The Global Persecution of Women
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Constitution of India
The state shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India."
C.J. Chivers, “In Chechen’s Humiliation, Questions on Rule of Law,” New York Times, 30 Aug. 2006.
Argun, Russia, Aug. 26 — The humiliation of Malika Soltayeva, a pregnant Chechen woman suspected of adultery, was ferocious and swift.
Ms. Soltayeva, 23, had been away from home for a month and was reported missing by her family. When she returned, her husband accused her of infidelity and banished her from their apartment. The local authorities found her at her aunt’s residence. They said they had a few questions.
What followed was no investigation. In a law enforcement compound in this town in east-central Chechnya, the men who served as Argun’s police sheared away her hair and her eyebrows and painted her scalp green, the color associated with Islam. A thumb-thick cross was smeared on her brow.
Ms. Soltayeva, a Muslim, had slept with a Christian Russian serviceman, they said. Her scarlet letter would be an emerald cross. She was forced to confess, ordered to strip, and beaten with wooden rods and hoses on her buttocks, arms, legs, hands, stomach and back.
“Turn and be condemned by Allah,” one of her tormentors said, demanding that she position herself so he could strike her more squarely.
The torture of Ms. Soltayeva, recorded on a video obtained by The New York Times, and other recent brutish acts and instances of religious policing, raise questions about Chechnya’s direction.
Since 2004, the war in Chechnya has tilted sharply in the Kremlin’s favor, as open combat with separatists has declined in intensity and frequency. Moscow now administers the republic and fights the remaining insurgency largely through paramilitary forces led by Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the powerful young Chechen premier.
Mr. Kadyrov’s public persona is flamboyantly pro-Russian. He praises President Vladimir V. Putin and has pledged to rebuild Chechnya and lead it back to the Kremlin’s fold. “I cannot tell you how great my love for Russia is,” he said in an interview this year.
But beneath this publicly professed loyalty, some of Chechnya’s indigenous security forces — with their evident anti-Slavic racism, institutionalized brutality, culture of impunity and intolerant interpretation of a pre-medieval Islamic code — have demonstrated the vicious behavior that Russia has said its latest invasion of Chechnya, in 1999, was supposed to stop.
Human rights groups and Chechen civilians say that these security forces’ ambitions and loyalties are uncertain and that their actions are unchecked. The republic’s course, they say, is dangerous for Russians and Chechens alike.
Few people have yet compared the current disorder with the end of the brief period of Chechen autonomy, in the late 1990’s, when rebels and foreign Islamic mercenaries operated terrorist training camps in the forests, and when Islamic courts sentenced criminals to execution by firing squads, which were broadcast on Chechen television news. But Mr. Kadyrov’s police and security forces, known as kadyrovsty, are staffed mostly with uneducated young men, some of whom have been fighting for years, including many former rebels who have changed sides.
Recent videos of their conduct, provided to The New York Times by outraged Chechens, show an unsettling pattern.
One shows a man and a woman in the town of Shali, each married to someone else, who were suspected of flirting in a car this summer. The police swarmed around the couple, jeering at them, and directed the man to kick the woman. The couple was then forced to dance a brief lezginka, a traditional and often sexually charged dance. The police kicked the woman, too, and pulled her scarf and hair.
Although the faces of several of the officers are clear, they have yet to come under investigation by higher authorities. …
Ms. Soltayeva’s … experience, much of which was captured on video, was an accumulation of terror, pain and loss.
She was seized March 19, and mocked throughout a torture session that lasted nearly two hours. “Call for Sergei!” one of the policemen said, using the name of her assumed lover as he beat her. “Sergei! Help!”
Next they told her to dress, and drove her to her husband’s courtyard and made her dance before her neighbors. “Look how ugly you are,” another policeman said.
When she staggered away, several of them kicked her with their heavy black boots. Two days later she miscarried, and has been largely out of public view since.
The episode, which took place five months ago, was not investigated, even though videos showing the torture were passed along on cellphones throughout Argun and other Chechen towns. The videos circulated widely enough that accurate details of her abuse were known by roughly half of the Chechens interviewed by The New York Times.
“It is just outrageous lawlessness,” Ms. Soltayeva said in an interview in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.
As is common in crumbling marriages, the details of Ms. Soltayeva’s family life and behavior are in dispute. Her former husband’s family says she had an affair with a Russian serviceman she met at a store where she worked as a cashier. She says that she did not, and that she was faithful to her husband even though he beat her.
Her whereabouts in the weeks leading up to her beating are also a source of contention.
