Posts Tagged ‘torture’

“Crazy nurses” from Canada stress importance of recognizing non-state torture

March 1, 2018

With all the high-level segment statements by political figures in the first week of the UN Human Rights Council one tends to overlook more down to earth work such as this – proudly reported by the CBC on 28 February 2018: Once dismissed as ‘crazy nurses,’ Jeanne Sarson, Linda MacDonald from Canada travel to Switzerland to address UN Human Rights Council:

Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald travelled to Switzerland where they were one of four so-called “civil society representatives” selected to address the UN Human Rights Council.

Jeanne Sarson reading statement at UN

Jeanne Sarson reading a statement written by her and Linda MacDonald at the UN 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. (UN Web TV screen capture)

Their long-repeated message has been that torture isn’t just meted out by government officials and agents. Women and girls can be tortured by parents and family members, with atrocities including human trafficking, prostitution, enslavement or pornographic victimization. Naming it torture gives continuing crimes against family members the attention and weight it deserves, they believe. “Non-State Torture is identified as a distinct and specific crime and human rights offence which must not be misnamed as being another form of crime such as an assault causing bodily harm or abuse,” their website nonstatetorture.org says.

MacDonald said it felt “very affirming” for her and Sarson to make the joint statement to the council. Their story of activism began in 1993 when they met a woman who revealed she had been tortured and trafficked since she was a toddler. The nurses turned human rights defenders have now been in touch with 5,000 women around the world who say they are victims of domestic torture. .

But Sarson said she felt nervous reading the statement before the council as “non-state torture was probably a new concept for many of them.” She thought that many would be closing their ears to their message. Sarson and MacDonald’s statement urged the UN Human Rights Council’s countries to recognize non-state torture against women and girls as a gender-based human rights violation and crime. Their message received encouragement from the UN deputy high commission of the human rights council. “She said: ‘Keep pushing. We need civil society to campaign like you’re doing so society will transform,'” said MacDonald. There’s still work to be done at home. The pair have been pushing the federal government for years to include non-state as a human rights violation, but to date there has been no commitment.

MacDonald acknowledged that some members of the UN human rights council have poor records in upholding human rights, but that wasn’t her focus. She said until Canada recognizes non-state torture in its Criminal Code, “we have no room to criticize other countries.”

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/truro-nurses-non-state-torture-1.4555659

12 human rights NGOs urge Uzbekistan to pick up pace with reforms

February 15, 2018

The Financial Times (amongst others) reports that changes in Uzbekistan are possibly going in the right direction. [“While Mr Mirziyoyev was part of the old system too, as prime minister for 13 years, his ousting of Mr Inoyatov was the boldest in a series of steps apparently designed to start opening the country up. He has freed 18 high-profile political prisoners — even if thousands more remain in jail — and taken nearly 16,000 people off a 17,500-strong security blacklist of potential extremists that stopped them travelling or getting jobs”.]  This echoes what HRW said on 5 September 2017 after delegation had made its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010:  “The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements”. Now (13 February 2018) twelve international NGOs have publicly urged Uzbekistan to release journalists and human rights defenders.

Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. 

In a joint statement HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have called on Tashkent to “ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.

[Abdullaev was detained in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. In October, Uzbek authorities arrested well-known economist and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov. They have accused him and others, including Akrom Malikov, an academic who was arrested in 2016, of plotting to overthrow the government.

At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in the statement.

There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), said in the rights groups’ statement.

For my earlier posts on Uzbekistan, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/uzbekistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-12-rights-watchdogs-urge-tashkent-to-release-journalist-others/29039260.html

https://eurasianet.org/node/84971

https://www.ft.com/content/6c37419c-0cbf-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09

Gambia: Yahya Jammeh’s ex minister continues his detention in Switzerland

January 17, 2018

Yahya Jammeh campaign
Then-incumbent Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives escorted by his bodyguards for an electoral rally on November 24, 2016.  MARCO LONGARI/AFP/GETTY

Ousman Sonko, a former interior minister of Gambia suspected of human rights abuses who was arrested in January 2017, will have to remain in Swiss detention, the Swiss Federal Tribunal has ruled. Switzerland’s highest court has rejected an appeal by Sonko’s lawyers against a second prolongation of his detention. The Federal Tribunal said in a decision published in December that Sonko was still under urgent suspicion. As in a previous judgement on an appeal by Sonko, judges said they based their decision on independent reports by United Nations special observers on Gambia. These observers had not yet been questioned by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the OAG also needed to go through files obtained from Gambia during the mutual assistance procedure, the latest judgement said. Trial International, an international justice organisation, accused Sonko of having personally taken part in what it described as torture between 2006 and 2016. Sonko served under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh. “As the head of detention centers, Sonko could not have ignored the large-scale torture that political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders suffered there,” said Benedict de Moerloose of TRIAL in a statement in 2017. 

