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

Welcome to the December 2014 edition of Reparation News.

This year REDRESS worked on the cases of more than 850 women, men and children survivors of torture and related international crimes. Those we supported were brutalised during conflicts as well as in peace time. Some were tortured for their beliefs or for defending human rights, while others were suspects of ordinary crimes, tortured to obtain confessions. Some came from marginalised groups within their societies. Torture is indiscriminate and it affects all strata of society, this is why it is so important to fight it together.

Thank you for your continued interest in our work and your support. We wish you a happy festive season.

Carla Ferstman, Director

 

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Case updates

US Senate torture report sheds light on the Al-Hawsawi case 

The US Senate Intelligence Committee Report into CIA treatment of detainees shed disturbing light on the treatment of Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Guantanamo detainee who REDRESS has been representing. It also confirmed  that he was held in Lithuania as alleged in our joint complaint to the Lithuanian prosecutor in 2013. 

An investigation started as a result of REDRESS and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute’s complaint is ongoing and the President of Lithuania has called on the Prosecutor General’s office to examine this new information. REDRESS and its partners will be vigorously pursuing the new leads offered by the report in litigation in European countries on Mr al-Hawsawi's behalf.

The executive summary of the Senate report – released in redacted form and so only providing a very limited picture of events – refers to severe injuries sustained by Mr al-Hawsawi as a result of rectal examinations administered with “excessive force”, and that he had been subjected to “water dousing” described as “indistinguishable from the waterboard”.  

The report also singles out Mr Al-Hawsawi as one of a number individuals who were detained under the CIA's rendition and secret detention program "despite doubts and questions surrounding [his] knowledge of terrorist threats and the location of senior al-Qa'ida leadership", leading to even greater concerns about the secretive military commission trial that Mr al-Hawsawi faces as one of the alleged key figures behind the 9/11 attacks. ​

Read more about his case

Photo of Mustafa Al-Hawsawi by B. Hussein Soetero.


 

REDRESS presses the Netherlands to assist Libyan torture victim

Mr El-Hagoug, who is of Palestinian origin, was subjected to multiple incidents of torture, including severe sexual violence, and other violations in Libya from 1999-2007. He was the doctor involved in what came to be known as the “Bulgarian nurses case” and had been sentenced to death by Libyan courts for allegedly spreading HIV/AIDS and causing the deaths of hundreds of children.

In 2007, Libya transferred Mr El-Hagoug to Bulgaria, largely because he had been tried together with the Bulgarian nurses and because Libya and Bulgaria signed a prisoner transfer protocol in 1984. Subsequently, after receiving a Bulgarian passport, he left Bulgaria and moved permanently to the Netherlands in October 2008.

In March 2012, Mr El-Hagoug was awarded €1,000 000 plus interest from a Dutch court following his successful claim against 12 named Libyan defendants, all of whom were former Libyan state agents. The UN Human Rights Committee, also in 2012, found the state of Libya responsible for multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and obliged it to provide reparation to Mr. El-Hagoug. Neither Libya, nor the named defendants in the Dutch civil claim, have paid any compensation to date despite these rulings and repeated requests to this effect by Mr. El-Hagoug’s lawyer and United Nations organs. There are no effective remedies in Libya that Mr. El-Hagoug can avail himself of.

REDRESS has called on the Government of the Netherlands to take up Mr. El-Hagoug’s case with Libya with a view to securing his right to reparation. 

Read more about the case


 

UN Committee urges Nepal to provide a remedy to father of girl killed by military forces

The UN Human Rights Committee has ordered Nepal to provide a remedy to the father of a 17-year old girl who was extrajudicially killed in 2004 by Nepalese soldiers, accused of belonging to the Maoist party, including by conducting an effective investigation into the facts with a view to prosecuting and punishing those responsible.

The girl was severely beaten and shot dead by a group of soldiers in front of his father, who was also badly beaten. She was unarmed at the time and had denied she was associated with the Maoists. Despite her father's efforts, more than 10 years after the killing, no investigation has ever been concluded by Nepal to elucidate the circumstances surrounding her arrest and death and no perpetrator has been tried and punished.

