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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

First picture of mystery teenage girl feared victim of sex trafficking found wandering streets

Police have released a picture of the girl, aged between 14 and 16, who has communicated by drawing pictures which appear to show her being raped
Mystery: The picture of the girl released today
Mystery: The picture of the girl released today
This is the mystery teenage girl found wandering the streets of Dublin who police fear may be the victim of sex trafficking.
Detectives have taken the unprecedented step of publishing a photograph of the child, who is believed to be between 14 and 16 years old.
Despite several weeks of investigation, and following 115 lines of inquiry, detectives in Ireland remain baffled about the identity of the young girl.
The girl was found on Dublin's O'Connell Street - the Irish capital's main shopping thoroughfare - in a dazed state by gardai on a routine afternoon patrol on October 10.
She was taken into care and was initially unable to speak to officers. Instead, she communicated with them by drawing images, which appeared to show her being raped.
Superintendent Dave Taylor said: "This investigation has involved over 2,000 hours, engaging with all the relevant authorities and all the relevant specialists in this area, but unfortunately we have been unable to identify her.
"At the moment we need to find out who this child is."
The girl is described as being 5ft 6in and of slim build with long blonde hair.
She was wearing a purple hooded top, tight dark-coloured jeans, flat black shoes and a grey woollen jumper when found.
It is believed the clothes were bought in major Irish retailers but detectives could not determine when they were purchased.
The girl also has a brace but paediatric orthodontists contacted in Ireland were unable to shed any light on her identity through their records.
Gardai have set up an investigation codenamed Operation Shepard in attempt to establish the girl's identity.
A dedicated telephone line and email address is being manned by officers for any information from the public which can help the inquiry.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the team in Dublin on +353 1 666 8100 or by email at
In a move never before undertaken, the force went to the High Court last week to seek permission under the Child Care Act to release a photograph of the girl.
Lawyers argued that it was in extraordinary circumstances after the investigation "hit a brick wall".
Mr Taylor said the girl was being well treated under an interim care order by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Ireland health authorities.
"Obviously we have concerns as to her welfare," he said.
"She was found in a distressed state, she is being cared for very well at the moment by professionals but obviously we're at an impasse at the moment.
"We can't identify her."
The investigation team has called in Interpol, the missing persons bureau, the forensic science laboratory, the domestic violence and sexual assault unit and national immigration authorities.
They have also trawled city centre CCTV footage, contacted social services and homeless shelters, bed and breakfasts, hostels as well as airports and ports throughout the country.
Detectives came up with 15 possible names for their girl through their inquiries but they were "fully checked" and led nowhere.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Khmer Rouge sexual violence survivors break silence

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

PHNOM PENH, 1 November 2013 (IRIN) - For almost 35 years, Rys Yamlas kept a secret. The memory of being taken into a forest in her native village of Ochero in Cambodia, pushed against a tree and then brutally raped by a Khmer Rouge soldier was too painful to share - until recently.

"It still hurts, but letting the world know about my story makes me feel better," Rys told IRIN after participating in a recent hearing for victims of sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge, hosted by a local NGO on the sidelines of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

The UN-backed Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts in Cambodia (ECCC) - commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal - earlier this week heard closing statements from defendants Khieu Samphan (former head of state) and Nuon Chea (chief ideologist for the Khmer Rouge).

Cambodia Defenders Project (CDP), in cooperation with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) and the Victims’ Support Section of an ongoing war crimes probe, launched these annual public hearings in 2011 to give voice to sexual violence survivors during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), when an estimated 1.8 million people were murdered.

The tribunal’s judges ruled in September 2010 that extramarital sexual crimes could not be tried in their court because while such rape occurred under the Khmer Rouge’s rule, the judges said it was not leaders’ policy.

Outlawing extramarital sex

“Those people who were suspected of `immoral’ behaviour, including rape, were categorized as `bad-elements’ or `enemies’, and were often either re-educated or killed,” the judges wrote in September 2010, adding that since the cadres’ policy clearly aimed to prevent rape, they could not be held responsible for gender-based crimes outside of marriage.

This policy, also known as Code No. 6, prohibited sexual relations between unmarried couples, with the possibility of both parties being executed if discovered.