Barrow, the new President, had stated that he plans to install a truth and reconciliation commissionin the country in order to take account of alleged abuses under Jammeh, before deciding whether to attempt to prosecute the former president. In May 2017 in the wake of the launch of its global ‘brave’ campaign”, the Regional Director for West and Central Africa of AI, Alioune Tine, had called for justice for United Democratic Party (UDP) activist Ebrima Solo Sandeng, and for all victims of the Jammeh regime. “There must be justice for Ebrima Solo Sandeng and for all victims,” Alioune Tine told Freedom Newspaper. Alioune Tine said that, during his meeting with President Adama Barrow, he received assurances from the Gambian leader that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ for human rights abuses.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/05/10/indian-star-celina-jaitly-shows-erykah-badu-the-way/

————–

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/ousman-sonko_gambian-ex-interior-minister-to-remain-in-custody/43758596

http://www.newsweek.com/adama-barrow-yahya-jammeh-exile-gambia-547615

http://www.newsweek.com/gambia-yahya-jammehs-ex-minister-detained-switzerland-crimes-against-humanity-549075

https://freedomnewspaper.com/2017/05/19/gambia-alioune-tine-calls-for-justice-for-solo-sandeng-as-amnesty-launches-new-gobal-campaign/

Psychiatric treatment can amount to torture

May 12, 2017

Psychiatric patients are often placed into situations of particular vulnerability, which can qualify as torture. And the use of forced psychiatric treatment on human rights defenders is unfortunately an ongoing affair [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/forced-psychiatric-treatment/]

So, Jean-Jacques Gautier National Preventive Mechanism Symposium 2016, organised by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), provided a platform to discuss on how devise recommendations for monitoring psychiatric institutions. The video – produced by THF – above gives an impression.  To learn more about the symposium, visit: goo.gl/7Jlv6R�

Association for the Prevention of Torture: http://www.apt.ch/en

Chinese court says human rights defender Xie Yang admits to crimes

May 8, 2017

Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain to continue executions in spite of serious torture allegations

February 3, 2017

On 31 January 2017 Human Rights Watch published this video:

Two Bahrainis appear to be at imminent risk of execution despite the authorities’ failure to properly investigate their allegations of torture. Both Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa have disavowed confessions that they allege were the result of torture and that were used as evidence in a trial that violated international due process standards.

The January 15, 2017 executions of three other Bahrainis in a similar case have raised concerns that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will approve the executions of Ramadan and Moosa, who face the death penalty for a February 2014 bombing that resulted in the death of a policeman. Human Rights Watch analysis of their trial and appeal judgments found that their convictions were based almost exclusively on their confessions, which both men retracted.

See also: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/human-rights-first-s-dooley-testifies-bahrain-congressional-committee

 

2017 (1): Are we heading towards a ‘post human rights world’?

January 11, 2017

The start of a new year is often the occasion to make some broader analysis. So it is with the issue of human rights defenders. I have collected some of the more interesting and will report on these in the days to come.

The first is an article (30 December 2016) by ith more states seemingly reluctant to honour human rights treaties – whether we are “heading towards a ‘post human rights world‘?:

A man looks at one of the first documents published by the United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Image copyright THREE LIONS/GETTY IMAGES

With an increasing number of states seemingly reluctant to honour human rights treaties, is there a future for this type of international agreement? “We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the UN, and in the life of mankind.” With these words, Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the United Nations. It was 1948 and UN member states, determined to prevent a repeat of the horrors of World War Two, were filled with idealism and aspiration…… Mrs Roosevelt’s prophecy that the declaration would become “the international magna carta of all men everywhere” appeared to have been fulfilled.

But fast forward almost 70 years, and the ideals of the 1940s are starting to look a little threadbare. Faced with hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers at their borders, many European nations appear reluctant to honour their obligations to offer asylum. Instead, their efforts, from Hungary’s fence to the UK’s debate over accepting a few dozen juvenile Afghan asylum seekers, seem focused on keeping people out. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, president-elect Donald Trump, asked during the election campaign whether he would sanction the controversial interrogation technique known as “waterboarding”, answered ‘I’d do much worse… Don’t tell me it doesn’t work, torture works… believe me, it works.” And in Syria, or Yemen, civilians are being bombed and starved, and the doctors and hospitals trying to treat them are being attacked.