Ms. Soltayeva said she was away from home because she had been abducted by masked men who eventually released her, a phenomenon in Chechnya that is common enough that her own family says they believe her. Her husband’s family, and the police, say that she left Chechnya to try to live with her Russian lover, and that she returned when it did not work out.
Natalya Estemirova, a staff member at the Grozny office of Memorial, a private human rights group, said she tried to bring the case to the Chechen authorities, but they threatened Ms. Soltayeva with criminal charges for falsely claiming to have been kidnapped. They showed no interest in the police violence, she said. …
Many of the kadyrovsty, unsophisticated gunmen who have had little contact with the world beyond Chechnya, have acquired cellphones with small video cameras and have casually, even gleefully, recorded their own crimes.
The video sequences are then shared, multiplying as they swiftly pass from phone to phone.
In a long interview earlier this year, Mr. Kadyrov said that his units were being professionalized and that the armed men under his command integrated into formal government structures. He insisted that they would be able to provide security and competent policing.
[On Aug. 29, The Times provided Mr. Kadyrov’s office with four videos of Ms. Soltayeva’s torture. Mr. Kadyrov said through a spokeswoman that upon viewing them he had ordered the Chechen Interior Ministry to investigate. “Criminal charges will be brought against all responsible for this,” said the spokeswoman, Tatyana Georgiyeva.]
Ms. Estemirova said that the unit in Argun that seized Ms. Soltayeva had been formally disbanded in the spring, but that its members were simply transferred into new “professional” battalions, known as North and South.
“They were assimilated into North and South and never checked by prosecutors,” she said. “Now they are more difficult to arrest.”
Valentinas Mite, “Chechnya: Cell-Phone Videos Reveal Abuses,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 6 Sept. 2006.
Prague, September 5, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Chechen security forces loyal to pro-Moscow Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov have begun using cell phones to record videos of themselves torturing and humiliating ordinary Chechens accused of crimes.
Such videotaped beatings have become depressingly commonplace. Their most prominent victim is 23-year-old Malika Soltayeva.
Soltayeva was seized by Chechen security forces in March after her husband accused her of committing adultery with a Russian serviceman.
Despite being pregnant, Soltayeva was subjected to a two-hour beating and repeated humiliation at the hands of her captors.
The men, all local authorities in the Chechen town of Argun, used cell phones to record what was officially termed an investigation into her alleged crimes. A video obtained by RFE/RL shows her being followed by residents and security forces as she leaves the building where she was tortured. Her head shaven and painted green, she is forced to dance and is subjected to taunts and physical abuse.
The woman's aunt, Zarema Soltanova, described Soltayeva's ordeal in an interview with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service.
"She was beaten," Soltanova said. "They forced her to confess that she ran away with a Russian, that she became pregnant with his child. They used foul language with her and made her undress. They poured tap water over her hair and shaved her head. They shaved all the hair on her entire body. They painted crosses on her body and were kicking her."
Soltayeva raised her husband's suspicions after returning from an unexplained monthlong absence.
Her family reported her missing during that time, and Soltayeva insists she was kidnapped.
Prior to her disappearance, she had worked in a small shop in Argun frequented by many Russian soldiers. But, she says, she never had an affair.
"Many Russians came to buy things to the place I worked but I have no idea why they invented the claim that I had an affair," Soltayeva said.
Soltayeva lost her baby as a result of the beating.
She says the ordeal was the result of the misplaced jealousy of her husband, who called on the so-called "kadyrovtsy" loyal to Kadyrov to organize the assault in order to restore the family's pride.
"He [the husband] came together with them, he led them. He is the one who sent me to this ordeal," Soltayeva said.
The video of Soltayeva gained exposure in the West last week, when a correspondent from "The New York Times" published an article on the visual record of her ordeal.
Not An Isolated Incident
But her case is not unique. Numerous such videos have recorded vicious beatings of both men and women at the hands of the kadyrovtsy. In one such recording obtained by RFE/RL, the kadyrovtsy laugh and jeer as they slap and humiliate a young woman.
The videos are later circulated by cell phone, intimidating civilians and fueling the security forces' taste for self-promotion. Mobile-phone use in Chechnya has risen rapidly in recent years, making it a powerful device for communication.
Natasha Estemirova works in the Chechen capital Grozny for the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial. She says the recorded beatings are a grotesque new form of cruelty in a region already notorious for torture and disappearances.
"From the point of view of human rights, it is a violation, because a human is degraded in such a terrible way," Estemirova said. "A human being is being placed outside the society, outside the defenses provided by a civilized state."