“Despite the fact that this policy did not manage to prevent rape, it cannot be considered that rape was one of the crimes used by the CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea] leaders,” the judges concluded.

After the women were spurned from seeking justice in court, Duong Savorn, a lawyer and project coordinator for the NGO said the NGO “decided to give them [gender-based violence (GBV) survivors] a voice, to share their experience and to release and acknowledge their suffering”.

Finding the words

As a civil party in the tribunal, Rys is accustomed to testifying.

She has talked about the hard, forced labour on the rice fields, the constant fear of being executed and the struggle to find enough food to survive. That she had been raped, however, she never mentioned publicly until the 24 September hearing attended by an estimated 400 people.

"When I saw this one woman talk [in 2011] about her experience - she was much younger than I am - I decided to speak out as well. If she was brave enough to share her story, I would be, too," Rys, now aged 70, said.

Two years later, CDP selected her to testify.

There have been three of these public hearings, each attended by five participants who shared their experiences (including victims and witnesses of GBV).

Survivors of sexual violence during the time of the Khmer Rouge have only come forth in recent years, said Duong with CDP, who started researching the topic in 2009.

"I thought that it [GBV] must have happened," although evidence was scant, he said.

Other than a study published in 2008 there was little systematic research.

A radio programme Duong started in 2009 that encouraged women to speak about their experiences with sexual violence, as well as advocacy by local human rights organizations, led the war crimes tribunal to include forced marriage as a punishable crime in its proceedings.

Rape not considered war crime

But rape and other acts of sexual violence (except in cases of forced marriage) would not be considered in court trials on the basis of the Khmer Rouge’s policy banning extra-marital sex.

Theresa de Langis, an expert on GBV in conflict and post-conflict countries, is interviewing 25 Cambodian women about their experiences under the Khmer Rouge for an oral history project.

Instead of preventing rape, de Langis said respondents told her the Khmer Rouge leaders' policy ensured survivors would not report their perpetrators, given that the penalty for extramarital sex, including rape, was death.

".. if I would have reported him, they [Khmer Rouge cadres] would have killed him, but they would have also killed me.."
"When he raped me, I wasn't in a position where I could have cried for help. He would have killed me. Later, if I would have reported him, they [Khmer Rouge cadres] would have killed him, but they would have also killed me," said Rys.

Call for action

Last month, in its most recent review of the government’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which the country ratified in 1980, the UN questioned the failure of Cambodian government to address “adequately” sexual violence against women under the Khmer Rouge regime.

The UN called on the government to “develop effective non-judicial transitional justice programmes, including the provision of adequate reparations, psychological and other appropriate support”.

Meanwhile, for Rys, she said just being able to speak publicly has brought her some peace. "We want the world to know what really happened.”


Theme (s): Conflict, Gender Issues, Human Rights,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Nigeria frees six pregnant girls in baby factory raid

(AFP) – 2 days ago 
Lagos — Nigerian police have raided a baby factory in the oil city of Port Harcourt and arrested a woman accused of harbouring six pregnant girls, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
"We rescued six girls last week at different stages of pregnancy from an illegal maternity home in Port Harcourt," Joy Elomoko of the Imo State police told AFP.
She said the youngest of the girls was 14, without disclosing the ages of the others.
"We have also arrested the proprietress of the clinic and she is assisting us in our investigation," she said.
Elomoko said the raid on the Port Harcourt home followed the arrest of a girl with a baby in nearby Owerri on October 15.
"A lady was found in suspicious circumstances with a day old baby and after interrogation she confessed that she gave birth to a baby in Port Harcourt," the police spokeswoman said.
Elomoko said police detectives followed the girl to Port Harcourt where six expectant mothers were found in a clinic run by a woman.
"The woman could not produce any document authorising her to operate the clinic and she was subsequently arrested," she said.
She said the girls also told police that they were being kept in the home to make babies which would be sold to willing buyers.
Elomoko said the suspect would be taken to court after police investigation.
Nigerian police have uncovered a series of alleged baby factories in recent years, notably in the southeastern part of the country. Baby boys can sell for a price of around $250 (180 euros), baby girls for slightly less.
Human trafficking, including the selling of children, is the third most common crime in Nigeria behind fraud and drug trafficking, according to the United Nations
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, but poverty is widespread across the country and most of the estimated 160 million people still live on less than two dollars a day.