A federal jury ordered former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to pay $745 million to Bosnian Moslem women who were raped and tortured under his orders. The August 10, 2000, decision came after an eight-day trial in a U.S. District Court in New York. Catharine MacKinnon, attorney for the women, says that this case “is the first to establish rape as a form of genocide.” By some estimates, 20,000 or more Moslem women were raped by Serbian men from 1991 to 1995 during the war in former Yugoslavia.
The judgment is on behalf of the 12 women and two victims' organizations who filed the suit in 1993, using two federal statutes that allow international human rights crimes to be prosecuted in U.S. civil courts. Winning a civil case like this is momentous, MacKinnon explains, because it “holds Karadzic accountable to his victims directly. This is not some official entity or state intervening to say he broke a rule. This is the women that he hurt holding him accountable to them for genocidal rape."
“Our next step is to focus on his assets,” says Maria Vullo, MacKinnin's co-counsel. “An American judgment will be recognized in other countries,” she explains, and those countries will help in locating and freezing Karadzic’s assets. Karadzic is at large, believed to be hiding in Bosnia.
Whether the women collect the money or not, they have found the legal struggle more than worth their while. “It is really historical. The amount of money awarded was so large — it expresses, by how big it is, [the severity of his crime],” says Nusreta Sivac, one of the women plaintiffs.
Nusreta Sivac and Tesna Elezovic, both survivors of the infamous Omarska concentration camp, talked to Ms. after the decision was made. Elezovic exclaims, “We got him! He installed terror legally, and we got him legally. We have gained our dignity, to win over such a monstrous leader. His evil power seemed so absolute, but now for the first time it is not so absolute.”
Sivac and Elezovic were also among the first to present testimony to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, leading to the indictment of Karadzic and others. Their 1995 testimony helped convince the court that rape had been used as a military tactic and should be prosecuted as a war crime.
“Every woman who testified said it was so that this doesn’t happen in the future,” says Aida Daidzic, representative of Biser, one of the two victims' organizations. Elezovic adds, “We are not doing this just for us or for Bosnian women, but for all the women of the world. We always knew that rape was a form of genocide, because it was done all over Bosnia and Herzegovina at the same time. It was so systematic. And now the court has said it was a form of genocide.”
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .