Posts Tagged ‘torture’

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 »

Human rights laureates call for end to torture and disappearances in Asia

January 15, 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a press release of 18 December gave a short report of a meeting held on 12-14 December 2015, where 8 laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and human rights defenders from the Asian region participated in an international workshop on“Torture, Violence, and Enforced Disappearances in Asia” organized by Imparsial, IKOHI, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, (Gwangju, South Korea). The speakers and the victims discussed the realities of human rights issues including torture and enforced disappearances and the implications for the justice institutions to address the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Profile of Paul Mambrasar: defender of indigenous Papuans

December 28, 2015

OMCT, in its series “10 December – 10 Defenders”, carried the story of Paul Mambrasar from West Papua, the least populous province of Indonesia, where is torture used to crush and silence. Home to the world’s largest gold and third-largest copper mines, West Papua has abundant natural resources including timber and palm oil that make it a coveted region. This has generated continuing conflict and made it one of Asia’s sorest spots in terms of human rights violations. From the 1960s on, Indonesia has maintained heavy military presence, resorting to extrajudicial killings, torture and abuse to crack down on activists in an attempt to crush the Papuan independence movement, whether peaceful or violent, leaving locals deeply resentful and suspicious of the national Government.OMCT-LOGO

Indigenous Papuans marginalized in their homeland, suffer state violence and stigma, while their natural resources are exploited by others and compromise their ancestral way of living. The on-going conflict with separatists merely exacerbates discrimination against Papuans, who have been repressed by decades of institutional racism and Indonesian occupation. This is the vicious cycle of violence that Paul has to deal with in his daily fight for the respect of the human rights. “Torture worsens the distrust West Papuans have in the State which, by failing to uphold the rule of law, merely fuels more separatist sentiments,” sums up Paul, Secretary of the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (Elsham), a non-governmental organization defending human rights in Wet Papua.

Paul’s challenging working environment is the result of decades of quasi-institutionalized abuses resulting in many layers of deep-felt and pervasive grievances of West Papuans against the Indonesian Government. He is, however, gradually managing to build networks in his country, also thanks to support from organizations such as OMCT, and gradually drawing attention to the regular violations committed.

Discrimination and marginalization of Papuan have therefore worsened the situation. Government policies have also contributed to the problem. The arrival of migrants, fostered by transmigration programmes, has upset the demographics and social and cultural heritage of the people of West Papua and exacerbated competition over land and resources. Compounded with the socially and environmentally destructive development projects pushed in the region by Indonesia, this has caused widespread social disruption and environmental damage, forcing Papuan tribal groups to relocate, according to researchers from Yale Law School cited by Elsham in a 2003 Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights session.

Unreported exactions keep occurring as foreign eyes and independent international observers are barred from West Papua. It is therefore only thanks to the work of local organizations and human rights defenders such as Paul, who runs Elsham’s office in West Papua and attends international advocacy meetings at the Human Rights Council in Geneva communicating regularly with donors, that the world can know what is happening there.

“Impunity has allowed the security force, the police and the army, free access to inflict fear and terror through torture and other physical abuses,” Paul explains his motivation. “In order for torture to end the Indonesia State must take a strong action to punish those involved in its practice.”

Despite these odds and the many challenges of his job including being under Indonesian intelligence surveillance as an “independence sympathizer”, Paul, 51, trusts that the human rights conditions in West Papua will improve.

[When the Dutch Government granted independence to Indonesia in 1949, Papua was not part of it. At the end of the Dutch colonial rule, Papua was first administered, and then absorbed, by Indonesia in 1969, following a sham “referendum” requested by the United Nations. This so‑called “Act of Free Choice” was in fact a vote by just over a thousand selected Papuans (out of a population of 800,000 at the time) who had been pressured to agree to integration within Indonesia. This vote has been the bone of contention between Papuans and the Republic of Indonesian. Papuans have ever since agitated for independence, and have been conducting a still ongoing, low-level guerrilla warfare against Indonesian forces, in turn engaged in bloody repression and unpunished human rights violations. Papuans – who are Melanesian and whose ancestors arrived in the New Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago – do not identify culturally with the Asians. They see their Papuan identity and indigenous culture based on customary subsistence-based agriculture threatened by the arrival of migrants who, in turn, see the traditional Papuan way of life as backward.]

In this context see also the CNN report on the closure of NGO offices: http://freewestpapua.org/2015/12/13/indonesian-government-forces-all-ngos-to-leave-west-papua/

— by Lori Brumat in Geneva

Source: Indonesia: Meet Paul: Restoring the human rights of indigenous Papuans amid on-going conflict / December 10, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT

Nigina Bakhrieva works to end torture in Tajikistan

December 27, 2015

OMCT in its series “10 December, 10 Defenders” focused on Nigina Bakhrieva in Tajikistan. Nigina Bakhrieva’s visceral sense of justice was passed on to by her parents, as she quickly demonstrated by following in the footsteps of her father – a prosecutor – in standing firmly for the rule of law. “It’s what I learned as I child, “ she says. “When I witness human rights abuses, I cannot be indifferent; I take action.OMCT-LOGO

And her career could not have been more ominous. Nigina started law school in Tajikistan, at the doorstep of Taliban-led Afghanistan, at the very outbreak of the bloody civil war that followed the country’s independence, graduating five years later, in 1997, as the war ended, leaving behind a devastated country with some 100,000 people killed and 1.2 million displaced. After teaching law at the Tajik state university, Nigina became a consultant providing capacity-building expertise for various organizations. Moving quickly into human rights, she went to work for the United Nations Tajikistan Office for Peace Building where she reviewed national legislation to make sure it conformed to international human rights standards.

Thus, while still as a budding lawyer and founder of the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law of Tajikistan, Nigina helped to litigate with success Tajikistan’s first-ever human rights case before the United Nations Human Rights Committee – something unheard of in Tajikistan until then. Her work for the abolition of the death penalty in her country led to a moratorium being adopted in 2004.

In 2009, she created Nota Bene, which leads the Anti-Torture Coalition of 17 leading human rights organizations and activists in Tajikistan. The work initially seemed to pay off handsomely: at the beginning of 2014, Tajikistan had pledged to implement international human rights standards both in law and practice. The Government, however, has recently been limiting the scope of action in the country of human rights lawyers and organizations. It has indeed been made mandatory for non-governmental organizations to declare all foreign funding. What is more, limiting access to the legal profession and placing it under the Ministry of Justice has compromised its independence.

It is worrying that it has become nearly impossible to find lawyers in Tajikistan willing to accept to defend torture cases for fear of criminal prosecution,” reported the OMCT in the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders on 30 November. http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/tajikistan/2015/11/d23494/

As one of the few lawyers who have not given up on combatting the widespread use of torture and other forms of abuse, especially in the armed forces, Nigina is among the key players pushing for full transition of Tajikistan to the rule of law. “The work is hard”, she says. “Each time we re-live with the victims what they went through, and it is horrifying,”

For change to occur, though, the system must work and all actors must do their bit, she explains, detailing every step of the process: individuals must lodge complaints when they are subjected to torture or ill-treatment; the Government must follow a zero-tolerance-for-torture policy; the Prosecutor must respond to every complaint by thorough and effective investigation; courts must punish all those found guilty – not only the direct perpetrators, but also their superiors, who failed to prevent the crime; jail terms should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime; finally, the Government should compensate all victims of torture.

— by Lori Brumat in Geneva

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/human-rights-lawyer-kudratov-in-tajikistan-sent-9-years-to-penal-colony/

Source: Tajikistan: Meet Nigina: Towards a functioning system that leaves no room for torture / December 3, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT