REDRESS - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Surviors Reparation News
August - September 2011      

Dear Friends

Welcome to REDRESS' August-September 2011 edition of Reparation News. Please find below a summary of recent case updates, news and publications from REDRESS. We hope you find this resource useful and invite you to know more about our work.

Warm wishes,

Carla Ferstman
Director

Rwandan genocide suspect brought to justice: a REDRESS film

REDRESS’ work to promote justice and the legal rights of torture victims is highlighted in the new documentary film of award-winning producer and journalist Fiona Lloyd-Davies.

The Appeal of Joseph M focuses on Joseph M and his role in massacres committed during the genocide in Rwanda. The film offers a rare glimpse into the work of the appeals court in the Netherlands as its judges try to establish if Joseph M is responsible for war crimes that took place in Rwanda.

Joseph M, a businessman from Mugonero, was convicted of torture in 2009 and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but both he and the prosecutor appealed that ruling. Last July, a Dutch appeals court sentenced him to life imprisonment for war crimes, after the Court established that he was guilty of additional crimes, such as leading an attack on an Adventist compound in which hundreds of Tutsi refugees were butchered.

The film was produced to help survivors understand the concept and practical issues surrounding trials taking place in foreign countries. It was recently shown at a workshop for survivors in Mugonero, Rwanda.

Lloyd-Davies has worked for major broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera and is recognised for the films she made with Salam Pax, the “Baghdad Blogger”, which earned them an RTS award.

You can watch the film in English and Kinyarwanda HERE.

In addition to organising the workshop in Mugonero, REDRESS, African Rights and IBUKA co-hosted a conference on reparation for genocide survivors in Kigali, Rwanda, on 17 August.

Participants explored the experiences of genocide survivors in claiming reparation before gacaca and national courts as well as what needs to be done in Rwanda to improve access to reparation. Survivors and experts from human rights groups were joined by representatives of the Parliament of Rwanda and the Ministry of Justice.

Almost two decades after the genocide, hundreds of thousands of survivors are still waiting for reparation. Read what survivors had to say at the conference in this op-ed by Juergen Schurr, REDRESS’ legal advisor, in Pambazuka News.

Photo: Genocide survivors in Mugonero watch The Appeal of Joseph M. Credit: REDRESS.


Case update

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

Bangladesh: REDRESS asks for impartial investigation into attack on activist

REDRESS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wrote to the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh to express concern about the ineffective investigation into a violent attack on a human rights defender.

Mr Razzak and his brother were attacked by a group of people in Paikgachha, in the south-west of the country, on 29 April 2011. After being assaulted, they were brought to the home of a Bangladeshi Army official where they were repeatedly beaten with rifles, pistols, iron rods and a butcher’s knife. One attacker attempted to gouge Mr Razzak’s eyes with a screw driver. The Bangladeshi activist suffered fractures on his right leg and right hand and had to undergo complex surgery for his injuries.

The National Human Rights Commission referred the investigation to the Paikgachha local administration and the rapid action battalions’ central headquarters. The Commission’s following report concluded, on the basis of the information that it had received, that Mr Razzak had not been attacked or tortured by officials but that he had been attacked by local villagers and relatives he had problems with.

REDRESS and AHRC are concerned about the lack of transparency of the investigation by the local officials. The impartiality of the findings is questionable and the two human rights groups recommend that the National Human Rights Commission conducts its own  independent investigation to ensure the full impartiality of further proceedings.

You can read our letter HERE.

Sri Lanka: REDRESS files complaint to protect murdered man’s family

Mr Sugath Fernando, the claimant’s husband, had lodged complaints of torture and bribery against several police officers. Constant threats of assassination followed. A few days before he was to give evidence against his alleged torturers he was shot and killed.

His wife, Ms Pathmini Peiris, and two children gave evidence at the inquest into his death implicating and naming 14 police officers. Criminal charges and threats were brought against her in response to her complaints. Two lawyers involved with the case have also been threatened.

REDRESS, the Asian Legal Resource Centre and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims in Denmark submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2009, in which they requested interim measures to ensure the family’s safety. The Committee issued a letter to the Sri Lankan government on 12 February 2009 requesting the state to take measures to protect them.

