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Scope of the Problem

In many areas of the world, refugee women flee conflict after having been terrorized with rape and other sexual and physical abuse. Yet seeking to escape these dangers, many are then subjected to similar abuse as refugees.77 Refugee and internally displaced women worldwide have recounted harrowing stories of abuse and suffering, including rape and other sexual assaults.78

Within refugee camps, women refugees may be subjected to rape because of their increased vulnerability as refugees, or because of their actual or perceived political or ethnic affiliations. Rape and other forms of sexual assault are frequently gender-specific not only in their form but also in their motivation. Thus, refugee women and girls are raped because of their gender, irrespective of their age, ethnicity, or political beliefs. In host countries, local residents, military and immigration officials, and police, often view refugee women as easy targets for assault. Fellow refugees also target refugee women for sexual violence.

The injuries that refugee women sustain from being raped persist long after the crime. Refugee women interviewed by Human Rights Watch in different parts of the world have reported ongoing medical problems, including psychological trauma, miscarriages by women raped when pregnant, hemorrhaging for long periods, inability to control urination, sleeplessness, nightmares, chest and back pains, and painful menstruation.79

The strong cultural stigma attached to rape further intensifies the rape victims' physical and psychological trauma. Women in refugee camps and those who are internally displaced who acknowledge being raped may be ostracized, or even punished, by their families. As a result, women survivors of sexual violence often are reluctant to seek medical assistance or to file police reports because they do not want it known that they were raped. Even when incidents are reported,however, effective responses may not be forthcoming, since international humanitarian organizations, as well as countries of asylum, often ignore or are not adequately trained and equipped to handle reports of rape and other sexual crimes.

Rape in the Tanzanian Camps

Human Rights Watch found that Burundian refugee women living in the Tanzanian camps have been raped by other Burundian refugees and by Tanzanians from nearby villages. Our research in 1998 and 1999 found that women were often attacked while carrying out routine daily tasks such as gathering firewood, collecting vegetables, farming, or seeking employment from local Tanzanian villagers. Increased tension between refugees and Tanzanians who live near refugee settlements sometimes results in physical attacks on refugees and sexual attacks on women. Tanzanian authorities and villagers in western Tanzania increasingly view refugees as a threat to their security.80 As reported above, in a particularly serious incident in May 1999, some fifty or more refugee women were raped by over 100 Tanzanian men in Kasulu district, but only eleven men had been arrested by November 199981 and were being held at Kasulu prison, awaiting prosecution.82 All eleven defendants were brought for trial before a court in Kasulu town on December 15, 1999. However, the judge dismissed the case because the prosecutor was late to appear in court, and all the defendants were released.83 The women victims were being counseled by unhcr community services and implementing partners.84 According to unhcr officials in Kasulu, although fiftywomen came forward to report the rapes, the actual number of victims may have been higher.85

Statistics on rape of women refugees in Tanzania are unreliable, and many victims of rape are thought never to report their cases to unhcr, camp authorities, or the police given the stigma attached to rape, their fear of the authorities, or because of what they perceive as the latter's discriminatory or unsympathetic attitudes. Burundian women refugees said they sometimes remained silent after suffering rape in order to avoid bringing shame and humiliation on themselves, or being blamed by their families and communities. Some said they faced hostility, rejection, and even violence from their husbands, or others in the community, if they reported instances of sexual abuse to which they had been subjected. Some women victims of rape complained that their husbands blamed them for the rapes and beat them for having been raped.

Some rape victims Human Rights Watch interviewed in 1998 complained of the lack of effective protection and preventive mechanisms,86 and of perpetrators effectively benefiting from impunity. At that time, neither unhcr nor the Tanzanian government had developed tangible programs to combat rape in the camps, and apparently Tanzanian police officers often demanded bribes from victims before they would investigate or simply blamed the victims for the crimes.87 Only in the Kibondo camps was there a program in place to raise awareness among refugees about the problem of sexual violence and to counsel victims, this having been initiated by irc in 1996.88

