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Appeals Will Launch 'Stop Violence Against Women'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nationwide street appeals will launch "Stop Violence Against Women" in NZ

Kavira Muraulu is a farmer in her fifties who lives near a military camp in Mangangu, near the town of Beni, North-Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On the night of 16 May 2003, a soldier broke into Kavira's home and raped her. The man who raped Kavira was a soldier from the military camp. When she complained to his military commander, he ordered the soldier to pay her three US dollars in compensation, but took no action when the order was ignored. She took her complaint to the local district governor, who issued reassurances and told her to go home, but made no arrangements to ensure her safety.

The rapist and other soldiers then seized her in her fields, tied her up and beat her, knocking out a tooth and injuring her jaw. They only stopped when another woman threatened them with a gun. Kavira was later taken back to the governor's office where he tried, but failed, to persuade her to retract her accusation. The soldiers then attacked her again, this time bayoneting her in the stomach. Despite continued official pressure and the risk to her life, Kavira is determined to obtain justice and compensation.

Esperanza Amaris Miranda supported her two children by selling lottery tickets in the city of Barrancabermeja, Colombia. She was also a member of the Popular Women's Organisation (OFP), which has campaigned for women's rights for more than 30 years.

On 16 October 2003 she was reportedly abducted from her home by three armed men. The men - apparently members of army-backed paramilitary forces - forced her into a taxi. When her 21-year-old daughter clung on to the door of the moving car, the men got out and kicked her to the ground. A few minutes later, Esperanza's body was abandoned in the road. She had been shot dead. Esperanza's abductors reportedly said they were from the Central Bolivar Bloc, a paramilitary group that had previously threatened her. She had reported the threats to the Regional Prosecutor. Yet the police took no effective action to safeguard her and, after her abduction, did not answer OFP's phone calls.

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Nationwide "Freedom Week" street appeals on behalf of Kavira Murualu and Esperanza Amaris Miranda will mark the public launch of Amnesty International's global Stop Violence Against Women campaign in New Zealand.

Freedom Week runs from 2-8 August 2004 and is Amnesty International New Zealand's annual national fundraising and human rights awareness week. The focus of the launch campaign is violence against women in armed conflict. This part of the campaign continues for three months after Freedom Week.

Street collections to raise money for the campaign are being held in Wellington on Thursday 5 August. On Friday 6 August (Freedom "Day") they will be held in: Auckland (city centre, North Shore, Remuera, West Auckland), Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Napier, Hastings/Havelock North, Palmerston North, Wellington, Kapiti Coast/Horowhenua, Nelson/Takaka, Christchurch, Ashburton, Timaru, Dunedin, and Invercargill.

The collections are being organised by local Amnesty groups who will ask the public to sign appeal letters to President Uribe of Colombia and president Kabila of DRC - on behalf of Esperanza Amaris Miranda and Kavira Murualu respectively. People can add their names to online petition versions of the letters at www.amnesty.org.nz

The public are also being invited to make $20 Freedom Week donations by phoning 0900 HUMAN RIGHTS (0900 48626) or donate online at www.amnesty.org.nz. Money raised will help Amnesty International:

- campaign to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Esperanza Miranda and the rape, beating and bayoneting of Kavira Muraulu - defend women human rights defenders in Colombia and many other countries - work to end the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as weapons of war in DRC and elsewhere - defend women around the world against all forms of violence in times of war and peace.

"Violence against women is one of the most widespread and pervasive human rights violations. It is also one of the least acknowledged," said Ced Simpson, Amnesty International's New Zealand Director.

"This campaign highlights the deadly effect of systematic, politically-supported violence on individual women. The story of Esperanza Amaris is horrifying testimony to the way women in Colombia risk their lives - and sometimes pay with their lives - to defend human rights.

"Kavira Muraulu, unfortunately, is one of thousands of women who have been raped with impunity by forces on all sides of the five-year war in DRC. In many cases the rape victims have also been deliberately injured or killed. And thousands of women and girls have been abducted or forced by poverty to become sexual slaves or frontline fighters. The victims' trauma is compounded by the high risk of HIV infection. The medical and psychological treatment they need is almost completely absent throughout the country.

"With public support, from people in New Zealand and around the world, we can, and must, end this kind of appalling violence against women and girls - violence that happens to them because they are women and girls."

ENDS.

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