Systematic Rape in Congo Reportedly Continues Despite Peace Agreements

Although there is a peace agreement in place and elections scheduled later this year to end the Democratic Republic of Congo’s seven year civil war, human rights activists who visit the DRC say that the systematic use of rape continues to be used by various forces involved.

At its heart, the DRC civil war has its root in an ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in less than 4 months.

In 1997, fearing Hutus were preparing to launch an attack from the DRC, the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda supported Laurent Kabila’s coup against DRC dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. When Kabila won and attempted to expel Rwandan military forces from the Congo, a civil war erupted that at one point included 9 other African nations.

Systematic rape has been a frequent tactic in the civil war. A 2004 Amnesty International report estimated that as many as 40,000 women had been raped by military and paramilitary forces from 1998-2004. The AI report said that sexual assault had been committed by forces on all sides of the conflict.

Human rights activists such as Eric Schiller returning from the DRC claim that although there is a peace in place, the rapes and violence have not abated. Schiller told the Canadian Press,

It [systematic rape] is very extensive, it is ongoing, it seems to have become a modus operandi.

This is hardly surprising giving AI’s report in late 2004 that the transitional government in place in the DRC was indifferent at best to the plight of the victims of sexual violence. According to AI’s report,

Insufficient resources and the fact that the country is still balanced between war and peace are often used as excuses by the government to justify its inaction on these issues. Questioned by Amnesty International on the government?s weak commitment on care for survivors of sexual violence, the deputy health minister claimed that this was due to the lack of resources and the complex configuration of the government. He clearly indicated that his ministry will limit its work to caring for victims if and when it is able to, and that the government “cannot establish a global policy on rape because rape is an isolated phenomenon and is not an epidemic or disease like cholera”(58).

If Schiller is correct, little appears to have changed in the year and a half since the release of the Amnesty International report.

Source:

Democratic Republic of Congo: Mass rape – time for remedies. Amnesty International, 2004.

Congo rape victims seek solace. Jackie Martens, BBC, January 24, 2004.

Report shows DR Congo rape horror. BBC, October 26, 2004.

Systematic rape in eastern Congo continues despite pleas for intervention. Dennis Bueckert, Canadian Press, March 5, 2006.

Ricky McGinn, the 2006 Version

The main problem with being opposed to capital punishment, as I am, is that there are a lot of organizations also opposed to capital punishment who seem to be run by Michael Dukakis liberals — the sort of people who will fight tooth and nail for convicted murderers but lack empathy and understanding of the horrors that crime victims go through that is what really drives support for capital punishment in my opinion.

One of the most idiotic things that comes out of this excessive focus on convicts is that anti-capital punishment groups tend to latch onto this person or that person whom they believe to have been wrongly executed or about to be executed, only for evidence to emerge that confirms the guilt of the individual. Moreover, the individuals such groups tend to latch onto are the sort of career criminals who are obviously guilty that it raises a serious question about just how gullible/rational some in the anti-capital punishment movement are.

Back in 2000, it was Ricky McGinn who was the star of the show. McGinn claimed he had not raped and murdered his 12-year-old niece step-daughter as a Texas jury had found, and opponents of capital punishment claimed DNA tests of pubic hairs and semen would prove this. Then Gov. George W. Bush granted a temporary 30 day reprieve for McGinn so such testing could be conducted. Rather than exonerate McGinn, of course, the testing showed that the killer was either McGinn or a very close maternal relative. McGinn was executed shortly afterward.

More recently, many anti-death penalty groups hopped on the Roger Coleman bandwagon. Coleman’s case is especially egregious. He was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his 19-year-old sister-in-law, and executed in 1992.

Coleman was an immediate suspect in the murder because there was no forceable entry at the murder scene, Coleman had left his job at a nearby mine at the end of his shift shortly before the murder giving him time to carry out the killing, and the fact that Coleman had a previous conviction for the attempted rape of a teacher. At trial, evidence against him included pubic hairs found at the scene that were consistent with Coleman’s and DNA tests that established he was part of the 2 percent of men in the country who could have contributed the semen found at the scene.

