SOMALIA: First prosecution for female genital mutilation

By Emma Batha


Thomson Reuters Foundation (26.07.2018) –– Somalia’s Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir announced on Wednesday the country’s first ever prosecution against female genital mutilation (FGM) following the death of a 10-year-old girl, an adviser to the government said.


Ifrah Ahmed, who advises Somalia on gender issues, said the attorney general was sending a team of investigators to find out more about the death of the girl, Deeqa, who suffered severe bleeding after her mother took her to a traditional cutter.


The announcement was made at a conference on FGM attended by officials, religious leaders and journalists, which was co-hosted in Mogadishu by the Global Media Campaign to End FGM and the Ifrah Foundation.


“We are ready to take it to court,” the attorney general was quoted as saying on Twitter by the organisers.


Deeqa’s death has prompted campaigners to renew calls for Somalia to pass a law on FGM, which affects 98 percent of women in the east African country – the highest rate in the world, according to U.N. data.


“This is really a defining moment for Somalia,” Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Gulaid told the conference organisers in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday.


Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing votes.


Ahmed confirmed news of the attorney general’s announcement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Mogadishu.


“He said they had opened the case in Mogadishu and that they would investigate and deal with the parents,” said Ahmed, whose charity, the Ifrah Foundation, campaigns to end FGM in Somalia.


“He told the conference he would bring the family to justice.”


Global campaigners against FGM, which affects around 200 million girls and women worldwide, welcomed the news.


“This is massive,” said Nimco Ali, a prominent Somali-born British activist.


Somalia does not have a law against FGM, but campaign group 28 Too Many said offenders could still be prosecuted under the country’s Penal Code, which makes it a criminal offence to cause hurt to another.


Many girls in Somalia undergo the most extreme form of the ancient ritual in which the external genitalia are removed and the vaginal opening is sewn up.


Deeqa was taken by her mother to a traditional circumciser on July 14 in central Somalia’s Galmudug state and died in hospital two days later.


Her father was quoted by international media this week as defending the practice, saying he believed his daughter was “taken by Allah”.


Many people believe the ritual is an important part of their tradition and a religious obligation, although it is not mentioned in the Koran.


Organisers said the attorney general had also urged Somalia’s religious leaders to use radio and TV to speak out against FGM.


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BURUNDI: School ban on expectant teens ‘skewed’ against girls’ education

By Nita Bhalla


Thomson Reuters Foundation (04.07.2018) –– Burundi’s ban on pregnant girls and expectant teen fathers attending school is not only a violation against children’s right to education, but also unfairly discriminates against girls, campaigners said on Wednesday.


The ministry of education in Burundi last week issued a directive to provincial authorities saying pregnant teens and young mums, as well as the boys who made them pregnant, no longer had the right to be part of the formal education system.


In a letter dated June 26 to the country’s provincial education directors, Minister of Education Janvière Ndirahisha said that these students would however be allowed to attend vocational or professional training courses.


But rights groups said preventing children from attending school would have a devastating impact on their education in a country where 11 percent of girls aged 15-19 years are sexually active, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


The east African nation’s ban is geared towards curtailing the rights of girls more than boys, said campaigners, adding that it would be easy to notice pregnant girls, but more difficult to identify the boys involved.


“This ban disproportionately affects girls and it is skewed towards an abuse of the girls’ rights to education,” said Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, a lawyer from the campaign group Equality Now.


“How does the government intend on proving that Boy A impregnated Girl B? How about cases where the perpetrators are teachers, adults in the community, will the government go after them too?”


A government official confirmed the ban, but told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the condition of anonymity that it was unlikely to be enforced.


“I think this decision will not be implemented since it contradicts other programs which promote education for all and are endorsed by the government and its partners,” said an education ministry official.


According to the UNFPA, 40 percent of victims of physical or sexual violence are teenage girls in Burundi. Around 7 percent of girls aged 15-19 years have had at least one child, and one in five women are married below the age of 18 years old.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says tens of thousands of girls in Africa are ostracised or shamed for becoming pregnant every year, despite most having no sex education, and in many cases have not given consent and are raped.


Yet some countries such as Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, they have been expelled from school in a bid to discourage adolescents from being sexually active.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan, for example, apply morality laws that allow them to criminally charge adolescent girls with adultery, indecency, or extra-marital sex, it added.


“Every year, thousands of girls become pregnant at the time when they should be learning history, algebra, and life skills,” said a report by HRW last month.


“All girls have a right to education regardless of their pregnancy, marital or motherhood status.”


