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Sex abuse allegations against aid workers in South Sudan UN camp | Sexual Assault News

Malakal, South Sudan – Accounts of sexual abuse committed by aid workers at a camp run by the UN in South Sudan first surfaced in 2015, two years after the country’s civil war erupted. Seven years on, such reports have not only continued, but they recently increased, an investigation by The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera found.

The revelations come at a tense time, with the UN estimating that as many as 5,000 displaced people may be headed towards the camp in Malakal soon and current residents worrying that this influx may increase the incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA). They say these incidents have gone largely unchecked despite a UN-led task force charged with tackling the problem.

Residents also worry that the recent violence that these people are fleeing will seep into the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site – recent clashes between Shilluk and Nuer tribespeople in the camp have already flared up.

Aid workers who have worked at the PoC site told reporters that accounts of abuse began trickling in shortly after the camp opened in late 2013, but The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera’s investigation found that the scale of abuse has since grown, according to aid workers, camp residents, and victims. Reporters also analysed several UN and NGO documents.

One woman said she became pregnant in 2019 by a local World Food Programme (WFP) worker – although the relationship was consensual, most aid groups, including WFP, ban sexual relationships with aid beneficiaries because of the stark power imbalances between aid workers and aid beneficiaries. She told reporters in December 2021 that she is so worried about the continuing sexual abuse that she is putting her eldest daughter, now 15, on birth control.

A teenager said she was 15 when a local World Vision worker raped and impregnated her. Fearful of her future, she said she tried to hang herself before deciding to leave the camp in an attempt to build a better life.

World Vision said it was opening an immediate investigation into the woman’s case, while WFP said it could not comment on specific cases.

“The people sexually exploiting and abusing women in [protection sites] are the very people meant to serve and protect them; their entire lives depend on services from these same aid workers.” Aluel Atem, activist

The women’s allegations tally with those of other camp residents – testimonies that were detailed in a UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report sent to humanitarian agencies on October 5, 2020, and shared with The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera by an aid worker who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals.

In the report, residents said sexual exploitation was experienced “on a daily basis”, mostly perpetrated by humanitarian workers; UN and NGO workers were renting houses in the camp to have sex with women, and UN peacekeepers were paying bribes to gain access to women. Camp residents also said that three girls had been raped and impregnated by a teacher in 2018. Some schools in the camp are supported by UN agencies and NGOs.

Further accounts of abuse continued for at least 18 months after the release of the report.

“I received with greatest alarm information on the increased incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) in Malakal Protection of Civilians (POC) site,” Sara Beysolow Nyanti, deputy head of South Sudan’s UN peacekeeping mission, stated in a March 21, 2022, letter sent to some 17 aid organisations working in the camp, as well as several camp coordination groups. A copy of the letter, which was not made public, was obtained by The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera.

INTERACTIVE - Malakal camp at a glance map August
(Al Jazeera)

Nyanti, who assumed her role in January 2022, said the reported increase was noted during a meeting with humanitarian partners in the Malakal PoC, which now hosts some 37,000 people.

She told reporters in an email on August 12 that tackling such abuse is one of her “top priorities”, but she did not offer comment on why past strategies may have fallen short.

The reference to an increase, even if aid officials declined to give information on specific cases or were unable to provide a fuller picture, offers a rare glimpse into a grossly underreported problem, and one that comes up around the UN and aid sector often.

Aid groups acknowledged that hurdles remain in tackling such abuse. Their representatives told reporters they are working towards increasing awareness about what constitutes exploitation and how to report it. Measures include holding talks with the community, broadcasting messages over the radio, and sharing hotline numbers to raise awareness.

Although some women said sex was consensual, they also told reporters that they had no other means of supporting themselves or their families without the money or gifts the men provided. They said they feared if they stopped having sex with the aid workers, support would stop.

“Sexual exploitation and abuse is a consequence of the broader abuse of power and gender inequality, which is entrenched in existing social and institutional structures and practices,” Peterson Magoola, a spokesperson for UN Women told reporters in an email. UN Women has co-chaired the national task force since 2018.

According to the UN, sexual exploitation is defined (PDF) as any actual or attempted abuse of one’s position of power, using vulnerability or trust, for sexual purposes. It forbids it because it is based on unequal relationships, noting any kind of transaction for sex – such as providing gifts or offering support – reflects this unequal power balance.

“Consent is irrelevant; even if someone accepts a gift or support … the transaction is still considered exploitative,” reads a guide.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera’s investigation in time for publication.

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North Korea fires ballistic missiles in latest tests amid tension | News

Japanese official reported that the missiles travelled 400kms (250 miles) and at a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles).

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Pyongyang area towards the country’s east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese officials, marking Pyongyang’s fourth missile test launches in a week.

Japan’s NHK national television said multiple missiles were fired from North Korea on Saturday morning and were believed to have landed in the Sea of Japan though outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“What appears to be a ballistic missile was launched from North Korea,” the Japanese coast guard said in a statement issued at 6:47 am (21:47 GMT) local time on Saturday.

In a second statement issued about 15 minutes later, the coast guard said another apparent ballistic missile was launched.

NHK said the projectiles seemed to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zones, citing government sources.

The office of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted that the latest missile launch was being analysed and instructions issued for the safety of people, aircraft and vessels.

North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday and Thursday in the hours before and after a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to South Korea during which she emphasised the “ironclad” US commitment to the security of its Asian allies.

The latest launch also follows after the navies of South Korea, the United States and Japan staged trilateral anti-submarine exercises on Friday for the first time in five years.

Japan’s Vice Defence Minister Toshiro Ino said North Korea’s repeated missile firings are “persistently escalating provocations”.

“North Korea’s actions threaten the peace and safety not only for Japan but also the region and the international community, and are absolutely impermissible,” Ino said, calling the four launches in one week “unprecedented”.

The missiles rose to a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles) and flew as far as 400km (250 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan in areas outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Ino said.

The missiles may have been on “irregular” trajectory, which makes tracking more difficult.

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build its ballistic weapons capacity, as well as to take advantage of a world distracted by the Ukraine conflict and other crises.

Nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea have long been banned by the United Nations Security Council.

“Despite North Korea’s internal weaknesses and international isolation, it is rapidly modernising weapons and taking advantage of a world divided by US-China rivalry and Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

A South Korean legislator said on Wednesday that the North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, and a window for such a test could open between China’s party congress in October and the US mid-term elections in November.



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US judge dismisses Mexico lawsuit against gun manufacturers

MEXICO CITY — A U.S. federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Mexican government against U.S. gun manufacturers arguing their commercial practices has led to bloodshed in Mexico.

Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston ruled Mexico’s claims did not overcome the broad protection provided to gun manufacturers by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005.

The law shields gun manufacturers from damages “resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse” of a firearm.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would appeal the decision.

Mexico was seeking at least $10 billion in compensation, but legal experts had viewed the lawsuit as a long shot.

The Mexican government argued that the companies know their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns into Mexico and facilitate it. Mexico wants compensation for the havoc the guns have wrought on its people.

Among those sued were some of the biggest names in guns, including: Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc., Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC and Glock Inc.

Another defendant was Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers to dealers around the U.S.

The Mexican government estimates 70% of the weapons trafficked into Mexico come from the U.S., according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. It said that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides in Mexico were linked to trafficked weapons.

Mexico argued the U.S. protection act did not apply when an injury occurred outside the United States.

Saylor did not agree.

“Mexico is seeking to hold defendants liable for practices that occurred within the United States and only resulted in harm in Mexico,” he wrote. “This case thus represents a valid domestic application of the PLCAA, and the presumption against extraterritoriality does not apply.”

The sale of firearms is severely restricted in Mexico and controlled by the Defense Department. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

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Officials: North Korea fires suspected ballistic missiles

TOKYO — North Korea has fired suspected ballistic missiles, the Japanese Defense Ministry said Saturday.

Further details are still being analyzed, ministry officials said.

Japanese media reported that the missiles are believed to have landed in the Sea of Japan.

Saturday’s firing is the latest of North Korea’s escalating missile launches and a third this week following those fired Friday in the wake of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit in South Korea.

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