Breaking the Silence
Published March 13 2017
Summary: Israeli State Attorney's Office withdraws demand that Breaking the Silence reveal the identity of soldiers who testified about Operation Protective Edge
1st March 2017: The Israeli State Attorney's Office has withdrawn its request requiring SRT grantee Breaking the Silence to hand over material relating to investigations into human rights violations by the Israeli military in Gaza, including the identity of the soldiers who testified. Breaking the Silence, represented by lawyers Michael Sfard and Gaby Lasky, argued at a court hearing last year that the identities of its testifiers should be protected.
The State Attorney and the Military Police Investigation Unit took Breaking the Silence to court in May 2016 to require the organisation to disclose the identities of soldiers who testified about their service in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014. This request, if agreed by the court, would have effectively ended Breaking the Silence’s ability to continue working, as it would no longer have been able to guarantee the security of its sources. The request came soon after a series of unprecedented physical, legal and media attacks against the organisation by members of the Knesset and pro-settler organisations during late 2015 and early 2016.
Michael Sfard said, “We are pleased that the State Attorney eventually respected the moral and legal obligation of the organization to maintain the confidentiality of the soldiers who testified before it and that they have made concessions on this issue. From the onset, we have argued that organizations like Breaking the Silence enjoy the privilege of journalistic immunity, a violation of which would be dangerous not only to the organization but to all of Israeli society. Essentially, our argument has been accepted.”
Yehuda Shaul, Co-Founder of Breaking the Silence, said, "We will continue to protect the identity of soldiers in the face of all political and cynical attempts intended to silence and intimidate soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories against speaking out about the reality of the occupation."
Gulf Center for Human Rights
Published March 06 2017
Summary: Gulf Center for Human Rights seeks to challenge UK government in court over obligation to comply with international law
SRT grantee the Gulf Center for Human Rights has been granted leave to challenge the UK government in court over its international legal obligations.
In October 2015, the government removed an obligation from the Ministerial Code on government ministers to comply with international law. In spite of criticism by senior legal figures, Theresa May reissued the Code in December 2016 without restoring this obligation.
The Gulf Center relies on international advocacy to hold the Gulf States to account and to protect human rights defenders, but this would become more difficult if Western governments diminished their own commitment to international law and the separation of powers. The Center has also relied in the past on the international law and the courts to hold Western governments to account when they prioritised economic ties with Gulf States over human rights.
The Gulf Center applied to the High Court for judicial review of the decision via solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn. The Court initially rejected the request on the grounds that the Code could not be judicially reviewed, whilst recognising that the case was “interesting” and “brought for good motives”. The Center was granted permission to appeal this ruling on 4 January 2017. A full hearing at the Court of Appeal will now follow.
Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn said, “Ensuring ministerial accountability for complying with the UK’s international law obligations is more important than ever and the ministerial code was an important part of that. It is very welcome that the lawfulness of the changes and the explanations given for them will now be properly tested.”
Melanie Gingell of the Gulf Center said, “It is good news that we will have a full court of appeal hearing. Our work relies on countries such as the UK abiding by their international law obligations, and this was a worrying and symbolic change.”Coverage from the Gulf Center’s website: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1481
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights/FIDH/Reporters Without Borders
Published February 24 2017
Summary: Human rights organisations ask European Commission to suspend Poland’s EU voting rights
International human rights organisations, including SRT grantees the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, FIDH and Reporters Without Borders, have called on the European Commission to take decisive measures in response to Poland’s “disregard” for the rule of law. Since taking office in 2015, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party has introduced policies aimed at curbing civil liberties and reducing the independence of the media, civil
service and judiciary.
The human rights organisations, along with more than 20 Polish NGOs, have signed an open letter asking the European Commission to launch the third stage of the rule of law procedure, which would mean the triggering of measures under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU).
Article 7 was established 16 years ago in an attempt to hold member states to account for human rights violations, but to date has not been used. If triggered it would impose sanctions on the affected country and suspend its EU voting rights. A decision to trigger Article 7 must be approved by four
fifths of EU Member States.
The open letter’s signatories write that “a recommendation from the Commission to activate Article 7 TEU is at this stage is the only way to continue to hold Poland to account for its failure to respect its obligations under the Treaties”. The NGOs also emphasise that it “would send a strong signal to other Member States” that no one can undermine the founding
values of the European Union without a strong response from the EU.”
The signing organisations also note that recommending resort to the Article 7
procedure will send “a strong signal to civil society in Poland that the Commission stands by its side in its fight for a society in which democracy,the rule of law, human rights and the other values protected under Article 2 TEU are upheld”.
Full coverage from the Helsinki Foundation’s website:
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Published February 16 2017
Summary: WILPF declines to participate in 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women
SRT grantee the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), one of the first NGOs to be granted consultative status with the United Nations in 1948, will not take part in the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61). WILPF believes that the absence of women from countries affected by the recent US travel ban undermines the basic premise of the CSW as being an inclusive and participatory process and threatens its legitimacy.
WILPF's statement is available here.
CEDEHM/FIDH/World Organisation Against Torture
Published February 13 2017
Summary: Human rights defender killed in Mexico days after visit by UN Special Rapporteur
February 2, 2017: SRT grantee Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CEDEHM) has coordinated a statement signed by more than 50 human rights organisations expressing concern at the recent murder of a human rights activist and calling on the Mexican government and the international community to take action. Grantees FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture were also signatories.
Juan Ontiveros Ramos, an environmental and indigenous rights activist, was abducted by armed men on 31st January 2017 and his body found the following day. On 20 January he had attended a meeting with members of CEDEHM and the Alianza Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre Alliance) along with governmental authorities, to discuss threats against the indigenous Raramuri people and their ownership of their ancestral lands. In October 2015 Ramos had also given video to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at a meeting to implement precautionary measures.
Ramos’s murder came a week after the visit to Mexico of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. In his closing report on the visit, Mr Forst said, “During my visit to Chihuahua, I became acquainted with the situation facing human rights defenders, who protect the rights of the Raramuri indigenous population, in particular the risks caused by organized crime and their lack of protection from the authorities […] I call upon both the federal and state authorities to ensure that all crimes against defenders of the rights of the peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara are duly investigated.”
In their statement, the human rights groups express their indignation at the kidnapping and murder of Juan Ontiveros Ramos and demand that the Mexican state “immediately take measures to ensure timely investigation and security of the indigenous communities of the Sierra Tarahumara, and allow the return of displaced families and guarantee their right to defend human rights.” They have also coordinated an Urgent Action with Amnesty International asking activists to write to the Mexican government.
Full text of the NGOs’ statement (in Spanish only): http://redtdt.org.mx/?p=7875
The UN Special Rapporteur's report is available here.
Global Justice Center
Published February 03 2017
Summary: Trump widens scope of ‘gag rule’ restricting NGOs’ ability to provide health and family planning services
23rd January 2017: President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order expanding the reach of a policy which restricts the services and information foreign NGOs can provide if they receive US government global health funding.
Since 1973, the Helms Amendment has barred any US foreign aid from being used to perform or provide information about abortion. These restrictions apply to all US aid, including humanitarian aid to women and girls raped in war, which violates their rights to necessary medical care under the Geneva Conventions. The Global Gag Rule extends the reach of Helms by limiting what foreign organisations receiving US global assistance funds can do even with their non-US funds, and restricts the information and counselling that women can receive.
SRT grantee the Global Justice Center undertakes research and advocacy to promote the enforcement and implementation of international human rights law and particularly women’s rights. The organisation has campaigned against Helms and the Gag Rule since 2010, and in 2015 successfully lobbied the EU to require that its humanitarian aid funding “not be subject to restrictions imposed by other partner donors”, including the Helms Amendment and recognize abortion as protected care under the Geneva Conventions.
President Trump’s Executive Order widens the Gag Rule from its previous iterations to apply not only to family planning assistance given by the United States, but too all global health assistance provided by the US, which includes funds from the State Department, USAID, Department of Health and Human Services (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health), Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Department of Defense.
The expansion of this rule will also have sweeping consequences for organisations working on a broad range of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, ultimately limiting women’s ability to access vital maternal health, family planning, HIV treatment and education services. According to Akila Radhakrishnan, Vice President and Legal Director of the Global Justice Center, 13% of maternal deaths around the world are from unsafe abortion, and the reintroduction and expansion of the rule is likely to lead to an increase in such deaths.
Full coverage from the Global Justice Center’s website: http://www.globaljusticecenter.net/press-center/press-releases/580-gjc-statement-on-gag-expansion
Published January 18 2017
Summary: Court rules that unaccompanied child refugee must be brought to the UK to reunite with his remaining family
London, January 2017: In a potentially precedent-setting legal judgment, the High Court has ordered that an unaccompanied child refugee must be brought to the UK to be reunited with his British aunt. SRT grantee Safe Passage brought the case on the child’s behalf along with law firm Bhatt Murphy.
The boy, Dawit, is a 14-year-old refugee from Eritrea who was separated from his mother and brother as they tried to cross by sea from Egypt to Sicily in April 2016. His mother and brother later drowned making the crossing separately. Dawit was taken to a reception centre in Rome, where he was identified by volunteers working for Safe Passage.
Dawit’s lawyers wrote to the UK Home Office in September 26 describing his “compelling case” for resettlement and explaining that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Home Office did not respond to their request or to two follow up requests sent in October.
The High Court found that the Home Office had failed to fulfil its obligations to Dawit under the Dublin III regulation, which rules that “in the absence of a family member, a sibling or a relative […] the Member State responsible shall be that where the unaccompanied minor has lodged his or her application for international protection, provided that it is in the best interest of the minor”.
Dawit is expected to arrive in the UK shortly, where he will live in north London with his aunt. Safe Passage believe that his case will act as a precedent for other unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. Rabbi Janet Darley of Citizens UK, which founded Safe Passage, said, “The courts have given the government legal, but also moral direction in how they should approach this serious and desperate issue.”
Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy said, “This case sends a very clear message to European governments and the European commission: effective systems must be established so that the rights to family reunification in the European regulations and directives are accessible for children.”
Guardian article about Dawit’s case: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/01/eritrean-refugee-tragedy-guardian-observer-appeal-safe-passage-charity
Bahrain Center for Human Rights/Gulf Center for Human Rights
Published January 12 2017
Summary: Human Rights defender Nabeel Rajab released on bail and rearrested
10th January 2017: Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, co- founder and director of SRT grantee the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been released on bail after more than six months’ detention and almost immediately rearrested.
Rajab appeared before a court on 28 December 2016 on charges in relation to his tweets publicising reports of ongoing torture in Jaw Prison and criticising Bahrain’s participation in Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen. The court ordered his release on bail. This decision, however, was almost immediately overturned by the public prosecutor, who according to SRT grantee the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy ordered Rajab’s continued detention for seven days, citing further investigation into other charges relating to televised interviews from 2015 and January 2016 (the basis of his initial arrest in June 2016). On 5 January his detention was renewed for a further 15 days.
Rajab continues to be held in solitary confinement. He has suffered from poor health in prison, including heart problems, has been denied access to proper care, and has been held in solitary confinement for the vast majority of his pre-trial detention. In addition, on 21 December, he was interrogated in connection with a letter published in his name in the French newspaper Le Monde which urged Paris and Berlin to reassess their relationship with the Gulf states. He also faces a pending charge of “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state” following the publication of an op-ed on 5 September 2016 in the New York Times. The charge carries an additional one-year prison sentence if convicted.
Nabeel Rajab’s next hearing is scheduled for 23 January 2017 and he remains banned from travelling.
CIEL/AIDA/Mining Watch Canada/SOMO
Published January 06 2017
Summary: World Bank divests from company engaged in controversial Colombian mining project
20th December 2016: The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has decided to divest from Canadian mining company Eco Oro Minerals over the company’s pursuit of a controversial mining project in Colombia. SRT grantees the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), Mining Watch Canada and SOMO provided support to local activists in the case.
Eco Oro’s Angostura gold mining project is located in the Santurbán Páramo, an ecosystem of high-altitude wetlands that provides water to millions of people in Colombia and shelters hundreds of threatened species. Colombian law prohibits mining in the páramos, but 24 percent of the Santurbán region remains unprotected because it has not been officially designated a páramo.
The IFC made its decision after the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, an independent accountability mechanism of the World Bank, published a report concluding that the IFC’s investment did not adequately consider the environmental and social impacts of the Angostura project. In 2012 local campaigning group the Committee for the Defense of Water and the Páramo de Santurbán, with support from organisations including the SRT grantees listed above, presented a complaint to the Ombudsman which led to the report. IFC’s decision was also shaped by intense public opposition, led by the grantees, to Eco Oro’s plan to sue Colombia under a bilateral investment treaty.
Carlos Lozano Acosta of AIDA said, “IFC’s divestment is a strong political and financial strike against mining in the Santurbán páramo. The Colombian government must reflect on its permissive attitude toward large-scale mining in the páramo, which is illegal.”
Carla Garcia Zendejas of CIEL said, “After intense public pressure, the IFC has finally got the message and by divesting, amplifies it further. The decision to divest strengthens the Colombian State’s duty to protect water and regulate in the public interest. We applaud this decision by the IFC, which will have repercussions for all Colombians.”
Full press release from CIEL’s website: http://www.ciel.org/news/9504/
Bahrain Center for Human Rights/ Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy/English PEN/Foundation for Freedom of the Press/Gulf Centre for Human Rights/FIDH/International Service for Human Rights/Reporters Without Borders/World Organisation Against Torture
Published December 21 2016
Summary: 52 human rights organisations sign letter to UN High Commissioner in support of Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab
20th December 2016: Bahraini and international human rights organisations, including nine SRT grantees, today sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, and copying in Special Rapporteur on Free Expression David Kaye, and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michele Forst. The letter urges the office of the High Commissioner to call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and drop the charges against him.
Mr Rajab is being tried on charges regarding tweets and retweets addressing torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison, as well as criticizing Bahrain’s participation in Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen. He is also charged with “undermining the prestige of the state” for his open letter which was written during his time in detention and was published in the New York Times on 4 September 2016. In the letter, he states that he was threatened into silence after being released from detention in July 2015. If convicted, Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison.
The full text of the letter can be read here.
Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CEDEHM)
Published December 16 2016
Summary: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to examine three cases of forced disappearance
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has for the first time asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to investigate a case of forced disappearance linked to the Mexican “War on Drugs”. SRT grantee Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CEDEHM) provided legal representation to the victims’ families at the national and international levels, and presented the case at the Inter-American Commission along with two other human rights organisations.
Cousins, Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, José Ángel Alvarado Herrera and Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes were detained without an arrest warrant by military personnel in Ejido Benito Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, on December 29, 2009. They have not been seen since, and their families have not had any news of them since 2013. The military claimed at first that they had detained the Alvarados when searching for suspected criminals, but later denied having them in custody at all.No one has so far been brought to justice for their disappearance, although their families filed lawsuits with both local and national authorities.
The IACHR has been critical of the Mexican government’s failure to investigate the case, claiming in June 2015 that “the investigations related to military personnel [were] not being followed”. Before referring the matter to the Inter-American Court they recommended that the national authorities investigate the matter again and ensure that those responsible were prosecuted.To date the national authorities have failed to do this.
CEDEHM and their partner organisations said in a statement, “Almost seven years have passed since these events, and the relatives of Nitza Paola, Rocío Irene and José Ángel Alvarado, and the organizations that have supported them, hope that this case helps not only to obtain integral redress, but also results in structural measures that impact the 28,000plus cases of disappeared individuals in Mexico […] to guarantee the truth, justice and redress for all these cases.”
The IACHR press statement is available at: http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2016/173.asp
The full statement by CEDEHM and their partner NGOs (in Spanish only) is available at: http://cedehm.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/la-desaparicion-forzada-de-nitza-paola.html
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Malawi Court rules in favour of women illegally deprived of their land
8 December 2016, Malawi: the High Court of Malawi has ruled in favour of two women who claim they were forcibly deprived of the land which provided their only source of livelihood. SRT grantee the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) provided legal support in the case.
Mary (57) and her widowed mother Idesi (87) inherited the land in 2006 when Mary’s father died, and used it to grow and sell sugar cane. In 2010 the head of their village, in collaboration with the Dwangwa Cane Growers Trust, allocated the land to a neighbour, Mr Madikhula, without Mary or her mother’s consent. Mary and her mother were not aware that the government had acquired and leased their land to Dwangwa, and were never consulted.
In August 2013 Mary took her case to the Magistrate’s Court, who ruled that the land belonged to Mary as she had inherited it under customary law. Mary then started working the land again. However, Mr Madikhula maintained that the land belonged to him and commenced an action in the High Court in 2013. Three months later, the court served Mary with an injunction. As a result, Mary and her mother were unable to use their land to support themselves and their families.
On 24 August 2016 the High Court ordered the couple to produce documentary evidence that the land was leased to them. No such evidence was submitted. On 2 December, the High Court ruled that the Magistrate’s Court that gave the land to Mary and her mother was competent to hear customary land matters. The High Court accordingly dismissed the case and ordered Mr Madikhula to pay costs.
Brigadier Siachitema of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre said, “This increasing phenomenon of land seizure by national elites has devastating consequences on vulnerable groups, especially women and children, including the loss of livelihood and chronic food insecurity. Although it does not set a precedent, the High Court decision sends a clear message to national elites that property grabbing will not be tolerated.”
Full coverage from SALC’s website: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/malawi-protecting-women-from-illegal-land-seizure
Link to the defendants’ submissions in the case: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/1/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/MARY-GOBA-SUBMISSIONS.pdf
Published December 02 2016
Summary: Kyrgyz President signs bill criminalising underage marriage
November 2016: The Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev has signed into law a bill criminalising child marriage in unregistered religious ceremonies, which remain widespread in Kyrgyzstan. The new law classifies marriage to a minor as a criminal offence, and sets out a sentence of three to five years in prison for clergy and parents who allow underage marriage to take place. SRT grantee Open Line campaigned in favour of the bill along with other Kyrgyz women’s rights NGOs.
Child marriages take place in Kyrgyzstan in ceremonies known as nike. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Akyikatchy (Ombudsman) of the Kyrgyz republic, around 12.7 % of Kyrgyz women and girls aged 15 to 49 were married underage.
Due to a low level of legal awareness, many women do not realise that the nike ceremony does not give them any legal rights to inherit property or to claim state financial support in the event of divorce or their husband’s death.
In May 2016 Kyrgyzstan’s mostly male parliamentary body rejected a draft law to criminalise nike, tabled by a female MP. Open Line campaigners appealed to each dissenting parliamentarian individually, explaining the impact of nike on the lives of girls, and united with other NGOs to raise public awareness. The draft law eventually passed on the second reading, and the President signed it into law on 18th November 2016.
Coverage of the new law from the UNDP website: http://www.eurasia.undp.org/content/rbec/en/home/blog/2016/11/25/In-Kyrgyzstan-a-new-law-protecting-girls-signals-dawn-of-a-new-day.html
Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
Published November 24 2016
Summary: Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion launches new research on statelessness in the Syrian context
24th November 2016: SRT grantee the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion has published new research into the risk of statelessness among Syrian refugees.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, as many as 4.8 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and over a million have travelled to Europe. The overwhelming majority of these refugees hold Syrian nationality and face no immediate risk of statelessness. Moreover, children born in exile inherit Syrian nationality automatically, by operation of the law, if their father is a Syrian citizen. However, a small proportion of the refugees are already stateless (i.e. are not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law). Others, particularly children born in exile, are at risk of statelessness due to the operation of Syria’s nationality law or difficulties documenting their connection to Syria and right to nationality.
In collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council and with funding from NWO-WOTRO, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion has conducted an assessment of the risk of new cases of statelessness arising among Syrian refugees and their children and the particular vulnerabilities of stateless refugees from Syria. Their research focused on the countries neighbouring Syria which are hosting the greatest numbers of refugees: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.
A specific goal of the project was to inform the development of a “toolkit” to help organisations engaged in the refugee response to better understand the intersections between their work and statelessness, and to share good practices, innovations and practical steps that they can take to ensure the effective protection of stateless people and contribute to the longer-term prevention and reduction of statelessness. The toolkit and accompanying report will be launched this week with events taking place in London, Oslo and The Hague.
Death Penalty Project
Published November 15 2016
Summary: Belize Court of Appeal declares life imprisonment without parole violates basic human rights
9th November 2016: The Belize Court of Appeal has found mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole breaches fundamental human rights. SRT grantee the Death Penalty Project assisted the local legal team in Belize and instructed UK barristers pro bono to advise on the case.
The decision followed a referral of Gregory August’s case at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to the Belize Court of Appeal. August was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 for a murder committed when he was just 19 years old. In Belize, prisoners convicted of murder are not eligible for parole, regardless of the severity of their crime, their behaviour in prison or their potential for rehabilitation. This means the prisoner’s sentence can only be reduced if the Governor General grants mercy – a process which lies purely at the grace and favour of the government and without any clear guidance as to what the prisoner must do in order to be released.
In its judgment on 4th November, the Court of Appeal held that process to be “far from satisfactory”. It also took note of the fact that the Belize Advisory Council, the mercy committee in Belize, rarely functioned and had not once recommended early release for any life term prisoner, meaning that August’s sentence was effectively irreducible because it was highly unlikely that clemency would ever be exercised in his favour. Nor was August given any opportunity to present mitigating factors which might justify the judge imposing a less harsh sentence, which was a breach of his right to a fair trial. Given August’s young age at the time and the circumstances of the offence, the sentence of life imprisonment without parole was declared “grossly disproportionate” and “inhumane”.
The Court re-sentenced August to 30 years imprisonment, which means he becomes eligible for release after serving 15 years. The Government of Belize will now have to consider whether it wishes to appeal the Court’s decision.
Full coverage from the Death Penalty Project’s website: http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/news/2567/life-without-parole-unconstitutional-declares-belize-court-of-appeal/
European Network on Statelessness/Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
Published November 10 2016
Summary: Important victory for stateless children in Norway
7 November 2016: The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security has instructed the immigration authorities to align their practice with Norway’s international obligations, taking an important step towards ensuring that no child born in Norway remains stateless. This follows advocacy by UNHCR and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), with campaigning and technical support provided by SRT grantees the European Network on Statelessness and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion.
As highlighted by UNHCR in the report Mapping statelessness in Norway from October 2015, historically Norway has largely ignored its obligations under UN conventions on statelessness. Among other issues, children born stateless in Norway without lawful residence have been unable to acquire Norwegian nationality – in direct violation of article 1(2) of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 1961.
On 28 October 2016 the Ministry of Justice and Public Security issued a new instruction to the immigration authorities that stateless people born in Norway have the right to acquire Norwegian citizenship as long as they were living in Norway at the time of the application and had continuously resided there for three years previously. Stateless children under the age of 18 born in Norway may be granted Norwegian citizenship even earlier if the child or their parents have resided in the country lawfully.
The new instruction has come after close engagement with the Norwegian authorities by the UNHCR and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), the latter having received expert support from the European Network on Statelessness, including through its Stateless Kids campaign.
Marek Linha of NOAS said, “Norway’s example shows that a combined advocacy effort can lead to a positive change even in a political environment where restrictions of the rights of migrants are high on the agenda. The new instruction issued by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security to the immigration authorities represents a very important step towards ensuring that no child born in Norway is left without nationality.”
Full coverage from the European Network on Statelessness’ website: http://www.statelessness.eu/blog/important-victory-stateless-children-born-norway?mc_cid=ecb24549bf&mc_eid=be8ce48f19
Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa
Published October 31 2016
Summary: IHRDA reaches historic settlement in child rights case against government of Malawi
Banjul, 27 October 2016: SRT grantee IHRDA has set a new precedent in African child rights litigation by reaching a settlement in a case against the government of Malawi before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The agreement was reached at the ACERWC’s 28th Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia.
In 2014 IHRDA filed a communication before the ACERWC, challenging the definition of “child” in Malawi’s Constitution. The Constitution defines a child as a person under the age of 16, in contravention of article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which defines a child as every person below the age of 18. As a result of this discrepancy, people aged between 16 and 18 have not been afforded protection as per Malawi’s international obligations.
In recognition of this, the government of Malawi has informed the ACERWC that it has already begun the process of instituting a constitutional amendment to bring its law into conformity with the Charter, and has proposed an amicable settlement of the case with a view to formally committing itself to the necessary reforms.
According to the settlement agreement, Malawi commits “to do everything within its power to amend its Constitution and all other relevant laws to be in compliance with article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child by 31 December 2018”, and to report periodically to the ACERWC on “the progress it has made to implement this Agreement”. It also commits to taking interim measures to protect children in Malawi while the law reform process is completed.
IHRDA said, “The move by the Government of Malawi to resolve the contentious case amicably is the first of its kind in the history of the ACERWC, and sets a good example for the region of a State’s proactive response.”
Full press release from IHRDA's website: http://www.ihrda.org/2016/10/breaking-new-ground-malawi-ihrda-reach-amicable-settlement-in-child-rights-case-before-acerwc
Institute for Policy Studies/CIEL/Mining Watch Canada
Published October 25 2016
Summary: World Bank arbitration body dismisses mining company’s claim against government of El Salvador
14 October 2016: The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the World Bank’s arbitration body, has ruled that mining company Pac Rim Cayman LLC’s lawsuit against the Salvadoran government is without merit, and hence that El Salvador will not have to pay the company the $250 million that it sought. SRT grantees the Institute for Policy Studies, CIEL and Mining Watch Canada have been involved in international advocacy around the case. Mining Watch has also been providing support to local organisations in El Salvador, and CIEL has conducted legal analysis.
In 2009, Pac Rim Cayman brought an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case against El Salvador at the ICSID. The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold, sued El Salvador for alleged losses of potential profits as a result of not being granted a mining concession for a gold project. The government of El Salvador did not issue the concession because the company did not meet key regulatory requirements.
Civil society groups praised the communities in El Salvador that have opposed Pac Rim and have rallied the public and government to oppose new mining projects despite heavy pressure from the company. They expressed deep concern that El Salvador had to pay over $12 million to fund its defense in a case where the mining company never fulfilled all the legal or environmental requirements for a mining license. Saying "water is worth more than gold," the communities and Salvadoran civil society organisations have emphasised that large scale mining would destroy their water sources and their plans for community development.
Jen Moore, Latin America Programme Coordinator at Mining Watch Canada, said, “This ruling is a relief, but it is not a win. This already costly suit should never have been able to take place. For seven years, it has put a chill on policymaking that could respect the decision of Salvadorans to prohibit metal mining and protect local communities and the environment.”
Full press release from IPS’s website: http://www.ips-dc.org/seven-years-millions-dollars-decision-announced-pac-rim-mining-company-vs-el-salvador
Published October 17 2016
Summary: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demands release of British-Iranian national
13 October 2016: The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has called on Iran to immediately release and compensate Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national held in Iran since 3 April 2016. SRT grantee Redress filed a claim with WGAD on Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s behalf in June 2016.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe visited her family in Tehran in March 2016 with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella. Iranian authorities arrested her at Tehran’s Khomeini Airport as she was about to return home to the UK. Since then she has been held in detention, spending at least 45 days in solitary confinement. Gabriella also remains in Iran with her grandparents, since the Iranian authorities confiscated her British passport. Last month Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison following a secret trial.
REDRESS’s complaint to WGAD argued that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention, separation from her daughter and subjection to incommunicado detention and solitary confinement breached of Articles 7, 9, 10, 14 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and constituted arbitrary detention and torture.
In its official Opinion adopted in August 2016, an advanced unedited version of which was released on 6 October 2016, WGAD asked Iran to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Ms Ratcliffe without delay”, and called for her immediate release and compensation. WGAD also urged Iran to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arbitrary detention and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of her rights. It referred the case to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
REDRESS’ Director Dr Carla Ferstman said, “We are delighted that the WGAD has sent a powerful and unequivocal message to Iran. We will be even more delighted when this young mother and her two-year-old child are back in Britain. […] The WGAD has made clear that Ms. Ratcliffe was discriminated against as a dual UK-Iranian national. The UK Government must act swiftly and with determination to address this injustice.”
Full coverage from REDRESS’s website: http://www.redress.org/international-jurisdictions/nazanin-zaghari-ratcliffe
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Published October 13th 2016
Summary: Polish court rules that the right to say goodbye to a dying person is a legally protected interest
Poland, 12th October 2016: A first instance court has ruled in a case brought by the family of a deceased prisoner that the right to say goodbye to a dying person is a legally protected interest. The family sought apologies and damages for the “moral injury” they suffered after the prison made it impossible for them to say goodbye to their family member who was dying in a prison hospital. The court ordered the prison to issue an official apology and ruled that the State Treasury should pay compensation. SRT grantee the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case.
HFHR’s brief underlined the importance of prisoners’ right to maintain contact with families and loved ones. Both the European Prison Rules and the UN Nelson Mandela Rules stipulate that information about an inmate’s death, serious illness or transfer to hospital should immediately be passed to their close family unless an inmate requested otherwise.
The court decided that the right to say goodbye to a dying prisoner is a legally protected personal interest within the meaning of the Civil Code, based on a number of sources including the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The court ruled that the prison administration is obliged to notify the family of an inmate’s deteriorating health if an inmate is unable to do so themselves (in the case in question, the inmate was receiving strong narcotic painkillers) or if such notification cannot be delivered in due time.
HFHR lawyer Michał Kopczyński said, “This is a landmark ruling. It
confirms that the presence of a loved one at a dying person’s side and the last goodbye are given legal protection as a personal interest”.
Full story from HFHR’s website (currently in Polish only):
The /amicus curiae/ brief (also in Polish) is available here.
International Service for Human Rights/Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Published October 7th 2016
Summary: NGOs ask international bodies to intervene on Maldives human rights abuses
In the first case filed with the UN on behalf of former members of a national human rights institution, SRT grantee the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has asked the UN Human Rights Committee to authoritatively rule that there is a legal right to submit information to the UN and that restrictions on this right amount to serious breaches of international law. Ahmed Tholal and Jeehan Mahmood, former Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), brought the case assisted by ISHR.
The HRCM was prosecuted in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the Maldives following a submission they made to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. The report focused on human rights issues including access to justice and the independence of the judiciary. The Court ruled that the HRCM’s report was unlawful, biased and undermined judicial independence, and ordered the HRCM to follow a set of guidelines designed to restrict its work and its ability to communicate with the UN.
Tholal and Mahmood said they were seeking a ruling from the Committee because they want the HRCM’s right to communicate freely with international human rights mechanisms to be firmly preserved in law and practice.
ISHR’s Legal Counsel Madeleine Sinclair said, “The decision of the Supreme Court to restrict the activities and independence of the Commission is incompatible with the right of safe and unhindered communication with UN bodies, and the prohibition against reprisals for exercising that right. Such a decision by an arm of government is a clear breach of international law.”
The Maldives has also been threatened with suspension from the Commonwealth at a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). SRT grantee the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative emailed a submission on the deteriorating situation to the Commonwealth Secretariat’s political division on 19 September 19th 2016. CMAG has moved the Maldives onto their formal agenda for March 2017, and threatened that suspension from the Commonwealth would be considered at that meeting if there was no improvement in the situation.
Full story from ISHR’s website: https://www.ishr.ch/news/reprisals-groundbreaking-legal-proceedings-filed-against-maldives
International Service for Human Rights/Conectas/Center for Legal and Social Studies/Gulf Center for Human Rights/International Commission of Jurists
Published September 28 2016
Summary: Human rights NGOs call on States to urgently address Egypt's systematic repression of human rights defenders and organisations
Eight human rights organisations from around the world, including SRT grantees International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Conectas, Gulf Center for Human Rights, Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and the International Commission of Jurists, have called on the UN Human Rights Council to take urgent action to protect human rights defenders in Egypt.
In their joint oral statement to the Council, the groups highlighted Egypt’s incompatibility with the Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action, a UN consensus document that enshrines the universal nature of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and makes clear that the “administration of justice, […] especially an independent judiciary and legal profession in full conformity with applicable standards contained in international human rights instruments, are essential to the full and non-discriminatory realization of human rights”. The statement further condemned the failure of the government of Egypt to protect civil society.
The statement follows the freezing of assets and bank accounts of a number of the country's leading organisations earlier this month. Five human rights defenders – Bahey el din Hassan, Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid, Mostafa El-Hassan, and Abdel Hafiz Tayel – and three human rights NGOs – Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and Center for the Right to Education – are accused of using ‘foreign funds’ for illegal purposes.
The Human rights NGOs have called on the government of Egypt to close Case no. 173, known as the ‘foreign funding case’, and to immediately end all forms of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders.
ISHR Programme Manager Pooja Patel said, “Egyptian human rights defenders need the support of this Council, particularly those States that have repeatedly expressed their commitment to protecting human rights defenders. We urge States to demonstrate their genuine leadership in this regard.”
The full statement can be found here.
International Refugee Assistance Project
Published September 22 2016
Summary: Syrian refugees refused exit permits from Turkey because they have university degrees
22nd September 2016: At least 1,000 Syrian refugees who have been granted resettlement to third countries are being denied exit permits by the Turkish government because they have educational degrees. SRT grantee the International Refugee Assistance Project has been working with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and members of the United States Congress, as well as the media, to raise the profile of this issue and ensure that these refugees do not suffer due to Turkish policy.
Becca Heller, the director and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said, “We work with thousands of refugees who wait years to be approved for resettlement in extremely treacherous circumstances. To yank the promise of safety away at the last minute of the process is inhumane and a gross violation of international law.”
A recent piece in The Guardian details the situation.
Lawyers for Human Rights
Published September 22 2016
Summary: South African courts confirm right to nationality of stateless child
6th September 2016: The Supreme Court of Appeal (confirming an order of the North Gauteng High Court) has confirmed the right to South African citizenship of a child born in South Africa to Cuban citizens, setting an important precedent for other stateless children. The family were assisted in their legal case by SRT grantee Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).
Daniella was born in Cape Town in 2008. Her parents had come to South Africa on a treaty programme allowing engineers to work there on a special permit. After Daniella was born, they discovered that the Cuban government considers those who work outside Cuba for more than 11 months to be “permanent emigrants” who cannot pass on their nationality to any child born outside Cuba. However, because Daniella’s parents are not South African, she was not a citizen of South Africa either.
Section 2(2) of the Citizenship Act states that all children born in South Africa who would otherwise be stateless should be considered South African citizens by birth. Daniella’s parents first applied for her on this basis, but the Department of Home Affairs refused to recognise her citizenship, claiming that she was not stateless. In a later meeting between LHR and the Department, they confessed that they had resolved not to implement Section 2(2) because “too many people would apply for citizenship”.
Lawyers for Human Rights then applied to the High Court for recognition of Daniella’s pre-existing right to citizenship in terms of Section 2(2). On 6th September 2016 the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed the High Court’s decision, and ordered the Department for Home Affairs to declare Daniella a South African citizen by birth, issue her with an identity number and birth certificate, and make regulations to facilitate the implementation of section 2(2) of the Citizenship Act within the next 18 months to allow other stateless children to apply for citizenship.
Liesl Muller, head of the Statelessness Project at Lawyers for Human Rights, said, “Ultimately, the implementation of this provision will not only benefit Daniella, but will bring an end to the fights for recognition of the most vulnerable children in our society.”
More information about the case can be found here.
Death Penalty Project
Published September 14 2016
Summary: Zimbabwe constitutional court declares life without parole to be cruel and inhuman punishment
13th September 2016: The Zimbabwe Constitutional Court has declared life sentences without the possibility of parole to be both cruel and inhuman punishment and a violation of human dignity. In the opinion of all eight judges, the “unavoidable cruelty of incarceration”, without a prisoner being able to believe in the realistic possibility of his eventual liberation, would “unnecessarily aggravate and dehumanise the delivery of corrective justice”.
SRT grantee the Death Penalty Project provided expert legal assistance to local lawyer Tendai Biti and Zimbabwean NGO Veritas in the case. This included drafting heads of arguments and submissions, and the provision of legal resources and material.
The applicant, Obediah Makoni, who has spent more than 20 years behind bars after being sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 19, recently challenged the country’s parole regime which excluded all life sentence prisoners, meaning that under his sentence he had no real prospect of ever being released.
In a landmark decision on 13 July 2016 the constitutional court ruled that periodic reviews of detention and rehabilitation programmes with a view to reintegration into society must be provided equally to prisoners serving indefinite terms of imprisonment. It held that any imprisonment that continued unreasonably – that is, beyond the duration of detention necessary to fulfil the aims of punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation – was liable to be quashed by the courts. Consequently, the parole regime must be interpreted as applying to all long-term prisoners and not just those with fixed-term sentences.
The Court ordered that a full inquiry and report by the Parole Board be prepared to determine Mr Makoni’s aptitude and suitability for parole.
This decision adds to the increasing number of jurisdictions worldwide in which sentences that are irreducible – such as being passed for natural life or without parole – have been found to contravene fundamental human rights.
Full press release from the Death Penalty Project’s website: http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/news/2462/zimbabwes-constitutional-court-declares-life-without-parole-to-be-cruel-and-inhuman
The text of the Constitutional Court’s ruling is available here.
Published September 13 2016
Summary: American ex-drone operators file legal brief in support of Yemeni drone victim’s lawsuit
8th September 2016: Brandon Bryant, Lisa Ling and Cian Westmoreland, all of whom have worked on the Obama Administration’s drone programme, have filed a legal brief in support of Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni environmental engineer whose family members were killed in a 2012 US drone strike. Mr Jaber is jointly represented by SRT grantee Reprieve and law firm Lewis Baach pllc. The three ex-drone operators are represented by attorneys at the Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR).
Mr Jaber’s brother-in-law Salem and his nephew Waleed died in an August 2012 strike on their village. Salem was an anti-al Qaeda imam who is survived by a widow and seven young children; Waleed was a 26 year-old police officer with a wife and infant child. Mr Jaber is seeking an official apology and declaration of error for his relatives’ deaths.
Leaked intelligence indicates that US officials knew they had killed civilians shortly after the strike on Mr Jaber’s family. In July 2014, the family was offered a plastic bag containing $100,000 in sequentially-marked US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, Reprieve US attorney for Mr Jaber, said, “Unlike Western victims of drone strikes, Faisal has not received an apology. He simply wants the US Government to tell the truth and say sorry – it is a scandal that he has been forced to turn to the courts for this most basic expression of human decency.”
Full coverage from Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org/us-ex-drone-operators-join-yemeni-drone-victim-in-us-court-challenge
Published September 08 2016
Summary: UK government announces £10 million in new funding towards English classes for Syrian refugees
4th September 2016: The UK Home Office has today announced that it is committing £10 million in new funding towards English language classes for Syrian refugees arriving in the UK under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). SRT grantee Refugee Action has led the campaign for improved access to English classes for refugees, and is now calling for other refugee groups to receive the same assistance.