To put it bluntly, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that Coleman was the killer, and yet numerous anti-death penalty groups and activists got on the “Coleman was innocent” bandwagon. Many bought Coleman’s claim that he simply did not have time to go from his job to the victim’s house and commit the murder. For example, according to the New York Times,

In 1988, James C. McCloskey, a divinity school graduate and founder of Centurion Ministries Inc., a group based in Princeton, N.J., that advocates for inmates it considers innocent, took up Mr. Coleman’s case and spent four years reinvestigating it.

Mr. McCloskey concluded that Mr. Coleman did not have the time or motivation to commit the murder, raising questions about the jailhouse confession and the forensic evidence. He asserted that Mr. Coleman had been wearing clothing covered with coal dust but that no dust was found at the scene, and he offered evidence pointing to an alternative suspect.

As in McGinn’s case, the DNA test confirmed the state’s verdict — Coleman was guilty as hell.

The upshot is that, as I’ve predicted before, DNA testing is going to ultimately reinforce support for the death penalty rather than lead to some new widespread anti-death penalty movement. Capital punishment supporters will point to these results as well as the extensive DNA testing that occurs in cases today to argue that whatever problems there may have been with determining guilt in the past, that DNA evidence makes many verdicts as close to incontrovertible as any system is ever going to get.

Sources:

Warner Orders DNA Testing In Case of Man Executed in ’92. Maria Glod and Michael Shear, Washington Post, January 6, 2006.

DNA Ties Man Executed in ’92 to the Murder He Denied. James Dao, New York Times, January 13, 2006.

Kenyan Justice Minister Apologizes for Rape Remark

Kenyan Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi apologized in February for using rape as a metaphor for his criticism of aid donors concerned about corruption in that country.

Responding to criticism from donors about corruption in Kenyan, Murungi said that such criticism was “like raping a woman who is already willing.”

The statement brought swift condemnation and protests from women’s rights groups in Kenya. Miriam Kahiga of Amnesty International said of the comment,

It is trivializing rape and the fight against graft in one breath.

She also called Murungi, “an embarrassment to the country.”

Murungi later apologized saying,

I unreservedly and sincerely apologize to all the women of Kenya who were offended by these remarks.

Human rights groups in Kenya have faulted the government for the high incidence of rape and the poor response by police to prevent and investigate such crimes.

Sources:

Kenyan apology over rape remark. The BBC, February 11, 2005.

It?s a big shame, ministers say of attack. Patrick Mathangani, East African Standard, August 17, 2004.

Sexual Politics. Press Release, Kenya Human Rights Commission, February 10, 2005.

Misrepresenting Michael Kinsley on Sex Scandals

Today Glenn Reynolds is linking to this ridiculous post by Arthur Silber that completely misreads and misunderstands the point of a Michael Kinsely column about politicians private lives.

The short version is that Kinsley wrote an op-ed saying that if Arnold Schwarzenegger really did have a gang bang with his body building buddies, then, well, that’s just disgusting. But then the post at Coldfury.com turns up this old Kinsey article from which the following excerpt is pulled,

As usual, Dan Quayle put it best. “Do we really want to ask or answer all these irrelevant questions about what someone may or may not have done 20 or 30 years ago? Quite frankly, the American people don’t care,” he told the New York Times recently. “And quite frankly, it’s not that important. What’s important is who you are today, what you’re going to do.”

Quite right. What does it matter if, for example, Bill Clinton forced himself on Juanita Broaddrick way back in 1978? Whom a man may have raped in the privacy of her hotel room when he was attorney general of Arkansas has nothing to do with his ability to lead the nation into the 21st century. If an elected official is doing a good job, how he relaxes during his free time is not a legitimate public concern.

To which Silber responds,

How “he relaxes during his free time” — about a possible rape? And now he dares to criticize Schwarzenegger for his behavior — “even it if was consensual all around”? And if you don’t think Kinsley meant it about rape, read the rest of the column, which concludes with this:

. . .

So now we are living in the world everyone has long claimed to want: where we judge politicians based only on the issues and their public records of governance. Some might feel that healthy indifference to what politicians do in their private lives has gone too far when it covers allegations of rape. But they’ll get used to it.