A Show Of Bravado
Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer says the cell-phone videos are a natural extension of life in Chechnya, which remains in the throes of an entrenched conflict in which Russian federal forces, Kadyrov's soldiers, and militant separatists all play a part.
Felgenhauer says violence, machismo, and religious extremism prevail in many parts of Chechnya. The taped beatings , he says, are a way for the kadyrovtsy to brag about their exploits.
"They simply behave like hooligans, like 'thugs,' as they say in English," Felgenhauer said. "They are defiant, not afraid of any punishment. It is normal for them to live for the sake of violence and for bullying others. And, of course, they have almost no education at all."
Felgenhauer says that many of the younger kadyrovtsky know no other way of life, and that they often compete with one another to see who can display greater cruelty and toughness.
"It was observed long ago that kadyrovtsy compete with each other about who has the biggest gun, and who has most modern and expensive mobile phone," Felgenhauer said. "They have the phones, which can also film videos. So they film [the violence] and brag about it. Later these materials are spread around and reach a general market."
Amnesty International, "Guatemala: No protection, no justice: Killings of women in Guatemala, 9 June 2005.
The State’s failure to bring to justice those responsible for the atrocities committed during the internal armed conflict or to provide reparations to the victims and their families has left a terrible legacy. The continuing general pattern of impunity has meant the perpetrators of past human rights violations have evaded criminal prosecution and has contributed to a spiralling level of violence in society and continuing human rights violations. (12) The failure to hold those accountable for past and current violations has further undermined public confidence in the justice system, weakening the rule of law. ...
The real incidence of murder with sexual violence is likely to be higher. At present, the way the authorities classify female deaths does not include a gender perspective. Categories register death by firearm or stabbing for example, but do not take into account types of violence, such as sexual abuse – inflicted on the bodies that might indicate a form of gender-based violence.(26) Other categories such as "death from multiple trauma" ("muertes por politraumatismo"), head trauma (trauma cráneo) or abdominal trauma (trauma abdomen) do not distinguish whether the deaths were accidental or the result of intentional harm, for example, being beaten to death. The failure of the appropriate authorities to accurately document and consider all the elements of the crime prejudices the likelihood of a thorough and impartial investigation and may even signify that no investigation is opened at all. In addition, serious deficiencies in the protection of the crime scene, collection and preservation of evidence and failure to determine signs of sexual assault during autopsies means that crimes of sexual violence are frequently missed or ignored. ...
Several cases of killings of women in which members of the PNC have been implicated have also been reported over the last few years.
On 18 May 2004, 17-year-old Oliberta Elizabeth Calel Gómez was allegedly killed by a police officer based at the PNC station in San Bartolomé Jocotenango, in the department of El Quiché. According to the report prepared by the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office in El Quiché, Oliberta was coming out of school with a friend when she was stopped by a police officer who offered to drive her and her friend to their destination. Oliberta reportedly knew the police officer so they accepted the offer. The police officer drove to a remote area and told the two students to get out of the truck. They tried to run away but were caught and taken back to the truck. The police officer reportedly threatened to kill them if they tried to run away again. He reportedly told the two to remove their underwear and took out a knife and a gun. One of the girls managed to escape but Oliberta was murdered. The autopsy report states that she had multiple stab wounds to her neck, thorax and abdomen. The police officer was detained on 10 June 2004. At the time of writing, the case was near sentencing.
In 2003, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office studied two cases in which women were murdered apparently in connection with their status as witnesses in investigations into unlawful activities in which police officers were implicated. According to the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, in at least two other cases, investigations conducted by the Public Ministry revealed that those identified as responsible for the killing of the women were the former partners of the victims assisted by other police officers. In its 2003 report on the murders of women, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office stated that there were indications suggesting that this type of police conduct was frequent but says, "the perpetrators linked to the security forces have been able to ‘fabricate’ alibis and divert the course of the investigations to maintain impunity."(35) ...
The often inadequate response of the police to emergency calls reporting an incident involving violence against women or to anxious relatives wishing to lodge a missing persons’ report and failure to establish effective mechanisms for systematizing data is indicative of a pattern of negligence of some state institutions towards the killing of women.
On 1 February 2002, Nancy Karina Peralta Oroxon, aged 30, left home at 6 in the morning to go to work and then on to the University of San Carlos (USAC, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala) in Guatemala City where she was studying. She failed to return home that evening. After a sleepless night, her anxious family began searching for her at local hospitals and stations. When her sister went to report her missing at the local police station, she was asked whether she was sure she had not run off with her boyfriend. She was told she would have to wait 48 hours to lodge a missing persons’ report. She provided a description of her sister and left a photograph. She also called the morgue and gave a description of her sister but was reportedly informed that no young woman had been admitted. In fact, a death certificate had been issued a few hours earlier on behalf of an unidentified woman. Time of death was registered at 11pm, 1 February 2002.
