The continued appalling treatment of Gehad el-Haddad in the notorious al-Aqrab prison is cruel, inhuman and unacceptable, said Amnesty International today, in response to fresh information that prison authorities have confiscated his wheelchair and other belongings and moved him back to solitary confinement after spending a month in Liman Tora prison awaiting medical treatment which he did not receive.
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned about Gehad el-Haddad’s deteriorating health and the abusive conditions in which he is being held. The inhumane conditions Gehad has been subjected to since his detention in 2013, including prolonged solitary confinement, have resulted in much of his ongoing suffering, pain and the need for a wheelchair. When he arrived in prison he was a healthy man in his early 30’s. Now he can’t move to perform ablutions or use the bathroom without help,” Said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
Today, Fair Trials and REDRESS have released a new report which reveals how the use of evidence obtained by torture is still widespread in criminal trials across the world, and calls on States and UN bodies to do more to tackle the problem.
The report – “Tainted by Torture” – is a comparative analysis of the law and practices regarding the exclusion of torture evidence in 17 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and was produced with support from Allen and Overy LLP. It explores some of the serious flaws in domestic and international law which mean that the international prohibition on torture evidence often fails to be implemented in reality.
The report highlights how torture is often used by police, intelligence services, the military and others as a short-cut in criminal investigations, as a tool of exerting control over detainees; to gather “intelligence”; to solicit leads; and to obtain confessions. Often, authorities resort to torture because relevant domestic legislation does not prohibit such evidence, or because judges fail to declare such evidence inadmissible. In many countries, confessions are used as the main piece of evidence for convictions, exacerbating the risk of torture.
The report calls on States to put in place stronger safeguards to prevent the use of torture evidence and calls on United Nations bodies to do more to emphasise the importance of the exclusion of torture evidence to combat torture. In particular, it calls on the United Nations Committee Against Torture to engage with States and civil society, with a view to clarify international standards in this area.
Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials, said: “Justice is impossible if the courts rely on evidence that is tainted by torture. In theory, reliance on torture evidence is already prohibited the world over but, in practice, torture evidence is being used to convict people on a daily basis. We must stop this practice, and remove one of the incentives for torturers the world over.”
Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, added: “In too many countries the police use torture to force people into confessions, but using evidence obtained by torture is unreliable and leads to unsafe convictions. By excluding these torture statements from the courtroom, international law eliminates one of the root causes of torture around the world. But this report reveals that many states do not apply the rule properly, or at all.”
The report is being launched today at an event in London, hosted by Allen & Overy, which will feature a panel with global experts on the prevention of torture in criminal justice systems, as well as international human rights lawyers who have first-hand experience of challenging the use of torture evidence.
REDRESS and Fair Trials are very grateful to Allen & Overy for their pro-bono support.
A partner at Allen & Overy said: “Nearly 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights articulated the rights and freedoms to which every human being is equally entitled, including freedom from torture, this report raises some challenging issues regarding the admissibility of evidence obtained by torture. We all still have a role to play to make universal rights a reality and for this reason, lawyers from across 12 of our offices were pleased to contribute pro bono research to allow Fair Trials and REDRESS to bring these issues to the fore.”
The full report and recommendations are available here.
Published on Fair Trials on May 16, 2018
Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have executed suspected government collaborators, intimidated teachers, and spread fear among civilians throughout the country, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In response, Burkinabè security forces conducted counterterrorism operations in 2017 and 2018 that resulted in extrajudicial killings, abuse of suspects in custody, and arbitrary arrests. The Burkinabè government has promised to investigate these allegations.
The 60-page report, “‘By Day We Fear the Army, By Night the Jihadists’: Abuses by Armed Islamists and Security Forces in Burkina Faso,” documents the killings and harassment of villagers in the Sahel region caught between Islamists’ threats to execute those who collaborated with the government, and the security forces, who expected them to provide intelligence about the presence of armed groups, and meted out collective punishment when they didn’t. The report also addresses the brutal 2016 and 2017 armed Islamist attacks in Ouagadougou and documents detention-related abuses of suspects by the security forces.
“The growing insecurity in Burkina Faso has led to terrible crimes by both armed Islamists and state security forces,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should follow through on its important commitment to investigate alleged abuses by state forces, and the armed Islamists should stop attacking and threatening civilians.”
