LPD Officer Sarah Williams Encourages Action, Empathy To Prevent Human Trafficking

Trafficking photo

Sarah Williams said she was shocked when she learned from author and journalist Benjamin Skinner that slavery is a modern day occurence. Inspired, Williams dug deeper into the subject to see how she could make a difference.

It was after further research that she learned that human trafficking is an epidemic she can prevent. Both realizations began Williams’ career in preventing human trafficking.

Williams works as a patrol officer on the Lincoln Police Department’s southwest team, and focuses on prostitution and human trafficking. She shared her police experiences preventing human trafficking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Andersen Hall on Nov. 20 in an event hosted by the Nebraska University Students Against Modern Slavery.

She discussed factors that contribute to human trafficking, like family dysfunction and mental illness. She also shared stories of human trafficking that ranged from children forced into human trafficking to an attorney accused of soliciting prostitutes.

Williams said those factors and stories fit into a larger picture of human trafficking in Nebraska.According to the Omaha Women’s Fund, 900 people are sold in Nebraska each month — 200 of which are from Lincoln.

Williams discussed human trafficking victims’ reluctance to speak with the police, especially when the victims are not from the United States. She said their unwillingness presents a significant hurdle against prevention.

https://www.sistersagainsttrafficking.org/in-the-news/

Sudan detains nine opposition leaders ahead of planned protest

Sudan photoSudan has been rocked by more than a week of protests sparked by rise in bread prices [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Arrests came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Authorities in Sudan have arrested at least nine opposition leaders and activists, according to a civil society group, in the face of fresh anti-government protests expected after the weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.

Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.

At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. However, rights group Amnesty International put the death toll at 37.

The arrests of opposition leaders occurred late on Thursday after security forces raided their meeting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, according to a statement by a committee of professional organisations involved in the protests.

The nine arrested included Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.

The raid came after opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were briefly held last Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the protests were getting increased backing from political and civil society groups.

“It is not clear if the government would allow the protests to go, we have seen on Tuesday how they responded with tear gas and live ammunition,” she said, adding: “And this is basically what might be happening today again that more live ammunition and tear gas will be used and that the death toll will rise.”

Economic crisis

Protests initially started in towns and villages more than a week ago and later spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three ($0.02 to $0.06).

Demonstrators have also been marching against Sudan’s dire economic situation and some have called for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation.

Doctors and journalists have launched a strike in support of the protests.

Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis since 2011 when the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.

The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.

Opposition groups blame Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 coup, for the mismanagement.

A series of economic measures, including a sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.

In January 2018, Sudan was shaken by rare nationwide protests triggered by high bread prices.

But the recent protests that began on December 19 appear to be more serious.

Since the demonstrations began, police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators, according to residents.

The authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and a state of emergency in several regions.

Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed next to the independent newspaper’s offices.
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/sudan-detains-opposition-leaders-planned-protest-181228102006637.html

UAE activist Mansoor loses final appeal against 10-year sentence

UAE photoAhmed Mansoor was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court for ‘defaming the UAE through social media channels’ [File: Nikhil Monteiro/Reuters]

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against prominent pro-democracy activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticising the government on social media, Amnesty International reported.

Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet, was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court for “defaming the UAE through social media channels”.

Mansoor was among five activists convicted and later pardoned for insulting the UAE’s rulers in 2011.

He was arrested again in March 2017 at his home in Ajman on charges of publishing false information and rumours, and of promoting a sectarian and hate-incited agenda.

Mansoor was also charged with using social media to “harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country’s reputation”.

Local media reported that the father of four, Mansoor, was handed a fine of one million dirhams ($270,000) for insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leader.

Several international rights groups, including the United Nations human rights bodies, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the European Union Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights have condemned the sentencing of Mansoor earlier this year.

‘No space for freedom’

Responding to Monday’s decision by the court to uphold Mansoor’s sentence, Amnesty’s Middle East Research director, Lynn Maalouf said that the decision proves “there is no space for freedom [of] expression in the United Arab Emirates”.

His only ‘crime’ was “to express his peaceful opinion on social media, and it is outrageous that he is being punished with such [a] heavy prison sentence” she said in a statement.

“The authorities must ensure his conviction and sentence are quashed and release him immediately and unconditionally,” the statement read.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in October, Joe Odell, the campaigns manager for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said that since the cybercrime law in 2012 came into force, there has yet to be a precedent where a rights activity has successfully appealed their sentence.

“It is unlikely that the process will be a fair and independent one,” he said.

“His continued detention is in clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to which the UAE is a signatory,” Odell added.

In 2015, Mansoor won the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders for his work in the UAE.

He’s been described by the awarding body as “one of the few voices within the UAE who provide a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country.”

An expert told the UN Human rights commision last year that Mansoor’s arrest and detention is a “direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.”

