REDRESS - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Surviors Reparation News
April-June 2012      

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are all very saddened to learn of the death of Lord Peter Archer, long-time patron of REDRESS and the sponsor of the Torture Damages Bill, a bill which seeks to create an exception to the State Immunity Act, 1978, to allow civil suits against torturers and the states that support them. Peter died on 14 June 2012. We will always remember with great appreciation Peter’s principled commitment to the advancement of human rights and to the dignity of the individual. Our thoughts go to his wife and family and wide circle of friends and colleagues.

See below a summary of what REDRESS has been up to in recent months. For the most up to date information, please stay tuned through our Facebook/REDRESS and Twitter/REDRESSTrust

Best wishes,

Carla Ferstman


Former Lt Col Nicholas Mercer joins REDRESS

Reverend Nicholas Mercer, the UK Army's former chief legal adviser in Iraq, recently joined REDRESS’ Board of Trustees. Born in 1962 and educated at St Andrews and Oxford University, he served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Germany and was the Command Legal Adviser for the Iraq War in 2003. He has been a member of the teaching staff of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, San Remo, since 2001. In 2011, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and was ordained in Salisbury Diocese. This year he was named the Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of the Year for his work on behalf of prisoners of war in Iraq in 2003.

 


Case Update

There have been a number of important developments with our litigation and other efforts on behalf of torture victims in different parts of the world. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Zahra Kazemi appeal

Zahra Kazemi was a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who was tortured to death in Iran. In 2006 Ms Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hashemi, brought a civil claim in the Québec courts against Iran and three officials he alleges were responsible for his mother’s torture and death: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader; Tehran's Chief Public Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who is alleged to have ordered Kazemi's arrest; and Mohammad Bakhshi, the former Deputy Chief of Intelligence for Evin Prison who it is alleged interrogated, physically assaulted and tortured Kazemi. Ms Kazemi’s estate also brought a claim on her behalf. 

In January 2011, the Québec Superior Court allowed Stephan Hashemi’s claim to proceed, on the basis of a specific exception in the State Immunity Act that allows claims for injuries suffered in Canada. However, the claims of Ms Kazemi’s estate were dismissed on the ground that Iran and its officials were protected by state immunity. Both sides appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal, and REDRESS was granted leave to appear in the proceedings as an intervener. The Appeal Proceedings took place in Montreal, in June 2012.

Click here to read our Appeal brief

  • Khaled El-Masri v Macedonia

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard the first case involving a victim of the CIA rendition programme on 16 May. The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR considered detailed evidence of Macedonia’s alleged central role in Khaled El-Masri’s illegal detention and extraordinary rendition to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to torture more than eight years ago.

El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, was represented at the hearing by a team of lawyers from the Open Society Justice Initiative. REDRESS submitted observations as a third party, on international law guaranteeing the rights of victims of extraordinary rendition to an investigation, remedy and reparation, including the disclosure of the truth of what happened. We also provided the Court with an expert report on how the provision of a remedy, and identifying the perpetrators, can be crucial to victims' psychological recovery.

Click here to read our press release

Click here to find all our submissions to the ECtHR

Click here to watch Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS, on Al Jazeera

  • Abuses in Nigeria by Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell)

REDRESS joined the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other human rights organisations in providing written observations to US Supreme Court in the case Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Shell). The suit was brought on behalf of the late Dr. Barinem Kiobel – an outspoken Ogoni leader and eleven other Nigerians from the Ogoni area of the Niger Delta. They seek damages and other relief for crimes against humanity, including torture and extrajudicial executions, and other international law violations committed with the defendants' assistance and complicity between 1992 and 1995 against the Ogoni people.

We argued that US Courts are appropriate forums for hearing claims relating to serious human rights abuses committed abroad. The outcome of Kiobel could lead to a severe narrowing of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute which allows non-US citizens to sue in US courts for violations of international law when perpetrators are present in the US.

Click here for the written brief

  • Human Rights Defender from Uzbekistan

In June, REDRESS in collaboration with FIDH submitted a detailed claim to the UN Human Rights Committee about the torture and abuse suffered by a human rights defender in Uzbekistan. She was illegally detained, kept in cruel and inhuman prison conditions and gang raped. She was also operated without her consent and her uterus was removed, causing her unimaginable physical and psychological suffering. We hope the case, which will lead to an official acknowledgement of the harm she suffered by a recognised international body, will help bring some closure to our client and assist her to move forward with her life.

  • Detention and torture of protesters at a mine in Cusco, Peru

Local groups in Espinar, in the Cusco region of Peru, have been protesting about the environmental impacts of the Zstrata Tintaya copper mine. As a result, there have been clashes with police, with several deaths and dozens of injured people, and a number of individuals have been subjected to brutal treatment by police. We wrote to the Peruvian Government to encourage them to carry out a full investigation.

Click to see our correspondence here (in Spanish)

Photo: Zahra Kazemi, credit Ziba Kazemi Foundation.


REDRESS brings attention to torture in Bahrain, Nepal and Sudan

REDRESS continues to advocate with governments, parliaments and international organisations on the need to respect the absolute prohibition of torture. Here are a few examples of our recent work in this area:

  • Bahrain

REDRESS sent a delegation to Bahrain to meet with government officials, civil society and victims. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss with the Government its follow up of recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the King to inquire into incidents relating to the detention and alleged ill-treatment of Bahraini "Arab Spring" protesters. We are closely following events in Bahrain and recently wrote to Bahrain's Minister of Human Rights on 27 May concerning reports that Bahraini human rights defenders who presented information to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain’s human rights record were subjected to intimidation.

Click here to read our letter

  • Nepal

REDRESS and Advocacy Forum-Nepal submitted a letter to the Prime Minister of Nepal on 17 April urging him to consider their recommendations for a new law criminalising torture. The bill will be tabled in Parliament shortly.

