Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Reparation News
February 2016
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Dear friends and colleagues,

Welcome to our latest edition of Reparation News. February has seen REDRESS continue to build on our casework, participate in the drafting of anti-torture legislation in Africa, the launch of 'Real Rights Now' campaign in Nepal, and the sell-out performance of 'Pedro and The Captain' for which REDRESS gave advice and guidance in the development of the production. We thank you for your continued support. You can receive the most updated news by following us on Twitter and Facebook. Please contact us if you have any questions about our work, want to learn more or would like to collaborate with us. Thank you for your continued interest and for your support. 

Carla Ferstman



Case updates

©Jodi Hilton/IRIN

REDRESS seeks to intervene in case concerning alleged ill-treatment of a family of asylum seekers in Belgium

REDRESS has applied to intervene as an independent third party in the V.M. v Belgium case before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The case concerns a Roma family of asylum seekers from Serbia, including a young baby and a disabled child, who sought asylum in Belgium. The family were subsequently evicted from the reception centre that was housing them upon rejection of their asylum claim (although an appeal was still outstanding).

At issue in the case, among other things, is the extent to which the destitution faced by this family after their eviction breached the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, particularly taking into account the special vulnerabilities of the individuals concerned. The Chamber found in July 2015 that Belgium had, in fact, breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and had not given due consideration to the particular vulnerability of the applicants. The case was referred to the Grand Chamber on 14 December 2015. 


Panel discussion in Kathmandu commemorates 12th anniversary of murdered school girl

To mark the 12th anniversary of the brutal murder of a 15 year old school girl by Nepali government forces on 17 February 2004, an event was held in Kathmandu by our partners Advocacy Forum (AF). Maina Sunawar was illegally detained, tortured and killed by members of the Royal Nepalese Army.

On 17 February 2016, a panel discussion titled “Criminal Investigation and Prosecution in Conflict Era Human Rights Violation cases: Opportunity and Challenges” brought together Maina’s family, conflict victims, human right lawyers and civil society leaders and representatives from national and international human rights organizations. Devi Sunawar, Maina’s mother said: "It's been already 12 years that we are fighting for justice for our beloved daughter Maina Sunawar. During the course, many subsequent governments changed but no one listened to our voice for justice. The government has formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Enforced Disappearance. However, we have no trust of these unilaterally formed commissions.”

Advocacy Forum, with the support of REDRESS, is representing Maina's family in long-running legal proceedings in Nepal to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Last month, a Nepali court ordered the prosecution of Maina's case to be reopened following an adjournment of two years pending production of the accused for trial.

REDRESS challenges lack of urgent medical attention for Guantanamo detainee subjected to torture

REDRESS has submitted an urgent action letter to several UN Special Rapporteurs in regards to the deteriorating medical condition of Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a long-term Guantánamo Bay detainee represented by REDRESS in legal proceedings in Europe. Al- Hawsawi was held in secret detention between 2003 to 2006 as part of the CIA programme, during which time he was tortured and contracted Hepatitis C. 

This month REDRESS also continued to pursue actions on Al-Hawsawi’s behalf in Lithuania, challenging the Lithuanian Prosecutor’s repeated refusal to grant him victim status in an ongoing investigation into aspects of the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation programme in Lithuania. See here our appeal against the Prosecutor's decision

Since 2006, Al-Hawsawi has been detained in Guantánamo Bay without access to adequate medical care. He is suffering from several serious medical conditions, including injuries sustained as a result of the torture inflicted on him by the U.S. Government. These include cervical degenerative disk disease, chronic hemorrhoids, anal fissures and rectal prolapse. His lawyers in the United States have informed REDRESS that his medical condition is deteriorating and that he is in extreme physical pain, which has increased in severity in recent weeks.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Al-Hawsawi’s ongoing detention is arbitrary and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In July 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered precautionary measures in his case, requesting the U.S. Government to urgently provide him with the medical care he needs to treat his injuries. To date, the U.S. Government has failed to respond to these decisions. 

Read more about the case


REDRESS and Lawyers for Justice in Libya make submission to the African Commission

On 1 February 2016 Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) and REDRESS filed their submission on the admissibility of a complaint filed in October last year to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The case concerns the ill-treatment and torture, as well as the violation of other rights under the African Charter, of a Libyan national of Tawerghan descent at the hand of Libyan militia groups.

Advocacy work

Nepal Launch

©Advocacy Forum

Launch of 'Real Rights Now' campaign in Nepal

A joint campaign called “Real Rights Now” has been launched by REDRESS with partner groups TRIAL and Advocacy Forum, to demand justice for victims of international crimes in Nepal. The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) has repeatedly found Nepal responsible for gross human rights violations against its own citizens, but despite these outcomes, the Government has done little in establishing justice and properly compensating victims. For one year, the Real Rights Now campaign will highlight victims’ stories and demand the Government act on the United Nations’ decisions in finally acknowledging the victims’ rights and needs. 

Visit the Real Rights Now website    

REDRESS and partners highlight lack of progress on accountability for human rights violations by the United States 

In its response to the UN Committee Against Torture on the progress it has made in the past year, the United States outlines various policies, laws and commitments to accountability which were not supported by facts to illustrate their effective implementation, said human rights organisations REDRESS, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) in a joint submission focusing on two subjects of concern identified by the Committee: “Inquiries into allegations of torture overseas” and “Guantánamo Bay detention facilities”.

The “inadequate” response from the U.S. Government does not address concrete steps that it has taken over the past year to ensure independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions into all credible allegations of violations carried out after the 9/11 attacks. In particular, the organisations highlight its failure to address the new findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Programme, which revealed significant information regarding criminal activity and the perpetrators. The organisations also note that the U.S. Government has not taken any steps to afford “effective redress” to Guantanamo detainees who suffered torture and ill-treatment, noting that allegations have been well documented for many years. The organisations urge the Committee to seek additional information from the U.S. Government.


