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

Welcome to the June 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


 

Case updates

REDRESS and partners push for the release of woman sentenced to death in apostasy case 

On 2 June REDRESS together with Sudanese local lawyers and four organisations filed a complaint with the African Commission in the case of Meriam Ibrahim. Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy and to one hundred lashes for adultery in May in Sudan. Mrs Ibrahim was imprisoned with her 20-month old son and a baby daughter, whom she gave birth to while in shackles in prison. As part of the complaint, the organisations also sought urgent interim relief, asking Africa's main human rights body to call on Sudan to release them from prison and to suspend the death sentence and the corporal punishment, prior to a formal decision in the case. The complaint was followed by an urgent appeal on 10 June.

Mrs Ibrahim was released on 27 June, after winning an appeal before a domestic court. She has since taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. The organisations that worked with REDRESS were the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), the Sudanese Organization for Development and Rehabilitation (SODR), the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI), and the Justice Center for Advocacy and Legal Consultancy (JCALC).

Read more on the case


 

REDRESS meets with Polish prosecutor to discuss case of Guantanamo detainee

There have been further developments in the Mustafa al-Hawsawi case, referred to in previous editions of Reparation News.  Mr al-Hawsawi is a Guantanamo Bay detainee facing military trial and the death penalty for his alleged role in financing the 11 September attacks. Mr al-Hawsawi was held in secret detention for more than three years following his arrest, but is blocked from being able to say where he was held or to bring any complaints in relation to his treatment because of strict secrecy rules in place at the Military Commissions. 

REDRESS has filed complaints in Lithuania and Poland, alleging that it is highly likely that he was held in both countries at different periods between March 2003 and September 2006. REDRESS has also called for an investigation by authorities in both countries. An investigation has now been opened in Lithuania, and an appeal against a refusal to open an investigation in Poland is underway.

In June, the Polish prosecutor requested that REDRESS travel to Poland to give further information in relation to the complaint, which we did to provide clarifications and answer questions. The prosecutor is further considering whether to open an investigation or to contest the appeal in the courts.

Read more about the al-Hawsawi case 


 

REDRESS and others intervene in UK rendition case

On 30 June, REDRESS together with the International Commission of Jurists, JUSTICE and Amnesty International intervened before the Court of Appeal in the case Abdul-Hakim Belhadj and Other v. Jack Straw and Others. The case concerns the appeal of an action brought by a Libyan national and his wife against current and former UK officials for their alleged complicity in their rendition and ill-treatment.

Mr Belhadj and his pregnant wife were detained in Thailand and subject to rendition to Libya by the CIA, allegedly with UK involvement. During his 6-year detention, Mr Belhadj was beaten, hung from walls, cut-off from human contact and daylight and sentenced to death. His wife was subjected to aggressive interrogations and released just three weeks before giving birth, by which time her health, and that of her baby, was in a precarious state. Mr Belhadj was a former military rebel leader during the Libyan revolution of 2011.

In December 2013, the High Court struck out the civil lawsuit brought by the victims. High Court judge Justice Simon found, with “hesitation”, that the case could not go ahead, despite acknowledging the “potentially well-founded claim that the UK authorities were directly implicated in the extraordinary rendition of the claimants.” The Court rejected the UK government’s arguments that state immunity operated as a bar to the claim. However, it held that as many of the activities happened in a foreign state, this was a “difficult and inappropriate” task for the court and the complaint could not be adjudicated. In February 2014 the victims were given permission to appeal the decision to the High Court. The UK government cross-appealed contesting that, in addition to the act of state doctrine, state immunity does also preclude the claims from being heard.

In our joint written intervention we argue that the application of the act of state doctrine, in the manner accepted by the High Court, is not consistent with national and international human rights law.

Read more about the case


 

LGBT case before the Inter-American Commission

Luis Alberto Rojas Marín is a Peruvian who was robbed and raped by three national policemen while in detention in 2008. We allege that he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. REDRESS, together with PROMSEX and la Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, after exhausting domestic remedies, brought his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Peru has submitted its initial reply to the petition arguing that the case is not admissible, and we have recently submitted further arguments on why the case indeed should be admissible.

Read more about the case

Read our report to the Committee against Torture on torture and the rights of LGBT persons in Perú

Read our report to the Human Rights Committee on Perú

Advocacy work

Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

REDRESS’ Post Conflict Legal Advisor Beini Ye attended the expert meetings at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict that took place in London from 10 to 12 June. The summit brought together 129 country delegations and was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie. 

One of the main events during the summit was the launch of a new International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict to which REDRESS and other expert organisations have been providing input into over the last year. The protocol sets out best practice standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones and aims to support more effective investigations and to allow prosecutions and justice for more victims. Currently, sexual violence prosecutions are scarce in all parts of the world due to a myriad of factors, including insufficient support for victims to come forward, half-hearted investigations and the continued application of gendered stereotypes that still blame the victim for sexual abuse. 