Click here to read our comments

  • Sudan

REDRESS submitted two reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights relating to Sudan. The first report was submitted with Sudan Democracy First Group, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, and highlighted the continued and widespread use of torture and other ill treatment or punishment by Sudanese authorities during 2008-2012. Click here to read this report. The second report was submitted with the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor and it analyses law reform in Sudan. Click here to read this report in English. Click here to read it in Arabic.

Photo: Pro-reform protests last year in Bahrain, credit AlJazeeraEnglish.


UK parliamentary body slams secrecy proposals

We felt vindicated on 4 May when an important UK parliamentary body, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), added its voice to those seriously concerned with the Government’s proposed changes to civil court procedures.

The JCHR rejected the idea of “closed material procedures” (CMPs) and the use of “special advocates” in cases where civil claims are made against the security services, so any information held by the security and intelligence agencies is heard only in secret. The JCHR argued that CMPs (already used in deportation proceedings) are inherently unfair.

Click to read our submission to the UK Ministry of Justice

Click here to read our press release


REDRESS marks 20 years of seeking justice for torture survivors

A huge thanks to Lindsey Hilsum, Roma Tearne, Haifa Zangana and Patricio Pron for participating in our literary event to mark our 20th Anniversary, and to all our friends, clients and supporters who made it a huge success! 

Upcoming anniversary events include:

  • a lecture series with Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, on 10 September
  • a lecture and reception with Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice, on 13 November. 

Special edition of the International Journal on Human Rights

We are also pleased to announce the release of a special edition of the International Journal of Human Rights, in honour of REDRESS’ 20th Anniversary. The edition, which was guest edited by Sir Emyr Jones Parry, REDRESS’ chair, includes pieces from leading academics and advocates such as Sir Nigel Rodley and Professor Theo van Boven, and articles from lawyers, academics and advocates all associated with REDRESS.

Click here to access the IJHR online version

Photo: Vivienne Westwood at our Literary Evening on April 24. 


Conferences and workshops

  • Defending the rights of victims of gender based violence amounting to torture

Lawyers working with women and girls who are victims of torture and sexual violence in Africa shared ideas and best practice in a workshop organised by REDRESS and FIDA Uganda in Kampala, Uganda, from 25 to 27 April. The meeting sought to develop strategies to improve access to justice for such victims, using national, regional and international courts. Lawyers came from seven countries in Central Africa: Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

  • Roundtable on torture and domestic violence

REDRESS and Interights co-organised a roundtable in Geneva during the annual meeting of the Human Rights Council on 13 June, that explored the relationship between domestic violence and torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, was among the participants.

  • African experts discuss how to best combat torture

Experts from more than a dozen countries in Africa met in Naivasha, Kenya, from 10 to 12 May to share their experiences regarding litigation, advocacy and institutional reforms relating to torture. The meeting was organised by REDRESS and the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU).

  • Workshop on the rights of victims of mass crimes

Experts and survivors groups from more than 10 African countries, including Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Kenya, Libya, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, met in Banjul, The Gambia, on 13-14 April to discuss the challenges of victims of mass crimes to access justice through national, regional and international courts.

  • Roundtable meeting for asylum and refugee groups

REDRESS' work on behalf of torture survivors was featured on the Scottish Refugee Council's blog. Click here to read it. We recently met staff and others at the Scottish Refugee Council to explain our work.

  • Workshop during Refugee Week

REDRESS was part of the Coin Street Celebrating Sanctuary festival that took place in the South Bank on 17 June. The free annual festival celebrates the lives and cultures of refugee communities in the UK and abroad. It takes place in the Bernie Spain Gardens, nestled in-between Oxo Tower Wharf and Gabriel’s Wharf. Staff from REDRESS discussed the work that we do for torture survivors, many of whom are refugee and asylum seekers.

  • Apply to participate in regional meeting in Peru

REDRESS is calling for applications to participate in a regional expert meeting in Lima, Perú, from 18 to 20 October 2012. It will provide an opportunity for experts with experience in assisting torture survivors in the Americas to identify challenges and best practices. They will be able to exchange experiences of use in litigating torture cases and advocating legal and institutional reforms. Deadline for applications is 10 July 2012.

Click for more information on how to apply in English and Spanish

Photo: One of the participants at our conference in Banjul, The Gambia.


Want to run for torture survivors?

Join REDRESS in a race to eliminate torture. We have charity places available for the British 10K London Run that will take place on 8 July for those wishing to raise funds to support our work behalf of victims of torture.

Even small donations make a huge difference. They help us pay the costs associated with researching and preparing documentation for cases, obtaining evidence and reports (such as medical assessments), court fees and meetings with survivors' lawyers and relevant organisations.

Please let us know by tomorrow if you are interested and click here for more information.

Click here to support our runner Carla Ferstman

Click here to support our runner Sarah Robertson

We also send a huge thanks to the REDRESS team who walked with the Lord Chief Justice and thousands of lawyers on 21 May to raise funds for law centres and pro bono agencies in and around London.

Photo: Casey O'Brien, one of our runners, at the British 10k last year.


     
 

VRWG - Victims’ Rights Working Group

Visit The Victims' Rights Working Group (VRWG) website, a network coordinated by REDRESS that works to ensure that victims’ rights are met throughout the judicial process of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Visit VRWG; latest VRWG Newsletter

PCLRS - Criminal Law Reform in Sudan

Visit the Project for Criminal Law Reform in Sudan (PCLRS), a joint initiative of REDRESS and local Sudanese partners which advocates for crucial criminal law reforms to advance the legal recognition of rights of all people in Sudan.

Visit PCLRS


 

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