In August 2011, an additional submission was lodged with the Committee on behalf of Ms Pathmini Peiris arguing that Sri Lanka’s failure to comply with the requested protection measures constituted a separate violation of her rights.

Read more about the case HERE.

Iran: REDRESS intervenes in the case of photojournalist tortured to death

Ms Kazemi was arrested while taking photographs of a protest outside Evin prison. During detention, she was interrogated, beaten, sexually assaulted and tortured. After being tortured she was taken to a hospital suffering intestinal bleeding and a brain injury.

Iranian officials delayed contact with her family to hide the full extent of her injuries and then refused frantic requests for independent medical examination and treatment. She was later declared brain-dead with no chance of recovery and was buried in Iran despite her family’s requests to repatriate her body. Neither Iran nor the officials responsible for her death have been held accountable.

In January 2011, the Québec Superior Court allowed the claim of Mr Kazemi’s son 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 in May 2011 REDRESS was  granted leave to appear in the proceedings as an intervener. In August REDRESS submitted an amicus brief on the issue of state immunity.The appeal is expected to be heard in the first half of 2012. 

Read more about the case HERE.

Photo: FMA Razzak after he was attacked in Bangladesh. Credit: AHRC.


REDRESS brings attention to torture of Bahraini activists

REDRESS submitted information to UN Special Rapporteurs on the torture of Bahraini human rights activists, including specific allegations of torture inflicted on Jaafar Al Hasabi, a British-Bahraini national and REDRESS’s long-term client.

Mr Al Hasabi was arrested in August last year at Bahrain International Airport as he returned from a holiday trip with his family. The 39-year-old father of five was jailed and tortured for six months. He was among 23 Bahraini activists arrested in a clampdown ahead of parliamentary elections last year. He was accused of terrorism and plotting to overthrow the government, charges that he denies.

During his detention, Mr Al Hasabi was held incommunicado and subjected to severe physical and mental torture at the hands of the National Security Agency including beatings, electric shocks, falaqa (foot whipping), continuous forced standing, threats to his family, use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, blindfolding and verbal abuse. He was also forced to sign a false confession.

On 23 February 2011 Mr Al Hasabi and the other activists were released under royal pardons following a popular uprising inspired by similar ones in Tunisia and Egypt. Shortly after his release, Mr Al Hasabi was able to return to the UK, but a number of the other activists were held again in the crackdown that followed the protests. His treatment in detention raises serious concerns about the wellbeing of other activists in detention.

Read more about the Al Hasabi case HERE.

Photo: Jaafar Al Hasabi. Credit: Carolina Ramírez.


Mousa Inquiry reveals 'corporate failure'

In early September the public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, who died of injuries sustained in British custody in Iraq in 2003, issued its concluding report. It confirmed that the Basra hotel worker died as a result of a “violent and cowardly” assault during which he suffered at least 93 injuries. It also condemned "corporate failure" at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) over the use of banned interrogation methods.

The inquiry singled out several soldiers for severe criticism, but it also found that there was widespread ignorance in the military of what was permitted in handling prisoners of war.

REDRESS, which has been involved in the Mousa case since 2004, is convinced that it would be wrong to conclude that this was an isolated case of ill-treatment by British Army personnel in Iraq. A further inquiry into alleged instances of torture and deaths at a British facility in 2004 has been established (the Al-Sweady Inquiry) and there is currently litigation which is considering whether there is a need to set up  a single inquiry into the alleged abuse of 128 individuals by British armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 (Ali Zaki Mousa v. Secretary of State for Defence).

REDRESS has urged the Government, the MoD and the Army to take the necessary steps to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Watch REDRESS’ legal advisor Kevin Laue talk about the case on Al Jazeera's Inside Story and BBC News. Read more about REDRESS' interventions in the case HERE.

REDRESS withdraws from the Gibson Inquiry

REDRESS was also one of ten NGOs to withdraw their support from a government inquiry investigating allegations that UK authorities were involved in torturing detainees overseas.

The Gibson Inquiry was set up in 2010 to investigate the UK’s alleged role in torture and rendition after the attacks of September 11. The NGOs withdrew from the inquiry in August after claiming that it lacked the credibility or transparency to adequately investigate the allegations.