In the Kasulu camps, Mtabila and Muyovosi, refugee women's representatives told Human Rights Watch in 1998 that there was a high level of sexual violence, especially against young girls,89 but that many cases were notbeing reported.90 Twelve cases of rape were reported to unhcr by refugees in the Mtabila, Muyovosi, and Nyarugusu camps between January and May 1998, all committed by other refugees, sometimes by boys as young as fourteen and sixteen years. By May 1998, six of the alleged culprits were being prosecuted in the local courts.91

In the Ngara camps, Lukole A and B, where there were then no concrete programs to raise community awareness about sexual violence, twenty-seven cases of rape were reported to unhcr throughout 1998. But women refugees told Human Rights Watch that rape victims often had little or no information about what to do or where to go to report their cases.92 At the Ngara camps in June 1998, most rapes of women refugees occurred when they left the confines of their camp to look for firewood and became victims of other refugees, local Tanzanian men, or Rwandans. These latter, they said, included members of the interahamwe militia involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide,93 while others were Rwandan refugees who had become refugees after evading the Tanzanian army when it forced half a million Rwandan refugees back into Rwanda in 1996. These bandits were said to have abducted young Burundian refugee women from the camps in Ngara for sex and forced labor.94

Documentation by irc in 1997 and 1998 revealed a high level of sexual violence. In the Kibondo camps, where irc had begun a program to raise community awareness on sexual violence, irc documented 122 cases of rapebetween January and December 1998.95 When irc set up a community-based program for refugee women in Kanembwa camp in October 1996, sixty-eight women and children came forward within two months to report cases of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse, including rape of children.96 In September 1997, irc published a report that provided alarming information about sexual violence against Burundian women refugees in Kanembwa camp, where it maintains one of its drop-in centers, indicating, on the basis of a survey carried out in the camp in which some 3,800 women were interviewed, that approximately 26 percent of girls and women in the twelve to forty-nine age range reported having been subjected to violence either during flight from Burundi or while in the camp.

In some cases, efforts to follow up on the status or outcomes of rape cases occurring in the camps in 1998 were frustrated by a lack of comprehensive reporting mechanisms. Neither the Tanzanian police nor unhcr officers maintained clear records of reported cases of rape in the camps in 1998. In some cases, obtaining further information on cases was hindered by a variety of factors: either the victim was no longer living in the same camp, the perpetrator was at large, or the investigating officer was no longer attached to the refugee camp, and there was no record of the case.

Relationship Between 1998 and 1999: Findings and Key Developments

When Human Rights Watch returned to the Tanzanian refugee camps in 1999, it was clear that unhcr's response to rape had improved. unhcr protection officers maintained better records of rape cases, reported the incidence of rape in each camp, and more closely monitored those cases referred for prosecution. By November 1999, unhcr had referred fifteen rape cases from the four Kibondo camps-Kanembwa, Mtendeli, Nduta, and Mkugwa-to the Kibondo district court for prosecution since the beginning of 1999,97 and three of these had resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of the rapists. Eight other accused were awaiting trial, and four had been discharged, either because a witness had failed to appearor due to a lack of sufficient evidence.98 From the Kasulu camps, Mtabila 1 and 2, Muyovosi, and Nyarugusu, unhcr referred forty rape cases to the Kasulu district court.99

Other humanitarian organizations also compiled information on gender-related offenses in the camps.100 Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), for example, unhcr's main implementing partner responsible for sexual and gender-based violence programs in the Lukole A and B camps, recorded twenty-four rapes and forty-five cases of domestic violence from January to October 1999.101 irc documented 111 cases of rape in the four Kibondo camps over the same period.102 In 1999, programs to raise community awareness of sexual violence and to provide counseling to rape victims were established in all the camps. These programs are mostly run by unhcr, community services implementing partners, and other ngos.

In 1999, unhcr also began to give greater attention and judicial access to, as well as redress for, victims of rape, which had not been the case in 1998. In September 1999, unhcr recruited two women lawyers to assist women rape victims and provide legal advice, and to follow up on cases of rape and other crimes committed against refugee women that are referred to the courts. In the Ngara camps, where unhcr had not yet recruited a lawyer to assist women in pursuing their cases in court, Human Rights Watch was told by unhcr that it tookaction nevertheless to ensure that victims and witnesses received notification of the court date and were able to attend court.103

At this writing, it is too early to draw conclusions about the impact of unhcr's new programs on the lives of refugee women victims of rape in the Tanzanian camps. In general, during its 1999 visits, Human Rights Watch noted a marked and welcome increase in the level of support being offered to victims of sexual violence, as well as a greater community involvement in apprehending those responsible for sexual violence in the camps.