Donald Trump
 Image copyrightDREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

 Little wonder then, that in Geneva, home to the UN Human Rights Office, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, there is talk of a “post human rights” world. “There’s no denying that we face enormous challenges: the roll-back that we see on respect for rights in western Europe, and potentially in the US as well,” says Peggy Hicks, a director at the UN Human Rights Office. Just around the corner, at the ICRC, there is proof that those challenges are real. A survey carried out this summer by the Red Cross shows a growing tolerance of torture. Thirty-six per cent of those responding believed it was acceptable to torture captured enemy fighters in order to gain information. What’s more, less than half of respondents from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, among them the US and the UK, thought it was wrong to attack densely populated areas, knowing that civilians would be killed. More than a quarter thought that depriving civilians of food, water and medicine was an inevitable part of war.

For ICRC President Peter Maurer these are very worrying figures. “Even in war, everyone deserves to be treated humanely,” he explains. “Using torture only triggers a race to the bottom. It has a devastating impact on the victims, and it brutalises entire societies for generations.” But how many people are listening, outside the Geneva beltway? Peggy Hicks attempts an explanation as to why attitudes to human rights may be changing.

“When confronted with the evil we see in the world today, it doesn’t surprise me that those who might not have thought very deeply about this [torture] might have a visceral idea that this might be a good idea.” But across Europe and the United States, traditional opinion leaders, from politicians to UN officials, have been accused of being out of touch and elitist. Suggesting that some people just haven’t thought deeply enough about torture to understand that it is wrong, could be part of the problem. “I do think the human rights community, myself included, have had a problem with not finding language that connects with people in real dialogue,” admits Ms Hicks. “We need to do that better, I fully acknowledge that.”

What no one in Geneva seems to want to contemplate, however, is that the principles adopted in the 1940s might just not be relevant anymore. They are good, so Geneva thinking goes, just not respected enough. “We aren’t looking for an imaginary fairytale land,” insists Tammam Aloudat, a doctor with the medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres. “We are looking for the sustaining of basic guarantees of protection and assistance for people affected by conflict.” Dr Aloudat is concerned that changing attitudes, in particular towards medical staff working in war zones, will undermine those basic guarantees. He was recently asked why MSF staff do not distinguish between wounded who are civilians, and those who might be fighters, who, if treated, would simply return to the battlefield.

“This is absurd, anyone without a gun deserves to be treated… We have no moral authority to judge their intentions in the future.” Extending the analogy, he suggested that doctors or aid workers could end up being asked not to treat, or feed, children, in case they grew up to be fighters. “It’s an illegal, unethical and immoral view of the world,” he says. “Accepting torture, or deprivation, or siege, or war crimes as inevitable, or ok if they get things done faster is horrifying, and I wouldn’t want to be in a world where that’s the norm.”

And Peggy Hicks warns against hasty criticism of current human rights law, in the absence of any genuine alternatives. “When we look at the alternatives there really aren’t any,” she said. “Whatever flaws there may be in our current framework, if you don’t have something to replace it with, you better be awfully careful about trying to tear it down.”

Source: Are we heading towards a ‘post human rights world’? – BBC News

Two remarkable women rights defenders from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer

December 15, 2016

OMCT-LOGOpublishes a series of 10 profiles human rights defenders to commemorate International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016. Here two women HRDs from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer: Read the rest of this entry »

Burundi: reprisals, torture, incitement to hatred and continued refusal to admit monitoring

August 29, 2016

The situation in Burundi continues to be marred by instability and reports of serious human rights violations, including allegations of extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention of members of the opposition, civil society and those suspected of opposing the Government. Human rights defenders and journalists are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the country since April 2015. I have written quite a bit about Burundi where all early warning signs of violence and ethnic cleansing are present [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-needhttps://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. And the situation continues:

