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From the January 2003 issue of World Press Review
By Tekla Szymanski
Mende Nazer was abducted as a child from her village in Sudan, sold into slavery,
and kept hostage in Khartoum and London. She has parlayed her dramatic story into
a memoir, and has asked for political asylum in Britain.
Mende Nazer was abducted as a child from her village in Sudan, sold into slavery, and kept hostage in Khartoum and London. She has parlayed her dramatic story into a memoir, and has asked for political asylum in Britain.
Alwin Schröder reported in Hamburg's Der Spiegel that when Nazer was 12 or 13 (she doesn't know her date of birth), armed Arab militia stormed her village in the Nuba Mountains on a front line of Sudan's 19-year civil war between the Muslim-dominated government of the north and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). They raped the women and children (including Nazer), and maimed and massacred many inhabitants. Then they kidnaped the children and sold them into slaveryfor US$150 each.
The United Nations estimates that up to 15,000 Sudanese, primarily in southern Sudan, have been abducted and sold into slavery by militiamen loyal to Sudan's Islamist government. According to Human Rights Watch, this slave trade is sanctioned by Sudan's regime as part of its counterinsurgency war against the SPLM/A.
Nazer claims she was physically and sexually abused as a house slave for a wealthy family in Khartoum. After six years, she says, she was passed on to the wife of Sudanese diplomat Abdel Mahmoud al-Koronky in London. She managed to escape on Sept. 11, 2000, with the help of a fellow Sudanese. The same year, Nazer applied for asylum. She then co-wrote a book with British journalist Damien Lewis about her plight titled Sklavin (Slave), which was published in September 2002 in Germany and has become a bestseller.
Some elements of her story, however, have been disputed. After London's Sunday Telegraph printed in September 2000 a second-hand account of Nazer's experience as a slave in Al-Koronky's household, the diplomat sued the paper for libel. In July 2002, before the case went to trial, the paper retracted its story and agreed to pay damages.
In October, the British Home Office, in a ruling that puzzled human-rights activists, rejected Nazer's asylum petition, stating, "The secretary of state does not believe that any alleged treatment [Nazer] received would constitute persecution." Nazer faced deportation and feared reprisals from the Sudanese government.
However, in November, after appeals on Nazer's behalf, the Home Office reversed its decision and announced that it would reconsider her case. "Regrettably, the letter giving the reasons for refusing Ms. Nazer's claim," said Immigration Minister Beverly Hughes, "did not deal with some of the issues regarding credibility or the objective country information on Sudan."
For further reading:
"Thousands of Slaves in Sudan," compiled by the BBC
From the September 2003 issue of World Press Review
By Tekla Szymanski
elected the first chief prosecutor of the Hague-based International
Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo will decide on the first case to
go to trial.
Unanimously elected the first chief prosecutor of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo will decide on the first case to go to trial.
"I deeply hope that the horrors humanity has suffered during the 20th century will serve us as a painful lesson," Ocampo said in his acceptance speech, "and that the court will help prevent those atrocities from being repeated." It won't be an easy undertaking.
Renowned as an independent human-rights lawyer and prosecutor who fought corruption, Ocampo, 51, rose to prominence as a 33-year-old assistant prosecutor during the spectacular trials in 1985 of former officers of Argentina's notorious military junta. He was praised for his courage and integrity.
Ever since, he has been eager to take on the rich and powerful. But he has also been accused of opportunism and criticized for his close relations with former presidents Raúl Alfonsín and Carlos Saúl Menem.
According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Reinhard Müller, the media-savvy Ocampo "sometimes seems to stand above things and radiates a grim determination." He enjoys the limelight and has defended such prominent figures as the soccer player Diego Maradonna. He starred in a TV reality show, Argentina's version of "Judge Judy," and he was the first lawyer to film corrupt politicians with a hidden camera for an investigative TV show. Ocampo studied law in Buenos Aires, financing his studies by running a small furniture workshop. In 1987, he became Buenos Aires' chief state prosecutor.
The ICC was adopted in 1998 under the Rome Statute, which gave it jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, as the first permanent, independent tribunal since the Nuremberg trials following World War II. The ICC's first criminal case, however, possibly from Colombia or the Congo, is still months away.
Ocampo's performance will determine whether the ICC will be perceived as fair and impartial. He might even succeed in alleviating the suspicions of the U.S. government, which has rejected the court's authority because of concerns of politically motivated trials.
must learn that there is no safe haven for life and freedom if we fail to protect
the rights of any person in any country of the world," Ocampo said during
the swearing-in ceremony. "If we destroy the hopes and increase the misunderstandings,
not only will we have failed as individuals but we also will have...destroyed
an institution essential to global peace."