REDRESS - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Surviors Reparation News
November - December 2011      

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It's been another great year for REDRESS.

This year has yielded legal and moral victories for victims of torture in several cases in which REDRESS has been involved. In May 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Cameroon breached activist Ebenezer Akwanga's right to be free from torture and failed to afford him a fair trial. In another case in Nepal, the Committee found that the rights of a victim who was held in incommunicado detention in appalling conditions, tortured repeatedly, and subjected to ill-treatment during the conflict between the then-government and Maoist forces were breached and called on Nepal to provide him and his family with an effective remedy. Also this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finally sent our client's case for adjudication by the Inter-American Court. Our client, now in his 80's, was tortured under the Pinochet regime and forcibly exiled to London. Finally, justice is becoming a much closer prospect.

In the United Kingdom, the public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa concluded that the death of the 26-year-old Iraqi hotel worker in British custody was the result of “corporate failure” at the Minister of Defence. More recently, the Court of Appeal backed the claim to an independent investigation of more than 120 Iraqis who said they were abused by British soldiers.

In 2012, REDRESS will reach a huge milestone. It will be 20 years since REDRESS was founded by Keith Carmichael, who was tortured in Saudi Arabia. He was intent on establishing an organisation dedicated to helping survivors obtain reparation, a central goal of REDRESS to this day.

We look forward to celebrating this milestone with you and hope that you will continue to support us. Also, if you haven’t done so already, follow us on our new Facebook and Twitter pages: Facebook/REDRESS and Twitter/REDRESSTrust. We regularly post stories, events, photos and videos, and we enjoy connecting with our friends and supporters.

Please find below a summary of the latest developments with our work and related efforts on behalf of victims of torture.

Thanks and best wishes for a great holiday,

Carla Ferstman


Iraqi detainees move closer to inquiry of abuse claims

On 22 November more than 120 Iraqis who were imprisoned by British troops following the 2003 invasion won their battle for a new inquiry into allegations that they were seriously mistreated. UK courts had previously backed government claims that an inquiry into whether abuse was systematic was not needed, as a team – the IHAT team - had already been set up to look into the allegations.

However, three appeal judges ordered the defence secretary to reconsider. The claimants were represented by Public Interest Lawyers. REDRESS intervened in the appeal to draw attention to international standards that require the effective investigation of cases where systematic violations of fundamental human rights, including the prohibition against torture, have allegedly occurred.

In the picture, Lt. Col. Nicholas Mercer, former legal advisor to the UK Army in Iraq, leads on 24 November a seminar at our offices about the Army’s legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr Mercer was also a key witness in the public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, a case in which REDRESS also intervened.

 


Torture victims begin prosecution against George Bush

On 20 October four individuals who alleged that they were tortured during George W. Bush’s tenure as President of the United States lodged a private prosecution against him in a provincial court in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The former President was due to visit Canada for a paid speaking engagement. REDRESS was one of the human rights groups which signed a letter supporting their effort.

Photo by Mike Benedetti. Protesters denounce abuses against detainees in Guantanamo and Bagram at a demonstration in Washington, DC. 


Film screening on universal jurisdiction in The Hague

REDRESS co-hosted a film screening and a panel discussion on universal jurisdiction in The Netherlands on 21 November. The event was organised by REDRESS and the Dutch Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs and included a screening of “The Appeal of Joseph M”, a REDRESS film about the trial and appeal of a genocide suspect in The Netherlands. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with key experts. On the panel were Chantal Joubert, senior policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Hester van Bruggen, lead prosecutor of the Dutch War Crimes Unit. Dr. Sam Muller, director of The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law, delivered the opening remarks.


New REDRESS reports

While torture is widely understood in terms of the pain and suffering inflicted on a person – usually assumed to be male – in the custody of the state, this narrow understanding excludes many forms of severe pain inflicted on women and other groups. This new report summarises a conference on the gender dimensions of torture. The conference took place in London in May 2011 and was co-hosted by REDRESS and Amnesty International.  The results were shared with UN treaty body members and UN Special Rapporteurs.

The report examines how laws are used and abused to shield perpetrators from justice and to deny victims’ rights in Nepal. Five years after a peace agreement ended a decade-long armed conflict in Nepal, which saw thousands detained, disappeared, killed, raped and tortured, not one person has been properly brought to justice for the crimes committed. Successive governments have granted amnesties to many perpetrators. At a press conference in Kathmandu, REDRESS and Advocacy Forum, co-authors of the report, urged Nepalese legislators to change the laws to end impunity. The report is available in English and Nepali.

The report follows a conference that took place in The Hague on 12 May. The conference was organised by REDRESS and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, University of Leiden, and explored the challenges of implementing the ICC’s reparation mandate. The report is available in English and French. See also our report ‘Justice for Victims: The ICC ‘s Reparations Mandate”, published earlier this year.

