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

Welcome to our latest edition of Reparation News. January has been a busy month in both advocacy and casework, as well as various events that we have supported, such as "Stories of resilience", a timely exhibition that recounted the struggles of Zimbabwean torture survivors and asylum seekers in the UK. We hope you find this resource useful and invite you to know more about our work. 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

Director


 

Case updates

Maina Sunuwara Nepal

©Nick Hogg. Devi Sunawar and her husband hold a photograph of their daughter Maina.

Progress in Nepal's courts with cases supported by REDRESS 

Two domestic cases in Nepal supported by REDRESS and Advocacy Forum (AF) have had successful developments. On the last day of 2015, Patan Appeal Court found in favour of torture survivor Tika Prasad Dahal under the Compensation Relating to Torture Act. For the first time, the Court awarded the victim the maximum amount of compensation of NPR 100,000, despite no individual perpetrators having been identified. The decision overturned an early 2012 judgment of the Kathmandu District Court that there was insufficient evidence.

In a second application brought by AF on behalf of Devi Sunawar, the Kavre District Court issued an order concerning the illegal arrest, torture and killing of her 15-year-old daughter, Maina, by soldiers in 2004.  The Court ordered the case to be reopened following an adjournment of two years pending production of the accused for trial.

In December 2015, AF and REDRESS submitted the case of 16-year-old schoolgirl Reena Rasaili to the United Nations Human Rights Committee under the individual complaints procedure.  In the midst of the armed conflict on the night of 13 February 2004, soldiers dragged Reena from her house, interrogated, raped and tortured her before shooting her at point blank range.  Reena's parents brought the case to the UN after failing over many years to achieve justice in Nepal, despite a court martial finding soldiers guilty of her unlawful killing. 

Reena's case is connected to the case of her friend Subhadra Chaulagain [read more about this case], also submitted by AF and REDRESS. Subhadra was killed on the same night as Reena. Maina was arrested and tortured to death shortly after her mother (Reena's aunt) spoke about witnessing Reena's torture and killing.


 

INTERPOL agrees to remove arrest warrant given real risks of torture

INTERPOL has deleted an international wanted persons alert ('red notice') against a French national, in response to a successful submission made by REDRESS and Fair Trials International in January 2015 [read our press release].

Djamel Ktiti was the subject of a red notice published by the Algerian authorities in 2009, who accused him of being part of a drug trafficking ring on the basis of evidence obtained through torture. In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) found that Djamel’s extradition to Algeria would violate the UN Convention against Torture due to an unacceptable risk of the prosecution being based on evidence obtained by torture, and the high risk of torture he faced if he were returned to Algeria. The Committee noted that the family of the suspect who had implicated Djamel as a drug trafficker stated he had named accomplices under severe torture.

Djamel was arrested twice on the back of INTERPOL's red notice in Morocco in 2009 and in Spain in 2013. In both countries, he was held in provisional detention for extended periods of time. Neither Morocco nor Spain extradited Ktiti in light of the UNCAT decision. However, the alert was not deleted from INTERPOL’s system until our intervention in 2015 [read more about his case].

This decision coincided with a meeting at the UN Committee Against Torture last month in which representatives from REDRESS, Fair Trials International and INTERPOL briefed the Committee about some of the ongoing reforms to counter abuse by certain states of INTERPOL’s system.


 

Submission to the African Commission on torture and death in Egyptian prison

REDRESS and our partners, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the El-Nadeem Centre, have made a submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Mohammed Atta, who alleges that Egyptian authorities are responsible for the death in custody of his late brother, Essam.

Essam Atta was an Egyptian national who worked as a shoemaker until his arrest and an unfair trial that saw him sentenced to two years imprisonment. In 2011, prison authorities allegedly forced a hose with running water into Essam’s mouth and anus, causing severe internal bleeding which eventually is believed to have resulted in his death. Despite multiple attempts by Mohammed Atta and his family, Egyptian authorities have failed to properly investigate Essam’s death and the allegations of torture.


 
REDRESS seeks to intervene in case concerning the torture of Bosnian soldiers

REDRESS has submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in a case involving the torture of Bosnian soldiers who sought refuge in Serbia in 1995 during the war and were tortured in concentrations camp. The case concerns the application of the European Convention to events in Serbia before it joined the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as on the interpretation of the exhaustion of domestic remedies requirement in cases where authorities have failed to investigate allegations of torture or ill-treatment.


 

Al-Hawsawi case: members of the European Parliament challenge treatment of Guantanamo detainees following REDRESS' meetings 

Following meetings REDRESS held in November with European officials to request stronger action in Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s case, several MEPs have tabled questions to the European Commission and Council [read more about al-Hawsawi case]. The MEPs are questioning what actions will be taken in order to persuade US authorities that detainees should be charged promptly and tried in accordance with international standards of the rule of law, or else released, and specifically what action will be taken in regards to Guantanamo detainees denied necessary medical care.

The MEPs also asked how the Commission and Council assess the response of the EU and its member states regarding the use of European countries for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners and what steps will be taken to ensure full accountability for the violations of human rights and the rules of law.

Advocacy work

prison

©UN photo/Stanton Winter

Important victory in Peru: National Mechanism to prevent torture established after successful campaign by REDRESS and partners

A new National Mechanism to prevent torture in Peru came into force on 23 December 2015, after a hard-fought campaign by our partners in Perú, the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos. The establishment of this mechanism is a requirement under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. [Perú ratified the Convention in 1988 and the Optional Protocol in 2006]

The National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) – which will periodically visit police stations, prisons, detention centres and any other institutions where people are deprived of their liberty – will be an essential tool to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

Several international human rights bodies have expressed profound concerns regarding the conditions and treatment of persons deprived of liberty in Perú including lack of medical personnel, abuse of pre-trial detention, reports of torture and ill-treatment and severe overcrowding.

The new law designates the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office as the National Mechanism to prevent torture. Congress passed the law in June and December 2014, but Peru's president returned the law to Congress in February 2015, arguing that the 2015 budget did not include sufficient resources for its implementation. These observations were rejected by Congress on 19 November 2015 and the law became effective on 23 December 2015, a day after its publication in the Official Gazette El Peruano.

REDRESS and la Coordinadora now encourage the Peruvian Government to provide the Ombudsman’s Office with the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate independently and effectively.


 
REDRESS comments on the UK's human rights record before the UN Committee Against Torture 

REDRESS submitted comments to the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) on the key issues which the United Kingdom should address when it provides its 6th Periodic Report to UNCAT in May 2017 [read our submission here]. The list of issues include concerns over the investigation of war crimes and torture allegedly committed by British soldiers in Iraq; allegations of UK complicity in torture in the context of its counter-terrorism activities; the indefinite or lengthy immigration detention of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and their treatment in detention, and the lack of prosecution of torture suspects who come within the UK’s jurisdiction.

Of particular concern are the recent criticisms, including by the British Government, of human rights lawyers who have been engaged with the Iraqi Historical Allegations team (IHAT), the body set up to investigate the crimes allegedly committed in Iraq  - allegations which Prime Minister David Cameron has described as “spurious”. REDRESS and others have said this could be construed as attempted interference in the work of what is meant to be an independent investigation into very serious allegations [read our letter here].  

Another key issue highlighted is the flawed inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture, currently being examined by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). The ISC is not sufficiently independent to conduct a proper investigation into the complicity allegations which first surfaced more than a decade ago. 


 

INTERPOL to inform the UNCAT of its ongoing reforms following our expert meeting  

INTERPOL’s “wanted person” alert system provides an important policing tool in fighting serious cross-border crime by securing arrest and extradition of fugitives. However, this system has been abused by certain states to pursue regime opponents and to extradite individuals to countries where they face a real risk of torture or prosecutions based on torture evidence.

The potential for abuse of INTERPOL’s alerts system was the subject of an expert briefing of the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT), coordinated by Fair Trials International and REDRESS, in December last year. During the meeting, the UNCAT heard from INTERPOL’s General Secretariat, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (the body which is responsible for processing requests submitted by individuals for deletion of their personal information from INTERPOL’s databases), Fair Trials International and REDRESS before offering insights into its own procedures and jurisprudence. Presentations were also made by a member of the UN Human Rights Committee (which also receives individual complaints relating to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment) and the UN Petitions and Inquiries Section (which coordinates the individual complaints process for UN human rights treaty bodies).

The meeting provided a valuable opportunity for the UNCAT to inform INTERPOL’s ongoing process of reform to protect the fundamental human rights of people whose rights are affected by its work. In particular, the meeting provided an opportunity to consider how INTERPOL could draw on the UNCAT’s jurisprudence when defining its human right obligations and deciding whether to publish or maintain individual alerts.


 

REDRESS raises concerns over Lithuania's complicity with CIA's black sites 

REDRESS and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) made a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in relation to Lithuania’s compliance of its obligations under the Convention against Torture [see our submission]. This is in advance of the Committee’s 57th Session to be held from the 18thApril – 13th May 2016, during which Lithuania's human rights record will be scrutinised. Since the Committee last examined Lithuania's compliance, new information has emerged that further identifies the country’s involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions programme and the location of the secret detention centre ‘Violet’.'

'Detention Site Violet' was closed in 2006 due to a lack of emergency medical care for detainees, including Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who is represented by REDRESS. He remains in Guantanamo Bay where he is denied the right to a fair trial, faces the death penalty and does not have access to adequate medical care for the injuries he sustained as a result of torture during his secret detention [read more about his case].

REDRESS has raised concerns that although an investigation into al-Hawsawi’s was opened almost two years ago, the Lithuanian Government has taken no action to ensure the provision of redress and rehabilitation (Article 14) or to seek assurances in relation to al-Hawsawi’s ongoing treatment.

Conferences and trainings

 

REDRESS hosts Pan-African expert meeting on anti-torture legislation in Africa

A Pan-African conference hosted with our partners, the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), took place on 26 - 27 January in Nairobi, with the aim of promoting the adoption and effective implementation of anti-torture legislation. This initiative is part of a comparative initiative led by REDRESS on anti-torture legislative frameworks in seven African countries (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda), a key goal being to support the Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) and other stakeholders to actively engage states parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to introduce, adopt and implement adequate anti-torture legislation.   


  

REDRESS works towards developing guidelines to address enforced disappearances within Africa

Last month, REDRESS lawyers joined Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in a meeting in Zimbabwe on developing guidelines on enforced disappearances. The meeting was attended by a number of experts, including Commissioner Lawrence Mute, Chair of the Commission for the Prevention of Torture in Africa and Commissioner of the African Commission. Participants explored the current state of affairs regarding enforced disappearances in Africa and the potential to develop a regional instrument that could help to effectively address this issue on the Continent.


 
Legal training workshops in Nepal on torture jurisprudence

Last month, Advocacy Forum and REDRESS organised a training for 25 lawyers from all over Nepal. The training covered three key topics in international jurisprudence on torture and other ill-treatment, their relationship to lawyers’ domestic litigation and strategies for advocacy on the Torture Bill currently before Parliament. 

As part of our joint project, Advocacy Forum also organised four regional meetings in the districts of Nepalgunj, Kanchanpur, Pokhara and Biratnagar to consider the current draft of the Torture Bill. These were attended by 215 participants including judges, public prosecutors, defense lawyers, police officers and medical professionals.  


 
Exploring reparations for victims of the Habré case

REDRESS staff travelled to Senegal last month to gather information about victims' reparation needs in the Habré case and the establishment of a trust fund for victims, as envisaged in the statute of the Extraordinary African Chambers. REDRESS met with victims’ lawyers, representatives from victims’ associations, officials of the Court’s registry as well as states supporting the Extraordinary African Chambers whilst also attended hearings of the trial of Hissène Habré. REDRESS will be working with the victims’ network to prepare recommendations on the establishment of a trust fund for victims.


 
Mission to Kenya to deliver training on transitional justice and the ICC

Our Post-Conflict Legal Advisor Beini Ye travelled to Kenya from 27 - 29 January to deliver a workshop with victim representatives on transitional justice and the ICC. REDRESS and partners in Kenya, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit and Kituo cha Sheria, also hosted a reception with experts and other local actors to discuss victims’ access to justice.


 

REDRESS speaks in The Hague about victims' experience of international criminal proceedings

During a workshop in The Hague this month, REDRESS spoke about the role of amicus curiae in international criminal proceedings from a victims’ perspective, whilst reflecting on some of REDRESS’ past experiences of intervening in proceedings before the ICC.

Events

Pedro and the Captain play
First London performance in 30 years of Benedetti's 'Pedro and the Captain'

REDRESS in partnership with Blackboard Theatre presents the first London performance in 30 years of the play ‘Pedro and the Captain’ written by Mario Benedetti, one of South America’s greatest writers.

REDRESS gave advice and guidance for the production of the play which presents a profound insight into the relationship  between victim and torturer. Within the intimate confines of an interrogation room, two human beings are pushed to their limits as the eponymous Pedro fights to retain his humanity in the face of an oppressive regime. This psychological battle-line offers a timely universal reflection on states of oppression and dehumanization wherever they are found – war zones, refugee camps, boardrooms or bedrooms.

As part of The Vaults festival, the play runs from 2nd – 6th March at 8:15pm – 9:15pm, plus Sat 5th March at 4:45pm – 5:45pm.

Book your tickets now

Follow Pedro’s story on Facebook here and Twitter @PedroAndCaptain 

Watch the trailer


 
UK's Zimbabwean refugees's 'Stories of Resilience' exhibition

Working with the Zimbabwe Association, REDRESS supported the very successful ’12 Years Exhibition – Stories of Resilience’. For over two years, volunteers interviewed Zimbabwean asylum seekers, many of whom are torture survivors, and gathered accounts of their experiences of the UK’s asylum process from 2001-13. The exhibition took place at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill from 18 - 24 January. Some of the asylum seekers in the exhibition spoke about their experiences during the opening.  Audio recordings, transcripts, photography and video offered a unique insight into people’s flight from persecution, before encountering often traumatic experiences of the UK’s broken asylum system. After the exhibition, the oral stories will be deposited at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, London [read more here].

Publications

©UN Photo/Iason Foonunten

REDRESS and Lawyers for Justice in Libya finalise comments to Libya's Constitutional Drafting Assembly

Libya acceded to the Convention Against Torture in 1989, but the country’s national legal framework does not conform to the Convention’s provisions. Since the 2011 uprising, torture has become an institutionalised practice with no prompt, impartial forms of investigation, effective national mechanism or access to legal redress to seek justice inside Libya.  

REDRESS and Lawyers for Justice in Libya worked collaboratively in preparing 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 April last year. We have now updated this commentary.

Our updated 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. 

Our updated commentary will be published in the coming weeks. LFJL published an accessible poster summarising LFJL's recommendations to Libya's Constitutional Drafting Assembly in December.

Support our Marathon runners

These runners will help us promote our mission during the London Marathon 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.

Staff appointments

Judy Oder, new Legal Adviser

Judy joined REDRESS as Legal Adviser in 2016. Prior to that, she was a Legal Adviser with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in South Sudan.  Previously, Judy worked at INTERIGHTS and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa where she used strategic litigation, capacity building, institution strengthening and standard setting to implement human rights programmes. Judy read law at Makerere University Kampala and Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, University of Lund. She is admitted to the Ugandan bar. 

Media coverage

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