Download a copy of the Protocol here

Read our press statement

Photo of Beini Ye at the Global Summit.


 

Report to UN on 'human rights crisis' in Sudan

REDRESS and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) have brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Committee the "serious, ongoing human rights crisis" in Sudan, marked by widespread and ongoing human rights violations. In a report submitted to the UN main human rights body, which will be reviewing Sudan's human rights record on 8 and 9 July, the organisations document the continued use of stoning, amputation and whipping in Sudan in violation of Sudan’s human rights obligations.

The report documents more than a dozen cases in recent years where women have faced or are facing lashing for offenses against public order laws such as “wearing trousers”, “not wearing a headscarf” or “suspected adultery”. It also documents two instances of sentences to death by stoning and the continued use of cross-amputation in Sudan (amputation of the right hand and left foot) in at least 16 cases since 2001. In addition, the organisations draw attention to the killings and torture of hundreds of students, activists, journalists and human rights defenders by the intelligence and security forces, and the ongoing gross violations in armed conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. 

The report is dedicated to Osman Hummaida, the late Founding Director of the ACJPS, who fought tirelessly throughout his life to obtain justice for victims of human rights violations in Sudan.

REDRESS also issued a statement in June together with the ACJPS, HRW, FIDH and AI urging Sudan to end the arbitrary detention of activists and to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

Read our report on Sudan to the Human Rights Committee

Read our joint press statement on the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in English and  العربية 


 

REDRESS opposes immunities and amnesties

REDRESS continues to advocate against immunities and amnesties which have the effect of blocking investigations, prosecutions and civil reparations, and are inconsistent with the right of victims to access justice and the obligation to prosecute international crimes.

As part of our work in this area, REDRESS  together with Advocacy Forum Nepal and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) submitted in June a General Allegation to several UN Special Procedure mandate holders arguing that the newly adopted Truth and Reconciliation Act in Nepal breaches international law and promotes impunity.

On 4 July the Special Procedure mandate holders - including the Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence; the Special Rapporteur on Torture; the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions - issued a press statement strongly criticising the Act and calling for its amendment.

The statement echoes many of the concerns raised in our submission. These include the power of the Commissions that will be established to award amnesties and to conduct "reconciliation" even without the consent of victims; the lack of guarantees of impartiality and independence of the Commissions, and the non-recognition of victims' right to reparation.

Read our General Allegation on Nepal 

REDRESS has also opposed an immunity clause in a protocol recently adopted by the African Union. The protocol establishes a new criminal jurisdiction as part of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

The criminal jurisdiction is innovative in that it covers, in addition to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the crime of corruption (a first for an international criminal jurisdiction) as well as terrorism, mercenarism, money laundering, trafficking in persons, drugs and hazardous wastes, illicit exploitation of natural resources and the crime of aggression. However, as part of the protocol, the AU has inserted an immunity clause which prevents acting heads of state and senior officials from being pursued and prosecuted by the Court.

Ahead of the vote, REDRESS Director Carla Ferstman wrote an op-ed in OpenDemocracy explaining why the AU should not have adopted the immunity clause. 


  

REDRESS advocates for victims before the ICC

REDRESS participated in the informal consultations of the Hague Working Group on victims, affected communities and the Trust Fund for Victims on 17 June at the International Criminal Court. Some of the issues raised by the Victims' Rights Working Group paper Making victim participation effective and meaningful were discussed. Among them, the need to ensure that the ICC undertakes an internal review of the system of victim participation in which victims have the opportunity to provide their input. The need for harmonising the current system of victims’ participation and legal representation was also discussed. 

On 24-26 June, REDRESS also attended the bi-annual meeting between NGO representatives, including from situation countries, and different organs of the Court in The Hague. The meeting offered an opportunity to exchange information and coordinate strategies. REDRESS advocated for the effective implementation of victims’ rights including by enabling victims and partner organisations in countries affected by ICC investigations and prosecutions to present their views and concerns before the Court.


 

REDRESS urges prosecution of companies for peddling torture equipment 

REDRESS has called on the Crown Prosecution Service to take over the private prosecution of two armed companies for peddling torture equipment. The facts are connected to the participation of Chinese company Tianjin MyWay International Trading and French firm Magforce International at an arms fair in London last year, where they are said to have marketed electronic stun buttons and leg restraints that could be use to torture.

In a letter to the Crown Prosecution Service REDRESS says that the promotion of equipment that could be used in the perpetration of torture or ill-treatment "is a particularly serious crime which needs to be repressed in the public interest." REDRESS also draws attention to the fact that both the UN Committee against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have condemned the use of electro-shock stun and restraint chair equipment against those in custody because the use of such physical restraints is inherently inhuman and degrading and therefore incompatible with states' obligations under international law.

