Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Torture in Nicaragua

October 25, 2020

On 25 October 2020 Mariana Castro published on Polygraph.info an overview article showing that despite official denials torture does occur in Nicaragua’s Prisons.

NICARAGUA – Anti-government demonstrators take part in a vigil to demand the release of political prisoners and justice for the victims of protests against President Daniel Ortega, outside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua on October 3, 2019.
NICARAGUA – Anti-government demonstrators take part in a vigil to demand the release of political prisoners and justice for the victims of protests against President Daniel Ortega, outside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua on October 3, 2019.

“There are always prisoners who make up that they’re being tortured. …They invent things simply to create a negative image on Nicaragua before international organizations run by the yanquis…

On October 15, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) publicly denounced persistent human rights violations in Nicaragua and urged the government to release political prisoners, restore fundamental freedoms and respect the separation of powers and rule of law: “The government’s has refused to comply with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to fulfill its duties under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

Four days later, Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, dismissed allegations that political prisoners made of being tortured, calling them “lies” and an attempt to taint the country’s image.

There are always prisoners who make up that they’re being tortured … they invent things simply to create a negative image on Nicaragua before international organizations run by the yanquis [referring to the United States], like the OAS,” Ortega said during a speech. (Source: El 19 Digital, October 19, 2020)

Based on multiple published reports, Ortega’s claim that torture accusations are invented is false.

Nicaragua under Ortega has faced extensive international scrutiny for violations of human rights. These include “targeting civil society, human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, community and religious leaders, journalists and other media workers, students, victims and their family members, and individuals expressing critical views of the Government,” according to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).

In April 2018, protests broke out in Nicaragua as fiscal reforms slashed social security. Protestors were met with a violent and lethal response from the government, fueling a civil uprising demanding Ortega’s resignation. More than 100,000 Nicaraguans have since fled the country.

Between the start of the protests and September 2019, 651 people died, nearly 5,000 were injured, 516 were kidnapped and 853 have gone missing, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH). Twenty-two police officers died, as stated by the U.N.

According to Human Rights Watch, many of those detained during the protests were subjected torture, including electric shocks, asphyxiation and rape. Detainees were also reportedly denied care in public hospitals.

The organization interviewed 12 former detainees, 11 of whom described suffering one of more forms of abuse, and seven who said they witnessed 39 detainees suffering abuses. It also interviewed three doctors and a psychologist who treated some detainees. They reported that many “showed signs of physical harm consistent with physical abuse and torture similar to that described by the 12 detainees.”

This week, Monitoreo Azul y Blanco (Blue and White Monitoring), a group that since 2018 registers and consolidates complaints of human rights violations in Nicaragua, published a video by Expediente Publico (an investigative journalism magazine in Honduras and Nicaragua) with testimonies from former political prisoners about their experiences of ill treatments and torture while incarcerated.

The testimonies mentioned the details of the event that resulted in the death of Eddy Montes, a Nicaraguan-American and U.S. Navy veteran who was shot dead in La Modelo prison in May 2019 after “a serious disturbance” inside of the prison, according to Nicaragua’s interior ministry.

The magazine also published an article on October 20 detailing testimonies of victims of abuse by the Nicaraguan police. They tell the story of J, an opposition protestor who between May 6 and May 13, 2019, was subjected to “constant questioning” and abuse by the police. Her complaint is one of dozens of cases.

Between April 2018 and June 2020, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective Never Again (Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca+) registered complaints of five rapes, eight sexual abuses, seven threats of rape to detainees or their family members and three witnesses of rape to one or more fellow inmates, the article reported.

NICARAGUA – Members of the organization Mothers of April (AMA) hold portraits of their late loved ones outside the Cathedral in Managua on February 23, 2020.
NICARAGUA – Members of the organization Mothers of April (AMA) hold portraits of their late loved ones outside the Cathedral in Managua on February 23, 2020.

On June 19, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a resolution to promote and protect human rights in Venezuela, and requesting the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to “enhance monitoring” and “continue to report on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.”

Amid increased international pressure, Ortega’s government has released some political prisoners, including 91 people whose sentences were converted to house arrest in December 2019. But some 100 political prisoners (estimates vary slightly) remain in jails.

On September 30, more than 50 political prisoners went on a hunger strike as part of protests demanding their freedom. At least three of them sewed their mouths as part of protests and were then transferred to maximum security cells at the Jorge Navarro prison complex known as La Modelo. Amnesty International has described the complex as “one of the main destinations for those detained and punished for reporting human rights violations in the country.”

During his October 19 speech, Ortega said prison doors were open to those calling out the government, including relatives of prisoners, for them “to visit them when they say they’re being tortured, they are saying, they have sown their lips.”

But on the following day, representatives from the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), one of Nicaragua’s oldest rights groups, went to visit the prison and were not allowed in, as La Prensa reported.

Allan Gomez, a member of the Union of Political Prisoners (UPPN), told Nicaragua Investiga that the denial of abuses is nothing new, “but human rights violations are fully visible.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. imposed its latest round of sanctions on top Nicaraguan officials, including the attorney general. According to The Associated Press, about two dozen people close to Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have been sanctioned – including Murillo and three of the couple’s children – since late 2017.

The European Union also recently renewed sanctions on Nicaragua – introduced in October 2019 – for another year, citing the “deteriorating political and social situation in Nicaragua.”

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https://www.polygraph.info/a/factcheck-ortega-denies-torture-in-nicaragua-prisons-he-is-wrong/30909488.html

New shocking report by AI re prisoners’ abuse in Iran

September 3, 2020

Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors,  a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, against those detained in connection with the nationwide protests of November 2019, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

The report, Trampling humanity: Mass arrests, disappearances and torture since Iran’s 2019 November protests, documents the harrowing accounts of dozens of protesters, bystanders and others who were violently arrested, forcibly disappeared or held incommunicado, systemically denied access to their lawyers during interrogations, and repeatedly tortured to “confess”. They are among the 7,000 men, women and children arrested by the Iranian authorities within a matter of days during their brutal repression of the protests.

Victims include children as young as 10 and injured protesters and bystanders arrested from hospitals while seeking medical care for gunshot wounds, as well as human rights defenders including minority rights activists, journalists, and individuals who attended ceremonies to commemorate those killed during the protests. Hundreds have since been sentenced to prison terms and flogging and several to the death penalty following grossly unfair trials which were presided over by biased judges behind closed doors, frequently lasted less than an hour, and systematically relied on torture-tainted “confessions”.

“In the days following the mass protests, videos showing Iran’s security forces deliberately killing and injuring unarmed protesters and bystanders sent shockwaves around the world. Much less visible has been the catalogue of cruelty meted out to detainees and their families by Iranian officials away from the public eye,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Instead of investigating allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and other crimes against detainees, Iranian prosecutors became complicit in the campaign of repression by bringing national security charges against hundreds of people solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, while judges doled out guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted ‘confessions’. This litany of crimes and violations, committed with total impunity, has been accompanied by a wave of forced televised ‘confessions’ in state propaganda videos and grotesque statements from top officials who have praised intelligence and security forces as heroes for their role in the brutal crackdown.

Amnesty International has recorded the names and details of more than 500 protesters and others, including journalists and human rights defenders, who have been subjected to unfair criminal proceedings in connection with the protests.

Prison terms meted out to those convicted have ranged from between one month and 10 years for vague or spurious national security charges such as “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public order” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

Of these, at least three, Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, were sentenced to death for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) through acts of vandalism, and another, Hossein Reyhani, is awaiting trial on a charge carrying the death penalty.

More than a dozen known to Amnesty International have received flogging sentences, in addition to prison terms, and at least two have had their flogging sentences implemented.

The organization believes that the real number of individuals prosecuted and sentenced in connection with the November 2019 protests is far higher, given the large number of arrests carried out and the patterns of prosecution and sentencing in the country in cases of arbitrary arrests and detention involving intelligence and security bodies.

Amnesty International is urging member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the prolonged, systematic impunity for gross violations of human rights in Iran, including by supporting the establishment of a UN-led inquiry with a view to ensuring accountability and guarantees of non-repetition.

The organization is also urging all UN member states to forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release anyone who continues to be imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in connection with the November 2019 protests; quash all convictions resulting from unfair trials, including those that relied on statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment; and hold those responsible to account.

Torture epidemic

Amnesty International’s research found that there was widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by police, intelligence and security agents and prison officials against men, women and children, both during arrest and later in detention.

Prosecution and judicial authorities failed in their legal obligations to conduct independent and impartial inspections of detention facilities, including those run by security and intelligence bodies, and to ensure that legal provisions banning the use of secret detention and torture and other ill-treatment against detainees are respected.

Torture was used to punish, intimidate and humiliate detainees. It was also routinely used to elicit “confessions” and incriminating statements, not just about their involvement in the protests, but also about their alleged associations with opposition groups, human rights defenders, media outside Iran, as well as with foreign governments.

The organization’s research found that victims were frequently hooded or blindfolded; punched, kicked and flogged; beaten with sticks, rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables; suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods; deprived of sufficient food and potable water; placed in prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months; and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture.

Other documented methods of torture included stripping detainees and spraying them with cold water, and subjecting detainees to extreme temperatures and/or bombardment of light or sound; forcible extraction of the nails from fingers or toes; pepper spraying; forced administration of chemical substances; using electric shocks; waterboarding; and mock executions.

Information received by Amnesty International from primary sources also reveals that interrogators and prison officials perpetrated sexual violence against male detainees, including through stripping and forced nakedness, sexual verbal abuse, pepper spraying the genital area, and administering electric shocks to the testicles.

One victim from Khorasan Razavi province who was subjected to waterboarding told Amnesty International:

“They [my interrogators] would drench a towel in water and place it over my face. Then they would pour water slowly over the towel, which made me feel like I was suffocating… They would stop… until I started to feel better and then they would start torturing me this way again. They also punched, kicked and flogged me on the soles of my feet with a cable.”

One man who was subjected to electric shocks recounted:

“The electric shocks were the worst form of torture… It felt like my entire body was being pierced with millions of needles. If I refused to answer their questions, they would raise the voltage levels and give me stronger electric shocks. I would shake violently and there would be a strong burning sensation coursing through my whole body…. The torture has had lasting effects on my mental and physical health. To this day, I still can’t sleep at night.”

A victim from Tehran province who was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole in a painful method his interrogators referred to as “chicken kebab” told the organization:

“The pain was excruciating. There was so much pressure and pain in my body that I would urinate on myself… My family know that I was tortured, but they don’t know how I was tortured. I feel choked with tears because there is no one here I can speak to.”

In all cases documented by Amnesty International, victims reported various forms of psychological torture to give forced “confessions”, including the use of degrading verbal insults and profanities; the intimidation and harassment of their family members; threats to arrest, torture, kill or otherwise harm their family members, including elderly parents or spouses; and threats to rape detainees or their female family members.

Enforced disappearances

Amnesty International’s research shows that many detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance for weeks or even months while held in undisclosed locations run by the security and intelligence bodies including the ministry of intelligence or the Revolutionary Guards. Other detainees were held in overcrowded prisons or police stations, military barracks, sports venues and schools.

Distressed relatives told the organization that they visited hospitals, morgues, police stations, prosecution offices, courts, prisons and other known detention centres to enquire about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones, but the authorities refused to provide them with information and threatened them with arrest if they kept seeking information or publicly spoke out about them.

In one case documented by Amnesty International, the authorities arrested a family member of two people who were forcibly disappeared for enquiring about their fate and whereabouts.

Amnesty International is aware of three ongoing cases of enforced disappearance, where the authorities continue to conceal their fate and whereabouts from their families. They include brothers Mehdi Roodbarian and Mostafa Roodbarian from Mahshahr, Khuzestan province.

On 11 September followed this: https://en.radiofarda.com/a/human-rights-organizations-call-for-un-investigation-into-suppressing-iranian-protesters/30833918.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/iran-detainees-flogged-sexually-abused-and-given-electric-shocks-in-gruesome-post-protest-crackdown-new-report/

 

Iranian human rights defender charged with “dancing in prison” and alleged torturer may escape justice

June 17, 2020

Narges Mohammadi has "serious health problems," her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.
Narges Mohammadi has “serious health problems,” her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charge” brought against jailed Iranian journalist and human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, who has been imprisoned since 2015. On 12 June 2020 RSF urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, to “intervene quickly and do everything possible to obtain the release of Iran’s longest-held woman journalist.

In a recent open letter to the Iranian judicial authorities, her brother revealed that she was now accused of “dancing in prison during the days of mourning” commemorating the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shi’ite Islam. Mehdi Mohammadi, now a refugee in Norway, also wrote that his sister had serious health problems but “was not allowed out of prison to see a doctor, who went to her cell.” “This persecution of Narges Mohammadi is evidence of judicial discrimination at the behest of the Intelligence Ministry and senior justice system officials,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.

Mohammadi, 47, has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the Per Anger Prize in 2011 and the APS Sakharov prize in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/28/imprisoned-human-rights-defender-narges-mohammadi-awarded-aps-sakharov-prize-2018/]. For more information on these and other awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

In the meantime there is also an interesting case of an Iranian judge and former prosecutor who was arrested in Romania by Interpol for rights violations (13 June 2020 Radio Farda)

Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.
Gholamreza Mansouri, Iranian judge and former prosecutor.

Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman confirmed that Interpol has detained Gholamreza Mansouri in Romania. He is accused of human rights violations by rights defenders, but he is also one of the defendants in a recent sensational corruption case in Iran who fled to Europe. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili said Mansouri’s extradition is not possible now due to coronavirus restrictions but he will be returned to Iran and put on trial for corruption. He also told a local news network that Iran requested the arrest through the Interpol.

Iranian journalists and human rights activists want Mansouri to be put on trial in Germany or another European country for his grave human rights violations including the arrest and torture of journalists. SEE ALSO: Fearsome Prosecutor Of Journalists Accused Of Taking Bribes, Flees Iran

In a tweet on June 11, the Secretary-General of Reporters without Borders urged German authorities not to let him escape justice. Reporters without Borders (RSF) has supported the call of Iranian activists and filed a complaint with Germany’s Federal Public Prosecutor against Mansouri for the arrest and torture of at least 20 journalists in 2013….Mansouri is a highly influential prosecutor and judge notoriously famous for prosecuting journalists and putting them behind bars. In one instance in 2013 he ordered the simultaneous arrest of 20 journalists in one day.

Mansouri’s name came up as one of the recipients of bribes in the first trial session of Akbar Tabari, a former Judiciary deputy. The former judge allegedly received 500,000 euro in bribes from Tabari.

