Closing Morocco’s Rape Loophole is Just the First Step

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. This post originally appeared in the International Business Times

Amina Filali was just 16 years old when, in the depths of despair, she decided to take her own life.

Several months earlier the teenager from Morocco had been forced to marry a man whom she said had raped her.

In March 2012, Amina lost all hope. She swallowed rat poison in her hometown of Larache and died shortly afterwards.

Up until last week, men accused of rape in Morocco were able to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if the girl was aged under 18.

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THIS EXISTS: Law Allows Rapists to Escape Prison If They Marry Underage Victims

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating.

He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

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The Algerian Government's Strike Against Democracy

By Ken Mayers, Algeria Country Specialist.

In Algeria, it’s almost proverbial. The term “hogra,” from the Arabic dialect, means contempt, and it has come to designate the face-to-face experience of the state bureaucracy which invariably adds insult to injury to its citizens. In an authoritarian state like Algeria, hogra is a universal given; however, like torture, it is generally savored in private. The rest of the world may hear of it, but can only imagine.

A man gestures towards Algerian police surrounding demonstrators in Algiers on February 19, 2011. (FAROUK BATICHE/AFP/Getty Images)

This weekend the Algerian government’s attitude of hogra was broadcast to the world. Its contempt for its citizens was shared with the international press and delivered via television and the internet to viewers everywhere. The National Coordination Committee for Change and Democracy (CNCD) had announced its march in Algiers on January 21st, to call for an end to the 19-year state of emergency, for democratic freedoms, and for a change in Algeria’s political system. Under the state of emergency, however, such peaceful protests are banned (and will continue to be banned, at least in Algiers, even if the state of emergency is “lifted,” according to President Bouteflika).
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Join Demonstrators in Chicago – Call for an end to Violence!

Death tolls continue to rise in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and other Arab countries as protesters demand their rights. Join demonstrators in Chicago and call on all governments to stop the violence every day until the violence ends:

6:30 – 7:30 pm at Daley Plaza
Dearborn and Washington, Chicago

Updates are on Facebook.

The Cancer of Democracy

The take-no-prisoners approach to counterinsurgency adopted by the Sri Lankan government in 2009 was hailed in many corners as evidence that letting the military off the leash was more effective than a nuanced strategy of political engagement.

As disturbing stories emerged of Sri Lankan military and paramilitary units executing prisoners, silencing civil society critics and displaying a cavalier disregard for civilian casualties these were dismissed by government apologists as a price worth paying to secure democratic rule on the island.

In October last year the Obama administration even went so far as to brief the Sri Lankan Attorney General on the Military Commission system operating at Guantanamo. Sri Lanka is considering the Commissions as a possible model for Special Tribunals to try 12,000 potential LTTE suspects.

Then last month the Sri Lankan government arrested General Sarath Fonseka – military architect of the aggressive military strategy that led to the defeat of the LTTE and the death of Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

General Fonseka had been the main challenger of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 2010 general election and it seems pretty apparent that the Sri Lankan regime is determined to send a strong message to future challengers that serious political opposition will not be tolerated.

The arrest of General Fonseka, the internment of Tamil civilians in poorly run camps, and the disappearance of human rights activists and journalists from the streets of Colombo are all part of the same pattern and spell disaster for the future of one of the oldest democracies in Asia.

One aspect of torture and human rights abuse often ignored in the counterterrorism debate is the impact that draconian and even illegal tactics have on the fabric of the society using them.

In the 1960s the French journalist Pierre Vidal-Naquet famously described torture as “the cancer of democracy” and chartered how counter terror and the use of water boarding and electric shock treatment on terrorist suspects in Algeria eroded the democratic values of the French military.

As French forces got sucked deeper and deeper into the conflict elite frontline units were called upon to break more and more of the taboos of civilized society. Democratic control began to break down as soldiers began to see themselves as being above the law.

Ultimately, as the civilian government moved towards a withdrawal from Algeria, French generals mounted a coup in Algiers and established their own terrorist movement, the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS), that declared war on the French government and came close to assassinating French President and national hero Charles de Gaulle.

Illegal tactics like torture and indefinite detention are not consequence free for those who use them. They erode values, discipline and ultimately even relatively stable democracies. The truth is that in the real world you can’t destroy the village to save it. That approach just leaves you with a pile of rubble.