Nobel laureates urge world to help victims of rape in conflict

Murad implored the global community to help free hundreds of women and girls still held by Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2018
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Nobel laureates urge world to help victims of rape in conflict

  • Global community must protect Yazidis, says Nadia Murad
  • In an emotional ceremony, which saw the laureates cheered and given standing ovations, Mukwege and Murad called on the world to do more

OSLO: Nobel laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have called on the world to protect victims of wartime sexual violence in their Peace Prize acceptance speeches on Monday, slamming indifference to the plight of women and children in conflict.

Congolese gynecologist Mukwege, whose work has made him a global expert on rape in conflict, and Yazidi activist Murad, a survivor of Daesh sexual slavery, both said victims were sometimes valued less than commercial interests.

In an emotional ceremony, which saw the laureates cheered and given standing ovations, Mukwege and Murad called on the world to do more.

“If there is a war to be waged, it is the war against the indifference which is eating away at our societies,” Mukwege said at the ceremony in Oslo.

His Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-torn east has treated the wounds of tens of thousands of women and children for sexual assaults that have become a “new reality” in the country.

He said the violence “shames our common humanity.”

In her speech, Murad implored the global community to help free hundreds of women and girls still held by Daesh, saying the world must protect her people and other vulnerable communities.

“It is my view that all victims deserve a safe haven until justice is done for them,” she said, pausing briefly, seemingly overcome with emotion.

Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said the pair had received the Peace Prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” She described them as “two of the strongest voices in the world today.”

In a somber ceremony in Oslo City Hall, both smiled as they received the Peace Prize gold medal, diploma and the 9 million Swedish Krona ($1 million), which they will share.

Mukwege lay much of the blame for the horrific violence unleashed on civilians on those in power in his troubled country.

“For 20 years now, day after day, at Panzi Hospital, I have seen the harrowing consequences of the country’s gross mismanagement,” said the doctor, a critic of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, who is set to be replaced in elections this month.

“Babies, girls, young women, mothers, grandmothers, and also men and boys, cruelly raped, often publicly and collectively.”

Mukwege said the trade in the country’s abundant natural resources helped fuel the violence while profits “end up in the pockets of a predatory oligarchy.”

“We love nice cars, jewelry and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country, often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence,” he said.

“It’s not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way.”

He called for a global fund to provide reparation for victims and economic and political sanctions for those behind the violence.

Murad survived the horrors of captivity under the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria where they targeted her Kurdish-speaking community.

Older women and men faced summary execution during the Daesh assault, which the UN has described as a possible genocide.

Captured in 2014, Murad suffered beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.

In her Nobel acceptance address Monday, Murad said more than 6,500 women and girls from her community had been kidnapped, raped and traded “in the 21st century, in the age of globalization and human rights.”

The fate of some 3,000 women and girls is still unknown.

“Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls,” she said.

“What if they were a commercial deal, an oil field or a shipment of weapons? Most certainly, no efforts would be spared to liberate them.”

Murad, whose mother and six of her brothers were killed, said on Sunday that “steps toward justice” had given her some hope.

A UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority is due to finally start fieldwork in Iraq next year.

Murad has been supported in her campaign for justice for Yazidis by Lebanese-British lawyer and rights activist Amal Clooney, who was in the audience in Oslo.

No terrorist has yet faced trial over the atrocities against the Yazidis.

Murad said she was thankful for the Peace prize, but added: “The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals.”


Three UK Conservatives quit party in protest at “disastrous Brexit“

Updated 37 min 25 sec ago
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Three UK Conservatives quit party in protest at “disastrous Brexit“

  • Three resign to join independent group in parliament
  • Blow to PM May in efforts to clinch deal on exit from EU

LONDON: Three lawmakers from Britain’s governing Conservatives quit over the government’s “disastrous handling of Brexit” on Wednesday, in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempts to unite her party around plans to leave the European Union.
The lawmakers, who support a second EU referendum and have long said May’s Brexit strategy is being led by Conservative euroskeptics, said they would join a new independent group in parliament set up by seven former opposition Labour politicians.
The resignations put May in an even weaker position in parliament, where her Brexit deal was crushed by lawmakers last month when both euroskeptics and EU supporters voted against an agreement they say offers the worst of all worlds.
While the three were almost certain to vote against any deal, the hardening of their positions undermines May’s negotiating position in Brussels, where she heads later to try to secure an opening for further work on revising the agreement.
With only 37 days until Britain leaves the EU, its biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years, divisions over Brexit are redrawing the political landscape. The resignations threaten a decades-old two-party system.
“The final straw for us has been this government’s disastrous handling of Brexit,” the three lawmakers, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, said in a letter to May.
Soubry later told a news conference that the Conservative Party had been taken over by right-wing, pro-Brexit lawmakers.
“The truth is, the battle is over and the other side has won. The right-wing, the hard-line anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every (Conservative) leader for the last 40 years are now running the ... party from top to toe,” she said.
May said she was saddened by the decision and that Britain’s membership of the EU “has been a source of disagreement both in our party and in our country for a long time.”
“But by ... implementing the decision of the British people we are doing the right thing for our country,” she said, referring to the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted by a margin of 52-48 percent in favor of leaving the EU.
Asked what May would say to others considering resigning, her spokesman said: “She would, as she always has, ask for the support of her colleagues in delivering (Brexit).”

INDEPENDENT GROUP
The three sat in parliament on Wednesday with a new grouping which broke away from the Labour Party earlier this week over increasing frustration with their leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit strategy and a row over anti-Semitism.
Another former Labour lawmaker joined their ranks late on Tuesday, and several politicians from both the main opposition party and Conservatives said they expected more to follow from both sides of parliament.
What unites most of the group of 11 is a desire to see a second referendum on any deal May comes back with, now that the terms of Brexit are known in detail — something the prime minister has ruled out.
For May’s Brexit plan, the resignations are yet another knock to more than two years of talks to leave the EU, which have been punctuated by defeats in parliament, rows over policy and a confidence vote, which she ultimately won.
Britain’s 2016 EU referendum has split not only British towns and villages but also parliament, with both Conservative and Labour leaders struggling to keep their parties united.
May has faced a difficult balancing act. Euroskeptic members of her party want a clean break with the bloc, pro-EU lawmakers argue for the closest possible ties, while many in the middle are increasing frustrated over the lack of movement.
Those who have resigned have long accused May of leaning too far toward Brexit supporters, sticking to red lines which they, and many in Labour, say have made a comprehensive deal all but impossible to negotiate.
But May will head to Brussels hoping that her team will get the green light to start more technical negotiations on how to satisfy the concerns of mostly Brexit supporters over the so-called Northern Irish backstop arrangement.
The “backstop,” an insurance policy to avoid a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if London and Brussels fail to agree a deal on future ties, is the main point of contention in talks with Brussels.
British officials are hoping they can secure the kind of legal assurances that the backstop cannot trap Britain in the EU’s sphere to persuade lawmakers to back a revised deal.
But May’s argument she can command a majority in parliament if the EU hands her such assurances is getting weaker. A government defeat last week showed the euroskeptics’ muscle.
One pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Bridgen, said: “I would find it very difficult to accept a legal document from the same (party) lawyer whose definitive advice four weeks ago was that we could be trapped in the backstop in perpetuity.”