Kampala, Uganda — When Patricia was picked up by police on the age of 11, she felt relieved.
Bought by an uncle to her instructor, she was raped and deserted in Kalangala, a district of islands on Lake Victoria, in Uganda.
Patricia thought her luck had modified when law enforcement officials from an area station informed her there was a person close by who helped survivors of sexual abuse like her.
“A giant, fats, outdated muzungu [foreigner or white person] got here for me. They stated he’s taking good care of ladies in your state of affairs,” Patricia, who’s recognized utilizing a pseudonym, informed CNN.
“They stated Bery is an efficient particular person and he’ll take you. I used to be a bit afraid, however I stated OK since there are different ladies there too.”
Bernhard “Bery” Glaser, a German nationwide who describes himself as a “retired well being skilled,” based Bery’s Place, a kids’s house in Kalangala, along with his spouse in 2006. In response to his web site, Glaser has offered a house for dozens of ladies, a few of whom have survived “bodily, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse and violence,” or been “trafficked, deserted — or rejected — by their authorized guardians.”
“For my youngsters, I am the mommy, I am the daddy, I am every part,” Glaser says in a promotional video.
However 5 girls of their late teenagers and early twenties interviewed by CNN, together with Patricia, allege that Glaser sexually and emotionally abused them at Bery’s Place. Survivors names have been modified to guard their identities.
The younger girls say that Glaser subjected them to repeated “vaginal examinations” involving sexual touching and compelled them to sleep in his mattress, the place he allegedly sexually assaulted them. When the ladies objected, they are saying Glaser would threaten to forged them out on the streets. Survivors say this saved lots of the ladies — a few of whom had beforehand been abused, or suffered different traumatic experiences — from talking out.
Bery’s Place is one in all tons of of houses for susceptible kids presupposed to be working illegally in Uganda — kids’s houses should be registered with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Growth beneath Ugandan regulation. In 2018, the Ugandan authorities introduced plans to shut over 500 unregistered houses within the nation. A scarcity of presidency oversight mixed with an open-door coverage for overseas traders and volunteers has left ladies like Patricia susceptible to abuse.
After greater than a decade operating Bery’s Place, Glaser was detained final February, when he turned himself in, then formally charged and arrested in April with 19 counts of human trafficking, seven counts of aggravated defilement, one depend of indecent assault and one depend of working an unauthorized kids’s house. 13 ladies have been discovered at Bery’s Place when police raided the house in February, whereas others have been reportedly in school, in response to legal professionals supporting the prosecution.
Virtually a yr on, Glaser’s trial has been postponed no less than eight occasions due to requests made by his authorized group, together with claims he’s unfit to face trial resulting from an ongoing most cancers battle.
Glaser is at present on the Uganda Most cancers Institute, awaiting a listening to on his bail software.
In an e mail to CNN, a lawyer representing Glaser denied that he had dedicated the alleged crimes, and emphasised the seriousness of his deteriorating well being.
“Mr. Glaser maintains that he has by no means defiled or trafficked anybody and shall show his innocence within the Courtroom of regulation in Uganda and has greater than sufficient proof and witnesses to disprove all of the false allegations towards him,” his lawyer, Kaganzi Lester, stated.
‘Medical exams’ and ‘sleeping timetables’
Younger girls and ladies who stayed at Bery’s Place informed CNN that they went via a so-called “medical examination” upon arrival and frequent “vaginal exams” throughout their time dwelling there.
Women as younger as 5 have been informed to strip bare in order that Glaser may study them and insert candida medication — used to deal with yeast infections — into their vaginas, survivors allege, including that the “exams” typically happened in a bathe.
Some survivors say Glaser launched himself as a physician, however legal professionals supporting the prosecution informed CNN that he’s a physiotherapist — not a professional doctor.
“I stated to him after a number of occasions I can do it myself,” stated Patricia, now a 20-year-old college pupil, including that he continued to insert medication and a douche into her vagina after her complaints.
“He stated I had a small STI, however I do not imagine I had any an infection,” she stated, explaining that the police had given Glaser the outcomes of her STI assessments when she was positioned in his care.
In a 2017 e mail CNN has seen that sought to elucidate the controversy to supporters of Bery’s Place, Glaser stated that the testing was in step with “skilled requirements.”
“The one time I contact(ed) my ladies in an intimate approach, is after I apply medication, and this in an applicable method to skilled requirements, with their private approval, a part of the sexual well being companies we offer typically in cooperation with skilled third events, medical doctors, nurses, midwives,” he wrote.
However some survivors say these “medical examinations” have been only a precursor to extra abusive patterns of habits.
“One time I walked into Bery’s room and located some youthful kids massaging him whereas he was half bare,” remembers Sharon, now 17, who was 12 when she was taken to Bery’s Place. She says that Glaser requested her to hitch in, claiming that he wanted to be massaged due to his most cancers and diabetes.
