Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do the Rotherham Rapes Constitute a Crime Against Humanity?

Does the rape, torture and sexual abuse of some 1400 girls and women from 1997 to 2014 who were living in Rotherham constitute a crime against humanity?  The sheer scale of rape and abuse is criminal activity on a scale you might normally associate with Bosnia (1992-1995), Rwanda (1994) or in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the current day.  

The answer appears to be "Yes." 

Having been involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide investigations from the point of view of intelligence support to investigations, disturbing parallels exist between Rotherham and Bosnia. 

According to the official British report, 1400 girls and women in the Rotherham were subjected to a widespread range of crimes of sexual abuse while a variety of political, bureaucratic and police officials knowingly and/or deliberately refused to act.  Worse still, some of those who tried to raise the alarm were threatened with dismissal and then sent of racial sensitivity training courses.  Others who attempted rescues were themselves arrested. According to the report, (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 – 2013):

105.  Agencies should acknowledge the suspected model of localised grooming of young white girls by men of Pakistani heritage, instead of being inhibited by the fear of affecting community relations. People must be able to raise concerns without fear of being labelled racist.

An Investigation in the UK into Crimes Against Humanity? 

In rather dry legal terms, the question might appear something like:  "Was/is the rape and sexual abuse of the 1400 girls and women of Rotherham so widespread that the acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity as they were part of a widespread or systematic practice?"

The following would appear to be factual, according to the report and its author Professor Alexis Jay:

a. A specific set of individuals were targeted, based largely on issues of age, gender and ethnicity by another group of individuals, based largely on their gender and ethnicity;  
b. Those with the political and bureaucratic responsibility for defending the girls and women involved against the various crimes of rape, human trafficking and torture were the Rotherham Borough Council and its bureaucratic arm “Child Services” which chose not to act;
c. The authorities were aware of practice from at least April 2005 and no one could after that time period could say “I did not know.”
d. The practice was widespread based on a conservative estimate of 1400 victims;
e. The practice was of long duration, extending from at least 1997 to 2013;
f. The majority of the 1400  victims lived within a the overall geographic area (Rotherham) although it was clear that the girls/women were the victims of human trafficking and were sold into sexual slavery in other nearby towns.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, crimes against humanity are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings. They do not have to take place in the context of a war (think South African Apartheid) nor does a military have to be involved. They do not have to be international in scale, rather they can occur within sovereign boundaries. 

Racism: The Report and Anecdotal Evidence

The report and anecdotal evidence suggest that claims about individuals being afraid to act due to fears of accusations were a significant factor. Among those are:

a. Denis McShane, the former Labour MP for Rotherham, has stated in public that he was a “Guardian reading liberal leftie” and that he did not want to address the issue of the oppression of women in the Muslim community."  He added that: “I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat if I may put it like that.”

b.  The report stated that: "Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so."

c. One individual has noted that when they tried to raise the issue of mass rapes and abuse by the Pakistani community in Rotherham, they were threatened with dismissal and sent on a racial sensitivity training course.  No action was taken.

Based on the report and the evidence that has emerged to date, it would appear that the threshold for the UK authorities to investigate the rape and abuse of girls and women in Rotherham as a crime against humanity has been met. If you live in the UK, you may want to email your MP or local council member to suggest that this form of investigation is appropriate.

The author has worked as an intelligence analyst for the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Department war crimes section, the RCMP War Crimes Unit and the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in addition to having served one tour on the ground in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia in 1994.

The full report on Rotherham can be found by going to the following URL and clicking on "download now."

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