Beginning in 2016, armed Islamist groups, including Ansaroul Islam, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have attacked army bases, police, and gendarme posts, and purely civilian targets in Burkina Faso’s north, and in the capital, Ouagadougou. The violence has killed scores of people and driven more than 12,000 from their homes.
In February and March 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 67 people including victims and witnesses; justice, defense, and education ministry officials; teachers; health workers; local government officials; diplomats and aid workers; security analysts; and religious and community leaders. The abuses documented took place in the northern Sahel administrative region, and in Ouagadougou, between 2016 and early 2018.
Human Rights Watch documented the alleged execution-style killings of 19 men from 12 villages by armed Islamist groups. The Islamists accused the victims, including village chiefs and local officials, of providing information to the security forces.
One witness said that armed Islamists carried off two elderly men near Djibo in February. They were found several days later with their throats slit. Another described the April 2018 killing of the mayor of Koutougou Commune, which was later claimed by ISGS. One terrified witness said he “was being hunted” by the armed Islamists, who had killed several of his relatives. “I heard the sound of motorcycles which are forbidden at night, so I knew it was them,” he said. “I heard gunshots and later saw the people they killed.”
Armed Islamists also murdered 47 civilians in two attacks in Ouagadougou in 2016 and 2017. A waiter who survived the 2016 attack said: “Each time I come to work, I see the dead…I live that day again and again and again.”
Education workers described threats and attacks against schools and teachers, including the abduction of a teacher and killing of a school director. “The message is clear,” one teacher said. “‘Don’t teach in French and if you insist, we’ll kill you.’” The threats led to the closure of more than 200 schools and have left 20,000 students out of class.
Witnesses also implicated Burkina Faso security forces in at least 14 alleged summary executions and said that four other men died of alleged severe mistreatment in custody. The forces implicated include soldiers, gendarmes, and, to a lesser extent, members of the police force.
Many witnesses described seeing bodies – often blindfolded and with their hands bound – along local roads and footpaths in northern Burkina Faso. The majority of victims were last seen in the custody of government security forces.
Among the cases were eight men, including two brothers, detained by the army during an operation in late December 2017 who were shot the next day. In September 2017, gendarmes based in Djibo summoned a local government official. His body was found the next day. In March 2018, soldiers arrested a local trader at the Nassoumbou market. “We heard gunshots and found his body, the next day…face down, with his eyes bound,” a witness said.
Community leaders said that security forces appeared to randomly detain men who happened to be in the vicinity of attacks by armed Islamist groups. Most were released after preliminary investigations, but numerous men were severely mistreated and four died in custody. Witnesses said that two men, one with a mental disability, died in early February when police and soldiers near Baraboulé detained and beat them. Health workers said they have treated men for cuts, hematomas and gashes sustained in detention.
Islamist armed groups and government forces should halt abuses and threats against civilians and detainees, Human Rights Watch said. The government should investigate and prosecute members of the security forces implicated in serious rights violations. And Burkina Faso’s international partners should privately and publicly call for prompt and credible investigations.
On May 9, Human Rights Watch sent the Burkinabè government a letter detailing the report’s major findings and recommendations. On May 15, Defense Minister Jean-Claude Bouda, responded in a letter which noted his government’s commitment to respect human rights and said it would carry out the key Human Rights Watch recommendations.
“The government undertakes to conduct inquiries into all the cases of abuse cited which had not previously been brought to its attention,” his letter said. He noted that the government is aware of some allegations of abuses against civilians committed during the course of ongoing counterterrorism operations in northern Burkina Faso, and that these allegations have given rise to “immediate action.”
The government’s commitments are encouraging, and the authorities should faithfully follow through on them in a comprehensive and transparent manner, Human Rights Watch said.
“The logic of killing and mistreating suspects in the name of security will only fuel and deepen insecurity in Burkina Faso,” Dufka said. “The Burkinabe governments should make good on their promise to investigate allegations of abuse and take concrete measures to prevent any further ones.”
Published on Human Rights Watch on May 21, 2018
“The first time I saw Hisham after his arrest was in the hospital. He described his solitary cell to me. He could not see anything in the darkness of the cell. It was hard for him to breathe there was no window or source of air. He said it felt like being buried alive. When the prison guards finally moved him from the cell, it felt like being reborn. But after just a few months in the prison’s hospital, he was put back into solitary confinement again.”Said Manar el-Tantawie, Hisham Gaafar`s wife who has been held in solitary confinement in al-Aqrab Prison.
