Â Tanya Domi lived and workedÂ in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1996-2000 to assist the country recover from war. During a research tripÂ to Sarajevo inÂ 2001 she broke the biggest story of her journalism career–a tale ofÂ high crimes, deceit and exploitation.Â
Ten years ago, I broke the story of my life from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, aboutÂ the riveting and courageous actions of American Kathryn Bolkovac, a UN human rights investigator who uncovered an extensive presence of human sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.Â The trafficking was aided andÂ abetted by UN police monitors,Â Bosnian police and government officials, high-level UN and State Department officials, including now retiredÂ U.S. Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein, who at the time wasÂ the highest ranking UN official in Bosnia and had the responsibility for overseeingÂ the UN’sÂ International Police Task Force.
My story was first published in Oslobodenje (“Liberation”), the oldest dailyÂ newspaper in the country, in Â June, 2001 and with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in July, 2001 — the first time human trafficking and prostitution graced the content of its important web pages.
Kathryn Bolkovac was demoted for doing her job by J. Michael Stiers, the Deputy Commissioner of the UN Police Task Force, which ultimately led to her firing delivered by Jamie Popwell, both DynCorp hires and seconded by the State Department. Â DynCorp, a U.S. government subcontractor providesÂ AmericanÂ employees to international missions throughout the world. DynCorp is also a multi-national military and security company, based in Virginia,Â wasÂ purchased in 2010Â by the Cerberus Capital Management Company, located in New York City.
The film,Â “The Whistleblower,” starring Academy-award winner Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, opens in New York City and Los Angeles today and will be released in U.S. cities coast-to-coast on August 12. Being touted as a movie to watch and a potential Oscar contender, the feature thriller is directed by Larysa Kondracki, in her inaugural debut, who earned her M.F.A. in film from Columbia University. Rex Reed, luminary film critic, gives “The Whistleblower” a big boost in the latest edition of theÂ New York Observer, writing the film “reveals a truth more chilling than fiction” and that it’s “rare to see a thriller with the patience to tell an important story and develop a three-dimensional character at the same time.”
Also cast is the indomitable actressÂ Vanessa Redgrave, who portrays Madeleine Rees, aÂ British human rights barrister andÂ the former director ofÂ the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sarajevo. Â Rees confronted Klein on Bolkovac’s illegal termination and called in reinforcements from her superior then–Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner and the former president of Ireland.Â Rees, a heroine in her own right, stood up inside the UN system against Klein and his off-the-rails leadership, instigating an unprecedented investigation into the dealings of the Bosnian Mission.
This drama, inspired by events put in motion byÂ Bolkovac’s penetrating investigations, will perhaps, once and for all, educate the U.S. public not only about the scourgeÂ of human trafficking, but an even more important message, according to Bolkovac, which sheÂ refers to as a “web of deceit” that was woven by a consortium of governments.
The UN,Â private companies and international actors that actively conspired and collaborated, as in the Bolkovac case, thwarting any effort to bring international contractors to justice for their criminal participation in trafficking the bodies of women and children for money and power.
Most of the men involved in these crimes, many of them Americans, if caught, were sent home, absent consequences and were not prosecuted for any crimes, despite the egregiously serious nature of the crimes, like enslavement, or selling women into illegal prostitution, which is a crime in Bosnia. Â That did not matter. What mattered was getting Bolkovac to shut-down her investigations, which UN officials conspired to create a ruse, declaring Bolkovac to be “stressed-out and needing a break” and accused her of submitting falsified times sheets (later disproved by a LondonÂ labor tribunalÂ which unanimously upheld Bolkovac’s complaint that she was wrongly terminated), as the reason to send her packing when she abruptly left the country in April 2001, fearing for her life and futureÂ career as a police officer.
Bolkovac, a former Nebraska police officer, volunteered for duty in Bosnia to help get the country back on its feet, after three years of warÂ that took placeÂ 1992-1995, marking the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian warÂ 100,000 to 110,000 persons were killed.Â Sarajevo was placed under siege by the Bosnian Serb Army by foisting artillery guns on the hills surrounding a breathtaking city Â in a valley that was built more than 600 years ago, joined with sniper nests who took target practice on innocent civilians, killing 10,000, including Â more than 1,000 children, whose graves now encircle the 1984 Olympic Stadium, once the pride and joy of Yugoslavia. The siege of Sarajevo was the longest in the history of modern warfare.
While all wars are hideous, the most recent Balkan wars, in particular was characterized by theÂ macabre specter of former friends and neighbors who turned on one another, resorted to rape, torture andÂ the whole sale jailing of people, mostly Muslim,Â who were confined to concentration and rape camps, some executed and buried in mass graves, which continue to be excavated in the present, betraying the remains of bodies that have been moved two to three times by their guilty perpetrators.
The global changes that ensued while Yugoslavia came undone inÂ combinationÂ with war, helpedÂ create a corruptÂ environment where crime could travel through porous borders andÂ allowed humanÂ trafficking to flourish throughout the Balkans. Women from the poorest countries of the Former Soviet Union–Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine–were traffickedÂ through Belgrade to Kosovo and into Eastern Bosnia, where NATO soldiers and international contractors, presentÂ in large numbers,Â helped themselves to the “prostitutes,” who had been falsely lured with theÂ promises of good paying jobs.
The Bosnian episode of human trafficking uncovered by BolkovacÂ was confirmed by theÂ prodigiousÂ work of former Human Rights Watch researcher, attorneyÂ Martina Vandenberg, who authored a report published in 2002Â titled “Hopes Betrayed:Â Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution.”
As for DynCorp, although theyÂ were foundÂ guilty forÂ Bolkovac’sÂ unjustified and retaliatoryÂ termination by anÂ unanimousÂ LondonÂ Labor Tribunal,Â they continue to publicly maintain, as recently as January 2011Â that Bolkovac’s employment in Bosnia was terminated because she submitted falsified timesheets.Â In an audacious email message sentÂ to its employees in anticipation of the release ofÂ Bolkovac’s memoir about Bosnia, dated January 4, 2011 from Joe Kale, DynCorp International’s Chief Compliance Officer wrote:
“DI does not tolerate any form of retaliation against persons who raise good faith complaints…We strongly disagree with Ms. Bolkovacâ€™s assertions surrounding the circumstances of her dismissal, and with a British employment tribunal that ruled in her favor in 2002. She was dismissed for falsifying timesheets and being absent from work without approval. Nonetheless, we do not plan to engage in a public debate over allegations made a decade ago. We feel that doing so would diminish the importance of the issue: that human trafficking is a serious crime that cannot be tolerated.”
Where are all these individuals now?Â Madeleine Rees is Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Martina Vandenberg continues to pursue bad guys via a robust pro-bono practice. Â She is currently taking down wayward diplomats who illegally detain domestic workers.Â Vandenberg played an instrumental role during the past decadeÂ in successfully urging Congress to close the U.S. contractor loophole, that had previously not permitted prosecution under The Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Â In recent years, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)Â Â contributedÂ new language that provides nearlyÂ universal jurisdiction for prosecution under of any U.S. national, permanent resident or an offender of any nationality present on U.S. territory under 18 U.S.C. 1596, considered a major advance. J. Michael Stiers continues to work internationally.
According to the Washington Post, Klein, whoÂ became the head of the UN Mission to Liberia,Â was terminated for an inappropriate relationshipÂ with “Linda Fawaz, a 30-year-old Liberian American woman whose uncle headed a major timber company”. According to a UN report, “Fawaz (identified as “Local Woman”) accompanied Klein (described as “Senior Official”) to diplomatic functions and regularly traveled on U.N. aircraft in violation of organizational rules.”
Last month,Â retired U.S. Ambassador ThomasÂ Miller, who represented the U.S.Â government inÂ Bosnia and Herzegovina during the period that Bolkovac was fired, publicly Â apologized to Bolkovac for the actions taken againstÂ her,Â during a public forum at the Brookings Institution.Â Bolkovac now lives in Breda, The Netherlands with her domestic partner Jan van de Velde, who she met and fell in love with in Bosnia.Â She no longer works as a police officer and is effectivelyÂ barred from doing so asÂ DynCorp controls all the international contracts for police to international missions.Â Bolkovac would like to train police for international mission work, teach them how to conduct investigationsÂ into all crimes, includingÂ human trafficking.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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‘Sexy’: Comer Obtains Unredacted Emails to VP Biden Revealing Women ‘Privately Mused’ They Found Him Attractive
Amid the chaos of what top Democrats are calling the GOP House’s “civil war,” infighting that threatens to shut down the federal government in nine days, Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer has been obtaining some of then-Vice President Joe Biden‘s emails from the National Archives.
Politico reveals Chairman Comer has been able to obtain several unreacted emails, including one which relayed a tidbit of hearsay, or, “private musings,” from 2009, after an overseas trip Biden took: “multiple” women said they found the Vice President “sexy.”
The emails “include schedules with ordinary family get-togethers,” Politico adds. “One shows Biden had lunch with Hunter Biden’s then-15-year-old daughters, Maisy and Finnegan. Another reveals that the Ukrainians were praising his now-deceased brother, Beau. And then there are the private musings of multiple Georgian women saying they found Joe Biden ‘sexy’ during a 2009 trip that also included a stop in Ukraine.”
“’Must-read email below,’ read an email forwarded by Biden’s then-national security adviser Tony Blinken to Joe Biden and his sons, Hunter and Beau. The email’s subject line: ‘Biden as new Georgian sex symbol.'”
Other emails from the National Archives’ trove include a “June 14, 2016 schedule card shows Biden was to meet with the prime minister of Ukraine. The newly unredacted portions show he was also scheduled to work out with his personal trainer, and to dine with Hunter’s then-15-year-old daughters, Maisy and Finnegan, in the vice president’s office.”
Politico, noting that “Republicans have yet to turn up direct evidence that Joe Biden benefited personally or that he took any official action as a result of those [Hunter Biden’s] connections, also reveals a “May, 27, 2016 schedule card includes a call with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Hunter Biden was copied on the day’s schedule. It’s already been reported that Biden was also due to attend the one-year anniversary of the passing of his son, Beau, back home in Delaware.”
“Comer had been pointing to this scheduling item, since it was also emailed to then-Vice President Biden under a pseudonym email address. Comer even said the vice president was sending a secret message to his son that he was about to fire the prosecutor. As recently as last week, Comer included that email on a list of ‘evidence’ of Joe Biden’s ‘involvement in his family’s influence peddling schemes.'”
Politico also notes that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy “and his allies insisted that opening a formal impeachment inquiry would empower them to dig deeper. Yet the emails are another example of the House GOP failing to turn up evidence they’ve assured the public exists and that will implicate Biden in some form of corruption that rises to an impeachable offense.”
Image via Shutterstock
‘Total Breakdown’: House Sends Members Home – Experts Warn ‘Republicans Can’t Govern’ And Have No ‘Working Majority’
Nine days before an increasingly-likely shutdown of the federal government of the United States, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has effectively adjourned the House for the rest of the week, with GOP leadership telling members they may go home and come back next week, after a procedural vote to fund the Dept. of Defense failed for the second time this week.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram reports, “Note that the House has not officially dismissed everyone.. but everyone expects they are done for the week. Why? They House lacks the VOTES TO ADJOURN.”
He later added that “Things are very fluid,” and “there could be votes TOMORROW or this weekend still in the house. This could be a problem if some members already got on flights.”
Fox News online is reporting, “House abruptly cancels votes for the week without spending deal after series of defeats for GOP leaders,” and notes members are not expected back until Tuesday.
McCarthy this week has repeatedly denigrated and attacked the extremist members of the House Republican conference on camera to reporters, and Thursday was no different, saying, “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) blasted House Republicans upon hearing the House was about to adjourn for the week.
“What you need to understand is that chaos is the point for a big chunk of House Republicans. They came to congress to BURN THE GOVERNMENT TO THE GROUND,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote. “Their goal is a shutdown.”