Yet rape and other sexual violence continue to be a persistent problem in the camps. Women continue to be attacked when they leave the camps to collect firewood, as there is no fuel provision; women refugees at the Kasulu and Ngara camps complained that they sometimes had to travel more than sixty kilometers (thirty-eight miles) outside the camps to gather firewood.104 Moreover, unhcr's programs against sexual violence could be improved in certain key ways: they should be implemented comprehensively in all refugee camps; unhcr staff should systematically follow-up all cases of sexual violence in the camps; and there should be clear coordination between unhcr protection officers and community services officers in the camps to ensure that women are fully informed about their legal and other rights and are accompanied by individuals able to represent their interests during legal proceedings.

During meetings with UNHCR representatives and Tanzanian government officials in Dar-es-Salaam in November 1999, Human Rights Watch expressed concern that cases of rape and sexual violence in the refugee camps were not adequately investigated and punished. In response, the UNHCR Resident Representative assured Human Rights Watch that she recognized the need for UNHCR to intensify its monitoring and follow-up of cases, and that UNHCR's program in response to violence against women, then in its initial stages, would ensure that all refugee victims of rape and other crimes would be informed abouthow to report such abuses and about the services available to victims.105 For their part, Tanzanian government officials pointed to a lack of resources as a major stumbling block affecting their capacity to investigate and prosecute cases aggressively.106

Cases of Rape and other Sexual Violence

Human Rights Watch received a number of testimonies from rape victims during its visits to the Tanzanian refugee camps in May/June 1998 and October/November 1999. These illustrate the nature and extent of injuries, including psychological trauma, experienced by victims, and the shortcomings of unhcr staff and the Tanzanian police.

Mary U. reported her rape to unhcr and Africare, a humanitarian organization that provides community services programs, in April 1999. Mary U. is a fifteen-year-old resident in Mtabila 1 camp in Kasulu district. She was raped by two Tanzanian villagers in April 1999 while in the forest gathering firewood with a female friend. Her friend managed to escape, but Mary U. was raped by two local Tanzanians. She and her mother immediately reported the case to the police and sought medical attention from the camp clinic. However, the perpetrators had not been arrested at the time Human Rights Watch interviewed Mary U, although she could identify them, and saw one of the perpetrators again in October 1999.107

Agnes V., a fifteen-year-old primary student, was raped by a neighbor on April 2, 1999, as she was returning from school with several friends. The neighbor called her over and offered to pay her 10,000 Tanzania shillings (U.S.$12.50) to have sex with him. He then raped her when she refused. Agnes V.'s parents reported the case to the abashingatahe, who told the rapist to pay her father compensation. The rapist refused to do so and went to the police to accuse Agnes V.'s father of threatening him. Agnes V.'s father would not let her report the rapeto the police, but she said the rapist had ruined her life and that she wanted the rapist jailed.108

Adelina R., also sixteen years old, was raped in October 1999, while collecting firewood outside Kanembwa camp, by a refugee she described as a fifteen-year-old boy. At the same time, Adelina R.'s friend, accompanying her, was raped by another boy. Adelina R. reported the rape to police and to local village leaders, and the latter searched for the culprits and found and handed over one of them, Adelina R.'s abuser, to the Tanzanian police. However, he was released and subsequently fled. After being raped, Adelina R. was given antibiotics and injections, though she was not sure what these were for and neither unhcr nor irc community services officers followed up to ensure that the accused was rearrested or to provide Adelina R. with counseling.109

Marie-Claire E., who fled to Tanzania with her mother, sister, and brother in 1996, after their father was killed in Burundi, was sixteen years old and living in Mtendeli camp when Human Rights Watch interviewed her. She said that she had been on her way to Kanembwa camp with her younger brother on March 30, 1998, in order to visit their uncle, when she was raped by two men who spoke Kiha, a local Tanzanian language. She reported the case to the police the same day, but no arrests had been made by the time that she spoke to Human Rights Watch two months later. She stated, "The two men took off my clothes, in the presence of my brother. They blindfolded and raped me, one after the other. I would like the assailants to be punished for raping me."110

