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[casi] Tom's comments on 'Climate of fear'

Dear List Members,

Tom Nagy's statements that the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report
'Climate of fear: Sexual violence and abduction of women and girls' may be a
'version of the 1990 "babies from incubators" lie to distract us from real
attrocities' and that it 'smell[s] like damage control 101 from a member of
the US team' strike me as positively bizarre.

After all, far from 'blam[ing] the proximate cause, but carefully avoid[ing]
discussion of underlying cause[s]' the report makes it quite clear that
'[m]any of the problems in addressing sexual violence and abduction against
women and girls derive from the U.S.-led coalition forces and civilian
administration's failure to provide public security in Baghdad. The public
security vacuum in Baghdad has heightened the vulnerability of women and
girls to sexual violence and abduction.' As we all know under international
humanitarian law (IHL) an occupying power is obliged to maintain public
order and safety. So the report is actually saying that the US/UK are
failing to meet their obligations under IHL.

It is quite true that HRW sometimes applies a double standard when it comes
to the actions of the US Government and that they sometimes fail to hold it
accountable for its actions. However I can see nothing in this report that
sheds a good light on the US / UK - quite the reverse. Activists concerned
with the well-being of ordinary Iraqis should surely welcome this report for
the information it contains and use this information to press for the US &
UK governments to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian
law (whilst at the same time pressing these same governments to use all the
resources at their disposal to the end the current humanitarian crisis,
clear-up unexploded ordnance etc... and campaigning for an end to the

Best wishes,

(in a personal capacity)

----- Original Message -----
From: "nagy" <>
To: "AS-ILAS" <>; "casi" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 3:16 PM
Subject: RE: [casi] Baghdad - Climate of fear: Sexual violence and abduction
of women and girls

Just checed out the front page of HRW -- hey, no problem, just change its
name to "Selective" Human Rights Watch.  I'm really appalled. I guess I was
played for the fool I when good ole "Joe" met with me. Bless his skeptical
soul (which seems not to extend to  US attrocities). I hope I'm beeing
but, boy, this shure does smell like damage control 101 from a member of the
US team, HRW. -- e.g., blame the proximate cause, but carefully avoid
discussion of underlying cause. Mustn't make "Uncle Sam" cross with you.
apparently ok to condemn an end product, but not what led to the end
including ghastly crimes like rape.

More when I get to the office (and hopefully when I get a chance to talke to
"Joe" at HRW.


p.s. Surely I will not be misunderstood. Rape is a ghastly crime, but not
ghastly than setting up condition guaranteed to have infants die an
death. Also with 100s of 1000s of troops in Iraq, wonder they could not help
avert rape and other crimes.