The sentiment is being echoed by political experts, but many of those are placing the blame on Speaker McCarthy.
Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett, senior advisor to former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro Thursday afternoon wrote: “Reminder: Kevin McCarthy could put a clean bill to fund the government on the floor right now and it would pass easily. Instead, he’s sending members home for the weekend with 9 days until a shutdown—all because he’s afraid he’ll lose his job.”
Evidence that the far-right extremist House Republicans, led by U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are effectively in control comes via Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman:
At 1:13 PM ET Sherman posted that Rep. Gaetz had “just emerged from” Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s suite. “Gaetz said that he’s advocating for pausing consideration of the Pentagon spending bill and moving to bills that cut spending. He mentioned: State-Foreign Ops, Agriculture, Energy and Water.”
Sherman noted that Gaetz “said again there are not enough votes” for a continuing resolution, legislation to keep the government open temporarily, possibly 30 days past the September 30 deadline.
“Just to review, the plan right now is to begin passing 11 appropriations bills with relatively open rules allowing for amendments between next tues (possibly wed) and Sunday.”
At 2:40 PM, Sherman added, “This is now the strategy. They’re going to bring up individual approps [appropriations] bills next week, per lawmakers who just met with @SpeakerMcCarthy.”
Others were less pleased.
Veteran foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen wrote: “truly insane. Mccarthy surrendered to Gaetz.”
Even before McCarthy adjourned the House for the rest of the week, political experts had warned the volatile situation was worse than it may have appeared.
Sherman, late Thursday morning, issued this warning on social media after the failed Defense Dept. vote: “Just to put this in context, republicans cannot even agree to debate the pentagon spending bill. This bill usually passes by big margins. It failed twice this week. Kevin mccarthys House Republicans are in a state of crisis.”
Josh Chafetz, Georgetown Law professor of law and politics, responded to Thursday’s failed Defense Dept. procedural vote, writing: “if you can’t pass the procedural stuff you don’t have a working majority.”
Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) is calling the state of the GOP House a “total breakdown.”
“I started working in the House nearly 11 years ago, I’ve seen some crazy days and some chaotic votes but never seen anything like what is happening with this majority. Just a total breakdown,” he wrote Thursday morning.
Professor and American historian Aaron Astor on Thursday asked, “Does the GOP actually have a working majority in the House?”
Veteran journalist John Harwood quickly replied, “clearly not.”
‘Just Want to Burn the Whole Place Down’: McCarthy Rails Against House Republicans as GOP Conference Explodes in Chaos
Speaker Kevin McCarthy unleashed his anger against his own House Republican conference Thursday as chaos erupted after yet another procedural vote on a defense spending bill failed and the clock ticks closer to a GOP-caused shutdown of the federal government.
McCarthy “failed a crucial test Thursday of his ability to unite his fractured Republican caucus as he tries to rally support to pass a spending bill aimed at avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the month,” CNBC adds.
“It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate, and then you got all the amendments and if you don’t like the bill,” McCarthy admitted to reporters in what has increasingly become opportunities for him to trash the most far-right Republicans in the House.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” he lamented. “It doesn’t work.”
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.”
— After House Republicans once again failed to pass a basic procedural rule to fund the Pentagon, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) hits some members of his own conference pic.twitter.com/Qt4AR71jP3
— The Recount (@therecount) September 21, 2023
“This is really unheard of,” CNBC’s Emily Wilkins reported. “I mean just a rule going down as a procedural thing, that’s pretty rare as is, and for it to happen twice in one week. Last night Republicans came ut of their all hands on deck Republican meeting. A number of them sounded optimistic about moving forward.”
Thursday failed procedural vote “really did catch Speaker McCarthy by surprise,” Wilkins added.
“He said he did not realize there were not going to be the votes to move forward on this.”
The House failed to pass a procedural rules vote today, @emrwilkins
reports. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said. “That doesn’t work.” https://t.co/1xf6Y33riV pic.twitter.com/kK31lrHOyr
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 21, 2023
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