On 3 February 2002, the family identified Nancy Peralta in the morgue. This was after an article and photograph in the press about the discovery of the body of a young unidentified woman, wearing a white jumper, who had had her throat cut. Recognising the clothing, her father rang the morgue and gave them Nancy Peralta’s name and a physical description of her that matched the characteristics of the unidentified woman. Despite the police having been given a description and a photograph of Nancy Peralta, it appears no effort was made to cross-reference data on a woman reported missing with that of unidentified murder victims.
In a context in which many women reported missing are subsequently found dead, police practice of waiting 48 to 72 hours to begin a search for a missing person is at odds with a state’s duty to take urgent action to prevent injury to people believed to be at specific and immediate risk. During the course of its research, Amnesty International found that routine delays in opening investigations to establish the whereabouts of an individual reported as missing has no basis in law and appears to be the result of bad practice, in part a legacy of the years of internal armed conflict when tens of thousands of people "disappeared" at the hands of state agents or went missing as they attempted to flee violence. Delaying the opening of an investigation seriously diminishes the chances of finding the woman alive or identifying those responsible. If searches were begun immediately, killings could be prevented or better evidence could be recovered.
The case of Nancy Peralta highlights how the investigating authorities frequently fail to open a proper investigation to determine whether an offence has been committed. In this case, the authorities failed to act on the probability that a violation might have been committed and assumed that Nancy Peralta was missing of her own accord without carrying out a thorough assessment or investigation of the circumstances in which she went missing. In treating the report by her family that she was missing as a minor incident, the authorities put the burden of proving she did not leave voluntarily on to the family. Such practices mean that initial investigations to establish whether a crime has been committed can be limited, or, as in the case of Nancy Peralta, non-existent.
Where an individual is reported missing, the authorities have a duty to take immediate steps to establish whether a criminal offence has been committed. This duty should include an assessment by members of the police and Public Ministry of the reasons why the family believe their relative has been abducted, and should pursue all lines of inquiry, including the possibility that she may have been abducted.
The authorities must also establish more effective response systems for dealing with calls reporting an incident of violence against women. According to the mother of 15-year-old María Isabel Veliz Franco, her daughter was left for dead on some waste ground at 10 o’clock in the evening of 17 December 2001. A man reportedly informed police officers that a dying woman had been found. However, police officers failed to arrive at the scene that night and only turned up in the afternoon of the following day when the Public Ministry arrived to remove the body. ...
Blaming the victim
"We know that in the majority of cases, the women had links with juvenile gangs and gangs involved in organized crime"(52) (President Oscar Berger, La Nación newspaper, 26 June 2004)
During the course of its research, Amnesty International interviewed relatives of a number of victims, many of whom complained about having to prove their relative was "respectable" or that they had not been involved in any crimes before the authorities would take their complaint seriously. Relatives also complained about having to provide new evidence to compel the authorities to take action to investigate the case. In an interview in May 2004 with officers of the Homicide Unit of the PNC, Amnesty International was told that "most victims were gang members"(53).
References to the victims by some state authorities as gang members or prostitutes suggests deep-seated discrimination in some sectors that has characterised the response of the authorities to the murders. Such attitudes frequently influence the way in which the cases are investigated and documented.
In the absence of any serious studies on the identities of the victims, affected families and women’s organizations have drawn attention to the fact that the prejudices and discrimination that give rise to the labelling of victims, conceals the pervasive nature and seriousness of gender-based crime.
The report of the preliminary investigation (diligencias preliminares) of the prosecutor investigating the murder of a minor is illustrative of how subjective and preconceived ideas about the role of women in society can influence the degree to which an investigation is taken seriously by the authorities. In it, the prosecutor refers to the minor as "always dressing provocatively"(54). In February 2002, the report of the Public Ministry concluded that,
"the minor [..] was known under the alias ‘the mad girl [la loca]’ … her school attendance was irregular, she was absent on Fridays, she was told off for wearing skirts that were too short … She was described at her workplace as a young woman with no love for life … interested in sales commission. The other young ladies in the boutique started the day with a prayer … she didn’t like joining in. Other things the minor liked to do included going to nightclubs for which her mother gave her great freedom … she often used to come home in the early hours in different cars. She had connections with the Salvatrucha gang who once beat her up."(55)
The discriminatory attitudes of some state authorities towards women who are victims of violence only increases the suffering of the relatives as the following reaction of the girl’s mother highlights, "They said my daughter was an atheist but in fact she went to the Adventist church. They said she was a member of a youth gang but she was studying and working. She hated the youth gangs, they didn’t say that when she was beaten up by them, it was because she refused to join them. The PDH report had five pages on how ‘bad’ my daughter and I were, none of it is true and nothing was said about the facts and evidence about the criminals contained in the case file. They did not investigate them or order their arrest". (56)
Women’s groups have pointed out that some newspapers have taken up the issue of gender-based violence against women in a responsible manner and brought it to wider public attention, but that others have been sensationalist, projecting negative or derogatory images of the victims. In doing so, some parts of the media have played a role in generating prejudice against the victims. They have also sometimes inadvertently helped divert attention away from the responsibility of the authorities to tackle the problem seriously. These articles have also contributed to exacerbating a climate of fear and anxiety, particularly among women. ...
Impunity and the denial of justice
"There is a common denominator to all the murders: impunity."(57)
The final report of MINUGUA, while commending past successive governments for certain human rights improvements also noted that impunity was still widespread and that grave obstacles remained to improving the justice system. Impunity has been the hallmark of the investigations into the cases of women who have been murdered. The absence of physical or scientific evidence, lack of resources in terms of personnel and equipment dedicated to investigating these crimes, lack of infrastructure, and lack of political will means that the vast majority of the investigations have never progressed beyond the initial stage.
According to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women in only one of the more than 150 case files handed to its office for investigation has a conviction been obtained. In one other case, the investigation is at the trial stage (etapa de debate), the stage that precedes sentencing.(58) According to the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office only 9% of cases have been investigated. In May 2004, the Human Rights Ombudsman, Sergio Morales, was reported as stating that his Office had been directly involved in three criminal investigations of killings of women and provided information so that those allegedly responsible could be arrested, but that no action had been taken.(59) Even in the limited number of cases where progress has apparently been made, judicial investigations have not advanced further because police have failed to act on arrest warrants requested by the Public Ministry. According to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, of the 152 cases her office was investigating as of August 2004, a number of arrest warrants remained pending.
GTM41861.FE, "Guatemala: Recourses and protection available to a woman who was harrassed by a police officer who attempted to rape her or soliticit sexual favours from her (2002-2003)," 14 August 2003. Ottawa: IRB, 2003.
An article in the 18-24 May 2003 issue of La Tertulia indicated that the majority of those who murdered women did so with total impunity because the investigations never led to any arrests. A prosecutor from Zone 14 explained that police investigations are limited by a lack of evidence as to who committed the crimes (La Tertulia 18-24 May 2003). The motives behind these murders are also difficult to establish because witnesses are hesitant to provide information about the crimes out of fear of reprisal (ibid.). According to Carmen López de Cáceres, director of the National Commission for the Follow-Up and Support of the Strengthening of Justice (Comisión Nacional para el Seguimiento y Apoyo al Fortalecimiento de la Justicia), what is disturbing about this situation is that the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) and the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) did not investigate these deaths, and that the government remained indifferent (ibid.).
(For the remainder of the report, see Amnesty International, Guatemala: No protection, no justice: Killings of women in Guatemala.)
Amnesty International, India: Justice, the victim - Gujarat state fails to protect women from violence. 27 Jan. 2005.
Over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in targeted violence in the State of Gujarat in Western India in 2002. The violence followed a fire on a train at Godhra on 27 February 2002 in which 59 Hindu activists had died. While the cause of the fire remains disputed, state officials and right wing Hindu groups claimed that local Muslims had planned and started it. In the subsequent large-scale violence against Muslims, girls and women were particular targets of Hindu mobs. By systematically and brutally abusing Muslim girls and women, they intended to humiliate and pollute the whole Muslim community. Several hundred girls and women were verbally abused, threatened, publicly stripped naked, raped, often gang-raped, had swords thrust into their bodies and were thrown onto fires while often still alive. Pregnant women and children were particular targets. ...
The report focuses on the consistent failure of the state of Gujarat to fulfil its and obligations under national and international law to exercise due diligence with regard to the state’s Muslim minority, particularly girls and women. This obligation entails efforts to prevent abuses and ensure that abuses by state and private agents are effectively and independently investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. The state and the central governments also have obligations to address crimes that violate international law some of which amount to crimes against humanity. (For details see section on state responsibility for abuses by private actors below and in the main report.) Gujarat state agents failed to prevent sexual abuses as police stood by or participated in the violence. Once the abuses had occurred and victims sought redress, elements of the criminal justice system, including the police, the judiciary and the public prosecutor’s office, failed in their constitutional duty to record and investigate complaints objectively and prosecute offences. Medical documentation of abuses was frequently fraught with deliberate or careless inaccuracies which frustrated survivors’ attempts to secure justice. Deficiencies in penal provisions relating to rape, though long recognized, have not been addressed. As a result, existing laws failed to fully criminalize the range of abuses suffered by women in Gujarat and so hampered women’s efforts to seek justice. Three years after the frenzy, virtually none of those responsible for rape and murder in Gujarat have been brought to justice.
