Monday, November 19, 2007
EQUALITY NOW CONDEMNS SAUDI ARABIAN COURT RULING
SENTENCING RAPE VICTIM TO 200 LASHES AND 6 MONTHS IMPRISONMENT
New York, November 19, 2007. A 19-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, was brutally attacked and gang raped by 7 men approximately 18 months ago, according to media reports. While seeking justice in her case, the woman was herself sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being in the company of an unrelated man at the time of the attack. She appealed this decision to a higher court, and the Qatif General Court announced on Wednesday November 14, 2007, that the victim's sentence had been more than doubled to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison, a gross violation of human rights including the right to be free from discrimination and from torture and other cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Following this decision the rape victim’s lawyer had his license to practice revoked. While the courts have not clarified why the sentence was increased, media reports suggest that the harsher sentence for the rape victim and the confiscation of her lawyer’s license were directly related to their decision to speak with Saudi Arabian media about the injustice in this case. If true, this retaliation clearly violates the fundamental human right to freedom of expression.
Equality Now is calling on the Ministry of Justice of Saudi Arabia to immediately revoke this sentence of lashing and imprisonment of the rape victim, which is a travesty of justice. Equality Now is also calling on the Ministry to restore her legal representation by rescinding its decision to revoke the license of her lawyer. Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director stated, "This verdict by the Saudi Arabian court is blatantly discriminatory and violates several fundamental rights of the victim as well as her lawyer. We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities to undo this injustice immediately. They need to ensure that the victim is treated as a victim and not as a criminal. The international human rights community will continue to closely monitor the case and provide solidarity to advocates on the ground until the victim is safe from state sponsored violence and discrimination.”
Equality Now is an international human rights organization based in New York, Nairobi and London that works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 30,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries. For more information please visit www.equalitynow.org.
Please contact the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington DC, or in your country if not the US, as well as the State Department in the US or your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Call on these officials to convey your concern over this injustice and to take whatever action is in their power to protect this Saudi rape victim from lashing and imprisonment. In the US, please contact:
Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, in Washington D.C. at (202) 342-3800
Consulates General in: New York at (212) 752-2740, Los Angeles at (310) 479-6000, Houston (713) 785-5577
Philippine Women’s Network on Peace & Security: STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF CHERRIE ANN GUZMAN-COLEMAN
Philippine Women’s Network on Peace & Security
Amnesty International-Pilipinas * Buklod Center * KAISA Ka* Metro Subic
People’s Task Force on Bases Clean Up * WEDPRO * WomanHealth-Philippines
Member, International Women’s Network for Genuine Security
STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF CHERRIE ANN GUZMAN-COLEMAN
On October 4, Cherrie Anne Guzman-Coleman died under suspicious circumstances, allegedly by hanging herself. Cherrie was the bride of SSgt. Glenn Edward Coleman of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, which is stationed at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. The two met when Cherrie worked for six months in Okinawa as an overseas performing artist, and had only been married for five months when Cherrie died. Coleman claims that Cherrie took her own life after a “slight” domestic disagreement. Cherrie’s friends have said that the couple often quarreled due to Coleman’s jealousy. They had seen Cherrie distraught, in tears and bruised after such incidents. On October 13, the battered body of Cherrie Ann Guzman-Coleman arrived in the Philippines and was claimed by her grieving mother, Ms. Myrna Vergara.
Almost 50,000 US forces and their dependents are stationed in Okinawa’s 42 military installations under Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, current commander of all US forces in Japan. Sexual crimes and violence directed at women, including domestic violence, are the most common forms of human rights violations in the world. Violence against women is particularly pervasive in the context of military bases and prevailing military culture and training. The number and gravity of cases of violence against women have been especially shocking in Okinawa where US bases began its operations in 1945. In the past 62 years, hundreds of victims have been attacked, kidnapped, abused, gang raped or murdered, including a nine month old baby and girls with ages ranging from six to fifteen. Cherrie may well be the latest in a long line of women who have been attacked, kidnapped, abused, raped and even murdered by US servicemen in Okinawa.
Actions taken by Coleman and US military authorities in Okinawa have raised speculations that they have engaged in an attempt to cover-up the real facts regarding Cherrie’s death. The 20 year old Filipina’s death certificate, signed by medical examiner Capt. James Caruso of the US Naval Hospital in Okinawa did not contain cause of death, although an autopsy was supposedly carried out.
The Philippine Women’s Network on Peace and Security Network (PWNPS) calls on the Okinawan authorities, along with the Japanese Government, to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation on the death of Cherrie Ann Guzman-Coleman.
We call on the Philippine Government to assist the family of Cherrie through her mother, Ms. Vergara, to determine the actual cause of her death and seek justice for the untimely death of her daughter.
We call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to fulfill its responsibility to protect and promote the well-being of all its citizens, including Cherrie Ann and all Filipino women living and working in military facilities all over the world.
Ref: Women’s Education, Development, Productivity & Research Organization (WEDPRO), Inc.
Convener and Secretariat: Philippine Women’s Network on Peace & Security (PWNPS)