Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Reparation News
November 2014
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Dear friends and colleagues,

Welcome to the November 2014 edition of Reparation News. Please find below a summary of recent case updates, news and publications from REDRESS. For the most up-to-date information from REDRESS, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Warm wishes,

Carla Ferstman, Director


 

Fighting impunity around the world

Despite near universal recognition of the prohibition of torture, torture remains a reality in many countries. Thanks to funds from the European Union's European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) REDRESS and several partner organisations are mid-way through a three-year project to fight impunity for torture in countries around the world, including in Perú, Libya, Kenya and Nepal. You can find a few recent examples of the work conducted under this project below.

Inter-American Commission declares admissible case of gay man tortured by police in Perú

On 25 November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided that the case of a young gay man who was tortured by police in Perú was admissible, which allows the case now to be examined on the merits. Luis Alberto Rojas was stripped, raped with a truncheon and robbed of his belongings by police officers in 2008 in the city of Trujillo, where he had been detained arbitrarily, just because of being gay. Luis Alberto complained about his treatment but the Peruvian justice system closed the case.

After exhausting all avenues for justice in Perú, REDRESS and two Peruvian partner organisations - Promsex and the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos - brought his case to the Inter-American Commission. Perú had argued that the case was not admissible, but the organisations submitted arguments to show why the case was  admissible.

Commenting on the admission of his case, Luis Alberto said: “It has filled me with hope of finding the truth and obtaining justice six years after the events.”  The three organisations also welcomed the news. They hailed the decision as a significant step forward in the fight against sexual orientation discrimination in Perú and in the Americas. They also hope the decision encourages Perú to take proactive steps to prevent these types of acts from recurring.

In 2012, following a report submitted by the three organisations to the UN Committee Against Torture, the Committee urged Peru to take "effective measures to protect the LGBT community from attacks, abuse and arbitrary detention and ensure that all acts of violence are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated and prosecuted, perpetrators brought to justice and victims provided with redress.”

Read our press release

Read more about the case

Read our submission to the UN Committee Against Torture


 

REDRESS presses Perú to recognise victim of rape during anti-terrorism operation 

'Maria' is a Peruvian woman who was raped during an anti-terrorism operation conducted by the Peruvian military forces in 1994 in the region of Huánuco, Peru, in the context of the internal conflict in the country. Her partner and several other men were executed during the operation, while Maria (who was also with her baby at the time) was repeatedly raped by a group of soldiers. She also witnessed the rape of a 13-year-old girl, who was later murdered.  Maria reported the events to the Prosecutor of the Huánuco District.

In 2004, an investigation was opened in relation to the extrajudicial executions perpetrated by the military forces. Subsequently, in 2012, a number of high-ranking military officials, including the former Head of the Armed Forces and the former Peruvian President were identified as suspects in the context of the investigation. However, the crimes suffered by Maria were never investigated.

REDRESS has requested the Peruvian authorities to broaden the current investigation to include charges of torture and to consider Maria as a victim. In November 2014, REDRESS submitted a letter to the Prosecutor in charge of the case alleging that the lack of investigation of the events suffered by Maria could amount to a violation of Peru's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

Read more about the case


 

Case on behalf of family of man killed by security forces in Nepal

On 1 May 2001 Hari Prasad Bolakhe, a Christian pastor, was arbitrarily arrested from his home by Nepalese security forces and held in different army barracks and a state prison for 23 months before being released. At the time of his arrest, Hari Prasad was neither formally told about the charge against him nor was he allowed to consult a lawyer. His family was only able to establish his whereabouts 14 months after he had been arrested.

On 27 December 2003 Hari Prasad was again arbitrarily arrested; this time from the Banepa bus station, Kavre District. On the same day it is believed that he was transferred to Satrumardan army barracks in Dhulikhel and then later to the Gorakhknath batallion army barracks in Panauti. Since then the whereabouts of Mr. Bolakhe remained unknown to the family until his body was exhumed from a pine forest at Mulkhola, Ward No. 1, Chalalgansehthan VDC, Kavre District on 5 July 2006.  An autopsy revealed that he had died from gunshot wounds and the National Human Rights Commission concluded that he had been unlawfully killed by soldiers. However, despite filing a complaint with police, almost no action has been taken to investigate the case.

REDRESS together with Advocacy Forum has taken the case, Bolakhe v Nepal, on behalf of his wife and her family. 