The Gujarat state government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party) since 1995, has for years failed to curb hate propaganda against Muslims and to maintain a non-discriminatory attitude to the state’s minorities. It assumed a partisan role during the Godhra incident and subsequent violence, failed to co-operate with the judiciary to provide legal redress and to ensure the impartiality of public prosecutors. It also resisted public scrutiny, failed to fully cooperate with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and to protect human rights defenders and victims and witnesses seeking redress. It made it hard for victims to obtain relief, compensation and rehabilitation.
The Central Government of India, which up to May 2004 was also led by the BJP, failed to distance itself from the state government despite its clear failings to protect the human rights of members of the state’s Muslim minority. In doing so, it failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 50 of the (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) ICCPR.(1) ...
Women seeking justice
Many Muslim victims of the violence in 2002 had witnessed police siding with the attackers. Muslim women had seen police officers exposing their penises to them, shouting sexual innuendo and threatening rape. Police had stood by when the victims themselves or their mothers, sisters or daughters were sexually assaulted, raped and killed. Understandably, many women survivors found it difficult to turn to police to report rape and other sexual violence. Police are obliged under the law to truthfully register every individual complaint in a First Information Report (FIR) after which they are to investigate the complaint and submit their findings in a charge sheet. On the basis of this report, criminal prosecution may be initiated. As it is the first step towards legal redress, it is important that police take utmost care to accurately record every complaint.
Many victim survivors were too traumatized, injured or frightened in the days following the mass violence to approach the police and file complaints; others were occupied with searching for missing family members or caring for traumatized children and other family members. Many had lost all their belongings and had to search for food and shelter. Fear of leaving makeshift shelters close to other members of their own community and apprehension of further assault by Hindu mobs also paralyzed victim survivors and made them delay or avoid going to the police to register complaints.
Some victims, including women victims of sexual assault, however, tried to obtain legal redress, so far with little or no success. ...
State responsibility for abuses by private actors
The sexual offences and violence described in this report violate international and national law and some of them amount to crimes against humanity. They are violations of internationally recognized human rights of women for which the state bears responsibility. This includes responsibility firstly for the acts and omissions of state agents and apparatus, and secondly if it fails to exercise due diligence in preventing, investigating and punishing such violence.
As crimes against humanity, these abuses constitute some of the gravest crimes of concern to the international community. Crimes against humanity include acts such as murder, torture, enslavement, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, “"disappearance”" and other inhumane acts.
They are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian populations pursuant to a state or organizational policy. Crimes against humanity are regarded as crimes under both customary and international treaty law. All states have a duty to investigate and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute crimes against humanity by persons found in their territory, regardless when they were committed or who committed them, to extradite suspects to a state able and willing to do so in fair trials without the death penalty or to surrender them to an international criminal court. Crimes against humanity entail individual criminal responsibility and can occur in conflict situations or times of peace. No official immunities or statute of limitations apply to crimes against humanity and states have the primary responsibility to bring to justice those responsible, to establish the truth about what occurred and to provide reparations to victims and their families.(2)
Accordingly, the Governments of Gujarat and India have an internationally recognised obligation to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes, to establish the truth and to enable victims and their families to obtain full reparations. In Gujarat in 2002, the governments of Gujarat and India failed to fulfil this fundamental duty by permitting the worst possible crimes, including murderers and rapes, some amounting to crimes against humanity, to be committed against the Muslim civilian population, in particular, against girls and women. Sadly, the government of Gujarat continues to fail to take effective action to investigate and prosecute these serious crimes or to prevent them in the future. Meanwhile, despite various promises the State of India has taken few concrete steps in this regard.
