REDRESS - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Surviors Reparation News
January - February 2012      

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

These recent months have yielded major legal victories for victims of torture in several of our cases. Please find below a summary of the latest developments with our casework and other areas of our work on behalf of victims of torture.

2012 is REDRESS’ 20th Anniversary year. Stay tuned for information on a number of events we will be planning throughout the year. We hope that you will be able to join us and also that you will continue to support our work. Please visit our Facebook and Twitter pages to get the latest news about REDRESS.

Best wishes,

Carla Ferstman


Case update

- Greece ordered to pay €50,000 to torture victim 

On 17 January, the European Court of Human Rights found that Greek coastguards tortured Necati Zontul, a British/Turkish dual national, when he was raped in detention at the port of Chania, Crete, in 2001. It ordered Greece to pay him €50,000 in compensation.

The judgment in Zontul v. Greece confirmed that Greece breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of torture) on account of the actions of the coastguards as well as the failures of the Greek authorities in the internal investigations and the criminal proceedings against the officials. The Court considered that the rape of a detainee by an official of the State was an especially grave and abhorrent form of ill-treatment, amounting to torture in this case.

Necati was in a boat travelling to Italy when it was intercepted by the Greek Coastguard and towed to Hania Harbour in Crete. Once there, the migrant detainees were kept in poor conditions of detention, with severe overcrowding and limited access to basic amenities. A coastguard trapped Necati in the toilets and forced him to remove his clothes. He then raped him with a truncheon.

The Greek authorities were heavily criticised for their internal investigation of the incident, where they falsified the Applicant's evidence, recording the rape as a "slap" and "use of psychological violence". The Court also found that the criminal penalty imposed on the perpetrator of the rape, a suspended sentence commuted to a small fine, was insufficient.

Click for the ECtHR decision (in french)Click for the Court's English summary.

Click to read our press release.

In the picture, Necati Zontul outside the UK Houses of Parliament.

- UN body of experts: Sri Lanka guilty for death of torture victim

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has found that Sri Lanka is responsible for the torture and death of one of its citizens.

In its determination of 11 January, the Committee found that the Government of Sri Lanka had violated, among other articles, articles 6 (right to life) and article 7 (freedom from torture).  Its determination concerns the murder of S.K.A. Sugath Nishanta Fernando, who was shot dead by masked men on 20 September 2008 a few days after he was due to give evidence against his alleged torturers. Previously, he had complained of the harassment and ill-treatment he and his family had been subjected to by police officers following a complaint that he had filed against several police officers in Negombo.

Sugath’ widow filed the complaint against Sri Lanka with the help of the Asian Legal Resource Centre, REDRESS and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims.

The Committee also found that the failure to investigate the murder and the torture amounted to a denial of an effective remedy to the victim.  It recommended that the Government provide an effective remedy, which includes ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice; that the author and her two children return to their domicile in safety, and reparation is provided, including adequate compensation and an apology. 

Click for the decision of the HRCClick to read a press statement. 


Literary Evening to mark REDRESS' 20th anniversary

REDRESS is holding a literary evening to mark our 20th Anniversary. The event will take place on April 24 at The Tabernacle, London, and it will feature readings from prominent writers that have canvassed the topic of torture and human rights in their work.

Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International Editor, will chair the event and Roma Tearne (Sri Lanka), Patricio Pron (Argentina) and Haifa Zangana (Iraq) will be among the authors participating. In addition, a number of our clients who have undergone torture will present readings during the evening.

Click this link to buy tickets

Click if you can't come but want to leave a donation.

Click to see our invitation for the event. 

In the picture, Haifa Zangana, one of the authors.


New REDRESS reports

  • Report on the Philippines’ failure to provide a remedy to victims

REDRESS has submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Committee’s Country Report Task Force to draw attention to the Philippines’ almost absolute failure to implement the recommendations of the Committee in a dozen human rights cases. 

In March, the Country Report Task Force will meet to identify the focus of the dialogue with the representatives of the Philippines when its human rights record is examined. REDRESS has urged the Committee to raise with the Philippines the concerns highlighted in our Report. In one case in which REDRESS has been involved, the Philippines has failed to provide any remedy to a victim of torture more than eight years after the Committee found a violation and recommended the Philippines to do so.

The victim, a British National, spent 1.5 years on death row in the Philippines on charges of rape that turned out to be fabricated. Albert Wilson characterised his experience in jail as “living as an animal in constant fear”. In 2002, REDRESS filed a claim with the Committee, arguing that his experience amounted to torture. The Committee agreed and advised the Government to offer an appropriate remedy to Albert. To date, the Philippines has failed to do so. In September 2009, with the help of senior Philippine lawyers, REDRESS made an application to the Philippines Supreme Court to oblige the Government to afford Albert with a remedy. The case is pending.

Click to read our report (23/12/11). Click to read our update (17/01/12).

  • Closing the impunity gap in Africa

In the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, a large number of military officers, civil servants and civilians suspected of having committed crimes during the genocide escaped to other countries around the globe. Many are now living in Southern Africa. Can these states do more to close the impunity gap and ensure justice for the victims of the genocide? The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, REDRESS and African Rights held a conference last year to discuss the role that these states can play in ending impunity. The Report of the conference - “Closing the impunity gap: Southern Africa’s Role in Ensuring Justice for the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda” – is now available on our website.

Click to read our report.


Advocacy work

  • No to expanding the system of special advocates to civil litigation

The Joint Parliamentary Group on Human Rights is currently considering the UK Government’s Green Paper on Justice and Security.  REDRESS has submitted comments opposing the Government’s proposal to extend the system of special advocates to civil litigation.  We are concerned about the impact of closed material procedures (CMP) in civil claims cases on the right to a remedy and reparation for survivors of torture.

Click to read our submission.

  • Open letter to support French War Crimes Unit

REDRESS together with Amnesty International, FIDH and Human Rights Watch sent an Open Letter to the French Ministries of Justice and of the Interior calling on the Government to allocate enough resources and personnel to its newly established War Crimes Unit. The Unit, which began operations on 1 January, is composed of investigative judges and prosecutors specifically charged with investigating and prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture.   The NGOs have been calling on France  to strengthen its efforts to investigate and prosecute the many suspects living in France.

Click to read our letter.


Conferences

  • Conference on Sudan

REDRESS and the Centre for Human Rights Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies hosted a conference on Sudan on 20 January. Participants included Dr. Amin M. Medani, director of Sudan Human Rights Monitor; Dr. Mohamed Abdel Salam  Babiker, professor at the University of Karthoum and Najlaa El Khalifa, coordinator of the Project on Criminal Law Reform in Sudan, a project initiated by REDRESS and partners in Sudan.

Some of the issues discussed were the persistent problems and current challenges for human rights protection in Sudan; criminal justice and the constitutional review process and the struggle for women's rights. During the event, the book “Criminal Law Reform and Transitional Justice – Human Rights Perspectives for Sudan”, edited by Lutz Oette, REDRESS’ Counsel, was also launched. The book examines the nature, policy aspects and interrelationship of Sudanese criminal law and law reform in a post-conflict society.

We also hosted a meeting of NGOs and experts working on Sudan at our offices that was attended by more than a dozen of experts and NGOs.

In the picture, REDRESS' Counsel Lutz Oette and Dr. Mohamed Abdel Salam Babiker, from the University of Karthoum, at REDRESS’ offices.

  • Expert meeting in Africa
Regional and United Nations human rights mechanisms provide an important forum for victims of torture and other human rights violations to be heard or file complaints, but ensuring that their findings and recommendations are effectively implemented remains a challenge in Africa.

To discuss this issue, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently organised a regional consultation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that was attended by numerous African NGOS and representatives from this Office, the UN Committee Against Torture, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The consultation took place on 6-7 February. Dadimos Haile, REDRESS’s legal advisor, moderated the panel: “How to improve follow up to recommendations issued by both UN and African human rights mechanisms on torture?” 


REDRESS advocates for victims before the ICC

From 12-21 December 2011, States Parties to the ICC Rome Statute gathered in New York to address numerous issues central to the Court's operations. Representatives from 38 states and 12 NGOs, including REDRESS, made statements. In its statement to the Assembly of States Parties, REDRESS called for victims’ voices to be heard and for states to give the Court the resources it needs in order to implement its mandate. We also organised a side event on behalf of the Victims’ Rights Working Group, a network of experts and NGOs that advocates for victims’ rights before the ICC. It focused on reparation for victims.

Click to read REDRESS' submission the Assembly of States Parties.

Click to read document presented by the Victims’ Rights Working Group.

In the picture, Victims’ Rights Working Group side event in New York/credit CICC.


Flawed Torture Inquiry is scrapped

On 18 January, the British Government announced the close of the ill-fated Detainee Inquiry, established in response to allegations of UK complicity in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees held by foreign intelligence agencies. The reason given for the closure of the Inquiry was the commencement of new police investigations. Many organisations, including REDRESS, had raised strong reservations about its limited scope, the restrictions on public access to information emerging from the Inquiry as well as the limitations placed upon officials called to give evidence.

As the Government did not take into account their concerns, the NGOs withdrew from the Inquiry on 4 August. On 5 January, these NGOs and other distinguished international experts made public an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron raising their concerns once more. REDRESS has called on the Government to hold a robust inquiry into the serious allegations, one which is transparent enough and capable of arriving at the truth. We think that this is important to achieve public accountability and to prevent recurrence.

Click to read Sir Emyr Jones Parry’s op-ed in openDemocracy: ‘Why the UK government must get to the bottom of any complicity in torture?'

Click to read Letter to the Editor of The Independent.

Click to read Letter from the NGOs to Prime Minister David Cameron.


     
 

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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