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Release of teenage gang rape suspects in Croatia sparks backlash

RELEASE OF TEENAGE GANG RAPE SUSPECTS IN CROATIA SPARKS BACKLASH

Croatia’s president has led the criticism of a judge who released five young men who are alleged to have gang-raped a 15-year-old girl.
The assailants, all aged between 19 and 20, have been accused of repeatedly assaulting the victim from their village near the city of Zadar. They were reportedly caught after she told a psychologist at her school.
Although a judge interrogated the alleged attackers last weekend, the Agence France Presse (AFP) agency reported. They were released while authorities investigated, but have since been take back into custody. 

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Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic hascalled on institutions and wider society to fight against violence in which victims are minors.
“We must not turn a blind eye to the violence in our society, as this will further abuse the victims,” she tweeted.

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1/50 18 October 2019
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2/50 17 October 2019
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5/50 14 October 2019
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19/50 30 September 2019
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24/50 25 September 2019
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27/50 22 September 2019
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29/50 20 September 2019
Thousands of school students and protesters gather in The Domain ahead of a climate strike rally in Sydney. Millions of people around the world are taking part in protests demanding action on climate issues. The Global Strike For Climate is being held only days ahead of the scheduled United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York
Getty

30/50 19 September 2019
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31/50 18 September 2019
Two flamingos at Dresden Zoo in Germany
EPA

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Strong wind and waves roll in at Nordre Strandvej in Denmark
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33/50 16 September 2019
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34/50 15 September 2019
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35/50 14 September 2019
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AFP/Getty

36/50 13 September 2019
Rescue workers on a boat rescue a person stranded inside a flooded tunnel after heavy floods in Pilar de la Horadada, Spain
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Police officers try to control the crowd after members of the public were invited to view Robert Mugabe’s body as it lies in state at the Rufaro stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe
Reuters

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A US flag hangs from a steel girder, damaged in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center at a memorial in Jersey City. It is the 18th anniversary of the attacks
AP

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Local actors dressed as ancient warriors re-enact a scene from the 7th century battle of Kerbala during a ceremony marking Ashura in Iraq
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EPA

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Damaged homes after hurricane Dorian devastated Elbow Key Island in Hope Town, Bahamas. The hurricane hit the island chain as a category 5 storm and battered them for two days before moving north
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An artist performs on Tverskaya street during celebrations marking the 872nd anniversary of the city of Moscow
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Children play football next to a defaced portrait of Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare on the day he died, aged 95. The former leader was forced to resign in 2017, after a 37-year rule, whose early promise was eroded by economic turmoil, disputed elections and human rights violations, has died
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Authorities work at the scene of a train crash in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. According to media reports, more than 30 people were injured after a train hit a track at a crossing
EPA

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A riot police officer throws a teargas canister as looters make off with goods from a store in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. Police had earlier fired rubber bullets as they struggled to stop looters who targeted businesses as unrest broke out in several spots in and around the city
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EPA

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EPA

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A migrant forces his way into the Spanish territory of Ceuta. Over 150 migrants made their way into Ceuta after storming a barbed-wire border fence with Morocco
AFP/Getty

Demonstrations about the case are due to be held on Saturday in the coastal cities of Zadar, Split, Rijeka, Pula and Osijek, according to Total Croatia News.
“By releasing the persons suspected of these serious crimes, the judiciary is endangering the victim’s safety, life and dignity,” organisers said on social media. “We invite you to speak out loud against the system that supports violence. Impunity is a crime”.
Jelena Sesar, Amnesty International’s Balkans researcher, said: “The decision of a judge in the Zadar court to release the suspected perpetrators is shocking and very difficult to understand.
“Unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise. Croatia hasn’t dealt effectively with violence against women, including rape. Even the country’s official data indicate that police and courts rarely acknowledge that acts of violence against women are criminal acts.
“Penalties for rape are extremely low. More than 90 per cent of cases of rape usually result in sentences of one year or less, and in some cases the perpetrators are released early for good behaviour.”

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Ms Sesar added that Croatian criminal legislation does not adequately criminalise rape. The country distinguishes between two separate offences – the offence of rape and that of ‘sexual intercourse without consent’, she said. 

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She added: “The offence of ‘sexual intercourse without consent’ has had a very detrimental impact on the prosecution of rape. In recent years, most cases of marital rape and other rape cases were prosecuted as ‘sexual intercourse without consent’, and the perpetrators were sentenced to the minimum penalties of six months or less.”
However, she said the Croatian government has recently announced that a set of amendments that would abolish the offence of ‘sexual intercourse without consent’.
This was a “very welcome development”, she added,  but will be “obsolete” if it is not properly implemented by the authorities.
She said the way courts have dealt with rape and violence against women in Croatia both undermines the trust of the victims in the judicial system and makes the system “completely ineffective” as a means of deterrent.

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Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of Women for Women International, said: “Earlier this year, I said that the #MeToo movement has not gone far enough, and this case in Croatia proves my point.  Violence against women and girls is a worldwide epidemic, and the root cause of violence is the same no matter where you go in the world. We are living in a society that has created a stereotype of men and women where women are seen as the property of men.
“It means that men think they can treat women however they wish. We urgently need to address the social norms and unequal power relationships that cases like this reveal so starkly, where men walk free and women don’t see the justice they deserve.”
While rape carries a punishment of up to a decade in prison under Croatia’s criminal code, “sexual intercourse without consent” is only liable to be punished by between six months and five years.

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