Human Right At Sea (HRAS) becomes a registered charity

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Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) is very pleased to be able to announce that it has become a Registered Charity in England and Wales after only 13 months since its launch on 3 April 2014.

The charity’s aim is to explicitly raise awareness, implementation and accountability of human rights provisions throughout the maritime environment, especially where they are currently absent, ignored or being abused. It has been lawfully established and constituted with strong governance and national regulatory oversight.

Founder and now CEO of HRAS, David Hammond, said: “The development of Human Rights at Sea has been remarkably quick, first as an initiative and now as a charity. This reflects what we see as a clear gap in the international space for such a charitable body and its investigatory and advocacy work. We aim to ask the tough questions on difficult matters while delivering objective solutions where able. This approach has already highlighted the strong moral fibre of those who will work with us.”

“This is clearly a fantastic achievement for the HRAS team who have put in significant effort and many long hours in this first year in order to establish the organisation on very limited funding and support. Nevertheless, we have demonstrated significant value for money to date, and we have delivered on our promise to provide an objective international maritime human rights platform. Our investigative case studies, maritime-based projects and programmes are all clearly relevant to today’s maritime environment.”

“HRAS will go from strength-to-strength as an independent platform supporting the maritime human element, promoting corporate social responsibility and as an organisation we are here to stay.”

A joint trustees statement led by Jens Dieckmann, Attorney-at-Law said: “What distinguishes Human Rights at Sea is the overarching approach. Human rights on the high seas applies to everyone; fishermen, refugees and seafarers, while the modern maritime and fishing industries need to apply the highest human rights standards throughout the entire supply chain. Such a holistic international approach is both unique and beyond compare at this time. The current refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and in South East Asia shows that an isolated consideration and approach falls short. HRAS is able to make a decisive contribution to fill this gap. We, the HRAS Trustees, will ensure that this ambitious mission will be successfully accomplished.”

Commenting on the achievement, members of the Advisory Board and other HRAS supporters have added their congratulations:

Martin Foley, National Director, Apostleship of the Sea & HRAS Board of Advisors
“In a very short space of time HRAS has become a powerful advocate for seafarers’ rights. Registration as a charity will enhance its ability to speak up on behalf of seafarers who are denied their basic rights.”

Philip Wake, Chief Executive, The Nautical Institute
“The Nautical Institute is delighted to hear that Human Rights at Sea has achieved charitable status in the UK. We are sure that this not only confirms that a sound governance structure has been put in place to underpin their work on behalf of seafarers but that it will also assist the industry in supporting their important work financially. It is a sad but undeniable fact that seafarers continue to be unjustly criminalised for bona fide accidents in the course of their essential work for society and the world economy and to be denied shore leave in some countries, so the support HRAS provides to them is essential and The Nautical Institute looks forward to working with them to address these issues.”

Holman Fenwick Willan LLP
“HFW is delighted that the work of Human Rights at Sea has been recognised through the achievement of registered charity status. Having worked with HRAS from its inception, we fully support its aims and believe that recognition by the Charity Commission is a true reflection of the hard work and dedication of those involved in progressing this important cause. We look forward to supporting HRAS through the next stage of their development.”

Andrew Varney, Managing Director Port2Port Limited
“Charity Status for the Human Rights at Sea is a fantastic achievement for David Hammond and his team. This reinforces the most basic of rights for seafarers across the globe, including maritime security operatives working on board. I fully support the promotion and awareness of human rights for all seafarers; only recently one of Port2Port’s contractors was involved in the rescue of fishermen off Ghana, following the sinking of their vessel. All maritime security operatives embark with a thorough understanding of their moral and contractual responsibilities to their fellow seafarers, underpinned by the principles defined and upheld by HRAS.”

Roy Paul, Programme Director, Maritime Humanitarian Piracy Response programme (MHPRP)
“MHPRP welcomes the news that charitable status has been achieved by Human Rights at Sea. HRAS will give a voice to seafarers who, at sea, are out of sight and out of mind and often live and work without protection of the law. The desperation to escape poverty forces seafarers into slavery and expose them to inhuman living conditions. The failure to provide adequate protection and recovery from violent maritime crime, deprive seafarers of their livelihood. Their lives are being threatened. The numerous faces on the HRAS Missing Seafarers Register and the high toll of unnamed maritime deaths per year underscores the need for human rights to be applied at sea with as much diligence as anywhere else. MPHRP has added many of those seafarers to the Register, brought to our attention by desperate families and loved ones of piracy victims and other maritime incidents. It brings some comfort knowing that their kin are not forgotten. While MLC2006 sets minimum standards, it falls short of enforcing human rights in the maritime domain. To this end MPHRP hopes for the success of Human Rights at Sea.”

Aleka Sheppard, Chairman (Founder), London Shipping Law Centre & HRAS Board of Advisors
“The perils at sea for mariners are as great as ever. Take piracy, which ranges from the Gulf of Guinea to the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Failed states such as Libya have dangerous waters for both professional mariners and now migrants trafficked at sea. Even in modern ships, seafarers are exposed to serious risks as they have been for thousands of years, a startling situation in a modern world. In addition, mariners may face criminalisation, even for defending themselves against these threats. Yet, it is paradoxical that the rise of globalisation through trade has not been accompanied by a concomitant rise in protecting the human rights of those at sea. Therefore the grant of charitable status to HRAS is a great achievement and very timely as the rights of seafarers everywhere require safeguarding.”

Ken Peters Director of Justice and Public Affairs The Mission to Seafarers
“I am delighted to recommend Human Rights at Sea for all the work they do to support seafarers in need and for their key activities in raising awareness, implementation and accountability of human rights provisions through the maritime environment. They work to research and publish important case studies based on international maritime law, which has helped countless seafarers where their human rights are absent, ignored or being abused. The Mission works across the shipping world in around 260 of the world’s ports and our vital work providing welfare services to seafarers includes pastoral care and friendship in these very complex circumstances, amongst others. I want to congratulate David Hammond CEO and Founder of HRAS for setting up a new maritime charity which is now registered in England and Wales.”

Associated Foreign Exchange (AFEX)
“AFEX is delighted that Human Rights at Sea has achieved charity status. The principles, objectives and cutting edge approach of HRAS towards the provision of human rights for all seafarers resonate entirely with AFEX’s Maritime Corporate Social Responsibility Policy and we congratulate all at HRAS for this deserved recognition of the importance of their mission.”

Joanna Ewart-James, Director, Walk Free Partner Network
“I welcome the formal establishment of Human Rights at Sea. The isolation which attracts many to a life at sea also allows rights violations to thrive hidden from view. Whilst life at sea is usually a positive experience, sadly some are victims of crimes such as modern slavery. The Walk Free movement remains poised to support organisations like HRAS secure change to end slavery at sea.”

Steven Kay QC, Head 9 Bedford Row International Group & HRAS Board of Advisors
“The HRAS initiative critically emphasises the responsibilities and duties owed to all persons on the high seas be they seafarers, fishermen or boat people. This neglected area of people’s rights now has a protective cover.”

David Wardrop, Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch
“The United Nations Association Westminster Branch congratulates Human Rights at Sea on gaining charitable status. The speed with which organisations like ours as well as governments and individuals confirmed our ready support for its strong voice advocating human rights issues in the maritime environment reflects the urgency of its work and our confidence in its leadership.”

Rear-Admiral Nick Lambert Royal Navy, HRAS Board of Advisors
“I unhesitatingly commend the vision of HRAS and the recent award of its charitable status by The Charity Commission. Notwithstanding the sterling efforts of many agencies and institutions, the plight of countless seafarers, fishermen and migrants at sea has been largely ignored by the international community for far too long. Proper recognition of and attention to their human rights offers a clear course of action, the potential for effectively addressing their circumstances and, above all, hope for the many people we’re seeing all too often in news media coverage.”

Agustin Blanco-Bazan, HRAS Board of Advisors
“The preservation of human rights at sea should be understood as a paramount task conditioning all activities in the maritime field. As such, it should be addressed holistically, namely as a subject matter comprising the aspirations of all: seafarers, migrants, missing persons and their families, alleged offenders in connection with crimes at sea, etc. HRAS enables the development of this holistic approach. It does so by means of complementing the work of many institutions representing different sectors of the maritime industry. In this way HRAS provides the added value of a vision encompassing all situations where basic rights seem to be more vulnerable at sea than on land.”

Brig. Ret’d., Martin Xuereb, Director, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)
“The work HRAS has done in raising awareness on the need for protection of human rights at sea is admirable. I am very pleased to hear the organisation has achieved charitable status that will allow them to extend their action internationally. MOAS will keep collaborating with them to ensure that rights of vulnerable people at sea are respected.”

Shelly Whitman, Executive Director, Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
“The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is elated to hear that Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has received registered charity status. The Dallaire Initiative has been a proud supporting entity of Human Rights at Sea since its founding and we look forward to working with HRAS to develop effective means of mitigating, and hopefully eliminating, human rights abuses at sea. HRAS has shown unwavering support of the Dallaire Initiative’s work on raising the rights of children on the maritime security sector agenda. The Dallaire Initiative is excited to build upon our partnership with HRAS to further our effort to strengthen the capacity of the security sector to address the issue of children used in maritime piracy.”

Jon Huggins, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP)
“Human Rights at Sea has become an important voice advocating for the welfare of all seafarers, particularly in the fight to end the practice of slavery aboard fishing vessels and to bring attention to the plight of missing seafarers. Oceans Beyond Piracy congratulates Human Rights at Sea on achieving registered charity status which will provide a platform to continue the development of the organization and significantly contribute to achieving its mission.”

Anneley Pickles, Head of Business Development – Crewtoo
“Crewtoo is pleased to hear the very good news that Human Rights at Sea has achieved charitable status as part of the ongoing expansion of the organisation and the work that it does to highlight human rights abuses at sea. The speed at which HRAS has developed is testimony to the real need for its work in support of seafarers globally.”

Georgina Godden, Business Development Director of Psychological Health Consultancy March on Stress
“I am delighted that Human Rights at Sea has achieved recognised charitable status. This reflects their hard work and dedication and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure psychological support for seafarers.”
Source: Human Rights At Sea

UN Peacekeeper Immunity Challenged

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By: Joe DeCapua

A new initiative has been launched to block U.N. peacekeepers from being granted immunity when accused of sexual exploitation and abuse. At least 50 such alleged incidents occurred last year, but Code Blue Campaign supporters say the actual number is probably much higher.

The U.N. has admitted that sexual abuse by peacekeepers is a problem and that it has a zero tolerance policy toward it. But Paula Donovan, Co-director of AIDS-Free World, said that policy is not enough.

“Both by the U.N.’s own accounts and by anecdotal accounts and information coming from the field and frompeople within the U.N. system, who don’t feel at liberty to speak publically, we know that the problem is actually much more severe than the U.N. is reporting to the General Assembly.”

Donovan said U.N. claims are not backed by the evidence.

“Each year, the Secretary-General reports on the numbers of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and claims that the problem is slowly, but surely being solved. In fact, our research shows that that’s not the case at all. That the problem is quite extensive. That the U.N. does not report in the most accurate or transparent ways about the problems that come to their attention,” she said.

AIDS-Free world is joined in the Code Blue Campaign by Graça Machel, who led a 1996 study of sexual exploitation of children in armed conflict; Retired Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, who commanded the U.N. mission during the Rwanda genocide; African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sowa and former U.N. Under-Secretary General Anwarul Chowdhury.

Donovan said justice is not being served when the U.N. investigates sex abuse allegations against peacekeepers.

