Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Germany: Almatov's Exit No Bar to Prosecution

(Brussels, December 21, 2005) ? Germany?s federal prosecutor should initiate an investigation into Uzbek Internal Affairs Minister Zokirjon Almatov?s responsibility for alleged crimes against humanity even if he may have left Germany, Human Rights Watch said today. It is likely that there is enough evidence against Almatov for the prosecutor to request an international arrest warrant for him.

Human Rights Watch made its call amidst unconfirmed reports that Almatov left Germany, where he had traveled in November to receive medical treatment for cancer.

Uzbek victims of torture and survivors of the May 13 massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan, assisted by Human Rights Watch, filed a complaint against Almatov with the German federal prosecutor on December 12. They asked the prosecutor to pursue Almatov on three counts: individual crimes of torture, torture as a crime against humanity, and crimes against humanity in connection with the massacre in Andijan. Almatov?s presence in Germany is not necessary to start an investigation on the last two counts.

As documented in comprehensive reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and others, hundreds of demonstrators were gunned down by Uzbek security forces in Andijan in May. As minister of internal affairs, Almatov had command responsibility for those security forces.

?Victims of the bloody crackdown in Andijan suffered horribly at Almatov?s hands,? said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ?They deserve justice, and he should not get away with it just because he leaves Germany.?

The European Union imposed sanctions, including a ban on travel to EU countries for 12 Uzbek officials it considers responsible for the indiscriminate and excessive use of force in Andijan. Almatov is on top of that list. However, days before the EU released the 12 names subject to the visa ban, German authorities granted Almatov a visa on humanitarian grounds to undergo treatment for cancer. But Almatov appears to have left the country following news reports of a possible investigation into his crimes.

A criminal investigation against Almatov in Germany is possible under universal jurisdiction, which reflects the principle that some crimes so offend humankind that courts anywhere have jurisdiction to try them, no matter where they were committed, and no matter the nationality of the accused or the victims. The only precondition is that the country where such legal action is taken must have passed laws, like Germany, allowing its courts to exercise this jurisdiction. German legislation is exemplary in this regard.

?To act in full conformity with Germany?s universal jurisdiction laws, the prosecutor should have begun a criminal investigation into Almatov?s alleged crimes as soon as he arrived in Germany,? said Cartner. ?We deplore this failure, and urge the prosecutor to launch an investigation without any further delay, even if Almatov has left the country.?

An indictment by the federal prosecutor would likely be followed by an international arrest warrant for Almatov, which would mean that almost anywhere he travels he would be subject to arrest and extradition to Germany to face criminal prosecution.

?The evidence against Almatov is simply overwhelming,? said Cartner. ?Based on the facts alone, there is no question that the Germans should investigate at once.?

In a statement issued on Friday, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, reminded Germany of its obligations and called for Almatov?s prosecution. Theo van Boven, the former Special Rapporteur, who visited Uzbekistan in late 2002, has likewise expressed his strong support for the victims? claims and stressed the unique opportunity Germany has to bring Almatov to justice. In an affidavit submitted this week to the German Federal Prosecutor, Antonio Cassese, former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, argued that Almatov does not enjoy diplomatic immunity from criminal investigation and prosecution in Germany.

Slaves and the City

In the mid-18th century, one in five New Yorkers was a chattel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
The Wall Street Journal

NEW YORK--Let's begin with three facts. In the middle of the 18th century, slaves constituted about one-fifth of New York City's population. Slavery persisted in New York well into the 19th century. Although male slaves outnumbered females in rural New York, in the city there was an increasing surplus of women over men. After viewing the exhibit under review, visitors are likely to be aware of the first two of these facts but ignorant of the third, and herein lie both the many strengths and the occasional limitations of this lavish display.

The largest exhibit in the 201-year history of the New-York Historical Society, "Slavery in New York" was prepared by a distinguished team of historians headed by James Oliver Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of History and American Studies at George Washington University, and supported by 17 "scholarly advisors" including such luminaries as Columbia University's Eric Foner and Yale's David Blight. It is accompanied by a handsome companion volume, also titled "Slavery in New York," edited by historians Ira Berlin and Leslie M. Harris.

The exhibit uses an impressive variety of items--maps, ledgers, correspondence, newspapers and artwork--supplemented by extensive written texts, artistic re-creations, video re-enactments, and interactive displays to present the chronological sweep of slavery in New York City. Beginning with a background unit on the slave trade from Africa to the Americas, the exhibit covers the early development of slavery under the Dutch, before the British takeover and renaming of New Amsterdam in 1664; the continued expansion of slavery under the British; slave resistance, including flight, rebellion, and support for the British during the American Revolution; gradual emancipation, beginning in 1799; and the growth of a free black community, whose members built churches, schools and voluntary associations while enduring growing racial discrimination. New York State's constitution of 1821 abolished property qualifications for voting among white men, but set a minimum threshold of $250 for black men; five years later, there were only 16 African-American voters in New York County.

"Slavery in New York" provides an outstanding introduction to what will be a shocking story for many viewers unaware of the extent to which slavery permeated life in New York during the city's first two centuries. On the Saturday afternoon that I visited the museum, the large and attentive crowd of visitors seemed particularly interested in a listing of restrictive laws, which included the 1702 provision, "Masters may punish their slaves however they choose so long as they do not cut off their limbs or kill them." Other viewers studied a newspaper advertisement for a fugitive "negro wench nam'd Pegg" who was described in some detail as "of a yellowish complexion" with a smooth face, a crooked middle finger, and a character that was "sensible, cunning, and artful." Still others pushed buttons to hear six different "cries of New York," including those of vendors selling sweet potatoes, buttermilk and baked pears, and watched historians Horton and Harris on two adjacent video screens as they discussed the vagaries of New York's emancipation legislation. Few visitors to this exhibit will come away unmoved by the presence, dimension and horror of slavery in New York.

Indeed, the exhibit is so good that I can't help wishing it was even better. One of the limitations faced by its creators is the paucity of slavery-related artifacts at their disposal, a paucity that explains their heavy reliance on text and re-created text-based visual evidence. There are no paintings with images of black New Yorkers dating from before the 1790s, so it is hardly surprising that the exhibit provides a richer display of free black life in the early 19th century than of slave life in the preceding decades.

Beyond the scarcity of artifacts lies the problem of how to convey historical concepts visually, or grapple with such historical staples as complexity, context and causation. There is little in this exhibit, for example, on the actual lives of the slaves, on changing slave demography, or on how slave experiences varied according to age, sex, occupation or place of birth. (It is worth noting that the "Slavery in New York" volume does cover such themes, and will therefore be of great interest to visitors in search of a fuller picture.)

But what is perhaps most surprising is the lack of context provided for understanding slavery in New York. The exhibit properly emphasizes the prevalence of slavery there--the proportion of slaves in both urban and rural New York was greater than elsewhere in the northern colonies--but surely it is also important to explain that slavery was less central to the economy and social order in New York than it was in Virginia or South Carolina (let alone Caribbean colonies such as Jamaica or Saint Domingue, where the vast majority of the population was enslaved). That, of course, explains why it was so much easier to abolish slavery in New York than it was in the South: In the wake of the American Revolution, every state north of Delaware initiated the abolition of slavery, whereas none of the Southern states did.

Finally, from a historian's perspective it is noteworthy that this exhibit gives little sense of slavery as a source of lively scholarly debate. Most viewers, no doubt, would quickly tire of a detailed presentation of the ins and outs of conflicting historical interpretations, but in avoiding discussion of how our understanding of slavery has changed over the years, and how at any given point in time experts continue to disagree over important questions (such as slave rebelliousness), the exhibit's creators missed a chance to show that knowledge about slavery is not simply "there" but is constantly being created and contested--in short, that the study of slavery is a vital and continuing intellectual enterprise.

Perhaps I am asking for too much. There is no perfection in this world, and "Slavery in New York" is a very good exhibit. You should go see it.

Mr. Kolchin, the Henry Clay Reed Professor of History at the University of Delaware, is the author of "American Slavery, 1617-1877" (rev. ed., Hill & Wang, 2003) and other books on slavery and emancipation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Uganda: Respect Opposition Right to Campaign

Government Must Remove Obstacles to Free and Fair Elections

New York, December 19, 2005) ? Uganda must allow the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) to organize campaign rallies for its jailed presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Human Rights Watch said today.

The government has tried to stop demonstrations related to the November 14 arrest of Besigye on charges of rape and treason in the High Court. He was declared a candidate only days before his trial was to start in the High Court today. On November 22, the government banned public rallies and demonstrations related to Besigye?s trial, claiming the protests would prejudice the courts and interfere with the defendant?s constitutionally protected right to a fair trial. Between November 22 and 24, police arrested opposition leaders who were planning rallies for November 24, the day Besigye was scheduled to appear in the High Court to hear the verdict on his bail application.

?Ugandans have a right to peacefully protest against Besigye?s trial and rally in support of his campaign,? said Jemera Rone, Uganda researcher at Human Rights Watch. ?The authorities cannot use the Besigye trial as a pretext to prevent opposition rallies now that the campaign season is in full swing.?

Human Rights Watch is concerned that authorities will use the ban to obstruct campaign rallies by the Forum for Democratic Change, during Uganda?s first multi-party elections in 25 years. Besigye is considered the main challenger to President Yoweri Museveni, who seeks a third term in office. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on February 23, 2006.
Human Rights Watch is also concerned about reports that security forces have intimidated, harassed and physically assaulted opposition party supporters since Besigye?s return to Uganda in late October. In December, Human Rights Watch interviewed supporters of the Forum for Democratic Change from Kampala and the Kabarole district in western Uganda. They told Human Rights Watch that since Besigye?s arrest, local government officials and members of the security forces?including the police, Internal Security Organization, and Ugandan Peoples? Defense Forces (UPDF)?had ordered them to stop supporting Besigye, either threatening them or using physical violence.

