000USD as civil damages. Similarly, victims/survivors of the Fizi mass rape were also granted 10,000USD each as compensation by the Congolese government. According to one of Women's Initiatives' South Kivu partners, Action des femmes pour le development (AFD), none of the victims/survivors have so far received the award of compensation. AFD is currently advocating with the relevant authorities for a follow-up on this issue.

The special mobile gender courts are an important step forward in domestic accountability for gender-based crimes. The number of victims/survivors testifying before these courts[16] indicates that women and girls are willing to testify when they are given the opportunity to do so. Currently the special mobile gender courts are only operating in the South Kivu province.


Sudan :: Women in Darfur IDP camps suffer from
deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions

In an update recently received by the Women's Initiatives from local advocates, women from North Darfur have reported the serious deterioration of humanitarian conditions, the lack of security and the negative impact on their daily activities of the oppressive measures adopted by the Sudanese government.

Informal reports indicate that the recent eviction of NGOs and the adoption of measures by the government to disperse and expel the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) out of the camps as part of the government's ‘New Strategy for Darfur'[17] have added more pressure and distress to the women in Darfur. Humanitarian conditions have deteriorated with relief aid reaching the IDP camps every three months instead of every month. Water shortage inside the camps has also resulted in a humanitarian crisis and in increasingly poor sanitary conditions.

It is reported that as a consequence, women have had to take up physically demanding work to meet their basic needs. This has resulted in accidents, sometimes fatal. On 9 March, for example, two women died and one was injured in an accident that occurred while they were digging wells inside an IDP camp. According to a source,[18] the women were working on an OXFAM USA project. The organisation, reportedly, has not contacted the women's families and no compensation has been provided. Some women have also resorted to activities that are illegal under Sudanese law, such as producing and selling alcohol, and they are encountering harassment, exploitation and rape.

The security situation is still extremely fragile and appears to be worsening. Security units are reportedly carrying out illegal detentions, kidnapping civilians and committing other crimes including rape and sexual violence — IDP leaders are especially targeted for these crimes. The occurrence of such incidents has escalated according to women in Darfur. Rape is becoming increasingly widespread. Several incidents have occurred, notably at the beginning of March in the Shagra area where seven women from Abu Shouk Camp were raped; and in Shangil Tobaya, where five women from the Zamzam Camp were raped. Furthermore, on 17 March, an attack carried out by the Sudanese government led to the death of a woman and the injury of a 13-year-old child.

The arrest of Ms Hawa Abdulla, a well-known women's rights activist who also works as a language assistant with the United Nations–African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is a tangible sign of the deterioration of the security situation and of the continued targeting of women IDP leaders by the Sudanese national security forces. Ms Hawa was arrested in her home in Abushok near El Fasher on 6 May and taken to an unknown location. It is reported that the Sudanese national security forces are accusing her of preaching Christianity among children and of being part of Abdel Wahid al-Nur's Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), a rebel group that refuses to negotiate with the government in the Darfur Peace Talks. According to Sudanese laws, preaching Christianity amounts to the crime of apostasy and could result in a death sentence. Sudanese women's rights advocates and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice have expressed concern about Ms Hawa's detention conditions and have called for her immediate trial with legal representation or for her to be released.


News and views

DRC  The UN Secretary General Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Margot Wallström, has issued a statement on 23 June condemning the recent mass rape which took place in the Fizi territory, South Kivu.[26] Reports indicate that more than 150 women were raped on 10-11 June in the area of Minembwe by Colonel Kifaru's troops. Kifaru is an ex-PARECO Hutu commander, who recently deserted the Congolese army with around 150 soldiers.[27] Although he was absent when the New Year's Fizi mass rape took place, Colonel Kifaru was the military sector commander of the regular army battalion responsible of this attack.[28] In her statement, Ms Wallström declared that the June incident is a further sign of ‘a continuing pattern of ill-discipline on the part of those who bear arms, manifest in acts of pillage committed in conjunction with rape and other human rights abuses. Fuelling this pattern is the rapid integration of former rebel fighters into the national armed forces without vetting or systematic training.'[29] This is an issue the Women's Initiatives has raised since June 2009 regarding the lack of a distinct vetting mechanism and retraining for combatants prior to integration in the Congolese Army. This is one of the flaws of the Goma peace agreements signed between the Congolese Government and a number of militia groups including the Congres national pour la défense du people (CNDP) and PARECO in March 2009. The Women's Initiatives and partners have been critical of these aspects of the agreements, as well as the possible exercise of the amnesty provision for gender-based crimes. These concerns were conveyed to the UN Secretary-General in June 2009 in an Open Letter from the Women's Initiatives and partners in Eastern DRC, representing over 180 local women's and human rights organisations. Read more in the April 2011 issue of Women's Voices.