But, of course, Kinsley is not at all saying that rape is off limits. Rather the point of the column was Republican hypocrisy about political candidates’ private lives.

Specifically, the column is about whether or not George W. Bush used illegal drugs. Kinsley is pointing out how hypocritical it was of Republicans to simply dismiss, as Quayle did, such allegations simply because those events would have taken place decades ago.

His claim that it doesn’t matter, then, if Clinton raped someone in 1978 is sarcastic, and he makes it perfectly clear what he is driving at in a section that Silber conveniently leaves out,

Some might demur that rape is not a peccadillo. It is, among other things, illegal. But so are pot smoking and cocaine snorting, which are high on the list of private behavior politicians are getting little gold stars for refusing to discuss. Is rape a worse crime than using drugs? Well, many might think so, but you wouldn’t know it from the way most politicians talk about drugs. In declining to talk about his own drug experience, George W. made the interesting point that he didn’t want to give young people today the unfortunate (though accurate) impression that you could do whatever he did when young and still end up governor of Texas. Certainly this argument applies in the case of alleged rape by a president even more currently popular than the governor of Texas.

And surely this is obvious by the time Kinsley talks about Larry Flynt,

Then there’s Larry Flynt. A few conservative voices, such as the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, remained steadfast in their hysterical disapproval of the president’s private sexual behavior, and remained adamant that it is a legitimate public issue. But even they–like all politicians of both parties, almost all the media, and most of the citizenry–were hysterical and adamant that Larry Flynt should not be allowed to draw public attention to the private sexual behavior of anyone else. (The Journal even insisted that Flynt should be prosecuted for blackmail.)

Why? If a category of information is legitimately useful in judging an elected public official, how can it be illegitimate and outrageous to gather and publish such information? Maybe they decided that Clinton was a good place to stop. When your side has launched an offensive, been driven back, and nervously awaits a counteroffensive, it’s not a bad time for an armistice. That would be hypocritical of course. But newspapers have the right to practice hypocrisy in the privacy of their own editorial pages.

It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone could have read this column and concluded that Kinsley was saying that 20 year old rape allegations don’t matter, when the real point is obviously that Republicans were being hypocritical about the privates lives of candidates for their own political purposes.

Sources:

The Vast Conspiracy That Cried Wolf Michael Kinsley, Slate, Feb. 28, 1999.

MICHAEL KINSLEY: PRUDE, BUSYBODY — AND BIGTIME HYPOCRITE. Arthur Silber, September 5, 2003.

Texas Judge Requires Sex Offender Warning

The New York Times has a story about the Texas judge who recently ordered 21 sex offenders to display signs on their homes and automobiles saying, “DANGER: Registered Sex Offender Lives Here.” This sort of requirement is irresponsible and goes well beyond reasonable bounds of community notification.

In Michigan, where I live, there is a law that requires the local police to make available the names and addresses of sex offenders. The state also maintains an online database where this information is available, and for the most part I think this is a good idea. We were able to look at our neighborhood, for example, and learn that the nice elderly man down the street has several sex offenses.

The real concern with such registries are a) concern about inaccuracies, especially in an area like the one I live which is close to 80 percent rental properties and b) worries about vigilantism. Most of my neighbors know that this man is on the sex offender list, but several years have gone by and nobody’s attempted any violence or even confronted the man about it. They’re just a little bit more aware of where their kids are and what they’re doing.

Posting a “Danger: Registered Sex Offender Lives Here” sign, however, seems to me to be an open invitation for random vigilantism. The elderly man in my neighborhood’s never attempted to harm or molest any of our children, and he wouldn’t likely get the chance now that we know his past. There’s cause for parents to be a bit more concerned than normal, but no cause for him to be subjected to the sort of things that would happen if he had a big sign in his yard.

In fact, I’d think such an action would make it much harder for a sex offender to ever become part of the community again and thus increase the risk of recidivism. Now, some sex offenders shouldn’t become part of the community again, but as the New York Times story notes, there is an enormous difference between say a person who molests and physically abuses a young child as opposed to someone convicted of statutory rape with a 15-year-old after a night of heavy drinking.