New research by Amnesty International reveals that prisoners detained on politically motivated charges are being held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in Egypt – at times for several years – which in and of itself amounts to torture. They are locked in their cells for 24 hours for weeks at end, denied any human contact and kept in horrific cell conditions.
Crushing humanity: the abuse of solitary confinement in Egypt’s prisons reveals that dozens of detained human rights activists, journalists and members of the opposition held in solitary confinement are being targeted with horrendous physical abuse, including beatings by prison guards and having their heads repeatedly dunked into a container by human excrement. The intentional mental and physical suffering being inflicted on them, results in panic attacks, paranoia, hypersensitivity to stimuli, and difficulties with concentration and memory.
“Under international law, solitary confinement may only be used as a disciplinary measure of last resort, but the Egyptian authorities are using it as a horrifying ‘extra’ punishment for political prisoners – meted out in a ruthless and arbitrary manner designed to crush their humanity and eliminate their hope in any a better future,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“Prison conditions in Egypt have always been bad but the deliberate cruelty of this treatment shows the wider contempt for human rights and dignity by the Egyptian authorities.”
Amnesty International has documented 36 cases of prisoners being held in prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement six of them are unlawfully isolated from the outside world since 2013.
On 3 May 2018, the Egyptian authorities sent a letter to Amnesty International responding to the findings of the report that were sent to them before the launch. The authorities argued that placing prisoners in individual cells does not amount to solitary confinement prohibited by International Human Rights Law and that accommodating prisoners in these cells is related to the design of many prisons in Egypt and has nothing to do with punishing prisoners for their political backgrounds. However, the authorities` explanation does not justify confining prisoners to their “individual cells” for more than 22 hours a day for a duration that exceeds 15 days, which is the core definition of prolonged solitary confinement that amounts to torture or other ill-treatment.
Former prisoners interviewed by the organization described being beaten by prison officials for extended periods, then being held in restricted spaces, alone, for weeks on end. Six prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for over four years.
Prisoners also receive insufficient food and water and inadequate sanitation and bedding. Former prisoners who spent a long time in solitary confinement told Amnesty International that such experience has had a fundamental effect on them psychologically. They suffer depression, insomnia and an unwillingness to socialise or speak to other people when released back into the prison population.
Those targeted also include members of a range of opposition political parties and movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the 6 April Youth Movement.
All documented cases followed a pattern of confinement for more than 22 hours a day, with between 30 minutes and an hour of exercise daily. Contact with other prisoners was not permitted, prisoners denied family visits on regular basis and one prisoner has not received a single visit since October 2016. Prisoners also were not told when their solitary confinement would end, leaving them with no hope of an end in sight.
Solitary confinement is at times used to discipline prisoners who complain of ill-treatment, as well as those caught sending letters communicating poor prison conditions.
In some cases, the practice has been employed to coerce confessions from those detained on trumped up charges. In most cases however, Amnesty International found that there are groups of prisoners held in solitary confinement indefinitely purely because of their past political activism.
“Egyptian prison officials are unlawfully applying solitary confinement as a means of stamping out dissent or any perceived misconduct from prisoners, many of whom have been imprisoned on spurious charges in the first place,” said Najia Bounaim.
“Not only are Egyptian human rights defenders, journalists and members of the opposition being targeted for peacefully expressing their views in the outside world; their persecution also continues behind bars.”
Amnesty International conducted 91 interviews with nine former prisoners and with the family members of 27 individuals who are still imprisoned. The interviews were carried out between March 2017 and April 2018.
Amnesty International submitted a memorandum containing a summary of this research to the Egyptian authorities on 16 April.
“The utter indifference shown for the psychological suffering prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement inflicts on human beings already being punished with imprisonment, often just for their political beliefs, is a demonstration of the brutality that permeates many Egyptian institutions today,” said Najia Bounaim.
Since the replacement of former President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013 by President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, who is now serving a second term, the Egyptian authorities have rounded up tens of thousands of individuals on politically motivated charges.
Solitary confinement is a common practice in all Egyptian prisons. However, Amnesty International focused this report on the experiences of prisoners detained for political reasons because research showed that solitary confinement for these types of prisoners was more likely to be prolonged and indefinite.