Most refugee women Human Rights Watch interviewed in 1998 complained that the Tanzanian police were reluctant to investigate rape cases in which the alleged perpetrators were Tanzanian.111 It was hoped, however, that this problem would be overcome by the deployment in September 1999 of a new security contingent of approximately 260 police officers to the refugee camps. unhcr told Human Rights Watch that it planned to train the new contingent inproper policing of the camps and in handling victims of sexual and domestic violence.112

Esperance K., who was pregnant at the time, was the victim of a rape attempt by a Burundian refugee near Kanembwa camp in April 1998. She recognized the man as her neighbor. He threatened to stab her. Then he cut her on her fingers with a knife when she resisted him, but ran off when he heard other people approaching. Esperance K. reported the attack to refugee leaders and the police, but two months later, the assailant had still not been arrested.113

In another case, a fourteen-year-old boy from Muyovosi camp, who allegedly raped a three-year-old girl,114 was released from Kasulu police station without charge, despite the intervention of unhcr, the MHA, and the child's parents. It was not clear whether he was later arrested. In another case, a refugee who worked for the Red Cross at Mtabila extension camp raped a fourteen-year-old girl in June 1997. The rapist was not arrested even though the victim reported the assault to the police.115

In some cases reported to Human Rights Watch, victims of rape suffered further physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their husbands, either because they believed that their wife had somehow been to blame or because she had reported a relative to the police without her husband's permission. For example, Elizabeth B., an eighteen-year-old refugee from Mtendeli camp, said she was raped by another refugee on May 17, 1998, while she was on her way to Kanembwa camp to visit her parents. She stated, "After raping me, the man took the shoes I was wearing and the money I had and fled. When I told my husband about the rape, he blamed me for the rape and started beating me."116

Similarly, Margarita Q., a thirty-five-year-old woman, said she was raped by a group of young Tanzanians while fleeing from Burundi in 1996. When her husband found out, he blamed her, refused to sleep with her, and began beating herup: "My husband became more and more violent about the rape, such that I fled from him on May 20, 1998. I spent three weeks without a place to stay. I stayed with different people in the camp."117

Seven-year-old Nandiwe D. was raped in Kanembwa camp by her paternal uncle. Her mother reported the attack to the Tanzanian police, and the uncle was arrested, but her husband threw Nandiwe's mother out of their home for causing his brother's arrest, and refugee leaders condemned her for reporting another Burundian refugee to the Tanzanian authorities. The rapist was then released by the police at the request of the victim's father. But, according to the mother, the seven-year-old had been brutally abused:

I left Nandiwe and her older sisters at home with Andrias, my husband's brother, with whom we stay. I expected Nandiwe and her sister to follow me where I was planting beans. Later on, the older sister came alone, and she told me that Andrias had refused to let Nandiwe come to the valley. I immediately went home to check if Nandiwe was safe. When I got home, I found Andrias having sex with her in our house. I checked the child, and her vagina was hurt and bleeding. Her vagina was so badly swollen that she could not walk properly. I took her to the hospital, and she received treatment.118

In a similar case, Godelieve C. feared that her husband would assault her if she tried to press charges against a refugee neighbor in his twenties who had raped her ten-year-old daughter and sexually abused her two sisters. As a result, the ten-year-old contracted a vaginal infection, and the case was brought to unhcr's attention. The family of the rapist then offered to pay the girl's family if they dropped the charges. When the girl's family agreed, the accused was released after some time in police custody. The mother told Human Rights Watch:

I wanted to follow the law and get justice for my child, but the neighbor offered money instead, and my husband accepted the money. I wanted to insist that we take the case to court for my daughter, but I feared my husband would beat me if I keptpushing. I am angry for what has happened, but by the grace of God, my little girl did not get a fatal disease. This kind of thing happens all the time in the camp.119