The government committed last year to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees under VPRS by 2020. According to the latest figures, around 2,800 Syrians have arrived since the start of the scheme and have settled in over 100 local authority areas. The new funding for English classes will give all adults arriving under VPRS 12 additional hours of lessons per week, on top of the classes already provided by local authorities. The Home Office has been working with Refugee Action to provide guidance to local councils on language tuition.
Refugee Action’s ‘Let Refugees Learn’ campaign resulted in a report published in 2016, also titled Let Refugees Learn, which made various recommendations including creating a fund specifically to support refugees learning English, ensuring equal access to language classes for women, providing asylum seekers with the right to access free English language learning, and ensuring language support for refugees within their communities.
Refugee Action’s Chief Executive Stephen Hale said, “We are delighted that the Government is responding to our ‘Let Refugees Learn’ Campaign with an investment of £10 million so that Syrian refugees in the UK can access the classes and support they need to learn English. This will help individuals and families to make friends, find work and fully integrate into their local communities, and benefit all in Britain […] We [now] call on the Government to make sure that all refugees rebuilding their lives here have the opportunity to learn the language of their new home.”
Full coverage from Refugee Action’s website: http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/support_us/campaign/join_a_campaign/let_refugees_learn
The Let Refugees Learn report is available here.
Published August 30 2016
Summary: Citizen Lab uncovers cyber-attack against prominent UAE-based human rights defender
Toronto, August 25th 2016: SRT grantee Citizen Lab, together with US-based mobile security firm Lookout Security, has uncovered a sophisticated cyber-attack targeting human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor. A report into the attack, The Million Dollar Dissident: NSO Group’s iPhone Zero-Days used against a UAE Human Rights Defender, is being published today.
Ahmed Mansoor is an internationally recognised human rights defender based in the United Arab Emirates. On August 10th and 11th, he received text messages on his iPhone promising “secrets” about detainees tortured in UAE jails if he clicked on an included link. Mansoor sent the messages to Citizen Lab who recognised the links as belonging to NSO Group, an Israel-based “cyber war” company that sells government-exclusive “lawful intercept” spyware. NSO is owned by an American venture capital firm, Francisco Partners Management.
The ensuing investigation, a collaboration between researchers from Citizen Lab and Lookout Security, determined that the links led to a chain of so-called “zero-day exploits” that would have installed sophisticated spyware on Mansoor’s phone. Once infected, the phone would have been capable of employing its camera and microphone to monitor activity in its vicinity, recording internet calls, logging chat messages, and tracking Mansoor’s movements. Citizen Lab believes that based on the costs involved and prior targeting of Mansoor, the UAE government is probably responsible for the attack.
Once the researchers confirmed the presence of what appeared to be zero-days, they quickly notified Apple to share their findings. Apple responded by releasing a patch which closes the vulnerabilities that NSO appears to have been exploiting.
Bill Marczak, Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab, said, “We had been tracking what appeared to be NSO’s infrastructure for several months, but had not seen any spyware that talked to it until Mansoor forwarded us the links he received. Activists like Mansoor are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for targeted digital attacks – the advanced threats they face today will face us all tomorrow.”
The full report is available here on Citizen Lab’s website.
Human Rights Data Analysis Group/Forensic Architecture
Published August 23 2016
Summary: New report exposes ill-treatment and undocumented killing of detainees in Syrian prisons
19th August 2016: Amnesty International has today released a report titled ‘It breaks the human’: Torture, Disease and Death in Syria’s Prisons, which details the appalling conditions and high mortality rate in Syrian prisons between 2011 and 2015. The report was conducted in collaboration with SRT grantees the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) and Forensic Architecture.
The report provides harrowing accounts of ill-treatment of detainees in Syrian prisons since the start of the conflict in March 2011. It explores the cases of 65 torture survivors detained by the Syrian military and security services, who describe appalling abuse and inhuman conditions in the prisons where they were held. Many report seeing prisoners dying in custody and dead bodies being left in cells. The report also publishes HRDAG’s estimate of the number of killings that occurred. Their evidence suggests 17,723 people – more than 300 per month on average – have died in custody in Syria since the conflict began.
To accompany the report, HRDAG has released a technical memo explaining its methodology, its sources, and the implications of its findings. It used data from four sources to find a total of 12,270 fully documented, identifiable people killed while in detention. Its team of scientists then used multiple systems estimation to estimate the number of undocumented killings in the prisons during the same time period. With estimated total (documented and undocumented) deaths at 17,723, this means that, in effect, 25 percent of the killings in detention were unreported.
Forensic Architecture assisted Amnesty in creating a virtual 3D reconstruction of Saydnaya using architectural and acoustic modelling and descriptions from former detainees. The model aims to bring to life the daily terror experienced by prisoners and their appalling detention conditions.
HRDAG’s Executive Director Megan Price said, “The estimate of 17,723 killings is a conservative estimate. It’s likely that this is an underestimate because of strict criteria we used to classify killings and the extreme difficulty of collecting information about what happens in detention centers.”
Full report from Amnesty International’s website: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/4508/2016/en
HRDAG’s technical memo is available here: https://hrdag.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/HRDAG-AI-memo.pdf
Video with more information about Forensic Architecture’s virtual prison model: https://fpdl.vimeocdn.com/vimeo-prod-skyfire-std-us/01/730/7/178652157/582118936.mp4?token=57bca198_0x22d83d14b7d916d36ef7035b986fff918b0c9a41
Association for the Prevention of Torture
Published August 17 2016
Does torture prevention work? APT launches results of four-year research project
17th August 2016: A four-year academic research project has found that global torture prevention measures, such as the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, are effective in reducing torture and ill-treatment. The project, commissioned by SRT grantee the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), is the first systematic analysis of the effectiveness of torture prevention.
The project was carried out independently under the lead of Dr Richard Carver (Oxford Brookes University, UK) and Dr Lisa Handley (USA). Assisted by a team of researchers, Carver and Handley carried out primary research in 16 countries, looking at torture and prevention mechanisms over a 30-year period (1984-2014). Data was analysed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. The findings have been set out in a book, Does Torture Prevention Work? published by Liverpool University Press.
Since APT was founded in 1977 national, regional and international mechanisms have been established for monitoring of places of detention, and more than 80 States have joined the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. However it was unclear whether these monitoring bodies were effective, or what other measures contribute to reducing the risk of torture and ill-treatment.
The study shows that prevention measures do work, although some are much more effective than others. Most important are the safeguards that should be applied in the first hours and days after a person is taken into custody. Notification of family and access to an independent lawyer and doctor has a significant impact in reducing torture. The consistent investigation of torture, effective prosecution of torturers and the creation of independent monitoring bodies are also vital in reducing torture.
APT said, “The results of the research will be of great relevance for governments, National Preventive Mechanisms, civil society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, the UN and regional torture prevention bodies, and will help inform more effective strategies and polices against torture.”
Published August 11 2016
Summary: Al Mezan condemns continued death threats to staff members and calls on the international community to intervene
11th August 2016: SRT grantee Al Mezan has today released the following statement:
“Staff members of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) have been subjected to a protracted campaign of intimidation, harassment, and threats since last year. Yesterday, a senior staff member of Al Mezan received a death threat via email directed to himself and to his family with recent pictures of his house from a close range. These attacks follow a similar pattern of threats against our colleagues at Al-Haq and seem to target NGOs that work on issues of accountability and access to justice for Palestinians. Al Mezan strongly condemns these malicious attacks on human rights defenders who work to promote human rights and international law by using peaceful and legal methods, and calls on the international community to intervene and bring them to an end.
Since late 2015, a protracted campaign has been waged against Al Mezan. Suspicious email messages, Facebook posts, telephone calls to staff, donors and friends have been frequent occurrences, carrying threats and false allegations about the integrity of Al Mezan and our staff members. More recently these messages have contained direct death threats. These attacks have intensified when our staff members were working on international litigation, including reporting to the International Criminal Court, and international advocacy focusing on accountability for serious violations of international law by the Israeli military. These interventions show that Al Mezan staff members are under close surveillance, using highly advanced capabilities. So far, Al Mezan has chosen to deal cautiously and privately with these attacks. However, with these recent, direct death threats to staff and to their families, Al Mezan has decided to go public.
This pattern of attacks follows a wave of hostility towards human rights NGOs involved in advancing accountability in what Israel considers as 'lawfare'.
Al Mezan strongly condemns the threats directed at our staff members, human rights defenders who work with a large number of human rights organizations, and intergovernmental bodies locally and internationally. This smear campaign of false allegations and threats seems to be aimed at undermining Al Mezan's credibility and standing within our society and with partners and at distracting us from our human rights mission and work. This campaign does not and will not scare Al Mezan. To the contrary, Al Mezan will continue to carry out our professional work on our promotion and protection mission using legitimate human rights and international law tools.
Al Mezan calls on the international community, especially human rights defenders mechanisms at the United Nations, European Union, and on the national level, and on international human rights organizations to condemn these unwarranted attacks and take concrete measures to challenge and stop them.”
Coverage from Al Mezan's website: http://mezan.org/en/post/21475
Human Dignity Trust
Published August 11 2016
Summary: Belize scraps colonial-era law prohibiting consensual gay sex
11th August 2016: A law in Belize that disproportionately affects gay men was ruled unconstitutional yesterday by the country’s Supreme Court. Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code, an old British colonial law, banned ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’, thereby making consensual gay sex between adult men in private illegal. While convictions under Section 53 were rare, the law carried a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
In handing down the judgment, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin agreed that Section 53 amounts to a violation of the constitutional rights to dignity, privacy, equality, freedom of expression and non-discrimination on grounds of sex. He found that there was no justification in the form of ‘public morality’ and the law was therefore declared void to the extent it can be applied to same-sex activity.
The case is the culmination of years of work by a Caribbean-led coalition of LGBT activists, academics and legal experts. The individual claimant is Caleb Orozco, a Belizean gay man and head of Belizean LGBT rights organisation UNIBAM. SRT grantee the Human Dignity Trust acted as an ‘Interested Party’ in support of his case. Today Mr Orozco said, “This is the first day of my life in which it is legal for me to be me. This is a history-making judgment for Belize, the country which I am proud to call home. […] In striking down Section 53, Belize has also rejected a poisonous remnant of colonial rule. We have reaffirmed ourselves as a society built on dignity and respect for all our people. This is a proud day.”
Téa Braun, Legal Director of the Human Dignity Trust, said, “This is a great victory for human rights and the rule of law. Intimacy in private between two adults of their own free will should not be a matter for the law. […] Caleb Orozco is a hero and a trailblazer. The Human Dignity Trust is immensely proud to have worked alongside him and his legal team.”
Full coverage from Human Dignity Trust’s website: http://www.humandignitytrust.org/pages/NEWS/Press%20Releases?NewsArticleID=516
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Published August 10 2016
Summary: Concern grows for health of imprisoned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab
11th August 2016: SRT grantee the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned about the deteriorating health of its president, leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who has been detained since 13th June. Rajab, the founder of BCHR and Founding Director of SRT grantee the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is facing up to 15 years in prison for a number of charges related to tweets and retweets concerning torture allegations at Jau Prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Rajab’s wife reports that on 5th August Bahraini authorities postponed his urgent hospital appointments until early September. He was due to attend a consultation with specialists to discuss operations to remove gallstones and treat an ulcer on his back. According to information received by BCHR, the ulcer has now worsened and is bleeding, probably due to the poor conditions in detention. The authorities have also postponed a further consultation with a blood disease specialist to discuss Rajab’s low white blood cell count (a condition had not experienced prior to his detention). On 28th June he was transferred to hospital on an emergency basis due to an irregular heartbeat (his only access to specialist medical treatment since his arrest).
Since 13th June Rajab has been held in solitary confinement in extremely poor and unsanitary conditions at West Riffa police station. The toilet and shower are filled with potentially disease-carrying sludge, and there is little or no water in the bathroom. BCHR believes that the poor conditions in which Rajab is being held are causing his deteriorating health.
BCHR is deeply concerned about Nabeel Rajab’s wellbeing. They are calling on the international community to press for his basic human rights to be respected, for his immediate and unconditional release, and for an end to the Bahraini government’s reprisals against human rights defenders. They have shared a Twitter hashtag, #ReleaseNabeel, and a Facebook page to raise awareness of the case.
Full coverage from BCHR’s website: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/8054
TRIAL International/World Organisation Against Torture
Published August 03 2016
Summary: Civil society groups condemn growing human rights crisis in Burundi
Geneva, 26th July 2016: A coalition of Burundian NGOs, with the support of SRT grantees TRIAL International and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) along with three other human rights groups, has submitted a report condemning a resurgence in extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and cases of torture in Burundi.
During the 58th session of the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT), which is taking place from 25 July to 12 August 2016, Burundi will exceptionally be examined by experts from the Committee following the deterioration of the human rights situation there, triggered by a deep-rooted political crisis which began in May 2015 following a failed coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza. In the unrest which followed, over 400 people have been killed and 260,000 have fled the country.
Civil society has provided experts with an alternative report describing the alarming situation in Burundi since its last review by the Committee in 2014, and in particular the worsening situation in light of the 2015 political crisis. The report documents numerous violations of the UN Conventions, such as the increased use of torture, poor treatment during arbitrary arrests and detention, restrictions on free expression, and a significant increase in extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.
The signatories are also concerned by the lack of investigations into these violations and the culture of impunity prevailing throughout the country. The report calls on the Burundian government to put a stop to the violations, prosecute those responsible, and guarantee compensation for victims.
The full report is available in English and French via TRIAL International’s website:
Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice/Physicians for Human Rights
Published July 25 2016
Summary: International Criminal Court sentences Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity
21st June 2016: the International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 years’ imprisonment. Bemba is the third person to be convicted by the court and is so far the highest-level official to be tried.
Bemba’s trial involved the largest number of witnesses for sexual violence in any ICC case to date, with over 5,200 victims participating in the case proceedings. SRT grantees Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and Physicians for Human Rights provide support and advocacy for victims of sexual violence carried out during the CAR conflict.
Bemba was convicted by the ICC on 21st March 2016 of two counts of crimes against humanity including murder and rape, and three counts of war crimes including murder, rape and pillaging. He was convicted in his capacity as leader of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) for crimes committed in 2002-2003 in the Central African Republic (CAR). MLC troops supported the CAR’s then-President Ange-Félix Patassé’s efforts to suppress an attempted coup led by the former head of the CAR army. MLC forces entered the CAR in October 2002 and launched a campaign of rape, pillaging and murder against the civilian population.
Brigid Inder, WIGJ’s Executive Director, said, “This is the first sentencing decision by the ICC for an individual convicted of crimes of sexual violence as well as the first sentence issued for an individual charged with command responsibility […] Formal justice on its own is never enough to provide reconciliation and recovery for individuals and communities who have experienced the commission of crimes, but is irreplaceable as a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing and harm.”
Bemba has appealed against his conviction.
Full statements from the WIGJ and PHR websites:
Published July 21 2016
Summary: Knesset approves NGO ‘foreign donations’ bill
11th July 2016: the Israeli Knesset has voted 57-48 to approve a controversial bill requiring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to publicly report if they receive more than 50 percent of their annual budget from foreign governments.
NGOs affected by the law will be required to declare their sources of funding in all publications, including letters to government and public officials, and in reports to the registrar of non-profit associations. Those that fail to abide by these regulations will be fined 29,200 shekels (US$7,540).
Human rights organisations believe the Bill is targeting them because of their criticism of the Israeli government’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 25 of the 27 Israeli organisations affected by the Bill are human rights groups.
In June 2016, three UN human rights experts urged members of the Knesset not to approve the NGO Bill. The experts expressed grave concern that the legislation would chill the speech of human rights NGOs by subjecting them to harsh penalties for violations and delegitimising them publicly.
SRT grantee Adalah said, "It is […] clear that the purpose of the law is to mark human rights groups that offer alternative positions and critique government policy. Financial assistance from international sources is acceptable and necessary in places and regimes where there are serious problems of human rights violations."
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published July 19 2016
Summary: Center for Justice and Accountability files lawsuit against Bashar al-Assad for murder of journalist Marie Colvin
11th July 2016: SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and pro bono co-counsel Shearman & Sterling LLP have filed a lawsuit in a US court against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the murder of American journalist Marie Colvin. A veteran reporter for the UK Sunday Times, Colvin was killed by Syrian artillery while covering the siege of the city of Homs. CJA's investigation has uncovered evidence suggesting she was deliberately targeted by the Assad regime.
Colvin travelled to Syria in February 2012 to cover the Assad regime's siege of opposition neighbourhoods. Hours after her last broadcast, Syrian officials launched a targeted rocket attack on the media centre in Homs, killing Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik. The attack wounded British photographer Paul Conroy, Syrian interpreter Wael al-Omar, and French journalist Edith Bouvier.
CJA and Shearman & Sterling have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against the Syrian government, on behalf of Marie's surviving family members-including her sister, Cathleen Colvin, and her niece, Justine Araya-Colvin. Cathleen Colvin said, "This case is about carrying on Marie's work. We are seeking truth and justice not just for her, but for thousands of innocent Syrians tortured or killed under the Assad dictatorship. We hope our case will clear a path to bring those responsible to justice."
Full coverage from CJA’s website: http://cja.org/what-we-do/litigation/colvin-v-syria
Published July 11 2016
Summary: FORWARD responds to Economist article advocating a partial lifting of the ban on FGM
On 18th June 2016 the Economist published an article titled Female Genital Mutilation: An Agonising Choice, which advocated lifting the blanket ban on FGM in the UK and legalising the ‘least nasty’ forms of the practice. The full article can be found here.
SRT grantee FORWARD, which has worked on ending FGM for over 30 years in the UK and Africa, released a statement condemning the article and urging that the full ban on FGM be maintained.
FORWARD said: “The article is misleading on many levels: firstly FGM is a human rights abuse, like any other human rights abuse there can be no ‘lesser’ form which could ever be acceptable. […] Stating that less harmful forms of FGM have no lasting implications on women and girls is also wholly incorrect. If women who have undergone Type 1 or 2 FGM and not the most severe form of Type 3 were consulted then the physical and also psychological implications of all forms of FGM would become evident. There are also numerous studies which have documented the effect of all types of FGM on a woman’s health and wellbeing for the rest of her life. To state that a lesser form of FGM would be better is to undermine the suffering of millions of women worldwide.
[…] As an organisation that speaks directly to and works alongside FGM affected communities and grassroots organisations, FORWARD knows that massive strides have been made in countries outlawing the practice, and can see the impact of actions being taken by the communities affected by FGM in changing attitudes and behaviour. It may take a while to see the effects of these changes in behaviour reflected in statistics that are collected over many years, but to dismiss that they may be happening suggests a lack of knowledge.”
Full response from FORWARD’s website: http://forwarduk.org.uk/forward-responds-economist-article-fgm
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published July 07 2016
Summary: US court finds Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez guilty of murder of Victor Jara
Orlando, 27th June 2016: a jury has found Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez liable for the torture and murder of the Chilean musician Víctor Jara, who was killed during General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup in 1973. The court ordered Barrientos to pay $28 million in damages.
SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and legal firm Chadbourne & Parke filed a civil suit against Barrientos in September 2013 on behalf of Mr Jara’s family, alleging his responsibility for Jara’s torture and execution. Jara was one of thousands of intellectuals, political leaders and perceived supporters of the Allende government detained en masse at Chile Stadium during the early days of the coup. His torture and death came to symbolise the suffering of all those detained, tortured, and killed at the stadium, many of whom have yet to be identified.
Eyewitnesses testified that Barrientos, a former senior military officer in Chile who has since moved to the USA, was at the scene of Jara’s death and had boasted of killing him.
Victor Jara’s widow Joan Jara said, “It has been a long journey seeking justice for Victor’s death. His songs continue to be sung today, and inspire both artists and those who seek social justice. For Victor, art and social justice were one and the same. Today, there is some justice for Victor’s death, and for the thousands of families in Chile who have sought truth. I hope that the verdict today continues the healing.”
CJA’s Director C. Dixon Osburn said, “We believe that perpetrators of the worst human rights crimes should be held to account, no matter how long it takes or where they try to hide […] We hope that the verdict today provides some measure of justice and accountability for those who have fought so hard to see this day.”
Full coverage from CJA’s website: http://cja.org/jaravictory
Hotline for Refugees and Migrants
Published July 01 2016
Summary: Israel recognises its first Sudanese refugee
23rd June 2016, Israel: Sudanese national Mutasim Ali has finally been awarded refugee status, seven years after entering Israel, four years after submitting his asylum application, after six legal appeals, and being detained for 14 months in Holot detention facility.
Mutasim is a survivor of the genocide in Darfur, and is the first Sudanese person to gain refugee status in Israel. He is coming to the end of his first year in law school. He said, “I will continue to contribute to Israeli society and the refugee community in Israel. I intend to use the status granted to me to improve the situation in Darfur, until I can safely return to my homeland. I call on the Israeli government and the international community to act to halt the bloodshed in Darfur and in other regions in Sudan."
SRT grantee Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has been assisting for the past four years with Mutasim’s struggle to receive refugee status, which has now been granted in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention. This decision puts an end to the uncertainty and fear of deportation or detention for Mutasim. Mutasim’s lawyer and Director of the Hotline’s Legal Department, Asaf Weitzen, said "It is so moving that after all the hardship, after such a prolonged period of uncertainty and detention and after endless legal proceedings, Mustasim was finally granted the legal status he deserves. I hope this is a sign of things to come."
End Violence Against Women
Published June 28 2016
Summary: End Violence Against Women Coalition responds to Stanford rape case
Rachel Krys, co-director of SRT grantee End Violence Against Women Coalition, has written an opinion piece in Newsweek on the Stanford rape case that saw a white male student Brock Turner, convicted of rape and sentenced to six months in prison.
In the article “Stanford Rape Case: Why young men need to read the statement of Brock Turner's victim”, Krys explains that the 12-page victim statement - which has since been published in full and gone viral - can provide boys and young men with an insight into the impact that sexual violence has on women and girls. According to Krys, “the statement gives us a better understanding of why up to 85 percent of rapes in the UK are never reported and how devastating sexual violence is for victims.”
The article also discusses the statement made by Brock Turner’s father in the hope of a lenient sentence for his son, and says that this echoes many high-profile cases in the UK “where we’re asked to spare a thought for the reputation of the man who is accused.”
The article also expresses concerns over the growing number of high-profile assault cases on female students, which places a huge responsibility on education institutions to take appropriate action to address the problem, and has led to sexual violence taskforces being introduced in the US and UK to help tackle the problem.
Reporters without Borders / IFEX
Published June 22 2016
Summary: Human rights defender and journalist arrested in Turkey on charges of “terrorist propaganda”
20th June 2016, Istanbul, Turkey: Authorities have arrested well known free speech advocate Erol Önderoglu, alongside head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Sebnem Korur Fincani and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin, on charges of “terrorist propaganda” for participating in a solidarity campaign for the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.
Erol Önderoglu has worked for over two decades as the Turkish representative of the press freedom group and SRT grantee, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and is also a board member of SRT grantee IFEX. The three are among 44 journalists and activists who have served as co-editor of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper for a day to protest the government's persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper and its staff. To date, prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into at least 37 participants in the campaign. The three are being held in pre-trial detention and as yet a trial date has not been set.
Further information from IFEX's website: https://www.ifex.org/turkey/2016/06/20/turkey_crackdown_erol_onderoglu/ https://cpj.org/2016/06/reporters-without-borders-representative-two-other.php#more
Published June 08 2016
Summary: Bahraini authorities release human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja from prison
31st May 2016, Bahrain: Zainab al-Khawaja has been released from prison on “humanitarian grounds” and in the interests of her 17-month-old son whom she kept with her throughout the imprisonment.
Opposition activist al-Khawaja was first imprisoned in March of 2016. In spite of her release the original charges stand, and there is a threat that she could be returned to prison. She was sentenced to a total of three years and one month in prison on a variety of charges, including two sentences for ripping a picture of Bahrain’s monarch and one year in prison for allegedly “insulting” a police officer.
This is an update of previous coverage of Zainab al-Khawaja’s arrest, which was published on 18th March 2016.
See attached statement by SRT grantee the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: http://birdbh.org/2016/06/zainab-al-khawaja-released-amid-major-political-trials
The case has also been featured in the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/31/bahrain-releases-activist-zainab-al-khawaja
Civitas Maxima / Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l'Homme / International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) / Human Rights Data Analysis Group
Published June 03 2016
Summary: Former Chadian President Hissène Habré convicted of atrocities in landmark trial
30th May 2016, Dakar, Senegal: The former Chadian President and dictator Hissène Habré has been convicted of torture, rape, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to life in prison by the Extraordinary African Chambers, which Habré has refused to recognise. It is a landmark trial making Habré the first former head of state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country.
The trial against Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, began in July, 2015. 90 witnesses testified that he had thrown thousands of people into secret jails where they were tortured and killed. Testimony included that of expert witness Patrick Ball, Director of Research at SRT grantee Human Rights Data Analysis Group, regarding the very high rates of prison mortality in Habré’s prisons during his reign. Survivors described the appalling prison conditions where cells were so crowded that prisoners lay on the dead bodies of those who had suffocated or died of disease. Files of Habré’s political police that were recovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001 revealed the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention, and 12,321 victims of human rights violations, which became a major component of the trial.
Women were kept as sexual slaves, and Alain Werner, the director of SRT grantee Civitas Maxima, who represented some of the victims, said that one of the most important aspects of the trial was Habré’s conviction for personally raping Khadija Zidane four times. “They were just women in the middle of the desert with soldiers, abused for a very, very long period of time,” Werner said. “Women suffered so much under Habré. It puts the whole sexual violence aspect back in the middle of the case.”
SRT grantees Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), along with other African and international organisations, are founding members of the International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissène Habré, which has been working tirelessly for justice from the beginning of the legal procedures over 15 years ago. They will also be collaborating for the second phase of the trial on damages, for the appeal which will go into 2017 and for the follow-up work on transitional justice in Chad.
Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch, also a member of the International Committee for the Fair Trial of Hissène Habré, said “This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalise their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end. Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”
This is an update on previous coverage of the trial involving SRT grantee TrustAfrica on 13th May 2016.
For further details see the following: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/30/chads-ex-dictator-convicted-atrocities
Published: May 25 2016
Summary: Nigerian Senate withdraws controversial social media bill
17th May 2016, Abuja, Nigeria: A “Frivolous Petitions Bill” aimed at preventing citizens from posting on social media has been withdrawn by the Nigerian Senate after failure to win enough votes and staunch opposition by Nigerian civil society groups.
Officially named “an act to prohibit frivolous petitions; and other matters connected therewith”, and popularly called the “Social Media Bill”, it was considered to be an attempt to prevent Nigerians from discrediting public officials and would have imposed penalties of up to $10,000 and two years in jail.
Nigerian civil society groups, who rallied around the hashtag #notosocialmediabill, pressured lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate to drop the bill before it could be passed along to the House of Representatives. A coalition of groups, including SRT grantee Access Now, delivered a letter to the Senate stating objections to the bill and outlining the potential negative implications on free expression and the economy. Fittingly, the Senate confirmed withdrawal of the bill in a tweet.
Social media has become a crucial outlet for a new generation of Nigerians who are keen to demand more accountability and transparency in government. “This is a victory for Nigeria and free expression in the digital age,” said Deji Olukotun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “At a time when Africa’s largest democracy has committed to fighting corruption and combating Boko Haram, the bill would have criminalized reporting by journalists and prevented citizens from holding their officials accountable.”
Further details from Access Now's website: https://www.accessnow.org/nigeria-withdraws-controversial-social-media-bill-victory-free-expression
Published: May 24 2016
Summary: Observing the Lebanese municipal elections from a gender perspective
8th May, 2016: Lebanon has begun its first round of municipal elections as thousands cast their votes in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek-Hermel. This is the first electoral process in Lebanon since 2009 due to the stalemate between the two main political camps, which has resulted in postponement of parliamentary and presidential elections on a number of occasions. This has given the municipal elections a new-found importance, as under the current conditions the Lebanese perceive it as their only avenue to influence the political process.
SRT grantee Fe-Male, together with other Lebanese women’s rights NGOs and with the support of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, have been observing and monitoring all polling stations to evaluate the impact of various aspects of the electoral process on women and men’s access to their right to vote and their choice of candidate. Election observation is a valuable tool for improving the quality of elections and can help promote and protect the civil and political rights of citizens. Fe-Male believes that collecting statistical data can be particularly helpful in analyzing women’s participation and assessing whether trends are moving in a positive direction.
Fe-Male’s observations so far lead it to believe that women’s effective participation in the Lebanese elections have been hindered by the current majoritarian electoral system, the lack of a specific quota for women, and by family dynamics and pressures. It aims to publish its observations and findings after the elections are completed on 28th May 2016. It hopes to suggest future practical steps to reform electoral laws and render electoral processes more democratic, transparent and gender-sensitive.
Published May 13 2016
Summary: Landmark trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré takes place before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal
The trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré, accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, began in July 2015 before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal. The alleged crimes were committed during Habré’s regime from 1982 to 1990, when an estimated 40,000 people are reported to have died or disappeared.
SRT grantee TrustAfrica has enhanced independent coverage of the Habré trial through their International Criminal Justice (ICJ) Fund which worked closely with a consortium of civil society organisations and Senegalese law graduates. The ICJ Fund trained a group of law graduates from the Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar to monitor, document and provide daily reports on the proceedings in both French and English across various platforms. The work of these students provides an invaluable resource to ensure there is an independent platform of informed actors who can provide accurate and timely analysis of the proceedings, and share this information in Africa and beyond.
The trial ended on February 11 2016, after testimony from 93 witnesses, and on May 30, 2016 judges at the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system will deliver their verdict. This is the first time a former African Head of State is facing justice in another African country. It is also one of the first occasions that an African court is operating under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The New York Times has called the case “a milestone for justice in Africa.”
For further details on the case: http://www.trustafrica.org/en/resource/news/item/3212-extraordinary-chambers-monitor
Information on Extraordinary African Chambers: http://www.forumchambresafricaines.org/V1_ficae/?lang=en
Information on the law graduates monitoring the trial: http://www.trustafrica.org/en/programme/governance-page/international-criminal-justice/item/3214-decouvrez-l-equipe-des-etudiants-observateurs-du-proces-habre/3214-decouvrez-l-equipe-des-etudiants-observateurs-du-proces-habre
Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD)
Published May 05 2016
Summary: Anti-FGM film wins Gold World Medal at 2016 New York Festival
2nd May 2016, New York: Needlecraft, a short animated film on female genital mutilation (FGM), has won the Gold World Medal at the 2016 New York Festival, which honours the best TV and films. It was created by British filmmaker Ruth Beni and her production company Animage Films, in collaboration with SRT grantee FORWARD, and was inspired by the Guardian newspaper’s work with FGM survivors. It beat competition from the BBC, CNN and broadcasters from over 50 countries to win the award.
The film describes how FGM affects more than 125 million girls from 29 countries around the world, and animation was used by the filmmaker to respect the dignity and anonymity of the survivors while still depicting the full impact of the practice. Ruth Beni said, “I thought that something so harrowing had to be told in a very beautiful way so the facts could be palatable.”
FORWARD works primarily with women and girls in African diaspora communities to tackle the practice of FGM in the UK through community engagement, youth activism and advocacy. The film has been shown in UK schools and been so successful that a second version, entitled My Body, My Rules, has been made and sent out to 50 schools in the UK. Another version, the Story of Ghati and Rhobi, has been made for distribution in Africa and is currently being used by schools and communities in Tanzania.
All three films produced by Animage are available on the FORWARD website: https://www.forwarduk.org.uk
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Published April 25 2016
Summary: New report reveals significant increase in solitary confinement in Israeli prisons
Israel, March 2016: SRT grantee Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI) has released a new report, ‘Politics of Punishment’, which analyses the use of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons. The report shows a significant increase in the numbers held in solitary confinement, which almost double from 390 to 755 between 2012 and 2014. International human rights law views solitary confinement as a form of torture and calls for significantly reducing and ending its use. These figures reinforce concerns that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) is using solitary confinement on a regular basis, rather than as a measure of last resort.
The IPS employs three forms of solitary confinement; however it only keeps data pertaining to one form, which revealed the scope of its use and the way it is used. In July 2015, the data revealed that 117 prisoners were subjected to solitary confinement, including two minors, with seven held in solitary confinement for more than five years and 63 for more than six months. Some were kept there for nothing more than an administrative IPS decision. This contradicts the affirmation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2011 that solitary confinement exceeding 15 days constitutes torture or cruel degrading treatment or punishment, and the adoption of the amended version of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners prohibiting prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement.
Adv. Ola Shtiwi, Coordinator of Policy Change at PHRI’s Prisoners and Detainees Department and author of the report, said, “There is no disputing the obligation of the state and all of its institutions to protect prisoners and care for their health. Many have already come to the realisation that solitary confinement only causes prisoners harm and that it is their duty to ban its use. The decision to go on using solitary confinement despite its extensive ill effects suggests that it is not used as a means of ensuring protection and security for prisoners, as claimed, but as a means of oppression”.
See the full report here:
Humanitarian Law Center
Published April 14 2016
Summary: Belgrade court issues first judgment awarding compensation to victims of war crimes in Kosovo
Belgrade, Serbia, April 2016: The First Basic Court in Belgrade has delivered a judgment obliging the Republic of Serbia to pay compensation totalling 25.9 million dinars (approximately £170,000) to 24 close relatives of 14 women and children who were killed in front of their own homes in Podujevo, Kosovo, in March 1999 by members of the Ministry of Interior unit "Scorpions". SRT grantee Humanitarian Law Center represented the families of the victims.
On 28 March 1999, members of the "Scorpions" unit removed women and children from their homes in Podujevo and shot them with automatic rifles in the yard of the house of the Gashi family, killing Sala Bogujevci (39 years old), her sons Shpend (13) and Shpetim (10); Shefkate Bogujevci (43), her daughter Nora (15) and her mother-in-law Shehide (67); their cousin Nefise Llugaliu (55), her daughter-in-law Fezdrije (21), Fitnete Duriqi (36) and her four children – Dafina (9), Arber (7), Mimoza (4) and Albin (2); as well as her mother-in-law Isma (69). Five children – Saranda, Fatos, Jehona, Lirije and Genc Bogujevci - survived the shooting, having received severe injuries.
Five people were found guilty of committing these crimes in earlier criminal proceedings, but the victims’ families have had to engage in a long civil suit seeking reparation. This is the first judgment in Serbia awarding compensation on the basis of established responsibility of the Serbian state for crimes committed by its forces against Albanian civilians during the armed conflict in Kosovo. The state’s responsibility is founded on the provision of Article 172 of the Law on Contracts and Torts, according to which the state is liable for the damage caused to third persons by its organs, in the performance of their duties or in relation thereto.
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Published April 06 2016
Summary: “Panama Papers” Expose Secret Offshore Companies of Politicians and Public Officials Around the World
Washington, DC, April 3rd, 2016: The “Panama Papers” are an unprecedented leaked cache of 11.5 million financial records from the database of the world’s fourth biggest, but little-known offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The investigation was carried out by SRT grantee the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and about 370 journalists from more than 70 countries.
The investigation examined the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and the offshore financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials from around the world. It is not illegal to own an offshore company and many of those named in the “Panama Papers” have not used their offshore entities for wrongdoing. However, the use of offshore entities by political leaders and criminals raises questions about the impact of financial secrecy havens on national treasuries and the rule of law. ICIJ highlights, for example, a pattern of covert manoeuvres by banks, companies and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffling $2 billion through banks and shadow companies, which led to Russian officials denouncing the investigation before it went public. The account holders include people and companies blacklisted by the US government with links to drug lords, terrorist organisations and rogue nations.
The ICIJ is a project of the Center for Public Integrity and a global network of investigative reporters. Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, said, “This is the biggest cross-border investigation in journalism history, using a data set that is the largest of its kind”. ICIJ’s stories have triggered official inquiries, high-profile resignations and policy changes around the world.
Full details from ICIJ's website: https://panamapapers.icij.org
Published April 04 2016
Summary: Brazilian dam bursts with devastating human and environmental consequences
On 5th November 2015 a tailings dam, holding waste from an iron ore mine, burst flooding the village of Bento Rodrigues in the state of Minas Gerais in the central region of Brazil. Thousands of tonnes of toxic waste flowed out, destroying houses, farmland, and rivers and leaving at least 17 people dead and 350 families homeless. The environmental impact of this disaster will take years if not decades to overcome. Fishing and agricultural communities have had their livelihood destroyed, and local residents and indigenous communities their homes wiped out. The water of the Rio Doce, which supplied most of the 3.2 million people that live in its basin, "no longer has any use, being unfit for irrigation, animal and human consumption," according to the director of the Water and Sewage Service of Baixu Guandu in the neighbouring state of Espirito Santo. An estimated 9 million tonnes of fish have been found dead on the banks of the river.
The iron ore mine was owned by Samarco, a joint venture between BHP Billiton Ltd, an Anglo-Australian mining company, the largest in the world, and Vale, a Brazilian company and the third largest in the world. In December the assets of both companies were frozen following a judicial ruling that Samarco could not cover the estimated damage costs of US$5 billion demanded by the government. Following several attempts to challenge government compensation demands the two companies agreed in March 2016 to set up a fund of US$1.5 billion. However, state and federal prosecutors have challenged this compensation agreement signed with the government as it undermines the rights of the victims of the disaster at a number of levels. The agreement allows the mining companies to set up a private foundation that will oversee each compensation claim on an individual basis, which will give them the ability to negotiate a victim’s compensation. Any victims willing to challenge the compensation will have to take them to court with lawyers funded by the companies.
SRT grantee Justica Global, launched a report in January 2016, setting out its findings on the extensive human rights violations caused by the disaster. The organisation has also denounced both companies to both the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights following both the disaster and the subsequent failure to provide minimum adequate compensation for victims. On 25th November, Justiça Global and Conectas, another SRT grantee, took the United Nations’ Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment as well as on human rights and hazardous substances to visit the disaster site. The UN human rights representatives stated that the disaster was a “tragic example of the failure of businesses to adequately conduct human rights due diligence to prevent human rights abuses”.
Full report from Justiça Global: https://issuu.com/justicaglobal/docs/inside_the_vale_of_mud
Published March 30 2016
Summary: Ongoing crackdown on Egyptian NGOs is criticised by leading international organisations
Egypt, March 2016: A five-year investigation into the funding and registration of independent human rights groups in Egypt has gathered pace in recent months, with fears that it could soon result in criminal charges. Human rights workers have been summoned for questioning, banned from travel, and have experienced attempts to freeze their personal funds and family assets.