REDRESS has made submissions to the Universal Periodic Review process at the United Nations on Bahrain, India and the UK. The human rights records of each of these countries will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council next year.

 


Conferences and other activities

  • African Commission: Conference on South Kordofan and Blue Nile

On 24 October, REDRESS participated in a workshop about the gross human rights violations in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State in Sudan. It took place in the margins of the 50th Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia. REDRESS, Sudanese Democracy First Group, Human Rights Watch and Interights called on the African Commission in July to urgently adopt provisional measures for South Kordofan, a conflict that has since spread to the neighbouring Blue Nile State.  The Commission has yet to respond.

Similarly, the Commission has yet to respond to other cases REDRESS has submitted to it. The serious delays in addressing Communications pending before the Commission has prompted a number of NGOs, including REDRESS, to urge the Commission to establish a Working Group on Communications to deal with these delays. At its 50th Session, the Commission adopted a resolution establishing such a group.

REDRESS also participated in an NGO Forum prior to the ACHPR session that brought together more than 200 activists and NGOs from Africa.

  • The Netherlands: Meeting between ICC and civil society

On 4-6 October REDRESS attended the 16th bi-annual roundtable meeting between the International Criminal Court and civil society in The Hague. Several NGOs, including REDRESS, attended the meeting. REDRESS highlighted the importance of ensuring meaningful participation of victims in proceedings and the need for clearer ICC’s reparations procedures.

The NGOs also met with states to present their views on several topics ahead of the Assembly of States Parties (ICC’s governing body) meeting taking place in New York later this month. Representatives from the 119 ICC states will gather to discuss and decide on a series of important issues related to the Court’s operations. A number of NGOs, including REDRESS, will participate as observers.

Ahead of this session, the Victims' Rights Working Group (VRWG), a network of national and international NGOs that work to ensure victims’ needs and concerns are met throughout the ICC's judicial process, has submitted a paper with its recommendations to the ASP meeting. It's available in English and French.

  • Meeting of the EU Genocide Network

On 23-24 November REDRESS participated in a meeting of the EU Genocide Network, which brought together prosecutors and police officers from the EU, Norway, Canada and the US to discuss best practices of victim and witness protection. The representative of the Polish presidency of the EU encouraged practitioners to use REDRESS’s report 'Ending Threats and Reprisals Against Victims of Torture and Related International Crimes: A Call To Action' in their work. It's available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

  • Uganda: Training on reparations and consultations with victims

On 3-4 November, The Uganda Victims Foundation (UVF), REDRESS and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University held a training session on reparations and truth-telling consultations for members of the UVF and the Greater North Coalition on Truth-telling and Reparation. Consultations with victims will be done in the coming weeks and a report will be published in early 2012. A report of the training will be available shortly.

Photo by CICC. Meeting between the ICC and civil society in The Hague.


REDRESS highlights abuses in several regions

On October 28 several NGOs from Latin America and REDRESS testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) about the violence, discrimination and torture that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people suffer in the region. On November 3, the IACHR announced it had decided to create a Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons, in order to strengthen its capacity to protect their rights.

REDRESS and other NGOs attended a closed session with the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) to discuss the widespread use of torture in Sri Lanka on 3 November.

Sarah Fulton, our International Legal Officer, was in the House of Lords on 14 November to discuss the case of three protesters sentenced to death in Bahrain in quasi-military trials. She also wrote an article for the EJIL: Talk! blog of the European Journal of International Law, on international law and the prosecution of medics in Bahrain.

Photo by PROMSEX. From left to right: LGBT activists Ysabel Marín, Maribel Reyes, George Liendo y Víctor Alvarez, who testified in the IACHR hearing.


REDRESS at the London Marathon 2012

REDRESS is delighted to have recruited seven runners for the Virgin London Marathon 2012. The London Marathon is one of the most significant mass participation road races in the world and it should prove an unforgettable experience.

This year we will have Roger Foulger, Alice Haslem, Charles Barclay, Arild Dregelid, Francis Fitzgibbon, Don Guttenplan and Ben Freedman running 26.2 miles through the capital in their effort to raise £1200 each for REDRESS.

The funds that our runners raise will make a very real and significant contribution in supporting our work to combat torture and obtain justice for torture survivors. Our website will be updated shortly with links to their online fundraising pages giving you the opportunity to support them in their bid.

If you feel like you’ve missed out, don’t worry! We will soon be recruiting for the British 10K which takes in summer. To learn more about our work please visit: www.redress.org. You can donate here or via Virgin Money Giving page.  

Photo by REDRESS. Suzanne King and Daniel Milton at the 2011 London Marathon.


     
 

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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