Human Rights Watch in March 2018 said Mansoor is believed to have been held in solitary confinement.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

DRC protests about election delay violently put down

Congo 2
Police arrest a man in Goma during a protest against the postponement of the general election, blamed on an Ebola outbreak and rising violence. Photograph: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP/Getty Images

Live rounds fired during protests against three-month delay in opposition areas

Ruth Maclean in Dakar

Congolese security forces have violently put down protests that broke out after the country’s presidential election was postponed by three months in key opposition strongholds.

In the eastern city of Beni, armed men fired live rounds and teargas at protesters demonstrating against the changes on Thursday. Protesters allegedly attacked the office of the agency coordinating the Ebola response and invaded an isolation centre, causing dozens of patients to flee.

The latest electoral delay in Africa’s second-biggest country will exclude more than 1.2 million people from the 30 December vote and is expected to favour the ruling party and its candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, handpicked by the incumbent, Joseph Kabila.

On Wednesday the national electoral commission (CENI) announced a delay of the vote in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi and surrounding rural areas until March, long after the new president is due to be sworn in.

The commission blamed the DRC’s devastating outbreak of Ebola and potential terrorist attacks for the delay, which may lead to votes in the three affected areas not being counted in the election.

“Elections lead to important movements of voters toward polling places, thus leading to concentrations of people … raising the risk of propagation of this disease and providing the conditions for terrorist attacks,” the CENI said in a statement.

The health ministry had previously said the Ebola outbreak, which has killed 354 people in eastern Congo and is the second largest to date, would not prevent the vote from going ahead.

The election was due to be held on 23 December nationwide, but was postponed by a week. Many Congolese voters who travelled from neighbouring countries to cast their ballots had to leave before they could do so.

The government has not explained how it will take account of the delayed votes in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi.

Kabila, who came to power after his father was assassinated in 2001, won elections in 2006 and 2011. But when his mandate expired in 2016 and he was prevented by the constitution from running again, he did not step down. Instead the CENI announced it had not held a census to find out how many voters there were and did not have the $1bn (£790m) it said it needed to conduct an election.

Opposition leaders said Kabila was behind the decision to postpone the election, and this was buttressed by a constitutional court ruling that he would stay on as president in the event of electoral delays.

Shadary, who is accused of obstructing the electoral process and of serious human rights abuses, is one of 14 senior officials the EU has placed under sanctions for three years running. On Thursday the Congolese foreign ministry announced it would expel the bloc’s ambassador, Bart Ouvry, in response to the EU’s decision to renewthe sanctions two weeks ago despite a plea from the African Union to drop them.

Meanwhile, the opposition to Shadary is shaky. Two major political leaders were excluded from the election on technicalities, and the remaining opposition has failed to unite around a single candidate. The two main candidates are Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive, and Félix Tshisekedi, son of the late Étienne Tshisekedi, Kabila’s old foe and a popular stalwart of the opposition.

Millions of Congolese are struggling to survive. Five million have been displaced and 13 million are in need of help after decades of conflict. Hundreds of armed groups contribute to the instability in the east, while people in Kasai are struggling to recover from the 2016 conflict between government forces and the Kamuina Nsapu movement.

Analysts say business interests are behind what has been framed as an inter-communal conflict in the province of Ituri. Insecurity is preventing health workers from getting to many areas with suspected Ebola cases, leading to more infections.

The epidemic of rape, which activists say began in the mid-1990s, has continued unabated throughout Kabila’s presidency; in October the new Nobel peace prize winner Denis Mukwege told the Guardian he held the president personally responsible for not protecting the country’s women, along with his “illegal and illegitimate” government.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/27/congolese-soldiers-fire-air-quell-protests-against-election-delay

Human trafficker at London Olympics gets 30 year prison sentence in U.S.

Trafficking 2A child waves an Union flag near Olympic rings at the entrance of the venue for the men’s modern pentathlon during the London 2012 Olympics at Greenwich Park August 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Jason Fields

WASHINGTON,  (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An “evil” man who tried to traffic a teenage boy into London to be sold for sex during the 2012 Olympics has been sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. prison, in a case of human trafficking that draws attention during international sporting events.

Jason Gandy was stopped in July 2012 by immigration officers in Britain who suspected something was wrong with the adult man traveling with an unrelated 15-year-old boy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

British authorities sent Gandy home to Houston, Texas for trial.

He was convicted of sex trafficking of minors in July and sentenced this week by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal who told him: “You are evil, and most evil are those who willingly exploit others for their own gratification.”

Along with the incident at the London Olympics, there were reports of Nigerians taken to Russia for sex during the World Cup this past summer and, in the United States, football’s Super Bowl also draws concerns over trafficking.

However experts are split on whether such spectacles actively fuel trafficking. Many say the commercial sex market grows during any number of large events and caution that such concern draws attention away from what is a year-round crime.

