Monthly Archives: October 2012

Taliban claim to have shot 14-year old rights activist

Source: Amnesty International

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting of a 14-year Pakistani human rights activist in Swat valley who is now being treated in hospital for her wounds, prompting Amnesty International to denounce the “shocking act of violence”.

Gunmen opened fire on Malala Yousufzai and a friend as they were travelling home from school in Mingora town. She was hit by two bullets.

Early indications suggested a targeted shooting with one local report suggesting one of the gunmen asked for her by name before opening fire.

Malala has campaigned for girls’ access to education in her region since she was 11 years old, and her father ran one of the last girls’ schools to defy a Taliban ban against female education in Swat valley. Both her and her family have received threats from the Taliban in the past.

“This was a shocking act of violence against a 14-year girl who has bravely been fighting for her right to education. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Researcher with Amnesty International.

“This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate human rights activists face in north-western Pakistan, where particularly female activists live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups.

“In the last twelve months at least two activists working on women’s education, Farida Afridi and Zarteef Afridi, were killed in a wave of targeted attacks by the Taliban and other groups in the region.

“Retaking territory from the Taliban in these areas is not a sufficient measure of success for the Pakistan authorities. Damaged education infrastructure must be rebuilt, especially girls’ schools, their rights to education guaranteed and their safety assured, and Malala must be provided with adequate protection.

“The Pakistan authorities must demonstrate by their actions that they are committed to giving women and girls the same opportunities as men and boys despite threats from the Taliban and other groups.”

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Tunisian woman allegedly raped by police faces prosecution

Tunisians hold signs Tuesday while protesting violence against women.

By Wafa Ben Hassine, Special to CNN

(CNN) — A young woman claims she was in a car with her fiancé when three police officers came by. She says two of them raped her while the third kept guard and later attempted to extort money from her fiancé. All parties involved were arrested — the woman, her fiancé, and the three police officers.

The 27-year-old woman was charged with public indecency. What has shocked the public about the incident is not only the preposterousness of the young lady’s arrest, but the subsequent accusation by the judges that has effectively transformed a victim into an offender.
News: Police say woman, husband were in “immoral position”
International human rights organizations have historically held that rape by security forces amounts to torture. In Tunisia, rape is a serious crime that is severely punished.

This single incident brings to the forefront how such transgressions are allowed to take place, and reveals serious flaws in the Tunisian criminal justice system and in Tunisian law as a whole.
The incident also highlights the current government’s lack of competence in addressing the issues that affect Tunisians most directly.

A Ministry of Human Rights spokesman told CNN: “These kind of crimes and violations committed by the police rarely happen and do not represent the security system. The judicial system did its role and the three accused policemen are arrested.”

Throughout Ben Ali’s era, police officers have had free reign in the country. They pillaged, raped, and repressed citizens all over the nation. They were, after all, the former dictator’s trusted safe keepers.
Today’s police force constitutes the very same apparatus that kept the former president in power. The Ministry of Interior has not made a significant effort (if any at all) to reform the ministry — which would include retraining the police, doing away with repressive security measures and, most importantly, removing the figures that have long represented oppression from the ministry’s leadership roles.

In fact, as of today, all that has been accomplished is the formation of a “task force” that aims to discuss possibilities of reform. The task force only held its first meeting on September 27 — months after the current minister of the interior took office.

On the legislative front, there have been no changes in citizen protection laws since the National Constituent Assembly was voted in. One of the assembly’s latest encounters with women’s rights dealt with a clause drafted by the constitutional Committee on Rights and Liberties. The clause relegated women to a “complementary” status with men, and would have been included in the final constitution had it not been struck down by the central coordination committee.

It is important to remember that women’s rights in Tunisia today do not depend on the actions of a few, and that while progress is slow, not all is lost. Women in Tunisia have long enjoyed a Personal Status Code that is advanced when compared to neighboring countries. There is a serious risk, however, that any progress brought forth by the code could be reversed. Whereas civil society has been vigilant in defending this young woman’s rights and raising awareness about violence against women, the government has yet to act in a constructive manner.

Many official figures, particularly those hailing from the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, have been defending the judiciary’s decisions. For example, Amer Laarayedh, the head of Ennahda’s political bureau and a member of the Constituent Assembly, insists that the protests taking place in support of the victim are attempts by the opposition to bring down the government. The Ministry of Justice denies that the victim was even accused. The Ministry of Interior retains that the couple was found in an “immoral position” when the police first stopped the car.

The courts and Tunisian government had a historic opportunity to define Tunisian society and rebuke state impunity. But instead of standing up against the heinous crime of rape and affirming the need to respect human dignity, the Tunisian judiciary and Ministry of Interior have put human rights to shame.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, the victim’s lawyers have expressed optimism that the charges brought forth against her would be dropped. The incident, however, calls for a serious review of Tunisian law — including those codifying public morality or criminalizing indecency.

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Filed under Women's Rights