In a video published on social media on June 9, Mansouri claimed that he was abroad for treatment of a serious medical condition and could not return due to the restrictions introduced after the breakout of coronavirus. He did not reveal where he was but said he would go to an Iranian embassy to arrange for his return to defend himself against the corruption charges.

See also; https://iranian.com/2018/02/08/1000-days-counting/

https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-iranian-journalist-faces-new-absurd-charge/30667834.html

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-prosecutor-wanted-for-corruption-and-rights-violations-arrested-by-interpol/30668621.html

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1689336/middle-east

Shocking: Aluízio Palmar being sued by his torturer in Brazil

January 21, 2020

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

A scene in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 1, 1964, during the military coup against President João Goulart that installed a dictatorship. (Photo via Public Archive of São Paulo State)

Jacob Blanc a history professor at the University of Edinburgh – published in Nacia of 20 January 2020 a real ‘horror story’ about Aluízio Palmar, a Brazillian human rights defender and tortutre victim being sued by a dictatorship-era torturer. He puts the blame squarely on the climate created by Bolsonaro.

The physical and psychological torture happened 40 years ago, when Palmar was imprisoned by the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. But it was only last month, in a climate defined by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, that Palmar’s abuser felt emboldened to file the suit….In a cruel twist, it is not a case of the victim seeking justice from his abuser. Instead, Ostrovski—who became a lawyer after his military service—has sued Palmar for defamation of character and “moral damages” over his efforts to bring public attention to Ostrovski’s crimes.

Ostrovski’s human rights abuses have been well-documented, including in the 1984 report on torture titled Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again) and also in the 2014 National Truth Commission, the largest effort to-date to elucidate the repression of Brazil’s military regime. In these reports, multiple victims testified to Ostrovski’s acts of torture. Despite this evidence, Ostrovski has never stood trial. Nor, for that matter, has anyone in Brazil been held accountable for the cruelty of dictatorship. Unlike in neighboring Chile and Argentina where limited trials did take place, not a single member of the Brazilian military has faced criminal charges.

The lack of legal justice for Brazil’s human rights abusers helps explain the lawsuit against Palmar. Since the 1980s, Palmar has been an ardent human rights activist and journalist. He has co-founded a political newspaper, written a book on the forced disappearances of six Brazilian dissidents, maintained a website that publishes declassified documents, and established the Center for Human Rights and Popular Memory in the city of Foz do Iguaçu. So although there has been a concerted absence of political and institutional justice, Palmar and countless Brazilians like him have fought to keep the memory of the past alive. One of these initiatives took place in 2013 and stands as the crux of the current lawsuit.

As part of the investigations for the National Truth Commission, Palmar and three other torture victims testified in a public hearing. In the aftermath of this testimony, protestors engaged in a political action common in Latin America known as an escrache: to expose Ostrovisky—who had been living in relatively anonymity—the crowd marched to his law office and held a noisy rally to “out” him as a torturer. Palmar himself did not take part in the protest, but he did publicize the event on Facebook. And it is precisely Palmar’s act of sharing the protest on Facebook that Ostroviski is now citing in his claim for legal and financial restitution. But if the event in question took place in 2013, why is the lawsuit only now being brought forth?…The answer ties directly to Brazil’s current political landscape. Since Bolsonaro’s election in October 2018, a long-standing culture of impunity has become even more brazen. An army captain in the final years of the dictatorship, Bolsonaro has built his political career on an unapologetic nostalgia for military rule. Among his many headline-grabbing statements, Bolsonaro invoked the dictatorship’s most notorious torturer in voting to impeach the former president Dilma Rousseff—herself a torture victim—and he has stated that the regime’s murder of some 500 citizens did not go far enough.

“Since 1979, torturers have been protected by a law that is interpreted as impunity for them,” Luciana Silva, a professor of history at the State University of Western Paraná, said. “Now they are sheltered by an irresponsible president, who clearly governs for only a portion of the population. The torturer felt comfortable suing his victim as if nothing were going to happen.”

As both a journalist and a human rights defender, Palmar embodies two of the sectors of civil society most under threat in Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Between early December and early January alone, multiple journalists and media outlets in Brazil have suffered abuse, including two reporters in Rondônia receiving suspended jail time in a defamation case and a radio station’s antennae being destroyed by arson. Bolsonaro himself recently renewed his antagonism against the press: When asked in December about the growing corruption scandal surrounding his family, he deflected by verbally assaulted the journalist: “You look terribly like a homosexual.” These threats contribute to a dangerous reality where since 2010, 22 journalists in Brazil have been killed.

And according to the NGO Frontline Defenders, Brazil is also one of the deadliest places on earth for human rights activists, with a frightening increase in the threats, arrests, and physical attacks on activists, particularly around environmental, Indigenous, and LGBTQI+ rights. In 2019, the number of Indigenous leaders and activists killed reached the highest rate in two decades, and the Bolsonaro regime continues to skirt any responsibility to solve the 2018 assassination of Marielle Franco, a city councilwoman, gay Black feminist, and human rights activist. Bolsonaro also lashed out against the media when evidence emerged of apparent links between his family and Franco’s suspected killers.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/marielle-franco-one-year-after-her-killing-in-rio/]

Palmar’s situation is symptomatic of how human rights are being inverted in Brazil.  “With Bolsonaro in power, [these abusers] feel free,” Palmar said. “They feel free to go around threatening us, to commit a form of terrorism. And more and more they’re putting Brazilian democracy itself in danger. There is a real enemy, and it’s going to set us back a long time.

https://nacla.org/news/2020/01/20/inversion-human-rights-brazil

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

“Turkey NGOs” urge UN Committee Against Torture to undertake Turkey enquiry

June 10, 2019

The substantive parts of the report (produced below) seem quite solid but it is rather annoying that four out of the five NGOs in question all come with rather broad and general names while in fact cover solely or mostly Turkey:
International Association for Human Rights Advocacy in Geneva (IAHRA GENEVA),
Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF),
Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST),
HRD Human Rights Defenders e.V. and
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).

Among main arguments addressed within the document sent to the CAT Secretariat, it is emphasized that:

‘Following the graft probes of December 17 and 25, 2013 that exposed the prevalent corruption within the government, the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has initiated a gruesome scheme to seize control of all aspects of the Turkish society. The bogus coup attempt of July 15, 2016 granted the Erdogan Regime the carte blanche it needed. The Regime, with all the state apparatuses including the judiciary under its tight grip and a well-oiled propaganda machine fed by appropriated public funds, turned the Gulen movement into a scapegoat and unleashed its wrath onto innocent people in Turkey and around the world.

This wrath demonstrated itself in a government policy of wide-spread, deliberate and systematic human rights violations. The notoriously-long custody periods with little to no oversight due to introduction of state of emergency and ensuing legislative decrees, Gulenists have been pressured into making “confessions”. The judiciary is far from being independent and impartial, and as such, there has been effectively no judicial review of arbitrary detentions – numbers of which is more than 400 in a regular week. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has so far found nine cases of fundamental human rights violations pertaining to cases of Gulen movement followers.

Systematic, deliberate and wide-spread torture as a government policy, which manifested itself lastly with the torturing of diplomats in Ankara Police Headquarters, is made possible by, inter alia, practices of prolonged detention, prohibition of lawyer-client meetings and/or violation of their confidentiality, dissolution of all prison monitoring boards and prevention of obtaining fair medical examination reports. The practice of torture to extract confessions is well documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). These practices include battery, rape, sexual assault and threats thereof, electroshocks and waterboarding. The acts of torture take place particularly at the time of arrest and during the preliminary detention. In addition to the communication a list of alleged perpetrators of torture or ill- treatment is also submitted to the United Nations as an Annex.

Not only Turkey lacks competent and willing judicial bodies to investigate well-grounded allegations of torture, it also suffers from obscuring of evidences of torture. For instance, in a leaked confidential document, the Directorate General of Security (National Police) instructs all 81 provincial police departments to cover up traces of torture in detention centres and not to use official detention centres [for torture] ahead of a fact-finding visit by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe (CoE). The OHCHR and HRW both underline pervasive climate of fear and difficulty to document and investigate acts of torture and other forms of ill- treatment.

The Erdogan Regime’s security and intelligence arms have not abstained from abducting people either. All 26 cases of enforced disappearances in Turkey so far follow a similar pattern, which proves the fact that it is a systematic effort. The victims spend months with their conditions or whereabouts unknown, are subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Enforced disappearances are not confined within the borders of Turkey, the government abducts people abroad as well. Turkish Foreign Minister brazenly boasted about kidnapping of 100 individuals by the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) from 18 countries. These victims have also reported being subjected to severe torture.

Penitentiaries are no exception to the rule of systematic human rights violations. In lack of official figures, it is estimated that there are more than 3000 inmates held in solitary confinement. Prolonged detention in solitary confinement is a degrading punishment in itself, but more importantly, it is conducive to other acts of torture and ill-treatment. As such, there are 54 documented, murky cases of suicide in penitentiaries. These suspicious deaths are in fact due to torture and lack of adequate medical care.

The Erdogan Regime has also systematically targeted vulnerable groups such as expectant or new mothers, elderly, sick and disabled persons. The OHCHR reported 50 cases of women being arrested just before or after giving birth and estimates that there are 600 mothers held in detention with their young children. In almost all cases, these women were charged with alleged offences of their husbands, ina total disregard for the principle of individuality of criminal responsibility.

The information available provides a reasonable basis to conclude that multiple offences within the scope of Article 6(c) and 7(1) of the Rome Statute have been committed by the Erdogan Regime as a government policy, in its systematic and widespread attack on followers of the Gulen movement, particularly in the aftermath of 15 July coup attempt. There are also strong indications that rape (Article 7(1)(g) of the Rome Statute) and threats thereof have been systematically and deliberately resorted to by the government in its attacks against the movement.

The NGOs call on the Committee Against Torture as well as all relevant bodies of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and other international organizations to initiate investigations and to stay vigilant in prevention of practices of systematic and widespread torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the Erdogan Regime and bringing perpetrators of such acts to justice. The said organizations pledge to remain active in its endeavors to this end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joint NGO submits observations on Turkey to UN Committee Against Torture

Jamal Khashoggi murder: the plot thickens

March 18, 2019

On 17 March 2019, the New York Times reported that the Crown Prince (MBS) authorised a clandestine campaign against Saudi dissenters and human rights defenders well before Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court insider, US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]
The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]

More than a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, the New York Times has reported. The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudis, said the report published on Sunday citing the US officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the effort. American officials referred to it as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, the Times said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]

…..At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by the members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, suggesting his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the US officials and associates of some Saudi victims. These members were involved in at least a dozen operations beginning in 2017, the officials said, including forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries.

According to the New York-based newspaper, the Rapid Intervention Group has been involved in the harassment of arrested prominent human rights activists and women’s rights defenders, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Iman al-Najfan.

Alia al-Hathloul says that al-Qahtani attended several such sessions to torture her sister. He also threatened to kill Loujain and throw her body into the sewers, Alia says. According to the newspaper, the women were beaten, subjected to electric shocks, waterboarding, and threatened with death and rape during the interrogations. Loujain’s sister says that at first the Saudi authorities did not send the arrested women to jail, but in a secret location in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. According to US intelligence assessment, the brutal interrogations prompted university professor al-Najfan to attempt suicide. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/]

Saudi officials declined to confirm or deny that such a team existed, or answer questions from the Times about its work.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/mbs-approved-intervention-dissidents-nyt-report-190318075621971.html

Turkey, not a good place to be a lawyer or a judge

February 7, 2019

On 6 February 2019 is became known that a public prosecutor has sought the maximum prison sentence of 15 years for each of 33 lawyers on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based civic Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday. On Tuesday the trial of 53 defendants, 52 of whom are lawyers, continued at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court.

[Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.]

According to data compiled by independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1,546 were under prosecution as of January 24, 2019. Two hundred sixteen lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 1,361 years in prison. Some of the arrested lawyers were reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment. Fourteen of the detained or arrested lawyers are presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations.

A report titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018)” previously revealed that lawyers have particularly been targeted simply due to the identity or affiliations of their clients, all this spite of the basic principles of the independence of lawyers. [see e.g. https://lawyersforlawyers.org/en/basic-principles/ and also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/09/independence-of-the-legal-profession-subject-of-side-event-on-16-march-2017/]

Judiciary

And it is not limited to lawyers. A Turkish court sentenced a judge who previously won an award for human rights to 10 years in prison over links to the network Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. Murat Arslan, who has been detained for 22 months, was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organisation, after prosecutors charged him with use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock, Anadolu said. Arslan has denied the charges and said any evidence that he had used the app was “fabricated”, Anadolu said.

The government says the outlawed app was widely used by followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted coup that saw rogue soldiers commandeer tanks and aircraft, attacking parliament and killing some 250 unarmed civilians. The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a decision that prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/turkey-angry-after-pace-havel-prize-is-awarded-to-jailed-judge/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/18/european-commission-states-that-turkey-is-taking-major-steps-away-from-the-eu/

Torture

In the meantime Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the 2018 winner of the Hessian Peace Prize for her work documenting human rights abuses in Turkey, said torture had become systematic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/]

Korur Fincancı was one of more than 1,000 Turkish academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for peace after a two-year ceasefire between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down and security forces used tanks and artillery to crush attempts by the militants to seize towns and cities across the mainly Kurdish southeast. Now the head of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for signing the petition and for her contribution to a report prepared by her foundation on the Turkish military’s activities in the southeastern town of Cizre. 

……The figures show an alarming trend that Korur Fincancı said pointed to systematic rights violations. “In the year 2017, more than 5,000 people across Turkey applied for legal aid from the Human Rights Association on the basis that they’d been tortured. More than 500 applied to representatives of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey to be diagnosed … for torture,” she said.  The number of applicants remained high in 2018, with more than 2,600 people who said they had been tortured applying for legal aid and 558 applying for treatment in the first 11 months of the year.

Fincancı

….Korur Fincancı she said the fight against torture must extend beyong medical treatment to preventative measures, and that means educating the public.

…Meanwhile, security forces have opened 26,000 cases against suspects they say resisted arrest. “After police launch cases against them, people become hesitant to open (torture) cases … or the withdraw them. Thus the judiciary protects the police, the use of torture with legal repercussions becomes more entrenched, and the police believe they are doing their duty under this protection,” said the doctor.

