Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Reparation News
April 2015
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Dear friends and colleagues,

Welcome to our latest 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. For the most up-to-date information, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you for your continued interest in our work and for your support. Please contact us if you have any questions about our work, want to learn more or would like to collaborate with us.

Carla Ferstman, Director


 

Case updates

DRC: African Commission will consider complaint of rape victim fighting for compensation

REDRESS learned this month that the African Commission on Human and People's Rights has seized our complaint on behalf of a female rape victim who was awarded damages against the Democratic Republic of the Congo but has not received any payments from the State until today.

The victim, S.A., was raped by a member of the Armed Forces in the late 2000s, in the context of the armed conflict in war-torn Eastern DRC, where rape and other forms of sexual violence are rampant. REDRESS and the Synergie pour l'assistance judiciaire aux victimes de violation des droits humains au Nord Kivu (SAJ) brought the complaint before the African Commission, the body tasked with considering individual complaints of violations of rights set out in the African Charter, with the hope that it leads to reparation for the victim and also opens the door to other victims.

Survivors continue to face many obstacles in accessing justice, including those who have been awarded damages against the State for the harm they suffered at the hands of state agents, such as members of the military. Our organisations argue that the DRC has failed so far to fulfill their legal obligation to enforce these court-ordered compensations.

We also set out the legal framework of court-ordered damages in the DRC and the obstacles faced by victims when seeking enforcement of these awards and highlight that the failure of the DRC to pay S.A. constitutes a violation of the rights enshrined in the African Charter and the Protocol to the Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, in particular the rights to a remedy and to reparation for victims of violence against women. 

Read more about S.A. case here

Photo Credit: UN Photo by Marie Frechon.


 

United Arab Emirates: Complaint to UN experts on behalf of domestic violence victim 

Following allegations that the UAE authorities had not responded appropriately to complaints of domestic violence raised by Afsana Lachaux, a British national who was living in UAE, REDRESS has brought her case to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women and Torture.

In a letter to the UN experts, we allege that UAE authorities not only failed to respond to numerous complaints of physical and psychological violence made by Ms Lachaux, and relied on discriminatory procedures and stereotypes to reach decisions concerning her and her child, but that some of the authorities’ actions themselves caused harm to her.

It is alleged that these failed responses led to such a lack of trust in the authorities that Ms Lachaux went into hiding. As a consequence she was prosecuted for kidnapping her child and lost custody of him at an age when custody would normally be granted to the mother. Evidence of alleged domestic violence was barred from the hearing in her criminal trial and was not taken into account in custody proceedings.

The submission alleges that the failure to respond appropriately to allegations of domestic violence led to violations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In addition it also alleges that, by failing to take into account allegations of abuse in custody proceedings, the UAE is responsible for a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Read more about Afsana's case here


 

Sudan: Relief at the release of human rights defender and political activists

REDRESS was relieved at the release of distinguished human rights defender Dr. Amin Mekki Medani and political activists Mr. Farouk Abu Eissa and Mr. Farah Ibrahim Alagar on 9 April in Sudan.

Their release took place more than four months after they had been arrested in Sudan, following their signing of the "Sudan call", which committed the co-signatories to work towards ending the raging conflicts in Sudan and towards legal, institutional and economic reforms.

REDRESS advocated for their release, together with fellow organisations the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, FIDH and OMCT, including through the filing of a complaint before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Of extreme concern to us were their initial incommunicado detention and conditions of detention, including access to adequate medical care.

They were charged with several serious offenses against the State and were facing trial before a court established under the anti-terrorism law that failed to meet fair trial guarantees. All the charges were eventually dropped by the Minister of Justice.

REDRESS will continue to urge Sudan to stop all acts of harassment and intimidation against civil society and human rights defenders and to treat all people detained in accordance with the rule of law, and in compliance with regional and international human rights treaties ratified by Sudan. 

Read more about the case

Read our press release  

Global project to fight impunity for torture

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 with a high prevalence of the practice, including in Perú, Libya, Kenya and Nepal. The programme is funded by the European Union's European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Below are some recent examples of the work that we have recently undertaken under this grant.

Commentary on torture provisions in Libya's constitutional recommendations

Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) and REDRESS have prepared a detailed legal commentary on the first set of constitutional recommendations that were published by Libya's Constitutional Drafting Assembly, the body tasked with drawing up a new constitution for Libya, in December last year.

Our joint commentary assesses the effectiveness of the proposed provisions in enshrining the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. While constitutional and legislative safeguards to prevent torture have been extremely limited over the past 60 years in Libya and any existing measures were not upheld in practice, the upcoming constitutional draft offers an opportunity to address this failure.

LFJL and REDRESS welcome the positive steps taken by the constitutional drafting body to address some of the key limitations, for example, a recommendation enshrining the principle of non-refoulement under domestic law for the first time. This principle prohibits the extradition or transfer of a person to another country where the person may be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. However, we are concerned that these provisions are not comprehensive enough, given Libya’s historical use of torture, its continued prevalence today, and the degree of impunity with which it is carried out.

Therefore we suggest some amendments to the proposed provisions, including having a separate article on torture that uses the definition in the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and from which the related obligations and safeguards to prevent torture and afford remedies to survivors are elaborated.

Dr. Lutz Oette, REDRESS’ Counsel, said: “The current constitutional review process provides a unique opportunity for Libya to put the prohibition of torture on the strongest possible footing. Enshrining the right to be free from torture in the constitution sends a clear message that torture has no place in Libya’s legal order.”

Read our press release in English here

Read the full commentary in English

Read our press release in عربي here

Read the full commentary in عربي

Watch a video on torture in Libya


 

REDRESS urges Peruvian prosecutor to investigate rape of soldier

REDRESS and la Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) in Peru have written to the National Criminal Prosecutor of Peru urging that the investigation in the case of C.A.M.V., a young man who was raped and mistreated during the time he served in the Peruvian Army, be advanced.

In 2011, C.A.M.V. suffered physical and psychological abuse and was raped while doing voluntary military service as an 18-year-old recruit at army barracks in Cusco, a city in southeastern Peru. The perpetrators allegedly committed the rape, after drugging him without his knowledge and while he was unconscious. Toxicological tests confirmed he had been drugged. His injuries were so severe that he had to be hospitalised for more than a month. 

While an investigation was initiated more than four years ago, progress has yet to be made with regard to a number of investigative steps. DNA samples that were supposed to be taken from suspects have not been taken yet, despite the fact that the prosecutor's office ordered this test two years ago.


 

Criminal complaint in case of Peruvian transsexual tortured in front of the police 

On 12 March 2014, REDRESS' partner CNNDDHH and PROMSEX filed a criminal complaint on behalf of a young transsexual from Peru, who is seeking justice and reparation for the torture she 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 instead of answering her pleas for help stood quiet and 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 has supported its partners in the filing of the criminal complaint against the policemen who consented to the torture perpetrated by the private individuals. 

Advocacy Work

Letter to EU Genocide Network following release of Senate report on CIA abuses

Ahead of the 18th meeting of the EU Genocide Network, REDRESS and four other human rights organisations called for a special meeting of the Network to discuss ongoing and potential investigations and prosecutions following the release of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report summary last year. The Network brings together national authorities from EU Member States investigating and prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Senate report summary brought further scrutiny to the torture that took place under a programme carried out by CIA officials and contractors in secret prisons around the world as well as in Guantánamo Bay in the years after the 9/11 attacks and demonstrated that the torture techniques used were far more brutal, systematic and widespread than previously acknowledged.

In a letter, the organisations called for a special meeting of the Network to discuss the report's implications for EU contact points and their respective jurisdictions, and the Network's role in contributing to accountability for the crimes highlighted in the document. According to the organisations, the close linkages between, and involvement of some EU member states and the USA in the CIA programme make a meeting appropriate to ensure that accountability extends to all of those who bear responsibility for serious abuses. 

The other co-signatories were Track Impunity Always (TRIAL), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

Our Post-Conflict Legal Advisor Beini Ye attended the EU Genocide Network meeting on 23 April.  

Read our letter here

Photo credit: Conference REDRESS and organisations FIDH, TRIAL and ECCHR set up in October 2014 with the support of the EU Genocide Network Secretariat.


 

REDRESS continues to advocate on behalf of victims in Bahrain

REDRESS continues to support Bahraini nationals in their efforts to eradicate torture and impunity in Bahrain. Ahead of the 4th International Human Rights Conference conference entitled "Bahrain: Absence of Justice and Breach of International Commitments" that took place in Lebanon between 22-23 April, our Legal Advisor Kevin Laue discussed the lack of accountability for torture in Bahrain during a TV interview for Shells for Media Productions. The interview was part of a series of statements from experts for the conference introduction.

You can watch it here

This follows REDRESS' involvement in efforts to seek justice for systematic torture in Bahrain since the 2000's in which REDRESS has testified in Parliament on this issue, has written to the UN to bring attention to the torture of Bahraini activists, carried out a monitoring trip to Bahrain after the release of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI) findings and monitored human rights abuses in the country.  

Read our report Bahrain: Fundamental reform or torture without end in English or عربي

Events and Conferences

REDRESS at the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights

Banjul, The Gambia, 21 April-7 May 2015

This month REDRESS attended the 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and participated in a number of events, including a panel discussion on torture organised by the Commission’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) on 22 April 2015. The panel discussion focused on the CPTA’s initiative to draft a series of general comments on Article 5 of the African Charter, which prohibits torture and ill-treatment. It was chaired by Commissioner Lawrence Mute, Chairperson of the CPTA.

REDRESS’ Legal Advisor, Jurgen Schurr presented on the importance of general comments in interpreting obligations and guiding States in the implementation of those obligations, with a particular emphasis on the right to reparation. Our partner, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), intervened on the link between torture and the fight against terrorism. During the discussion, delegates from a wide range of States expressed their support for the CPTA’s plans.

NGO Forum and other activities

We also participated in the NGO Forum preceding the session. On 17 April 2015, together with our partners, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) and Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), and in collaboration with the Counseling Services Unit (CSU, Zimbabwe) and the Prisoners Reform and Welfare Action (PRAWA, Nigeria), we organised a panel discussion, "Accountability for Torture: national developments and the role of the ACHPR".

Participants presented a number of challenges that currently prevent accountability and access to justice, including the absence of a legal framework on torture, a lack of political will and insufficient protection and outreach to victims. The African Commission plays a key role in upholding the rights of victims and reminding States of their obligations under the African Charter, including the obligation to investigate and prosecute and to provide redress to victims. Commissioner Maya Sahli Fadel highlighted the importance of the Commission's fact finding missions in this respect and participants urged the Commission to carry out such missions more frequently and to adopt a resolution on accountability for torture.

On 22 April 2015, together with the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Amnesty International, the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Darfur Bar Association and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) we held the panel discussion on “The Human Rights Situation in Sudan and the Role of the African Commission”, which included interventions on the current situation in conflict regions Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as an assessment of the Commission’s past engagement in Sudan. Participants urged the Commission to adopt a country specific resolution on Sudan and to carry out a mission to Sudan.

Together with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) REDRESS also ran a workshop on the Communication Procedure of the African Commission designed to demystify the process and encourage human rights organisations to file more complaints. The African Commission is tasked with considering individual complaints of violations of rights set out in the Charter, yet during its 30 years of existence, the Commission has only considered approximately 500 cases. During the visit the REDRESS team also followed up on a number of our cases currently pending before the African Commission.

Photo of the panel discussion organised by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA).


 

Conference on impunity for torture in democracies

Bayonne, France, 9-10 April 2015

REDRESS participated in a conference organised by the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, the Institut universitaire Varenne and the Association Française pour la Justice Transitionnelle on the “paradox of impunity of torture in democracies”. The conference brought together a wide range of specialists from the academia, NGOs, media and lawyers. REDRESS’ Legal Advisor Juergen Schurr spoke about how national authorities respond to allegations and complaints of torture, including in European countries, based on REDRESS’ experiences, and on the CIA's secret detention facilities in European countries.  


 

Seminar in Senegal on how to deal with past abuses

Dakar, Senegal, 27 April - 1 May

REDRESS Director Carla Ferstman participated as a resource person on reparations in a seminar organised by the Swiss Government and SwissPeace on dealing with the past. The seminar included participants from Chad, Mali, Senegal and Tunisia. 


 

Visit of Boston College Law students

London, UK, 22 April 2015

A group of Boston College Law students who are spending the semester in London attending classes at King's College London and carrying out internships across the legal spectrum in the UK visited REDRESS to learn more about REDRESS' mission and mandate to help victims of torture to gain reparations. Our legal staff explained that REDRESS does so using a three-pronged approach which is casework with clients, advocacy to pass anti-torture initiatives and offering training to like-minded organisations around the world. Our Legal Officer Gaia Pergolo discussed differing definitions of torture in international law and how to hold governments to account. Our Legal Advisor Kevin Laue spoke about reparations and how we measured success.   

Other publications

Report on effective legal representation for victims before the International Criminal Court

Effective legal representation for victims before the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a condition for their meaningful participation in proceedings, itself a key component of the Rome Statute. In practice, it has been difficult to achieve. The purpose of our report is to draw attention to some of the challenges that serve as barriers to ensuring effective and efficient representation for victims.

REDRESS convened a seminar in end November of last year during which counsel for victims, intermediaries, representatives of the ICC Registry and others were invited to discuss how to strengthen victims’ legal representation and overcome the challenges that were identified during the meeting. This report reflects many of the discussions that took place and additional research carried out by REDRESS.

More specifically, the report analyses: the current framework governing the appointment of legal representatives of victims (LRVs) as well as Common Legal Representatives of Victims (CLRV). We examine some of the key factors governing the selection of counsel for victims as well as victims’ limited opportunities to challenge such appointments. We also review the practice of legal representation. We assess whether there may be a need to better spell out lawyers’ roles and responsibilities, and review the difficulties faced by counsel when communicating and taking instructions from victims and how to overcome them. Lastly, we consider whether additional monitoring mechanisms may help, and what these might look like, and whether the current disciplinary framework is adequate to address actual or perceived under performance.

 Download the report here

Support REDRESS' work

You can still donate to our Marathon runners

On Sunday 26 April six REDRESS supporters ran the London Marathon, raising money to help more than 800 torture victims. The money they raise will go to covering essential costs of our cases such as legal research; medical and psychological reports; notary and court fees and translation and interpretation costs. While they have completed their run, you can still congratulate them and support REDRESS' work by donating to their pages below: 

https://www.justgiving.com/ianclements/

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kittylondonmarathon

https://www.justgiving.com/Ben-Freedman2015

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=EdwardCraven&faId=570280&isTeam=false

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

The money you donate will greatly help the work of REDRESS. As an example, £10 allows us to cover the fees to initiate court procedures in relation to a torture case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and £50 enables one of our lawyers to meet with a torture survivor and take his or her statement, necessary to initiate legal proceedings. Your support is vital to our work. 

 

 

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