Sunday, April 30, 2017
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BERLIN – The German parliament is set to pass a new law Thursday broadening the definition of sex crimes and making it easier to deport foreign nationals who commit them.

After years of debate on the need for tougher treatment of rape by the criminal justice system, the new legislation finally came together following a rash of sexual assaults in crowds on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Cologne.

Dubbed the “No means No” law by the media, it explicitly covers cases in which a victim withheld consent but did not physically fight back.

The legislation, entitled “improving the protection of sexual self-determination”, also lowers the bar for deporting sexual offenders, classifies groping as a sex crime and targets assaults committed by large groups.

“It is crucial that we finally embed the principle ‘No means No’ in criminal law and make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence,” said deputy Eva Hoegl of the Social Democrats, one of the law’s sponsors.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet signed off on the measure in March after the attacks in Cologne, where more than 1,000 women reported sexual assaults and robberies on New Year’s Eve.

The attacks were blamed largely on Arab and North African men.

The city’s police chief conceded that most culprits may never be caught over the spate of assaults, which ranged from groping to rape and which inflamed public debate about a record influx of refugees and migrants.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged that under German law there were “unacceptable gaps in protection” against sexual coercion and assault.

– Outrage over Cologne mobs –

Currently, victims reporting a rape to police must not only demonstrate that they verbally declined sex but also that they physically resisted their assailant.

The new law is intended to cover “the actual situations in which most attacks occur”, Maas said.

These include cases in which the victim is taken by surprise, intimidated or threatened with other violence, for example in an abusive relationship.

Parliament had already in January made it easier to expel migrants and refugees convicted of crimes.

But along with sexual offences, it required proof of additional “violence, threats or physical endangerment” and generally a prison sentence of at least one year before an attacker could be deported.

The reform means any sexual assault can be used against an applicant in an immigration or asylum hearing.

It also specifically upgrades groping to a sex crime with sentences of up to two years’ jail or a fine.

Merkel’s conservative parliamentary group included a stipulation making it illegal to be part of a group committing assaults in a crowd, rather than requiring proof that a specific person attacked a victim.

Anyone “who at least tacitly accepts that crimes are committed by a group they are a part of” can now be prosecuted.

News agency DPA cited figures that 8,000 rapes are reported in Germany each year but that only one in 10 victims files charges. Moreover, only one in 10 rape complaints leads to a conviction.

The latest reform drive began in 2011 with the passage of a Council of Europe convention on preventing and combatting violence against women, requiring signatories including Germany to penalise all “non-consensual” sexual acts.

GENEVA – The number of people displaced worldwide has hit a new record, with 65.3 million people forced from their home as of the end of 2015, the UN said on Monday.

“This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed,” the UN refugee agency said.

The figures, released on World Refugee Day, underscore twin pressures fuelling an unprecedented global displacement crisis.

As conflict and persecution force growing numbers of people to flee, anti-migrant political sentiment has strained the will to resettle refugees, according to UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today,” he said in a statement.

The number of people displaced globally rose by 5.8 million through 2015, according to the UN figures.

Counting Earth’s population at 7.349 billion, the UN said that one out of every 113 people on the planet was now either internally displaced or a refugee.

That marks “a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent”, the agency said, noting that the number of people displaced is now higher than the populations of Britain or France.

LOS ANGELES – Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar on Sunday for his leading role in revenge movie “The Revenant”.

DiCaprio, 41, had been nominated four times previously for an Oscar over a career spanning 25 years. But he was favourite to finally take home the best actor Academy Award this year for his grueling portrayal of a fur trapper left for dead in an icy wilderness after being mauled by a bear.

Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for “The Danish Girl”, and Mark Rylance best supporting actor for “Bridge of Spies”.

TOKYO – Toyota kept its title as the world’s biggest automaker on Wednesday as it announced global sales of 10.15 million vehicles last year, outpacing scandal-hit Volkswagen and US rival General Motors.

Struggling to move past a pollution-cheating scandal, Volkswagen earlier said it logged sales of 9.93 million vehicles worldwide in 2015, while Chevrolet and Cadillac maker GM moved 9.8 million.

In the first half of the year, Volkswagen was in pole position, outpacing Toyota as the German automaker rode momentum in emerging economies.

But then it posted its first drop in annual sales in more than a decade, as it was hammered by a massive pollution cheating scandal.

Volkswagen sank into its biggest crisis over stunning revelations in September that it had fitted 11 million of its vehicles with devices designed to dodge pollution tests.

Toyota broke GM’s decades-long reign as the world’s top automaker in 2008 but lost it three years later as Japan’s earthquake-tsunami disaster dented production and disrupted the supply chains of the country’s automakers.

However, in 2012 it once again overtook its Detroit rival and has remained on top since.

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