With the introduction of emergency rule after the coup, the purge and arrest of public officials has come to be counted as part of a struggle against terrorism, providing another layer of protection for security officers who commit torture and other infractions. “And this arrangement applies to civilians – it’s the same as telling security officers we are in a state of civil war and their actions will be ignored,” Korur Fincancı said. “And that’s a very dangerous situation.

State of emergency

Anyway, ending the state of emergency in Turkey has not ended repressive rule under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Human Rights Watch observed on 17 January 2019 in its World Report 2019. Prolonged and arbitrary jailing of critics on bogus terrorism charges has become the norm in Turkey. Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2018 took place in a climate of media censorship and with some members of parliament and one presidential candidate jailed. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) retained control of a weakened parliament through a coalition. And with the election, in which Erdoğan was reelected, Turkey’s presidential system of governance, approved in a 2017 constitutional referendum, entered fully into force. “Any hope that the end of the state of emergency six month ago would mark a return to respect for human rights has been dashed,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Erdoğan government’s hounding of its critics and opponents has dismantled Turkey’s rule of law framework and turned justice on its head.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-sentences-detained-judge-who-won-human-rights-award-to-10-years–anadolu-says-11141758
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/turkey-state-emergency-ends-not-repression
https://ahvalnews.com/torture/award-winning-rights-activist-says-torture-systematic-turkey

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi goes public with his torture claim and hits a nerve even inside Iran

January 11, 2019

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi has been out of jail for a month, but says he still bears the physical and psychological scars from being tortured “to the verge of death” during his 25-day jail stay in Khuzestan Province. Bakhshi was arrested on November 20 for his role in weeks-long protests over unpaid salaries at a local sugar factory. He was charged with disruption of public order and collusion against national security and spent weeks in jail before his release on bail on December 12. After detailing his sufferings on Instagram (public letter), Bakhshi challenged Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, a mid-ranking cleric, to a live TV debate concerning the alleged torture of detainees. “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Does the ministry you run have the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?

Now Bakhshi’s claims have shined a light into the greater issue of prisoner mistreatment and torture, which rights group say is widespread, and have prompted parliament to launch an investigation. Iranian media reported that a parliament committee has been authorized to investigate Bakhshi’s claims after lawmakers requested a probe. Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in the reformist Etemad daily on January 6 in which he said Bakhshi’s claims were a “source of shame” and demanded answers from the Intelligence Ministry (“The letter …. should be a wake-up call for all those with a conscience and defenders of citizens’ rights who must follow up this matter until it reaches a clear conclusion.” ).

Since the publication of the labor activist’s letter, Bakhshi’s lawyer has indicated that her client has come under intense pressure to retract his statements about being tortured.

On January 6, 2019, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei claimed the authorities would investigate if Bakhshi lodged a formal complaint.

“After mentioning torture Esmail Bakhshi has come under intense pressure aimed at forcing my client to deny what happened,” Zilabi said on January 7.

The suggestion that the Intelligence Ministry could be sued has brought reactions from former political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered torture at the hands of the state. They noted that it is practically impossible to bring torturers to justice and in most cases it was the victims who received punishments for publicizing the torture.

 

After I was released [from more than a month in detention in early December 2004] I gave interviews and spoke to judicial authorities about being tortured,Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian reporter living in exile in the US, tweeted on January 6.  “Then I was summoned by [the Tehran Prosecutor at the time, Saeed] Mortazavi and in the presence of my lawyer he told me I had to file a lawsuit, which I did. He said now that the suit had been filed I had to prove my case or else he would lock me up for a long period. So I became a defendant in my own suit.”

Taghi Rahmani, a reporter and political activist who lives in Paris after serving 15 years in Iran’s prisons, tweeted: “In 1991 I was beaten during interrogation. In fact Judge [first name unknown] Haddad had entered the room and witnessed most of the beating. When my attorney [Abdolfattah] Soltani brought up the beatings in court, Judge Haddad sued Soltani and he was sentenced to four months in prison…

Attorney Ali Mojtahedzade suggested that to assure the public that torturers could be sued and brought to justice, the judiciary should first conclude the prosecution of those responsible for previous atrocities, such as the deaths of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and blogger Sattar Beheshti during detention.

..Another former political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi commented: “Sattar Beheshti had said that his interrogator had hung him on the ceiling and beat him. He was terrified about being tortured again”.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/23/observatory-expresses-grave-concern-over-health-of-iranian-hrd-hossein-ronaghi-maleki/]

[The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on Iran stated: “The Secretary-General remains concerned about continuing reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the Islamic Republic of Iran persists. Such reports point to a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions….” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran also expressed concern in his September 2018 report.]

Jestina Mukoko’s 150.000 $ triumph in Zimbabwe: gives hope to all torture victims

October 8, 2018

In a rare case of triumph over impunity, the Zimbabwean High Court, on 27 September 2018, ordered the state to pay $150 000 to Jestina Mungareva Mukoko, a pro-democracy campaigner and Director of Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP). In a Deed of Settlement endorsed by the High Court, the defendants have been ordered to pay $100.000 to Jestina in respect of her claims while a further $50.000 will be paid as a contribution towards her legal costs (before 31 October 2018).