14 prisons in seven different governorates in Egypt were examined in this report including Liman Tora Prison, Tora Investigation Prison, Tora Maximum Security Prison 1 (more commonly known as al-Aqrab, or the Scorpion Prison). 20 prisoners of the 36 documented in the report have been held in prolonged solitary confinement in Tora Complex Prisons.
These prisons are located in governorates where security forces have arrested and detained thousands of individuals on politically motivated charges
Published on AI on May 7, 2018
The Indian parliament should not adopt into law an ordinance which introduces capital punishment for those convicted of raping a girl under 12 years of age, Human Rights Watch said today. India should instead work towards abolishing the death penalty which is inherently cruel and irreversible, with little evidence that it serves as a deterrent.
The government passed the ordinance on April 21 following widespread protests after attempts by some leaders and supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to defend Hindu perpetrators of the abduction, ill-treatment, rape, and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim child in Jammu and Kashmir state. In Uttar Pradesh state, authorities not only failed to arrest a BJP legislator accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, but also allegedly beat her father to death in police custody.
“With this populist call for hangings, the government wants to cover up the fact that its supporters may have engaged in a hate crime,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “If the government is serious about dealing with violence against women and children, it will have to do the hard work of reforming the criminal justice system and ensure that perpetrators are not protected from prosecution by political patronage.”
Two BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir state government joined an affiliated group called the Hindu Ekta Manch to protest the arrest of the accused in the horrific case in the state. The accused include a former government official and four police personnel. The ministers have since resigned.
Following the 2012 gang rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a medical student in Delhi, the Indian government enacted legal reforms to respond to sexual assault and rape. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, added new categories of offenses regarding violence against women and girls and made punishment more stringent, including death penalty for repeat offenders. Similarly, the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012, established guidelines for the police and courts to deal with victims sensitively and provided for the setting up of specialist child courts.
“There was hope that these measures would encourage more victims and their families to step forward, and result in more successful prosecutions,” Ganguly said.
While the number of rape cases reported in 2016 increased by 56 percent over 2012, there remains much to be done to change the way the justice system responds to victims.
In a November 2017 report, “Everyone Blames Me,” Human Rights Watch found that survivors, particularly among marginalized communities, still find it difficult to register police complaints. They often suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals, are still subjected to degrading tests by medical professionals, and feel intimidated and scared when the case reaches the courts. They face significant barriers when trying to obtain critical support services such as health care, counseling, and legal aid.
Although Indian law makes it mandatory for police officials to register rape complaints, Human Rights Watch found that police sometimes press the victim’s family to “settle” or “compromise.”
In cases of children, not only has the government not established effective oversight mechanisms that could help prevent child sexual abuse, but existing measures remain poorly implemented.
For women and girls with disabilities, who face a higher risk of sexual violence, the challenges are even greater, Human Rights Watch has found.
However, instead of fixing these structural barriers, the Indian government has expanded the use of capital punishment for rape. Now the parliament should ensure that this ordinance does not become part of permanent legislation.
The government’s ordinance comes despite the fact that both a high-level government committee and India’s Law Commission came out against the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases.
The new ordinance also increases minimum punishment for rape of girls and women. While the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act covers sexual abuse against both girls and boys, the ordinance does not cover rape of boys.
In India, according to the 2016 government data, out of 38,947 cases of rape reported by children and women, the accused was known to the victim in 94.6 percent of the cases. In 630 cases, the accused was the victim’s father, brother, grandfather, or son; in 1,087 cases, the accused was a close family member; in 2,174 cases the accused was a relative; and in 10,520 cases, the accused was a neighbor.
Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law making them highly vulnerable to pressure from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society.
With this background, an increase in punishment, including the death penalty, may, in fact, lead to a decrease in reporting of such crimes.
“The Indian government has repeatedly said that it is committed to dealing with violence against women and children. But actions speak louder than words,” Ganguly said. “The new amendments are ill-conceived and hasty. Protecting children requires a far more thoughtful approach and politicians need to summon the political will to deliver it.”