Read our letter to the CPS


 

Alleged sexual abuse at Yarl's Wood centre

REDRESS continues to closely monitor the developments in relation to the alleged crimes committed by security guards against women detainees at Yarl's Wood immigration centre. On 24 June, we attended the Commons home affairs select committee, which questioned the managing director of Serco, the private company who runs the centre, on the sexual abuse claims. Last year, REDRESS wrote a letter to Bedfordshire Police to draw attention to the seriousness of the allegations. REDRESS explained that, if proven true, the facts would amount to torture under both British and international law. 

Listen to a Radio 4's File on 4 program on Yarl's Wood  


 

General Comment on Article 9 of the ICCPR

The UN Human Rights Committee is preparing a General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Right to Liberty and Security of the Person and Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Detention). REDRESS together with seven organisations has submitted comments to the draft. One of the aspects highlighted in our submission is that the legal safeguards required under Article 9 protect against both arbitrary detention as well as torture and other ill-treatment and this relationship should be more clearly articulated in the text.

Read our joint submission


 

REDRESS attends Human Rights Council session 

Our International Legal Advisor Sarah Fulton recently attended the regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Ms Fulton provided input on a draft report prepared by the Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice and Reparation (concerning the particular role of victims in the development of prosecutorial strategies) and discussed with the relevant unit the need to follow up the lack of enforcement of a Human Rights Committee decision against Cameroon in one of our cases.

REDRESS marks the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture

On 26 June, REDRESS observed the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture, an occasion of special importance to our organisation. To mark the date, and as part of our efforts to reinforce our reach to survivors in communities where our services may be needed the most, REDRESS launched a multilingual ad campaign in ethnic newspapers in London. The ad campaign highlighted some of our recent case successes with the aim to raise awareness about our casework and survivors' options to seek justice. The first leg of the campaign has included ads in Spanish, Russian, Turkish and Tamil. In the coming months, ads will be published in English, French and Swahili. This campaign was made possible by a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

In addition, our director Carla Ferstman participated in several activities held by the Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez. One of them was a live Q&A with the SRT through the SRT Twitter account @antitorture_SRT. Ms Ferstman was also among the prominent human rights experts invited by the SRT to participate in the campaign "What does a #TortureFreeWorld look like to you?". The campaign sought to generate discussion by disseminating positive messages about a future without torture on social media. Ms Ferstman contributed several messages, including: "In a #TortureFreeWorld social harmony & mutual respect will replace hierarchical assertions of power & taking advantage of the weak."

Also on 26 June, REDRESS issued together with DIGNITY and our partner Lawyers for Justice in Libya a statement on torture in Libya. In addition, a REDRESS legal advisor gave a talk during a meeting chaired by Lord Eric Avebury in Parliament on behalf of Bahraini torture survivors. 

Read our statement to mark UN Day in Support of Torture Victims

Read our joint statement with LFJL

Photo of Juan Méndez, UN SRT; UN Photo by Mark Garten.

Conferences and workshops

REDRESS carries out outreach with victims of sexual violence in the DRC and Kenya

Goma and Nairobi, 26 May-6 June 2014

REDRESS hosted together with our partner SAJ a roundtable discussion with civil society and local authorities in Goma, Eastern DRC, on 31 May. Participants discussed the obstacles for victims of sexual violence to access justice and reparations. As a potential non-domestic avenue for litigation and advocacy, REDRESS discussed possibilities at the African Commission and how to overcome the challenges to enforce judgments. During the meeting, REDRESS distributed its manual "Litigation Strategies for Sexual Violence" by Vahida Nainar.

REDRESS also participated in a meeting in Nairobi held by its Kenyan partner Kituo Cha Sheria on the possibilities of litigating sexual violence cases that occurred in the context of post-election violence. Together with local and international civil society organisations, REDRESS explored avenues where victims can seek justice and reparations. A four-day workshop with victim representatives from community based organisations was also held. The participants agreed on a set of advocacy efforts to promote victims' rights at the International Crimes Division currently in the making. The discussion also addressed advocacy strategies on the implementation of the Internally Displaced Persons Act and towards the Trust Fund for Victims.

Photo of the workshop with victim representatives in Nairobi.


 

Training on reparations for Kenyan lawyers

Nairobi and Naivasha, 12-20 June 2014

As part of its capacity building work, REDRESS recently delivered training to lawyers in Kenya with its partner, the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU). The training aimed to help lawyers working on torture cases in the country gain a better understanding of reparations and use the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation; to develop a holistic approach to casework and to consider policy and advocacy as part of litigation. The training covered working through torture case studies and going through reparations and the psychological aspects of torture. 