An FDC activist from the Kabarole district told Human Rights Watch that police prevented him from organizing a protest against Besigye?s arrest. Later that night, several UPDF soldiers arrested him and took him to a nearby military barracks, where they beat him, tied him to a tree, and threatened to kill him by firing squad if he continued to support Besigye.

?It is up to the independent Electoral Commission and the police to see that the 2006 elections are free from intimidation and violence,? said Rone. ?The commission must promptly investigate allegations of any abuse and ensure that perpetrators of violence are held accountable.?

Dr. Besigye challenged President Museveni in the presidential elections of March 2001 and lost. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled 3-2 that there had been fraud and violence in the elections, but then ruled 3-2 that the fraud and violence was not sufficient to set aside the election results. Dr. Besigye fled into exile a few months later.

In October 2005, he returned to Uganda to run again for president. On November 15, he was charged with rape and treason before the High Court and remanded to Luzira Prison near Kampala. His arrest provoked demonstrations and some looting in Kampala. On November 24, Besigye was charged with terrorism and illegal possession of firearms before the General Court Martial. Although the High Court granted bail to Besigye on November 25, he remains in Luzira Prison because of the court martial charges.

On December 12, High Court Justice Remmy Kasule extended a stay on Besigye?s trial before the General Court Martial until the Constitutional Court rules on the legality of the military trial. The military court hearing had also been scheduled to begin on December 19.

Besigye, five of his 22 co-defendants in the cases, and the Uganda Law Society have filed petitions before the Constitutional Court disputing the constitutionality of provisions in the Ugandan Peoples? Defense Forces Act that established the Court Martial. They are also challenging the Court Martial?s jurisdiction to prosecute the offense of terrorism, try civilians, and prosecute Besigye and his co-defendants in two different courts on charges based on the same facts.

On December 19, the High Court postponed Besigye?s trial for rape and for treason
until January 2 and January 6, 2006 respectively.

For further information, please contact:
In Washington, D.C., Jemera Rone (English, Spanish): +1-202-368-5414, or +1-202-332-8455
In Toronto, Georgette Gagnon (English): +1-416-893-2709

Related Material:

Uganda?s Electoral Commission Must Uphold Presumption of Innocence
Press Release, December 12, 2005

U.S. Operated Secret Dark Prison in Kabul

U.S. Operated Secret ?Dark Prison? in Kabul
(New York, December 19, 2005) Accounts from detainees at Guant?namo reveal that the United States as recently as last year operated a secret prison in Afghanistan where detainees were subjected to torture and other mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said today.

Eight detainees now held at Guant?namo described to their attorneys how they were held at a facility near Kabul at various times between 2002 and 2004. The detainees, who called the facility the ?dark prison? or ?prison of darkness,? said they were chained to walls, deprived of food and drinking water, and kept in total darkness with loud rap, heavy metal music, or other sounds blared for weeks at a time.

The detainees offer consistent accounts about the facility, saying that U.S. and Afghan guards were not in uniform and that U.S. interrogators did not wear military attire, which suggests that the prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency.

The detainees said U.S. interrogators slapped or punched them during interrogations. They described being held in complete darkness for weeks on end, shackled to rings bolted into the walls of their cells, with loud music or other sounds played continuously. Some detainees said they were shackled in a manner that made it impossible to lie down or sleep, with restraints that caused their hands and wrists to swell up or bruise. The detainees said they were deprived of food for days at a time, and given only filthy water to drink.

The detainees also said that they were held incommunicado and never visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross or other independent officials.

?The U.S. government must shed some light on Kabul?s ?dark prison,?? said John Sifton, terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. ?No one, no matter their alleged crime, should be held in secret prisons or subjected to torture.?

The detainees? allegations were communicated to Human Rights Watch by their attorneys and are contained in attorneys? contemporaneous notes. Human Rights Watch was unable to interview the detainees directly, since the United States has not allowed human rights organizations to visit detainees at Guant?namo or other detention sites abroad. However, Human Rights Watch believes that the detainees? allegations are sufficiently credible to warrant an official investigation. The detainees are of different nationalities and have different attorneys. None claimed to have been detained at the secret facility for more than six weeks at a time, and did not otherwise make extraordinary claims.

Most of the detainees said they were arrested in other countries in Asia and the Middle East, and then flown to Afghanistan. Detainees who arrived by airplane said they were driven about five minutes from a landing field to the prison. Afghan guards told some of them that the facility was located near Kabul. Some detainees who were kept at the facility were transferred at various times to and from another secret facility near Kabul. The detainees said they were later transferred to the main U.S. military detention facility near Bagram, where many other Guant?namo detainees say they were initially held.

Human Rights Watch said that the ?dark prison? may have been closed after several detainees were transferred to the Bagram facility in late 2004.

M.Z., a detainee arrested in another country in 2002 (name and identifying details withheld at his attorney?s request), said he was held at the ?prison of darkness? for about four weeks. He says he was sent to ?an underground place, very dark? where there was ?loud music? playing continuously. He said he was held in solitary confinement, where it was ?pitch black... no light.? M.Z. said that when he was interrogated he was taken to a room with a strobe light, and shackled to a ring on the floor. During the interrogations, he says, an interrogator threatened him with rape.

Benyam Mohammad, an Ethiopian-born Guant?namo detainee who grew up in Britain, said he was held at the ?dark prison? in 2004 and described his experience to his attorney in English:

It was pitch black no lights on in the rooms for most of the time.... They hung me up. I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb.... There was loud music, [Eminem?s] ?Slim Shady? and Dr. Dre for 20 days.... [Then] they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. [At one point, I was] chained to the rails for a fortnight.... The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night.... Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.

J.K., another detainee (name withheld at attorney?s request), also alleged that he had been held in the dark, shackled to the wall and subjected to weeks of sleep deprivation and constant loud music and noise, as well as being beaten during interrogations. ?People were screaming in pain and crying all the time,? he told his attorney.

Abd al-Salam Ali al-Hila, a Yemeni whose arrest and transfer to Afghanistan was previously documented by Human Rights Watch Guantanamo: New ?Reverse Rendition? Case, said he was kept at the ?dark prison? at various times in 2003. He told his lawyers he had been chained to the wall, kept in almost constant darkness, and subjected to sleep deprivation and constant noise.

Similarly, attorneys for Hassin Bin Attash, Jamil el Banna and Bisher al Rawi, three other detainees who said they were previously held at the ?dark prison,? said their clients made allegations about constant darkness, shackling, sleep deprivation, inadequate food and water, and beatings during interrogations. One other detainee provided similar information through his attorney, who requested that the client?s name and nationality be kept confidential.

On November 18, ABC News reported that several CIA officials told ABC that the CIA had operated a secret facility in Kabul, and voiced concerns about interrogations there. The CIA officials, who requested anonymity from ABC, said that CIA officials authorized six techniques for use against detainees with ?high-level? intelligence value, including long-term sleep deprivation, exposure to cold for more than 40 hours, and ?waterboarding,? in which interrogators poured water over the detainee?s face until he believed he would suffocate or drown. The officials told ABC that the CIA had authorized these techniques in March 2002 and that they were used at the Kabul facility and elsewhere.

The accounts given by the Guant?namo detainees about the Kabul facility are also consistent with stories told by four detainees, who in July escaped from U.S. military custody at Bagram, on a videotape obtained by ABC News and Al-Arabiya. On the videotape, the detainees said they were held at ?the dark prison? before being sent to Bagram, and describe being subjected to loud music and total darkness, as well as physical abuse.

Human Rights Watch has previously identified 26 ?disappeared? persons believed to be held in secret facilities operated or used by the U.S. A ?disappearance? is an unlawful detention in which the detaining authorities deny holding the person or refuse to disclose his or her whereabouts. Human Rights Watch said today that the U.S. may have used the facility near Kabul to hold ?disappeared? detainees at various times.

Human Rights Watch said that the alleged torture and other mistreatment of detainees, if proven, would amount to serious violations of U.S. criminal law, such as the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Statute, as well as the laws of Afghanistan. The mistreatment of detainees also violates the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which the United States has ratified, and the laws of war. (Summary of statutes)

Human Rights Watch has long called for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged mistreatment of detainees in U.S. detention facilities abroad.

?We?re not talking about torture in the abstract, but the real thing,? said Sifton. ?U.S. personnel and officials may be criminally liable, and a special prosecutor is needed to investigate.?

Human Rights Watch called on the United States to move ?disappeared? persons into known detention facilities, articulate the legal basis under which detainees are held, and allow access to all detainees by independent monitors.

?It?s time for the Bush administration to shut the secret prisons and stop holding people illegally,? said Sifton.

Cambodia: Courts Used to Muzzle Political Opponents

Cambodia: Courts Used to Muzzle Political Opponents
Politically Motivated Prosecution of Sam Rainsy Should Be Abandoned

(New York, December 20, 2005) ? The Cambodian government should stop using spurious, politically motivated criminal lawsuits as a way to silence its critics, Human Rights Watch said today.

On Thursday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who fled the country in February to avoid arrest on trumped-up charges, will be tried in absentia at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on charges of criminal defamation. National Assembly President Norodom Ranariddh is suing Rainsy for allegedly stating that Ranariddh accepted bribes in exchange for agreeing to form a coalition government with Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Rainsy also faces a suit from Prime Minister Hun Sen after allegedly stating that Hun Sen had drawn up a blacklist of political opponents to be assassinated, including Rainsy.