 

Training for lawyers from Perú and Libya

In November, REDRESS and partners from Perú and Libya delivered training on torture issues to lawyers from these two countries.

A two-day legal workshop took place in Lima, Perú's capital, on 14-15 November 2014. The workshop brought together 50 lawyers from different parts of Peru to discuss current issues in the fight for human rights in Peru, including torture, the criminalisation of protest, and the rights of indigenous and LGBTI people. The workshop was organised by our partner in Perú, la Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, and our Legal Officer Gaia Pergolo presented on the excessive use of force and torture and ill-treatment in international law. 

Also in November, REDRESS participated in a training in Istanbul, Turkey, organised with Lawyers for Justice in Libya. The training focused on torture in Libya, documentation of torture cases and how to bring a torture claim before regional and international human rights mechanisms. 

More case updates

Complaint before the African Commission on behalf of Congolese rape victim

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are rampant in the war-torn provinces of the East of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With the support of lawyers and civil society organisations some survivors have managed to overcome the numerous obstacles in accessing justice and obtain an award of damages against the perpetrators and the state of DRC for the harm they suffered. However, the DRC has failed so far to fulfil its legal obligation to enforce these court-ordered compensation awards and pay the victims.

On 21 November 2014, REDRESS and Synergie pour l'assistance judiciaire aux victimes de violation des droits humains au Nord Kivu (SAJ) filed a communication with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) on behalf of a female rape victim. She was raped by a member of the Armed Forces in the late 2000s in the context of the armed conflict in Eastern DRC. During the attack, the soldier also stole all the family's savings. She was awarded damages against the State but has not received any payments until today.

The communication sets out the legal framework of court-ordered damages in the DRC and the obstacles faced by victims when seeking enforcement of these awards. REDRESS and SAJ argue that the failure of the DRC to provide any payments to S.A. (name given to the victim to protect her identity) constitutes a violation of the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol to the Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, in particular the right to a remedy and the right to reparation for victims of violence against women.

REDRESS is grateful to Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer LLP for its support of this case. 

Read more about the case

Read our shadow report to UN CEDAW (2013)

UN Photo by Clara Padovan: Soldier from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Eastern DRC.


 

REDRESS presses the Philippines to fulfill its obligations to victims 

Our International Legal Advisor Sarah Fulton travelled to the Philippines in November to discuss implementation of the UN Human Rights Committee views with civil society, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and government officials in Manila, the capital.

The trip follows on from our work on the implementation of views of the Committee in the Philippines and, more specifically, our work in the case of one of our clients, Suny Wilson. REDRESS has brought attention in the past to the Philippines' systematic failure to implement the recommendations made by the Committee in a number of cases involving serious human rights violations.

This issue was the focus of a REDRESS' submission to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2012. REDRESS is also concerned about the lack of clear mechanisms in the Philippines to ensure that the views of international treaty bodies are implemented and has called for the establishment of such mechanisms.

Read our report to the UN Human Rights Committee on the Committee's views in the Philippines 

Read more about Suny Wilson case


 

REDRESS continues to pursue case of British citizen tortured in Sudan

Magdy Moustafa El-Baghdady, represented by REDRESS, submitted a complaint against Sudan to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 25 October 2013. Madgy, a British national of Egyptian and Polish descent, alleges that in 2011 he was arbitrarily arrested and detained on allegations that he intended to incite a revolution in Sudan.

Magdy also claims that during his detention Sudan prevented him from communicating with the British embassy in Khartoum, his lawyers and family members, and from having the opportunity to challenge the legality of the detention. In total, he spent 78 days in prison, during which he was subjected to severe physical and psychological harm. His weight fell from an average of 110 kg before his detention to approximately 73 kg at the point of his release. 

To date, authorities of Sudan have failed to investigate these alleged violations or provide other forms of reparation. On 3 November, REDRESS made a submission to the African Commission on the admissibility of the complaint. 

Read more about the case 


 

REDRESS welcomes appeals judgment in Lubanga ICC case 

On Monday 1 December 2014, the ICC Appeals Chamber upheld Thomas Lubanga’s historic conviction and 14-year year jail sentence for using children in armed conflict in Ituri between 2002 and 2003. REDRESS welcomed the judgment, as it brings victims in the case closer to justice and to receiving reparation for the harm they suffered, after almost eight years of proceedings.