Some rape cases have been investigated and successfully prosecuted in court. Thus, one refugee in Nduta camp, was prosecuted and imprisoned for raping three young children in September 1999. The mother of one of the victims told Human Rights Watch:

Clemence always used to play with Minauri outside our house, so when he called the child to his house on September 17, 1999, I did not suspect anything bad would happen. However, when it started to get dark before Minauri came back home, I followed her to Clemence's house. When I asked Clemence about Minauri, he denied that she was in his house, when in fact she was sleeping in his bed. I left and went back home. At about 8:00 p.m., Minauri came home in the darkness by herself. When I asked her where she was, she started crying saying that she was with Clemence, and he had forced her to have sex with him. Minauri complained about pains in her vagina. I took Minauri to Nduta camp clinic, and the doctor confirmed that she had been raped. The doctor treated the child, and I took her back home. I reported the case to the police the following day, and the police told me they were actually looking for Clemence for another case of rape of a child. In November 1999, the police told me that Clemence was arrested and is in jail.120

77 See "Sexual Assault of Refugee and Displaced Women," in Human Rights Watch, The Human Rights Watch Global Report on Women's Human Rights (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1995) pp. 100-139.

78 See e.g., Human Rights Watch, "Afghanistan: The Massacre in Mazar-I Sharif,"(New York: Human Rights Watch, November 1998.); Human Rights Watch, "Sierra Leone: Getting away with Murder, Mutilation, and Rape," (New York: Human Rights Watch, June 1999.); Human Rights Watch, Burundi: Proxy Targets: Civilians in the War, (New York: Human Rights Watch, March 1998.); and Human Rights Watch, 2000 World Report, (New York: Human Rights Watch, December 1999.)

79 Global Report on Women's Human Rights, p. 42.

80 Human Rights Watch interview, Tanzania Officials, MHA, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, November 16, 1999.

81 Human Rights Watch interviews, unhcr protection officer, Kasulu, Tanzania, October 31, 1999 and magistrate, Kasulu district court, Tanzania, November 2, 1999. We did not get information on the final outcomes of these cases. Also, see Human Rights Watch, World Report 2000 (New York: Human Rights Watch, November 1999), p 440.

82 Human Rights Watch interview, magistrate, Kasulu district court, Tanzania, November 2, 1999.

83 Section 222 of the Tanzanian Code of Criminal Procedure provides that a judge has the option to dismiss a case if the prosecutor fails to arrive, or to defer it if it is deemed to be in the best interests of justice. See also Amnesty International, "Refugees Denied Protection," (London: Amnesty International, May 2000) p. 8.

84 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr community services officer, Kasulu, Tanzania, November 2, 1999.

85 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr protection officer, Kasulu, Tanzania, October 31, 1999.

86 Preventative measures may include education and awareness campaigns for all refugees about the problem of rape, escorting women when they travel outside the camps to collect firewood, and placing police on patrol areas where women go to collect firewood.

87 See section on "Responses by the Tanzanian Government" for details on the inadequacies of the Tanzanian government law enforcement.

88 See section on "Responses by unhcr" for details on irc's program of response to sexual and gender-based violence in the Kibondo camps.

89 Human Rights Watch interview, women's representatives, Muyovosi camp, Tanzania, May 28, 1998.

90 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr community services consultant, Kasulu district, Tanzania, May 26, 1998.

91 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr assistant protection officer, Kasulu, Tanzania, May 27, 1998.

92 Human Rights Watch interview, refugee women representatives, Lukole A and B camps, Tanzania, June 6, 1998.

93 "Interahamwe" was the Kinyarwanda (a Rwandan language) name for the mostly Hutu militia that carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda. It is now loosely used to refer to insurgents against the Rwandan government, whether or not they actually participated in the genocide. For a history of the Rwandan genocide, see Human Rights Watch, Leave None To Tell The Story: Genocide in Rwanda (New York: Human Rights Watch, March 1999); for the use of rape in the genocide, see Human Rights Watch, Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath (New York: Human Rights Watch, September 1996).