"These charges are politically motivated and should be dropped,? said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "No one in any country should face jail for the peaceful criticism of a country?s leaders. Trials like these are especially dangerous in Cambodia where the courts are controlled by the government.?

Human Rights Watch said that it opposes the use of the criminal law in cases of alleged defamation and is particularly concerned by their use to infringe upon the right of free expression. In addition, in absentia trials violate the rights of an accused under international law to a fair trial, specifically to examine the witnesses and evidence against him.

The defamation suits follow years of harassment and physical attacks by the government on Sam Rainsy and members of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). In February 2005 the National Assembly lifted the immunity of Rainsy and two other SRP parliamentarians in order to press criminal charges against them after the party set up a Westminster-style shadow administration. The government claimed, without producing any credible evidence, that the SRP was forming a private army.

Sam Rainsy, president of the SRP, and Chea Poch, an MP, fled the country before they could be arrested. Poch faces a criminal defamation suit filed by Ranariddh for allegedly saying that Ranariddh joined the coalition government with the CPP after receiving U.S.$30 million from Hun Sen.

The third MP, Cheam Channy, did not try to leave Cambodia and was arrested on charges of forming an illegal rebel army. On August 8 he was sentenced by the military court to seven years' imprisonment for organized crime and fraud. Under Cambodian law the military court does not have jurisdiction to hear cases against civilians. No credible evidence of a criminal law violation was provided at the trial, which was marred by severe procedural irregularities. Channy?s health has reportedly deteriorated while in Tuol Sleng military prison.

"Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh claim that they are committed to pluralism and democracy, but allowing the leader of the opposition to face prison for criticizing them makes a mockery of that commitment," said Adams.

Thursday's trial is the latest in a series of events that have greatly weakened Cambodia's fledgling pluralistic democracy.

Human Rights Watch said that Hun Sen?s government is increasingly using legal action, notably criminal prosecutions for defamation or incitement, to threaten and intimidate civil society figures, journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition political party members.

At least seven critics of a controversial new border treaty with Vietnam face criminal lawsuits initiated by Hun Sen. In October, radio journalist Mom Sonando and Rong Chhum, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, were arrested and are being held without bail on charges of defamation and incitement for publicly opposing the treaty. Human Rights Watch called for their immediate release.

On December 10, municipal authorities demanded the removal of a banner at a Human Rights Day rally, which focused on the subject of freedom of expression, because it allegedly contained statements critical of the prime minister. The authorities are reportedly considering criminal charges against the individuals who made the banner and the organizers of the rally.

"The Cambodian government doesn?t seem to understand the sad irony of threatening critics of the prime minister on International Human Rights Day, but the rest of the world does," said Adams. ?Cambodia seems to be traveling down the path to becoming an elected dictatorship. It is time for Cambodia?s friends in the international community to reengage politically and make it clear to the government that it has to meet its human rights commitments.?


Sam Rainsy, formerly a member of the royalist Funcinpec Party, was removed from his post as minister of finance in 1994 and then expelled from the National Assembly in 1995 after falling out with Ranariddh and Hun Sen. Rainsy subsequently established his own opposition party, the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), but had to change its name after Hun Sen engineered a split in the party that led to renegade party members claiming to be the legitimate representatives of the KNP. In 1998 Rainsy formed the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party. Rainsy and Ranariddh formed an anti-CPP alliance for both the 1998 and 2003 elections, but in each case Ranariddh eventually joined a coalition government with Hun Sen, while Rainsy remained in opposition.

Rainsy has been subject to constant threats of violence and arrest. The most extreme attack occurred on March 30, 1997, when a peaceful rally led by Rainsy against judicial corruption was attacked by grenade throwers, leaving at least 16 dead and 150 injured. Evidence linked Hun Sen?s bodyguard unit to the attack.

Related Material

Cambodia: Opposition MP Jailed After Sham Trial
Press Release, August 9, 2005

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D.R. Congo: Electoral Process at Risk

Transitional Government, International Donors Must Ensure Safe and Fair Elections

(Brussels, December 15, 2005)?As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares to launch its first national electoral process in four decades, ongoing divisions in the national army and government repression of civil liberties put the prospect for a peaceful and credible vote at risk, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper (available online at: ) released today.

On Sunday and Monday, some 24 million newly registered voters will be able to vote on a constitutional referendum that would decentralize the Congolese government. If the constitution is adopted, Congolese will go forward with presidential and parliamentary elections due to be held before June 30.

?Congolese politicians and international donors alike want to avoid dealing with serious problems like army reform, repression of civil rights, and rebuilding the shattered judicial system until after the elections,? said Alison Des Forges, senior Africa adviser at Human Rights Watch. ?They fear upsetting the electoral process and take the attitude of ?don?t rock the boat.??

Under the accords that ended the civil war in 2002, former belligerents that now form part of a transitional government were supposed to integrate their troops into a single force that would guarantee security to voters. But so far these armed factions have withheld their strongest troops, keeping them as a reserve should the electoral process fail or should they be dissatisfied with the results of the polls.

Some of the new national army units have joined the United Nations peacekeeping force, known as MONUC, in trying to restore order in eastern Congo where bands of Congolese and foreign combatants continue to prey upon civilians. Moderately successful in some areas, like Ituri, the combined forces are too few and too poorly equipped to bring order everywhere in the vast region. In several places election workers have been attacked by bands opposed to the election.

The arrest of supporters of opposition political parties and journalists, the suspension of various radio stations, and corruption among officials (which may serve to buy political support) also threaten the credibility of the electoral process before it has begun.

?After years of war and suffering, Congolese have high hopes for these elections,? said Des Forges. ?The transitional government and its international supporters must redouble efforts to assure fair and secure elections.?

Related Material

Democratic Republic of Congo - Elections in sight: ?Don?t Rock the Boat??

D.R. Congo: Protect Activists Returning From Exile
Press Release, November 14, 2005

Web version of this document is available at:

Germany: Uzbek Security Chief Accused of Crimes against Humanity

Germany: Uzbek Security Chief Accused of Crimes against Humanity
Suit Filed in Germany Against Uzbek Minister Zokirjon Almatov

(Berlin, December 15, 2005) ? Survivors of torture and the May 13 massacre of unarmed protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan, filed a case on Monday in Germany calling for the prosecution of Zokirjon Almatov, Uzbekistan?s Minister of Internal Affairs, for crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said today. Almatov is in Germany receiving medical treatment.

?This case represents a unique opportunity to bring a measure of truth and justice for some of the horrors that occurred under the command of Zokirjon Almatov,? said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ?While the victims could not safely seek justice in Uzbekistan, German law allows them to seek redress before a German court.?

German law recognizes universal jurisdiction for torture and crimes against humanity. This means that Germany can try and punish the perpetrators of such crimes, no matter where the crimes were committed, and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators and victims.

Victims of abuse in Uzbekistan asked the German federal prosecutor to open a criminal investigation and pursue Almatov on three counts: individual crimes of torture, torture as a crime against humanity and the Andijan massacre as a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity include widespread or systematic crimes against civilians, including murder and torture.

Human Rights Watch provided evidence to the prosecutor, supporting the victims? allegations against Almatov. Since the mid-1990s, Human Rights Watch has extensively documented the use of torture by police under Almatov?s command. Human Rights Watch also handed over evidence about the role of the police in the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Andijan in May 2005.

Almatov is accused of being responsible for the use of torture by police in places of pre-trial detention and in prisons, locations under his direct control.

Human Rights Watch said it is now up to the federal prosecutor of Germany to decide whether or not to open a criminal case against Almatov and pursue the matter.

?The facts are there,? said Cartner. ?If the prosecutor applies the law to the facts, Almatov will be arrested and tried in Germany.?

Germany has been a leader in creating accountability mechanisms for the most serious crimes under international law. The German government was a strong supporter of efforts to establish the International Criminal Court, and incorporated that court?s statute of international crimes into its own domestic law. This commitment to international justice reflects Germany?s struggle to come to terms with its own history and its recognition of the importance of bringing to justice those responsible for crimes such as mass slaughter, forced displacement on ethnic grounds and rape as a weapon of war.

?Germany has been a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and its investigations in Africa,? added Cartner. ?With the Almatov case, Germany has the chance to demonstrate its commitment by bringing justice through its own courts.?

In 2002, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found torture in Uzbekistan to be ?systematic.? Methods of torture that police use against people in detention include beatings with truncheons, electric shock, hanging people by their wrists or ankles, rape and sexual humiliation, asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, and threats of physical harm to relatives.

One of the cases Human Rights Watch brought to the prosecutor?s attention was that of Muzafar Avazov, who died in August 2002 after having been immersed in boiling water in Jaslyk prison, run by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was arrested on charges of religious extremism.

Almatov also commanded the troops who bore primary responsibility for the mass killings that marked the bloodiest day in Uzbekistan?s recent history.

On May 13, 2005, in Andijan, thousands of protesters, almost all unarmed, were surrounded by troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as other security forces. Without warning, these forces opened fire on the crowd, killing and wounding hundreds. Those who tried to escape were mowed down by a waiting flank of government troops or were picked off by snipers posted atop surrounding buildings. Witnesses have said that the fleeing civilians did not stand a chance against the government?s firepower.

One eyewitness to the bloodshed, who saw people shot and killed all around him, told Human Rights Watch, ?It was almost impossible to survive.? He said that the day after the slaughter, police walked among the bodies remaining on the ground and asked, ?Who is wounded?? When those still living answered, ?I am,? the officers fired single shots at them from guns with silencers, killing them. Those who could manage it fled the scene and crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan, and eventually to safety.

?Survivors of the massacre in Andijan have been brave enough to come forward with their memories of that horrible day,? said Cartner. ?They are asking for justice, and they deserve nothing less.?

Related Material

Germany and Accountability for Crimes Against Humanity in Uzbekistan
Questions and Answers

Burying the Truth. Uzbekistan Rewrites the Story of the Andijan Massacre
Report, September 20, 2005

?Bullets Were Falling Like Rain.?: The Andijan Massacre, May 13, 2005
Report, June 7, 2005

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, Theo van Boven.
Report, February 3, 2003

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In a Shift, Anti-Prostitution Effort Targets Pimps and Johns

By Laura Blumenfeld
Washington Post Staff Writer
The Washington Post
Thursday, December 15, 2005; A01

The john peeked into the massage parlor.

"Hi, sweetie," said Kim, the manager of the Korean-run club in downtown Washington.

The john, a tall man in his fifties, stepped inside, smiling anxiously. He wore a chaste white shirt and sharply parted hair, and he smelled as if he'd had a drink.

"Look at his face -- very tired," Kim said as he went inside. "Sad people come. Stress people. This customer stay 30 minutes, then happy. Everybody happy."

Not everybody. A national campaign against prostitution has intensified in political, nonprofit and law enforcement circles, so much so that yesterday the House unanimously passed novel legislation, with the Senate expected to follow.

In the past, police sweeps have focused on the women. The new federal law would grant state and local law enforcement agencies funds to investigate and prosecute the men -- brothel owners and pimps. It would also target for arrest customers like the one at Kim's parlor lurching toward a girl in a bikini.

"You're out of luck," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), summing up the bill's message to the customers.

"The johns use and abuse these young women," said Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio). "And pimps -- you can call them slaveholders, the masters out in the field."

The attitudes of Pryce, who introduced the legislation in the House, and Cornyn, a sponsor in the Senate, reflect a shift in how the government and the public respond to the sex industry. Traditionally, women have been blamed as the source of the problem. But Pryce calls prostitution "modern-day slavery" in which teenage girls are exploited and men fuel the crime.

Behind the scenes, an unlikely coalition of evangelicals, feminists, liberal activists and conservative human rights advocates are pushing the issue. They are trying to reframe the way people talk about prostitutes, calling them "survivors" and signing off e-mails with the slogan "Abolition!"

On a local level, in the past three years, 12 states have passed anti-sex-trafficking legislation, which says that women who are prostituted through coercion, and minors who are sold for sex, are victims. In 15 other states, similar bills have been introduced. Although prostitution is illegal nationwide except in certain Nevada counties, advocates for the legislation said that enforcement and penalties for pimps and johns have been weak, including a tolerance for brothels that advertise as massage parlors.

"We want to drive a stake through the heart of these venal criminals," said Michael J. Horowitz, a coalition leader and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. "This is pure evil."

This is bad news for the john at Kim's parlor, who lumbered out the door 37 minutes after he entered. His smile had relaxed. He looked as though he had just won a long-odds bet. Squinting in the afternoon light, he got into his car to drive home to Virginia, as he does every month after having sex, he said. Then he heard about the legislation.

"Do I look like a criminal?" scowled the man, who gave his name as "John." "I'm a middle-class, law-abiding single white professional. Let me have my fun."

"John" said that the women offer a service to the community, that it is a victimless crime and that lawmakers should concentrate on more important issues, such as the war in Iraq.

"It's like going to a doctor. A love doctor," he said. He spread his fingers, as if to show his hands were clean: "Is this a problem?"

Focusing on Demand
Though far apart politically, Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.) and Republican Pryce were in Pryce's office, conferring on an issue they could agree upon.

"I don't think pimps care if a customer is a Republican or Democrat, do they?" quipped Maloney.
On a recent afternoon that Pryce called "one of the worst politically partisan days I have ever spent on Capitol Hill in 13 years," Pryce smiled as she talked with Maloney about the measure they introduced in April. Commercial sex, said Maloney, is about supply and demand. Women are the supply; men create demand. "We want to crack down on the demand," she said.

While the approach enjoys political support, some in the Justice Department have objected to referring to women engaged in an illegal activity as "victims" and have resisted federalizing what has been a local issue, proponents said.

Also, some nongovernmental organizations that advocate for the rights of sex workers question the effectiveness of focusing on demand. "It's punitive rather than preventative," said Ann D. Jordan, who directs the Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons at Global Rights. She said the measure fails to address the causes of prostitution, such as poverty. Federal money would be better spent on job training, said Juhu Thukral of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

Penelope Saunders, director of Different Avenues, which works with marginalized communities, said that "according this bill, all the men who are buying commercial sex are monsters -- and that's simply not true." Some johns help sex workers by reporting violent pimps, she said. Scaring away regular customers would force prostitutes into riskier behavior. Saunders said that calling these women "victims of sexual slavery" is inaccurate, patronizing and a "thinly veiled effort" to promote a conservative moral agenda.

But to Barrett Duke, a coalition member and vice president at the Southern Baptist Convention, the comparison to slavery is apt. He draws inspiration from 19th-century Christians. They fought the slave trade in England by working with "people of good will, who were not Christians, who understood that trade of human flesh was an abomination."

In Duke's coalition, the people of good will include Orthodox Jews, abortion-rights feminists and gay-rights liberals. At meetings, Duke said, they ease political tensions by joking: "One of us will say, 'Oh, you're out there working on that judges stuff!' We'll get a chuckle. Everyone sheathes their swords, but they're never very far from reach."

Donna M. Hughes, a professor of women's studies at the University of Rhode Island, said she was suspicious at first. She looked across the table at Duke and at a woman from the conservative Concerned Women for America: "I thought, 'Don't they eat feminists for breakfast?' "

Ultimately, they were able to march together by blinding themselves to everything but the women they hope to help.
On the Hill, Maloney said it was the reason she could team up with Pryce, chairman of the House Republican Conference. Maloney had met a woman named Tina Frundt at a hearing, who told her life story. Frundt said her foster mother's boyfriend had sold her for sex at the age of 10. "I kept interrupting her," Maloney said. As Frundt tried to talk, Maloney's stomach churned. "Psychologically, I could not stand to hear her."

Victimless Crime 'a Lie'
Frundt was 14 when a man in his twenties persuaded her to run away. She thought it was about love. He brought his friends over to gang-rape her. Soon he was selling her body to support them: $75 for oral sex, $100 to $125 for "basic sex," $200 for anal sex or for an additional person. A pimp who controls four women, said Derek Ellerman, co-executive director of the Polaris Project, an anti-sex-trafficking group, makes more than $600,000 a year in cash. When Frundt disobeyed her pimp, she said, he broke her arm with a bat.

"I was 14. I looked 14. I was sleeping with men who were 65 years old," said Frundt, 31, who joined the left-right coalition. She said her customers, bald and wrinkled, had sex while complaining about their wives; she closed her eyes. One fat client reeked of Bengay ointment. Afterward, she threw up. "They're sexual molesters and child abusers. I have to remember that abuse for the rest of my life. So why shouldn't they?"

Frundt, now a counselor at the Polaris Project, said that the average age of girls who enter the sex trade is 13. Like victims of domestic violence, she said, the girls are afraid to leave their pimps. They call their pimps "Daddy." If they report a pimp -- "He's going to beat your butt."

It was stories such as Frundt's, said Cornyn, that convinced him he should fight for the legislation. "A victimless crime?" he said. "Yeah, right, that's a lie."

And yet for Frundt and for others in the coalition, it is hard to believe that anyone would care. Norma Hotaling, founder of the SAGE Project Inc., a drug and mental health program for women in San Francisco, has a metal plate in her head with wires and screws from a pimp who delivered a "bitch slap" when she refused to work.

As the director of SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation), Hotaling attended a reception in Congress for the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which passed in 2000. The act assists foreign women who are sold for sex. At the reception, Hotaling met Horowitz, whose coalition had worked on a variety of human rights issues including religious persecution abroad and global sex trafficking.

"I said, 'What about me? What about my sisters?' " Hotaling said. Horowitz told her he was mired in anti-prison-rape legislation but when he was done he would address domestic sex trafficking. "I thought I was hallucinating," she said. "I was talking to someone who was very right-wing -- and he was concerned."

In their work together, Hotaling encouraged Horowitz to include a provision about educating and sensitizing law enforcement. She recalled the night the pimp broke her eye socket. The police let him go. They said it was her fault. Her cheekbone and jaw were crushed, so all she could do was wince -- mute -- when one of the men shrugged and said, "She's just a whore."

Photos on the Web, Decoys
About 50 detectives were watching a training video on human and sexual trafficking at the Washington Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. Men with shaved heads who were chewing on toothpicks, burly men in leather jackets -- recoiled, appalled.

A 14-year-old girl, the narrator said, had been locked in a room and was forced to have sex with 30 men a day.
"Oh, my God," a detective said, rapping the table with his wedding band.
A prosecutor from the Washington U.S. attorney's office noted that this was the program's first year in the District. "We need your help, you're the ones on the streets," said Sharon Marcus-Kurn, coordinator of the District's Human Trafficking Task Force. "This is a national effort."

In cities around the country, U.S. attorney's offices, the FBI, local prosecutors and nongovernmental organizations are developing similar task forces. The new legislation would assist them because, in addition to funding shelters for ex-prostitutes and sponsoring a statistical survey of prostitution, it would authorize $25 million a year to law enforcement to reduce demand. Techniques would include using female decoys, posting pictures of johns on the Internet and establishing "john schools" to reeducate sex clients.

Hughes said that 90 percent of prostitution arrests are of women: "There's been a conspiracy of silence of men not wanting to hold other men accountable."

