Everyone who has been tortured remains tortured, long after the physical wounds have healed: unable to forget the unspeakable, degrading acts against them, yet ashamed to talk about them. And in many cases, knowing that the people who tortured them are still out there dehumanising someone else.
REDRESS works to combat torture by seeking justice and reparation for torture survivors from all over the world. This is a survivor’s right and a vital step in their recovery process. REDRESS also works to ensure that torturers are punished and that governments uphold the absolute prohibition on torture.
REDRESS has been working to tackle torture for 20 years. Their work currently covers torture and related crimes in more than 40 countries around the world, with over 100 active cases relating to more than 1200 survivors before national and international courts.
- ADVICE: REDRESS provides advice to survivors of all nationalities, in all countries, about the different options they may have for seeking justice.
- LITIGATION: REDRESS takes survivors’ cases to national and international courts, promote criminal prosecutions of perpetrators and pursue another remedies aimed at acknowledging that what was done is wrong and should never happen again.
- ADVOCACY: REDRESS advocates with governments, parliaments and international organisations on the need to respect the absolute prohibition of torture.
- TRAINING: REDRESS works with local human rights and survivors groups, where communities have suffered heinous human rights abuses during conflict, promoting survivors’ rights before international institutions and courts, including the International Criminal Court.
For further information on REDRESS, please visit www.REDRESS.org
Thanks to Humanade’s support, REDRESS was able to fund an expert Legal Casework Advisor, helping over 47 survivors in the UK to seek justice and reparations for the harm they suffered.
REDRESS‘ clients in the UK are either British nationals who were tortured while working or travelling abroad or refugees and asylum seekers fleeing torture in their home countries. Additionally, REDRESS works on cases of individuals who allege to have suffered torture or other prohibited ill treatment by, or with the acquiescence or involvement of, UK officials.
These are just a few examples of the many torture survivors supported by REDRESS with Humanade’s support over the past years:
- REDRESS helped a British national, imprisoned and tortured in the Philippines, now returned to the UK. In 1996, he was arrested for rape, in what turned out to be fabricated charges as part of a plot to extort money from him, and was found guilty and placed on ‘death row’. During his time in prison he suffered heinous abuses. REDRESS successfully brought his case to the UN Human Rights Committee and the Philippine Government was eventually ordered to afford him with an appropriate remedy. REDRESS is now working with a Philippines lawyer to enforce the UN decision.
- REDRESS helped a severely ill Turkish torture survivor who had been denied entry to the UK to reunite with his father and mother. We helped him appeal the decision of the UK Border Agency and he was ultimately allowed to join his family in the UK.
- REDRESS helped a Bahraini who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom after having been tortured in Bahrain for his political activities in 1994 and was again tortured in the months leading to the “Arab spring” uprising in Bahrain. REDRESS has written to UN special rapporteurs on human rights to bring this case to their attention. We have continued to work very closely with other victims of torture from the recent uprisings to seek compensation for them. We have also tried to draw more attention to the problem before international bodies.
- REDRESS was actively involved on the case of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi civilian beaten to death by UK military personnel. REDRESS worked closely with Mr. Mousa’s father’s solicitors and intervened in hearings which reached the legal committee of the House of Lords. In 2008 the UK settled the damages claimed by Mousa’s father and nine others who had been detained and ill-treated at the same time but had survived. A total of £2.83 million pounds was shared amongst them. Further to the creation of the Baha Mousa Inquiry in July 2010, REDRESS made two submissions to the Inquiry on UK’s obligations under international law.
At the beginning of 2012, Humanade awarded a new grant to REDRESS to keep supporting its legal casework on behalf of victims of torture. This included costs associated with researching and preparing documentation for cases, obtaining evidence and reports (such as medical assessments), court fees, and meetings with survivors’ lawyers, officials, and relevant organisations. More specifically, Humanade’s grant helped REDRESS‘ work in advancing dozens of cases, among them:
- The case of a British/Turkish dual national who was tortured by Greek coastguards while in detention in 2011. He was raped with a truncheon in a homophobic attack for being gay. REDRESS brought his case to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court found that the rape constituted torture and ordered Greece to pay him €50 000 in compensation. When the judgment becomes final, REDRESS will work to ensure that the payment of €50 000 is made to the victim and will encourage the Committee to require other measures of non-repetition from Greece.
- The case of a 80 year old Chilean tortured under the Pinochet regime who now lives in the UK. He was subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment. REDRESS has been representing him for many years. In 2004, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared his case admissible, and in 2011 the case was transferred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for hearing. REDRESS has also advocated on behalf of the victim before the Chilean government so they agreed to cover an specific medical treatment the victim require.
- The case of a UAE citizen, who suffered severe ill-treatment after being rendered from Kenya to Somalia and then to Ethiopia as part of counter-terrorism operations. She was illegally detained and interrogated by the Kenyan Counter Terrorism Force and accused of having links with Al Qaeda in 2007. She was then rendered firstly to Somalia and afterwards to Ethiopia, where she was eventually released. A civil claim was filed in Kenya but has been delayed as it appears the court record has been ‘lost.’ REDRESS is working with Kenyan lawyers to take this case forward.