The Governments of Gujarat and India are also responsible under international human rights law for failing to exercise due diligence to prevent, protect and provide an effective remedy for these abuses. The understanding of state responsibility for human rights violations has significantly widened in recent years to include not only violations of human rights by the state or its agents but also abuses by private actors which the state ignores. If the state fails to act with due diligence to prevent human rights abuses and fails to investigate and punish abuses once they have occurred, it has obligations under international human rights law. This view of state responsibility is established in core human rights treaties. The ICCPR which India ratified in 1979 requires state parties to respect the rights of the Covenant. The Human Rights Committee, a body of experts monitoring state parties’ implementation of the ICCPR, has stated that this obligation extends to protecting against acts inflicted by non-state actors, those acting in their private capacity. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1993 as a "commitment by States in respect of their responsibilities, and a commitment by the international community at large to the elimination of violence against women", affirmed that states must "exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons". Radhika Coomaraswamy, then UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women stated that states which fail to act against crimes of violence against women are as guilty as the perpetrators. States are under a positive duty to prevent, investigate and punish crimes associated with violence against women.
The state of India is also under an obligation to protect a range of fundamental rights provided for in the Constitution of India. These include the right to equality before law and equal protection of the law (Article 14), the right to freedom from discrimination, (Article 15), the right to freedom of religion (Article 25) and the right to life and liberty (Article 21). India has assumed international responsibility to promote and protect human rights when it ratified the ICCPR, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Amnesty International believes that in relation to the violence in Gujarat in 2002, India has not fulfilled its obligations to protect fundamental rights guaranteed in its constitution and in international treaties to which is a party.
Reports received from human rights groups in India indicate that the Government of Gujarat may have been complicit in at least part of the abuses perpetrated in Gujarat in 2002. There is evidence of connivance of authorities in the preparation and execution of some of the attacks and also in the way the right to legal redress of women victims of sexual violence has been frustrated at every level. Furthermore, the Gujarat state has failed to meet their international obligations to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International believes that the Governments of India and Gujarat have failed to exercise due diligence with regard to Muslim women in Gujarat when they failed to prevent grave abuses of their rights and to ensure that legal provisions, law enforcement, judicial structures and rehabilitation measures guarantee legal redress for victims of a range of sexual and other abuses of their rights. The rights of Muslim girls and women which were violated by private actors in Gujarat in 2002 include the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to equal protection under the law, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to legal redress for abuses suffered.
”Human Rights Group Blasts Unwarranted Detention of Libyan Women and Girls,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 3 March 2006.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report condemning Libya's practice of confining women and girls in prison-like facilities for suspected moral transgressions. The report, A Threat to Society? Arbitrary Detention of Women and Girls for 'Social Rehabilitation,' details the use of so-called "protective" homes that are essentially prisons where women and girls are held indefinitely without criminal convictions or access to any legal redress. Some of the women interviewed by HRW were being held because they were accused of having extramarital sex, some having already served their sentences in prisons for this "crime" but lacking a male family member willing to take custody of them. Others were victims of rape that family members had driven out of their homes. Even women who have sought sanctuary from domestic violence are refused the right to leave.
Officially, the detention centers are meant to rehabilitate women who have "transgressed socially-accepted norms of behavior" and to protect women who would be subjected to violence at the hands of family members. However, HRW charges, "Libya is violating some of the most basic principles of human rights law in the operation of these facilities." The report states, "Libyan authorities treat adult women detained in social rehabilitation facilities like legal minors with little or no independent decision making-authority over their lives" and demands the release of all women and girls, as well as the establishment of actual voluntary shelters.
In response to the report, the Libyan government has promised to form a council to investigate the claims as the official response to the report claims that HRW has ignored "Islamic values" as well as "the traditions and habits" that "govern the Libyan society."
Although Libya provides for some forms of gender equality, according to HRW, the country's zina laws and repressive social norms subordinate women. Even rape victims who attempt to have charges brought against their assailant cans subsequently be charged with crimes. If their accusations do not end in conviction they can be charged and imprisoned for "adultery and fornication" and judges can propose that the rape victim marry the rapist as a "social remedy."
“Palestinian women ‘not protected,’” BBC News, 7 Nov. 2006.
Palestinian women and girls have little protection from violence against them, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
Discriminatory laws and a lack of policies to assist victims of abuse mean violence often goes unreported or unpunished, the group said.
The security threats that women face at home have been ignored in the face of the conflict with Israel, HRW reported.
HRW based its report on interviews conducted in late 2005 and early 2006.
The group found that the legal and justice systems in the West Bank and Gaza result in light sentences for men who, claiming an affront to family honour, kill female relatives suspected of adultery.
'Lack of skills'
In addition, rapists who agree to marry their victims are exempted from criminal prosecution.
Several factors were found to compound the problem.
Palestinian police lack the skills to effectively address violence against women, HRW said.
As a result, informal measures are adopted such as seeking the mediation of influential clan leaders to encourage marriage between a rapist and his victim, the reports said.
