Trial opens in Moroccan teen gang rape case

Moroccan teenager Khadija Okkarou, 17, displays tattoos in the village of Oulad Ayad, Morocco. (Getty Images)
Updated 21 May 2019

Trial opens in Moroccan teen gang rape case

  • Footage posted online showed the 17-year-old's arms and legs covered in burns
  • The violence against the teenager, whose name is Khadija, has sparked outrage

RABAT: The trial of 12 men accused of kidnapping and gang raping a Moroccan teenager in her village last August opened Tuesday in the central town of Beni Mellal and was adjourned at the request of both sides.
Lawyer Ibrahim Hachane, who said his client, the plaintiff, was not in court, told AFP that the case was adjourned to June 25.
The accused, aged between 19 and 29, are being tried on several charges including human trafficking, rape, kidnapping and forming an organised gang.
Conviction on a trafficking charge can carry a 30-year prison sentence.
Another suspect is to be tried separately behind closed doors on June 11 as he was a minor at the time of the alleged offences, Hachane said.

Khadija Okkarou’s showed horrific scars allegedly from cigarette burns and tattoos carved into parts of her body. (AFP)

He said the accused had confessed to police but most of them had retracted before a magistrate.
In a video posted online, Khadija Okkarou said members of a "dangerous gang" had kidnapped and held her prisoner for two months, raping and torturing her.
She showed horrific scars allegedly from cigarette burns and tattoos carved into parts of her body.
The case has stirred outrage in Morocco, where an official report has found that more than 90 percent of Moroccan victims of violence had failed to file a complaint.
Rape victims in Morocco are often subject to a double trauma as its conservative society blames them for their ordeal.

In face of US opposition, UN renews agency helping Palestinian refugees

Updated 11 min 5 sec ago

In face of US opposition, UN renews agency helping Palestinian refugees

  • 169 votes went in favor of the UNRWA mandate effective until June 30, 2023. Nine countries abstained, while the US and Israel voted against

NEW YORK: The UN General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly renewed the mandate for a UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees for another three years amid misconduct allegations and a cash shortfall triggered by a halt in US funding.

The mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was extended until June 30, 2023, with 169 votes in favor and nine abstentions, while the US and Israel voted against.

UNRWA, which as established in 1949, provides education, health and relief services as well as housing and microfinance assistance to more than 5 million registered refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The agency has faced budgetary difficulties since last year, when the US — its biggest donor — halted its aid of $360 million per year. The US and Israel have both accused UNRWA of mismanagement and anti-Israeli incitement.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, hailed the UN vote as a defeat for the US and a failure of its attempts to pressure UN member-states against UNRWA.

“We welcome the decision to renew the international mandate to UNRWA and we see it as another failure to hostile US policies to the Palestinian rights,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

The US mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the vote.

Last month UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl resigned amid an investigation into misconduct allegations. Krahenbuhl has denied wrongdoing and said his agency was the victim of a political campaign designed to undermine it.

Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium suspended payments to UNRWA over the inquiry, deepening the budget crisis set off last year by the US. UNRWA hopes the management shake-up will help pacify donors, said a source with knowledge of the organization’s thinking.

The US has advocated shifting the agency’s relief services to refugee host countries. But UNRWA counters it provides a humanitarian lifeline and that it safeguards and advances Palestinians’ rights under international law.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, praised the UN vote on Friday and said it was the UN’s responsibility to combat what she called US and Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugees.

“All attempts at trying to limit UNRWA’s mandate or defund it or attack it have failed, and we hope that the international community will continue to come to the rescue,” she said.