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Petition calls on Google to remove Bosnia ‘rape camp’ from search | Serbia News

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There is not a room or spot in the Vilina Vlas hotel where women were not raped or people were not killed, according to Bakira Hasecic, president of Bosnia’s Women Victims of War (WVW) association and a rape survivor from Visegrad.

It is estimated that Serb forces captured and raped at least 200 women and girls, mostly Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), in 1992 in the hotel in Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, according to a United Nations report.

Some of the victims were as young as 14. Fewer than 10 made it out alive.

Their husbands, brothers and sons were also tortured and killed in the hotel.

Over the years, the few survivors have testified to media and to the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) about what took place there.

One survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, told Balkan Insight how Bosnian Serb strongman Milan Lukic, head of the Serb paramilitary White Eagles – also known as Avengers – raped her at her home in Visegrad after killing her 16-year-old son in front of her with a knife.

Lukic then took the woman to Vilina Vlas, where she lost count of how many times she was raped.

She said: “There were many women held in the hotel and there was blood everywhere”.

“All the rooms in the hotel were locked. Every day they threw us bread which we had to catch with our teeth as our hands were tied. The only time they untied us is when they raped us,” she said.

A tourist attraction

Yet, the hotel has been promoted this summer as a tourist attraction by Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Serb-run entity created under the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the country’s bloody conflict in early 90s – and also promoted by the municipality of Visegrad as part of an overall campaign.

The campaign, with its disquieting slogan, “We’re waiting for you in Visegrad”, distributed gift vouchers to attract visitors to the town. Vilina Vlas is among the participating hotels.

The Republika Srpska tourism website advertises the hotel as an “aerial spa” due to its “altitude and natural environment” and boasts of its thermal waters.

Under the same tourism campaign, Visegrad municipality has been promoting its Andricgrad (Andric city), a mini-town theme park, which is financially supported in part by the Serbian government.

There is no mention of the war crimes that took place at Vilina Vlas or anywhere else in town, an example of the denial that can be common among Serbs in Republika Srpska, including its political elite.

But the hotel also remains listed on many international booking sites, including Trip Advisor, with photos showing a spa nestled in the forest, with no mention that the hotel was used as a rape camp and killing site.

Vilina Vlas used as a rape camp by Serb forces is scored as ‘Very good’ on Booking.com [Screenshot]

Online petition

As soon as it became apparent that Republika Srpska authorities were promoting Vilina Vlas as a tourist spot, an online petition was launched, calling on Google to remove the hotel as a tourist site from Google search and Google Maps. The petition has so far gathered 25,000 signatures.

“Dear Google, if somebody decided to turn Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps into a wellness retreat perfect for a ‘relaxing weekend getaway’, would you let them promote this on Google? Would you allow it to appear on Google maps as a tourist facility?” the petition launched by Bosnian Amela Trokic read.

“Since the Bosnian war in the 1990s not much has changed in the hotel and guests can choose to sleep in one of the many rooms or 160 available beds; the same rooms and beds where women were raped and men were tortured, beaten and killed as the furniture remains the same.

“Though we cannot stop mentally deranged people from knowingly visiting and staying at this disgusting building, we can stop the active promotion of it,” the petition read.

Google did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Trokic told Al Jazeera that a friend of hers had contacted Trip Advisor last month, informing them why the hotel should be removed from its listings, but the booking website responded saying it was not “in the position to provide comments regarding the past histories of the property in question” and as such, would “not remove accommodation listings if they are still operational”.

Many foreign tourists have stayed at the hotel, oblivious to the torture that took place at the site, including Australian actress Kym Vercoe in 2008.

‘Where women were raped’

WVW President Bakira Hasecic told Al Jazeera that the Serb paramilitaries that committed brutal mass rape of women and girls for four months in the hotel in 1992, where the victims were also killed. Five of the victims took their own lives.

One of them, 24-year-old Jasmina Ahmetspahic, took her own life by jumping from the third floor of the hotel after being tortured and raped repeatedly.

“All guests who stay in the rooms in Vilina Vlas – if they didn’t know, they know now … They’re sleeping in beds where women were raped and swimming in a pool where people were killed,” Hasecic said.

“Authorities of Visegrad, Republika Srpska don’t want to talk about the topic of torture in the hotel and hotel staff don’t want to tell guests the truth of what happened in these rooms.”