The investigation began in July 2011 into the funding of local and foreign groups and has already led to convictions and the closure of the Egyptian offices of five international NGOs in 2013. Under Egyptian law, human rights defenders could be charged for working without official registration or accepting foreign funding without governmental authorisation. An amendment to the penal code, passed in 2014, calls for a sentence up to life imprisonment for the latter charge.
The latest wave of allegations has led 14 international organisations, including SRT grantees Euromed Rights, FIDH, IFEX, International Service for Human Rights, and the World Organisation Against Torture, to express concern over the situation. They said the Egyptian authorities should halt their persecution of these groups and drop the investigation, which could threaten human rights defenders with up to 25 years in prison. They also want authorities to lift the gagging order prohibiting media outlets from publishing anything on the case other than statements issued by the presiding judges until the investigations are complete.
Michel Tubiana, President of EuroMed Rights, said, “Instead of shutting down the last vestiges of civil society, Egypt should welcome scrutiny of its human rights record and take on board the constructive criticisms of local NGOs. The authorities should engage in an open and genuine dialogue with its rights movement.”
Published: March 23 2016
Summary: Ethiopian government ordered to pay $150,000 to victim of abduction, rape and forced marriage
9th March 2016: In a landmark ruling, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has ordered the Ethiopian government to pay $150,000 compensation in the case of Woineshet Zebene Negash, who was abducted, raped and forced into marriage at age 13.
In March 2001, Aberew Jemma Negussie and accomplices broke into Woineshet's house and raped her. Woineshet was rescued and her rapist was arrested. However, they were released on bail and Negussie abducted her again and hid her in his brother's house. She managed to escape more than a month later, but only after she was forced to sign a piece of paper, which would later be used against her in court, as a “marriage contract”.
In July 2003, in the first Ethiopian case in which accomplices were also charged and convicted for abduction, Negussie was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for abduction and rape. The four accomplices were sentenced to eight years each. However, later that year the sentence was overturned by an appeals court and all five perpetrators were released.
Since the case could not be re-tried in Ethiopia and as all other local avenues to justice were exhausted, a complaint was then filed in 2007 by SRT grantee Equality Now with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Woineshet.
Nine years later – and 15 years since Woineshet was raped - the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights found that the Ethiopian government did not protect her from violence and also failed to provide a "decent system of justice," and that it should implement “escalated and targeted measures” to deal with "marriage" by abduction and rape.
Faiza Jama Mohamed, the Director of Equality Now, said, “the disposability of girls in Ethiopia and around the world needs to end. We cannot be free until every sexist penal code is changed and every single girl is protected from violence".
Full report from Faiza Jama Mohamed: http://news.trust.org/item/20160310084946-lv4fy
Published: March 18 2016
Summary: Human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja detained with her 15-month-old son
Bahrain, March 14th 2016: Bahraini security forces have raided the house of prominent human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja and arrested her with her 15-month-old son. Zainab Al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who established SRT grantees the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and has been serving a life sentence in prison since 2011. She is also the sister of Maryam Al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, who expressed fears that Zainab’s arrest may be linked to her own campaigning against human rights violations by some members of the Bahraini royal family. Maryam Al-Khawaja has also been charged with “assaulting police officers” while being searched.
Zainab Al-Khawaja has already spent almost a year and a half in prison. She is now facing a prison sentence of three years and one month and a 3,000BD fine linked to various court cases against her, including tearing up a photograph of the King. If the fine is not paid, her prison term will be extended by around a year and a half.
According to Amnesty International, Zainab Al-Khawaja’s convictions are “for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”
Zainab Al-Khawaja is currently being held in Isa Town women’s prison. In a recent family prison visit she expressed concerns over her baby’s health due to poor detention conditions (see http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1206).
In a joint statement issued on 14 March, SRT grantees the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Centre for Human rights, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and others have called for Zainab Al-Khawaja’s immediate and unconditional release.
Further information from BIRD's website: http://birdbh.org/2016/03/ngos-call-for-the-release-of-zainab-al-khawaja
Published: March 14 2016
Summary: Scottish Government awards £2.5 million to Sistema Scotland
Scotland, March 11th 2016: The Scottish Government Minister responsible for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, has announced a further £2.5m investment into the continuing work of SRT grantee Sistema Scotland. This will expand the Scottish Government’s support for Sistema's Big Noise orchestra programme to 2020, taking total Scottish Government funding for Sistema Scotland to more than £4 million since 2012/13. This four-year funding package will support the existing three Big Noise centres in Raploch, Govanhill, and Torry to sustain and develop their intensive, immersive and long-term work with children and young people in some of the most disadvantaged communities.
Sistema Scotland currently works with more than 1,500 children and young people, and today’s funding package will enable it to work with at least an extra 700 young people, aiming to transform their lives, opportunities and prospects by engaging them in Big Noise youth orchestras. Richard Holloway, Chairman of the Sistema Scotland Board, said, “We are delighted by this incredible support from the Scottish Government. It fully endorses the social transformation work done by Sistema Scotland and the Big Noise Centres in the communities they serve.”
Further information from Sistema Scotland's website: http://www.makeabignoise.org.uk/news-events/25m-transform-childrens-lives
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Published: March 10 2016
Summary: Human Rights Activists attacked in North Caucasus
North Caucasus, 9th March, 2016: A group of masked men, armed with baseball bats and “sharp objects”, has attacked a minibus carrying nine people, including foreign and Russian journalists as well as Russian human rights defenders. The delegation were dragged from the bus and beaten before their minibus was set alight. Five of the party have been taken to hospital. The group was travelling between Ingushetia and Chechnya as part of a tour organised by SRT grantee The Committee for the Prevention of Torture to document human rights violations.
Shortly after this attack a group of masked men, armed with automatic weapons, was seen to enter the offices of the Joint Mobile Group – a Chechen human rights organisation set up by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and other human rights groups – where they ransacked the offices. Staff of the Group, who were not present at the time, monitored the attack through security camera footage. They are currently unable to visit the offices to assess the damage.
International human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and SRT grantee Frontline Defenders, have denounced the attacks and called on Russian authorities to immediately investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice. The statement from Human Rights Watch can be found here: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/09/russia-journalists-activists-attacked-north-caucasus.
The story has also been covered in international news sources such as The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/journalists-beaten-and-bus-torched-on-chechnya-tour-say-activists
Human Rights Data Analysis Group
Published: March 08 2016
March 2016: Patrick Ball from SRT grantee Human Rights Data Analysis Group discusses how he and his colleagues attempt to measure undocumented police homicides in the United States in the most recent edition of Granta: http://granta.com/violence-in-blue
Published: March 04 2016
Summary: Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner Berta Cáceres found murdered
La Esperanza, Intibuca, Honduras, March 3rd, 2016: Berta Cáceres, one of the leading indigenous activists and environmental rights campaigners in Honduras, has been found shot dead in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca.
As co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta was involved in high-profile campaigns against dams, illegal loggers and plantation owners. This included pressurising the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam, which earned her the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.
As recently as 20th February, Berta attended a COPINH march in Rio Blanco where she and other participants faced threats as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the Honduran company DESA. As a result of her work Berta had received many threats against her life but was determined to continue campaigning. In an interview in 2015 she said, “we must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
SRT grantee the Fund for Global Human Rights, who themselves provide a grant to COPINH, have demanded a thorough and immediate investigation of the circumstances surrounding Berta’s death. Ana Paula Hernández, Program Officer for Latin America, stated, “It is imperative that the government of Honduras thoroughly and immediately investigate Berta’s murder, and bring those responsible to justice. This tragedy follows a pattern that has made Honduras one of the most dangerous places in the world for environmental justice and land rights activists.”
Full press release from the Fund for Global Human Rights: http://globalhumanrights.org/berta-caceres-copinh-murdered
NGO Bill in Israel Threatens Human Rights Organisations
Published: March 04 2016
Summary: Israeli human rights groups express concern about pending NGO Bill
Pending legislation in Israel to restrict foreign government funding to NGOs could have serious consequences for many human rights organisations in the country. It would require NGOs that receive 50% or more of their funding from foreign governments to state that fact in all of their publications, written reports to Knesset members and decision-makers, at any hearing or discussion involving a written protocol, and in any oral discussion held in a place where public officials work. For organisations that conduct litigation or engage in public advocacy, this would mean identifying themselves as foreign-supported throughout their regular work.
According to SRT grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, “The alleged objective of the bill is to promote greater transparency of organizations whose funding comes from ‘foreign government entities’ due to fear that these interfere in the internal affairs of the country. In fact, all NGOs receiving donations, and contributions from foreign political entities in particular, have long been subject to strict transparency requirements.” Many human rights organisations interpret the bill as an attempt to silence organisations that are critical of government policies both by delegitimising their work and making their jobs more difficult. ACRI points out that “The freedom to criticize the government and to monitor and assist those who are harmed by government activities are essential practices of democracy.”
The bill passed the first reading in the Knesset on 9 February 2016 and is awaiting further discussion.
SRT grantee, Adalah, has drafted a short paper highlighting a number of pending pieces of legislation of concern to the human rights community in Israel. The paper is available here:
Breaking the Silence and Impunity Alliance
Published: March 01 2016
Summary: Victory in the landmark Sepur Zarco case as Guatemalan court finds two former military members guilty of the murder, rape and sexual enslavement of indigenous women
Guatemala City, February 26th 2016: Two former senior military officers have been found guilty of crimes against humanity involving murder, sexual slavery and other atrocities committed at the Sepur Zarco military base in Guatemala. Of the two accused, Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Giron, former commander of the Sepur Zarco base, was given prison sentences totaling 120 years and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig was given sentences totalling 240 years.
The history of the case goes back to 1982 when Guatemala’s armed forces repeatedly attacked the small village of Sepur Zarco, capturing and killing or disappearing male Q’eqchi’ campesino leaders who were seeking to obtain legal titles to their lands. For the six months after the disappearances and executions of male community leaders, soldiers raped many of the widows, often in front of children, and subjected them systematically to sexual and domestic slavery. In some cases these practices continued for up to six years.
With the support of a network of feminist organisations called Breaking the Silence and Impunity Alliance (Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio y la Impunidad), an SRT grantee, a process was initiated to bring the case to trial. More than 20 victims from Sepur Zarco testified in court about the abuses they suffered at the hands of the Guatemalan army between 1982 and 1988. The presiding judge Yassmin Barrios said that rape had been deliberately used at Sepur Zarco as a weapon aimed at destroying the local indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ community. The case is historic for being the first known example of the prosecution in a national court of the crime of sexual slavery during armed conflict as a violation of international humanitarian law. Paula Barrios, director of Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (MTM), one of the member organisations of Breaking the Silence and Impunity Alliance, said, “This sets a precedent at national and international level because the women survivors of sexual violence, sexual and domestic slavery are in front of a national court witnessing the hearings where those responsible for the crimes are being judged”.
See full reports on this case: http://www.ijmonitor.org/category/guatemala-trials
View photos from the trial
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
Published February 23 2016
Summary: Justice after 33 years for family of forcibly disappeared anti-apartheid activist
Johannesburg, 8 February 2016: after 33 years, the South Africa National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has announced that it will charge four former security policemen with the murder and kidnapping of anti-apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane. This will be the first prosecution of apartheid-era perpetrators since 2007.
Nokuthula Simelane was abducted, tortured and forcibly disappeared by members of the Security Branch of the former South African Police in 1983. She was a 23-year-old university graduate who was a courier for Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, moving between Swaziland and South Africa. Her remains have never been found. Her family has been denied the right to bury their daughter and has been pursuing justice with assistance from SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
In 1996 a police docket was opened on the case. In 2001 the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted some of the perpetrators amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction. None of the perpetrators applied for amnesty for her murder. Years of negotiations and correspondence with the NPA yielded no official action. Pleas for an inquest were denied and requests to institute criminal proceedings against the suspects who did not apply for amnesty were refused.
Left with no alternative, the family filed papers before the High Court in May 2015, seeking to compel the National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) to make a decision with regards to prosecution. Despite having filed a notice to oppose the case, the NDPP brought the family to the negotiating table and decided to prosecute four of the suspected perpetrators for the murder and kidnapping of Nokuthula. Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, commended the NDPP for “a bold step, one that his predecessors were either unwilling or unable to take”; however she added that “no one should have to wait for 33 years before justice is done”.
Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM)
Published February 17 2016
Summary: Peruvian government pays out compensation in historic UN human rights abortion case
Peru, December 2015: Nearly a decade after the original complaint was filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the Peruvian government has agreed to pay compensation to a woman who had critical abortion access denied and her human rights violated. The case was brought to the Committee by SRT grantee the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights, along with the Centre for Reproductive Rights and the Counselling Centre for the Defence of Women’s Rights.
In 2001, the foetus of a 17-year-old Peruvian girl was diagnosed with anencephaly at the public hospital in Lima. Anencephaly is a fatal birth defect where the foetus lacks most or all of the forebrain. Doctors told her that continuing the pregnancy would put her life and health at risk and she was recommended to have an abortion, which was legal in Peru under such circumstances. However the hospital refused the termination on the grounds that the State had not provided clear regulations for providing the service. The pregnant girl had no choice but to carry the pregnancy to full term and breastfeed the baby for the four days that it lived. It was a decision that went on to have serious mental and physical consequences to her health.
It marked the first time that a UN human rights body held a government accountable for failing to ensure access to legal abortion services. The Committee stated that Peru had violated the victim’s rights under several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In a press statement in December, Centre for Reproductive Rights Chief Executive Officer Nancy Northrup said that while compensating the victim was important, more still needed to be done regarding access to reproductive health services. “It’s time for Peru to clarify and implement its safe abortion guidelines and continue improving access to critical reproductive health services for all women and girls,” she said.
Full report available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/PeruAbortionCompensation.aspx
Refugee Consortium of Kenya
Published: February 11 2016
Summary: Kenyan court finds separation of refugee children from their parents unconstitutional
Kenya, 18th December 2015: In 2014, SRT grantee Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) went to court seeking orders to declare the separation of refugee children from their parents during the “Usalama Watch” security operation as unconstitutional. On 18th December 2015, a verdict was delivered in favour of RCK and the court ordered that the 48 children, on whose behalf the petition was brought, be re-united with their parents.
Operation “Usalama Watch” (security watch) was launched on 5th April 2014 by the Kenyan government, ostensibly for purposes of preserving national security. The operation involved the rounding up of hundreds of foreign nationals including refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in Nairobi County. One of the outcomes of the operation included the separation of children from their parents, which caused suffering to the children left behind and was the reason that RCK filed the petition.
A blanket condemnation of refugees and asylum seekers is against the basic foundations of human rights envisioned in Kenya’s constitution and Refugees Act 2006. The court found that RCK had succeeded in proving that the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the children. The court also noted that the government had failed to clearly demonstrate the connection between the insecurity in the country and the presence of urban refugees, and therefore the restrictive measures taken led to further infringement of the rights of the children. The court ordered for the children to be re-united with their parents, and an award of 50,000 KES (£340.00) to be paid to each of the 48 children affected.
Closing Space for Civil Society
Published: February 11 2016
In June 2015, more than 80 funders, civil society actors, and government representatives met in Berlin to discuss the closing space for civil society in a workshop organised by SRT grantees Ariadne and the International Human Rights Funders Group together with the European Foundation Centre. Many donors and civil society organisations are finding that their work is being constrained by legislation that restricts the registration, operation, and funding of non-governmental organisations. More than 100 such laws have been proposed or enacted in countries across the globe since the beginning of 2012. The goal of the Berlin meeting was to understand the drivers of this trend and to strategise about how the philanthropic community can respond in the interest of protecting its own work and that of beneficiary organisations.
The full report from the meeting was released at the end of January 2016 and is available here. In addition to providing an overview of the problems faced by organisations, it attempts to provide practical actions that donors can consider taking in response to this issue.
The Sigrid Rausing Trust has been watching this trend and trying to help grantees respond to the increasing pressure under which they find themselves. SRT's Director of Programmes, Julie Broome, said, “We are concerned about the security of our grantees and about their ability to continue fulfilling their missions in the current environment in certain countries. Freedom of association is a protected right under international law, and while there are permissible restrictions, in some cases the restrictions imposed seem excessive or arbitrary. We will be looking to this report and working with other donors to try to identify solutions.”
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published: February 11 2016
Summary: US Judge Grants Extradition of Salvadoran Colonel Accused in 1989 Jesuit Massacre
North Carolina, 5th February 2016: Magistrate Judge Kimberly Swank has today approved the extradition to Spain of Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano, El Salvador’s former Vice Minister of Public Security, to stand trial for his role in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper, and her daughter at the University of Central America in El Salvador. This extradition decision is the culmination of work led by SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and its partners in El Salvador and Spain.
CJA filed the Jesuits Massacre Case in Madrid in 2008 against former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard and 14 former military officers and soldiers who ordered the murders. However, most military officials had been protected from extradition and prosecution because of El Salvador's blanket amnesty law. Colonel Montano has been detained in the US since October 2013, and on April 8, 2015 the US government filed a request seeking his extradition to Spain. Once Colonel Montano is extradited, he will face a criminal trial in Spain before a three-judge panel of the Spanish National Court, which will be the biggest undertaking in CJA’s history.
Colonel Montano was one of four top commanders of the Salvadoran military at the time of the killings, and Father Ellacuría was targeted for his attempt to broker peace between the government and rebel forces of the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front. Magistrate Judge Swank verified that Colonel Montano and his fellow co-conspirators “commissioned” the Atlatcatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Armed Forces to carry out the order to kill Father Ignacio Ellacuría, and to leave no witnesses.
Salvadorans have waited to see these military officials held accountable. Carlos Martín Baró, plaintiff in CJA's Jesuits Massacre Case in Spain and brother of Father Ignacio Martín Baró, one of the murdered priests, said, "The fact that Colonel Montano may face trial in Spain won’t heal the pain but is a victory for all people who seek justice."
Full press release from CJA's website: http://cja.org/article.php?id=1671
Women’s Link Worldwide
Published: November 09 2015
Summary: Spanish court finds in favour of a lesbian couple denied fertility treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation
Spain, October 2015: SRT grantee Women's Link Worldwide filed a lawsuit in June 2015 on behalf of a lesbian couple for damages incurred when the couple’s public hospital advised it would no longer provide IVF treatment for one of the women. This was the result of an administrative decision taken by the Spanish Ministry of Health excluding assisted reproductive treatments in the public health system for all women without a male partner.
The Spanish court found in favour of the couple in October 2015 and condemned the actions of both the Hospital Fundación Jiménez Díaz, for denying the treatment, and the Local Health Authority for discrimination. The court has now set a clear precedent, and Women’s Link is determined to ensure that the decision is thoroughly implemented to avoid this type of discrimination in future.
This couple will now have the opportunity to create the family they want, and Women’s Link are celebrating the success in court on behalf of all women who want to access assisted reproductive treatment, including single women and those in same-sex relationships.
Published: August 07 2015
Summary: Bosnian war crimes court issues landmark ruling allowing rape victims to claim for financial compensation
Sarajevo, 24th June 2015: The Bosnian war crimes court has issued two landmark rulings ordering compensation to wartime rape victims and sentencing former Bosnian Serb soldiers who raped women in the 1992-1995 war to 8 and 10 years in jail. These cases mark the first time Bosnian war crime victims have been awarded compensation through criminal proceedings.
Bosnian Serb leaders have feared a wave of compensation claims and therefore courts and prosecutors have until now redirected victims through civil procedures. This meant that victims had to reveal their often protected identities and received no legal or financial assistance from the state. In consequence, many victims avoided this course of action and have endured more than two decades knowing their attackers remain at large and may never be brought to justice.
In both cases, SRT grantee TRIAL provided legal assistance to the victims. Adrijana Hanušić, TRIAL’s legal adviser, said, “the victims now have reason to hope that legal practice will change, making it possible to compensate the victims and bring criminals to justice in a single trial.” They hope that these judgments will encourage more victims of wartime rape to come forward and put additional pressure on prosecutors and courts to implement the already existing legal provisions. Ms Hanušić said, “Money will not erase the pain caused by the perpetrators, but it is nevertheless a very important day for the victim. For her, justice has been fully served: she has both won her right to justice and compensation, and felt satisfaction through experiencing public recognition for her suffering.”
Full press release from TRIAL’s website:
International Service for Human Rights
Published: August 05 2015
Summary: UN adopts policy to combat reprisals and intimidation against promoters of human rights
Geneva, 26th June 2015: A group of UN bodies responsible for monitoring human rights has adopted a policy to combat intimidation and reprisals, known as the San Jose Guidelines. They have agreed to implement the Guidelines following sustained advocacy and submissions by various groups including SRT grantee International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). This is in response to cases of intimidation and reprisals arising in the context of their work reviewing various countries’ human rights records.
Madeleine Sinclair, program manager and legal counsel at ISHR, said “Human rights defenders and others who provide information and testimony to the treaty bodies continue to be subject to threats. These Guidelines mark a potentially important contribution to ensuring that defenders can access and communicate safely with the treaty bodies, free from attacks and reprisals, and to ensuring that States are held to account when such incidents occur.”
The Guidelines build on a number of policies already devised by individual UN treaty bodies and emphasise the responsibility of States to avoid acts of intimidation or reprisals and to protect those who become a victim for seeking to cooperate with such bodies. The Guidelines themselves speak of the treaty bodies’ “uncompromising stance against reprisals and their increasing efforts and commitment to prevent them” as well as the underlying responsibility of States to “prevent, protect against, investigate and ensure accountability and to provide effective remedies to victims of such acts or omissions.”
The Guidelines envision proactive, reactive and preventative measures, and they provide for the appointment of a focal point in each treaty body to coordinate implementation of the policy. “We urge all treaty bodies to appoint focal points and begin implementing the Guidelines without delay”, Ms Sinclair said. “ISHR welcomes the adoption of these important Guidelines, which recognize the primary duty of the State to prevent and ensure accountability for reprisals but also the obligations of the UN to protect those who contribute to its important work.”
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Published: July 28 2015
Summary: Justice is upheld in Haiti as Court finds former Mayor guilty of violent crimes
21st July 2015: The Court in Haiti has found former Mayor of the small town of Les Irois, Jean Morose Viliena, guilty of violent crimes after an eight-year fight for justice. In 2007, Viliena and several associates broke into the Boniface family home where they murdered Eccliasiaste Boniface because his brother David, a human rights worker, had helped a women file a complaint against the Mayor for harassment. They were also responsible for sending death threats, burning down houses, beating and shooting people.
The Mayor had connections in the political and justice system of Haiti and therefore the case has come up against repeated obstacles. Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), partner of SRT grantee Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), began supporting the victims in 2012. After a long and difficult process, a trial was set for April 2015 but was postponed after BAI announced there would be international legal observers present. After more delays the trial finally started in early July and resulted in the judge sentencing the defendants to seven years in jail. Viliena has not yet been arrested but police have instructions to jail him as soon as he is found.
This case establishes a precedent that political violence can be prosecuted despite the perpetrators' power and connections. This is of particular importance with Haiti currently preparing to run elections for a number of Senate seats.
Following the Court’s decision, our grantee partners spoke with David Boniface by phone. He said, "I thank all of you for your support and hard work throughout this process. I congratulate you on a job well done. It is the first time that I have seen something like this happen, from the beginning to the end, we worked hard and we won. Thank you for keeping me alive."
Update: Transgender Equality Network Ireland
Published July 27 2015
Summary: Republic of Ireland passes Gender Recognition Legislation based on self-determination
Dublin, 15th July 2015: The Gender Recognition Bill has today completed passage through the Oireachtas and is expected to come into operation before the end of this summer. The Republic of Ireland is the fourth country in the world to specifically introduce legislation based on transgender self-determination, joining Argentina, Denmark, Malta and most recently Colombia.
SRT grantee Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) has lobbied on this issue for some years. TENI Chair Sara R Phillips said, "This is a historic moment for the trans community in Ireland. Today is the first day we will be seen as who we truly are. Dr Lydia Foy's twenty-two year journey has finally come to an end."
This is an update of our earlier coverage of this news story on June 8th 2015.
Full coverage from TENI’s website: http://www.teni.ie/news-post.aspx?contentid=1409
Equal Opportunities Initiative
Published July 23 2015
Summary: European Court finds Bulgarian electricity company guilty of racial discrimination
16th July 2015: In the first case on anti-Roma discrimination to come before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Bulgarian electricity company CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria AD has been condemned by judges for “offensive and stigmatizing” practices that violate European anti-discrimination laws.
For 15 years CHEZ had been placing electricity meters as high as seven metres above the ground and out of reach of consumers in districts where most customers are Roma. Although supposedly for reasons of safety and to prevent interference, the residents of the affected districts challenged the practice as illegal and a public statement that all residents are untrustworthy. In its findings, the Court confirmed that documents pointed to deliberate targeting of Roma communities.
Ms Nikolova, although not Roma, is a local shopkeeper from the mostly Roma district of Gizdova, in the Bulgarian town of Dupnitsa. She brought the legal case to the Bulgarian Anti-Discrimination Commission after receiving a large bill and being unable to read the meter. The Sofia Administrative Court sent 10 questions to the Court of Justice under the EU Race Discrimination Directive and this judgment answers those questions, returning the case to the Sofia Administrative Court for resolution.
Ms Nikolova is being represented before the Sofia Administrative Court by lawyer Daniela Mihailova from SRT grantee Equal Opportunities Initiative in Bulgaria. Ms Mihailova said, “The judgment is an important step in the fight of Roma people for fair and equal treatment. Roma in Bulgaria face organized discrimination by companies and officials. This ruling sends a clear message to the Bulgarian courts and Government. The law is a strong tool to end discrimination against Roma people and we will use it.”
Press release from Equal Opportunities website: http://www.equalopportunities.eu/en/media/132-press-releases-eu-court-finds-bulgarian-electricity-company-discriminated-against-roma.html
Physicians for Human Rights
Published July 20 2015
Summary: Physicians for Human Rights calls for investigation into American Psychological Association’s Role in US Torture Programme
10th July 2015: SRT grantee Physicians for Human Rights today called for a criminal investigation into the American Psychological Association's (APA) role in the torture of terrorism suspects. PHR’s call follows the release of a new independent report confirming that the APA colluded with the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend a programme of torture.
The APA commissioned an independent review by David Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor, in November 2014 after detailed allegations emerged in New York Times reporter James Risen’s book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. The book documented secret coordination between APA and US officials to support the spurious legal and ethical justification for the Bush administration’s torture programme, which relied on health professional monitoring of abusive interrogations to claim that they were “safe, effective, and legal.”
PHR have called for a federal commission into the role that the APA, individual psychologists, and other health professionals played in the torture programme, with full subpoena powers and the authority to refer individuals for criminal investigation and prosecution. In addition they echoed calls for the APA to initiate an independent analysis of the internal structures and processes that led to collusion, and to adopt policies prohibiting psychologists’ involvement in interrogations and other activities that are inconsistent with the profession’s “do no harm” ethic.
Donna McKay, PHR’s Executive Director, said, “The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law, and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions. Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’ APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”
Full press release from PHR’s website: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/us-justice-department-must-investigate-american-psychological-associations-role-in-us-torture-program.html#sthash.ERuMCAaf.dpuf
Humanitarian Law Center
Published July 17 2015
Summary: Serbian government supports RECOM initiative to investigate war crimes in the former Yugoslavia
Belgrade, 6 July 2015: Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić has met with representatives of the RECOM Coalition, an initiative
advocating the establishment of an intergovernmental commission –
the Regional Commission to Establish all the Facts about War Crimes
(RECOM) – which will investigate war crimes and other serious human
rights violations committed in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. The RECOM Coalition was co-founded by SRT grantee the
Humanitarian Law Center.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of determining the
number of victims of war crimes in order to achieve reconciliation in the Western Balkans, and announced that the government would support the formation of RECOM. The extrajudicial body will investigate all allegations of war crimes and other gross human rights violations in connection with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
The Coordinator of the RECOM Coalition, Nataša Kandić, explained
that the establishment of RECOM served the interests of all
post-Yugoslav societies and their political agendas, not just those
of the victims – but most of all served the interests of future
Kandić said, “RECOM has the potential to contribute directly to
the creation of a new culture of respect for all the people who lost
their lives or disappeared during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
With the support of all the states of the former Yugoslavia and their government, the Initiative will establish the names of each victim, rather than just their numbers, and collect data on specific detention sites, instead of haggling over the number of prisons or camps on each side – and will be using these facts for educational purposes, and to put in place safeguards against the repetition of crimes.”
Press release from the Humanitarian Law Center’s website:
European Human Rights Advocacy Centre
Published June 25 2015
Summary: European Court delivers landmark judgment against Azerbaijan in forced displacement case
23rd June 2015: In its judgment in the case of Sargsyan v Azerbaijan, the European Court has found that Azerbaijan violated the property rights of an Armenian refugee who was forced to flee his home during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The claimants were represented by SRT grantee the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Armenian NGO Legal Guide.
Minas Sargsyan fled to Armenia with his family in 1992 following bombing by Azerbaijani forces in the Shahumyan region. He applied to the European Court in 2006 to seek redress for his enforced displacement. The Court found today that the family’s inability to return to their village or to be compensated for the loss of their land and property breached both their property rights and their right to respect for their family life. The Court also found that the State had failed to create a mechanism which would allow the family to have their property rights restored and that there were no effective remedies available. It called on the Azerbaijani government to establish a mechanism which would allow displaced persons to have their rights restored and to obtain compensation.
The Court also delivered a judgment in Chiragov v Armenia, a parallel case concerning Azerbaijani refugees who were displaced during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It found that Armenia had violated the same Articles of the European Convention with respect to the nine applicants in the case.
Professor Philip Leach, EHRAC’s Director, said, “Over a million people, both Armenian and Azerbaijani, have been displaced by the conflict, and these judgments are significant in establishing that the two governments must take action to secure the rights of internally displaced people and refugees. After 27 years of conflict, the Court is sending a resounding message that it’s time for the hostile rhetoric to stop and for the rights of the civilian victims of the conflict to be actively upheld.”
Full press release from EHRAC website: http://www.ehrac.org.uk/news/as-european-games-underway-european-court-delivers-landmark-judgment-against-azerbaijan
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Published June 24 2015
Summary: Fugitive Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir allowed to leave South Africa despite court order for his arrest
Pretoria, 15th June 2015: President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan has left South Africa despite an order by the North Gauteng High Court for his arrest. President Bashir was in the country to attend an African Union summit.
Bashir faces charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. He has so far evaded liability in the face of two arrest warrants issued by the ICC, despite the obligation on ICC states parties, including South Africa, to execute the warrants.
An interim court order on 14th June compelled the South African government to take all necessary steps to prevent Bashir from leaving the country until the Court had handed down a final order. However, the government confirmed shortly after the final order was issued on 15th June that President Bashir had been allowed to leave the country contrary to the Court’s decision. The government argues that Bashir was protected by diplomatic immunity while attending the African Union summit, and could not therefore have been arrested.
SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) brought the case to the High Court along with Advocate Isabel Goodman and attorney Moray Hathorn of Webber Wentzel. Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s Director, said, “Being an organisation committed to the rule of law, SALC is encouraged by the Court’s order and the independence of the judicial process. The rule of law, however, is only as strong as the government which enforces it. Home Affairs have allowed a fugitive from justice to slip through its fingers, compounding the suffering of the victims of these grave crimes.”
SALC is now considering pursuing contempt proceedings against the South African government.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland
Published June 08 2015
Summary: Irish State to accept trans people’s own declaration as legal proof of their gender
Dublin, 3rd June 2015: the Irish Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, TD, has announced that transgender people in the Republic of Ireland will no longer require medical or psychiatric testimony to have their gender recognised by the state, or to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. For those aged 18 or over, the application process under the new Gender Recognition Bill will now be based on self-declaration. The Bill will also no longer contain the controversial “forced divorce” clause, which would have required a married trans person to divorce their spouse in order to have their gender recognised. SRT grantee Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), which has lobbied on these issues for some years, welcomed the government’s announcement.
In April 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a comprehensive resolution on trans human rights. In relation to legal gender recognition, the Assembly called on Member States to “develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination.” Only a small number of countries, including Malta, Argentina, Denmark and now Ireland, have so far adopted legislation of this kind.
There will be no change to the provisions for applicants aged 17 or under. A Court process will be required involving supporting medical statements before an application for a gender recognition certificate can be made.
TENI Chief Executive Broden Giambrone said, “TENI applauds the Government for this hugely significant move. Ireland has now taken its place as an international leader in this human rights area. The Government has shown great vision and conviction in ensuring the rights of trans people. This legislation will significantly improve the lived realities of trans people in Ireland.”
The necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Bill will be carried out when the Bill goes to Committee Stage from 17th June.
Full coverage from TENI’s website: http://www.teni.ie/news-post.aspx?contentid=1393
Published June 02 2015
Summary: Court dismisses case against German government over alleged complicity in drone attacks
27th May 2015– The Administrative Court of Cologne has dismissed the claim brought against the German government by three Yemeni citizens concerning the use of US military base Ramstein in drone attacks. The claimants were represented by SRT grantees ECCHR and Reprieve, who are now considering lodging an appeal.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber brought the claim along with his relatives Ahmed Saeed bin Ali Jaber and Khaled Mohmed Naser bin Ali Jaber. The claimants survived a drone strike in Yemen in August 2012 in which they allege Ramstein played a central role (as the site of a satellite relay station connecting drone operators in the US with drones in targeted countries including Yemen – a claim which was supported by experts including a drone operator). Two of their relatives died in the attack and several others have suffered ongoing trauma.
The court accepted the argument that Germany had an obligation to protect lives and declared the lawsuit admissible. Furthermore the judge also acknowledged it was “plausible” that Ramstein had been used to carry out drone strikes, but said there were no sufficient legal grounds on which to prevent the US from using the base. However she allowed the claimants the opportunity to appeal the decision.
ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck said after the hearing, “Today’s decision allows the German government to continue to play the innocent […] With this strategy the government cannot and will not be able to meet its obligation to prevent human rights violations committed by the USA via German territory.”
Faisal bin Ali Jaber said, “I had hoped that today the Court would restore Yemen’s faith in the West’s commitment to the rule of law, and that the German government would put a stop to its role in these illegal and immoral operations. But we will not give up: it is – quite simply – a matter of life or death for us.”
Full coverage from ECCHR website: http://www.ecchr.de/drones.html
Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
Published May 15 2015
Summary: Colombian Council of Narcotics agrees to suspend aerial spraying of harmful chemicals
Bogota, 14th May 2015: the Colombian Minister of Justice and Chair of the Council of Narcotics, Yesid Alvarado Reyes, has announced the Council’s decision to suspend the spraying of illegal drug crops with glyphosate and other harmful chemicals, and to refocus the fight against drugs elsewhere.
SRT grantee the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) provided legal and technical advice on the case. AIDA and other environmental organisations working in Colombia had previously collected over 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for the spraying to be suspended. The petition highlighted the need to protect the environment and human health from damage caused by the spraying, which is done over forests, homes, farms and water sources. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that glyphosate may cause cancer in humans, and independent studies have documented other serious health effects such as skin diseases and problems during pregnancy. The spraying has also allegedly caused damage to biodiverse ecosystems, water sources and food crops, and forced families off their lands.
On Wednesday 13th May, in preparation for the Council’s decision, AIDA co-organised a debate on glyphosate spraying at the Memorial Center in Bogota which was followed by more than 2,500 people online.
AIDA’s Co-Director Astrid Puentes said, “Today we succeeded for Colombia, and our region. We achieved our goal for the thousands of people in Colombia who for years have been demanding the protection of their lands [and] a halt on sprayings, who today see a possibility of a change […] The implementation of the suspension is not an easy task, though it is a huge step in the right direction.”
Further information from AIDA’s website: http://www.aida-americas.org/release/more-than-20000-petition-colombia-to-stop-aerial-spraying-of-herbicides
Published May 13 2015
Summary: Appeal court upholds guilty verdict against former Guatemalan Police Chief for extrajudicial killings
Geneva, 12th May 2015: Former Guatemalan Police Chief Erwin Sperisen has been found guilty by the Geneva Court of Appeal of 10 extrajudicial killings and sentenced to life imprisonment. Sperisen had originally been found guilty of seven murders in June 2014, but he and the Prosecutor appealed the original decision.
Sperisen was again convicted of the seven killings that occurred while his forces were regaining control of Pavon prison in Guatemala in 2006. The appeal judges also found him guilty of participating in the execution of three escapees from El Infiernito prison (for which he had been acquitted at his original trial). The Court found enough evidence that Mr Sperisen organised and supervised a death squad. Sperisen’s conviction follows those of several other individuals also sentenced for the same crimes to long prison terms in Guatemala.
SRT grantees TRIAL and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), who had filed the initial complaint that prompted the opening of a criminal investigation, welcomed the Court’s decision. Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL, said, “The sentence passed is proof that the justice system is able to prove the involvement of the State and its representatives in serious human rights violations, and bring them to justice. We hope that Erwin Sperisen’s conviction will set an example, particularly to the Spanish authorities, who must now prosecute his immediate superior, former minister Carlos Vielman, for the same acts.”
Gerald Staberock, Director of OMCT, said, “This decision sends a clear signal to the Guatemalan authorities, who must do everything in their power to guarantee victims access to impartial justice and to put an end to the endemic impunity that is enjoyed by torturers and the perpetrators of serious human rights violations.”
Full press release from TRIAL’s website: http://tinyurl.com/oqokhfg
Associazione 21 Luglio
Published April 29 2015
Summary: Italian publishing house found guilty of anti-Roma discrimination
16th February 2015: The Civil Court in Rome has found the Italian publishing house Gruppo Editoriale Simone guilty of discrimination against Roma and Sinti people for publishing a text accusing “Gypsies” of being criminals.
The book in question, published by Simone in 2011, is a textbook for trainee lawyers. In the section explaining Article 712 of the Italian penal code, relating to “goods of suspect origin”, the author defines this term as items sold by “panhandlers, Gypsies and well-known persons with a criminal record”.
The case against Simone was initiated in June 2012 by SRT grantee Associazione 21 Luglio and the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI) on behalf of Dzemila Salkanovic, a Roma woman who alleged that the publication “insulted her personal dignity” by criminalising her on purely ethnic grounds. The court found in Ms Salkanovic’s favour, ordering Simone to withdraw the publication and pay her EUR 1,000 in compensation.
21 Luglio and ASGI welcomed the Court judgment in a joint statement, saying, “Associating the term “gypsy” with the commission of crimes against property effectively spreads a negative stereotype […] according to which the Roma are criminals by the mere fact of being Roma. This stigmatises the entire Roma and Sinti communities, with an obvious effect on the social lives of those belonging to them.”