The Committee, which monitors compliance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, found multiple violations of the Covenant by Nepal, including of articles 6 (right to life), 7 (right to be free from torture and ill-treatment), 9 (right to liberty and security of person) and 10 (right of anyone deprived of liberty to be treated with dignity and humanity).  


 

REDRESS and partner take case of transsexual tortured in front of the police

REDRESS and its partner, the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNNDDHH), are assisting a young transsexual from Perú to find justice and reparation for the torture he suffered at the hands of private individuals with the acquiescence of the police.

The events took place during the night of 28 October 2007, when the victim was assaulted by a group of unidentified individuals in a street in Lima, the capital. The group beat her repeatedly and insulted her for being a transsexual. She managed to escape and sought the help and the protection from the police, who not only ignore her pleas for help, but also mocked her. Her aggressors started to beat her again, relying on the inaction of the police. One of them inflicted a deep cut to her face. As a result of the attack, her face was disfigured and she had to be hospitalised and undergo reconstructive surgery.

REDRESS and the CNDDHH are preparing a criminal complaint against the policemen who consented to the torture perpetrated by the private individuals.

REDRESS calls for victims to be given a stronger voice at the ICC

From 8 to 17 December, REDRESS attended the annual session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) - the ICC governing body representing 122 States Parties – at the UN headquarters in New York. The session took place just three days after the ICC Prosecutor withdrew the charges against President Kenyatta for lack of evidence in the midst of claims of non-cooperation by the Government of Kenya.

A timely debate on improving cooperation with the Court took place during the session and REDRESS was among those calling for stronger cooperation mechanisms. For more information, click here to see our two press releases on the Kenyatta case: one commenting on the withdrawal of charges against Kenyatta and the other on the lack of cooperation from Kenya. See also a press release from the Coalition for the ICC, of which REDRESS is a steering committee member.

REDRESS also contributed to the debate on another crucial issue: how to improve the system of victim participation. Victim participation plays an important role in the ICC system of justice. It is designed to ensure that those most affected by the crimes are able to engage with the Court: so far, about 10,000 victims have participated in proceedings. A number of proposals have been put forward to improve this system. In order to contribute to the debate, REDRESS produced a special edition of the ACCESS bulletin, a publication from the Victims’ Rights Working Group's, a broad coalition of experts, victims' groups and human rights organisations which advocate for victims' rights before the ICC. The special edition included interviews with five former ICC judges and two ICC victims’ legal representatives, who have represented between them more than 20,000 victims in ICC proceedings. The interviewees' first-hand experience of the victim participation system provides a useful lens through which the system and the proposals that have been put forward to improve it may be analysed.

The special edition of ACCESS bulletin is available in English, FrançaisEspañol and عربي.

REDRESS also organised a side event together with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 10 December. The event focused on victim participation in national trials concerning ICC crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide).

VRWG recomendations to ICC Member States at the ASP

The Victims' Rights Working Group made a series of recommendations to the Assembly of States Parties that meet in New York from 8 to 17 of December.

Some of the recommendations to ICC Member States included: that it consults broadly during the 2015 review process of the Victims' Strategy; that it also reviews with broad consultation the Guidelines on Intermediaries and that it ensures that sufficient resources are allocated for its dissemination; and that it continues to engage in discussions with victims' legal representatives and civil society experts on how to improve the current system for victims' participation and legal representation.

The VRWG also made some recommendations to the Court, including that any review of the Court's practices on victims-related issues tries to ensure reparative, effective and meaningful procedures, not merely less costly ones, and that the adopted Guidelines on Intermediaries are made available in different languages.

See the full recommendations here

Français

Photo: REDRESS and ISS side event at the ASP on 10 December with a full room.

Fighting impunity around the world

Despite near universal recognition of the prohibition of torture, torture remains a reality in many countries. 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. The program is funded by the European Union's European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

Coinciding with UN Human Rights Day on 10 December, the organisations launched an advocacy campaign to bring attention to the prevalence of torture in these countries and the need to foment stronger alignment of local laws with international standards, in particular, the UN Convention against Torture.

A video from Advocacy Forum featured the experiences of several torture survivors from the recent armed conflict and called for the criminalisation of torture in Nepal. Watch the video here in Nepalese with English subtitles

Lawyers for Justice in Libya's video highlighted the grave effect that torture is having on all of the Libyan population: it is affecting everyone, not just those who are direct victims. You can watch the video here in Arabic 

The video from la Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos in Perú highlighted the fact that more than half of Peruvians live in fear of being tortured by their own authorities. The video calls for the enactment of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture. Watch it here in Spanish

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya conducted a nationwide campaign using leaflets and other tools to sensitise the public on torture and how to report torture-related cases during the vetting process of all police officers currently underway in Kenya. Independent surveys have pointed to the police as principal perpetrators of torture and as such police vetting offers a unique opportunity for accountability and redress.

Advocacy work

REDRESS urges the USA to act decisively on torture report; also presses the UK Government to investigate its role

The scale of the USA's engagement in torture after the 9/11 attacks was laid bare by the US Senate Intelligence Committee report released on 9 December. The report made clear that the USA repeatedly breached its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and used torture techniques that were even worse than previously acknowledged, including prolonged sleep deprivation, forced "rectal feeding" as well as waterboarding on more prisoners than previously known. 

REDRESS has called on the USA Government to investigate all the incidents of torture and to hold all those responsible to account, as well as to provide adequate justice and reparation for the victims. 

In acknowledging the significance of the report, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Chair of REDRESS, said: "We welcome the transparency represented in this Report. It shows the nature and extent of what happened and underlines that even the staunchest advocates for human rights can fail. Whatever the pressures, governments should not resort to illegal, unproductive, immoral behaviour. We wish there had been greater emphasis on the survivors of these torture practices and their legitimate rights to justice. It is also vital that a democracy like the USA should now come to terms with what was done in its name and make every effort to stand by the principles and legal commitments which it advocates for others, and must equally apply in its own actions."

Read our full press statement here

At the same time, REDRESS has called for the UK to establish a judge-led fully independent inquiry to look into allegations of its own complicity in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the USA, its close ally.

Even though the heavily redacted Senate report does not include any clear references to the UK intelligence agencies or to Diego Garcia – a British territory known to have been used for rendition flights - a picture of what may have been the UK’s potential role in the ill-treatment and torture of terror suspects has nonetheless begun to be pieced together by the first-hand account of victims, investigations of journalists and human rights organisations and protracted litigation. 

Click here to read our press statement

Photo: Wikipedia


REDRESS calls for the release of distinguished human rights lawyer from Sudan

REDRESS continues to be extremely concerned by the continuing secret detention of Dr. Amin Mekki Medani. On
Saturday, 4 December 2014, Dr. Medani and Mr. Farouq Abuessa were arrested by Sudan’s National and Intelligence Security Services, along with a number of other persons. This followed their return from Addis Ababa where they had signed the Sudan Call, “a political declaration on the establishment of a state of citizenship and democracy”.

Many lawyers, human rights defenders and organisations have benefited greatly from his experience, insights, support and generosity. This includes REDRESS in our work with Dr. Medani on the prohibition of torture, justice and accountability for human rights violations, and criminal law reform in Sudan.

REDRESS has called for the immediate release of Dr. Medani.

Read our full press release

عربي 


  

REDRESS welcomes calls from parliamentarians to designate Bahrain a country of concern

The influential Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament (FAC) has called on the UK Government to designate Bahrain a “country of concern” because of it poor human rights record. It did so in a recent report on its inquiry into the UK Government’s Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2013, which presents the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s analysis of human rights around the world and its work to make a difference on this area.

REDRESS, which presented written evidence to the parliamentary committee for its inquiry, argued strongly that there was little substantive reform in Bahrain and torture remained a serious problem.

The Foreign Affairs Committee said to the Government: "We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights, and we believe that the FCO should have bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as a country of concern."