 

Outreach among refugee communities

12 and 17 June, London

REDRESS attended the "Supporting Refugee Women on Trauma + Violence Conference". The full day conference by the Evelyn Oldfield Unit looked at how refugee and asylum-seeking women affected by violence and trauma can be supported. REDRESS was also invited to participate in a special event to mark Refugee Week 2014. During the event organised by the UNHCR and The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, several organisations that offer therapeutic support to asylum-seekers and refugees presented their theoretical models of working and described their programs. 

Publications

Sudan's human rights crisis: High time to take article 2 of the Covenant seriously

REDRESS and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) have brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Committee the "serious, ongoing human rights crisis" in Sudan, marked by widespread and ongoing human rights violations. In a report submitted to the UN committee, which will be reviewing Sudan's human rights record on 8 and 9 July, the organisations document the continued use of stoning, amputation and whipping in Sudan in violation of Sudan’s human rights obligations. They also draw attention to the killings and torture of hundreds of students, activists, journalists and human rights defenders by the intelligence and security forces, and the gross violations being carried out in armed conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. 

Read our report on Sudan to the Human Rights Committee


 

Nepal: Paying Lip Service to Justice  

In June, REDRESS together with Advocacy Forum Nepal and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) submitted a General Allegation to a number of UN Special Procedure mandate holders arguing that the newly adopted Truth and Reconciliation Act in Nepal breaches international law and promotes impunity. Some of the concerns raised in our submission include the power of the Commissions that will be established to award amnesties and to conduct "reconciliation" even without the consent of victims; the lack of guarantees of impartiality and independence of the Commissions, and the non-recognition of victims' right to reparation.

Read our General Allegation on Nepal


 

Joint submission to the UNHRC on Article 9

The UN Human Rights Committee is preparing a General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (on liberty and security of the person). REDRESS has submitted comments to the draft together with seven organisations: DIGNITY, OMCT, ACAT France, IRCT, APT, CCPR and the Human Rights Implementation Centre at the University of Bristol.

Read our joint submission


 

Victims' Rights Working Group: Making victim participation effective and meaningful

The Victims' Rights Working Group - a network of over 300 civil society groups and experts which advocates for victims' rights before the International Criminal Court - has issued this paper highlighting the group’s views on the system of victim participation before the ICC. The paper will be used as an advocacy tool with both the Court and States Parties and was presented at the informal consultations of the Hague Working Group on victims, affected communities and the Trust Fund for Victims that were held on 17 June 2014 at the ICC.

English

Français


 

Victims' Rights Working Group's ACCESS bulletin

The Spring edition of the Victims' Rights Working Group's ACCESS bulletin is out with articles on Katanga's judgment at the ICC; the lack of justice for DRC rape survivors in the Minova case; an interview with Ms Kristin Kalla, Senior Programme Officer at the Trust Fund for Victims; the Ugandan International Crimes Division and its potential as a model for Kenya; Syria and the ICC, and much more.

English

Français


 

Pan-African Reparation Perspectives bulletin

The June edition of this special bulletin has recently been published. The newsletter is a publication of the Pan-African Reparations Initiative, a network of NGOs and experts working with and advocating for the rights of victims throughout Africa. In this edition there are articles on the Black Wednesday case; a look at the case of the Mau Mau in Kenya; the ongoing campaign for reparations in Rwanda; reparation for Apartheid victims and an interview with Joseph Dunia, President of the Goma/North Kivu Bar Association, among other articles.

Read it here


 

EU Update on International crimes 

As part of our work on combating impunity for torture and other international crimes, REDRESS publishes a newsletter, the EU Update on International Crimes. The update analyses developments in legislation, practice and policy across Europe on universal jurisdiction and efforts to prosecute and investigate crimes under international law. This edition contains a number of articles focused on efforts to strengthen investigations of international crimes, including with contributions from specialised investigators from France, the ICC and INTERPOL. In addition, the newsletter contains an interview with Yvonne Mutimura, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, case updates from Germany and Switzerland, and an overview of universal jurisdiction cases so far in 2014.

Read the EU Update here

Support our runners on 13 July!

On Sunday 13 July, REDRESS will be participating in the British 10K London Run. Our runners will help us raise funds to allow us to continue our work to help victims of torture obtain justice.

If you wish to support our runners, please visit their fundraising pages, where you can leave a donation or a message of support:

https://www.justgiving.com/tomroscoe/

https://www.justgiving.com/Carolina-Margarita1

http://www.justgiving.com/Inga-Matthes

https://www.justgiving.com/Jennifer-Marcotte/

Photo of Mauricio Zamorano, who ran the British 10K last year.

Recent media coverage

 Please find below some recent media coverage of REDRESS:

Photo by Kate Ter Haar.

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