Full story from Associazione 21 Luglio’s website (in Italian): http://www.21luglio.org/casa-editrice-condannata-per-pubblicazione-discrimina-rom-sinti
Guardian article about the case: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/06/roma-people-win-court-battle-over-italian-legal-text-linking-gypsies-to
Hotline for Refugees and Migrants
Published April 29 2015
Summary: Israeli government announces plans for indefinite detention of asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a third country
On 31st March 2015, Israel’s Ministry of Interior announced that it will begin jailing asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a “third” country (that is, a country which is not their homeland). Asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility whose asylum application was rejected, or who did not submit an asylum application, and are offered the chance to leave but refuse will be detained indefinitely in Saharonim prison. Israel has not disclosed the identity of the countries with which it has reached agreements, the guarantees contained in the agreements for the safety of those deported, or what was given to those countries in exchange for accepting asylum seekers from Israel.
According to SRT grantee the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, at least 14 asylum seekers have thus far been told to leave or face the likelihood of indefinite detention, including a number suffering from serious psychiatric problems.
The Hotline, together with fellow Israeli human rights organisations, has written an urgent formal letter to the Minister of Interior and the Attorney General stressing that the new policy violates Israel's international obligations, Israeli law and previous High Court rulings.
In its correspondence with the Attorney General, the Hotline sets out evidence collected for its recently published report on the fate of asylum seekers who were pressured into “voluntarily” leaving Israel, including to Uganda and Rwanda. Interviews revealed that those sent to Rwanda were not given any long-term status, and were required to leave to Uganda within a few days.
In a related development, the Hotline reported on 21st April that three asylum seekers who left Israel for a third country in the past year have been executed by the Islamic State in Libya for being Christians. The men, all Eritreans (one of whom was a relative of a Hotline staff member), had travelled to Libya because they did not receive assistance in the country they were sent to after leaving Israel.
Full text of Hotline’s letter to the Attorney General: http://hotline.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/TAU-Clinic-letter-to-Minister-of-Interior-re-forced-relocation.pdf
Article from International Business Times on Eritrean Christians executed by Islamic State: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-paid-my-eritrean-friend-3500-get-out-isis-beheaded-him-libyan-beach-being-christian-1497999
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published April 28 2015
Summary: US Supreme Court upholds ruling convicting Somali warlord of crimes against humanity
10th March 2015: The US Supreme Court has upheld a ruling awarding four men of Somali origin $21 million in damages for torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses committed by former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Mohamed Ali Samantar. The men – Bashe Yousuf, Aziz Deria, Buralle Mahamoud, and Ahmed Gulaid – were represented by SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA).
CJA's case against Samantar was filed in 2004. In 2012, Samantar accepted responsibility for crimes committed against the civilian population during the 1969-1991 Siad Barré military dictatorship. After the regime collapsed, Samantar fled Somalia and settled in Virginia where he has lived for the past 18 years. CJA’s case marked the first time that any Somali government official had been held accountable for the atrocities committed during this regime.
A US District Court Judge ruled in favour of CJA's clients after their attorneys presented evidence demonstrating the atrocities committed by Samantar. Despite accepting liability, Samantar petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear his case, claiming immunity for acts he says were taken in his official capacity. Today's Supreme Court ruling follows an affirmation by the US State Department that the Somali Federal Government does not seek immunity for Samantar.
CJA’s Executive Director Dixon Osburn said, “This decision marks the end of an 11-year quest for justice for those harmed by General Samantar and soldiers under his command. It is also a major victory for human rights since it preserves the Fourth Circuit's opinion that egregious human rights abuses cannot be considered "official acts" shielded by sovereign immunity”.
CJA client Aziz Deria said, "I truly rejoice to know that Samantar cannot escape the pronouncement of the court of law. My late father, Mohamed Iid; my younger brother, Mustafa; and my cousin, Yusuf, were pulled from our family's home and murdered under General Samantar's orders just because of their clan. The Supreme Court's decision today gives me hope that justice for all Somalis is possible."
Full coverage from CJA website: http://cja.org/article.php?id=1547
Published April 27 2015
Summary: UN Human Rights Committee tells Russia to acknowledge hate crimes against LGBT people
2nd April 2015: The UN Human Rights Committee has for the first time told Russia to take into account homophobia or transphobia as a motive in the investigation of crimes against LGBT people. The Committee issued its concluding observations based on the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation. A section of the document was dedicated to a list of issues and recommendations relating to the rights of LGBT individuals.
As a result of this UN ruling, the provisions of the Russian Criminal Code recognising hatred of any “social group” as an aggravating circumstance in crimes can now be used to protect the rights of LGBT people. Law enforcement agencies and the courts must now specifically investigate the motive of attacks on people on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to the recommendations dealing with hate crimes, the Human Rights Committee has urged the Russian Federation to make a public declaration about the inadmissibility of any form of social stigmatisation of homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender, as well as discrimination or hate speech directed against Russian citizens because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The committee recommended that Russia allow freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for LGBT people, and repeal the state and federal laws prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” as reinforcing negative stereotypes of LGBT people, and restricting their rights.
Kseniya Kirichenko of Russian LGBT rights organisation Coming Out said, “The recommendations are truly of historical significance for the protection of the rights of LGBT people and LGBT human rights defenders. Until now the main obstacle for the effective investigation of crimes committed based on homophobia or transphobia was a problem of non-recognition of LGBT people as a social group. This fact was used to refuse to initiate criminal proceedings or to qualify attacks as minor offences. Now we have a serious argument that can lead to the formation of a new judicial practice, and we intend to refer to the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee in our cases in St. Petersburg”.
Published February 13 2015
Summary: Panama suspends construction of Barro Blanco dam over non-compliance with environmental and human rights assessment
Panama City, 10th February 2015: Panama's National Environmental Authority (ANAM) has temporarily suspended the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam over non-compliance with its Environmental Impact Assessment. The dam was approved by the UN Clean Development Mechanism despite risks of flooding to the territory of the indigenous Ngäbe Buglé communities.
SRT grantees the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) have been providing legal support and working with local partners to bring attention to the human rights violations associated with the case.
ANAM's decision was triggered by an administrative investigation that found failures including shortcomings in the agreements with affected indigenous communities, inadequate negotiation processes, the absence of a management plan for the protection of rock engravings and other archaeological findings, repeated failures to manage sedimentation and erosion, poor waste management, and logging without permission.
Alyssa Johl, Senior Attorney at CIEL, said, "Panama has taken a critical first step toward protecting the rights of the Ngäbe communities, which have not been adequately consulted on the Barro Blanco project. But much more work is needed. As an urgent matter, Panama should recognize its obligations to protect human rights in climate actions, such as Barro Blanco, by supporting the call for human rights protections in the UN climate regime."
Maria Jose Veramendi Villa, Senior Attorney at AIDA, said, "Any dialogue between the affected communities, the Government and the company has to be transparent, in good faith, respectful of the communities' rights, and include guarantees so that the communities can participate equally and the agreements are fully respected. In this dialogue, the State must take into account all human rights violations that have been denounced by the communities since the project was approved."
Full press release from AIDA’s website: http://www.aida-americas.org/en/release/un-registered-barro-blanco-hydroelectric-dam-temporarily-suspended
Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
Published January 22 2015
Summary: Two Algerian nationals to be tried in France for torture and enforced disappearance
Paris, 6th January 2014: The investigating judge at the High Court in Nimes has issued a final order to send to trial two alleged Algerian torturers residing in France, Hocine and Abdelkader Mohamed. Both are accused of torture and enforced disappearance committed as part of an armed militia group in the Relizane region of Algeria during the 1991-2002 civil war. SRT grantee FIDH filed a complaint in 2003 against the Mohamed brothers along with the League of French Human Rights (LDH), and is representing the seven Algerian victims acting as civil parties to the trial.
This order is the latest development in over 10 years of judicial proceedings. The Nimes Court opened a judicial investigation after FIDH and LDH filed a complaint in October 2003. Hocine and Abdelkader Mohamed were charged accordingly and put under judicial supervision. Thanks to the judicial investigation, decisive testimony was collected against the brothers, and in July 2013 the Public Prosecutor of Nimes called for their indictment before the Criminal Court.
In 2005 Algeria adopted the National Peace and Reconciliation Charter, which prohibited public mention of the civil war and made it impossible to open any judicial proceedings to establish responsibility for crimes committed during this period.
Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Coordinator of the Litigation Action Group, said, “This is the first time ever that Algerians are going to be judged for crimes committed during the “black decade” in Algeria.”
Full press release from FIDH: https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/north-africa-middle-east/algeria/16734-two-alleged-algerian-torturers-of-the-years-of-lead-will-be-judged-in
Committee Against Torture
Published December 18 2014
Summary: Office of human rights organisation in Chechnya burnt down in suspected arson attack
13th December 2014: The Grozny office of the Joint Mobile Group, a human rights organisation which works with NGOs from other Russian regions, has been burnt down in an alleged arson attack. SRT grantee the Committee Against Torture is a founding member of the Group and is still a part of the organisation. The Committee reports on its website that police officers who arrived at the scene of the fire apprehended two staff members of the Group without a convincing reason, and took away their mobile phones (leaving them without communication for several hours) and some office equipment. The men were later released and their phones returned to them, but the office equipment was retained.
The incident follows the criticism by the chair of the Committee against Torture, Igor Kalyapin, of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for his demands for collective punishment of the families of Islamist rebels who carried out an attack in Grozny on 4th December, in which 14 police officers and some civilians were killed along with some of the rebels themselves. Kalyapin made a formal complaint about Mr Kadyrov in Moscow last week. Kadyrov then publicly accused him of “backing criminals”.
Threats have been made against Mr Kalyapin because of his human rights work, and he was pelted with eggs during a press conference on 12th December. A rally “against terrorism” was held in Grozny on 13th December (the day the fire was started) at which protesters held banners demanding Kalyapin’s deportation and accusing him of being in the pay of the United States.
Chechen police deny harassing the Joint Mobile Group’s staff and claim that the fire was accidental.
More information from the Committee Against Torture’s website: http://www.pytkam.net/mass-media.news/1161
Statement from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International: http://www.hrw.org/node/131298
Published December 18 2014
Summary: Brazilian National Truth Commission releases report into human rights abuses committed under military regime
10th December 2014: Brazil’s National Truth Commissionhas presented its final report to President Dilma Roussef. The Commission spent over two years investigating crimes against humanity committed between 1946 and 1988, with particular focus on those that took place under the country’s military regime between 1964 and 1985. The report marks an important step towards the acknowledgement of the extra-judicial executions and torture committed by the regime against political opponents and members of armed opposition groups.
Over 400 people were killed or disappeared in Brazil between 1964 and 1985, and many others arrested and tortured. The report names members of the military involved in acts of torture, and stresses that the country’s “amnesty law” (introduced initially to pardon political prisoners but subsequently interpreted to protect torturers) does not protect those responsible for crimes against humanity.
SRT grantee Conectas made seven recommendations to the Commission, all of which were included in the final report. Another grantee, CEJIL, took the case of 69 victims of disappearance to the Inter-American Court along with two other NGOs in Gomes Lund and Others. The court’s ruling challenged the validity of Brazil’s amnesty law and ordered an investigation into the killings of a group of armed opposition activists in the Araguaia region by the military between 1972 and 1974. It was on the recommendation of the Inter-American Court in the same case that the Brazilian government set up the Truth Commission.
Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director, said, “The report is a milestone in the search forthe truth about the crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship. Its release occurs at a key moment in the history of Brazil, which is one of the few countries that still have not faced criminal charges against those who were linked to disappearances, torture and executions. We hope that the debatesurrounding the adoption of the report will encourage society, the judiciary and state institutions to support the search for justice for victims of crimes against humanity in Brazil."
Link to the final report:
Article from CEJIL’s website: http://cejil.org/comunicados/comision-nacional-de-la-verdad-presenta-su-primer-informe-oficial
Article from Conectas’ website: http://www.conectas.org/en/actions/justice/news/26615-a-historic-step
Coverage from the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-30410741
US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence releases report into CIA’s use of torture
Published December 18 2014
9th December 2014: after over five years of investigation, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has released a redacted executive summary of its 6,000-page report on the CIA’s rendition, secret detention and torture programme. The summary is available at http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf. In her foreword to the report, Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said:
“I have attempted throughout to remember the impact on the nation and to the CIA workforce from the attacks of September 11, 2001. I can understand the CIA's impulse to consider the use of every possible tool to gather intelligence and remove terrorists from the battlefield, and CIA was encouraged by political leaders and the public to do whatever it could to prevent another attack.”
“Nevertheless, such pressure, fear, and expectation of further terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security. The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the Intelligence Community's actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards. It is precisely at these times of national crisis that our government must be guided by the lessons of our history and subject decisions to internal and external review.
Instead, CIA personnel, aided by two outside contractors, decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the use of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”
“It is my sincere and deep hope that through the release of these Findings and Conclusions and Executive Summary that U.S. policy will never again allow for secret indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations. As the Study describes, prior to the attacks of September 2001, the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations, that such techniques "do not produce intelligence," "will probably result in false answers," and had historically proven to be ineffective. Yet these conclusions were ignored. We cannot again allow history to be forgotten and grievous past mistakes to be repeated.”
“President Obama signed Executive Order 13491 in January 2009 to prohibit the CIA from holding detainees other than on a ‘short-term, transitory basis’ and to limit interrogation techniques to those included in the Army Field Manual. However, these limitations are not part of U.S. law and could be overturned by a future president with the stroke of a pen. They should be enshrined in legislation.
Even so, existing U.S. law and treaty obligations should have prevented many of the abuses and mistakes made during this program. While the Office of Legal Counsel found otherwise between 2002 and 2007, it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.
While the Committee did not make specific recommendations, several emerge from the Committee's review. The CIA, in its June 2013 response to the Committee's Study from December 2012, has also already made and begun to implement its own recommendations. I intend to work with Senate colleagues to produce recommendations and to solicit views from the readers of the Committee Study.”
“The Committee Study, including the now-declassified Executive Summary and Findings and Conclusions, as updated is now final and represents the official views of the Committee. This and future Administrations should use this Study to guide future programs, correct past mistakes, increase oversight of CIA representations to policymakers, and ensure coercive interrogation practices are not used by our government again.”
The report confirms that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA amounted to torture:
“At least five CIA detainees were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water ‘baths’. The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because "we can never let the world know what I have done to you." CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee's] mother's throat.’” [Report Findings and Conclusions, page 11]
The report further establishes that the use of such techniques did little to provide effective intelligence or strengthen national security:
“The CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees [...] For example, according to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody.* CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques. While being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.” [Report Findings and Conclusions, page 2]
The work of a number of the Sigrid Rausing Trust’s grantees has contributed to the findings of the Committee, including ACLU, whose litigation under the Freedom of Information Act about the CIA’s torture programme, and the subsequent destruction of evidence, was one of the catalysts for the investigation. Links to our grantees’ coverage of the case are below:
Association for the Prevention of Torture: http://www.apt.ch/en/blog/so-now-we-know-what-comes-after-the-torture-report/#.VIrFP2cYS70
Center for Justice and Accountability: http://www.cja.org/downloads/Senate%20Intelligence%20Committee%20Executive%20Summary%20Final.pdf
Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/10/us-senate-report-slams-cia-torture-lies
Published December 15 2014
Summary: European Court prioritises detention case of human rights defender in Azerbaijan
26th November 2014: the European Court of Human Rights has decided to give priority to the case of Intigam Aliyev, a prominent human rights lawyer and activist, following his arrest by Azerbaijani authorities on 8 August 2014. Mr Aliyev is represented by SRT grantee the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) in collaboration with his lawyers in Azerbaijan.
Mr Aliyev has submitted over 130 applications to the European Court, and violations have been found in more than 30 of his cases. However, in recent months, Azerbaijan has been experiencing a widespread crackdown on civil society. In May 2014 Mr Aliyev was charged with abuse of power and forgery. In July his bank account was frozen and in August he was charged with conducting illegal business, tax evasion and abuse of authority under the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. Several searches of his home and office have also been conducted. He was arrested in August and has since been held in detention.
Mr Aliyev’s application argues violations of his right to liberty (Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights), his right to privacy (Article 8) and the right to freedom of association (Article 11). He also argues that the proceedings against him are intended to prevent him from litigating Strasbourg cases (many of which are high-profile cases relating to election irregularities and property acquisition by the state).
Amnesty International have recognised Mr Aliyev as a “prisoner of conscience”, and UN special rapporteurs have also expressed their alarm “at the wave of politically-motivated repression of activists in reprisal for their legitimate work in documenting and reporting human rights violations.” On 18 September 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the urgent release of Mr Aliyev, as well as other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
Full press release from EHRAC: http://www.ehrac.org.uk/news/european-court-prioritises-detention-case-of-human-rights-defender-in-azerbaijan
Published December 12 2014
Summary: Inter-American Commission declares admissible case of gay man tortured by police in Peru
25 November 2014: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that the case of a young gay man who was tortured by police in Perú is admissible, allowing the case to be examined on merit. Luis Alberto Rojas was stripped, robbed, and raped with a truncheon by police officers in 2008 in the city of Trujillo, where he had been detained arbitrarily, allegedly due to his sexuality. Mr Rojas complained about the abuse he suffered, but the Peruvian legal system closed the case.
Mr Rojas believes that the Peruvian government violated his most fundamental rights, including the right to personal integrity, personal liberty, equality before the law, and protection of honour and dignity, all of which are enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. SRT grantee Redress brought his case to the Inter-American Commission along with two Peruvian partner organisations, after exhausting all avenues for justice in Perú. Perú had argued that the case was not admissible, but the organisations submitted arguments to show why this was not true.
In 2012, following a report submitted by REDRESS and its partners to the UN Committee Against Torture, the Committee urged Peru to take "effective measures to protect the LGBT community from attacks, abuse and arbitrary detention and ensure that all acts of violence are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated and prosecuted, perpetrators brought to justice and victims provided with redress.”
Commenting on the admission of his case, Mr Rojas said: “It has filled me with hope of finding the truth and obtaining justice six years after the events.”
Full press release from REDRESS: http://www.redress.org/downloads/luis-alberto-rojas-press-release281114.pdf
Media Legal Defence Initiative/Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Published December 11 2014
Summary: African Court delivers landmark ruling on criminal libel
9th December 2014: In its first judgment on a free speech issue, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ruled that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression while criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances.
The court handed down judgment today in the case of Konaté v Burkina Faso. The case was brought on behalf of Lohé Issa Konaté, a journalist from Burkina Faso who was jailed for a year for newspaper reports in which he accused a prosecutor of corruption. The judgment is binding on African Union member States, where imprisonment for libel is common, and will have major implications for media freedom across the continent.
Mr Konaté, who edits the newspaper L’Ouragan (’the Hurricane’), was represented by SRT grantee Media Legal Defence Initiative, whose legal team included John Jones QC and Steven Finizio. They argued that the Court should rule not only that Mr Konaté’s rights were violated – he had excellent sources for his report, which he was prevented from bringing before the local courts – but that no journalist should ever be imprisoned for defamation. This argument was supported by a coalition of interveners, including SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), who stated that defamation disputes should be handled under civil law and that criminal prosecutions should be brought only in matters such as incitement to violence.
Nani Jansen of MLDI said, “This is a very good outcome. The African Court has aligned itself with consistent case law from the European and Inter-American Court by declaring that criminal defamation can only be resorted to under restricted circumstances. Justice has been done for our client, Mr Konaté. We are very pleased with the result.”
Full press release from MLDI: http://mediadefence.org/news/african-court-delivers-landmark-ruling-criminal-libel
Press release from SALC: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2014/12/08/joint-statement-rights-organisations-welcome-the-decision-of-african-court-to-strike-down-burkina-fasos-criminal-defamation-law-and-call-on-african-governments-to-repeal-similar-laws/
Published November 14 2014
Summary: UK government forced to release policies on surveillance of lawyers
7th November 2014: The UK government has been forced to release secret policies showing GCHQ and MI5 have for years advised staff that they may “target the communications of lawyers,” and use legally privileged material “just like any other item of intelligence.”
The disclosure comes in response to a case brought in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) by the al Saadi and Belhadj families, who were subjected to rendition and torture in a joint CIA-MI6 operation in 2004. Both families – assisted by SRT grantee Reprieve and solicitors Leigh Day – have brought litigation about the kidnappings. The families allege that, by intercepting their privileged communications with Reprieve and Leigh Day, the government has infringed their right to a fair trial.
The government documents show that there is a real risk that private lawyer-client material intercepted by the agencies was allowed to “taint” the case brought in the High Court against the government by the victims of the 2004 rendition operation, which included four children aged 12 and under and a pregnant woman among its victims. Although there is no indication that the documents released last week contain any material that is a risk to national security, the government had previously claimed three times that they could not disclose them on this basis.
Richard Stein of Leigh Day said, “After many months’ resistance, the security services have now been forced to disclose the policies which they claim are in place to protect the confidential communications between lawyers and their clients. We can see why they were so reluctant to disclose them. They highlight how the security services instruct their staff to flout these important principles in a cavalier way. We hope the Tribunal will tell the government in no uncertain terms that this conduct is completely unacceptable.”
Full press release from Reprieve: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_11_06_uk_govt_force_release_spying_lawyers
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Published November 14 2014
Summary: Botswana High Court asserts right of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to register their own organisation
14th November 2014: The Botswana High Court has ruled that the Department of Labour and Home Affairs must register the LGB rights organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO). The case was brought by 20 people who argued that the government’s refusal to register the organisation violated their constitutional rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and equal protection under the law. They were represented by lawyers Dow and Associates and SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
The applicants applied to register LEGABIBO under the Societies Act in February 2012. In March 2012, the Department of Civil and National Registration rejected the application on the basis that the Botswana Constitution “does not recognise homosexuals” and that the organisation’s objectives are contrary to section 7(2) of the Societies Act. LEGABIBO appealed to the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, but the appeal was rejected. They then took the case to the High Court.
Anneke Meerkotter of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre said, “The judgment emphasises the importance of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in a democracy. The judgment will benefit not only the prospective members of LEGABIBO, but any minority group which seeks to uphold its right to freedom of association in Botswana in the future. Importantly, the judgment emphasises that it is not a crime to be homosexual or attracted to someone of the same sex. The court finding is important not just for activists in Botswana but throughout Africa.”
Caine Youngman, LEGABIBO Coordinator, said, “We are overjoyed at the outcome of the case. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them.”
Full press release from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre:
Southern Africa Litigation Centre/Lawyers for Human Rights
Published October 31 2014
South African Constitutional Court rules that the police service must investigate crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe
Johannesburg, 30th October 2014: The South African Constitutional Court has unanimously ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) must investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe in 2007.
The so-called “Zimbabwe torture case” was brought by SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF) to compel South Africa to abide by its domestic and international legal obligations to investigate and prosecute high-level Zimbabwean officials accused of crimes against humanity. SALC and ZEF were represented by SRT grantee Lawyers for Human Rights.
In 2008, ZEF and SALC submitted a dossier of evidence to the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SAPS, detailing state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe. They hoped the authorities would initiate investigations, but turned to the courts after SAPS and the NPA refused to investigate.
In May 2012, the North Gauteng High Court set aside the decision of the NPA and SAPS not to initiate an investigation into state-sanctioned torture in Zimbabwe. The High Court ruled that the South African authorities had not acted in compliance with their obligations and held that the decision was unlawful and unconstitutional. On appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal in November 2013, the Court agreed with SALC and ZEF and ordered the authorities to investigate the crimes against humanity detailed in the dossier. SAPS then launched an appeal at the Constitutional Court, but the Court ruled that investigations must be initiated.
Nicole Fritz, SALC’s Executive Director, said, “South Africa’s highest court has set an important precedent: South Africa will not be a safe haven for perpetrators of the world’s worst crimes. The judgment represents a clear appreciation for the role of international criminal law and its importance to our domestic justice system.”
Published October 16 2014
Summary: Victims and relatives of Beslan seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights
15th October 2014: a group of 447 victims and bereaved relatives have taken the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for its conduct during the Beslan siege in 2004. Around 300 of the applicants are being represented by SRT grantee the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Russian NGO Memorial.
The three-day siege at School No.1 in Beslan, North Ossetia began on 1st September 2004. A group of Chechen and Ingush militants occupied the school and took over 1,100 people hostage, demanding recognition of Chechen independence. Russian forces stormed the school on the third day and 331 people were killed, of whom 179 were children.
On 14th October the ECHR held a Chamber Hearing at which Russia’s obligations under the Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Right to Life) were publicly scrutinised. The applicants and their representatives argued that Russia failed to take adequate measures to prevent the attack, given the detailed information available to the authorities about the specific threat on that day. They also maintained that the investigation into the loss of life failed to justify the use of indiscriminate weapons (such as grenade launchers, flame throwers and tanks); and that the use of lethal force and the planning of the rescue operation did not minimise risk to the lives of the hostages.
Professor Philip Leach, EHRAC’s director, said, “This case cannot undo the immeasurable suffering which the families endured during the siege, and in the ten subsequent years, but we hope the outcome will provide a measure of justice to them – an acknowledgement that the Russian authorities failed in their obligation to protect life in the prevention of the attack and in the conduct of the rescue operation, that they used disproportionate and indiscriminate force, and that the investigation into the loss of life has been completely inadequate.”
Press release from EHRAC’s website: http://www.mdx.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/192201/EHRAC-Press-Release-116_Beslan-anniversary.pdf
Link to video footage of the ECHR hearing: http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=hearings&w=2656207_14102014&language=en
ECCHR/Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Published October 10 2014
Summary: UK court rules that Bahraini prince is not immune to prosecution for his alleged role in torture of prisoners
7th October 2014:The British High Court has today ruled that Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain is not immune from prosecution for his alleged involvement in the torture of political prisoners.
Prince Nasser is the son of the King of Bahrain and regularly visits the UK, where his three children were born. As chair of Bahrain’s Olympic Committee, he represented Bahrain at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. At that time, SRT grantees the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to block the Prince’s entry into the country. They sent the FCO and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) a dossier summarising publicly available information, including witness statements from Bahraini opposition members, about allegations of torture.
A Bahraini refugee in the UK known as “FF”, who had himself been detained and tortured, instructed his solicitors to write to the CPS asking for the Prince to be arrested and prosecuted while he was here for the Olympics. However the CPS replied stating that the Prince had immunity from arrest and prosecution. FF applied for a judicial review of this decision on 26 October 2012. The case was due to be contested in court on 7th October 2014, when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) withdrew the decision that the prince was immune.
FF’s solicitor, Sue Willman of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said, “The UK has a duty under the Convention against Torture and under its own laws to investigate, arrest and prosecute those who are alleged to have committed acts of torture abroad. They should be applied to all, regardless of the UK’s economic interests.”
Andreas Schueller, ECCHR’s legal advisor, said “The DPP’s decision on immunity was contrary to international law. The UK must not avoid diplomatically sensitive investigations and must now consider launching a serious investigation.”
Full story from ECCHR’s website: http://www.ecchr.de/Bahrain.html
Human Rights Data Analysis Group
Published October 03 2014
Summary: Release of “Yellow Book” confirms human rights abuses by military during Salvadoran civil war
El Salvador, 29th September 2014: A document has today been released listing the names of Salvadoran citizens identified as “enemies” by the armed forces during the country’s 12-year civil war (1979-1992), during which hundreds of people were victims of human rights violations including torture, forced disappearance, and illegal imprisonment.
The document, known as the Yellow Book, was created by the Salvadoran armed forces during the war and identifies nearly 2,000 people who were deemed “delinquent terrorists” by the military during the 1980s. It includes labour leaders, human rights advocates, politicians, and other civilians, along with corresponding photographs and notes on their alleged connections to suspect organisations including unions, political parties and rebel groups. The list includes El Salvador’s current President, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who is a former guerrilla leader.
The release of the document is a collaboration by SRT grantee HRDAG, the Unfinished Sentences project, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights and the National Security Archive.
HRDAG analysis suggests that many civilians named in the document were targeted for extrajudicial punishment by the military. By analysing the names against reports of human rights violations registered by Salvadoran human rights organisations and the UN Truth Commission from 1980 to 1992, HRDAG has determined that 43 percent of the names in the Yellow Book correspond with the names of victims in the databases.
Patrick Ball, executive director of HRDAG, said, “Our work with the University of Washington Center for Human Rights and the National Security Archive supports the public’s call for the Salvadoran Armed Forces to open their archives. The truth about the military’s intelligence operations – and the violence that resulted – has long been hidden. It’s time for accountability.”
Detailed information about HRDAG’s data analysis is available at www.unfinishedsentences.organd www.nsarchive.org, along with related analysis and declassified US documents.
Published September 18 2014
Summary: Ecuador’s Constitutional Court strikes down restrictive refugee law
12th September 2014: Following advocacy by SRT grantee Asylum Access, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has today struck down key provisions of a restrictive refugee law.
Executive Decree 1182, which became law in 2012, imposed serious barriers for refugees seeking safety in Ecuador, including a requirement that refugees file paperwork within 15 days of arrival – often just days after receiving a death threat or seeing a family member murdered. The decree also required refugees to prove they were individually targeted for persecution, rather than fleeing generalised violence. Most refugees were unaware of the 15-day filing requirement, and the government provided no notice at the border. Refugees who failed to file on time were denied legal status, leaving them unable to work and at risk of deportation back to sometimes life-threatening danger.
Asylum Access presented a constitutional challenge to Decree 1182 in October 2012. The Court’s recent decision is in response to this, as well as to a similar challenge presented by the University of San Francisco.
Following the Court’s decision, refugees now have three months to file petitions for legal status, and 15 to 30 days to appeal a denial (up from 3 – 5 days under Decree 1182). The decision also extends protection to refugees fleeing generalised violence.
Asylum Access Global Policy Director Jessica Therkelsen said, “Ecuador has historically led Latin America on refugee rights. Decree 1182 marked an unfortunate detour from this leadership, and a contravention of Ecuador’s obligations under international law [...] the court’s decision marks a big step in the right direction and restores Ecuador to the path of leadership on this important regional human rights issue.”
Full press release from Asylum Access: http://asylumaccess.org/AsylumAccess/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/AAE-Constitutional-Challenge-Approved_September-2014_Press-Release.pdf
FIDH/Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights
Published September 17 2014
Summary: Human Rights Groups call on the ICC to investigate torture and enforced disappearance in Mexico
15th September 2014: SRT grantees FIDH and the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), along with another Mexican NGO, have today presented a report to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court describing torture, imprisonment and enforced disappearances carried out by the armed forces and state security forces in Baja California, Mexico, between 2006 and 2012.
In 2006, as part of then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s strategy in the “War on Drugs”, the military were granted unrestricted policing powers. The new report claims that military forces arrested civilians in their homes without a legal warrant, subjected them to acts of torture in military facilities, forced them to sign blank sheets of paper for false confessions, and placed drugs and arms in their possession as “evidence”. No high-ranking military or police officials have faced criminal charges for crimes committed against civilians, including acts of torture.
This is the second report presented to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor by FIDH and CMDPDH on crimes against humanity committed in Mexico as part of the so-called “War on Drugs”. The organisations believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate that crimes falling under ICC jurisdiction were committed in Mexico, but there has yet to be an investigation or prosecution for any of these crimes. They have therefore requested that a preliminary examination be conducted as laid down in Article 15 of the ICC Statute. This will determine whether or not an investigation is warranted.
Paulina Vega, Vice President of FIDH and a member of CMDPDH’s Board, said, “Given the lack of response on the part of the Mexican authorities to the victims’ clamour for justice, there is no other remedy than the ICC to ensure that the grave crimes committed in Mexico are not left unpunished”.
Full story from FIDH’s website: http://www.fidh.org/en/americas/mexico/16028-human-rights-groups-call-on-the-icc-to-proceed-with-the-preliminary
Published September 12 2014
Summary: £190 million of funds frozen in UK and Switzerland in OPL 245 oil block bribery case
11th September 2014: £190 million of funds in the UK and Switzerland have been frozen at the request of the Italian authorities as part of the continuing investigation into the corrupt deal for the OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria. SRT grantee Re:Common and former grantee Global Witness, who have been investigating the deal for several years, both welcomed the news.
Subsidiaries of Italian oil giant Eni and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay the Nigerian government US$1.1billion for the oil block in 2011. The government then paid the same amount to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former oil minister Chief Dan Etete. Etete had awarded the block to his own company when he was oil minister under corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Eni have said in a statement that they “continue to deny any illegal conduct.”
The funds frozen today are thought to be proceeds held by Malabu and its middleman Energy Venture Partners.
Nigerian anti-corruption activist Dotun Oloko, who was instrumental in bringing the bribery to light, said, “The freezing of $190m in proceeds from the OPL 245 oil deal is good news for the people of Nigeria, many of whom live in poverty despite the country’s oil wealth. $1.1bn was diverted from the public purse; this needs to be recovered as well as get to the bottom of the role companies and individuals played in this heist.”
Antonio Tricarico, Re:Common’s programme director, said, “The naming of Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s new CEO, its outgoing CEO Paolo Scaroni, and Roberto Casula, its chief development, operations and technology officer, as suspects in the Italian bribery investigation should raise concerns in Italy about ethics standards in state-owned companies [...] Bold action against alleged mismanagement by ENI managers is urgently needed.”
Full story from Re: Common’s website: http://www.recommon.org/eng/190m-frozen-uk-switzerland-opl-245-bribery-case-eni-ceo-named-suspect/
Gulf Center for Human Rights/Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Published September 02 2014
Summary: Human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja arrested and detained in Bahrain
31st August 2014: Leading human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja has been arrested and imprisoned while on a personal visit to Bahrain.
Ms Al-Khawaja, a Danish-Bahraini national who is co-director of SRT grantee the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), travelled to Bahrain on 29th August to visit her father, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike in Jaw Prison. She was arrested shortly after leaving the plane, and was held incommunicado at the airport for 13 hours before being interrogated on charges of “assaulting a police officer” and “insulting the king”. She was refused permission to meet with her lawyer before the interrogation.
Ms Al-Khawaja is currently being held at Isa Town women’s prison pending investigation of the charges against her. She has been placed in a cell with two convicted criminals, and her family has not so far been able to visit her.
The officials who held Ms Al-Khawaja at the airport claimed that she was not allowed into the country because she is no longer a Bahraini citizen. She has not been presented with any evidence to support this. She began a hunger strike in protest, but reportedly ended this after two days out of concern for her father, whose health is very fragile.
GCHR is extremely concerned for Ms Al-Khawaja’s wellbeing in detention, particularly considering the history of abuse to which her family has been subjected. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, suffered severe torture following his arrest in 2011 for taking part in peaceful demonstrations. Ms. Al-Khawaja’s uncle is also in prison and her sister Zainabhas been subjected to repeated arrest, long-term detention, harassment, and physical abuse.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Center for Human Rights (of which Ms Al-Khawaja is former Acting Director) are calling for Ms Al-Khawaja’s immediate release and for all charges against her to be dropped.
Further information from the Gulf Center for Human Rights: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/724
Maryam al-Khawaja’s twitter account: https://twitter.com/MARYAMALKHAWAJA
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights: http://us8.campaign-archive2.com/?u=9c3bdd9f224b9591ea5920fc9&id=90f787226e&e=14047a5851
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: http://birdbh.org/2014/08/maryam-al-khawaja-arrested-citizenship-revoked-communication-lost/
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/023/2014/en
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
Published August 13 2014
Summary: Al Mezan employee killed by Israeli missile strike in northern Gaza
SRT grantee Al Mezan announced on 10 August 2014 that its staff member Anwar Al Zaaneen, 41, was killed in a missile strike by the Israeli military as he spoke with a water maintenance crew near his house in the town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. Anwar died from wounds he sustained in this attack at around 4.40pm on Sunday 10th August.
According to investigations by Al Mezan, at approximately 1.20 pm on 10th August, Anwar was hit by a missile fired from an Israeli drone while he was speaking with a water maintenance crew from the Beit Hanoun municipality. He was checking when the water supply to his house would be connected as his family had been displaced for some weeks. He had just reached the crew on his motorcycle when the attack occurred. Anwar and the two water technicians – Majdi Yousef Shabat, 41, and Sofyan Abu Harbeed, 40 – were injured. Anwar's injuries were reported as critical and he died following surgery at the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Several other Al Mezan employees have lost family members during the recent crisis. Coordinator Adnan Hajar lost two brothers - a professor and an engineer – as well as his nephew. Accountant Wael Ahmad also lost two brothers, a headmaster at an UNRWA school and a teacher. Researcher Alaa Matar lost 11 cousins in the al-Sheja’iyah neighbourhood, and his own home was also destroyed. Lawyer Mervat An Nahhal’s house was severely damaged when the neighbouring house was bombed.
In their statement, Al Mezan expressed their deep concern at the Israeli military’s attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip and asked the international community to provide immediate protection for civilians in Gaza, including by insisting on credible and prompt investigations into attacks such as the one that killed Anwar Al Zaaneen.
Full statement from Al Mezan’s website: http://www.mezan.org/en/details.php?id=19309&ddname=IOF&id2=9&id_dept=9&p=center
Women’s Link Worldwide
Published August 11 2014
Summary: UN holds Spanish state responsible for death of seven-year-old girl killed by her father
Madrid, 4th August 2014: The UN has today condemned the Spanish state for failing to protect a seven-year-old girl killed by her father. This is the first time that Spain has been condemned by an international body in a case of domestic violence.
Angela Gonzalez, who brought the case to the UN with the help of SRT grantee Women’s Link Worldwide, separated from her husband in 1999 after several years of abuse. She filed more than 30 complaints against her husband and went to court several times to try and put a stop to his threats and harassment. This was not successful, and Angela’s daughter Andrea was shot dead by her father in 2003 while on an arranged custody visit. Her father then committed suicide. Angela appealed unsuccessfully to the Spanish state to assume responsibility for her daughter’s murder. Having exhausted all other avenues, she went to the UN.
In its judgement, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ruled that Andrea’s death was a result of state negligence.
Women’s Link attorney Paloma Soria, who worked on Angela’s case, said, “[Angela] went to court to denounce all episodes of violence, harassment and persecution, but all systems failed. In campaigns against gender violence, victims are told to report and seek help. Angela's case shows that it is important to have a coordinated response from the State. Nevertheless, the judicial authorities did not act because they considered that such a measure hindered the 'right' of the aggressor to visitation with his daughter".
Spain now has six months to submit a report to CEDAW setting out the steps it has taken to comply with the committee’s decision.
Text of the UN judgement from Women’s Link’s website (currently in Spanish only): http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/new.php?modo=detalle_prensa&dc=461
Published August 01 2014
Summary: Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemns Chile for use of antiterrorist legislation against the indigenous Mapuche people
29th July 2014: the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) today condemned the Chilean government for human rights violations against members of the indigenous Mapuche community in the case of Catriman Norin and others vs. Republic of Chile. SRT grantee FIDH represented five of the eight claimants in the case.
Following the return of democracy to Chile in 1990, the Mapuche were faced with repeated refusals by the Courts to recognise their land rights. Investment projects in forestry, hydroelectric installations, and roads were implemented without prior consultation and contributed to stripping the Mapuche of their land. Public protests organised by the Mapuche were criminalised by the authorities, who in some cases applied the Anti-Terrorist Act against Mapuche leaders and members.
The IACHR ruled that the conviction of the claimants for alleged terrorist acts was a violation of the principle of legality and the right to presumption of innocence. The Court also found that the convictions constituted a violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as the right to defence and the right to appeal criminal convictions. As a result, the convictions were found to be arbitrary and incompatible with the American Convention.
Jimena Reyes, Head of FIDH’s Americas Office, said, "This decision recognises that it is illegal to criminalize the Mapuche’s quest for their ancestral land, and opens the path for conviction in other cases of criminalization of social protest throughout the continent, which is unfortunately widespread".
Full story from FIDH’s website: http://www.fidh.org/en/americas/chile/15844-the-inter-american-court-of-human-rights-condemns-the-state-of-chile-for
Urgent Action Fund – Africa
Published July 24 2014
Summary: Kenyan high court allows transgender rights organisation to register as an NGO after three-year legal battle
24th July 2014: The Kenyan high court has today ruled that the transgender rights organisation Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA) must be allowed to register as an NGO. The group was previously denied permission to register by the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination Board because three transgender women listed in the application - Audrey Mbugua, Maureen Muia and Annet Jennifer - did not have names that “reflected their gender”.
TEA, which receives funding from SRT grantee Urgent Action Fund Africa, took the NGO Co-ordination Board to court in 2011 for discrimination and violation of their fundamental human rights. In his ruling today, Justice George Odunga stated that the board’s decision had no legal basis and that in failing to register TEA, they had acted in a manner that was “was unfair, unreasonable, unjustified and in breach of rules of natural justice.” He also found that Ms Mbugua, Ms Muia and Ms Jennifer had provided sufficient evidence that they had legally changed their names via deed poll.
The board has been ordered to register TEA immediately and provide compensation for all legal costs incurred. Urgent Action Fund Africa has provided resources and advisory support for TEA’s case, and recently also supplied an emergency protection grant when one of TEA’s leaders came under attack.
UAF-Africa said, “TEA’s win today not only sets a precedent for other marginalised groups seeking recognition in Kenya, but sets an example in the region.”
News story about the case from the Daily Nation: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Court-allows-transsexuals-to-register-lobby-group/-/1056/2394700/-/x4q9ox/-/index.html
Published July 15 2014
Summary: Italy's largest company investigated for its alleged role in corrupt Nigerian oil deal
4th July 2014: Financial police have raided the headquarters of Italy's largest company, the oil giant Eni, as part of a new investigation into its alleged role in the corrupt OPL 245 oil deal. The OPL 245 deal has been investigated for several years by former SRT grantee Global Witness, current grantees Corner House and Re:Common, and the Nigerian anti-corruption campaigner Dotun Oloko.
In 2011, subsidiaries of Eni and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay US$1.1billion for the Nigerian oil block OPL 245. Eni and Shell paid the Nigerian government, which then paid the same amount to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former oil minister Chief Dan Etete. Etete had awarded the oil block to his own company when he was oil minister under corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
The details of the deal were undisclosed until middlemen acting for Malabu sued for unpaid fees. Evidence in the court cases between the middlemen and Malabu revealed the exact payments and arrangements between the parties and showed that the Nigerian government had effectively acted as a "straw man". The High Court in London ruled in July 2013 that Etete was the real owner of Malabu.
Shell and ENI have denied paying money to Malabu, stating that their payments went to the Nigerian government. However court evidence has revealed that they knew that the money was going to Malabu and that Shell had negotiated directly with Etete over "iced champagne". Eni officials allegedly attended a meal with Etete at a five-star restaurant in Milan.
Simon Taylor, Director of Global Witness, said, "The Italian authorities' decision to investigate Eni's role in the corrupt OPL 245 oil deal is excellent news for the people of Nigeria. They deserve to know how $1.1bn was diverted away from the public purse."
Full story from Global Witness's website:
Bahrain Center for Human Rights/Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Published July 07 2014
Summary: Prominent Bahraini human rights activist released from prison
Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, was released from prison on 24th May 2014 after completing his two-year term.
Mr Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 for calling for and participating in “illegal gatherings” and “disturbing public order”. His sentence was reduced to two years on appeal. He was considered by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared his imprisonment as “arbitrary”. Mr Rajab said, “I was isolated from other prisoners of conscience and put in a remote building with three foreigners who were convicted of prostitution-related charges. It felt almost like a solitary confinement. I got access to my family twice a month and the most painful action taken by authorities during my imprisonment was after the death of my beloved mother when they prevented me from participating in her condolences ceremony.”
According to Amnesty International, Bahrain’s authorities have repeatedly used legislation to punish peaceful protesters taking part in unauthorised gatherings. Under the country’s penal code, gatherings of more than five people can be criminalised if those assembled were deemed to do so with the intention to commit a crime or any acts aimed at undermining public security.
Nabeel Rajab’s colleague, human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has been in prison since June 2011 serving a life sentence, following a “grossly unfair” trial according to human rights observers. Mr Al-Khawaja and Mr Rajab co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. Despite losing their leaders to detention, both Centres have not only survived but grown. “They managed to put lot of efforts to fill the gap of not having me and my colleague Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. I think we are now in a better position to continue our peaceful work to further support and protect human rights defenders in our region,” Nabeel Rajab noted. “I will continue my peaceful work in the field of human rights with a solid determination to reach our prosperous future.”
Full story from BCHR’s website: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6892
Published July 03 2014
Summary: Belarusian human rights defender freed from prison after three years
21st June 2014: Ales Bialiatski, a prominent human rights defender who is President of Viasna Human Rights Centre of Belarus and Vice President of SRT grantee FIDH, was released from prison on 21st June after nearly three years in detention.
Mr Bialiatski was arrested in August 2011 on the grounds of “large-scale tax evasion” and sentenced in November 2011 to four and a half years’ imprisonment. These charges were based on his use of personal bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania to support his organisation’s human rights work in Belarus. The accounts were opened as the Belarusian authorities had refused to register the organisation since 2003, and he was therefore unable to open a Belarusian account in the name of Viasna. During his time in prison Mr Bialiatski was forced to do hard labour, and lost a large amount of weight as well as several teeth.
Immediately after Mr Bialiatski’s arrest FIDH launched an international campaign to secure his release, using the website freeales.fidh.net. Last March they also launched a campaign called #ForFreedom to accelerate the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders throughout the world, and in June 2014 they called for Mr Bialiatski’s immediate, unconditional release in an address before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Karim Lahdiji, President of FIDH, said, “Ales is free again, at last, bringing great hope to all human rights defenders who are still incarcerated throughout the world. We will continue our fight for all of them so that they too may be free, and for the political prisoners still in jail in Belarus.”
Mr Bialiatski said, “It is the support I received from all of you, all the national and international intervention from the day I was arrested that made it possible for me to be released today”.
Published July 03 2014
Summary: Muslim Council of Britain issues new guidance condemning female genital mutilation
19th June 2014: the Muslim Council of Britain, in conjunction with SRT grantee FORWARD and the Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS, has for the first time issued explicit guidance stating that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is incompatible with Islam.
The guidance, which will be distributed at 500 mosques and community centres in the form of a flyer as well as online, states that FGM is against Islamic teachings and that it can cause serious damage to physical and mental health, fertility problems, complications in childbirth, and even death. It also informs the reader of the legal implications in the UK of carrying out the practice, which can carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
FORWARD Trustee and Fellow at the Royal Society for Public Health Dr Yunes Teinaz said, “FGM is practised contrary to the teachings of Islam and is prohibited in the UK and most EU countries. Many girls could be saved from their cruel fate, if there was more awareness among the community of the consequences of FGM. Let us make this possible by the joint work of FORWARD, MCB and religious leaders to build awareness about the negative consequences of FGM in the communities. We will continue to welcome any and every opportunity to raise our voices and to campaign against this illicit practice.”
Full press release from FORWARD’s website: http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/news/641
Guardian article about the MCB’s new guidance: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/23/female-genital-mutilation-muslim-council-britain-unislamic-condemn
Published June 13 2014
Summary: Swiss court convicts former Guatemalan police chief of extrajudicial killings
6th June 2014: The Criminal Court in Geneva today sentenced former Guatemalan Chief of Police Erwin Sperisen to life in prison for seven extrajudicial executions carried out in 2006.
Seven years ago, a coalition of NGOs including SRT grantee TRIAL denounced Sperisen to the judicial authorities for atrocities committed between 2004 and 2007. The coalition lobbied Geneva's prosecuting authorities for an investigation into Sperisen, a dual Swiss-Guatemalan national who lives in Geneva. TRIAL also provided evidence material and witness statements to the prosecuting authorities. On August 31st 2012 Sperisen was arrested on the orders of Geneva's Attorney General.
During the preliminary hearings, Sperisen appeared 11 times before Geneva's Attorney General. 14 witnesses travelled from France, Guatemala and Spain and four rogatory commissions (international legal assistance requests) were sent to Austria, Spain and Guatemala. The investigation convinced the Geneva Prosecutor of Sperisen's criminal responsibility. In January 2014, he decided to bring the accused before Geneva's Criminal Court for the murder of 10 people in Guatemala, including the summary execution of seven detainees during a military operation at Pavón prison in September 2006, as well as that of three inmates who escaped from the Infiernito prison in 2005.
Following a three-week trial and two days of deliberation, Sperisen was convicted of the Pavon prison killings. He was acquitted of participation in the executions at El Infiernito prison, although the Court acknowledged the Guatemalan police’s involvement.
Philip Grant, the Director of TRIAL, said, "Today's ruling shows that the ideal of justice pursued by so many, in Switzerland and in Guatemala, can be achieved. Despite the distance, despite the complexity of the case and despite intimidation, the determination of the many actors, here and there, has enabled justice to be served. The fight against impunity and for human dignity are the winners of today's verdict."
Published June 09 2014
Summary: Judge orders US government to release Guantanamo force-feeding videotapes to prisoner's lawyers
23rd May 2014: A federal court judge today ordered the US government to produce 34 videotapes showing Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab being forcibly dragged from his cell and being force-fed. Mr Dhiab was cleared for release by the Obama Administration in 2009, but he remains in Guantánamo after more than a decade without charge or trial. He is being assisted by SRT grantee Reprieve.
In total, there are 136 videos of Mr Dhiab being subjected to the ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ process, which has been carried out on average three times a week for a year. Judge Gladys Kessler has required the government to hand over the 34 tapes which relate specifically to him being force fed.
The court also ordered the government to produce Mr Dhiab’s medical records, which should allow the court to make a proper assessment of the impact of force-feeding on Mr Dhiab's declining health.
Today's hearing marked the first time the US government has been ordered to give detainees' lawyers videotapes of force-feedings.
Cori Crider, strategic director of Reprieve, said, "It is very encouraging that the rule of law is finally coming to Guantanamo, so that perhaps Mr. Dhiab’s situation can be resolved. While the photographic evidence of his abuse is secret, it will at least allow the judge to see what is happening to him.”
More information from Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_05_22_judge_US_govt_ordered_release_gtmo_tape/
**Published June 05 2014
Summary: African Commission adopts landmark resolution on protection of LGBTI rights
22nd May 2014: African civil society organisations and human rights defenders have welcomed the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of the resolution Protection Against Violence and other Human Rights Violations Against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The resolution was adopted at the Commission’s most recent session in Angola from 28th April to 12th May 2014.
This landmark resolution is the strongest document to date from the African Commission recognising the need for the protection of the human rights of LGBTI people. It acknowledges that human rights violations based on people’s real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity breach the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and calls on States Parties to “ensure that human rights defenders are able to work in an environment free from stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities.” It also urges States to end impunity for acts of violence and abuse against LGBTI people.
SRT grantee AMSHeR has lobbied the African Commission for some years for a resolution on the human rights of LGBTI people (along with other African LGBTI groups including SRT grantee UHAI). Joel Gustave Nana, AMSHeR’s executive director, said, “The Commission in its mandate to promote and protect the human rights of all, has, by passing this resolution, heard the strong call of those who are subjected to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression across Africa […] African civil society organisations, activists and human rights defenders call on all African States to immediately take action to end this violence and wide-ranging human rights violations by aligning legislation, policies and institutional frameworks with the standards set, through this Resolution, by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
Full statement from AMSHeR’s website: http://www.amsher.org/african-civil-society-organisations-commend-the-african-commissions-resolution/
Strategic Initiative for the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
Published 20 May 2014
Summary: SIHA condemns sentencing of pregnant woman to death for apostasy
SRT grantee the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) has strongly condemned the decision by a Sudanese court to sentence Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old pregnant Sudanese woman charged with apostasy and adultery, to 100 lashings and execution by hanging. SIHA has been publically and privately advocating on Meriam’s behalf since February.
Meriam will remain at Obdurman Women’s Prison along with her 20-month-old son until she gives birth to her new baby, which is due within a month. While in custody, Meriam has allegedly been denied regular contact with legal advisers, been refused medical care, and has suffered beatings, denial of food, and aggressive interrogations. The Sudanese Criminal Code mandates that Meriam be permitted to breastfeed her baby for two years; the flogging and execution will take place after this period. Meriam is thus facing another two years of prison along with her son, who has been forced by Sudanese officials to remain incarcerated with Meriam because Meriam’s husband is non-Muslim, and is therefore considered unsuitable to care for his child.
SIHA has called on human rights defenders, international institutions, and the media to demand Meriam’s immediate and unconditional release and the dropping of the charges of adultery and apostasy.
SIHA’s Regional Director, Hala Al-Karib, commented, “This is a dark and shameful day for Sudan's justice system [...] As women activists and rights defenders, SIHA supports Meriam’s courage and solid stance. Her honesty and integrity today has in many ways defeated her oppressors. Regardless of the next steps which will be taken, Meriam has exposed the weakness and the discriminatory nature of Sudan legal system and SIHA will continue to be an active participant in advocating on her behalf.”
Full statement from SIHA’s website: http://www.sihanet.org/news/urgent-action-needed-innocent-sudanese-mother-will-face-public-flogging-and-execution-siha
CEJIL/Mexican Commission for Defence and Promotion of Human Rights
Published May 20 2014
Summary: Mexican Congress agrees historic reform of Military Code of Justice
On 30th April 2014, the Mexican Congress approved amendments to the Military Code of Justice, establishing for the first time restrictions on the use of military courts. Cases of human rights violations against civilians must now be tried in the civilian court system rather than by military tribunals. This reform comes in response to four cases brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2009-10, the first of which was litigated by SRT grantee CMDPDH (Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights). SRT grantee the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) was involved in litigation of the other three cases along with two other human rights organisations.
The reform was approved unanimously by the Senate on 24th April and by the Chamber of Deputies on 30th April.
As Mexico’s military court proceedings are held largely in secret, critics allege that military personnel are able to commit serious human rights violations, including murder, torture and rape, with impunity. Well-known cases include the rape of indigenous women from Guerrero state by soldiers in the early 2000s, and the forced disappearance in the 1970s of indigenous men, also from Guerrero. The victims have sought justice for years but have not been able to hold their alleged attackers to account. The Mexican government issued an apology for both cases in 2011 following an order from the Inter-American Court.
Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director, said, "This reform bill is a significant step forward for the human rights agenda in Mexico and is an example of what can be achieved through a democratic process of discussion".
Full press release from CEJIL (in Spanish only): http://cejil.org/comunicados/cejil-celebra-historica-reforma-al-codigo-de-justicia-militar-en-mexico
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
Published May 19 2014
Summary: International Criminal Court reopens investigations into alleged torture of Iraqi detainees by British military
13th May 2014: the International Criminal Court in The Hague has decided to reopen preliminary investigations into the liability of British military officials for the torture of detainees in Iraq.
This decision follows a criminal complaint lodged in January 2014 by SRT grantee the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) along with the Birmingham-based legal charity Public Interest Lawyers. The complainants called for investigations to be opened into the liability under international criminal law of senior members of the British military, as well as former defence heads and Secretaries of State within the Ministry of Defence, for the systematic torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees by members of the British military between 2003 and 2008.
Over the past few years more than 400 former Iraqi detainees have contacted PIL with accounts of abuse and degrading treatment by British soldiers. While these accusations are publicly known and have been the subject of a number of state commissions of inquiry, British authorities have to date failed to conduct the appropriate criminal proceedings.
ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck said, “The reopening of the investigation represents a milestone for Iraqi victims and for international criminal law. The double standards must come to an end. Those who violate human rights must be brought to justice regardless of how powerful they may be”.
Full press release from ECCHR’s website: http://www.ecchr.de/index.php/united-kingdom.html
Published May 19 2014
Summary: Caribbean’s highest court agrees to hear challenge to discriminatory immigration laws
9th May 2014: The Caribbean Court of Justice has allowed the case of Maurice Tomlinson v. The State of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago to proceed to trial. The case challenges the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad, which are the only two countries in the Western Hemisphere to prohibit the entry of LGBT people and other ‘prohibited classes’, including people with disabilities.
The claimant, Mr Tomlinson, is an openly gay Jamaican attorney who regularly works with marginalised groups across the Caribbean in his capacity as SRT grantee AIDS-Free World’s Legal Advisor. AIDS-Free World initiated the case against Belize and Trinidad because the laws of both countries make it impossible for Mr Tomlinson to work with vulnerable groups or attend regional meetings without knowingly breaking the law. The claim was first initiated with the Jamaican government, which refused to act on its own citizen’s behalf. It was next taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which has jurisdiction over all the members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In its judgment, the Court acknowledged that there was a strong case to be made that the mere existence of these laws are evidence of prejudice. They also argued that the case raises important questions around the relationship between the domestic laws of individual countries and the treaty obligations they hold as members of the Caribbean Community. Decisions of Caribbean Court of Justice are binding across CARICOM countries.
UNAIDS has its regional headquarters in Trinidad. This case originally came to light because AIDS-Free World and other HIV and LGBTI activists would be unable to attend UNAIDS meetings without breaking the law. AIDS-Free World are therefore calling for UNAIDS to relocate until the country’s discriminatory immigration law is changed.
Full statement from AIDS-Free World: http://aidsfreeworld.org/Newsroom/Press-Releases/2014/CCJ-Statement.aspx
American Civil Liberties Union
Published May 15 2014
Summary: Appeal Court rejects US government’s claims that ‘targeted killing’ programme is protected by official secrecy
21st April 2014: the Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit has rejected the US government’s claim that it cannot release information about its so-called ‘targeted killing’ programme as it is protected by official secrecy. SRT grantee the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued the case before the Second Circuit panel in October 2013.
In ordering the release of a 2010 legal memorandum analysing the potential targeted killing of an American citizen, as well as other information about records that the government has previously refused to describe, the Second Circuit became the first court to order the release of a document related to the targeted killing programme. The court held that as the government had given repeated public assurances that the programme is lawful, and had disclosed a "white paper" summarising its legal conclusions, it had waived its right under the Freedom of Information Act to keep secret its legal analysis authorising the killing of US citizens.
In January 2013, the district court agreed with the government that it could keep secret all its documents related to the targeted killing programme. However the judge expressed serious misgivings about the result, writing, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The case will now go back to the district court, where the government must defend its withholding of documents that it has thus far refused to publicly describe.
Jamell Jaffer of the ACLU said, "This is a resounding rejection of the government's effort to use secrecy and selective disclosure to manipulate public opinion about the targeted killing programme."
Blog post about the case from the ACLU’s website: https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/appeals-court-rules-government-cant-have-it-both-ways-targeted-killing
European Coalition for Corporate Justice
Published April 24 2014
Summary: European Parliament adopts important new rules on corporate transparency and accountability
15 April 2014: The European Parliament has adopted new legislation requiring companies to disclose the steps they take to prevent damage to human rights and the environment as a result of their work. This decision, which was passed by a majority of 599 to 55, follows years of advocacy by SRT grantee the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and other organisations. It represents a significant step forward for corporate social responsibility, as it has not previously been mandatory for companies to supply this information.
6,000 large EU-based companies will now be required to provide information on the risks they pose to human rights and the environment (including in their supply chains), as well as on corruption, diversity and social issues. However the number of affected companies was lowered during negotiations between the European Council and Parliament, and only about a third of the number foreseen in the original proposal will now be covered. EU member states will also be allowed to grant exemptions to certain companies.
Jerome Chaplier, Coordinator of ECCJ, said, “This is an important step forward. The reform recognises that the environmental and human rights impacts of companies are of key concern for society as a whole. It will empower people to access information on how they might be affected by business operations, and enable shareholders to hold the management accountable for negative impact. However, we regret that the original proposal has been weakened so much.”
Full press release from ECCJ: http://www.corporatejustice.org/European-parliament-votes-for.html?lang=en
Article from the Guardian by ECCJ’s Jerome Chaplier: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/eu-reform-listed-companies-report-environmental-social-impact
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Published April 15 2014
Summary: France opens judicial investigation targeting Qosmos for complicity in acts of torture in Syria
11 April 2014: the Prosecutor of the Paris Court has today announced its decision to open a judicial investigation into French ICT firm Qosmos for complicity in acts of torture in Syria. This news comes 18 months after SRT grantee the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), along with fellow human rights organisation Ligue des Droites de l’Homme (LDH), filed a complaint denouncing the alleged implication of French companies, in particular Qosmos, in the selling of surveillance material to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
This is the second time that French judicial authorities have agreed to investigate the alleged involvement of an ICT company which sold surveillance material to an authoritarian regime. An investigation was opened in May 2012 into the alleged implication of the French technology company Amesys in acts of torture in Libya.
Qosmos, a company specialising in Deep Packet Inspection (technology designed for real-time analysis of digital data), has been called into question several times for supplying the Syrian regime with electronic surveillance equipment. The DPI technology allows intelligence services in repressive regimes to keep track of dissidents more easily, notably by intercepting live electronic communications.
The armed conflict in Syria has led to between 100,000 and 150,000 deaths (mainly civilians), the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of people, and a large number of enforced disappearances. Victims of repression at the hands of Assad’s regime include human rights defenders and activists, in particular cyber-activists who have been singled out because of their efforts to communicate and denounce human rights violations.
More information about the case from FIDH’s website: http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?page=mot&id_mot=800&lang=en
Published April 11 2014
Summary: Women’s rights groups urge investigation into alleged mistreatment of pregnant indigenous women in southern Mexico
2nd April 2014: Women’s rights groups in Mexico, including SRT grantee the Reproductive Information Group (GIRE), have appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the alleged neglect and mistreatment of pregnant indigenous women by the public health system.
Activists working in southern Mexico report that they have encountered at least 20 cases of women being turned away from hospitals while in labour and being forced to give birth outside. Photo and video footage of some of these incidents has been posted on social media sites. Health officials claim that the cases are isolated and unavoidable due to overcrowding and lack of resources at some health centres, but some women’s rights activists believe that the cases represent a pattern of substandard care.
The problem came to national attention in 2013, when a photo was shared in social and print media showing a Mazatec woman who had just given birth on a lawn outside a health centre in the village of San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz. The picture encouraged other women to come forward with similar stories, including an 18-year-old woman who gave birth in the bathroom of a shelter next to a hospital, having allegedly been refused medical care.
Most of the publicly-known cases are from Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest regions, which already suffers from high rates of obstetrical problems and maternal deaths.
The Commission heard the women's rights groups' presentation on the individual cases, and requested that the State implement the necessary measures to deal with these and prevent them from recurring in the future.
Article from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/03/27/mexico-women-birth/6982525/
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Published April 11 2014
Summary: Botswana government ordered to provide HIV treatment to non-citizen prisoners
18th March 2014: In an important legal victory in Botswana, the country’s High Court has ordered the government to provide HIV treatment to all non-citizen prisoners.
Prior to the court order, the government supplied non-citizen prisoners with treatment for opportunistic infections but not for HIV, leading to a significant deterioration in their health. Non-citizen prisoners were expected to pay for HIV treatment themselves. The Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) sued the government to secure treatment, along with two foreign prisoners living with HIV. They were assisted in the case by SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
The two prisoners and BONELA argued that the denial of critical medical treatment to non-citizen prisoners violated their fundamental rights, which were guaranteed under Botswana’s Constitution. In addition the prisoners used current medical evidence to show that not only would their lives be at risk without HIV treatment, but that other prisoners would also be at greater risk of contracting HIV and other opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis.
Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said, “The order will have to be immediately implemented by government and will ensure that the government meets its obligations under the Botswana Constitution and under international and regional law. More importantly, it shows that the government has no legitimate justification for putting prisoners’ lives at serious risk by denying them HIV treatment.”
Full press release from SALC website: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/2014/03/18/news-release-botswana-government-ordered-to-provide-hiv-treatment-to-non-citizen-prisoners/
Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team/Center for Justice and Accountability
Published March 14 2014
Summary: First reburial of civil war victims takes place in Somaliland
9th March 2014: With the help of SRT grantee the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF), the government of Somaliland has reburied 45 victims from Somalia's ethnic conflict of the 1980s, setting a precedent for other African nations and affirming the right to a dignified burial.
The reburial - the first of its kind since Somalia emerged from civil war - took place at the Hargeisa cemetery in the capital of the autonomous state of Somaliland. Muslim sheikhs wrapped the 45 sets of remains in shrouds and watched as they were buried in individual graves.
The victims, all men, are assumed to have been members of the Isaaq clan, which opposed the rule of former Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. The men were among many who were taken in for questioning by police in 1984 and never reappeared. According to estimates, over 60,000 people were killed during the repression in northern Somalia.
EPAF had previously exhumed the victims from three mass graves and gathered evidence which may help to identify them. EPAF’s Director Jose Pablo Baraybar, who helped to manage the reburial ceremony, predicted that it will strengthen Somaliland's efforts at nation-building and have an "illustrative impact" on other countries.
EPAF was invited to work in Somaliland after Mr Baraybar received an award in 2010 from SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA).
CJA has pursued a case against Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former general in Barre's army who led the repression in the north of Somalia and now resides in Virginia. A US court levelled a fine of $21 million on Mr Samantar in 2012.
Full story from the Advocacy Project: http://advocacynet.org/resource/1365
Press release from EPAF: http://epafperu.org/re-burying-the-past-genocide-in-somaliland-press-release/?lang=en
Human Dignity Trust
Published January 29 2014
Summary: Northern Cyprus becomes the last country in Europe to decriminalise homosexuality
27th January 2014: The parliament of Northern Cyprus has voted to repeal a law dating from the British colonial period which criminalises gay sex between consenting adults and punishes them with up to five years in prison.
The decision is still to receive presidential endorsement, but President Derviş Eroğlu is expected to give his assent within the next two weeks. If it becomes law, it will mean that no states in Europe, Australasia or North America now criminalise homosexuality.
SRT grantee the Human Dignity Trust and the LGBT organisation Queer Cyprus launched a case at the European Court of Human Rights last year arguing that the continuing criminalisation of consenting sexual acts in Northern Cyprus is a breach of international law. The European Convention of Human Rights required Northern Cyprus to decriminalise, and the Court would have forced the law to be changed.
Cyprus legalised gay sex between consenting adults in 1993, but due to its division into separate Greek and Turkish states, many criminal laws inherited from the British colonial era – including the ban on homosexuality – remained in force in the North.
Article from the Guardian about the decision: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/northern-cyprus-ban-gay-sex-repeal-homosexual
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
Published January 29 2014
Summary: ECCHR urges investigation into UK military abuses against Iraqi detainees
On 10th January 2014 SRT grantee the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), together with Birmingham-based law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), delivered a 250-page complaint including several thousand pages of additional documents to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, requesting action on the alleged abuse and mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by UK military forces.
Over 400 Iraqi former detainees have brought allegations to PIL of grave mistreatment committed by UK forces between 2003 and 2008. ECCHR and PIL believe that the systemic abuse of detainees during the UK’s presence in Iraq meets the threshold for war crimes, and that the ICC should therefore open formal investigations into those UK officials ‘most responsible’ for the abuses, in particular former Secretary of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon and former Minister of State for Service Personnel Adam Ingram.
In 2006, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC declined to open a formal investigation into UK military abuses in Iraq, concluding that there were reasonable grounds to believe the war crimes of wilful killing and inhuman treatment had been committed by UK forces, but that they were not of sufficient gravity to justify a formal investigation. At that time, the OTP assumed only four to 12 victims of wilful killing and a limited number of victims of inhumane treatment, “totalling in all less than 20 persons”. However, they explicitly stated that their decision not to investigate could be reconsidered in light of new information.
Full story from ECCHR’s website: http://www.ecchr.de/index.php/united-kingdom.html
Strategic Fund for Turkey
Published December 13 2013
Summary: Roma rights activists awarded first-ever Raoul Wallenberg Prize
Strasbourg, 2nd December 2013 – The first-ever Council of Europe Raoul Wallenberg Prize has been awarded to Elmas Arus, a Roma film director from Turkey. Ms Arus is the Director of the Association for Zero Discrimination, a Turkish Roma rights NGO set up and run with funding from the Strategic Fund for Turkey, which is supported by SRT.
Between 2001 and 2010, Ms Arus and a group of volunteers from her university visited more than 400 Roma neighbourhoods in 38 cities in Turkey. They produced 360 hours of documentation, and created an hour-long documentary on the challenges faced by the different Turkish Roma groups. Subsequently, Ms Arus established the Association for Zero Discrimination, which has strengthened the struggle of Rome associations in Turkey for recognition of discrimination their community faces: there are now over 200 Roma associations in Turkey. Her work played a crucial role in the elaboration of the Turkish government’s ‘Roma opening’ initiative of 2009, which aimed to improve conditions for Roma.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said, “The hard work carried out by Elmas Arus, with courage and perseverance, is a truly impressive contribution to the fight against deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination suffered by Roma populations all over our continent.”
The prize of 10,000 euros will be awarded on 17 January 2014 at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg.
Full story from Council of Europe website: http://hub.coe.int/en/web/coe-portal/press/newsroom?p_p_id=newsroom&_newsroom_articleId=1675641&_newsroom_groupId=10226&_newsroom_tabs=newsroom-topnews&pager.offset=0
Published November 21 2013
Summary: Last British resident of Guantanamo Bay speaks publicly for the first time
19th November 2013: Shaker Aamer, the last British resident of Guantánamo Bay, has spoken publicly for the first time as part of a recording made by the American news programme 60 Minutes. The programme was broadcast in the US on 17th November.
Mr Aamer has been imprisoned at Guantánamo for 11 years without charge, despite being cleared for release by two successive US administrations. He was not pictured on camera during the programme but was heard speaking about the conditions in which he and other prisoners are being held. He said, “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That's the treatment of an animal."
Mr Aamer has British residency, and his British wife and children live in south London. However the US has threatened to send him to his birthplace, Saudi Arabia, when he is released. The UK Foreign Office has indicated that his case is a high priority and that they support his immediate return to the UK.
SRT grantee Reprieve is representing Mr Aamer. Clive Stafford-Smith, Reprieve’s founder and Director, said, “CBS's show gives a very rare and very shocking glimpse inside Guantánamo Bay. Everyone in the prison – the guards and the men – is suffering horribly, day after day. Obama must fulfil his promise to close the prison and Shaker Aamer must come home to his family in the UK, which is what David Cameron has said he wants."
Full story from Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2013_11_18_PUB_shaker_aamer_heard_from_prison_cell/
Guardian article about the case: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/18/guantanamo-bay-british-resident
Published November 14 2013
Inter-American Court of Human Rights rules in favour of Chilean torture survivor
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found in favour of Leopoldo García Lucero, an ally of Salvador Allende who was subjected to enforced disappearance, detention, physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment in Chile under the Pinochet regime. The court awarded Mr García Lucero £20,000 in compensation and ordered Chile to complete a criminal investigation into his case. Mr García Lucero, who now lives in the UK, was represented by SRT grantee Redress.
This is a landmark judgement as it is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has decided the case of a living survivor of human rights violations under General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.
Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS, said, “We welcome the judgment, as it recognises that torture survivors in exile today, like Mr García Lucero, still have the right to justice and reparation, despite being outside of the country and regardless of the passage of time. The judgment offers some hope to the many who may find themselves in the same situation. These are particularly vulnerable victims who have been denied justice for many years.”
Mr García Lucero said, “No amount of money will ever be able to compensate the suffering that my family and I have endured, but I am glad that the judgment recognises that Chile could have done more for victims like us. I also hope the judgment will help prevent similar events from happening in the future, and that Chile finds and punishes those responsible for my torture and exile before I die, so I can live to see justice done.”
Full story from REDRESS: http://www.redress.org/downloads/prlucerogarciajudgment041113english.pdf
Mr Garcia Lucero writes about his case for The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/10/money-will-not-compensate-torture-chile-pinochet
Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network
Published November 08 2013
Summary: Sudanese human rights activist assaulted and detained by police for refusing to cover her hair
Amira Osman, a Sudanese engineer and women’s rights activist, has been assaulted and detained by ‘Public Order police’ in Khartoum after refusing to cover her hair.
On 27th August 2013 Ms Osman was approached by a police officer who demanded that she cover her head with a scarf. When she refused, she was physically assaulted, forced to sit on the floor, verbally abused and forcibly taken to a police station, where they attempted to pressurise her into a summary trial. Ms Osman refused and insisted on having a lawyer present. She was detained for four hours before being released on bail.
Ms Osman was due to stand trial on 1st September under article 152 of the 1991 Penal Code on ‘indecent dress’, but this has now been postponed to November. If she is found guilty, she could be sentenced to flogging, paying a fine, or a prison sentence.
Ms Osman has led a personal campaign against Sudan’s Public Order regime for over 15 years by refusing to cover her head under any circumstances. In 2012 she was detained for more than a month due to her refusal to comply with women’s dress codes. According to research by Sudanese activists, over 90% of women detained by Public Order police experience some form of sexual assault.
SRT grantee the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is calling for reform of Sudan’s Public Order laws. SIHA’s Director, Hala Alkharib, said, “The degradation of women is affecting our society and self esteem and diminishes the respect that we have in our diverse cultures towards women and girls - an aspect of our culture that we do need to promote and enhance.”
Ms Osman’s case is currently with the General Prosecutor. Her legal team have submitted an argument that Article 152 of the Penal Code is incompatible with the Sudanese Constitution.
Full story from SIHA’s website: http://www.sihanet.org/news/sudanese-woman-activist-faces-trial-it-about-scarf-or-assumed-ideology-forces-sudanese-women
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience/CELS/EPAF
Published November 07 2013
Summary: Transitional Justice experts call for victims' rights to be upheld in Bosnia
A group of experts on truth-seeking and memorialisation has called for the mayor of Prijedor, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to acknowledge the non-Serb victims of atrocities committed in the city in the early 1990s.
The call comes after a mass grave was discovered near Prijedor that is likely to contain the bodies of some of the estimated 1,200 civilians still missing after being held at one of the area’s notorious detention camps run by Bosnian Serb forces. More than 30 people from the town have been convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes at domestic and international courts. However Prijedor’s municipal government, led by Mayor Marko Pavic, allegedly refuses to memorialise non-Serb citizens of Prijedor, while at the same time building memorials to Serb combatants who died in the conflict.
Co-signers of the letter to Mayor Pavic include SRT grantees the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the Center for Legal and Social Studies, and the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, and former grantee the International Center for Transitional Justice, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez. The group calls on the Prijedor administration to “uphold victims’ universally recognised right to the truth, which encompasses the basic right to grieve and honour their dead.” It also asks for Mayor Pavic to take steps including building a memorial to non-Serb victims in Prijedor, and encouraging ‘accurate, constructive and peaceful’ public education about the events of 1992-95.
The letter concludes: “The discovery of a mass grave [...] once again illustrates the dimensions of suffering endured by the citizens of Prijedor in the 1990s. The remains exhumed from its mass graves speak the difficult truth about atrocities and leave no room for denial. We invite you, as Mayor of Prijedor, to rise above narrow ethnic and political agendas and reach out to your city’s most vulnerable citizens – victims’ families.”
Full text of the letter including a list of signatories: http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Prijedor-Bosnia-Herzegovina-Letter-New-2013.pdf
Bytes for All Pakistan
Published November 05 2013
Summary: Bytes for All Pakistan requests early hearing of ‘Internet Freedom’ case
On 21st October 2013, SRT grantee Bytes for All Pakistan submitted an application to the Lahore High Court for early hearing of the ‘Internet Freedom' case that they have brought against the Pakistani government. This follows the announcement in September that, after 14 previous hearings, the case would be referred to a full bench at the High Court.
Bytes For All filed the case against the Federation of Pakistan in January 2013, following the blocking in September 2012 of YouTube and other websites deemed to contain ‘objectionable’ material. The ban on YouTube was ordered by the then-Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf after the site refused to remove the ‘blasphemous’ film Innocence of Muslims. Bytes For All argue that any attempts to restrict internet access are counterproductive, deprive Pakistanis of their right to access information, and represent a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 19 (Freedom of Expression), Article 19-A (Right to Access Information), and Article 14 (Right to Privacy).
Bytes for All has also filed another public interest litigation focusing on the Pakistani government's use of the 'trojan' Finfisher, a product of UK based corporation Gamma International. This surveillance technology has been used by several regimes, including Bahrain, to keep track of human rights defenders and journalists, and in some cases arrest and prosecute them.
As a result of its public interest litigation, Bytes For All has been the target of threats and abuse from religious groups and government supporters, and has been accused of being anti-Islam, anti-state and an ‘agent of the West’. However they are determined to pursue their case, stating in a recent blog post, “we will make every effort to ensure that our litigation remains on track [...] and a landmark judgment is issued guaranteeing Internet freedoms and ensuring that associated rights are protected in the country.”
More information about the Internet Freedom case, and Byte’s For All’s work in general, can be found on their website at www.bytesforall.pk.
Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
Published October 07 2013
Summary: Prominent Iranian human rights defender released from prison
19th September 2013: Prominent Iranian human rights defender and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been released from prison after nearly three years.
Ms Sotoudeh is a lawyer known for defending minors facing the death penalty, prisoners of conscience, human rights activists and child victims of abuse. She is the co-recipient of the 2012 Sakharov human rights prize awarded by the European Parliament. She was arrested in Iran in September 2010, and sentenced in January 2011 to 11 years of imprisonment for allegedly ‘acting against national security’ and ‘propaganda against the system’. She was also charged with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’ for her work with the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (a member organisation of SRT grantee FIDH).
On September 14, 2011, Ms Sotoudeh’s sentence was reduced to six years’ imprisonment and 10 years’ ban on practising law. During her detention, she was held for long periods in solitary confinement and denied contact with her family and lawyer. She repeatedly went on hunger strike to protest her prison conditions and violations of due process.
FIDH president Karim Lahidji said, “I am happy to learn about the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been arbitrarily detained over the past three years in particularly harsh conditions. I hope her release sends a positive signal towards ending the harassment of all human rights defenders and political prisoners in the country.”
Full story from FIDH’s website: http://www.fidh.org/iran-human-rights-defender-nasrin-sotoudeh-freed-13959
ACRI/Hotline for Migrant Workers
Published October 07 2013
Summary: Israeli High Court rules that the prolonged administrative detention of asylum seekers is unconstitutional
On 16th September 2013, the High Court of Justice in Israel ruled that the prolonged imprisonment of asylum seekers in administrative detention is unconstitutional and overturned the Third Amendment to the Law for the Prevention of Infiltration, which stated that refugees and asylum seekers could be detained without trial for three years. The High Court ruling was issued jointly on three cases, one of which was brought by a group of Israeli NGOs including SRT grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
The panel of nine Justices unanimously ruled that the administrative detention of the refugees violates the 1992 Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, and disproportionately impinges the right to freedom. The Court gave the government 90 days to examine each of the detainees' cases individually and release all those who are entitled under the law as it originally stood.
Around 2,000 people, including children, are currently being held in harsh conditions without trial under the amended Prevention of Infiltration law. The majority are Eritrean or Sudanese and cannot, according to the Israeli government’s own directives, be deported due to the threat to their lives. ACRI maintains that the now-overturned law breached the detainees’ human rights, as Israeli and international law prohibits the detention of immigrants other than for the purpose of deportation.
ACRI are hopeful that thousands of asylum seekers will now be freed after spending a year and a half in administrative detention, but they are prepared for a backlash against the decision in the Knesset, where many have already spoken against the High Court’s ruling.
Further information from ACRI’s website: http://www.acri.org.il/en/2013/09/16/anti-infiltration-overturned/
Published September 02 2013
Summary: Nabil Hadjarab released from Guantanamo Bay after 11 years’ detention without trial
29th August 2013: Former French resident Nabil Hadjarab, who has been detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay for 11 years, was yesterday released following a review of his case directed by President Obama.
Mr Hadjarab, a client of SRT grantee Reprieve, had in fact been cleared for release since 2007 when American officials confirmed he was ‘not an enemy combatant’. He has been transferred to his country of birth, Algeria. However he hopes eventually to return to France, where his remaining family lives.
Mr Hadjarab was born in Algeria, but moved to France when he was a baby. He moved back to Algeria with his father when he was nine, but regularly returned to France to stay with relatives (his father has since died and he has no other family in Algeria). In 2001 he travelled to Afghanistan to pursue religious studies. When the US invaded in November, Mr Hadjarab, believing that the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance were rounding up and killing foreign Arabs, attempted to cross the border into Pakistan. However he was injured by a bomb and sent to hospital in Jalalabad. From here he was sold to US forces for a bounty, and in 2002 he was sent to Guantanamo. He has consistently denied any links to Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group.
Reprieve Strategic Director Cori Crider said, “After a dozen years of needless detention and abuse in US custody, Nabil is embarking on the greatest adventure of his adult life - freedom. He arrives in Algeria weakened from his hunger strike, but with high hopes for the future. He is grateful to the Algerians for accepting him, although he dreams one day of rejoining his family who await him in France. We hope to be able to see him very shortly to help him and the authorities smooth his transition to a free life.”
More information from Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2013_08_29_Guantanamo_Nabil_released_Algeria/
Refugee Consortium of Kenya
Published August 15 2013
Summary: Kenyan High Court rules the forced relocation of refugees to be unconstitutional
On 26th July 2013, the High Court of Kenya ruled as unconstitutional a government directive ordering all refugees living in urban areas to relocate to the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
The Kenyan government, through the Department of Refugee Affairs, issued a directive in December 2012 ordering all urban refugees to relocate to camps. In addition UNHCR and other organisations serving refugees were required to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas, and to transfer the same services to the camps.
In February 2013 the Urban Refugee Protection Network (which includes SRT grantee the Refugee Consortium of Kenya) lodged a petition at the High Court seeking to challenge the government directive. Conservatory orders were issued by the High Court of Kenya halting the government's plans to relocate the refugees until full hearing of the court case.
The presiding judge found the directive to be unconstitutional as it threatens the rights and fundamental freedoms of the refugees, including their freedom of movement, right to dignity, and their right to a fair and administrative action. The court also found the directive to be a violation of the State's responsibility towards people in vulnerable situations and a threat to the principle of non-refoulement. To this end, the judge ruled that the government directive was quashed.
The Refugee Consortium of Kenya will remain vigilant to ensure that the Kenyan government abides by the judgment, and will monitor the resumption of crucial services such as the registration of new arrivals and issuing of documentation to refugees. They also hope to use the judgment as a precedent for their advocacy work on the protection of refugees.
Full text of the Court judgement from the Urban Refugee Protection Network website: http://www.urpn.org/uploads/1/3/1/5/13155817/petition_115_and_19_of_2013_judgmentfinal.pdf
Women’s Link Worldwide
Published August 01 2013
Summary: 2013 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards highlight positive and negative legal decisions for women’s rights
July 2013: SRT grantee Women’s Link Worldwide has announced the results of its 2013 Gender Justice Uncovered Awards. Launched five years ago, the awards highlight legal decisions that have had a particularly positive or negative impact on women’s equality.
The recipient of the ‘Gold Bludgeon’ award for bad legal decisions was a court in Somalia which sentenced a woman to prison because she accused a group of policemen of raping her. In Argentina, the Bronze Bludgeon was given to a court that reduced the prison time of a man who burned his wife, arguing that he acted under emotional distress. The ‘People’s Choice Bludgeon’ (chosen by members of the public via Women’s Link’s website) was awarded to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico for denying a lesbian woman the right to adopt her partner’s biological daughter.
Thanks to the decisions awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze Gavels, women in Botswana now have the same right to inherit property as men, the work of Ghanaian women to maintain the home is recognised as an economic contribution allowing for the equal distribution of assets in a divorce, and the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Poland for violating a woman’s human rights by not guaranteeing her access to safe abortion services. A judge in the National Electoral Court in Ecuador was awarded the People’s Choice Gavel for his decision to ban a presidential candidate from running for making homophobic remarks (forbidden by the constitution).
Women’s Link delivered the awards to all of the Bludgeon and Gavel winners with the help of local activists.
More information about the awards from the Women’s Link website: http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/sitio/interna.php?idmenu=1
European Human Rights Advocacy Centre
Published July 25 2013
Summary: Russian LGBT activist denied permission to hold demonstration takes his case to European Court of Human Rights
On 12th July 2013, SRT grantee EHRAC and the Russian NGO Memorial launched a case at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a Russian citizen who was refused permission to hold a demonstration raising awareness of issues faced by LGBT teenagers. The applicant, Mr Aleksandrov, argues that this violated his right to freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Aleksandrov applied for permission to hold the demonstration in August 2012. Arkhangelsk City Hall refused his application, citing the Protection of Children’s Health and Morals Act of Arkhangelsk Region, which prohibits the ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ among minors. The City Hall’s letter further stated that ‘propaganda’ should be understood as public dissemination and explanation of ideas, knowledge or teachings, and that therefore a demonstration drawing attention to the problems of LGBT teenagers should be considered as propaganda of homosexuality.
The applicant appealed twice for judicial review, but both courts upheld the original decision. He continues to appeal before the Presidium of the Arkhangelsk Regional Court.
In appealing to the European Court, Mr Aleksandrov argued that the City Hall’s decision breached the Protection of Morals Act which, according to the Russian Supreme Court, cannot be used to justify bans on public events. He further claimed that the interference could not be considered ‘necessary in a democratic society’. As well as arguing that his right to freedom of assembly was violated, he also believes the decision breached Article 14 of the Convention (prohibiting discrimination) as, he claims, those seeking approval for public assemblies are treated differently on the basis of their sexual orientation under the Protection of Morals Act.
Full press release from EHRAC: http://www.mdx.ac.uk/Assets/EHRAC%20Press%20Release%20104_Aleksandrov.pdf
Published July 22 2013
Summary: B’Tselem spokesperson injured while filming demonstration in the West Bank
On Friday 19th July Sarit Michaeli, an Israel-based spokesperson for SRT grantee B’Tselem, was shot in the leg by a rubber-coated metal bullet while filming a demonstration in a-Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. She was taken to hospital where the bullet was surgically removed, and she is due to be released on Monday 22nd July.
This incident comes six months after B'Tselem's report Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank was published. The report (researched and written by Sarit herself) details the crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank during demonstrations. The report details the military directives for rubber-coated metal bullets, which were contravened on Friday, as the bullet was fired from a distance of fewer than 20 metres, considerably nearer than the stipulated 50-meter minimum.
B’Tselem reports that contraventions of military regulations on use of crowd control weapons against non-violent protesters are a regular occurrence. They document these incidents and press for accountability on illegal uses of these weapons as part of their efforts to protect the freedom to protest in the West Bank.
More information from B’Tselem’s website: http://www.btselem.org/firearms/20130721_btselem_spokesperson_injured
Haaretz article about the incident (subscription only): http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.536909
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Published July 09 2013
Summary: New study shows global prevalence of violence against women
8th July 2013: A new study has been released documenting the global extent of gender-based violence. The study, conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Gender Violence & Health Centre (a former Trust grantee), the World Health Organisation and the South African Medical Council, is the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women.
The study finds that approximately 35% of all women will experience violence, and that intimate partner violence is the most common type affecting 30% of women worldwide. The highest levels of violence against women are in Africa, where 45.6% of women will experience violence during their lifetime.
The Trust supported the Gender Violence and Health Centre between 2006 and 2012 with a total of £740,000.
Link to the study from the World Health Organisation website: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf
Guardian article about the study: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jun/20/one-in-three-women-suffers-violence
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Published June 11 2013
Summary: Obama administration lifts sanctions on the export of personal communications tools to Iran
On 30th May 2013, the US government agreed to lift sanctions on the exporting to Iran of technology tools such as mobile devices, laptops, modems, and satellite receivers. This follows a three-year long advocacy campaign led by SRT grantee the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran to ensure that Iranians have the ability to safely use modern technology to confront increasing digital censorship and government restrictions.
The government has agreed to issue a general export license which will remove sanctions on personal communications tools such as mobile phones, PDAs, SIM cards, modems, routers, laptops, tablets, and personal computing devices, amongst other related software and hardware. Private sector companies may now legally export these items and related services to Iranians. However the current comprehensive banking and financial sanctions deny Iranian citizens a financial channel to purchase the services and items listed in this general license.
The Campaign is calling on the US to immediately select a European bank, trained, officially authorised, and supervised by the US Treasury Department, to handle all such transactions, as well as all humanitarian transactions of goods and services.
Ali Akbar Mousavi, a former member of the Iranian Parliament from 2000-2004 and an information communications technologies expert, said “This is an important achievement for human rights, internet, and media freedom advocates. This positive action by the US should be complemented with legal financial channels for such transactions.”
Press release from International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/06/tech_sanctions/
European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights
Published June 11 2013
Summary: ECCHR and Global Witness lodge criminal complaint against senior manager of Danzer Group over Congo human rights abuses
On 25 April 2013 SRT grantee the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and former grantee Global Witness submitted a complaint to the German public prosecutor in Tübingen against a senior employee of the German-Swiss timber company Danzer Group. The complaint accuses the employee of being in breach of duty by failing to prevent crimes committed by Congolese security forces on 2nd May 2011 in the village of Bongulu. He is accused of aiding in the commission of crimes of rape, grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment and arson.
The security forces reportedly received financial and logistical help, in the form of transport and payment, from logging company Siforco S.A.R.L, which at the time was a subsidiary of the Danzer Group. Witnesses say police and military personnel were transported to the village using Siforco vehicles, that a Siforco vehicle transported detained villagers to prison after the incident and that a local company manager paid the security personnel accompanying the detainees.
Danzer and Siforco insist that they did not facilitate violence against local communities in DRC and that the events of 2nd May happened outside their control and responsibility. They maintain that they would have refused to allow their vehicles to be used had they known their intended use or consequences.
In a statement on 3rd June, ECCHR said that “The case raises fundamental questions regarding the extent to which a company and its top-level employees are responsible for human rights violations abroad and what duty of care is owed by a company in relation to its international activities.”
Full text of ECCHR’s statement: http://www.ecchr.de/index.php/danzer-en.html
Published June 10 2013
Summary: UK government compensates Kenyan torture victims after more than 50 years
On 6th June 2013 the UK government acknowledged for the first time the torture and ill-treatment inflicted by the British colonial administration on thousands of prisoners during the Kenya Emergency (1952-1960), and agreed to pay compensation of £19.9 million to more than 5,000 survivors, as well as funding a memorial in Nairobi to Kenyan victims of colonial torture.
The case began in 2009, when a group of elderly Kenyan victims of torture filed a claim against the British government. The claimants were part of a larger community who were imprisoned in the 1950s during the Kenya Emergency (also known as the Mau Mau Uprising). SRT grantee Redress intervened in the case and made written and oral submissions to the High Court on the issue of whether the claim was time-barred. The victims were represented by Leigh Day & Co.
In October 2012 the High Court rejected the government’s argument that the survivors’ claims were time-barred under English law.
Dadimos Haile, Interim Director of REDRESS, said, “REDRESS welcomes the fact that these elderly survivors will at last receive some compensation and the public recognition that they had sought. It brings justice to victims and breaks the silence and denial that has surrounded their suffering for decades.”
Press release from REDRESS’ website: http://www.redress.org/downloads/MauMapressrelease-060613.pdf
Published May 24 2013
Summary: Inter-American Court to give judgment on landmark compensation claim by 79-year-old Allende ally
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is due to give a judgement on the case of Leopoldo Garcia Lucero, an ally of Salvador Allende who was subjected to enforced disappearance, detention, physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment in Chile under the Pinochet regime.
Mr Garcia is permanently disabled due to the torture he suffered. He was expelled from Chile and granted refugee status in the UK in 1975.
SRT grantee Redress submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2002 arguing that Mr Garcia’s human rights were violated as he was not provided with any adequate remedy or reparation for what happened to him. The Commission found the case admissible in 2005. REDRESS went before the Commission in 2008 to try to reach a friendly settlement with Chile, but no agreement was reached. In 2011, the Commission sent the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for a hearing.
In 2012 REDRESS made submissions to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in particular on the issue of admissibility, as the torture took place before Chile ratified the American Charter on Human Rights. REDRESS argued that violations of victims' rights to access justice (investigation, sanctions, adequate reparation) are independent from the so-called ‘substantive’ violation of torture.
The Court considered Mr García’s case on 20 and 21st of March 2013, with Mr Garcia himself testifying on 20th March. A decision is expected sometime after July 2013. The case has become a landmark for other torture survivors seeking compensation and a full investigation from the Chilean government, and could set international standards on what constitutes adequate reparation for torture.
More information about the case can be found on REDRESS' website. Mr Garcia’s testimony before the Intern-American Court is also available at http://www.redress.org/news-and-events/watch-our-video.
Article from the Guardian about Mr Garcia’s case: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/06/chile-americas?utm_source=smartmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Leopoldo+Garcia+Lucero%5C%27s+article+in+the+Guardian
European Roma Rights Centre
Published May 24 2013
Summary: Italian Court upholds illegality of Roma ‘State of Emergency’
On 2nd May 2013 Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, upheld a ruling which declared the so-called ‘Nomad State of Emergency’ to be unlawful.
The State of Emergency was introduced in May 2008 in response to increased numbers of ‘Nomad settlements’ in a number of areas and the perception that Roma were responsible for increased crime. Italian authorities were granted extraordinary powers to monitor Roma camps and carry out censuses of residents (including children), take photos, and request documents to identify and record residents. Roma were forcibly evicted from their homes, excluded from education, fingerprinted, segregated, and harassed, thereby violating rights to housing and education, as well as raising data protection concerns.
SRT grantee the European Roma Rights Centre, along with a Roma family, launched a legal challenge to the State of Emergency in 2008. The Cassation Court's decision marks the final stage of the legal proceedings at the Italian courts, and marks the government’s last opportunity to appeal the Council of State's earlier decision that the State of Emergency was illegal.
Dezideru Gergely, ERRC’s Executive Director, said, “This is the final nail in the coffin for Italy’s disastrous State of Emergency policy. We trust that the Italian authorities will stop the building works started under this policy, and will engage more positively with Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities in the future, as outlined through the National Roma Inclusion Strategy.”
More information on the ‘State of Emergency’ from ERRC’s website: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=4114
European Human Rights Advocacy Centre
Published May 16 2013
Summary: Russian Human Rights organisation targeted by new 'Foreign Agent' law
30th April 2013: SRT grantee EHRAC has expressed its concern about a notice received by its partner organisation, Memorial Human Rights Centre, from the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office, naming them as a 'foreign agent' for "being funded from abroad and engaging in political activity", which is said to be in direct violation of Russian law. EHRAC and Memorial HRC launched a case at the European Court of Human Rights in January 2013 on behalf of 11 NGOs to challenge this law.
The law on ‘foreign agents’ was passed in November 2012 and established a new classification of NGOs in Russia. Under this law, NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaged in political activity must register as a ‘foreign agent’ and are then subject to significant reporting restrictions and regulations. Any materials or resources produced by the NGO must be labelled as having been produced by a ‘foreign agent’.
In Russian, ‘political activity’ can be used to describe any attempt to recommend changes in public policy. This therefore has an impact on the work of all human rights groups that seek to promote universal rights by holding the Russian authorities accountable for their obligations under national and international law.
Memorial HRC have been given one month to "correct the violations" and to register as a foreign agent. Under the law, refusing to register could lead to a series of sanctions including fines, suspension, criminal prosecution, and liquidation of the organisation.
EHRAC is monitoring the development of this situation and the impact it may have on its joint litigation with Memorial HRC.
Press release from EHRAC about their legal challenge to the Foreign Agent Law: http://www.mdx.ac.uk/Assets/EHRAC%20Press%20release%2097%20NGO%20Foreign%20Agent%20Law_website.pdf
Link to the letter from the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office (in Russian): http://www.memo.ru/uploads/files/987.pdf
Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants
Published May 02 2013
Summary: New report documents violations of migrants’ human rights in Greece
On 25th April 2013, SRT grantee Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) released a report documenting the humanitarian crisis faced by migrants in Greece and recommending strategies to ensure their human rights are upheld.
The report comes at a time of escalating hostility to migrants in Greece. According to data from the Racist Violence Recording Network, 84 out of 87 reported incidents of racist violence against refugees and migrants in 2012 were considered by the victims to be due to their foreign origin. In addition, according to the Greek NGO United Movement Against Racism and Fascist Threat (KEERFA), over 2,000 immigrants detained in reception centres across the country have been on hunger strike since the beginning of April in response to ill-treatment and ‘intolerable’ living conditions.
PICUM’s report recommends creating alliances with prosecutors within the judicial system to address violations taking place inside and outside detention centres, and informing police officers and border guards of their individual penal responsibility for rights violations when they are on duty. Police involvement in assaults against migrants heavily impedes efforts to hold perpetrators accountable.
The report suggests building networks of Greek NGOs and migrants’ organisations with European and international institutions. It also encourages the development of case law raising awareness of violations of migrants’ rights, and using the media to inform the public of the migrants’ situation.
Dora Oikonomou of Amnesty International Greece said, “The escalation of violence against migrants in Greece, including racially motivated attacks, requires an urgent response that so far has not been taken. Impunity for such attacks either from law enforcement agents or others perpetrators is a big part of the problem which will leave many victims of violence in a fearful silence.”
Full press release from PICUM’s website: http://picum.org/en/news/picum-news/40070/
Published March 15 2013
Summary: Anti-Gaddafi couple ‘rendered’ back to Libya by UK offer to settle their case for £1 and an apology
An opponent of the Gaddafi regime who was kidnapped and ‘rendered’ back to Libya – along with his pregnant wife – by British intelligence in 2004 has offered to settle his case against the UK government for £1 and an apology.
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, who is being represented by SRT grantee Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day & Co, is suing the government, as well as Jack Straw and Mark Allen (Foreign Secretary and Director of Counter-Terrorism at MI6 at the time) over their role in the couple’s abduction and torture. Documents found in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi show that Mark Allen wrote to the dictator’s spy chief, Moussa Koussa, to point out that while the US may have paid the “air cargo” for the couple’s rendition the “intelligence…was British.”
In a letter sent to the Prime Minister, Mr Straw, and Sir Mark, Mr Belhaj says, “I am making an open offer to settle our litigation. My wife and I are willing to end our case against the UK government and Messrs Straw and Allen in exchange for a token compensation of a British pound from each defendant, an apology and an admission of liability for what was done to us.”
Sapna Malik of Leigh Day said, "Mr Belhaj and his wife were motivated to bring their case to the UK, not for money, but because they believed the British courts would deliver a fair trial and hold to account those responsible for their rendition and torture. They are now offering a swift resolution to their claim, which would deliver what is most important to them, apologies and admissions of wrongdoing."
Full press release from Reprieve: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2013_03_04_Belhaj_apology_secret_courts/
Bytes for All
Published March 13 2013
Summary: Bytes for All wins Avon Communications Award for ‘Take Back the Tech’ campaign
On 7th March 2013, SRT grantee Bytes for All Pakistan received an Avon Communications Award on Speaking Out About Violence Against Women for its campaign ‘Take Back The Tech’. The award was presented by actress and Avon Foundation for Women Ambassador Salma Hayek Pinault during an adjunct event to the 57th session of the Commission of the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Take Back the Tech uses the spread of information and communication technology (ICT) in Pakistan to help strengthen women’s use of technology, and thereby raise awareness of and combat gender-based violence.
Bytes for All was one of five global organisations to receive the Avon award, which recognises outstanding communications campaigns that are helping change communities, policies, institutions, and behaviours to end violence against women. The winning organisations will each receive an Avon Foundation grant to fund the continuation of their work.
An international panel of judges selected Take Back The Tech from more than 425 submissions by 119 organisations worldwide.
Full press release from Bytes for All: http://content.bytesforall.pk/node/93
Published March 08 2013
Summary: South African authorities to investigate mass rape during lead-up to Zimbabwe’s presidential elections
25th February 2013: South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service have formally agreed to open an investigation into widespread rape perpetrated in the lead-up to Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential elections. Rape was allegedly used by supporters of Robert Mugabe as part of a wider campaign of violence against opposition party supporters. The decision to investigate was made in response to a legal submission by SRT grantee AIDS-Free World, which included testimony from 84 victims; reports from witnesses, doctors, and domestic and international NGOs; and the names of over 200 suspected perpetrators and orchestrators of the politically-motivated rape.
A legal team assembled by AIDS-Free World took testimony from women from all over the country, many of whom were raped in ZANU-PF ‘base camps’ in the days immediately preceding the June 2008 run-off election. The victims survived the rapes, but were left to cope with physical and psychological trauma, abandonment, unwanted pregnancies, and the fear of HIV infection.
Prosecuting these crimes in Zimbabwe is not possible in the current political climate and legal system. The International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot address the crimes because Zimbabwe has not ratified the Rome Statute and therefore is not under the ICC’s jurisdiction. South Africa, however, has both ratified the Rome Statute and incorporated it into its domestic law, giving it international and statutory obligations to bring the perpetrators of such atrocities to justice. Its proximity to and commerce with Zimbabwe also make it likely that perpetrators will enter the country, where they can then be prosecuted.
This investigation opens the possibility that justice might finally be secured for historical crimes, and that future politically motivated rape in Zimbabwe might be prevented.
Full press release from AIDS Free World: http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Newsroom/Press-Releases/2013/Zimbabwe-Investigation.aspx
Physicians for Human Rights
Published February 25 2013
Summary: Physicians for Human Rights wins 2013 ‘Tech Challenge’ for Atrocity Prevention
On 13th February 2013, SRT grantee Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) was awarded first prize for its mobile forensic application, MediCapt, in the 2013 USAID-Humanity United Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention competition.
The Tech Challenge emerged from President Obama’s Genocide Prevention Initiative, launched in April 2012, when he pledged to support creative 21st century solutions to prevent mass atrocities. PHR won in the ‘Safe Documentation’ category for its creation of a tool for clinicians combining mobile survey instruments for medical reporting with a secure mobile camera platform for photographic evidence collection. The app will help preserve forensic evidence of mass atrocities, including sexual violence and torture, which can then be used in courts. Healthcare providers will be able to use the app to compile medical evidence, photograph survivors’ injuries, and securely transmit the data to authorities engaged in prosecuting and otherwise seeking accountability for such crimes.
Karen Naimer, Director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, said, “I have seen how difficult it is for doctors and nurses to provide medical care for survivors while also trying to meticulously document their injuries. I expect MediCapt will enable health professionals to gather the medical data needed so that their legal counterparts can manage the entire evidentiary chain more effectively.”
Full press release from Physicians for Human Rights: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/phr-wins-2013-tech-challenge-for-atrocity-prevention-with-mobile-app.html
EHRAC/ Committee Against Torture
Published February 06 2013
Summary: Leading Russian human rights NGOs launch challenge to ‘Foreign Agent’ law at the European Court
On 6th February 2013, an application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of 11 leading Russian human rights NGOs to contest the ‘Foreign Agent’ Law, passed in November 2012, which compels any NGO receiving foreign funding and engaged in ‘political activity’ to register as a ‘Foreign Agent’. The applicants allege this violates their rights to freedom of association and expression under the European Convention on Human Rights, and request that the Court gives their case urgent priority. The case is being brought by SRT grantee the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), along with Russian NGO Memorial.
Any NGO classified as a ‘Foreign Agent’ is subject to significant reporting restrictions and regulations, and any materials or resources they produce must be labelled as having been produced by a ‘Foreign Agent’. The applicants believe the law will affect over 1,000 NGOs across Russia.
The case is brought on behalf of 11 NGOs (including SRT grantee the Committee Against Torture), who argue that the law puts them at risk of serious sanctions including criminal prosecutions, the possible suspension of their organisations, and reputational damage (the term ‘Foreign Agent’ has negative connotations in Russian due to its association with the word ‘spy’). They are also concerned that the lack of a clear definition of ‘political activity’ in the legislation may lead to the arbitrary application of the law by the authorities.
Philip Leach, EHRAC’s Director, said, “This is a very repressive law which directly threatens the integrity and the activities of Russian NGOs which play an absolutely vital role in scrutinising and monitoring the State. We urge the Strasbourg Court to move quickly to strike it down.”
European Roma Rights Centre
Published February 01 2013
ERRC and Chance for Children Foundation win case on segregated education of Romani children in Hungary
On 29th January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the placement of Romani children in special schools in Hungary was discriminatory.
Two Romani men complained to the Court they had been wrongly placed in special schools due to their ethnic origin, and that their education there had amounted to discrimination. The court ruled there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) to the European Convention on Human Rights read in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention.
SRT grantee the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) represented the two individuals before the court along with the Chance for Children Foundation.
The Court underlined that there was a long history of wrongful placement of Romani children in special schools in Hungary and that the State must change this practice. They noted that as a result of this practice the applicants had been isolated, and had received a limited education which made their integration into society at large difficult.
This is the latest in a series of judgments highlighting the plight of Romani children in education across Europe: Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, and now Hungary.
Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC’s Executive Director, said, “We look forward to the day that all children - Roma and non-Roma, those with learning needs and those without - can receive a quality education studying together in truly inclusive schools.”
More information from ERRC’s website: http://www.errc.org/article/european-court-of-human-rights-says-state-parties-must-take-positive-measures-against-wrongful-placement-of-romani-children-in-special-schools/4089
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published February 01 2013
Summary: Former military dictator of Guatemala ordered to stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity
On 29th January 2013, Guatemalan Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez ordered the former military dictator of Guatemala, General Efraín Ríos Montt, to stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the massacre of 1,771 indigenous Mayans in the early 1980s. The trial is expected to last for approximately three months. SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) is organising a human rights delegation trip to Guatemala for the trial and to support the prosecution.
Over 200,000 Mayans were killed during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. A 1999 UN Truth Commission report found that the military under Rios Montt’s command had "carried out acts of genocide."
In 2006, after efforts in Guatemala to obtain justice for Rios Montt’s victims failed, a pioneering effort led by CJA resulted in the creation of an international legal team which worked together on the cases in both Spanish and Guatemalan courts. The CJA-led team presented testimony and evidence from more than 40 survivors and 12 expert witnesses in Spain.
CJA will now support the work of the Guatemalan Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz, as well as the lawyers for the victims on the prosecution where over 150 survivors are expected to testify. Evidence presented by CJA in their Spanish case, including expert witness testimony and film footage of General Ríos Montt admitting that he had command responsibility over the troops who committed these atrocities, will also be presented.
Pamela Merchant, CJA’s Executive Director, said, “The end goal of our case in Spain was to advance and support a trial for genocide in Guatemala. Now, as we have hoped all along, the evidence that we put together for the prosecution in Spain will be used in Guatemala.”
Full text of CJA’s press release: http://www.cja.org/downloads/CJA%20PR%20on%20Rios%20Montt%20Trial%201%2028%2013_1.pdf
Published January 23 2013
Summary: REDRESS welcomes UK’s decision to prosecute Nepali colonel accused of torture
SRT grantee Redress has welcomed the UK government’s decision to prosecute a Nepali colonel suspected of committing torture during the country’s decade-long civil war.
Colonel Kumar Lama was arrested at his home in Sussex on 3rd January and has been charged with torturing two men in Nepal in 2005. The UN Convention against Torture obliges states to prosecute torture committed anywhere in the world. In this case, the prosecution in the UK is particularly important because impunity for current and past serious human rights violations is the norm in Nepal and victims of torture often do not obtain justice.
REDRESS, along with Advocacy Forum Nepal (which is assisting one of the victims in this particular case), have been calling for the investigation and prosecution of cases of torture and disappearances following the end of the conflict in Nepal. They have progressed landmark cases before Nepali courts and the UN Human Rights Committee, which has emphasised Nepal’s obligation to hold perpetrators of serious violations, such as torture, accountable and provide justice for victims.
Dadimos Haile, REDRESS’ Interim Director, said, “Prosecuting torturers, irrespective of where the torture was committed, sends a strong signal that the crime of torture is never acceptable and that those who commit torture will be held to account.”
REDRESS’ submission to the Attorney General in the case is available from: http://www.redress.org/downloads/documents/1301Submission-to-AG-on-Public-Interest-Requirement.pdf
Full text of REDRESS’ press release: http://www.redress.org/downloads/Nepalpressrelease_070113_final.pdf
Published December 13 2012
Summary: New programme launched to support LGBTI human rights defenders at risk
On 10th December 2012, the launch was announced of Dignity for All, a programme providing emergency assistance to human rights defenders who are under threat or attack because of their work on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights. Dignity for All is run by a consortium of international human rights organisations, including the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality; Freedom House; and SRT grantees ILGA-Europe and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). It receives funding from an international donor pool of governments and foundations supporting LGBTI rights.
Dignity for All will provide emergency funding, advocacy support and security training to LGBTI human rights defenders. Anyone in need of emergency assistance should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Full press release regarding Dignity for All: http://www.freedomhouse.org/program/dignity-all-lgbti-assistance-program
Freemuse/Index on Censorship
Published November 22 2012
Summary: Freemuse takes key role in new global network supporting artistic freedom of expression
On 1st November 2012, the launch was announced of the Arts and Freedom of Expression Network (Artsfex), a new global network advocating and defending artistic freedom of expression. SRT grantees Freemuse and Index on Censorship, along with the US-based National Coalition Against Censorship, have been elected to take the initiative forward. The decision was taken at a launch meeting in Norway, following the first-ever world conference on artistic freedom of expression, organised by Fritt Ord and Freemuse at the Oslo Opera House.
Artsfex is the first international civil society network actively concerned with the right of artists to freedom of expression as well as with issues relating to human rights and freedoms generally. It aims to promote, protect and defend artistic freedom of expression, as well as freedom of assembly, thought, and opinion in and across all art disciplines.
Chair of Freemuse Professor Martin Cloonan said, “Freemuse very much welcomes the formation of this network and looks forward to working with our international partners on furthering the cause of freedom of artistic expression across the globe. Recent censorship incidents, the suppression of creative voices, and threats against the lives of artists have made it clear that we have arrived at the moment when creative workers and free speech activists need to work together against repression and for an open cultural space both locally, regionally and globally.”
Further information can be found on the Artsfex website: http://www.artsfex.org
Full text of press release from Freemuse: http://www.freemuse.org/sw48942.asp
Death Penalty Project
Published November 15 2012
Summary: High Court ruling could lead to end of mandatory death penalty in Nigeria
In September 2012 the High Court of Lagos State, Nigeria, ruled that the mandatory death sentence by hanging or firing squad is unconstitutional. The ruling means that the mandatory imposition of the death penalty for convicted murderers in Lagos is prohibited. Instead, the death penalty is now the maximum, but not the only, option open to the judge.
In his ruling, Justice Mufutau Olokoba held that mental torture was “an inevitable consequence of death sentence on the victims”, and that execution amounted to “a violation of the condemned’s right to dignity of the human person and inhuman and degrading treatment…and is consequently unconstitutional.” The Court ordered that “the respondent (government of Lagos) is perpetually restrained from inflicting the penalty of death on the applicants by hanging or firing squad”.
The Legal Resources Consortium, a public interest law centre in Nigeria, brought the case, which has been pending since 2008. Human rights NGO the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) assisted in preparing the legal arguments for the case.
The ruling was welcomed by SRT grantee the Death Penalty Project, which has been working with LEDAP for almost a decade on litigation to abolish the mandatory death penalty there. They now hope this ruling may lead to the total abolition of the death penalty in Nigeria. Saul Lehrfreund, Co-Executive Director of the Death Penalty Project, said, “This is a significant development in Nigeria. Hopefully the restriction of the death penalty in this case will be a major step towards total abolition”.
Full press release from the Death Penalty Project: http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/fulltexts/78/original/12.11.06_DPP_Nigeria_release.pdf?1352223708
Published October 29 2012
Summary: Kenyan torture victims win historic legal victory against UK government in London
On 5 October 2012, three elderly Kenyan victims of British torture during the Mau Mau independence struggle in the 1950s won a historic legal victory against the UK government, after the Court rejected the government’s argument that their claims are time barred under English law. The case will now proceed to a full trial unless the government opens negotiations for a settlement. SRT grantee Redress intervened in the case, making submissions to the Court in support of the victims’ claims. Redress argued that there should be no statutes of limitations on war crimes and other gross or serious violations of international law, including torture.
The Kenyan victims claim that they suffered grave abuses at the hands of British colonial authorities, including castrations, severe sexual assaults and systematic beatings. In July 2012, faced with newly released documents supporting the claim, the government accepted it in principle, but continued to deny liability. In 2011, the Court rejected the government’s argument that Kenya was legally responsible for any abuses because all liabilities were transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963.
In the latest development in the case, the Court did not accept the government’s claim that a fair trial was impossible, because, for example, many witnesses had died. The Judge concluded that there could be a fair trial, and that the evidence on both sides remained sufficiently relevant for the purposes of a trial.
Redress’s Interim Director, Dadimos Haile, said, "We welcome the fact that that these elderly victims, who have been waiting for justice for more than 50 years, will now have a chance to be heard and to receive compensation for the horrendous abuses that they suffered”.
Full text of press release from Redress: http://www.redress.org/downloads/MauMapressrelease-051012-pdf.pdf
African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
Published October 29 2012
Summary: Ugandan Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill becomes law
On 27th July 2012 the Ugandan Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 received Presidential assent, having been passed by Parliament in April this year. The Bill has now become the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012. The campaign for the passage of the Bill was led by SRT grantee the African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims.
Uganda ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1986, but had not to date properly implemented it. The Ugandan Constitution prohibited torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment but did not properly define these acts. Further, the law did not criminalise torture, thereby failing to provide redress for victims. Information obtained by torture was not adequately regulated in the courts, and torture had became widespread.
The new Act seeks to remedy the deficiencies of the previous law and fully implement the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture. In particular, it provides a definition of torture in line with the Convention; it establishes torture as a specific crime punishable by imprisonment; ensures individual as well as state liability for torture; provides victims with means of redress; and precludes the use in court of information obtained through torture.
The African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims led the Coalition Against Torture, a grouping of 10 civil society organisations, in preparing a draft Bill. After consultations with government, the Coalition lobbied Ugandan MPs to pass the draft legislation as a private Member’s bill (to avoid the risk that ministers could stall its progress). For over two years, the African Centre has carried out advocacy in support of the Act. Together with the other members of the Coalition Against Torture, it will continue to monitor the Act’s enforcement.
European Roma Rights Centre
Published October 08 2012
Summary: European Court of Human rights rules on discrimination against Roma in Ukraine murders
On 21 September 2012 The European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment finding discrimination in the case of Fedorchenko and Lozenko v Ukraine. The case relates to five Romani people, including three children aged three, six and 15, who died after a violent arson attack in Ukraine in 2001. The victims’ house was deliberately set alight with flammable liquid, and the door was barred from the outside. The family died from extensive burns and smoke inhalation.
The investigation by the Ukrainian authorities into the incident did not result in any prosecution. SRT grantee the European Roma Rights Centre represented Mr Fedorchenko and Ms Lozenko (relatives of the victims) in an application to the European Court of Human Rights in 2002, claiming that among those responsible for the arson attack was a senior police officer and that the incident had not been properly investigated. The applicants also claimed that both the attack and the subsequent failure to investigate were linked to widespread discrimination against Roma in Ukraine.
Ten years after this case was filed, the European Court found that Ukraine had failed to meet the procedural requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to life) by failing to conduct an effective investigation into the deaths and in doing so also violated breached Article 14 (right to be free from discrimination).
The Court stated in its judgment: “Given the widespread discrimination and violence against Roma in Ukraine [...] it cannot be excluded that the decision to burn the houses had been additionally nourished by ethnic hatred and thus it necessitated verification [...] The Court considers it unacceptable that in such circumstances an investigation, lasting over eleven years, did not give rise to any serious action with a view to identifying or prosecuting the perpetrators.”
Dezideriu Gergely, Executive Director of the ERRC, said, “This was a shocking and violent incident which resulted in the death of five Romani people. The Court’s ruling on discrimination is to be especially welcomed. We hope that Ukraine takes the initiative to effectively protect Roma from violence and to fully investigate and prosecute any racist incidents which do take place as matter of urgency.”
Full text of the ERRC’s press release: http://www.errc.org/article/european-court-of-human-rights-rules-on-discrimination-against-roma-in-ukraine-murders/4054
Published October 01 2012
Summary: EU adopts Directive offering protection to victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes
On 12th September 2012, the European Parliament adopted a Directive acknowledging that victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity may require specific protection. The nature of the crime and the victims’ individual circumstances will be part of an assessment of the existence of such needs. This is the first time that this requirement has been set out in international legislation. The news was welcomed by SRT grantee ILGA-Europe, who had previously made submissions to the European Commission’s Victims’ Rights package, as well as to the European Parliament, calling for stronger legislation to protect victims of hate crimes.
The EU Directive states that victims of homophobic, transphobic, gender-based and other 'bias crimes' may require specific protection measures to prevent have the right to protection from further victimisation or intimidation, such as the possibility of being interviewed by specifically trained professionals, to have appropriate support throughout the legal process, and not to be questioned unnecessarily on their private lives during court proceedings.
The EU Member States will have three years to fully implement this Directive, and ILGA-Europe will monitor the implementation process. Martin Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said, “Today the European Parliament made a significant step against hate crimes motivated by homophobia and transphobia. What ILGA-Europe wants to see next is the improvement of an EU definition of hate crime which needs to explicitly recognise those grounds.”
Full text of the press release from ILGA-Europe: http://ilga-europe.org/home/news/for_media/media_releases/eu_adopts_directive_offering_protection_to_victims_of_homophobic_and_transphobic_crimes
Published September 28 2012
Summary: Glasgow Council supports Sistema Scotland's bid to open second children's music centre
On 27th September 2012, Glasgow City Council voted unanimously in favour of setting up a 'Big Noise' children’s music centre in Govanhill, Glasgow. This decision paves the way for SRT grantee Sistema Scotland to open its second Big Noise centre, building on the success of Big Noise Raploch in Stirling, which was opened in 2008.
Inspired by the El Sistema project in Venezuela, Sistema Scotland aims to teach children confidence, pride and aspiration through music-making.
BBC News article about the new Big Noise centre: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-19735215
Bytes for All
Published September 24 2012
In response to worldwide protests against the film 'Innocence of Muslims', SRT grantee Bytes for All Pakistan (B4A) has issued a statement condemning both the film and the Pakistan government for giving the film a level of attention that it did not deserve.
While several states have blocked links to the film on YouTube, the Government of Pakistan has banned not only the whole of YouTube, but also other services including Google Drive and Android Google Play.
B4A has repeatedly said that any kind of online censorship, especially faith-based filtering, eventually paves the way for systematic controls to curb the voices of citizens, and should be avoided at all costs.
B4A has urged the Government of Pakistan to educate Pakistani citizens, control mass violence and promote peace and harmony among all elements of society in the country, including minorities, in order to project a positive image of Islam.
Full text of B4A's statement: http://content.bytesforall.pk/node/69
Bytes for All
Published August 21 2012
Summary: Bytes for All publishes new research into digital security for journalists and bloggers
On 8th August 2012, SRT grantee Bytes for All announced a new research paper, Digital Security and Journalists: A Snapshot of Awareness and Practice in Pakistan. Produced by Bytes for All and commissioned by the Internews Center for Innovation and Learning, the research shows that journalists and bloggers in Pakistan are often not aware of how to protect themselves, their data, and their sources online.
This research is part of Bytes for All’s ongoing Digital Security Program, which was created in 2010 to raise awareness of the risks of internet use in Pakistan, especially for women and young girls. The programme also focuses on equipping human rights defenders and civil society organisations with the tools to be safe and secure online.
For the research, Bytes for All interviewed 37 journalists and 15 bloggers from across Pakistan including the conflict ridden areas of Balochistan and FATA, revealing that a majority of professionals were neither aware of online threats, nor did they know the effective methods for keeping themselves safe and protecting their online privacy. Over 90% of the respondents also highlighted that they had never received any training in digital security.
Bytes for All hope that the research document will serve as a launchpad for more informed and focused digital security training for media professionals in future.
Press release from Bytes for All, including a link to the report: http://content.bytesforall.pk/node/62
Published August 13 2012
Summary: Coca Cola makes public apology for sponsoring concert by homophobic performer
Following a year-long advocacy campaign initiated by SRT grantee AIDS-Free World, Coca Cola has made an official apology for its sponsorship of a concert by Jamaican dancehall performer Sizzla in April 2011, which featured a song calling for gay men and lesbians to be murdered.
AIDS-Free World’s campaign included letter and e-mail writing, phone calls and speeches. On 16th July 2012 it revealed that Coca Cola has completely revised its sponsorship practices and has introduced a new Sponsorship Policy which, if correctly implemented, will prevent events such as the Sizzla concert being sponsored in future. The new policy establishes a careful review process by which the company will conduct research on all parties involved in sponsored music events, and will assess many factors, including “violence to or degradation of any class of people (based on gender, race, or sexual orientation).”
Coca Cola has also issued a public apology and officially acknowledged the lack of oversight in its worldwide music sponsorship.
In a statement issued on 16th July, AIDS Free World said, “We recognize that Coca-Cola’s new Global Music Sponsorship Policy is an accurate reflection of its growing commitment to respecting the human rights of all men and women around the world, regardless of sexual orientation. Every corporation that claims to be concerned about HIV should be held to similar account.”
Full text of AIDS-Free World’s statement: http://aidsfreeworld.org/Our-Issues/Homophobia/AIDSFree-World-versus-Coca-Cola.aspx
Published August 09 2012
Summary: Reprieve finds multiple failures in Romanian Parliament’s inquiry into CIA detention and rendition on Romanian soil
On 29 June 2012, investigators at SRT grantee Reprieve announced that they have discovered multiple failures in the Romanian Parliament’s investigation into CIA secret detention and rendition flights on Romanian soil. The inquiry, concluded in 2008, denied Romanian involvement in or knowledge of the black site network.
Reprieve found that the inquiry failed to report on key suspicious flights into and out of Romania, which it uncovered in the course of its investigations into private renditions contractor Computer Sciences Corporation. The investigation had also limited its search for unlawful detention facilities “at or near” airports, when Associated Press and ARD Panorama had revealed that former US intelligence officials had identified a secret CIA prison location in central Bucharest.
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said, “As more and more data on renditions contracting comes to light, it’s clear that the Romanian inquiry was anything but comprehensive. It’s now evident that many of the probable rendition flights passing through Romania were never even noticed by the Parliamentary Inquiry. CSC’s involvement in Romania in 2004 and 2005 demonstrates a consistent pattern of behaviour which the Romanian Inquiry did not even begin to explore, let alone explain.”
Full press release from Reprieve: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2012_06_29_romania_whitewash_rendition_inquiry/
Published August 06 2012
Summary: UN Human Rights Committee orders Libyan authorities to punish the perpetrators of enforced disappearances under the Gaddafi regime
On 27th June 2012 the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a statement condemning Libya and requiring the authorities to investigate the enforced disappearance in 2006 and 2007 of two brothers, Idriss and Juma Aboufaied. The brothers are being represented in their case by SRT grantee TRIAL, along with another Swiss-based NGO, Alkarama.
Idriss and Juma Aboufaied claim to have been arrested and held incommunicado for weeks at a time during 2006 and 2007. Idriss, a doctor and human rights defender who had previously claimed asylum in Switzerland, was also tortured so badly that he had to be hospitalised. Both men were finally released in 2008.
In its decision, the Human Rights Committee has condemned Libya for multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee recognised that the Aboufaied brothers were victims of enforced disappearances, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and, in the case of Idriss Aboufaied, of torture. The Committee required Libya to conduct a thorough and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of the Aboufaied brothers and on the treatment they were subjected to, and to provide them with detailed information on the results of its investigation. The Committee also stressed the obligation of Libya to prosecute, try and punish those responsible for the abuses committed and to provide adequate compensation to the victims.
Director of TRIAL, Philip Grant, said, "Even if the crimes were committed by the former regime, the new authorities have an obligation to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. Reconstructing a State based on the rule of law implies that the truth is shed, that criminals are prosecuted and that justice is given to the Aboufaied brothers, like so many other victims of the dictatorship."
Full press release from TRIAL: http://www.trial-ch.org/en/about-trial/trial-acts/details/article/la-libye-rappelee-a-lordre-par-lonu-il-faut-enqueter-sur-les-crimes-du-passe.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=1188&cHash=096068a80b60f3abe1c799128bc94db8
The Death Penalty Project
Published August 06 2012
Summary: Government of Singapore announces plans to abolish mandatory death penalty for certain offences
On 10th July 2012, the government of Singapore announced that legislation will be introduced later this year to abolish the mandatory death penalty for certain offences, including homicide and some drug trafficking offences. There will be a moratorium on executions until the required legislation is implemented, following which all accused people and those currently under sentence of death who meet the necessary requirements will be re-sentenced under the new law.
SRT grantee the Death Penalty Project has assisted local Singaporean lawyers in mounting a number of constitutional legal challenges to the death penalty before the Singaporean Courts, which have helped to shape the review of the issue which has resulted in the above legal reform. One such case was that of Yong Vui Kong. Mr Yong was convicted of drug trafficking and was sentenced to death in 2008. He had admitted at trial that he was a drug courier and was convicted of trafficking. He was 19 years old at the time he was charged and had no previous criminal record, yet the judge had no option but to impose the mandatory death sentence. Even though the legal challenge to the death penalty in this instance did not succeed, the case played a vital role in bringing the issue to the fore, leading to the proposed legal reform. Following the introduction of the new legislation, Mr Yong will be able to seek a review of his death sentence.
Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar of the Death Penalty Project said, “We welcome this development which will bring Singapore closer in line with many other countries that have in recent years abolished the mandatory death sentence...While this is a positive move in the right direction, mandatory death sentences are prohibited by international law and, as such, the Government of Singapore will need to abolish it altogether, so judges will have the power to dispense discretion in all cases.”
Full press release from the Death Penalty Project: http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/fulltexts/75/original/12.07.10_Singapore_Press_Release.pdf?1341938811
Published June 22 2012
Summary: Hassan Jabareen of Adalah and Dan Yakir of ACRI jointly receive the Victor J Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East
On 18th June 2012 the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced that Hassan Jabareen, the founder and General Director of Adalah, and Dan Yakir, the Chief Legal Counsel at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), have been awarded the 2012 Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. Both Adalah and ACRI are grantees of the Sigrid Rausing Trust.
Mr Jabareen, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, and Mr Yakir, a Jewish citizen of Israel, have been selected to receive the prize in recognition of their work together in promoting equal rights for Israeli Arab citizens.
IIE is a non-profit organisation founded in 1919 and headquartered in New York City. The Selection Committee for the Prize includes leading experts from academia, the non-profit sector, and government.
Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of ACRI, said, “I would like to congratulate Dan and Hassan for this remarkable achievement – and hope that they will continue to carry out this important work with the same dedication, conviction, and courage that they have demonstrated over the years.”
Full statements from ACRI and Adalah's websites: http://www.acri.org.il/en/2012/06/18/goldberg-prize-2012/
Published June 20 2012
Summary: European Court rules that ban on LGBT demonstration in Moldova is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights
On 12th June 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban on an LGBT demonstration organised by SRT grantee GenderDoc Moldova in May 2005 was contradictory to Articles 11 (freedom of assembly and association), 13 (right to an effective remedy) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Republic of Moldova must now pay GenderDoc 11,000 Euros in compensation.
This is the first time in Moldova’s judicial history that the Court of Human Rights has found it guilty of violating Article 14 of the ECHR, prohibiting discrimination. It has taken six years for the Court to recognise state-sponsored discrimination against people on the grounds of sexual orientation in Moldova, albeit in conjunction with Article 11 on Freedom of Assembly.
GenderDoc was represented throughout the trial by Natalia Mardari of the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights.
Anastasia Danilova, Executive Director of GenderDoc Moldova, said: “This is a historic moment for Moldova’s LGBT movement which proves once again the well-known axiom that LGBT rights are human rights. If Moldovan authorities refuse to recognise this self-evident fact, they are doomed to be shamed on the international level and pay significant monetary compensations to victims. We congratulate everybody who believes in principles of equality and universality of human rights that justice has been eventually restored”.
Published May 25 2012
Summary: Supreme Court orders Israel to reconsider its refusal to allow four women students to travel to study at Birzeit University
On 23rd May 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the state to reconsider its decision to prevent four female students from Gaza from travelling to study at Birzeit University in the West Bank. This marks the first time in 12 years that the court has shown willingness to intervene in the blanket ban on Gazan students studying at West Bank universities.
The decision came as a result of a petition submitted by SRT grantee Gisha and its partner organisation Al Mezan. The four women began Master’s degrees in gender studies and human rights at Birzeit before the student travel ban was imposed. In 2000 the army refused to renew their travel permits, and they returned to Gaza without having completed their degrees.
At the hearing, Gisha stressed that the women are exceptional and influential civil society leaders who are advancing women's rights in the Gaza Strip, and that there are no gender studies or human rights programmes available in Gaza. The attorney for the state acknowledged that it did not claim any of the women represented a security risk as individuals, but had rejected their request as part of the overall ban on student travel.
Nomi Heger, Director of Gisha's Legal Department, said, "Today's decision is a victory for common sense. We hope that the Israeli military will internalise the senselessness of sweeping restrictions on freedom of movement – especially for outstanding women seeking to promote women's rights in Gaza".
The state now has 45 days to consider whether it will reverse its refusal to allow the four students to travel.
Full story from Gisha’s website: http://www.gisha.org/item.asp?lang_id=en&p_id=1599
Corner House/Global Witness
Published April 30 2012
Summary: Former Governor of Delta State in Nigeria is sentenced to 13 years in jail for theft of £157 million of public funds
On 20th April 2012 at Southwark Crown Court James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State in Nigeria, was sentenced to 13 years in jail for fraud and the theft of an estimated £157 million of public funds.
Mr Ibori’s conviction followed an investigation by the London Metropolitan Police’s Proceeds of Crime Unit, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID). But it has now emerged that CDC Group, a private sector development fund owned by the Department for International Development, has financed three Nigerian companies that are said to have acted as money-laundering fronts for Ibori. CDC’s investments in the companies were made through Emerging Capital Partners, a US private equity fund.
DfID was alerted in confidence to evidence against the fund by a Nigerian whistleblower, Dotun Oloko. In January, DfID issued an unreserved apology to Mr Oloko after it was forced by a BBC Newsnight investigation to admit that it betrayed Mr Oloko’s name to Emerging Capital Partners, which then placed him and his family under covert surveillance. Mr Oloko was assisted in his case by SRT grantee Corner House and Campagna per La Riforma della Banca Mondiale.
SRT grantee Global Witness has called for an investigation into British banks including HSBC, Barclays and Citibank for their alleged roles in Ibori’s money laundering. Robert Palmer of Global Witness said, “By doing business with Ibori and his associates, these banks facilitated his corrupt behaviour and allowed him to spend diverted state assets on a luxury lifestyle, including a private jet and expensive London houses, while many Nigerians continue to live in poverty.”
UPDATE: On 5th May 2012 Dotun Oloko announced that he has submitted a complaint to the British Parliamentary Ombudsman accusing the Department for International Development and the CDC Group of maladministration.
Press release from Corner House: http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/uk-development-fund-implicated-money-laundering-investigation
Press release from Global Witness: http://www.globalwitness.org/library/sentencing-former-nigerian-politician-highlights-role-british-and-us-banks-money-laundering
Published April 27 2012
Human Rights Watch urges investigation into the beating of a prominent Russian journalist
On 5th April 2012 Elena Milashina, a prominent Russian journalist and human rights defender, was attacked by unknown assailants near her home in Moscow. Milashina, who works for the leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, reported that she was kicked and punched in the head, suffered multiple bruises and lost a tooth (a friend who was with her was also attacked). The police were called straight away but did not arrive for 90 minutes.
Milashina has reported on human rights abuses in the North Caucasus, and conducted an independent investigation into the killing of fellow journalist Natalia Estemirova in July 2009. Her employers Novaya Gazeta say that they ‘do not exclude the possibility’ that she was attacked because of her journalistic activity.
Former SRT grantee Human Rights Watch is calling for a full and impartial investigation into the attack on Milashina. Hugh Williamson of Human Rights Watch said, “When a courageous journalist who works in a hostile environment is attacked, the authorities need to examine whether what may look like common mugging could be linked to her professional activity. In either case, the authorities need to take immediate steps to identify the attackers and hold them to account.”
Milashina’s condition has improved and she is now back at work.
Full statement from Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/node/106318
American Civil Liberties Union
Published April 03 2012
Summary: US judge allows lawsuit challenging the government’s seizure of computer equipment belonging to freedom of information campaigner
On 28th March 2012 a federal judge denied the US government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the search and seizure of electronic devices belonging to freedom of information activist David House.
Department of Homeland Security agents stopped House at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago in November 2010 and questioned him about his political activities and beliefs. Officials then confiscated his laptop computer, camera and a USB drive and did not return them for nearly seven weeks.
SRT grantee the American Civil Liberties Union is representing House in a suit charging that the government targeted him based on his association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organisation created to raise funds for the legal defense of the soldier accused of leaking material to WikiLeaks. The government had asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that it has broad powers to search and seize electronic devices at the border without any justification.
While the court held that the government does not need suspicion to search a laptop at the border, it also held that the power to search was not unlimited, and that the fact the initial search occurred at the border did not strip House of his First Amendment rights.
"This ruling affirms that the constitution is still alive at the US border," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "Despite the government's broad assertions that it can take and search any laptop, diary or smartphone without any reasonable suspicion, the court said the government cannot use that power to target political speech."
Full text of the ruling:
Full press release from the ACLU:
Southall Black Sisters
Published March 23 2012
Summary: Southall Black Sisters launches campaign to criminalise inciting suicide
Following concerns about the police’s failure to investigate the cases of women who kill themselves after suffering violence or abuse, SRT grantee Southall Black Sisters has announced the launch of a campaign for a new homicide law covering ‘suicide aggravated by harassment or violence’. There is currently no law against inciting someone to take their own life, and only coroners’ courts can authorise investigation into the circumstances of a suicide.
According to the Home Office around 10 women in the UK kill themselves every week after suffering repeated abuse, and the suicide rate is more than three times higher among young Asian women. SBS decided to launch their campaign after taking on the case of Nosheen Azam, a Pakistani woman who was found in flames in her garden in Sheffield in 2005. Azam had previously claimed that she was being abused by members of her husband’s family, and told her parents that she was frightened for her life. She remains in a coma after suffering 60 percent burns.
Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters said, “In our experience, in the face of violence or abuse, many women feel that they have no option but to self-harm or kill themselves. This state of affairs is especially disturbing in the context of a complete absence of any … effective criminal prosecutions of perpetrators of abuse who are demonstrably culpable in causing a woman or vulnerable person to commit suicide."
Statement on campaign launch from Southall Black Sisters’ website: http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/nosheen-azam-campaign-launch
Coalition for the International Criminal Court/Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice
Published March 16 2012
Summary: International Criminal Court delivers ruling in its first landmark trial
On 14th March 2012 the International Criminal Court delivered a guilty verdict in the trial of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was accused of recruiting children under 15 and using them to participate in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003. This is the first verdict delivered by the Court since it was founded 10 years ago, and is one of only a few international criminal cases in history to charge an individual with acts of enlistment and conscription of child soldiers. 129 victims took part in the case via seven legal representatives. The ICC judges may now order reparations to be paid to victims.
William R Pace, the Convenor of SRT grantee the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said, “Depending on whether an appeal is made and on its outcome, today’s decision should be remembered as a critical turning point in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes known to humankind.”
SRT grantee Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) worked on the Lubanga case for six years, and in 2006 submitted a dossier to the Office of the Prosecutor, including interviews with 31 survivors of gender-based crimes allegedly committed by Lubanga's UPC militia group. Brigid Inder of WIGJ said, “The conviction today is very important in demonstrating that no-one is beyond the reach of the law and that militia leaders operating in remote areas can be held accountable.”
Press release from the Coalition for the International Criminal Court: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50&id=32280f9292
Press release from WIGJ: http://www.iccwomen.org/documents/Press-Statement-on-Lubanga-conviction.pdf
Campaign Against Arms Trade
Published March 15 2012
Summary: Campaign Against Arms Trade improves public access to information on UK arms exports
On 8th March 2012, SRT grantee Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) announced the launch of a new web application which will give the public improved access to information on UK arms export licences. The information has until now only been available via the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, and was difficult to access, use and understand. CAAT’s database will allow open access, so that anyone can view and search the data without registering. Users will also be able to search for export licences by region or type of weaponry, identify which licences have been revoked, and download the full data as a spreadsheet.
CAAT regards the web application as a first step in making the data more accessible and transparent, and intends to develop it further in response to feedback. They hope that this will take place alongside an improvement in the government’s arms data provision. Ian Pritchard of CAAT said, “It is hard to think of an area of government activity that demands transparency more than arms export licensing. The new web app provides official information in a format that substantially increases transparency of the licensing system and, hopefully, will lead to greater accountability.”
The web application is available via CAAT’s website at http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/.
Full press release from CAAT: http://www.caat.org.uk/press/archive.php?url=20120308prs
International Accountability Project
Published March 10 2012
Summary: UN experts warn that Bangladesh open-pit coal mine threatens fundamental human rights
On 28th February 2012, a group of United Nations independent experts called for an immediate halt to a proposed open-pit coal mine in Phulbari, north-western Bangladesh, claiming that it has the potential to displace many thousands of people and violate fundamental human rights. Their statement follows an Urgent Appeal for Action submitted to the UN in September 2011 by SRT grantee the International Accountability Project.
The seven UN Special Rapporteurs stated in a press release that the Phulbari development would potentially displace 50,000 to 130,000 people (including entire villages of Santal, Munda, Mahili and Pahan indigenous peoples), threaten around 12,000 hectares of agricultural land, and destroy waterways supporting over 1,000 fisheries and nearly 50,000 fruit trees. The land under threat is located in Bangladesh’s most fertile agricultural region and supports the entire country’s food needs (nearly half the Bangladeshi population is food insecure, and nearly one quarter severely food insecure). Up to 220,000 people could also lose access to safe drinking water as a result of the development.
As well as recommending an immediate halt to the Phulbari project, the Rapporteurs are calling on the Bangladeshi government to ensure that its policy on open pit coal mining includes safeguards to protect human rights. Magdalena Sepulveda, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said: “By incorporating human rights principles into the national development strategy and fulfilling their human rights obligations, the government is more likely to reduce poverty. Human rights and development policies are mutually reinforcing.”
Full text of the UN Special Rapporteurs’ press release: http://accountabilityproject.org/article.php?id=688
Article by the IAP's Senior Research Fellow about the UN action: http://bicusa.org/en/Article.12604.aspx
Published February 23 2012
Summary: Iowa State University withdraws from Tanzania land investment deal which is set to displace 162,000 people
On 10th February 2012 Iowa State University announced it was withdrawing from a controversial land deal in Tanzania which is likely to displace over 162,000 people from their homes. The project, led by US-based energy company AgriSol, aims to develop three large tracts of land for the commercial production of crops, livestock and biofuels, creating a likely profit of $272 million a year (nearly equal to the total budget of the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture). The land currently contains three camps inhabited by Burundian refugees who fled to Tanzania in 1972, and have been living and farming there ever since. The Tanzanian government is offering them citizenship, but only on the condition that they move to make way for AgriSol's commercial activities (the former Minister of Home Affairs, Lawrence Masha, who was in charge of the refugee camps when the relocation plan was decided, has since been hired as a 'legal advisor' to AgriSol).
Iowa State University had been providing key support for the project by conducting feasibility studies including soil sampling and climate analysis and providing legitimacy to the project to potential investors. Its role was first uncovered by SRT grantee the Oakland Institute in June 2011, in a brief that questioned its ties to the project and to Bruce Rastetter, Managing Director of AgriSol and an important donor to the university. Following pressure from the Oakland Institute, and media and campus activism, the university has cut all its ties to AgriSol. Anuradha Mittal, the Oakland Institute's Director, said, "In over 40 years the Burundians have built a robust and productive farming community; it would demonstrate support of Iowa State University's mission to help 'small farmers and families struggling against poverty and hunger,' to ensure that they are not forcibly moved."
Full story from the Oakland Institute's website: http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/tanzania-us-university-withdraws-land-grab-deal
Published February 15 2012
Summary: French authorities investigate the ‘ill-gotten gains’ of three African leaders and their families
The French authorities, assisted by anti-corruption NGOs including SRT grantee Sherpa, are investigating claims that three African leaders have embezzled state funds to pay for assets including houses, luxury cars, designer clothes and private jets.
The late Gabon leader Omar Bongo and his son Ali, the Congo-Brazzaville leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso and his family, and the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, and his son are accused of owning EUR160 million of assets in France accrued through money-laundering, embezzlement and misuse of public funds. The leaders and their families deny the charges.
Congo-Brazzaville is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 87% of its population living on less than two dollars a day according to the UNDP. Despite being oil-rich, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea also have a high proportion of citizens living in poverty.
The case may have an impact on other countries where serving leaders have placed their wealth, including the USA and the UK (the USA has already moved to seize assets belonging to Teodoro Obiang’s son).
Article from the Guardian on the seizure of the leaders’ assets: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/06/france-africa-autocrats-corruption-inquiry?INTCMP=SRCH
Published February 03 2012
Summary: Right-wing MEPs attack European Commission’s funding of ILGA-Europe
One of the largest European LGBTI rights organisations, SRT grantee ILGA-Europe, has reported that it is the subject of an ongoing campaign by some right-wing members of the European Parliament, who are questioning the funding it receives from the EU and private donors.
Since December 2011 Godfrey Bloom of the UK Independence Party and Konrad Szymanski, a Polish MEP from the Law & Justice Party, have tabled six questions between them to the European Commission, asking it to justify the grants given to ILGA-Europe and implying that because ILGA is not funded by its member organisations, it cannot legitimately represent LGBT people. Mr Bloom (who was ejected from the European Parliament chamber in 2010 for quoting a Nazi slogan at a senior German politician) tabled five of the questions, and Mr Szymanski one. The questions are as follows:
· Subject: ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Association) funding
According to information published by the organisation ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Association) on its own website, its forecast budget for 2011 was EUR 1 824 000, EUR 1 252 600 (i.e. 67.7%) of which consisted in grants received from the European Commission and a further EUR 50 000 of which was granted by the Dutch Government, bringing the share of public money in ILGA-Europe’s budget to more than 70%.
Was the Commission aware of the figures mentioned above?
Given the proportion of its own contribution to financing ILGA-Europe, does the Commission believe that ILGA-Europe can be described as a ‘non-governmental organisation’ or as part of ‘civil society’?
· Subject: ILGA funding
Is the Commission aware that of the remaining EUR 521 400 in ILGA’s budget, EUR 402 400 were donated by three wealthy individuals (George Soros/OSI, Sigrid Rausing and an anonymous donor)?
Does the Commission know of any significant contribution to ILGA’s budget being made by those whom the organisation claims to represent, i.e. gay and lesbian persons?
Also, how does the Commission view the influence that wealthy individuals may exert over the NGOs they are subsidising?
Is there a risk that persons such as George Soros could ‘buy’ themselves one or more NGOs that are economically dependent on their donations?
How does the Commission view the impact of this particular type of ‘philanthropy’ on democracy?
· Subject: ILGA funding via EuropeAid
Is the Commission aware that, according to the organisation’s budget forecast for 2012, a further grant request by ILGA (for EUR 1 million spread over three years) is pending with EuropeAid?
How does the Commission intend to reply to this request?
· Subject: ILGA funding and other lobby groups
Are there many other lobby groups that receive a similar proportion of their budget from the Commission? Or is ILGA a unique case?
· Subject: ILGA-Europe funding and UN standards
Is the Commission aware that among the requirements for NGOs that seek accreditation to obtain consultative status at the UN (http://csonet.org/?menu=83), one is that 'the major portion of the organisation's funds should be derived from contributions from national affiliates, individual members, or other non-governmental components'?
Does the EU apply similar requirements to NGOs? If so, does the Commission agree that this requirement is not met by ILGA-Europe?
· Subject: Commission funding for the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
The Commission has been one of the main sponsors of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) for some years now. From 2007 to 2010, ILGA received from the Commission a total amount of EUR 4 107 457.12, i.e. more than EUR 1 million per annum. The main part of this sum derives from a DG EMPL funding programme called PROGRESS, from which ILGA receives an operational grant covering up to 80 % of its running costs.
ILGA's main activity is to influence the legislation in order to guarantee rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons, in particular in the field of marriage and substitutes for marriage.
In reality, the EU has no competences as regards the recognition of marriages or family law.
1. On what legal basis is the Commission giving out operational grants to associations whose main activities are outside the scope of the EU's competences?
2. Why has the Commission decided to support associations whose activities are directed towards changing Member State law, this being especially questionable in the case of countries such as Poland, which is under this kind of lobbying pressure regarding its family law and which has declared its legislative independence in that sphere (see the Declaration by the Republic of Poland on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union)?
3. Does the Commission recognise that by becoming a major sponsor for the above lobby, active in Poland as well as in other Member States, it is acting outside its competences and is actually breaching the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in the Treaties (Article 5(3) TEU)?
In response to the MEPs’ questioning, ILGA-Europe have explained that they do not receive membership fees because their member organisations pay these directly to the parent organisation, ILGA-World.
ILGA-Europe have also published more detailed information about their funding on their website. They stress that their accounts are public and audited twice a year, and that their financial reports are also publically available.
Article from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights: http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/press-releases/homophobic-mep-quizzes-commission-on-equality-funding/
Further information on ILGA-Europe’s funding: http://www.ilga-europe.org/home/about_us/ilga_europe_funding
Published January 26 2012
Summary: UK government apologises to corruption whistleblower after disclosing his identity
On 19th January 2012 the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell offered an unreserved apology to Dotun Oloko, a British-born Nigerian campaigner whose identity was disclosed to a private equity firm he had previously alleged was involved in corruption.
In 2009 Mr Oloko, requesting anonymity and using a pseudonym, provided the Department for International Development with information on alleged corruption involving funds from the Commonwealth Development Corporation (a UK government-owned development fund) and a US private equity firm acting as a financial intermediary. DfID passed Mr Oloko’s details to the Commonwealth Development Corporation, who then forwarded them to the private equity firm. As a result Mr Oloko was placed under surveillance by private investigators who followed him to his home, his church and his children’s school, and contacted his family and friends. He says he is now afraid to return to his home, and his business has suffered ‘irreparable damage’ as a result of the investigation.
Mr Oloko’s case was taken up by his MP Caroline Lucas along with SRT grantee Corner House. Despite repeated denials that it was responsible for disclosing Mr Oloko’s identity, the Department for International Development finally admitted responsibility and offered him an unreserved apology. The International Development Secretary has also announced a review of the department’s procedures for dealing with corruption whistleblowers.
Link to BBC Newsnight story on Dotun Oloko: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9682677.stm
Published January 26 2012
Summary: British government abandons Gibson Inquiry into the UK’s alleged role in torture and rendition
On 18th January 2012 the UK government announced that it was scrapping the Gibson Inquiry, which was to have investigated Britain’s alleged role in the torture and rendition of detainees following the September 11th attacks. Human rights groups, including SRT grantee Reprieve, had previously announced their decision to boycott the inquiry, criticising the decision to hold much of it in secret. Lawyers representing rendition and torture victims had also stated their intention to take part in the boycott.
Fresh criminal investigations were launched last week into claims that British intelligence agencies were involved in the rendition of two Libyans back to Gaddafi’s regime in 2004. Both men allege they were tortured on their return to Libya. As these investigations would have further delayed the start of the Gibson Inquiry, the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke took the decision to disband it.
Reprieve’s Director, Clare Algar, said, “While it is crucial that an inquiry is held into UK involvement in rendition and torture, the Gibson Inquiry simply did not have the powers or the independence to get to the truth. Reprieve has said consistently that the Inquiry, as established, would not have achieved the Government’s stated aim of removing the stain on Britain’s international reputation. For that reason, it is welcome that the ministers have decided to think again”
Full statement on Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2012_01_18_Gibson_inquiry_scrapped/
Guardian article on the abandoning of the Gibson Enquiry: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/18/gibson-inquiry-torture-collusion-abandoned
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights/Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Published January 11 2012
Summary: Human rights defender is severely beaten by security forces in Bahrain
On 6th January 2012 Nabeel Rajab, the President of SRT grantees the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was apparently severely beaten by police during a peaceful protest in Bahrain’s capital, Manama.
Mr Rajab stated that riot police beat him all over his body with sticks, particularly on the back and face. He was later taken to hospital where he was treated for concussion, back pain and bruising. His lawyer was prevented from seeing him in the hospital, although they were able to communicate by telephone.
In a statement on 6th January the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, along with SRT grantee the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this vicious attack on a well known human rights figure inside Bahrain and on the regional and international levels. [We] are gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Nabeel Rajab and hold the government of Bahrain responsible for his safety.”
Mr Rajab has now left hospital and is recovering at home.
Further information on the attack from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights’ website: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/4949
Published December 19 2011
Summary: British government ordered to release rendered prisoner detained for eight years without trial
On 14th December 2011 the British government was ordered by the Court of Appeal to secure the release of a prisoner held without charge or trial since 2004 in the US military prison at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan.
Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by British forces in Iraq in February 2004, handed to the US and illegally rendered to Afghanistan, where he has been held beyond the rule of law for eight years. The decision marks the first time any civilian legal system has penetrated Bagram, where nearly three thousand prisoners have been unlawfully held by the US military for up to a decade.
In response to a habeas corpus application by SRT grantee Reprieve, the Court of Appeal this morning ordered the release of Yunus, a Pakistani who has only recently been able to make telephone contact with his family, and whose physical and mental state has been described as ‘catastrophic’.
The UK government has repeatedly declined to state on what legal basis Yunus was rendered. The rendition is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which the UK authorities appear to have known in advance. The Court of Appeal acknowledges this, and has said the UK may be required under international law to get Yunus out of Bagram - or face being in breach of the Geneva Conventions. The government now has seven days to secure Yunus's release, or to explain to the court why they cannot.
Cori Crider, Legal Director of Reprieve, said, “The United Kingdom must now do whatever it takes to send Yunus home to his mother. The Court is quite right - once the UK takes a prisoner it cannot simply wash its hands of him, or of the Geneva Conventions. The government stands warned - failure to get Yunus out of Bagram now may be to aid and abet a war crime.”
Full statement from Reprieve: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_12_14_Yunus_appeal_judgement/
Published December 12 2011
Summary: Global Witness to leave the Kimberley Process over concerns that it has failed to tackle the blood diamond trade
On 5th December 2011 SRT grantee Global Witness announced that it was leaving the Kimberley Process, the international certification scheme established to stop the trade in blood diamonds (diamonds mined in conflict zones and used to finance war or insurgency). Global Witness was the first organisation to expose the issue of blood diamonds, and subsequently helped establish the Kimberley Process. However it now believes that the scheme, although it has done much that is useful, has ultimately been unsuccessful.
Among their concerns, Global Witness cited the Kimberley Process’s decision to authorise exports from two companies operating in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized control of this area in 2008, killing around 200 miners. Mining concessions were allegedly granted, in legally questionable circumstances, to companies associated with senior figures in Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
In a statement Charmian Gooch, one of the Founding Directors of Global Witness, argued that the diamond industry should be required to demonstrate that the diamonds it sells are not fuelling abuses – by complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure. She said, “Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and what was done to obtain it. The diamond industry must finally take responsibility for its supply chains and prove that the stones it sells are clean.”
Full press release from Global Witness: http://www.globalwitness.org/library/global-witness-leaves-kimberley-process-calls-diamond-trade-be-held-accountable
Article from Huffington Post by Ed Zwick, a member of Global Witness’s Advisory Board: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-zwick/blood-diamonds-kimberley-process_b_1128070.html
Medical Justice Network
Published December 05 2011
Summary: Court dismisses the UK Border Agency’s appeal on the removal of vulnerable immigrants from the UK with little or no notice
On 22nd November 2011, the Court of Appeal affirmed the High Court’s ruling that the UK Border Agency’s practice of removing individuals from the UK without proper notice is illegal. The High Court originally made this ruling in July 2010, following a case brought against the Border Agency by SRT grantee Medical Justice. The Border Agency policy applied to several vulnerable categories of people, including unaccompanied children and those considered to be a suicide risk. Immigration officers were known to visit their targets’ houses late at night and transport them under guard to early morning flights a few hours later, denying them the chance to contact a legal representative and challenge their removal.
Normal Border Agency policy states that 72 hours’ notice must be given to immigrants of their removal from the UK, but the Agency was able to use exceptions to this rule to reduce the notice period, in some cases to a few hours. The High Court’s decision, which the Court of Appeal has now upheld, was that if less than 72 hours’ notice of removal is given, an immigrant has “no realistic chance” of challenging the removal legally.
Medical Justice and their legal representatives the Public Law Project welcomed the Court’s decision, as did the Law Society, who said in a statement that, “the UKBA’s failure to observe its own procedural safeguards…undermined its position, leading not only to today’s challenge but in some cases to migrants having been removed then being returned to this country at the taxpayer’s expense."
Full statement from Medical Justice’s website: http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/news/mj-news/1918-ukba-loose-their-appeal-in-court-of-appeal-against-the-medical-justice-win-on-zero-notice-removals-221111.html
Bytes for All
Published December 1 2011
Further to our news item from 23rd September 2011, Bytes for All have issued a public statement in response to the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority's increasing efforts to restrict digital communications. The statement can be viewed on Bytes for All's website at http://content.bytesforall.pk/node/30.
Disability Rights International
Published November 25 2011
Summary: The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services adopts new regulations restricting the use of pain as a form of treatment for children and young adults with disabilities
On 30th October 2011, the Massachusetts department of Developmental Services (DDS) adopted new regulations that restrict the intentional use of pain as a form of treatment - including the use of electric shock, seclusion, and restraints - on young people with disabilities. As documented by a recent report by SRT grantee Disability Rights International, Torture Not Treatment, the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), based in Massachusetts, has used these practices (called ‘aversive treatment’) for decades.
Facilities licensed by the DDS in Massachusetts including the Judge Rotenberg Center can no longer subject new admissions to severe behavioural interventions that pose a risk of psychological harm. However the new policy does not stop the Center from using these interventions on children already placed there.