Sharon, and a number of other different survivors, stated that Glaser requested them to create a “sleeping timetable” for the ladies to spend the night time in his mattress on a rotating schedule. “He informed us to not put that timetable in the lounge, as a result of guests would possibly come and begin asking what it is for,” Sharon stated.
“The primary time I slept in his room he began massaging me in the midst of the night time, touching my breasts, kissing my lips,” Sharon stated. Different ladies interviewed by CNN described Glaser penetrating them along with his fingers and forcing them to carry out oral intercourse on him, saying it was “regular in his tradition.”
The age of consent is 18 in Uganda and, in response to the nation’s Kids Act Modification of 2016, “each little one has a proper to be protected towards all types of violence together with sexual abuse.”
Sharon stated that when she threatened to report Glaser, he informed her she may “return to the bush the place you got here from.” After that, she was fearful to talk out. With nowhere else to show, she says she stayed at Bery’s Place for 5 years, sleeping in Glaser’s room as soon as every week.
Survivors who spoke with CNN stated the specter of instability — being left homeless, with out cash for meals or faculty charges — was what saved them quiet for thus lengthy and even resulted in a few of them defending Glaser when he was first arrested in 2013.
A system that perpetuates abuse
To cowl up the alleged abuse, Glaser bribed native officers and used his community of allies in Kalangala to threaten those that spoke out towards him, in response to survivors and a police officer previously based mostly within the district, who spoke with CNN.
Glaser’s lawyer stated he denied the bribery allegations.
Youngster advocates and social employees say that it isn’t troublesome for males like Glaser to abuse Ugandan ladies with impunity, given the ability dynamics that perpetuate the nation’s unregulated and profitable orphanage business.
“While you see a white particular person right here you suppose they’re coming with the most important alternatives, so individuals like Bery Glaser are ready to make use of their privilege to oppress and exploit our individuals,” says Olivia Alaso, co-founder of No White Saviors, which has helped present secure lodging and psychosocial assist for ladies who lived at Bery’s Place.
“The federal government ought to be doing thorough and correct checks on their backgrounds at house [before granting visas], and in addition the work these individuals are doing in our communities.”
Alaso added that the pink flags on this case have been obvious: “How can a person stay in a shelter with all these ladies at a minor age and nobody does a factor?”
Whereas regulation of the orphanage business by Uganda’s authorities has improved over the previous 5 years, solely sure elements of the nation have seen a change.
Caroline Bankusha, a baby safety skilled and former probation officer, says that a part of the difficulty is a scarcity of different care choices in Uganda. “In Bery’s case, was it actually needed for the mother and father at hand over their ladies to the care of a stranger? In the event that they needed to be separated from their mother and father, was Bery’s orphanage probably the most appropriate for the care of the ladies, or have been there different choices?”
Legal professionals supporting the prosecution informed CNN that they understood Glaser used “authorized guardianship orders” to realize custody of a few of the ladies — a now banned loophole which, till 2016, was typically utilized by overseas nationals to undertake Ugandan kids shortly and simply, with out fostering them in-country for the then three years required by regulation.
Glaser’s lawyer wouldn’t touch upon using authorized guardianship orders, saying it was “one of many points to be resolved in court docket.”
One other impediment is a tradition the place sexual abuse typically goes unreported — by survivors and others — regardless of insurance policies and constructions in place, Bankusha says. In response to the Uganda Violence In opposition to Kids Survey 2018, one in three ladies ages 18 to 24 reported experiencing sexual violence throughout childhood, together with 11% of ladies experiencing pressured or compelled intercourse.
Andy Wilkes, a British builder who spent a month volunteering at Bery’s Place in 2017, informed CNN that he had suspected abuse was going down after seeing younger ladies sleeping in Glaser’s mattress, however was undecided who to report it to. Wilkes says a younger lady later confirmed his suspicions, alleging to Wilkes that Glaser had abused her utilizing “toys, vibrators, fingers, masturbation, blow jobs,” since she was 12.
Wilkes contacted an area Ugandan social employee with connections to Bery’s Place, Asia Namusoke Mbajja, who went on to report Glaser to the kid safety unit of Kampala Police in 2018.
Since Glaser’s arrest final yr, Mbajja has obtained a barrage of intimidating calls, texts and messages on social media so virulent that she opened a case of offensive communication and threatening violence with police.
In response to a preliminary police report, seen by CNN, one of many 5 telephone numbers used to threaten to “injure or hurt” Mbajja is registered within the title of Glaser’s spouse, Ingrid Dilen. Dilen was arrested for questioning by police final February throughout a police raid at Bery’s Place, and later launched. She is now in Belgium.
CNN has reached out to Dilen for remark.
Survivors who’ve spoken out towards Glaser, and their kinfolk, say they’ve additionally been subjected to intimidation, in addition to a smear marketing campaign, coordinated on a Fb web page titled Justice For Bery.
Patricia stated that her mom obtained what she says was a threatening name from one in all Glaser’s pals, demanding that she cease her daughter from standing as a witness. In response to Patricia, he warned her mom that she, and the remainder of her household, may die “because of [her] stupidity.”
Ready for justice
It isn’t the primary time that ladies in Glaser’s care have been dragged via this ordeal.
A spokesperson for Uganda Police, Charles Mansio Twiine, informed CNN that in 2013 the police obtained studies that Glaser was operating an unlawful kids’s house in Kalangala and allegedly abusing the kids, nearly all of which have been between Eight- and 11-years-old on the time. Twiine stated the ladies have been interviewed and located to have contraceptive implants: “Are you able to think about from the age of Eight, 9, 10, to be having an implant?”
Twiine stated Glaser informed police on the time he had given the ladies implants to stop them from getting pregnant by native boys. The Director of Public Prosecutions continued to collect proof and finally launched a case towards Glaser, however when the time got here for the ladies and their mother and father to testify, they didn’t seem in court docket.
“It devastated us,” Twiine stated, including that the decide needed to dismiss the case consequently. “We have been fearful and upset however on the time there wasn’t something we may do.”
Whereas Glaser was detained, police took Patricia again to the identical uncle who had trafficked her when she was 11 years outdated. With nowhere else to go, she returned to Bery’s Place after Glaser’s launch, the place she stated “issues received even worse.” When she warned Glaser he would get arrested once more, she says he replied: “Who has the proof?”
Nonetheless, she is decided to testify in court docket, saying that she hopes to get justice for herself and the opposite ladies who say they suffered for years at Bery’s Place.
Every time Glaser’s court docket date has been rescheduled, Patricia, Sharon and different witnesses have traveled to Masaka Excessive Courtroom, lacking faculty and making ready to provide painful testimonies, solely to be informed proceedings wouldn’t occur that day.
Glaser’s authorized group have used a spread of ways to attempt to make sure his launch, together with making use of for a plea discount deal, which might have seen Glaser deported again to Belgium, legal professionals supporting the prosecution and a police supply informed CNN.
The sources allege that Glaser’s protection have additionally sought to stop, or delay, his listening to by demanding proceedings be carried out in Flemish, regardless of Glaser’s demonstrated English proficiency, and suggesting that he was unfit to face trial resulting from a battle with most cancers. The pinnacle of the Uganda Most cancers Institute, who beforehand declared that Glaser’s situation was manageable in Uganda, just lately signed a letter recommending he urgently journey overseas for therapy.
Glaser’s lawyer informed CNN that the “lies being peddled in regards to the plea discount are a crude try at circumventing the burden to show Mr. Glaser’s guilt in court docket,” and denied that calls for for a Flemish translator have been makes an attempt to delay the proceedings.
If granted bail, CNN understands that Glaser will journey to Belgium for therapy, however legal professionals supporting the prosecution say it’s unclear whether or not he would return to face trial. In an e mail despatched in error to CNN, German Ambassador to Uganda Albrecht Conze stated he had been personally concerned in making an attempt to speed up court docket proceedings over the previous 9 months, with the implied intention of guaranteeing Glaser’s journey to Belgium.
In a subsequent assertion to CNN, Conze stated the German Embassy had “by no means taken a stance on the substance of the case” and that “whether or not or not he [Glaser] is responsible of the fees he’s accused of is for the Ugandan judiciary to find out.”
Glaser beforehand traveled to Belgium for most cancers therapy whereas on bail in reference to the 2013 case, in response to the Germany Embassy and his authorized group, who say this demonstrates his willingness to return to Uganda to face the court docket. “Glaser has at all times been and nonetheless could be very decided to and shall show his innocence within the court docket of regulation in Uganda,” his lawyer, Kaganzi Lester, stated in an announcement to CNN.
Equality Now, an NGO preventing to guard the human rights of ladies and ladies globally, informed CNN that it was following the developments in Glaser’s case carefully, together with its NGO companions in Uganda, together with Pleasure for Kids, Elevating Youngsters Uganda, and PINA Uganda, “to make sure that there may be accountability for the crimes dedicated and that the victims are in a position to entry justice.”
“There’s a creating pattern relating to the sexual exploitation of kids in Africa the place pedophiles, particularly from Western nations, benefit from under-resourced little one safety techniques, and weaknesses in regulation enforcement and judicial techniques. The Glaser case is only one instance of this deeply regarding phenomenon,” Anita Nyanjong, a lawyer and programme officer in Equality Now’s Finish Intercourse Trafficking group, stated.
“The Ugandan authorities now has a big alternative to ship a message to would-be perpetrators of kid sexual exploitation and little one trafficking that they can’t exploit with impunity and might be held totally accountable for his or her crimes.”
Within the meantime, Patricia and different ladies wait to listen to what is going to turn out to be of Glaser. However for now, no less than, they are saying they’re starting to take pleasure in their lives exterior of Bery’s Place.
“The primary time I spoke about it was after I was known as to the police station in 2019. After I made the assertion I went to the washroom, cried and dried my eyes,” remembers Patricia.
“I felt like one thing heavy had been postpone my head.”
“I felt free.”
Edited by Eliza Waterproof coat, CNN.