Hasecic also said that a memorial should be added to the site and the street that leads to the hotel should be renamed to honour Jasmina Ahmetspahic.

Hikmet Karcic, author and genocide researcher, told Al Jazeera that sites where mass atrocities took place, such as Vilina Vlas, have been “hijacked by the Republika Srpska authorities and normalised for everyday use”.

‘Rape as genocide’

Edina Becirevic, genocide scholar at the University of Sarajevo, told Al Jazeera that what happened at Vilina Vlas was one of the examples of the “rape as genocide” that took place during the war, and part of the pattern of ethnic cleansing against Bosniaks that was carried out throughout the country for almost four years.

“Genocide denial is pervasive in the Bosnian and Herzegovinian entity Republika Srpska and promoting Vilina Vlas as [a] touristic attraction with financial support by the Serbian government additionally confirms their complicity in genocide in Bosnia” during and after the war, Becirevic said.

In 2009, the ICTY sentenced Lukic to life in prison, convicting him of war crimes including murder, cruelty, persecution and other crimes against humanity committed from 1992 to 1994.

Hasecic said it is “incomprehensible that following such horrible crimes, authorities have the bravery to offer rooms to guests”.

“For us victims who survived, Vilina Vlas hotel was and will remain a hotel with a dark past and we will not give up,” said Hasecic. “We will always speak the truth about what happened and fight for truth and justice to win.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Project Force: Silent killers – 21st century submarines | Technology News

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New designs, new technologies and new weapons are shaping the submarines of the future, which are being manufactured right now, in response to global demand for more potent and flexible designs.

Old Cold War fleets are being replaced and conventional subs – smaller but still useful – that can remain underwater for weeks are being built.

Non-nuclear submarines use combustion engines that need oxygen to work. These are fine on the surface but, submerged, they must rely on battery power to operate. Depending on the battery type, submarines cannot submerge for long and need to resurface to recharge their batteries, putting them in a vulnerable position and open to detection by the enemy.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) is a technology which solves that problem and allows a submarine to remain submerged and relatively safe for extended periods – weeks instead of days.

First invented in Sweden in the 1990s, AIP is now used in most non-nuclear submarines by 20 navies.

A U-31 submarine goes for its first check-up run at Kiel Bay, northern Germany, in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Only a few countries can afford to run nuclear-powered submarines. Extremely expensive to produce, the reactors of these submarines allow them to stay submerged almost indefinitely.

They can desalinate water for the crew to drink and produce oxygen from seawater for the crew to breathe. Their range is virtually unlimited, allowing them to travel anywhere in the world’s oceans, loaded with their apocalyptic cargo of nuclear missiles. They remain hidden, a guarantee that if an enemy were to strike the home country in a surprise attack, the sub would be able to deliver a retaliatory blow, a nuclear second strike.

With that in mind, attack subs also prowl the oceans, acting as a line of defence. Fast and sleek, they are designed to sink other subs, especially high-value enemy missile submarines. This endless, deadly game of cat and mouse is played out daily under the surface of the world’s oceans as each side hones the skills needed to destroy the other in the event of war.

The non-nuclear U-31 submarine is seen during a first check-up on the Kiel Bay, northern Germany in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Submarines have unique features that make them deadly, the chief one being their stealth. Able to travel undetected underwater, they can strike without warning, the most powerful among them containing missile arsenals that could single-handedly destroy a continent.

The quieter a sub, the stealthier it is. Sound is everything under the sea and billions have been invested into acoustic properties that will muffle a submarine’s engine, as well as in better hull designs which allow water to flow more quietly over the sub’s surface. These hulls are made of materials designed to absorb sonar waves – a sonic version of underwater radar – rather than reflect them back, making them more readily detectable.

Such technological advances allow subs to remain undetected but constant developments in anti-submarine technology are keeping pace – with new, improved ways to detect submarines, making them vulnerable to destruction.

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a Project 877 Paltus diesel-electric submarine, takes part in a naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok, Russia on July 26, 2018 [Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images]

I can hear you

It is getting harder and harder to hide under the ocean. Underwater sensors can now pick up a submarine’s acoustic trail with greater ease. These sensors can be released from helicopters or planes over an area where a sub is suspected of lurking. The sensors pick up the sub’s sound profile and send the information back to the waiting aircraft. Torpedoes are then dropped into the sea with the intention of homing in on the submarine – now stripped of the one thing keeping it safe – and destroying it.