Disability Rights International believes that in permitting such practices at the Judge Rotenberg Center, the United States is violating its obligations under international law as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture. In a statement issued on 7th November they applauded Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on taking a “courageous stand” by issuing an executive order for the Massachusetts DDS to review their policies regarding electric shock and other severe aversives.
Disability Rights International are now calling for a nationwide blanket ban on the use of electric shock as treatment for children or adults with disabilities.
Full statement from Disability Rights International: http://www.disabilityrightsintl.org/2011/11/07/an-end-to-electric-shock-punishments-at-jrc/
Published November 08 2011
Summary: US Department of Justice moves to seize the assets of the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea on the grounds that they were bought with embezzled public funds.
On 25th October 2011, the US Department of Justice made an asset forfeiture claim against a house in Malibu, a private jet and other assets owned by Teodorin Obiang, the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, claiming that they were bought with the proceeds of corruption. SRT grantee Global Witness has been investigating this case for some years, and was the first to reveal, in 2006, that Obiang owned the house in question.
The Department of Justice claims that the $70.8m worth of Mr Obiang’s assets were derived from “the misappropriation, theft, or embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of a public official”. Obiang is the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in his father’s government, but leads an extravagant lifestyle despite his modest official income. He is dogged by corruption allegations, and in 2006 admitted to a South African court that it was usual practice for ministers in Equatorial Guinea to end up with a sizeable chunk of any government contract in their bank account.
The action by the Department of Justice comes only weeks after the French police seized $5m worth of Obiang’s sports cars in Paris. This was part of a court case brought by French NGOs Sherpa (also an SRT grantee) and Transparency International-France, claiming that the wealth of three African leaders, including President Teodoro Obiang, was illicitly earned.
In a recent press release, Global Witness reported that they were pleased the US was taking action to seize Mr Obiang’s assets. Robert Palmer of Global Witness said, “By taking action to seize this house, the U.S. is finally starting to send a strong message that it does not want to be a safe haven for ill-gotten loot and vast, unexplained wealth.”
Full press release from Global Witness: http://www.globalwitness.org/library/us-takes-welcome-action-seize-dictator%E2%80%99s-son%E2%80%99s-haul
Bytes for All
Published September 23 2011
Summary: Pakistani human rights groups speak out against restrictions to free expression in the name of national security.
Human rights and freedom of expression activists are becoming increasingly concerned at the Pakistani government’s attempts to restrict internet communications on national security grounds. The government has stated that it is considering blocking all access to Google, YouTube and other sites to prevent terrorists from using them to share intelligence, and on 19th September 2011 the Pakistani High Court ordered the Ministry of Information and Technology to comply with the court’s orders of 28th February and block access to Facebook on the grounds that it is ‘spreading blasphemous content’.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has also recently ordered all internet service providers operating within the country to ban internet encryption, and to report any users sending encrypted information over the internet. This will potentially allow the government to monitor its citizens’ internet use, including the e-mails they send and the websites they visit.
Freedom of Expression groups, including Article 19 and SRT grantee Bytes for All, have expressed their concern at these restrictions to free expression and the right to privacy. In a recent press release, they stated that national security should not be used as a “pretext for imposing vague or arbitrary limitations” on free expression. Bytes for All and Article 19 claim that the restriction of internet communications will have an adverse effect on human rights groups’ ability to organise, and that the ban on encryption will be especially dangerous for minorities, women and human rights defenders as they may be more vulnerable to attacks or reprisals if they are unable to communicate securely.
Full text of statement from Article 19 and Bytes for All: http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/2719/en/index.php?lang=en
Article in the Pakistan Express Tribune giving further details: http://tribune.com.pk/story/255705/big-brother-wants-access-to-your-gmail-account/
Index on Censorship
Published September 08 2011
Summary: The Royal Bank of Scotland has announced that it will no longer sell Belarus government bonds following a campaign by human rights groups.
Following a meeting with Free Belarus Now and SRT grantee Index on Censorship, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced on 29th August 2011 that it will no longer sell Belarusian government bonds or engage in ‘any type of capital-raising’ on behalf of the government of Belarus. This follows widespread international concern about alleged human rights abuses by the regime of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, including unlawful detention, torture, the violent break-up of peaceful protests, and the restriction of political, religious and journalistic activity.
RBS, along with Sberbank (Russia), BNP Paribas (France), and Deutsche Bank (Germany), was part of a syndicate which sold $1 billion of Belarusian bonds in August 2010, followed by a further $850 million in January 2011. Index on Censorship and Free Belarus were concerned that these sales continued even after the post general-election crackdown in Belarus in December 2010, in which seven of the nine presidential candidates were arrested and 43 political prisoners were held.
Index on Censorship, which was the first NGO to report allegations of torture in Belarus in December last year, has confirmed that the campaign will continue and pressure will now be put on the three banks who are continuing to sell Belarus government bonds.
UPDATE: As of 26th October Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas have also announced they will stop selling Belarus government bonds.
Further information from Index on Censorship’s website: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2011/08/rbs-pulls-out-of-belarus-after-index-campaign
Published September 07 2011
Summary: Reprieve has uncovered extensive new information about the structure and management of the CIA’s ‘extraordinary renditions’ programme
On 1st September 2011, SRT grantee Reprieve revealed a collection of 1500 documents giving new and detailed information about the CIA’s international renditions programme. The operational and legal papers, disclosed as part of a New York business dispute between two aviation companies, were discovered by Reprieve investigators.
The documents provide a comprehensive overview of how the CIA’s programme of ‘extraordinary renditions’ (the illegal transfer of a person from one state to another for the purpose of torture) was structured and managed. They show the routes flown by over 55 rendition flights to Guantanamo Bay, Kabul, Bangkok and other destinations, and confirm the involvement of private companies in the renditions programme. The plane used for these renditions – a Gulfstream jet owned by Liverpool FC owner Phillip Morse - frequently passed through British and Irish airports including Shannon, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Luton.
Reprieve will continue looking into the private companies which facilitated rendition, and following up leads produced by these documents. They are also working to identify prisoners who might be connected with the newly-revealed rendition flights.
More information from Reprieve’s website: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_08_31_rendition_documents
Article in the Guardian by Reprieve Director Clare Algar: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/31/documents-reveal-renditions-programme-business
Published August 09 2011
Summary: Reprieve and other leading human rights organisations have announced that they will be boycotting the Gibson Inquiry into the UK government’s alleged use of torture and rendition
On 4th August a coalition of 10 leading human rights organisations, including SRT grantee Reprieve, announced that they would not be taking part in the government's inquiry into collusion in torture and rendition by British security services.
Key sessions of the Gibson Inquiry will be held in secret, and the Cabinet Secretary will have the final say as to what information is released. Foreign intelligence agencies will not be questioned, and the alleged victims of torture and rendition will not have the opportunity to question members of the British security services.
In a letter to the Inquiry, the coalition states that, “the process currently proposed does not have the credibility or transparency” to establish the truth about the UK’s involvement.
Reprieve has stated that it specifically objects to the failure to ensure meaningful participation by detainees, as well as the reliance on the government to determine what material is made public.
Full press release from Reprieve: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_08_04_withdrawal_from_inquiry
Women’s Link Worldwide/ Center for Justice and Accountability
Published July 29 2011
Summary: The Spanish National Court, in its hearings on the Guatemalan genocide, has heard for the first time evidence of gender-based violence carried out against indigenous Mayan women.
On 7th June 2011, lawyers Patricia Sellers and Maria Eugenia Solis testified at the Spanish National Court in Madrid regarding violence against Mayan women in Guatemala during the civil war. This marks the first time that a national court will investigate the alleged human rights abuses committed against women in that country.
Over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or disappeared during the country’s 36-year internal conflict. The violence peaked in the early 1980s, when the indigenous Mayan community was targeted by government forces who claimed that the Mayans were part of a communist plot to overthrow them. During this time it is alleged that Mayan women suffered rape, sexual slavery, foeticide, mutilation and forced sterilisation.
In its report on the genocide in Guatemala, “Memory of Silence”, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) reported a total of 1,465 rapes against women, of which over 88% of the victims were of Mayan origin. However this gender-based violence has never been properly investigated.
SRT grantees the Center for Justice and Accountability and Women’s Link Worldwide are leading efforts to include the allegations of gender-based violence in the Court hearings, and have presented an amended complaint to the Court asking it to consider charges for gender-based crimes.
Women’s Link Worldwide attorney Paloma Soria explains, “To address and understand the scale of the atrocities that were committed in Guatemala, the courts need to consider the gender crimes. Such crimes were widespread and systematic during the conflict, and intended to destroy the Mayan population not only through the physical destruction of Mayan women, but also the breakdown of the social structure.”
Full press release from Women's Link Worldwide (in Spanish only):
Womens-Link-Worldwide.pdf (Adobe PDF - 102Kb)
Environmental Defender Law Centre/ LAMMP
Published July 29 2011
Summary: Settlement reached in historic corporate accountability case over torture of Peruvian mining opponents by English mining company
In July 2011 Monterrico Metals, a UK-based multinational mining company, reached a financial settlement with a group of 33 Peruvian protesters over allegations that they were detained and tortured at the company’s instigation in 2005. This marks the first time that a European corporation has been sued for torture.
Monterrico is trying to develop Peru’s second-largest copper mine in an environmentally-sensitive area. Following a mass protest against the mine in July 2005, a group of 33 people was arrested and detained for three days at the mine site, which is operated by a subsidiary of Monterrico called Rio Blanco Copper SA. The protesters claim that they were tied up and hooded before being beaten, whipped and threatened with death. Five protesters were allegedly shot, and two women were sexually assaulted. Photographs later emerged from an anonymous source confirming the truth of the protesters’ allegations. SRT grantee the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme (LAMMP) has provided practical and financial help to the two female protesters, and has assisted them in publicising their experiences.
The protesters brought a case against Monterrico at the High Court in London in 2009, accusing them of complicity in their torture and mistreatment by the police. They were helped in this by SRT grantee the Environmental Defender Law Center, who put them in touch with British solicitors Leigh Day & Co. In the course of the solicitors’ investigations, other witnesses emerged who claimed that the company had engaged in more widespread intimidation and violent repression of protesters. After a two-day hearing, the High Court ruled that these other acts could be considered “as evidence that the mistreatment in 2005 was ordered and orchestrated by Monterrico/Rio Blanco, and as showing that the actions of the officers of Monterrico/Rio Blanco in July 2005 were part of a larger strategy of intimidation and violence directed against mine opponents.”
The main court hearing was due to take place in October 2011, but the parties reached a confidential settlement this month with the victims receiving an undisclosed amount of compensation.
More information on the background to the case: http://www.edlc.org/cases/corporate-accountability/peru-mining-opponents-tortured
Hotline for Migrant Workers
Published May 31 2011
Summary: After a six-year legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that migrant worker women who give birth in Israel are entitled to keep their work permits and will no longer be subject to deportation
On April 13, 2011, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that female migrant workers who give birth in Israel will no longer have their work permits or legal status revoked. This is the result of a petition filed six years ago by SRT grantee the Hotline for Migrant Workers and several other Israeli human rights organisations, requesting that foreign workers who give birth be allowed to remain in Israel with their children and complete the full 63 months of employment that Israeli law allows migrants.
Before this ruling, Israeli Interior Ministry regulations meant that migrant workers who gave birth in Israel were stripped of their right to work and deported to their home countries three months after the birth. The women were allowed to return to work in Israel after a two-year waiting period, but were not allowed to bring their children with them. As a result, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, hundreds of women were forced to choose between earning a living and being with their families.
In her ruling on 13th April, Judge Ayala Procaccia stated that this regulation violates international agreements that call for the protection of migrant workers' rights, and discriminates against employees who are pregnant and who have children (a breach of employment equality law). She instructed the Interior Ministry to determine new procedures that would not harm the rights of migrant workers or their children.
News article about the ruling from the Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=216415
Published May 11 2011
Summary: the Superior Court of Quebec rules that the case against Canadian corporation Anvil Mining Limited, relating to their alleged involvement in the killing of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004, can proceed to the next stage.
On 27th April 2011 the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that the case against Canadian corporation Anvil Mining Limited in relation to their alleged involvement in a 2004 massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo can proceed to the next stage. The class action against Anvil Mining was filed in the District of Montreal on 8 November 2010 by the Canadian Association against Impunity (ACCI), an organisation representing survivors and families of victims of the massacre. The ACCI is an international coalition of six NGOs, including Sigrid Rausing Trust grantees Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), Global Witness and the Canadian Centre for International Justice.
Anvil Mining is accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army, who allegedly committed serious human rights violations while suppressing a rebel uprising in the fishing town of Kilwa in October 2004. According to the United Nations, at least 73 civilians died as a direct result of the military action, including some who were executed and thrown in mass graves. It is alleged that Anvil Mining provided trucks to the Congolese military which were used to reach Kilwa, and later to transport civilians outside the town for execution. The firm does not deny that it supplied the vehicles, but claims that they were requisitioned by the government and it had no choice but to agree to the request.
Three Anvil employees were initially charged with complicity in war crimes and were tried in a military court in the DRC, but they were acquitted in June 2007. The United Nations claim the trial did not meet international standards of fairness.
In his decision, Judge Benoît Emery dismissed Anvil Mining’s attempt to have the case thrown out and concluded that there were sufficient links to Quebec to found the Quebec court’s jurisdiction over the case. Judge Emery also dismissed Anvil Mining’s argument that Quebec was not the appropriate forum and that the case should rather be brought in the DRC or Australia (the company was Australian-owned at the time the incident occurred).
The court will now consider whether the case should be certified as a class action, allowing those affected by the events in Kilwa to bring claims against Anvil Mining. A hearing on the class certification is scheduled for June 2011.
Link to statement from the Canadian Association Against Impunity: http://raid-uk.org/docs/KilwaClassAction/PR_28_April_2011.pdf
Omega Research Foundation
Published April 18 2011
Summary: UK and France revoke arms export licenses to the Middle East after research into the use of British and French-made equipment in the suppression of protests
In February 2011, the UK and France revoked arms export licences to Libya and Bahrain after a public outcry over equipment being used in the suppression of protests. SRT grantee the Omega Research Foundation (a UK-based group which researches the human rights impact of the international arms trade) has used images from news agencies, NGOs and social media outlets to identify the equipment used during the protests in the Middle East, and highlight equipment of concern.
The equipment identified by Omega as being of European or US origin includes UK riot control vehicles (and associated police riot control training) in Libya; US-made CS gas canisters in Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen; US-made rubber multi-baton rounds in Bahrain; and French CS gas grenades and grenade launchers in Bahrain.
Omega has also supplied information about the origin of this equipment to NGOs, campaigners and media outlets, enabling them to identify and question those who authorised such transactions, and to lobby the governments of the countries involved. This led to the revoking of export licences by the UK and France, and a commitment to review export licensing policy. Licenses revoked were for riot control equipment including tear gas, launchers and shotgun ammunition.
Omega are continuing to monitor the situation in multiple countries in order to influence international opinion, and hope to prevent future transfers of such equipment to the Middle East or to other states with a history of excessive use of force and violent suppression of protests.
Published April 05 2011
Summary: Spanish oil company Repsol pays Guarani Indians $15.5 million in recognition of their land rights
At the end of December 2010, the Spanish oil giant Repsol and its partners signed a landmark settlement agreement with the Gurani Indians of Itika Guazu in Bolivia. The Guranis were represented by SRT grantee Equipo Nizkor, a Belgium-based NGO which campaigns against human rights violations in Spain and Latin America. The agreement follows five years of negotiation by Nizkor’s team, and represents the first acknowledgement by Repsol that the land in the Itika Guazu territory, where they are extracting 2.3 million cubic metres of natural gas a day, is owned by the Guarani people.
Repsol have accepted their obligations in the event of environmental damage, physical injury or death on Guarani land as a result of their operations. They have paid the Guarani community $15.5 million in a cash lump sum, the principal of which will be held in an investment fund. The interest generated will be spent on housing, health and education projects to benefit the Guarani community.
The offer originally made by Repsol to the Guaranis in 2006 contained no obligation for a minimum compensation payment and no recognition of the Guaranis’ ownership rights. The Assembly of the Gurani People of Itika Guazu (APG IG) believe that this is the first settlement of its kind signed by a multinational oil company in Latin America.
The settlement was opposed both by the oil companies involved and the Bolivian government, and Nizkor allege that intimidatory tactics were used including the beating and shooting at of one of the community leaders.
Further details about the case from Nizkor's website: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/bolivia/doc/fund.html
Published March 26 2011
Summary: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it is unlawful to refuse a residence permit to a foreign national on the grounds that they are HIV positive
On 10th March 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in a landmark case that refusing a residence permit to a foreign national solely on the basis of their HIV positive status amounts to unlawful discrimination.
The case was brought by Mr Kiyutin, an Uzbek national living in Russia with his wife and child. His residence permit application was rejected by the Russian authorities simply because of his HIV positive status, even though his wife is a Russian national. This is in accordance with current Russian legislation which states that foreign nationals must prove they are HIV negative in order to stay in the country for longer than three months.
The Court acknowledged that the protection of public health is a legitimate aim, but it rejected the idea that this could be used as justification for excluding people with HIV from residence. It concluded that the restrictions imposed by the Russian authorities had ‘no reasonable and objective justification’, and that Mr Kiyutin was therefore a victim of discrimination.
Interights, who submitted third-party evidence to the hearing, view the case as a landmark in that it explicitly recognises that people with HIV are protected as a ‘vulnerable group’ against the infringement of their fundamental human rights.
In a press release on 11th March 2011, Interights said, “…the potential impact of the Court’s judgment extends beyond the Council of Europe, being the first authoritative condemnation of such measures by an international or regional human rights adjudicator. Moreover, the arguments put forth by the Court lend strong support to arguments against rights restrictions of [people living with HIV] in areas other than migration, such as health care or employment.”
More information from Interights’ website: http://www.interights.org/kiyutin
Corner House/ Platform
Published: March 18 2011
Summary: UK government rules that BP is violating human rights in its operations on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline
On 9th March 2011 the British government ruled that a consortium led by BP is breaking international rules governing the human rights responsibilities of multinational companies in its operations on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. This ruling follows a complaint lodged in 2003 by six human rights and environmental groups, including SRT grantees Corner House and Platform, under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Since the project was first conceived 10 years ago, campaigners have highlighted the concerns of local residents complaining of intimidation by the security forces assigned to guard the pipeline. The government’s ruling has found that even though BP were aware of this ‘heightened risk of intimidation’ they did not respond to or investigate the locals’ complaints.
The ruling sets a major precedent in that multinational companies will now have to take human rights concerns into account when designing their corporate complaint mechanisms. Such mechanisms will need to be strong enough to ensure that people can report intimidation without the threat of reprisals or further abuse.
Nick Hildyard of Corner House said, "Public funders knew about the intimidation, but failed to check whether BP had adequate procedures in place to address and remedy it."
Full story from Corner House’s website: http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/bp-violating-human-rights-rules-says-uk-government#fn005
Hotline for Migrant Workers
Published March 07 2011
Summary: The Hotline for Migrant Workers has released a report documenting the abuses suffered by African asylum seekers trying to reach Israel
In February 2011 the Hotline for Migrant Workers released a report based on the testimonies of 60 mainly Eritrean asylum seekers who were held to ransom and abused by people-smugglers while trying to reach Israel. Around 12,000 people were smuggled to Israel via Egypt in 2010.
The report reveals that a large number of Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers were held hostage and tortured in an attempt to extort ransom payments from family members in wealthy countries. Several victims were allegedly murdered by their traffickers or starved to death. The victims also report physical abuse, psychological torture, humiliation, threats and rape.
In a statement released on 16th February, the Hotline for Migrant Workers called on Israel to “invest the necessary resources to bring to trial smugglers' collaborators who reside in Israel and assist the Egyptians in taking action against the traffickers along the border”. They also called on the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to stop the ‘horrifying and illegal’ actions allegedly being committed by their citizens against asylum seekers.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers report in full: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?HotlineforMigrantWor/a1cb7174ba/c6ae19c90f/7f3a9811a0
A New York Times article about the report: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?HotlineforMigrantWor/a1cb7174ba/c6ae19c90f/3265e5cbe8/_r=1&ref=world
Published February 08 2011
Summary: Reprieve exposes the use of British-made drugs in executions in the USA
In January 2011 Reprieve, who have been fighting for some months to prevent UK drugs being used for executions in the US, revealed that west London-based company Dream Pharma has been supplying the state of Georgia and others with sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride for use in lethal injections.
Reprieve alleges that the Managing Director of Dream Pharma, Matt Alavi, was aware of how the drugs were being used despite previously denying knowledge.
On 26th January Emanuel Hammond was executed in Georgia using drugs supplied by Dream Pharma. The execution was delayed for four hours while the US Supreme Court decided whether to postpone it indefinitely in light of new evidence. Dr Mark Heath, a leading expert in lethal injection as a method of execution, filed a sworn declaration stating that he believed the sodium thiopental supplied by Dream Pharma may have ‘lacked efficacy’. Sodium thiopental is an anaesthetic, and if it does not work properly death by legal injection is likely to be agonising. Mr Hammond’s execution eventually went ahead in spite of these concerns.
Reprieve contacted Mr Alavi to ask for his help in preventing Mr Hammond’s execution, but he did not respond. Reprieve Director Clive Stafford-Smith said, “It is shocking that Britain has allowed a fly-by-night company in the back of a driving academy to export these drugs. Apparently they were not stored, exported or used in a proper way, so that the prisoners are dying excruciating deaths. The British government must initiate an immediate inquiry into how this can happen.
“I knew Emanuel Hammond, and surely even those who wished him dead would not advocate that society inflict needless pain and suffering on him, on top of the 23 years he spent on death row.”
Press releases from Reprieve giving further information:
Human Rights Watch
Published February 07 2011
Summary: Human rights activists detained in Cairo by Egyptian security forces
On the afternoon of 3rd February 2011 a number of Egyptian and international human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were arrested during a raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo. Among them was Dan Williams, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, and two researchers for Amnesty International. Eyewitnesses to the raid said that those arrested were taken away by military escort.
It is believed that the group was taken to Camp 75, a military camp on the outskirts of Cairo. Dan Williams was released on 4th February along with the two Amnesty International researchers and two foreign journalists, but their Egyptian colleagues remain in detention. Said Haddadi, a French national who works for Amnesty, alleges that while he was detained the group were kept bound or blindfolded for much of the time and were made to sleep in the open air.
On 4th February Human Rights Watch issued a statement expressing their delight that Dan and his international colleagues have been freed, and calling for the immediate release of the remaining detainees. Kenneth Roth, the Director of Human Rights Watch, said:
“The Egyptian government should never have arrested human rights monitors and journalists in the first place. The Egyptians still being held have a vital role to play as Egypt's crisis and serious human right abuses continue. The authorities need to free them without further delay."
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe/ Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
Published January 31 2011
Summary: LGBT rights activist David Kato murdered at his home in Uganda
On 26th January 2011 David Kato, a well-known Ugandan LGBT rights activist and the Advocacy Officer for Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), was severely beaten at his home in Mukono and later died on the way to hospital. David had been receiving death threats since his picture, name and address were published last year by Ugandan local newspaper Rolling Stone under a headline calling for gay people to be hanged.
The motive for his murder has not yet been officially established, and the Ugandan police claim that it was not linked to his activism.
David’s death comes only three weeks after the Ugandan High Court issued an injunction against Rolling Stone, ruling that their article breached the human rights of the individuals, including David, whose details they published.
LGBT rights organisations in Africa and worldwide have called on the Ugandan authorities to conduct a full and proper investigation. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said in a statement released on 27th January that David “dedicated himself to the cause of normalising lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in society through direct action and he was an example of the problems faced by human rights defenders in the hostile climates in which we exist […] we are stunned and horrified by the news of his death.”
In 2009-2010 David spend four months at the University of York as a Fellow of their Centre for Applied Human Rights. In a statement on 27th January the Centre’s Director, Professor Paul Gready, said, “We are all reeling from this news. David was with us in York for four months last year and he felt his time here helped him to re-focus his work in Uganda. He was a hugely popular and engaging personality and his untimely death is difficult to comprehend. We shall miss him immensely. The sexual minorities in Uganda have lost an invaluable champion.”
For the full statement issued the Centre for Applied Human Rights: http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/cahr/defenders/David%20Kato%20statement.pdf
Obituary of David Kato from the BBC news website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12299786
Association for Civil Rights in Israel/ Gisha/ B’Tselem/ PCATI/ HaMoked
Published January 21 2011
Summary: The Knesset has approved a bill to set up a Commission of Enquiry into the funding of Israeli NGOs
On 5th January 2011 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) voted to approve the creation of a commission to investigate the funding of Israeli human rights groups and other NGOs. The bill, introduced by the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, was passed by 47 votes to 16. According to its supporters, its purpose will be to look into the claim that some human rights organisations are funded by bodies with links to terrorism. Opponents, however, claim that it is ‘McCarthyite’ and designed to intimidate groups and individuals who may be critical of the Israeli government.
Although the Commission will not have the power to force private individuals or civil society organisations to give evidence or submit documents, Israeli NGOs are concerned. More than a dozen of them, including several grantees of the Sigrid Rausing Trust, have issued a joint statement condemning the plan.
Hagai El-Ad, the Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, stated that the vote was a ‘severe blow’ to Israeli democracy. Quoted in the Guardian, he said that "the goal is to eventually weaken human rights groups and make them less effective in exposing, questioning and affecting government policies.”
The proposal will now be considered by the Knesset House Committee, who will also look into any objections or reservations that may be raised. It will then return to parliament for a final vote.
For the text of the joint statement issued by Israeli human rights groups: http://www.hamoked.org/Document.aspx?dID=Updates1070
Guardian article from 5th January 2011 giving further details of the situation: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/05/knesset-approves-investigation-israeli-human-rights-groups
Published January 12 2011
Summary: The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade are challenging the Serious Fraud Office over the immunity from prosecution given to BAE Systems
After being investigated for bribery, UK arms company BAE Systems was granted immunity from prosecution last year as part of its plea bargain settlement with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Corner House and Campaign Against the Arms Trade are seeking to challenge this.
Leigh Day & Co, the solicitors acting for both groups, have written to the Director of the SFO arguing that the immunity clause should be quashed, as it is ‘exceptional in its scope and effect’ and cannot possibly serve the public interest.
The immunity clause covers all criminal activity and is not limited to bribery, corruption and serious fraud. It is also not restricted to the specific allegations of bribery that the SFO had been investigating. The clause became public knowledge only when the terms of BAE Systems’ settlement agreement were read in open court on 21st December 2010. The presiding judge, Mr Justice Bean, was critical of the judgement, and expressed surprise that blanket immunity had been granted even for previously undisclosed offences.
The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade feel that it should be unnecessary to grant BAE immunity from prosecution if they have genuinely disclosed all relevant information to the Serious Fraud Office. In a recent press release they state that, "it is impossible to understand how the public interest is served by the exceptional, unusual and entirely unnecessary immunity clause."
For further information:
Center for International Environmental Law
Published January 11 2011
Summary: The United States has endorsed the 2007 UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples
On 16th December 2010, US President Barack Obama announced in a speech to tribal leaders that the United States now supports the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Declaration was negotiated for decades, but was finally approved by the UN General Assembly in 2007. It states that indigenous peoples are entitled to all human rights and freedoms as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, and other international human rights law.
Four countries – the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – originally opposed the Declaration, but all four have now reversed their position.
The Declaration has already been invoked in legal decisions involving the rights of indigenous peoples in Belize, Suriname and Japan, and it is hoped that the US’s support will lend it further weight. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) also hopes that US endorsement of the Declaration will help provide a more consistent international approach towards indigenous rights.
CIEL asked the United States to endorse the declaration last year, and are very pleased at President Obama’s announcement. Kristen Hite of CIEL said: "We can’t reverse historical injustices but we can work towards a better future, and following this declaration helps us all build a more just society".
For more information:
European Human Rights Advocacy Centre
Published January 07 2011
Summary: Following a court victory by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre last year, the Georgian government is drafting legislation to allow up to 20,000 victims of Soviet political repression to claim compensation
In February 2010 the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association won a case at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Klaus and Yuri Kiladze, two elderly Georgians who suffered human rights abuses under the Soviet regime. They had applied for compensation in 2005, under a 1997 law which recognised the citizens of Georgia as victims of political repression. However the domestic court rejected their claim on the grounds that another law which would have determined the damages due to them, and how they would be paid, had not been adopted.
With the support of EHRAC the Kiladzes then took their case to the European Court, which found in their favour and ruled that the Georgian government should quickly introduce the necessary legislation to ensure that everyone who is entitled to do so can exercise their rights under the 1997 law.
As a result of this ruling, the Georgian government has now announced that it is drafting a new law which will allow up to 20,000 people to claim compensation as victims of political repression.
For more information on EHRAC’s work: http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/research-units/hrsj/affiliated-centres/ehrac
American Civil Liberties Union
Published December 15 2010
Summary: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asks US Supreme Court to review the ruling dismissing their suit against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc
On 8th December 2010 the ACLU filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to review the lower court ruling dismissing their suit against Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc, an American aeronautical company, for its alleged role in the CIA ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the ACLU’s case on ‘state secrets’ grounds, claiming that further legal action would undermine national security interests. The ACLU believes this equates to ruling that the rendition programme is beyond judicial review.
The ACLU also believes that the government has misused the ‘state secrets’ privilege in order to shield those involved in torture from liability. They are pressing the Supreme Court to take up their case and therefore reaffirm the US’s commitment to the rule of law.
To view the ACLU’s full press release:
__European Human Rights Advocacy Centre/ Memorial_
Published December 07 2010
Summary: European Court orders Russia to pay 1.72m Euros in compensation for deaths and injuries in Chechnya
29 applicants from the village of Katyr-Yurt in Chechnya have been awarded 1.72m Euros in compensation by the European Court for deaths and injuries caused during Russian military bombardment of the village. On 2nd December 2010 the Court ruled that Russia had violated Article 2 of the EHCR (Right to Life) in failing to protect the 29 applicants and their relatives who were killed and injured during the bombardment which took place between 4th and 7th February 2000.
The applicants were represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), a London-based organisation which helps individuals, lawyers and NGOs in Russia to take cases to the European Court of Human Rights. They were assisted by the Russian NGO Memorial, which monitors human rights in Russia and other post-Soviet states.
For more information: http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/research-units/hrsj/affiliated-centres/ehrac/home.cfm
Women’s Legal Centre
Published July 20 2010
Summary: South African sex workers win equal rights to complain against unfair dismissal
On 28th May 2010, in a case litigated by the Women’s Legal Centre, the South African Labour Appeal Court found that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has jurisdiction to hear complaints of unfair dismissal made by sex workers employed in brothels.
The judgment confirmed that the constitutional right relating to fair labour practices applies to everyone, including sex workers. It made it clear that sex workers should not be stripped of their right to be treated with dignity either clients or by employers.
For the full text of the judgment:
Published June 28 2010
Summary: Silver Lion at Cannes’s 2010 International Advertising Film Festival for films campaigning against domestic violence in India
Three short films by Breakthrough were the only entry from India to win a prestigious Lion award at the Cannes Advertising Festival. They were made as part of Breakthrough’s media campaign to halt domestic violence, Ring the Bell. The films are inspired by true stories of neighbours who hear domestic violence and make an excuse to interrupt it. They go beyond raising awareness of domestic violence to showing viewers how to take action against it.
To see Breakthrough’s films:
For more information on the award: http://www.canneslions.com/work/film/entry.cfm?entryid=19839&award=3
Side by Side
Published June 10, 2010
Summary: Trust grantee in Russia organizes the first LGBT film festival in Siberia, supported by the Department of Culture
The festival in Novosibirsk, which ran from 15th to 18th April 2010, drew attention from both visitors and press. A representative of the Department of Culture, Mr. Vladimir Miller, was in attendance, the first time that a state civil servant has supported an LGBT event. Mr. Miller addressed the audience, saying: "We are building an open democratic society, and are sympathetic to the theme of the festival.” During the four days of the festival around 700 people attended and articles in online media were viewed by some 15,000 people. During the festival, visitors had the opportunity to see LGBT films, debate on topics related to homophobia and the rights of LGBT people in Russia, and become acquainted with a photo exhibition by Lida Mikhailova entitled “Coming out of the Closet.”
For more information, please see: http://www.bok-o-bok.ru/news.asp?pid=25&lan=1&tid=434
Center for Justice and Accountability
Published June 02 2010
Summary: Unanimous decision by the US Supreme Court rejects immunity of former government official from civil suit in the US for human rights abuses committed abroad
Former Somalian Defense Minister Ali Samantar - living currently in the US - was sued by survivors of atrocities in a US civil court under the Aliens Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act. The suit, first filed in 2004, alleged that Samantar had command responsibility for extrajudicial killing; arbitrary detention; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; crimes against humanity and war crimes carried out by his subordinates during this period. In response, Samantar claimed head-of-state immunity.
On 1 June 2010, in a case brought by CJA and pro bono counsel, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Samantar is not protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which provides a foreign state with immunity from lawsuits in the US.
For more details please see: http://www.cja.org/article.php?id=834
Mental Disability Advocacy Centre
Published May 25, 2010
Summary: European Court of Human Rights upholds the right to vote of persons with disabilities
On 20 May 2010, the Court ruled that the disenfranchisement of disabled people placed under guardianship in Hungary is contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights. Under partial guardianship since 2005, Mr K.A was prevented from voting in the 2006 general elections. Denial of his right to vote was an automatic consequence of him being under guardianship, not based on an assessment of his capacity to make decisions about political issues. Mental Disability Advocacy Centre and Mr K.A.'s legal representative Jan Fiala introduced an application with the Court in 2006.
For more information, please see: http://www.mdac.info/en/european-court-human-rights-upholds-right-vote-per
Published: May 24, 2010
Summary: Breakthrough for Survivor Corps Mine-Free Israel Campaign
In a groundbreaking move on 10 May 2010, the Israeli Knesset introduced legislation to clear Israel's minefields in recognition that these minefields endanger Israel's residents rather than protect them. Seventy-three Members of the Knesset submitted a bill establishing a mine action authority to manage the clearance of all non-operational minefields in Israel. The Mine Action Authority will have the authority to manage the clearance of Israel’s hundreds of non-operational minefields that dot the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and Arava Valley bordering with Jordan, the Galilee, the environs of Jerusalem, and the West Bank, and take up 1% of all the land in Israel. Survivor Corps has been a catalyst in these latest developments in Israel, convening a coalition of survivors and civil society to draw attention to Israel’s landmine problem.
For more information, please see:
ECCHR / CCC
Published May 5, 2010
Summary: German retailer Lidl retracts misleading advertising following complaint supported by SRT grantees
Advertising by German retailer Lidl stressed that it advocated fair working conditions and opposed child labour and other human and labor rights violations in its facilities.
The company was made to withdraw these claims and engage in dialogue with its critics after European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) uncovered questionable practices in the factories of various of its suppliers in Bangladesh, and supported a successful complaint against the company by the Hamburg Customer Protection Agency.
Conectas Human Rights
Published April 07, 2010
Summary: Detainees have been removed from metal containers following a Brazilian court judgement
The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice issued a decision determining that pre-trial detainees held in metal cargo containers should be removed immediately from them. This decision will benefit many detainees living in these sub-human conditions. This is a very important achievement for Conectas' work with the Brazilian prison system, more specifically in the state of Espírito Santo where detention centres have become the arena for the most serious and systemic rights violations.
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Published Apr 6, 2010
Summary: Bangladesh becomes the 111th State Party to the Rome Statute and the first South Asian country to join the Court
Following ten years of effort by the Coalition and civil society members in the region, Bangladesh on 23 March 2010 ratified the Rome Statute. It entered into force on 1 July 2002 and serves as the legal basis for the establishment of the Court. Since then, the Coalition and its civil society membership have led the global campaign for ratification of the Rome Statute and the effort to end impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
For more details please see: http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Bangladesh_Ratification_PR_March2010_en.pdf
European Roma Rights Centre
Published Mar 19, 2010
Summary: The European Court of Human Rights finds school segregation to be unlawful discrimination
In the case of Orsus and Others v. Croatia, decided on 16 March 2010, the Court's Grand Chamber ruled that the segregation of Romani children into separate classes based on language is unlawful discrimination. The case involved 14 children attending mainstream primary schools in three different Croatian villages in Croatia.
The case was represented by the European Roma Rights Centre, the Croatian Helsinki Committee and local attorney Lovorka Kusan, and Interights submitted a third party intervention.
Published February 09, 2010
Summary: The European Court of Human Rights has determined that denial of compensation for victims of political repression is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights
This judgment - Kiladze v Georgia, of 2 February 2010 – was given in a case supported by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre. It would potentially affect thousands of others in a similar position. The judgment requires the Georgian authorities to rapidly introduce the necessary measures to ensure implementation of the ruling.
For more details, please contact Kirsty Stuart, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Minority Rights Group International
Published Feb 1, 2010
Summary: The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has found the Kenyan government guilty of violating the rights of the country’s indigenous Endorois community by evicting them from their lands
This decision - in a case argued by Minority Rights Group International - creates a legal precedent by recognising indigenous peoples’ rights over traditionally owned land, and their right to development. The Commission also found that in failing to provide sufficient compensation, or provide suitable alternative land for grazing after the eviction of the Endorois, Kenya’s government fell short of adequately providing for the community in the development process. The decision was adopted by the African Commission in May 2009 and approved by the African Union at its January 2010 meeting in Addis Ababa.
Published Jan 19, 2010
Summary: Broad police power for stop and search without suspicion violates the right to respect for private life
On 12 January 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.
In the case of Gillan and Quinton V the United Kingdom, represented by counsel from Liberty, the Court found that:
“…the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search... are neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse. ….They are not therefore “in accordance with the law”.
Published Jan 14, 2010
On 7 January 2010, in a case in which Interights intervened as a third party, the Court found that Cyprus and Russia committed a number of human rights violations in relation to trafficking. In a judgment which confirmed that trafficking cannot be considered compatible with the values of the European Convention on Human Rights, or with a democratic society, the Court further clarified States’ obligations to combat trafficking.
The Court found that Cyprus had failed to protect the applicant, Ms Rantseva, from being trafficked and unlawfully detained prior to her death, and it had also failed to adequately investigate her death. Russia, the state of origin, was found by the Court to have failed to investigate how Ms Rantseva had been trafficked from its borders.
For Interights' intervention and the full text of the judgment, as well as an online version of this statement please visit http://www.interights.org/rantsev/index.htm)