That pattern is changing, if slowly, law enforcement officials said. In New York City, said Tony Communiello, from the Queens district attorney's office, they have instituted the "Losing Proposition," where undercover policewomen try to seize the john's car. In St. Louis, said Len Tracy, chief investigator at the St. Charles County prosecutor's office, they are applying drug-trafficking techniques to pimps, charging them with financial crimes. In Las Vegas, said Victor Vigna, a sergeant on the metropolitan police force, they administer HIV tests for arrested johns and show them photos of genitals covered with disease-related lesions.

And yet, despite these efforts, the pimp in the '05 black DeVille idling his engine after midnight, greeted the news with a shake of his braids and a snort. "They can't stop it," said Steve, who would not give his last name. He sat at the corner of 15th and L streets NW, watching a girl in a miniskirt flitting in the cold. The shadow of the steering wheel cut across his face. "People can be bought. It's gone back to cave days."

Steve dismissed the measure as a political stunt, noting that lawmakers have been clients, too. He said that "some women like being exploited" and suggested that abolishing prostitution would trigger a rise in rapes and killings: "You got a lot of sick-minded people out here."

But at least one massage-parlor manager is worried. Kay slouched into a white satin couch at one of eight massage parlors within a 10-block radius of the White House. A girl in a white bikini slipped across the red lights, into a massage room that has a clock with a second hand. Kay used to be a massage therapist, too, she said, but at 55 she's too old.

The legislation, Kay said, "makes me a headache." The parlor will lose clients and she'll lose her job. A frown gathered at the edge of her lips, but then she smoothed her long red hair and smiled. "I'll have to find a nice man, and settle down."

Korean woman says she'll be forced into prostitution if deported

Canadian Press
Dec. 15, 2005 07:10 AM

VANCOUVER, Canada - A South Korean family fearing for their lives is hoping the support of Fort Nelson residents will sway Canadian Immigration officials from deporting them.

Eun Ju Jung, 18, said the family received a deportation order Oct. 24 but that it was extended to Wednesday and nervously await the next move by immigration officials.

Jung said she, her older sister and their parents are afraid to go back to Korea because her father owes a $7 million US debt.
"My father was involved in a corruption scandal in Korea," she said in a telephone interview from Fort Nelson in northern B.C. "We don't want to go back because there's a lot of people looking for my parents, my family."

She said gangsters hired to collect the massive debt will force her and her 22-year-old sister to work as prostitutes.

Jung said she doesn't know many of the details involving her father's shady past, for which he spent 2½ years in prison, but that their lives will be in danger if Canadian officials don't allow them to stay in Canada.

"I just know that I can't go back to Korea because there's a lot of gangsters who's looking for me and my sister to sell us to a whorehouse."

"They want the money but my parents doesn't have any money to pay them back."

While the Jungs' attempts to stay in Canada as refugee claimants have so far failed, they're hoping support from the community, including the mayor and Conservative MP Jay Hill, will help their cause.

Complicating matters is the fact that Jung's father, Kyu Man Jung, was diagnosed with terminal stomach and liver cancer in October.

Jung said she, her sister and mother went to Los Angeles in 1997 while her father was in jail. The family reunited in Vancouver in 2000 after her father was released from prison.

In August 2004, they moved to the northern B.C. town of Fort Nelson, where the women in the family work in a motel.

Mayor Chris Morey said the Jungs are hard working and should get a chance to remain in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

"We're looking at two young women and a mother looking at starting a new life," she said. "They claim that they're in danger to go back. All I can remark on is the fact that they seem so genuine and sincere."

Ken Yoon, also of Fort Nelson, said he has loaned the Jungs a mobile home to live in.

Yoon said Jung's wife will also be in trouble if she returns to Korea because she was involved in running her husband's business in which he worked as a dealer selling government bonds and car licences.

"There's a real tragedy that they try to kick out a dying man," Yoon said of Canada's immigration officials. "They really need help."

Canada's Missing Women

Hundreds of Aboriginal Women Disappearing in Canada, Some on the "Highway of Tears"
By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times Victoria Staff
Dec 15, 2005

Nineteen-year-old Helen Betty Osborne was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in The Pas, Manitoba on November 12, 1971. Three decades later, on March 25, 2003, Helen's cousin, Felicia Solomon, went missing in Winnipeg. Her body parts were found three months later, but her killer has yet to be found.

In the years between these two murders, more than 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing across Canada, from Vancouver to Ottawa, Edmonton to Halifax. Some have been murdered, some are missing and presumed dead, and others seem to have disappeared into thin air. A large number of the missing women were drug addicts and prostitutes living out a desperate existence in some of Canada's seediest districts.

Police Protection?

Local governments and police insist they are doing all they can to halt the deadly trend. But the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) says there is a failure on the part of the authorities to acknowledge that a disproportionate number of murdered and missing Canadian women are of aboriginal descent and that much more needs to be done.

"It's important that the general population begin to understand the devastating effects this has had on aboriginal communities and families," says NWAC's executive director Sherry Lewis. "People haven't really been exposed to the magnitude of the problem."

In 1996, a shocking government statistic showed that aboriginal women were five times more likely to die as a result of violence than any other group of Canadian women. In their 2004 "Stolen Sisters" report, Amnesty International said that while there has been a lack of effective action on the part of police and government agencies, the "social and economic marginalization" of indigenous women is the reason so many end up living in dangerous situations.

The report cites a history of governmental policies that have torn apart aboriginal families and communities, eventually propelling a large percentage of women into extreme poverty, homelessness and prostitution. The vulnerability of these women is in turn exploited by "indigenous and non-indigenous men to carry out acts of extreme brutality against them."

Amnesty says that acts of violence against these women are due to racism and perpetrators realizing there is little chance of repercussion as the authorities seem indifferent to the welfare of native women.

Amidst allegations of racism and neglect by the people of The Pas after Helen Betty Osborne's murder, a 1999 inquiry into how the investigation was conducted found that racism played a significant part in the case.

It also found that police had long been aware that white men were preying on young native women in the town but "did not feel that the practice necessitated any particular vigilance." The inquiry recommended that the same mistakes not be repeated and that an apology be issued to the Osborne family.

Director Lewis says "there are issues" regarding racism in the police force. "Sisters in Spirit," a campaign launched by NWAC in 2004 in response to the alarmingly high levels of violence against aboriginal women, plans to interact with police at various levels to improve issues such as a lack of trust between natives and police.

"Highway of Tears"

Lewis says the missing persons reporting process is a key area that needs to be improved because in many cases police will not file a report until after someone has been missing for 48 hours, by which time the trail has gone cold. She adds that Sisters in Spirit will also develop a media strategy because historically the media is much more likely to report the disappearance or death of a Caucasian than that of an aboriginal.

"When a number of aboriginal women had gone missing along the Highway of Tears, little or no media attention was paid," says Lewis. "But when Nicole Hoar, a non-aboriginal woman, disappeared on that same highway there was a media frenzy."

Amnesty estimates that at least 32 native women have disappeared on Highway 16, the notorious "Highway of Tears." The long and desolate stretch of road runs between Prince Rupert and Terrace, British Columbia. Many people hitchhike along this highway, but some, mostly young native women, never reach their destinations.

Serial Killers

Other "hotspots" where native women have been disappearing are near the Halifax Airport and in and around Edmonton, where 12 prostitutes have been murdered in the last 16 years five since January 2003.

AIDS educator Amber O'Hara, who gives HIV/AIDS workshops on reserves across the country and is writing a book on the disappearances, says there is no doubt that serial killers are operating in many parts of Canada. She believes there have been at least five serial killers preying on women in B.C. at different times. The disappearances along highway 16, she says, are the work of one man.

Approximately half the 67 women missing from the Vancouver downtown east side are native, and many of those are thought to have been victims of Robert Pickton, a serial killer from Port Coquitlam who has so far been charged with the murders of 27 women, most of them prostitutes. Police, who are actively investigating seven of the deaths that occurred on Highway 16, have said there is no evidence that it is the work a serial killer but have not completely ruled out the possibility.

O'Hara says that for years before Pickton was caught, the Vancouver police refused to believe there was a serial killer operating in the area. O'Hara also finds it frustrating that there aren't more treatment and detoxification programs available, saying that many of the women who went missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside were on waiting lists for drug treatment. She believes that if women were given adequate support and a safe place to recover, ninety percent of them would turn their life around.

"Our government just doesn't see addiction as the disease that it is," says O'Hara. "Nobody grew up wanting to be a drug addict or a prostitute. I'm tired of hearing the government say they don't have the money."

Amazed She's Still Alive

Sadie Morris, a 20-something native girl who currently lives on the streets of Calgary, says that the disappearances of aboriginal girls is often tied to drugs debts. "That's what most of the people die from," she says. "Owing money and, you know, doing too many drugs.

"They owe money to somebody and they can't get out of it&so they wind up dead or stabbed or something."

Morris, who began working the streets as a prostitute in Vancouver at age 13, says she is amazed she's still alive.

"I've seen lots in Vancouver. I've seen girls in dumpsters. I've seen girls get stabbed right in the middle of the street and get taken away, just like that. And there's nothing you can do about it or else you'll end up like that."

Morris's account is corroborated by another young native girl on the streets of Calgary, who wishes only to be known as Larisha.

Larisha believes many young native girls find themselves on the streets because of drug problems. Both she and Sadie identify crack and cocaine as the most pandemic. Disappearances are often the result of girls fleeing either from abusive men or drug debts, or being killed for their debts.

Larisha recounts the story of a friend of hers who had been involved in prostitution and developed a drug problem. "I guess she owed some money for drugs," she says, holding back tears. "It wasn't good, I tried to stop her from doing that stuff, but it didn't work."

Last year, police found her friend's body in a Calgary river, suspecting the girl had been raped and killed.