Ivory Coast  On 23 June, the ICC Prosecutor requested authorisation to open investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ivory Coast.[30] Though the country has been under preliminary investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor since 1 October 2003, an increase in violence following the 28 November 2010 presidential election led the Prosecutor to focus on the situation once again.[31] More recently, on 3 March, at least six women protesters peacefully marching in support of Alassane Ouattara (internationally recognised as the winner of the November elections) were shot by soldiers supporting incumbent president Gbagbo.[32] Ousted from power on 11 April 2011, Gabgbo is currently under house arrest in a presidential residence in the northern city of Korhogo.[33] In a report made public on 10 June, an investigation panel established by the UN Human Rights Council reported that there was evidence of the possible commission of crimes against humanity by Gbagbo's forces and by followers of his successor Ouattara. The findings were discussed by the UN Human Rights Council on 15 June.[34]

DRC  On 28 April, the Superior Court of Québec ruled that the case against Canadian corporation Anvil Mining Limited could proceed to the next stage and dismissed the corporation's attempt to have the case thrown out as well as have it tried in the DRC, where the facts happened, or in Australia, as the company was Australia-owned at the time of the incident. The corporation is accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army and thereby contributing to human rights abuses, notably in relation to the massacre of the people of Kilwa in 2004 during which more than 70 civilians died. The court will now consider whether the case should be certified as a class action, allowing all those who suffered in Kilwa to bring claims against Anvil Mining. A hearing on the class certification is scheduled for June. The case was brought by the Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI), which represents survivors and families of victims of the massacre and brings them together with representatives from British, Canadian and Congolese non-governmental organisations that support them.[35]

Kenya  In an article published by the IRIN News website on 25 April,[36] the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice expressed concern over a decision by the ICC refusing to recognise forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence in the Kenya case.[37] Brigid Inder, Executive Director, stated that ‘what makes these acts a form of sexual violence is the force [used] and the coercive environment, as well as the intention and purpose of the acts. … the forced circumcision of Luo men has both political and ethnic significance in Kenya and therefore has a specific meaning. In this instance, it was intended as an expression of political and ethnic domination by one group over the other and was intended to diminish the cultural identity of Luo men.' In the article, the Women's Initiatives calls on the Office of the Prosecutor to properly argue the case for charging forced circumcision as a form of sexual violence, taking these issues into account.

Kenya  On 30 March 2011, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice held a press conference in Nairobi to discuss gender justice and accountability both in the context of Kenya and on an international scale. The press conference was attended by 30 members of the Kenyan media. Speakers included Brigid Inder, Executive Director of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, as moderator; Betty Murungi, board member of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya); Michael Wachira, Deputy Director of the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW – Kenya); Alexis Mbolinani, Coordinator ofJeunesse Unie pour la Protection de l'Environnement et le Développement Communautaire(JUPEDEC – Central African Republic); Stella Yanda, Executive Secretary of Initiatives Alpha (DRC); and Amira Khair, Sudan Programme Officer of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice. Read a full report on the press conference here.