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ECJ/UK/ROMANIA: The UK’s decision to leave the EU should not affect the execution of a European arrest warrant

EU law applies as long as the UK is a Member State

Court of Justice of the European Union/PRESS RELEASE No 124/18 (07.08.2018) –– In 2016, the UK issued two European arrest warrants (‘EAWs’) in respect of RO (the first in January 2016 and the second in May 2016) for the purposes of conducting prosecutions of the offences of murder, arson and rape. RO was arrested in Ireland on the basis of these arrest warrants and has been in custody since 3 February 2016. RO raised objections to his surrender to the UK on the basis, amongst other things, of issues related to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.


The High Court (Ireland) has ruled against RO on all of his points of objection, other than the issues of the consequences of Brexit. It therefore asks the Court of Justice whether, in light of the UK on 29 March 2017 having given notice of its intention to withdraw from the EU, and the uncertainty as to the arrangements which will be put in place after the UK’s withdrawal, it is required to decline to surrender to the UK a person subject to a EAW whose surrender would otherwise be required.


In today’s Opinion, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar proposes that the Court of Justice find that the EAW system should continue to apply for as long as the UK is a Member State. He comments that, from the information submitted by the High Court, there appears to be no reason not to execute the EAW in question.


The Advocate General first reiterates that the principle of mutual recognition, which is based on mutual trust, between the Member States means that the execution of a EAW constitutes the rule and a refusal to execute is an exception which must be interpreted strictly. The Advocate General notes that none of the mandatory or optional grounds for non-execution of the EAW are present in the case at issue. Specifically, the Irish court has concluded that, with the exception of the consequences of Brexit, there is no separate issue of potential inhuman or degrading treatment in respect of RO’s surrender to the UK.


Next, the Advocate General examines whether the UK’s notification of its intention to leave the EU has any bearing on the legal assessment to be carried out in relation to the execution of the EAW. He rejects RO’s argument that the UK’s withdrawal notice constitutes an exceptional circumstance which requires non-execution of an EAW. In his view, as long as a State is still a Member of the EU, EU law applies, including the provisions of the Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant(1) and the duty to surrender.


In addition, according to the Advocate General, there are no tangible indications that the political circumstances preceding, giving rise to, or succeeding the withdrawal notification are such as to not respect the substantive content of the Framework Decision and the fundamental rights enshrined by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. He agrees with the argument that the UK has decided to withdraw from the EU, not to abandon the rule of law or the protection of fundamental rights.Consequently, in the Advocate General’s view, there is no basis to question the UK’s continued commitment to fundamental rights.Moreover, the UK will continue to remain subject to rules of domestic and international law which impose obligations on the UK in the context of extradition.


On this basis the Advocate General proposes that the executing judicial authorities can expect, at the moment of executing the EAW, the issuing Member State to abide by the substantive content of the Framework Decision, including for post surrender situations after the issuing Member State has left the EU.This presumption can be made if other international instruments will continue to apply to the Member State that has left the EU. Only if there is tangible evidence to the contrary can the judicial authorities of a Member State decide not to execute the arrest warrant.


Finally, the Advocate General considers that the fact that Court of Justice will no longer have jurisdiction after 29 March 2019 is not an obstacle to RO’s surrender to the UK.The Advocate General notes, in particular, that the Framework Decision was adopted in 2002, but the Court of Justice only obtained full jurisdiction with regards to the interpretation of the Framework Decision on 1 December 2014, that is to say five years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Consequently it was neither possible, before that time, for a case such as this to have reached the Court, nor could a UK court have submitted a request for a preliminary ruling to the Court before that time, despite the fact that the EU was firmly anchored on the rule of law, including access to justice.




NOTE: The Advocate General’s Opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice. It is the role of the Advocates General to propose to the Court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. The Judges of the Court are now beginning their deliberations in this case. Judgment will be given at a later date.


NOTE: A reference for a preliminary ruling allows the courts and tribunals of the Member States, in disputes which have been brought before them, to refer questions to the Court of Justice about the interpretation of European Union law or the validity of a European Union act. The Court of Justice does not decide the dispute itself. It is for the national court or tribunal to dispose of the case in accordance with the Court’s decision, which is similarly binding on other national courts or tribunals before which a similar issue is raised.


(1) Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States (OJ 2002 L 190, p. 1).


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Chinese ministry of state security takes over the campaign against Bitter Winter

Since the arrests of reporters did not stop Bitter Winter, China escalates the campaign against our magazine and adopts extraordinary measures to prevent the leaks of secret documents.


Bitter Winter (03.08.2018) – Winter reported on August 1 that several reporters that have sent information and documents to our magazine were arrested in China. The hunt for our correspondents and the arrests continue, and we are publishing new details on the campaign against Bitter Winter.


The incident that persuaded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to launch a nationwide crackdown against Bitter Winter was an article we published on May 18, 2018, which included the reproduction of the confidential Plan for the Special Campaign on Legal Investigation and Prosecution of South Korean Christian Infiltrations, directed at the house churches established by South Korean Christian groups in China. We have now learned that the publication of this top-secret document created problems in the relationships between China and South Korea.