Copyright 2000 - 2005 Epoch Times International

Indian prostitute mum sparks storm

By Alpana Sarma
December 15, 2005

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Her long, wavy, black hair tied loosely in a knot, 50-year-old Nalini Jameela looks like any other Indian housewife. But this attractive, largely uneducated mother of two is a best-selling author and prostitute whose outspoken views of sex work as a career choice have stirred controversy in conservative India.

Her "Oru Lyngikathozhilaliyude Athmakatha", or The Autobiography of a Sex Worker, dictated to a social activist because she can't write, has angered both feminists, who say it glorifies sex work, and conservatives, who think prostitutes should keep quiet.

"I have written this book for other sex workers. I wanted to talk about it to remove the stigma," Jameela told Reuters through a translator over the phone from her home state of Kerala.

"People think we are bad because we have sex for money. Nobody understands our grief."

Jameela was forced into prostitution 25 years ago when her first husband died, leaving her with a child to support. Sex work paid more than she was earning as a factory worker. She charges her clients between 500-1,000 rupees ($11-$22) per visit.

Her first customer was a policeman. When she came out of the room the next morning, she was beaten up by police on orders of another policeman she had turned down.

"I felt humiliated, but I had no option but to continue."

Jameela estimates she has had sex with more than 1,000 men since then -- she took some time off after her later marriages -- and feels her work is an important social service.

"If there is no sex work, it would lead to a situation comparable to a pressure cooker with its safety valve locked on. The truth is that sex workers are doing a great service," she says in her book in the southern language of Malayalam.

It's a view that angers some feminists.


"Prostitution is considered as work" in the book, said K. Ajitha, president of Anweshi, a Kerala women's group. "I don't accept that. Women in prostitution have only the right to sell their bodies, they don't have the right to choose."

Written with I. Gopinath, an activist who works with sex workers, the book has sold more than 10,000 copies in less than six months in a market where 5,000 in a year is a best seller.

Jameela has so far earned 84,000 rupees ($1,830) from book sales.

But in India, public displays of affection are frowned upon and talking about sex publicly is still taboo.

One popular south Indian actress has been pelted with sandals, tomatoes and rotten eggs and hauled before a court for suggesting women might have sex before marriage and telling men not to expect their brides to be virgins anymore.

Protests over her comments lasted more than a month.

Prostitution is outlawed, but India has more than two million sex workers living on the fringes of society. They have few rights and abuse by both customers and the police is common.

Commercial sex is one of the main drivers of the spread of HIV/AIDS and India has more than 5 million reported cases of people living with the virus, rivalling South Africa as the worst hit nation.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates more than 20 million people could be infected with HIV in India by 2010 and economists warn it could undermine India's rise to economic superpower status.

Alarmed by the rising numbers, the government's Planning Commission has recommended prostitution be legalised to help fight AIDS.

Many prostitutes are pushed into the trade by traffickers and by poverty and some, including thousands of girls smuggled in from Nepal each year, are held as sex slaves for a decade or more.

Against this backdrop, some women activists accuse Gopinath of interpreting Jameela's words in a way that glorifies prostitution.

"They cannot imagine that a woman on the street can say such things. I cannot imagine all this. These are Jameela's ideas, not mine," Gopinath says.

Says V.C. Harris, a professor at Kerala's MG University: "This is not a victim's book. One of the most striking things about the book is the confidence and inner strength that exudes from it."

Like many women in India, Jameela's education is minimal. She finished school after third grade, which is roughly about 7 years old. Over the years, she married three times and has two grown daughters, now both housewives.

Autobiography of a Sex Worker has brought a degree of fame, money and respect. Jameela's 24-year-old daughter Seena, married and pregnant with her first child, is happy with her mother's fame.

"Earlier, people used to say that because my mother is a prostitute, I must also be one. But now when they call me Nalini Jameela's daughter I feel very good," Seena says.

Neither Seena, nor her sister Latha, have followed their mother's footsteps, although Jameela says that she would not have stopped them from becoming prostitutes if they had wanted to.

"It is not just my daughters. I will tell other women also about the hardships of sex work and then if they want to get into it, I won't stop them," Jameela says.
For her part, Jameela intends to continue with sex work as long as she stays healthy, saying she has had more freedom as a sex worker than she has ever had as a wife.

"Looking back, I find life as a sex worker more enjoyable. As a wife one has to listen, to always be dominated by someone," Jameela said.

"I like being a sex worker. Some become lawyers, doctors. It was my choice to become to a sex worker."

Mafia arms, drugs, prostitution ring smashed - Italian police

ROME (AFX) - A Mafia drugs, arms and prostitution network was smashed overnight in an operation spanning six European countries and involving dozens of arrests, Italian police said.

Most of the 80 arrests took place in Italy and Albania while others were detained in Germany, Ukraine, Kosovo and Croatia, in an operation codenamed 'Harem'.

Police said profits from the criminal network went to the Calabrian Mafia in Italy.

The network allegedly forced eastern European women into prostitution in Italy and trafficked drugs as well as guns destined for the Ndrangheta organised crime group in Calabria, southern Italy.

'The operation delivers a serious blow to an Italo-Albanian organisation involved in the trade of human beings and the traffic of drugs and narcotics,' Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said in a statement.

'Large quantities of drugs have bein seized in Calabria, in other regions of Italy and in Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Ukraine and Germany,' the statement added.

Italian security officials believe Ndrangheta organised the mid-October murder of Francesco Fortugno, the deputy chairman of Calabria's regional council, who died after being shot several times in a local election office.

Copyright AFX News Limited 2005. All rights reserved.

China: Dongzhou Killings Need Independent Investigation

Chinese Citizens Launch Public Call for Impartial Probe
(New York, December 15, 2005) ? An independent and transparent investigation into the December 6 killing of protestors in Dongzhou village is urgently needed, Human Rights Watch said today. The incident in Guangdong province is the first known shooting of public protestors since the June 1989 massacre of democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square.

Chinese authorities have admitted that three people were killed when security forces fired at villagers protesting inadequate compensation for land expropriated for a power plant. Villagers speaking over the phone with foreign journalists put the toll much higher, with some suggesting as many as 20 dead and some 40 missing. Dongzhou has reportedly been sealed off, with roadblocks set up to keep journalists out.

?Unfortunately, China has no record of conducting credible and transparent investigations into the actions of its security forces,? said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. ?The legacy of Tiananmen makes it all the more important that the Chinese government take this opportunity to reach out and collaborate with independent experts.?

The Dongzhou killings took place after a large crowd gathered to protest the arrest of villagers involved in the power plant negotiations. With the village sealed off and an almost complete domestic news blackout in effect in China, it is difficult to determine the exact sequence of events.

In an open letter circulated Tuesday, more than 50 Chinese intellectuals demanded an independent investigation, stating, ?We strongly protest at the Chinese government?s failure to publicly explain, clarify and investigate the killings. We protest against its gross action to forbid domestic media from reporting on the case.?

Human Rights Watch said it agreed with the authors of the letter and urged China to immediately invite the United Nations or another independent body to investigate the killings.

In Dongzhou, the first official response was to claim that the shootings occurred only after well-organized villagers initiated the violence. Chinese authorities called the incident ?a serious violation of the law.? However, local residents told foreign journalists that many more people had been killed than officially reported, that security forces had opened fire without warning and that the paramilitary People?s Armed Police (PAP) was seen in the vicinity. Only then did the government begin to backpedal.

In a rare move, an unnamed officer who was identified by the Guangdong provincial government as the commanding officer at the scene has been arrested. The government said on Sunday that he was a police commander, detained for mishandling the incident that caused ?mistaken deaths and accidental injuries,? and that his ?wrong actions? were to blame for the killings.

?The government has admitted that an official had at least some responsibility for what happened in Dongzhou,? said Adams. ?But we are all left to guess what exactly he or she did.?

Human Rights Watch called for the name of the arrested officer to be officially released, for his alleged role in the killings to be made public and for an explanation to be offered about who had the authority to give the order to open fire on the protestors. Questions also remain about whether and why the PAP was deployed, who ordered deployment, the standing rules for the PAP and other security forces in policing demonstrations and which officials were responsible for the apparent cover-up in the days after the killings.

?Because of the lack of transparency, we don?t know whether the commander is a scapegoat, or if he is only one of many who should be arrested,? said Adams. ?The investigation must be conducted openly for people to have confidence that powerful figures will not be protected.?

International media interviews with local residents suggest that many villagers have been arrested, including the alleged ?ringleaders? of the protests. Human Rights Watch called for any detainees to be identified, given access to counsel of their choice and quickly be charged or released. Given China?s long history of the use of torture in custody, Human Rights Watch expressed concern for the welfare of the detainees.

?Independent monitors should be given immediate access to any detainees to make sure they are not being mistreated,? said Adams.

Jordan: Flawed Justice in Death Penalty Cases

Miscarriage of Justice New Reason to Abolish Death Penalty

(Cairo, December 14, 2005) ? New information in a murder case that led to the execution of a suspect in 2000 provides a compelling new reason for Jordan to abolish the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. The Jordanian justice system has failed dramatically in the murder case against Bilal Musa, executing him for murder based on a confession that was likely obtained as a result of torture, but exonerating another man who voluntarily confessed to committing the same crime.

?These two cases exemplify the Jordanian judiciary?s failure to conduct even the most basic inquiry into the facts, even in the most serious cases,? said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ?Jordan should urgently follow King Abdullah?s call to abolish the death penalty to prevent tragic cases like this in the future.?

On April 27, 2000, the Serious Crimes Court in Amman ordered the execution of Bilal Musa for the 1995 murder of Najih Khayyat, despite his claim to have been tortured into confessing and the lack of any apparent connection to the victim. But on September 26, 2005, the same court cleared Zuhair Khatib, who insisted that he was the real killer.