“We decided to try to determine where the breakdown starts and what we learned was that it’s a chain reaction that actually stems from the fact that under a 1946 convention U.N. staff, police and experts on mission – in peacekeeping missions – have immunity. So, we’re calling for the end to what we are perceiving as a misinterpretation of a very old convention,” she said.

She said immunity was originally meant for diplomats, but is now being applied to accused criminals.

“So, we will also be calling for a complete and thorough commission of inquiry independent entirely of the United Nations that will look at what’s broken within the system and not only how it needs to be fixed, but who is responsible and who needs to be held to account for the dreadful way that these cases are handled, covered-up and misrepresented to the public,” said Donovan.

Naming the campaign Code Blue, she said, is not just because the U.N. operates under a blue flag.

“In the United States and some other countries, when all efforts have failed to keep the patient alive and the patient is going into cardiac arrest in a hospital, an announcement is made throughout the hospital – code blue in room such and such – and all who can help to keep the patient alive rush to the scene and help to resuscitate the patient who is near death. So, we feel as though we’re at that point with the United Nations.”

The Code Blue Campaign calls for amending the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. It said the convention should exclude sex-related crimes from the immunity granted to U.N. personnel. Another option, said Donovan, is to have the Secretary-General “issue a policy bulletin” of the convention “that reflects today’s realities.”

“That immunity should never have been in place or applied where these particular accusations are concerned. And you have the double standard here. You can say you have zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse – but you’re tolerant enough to have the presumption of immunity when someone is accused,” she said.

Campaign organizers denied the effort will harm U.N. operations. They said it will “strengthen the reputation and credibility of a critical U.N. function.”

Accusations of sexual abuse have been leveled against French and African peacekeepers in Central African Republic after an internal U.N. report was leaked in April. The United States has called for an inquiry into how the U.N. dealt with the allegations. The report says alleged abuses against children occurred between December 2013 and June of 2014.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers said if the allegations are true it would be a “profound violation…of the dignity and physical security of individuals in their most vulnerable state.”

To listen to interview with retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire on his support for the Code Blue Campaign, click on the link below.

Stephen Lewis, Romeo Dallaire Call For End To Sex Abuse By UN Employees

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By: |Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – An international coalition that includes the former Canadian UN ambassador Stephen Lewis and retired general and senator Romeo Dallaire launched a campaign Wednesday to end sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and international employees.

The coalition, which calls itself Code Blue, wants UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to lift the diplomatic immunity that protects UN employees from being held to account when abuse complaints arise.

The campaign has added relevance because of the scandal that erupted last month in Central African Republic with child sex abuse allegations against French soldiers involving boys, some as young as age nine.

Lewis said Ban’s inaction makes a mockery of his annual pledge of zero tolerance towards abuse.

“Time and time again, on an annual basis, the secretary general reiterates the goal of zero tolerance, and time and time again, on an annual basis, the evidence that the secretary general himself presents makes a mockery of the phrase.”

Lewis said sexual violence is more prevalent among the non-military international players — civil servants, police, experts and staff from UN agencies — but they are largely protected by a 1946 UN convention on immunity.

During a news conference Wednesday in New York, blocks from UN headquarters, he dared Ban to waive it more frequently.

“The ultimate decisions on the exercise of immunity in each and every instance rests in the hands of one man: the secretary general of the United Nations,” said Lewis.

The one-time Ontario NDP leader served as Brian Mulroney’s UN ambassador in the 1980s and campaigned with the Progressive Conservative prime minister to help end South Africa’s racist apartheid regime. He has remained active in the UN and international affairs since then.

Paula Donovan, a campaign organizer, said she is hoping for the support of the Canadian government and its people because of the country’s peacekeeping tradition.

“Governments like Canada have a very serious vested interest in peacekeeping and keeping it as noble as it was intended when you guys invented it.”

With the backing of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, former external affairs minister Lester Pearson proposed the first UN peacekeeping mission in 1956 to help defuse the Suez Crisis.

Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957, but in recent decades Canada’s contribution to UN peacekeeping has dwindled. UN figures show that 22 Canadian troops are deployed on such missions, far behind the top three countries — Bangladesh at 9,300 and India and Pakistan at about 8,100 each.

Donovan said despite its low numbers, Canada continues to contribute technical expertise and money to UN peacekeeping, so it is engaged.

“The issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, those are all high on the Canadian agenda, so I can only hope and imagine that the Canadian government and certainly the people of Canada will embrace this campaign.”

Nineteen years ago, Mozambique humanitarian advocate Graca Machel wrote the leading report on the issue, which documented a significant rise in child prostitution in six of 12 countries that had seen the deployment of UN peacekeepers.

“The evidence is that things have not changed, have not improved, apparently they have gotten even worse. You are all familiar with the recent events in Central African Republic,” said Machel, who is also Nelson Mandela’s widow.

Machel said all countries in the United Nations are responsible for the international peacekeeping missions that are deployed under its banner.

Therefore, she said, every country in the world is responsible for the shattered lives of women and young people that some UN peacekeepers are leaving in their wake.

“This is not about something which belongs to somebody else — it belongs to us,” said Machel. “Just think about that, and take this as your cause.”

Dallaire, who commanded the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda during its 1994 genocide, said nothing can undermine the credibility or neutrality of a mission more than when the protectors of traumatized civilians become their abusers.

“There is no such thing in a conflict zone, or a post-conflict zone, as consenting adults,” said Dallaire. “No fraternization, and no consenting adults means a barrier that cannot be crossed by those who are deployed.”

Nigeria’s children won’t be saved with hashtags alone

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By: LGen Roméo Dallaire and Dr. Shelly Whitman

Roméo Dallaire is a retired lieutenant-general, and a Senator. In 1993, LGen. Dallaire was appointed Force Commander for UNAMIR, where he bore witness to the Rwandan genocide; Shelly Whitman is the executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

In the past week, the story of hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has been prominent in the media, the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has become commonplace on social media feeds, and the global outcry for action has continued to grow in volume.

The global conscience is tormented by how such an appalling act can take place with impunity. The public’s hunger for answers results in simplified storylines attempting to explain complex relationships and circumstances. Political imperatives are disguised and in the end children are the victims.

We discuss concepts of peace and war as if they exist in a vacuum and fail to understand the intricate connections between them. Rather than protecting the whole, governments focus instead on picking up the broken pieces once conflicts break out. By failing to actively protect peace, societies inevitably create the space for conflict to infiltrate. Understanding how issues such as trafficking, child labour and child soldiering are interconnected is a critical element of understanding how to protect peace.

The girls who were abducted by the Boko Haram may be tomorrow’s front-line combatants in a conflict against the Nigerian Government. We only need to look as far as the Aboke Girls of Northern Uganda, who were captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army and quickly employed as soldiers to wage their war. Claims that the girls in Nigeria will be sold as wives and sex slaves must be understood as a tactic applied to child soldiers in war.

Once conflict takes hold, the basis is created for continued strife and violence, particularly if children are involved. The biggest predictor of violent behavior is initial exposure to violence. We need to break that cycle.

It is not enough to condemn the heinous act of stealing these children. We must recognize this act as part of a larger systemic global problem that may not be stopped with simple solutions parachuted in from external sources.

The abduction of the girls illustrates that children can be a collective rallying point for the international community to come together and work towards the common good.

If we focus on the needs of children in times of peace, we can prevent conflict. We often overlook the security sector’s role in maintaining and promoting peace. This requires innovative approaches to reform this sector so as to place a priority on children and understand their critical link to overall peace and security. Soldiers should not be limited to an active role during conflict; rather, the security sector should be regarded as a key stakeholder in the protection of children and communities in times of peace.

The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag is a way of bringing the world’s attention to a critical issue, but it is still reactive. What we need now more than ever are sustainable solutions that require shifts in attitude and behaviour, and long-term policy changes.

Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire supports Omar Khadr

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By: Catherine Griwkowsky

Omar Khadr is a victim.

That’s what retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative executive director Shelly Whitman have said in a statement following the release of Khadr, 28, on bail on Thursday.

In the statement Dallaire and Whitman said he was a child soldier, not a terrorist.

“Recruited at 13 years old, then shot and taken prisoner two years later, the story of Omar Khadr has been nothing if not infuriating,” the statement reads.

“As a child, Khadr was forced to move to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda by his father. It is believed that during a raid on Khadr’s compound, the 15-year-old threw a grenade, killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, a Delta Force strategic forces soldier and medic. Eight years later, he pleaded guilty under duress. But over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. From the very beginning, he has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture and — perhaps most appallingly — the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The letter says Khadr deserves a chance “to be educated, to be loved, and to be forgiven,” saying he deserves the same Canadian-government-funded rehabilitation as other child soldiers.

On Thursday, in his first interview since being released from custody, Khadr said he was “very happy” to be free and that he wants to prove to Canadians that he is better than how the authorities have portrayed him.

Alberta’s highest court released the former Guantanamo Bay detainee on bail pending the appeal of his convictions in the United States.

The judge rejected an application by the federal government for a stay of Khadr’s release until it can appeal his earlier bail decision.

Khadr had been behind bars for nearly 13 years. As part of his bail conditions, he must reside at defence lawyer Dennis Edney’s west Edmonton home, where he will remain under strict restrictions including wearing an electronic tracking bracelet.

Edney criticized the federal government for allowing a Canadian boy to be tortured in Guantanamo Bay and accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of being a “bigot,” saying Harper “doesn’t like Muslims.”

Khadr was ordered released on bail by a lower court judge on April 24, however the federal government applied for a stay of the ruling until they can appeal it. An appeal hearing is likely to be heard in the fall.

Khadr was serving an eight-year prison sentence in Bowden Institution as a result of a 2012 international transfer agreement with the United States, but was seeking release pending the determination of an appeal of his U.S. convictions by a military commission.

Khadr, originally from Toronto, pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2010 to murder and four counts related to terrorism and spying. The charges came as a result of the role Khadr played in the 2002 killing of a U.S. special forces medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15. He spent a decade at Guantanamo Bay before his trial.

Statement on Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr is free at last on bail. The treatment of Omar Khadr as a terrorist and not as a child soldier was wrong. Despite the efforts of many concerned Canadians, human rights advocates and child protection experts, Omar continued to languish in prison cell after prison cell. Yesterday, the upholding of Omar’s bail decision is a reminder of the importance of the judicial branch of our government, which upheld the rule of law.

It is crucial to keep in mind that Omar Khadr is a victim in all of this. Recruited at 13 years old, then shot and taken prisoner two years later, the story of Omar Khadr has been nothing if not infuriating. As a child, Khadr was forced to move to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda by his father. It is believed that during a raid on Khadr’s compound, the 15-year-old threw a grenade, killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, a Delta Force strategic forces soldier and medic. Eight years later, he pleaded guilty under duress.

But over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. From the very beginning, he has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture and — perhaps most appallingly — the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

International law and norms, which Canada is signatory to, are put in place so as to protect those children who are unscrupulously used as weapons of war and to hold those who recruit and use them to account. It is not Omar who was the threat, but those who recruit young girls and boys to fight their wars for them who are the greatest threat. Omar deserves the chance to be educated, to be loved, and to be forgiven, just as hundreds of thousands of other child soldiers around the world who have received rehabilitation funded by the Canadian government.

Yesterday, despite the horrific treatment exacted upon Omar for the past 13 years, he walked out and declared, “there is nothing I can do about the past, but there is something I can do about the future.” Yes Omar, there is so much you can do to shape your future positively and let us hope that you are “free at last”.


LGen, the Hon. Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d), Founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative