Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Reparation News
November 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, you can follow 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 in our work and for your support. Our Annual Report for the Year ended 31 March 2015 is now available! Please click here to read it online, or contact us if you would like a hard copy.

Carla Ferstman

Director


 

Case updates

Photo of Prem Prakash Tharu, one of the eight disappeared youths (©Advocacy Forum)

The UN orders Nepal to prosecute those responsible for Bardiya District disappearances

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Nepalese authorities responsible for the disappearance of eight youths from Bardiya District and called for criminal prosecution of the perpetrators [read more about the case].   

Dhaniram Tharu, Soniram Tharu, Radhulal Tharu, Prem Prakash Tharu, Kamala Tharu, Mohan Tharu, Lauti Tharu and Chillu Tharu – aged between 14 and 23 at the time of their disappearance – were taken by soldiers from their homes in Nauranga Village, at around midnight on 11 April 2002. Their families have never seen them again or received any credible information from the authorities about what happened to them.

The ruling follows a case brought to the Committee by their families in 2011, represented by human rights organisations Advocacy Forum and REDRESS, after a long struggle for justice in Nepal.  The Committee found that – in addition to the crimes committed against the disappeared youths – Nepal committed serious violations of the rights of their family members by refusing to reveal the fate of their loved ones [read our press release].


 

Positive decision in case of CIA rendition victim in Lithuania

In November, Lithuanian Chief Prosecutor Irmantas Mikelionis granted REDRESS' appeal concerning Mustafa al-Hawasawi, who was detained and tortured in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation programme in various locations including in Lithuania. The Chief Prosecutor has now ordered a lower prosecutor to issue a procedural decision on REDRESS' request that Mr Al-Hawsawi be granted victim status in an ongoing pre-trial investigation in Lithuania. This would allow REDRESS to appeal the substantive part of that decision if the request is indeed rejected. If Mr Al-Hawsawi is granted victim status in the investigation, he would become the first victim of the CIA programme to obtain this status in Lithuania.

REDRESS' International Legal Advisor Kyra Hild travelled to Brussels in November to meet European officials and request stronger actions in Mr Al-Hawsawi's case. Actions would build on the EU’s strong position regarding ongoing detentions at Guantanamo Bay and the European Parliament’s work in calling for accountability, including through a resolution in February that condemned the alleged participation of EU member states in CIA extraordinary rendition and torture.

REDRESS is representing Mr al-Hawsawi in proceedings in Lithuania and Poland concerning claims that both countries were complicit in his detention and torture in the CIA programme [read more about the case].


 

REDRESS’ arguments heard before the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Libyan rendition case

Arguments made by REDRESS, together with other NGOs, in a case involving two Libyan victims of torture were heard by the UK Supreme Court during a hearing in London from 9 -12 November.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, claim that British intelligence and security officials were involved in their abduction and illegal transfer to Libya, where they were tortured. In 2013, the High Court struck out their lawsuit after finding that, even though they had a “potentially well-founded claim” that the UK authorities were “directly implicated” in their abduction, the case should not be heard because it could damage UK-US relations. In 2014, however, the Court of Appeal ruled that the risk of displeasing other States could not outweigh the imperative of providing access to justice to victims. It found that they had the right to sue these officials because the failure to allow so would result in a denial of a legal remedy for very grave allegations of human rights violations they suffered.

The UK Government was granted permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court on both the issue of foreign act of state and state immunity. REDRESS, JUSTICE, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists applied to intervene before the Supreme Court, after having intervened previously before the Court of Appeal [read more about the case].

Advocacy

©Kate Holt/IRIN

Submission on sexual violence against women and girls in Uganda, Kenya and DRC

On 25 November, REDRESS and partner organisations made a submission to the Secretariat of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region. The submission [here] describes how far Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have worked against sexual violence against women and girls and outlines areas for improvement. These three countries together with eight other African countries signed a joint declaration to prevent sexual violence, end impunity and provide support to victims (known as the Kampala Declaration). The implementation of this declaration will be reviewed in December of this year. Our submission aims to provide input to that review.


  

REDRESS calls on Nepal to end impunity for torture during UN review

Advocacy Forum, the Asian Human Rights Commission, REDRESS and the World Organisation against Torture made a submission as part of Nepal's Universal Periodic Review that took place on 4 November in Geneva [see here]. The UPR is a review of the human rights record of UN member states. Our submission focused on the continued impunity for serious human rights violations committed during the armed conflict and highlighted the ongoing and systematic practice of torture in detention. Despite promises made during the last UPR review in 2011 to investigate and prosecute those crimes, Nepal has failed to take effective actions and torture continues to be practiced systematically in detention as well as a mean for obtaining confessions. 


 

CEDAW echoes REDRESS' concerns on the UAE

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recently made public its concluding observations on the second and third periodic report of the United Arab Emirates. Its conclusions echo REDRESS' concerns regarding the inadequate access to justice of women in the UAE, which REDRESS outlined in a submission to the Committee in October [see here].

The conclusions were adopted by the Committee at its 62 session that took place from 26 October to 20 November 2015 [see here]. Several conclusions were pertinent to the case of one of our clients, Afsana Lachaux, a British national and a victim of violence who lost custody of his child while living in the UAE [read more about her case]. The Committee noted the discriminatory treatment of women in courts, specially of foreign women, and has recommended that the UAE adopts a series of gender-sensitive measures to facilitate women's access to justice. The Committee was also concerned about the discrimination of women in marriage.


  

Letter to the Council of Europe on inquiry into European complicity in CIA programme

On 30 November, REDRESS together with other human rights organisations, sent a letter to Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, urging him to extend the Article 52 inquiry into member states' involvement in the CIA programme of secret rendition, detention and interrogation [read the letter]. States were asked to provide further information to the inquiry by the end of September 2015 and our organisations are concerned that this request may now lead to a sudden conclusion of the inquiry despite a lack of accountability for governments' actions. In the letter, we also request the Secretary General to accept information from non-state sources as well as make public the outcomes of the inquiry on member states' progress at conducting effective investigations into this matter. The letter is also signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Justice Initiative, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights in Practice.


 

Letter to the UK Government encouraging it to do more in the fight against grave international crimes

On 12 November, REDRESS and seven other organisations wrote to the Home Secretary Theresa May to express their concern at the UK’s opt-out from two decisions of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs secretaries of the EU which are aimed to strengthen the fight against impunity for grave international crimes and set out crucial ways for states to coordinate their efforts [read the letter]. Previous UK Governments had seen the benefit of cooperating with counterparts in other EU member states countries on policing and prosecution matters, but since the Coalition Government opted out of about 100 EU justice measures in 2014, UK judicial practitioners are no longer able to participate in the European Genocide Network, as well as other crucial bodies.


 

Shadow report to the African Commission on Kenya

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), our partner in Kenya, submitted a comprehensive shadow report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in anticipation to Kenya’s 8th-11th Periodic Report, to which REDRESS provided input.  IMLU also organised a training in November for Nairobi city county government inspectorate officers, which have reportedly been involved in the torture and ill-treatment of hawkers and small business owners.

Events and conferences

REDRESS advocates for victims’ rights at annual gathering of ICC States Parties

REDRESS joined International Criminal Court States Parties in The Hague for the 14th Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute to address issues central to the ICC’s operations from 18 to 26 November.

On 21 November, REDRESS together with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the International Federation for Human Rights and Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, hosted a side event: States must lead on ensuring victims' rights. Through their experiences of working with victim groups and states in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Uganda, Kenya and Central African Republic, speakers discussed how victims’ rights to participate in legal proceedings and to receive reparations are an integral part of complementarity and the role States have in ensuring access to justice for victims. The event also showcased a detailed study of domestic practice on victim participation in criminal law proceedings, published by REDRESS and ISS. 

The Victims’ Rights Working Group – a broad coalition of NGOs and experts informally facilitated by REDRESS – also organised a side event on 21 November along with the governments of Chile and Finland: From admission to reparation: Heeding the voices of victimsThe panel was composed of grassroots victims’ organizations and other representatives, including counsel for victims. Participants offered perspectives from the field and shared moving stories of victims affected by ICC crimes. They offered recommendations and called on states and the Court to do more to keep victims interests at the center of the ICC’s work [read the recommendations in English here or French here]. 

Events and conferences

Field mission to Perú and Colombia

REDRESS' Legal Officer Gaia Pergolo travelled in November to Perú and Colombia. In Perú, she followed up cases that we are currently working on with our partner, la Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, including the cases of Luis Alberto Rojas, Yefri Pena and Maria. We also facilitated a training for more than 35 Peruvian lawyers, with a particular focus on the increasing use of torture by armed forces to suppress social protests.

Following an advocacy campaign by la Coordinadora, on 19 November, the Peruvian Congress overwhelmingly rejected amendments proposed by the Peruvian President to the bill that will create the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture. This now paves the way for the bill to be enacted into law in the coming weeks.  

In Colombia, REDRESS met with NGOs, intergovernmental organisations and members of the government working on human rights and transitional justice.


 

Workshop on Nigeria’s anti-torture bill and National Preventive Mechanism

On 13 November, REDRESS participated in a workshop organised by the University of Bristol's Human Rights Implementation Centre and the Legal Resources Consortium in Abuja, Nigeria. The workshop brought together lawyers and human rights activists working on torture, and participants discussed Nigeria’s anti-torture bill and the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism against Torture.  REDRESS was invited to participate as a result of its comparative “Anti-Torture Legislative Frameworks” project which examines anti-torture legislation in seven African countries: DRC, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia and Uganda.

Staff appointments

Juergen Schurr, new Head of Law and Policy

On 16 November Juergen Schurr took up his position as the new Head of Law and Policy of REDRESS. Mr Schurr joined REDRESS in 2006 as Project Coordinator on Universal Jurisdiction. In 2009 he became an Associate Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He returned to REDRESS as Legal Advisor in 2010. Mr Schurr obtained his law degree from the University of East Anglia and an LLM from the University of Trier.

Gaëlle Carayon, previously ICC Legal Officer, has also been promoted to the position of Post-Conflict Policy Advisor. She graduated from the Institut d'Etudes Politique in Lyon, France, and obtained an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex in 2006. Prior to joining REDRESS in 2009, she worked with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Tanzania. 

Run the London Marathon and British 10k

Raise funds for victims of torture 

There are still spots available for REDRESS runners at some events next year!

We are looking for runners for the 2016 London Marathon (Sunday 24 April) and the British 10K Run (Sunday 10 July).  If you would like to be part of REDRESS’ team and contribute to our work on behalf of torture survivors, contact Jennifer at jennifer@redress.org 

If you were successful in securing a place in the London marathon ballot, you can still join our team and help raise money for our work, without having to commit to a minimum level of sponsorship.

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