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In the News: June 15, 2011

June 15, 2011

Humanitarian Crisis: The World’s
Largest Refugee Camp is Overflowing

Writing from Johannesburg in The Guardian, David Smith reports that the situation in the world’s largest refugee camp has become a humanitarian crisis. While desperate refugees from Somalia continue to flow in, the international medical organization Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) says that Dabaab camp in Kenya has already far exceeded its capacity. Tens of thousands in the  camp, mostly women and children, face disease, starvation, and even predation by wild animals.
            MSF describes what it calls a humanitarian emergency in the camp, as its population climbs toward half a million people by the end of the year. “Children who have fled war in neighboring Somalia are left without food or shelter in dry heat of 50C (122F),” the organization says.

“We’ve got nothing to build a shelter with,” Fatima, a 34-year-old refugee from Mogadishu, told MSF. “It’s very unsafe here – at night, we’re scared that wild animals will eat the children, and we’ve had threats of violence from local people who say the land is theirs. Children are even being killed by hyenas because they have no protection.”

“More refugees are on their way,” Nenna Arnold, an MSF nurse, told Smith. “We are already at bursting point, but the figures keep growing. This situation is a humanitarian emergency.”

Europe Leads the Way on Accountability for Torture

Writing on the Soros Foundation’s blog, Amrit Singh notes that the European Parliament  is demanding that the United States not apply the death penalty in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri “on the grounds that the military commission trials do not meet the standards internationally required for the application of the death sentence.” The Open Society Justice Initiative had previously filed suit on al-Nashiri’s behalf against Poland, before the European Court of Human Rights. Al-Nashiri had been “rendered” by the U.S. to Poland, where he was tortured.

“Official U.S. government documents confirm that during this time, U.S. interrogators subjected al-Nashiri to mock executions with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded; racked a semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them; held him in “standing stress positions,” lifting him off the floor by his arms while they were bound behind his back and almost dislocated from his shoulders; and threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.”

He was then transferred back to U.S. custody, despite the European Union’s policy, under its Convention on Human Rights, of not extraditing prisoners to countries which employ capital punishment. The United States Supreme Court, for its part, has repeatedly refused to review challenges to the practice of “extraordinary rendition.” 

Restoring Dignity After Sexual Torture

That’s the title of the latest issue of Storycloth, the newsletter of Minnesota’s Center for Victims of Torture (one of the Refuge Media Project’s Advisors  and Outreach Partners.)  The organization reports that 67 percent of the clients they care for in Minnesota – both men and women – have experienced some kind of sexual torture which, in addition to physical and psychological trauma, puts them at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted disease, and can leave them unable to have children. Storycloth is available online.

“By its very nature, rape is more invasive than other forms of torture, and often results in overwhelming feelings of shame…Lots of women come to us saying they can’t trust a man. They may feel so branded or shamed that they become convinced strangers can identify them as a rape survivor, as if it’s tattooed on their forehead…When a woman can accept herself again, then she is making steps towards healing.”
                             – Andrea Northwood, CVT’s Director of Client Services.

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