The judges also convicted Musa of murdering nine other people over a period of four years, based entirely on his contested confessions. The prosecution failed to present any evidence linking Musa to the death of Khayyat or to the other murders. The court relied solely on a confession that was obtained as a result of torture, according to the court testimony of a witness who testified he had heard Musa screaming from beatings he received while being interrogated.

Musa never disputed an eleventh case, in which he claimed he killed a friend who was sexually assaulting Musa?s wife, Susan Ibrahim. She was a co-defendant in the cases against Musa. The court failed to investigate Musa?s and Ibrahim?s allegations of torture.

On December 7, 2000, Musa was executed by hanging at Swaqa Prison, just south of Amman. The court also convicted his wife, Susan Ibrahim, of murder but reduced her sentence to life in prison with hard labor. Ibrahim died in prison several months after her husband?s execution.

On May 15, 2005, five years after this high profile case had been closed, two of the same judges at the Serious Crimes Court convicted Khatib for the murder of Khayyat and two others. According to court papers, Khatib had voluntarily and spontaneously confessed to the murder of Khayyat, although the police sought him only in connection to two unrelated murders, to which he also confessed. The court accepted his confession and convicted him of all three killings

?The Khayyat case points to the dangers of relying on disputed confessions without further evidence to establish the truth,? Whitson said. ?Rigorous scrutiny of evidence and the court?s desire to establish the truth are sadly absent in these cases.?

When the court realized that it had already sentenced Musa to death for the same murder, the case went to the Court of Cassation, which sent it back to the lower court for review.

On September 26, the Serious Crimes Court reversed its decision to convict Khatib for the murder of Khayyat, arguing that Musa?s confession corresponded more closely with the facts of the murder, notwithstanding Musa?s claim that police had dictated his confession. The court?s dismissal of Khatib?s voluntary confession to the murder of Khayyat was apparently based only on their realization that they had already executed a man for the crime.

Three times this court has issued a verdict on who murdered Najih Khayyat. Two of the three judges on the bench ruled in both cases. Confronted with exactly the same facts, the judges once found Khatib ?guilty? and once found him ?not guilty.? Despite a lack of corroborating evidence and allegations of a confession obtained as a result of torture, they found Musa guilty and had him executed.

?The same judges who initially relied on Musa?s and Khatib?s confessions without significant testing of the evidence should not be called on to review the verdicts,? Whitson said. ?There needs to be an independent inquiry.?

Human Rights Watch today published a letter to the Jordanian prime minister urging him to support abolishing the death penalty, to start an independent investigation into these two cases and to overhaul the investigation techniques of Jordanian courts. King Abdullah said this month that he wanted Jordan to be the first country in the region to abolish the death penalty.

?These two cases are a stunning example of the Jordanian judiciary?s failure to conduct even the most basic inquiry into the facts surrounding the most serious crimes with the most serious penalty,? said Whitson. ?The police, prosecutors and judges appear to have had little interest in establishing the truth, and every interest in rushing through murder verdicts based on confessions likely extracted under torture.?

Related Material

Letter to His Excellency Prime Minister Dr. Marouf Bakhit
Letter, December 14, 2005

Web version of above document is available at:

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U.S. crackdown on child prostitution hits Michigan

December 17, 2005
Detroit Free Press

Two Toledo girls -- one 14 years old, the other 15 -- were held against their will and forced to perform sex for pay at hotels in Ohio and a truck stop in Michigan, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday in Detroit.

The indictment was one of four unsealed in four states Friday in a continuing federal crackdown on child prostitution. Another case involved three Detroit men accused of recruiting women and teenage girls to work as prostitutes in Detroit, Honolulu, Las Vegas and New York.

"These are the types of acts that occur unfortunately and regrettably in our district almost on a daily basis," U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy III said Friday. "We have no tolerance for it." Four people were charged in the Toledo case: Deric Willoughby, 40, who authorities accused of being the girls' pimp; Brandy Shope, 19, and Jennifer Huskey, 24, alleged prostitutes, and Richard Lamar Gordon, 40, a trucker from Etowah, Tenn., who is accused of driving the girls to Michigan and paying one of the girls $100 to have sex at a truck stop in Dexter. Willoughby, Shope and Huskey are from Toledo.

Authorities said the teenage girls were picked up by Willoughby and Shope on May 13 and taken to Willoughby's residence in Toledo. When the girls asked to leave, Willoughby locked the door and told them they couldn't, authorities said.

No details were released about how or why the girls met Willoughby and Shope.

Court papers said Shope and Huskey told the girls they would work as prostitutes for Willoughby or they'd be hurt. They also were told to call him "daddy" as a sign of respect.

During the 10 days they were held, they were assaulted by Willoughby and forced to engage in sex acts as Shope and Huskey watched and collected money from customers, authorities said.

At some point, the court records said, the girls were taken to a store parking lot in Toledo, where they got into a truck with Gordon, who took them to a truck stop along I-94 in Dexter in Washtenaw County. Prosecutors allege he paid $100 to have sex with one of the girls as Huskey watched.

The other girl was forced to have sex with other truckers as Shope watched, court papers said.

Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies received a prostitution complaint and began investigating.

Willoughby, Shope and Huskey were later arrested in Toledo, but federal authorities did not reveal Friday when that arrest was made or when or how the girls were freed.

Court papers did say, however, that Willoughby caused one of the girls to fall from his second-story window when the girl's father went there to rescue her. Authorities did not elaborate.

Willoughby, Shope and Huskey are in federal custody.

Gordon, who was released after being questioned by sheriff's deputies, is being sought. The FBI is asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to call 313-965-2323.

All four are charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting in the sex trafficking of children, and aiding and abetting interstate transportation of minors for prostitution. Sex trafficking of children carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In the other Michigan case, Robert Lewis Young, 44, of Detroit is accused of recruiting women and two Hawaiian girls, ages 16 and 17, to become prostitutes between March and July 2004 in a ring that stretched from Detroit to Nevada, New York and Hawaii.

Some of the prostitutes worked on the street while others worked out of motels, authorities said.

They said Young operated a Web-based escort business that featured pornography, including photos of unidentified children, and a Honolulu travel brokerage agency that made travel arrangements for prostitutes.

Two Detroit men accused of being associates of Young -- Jeffrey McCoy, 44, and George Abro, 29, also were charged, as was Joe Awethe, alleged to be Young's bodyguard. His age and hometown were not released.

Young was arrested Thursday in Las Vegas; McCoy was arrested Thursday in Honolulu, and will be taken to Detroit. Abro is expected to surrender to federal authorities on Monday. Awethe's status was unclear Friday.

Young is charged with sex trafficking of children, transportation of a minor for criminal sexual activity, sexual exploitation of children, interstate distribution of child pornography, racketeering and other charges.

McCoy is charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Abro is charged with money laundering and racketeering.

The men also were charged in Hawaii. Prosecutors must still decide where they will be tried.

The other indictments announced Friday involved prostitution cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

All told, 31 people were charged in the indictments, the latest in a program dubbed Innocence Lost. More than 200 victims have been identified since the program began in 2003.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490 or

19 Arrested in Federal Crackdown on Child Prostitution Rings

Associated Press
The Washington Post
Saturday, December 17, 2005; Page A13

Prostitution rings from New York to Hawaii forced 30 children, some as young as 12, to have sex at truck stops, hotels and brothels, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday in announcing a government crackdown.

Nineteen people have been arrested among 31 who have been indicted for sexual trafficking in children, taking minors across state lines for prostitution and other crimes, Gonzales said. "The abhorrent acts alleged in these charges include children being herded around the country as sex slaves . . . and beaten at the hands of pimps and peddlers," he said at a Justice Department news conference.

The indictments, in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, target the purported operators of four child prostitution rings. Some of the children had been reported missing or had run away because they had been abused at home, FBI assistant director Chris Swecker said.

A grand jury in Camden, N.J., indicted eight people Wednesday on charges that they conspired to recruit girls to be prostitutes in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and New York, according to court documents. The defendants managed a prostitution ring that also extended to Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, the indictment said.

In Detroit, a grand jury charged four Ohio residents with forcing two girls, 14 and 15, to have sex at a truck stop in Michigan. The girls had been held as prisoners in Toledo, Ohio, where they were told to address one defendant as "Daddy," and taken to hotel rooms for prostitution. A second indictment in Michigan charges three men with prostitution, child pornography, money laundering, and drug and weapons violations. Their organization did business in Michigan and Hawaii, prosecutors said.

In Pennsylvania, 16 people have been charged for their roles in taking girls as young as 12 to work as prostitutes at truck stops in the Harrisburg area and in Washington and Toledo. The defendants also allegedly gave and sold child and adult prostitutes to one another for personal use, prosecutors said.

Domestic child prostitution cases have been a federal law enforcement priority since 2003 with the Justice Department's Innocence Lost Initiative. When Gonzales became attorney general in February, he said he would focus on reducing all forms of human trafficking. There have been more than 500 arrests, 70 indictments and 67 convictions in such cases since 2003, he said.

Task force seeks signs of slave trade in El Paso

Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Monday, December 19, 2005

The shadowy routes of modern-day slavery rings may run through El Paso, say members of a local human trafficking task force formed earlier this year.

Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling. Smugglers get paid a fee to sneak someone across a border. In the global phenomenon of human trafficking, men, women and children are held to work against their will.

"Basically, human trafficking is modern-day slavery," said Paul Piñon, the El Paso Human Trafficking Task Force coordinator. "They are not free to come and go. They are forced to work in everything from brothels (to) sweatshops and agricultural industry work, and their wages are used to pay off their 'smuggling debt.' "

The issue of human trafficking has received more attention this year as the United States and other nations work to address a problem often linked to organized crime, prostitution and the child sex trade.

El Paso was among 18 U.S. communities chosen for the location of human trafficking task forces after being identified by the Department of Justice, according to the "Trafficking in Persons Report" issued in June by the U.S. State Department. Albuquerque, San Antonio and Houston also were chosen.

"The reason (authorities) chose El Paso is they suspect this is a high-volume area where (victims) are coming across," said El Paso Police Lt. Patrick Maloney, who is on the task force. "We are trying to intercept them before they get to any destination."

Maloney said the task force was created not to enforce federal immigration laws but to deal with state criminal law violations. The biggest challenge is finding victims in the secretive world of traffickers, he said.

The El Paso task force includes the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Border Patrol and the FBI.

Mexican authorities have spoken out against human trafficking, but a lack of resources and endemic corruption make it difficult for that country to fight trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department report. Human trafficking in Mexico has strong links to organized crime and gangs.

Up to 20,000 children in Mexico are estimated to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation linked to trafficking.

Traffickers typically lure the poor with false promises of a good job in another city or country. Once they arrive at the destination, the victims are held in involuntary servitude.

"This is all done through the use of force, fraud or coercion. The force can be physical. Oftentimes they make threats against the person's family in their home country," said Jennifer Romero, an FBI victims specialist.

"I think it's bigger than we realize. ... This is not just people of Hispanic descent. We are talking about Asians, Russians. It has no boundaries," Romero said.

Human trafficking has been linked to cases as varied as child camel racing in the Middle East and prostitution in Europe. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year, and about 80 percent are women and girls, the U.S. State Department reported.

"It's a big issue right now in the USA, and everybody is working together," said Sister Liliane Alam, executive director at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. Victims "are promised different jobs, and once they arrive, they are in a different situation. Locally ... we don't know how big it is."

To read the "Trafficking in Persons Report" by the U.S. State Department, go online to

Daniel Borunda may be reached at; 546-6102.

Salvadoran Nationals in the U.S.

HOUSTON, Texas (ICE) -- Eight Salvadoran nationals were arrested by ICE agents for their alleged roles in an organization that trafficked Latin American females, including minors, into the United States and forced them into sexual servitude.

The females were enticed with promises of good jobs in America, only to be forced to work as “bargirls” for minimal payment and the requirement that they submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, bar patrons and others. During the enforcement actions, ICE agents, working with the FBI and state and local law enforcement, encountered nearly 100 females who may be victims of the sex trafficking scheme.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that the eight defendants, all of them owners or operators of bars and nightclubs in the Houston area, were part of an organization responsible for enticing and then smuggling young women from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into the United States across the Texas-Mexico border. The women were required to work at their businesses to pay off smuggling fees ranging from $8,000 to $13,000. Instead of the good jobs they were promised, the women were made to work as “bargirls,” sitting and dancing with customers and selling overpriced drinks to the men. The bars in question employed as many as 30 women in such a capacity at any given time.

According to the complaint, one young woman earned about $500 to $600 a week selling drinks to male customers. But after paying debts that included alien smuggling fees, food, housing, clothing and other miscellaneous items, she received approximately $50 each week. In addition to the almost insurmountable debt, the complaint alleges that the defendants used threats of violence against the women and their families to control them and keep them working. The complaint alleges that the defendants compelled the woman and girls to submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, their close associates and bar patrons.

All eight defendants are charged with conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain the women and girls, and then benefiting financially from participation in a venture that engaged in such acts, knowing that force, fraud and coercion would be used to cause these women and girls to engage in commercial sex acts. A charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

During the course of the law enforcement action, approximately 100 women from Central and South America were taken into ICE custody on various immigration related charges. The investigation continues.

Eight Persons Indicted for Conspiracy
to Commit Slavery and Trafficking

HOUSTON, Texas (FBI) -- United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg and Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim, Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, announced the indictment of eight persons for their roles in an organization allegedly involved in the trafficking of Central American females for compelled service at Houston area bars and restaurants through force, fraud and coercion.

The indictment returned by a grand jury in Houston, Texas, charges the following eight defendants: Maximino Mondragon , also known as “El Chimino,” 57, the owner of El Potrero de Chimino Bar and La Margarita Restaurant, both located on Hempstead Highway; Walter Alexander Corea , 39, the owner and operator of the El Cuco Restaurant located on West Tidwell Road; Victor Omar Lopez, 38, and Oscar Mondragon , 47, operators of the Mi Cabana Sports Bar, also located on West Tidwell Road; Maria Fuentes, 35, a bartender and bookkeeper at Maximino's bar and restaurant; Olga Mondragon , 45, the operator of the El Huetamo Nite Club, also known as La Leona Club on Ojeman Road; Kerin Josue Silva , 19, son of Walter Corea, who allegedly transported victims to the bars and restaurants, and Lorenza Reyes-Nunez , also known as “COMADRE,” 30, who worked at Maximino Mondragon's businesses.

The first count of the indictment accuses all eight defendants of conspiring to hold persons in conditions of peonage and recruiting, holding, transporting and providing and obtaining persons for labor and services. Specifically, it is alleged that the conspiracy involved the recruitment of women and girls from Central America to travel to the United States with the expectation of legitimate jobs in bars and restaurants. The members of the conspiracy arranged transportation to facilitate their illegal entry into the United States and travel to Houston. Upon arriving in Houston, the defendants allegedly held the women through threats of force to compel and maintain their service as “bargirls” at bars and restaurants until each repaid smuggling and other assessed fees ranging from $6,000 to $12,500. According to the indictment, the conspiracy included directing women and girls to turn themselves into immigration officers upon entering the United States, believing the women, non-Mexican illegal aliens, would be released with a Notice to Appear (NTA) for a future court date. The conspirators would then confiscate the NTA documents from the women and girls.

According to the indictment, while in service to the defendants as “bargirls,” the women and girls were expected to keep company with the male patrons of the bars and encourage the patrons to buy beer and liquor at high prices. A portion of the price of the beverage would be applied toward the female's outstanding debt. Additionally, the indictment alleges the women and girls were on occasion required to submit to sexual activity with male bar patrons and favored business associates of the conspirators. This conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

The second count of the indictment charges seven of the defendants with conspiracy to smuggle aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. Nunez is not charged in this count. A conviction for this felony offense carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment identifies eight women from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua ranging in age from 16 to 38, who were recruited by one or more of the conspirators and compelled to work as “bargirls” to pay their smuggling fees.

According to the allegations of the indictment, in November 2001, El Chimino and Corea recruited two Honduran women, M.V.L., age 38, and M.A.L., age 34, to illegally travel and enter the United States offering transportation and work at their bars as a means of repaying the smuggling fees. Corea arranged the illegal entry of both of these women and a third Honduran woman, R.R.G., age 22, into the United States through Mexico and arranged their transport to Houston, Texas.

Upon arriving in Houston, Maria Fuentes took two of the women shopping for clothing, instructing them to buy sexually provocative outfits. The cost of the clothing was added to the women's debt. Fuentes was also involved in accounting for the number of drinks the women and girls working as “bargirls” sold to customers, tracking payments toward the smuggling and other debts, and Fuentes is also specifically alleged to have kept such an accounting for a fourth identified woman, B.E.B., then age 27.

Two months later, in February 2002, Lorenza Reyes-Nunez allegedly told El Chimino that M.A.L. was planning to flee before her debt and term of service was completed. El Chimino threatened the woman's children telling her he knew where they lived and describing the woman's home in Honduras.

According to the indictment, in September 2002, angered because yet another woman had fled without paying her fee, El Chimino called a meeting of all the women then in debt. He told them he would burn the woman's house down in retaliation for her escape. El Chimino also allegedly assessed thousands of dollars in additional fees upon B.E.B. after her roommate fled without his permission.

In April 2004, Corea allegedly assaulted C.Y.R., a then 24 year-old Nicaraguan woman in his debt, who complained about a $1,000 fee assessed for tardiness. Corea threatened to harm her child if she reported the assault to police.

Oscar Mondragon was also allegedly involved in recruitment. It is alleged that in February 2005, Mondragon recruited two young Salvadoran women, E.C.C., 19, and E.M.Z., 20, to travel and enter the United States illegally with promises of a good job in a restaurant. Upon the arrival of the two young women in Houston, Mondragon confiscated their Notice to Appear paperwork. Olga Mondragon allegedly instructed the young women to dance with bar patrons, sit on the men's laps and to be intimate with the men.

Months later in June 2005, Oscar Mondragon negotiated to sell E.C.C., the 19 year-old Salvadoran, and J.L.O., a 16 year-old Salvadoran he had recruited but who had not yet arrived in the U.S., to another bar owner for use as “bargirls” or prostitutes, assuring the buyer that both women would be “use to captivity.” Two days later, Oscar Mondragon and Victor Omar Lopez met with an unidentified buyer and accepted a down payment of $3,000 for the two young girls. Following the illegal entry of the 16 year-old into the U. S. in late June 2005, Oscar Mondragon and Victor Omar Lopez sold the debts and the two young women for use as “bargirls” or prostitutes to the unidentified buyer.

With the exception of Olga Mondragon and Kerin Silva, who have been released on bond, the remaining defendants were ordered held without bond and are in federal custody. Each of the defendants will next appear in federal court for arraignment on a date to be set by the court.

The investigation leading to the filing of criminal charges is the result of a year-long investigation conducted by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) in Houston, Texas, which includes the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (TABC), and the Constables Offices of Precincts One and Five. Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo, and Trial Attorneys Lou de Baca and James Felte with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, will prosecute the case.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant(s) are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.