- The case of a Uzbekistan human rights activist, who was detained, tortured and forced to undergo surgery to remove her ovaries during detention in Uzbekistan, before being forced into exile. REDRESS is preparing to file her case with the UN Human Rights Committee.
- Strategic litigation of torture related sexual violence cases in Africa: REDRESS is working with lawyers from six countries in Central Africa (DRC, Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Burundi, Sudan, and Kenya) to identify cases for strategic litigation on sexual violence perpetrated during conflict. This will result in applications filed with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other bodies.
- Torture and rape cases in Maldives and Nepal: REDRESS, together with local human rights groups, is working with a survivor who was tortured in Maldives during the coup in February 2012. REDRESS is also working on three cases of torture of women (rape by the military and torture in detention) during the recent conflict in Nepal.
Thanks to your donations Humanade’s funding has aided the following Developments: (February 2013)
Ebenezer Akwanga v. Cameroon (Human Rights Committee):
Further to the unanimous decision by the Human Rights Committee holding Cameroon responsible for the torture and other human rights violations suffered by Mr Akwanga (May 2012) and consequent failure by the Cameroon government to report to the Committee on the measures it has taken to provide effective remedies, REDRESS submitted a claim for compensation to the Cameroonian Government in November 2012.
Mujkanovic, et al v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (European Court of Human Right):
In December 2012, REDRESS, together with OMCT, has submitted a third party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Mujkanovic, et al v. Bosnia and Herzegovina. The case relates to 11 people who have disappeared during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The victims’ relatives complain that Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to fulfil its obligation to fully investigate into the disappearances and deaths. They also claim that the authorities have, for many years, refused to engage, acknowledge or assist in their efforts to find out what happened to their loved ones, and that this amounts to torture and ill-treatment. The intervention focuseson the link between enforced disappearance and torture, and the relationship between the continuing nature of enforced disappearance and the content of an effective remedy and reparation for those who have disappeared.
Sudan – human rights defender finally released after almost one year of unlawful detention
In December 2012, REDRESS, together with a local NGO, submitted a request for Urgent Action to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, regarding the arbitrary arrest and ongoing detention of Mrs Jalila Khamis Koko, a Sudanese human rights defender.
She was arbitrarily arrested by Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on 14 March 2012 in Khartoumand placed in detention. She was accused,among other things, ofplaying a role in agitating for war in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains (where an armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement-North is ongoing).While in detention, NISS officers verbally abused her, continuously threatened that she would be charged with crimes against the state which are subject to the death penalty and telling her at some point that she would be transferred to a particular prison to be executed.
We called on the Special Rapporteurs to ensure her immediate and unconditional release; that a full and independent investigation into her arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment commence immediately; and that those responsible be prosecuted where sufficient evidence is available and subjected to adequate punishment.
Jalila was finally released after a Court hearing on 20 January.
Khaled El-Masri v. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
In a landmark judgment on 13 December, the European Court of Human Rights held Macedonia responsible for its involvement in the secret detention, rendition and torture of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, by the US Central Intelligence Agency. REDRESS had made written submissions as a third party to the Court in the case to highlight, among other issues, the right for the victim and the general public to know the truth of what happened.
El-Masri has been unable to pursue a case against the United States, leading him to file a case against Macedonia for its involvement in his treatment. It was the first time that the Court addressed a European country’s involvement in the CIA extraordinary rendition program. In a key finding, the Court held that the treatment inflicted on El-Masri by the CIA on handover at Skopje airport – where he was beaten, stripped and sodomised with an object, before being chained to the floor of an aircraft and forcibly drugged – amounted to torture. Even though US agents carried out the abuse, the Court held Macedonia responsible because it had allowed it to occur on its territory. The Court also found that Macedonia should not have allowed El-Masri to be handed over to US authorities because of the real risk he would be subjected to torture or ill-treatment at their hands. Macedonia was ordered to pay El-Masri €60,000 in compensation.
Purna Maya v. Nepal
On 19 December REDRESS and its partner Advocacy Forum filed a landmark case on sexual violence before the UN Human Rights Committee. The case was brought by a victim of multiple rapes by Nepali soldiers before the Committee, after she failed to achieve justice in Nepal.
Further to having received threats from soldiers who were looking for her estranged husband, on 23 November 2004 Purna Maya was dragged out of bed by soldiers and taken into custody, where she was beaten and raped repeatedly by at least four different soldiers.
Despite reporting the crimes to the authorities, she has not had her case investigated in Nepal, no person has been prosecuted, and she has not received any reparation. In 2011 her lawyers were barred from lodging a complaint with the police because of a law which states that complaints must be brought to the police within 35 days of the rape. An appeal to the Supreme Court calling for the registration of the case failed, leaving the victim without any remedies.