Crucially for victims, it also clears the way for the Court to focus on issuing reparations to those most affected by Lubanga's crimes. Children who were recruited and used in armed conflict by Lubanga’s armed group, the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), and their families have now waited over a decade to see their suffering acknowledged and to receive reparation for the harm inflicted upon them. 

REDRESS is urging the Appeals Chamber to rule without delay on the appeals against the reparation decision, as years of armed conflict have left many victims without the means to deal with the devastating consequences of these crimes. 

Read our press release


 

Belhaj UK rendition case

On 30 October 2014, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, have the right to sue the UK officials allegedly involved in their abduction and illegal transfer to Libya. The Court stressed that the failure to allow UK courts to consider the complaint would unacceptably result in a denial of a legal remedy for very grave allegations of human rights violations. The Court dismissed the view that the risk of displeasing other States could outweigh the imperative of providing access to justice to victims.

REDRESS intervened jointly with other NGOs in the case and is now monitoring closely recent developments in the case. The UK government has sought permission to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal gave the government permission to appeal on the issue of foreign act of state, but not state immunity. The UK government has applied to the Supreme Court to appeal on both points. 

Read more about the case 

Advocacy work

Report to the UN Committee Against Torture on USA's treatment of Gitmo detainees

On 12-13 November the USA appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture to face questioning about the extent to which they have complied with their obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which the USA ratified in 1994.  

REDRESS, along with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), made a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture relating to the USA’ treatment of a number of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, whom the USA refers to as “High Value Detainees” or "HVDs" because of their perceived high intelligence value. Each was captured or handed over to the USA in the years following the 9/11 attacks, and was allegedly subjected to enforced disappearance and torture at CIA "black sites" for a number of years until moved to Guantánamo Bay in 2006. They are now held in a separate facility within Guantánamo Bay, and are almost completely cut off from the outside world.     

According to the rights groups, the USA has compounded far-reaching violations of international law by constructing an unprecedented system of secrecy around certain High Value Detainees, including the six individuals who face capital charges in military trials at Guantánamo Bay.  

One HVD facing capital charges is Mustafa al-Hawsawi, which REDRESS has been representing in proceedings in Europe concerning claims that he was held in secret detention in Poland and Lithuania. Because of the secrecy regime at Guantánamo Bay, REDRESS has not been able to speak to al-Hawsawi directly, or to obtain information from him or his defense lawyers about where he was held or what was done to him. Instead, all work on the investigation has been limited to proceeding on the basis of information already in the public domain.

On 28 November, the Committee released its report on the the UN. In it, it called for the declassification of torture evidence, in particular Guantanamo detainees’ accounts of torture.

Read our press release

See our submission to the UN Committee Against torture here

Read more about the case of Mustafa al-Hawsawi

Photo: Wikipedia


 

UK Committee echoes REDRESS' concerns on consular support for British victims of torture 

On 24 November the influential Commons Foreign Affairs Committee called on the Government to investigate allegations that consular staff had failed to protect Britons who may have been tortured or mistreated while in detention abroad. The Committee made their recommendations in its report Support for British Nationals abroad: The Consular Service, which describes the findings of its year-long inquiry into consular services.

REDRESS welcomed the findings of the report, which echoed some of the concerns REDRESS had raised in its submissions to the Committee during the inquiry. In them, REDRESS had brought to the Committee's attention the "systematic failures" described in its 2012 report on consular support for British victims of torture. REDRESS had also noted the sharp increase in reported allegations of ill-treatment by Britons in recent years, from an average of 50 reports a year in 2005-2010 to 142 in 2013. 

REDRESS Director, Carla Ferstman, said: "British people in prison or detention abroad are in the most vulnerable position imaginable. They deserve the maximum possible support from consular officials, who are frequently their first and sometimes only contact with the outside world."

Read our press release

Read REDRESS' submission to the Committee's inquiry

Read our 2012 report

Read an article in The Independent 

Publications

Handbook for victims of serious international crimes

REDRESS has published a new handbook to help victims of serious international crimes and their families access support and justice in the European Union with partners FIDH and TRIAL.

The Handbook for Victims of Serious International Crimes in the EU: Your rights to access support, advice and justice aims to serve as a guide for victims of serious international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and enforced disappearance) who are interested in filing a formal complaint within the EU as well as victims who are already seeking justice through EU courts.

The handbook may also be useful for victims that are seeking asylum as well as individuals living in another country outside the EU, but have information or evidence which suggests that persons or organisations responsible for what happened are inside the EU.

Click here to dowload a copy of the Handbook


 

EU Update on Serious International Crimes

A new edition of our EU Update on Serious International Crimes is out covering the main Europe-wide developments in international criminal justice. In this edition: The Strategy of the EU Genocide NetworkThe case of Martina Johnson in Ghent, Belgium: Interview with Alain WernerAsset tracing and asset recovery to assist victims in obtaining reparationThreats to victims and witnesses in EU Member States: Lessons learned; Regional Networks to fight impunityEffective psychological support for victims of international crimes and Driving Forward Justice: Victims of serious international crimes in the EU.

Read the EU Update (Issue 13)


 

Victims' Rights Working Group ACCESS Bulletin

The Winter/Spring edition of the Victims' Rights Working Group's ACCESS bulletin has just been published in English. The VRWG is a wide coalition of national and international civil society groups and experts that works to ensure that victims’ rights, needs and concerns are met throughout the ICC's judicial process.

The current bulletin includes the following articles: Participation before the ICC, Some perspectives from the insideInterview with Judge Elizabeth Odio BenitoInterview with Judge Adrian FulfordInterview with Judge Bruno CotteInterview with Judge René BlattmannInterview with Paolina Massidda, Principal Counsel, Office of Public Counsel for Victims; Victims’ participation in the Kenyatta case; Interview with Fergal Gaynor, the Common Legal representative of victims in the Kenyatta case and Interview with Judge Fatoumata Dembele Diarra.

The bulletin will also be available in French and Spanish.

Read the VRWG ACCESS bulletin (Issue 25)


 

REDRESS 2014 annual report

The full colour version of our 2014 annual report is now available. It includes pictures of our work around the world. In the last year REDRESS worked in more than 25 countries with more than 800 survivors. We had a notable victory at the Inter-American Court where Leopoldo García Lucero won his 40-year battle for justice for the torture he endured in Chile under the Pinochet regime. We have fought against police brutality in Russia, helped women fight against sexual abuse in Egypt, and seen the African Commission vindicate the claims of internally displaced persons in Sudan that they were arbitrarily arrested, detained, and tortured.

As well as our casework, we have advocated for strong procedures at the International Criminal Court to ensure victims’ access to justice and reparation, and to ensure victims have the opportunity to express their views and concerns to the Court. We have also continued our programme to provide training and technical support to local groups around the world, including in the DRC, Kenya, Uganda, Bahrain, Libya and Nepal. 

See our Annual Report here 

Conferences and workshops

Colloquium organised by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

4-5 November 2014, Arusha, Tanzania

REDRESS spoke on the role of civil society organisations and the rights of victims at the 7th International Colloquium for Prosecutors held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 4-5 November by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In the course of two days, prosecutors from various countries and a number of international/hybrid tribunals came together to discuss the issue of national prosecution of international crimes. REDRESS emphasized the obligation of prosecutors to respect victim rights in such proceedings. By doing so, prosecutorial efforts will benefit from more legitimacy and stronger evidence provided by victims. At the same time, prosecutors contribute to rendering justice meaningful for victims.

 Photo: Our Post-Conflict Legal Advisor Beini Ye speaking at the colloquium in Arusha, Tanzania.


 

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture meeting in Denmark

13 November 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dr. Lutz Oette, Counsel at REDRESS, attended the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRCT) Council meeting in Copenhagen on 13 November 2014 in his capacity as independent expert. The Council is the main policy making body of the IRCT, which has over 140 member organisations supporting the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture worldwide. Dr Oette also participated as Advisory Board member in a meeting of a research project on the prevention of torture, hosted by the Association for the Prevention of Torture in Geneva, on 23 and 24 November.


 

SOAS panel on the prosecution of torture

19 November 2014, London, UK

Dr. Lutz Oette was a panelist at an event organised by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The event, titled “Reinforcing International Criminal Justice: Building on the Work of the 1943-48 UN War Crimes Commission”, addressed the prosecution of torture. 

Spaces available for the British 10K Run

Please remember that there are still available spots for REDRESS runners at some events next year. We are looking for sponsored runners for the British 10K Run that will take place on 12 July 2015. If you want to support REDRESS while taking part in a major sporting event, contact Jennifer on jennifer@redress.org

Photo: Mauricio Zamorano ran the British 10K last year.  

Recent media coverage

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