Anti-submarine warfare is as old as submarines themselves, with designers continually inventing new ways to destroy these potent weapons. Sensors are not just dropped from aircraft; surface ships are also equipped with ever more powerful and sensitive sonar suites that can pick the minute sounds that subs, despite their best efforts, end up making. Some countries have strung whole chains of sensors together across likely approach ways.

The atomic submarine USS George Washington, loaded with 16 Polaris missiles, sets sail from Charleston Harbor on its maiden voyage somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, South Carolina, in the US on November 15, 1960. It was the world’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine [Rudolph Faircloth/AP Photo]

During the Cold War, for instance, the United States installed one called SOSUS, or Sound Surveillance System, across what is known as the GIUK gap; the area of the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom. This was and still is the likely approach route for Russian submarines heading from their bases in the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk into the North Atlantic. This impressive system, covering hundreds of kilometres, was able to detect even the best Soviet submarines at the time, providing the US with vital information about their location and direction of travel. The SOSUS nets were extremely effective during the Cold War at picking up submarines moving in and out of the Atlantic.

Russia still uses this route. Last year, it sent 10 submarines through this gap which, while 1,500km wide, is still considered a choke point for naval vessels. In one of the biggest Russian deployments since the end of the Cold War, the exercise was designed to test whether they could be detected by NATO. The resulting detection by Western navies showed Russia that they were still vulnerable to potential destruction.

An aerial view of the K-549 Knyaz Vladimir Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the Sevmash shipbuilding enterprise, a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, in the city of Severodvinsk, Russia [Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty Images]

Russia has spent billions upgrading its antiquated fleet with new designs that make already quiet submarines even quieter. The new Borei-class subs are faster, more manoeuvrable, with their new pump jet propulsor systems which have replaced traditional propellers, making them even quieter. There are now better missiles which carry multiple warheads, with greater ranges, allowing the subs to hit targets thousands of kilometres away. The Russian Navy plans to build 12 of them, with half going to the Northern Fleet and the other half to the Pacific.

The developments do not stop there. A new class of Russian submarine, the Khabarovsk, will be fitted to carry the giant superfast autonomous nuclear torpedo, Poseidon, in effect an underwater nuclear-powered drone, capable of speeds of up to 180km/h (112mph) and armed with a huge, multi-megaton nuclear warhead. The torpedo’s range is virtually unlimited and is designed to destroy ports, coastal cities and large fleet concentrations.

The Poseidon nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle during the final stage of testing  [TASSTASS via Getty Images]

Future plans

Russia is not the only country upgrading its submarines. France, the UK and the US are all developing and building the next class of missile and attack sub. They can dive deeper to avoid detection and advances in engine design mean they are even quieter and therefore stealthier than previous generations. Many of these designs have already been fielded, while others are near completion.

China and India are also working on their own improved nuclear sub designs in an effort to dominate their own seas and keep up with regional competitors. There can be setbacks. India’s first nuclear-powered missile sub, the INS Arihant, was damaged when a hatch was left open, allowing water to partially flood the sub. The design has since been finalised and a second missile sub, or SSBN, INS Arighat is undergoing trials.

It is not all about nuclear propulsion. Improvements in Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) now allow non-nuclear submarines some of the advantages of their nuclear cousins.

Able to stay submerged for weeks at a time, these cheaper submarines give middle-ranking naval powers an affordable way to enhance their naval firepower, while also using their stealthy abilities to gather intelligence and land special forces teams ashore, their mission flexibility giving their commanders more options.

A Marlin-350 unmanned remotely operated underwater vehicle during an anti-sabotage military drill held by a special unit of the Russian Northern Fleet [Lev Fedoseyev/TASS via Getty Images]

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), are also starting to make their presence felt. These robot subs can gather intelligence, lay mines and sweep the seas around them for enemy vessels. The US navy is planning a whole range of them, such as Boeing’s Orca, with other navies following suit. Able to operate autonomously, they can stay at sea for months at a time, sending valuable data back to their headquarters while remaining hidden. At least that is the idea. No country has publicly claimed a robotic submersible that was found a few years ago by a Chinese fishing vessel in the South China Sea. It was capable of satellite communications and recording images, and was suspected by the Chinese authorities of being used to spy on Chinese naval activity in the area.

