Posts Tagged ‘anti -torture’

Human Rights Defenders ask Biden not to nominate people who condone torture to intelligence posts

December 22, 2020

Their appointment would undermine the rule of law and U.S. credibility around the world. It would be a callous rebuke to… all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity.” writes Brett Wilkins in Common Dreams of 21 December 2020.

Mike Morell, under consideration for CIA director, is also under fire for defending torture. (Photo: Witness Against Torture/Flickr/cc)

Anti-torture activists and advocates are urging President-elect Joe Biden to avoid nominating torture apologist Michael Morell for CIA director. (Photo: Justin Norman/Flickr/cc) 

Survivors of torture by U.S. or proxy forces and their advocates on Monday issued an open letter urging President-elect Joe Biden not to nominate torture apologist Michael Morell for CIA director, and calling on the Senate to reject the nomination of Avril Haines for director of national intelligence. 

The letter—which was also sent to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris—was organized by Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, Medea Benjamin of CodePink, and Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture. 

In addition to those three activists, signatories to the letter include:

  • Mansoor Adayafi, a Yemeni author imprisoned without charge or trial for 14 years in the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian refugee and artist who was jailed without charge in Guantánamo for 11 years.
  • Moazzam Begg, a British Pakistani imprisoned at the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan—where he says he witnessed Americans murder two detainees—and then, for three years at Guantánamo Bay before being released without charge. 
  • Sister Dianna Ortiz, a missionary from New Mexico serving during the Guatemalan Civil War who in 1989 was kidnapped, raped, and tortured—she says under the supervision of an American operative—by agents of the genocidal U.S.-backed regime. 
  • Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a U.S. Army whistleblower who a decade ago revealed that former President George W. Bush and senior members of his Cabinet knew that most of the men and boys imprisoned at Guantánamo were innocent but kept them locked up anyway. 
  • John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who was prosecuted and jailed for nearly two years by the Obama administration for exposing U.S. torture.

“We believe that the record of Morell and Haines disqualifies them from directing intelligence agencies,” assert the letter’s signers, who in addition to those mentioned above include some two dozen other activists and advocates. “Their appointment would undermine the rule of law and U.S. credibility around the world. It would be a callous rebuke to people like ourselves and all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity.” 

“Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and both deputy and acting CIA director under Obama, has defended the agency’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ practices,” the letter notes. “These included waterboarding, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and sexual humiliation.”

The letter also opposes the confirmation of Biden DNI nominee Haines, who “overruled the CIA inspector general by choosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture.”

“In addition, Haines was part of the team that redacted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark 6,000-page report on torture, reducing the public portion to a 500-page summary,” the authors write. They add: 

Haines also supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director. Supervising a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, Haspel was directly implicated in CIA torture. She later drafted the memo authorizing the destruction of the CIA videotapes. Like Morell, Haines has worked both to defend torture and surpress evidence of it. She too, is incompatible with the stated aim of the Biden-Harris administration to restore integrity and respect for the rule of law to government.

“The new administration must show the American people and the world that it acknowledges past disturbing U.S. conduct and will ensure that such abuses never recur,” the letter states. “To do that, it needs intelligence leaders who have neither condoned torture nor whitewashed the CIA’s ugly record of using torture.”

“That is why we urge President-elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell for director of the CIA and the Senate to reject the nomination of Avril Haines for director of national intelligence,” it concludes. “The people of the United States and the world deserve better.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/12/21/human-rights-advocates-biden-no-torture-defenders-allowed

Bernd Lange sees breakthrough for human rights in EU dual-use export

December 12, 2020



On 11 December 2020 Bernd Lange, Vice-chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, wrote in New Europe the following piece about how after 6 years there has come an European agreement on stricter rules for the export of dual-use goods, which can be used for both civilian and military ends.


All good things are worth waiting for. After long six years negotiators from the European Parliament, the Commission and member states finally agreed on stricter rules for the export of dual-use goods, which can be used for both civilian and military ends. Parliament’s perseverance and assertiveness against a blockade by some of the European Union member states has paid off in the sense that as of now respect for human rights will become an export standard.

Up until now, export restrictions applied to aerospace items, navigation instruments or trucks. From now on, these rules will also apply to EU produced cyber-surveillance technologies, which demonstrably have been abused by authoritarian regimes to spy on opposition movements; for instance, during the Arab Spring in 2011.

This is a breakthrough for human rights in trade by overcoming years of various EU governments blocking the inclusion of cyber-surveillance technology in the export control rules for dual-use goods. Without a doubt: Technological advances, new security challenges and their demonstrated risks to the protection of human rights required more decisive action and harmonised rules for EU export controls.

Thanks to the stamina of the Parliament, it will now be much more difficult for authoritarian regimes to abuse EU produced cybersecurity tools such as biometric software or Big Data searches to spy on human rights defenders and opposition activists. Our message is clear: economic interests must not take precedence over human rights. Exporters have to shoulder greater responsibility and apply due diligence to ensure their products are not employed to violate human rights. We have also managed to increase transparency by insisting on listing exports in greater detail in the annual export control reports, which will make it much harder to hide suspicious items.