First draft of the General Comment on the right to redress for victims of torture in Africa

In Cape Town, at the start of February, REDRESS and the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative collaborated with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) to produce the first draft of the General Comment on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture or Ill-treatment, under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Earlier technical and consultation meetings in 2015 had already provided the Committee with detailed insight into the legal, practical and political challenges which currently prevent victims of torture or ill-treatment from obtaining redress on the African continent. The Draft General Comment will be uploaded on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights website to allow the public to give their input.


REDRESS and other human rights organisations provide input to possible Convention on Crimes against Humanity

REDRESS, along with several international civil society organisations, has signed a joint letter to the UN Special Rapporteur of the International Law Commission on Crimes against Humanity, seeking an opportunity to provide input during the drafting of a possible Convention on Crimes against Humanity. Attention was given to the importance of setting out provisions which oblige states parties to exercise jurisdiction when a person, suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity, is found on their territory, and to permit States to initiate investigations based on universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity suspects, regardless of where such persons are physically located. 

Conferences and trainings


REDRESS collaborates in drafting anti-torture legislation in Nigeria

REDRESS’s Head of Law and Policy, Juergen Schurr, and Legal Advisor Judy Oder travelled to Abuja, Nigeria, in February to meet with a range of stakeholders regarding the draft anti-torture law that is currently being developed in Nigeria, and to organise a consultation workshop on the bill on 26th February. REDRESS has been working jointly with the Human Rights Implementation Centre of the University of Bristol as part of a ten-month project regarding anti-torture legislation in Africa, which has been supported by the UK Foreign Office.


REDRESS Director travels to Ivory Coast to discuss draft reparations policy 

Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS, travelled to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, during 1-4 March to provide input to the Ivorian Government on its draft reparations policy for victims of the post-election violence. The Government officially launched a compensation scheme in August 2015 and it is estimated than close to 200,000 potential victims are eligible for compensation from a fund worth about US$16.7 million (£11.7 million). The post-election violence left 3,000 people dead and 1,000 injured in 2010-2011, after ex-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in presidential elections. Hundreds of thousands of citizens fled the country. Gbagbo is currently facing trial at the International Criminal Court, where he faces charges of crimes against humanity.


Legal frameworks to prevent torture in Africa

In recent years, a number of countries around the world have adopted anti-torture legislation or are in the process of doing so. This report presents and in-depth assessment of the legal frameworks in seven countries researched: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. This assessment was conducted in light of international and regional standards, in particular the UN Convention Against Torture and the Robben Island Guidelines. The aim of the project is to support States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to introduce, adopt and implement adequate and effective anti-torture legislation. This initiative also intends to assist the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) and other governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders working on the adoption of anti-torture legislation in Africa. Read the report here.


 Pedro and the Captain play
4 Stars for performance of Benedetti's 'Pedro and the Captain'

The performance of ‘Pedro and The Captain’ received 4 star reviews, opened on 2 March to a sold-out first night and captivated the audience. Written by one of South America’s finest playwrights, Mario Benedetti, and produced by Blackboard Theatre, REDRESS provided advice and guidance to the theatre company during their preparation of the play.

The performance focused on the psychological dynamics between torturer and victim. London Theatre review wrote: “David Acton, as the captain, is superb from start to finish. With a charming smile and eloquent disposition, Acton’s performance is so subtly disturbing that we as an audience can do nothing else but wait to see what comes next. The suspense is incredible. So much so that the bang of a table can make one jump, and the touch of a finger against his victim’s back can capture the essence of a heartbeat and take complete control.” 

The play was performed from 2nd – 6th March as part of the six week Vaults Festival in London, which comprised of diverse performances from comedy, international dance and political theatre.

On 3 March, our own Kevin Laue took part in a Q&A session with a panel of experts after the performance. Guests also included the play’s director Miguel Hernando Torres Umba; Professors Catherine Boyle and Sophie Stevens from King’s College and the Uruguayan Ambassador, his Excellency Mr Fernando López-Fabregat. 

Support our Marathon runners

These runners will help us promote our mission during the London Marathon on 24th of April this year. Each volunteer will be contributing to seeking justice and reparation for survivors of torture by raising vital funds to support our pro-bono work with survivors. Please support victims of abuse by clicking on our runners' names below to donate and help them achieve their goals!

- William Barrington 

- Keith Silika 

- Nani Jansen 

Peter Noorlander

- Arturo Garcia-Huidobro P.

- Hugo Pena

Media coverage

- Everything Theatre, 7 March 2016, Pedro and the Captain, The Vaults - Review

- London Theatre 1, 3 March 2016, Pedro and the Captain at the Vaults - Review

- International Business Times, 26 February 2016, Iraq War legacy: UK faces millions in compensation payouts as torture claims against British army mount

- Kathmandu Post, 26 February 2016, Real Rights Now (an op-ed by activist Ram Bhandari)

- International Justice Monitor, 18 February 2016, Waiting, Waiting, and More Waiting for Reparations in the Lubanga Case (an op-ed by our Post-Conflict Policy Advisor Gaelle Carayon)

- The Independent, 29 January 2016, David Cameron accused of "ill-judged" attacks on Iraq war crime investigators

- Daily Mail, 29 January 2016, Human rights groups condemn PM's clampdown on claims against Iraq veterans

- BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, 22 January 2016 (interview with our Trustee Nicholas Mercer)

- The Guardian, 22 January 2016, David Cameron wrong to "clamp down on legal claims against Iraq veterans"

- Channel 4 News, 22 January 2016, Cameron to clamp down on "spurious' claims" against UK forces

- Positive News, 7 January 2016, Torture survivors find bravery in bread

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