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AP Investigation: Rape of Rohingya sweeping, methodical

By Associated Press

Published: 00:12 EST, 11 December 2017 | Updated: 01:17 EST, 11 December 2017
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By Associated Press

Published: 00:12 EST, 11 December 2017 | Updated: 01:17 EST, 11 December 2017

UKHIA, Bangladesh (AP) – The newlyweds were asleep in their home in western Myanmar in June when seven soldiers charged in.

The woman, a Rohingya Muslim who agreed to be identified by her first initial, F, knew enough to be terrified. She knew the military had been attacking Rohingya villages, as part of what the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing in the mostly Buddhist nation. She heard just days before that soldiers had killed her parents and that her brother was missing.

Now they had come for her. The men bound her husband with rope, and tied her scarf around his mouth. They yanked off her jewelry and tore off her clothes. They threw her to the floor.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, photo, F, 22, who says she was raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces in June and again in September, cries as she speaks to The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, photo, F, 22, who says she was raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces in June and again in September, cries as she speaks to The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

And then, she says, the first soldier began to rape her.

She struggled against him, but four men held her down and beat her with sticks. Her husband finally wriggled the gag out of his mouth and screamed.

And then she watched as a soldier fired a bullet into the chest of the man she had married only one month before. Another soldier slit his throat.

Her mind grew fuzzy. When the soldiers were finished, they dragged her outside and set her bamboo house ablaze.

It would be two months before she realized her misery was far from over: She was pregnant.

_______

The Associated Press reported this story with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

____________

The rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical, the Associated Press found in interviews with 29 women and girls who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. These sexual assault survivors from several refugee camps were interviewed separately and extensively. The women gave AP their names, but agreed to be publicly identified only by their first initial, citing fears they or their families would be killed by Myanmar's military. They ranged in age from 13 to 35, came from a wide swath of villages in Myanmar's Rakhine state and described assaults between October 2016 and mid-September.

Yet there was a sickening sameness to their stories, with distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves.

The testimonies bolster the U.N.'s contention that Myanmar's armed forces are systematically employing rape as a "calculated tool of terror" aimed at exterminating the Rohingya people. The Myanmar armed forces did not respond to multiple requests from the AP for comment, but an internal military investigation last month concluded that none of the assaults ever took place. When journalists asked about rape allegations during a government-organized trip to Rakhine in September, Rakhine's minister for border affairs, Phone Tint, replied: "These women were claiming they were raped, but look at their appearances – do you think they are that attractive to be raped?"

Doctors and aid workers, however, say they are stunned at the sheer volume of rapes, and suspect only a fraction of women have come forward. Medecins Sans Frontieres doctors have treated 113 sexual violence survivors since August, a third of them under 18. The youngest was 9.

Each woman interviewed by the AP described attacks that involved groups of men, often coupled with other forms of extreme violence. Every woman except one said the assailants wore military-style uniforms, generally dark green or camouflage. The lone woman who described her attackers as wearing plain clothes said her neighbors recognized them from the local military outpost.

Many women said the uniforms bore various patches featuring stars or, in a couple cases, arrows. Such patches represent the different units of Myanmar's army.

Though the scale of these attacks is new, the use of sexual violence by Myanmar's security forces is not. Before she became Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi herself said Myanmar's armed forces used rape as a weapon to intimidate ethnic nationalities.

Yet Suu Kyi's government has not only failed to condemn the recent accounts of rape, it has dismissed the accounts as lies. In Dec. 2016, the government issued a press release disputing Rohingya women's reports of sexual assaults, accompanied by an image that said "Fake Rape."

More than three months after the men burst into F's home, she was living with her neighbors – a couple and their 5-year-old son. The timing of her rape left little doubt that the baby growing inside her belonged to one of the men who had caused all her grief.

She could only pray that things would not get worse. And then, one night in mid-September, they did.

The men broke down the door. There were five of them this time, F remembers. They slashed the boy's throat, and killed the man.

Then they turned to the man's wife, and to F. And her nightmare began again.

They stripped off the women's clothes and threw them to the floor. F's friend fought back, and the men beat her so viciously the skin on her thighs began to peel away.

But the fight had gone out of F. She felt her body go soft, felt the blood run between her legs as the first man forced himself on her, and then the second. Three men savaged her friend.

When it was over, the women lay on the floor for days.

Finally, F hauled herself to her feet, pulling her friend up with her. Hand in hand, the women stumbled to the next village, and then began the 10-day journey to Bangladesh.

Which is where F lives now, in a tiny bamboo shelter between two filthy latrines. And it is here that F prays her baby will be a boy – because this world is no place for a girl.

The child will be the only family F has left. For her, the most haunting reminder of the agony she endured also, somehow, represents her last chance at happiness.

"Everybody has died," she says. "I don't have anyone to care for me. If I give this baby away, what will I have left? There will be nothing to live for."

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, Rohingya children stand in the shade of a tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, Rohingya children stand in the shade of a tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, Rohingya children stand in the shade of a tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, K, 30, is photographed carrying her baby, born two months premature, and her son beside her as she points to pictures of symbols that designate various units of Myanmar's armed forces in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, K, 30, is photographed carrying her baby, born two months premature, and her son beside her as she points to pictures of symbols that designate various units of Myanmar's armed forces in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, K, 30, is photographed carrying her baby, born two months premature, and her son beside her as she points to pictures of symbols that designate various units of Myanmar's armed forces in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, shows off the scars on her knees and right shin from injuries obtained when members of Myanmar's armed forces dragged her out of her house before gang raping her, during an interview with The Associated Press in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, shows off the scars on her knees and right shin from injuries obtained when members of Myanmar's armed forces dragged her out of her house before gang raping her, during an interview with The Associated Press in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, shows off the scars on her knees and right shin from injuries obtained when members of Myanmar's armed forces dragged her out of her house before gang raping her, during an interview with The Associated Press in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, covers her face with her headscarf while being photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, covers her face with her headscarf while being photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, covers her face with her headscarf while being photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, F, 22, who says she was raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces in June and again in September, clutches her hands around her pregnant belly as she is photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, F, 22, who says she was raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces in June and again in September, clutches her hands around her pregnant belly as she is photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, photo, F, 22, who says she was raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces in June and again in September, clutches her hands around her pregnant belly as she is photographed in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, prepares lunch while her children wait beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, prepares lunch while her children wait beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, prepares lunch while her children wait beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, cries as she recounts being gang raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces during an interview with The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, cries as she recounts being gang raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces during an interview with The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, cries as she recounts being gang raped by members of Myanmar's armed forces during an interview with The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, is seen in silhouette as she speaks to The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, is seen in silhouette as she speaks to The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, R, 13, is seen in silhouette as she speaks to The Associated Press in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, speaks to The Associated Press while her children watch cautiously beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, speaks to The Associated Press while her children watch cautiously beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, right, speaks to The Associated Press while her children watch cautiously beside her in their tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, swings her two month old baby in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, swings her two month old baby in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, photo, K, 25, swings her two month old baby in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, photo, F, 22, pregnant, prays in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)In this Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, photo, F, 22, pregnant, prays in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, photo, F, 22, pregnant, prays in her tent in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Associated Press has found that the rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces has been sweeping and methodical. The AP interviewed 29 women and girls who say they were raped by Myanmar's armed forces, and found distinct patterns in their accounts, their assailants' uniforms and the details of the rapes themselves. The most common attack involved groups of soldiers storming into a house, beating any children inside and then beating and gang raping the women. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

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Australia

Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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