1   ‘ICC Prosecutor: Gaddafi used his absolute authority to commit crimes in Libya', International Criminal Court, May 2011, available at http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/exeres/1365E3B7-8152-4456-942C-A5CD5A51E829.htm, last visited on 30 May 2011.
2   Twenty-eight-year-old Iman al-Obeidi claimed she was beaten and raped for two days by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi's men. She made international headlines when she stormed into a Tripoli hotel to reveal her story to a roomful of media representatives while struggling against the verbal and physical threats of hotel personnel.
3   ‘Strong proof of Libya crimes against humanity: ICC', Reuters, 2 May 2011, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/02/us-libya-warcrimes-idUSTRE7417VU20110502, last visited on 30 May 2011.
4   ‘Report of the international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international law in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya', UN Human Rights Council, 1 June 2011, available at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4df74f402.html.
5   As a result of the current Libyan conflict, there are two parties vying for governance of the country who refer to the state by different names—the government of Qadhafi calls it the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Transitional National Council (formed by anti-Qadhafi forces) refers to it as the Libyan Republic.
6   ‘Libya: Gaddafi investigated over use of rape as weapon', BBC, 8 June 2011, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13705854, last visited on 23 June 2011.
7   Resolution 1970, UNSC, 6491st meeting, S/RES/1970 (2011), 26 February 2011, para 4-8, available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sc10187.doc.htm, last visited on 22 June 2011.
8   Figures compiled by the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice on the basis of available reports.
9   ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past, Protecting Civilians from the LRA, Joint NGO Briefing Paper', Oxfam International, December 2010, available at http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/lra-ghost-christmas-past-20101214.pdf <http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/lra-ghost-christmas-past-20101214.pdf, last visited on 30 May 2011.
10   ‘CAR/DR Congo: LRA Conducts Massive Abduction Campaign 2010', Human Rights Watch, August 2010, available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/08/11/cardr-congo-lra-conducts-massive-abduction-campaign, last visited on 30 May 2011.
11   ‘A Vision for Advancing Gender Justice, 2010-2012', internal document by the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice.
12   For more details on the Baraka trial and the special mobile gender courts see the April 2011 issue of Women's Voices.
13   The bench was composed of one police official and four military officers.
14   ‘Congo Justice: Series of dispatches', Chuck Sudetic, Open Society Foundations, April 2011, available at http://blog.soros.org/author/chuck-sudetic/, last visited on 30 May 2011.
15   Ibidem.
16   During the trial in Baraka, 49 victims/survivors testified about the Fizi mass rape, while the more recent trial in Kamituga saw the testimony of 16 victims/survivors.
17   See the April 2011 issue of Women's Voices.
18   The source wishes to be anonymous due to the intense monitoring by the Sudanese government of communication between local and international actors and NGOs.
19   Official website of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, at http://www.k-ic.org/.
20   ‘Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan In June 2010', Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, available at http://www.k-ic.org/images/stories/kic_report_english_final.pdf, last visited on 30 May 2011.
21   ‘Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan: Clashes on Volatile Border Growing Vicious', Alisher Khamidov, Eurasianet.org, April 2011, available at http://www.eurasianet.org/node/63336, last visited on 30 May 2011.
22   ‘Kyrgyzstan: New Evidence Emerges on Brutality of Attacks', Human Rights Watch, June 2010, available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/25/kyrgyzstan-new-evidence-emerges-brutality-attacks, last visited on 30 May 2011.
23   ‘Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan In June 2010', Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, p xi, 133, 149, 158, 166, 177, 193, 216, 217, 218, available at http://www.k-ic.org/images/stories/kic_report_english_final.pdf, last visited on 30 May 2011.
24   Ibidem, p ii, 6 at http://www.k-ic.org/images/stories/kic_report_english_final.pdf.
25   ‘Comments by the Government of Kyrgyzstan in response to the report of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission into the events in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010', Government of Kyrgyzstan, available at http://www.k-ic.org/images/stories/kg_comments_english_final.pdf, last visited on 30 May 2011.
26   ‘UN envoys voice outrage after mass rape in eastern DR Congo', UN News Centre, 24 June 2011, available at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38843&Cr=sexual+violence&Cr1, last visited on 27 June 2011. See also ‘Fizi: viols massifs à Nyakiele, 70 victimes en une nuit', Radio Okapi, 22 June 2011, avaialble at http://radiookapi.net/actualite/2011/06/22/fizi-viols-massifs-a-nyakiele-70-victimes-en-une-nuit/, last visited on 23 June 2011.
27   ‘Troubles in the Integration of Armed Groups', Blog Post on AllAfrica, 15 June 2011, available at http://blogafrica.allafrica.com/view/entry/main/main/id/0Cy601mWI9J2eTE7.html, last visited on 23 June 2011.
28   ‘DR Congo Mass rape in Fizi: 170 attacked', BBC, 24 June 2011, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13910875, last visited on 27 June 2011.
29   ‘UN envoys voice outrage after mass rape in eastern DR Congo', UN News Centre, 24 June 2011, available at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38843&Cr=sexual+violence&Cr1, last visited on 27 June 2011.
30   ‘Cote d'Ivoire: ICC Prosecutor ready to request judges for authorisation to open an investigation', ICC, 22 June 2011, available at http://www.icc-cpi.int/NetApp/App/MCMSTemplates/Content.aspx?
, last visited on 23 June 2011.
31   Cote d'Ivoire, Official website of the ICC at http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Structure+of+the+Court/Office+of+the+Prosecutor/Comm+and+Ref/C%C3%B4te+dIvoire/.
32   ‘Ivorian women protesters killed', Al Jazeera, 5 March 2011, available at http://english.aljazeera.net/video/africa/2011/03/20113551020308848.html#, last visited on 30 May 2011.
33   ‘Gbagbo calls for peace in Ivory Coast', Al Jazeera, 3 May 2011, available at http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/05/2011534840931838.html, last visited on 20 June 2011.
34   ‘UN probes crimes against humanity in I. Coast', AFP, 10 June 2011, available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jtnKlCMHwtcl7qSzunnXtTdF0zdw?docId=
CNG.f0cf4e201117b4e64ed 6d628597c40b1.1f1
, last visited on on 20 June 2011.
35   ‘Congolese victims file class action against Canadian mining company', Global Witness, 8 November 2010, available at http://www.globalwitness.org/library/congolese-victims-file-class-action-against-canadian-mining-company, last visited on 20 June 2011; and ‘Court ruling a major step forward for case against Canadian mining company', Global Witness, 28 April 2011, available at http://www.globalwitness.org/library/court-ruling-major-step-forward-case-against-canadian-mining-company, last visited on 20 June 2011.
36   Forced Circumcision – a Form of Sexual Violence', Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, May 2011, available at http://www.iccwomen.org/news/berichtdetail.php?we_objectID=104, last visited on 30 May 2011
37   The Prosecutor v. Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Mohammed Hussein Ali.