Some 1.5 million people in the United States are estimated to be victims of trafficking, mostly for sexual exploitation. The majority are children, according to a U.S. Senate report published last year.

Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization.

Of that total, an estimated 4.5 million people are forced into sex work, and children are estimated to comprise 5.5 million of the overall victims, according to the ILO.

In Gandy’s case, the man paid for the boy’s airfare and passport, U.S. officials said.

He planned to make the boy perform massages and sex acts with customers, taking advantage of the crowds gathered for the Olympics, they said.

He also molested the boy himself, they said.

Men who survived Gandy’s molestation testified at his sentencing about their ordeals being enslaved at a massage operation Gandy ran out of his home in Houston, prosecutors said.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219193057-d1lsq

Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation to shut down

Trump photoMr Trump and his three eldest children are accused of using it for private and political gain; AFP

US President Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation has agreed to close down amid allegations that he and others illegally misused its funds.

The move was announced by the Attorney General of New York State, Barbara Underwood, who will supervise the distribution of its remaining monies.

She has accused Mr Trump and his three eldest children of using it for private and political gain.

The foundation’s lawyer accused her of attempting to politicise the matter.

This is just one of several legal cases currently swirling around Mr Trump and his family. Others include a wide-ranging special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia headed by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

What do prosecutors say?

Ms Underwood said the case against Mr Trump and his children Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric would continue.

In a statement, she said there had been “a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful co-ordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and wilful self-dealing, and much more”.

She continued: “This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a chequebook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”
Under the terms of the deal to shut down the foundation, Ms Underwood said, it could only be dissolved under judicial supervision and could only distribute its assets “to reputable organisations approved by my office”.

She added: “This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone.

“We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

And the Trumps?

In a statement to the BBC, Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas – signatory to the deal closing the foundation – said: “Contrary to the NYAG’s [New York Attorney General] misleading statement… the foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

“Unfortunately, the NYAG sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7m.

“Over the past decade, the foundation is proud to have distributed approximately $19m, including $8.25m of the president’s personal money, to over 700 different charitable organisations with virtually zero expenses.

“The NYAG’s inaccurate statement of this morning is a further attempt to politicize this matter.”

Mr Trump and his eldest children have yet to comment.

Last June, Mr Trump indicated on Twitter that he was not willing to settle the case, insisting the foundation had done nothing wrong.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46611178

Hundreds of trafficked children go missing from UK care homes

Trafficking photoARCHIVE PHOTO: A girl looks out over fog covered Leicestershire countryside, central England REUTERS/Darren Staples

Findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at time when record number of suspected
child slaves are being referred to government

By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A growing number of
trafficked children in Britain are going missing from care
homes, with some feared to be returning to their traffickers
after being treated like criminals or illegal immigrants by
authorities, two charities said on Wednesday.

A quarter of the 1,015 identified or suspected child
trafficking victims in the care of local authorities went
missing at least once last year – 246 children compared to 167
in 2015 – according to research by ECPAT UK and Missing
People.

The child victims reported as missing from care disappeared
seven times on average. Their reasons for running away
included poor accommodation, fear of authorities and the
ongoing control of human traffickers, the charities said in a
report.

The findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at a time when a record number of
suspected child slaves are being referred to the government –
2,118 last year and up two-thirds on 2016 – campaigners said.

“Trafficked and unaccompanied children continue to be failed
by the system which should be safeguarding and protecting
them,” said Jane Hunter, senior research manager at Missing
People.

“(They) are particularly vulnerable, and may go back into a
highly exploitative situation to those they were trafficked
by.”

Britain’s Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said
that any missing child was cause for “serious concern”.

“We require all care placements to have clear procedures in
place to prevent children from going missing,” he said in a
statement.

About a fifth of the 975 trafficked or unaccompanied children
reported as missing from care in Britain last year have not
yet been found, according to the charities’ data.

“I can see why young people run away to their trafficker,” one
child who went missing from care was quoted anonymously as
saying in the report. “It is ‘better the devil you know’.”

Despite being hailed as a global leader in the anti-slavery
drive, Britain said in July it would review its landmark 2015
law amid criticism that it is not being used fully to jail
traffickers, drive firms to stop forced labour, or help
victims.

Many child victims of trafficking are convicted of crimes they
are forced to commit in captivity – such as drug offences on
cannabis farms where many Vietnamese teenagers are found – and
are later refused asylum, lawyers and campaigners have said.

Between 2015 and 2017, Britain denied asylum to 183 people
trafficked as children from nations such as Vietnam – double
the total for the previous three years – government data
obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation
revealed in July.

“Too often these children are treated as criminals or
immigration offenders, rather than vulnerable children
requiring support,” said Catherine Baker, ECPAT’s senior
research officer.

Britain is home to at least 136,000 modern slaves, according
to the Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free
Foundation – a figure 10 times higher than a government
estimate from 2013.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219170931-4fzv8/