REDRESS, in particular, highlighted three key shortcomings of the inquiry: First, the government and not the inquiry panel will decide what will be publicly disclosed, so it is not an independent process. Second, all the evidence of the security forces, apart from that given by the Heads of the services, will be given in private, so it won’t be anywhere near a public process. Third, the inquiry won’t be investigating all the allegations of UK involvement in improper treatment of detainees held by other countries, so it is not a full inquiry into the range of outstanding allegations.

Photo: Hotel worker Baha Mousa with son. 


REDRESS advocates for survivors at the ICC

REDRESS continues to advocate for victims at the International Criminal Court (ICC), including their ability to take part in proceedings, and their right to protection and reparation.

On 25 August, the ICC began hearing closing arguments against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, the first case to reach this stage at the ICC.

REDRESS, which has been monitoring the case since 2006, put together a timeline that traces the history of victims’ engagement in this landmark trial. Five years ago an ICC arrest warrant was issued for Lubanga, after two years of investigations by the Court’s Prosecutor into the conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The timeline can be found HERE.

In recent months, REDRESS also brought attention to the fact that at least 470 victims hadn’t been allowed to participate in the confirmation of charges hearing of Callixte Mbarushimana before the ICC. The hearing took place from September 16 to 21 in The Hague.

The Registrar explained that victims’ requests had not been examined because of lack of means, and before the hearing, REDRESS urged the Court to take the necessary steps to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, the issue was not resolved.

Read our press statement HERE.

For more information about victims’ issues and the ICC visit  www.vrwg.org 

Photo: Thomas Lubanga is on trial at The Hague. He is accused of recruiting child soldiers in DR Congo. Credit: Ekenitr.


New reports and conferences

India's Armed Forces Act: A Blotch to Democracy

A new report by REDRESS, the Asian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Alert documents continuing human rights violations under India’s Armed Forces Act.

The vaguely formulated act – in force for more than 50 years – grants extraordinary  powers to the military in so-called “disturbed areas”, including the State of Manipur in the northeast of the country. The legislation has been at the heart of concerns about human rights violations including arbitrary killings, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading  treatment and enforced disappearances.

The Act has attracted widespread criticism from jurists and human rights activists for decades and yet until now no comprehensive up to date analysis of its conformity with  applicable international human rights standards was available. The new report highlights that the Act is incompatible with India’s obligations under international human rights law.

The report – published in August – calls on the Indian Government to repeal the act, which stands as a symbol of arbitrary law-enforcement and encourages human rights violations.

Read the report HERE.

Expert meeting on torture in Asia

On 23-25 September 2011 REDRESS and the Asian Human Rights Commission held a regional expert meeting in Hong Kong on torture in Asia. Practising lawyers and civil society activists coming from more than fifteen Asian countries, from Afghanistan to East Timor, discussed the legislation and practices concerning torture in their respective jurisdictions, and recurrent challenges and examples of good practice throughout the region. The contributions will be reflected in “Article 2”, a law journal published by the Asian Human Rights Commission, and a meeting report to be produced by REDRESS.

European expert meeting on torture: call for applications

REDRESS and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights are issuing a call for applications to participate in a European expert meeting on law and practice on the prohibition of torture. It will take place in Berlin on 25-27 November 2011.

Please apply by 10 October 2011. More information HERE.

Photo: India's Armed Forces Act is at the heart of concerns about human rights violations. Credit Kevin J.


Run for REDRESS at the London Marathon

Be a part of one of the biggest running events on the planet and support REDRESS at the same time. We now have spaces available for the Virgin London Marathon 2012!

If you are looking to get involved in the challenge of a lifetime, by running and raising funds for REDRESS, please e-mail Casey Davison O’Brien at casey@redress.org, or call him on +44 (0) 207 793 1777 to find out more about how to secure a place as a runner for REDRESS. 

To learn more about REDRESS’ work, please visit our website www.redress.org.

REDRESS would like also to thank this year’s team of dedicated runners who participated in the Women's 5K Challenge 2011. Helen McAleer, Helen Dickinson, Carla Ferstman, and Eva Sanchis all took to the streets of London on Sunday 11 September in support of REDRESS.

Photo: Helen Dickinson at the Women’s 5K Challenge 2011. Credit: REDRESS.


     
 

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).

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.

 

Support the fight against torture by making a donation to REDRESS.

 


 
 

 

 

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