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Kyrgyzstan  On 3 May 2011, an independent international commission of inquiry (the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission – KIC)[19] released a report[20] on the events that shocked southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. About 470 Kyrgyz and Uzbeks were killed in ethnic and political clashes in the Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces in the south of the country,[21] and accounts of widespread incidents of rape were reported.[22]

In its recent history, the Central Asian country has had two major changes of power — first in 2005 and then in April 2010. In both cases, the former presidents now live in exile. The political crisis of April 2010 triggered the ethnic violence in the south which reached its peak between 10 and 14 of June 2010.

The KIC report is currently at the centre of political discussions in Kyrgyzstan. In the report, the KIC corroborates around 20 rapes and other incidents of sexual violence, but acknowledges that the true figure could be considerably higher.[23] The Commission also mentions that women continue to suffer sexual and gender-based violence and, in the rare cases where victims have chosen to file claims of rape, the Commission found that the response of the authorities has been ‘inadequate if not obstructive'.[24]

Insufficient support for sexual violence victims/survivors by police authorities and the judiciary in this Central Asian country is also reported and confirmed by Women's Initiatives' Kyrgyzstani partner, the Women's Support Centre. According to the Centre, the events of last June 2010 will have a long-lasting effect on Kyrgyzstan and to women's rights within the country. ‘The situation remains unstable,' said the Women's Support Center's Executive Director, Aigul Alymkulova. ‘Despite the peacemaking efforts of the government and many civil society groups, there is a high risk of conflicts that may involve civilians and armed units. We are concerned as citizens and women activists about an insufficient and decreasing attention of Kyrgyzstani policy-makers to gender issues and a deterioration of women's rights. An ongoing militarisation may bring increased levels of violence against women and displacement of the population', she said. The Women's Support Center highlights how in this unstable situation, ‘gender activists/NGOs have to thoroughly strategise to ensure that ad hoc and on-the-spot responses to immediate challenges do not undermine strategic approaches to programming.'

In its response to the report, the Kyrgyz government made a commitment to ‘take all necessary steps to expedite the discovery and investigation of criminal cases, eliminate the discriminatory justice approach, while concentration of cases of torture, sexual violence, and the transfer of weapons by the army and police [sic]'.[25] However, at the end of May, following the release and discussions around the KIC report, the Kyrgyz parliament declared Kimmo Kiljunen, the head of the KIC, ‘persona non grata'.




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