>===== Original Message From AS-ILAS <> =====
>Human Rights Watch
>Date: 16 Jul 2003
>Climate of fear: Sexual violence and abduction of women and girls in
>I. Summary
>At a time when insecurity is on the rise in Baghdad, women and girls in
>Baghdad told Human Rights Watch that the insecurity and fear of sexual
>violence or abduction is keeping them in their homes, out of schools, and
>away from work and looking for employment. The failure of the occupying
>power to protect women and girls from violence, and redress it when it
>occurs, has both immediate and long-term negative implications for the
>safety of women and girls and for their participation in post-war life in
>Reports of sexual violence and abduction of women and girls abound in
>Baghdad. Medical practitioners, victims, witnesses, and law enforcement
>authorities have documented some of these crimes. Human Rights Watch is
>concerned that many other cases go unreported and uninvestigated. Some
>and girls fear that reporting sexual violence may provoke "honor" killings
>and social stigmatization. For others, the obstacles to filing and pursuing
>a police complaint or obtaining a forensic examination that would provide
>legal proof of sexual violence hamper them from receiving medical attention
>and pursuing justice. Without a referral from the police, women and girls
>cannot receive forensic examinations and, in some cases, women and girls
>have sought assistance for sexual violence were refused medical attention
>because some hospital staff do not regard treating victims of sexual
>violence as their responsibility, or give such care low priority given
>limited resources due to the war and in its aftermath. Whatever the reason,
>both documented and rumored stories of sexual violence and abduction are
>contributing to a palpable climate of fear.
>Many of the problems in addressing sexual violence and abduction against
>women and girls derive from the U.S.-led coalition forces and civilian
>administration's failure to provide public security in Baghdad. The public
>security vacuum in Baghdad has heightened the vulnerability of women and
>girls to sexual violence and abduction. The police force is considerably
>smaller and more poorly managed when compared to prior to the war. There is
>limited police street presence; fewer resources available to police to
>investigate; little if any record keeping; and many complaints are lost.
>Many hospitals and the forensic institute are unable to operate twenty-four
>hours a day as they did before the war, thus preventing women from
>medical treatment and the forensic examinations necessary to document
>violence in a timely manner.
>The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has announced a commitment to
>train and educate police, including training on human right standards. In
>the meantime, as the occupying power, U.S.-led coalition forces have the
>responsibility to ensure public order and address Iraq's law enforcement
>Other problems in addressing sexual violence and abduction in Baghdad, and
>Iraq more broadly, are long-term problems that have needed to be addressed
>for many years. Women and girls live in an atmosphere where, if they are
>raped or even believed to have been raped, they have poor legal recourse
>have well-grounded fears of social ostracism, rejection by their families,
>and even physical violence. Although rape and abduction are serious crimes
>under Iraqi law, there is a long-standing cultural stigma and shame
>to rape that positions victims as the wrongdoer and too frequently excuses
>or treats leniently the perpetrator.
>Moreover, there are provisions in Iraqi law that address sexual violence
>abduction but do not adequately protect the human rights of women and girls
>from these violations. Some of the more notable of these are provisions in
>the Penal Code that allow a man to escape punishment for abduction by
>marrying the victim; and allow for significantly reduced sentences for
>so-called honor killings, for rape and other cases of sexual violence. In
>addition to these barriers in the law, Human Rights Watch investigated
>where police were reluctant to investigate cases of sexual violence and
>abduction and other cases where the police have blamed the victim, doubted
>her credibility, showed indifference, or conducted inadequate
>investigations. For these reasons, many women are reluctant to file a
>At the time of writing, plans for Iraq's reconstruction are taking shape
>the rights of women and girls are at stake. It is essential that all
>involved in these plans address the state's inadequate protection of the
>rights of women and girls. Those involved in the reconstruction process
>should ensure that any existing and new trends toward treating women and
>girls unequally before the law and discouraging women and girls from
>reporting sexual violence, or punishing women and girls for being the
>victims of crimes of sexual violence, are countered.
>This report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in
>Iraq, from May 27, 2003 to June 20, 2003. A female researcher conducted
>seventy interviews with victims of sexual violence and abduction, Iraqi
>police officers, U.S. military police officers, U.S. civil affairs
>health practitioners, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental
>organizations, and members of the CPA. Human Rights Watch found twenty-five
>credible reports of women who were victims of sexual violence or abducted,
>and took direct testimony from four victims. Because of the extreme
>consequences that face victims of sexual violence, all victims' names in
>this report are pseudonyms, and other details have been omitted in order to
>protect the confidentiality of the women and girls who agreed to share
>experiences with Human Rights Watch.
>To the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and Iraqi authorities:
>Abide by international standards that ban sexual violence and
>against women and children, with particular regard to the Convention on the
>Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention
>on the Rights of the Child.
>As part of general judicial reform, examine legislation that in intent or
>effect treat women and girls unequally, and legislation relating to rape
>other sexual violence against women and girls to ensure its compliance with
>international standards. In particular, repeal Iraqi Penal Code articles
>and 427.
>Take measures to include women into the police force, including by
>establishing special units with women staff to deal with sexual crimes.
>Establish a clear protocol for investigating sexual violence. This protocol
>should specify, among other things, how and where victims of sexual
>are to receive forensic medical attention. Distribute this protocol to all
>relevant Iraqi or other officials.
>The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs should strengthen support services
>for victims of rape and sexual violence, such as counseling, testing, heath
>and medical services, legal and financial services.
>The Ministry of Interior and its coalition advisors should ensure that
>investigating officers handling sexual violence, abduction, and rape cases
>specialize in such investigations and be trained in the issues surrounding
>gender violence and the use of medical and other forensic evidence.
>To the U.S.-led coalition military forces:
>Until the Iraqi police are fully capable of doing so, the U.S. should
>a special investigative unit to investigate sex-based and trafficking
>against women and girls. This unit should comprise experienced individuals
>trained in such work, and should employ female as well as male
>and translators.
>Train military and Iraqi police about the need for sexual violence victims
>to have access to immediate medical and forensic attention for the
>collection of evidence.
>Clarify lines of communication between civil affairs officers, whom many
>women, girls, or their relatives may approach to report crimes of sexual
>violence, and the military police and Iraqi police, to ensure maximum
>coordination and information-sharing about cases, leads, and patterns.
>Until Iraqi police forces are able to do so, publish and widely disseminate
>crime statistics, which would include both crime reports received as well
>perpetrators apprehended. Work with the Iraqi police to ensure that Iraqi
>record-keeping matches that of coalition forces.
>To the donor community:
>Special priority should be given to programs that:
>Review and reform existing laws to ensure that they are consistent with
>Iraq's obligations under international human rights standards, do not
>discriminate on the basis of sex or gender, and afford women and girls
>equality of access and opportunity.
>Train law enforcement and judicial personnel in recognizing, investigating,
>and prosecuting sexual violence, including sexual violence against
>and assist law enforcement agencies in acquiring necessary forensic skills
>and equipment for investigating cases of sexual violence.
>Provide financial and technical assistance to civil society organizations
>providing services to women and girls who have suffered sexual violence,
>trafficking, forced marriage, or who fear reprisals from their families in
>the form of "honor" killings. Such services may include shelter, legal
>services, counseling and testing, and medical assistance, and should be
>sensitive to the special needs of street children, internally displaced
>persons and refugees, and members of disadvantaged social groups.
>Full report (pdf* format - 416 KB)
>*Get Adobe Acrobat Viewer (free)
> Copyright, Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY
>10118-3299 USA
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Thomas J. Nagy, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of Expert Systems
George Washington Univeristy Sch. of Business & Public Mgt.
Washington, D.C. 20052

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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