As a result, CCP issued another secret document, which we publish today, whose English translation reads as follows:


“Bitter Winter, an overseas hostile website, published an article named ‘CHINA LAUNCHES A SPECIAL CAMPAIGN TO CRACK DOWN ON SOUTH KOREAN CHRISTIAN GROUPS,’ relating to the sub-projects and attaching images of the special campaign conducted in various provinces, cities, and counties. This article has been reproduced and hyped by some hostile media outlets outside the border. The contents published on the website raise the suspicion that they may also have illegally obtained the document “Plan for the Special Campaign on Legal Investigation and Prosecution of South Korean Christian Infiltrations,” which was jointly produced by the Central United Front Work Department, the Ministry of Public Security, and State Bureau of Religious Affairs. According to the demand of the Ministry of Public Security, the Provincial Department of Public Security has filed a special case to trace the source of the confidentiality leakage, firmly crack down on any illegal perpetration on suspicion of lawlessly obtaining the state confidential information, illegally possessing the state confidential information, secret documents, material, items, and intendedly leaking the state confidential information. The special case should be reported to the departmental supervisor. A sub-case should be filed in a unified code, and immediate investigations relating to the special campaign against the confidentiality leakage should be conducted.”


The result of this document was a national manhunt, leading to the arrest of dozens of correspondents of Bitter Winter. The fact that, meanwhile, we published another top-secret document, the action plan against the movements listed as xie jiao (“heterodox teachings”) for 2018-2019, presumably did not endear us to the CCP either.


We are informed that the CCP, following its best traditions, is also preparing a campaign of fake news against Bitter Winter and is busy producing false documents “proving” that we are “connected” with several groups included in the list of xie jiao.


Our latest information, dated August 2, is that the CCP lost confidence in the ability of the local Public Security Bureaus, and perhaps of Office 610, which specializes in fighting xie jiao, to crack down on Bitter Winter, and the Chinese Ministry of State Security is now taking over the investigations on the case. This campaign is in turn classified as top-secret, and its details have only been shared with officers ranked at the level above PSB (Public Security Bureaus), including leaders ranked as directors of sections or above in the departments of PSB, Procuratorates, Courts of Law, Justice Bureaus, and so on. Investigations are being conducted on a comprehensive scale.


Due to the leaks to Bitter Winter, the CCP is also organizing a new “confidentiality education” programs among the units in the realm of politics and law, asking relevant personnel to take measures to secure confidentiality, and warning that any breach of the security protocol will be severely punished.


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Denmark veil ban: First woman charged for wearing niqab

A woman has become the first person in Denmark to be charged with wearing a full-face veil in public, after a ban came into effect on Wednesday.


BBC (04.08.2018) –– The 28-year-old came to the police’s attention when a scuffle broke out between her and another woman at the top of an escalator at a shopping centre north of Copenhagen.


She was fined when she refused to remove the veil.


The new law has provoked protests and criticism from human rights groups.


It does not mention burkas and niqabs by name, but says “anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine”.


An initial report into the altercation on Friday suggested that one woman was trying to remove the other’s veil, but police said this was not clear.


“During the fight her niqab came off, but by the time we arrived she had put it back on again,” police spokesperson David Borchersen told the Ritzau news agency.


Police reviewed CCTV footage to determine whether the second woman had intentionally pulled off the veil, and believed it was incidental to the fight.


They said both women were charged with violating the peace and said one had also been charged with violating the full-face veil law.


She was given a 1,000 kroner fine ($155; £120) after refusing to take it off at their request.


On Wednesday night protesters gathered in the capital to demonstrate against law, with women in traditional burqas and veils standing alongside people with makeshift coverings.


Friday’s incident is reported to have taken place at a shopping centre in Horsholm, 25km (15 miles) north of Copenhagen.


Some Muslim women have said they will not adhere to the law – which carries a 10,000 ($1,500; £1,200) kroner penalty for repeat offenders.


Human Rights Watch has labelled the ban “discriminatory” and said it was the “latest in a harmful trend.”


Last year the European Court of Human Rights upheld a similar Belgian ban, saying that communal harmony trumped an individual’s right to religious expression.


Full or partial bans are also in place in France, Austria, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria.


HRWF Comment on the Belgian ban


In the Chamber judgment of 11 July 2017 in the case of Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium (application no. 37798/13), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: no violation of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Articles 8 and 9.


The case concerned the ban on the wearing in public of clothing that partly or totally covers the face under the Belgian law of 1 June 2011.


The Court found in particular that the restriction sought to guarantee the conditions of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others” and that it was “necessary in a democratic society”.


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