This exceptional decision was welcomed by many NGOs, including the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

My good friend and long-time Zimbabwean human rights defender Arnold Tsunga said the following: “I think it’s a very good resolution of the case. The damages are significant but the case was also quite serious including the torture meted out on Jestina that the damages seem to fit the case. In a way it’s a double benefit in that the abduction and torture resulted in criminal case against her collapsing and on top of that she gets paid. Hopefully the security sector have learnt a lesson. It is also good that the judiciary is getting stronger and confident to pronounce itself this way“. Especially the latter is an important outcome!

ackground Information (Jestina Mukoko Triumph: The Facts):
Jestina was abducted by some unidentified armed men from her home in Norton on 3 December 2008, and her whereabouts together with two ZPP employees Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, who were also abducted later in December 2008 remained unknown until December 24, 2008, when they first appeared before the Harare Magistrates Court, after weeks of being held incommunicado and being tortured. In court, Jestina and her colleagues and dozens of other pro-democracy campaigners were accused by government of plotting to topple Robert Mugabe’s administration through recruiting people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana. After her release from a torturous three months stay in prison, Mukoko with the assistance of her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, a member of ZLHR, took legal action against the state.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court granted a permanent stay of prosecution in favour of Jestina due to the violation of several of her fundamental rights by state security agents as she had been subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment including simulated drowning, being locked in a freezer and being subjected to physical assaults as her tormentors tried to make her confess to plotting to overthrow the administration of Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe.

In 2017, the High Court ruled that those who had illegally arrested her could be held liable in their own individual capacities and the case culminated in lengthy protracted negotiations that have led to this outcome. During this time, Jestina was called different names such as ‘regime change agent, reactionary and other unprintable words in a bid to delegitimise her legitimate human rights activism. She was portrayed as a criminal, a tag which remains today but this settlement in the court vindicates her and her work in defending human rights.

Jestina Mukoko herself added the following piece on the Significance of my case” (which I reproduce almost in full as it is such a good lessons learnt):

..The patrimonial settlement cannot atone for the trauma and suffering that I suffered and went through at the hands of the state security agents who were ruthless, merciless and very evil. It will not make for lost time as my liberty and all other human rights accorded to me by virtue of my being human was unjustifiably curtailed nor will it provide solace for my traumatised family – my mother, son, brothers, sisters in law, extended family, friends and other peace loving citizens.

However, it is a victory for the rule of law, constitutionalism and a mortal blow to impunity. The High Court’s decision is proof that the justice system is still able to prove the involvement of the state and its representatives in gross human rights violations, and bring them to account, with justice being done for the victims like myself.

It sets a landmark precedent and shows that the state actors can be held accountable for their illegal conduct. It also sends a message to the overzealous enforcers of orders and in this case very illegal orders to violate a plethora of my rights that they will be held responsible for their actions and this can even be in their personal capacity.

I hope my story will inspire many other victims. To some extent, justice has now been done and this case will stand as an example in the continuing fight against impunity for state crimes and excesses.

My resort to litigation and the subsequent victory in court sends a strong signal that state sponsored crimes cannot go unpunished.

It is also an encouragement to human rights defenders that the dangers of their work will not be in vain. I hope this case will embolden younger activists to pursue social justice in the comfort that they can rely on this case to hold the state or anyone accountable who may threaten their liberties. It is also a vindication of the advocacy work done by all human rights activists and those who have invested in promoting and protecting human rights that even though the fruits of this cumbersome and often arduous journey may come late , they eventually come. This is a victory for everyone who has been in the trenches with me and who has walked this risky journey of human rights work.

I hope that this victory will set an example, particularly to the Zimbabwean authorities, who must now prosecute the perpetrators of abductions and enforced disappearances which is a heinous crime.

The High Court’s decision sends a clear signal to the Zimbabwean 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.

This settlement comes at a time when the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has started its work to establish the facts around the circumstances that led to the death of six people on 1 August 2018 in Harare after members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces opened fire against protesters. It must be established whether the force used by members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was proportionate to the threat posed by unarmed protesters. It must also be established whether in doing so they overstepped their mandate and therefore should be held liable or the state vicariously liable. This case must form the basis for national rejection of all forms of impunity and the same principles must be followed by the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence.

In conclusion, I, Jestina through the Zimbabwe Peace Project, which plays a critical role in documenting human rights abuses, will continue to join hands with other civil society organisations such as ZLHR to champion human rights in the post-Robert Mugabe era without fear or favour. The journey to full implementation of the Constitution and compliance with the supreme law of the land continues.

https://www.zoomzimbabwe.com/2018/10/05/high-court-awards-jestina-mukoko-150000-in-damages-for-state-torture/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/08/zimbabwe-celebrates-by-arresting-2-women-per-day-over-the-last-two-years/