China itself is developing its own fleet of unmanned AI-controlled submarines that, once completed, will be capable of a wide variety of missions. Without having to worry about keeping a human crew safe, these robot subs can be smaller, stay at sea almost indefinitely and operate at greater depths as they can be built differently to withstand the incredible pressures of the very deep sea.

Even minor nuclear power North Korea is researching how to turn small, yet quiet diesel-electric subs into missile carriers for its fledgeling nuclear weapons arsenal. Pyongyang is keen to develop its own invulnerable second strike retaliatory capability, ensuring the survival of the country.

This September 2019 photo made available by the US Coast Guard, shows crew members of the cutter Valiant as they board a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters. The US Coast Guard says a cutter seized a ‘narco’ submarine carrying cocaine worth a street value of more than $165m while patrolling in the eastern Pacific Ocean [US Coast Guard via AP)

Narco-subs

The advantages of staying undetected are not lost on crime syndicates and a new class of drug-smuggling submarine, or “narco-sub”, is being discovered by the Peruvian and Colombian authorities.

Often built on the banks of remote jungle rivers in South America, narco-subs have increased in size and sophistication allowing larger and larger payloads of drugs to be smuggled undetected.

Initially towed underwater by a surface vessel, they now have their own propulsion systems and can travel further and further, smuggling tonnes of drugs at a time up the coast and also, on occasion, rendezvous with merchant vessels far out to sea, transferring their cargo away from prying eyes. These are not true submarines in the sense that they can dive deep underwater as they stay just below the surface, avoiding the attention of coastguard vessels and naval patrols.

Soldiers stand on a seized submarine in the jungle region of La Loma in Ecuador on July 3, 2010. DEA officials said that the diesel electric-powered submarine was constructed in a remote jungle and captured near a tributary close to the Ecuador-Colombia border and is capable of transporting tonnes of cocaine. Ecuadorean authorities seized the sub before it could make its maiden voyage [AP Photo]

For submarines generally, the future is looking increasingly automated. Submarines will be able to do more with smaller crews or, in many cases, no crews at all.

As detection technology develops, so, too, will the stealthy abilities of subs as opposing navies try to outwit each other. These silent killers are able to watch and report on enemy activity and, in some cases, destroy their targets without anyone detecting their presence.

With enhanced weapons like hypersonic missiles being developed, submarines are growing deadlier with each new generation. While major powers are sticking with nuclear propulsion, other countries are investing in cheaper, yet capable alternatives.

New advances in fuel cells mean that these new, non-nuclear subs can stay underwater for weeks if not months. Developments in sensor technology and design allow them to run with far smaller crews while still increasing the range of missions they can undertake. In short, subs are here to stay and underwater warfare is about to enter a new and important phase.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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DCJ Decries Low Staffing as Masaka Appeal Session Kicks Off

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The Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera, on Monday presided over the opening a Criminal Appeals session at the Masaka High Court.

The scientific session started off with a briefing session of the appellants at Masaka Main Prison where the Deputy Chief Justice led the panel of three other Justices, advocates and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system.

The DCJ informed the appellants that the main purpose of the visit was to explain to them the shift from the traditional physical appearance of the appellants before their lordships. He explained that submissions by appellants or their advocates, responses by the State and submissions in rejoinder were all on record.

He added that the court appearances were mainly for the advocates to highlight on the submissions earlier filed so that the Court could later write and deliver judgments.

He notified the stakeholders that the Court of Appeal has only 14 justices who were few compared to the workload they handle.

The justices at the commencement of the appeal session at Masaka High court on Monday

Adding that the Judiciary management was in consultation with the Executive and Parliament to ensure that there are regional of courts of appeal to handle the ever increasing appeals.

“Our cry is to have regional courts to handle these sessions. This will make it easier to handle these cases and it will also reduce delays in management of appeals.” The plan is to have a Court of Appeal in Masaka, Mubende, Gulu, Mbale, Mbarara and Jinja for the start before rolling it out to other regions.

The Deputy Chief Justice noted that the method of procedure by way of video conferencing was the best in the circumstances amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The head of panel, Justice Cheborion Barishaki, on behalf of Judges, Stephen Musota and Muzamiru Kibeedi reassured the appellants that they are committed to deliver judgments within 60 days upon closure of the session.