94 Human Rights Watch interview, refugee security guardians, Ngara, Tanzania, June 7, 1998.

95 Human Rights Watch E-mail from irc reproductive health officer, irc, New York, March 18, 1999.

96 IRC, "Pain Too Deep For Tears: Assessing the Prevalence of Sexual and Gender Violence Among Burundian Refugees in Tanzania," (New York: International Rescue Committee, September 1997).

97 Statistics given to Human Rights Watch by unhcr Sexual and Gender-Based project lawyer, Kibondo, Tanzania, November 9, 1999.

98 Section 255(5) of Tanzania's Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act allows the magistrate to discharge an accused person after a case has been adjourned several times (not specified) and no certificate of extension of time has been filed. Human Rights Watch interviews, magistrate, Kibondo district court, Tanzania, November 8, 1999 and unhcr Sexual and Gender-Based Project lawyer, Kibondo, Tanzania, November 7, 1999.

99 Statistics given to Human Rights Watch by unhcr protection officer, Kasulu, Tanzania, November 3, 1999.

100 In the Kasulu camps, local NGOs and unhcr community services implementing partners (Christian Outreach, Africare, and Diocese of Western Tanganyika) maintain records of cases of rape, domestic violence, early marriage and abduction, and sexual harassment. In the Kibondo camps, the IRC, Dutch Relief Agency, and UMATI maintain records of similar cases, and in the Ngara camps, the Norwegian people's Agency maintains the same records.

101 unhcr document provided to Human Rights Watch by the unhcr protection officer for Ngara, Ngara, November 11, 1999.

102 Statistics of rape from irc Sexual and Gender-Based Project monthly reports for 1999 given to Human Rights Watch by irc community services officers, Kibondo Tanzania, November 6, 1999.

103 Assistant protection officers are local Tanzanian staff hired to carry out some of the protection duties, under the supervision of a protection officer. The assistant protection officer's duties include helping the protection office with the broad protection and security issues in the camps, including protecting refugee women, and ensuring that the perpetrators of violence against refugee women are prosecuted. Human Rights Watch interview, UNHCR protection officer, Ngara, November 11, 1999.

104 Human Rights Watch interviews, women representatives, Mtabila 1 and 2 camps, Tanzania, November 2, 1999 and women representatives, Lukole A and B camps, Tanzania, November 11, 1999.

105 Human Rights Watch interview, UNHCR officers, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, November 16, 1999.

106 Human Rights Watch interview, Director of Refugees, MHA, Tanzania, November 17, 1999. See also the section on "Tanzania Government Response" below.

107 Human Rights Watch interview, Mary U., Mtabila 1 camp, Tanzania, November 1, 1999. In order to decrease the tension between local villagers and the refugee community, Tanzanian villagers are given access to some refugee services, such as the use of camp clinic facilities, as in this case.

108 Human Rights Watch interview, Agnes V., Mtabila 2 camp, November 2, 1999.

109 Human Rights Watch interview, Adelina R., Kanembwa camp, Tanzania, November 6, 1999.

110 Human Rights Watch interview, Marie-Claire E., Mtendeli camp, Tanzania, June 3, 1998.

111 See section on "The Tanzanian Government Response" for details on police bias and reluctance to investigate cases of rape in which the perpetrators were Tanzanians.

112 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr international security liaison officer, Kigoma, Tanzania, October 28, 1999.

113 Human Rights Watch interview, Esperance K., Kanembwa camp, Tanzania, June 3, 1998.

114 Human Rights Watch obtained this information from the files of a community services organization working with refugees in Muyovosi camp, Tanzania, May 26, 1998. The name of organization has been withheld at its request.

115 Human Rights Watch interview, unhcr assistant protection officer, Kasulu district, Tanzania, May 26, 1998.

116 Human Rights Watch interview, Elizabeth B., Kanembwa camp, Tanzania, June 3, 1998.

117 Human Rights Watch interview, Margarita Q., Mtendeli camp, Tanzania, June 7, 1998.

118 Human Rights Watch interview, Maria U., Kanembwa camp, Tanzania, June 3, 1998.

119 Human Rights Watch interview, Godelieve C., Muyovosi camp, Tanzania, May 28, 1998.

120 Human Rights Watch interview, Sibisoniya N., Nduta camp, Tanzania, November 8, 1999.

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