  • The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) issued a wake-up call to Burundi said Amnesty International on 12 August 2016 after the Committee flagged an increase in the use of torture and other ill-treatment since the beginning of the country’s current crisis in April 2015. In its concluding observations the Committee’s 10 independent international experts expressed deep concern over hundreds of cases of torture alleged to have taken place in recent months in both official and unofficial places of detention.
  • On 8 August 2016 the CAT had already issued a report that it was gravely concerned by reports that four Burundian lawyers who provided information to it are being subjected to reprisalsIn a press statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee said the four lawyers – Armel Niyongere, Lambert Nigarura, Dieudonné Bashirahishize and Vital Nshimirimana – had contributed to an alternative report by a coalition of Burundian non-governmental organizations for the its review, and three were present at the review in Geneva on 28 and 29 July. According to the Committee, on 29 July, a Burundian prosecutor asked the President of the Bujumbura Bar Council to strike the lawyers off the professional register, alleging that they had committed several offences, including involvement in an insurrectionist movement and an attempted coup. The Committee’s letter, signed by Chair Jens Modvig and Rapporteur on Reprisals Alessio Bruni, notes that the prosecutor requested sanctions against the lawyers, rather than an inquiry to establish the facts, “which raises concerns with respect to presumption of innocence.” It goes on to state that this concern “is all the stronger given that the (prosecutor’s) request came on the same day that the Burundian delegation, presided over by the Minister of Justice, indicated they would not be participating in the second session of dialogue with the Committee, citing the alternative report by Burundian civil society in particular as the reason.” [Mr. Modvig and Mr. Bruni also point out that the Committee raised the issue of reprisals after the last regular review of Burundi in 2014. They reminded the Burundian Government that reprisals contravene Article 13 of the Convention against Torture, to which the country has been a party since 1993. Article 13 states that complainants and witnesses should be protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of making a complaint or giving evidence.]
  • Finally on 16 August the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed his concern at inflammatory statements by public officials that could constitute incitement to violence including, most recently, by a senior official of the ruling CNDD-FDD political party. In a statement on 16 August 2016 that was published on the CNDD-FDD website, Pascal Nyabenda, who was at the time President of the CNDD-FDD party and President of the National Assembly, suggested that the genocide in Rwanda was a fabrication of the international community, (“montages genocidaires contre le Gouvernement dit Hutu de Kigali”) that was used to remove the Hutu government that was in place at the time.   “This irresponsible statement could be interpreted as genocide denial”, Mr. Dieng said, “and has the potential to inflame ethnic tensions, both within Burundi and outside its borders”.  At the 20 August meeting of the party, a new head of the CNDD-FDD was appointed but Mr. Nyabenda continues in his role as President of the National Assembly. Special Adviser Dieng also raised concern that the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD party, known as the Imbonerakure, continues to be associated with human rights abuses and is reported to have threatened ethnic violence. He noted that the Minister of the Interior of Burundi had confirmed that the Imbonakure formed part of the national security strategy, as the CAT also pointed out in its concluding observations.
  • To make things even worse Burundi has rejected in early August the deployment of a United Nations police force saying the France-drafted resolution authorizing the security contingent was made without Bujumbura’s consent. “The government of Burundi rejects every aspect of this resolution linked to the deployment of any force on its territory,” spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said in a statement released on Tuesday, adding that the resolution was “in violation of the fundamental principles required of the UN family and above all violating its sovereignty.” The response came after the UN Security Council authorized to dispatch of up to 228 officers to Bujumbura and elsewhere throughout the west African country for an initial period of one year, in an attempt to provide the council, according to French Ambassador Francois Delattre, with “eyes and ears” on the ground to provide early warning of possible mass atrocities. The planned deployment of the contingent has aroused fury from the country’s authorities, who initially agreed to accept no more than 50 officers The country’s authorities initially agreed to accept no more than 50 officers, but now infuriated by the UN planned deployment of 228-strong contingent, have rejected even the 50-strong security force.
  • An overview of FIDH actions concerning Burundi in 2015/16: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/burundi/burundi-one-year-of-bloody-crisis

http://allafrica.com/stories/201608270196.html

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54640#.V8Pm3IRptgc

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/burundi-un-findings-must-be-a-wake-up-call-on-torture/

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/08/03/478262/Burundi-UNSC-UN-Nkurunziza-police-France

Egypt: doctors protest police brutality but no human rights defenders can come and tell about it

February 15, 2016

While human rights organizations and the media around the world were remembering Egypt‘s Tahrir Square [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/five-years-after-tahrir-square-there-is-stability-in-egypt-but-do-not-ask-at-what-price/] the space for demonstrations in Egypt itself was minimal. But a huge exception was made on 13 February 2016 when some 10.000 people gathered at noon in front of the Doctors Syndicate in Cairo. Heartening to see that the doctors have the courage to take up the case against police brutality. But you are unlikely to hear about this from an Egyptian human rights defender in person as they are systematically banned from traveling. Read the rest of this entry »