He added that 41 appeals will be heard and determined. Of these, 22 are Aggravated Defilement, 14 for Murder, four for Aggravated Robbery and one for Rape. Justice Barishaki observed that as rape cases go down, the ones against Aggravated Defilement were going up which was not pleasant.

Justice Barishaki pointed out that the Masaka session had delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other constraints.

One of the appellants, Mbazira Joseph Bob, thanked the panel for the planned session but raised some concerns.

These included the fact that court proceedings and judgments are not availed to appellants on time and that cause listing at times does not follow the first in first out strategy.

The DCJ said the Judiciary alongside its JLOS partners such as the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution and Prisons were adopting a joint-cause listing process to ensure that the cases cause-listed follow the principle of first in and first out.

On her part, the Masaka Resident Judge, Victoria Nkwanga Katamba, welcomed the Session. She added that the workload at court is quite high and through their prison visits they have established that prison capacity is overwhelmed. She expressed gratitude for the session and undertook to use innovations such as sessions, Plea Bargaining and weeding out to reduce on the congestion.

The Officer in Charge of Masaka Main Prison, Deogratius Ogwabit expressed concern about the congestion in the Prison facility he heads adding that it was constructed to cater for 252 prisoners but  currently it accommodates  1,288 prisoners.

Of this number, 1,209 are male while 79 are female. A total of 589 accused persons are committed to the High Court for trial. The prison also had a total of 52 appellants of whom 41 had been cause-listed for hearing in ongoing session.

He went further and expressed gratitude for such sessions  which he described as useful especially in the process of decongesting the prison.

At the opening day, Eight cases were handled and the appellants were closely following via video conferencing Technology

 

The post DCJ Decries Low Staffing as Masaka Appeal Session Kicks Off first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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NGOs call for urgent aid as millions on brink of starvation | Human Rights News

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More than 250 NGOs have urgently called on international governments to increase aid and save more than 34 million people on the brink of starvation this year.

In an open letter (PDF) addressed to world leaders on Tuesday, groups working to fight against inequality said up to 270 million people are acutely food insecure with millions “teetering on the very edge of famine”.

“The combined impacts of conflict, climate change and inequality, coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, have led to an acute food insecurity situation around the world,” the letter, whose key signatories include Oxfam, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee, read.

“Needs already cannot be met, and we are increasingly likely to face multiple famines if we do not respond now,” the letter, which came in conjunction with the UN’s call for action to avert famine, added.

In a joint statement, the aid groups noted that a year on since the UN warned of “famine of biblical proportions”, donors have only funded five percent of this year’s $7.8bn food security appeal.

The statement said that the amount of additional funding called for by the UN’s World Food Programme amounts to $5.5bn, which is equivalent to less than 26 hours of the $1.9 trillion that countries spend per year on the military.

“The richest countries are slashing their food aid even as millions of people go hungry; this is an extraordinary political failure,” Oxfam’s executive director, Gabriela Bucher, said.

“They must urgently reverse these decisions. And we must confront the fundamental drivers of starvation – global hunger is not about lack of food, but a lack of equality.”

‘I thought about suicide’

While at least $5.5bn is needed in urgent food and agricultural assistance to avert the imminent risk of famine, millions more is needed to provide health care, clean water and other essential, basic services, the statement said.

At the end of last year, the UN estimated that 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, severe levels of hunger. Some 174 people in 58 countries have reached that level and are at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, the groups said.

They warned that this figure will likely increase in the coming months if no actions are taken, and noted that conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger.

Key conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Northern Nigeria are forcing millions to the brink of starvation.

The joint statement included testimonies from people living in conflict zones and dire humanitarian conditions.

Fadya, from Lahj governorate in Yemen, recalled how she considered suicide “several times”.

“When humanitarian workers came to my hut, they thought I had food because smoke was coming from my kitchen. But I was not cooking food for my children – instead I could only give them hot water and herbs, after which they went to sleep hungry,” she said.

“I thought about suicide several times but I did not do it because of my children.”

The open letter further warned that funding alone is not sufficient.

“The situation requires urgent action, at a scale we are simply not seeing. If no urgent action is taken, lives will be lost.”

Countries need to take immediate political action to stop these conflicts from continuing, and need to address rising inequality, the groups said.

“It is imperative that we raise our collective voices to secure the international attention this cause deserves before it is too late,” they said in closing remarks.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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