In a nutshell, we are setting up an EU-wide regime to control cyber-surveillance items that are not listed as dual-use items in international regimes, in the interest of protecting human rights and political freedoms. We strengthened member states’ public reporting obligations on export controls, so far patchy, to make the cyber-surveillance sector, in particular, more transparent. We increased the importance of human rights as licensing criterion and we agreed on rules to swiftly include emerging technologies in the regulation.

This agreement on dual-use items, together with the rules on conflict minerals and the soon to be adopted rules on corporate due diligence, is establishing a new gold standard for human rights in EU trade policy.

I want the European Union to lead globally on rules and values-based trade. These policies show that we can manage globalisation to protect people and the planet. This must be the blueprint for future rule-based trade policy.

UN pulls Anti-Torture Conference from Egypt to seek other regional venue

August 21, 2019

The UN has postponed the anti-torture conference due to take place in Cairo, following an outcry from human rights defenders who accused the organisation of “whitewashing” the Egyptian government’s abuses. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/20/controversial-u-n-decision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/postpones-anti-torture-conference-cairo-outcry-190820193249344.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/20/un-postpones-anti-torture-conference-in-cairo-after-backlash

Controversial U.N.decision to hold conference on torture in Egypt

August 20, 2019

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will co-host the regional conference with the government’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on 4-5 September. Some 80 participants, both government and non-governmental, from 19 Arab countries are expected to attend. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, who in February had said torture was endemic in Egypt, told Reuters: “It is a fairly standard type of event.”…

Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the idea of Egypt hosting such an event was a joke. “More ironic is that this is through the National Council (for Human Rights), the role of which is to always polish the government’s image and complicity in the human rights situation,” he said. NHCR president Mohamed Fayek will give a welcome address at the conference’s opening ceremony, according to an agenda seen by Reuters….In 2017, Egypt raided and shut down the Nadeem Center, which documented alleged human rights abuses and treated torture victims.

In the meantime on 19 August 2019 the NGO EuroMed Rights announced that it has declined the invitation and in an open letter addressed to UN High Commissioner, Ms Michelle Bachelet, EuroMed Rights expresses its deep reservations about the decision to hold this conference in Egypt, a country where torture is systematically practised by the security forces, and in collaboration with the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which acts under the auspices of the government. The letter recalls that detainees and prisoners in Egypt are frequently subjected to abuses which amount to torture, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension by limbs and rape. Read full letter here

https://kfgo.com/news/articles/2019/aug/15/rights-groups-criticize-undecision-to-hold-conference-on-torture-in-egypt/927888/

Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade: another step towards a binding instrument

June 17, 2019

The Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was launched in September 2017 under the leadership of Argentina, the European Union, and Mongolia. Today, the Global Alliance has over 60-member states that have proclaimed their determination to end international trade in instruments of torture and capital punishment. The Alliance is now introducing a draft resolution before the United Nations General Assembly with a view to adopt a legally binding instrument. A public panel event was held on 14 June 2019 in the Maison de la Paix in Geneva with experts from academia, policy practitioners, representatives from member states, civil society, and the interested public, to take stock of the developments leading to the creation of the Alliance and the prospects and challenges of adopting and implementing a global ban on tools of torture.

Panel discussion

  • Cecilia Malmström, European Union Commissioner for Trade
  • Barbara Bernath, Secretary General, Association for the Prevention of Torture
  • Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute, Geneva
  • Michael Crowley, Research Associate, Omega Research Foundation, and Project Coordinator of the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project, University of Bradford
  • Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture

Moderators

  • Nico Krisch, Co-Director, Global Governance Centre, and Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute, Geneva
  • Ezgi Yildiz, Postdoctoral Researcher, Global Governance Centre, the Graduate Institute, Geneva

This conference was organised with the support of the Global Governance Centre and is part of the EU Lecture Series “Europe Tomorrow”.

https://graduateinstitute.ch/communications/events/norm-making-banning-global-trade-tools-torture

Atlas of Torture: a new and timely project

June 25, 2018

A global cooperation platform has been launched to advance the fight against torture and ill-treatment worldwide: https://www.startnext.com/atlas-of-torture.
The Atlas of Torture – developed by Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Austria together with HURIDOCS – aims at providing the largest database on torture and ill-treatment, a map of organisations and activities as well as a learning and exchange platform for states, researchers, human rights defenders and the general public. Thereby they want to raise awareness, improve the access to information, strengthen cooperation and empower people worldwide. The project has already been endorsed by many human rights experts (from the UN SPT, Council of Europe, NGOs, academics and medical professionals). You will be able to view their testimonials over the coming weeks on the project’s Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/Atlas-of-Torture-115526871812308/> and Twitter <https://twitter.com/AtlasofTorture> channels.

A concept note with more details is available from: contact@atlas-of-torture.org 

http://atlas-of-torture.org/

Barbara Bernath is the new SG of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)

April 30, 2018

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) has appointed Barbara Bernath as it’s new Secretary General, as of 1 July 2018. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/15/mark-thompson-old-hand-in-apt-leaves-in-2018/] Ms. Bernath has extensive experience in torture prevention with the APT over the last twenty years, including as Chief of Operations since 2009. She has worked in all regions of the world and is very much appreciated by the broad variety of governmental and non-governmental partners of the APT.