Published on HRW on April 24, 2018
Precedent-setting United Nations Human Rights Committee case finds indeterminate sentences to be unjust
Close to 1000 prisoners serving long sentences could have a chance for freedom after a landmark case.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the rights of Allan Miller and Michael Carroll had been breached in respect of arbitrary detention, inadequate appeal rights from decisions of the parole board and failure to provide proper rehabilitation and reintegrative provisions to help these prisoners to return to society.
Serial rapist Carroll was sentenced to preventive detention in 1988. He was released in 2003 but recalled to prison six months later where he has resided since.
Miller was sentenced to preventive detention for rape in 1991.
This decision is expected to effect 850 prisoners serving indeterminate sentences.
The Committee also found that once the prisoners' minimum non-parole periods were
reached at 10 years, the prisoners needed to be held in non-punitive conditions, and
were not. After 10 years, their detention became for the protection of the public,
rather than for punitive purposes.
Since 2008 for Carroll, and 2010 for Miller, they had been in arbitrary detention - which would be a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Carroll's recall to prison for consuming alcohol was said to be because he was an undue risk to the public. He had fled his residence while on parole because of being hounded by the media, twice in a five-day period, following the leaking of his address by the Department of Corrections.
However, he only broke parole conditions, and did not commit a substantive crime during his seven months of parole. This resulted in a recall to prison for 14 years, which was further found to be an arbitrary detention.
The Committee found the Government were obligated to immediately reconsider Caroll's and Miller's detention and take steps to facilitate their release. The Government also needed to take steps to prevent similar situations happening in the future and review the relevant legislation.
Human rights lawyer Dr Tony Ellis, acting for both men, said that the decision was precedent setting.
All prisoners on preventive detention, or other indeterminate sentences such as life for murder, or lengthy periods of detention for the mentally ill, or intellectually disabled, would require the Government to seriously review legislation and penal and detention practice within 180 days.
General Manager Civil and Constitutional Policy from the Ministry of Justice Caroline Greaney confirmed the New Zealand Government had just received the Committee's decision.
"The Committee has raised a number of issues and the Ministry and other agencies will be providing advice to Ministers before the Government formally responds," she said.
"That response is required within the next six months and are unable to comment further while we prepare that advice."
Published on the NZ Herald on April 19, 2018
Congo-Brazzaville: Torture and arbitrary detentions of dozens of people put freedom of expression under severe strain
Dozens of activists and opposition members are languishing in prisons in Congo Brazzaville, some for almost three years, simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression, while the international community maintains a silence on the human rights situation in the country, Amnesty International and four organizations said today.
The organizations call on the authorities to release all those arbitrarily arrested and open an investigation into allegations of torture.
"The Congolese authorities have not only resorted to arbitrarily arresting opposition members and activists, they have often subjected them to torture too. Some of the victims continue to bear the scars of such inhuman and degrading treatments,” said Balkissa Idé Siddo, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.
"At every opportunity, the international community and donors such as the EU and the UN must work to ensure that the Congolese authorities immediately put an end to the repression and release all those arbitrarily detained."
Since the October 2015 constitutional referendum and the March 2016 presidential election, which were strongly contested by both the opposition and the international community, the authorities have led a wave of arrests of opposition supporters and banned peaceful demonstrations.
"The Congolese courts must immediately order the release of anyone arrested simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In any case where there is reasonable evidence for them to be charged with recognized crimes, they should be brought to a fair trial without delay,” said Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe, executive director of Central Africa Network of Human Rights Defenders (REDHAC in French).
The signatories have documented at least 40 cases of political activists arrested between October 2015 and December 2016 simply for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Most of them are still detained and the vast majority are charged with "incitement of public unrest" and "undermining internal security".
For example, those arrested in connection with protests around the constitutional referendum include Paulin Makaya, president of the opposition political party United for Congo (UPC in French). He was sentenced to two years in prison for participating in a protest against the change in the constitution.
Although Makaya has finished serving his sentence since November 2017, the authorities refused to release him. Since January this year, they have charged him with new offenses of “breaching national security” and "complicity in unlawful possession of weapons and ammunitions of war’'.
Before and after the March 2016 presidential election, the authorities have arrested and charged more than 20 opposition leaders and members with ‘’incitement of public unrest", on the basis of the provisions of the national law on political parties which is in contradiction with international and regional laws signed by the country. At least 16 of them remain in detention.
