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Siege and Bombardment of Syria’s Aleppo constitute Crimes of Historic proportions, says United Nations

The Russian ambassador accuses Britain and its allies of protecting terrorists from destruction

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People inspect the damage as a civilian walks near blood stains at a market hit by air strikes in Aleppo's rebel-held al-Fardous district, Syria, Oct. 12, 2016. VOA
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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein says the siege and bombardment of Syria’s northern city of eastern Aleppo constitute crimes of historic proportions. He is calling on the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Zeid says well over 300,000 Syrians have been killed and countless others wounded and traumatised in the course of more than five years of civil war. He says the relentless bombardment of Aleppo has turned the ancient city into a slaughterhouse.

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Without mentioning Russia by name, the high commissioner blames the indiscriminate airstrikes across the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo by government forces and their allies for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.

He says the violations constitute war crimes and calls for those guilty of international crimes to be held accountable.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, agrees all parties to the conflict guilty of crimes must be brought to justice. VOA
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, agrees all parties to the conflict guilty of crimes must be brought to justice. VOA

“Perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity will only cease to violate the laws of war when it is clear they will be held to account,” he said. “This why referral of the conflict in Syria to the ICC (International Criminal Court) or an ad hoc international justice mechanism is critical to resolving this conflict.”

People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 17, 2016. VOA
People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 17, 2016. VOA

Pinheiro says members of the investigative commission will continue to document war crimes in Aleppo. The British minister for Africa and the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, launched a blistering attack on Syria and Russia.

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“Hospitals have been bombed repeatedly. Hundreds of civilians, many of them children, have been killed since the (Bashar) Assad regime and Russia launched their assault on Eastern Aleppo.”

The Russian ambassador accuses Britain and its allies of protecting terrorists from destruction and allowing them to regroup so they can continue what he calls their barbaric acts. The Syrian representative calls Britain’s accusations baseless and fabricated to enhance its political agenda. (VOA)

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Rape Survivors in India Still Face Humiliation with Two-Finger tests and Barriers to Justice says Human Rights Watch

Indian Rape survivors still face barriers in justice and humiliation with two-finger tests, reported the Human Rights Watch

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Rape Survivors
Rape survivors face humiliation during investigation. Pixabay.

New Delhi, Nov 9: Five years after the Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi, rape survivors are still facing barriers to getting justice in India, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Rape survivors in India face significant barriers to obtaining justice and critical support services despite legal and other reforms adopted since the December 16, 2012 gang rape-murder of a 19-year-old physiotherapy intern in the national capital, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’, said the international human rights NGO in an 82-page report “Everyone Blames Me: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India” released on Wednesday.

The report said women and girls who survived rape and other sexual violence often suffered humiliation at police stations and hospitals.

“Police are frequently unwilling to register complaints, victims and witnesses receive little protection, and medical professionals still compel degrading two finger tests. These obstacles to justice and dignity are compounded by inadequate healthcare, counselling, and legal support for victims during criminal trials of the accused,” an HRW statement said.

“Five years ago, Indians shocked by the brutality of the gang rape in Delhi, called for an end to the silence around sexual violence and demanded criminal justice reforms,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of HRW.

“Today, there are stronger laws and policies, but much remains to be done to ensure that police, doctors, and courts treat survivors with dignity,” she said.

The HRW said it conducted field research and interviews in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan — selected because of their large number of reported rape cases — as well as Delhi and Mumbai.

The report details 21 cases — 10 cases involving girls under the age of 18.

Rape survivors
Rape survivors feel harassed at police stations and hospitals. Pixabay.

The findings are drawn from more than 65 interviews with victims, their family members, lawyers, human rights activists, doctors, forensic experts, and government and police officials, as well as research by Indian organisations.

“Under the Indian law, police officers who fail to register a complaint of sexual assault face up to two years in prison. However, Human Rights Watch found that police did not always file a First Information Report (FIR), the first step to initiating a police investigation, especially if the victim was from an economically or socially marginalised community.

“In several cases, the police resisted filing the FIR or pressured the victim’s family to ‘settle’ or ‘compromise’, particularly if the accused was from a powerful family or community,” the statement said.

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It said that lack of witness protection law in India makes rape survivors and witnesses vulnerable to pressure that undermines prosecutions.

The human rights body said that some defence lawyers and judges still use language in courtrooms that is “biased and derogatory” toward sexual assault survivors.

“The attempt at shaming the victim is still very much prevalent in the courts,” Rebecca Mammen John, a senior criminal lawyer in Delhi, was quoted in the statement. (IANS)