The justice system too, lets women down HRW said.
"When confronted with cases of violence against women and girls, the Palestinian criminal justice system is more interested in avoiding public scandal than in seeing justice done," said Lucy Mair, one of the researchers and authors of the report.
And although the number of shelters for Palestinian women is growing, Israeli restrictions on movement in the West Bank and Gaza make them difficult or impossible to reach.
HRW sees some hope in recent legal reforms carried out by the Palestinian Authority.
But the rights group wants to see more done.
"The PA urgently needs to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of violence against women and girls," said Farida Deif, the report's other researcher and co-author.
Police and medical staff should be trained to international standards to respond to domestic violence and discriminatory laws should be repealed, the report said.
“Group: Palestinian Women Often Abused,” New York Times, 7 Nov. 2006.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- A new report presents an alarming picture of the abuse of women in the Palestinian territories, with police, courts and government agencies failing to treat violence such as rape and beatings as a crime.
Human Rights Watch cited practices such as rape victims being forced to marry assailants and light sentences for men who kill female relatives suspected of adultery. In a report released Tuesday, the rights group said families, tribal leaders and authorities, backed by tradition and discriminatory laws, often sacrifice victims' interests for ''family honor.''
And the problem is getting worse with growing poverty and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the New York-based group said.
The report comes about a year after a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics survey of more than 4,000 households found 23 percent of women said they experienced domestic violence, but only 1 percent had filed a complaint. Two-thirds said they were subjected to psychological abuse at home.
Human Rights Watch urged the Palestinian president, parliament and government ministries to make protection of women a top priority. It said more can be done despite the conflict with Israel and the cash crisis in the Palestinian Authority brought on by the rise to power of the Islamic militant group Hamas.
''The main failing of the system is the failure to treat violence against women as a crime and to address it accordingly,'' researcher Lucy Mair said. ''We want to say you can take some positive steps and it's imperative to provide protection to more women.''
Mair said Human Rights Watch studied the Palestinian territories -- rather than investigating abuses in other traditional societies -- because some Palestinian officials had signaled they were ready for change.
''This made us optimistic we have something to work with,'' she said.
Commenting on the report, Adnan Amr, a legal adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, agreed Palestinian authorities are ''weak'' in enforcing the law, but blamed ''the security and political situation we have been through over the past two years.''
''All Palestinians, not only women, are paying a heavy price for the chaos,'' Amr said, referring to struggles between rival Palestinian groups.
Human Rights Watch's report, based on dozens of interviews with victims, social workers, lawyers and police chiefs in the West Bank and Gaza, said abusers in the Palestinian territories are granted virtual immunity.
Rapists who marry their victims are not prosecuted, it said, and such deals are often arranged by the families, tribal leaders and police.
Even those assigned to protect the victims often push for such an outcome. The director of the West Bank's only shelter for teenage girls is quoted as saying she arranged five such marriages in her six-year tenure.
Palestinian law is lenient with men who kill female relatives because of adultery. Yet it bars rape and incest victims from having abortions. Rape within marriage is not considered a crime, the report said.
Police and hospital doctors are not trained to handle abuse cases and often further humiliate victims, the report said.
In one hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, a doctor announced to a crowded waiting room that his unmarried 16-year-old patient was pregnant. The girl's mother later cited that incident as the main reason for her decision to kill her daughter, according to a case documented in the report.
A premium is placed on female virginity, with rapists facing a lesser punishment if the victim is not a virgin, the report said. Virginity tests are imposed on sexual abuse victims against their will.
Women's fates are increasingly determined by tribal leaders or Palestinian Authority-appointed governors, rather than the overloaded courts. The informal justice system is often arbitrary and biased against victims, Human Rights Watch said.
Victims are often afraid to come forward because of social stigma, the perceived futility of complaining and fear of inviting retribution by relatives, the report said.
Manal Kleibo, a lawyer at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in the West Bank town of Ramallah, told The Associated Press that she has detected a change in some attitudes in recent years, saying authorities are increasingly willing to work with her group.
For example, she said, growing numbers of police officers are attending workshops on how to handle sexual abuse cases. Some families no longer force their daughters to marry rapists, she said, citing the case of a 14-year-old girl who instead was taken to a secret shelter in the West Bank with her family's support.
Hanan Ashrawi, an independent legislator, expressed doubt Human Rights Watch's call for a repeal of laws that discriminate against women will go anywhere since the Palestinian parliament is dominated by the Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas. ''We don't have a majority for reforms on these issues,'' she said.
The Global Persecution of Women