In its submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, Advocacy Forum and REDRESS alleged that Nepal is responsible for serious violations of her human rights and that the limitation period for filing rape complaints is contrary to Nepal’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Torture charges in the UK against the Nepalese military officer, Kumar Lama:
In January 2013 a Nepali colonel suspected of torture during the civil war in Nepal was arrested by police, charged and is now awaiting trial in the UK under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Our Nepalese partner, Advocacy Forum, is actively involved in the case and has represented one of the victims mentioned in the charges. On 4 January, we wrote to the Attorney General, highlighting that prosecuting those responsible for torture is a legal obligation, irrespective of where the torture was committed, and of the nationality of perpetrator and victim, and urging him not to let political considerations influence the proceedings and to stress that a prosecution for torture is in the public interest. The next hearing is scheduled for May 2013 and we will regularly monitor the trial.
Ameziane v. United States:
Djamel Ameziane is an Algerian refugee who has been detained in Guantánamo Bay without charge since 2002. He was cleared for release in October 2008 but remains in Guantanamo to this date.
In 2008, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law filed a petition and request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requiring all necessary measurestobe taken to ensure that Mr Ameziane is not transferred or removed to a country where he would likely face torture or other persecution.
On March 20, 2012, the IACHR considered Mr Ameziane’s case to be admissible. This decision marks the first time the IACHR has accepted jurisdiction over the case of a man detained at Guantánamo, and underscores the fact that there has been no effective domestic remedy available to victims of unjust detentions and other abuses at the base.
The IACHR will now move to gather more information on the substantive human rights law violations suffered by Mr Ameziane – including the harsh conditions of confinement he has endured, the abuses inflicted on him, and the illegality of his detention. REDRESS is currently preparing a third party submission to the Commission on the serious violations of international human rights law inherent in the Guantanamo Bay detention system, and its negative impact on the integrity of the system as a whole.
Leopoldo Garcia Lucero v. Chile:
Further to the information provided in our report on August 2012 on the case of 81-year old Chilean survivor, tortured and forcibly exiled by the Pinochet regime, the Inter American Court of Human Rights notified us in December 2012 that his hearing will take place in Medellin, Colombia between 18-22 March 2013 (we are waiting for the exact hearing date to be confirmed as well as modalities for the testimony of the proposed expert witnesses). We are currently preparing Mr Garcia for the hearing, with the help of a psychologist. We are also preparing our oral submissions, and liaising with expert witnesses. Nora Svaeass, psychologist and member of the Committee Against Torture is one of our proposed experts and will hopefully be testifying in person on the scope of the notion of ‘redress’ under the Torture Convention. Prof. Cath Collins is our other proposed expert witness, who is an expert on Chile and the domestic processes that have taken place to provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims in that country. Mr Garcia’s case contests the adequacy of the remedies available at the domestic level.
(November 2012 funding update)
El Haski v Belgium:
On 25 September, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) upheld the prohibition on the use of evidence obtained through torture in the El Haski v Belgium case. REDRESS and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, who had both intervened as amicus curiae, welcomed the Court’s ruling. Lahoucine El Haski, a Moroccan national, was convicted of terrorism related charges by a Belgian Court, based upon evidence that had been obtained in Morocco. The ECtHR found that there was a “real risk” that the evidence that had been used to prosecute El Haski had been obtained through torture, and that there had therefore been a violation of fair trial principles (Article 6 of the European Convention).
The “Bush Six” case:
On 25 September, REDRESS joined the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with a number of other NGOs and experts, to file an amicus brief before the Spanish Supreme Court, asking it to reopen the “Bush Six” case involving six US officials. The officials, namely; David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, and John Yoo, allegedly participated in the systematic planning of torture and other serious abuses of detainees at US run facilities at Guantánamo and other overseas locations. These allegations amount to serious violations of international law, including both the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.
Amarasinghe v. Sri Lanka:
On 27 September REDRESS submitted a communication to the UN Human Rights Committee regarding the alleged abuse of a Sri Lankan man at the hands of the Sri Lankan police. Amarasinghe Arachchige Simon Amarasinghe was arrested on 13 August 2010 by two police officers. During his arrest he was allegedly subjected to torture and other forms of severe ill-treatment by the police officers, which resulted in his death the following day. An investigation was started into the death of the victim, and the magistrate found that there was enough evidence to charge the arresting police officers with murder. However, while the proceedings were still ongoing, the Attorney-General intervened, blocking the continued investigation by the magistrate. After unsuccessfully seeking justice in Sri Lanka, the victim’s brother, with the support of REDRESS and the Asian Legal Resource Centre, brought the communication to the Human Rights Committee, claiming that Sri Lanka is responsible for violating articles 6 (right to life), 7 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) and 9 (right to liberty and personal security) and denying effective remedy to the victim in violation of its obligation under article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Mau Mau case:
On 5 October, three elderly Kenyans who were tortured during the Mau Mau struggle for independence in the 1950s won a historic legal battle against the British government, after the High Court rejected the government’s argument that their claims were time barred under English law. REDRESS made both written and oral submissions to the High Court arguing that statutes of limitations do not apply serious human rights violations such as torture under international law. The case will now proceed to a full trial unless the Government opens negotiations, which lead to a settlement.