Click here to see the FAC inquiry report (November 2014)

Click here to see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report 

See here REDRESS submission to the FAC inquiry (May 2014) 

Film screening on sexual violence in the DRC and the need to provide redress to victims

 

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are rampant in the war-torn provinces of the East of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 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.

To raise awareness about this problem, REDRESS recently held a film screening in Parliament of "Seeds of Hope", a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies. The film follows the story of Masika Katsuva, a Congolese woman, survivor of multiple rapes, who sacrifices her safety every day to help a community of rape victims rebuild their lives. The event took place on 16 December and it was chaired by MP Jeremy Corbyn. It was co-organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Human Rights and on the African Great Lakes region.

Our Post-Conflict Legal Advisor Beini Ye talked about the barriers to justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict in the DRC. She also discussed a recent communication that REDRESS and the Synergie pour l'assistance judiciaire aux victimes de violation des droits humains au Nord Kivu (SAJ) have filed with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of a female rape victim, who was awarded damages against the DRC and has not received any payments until today.

The impact of the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in the DRC was also discussed, fuelled by input from representatives of the PSVI team and Congolese groups who attended the meeting.

Read more about the case

Read our shadow report to UN CEDAW (2013) 

Conferences and workshops

Training and capacity building in Kenya

26-28 November and 6-10 December 2014, Nairobi, Kenya 

In late November, REDRESS co-hosted a workshop with victim representatives in Kenya on transitional justice. The participants discussed the latest developments at the International Criminal Court, the progress in implementing the Internally Displaced Person Act, the advocacy efforts on the International Crimes Division and the status of the recommendations made by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

In December, also as part of our work in Kenya, our Legal Advisor Juergen Shurr met with our partner, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) to discuss litigation before the High Court; training for lawyers, prosecutors, police officers and county law enforcement officials, and advocacy efforts towards the adoption of the anti-torture bill by Parliament. 

Photo of participants at the workshop with victim representatives in Kenya.


 

REDRESS discusses impunity in the Sudans

15-16 December 2014, Durham, UK

Our Counsel Dr. Lutz Oette presented a paper on impunity and justice in the Sudans at a conference titled "Justice in Sudan and South Sudan" that took place at the Law School of the Durham University. Dr Oette is our expert on Sudan and has been responsible for our Project for Criminal Law Reform in Sudan.

Make a difference this Christmas

Help REDRESS in its vital work during this holiday season by giving a donation online or setting up a regular donation here: http://www.redress.org/donate/donate

Your contribution will help more than 800 torture victims we are currently assisting by covering essential costs of our cases such as legal research and investigation, medical and psychological reports for survivors, notary and court fees and translation and interpretation costs

Here are some examples of what your donation could help us achieve:

  • £10 covers the fees to initiate court procedures in relation to a torture case in DRC.
  • £20 covers the costs of sending by post case documentation to the UN Human Rights Committee enabling us to file a complaint on behalf of a torture survivor like Ebenezer Akwanga, a political activist tortured in Cameroon.
  • £50 enables one of our lawyers to meet with a torture survivor and take his or her statement (necessary to initiate legal proceedings).
  • £175 allows one of our lawyers to share a full day of expertise with a local lawyer in conflict torn locations in Africa, progressing torture cases, including sexual violence cases.
  • £265 covers the court fees required to file a written intervention to the UK High Court of Justice or the Court of Appeal, for example, in cases like the Mau Mau Colonial Era Torture or Baha Mousa’s case who was tortured to death in Iraq.
  • £600 covers printing costs of 200 copies of a manual on how to litigate torture cases to be given to local lawyers in countries where we work.
  • £900 is the current cost of obtaining a full medical or physiological evaluation of a torture survivor (needed as evidence in court).

All the work we do on behalf of torture survivors is free of charge, we rely on the generosity of our supporters.

THANK YOU!

And if you would like to support us in another way, please remember that there are still available spots for REDRESS runners at some events next year. One of these events is the British 10K Run that will take place on 12 July 2015. If you are interested in taking part in it, please contact Jennifer on jennifer@redress.org 

Recent media coverage

Please find below some recent media coverage of REDRESS:

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