Luiz Alberto Araújo, who headed the environment department for the municipal government of Altamira in Brazil's Amazonian state of Pará, was killed by two unknown gunmen Oct. 13. The assailants drove up to his car and fired nine shots into him, in front of his wife and two step-sons. Nothing was stolen and the killing is believed to have been a political assassination. In his endeavors to enforce environmental legislation in the largely lawless Amazonian region, Araújo made powerful enemies. Earlier this year, he provided information to the Federal Police and Federal Public Ministry that prompted them to launch Operaçāo Rios Voadores (Flying Rivers Operation). This crackdown on illegal logging enterprises led to 24 arrests—including that of the ring-leader, Antonio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as AJJ. He and his son were accused of illegally invading rainforest lands, extracting valuable timber, and clearing the remaining forest and turning it into cattle pasture.
Amnesty International is demanding that Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) immediately end the "shocking and arbitrary" detention of a Yazidi woman who has been held without trial for nearly two years after surviving captivity at the hands of ISIS. Bassema Darwish, a 34-year-old mother of three from the Babira village in Nineva governorate, has been detained by the KRG since October 2014, accused of complicity with ISIS forces who killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters when they arrived at the house where she was being held captive in Zummar village. She is currently detained at a prison in Erbil, denied access to family and counsel. She gave birth to a daughter while in custody.
Lawyers for 13 anti-slavery activists on trial in Mauritania said they have been tortured in detention. The activists, on trial for "rebellion and use of violence," were arrested last month after angry protests in a poor district of the capital Nouakchott slum community that faces forcible relocation as part of an urban clearance plan ahead of an Arab League summit to be hosted in the city. "One by one, the 13 spoke out against the forms of torture they had been subjected to in custody," said attorney Brahim Ould Ebetty, representing the members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (ARI). The riots started when security forces stormed dwellings occupied for decades by members of the Haratin ethnic group, many of them former slaves. Authorities accused the ARI members of instigating the riots. The detained are now being held at an unknown location.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern for the human rights violations faced by the Yazidi minority in Northern Iraq on Aug. 3, stating that actions of the Islamic State (IS) may amount to genocide. Two years ago the IS attacked the Sinjar area in Iraq killing nearly 5,000 individuals. The statement claims that 3,200 Yazidi women and children remain in captivity and are subjected to nearly unimaginable violence. The Secretary-General proclaimed these acts may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide. The UN encouraged the Iraqi government to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice, with a fair trials and due process, while supporting the survivors.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to prosecute ISIS fighters for war crimes against the Yazidi minority. "Yezidi victims of human rights abuses have a right to justice, not just government declarations with no consequences," said Skye Wheeler of HRW's women's rights division. Several ISIS fighters are now in custody following recent territory gains by both the Iraqi central government and Kurdish regional authorities. But HRW says so far no authorities in Iraq are investigating or prosecuting ISIS members for war crimes or crimes against humanity. (ARA News, June 23)
Rojda Felat, a Kurdish revolutionary feminist, is leading the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces' offensive on Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate. A three-year veteran of the struggle against ISIS, she is serving as commander of 15,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by US special forces and warplanes, under the banner of the SDF. "My main goal is liberating the Kurdish woman and the Syrian woman in general from the ties and control of traditional society, as well as liberating the entirety of Syria from terrorism and tyranny," she told the London Times.
A retired lieutenant colonel and a former paramilitary were sentenced to 120 years and 240 years in prison, respectively, for sexual slavery and other crimes against humanity during Guatemala's civil war. In a Feb. 26 ruling, Judge Jazmin Barrios found that the actions of retired Lt. Col. Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Girón and former paramilitary Heriberto Valdez Asij did "irreparable harm." Reyes and Valdez were tried for murder, forced disappearances and the sexual enslavement of multiple women. The court also found that the women's husbands and children had been forcibly disappeared.
Hundreds of former ISIS sex slaves have formed an all-female battalion to join an assault against their former abusers in northern Iraq. The battalion—the "Force of the Sun Ladies"—is made up of some 120 women who escaped ISIS captivity, and are now being trained for battle by the Kurdish Peshmerga. Another 500 are waiting for training. Cpt Khatoon Khider of the Sun Ladies told reporters: 'Whenever a war wages, our women end up as the victims. Now we are defending ourselves from the evil... We will do whatever is asked of us... Our elite force is a model for other women in the region. We want everyone to take up weapons and know how to protect themselves from the evil." The Sun Ladies are part of the Yazidi militia now preparing an offensive on ISIS-held Mosul with Peshmerga forces. The UN says ISIS still holds some 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority women and girls from the Yazidi community. Last month, the director of the UN human rights office in Iraq, Francesco Motta, accused ISIS of genocide, saying the jihadist group is seeking to "destroy part or the whole of the Yazidi people." (Christian Today, India Times, Feb. 11; Al Alam, Feb. 9)