“Barbara Bernath is the right person to implement APT’s Strategic Plan and pursue the Agenda for Change adopted by the Board. She is aware of the new challenges regarding the prevention of torture and will know which measures to take in the future to address them, taking into consideration the expectations from our partners in the field,” stated APT President, Martine Brunschwig Graf.

“We must propose concrete steps that can address the root causes of torture and ill-treatment, facilitate dialogue among all actors and accompany them in their national efforts towards societies free of torture.” said Barbara Bernath.

A Swiss/French national, Barbara Bernath holds a Master’s Degree in international law from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID). Before joining the APT, she worked as a Delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross and held several posts in the human rights field including with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. She speaks French, English, Spanish and German.

https://www.apt.ch/en/news_on_prevention/apt-appoints-new-secretary-general/

AI Germany award goes to Egypt’s Nadeem Center for torture victims

January 25, 2018

Amnesty International’s German branch has awarded its human rights prize to Egypt’s Nadeem Center. For the past 20 years, the center has documented torture carried out by security forces and treated victims at its clinic (the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture).

Founders of the Nadeem Center for torture victims in Cairo, Egypt (picture-alliance/dpa/Polaris Image/D. Smilie)

We want to support all the courageous women and men who put their lives on the line in the struggle against torture, violence and despotism in Egypt,” said Markus Beeko, the Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, in a statement. For more information on this and other awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/a-i-germanys-human-rights-award.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/

Mark Thompson – old hand in APT – leaves in 2018

December 15, 2017

Thursday, 14 December 2017, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT, founded in 1977 by the Swiss banker and lawyer Jean-Jacques Gautier) announced that its Secretary-General, Mark Thomson, will retire on the 31st of July 2018. Mark, who has served as Secretary General since 2001, says that this is the right time for him to hand over the reins to someone else and that, whilst he intends to remain active in torture prevention and access to justice issues, this will be on a voluntary and ad hoc basis and that his main goal is to seize the opportunity to focus his time and energy on his young family. The President of the APT, Martine Brunschwig Graf expressed her own and the Board’s sincere appreciation for the work Mark has done over the past seventeen years, stating that: “Mark has provided first-class leadership to the APT and during that time he has played a guiding role in some immensely important developments in torture prevention across the globe. He is held in high esteem by public oversight bodies and governmental and non-governmental partners in many countries who will be as sorry as we are to see him move on.” Before 2001 Mark Thompson worked at the International al Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

The APT’s Board, taking into account the quality of the existing team, has chosen not to make a public call and will instead appoint his successor at the next board meeting, on the 13th of April 2018.

https://www.apt.ch/en/news_on_prevention/upcoming-change-in-apt-management/

Anti-Torture NGO REDRESS seeks new director

September 30, 2017

REDRESS is a specialist human rights organisation that works globally to combat torture and support survivors in their quest for justice (see www.redress.org). It does so by: representing survivors’ interests before national and international courts and human rights bodies; advocating on their behalf with governments and other policy makers; working with partner organisations around the globe to increase civil society’s ability to fight against impunity, to prevent torture and to support those who suffer from it; and by raising awareness about the scourge of torture and the plight of survivors to strengthen institutions in their work against torture. Founded 25 years ago, REDRESS is headquartered in London but operates globally. Since 2016, REDRESS Nederland works closely with REDRESS from its office in The Hague. The Director currently oversees the work of both.

Although the deadline officially is 30 September it may be that late applications are accepted.

The role of Director is to lead all aspects of REDRESS, its staff and mission, reporting to the Board of Trustees. It involves:

  defining and implementing its overall strategy;

  recruiting, motivating and managing (directly or indirectly) its staff of up to 20, operating in an open high-performance culture within a strong governance framework;

  ensuring the highest possible standards of representation of clients and output of work from the staff;

  creating law changing legal and PR strategies and opportunities to combat torture in individual matters, including writing publicly on these issues;

  liaising and working with key stakeholders and contacts, including:

  running a fund-raising strategy with REDRESS’s supporters who are a mixture of well- known philanthropic trusts, law firms, individuals and states or para-state entities and ensuring a high level of transparency to them and complete delivery to them on their expectations;

  line management of the organisation and its finances;

  considerable travel; and

  working with the Board of Trustees of REDRESS itself, the board of REDRESS Nederland and the US Board to ensure alignment, support and good governance.

  • The post is full time and involves significant travel.The post is vacant from January 2018.

    Interviews will take place in October 2017. There will be two rounds of interviews. The process would also give final candidates the opportunity to meet the REDRESS team and to gain their own information on the standing of the organisation and the quality and approach of its staff.

    The Trustees would hope to make an appointment in October or early November for the new Director to start in January or as soon thereafter as practicable.

    Applications must include a full resume and a covering letter setting out why you are interested in the role, what you would bring to it, what you would want to achieve as Director and how you meet the criteria above. Applications are invited by 30 September 2017 to Sheilagh@redress.org.