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Jail fear prevents women in Mauritania from filing rape complaints

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Human rights activists are calling for a change to Mauritanian law so that women and girls who have been raped will not be prosecuted for sexual relations outside marriage.

Rape survivors are reluctant to file complaints in the west African country in case they are then charged, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Adultery is known as “zina” and, in theory, is punishable by flogging, jail terms, or death by stoning if the offender is married or divorced. Mauritania does not as a rule carry out corporal punishments, so flogging and death by stoning can transmute into being imprisoned indefinitely.

One case cited by HRW involved a 15-year-old girl who was imprisoned after being repeatedly gang-raped by four men who held her captive for two weeks, because one of the men – whom she knew – said he would marry her.

In another case, a prosecutor was reported as asking a rape survivor: “If you didn’t consent, why didn’t you tell your parents?” When the survivor said she knew the man who raped her, the prosecutor said: “All the things you are saying are lies, you did this willingly.”

Government statistics are not freely available, so it is impossible to know how many people are in jail for zina, but girls as well as adults are thought to have been imprisoned for the “offence”.

“Women and girls should not run the risk of jail or further stigma for reporting sexual abuse,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson. “To combat sexual violence, Mauritania should require law enforcement and public health systems to stop treating victims as suspects, support them in seeking justice and recovery, and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Read also: Trial of spy who ‘offered sex for job’ puts strain on US- Russia ties

HRW called for the government to decriminalise and stop prosecuting and detaining people for zina, as well as to pass a law defining rape and criminalising all other forms of sexual violence.

The Mauritanian government responded at length to the report, saying that most incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence were against minors or adolescents. “Perpetrators are often individuals close to the victims or family members who exploit the innocence and immaturity of the above mentioned people to sexually abuse them,” the government statement said.

Life is not easy for many Mauritanian women and girls. The prevalence of female genital mutilation is 67%, some ethnic groups see domestic violence as a sign that a husband loves his wife, and many girls are sent away to “fat camps” in the desert to be force-fed, so that they put on large amounts of weight and fit Mauritanian notions of beauty.

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South African serial rapist gets four life imprisonment terms

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A South African serial rapist and killer, Philani Justice Nkosi, has been sentenced to four life imprisonment terms by a Mpumalanga High Court for rape and murder.

The court also sentenced the 35-year-old to 15 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of murdering one of his victims who recognised him.

Nkosi was sentenced on Friday after the court found him guilty of one count of murder, three counts of rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Monica Nyuswa, who expressed satisfaction with the sentence, said Nkosi committed the offences between 2014 and 2018 in Bhuga Trust and Halfway Trust in KaBokweni.

“In one incident which stands out, the accused attacked a 12-year-old victim while she was on the way to the local shop. He dragged her to the nearby bush, raped and strangled her to death,” Nyuswa said.

“He also raped another woman in March 2016, stabbed and robbed her of cash.

“The accused continued with his crime spree until December 2018 when he raped an adult woman who was on her way home from work.

“The matter was reported to the police, and the accused was subsequently arrested and linked to other crimes through DNA,” Nyuswa said.

Nkosi who pleaded not guilty to the crimes, claimed the two rape survivors were prostitutes and that the deceased was his girlfriend.

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Tanzanian court sentences 11 people to death for killing South African conservationist

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A Tanzanian High Court has sentenced 11 people to death after they were found guilty of killing a South African conservationist, Wayne Lotter, who was murdered in Dar es Salaam in 2017.

The convicts include nine Tanzanians and two citizens of neighbouring Burundi.

The victim was a renowned anti-poaching activist who was singled out by the convicts for disrupting their illegal poaching activities, according to prosecutors while testifying in court on Friday.

State prosecutors told Judge Leila Mgonya that the 51-year-old Lotter who was based in Tanzania, was a founder of the PAMS Foundation, an NGO which worked to stop the poaching of elephants and trafficking of ivory in the East African country.

He was shot dead in Dar es Salaam when the taxi he was travelling in was ambushed and though the exact motive for his killing is still unknown, his colleagues believe he was singled out for his work on protecting elephants, local media reports.

While handing down the death sentences, Judge Mgonya said there was compelling evidence that linked the 11 to the two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and murder on which they were charged

“Some of the suspects, in their statements recorded by police officers, confessed to have taken part in the conspiracy meetings and in killing. The evidence provided was strong enough to convict them,” the judge said.

Tanzania is one of the worst hit African countries in terms of elephant poaching, with a data released early this year noting that more than 66,000 elephants have been lost in the last 10 years due to the activities of illegal poachers.

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