Those arrested include André Okombi Salissa President of the opposition Convention for Action, Democracy and Development (CADD in French). In April 2016, Salissa was forced into hiding after he publicly declared that he did not recognize the results of the presidential election. He was then arrested in January 2017 and charged with "undermining internal security “and” unlawful possession of weapons of war'". He is still in detention, alongside campaigners and supporters of former candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, and at least two members of the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI).
"These spurious charges used to detain opponents and activists are an affront to the country’s commitments to respect free speech and peaceful protest. They do nothing to improve the political climate and provide no solution to ensure security or lasting peace in Congo,” said Loamba Moke, President of the Association for Human Rights and the Prison System (ADHUC).
According to information collected by the signatories, several detainees have been tortured. The Congolese authorities have so far taken no steps to investigate these allegations or put an end to the practice.
On 24 January 2017, Modeste Boukadia, president of the Circle of Democrats and Republicans of Congo (CDRC, opposition), arrested a year earlier, was admitted to a hospital in Pointe-Noire, after he was beaten up by prison guards. He suffered from two broken bones in his lower back, high blood pressure and a heart condition.
Noel Mienanzambi Boyi, president of the Association for the Culture of Peace and Non-violence and a local radio host, was also subjected to torture while in detention after being arrested in January 2017.
"The international community, in particular the EU, can no longer ignore the repeated human rights violations in Congo, nor the lack of political will of its authorities to effectively combat impunity," said Laurent Duarte, Coordinator of "Tournons la Page''.
"At all levels of its engagement with Congolese authorities, the international community including the EU and the UN, must do its utmost to ensure the Congolese authorities put an end to the arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture and inhuman treatment inflicted on political activists," said Brice Mackosso, Permanent Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission (CEJP) in Pointe Noire.
Published on AI on March 21, 2018
Today, a Virginia federal judge ruled that the treatment of three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous “hard site” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq constitutes torture, war crimes, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, based on a thorough review of U.S. domestic and international law. The ruling also held that the men have sufficiently alleged that employees of private military contractor CACI Premier Technology conspired to commit and aided and abetted these crimes. The case, Al Shimari v. CACI, was filed nearly ten years ago, and CACI has repeatedly argued that, even if its employees were involved in torture and other abuse, the company is shielded from liability. Today’s 54-page ruling definitively rejected that position, as well as attempts by certain Bush-era officials to water down the prohibition against torture, and allowed the lawsuit to proceed against CACI.
“The decision is a historic judicial rebuke to the Bush administration’s torture paradigm, which had sought to evade the well-established prohibitions against torture, and is one of the clearest statements in the post-9/11 era that victims of torture and grave human rights abuses can access the courts for a remedy,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. “The court confirmed what was plain to the eye: that the horrific treatment our clients endured at Abu Ghraib was unlawful and that, in a country operating under the rule of law, those responsible can be held accountable.”
While a number of low-level military officers were court-martialed over their roles in the abuse, CACI has gone unpunished – and continues to reap millions of dollars in government contracts – even though U.S. military investigators long ago concluded that CACI interrogators conspired with the U.S. soldiers who were later court martialed to “soften up” detainees for interrogations, according to statements by co-conspirators. A U.S. Army general referred to the treatment as “sadistic, blatant, and wanton” criminal abuses.
Today’s opinion includes a detailed account of what happened to CCR’s clients, Suhail Al Shimari, Asa’ad Al-Zuba’e, and Salah Al-Ejaili, including:
[being] subjected to repeated stress positions, including at least one that made [Plaintiff Al-Ejaili] vomit black liquid; sexually-related humiliation; disruptive sleeping patterns and long periods of being kept naked or without food or water; and multiple instances of being threatened with dogs…being doused with hot and cold liquids…sexual assault and threats of rape; being left in a cold shower until [Plaintiff Zuba’e] was unable to stand; dog bites and repeated beatings, including with sticks and to the genitals…at least one [stress position] that lasted an entire day and resulted in [Zuba’e] urinating and defecating on himself; and threats that his family would be brought to Abu Ghraib…systematic beatings…with a baton and rifle, [being] he was hit against the wall; [being] forced to kneel on sharp stones, causing lasting damage to [Plaintiff Al Shimari’s] legs; …being kept in a dark cell and with loud music nearby; threats of being shot… electric shocks; being dragged around the prison by a rope tied around [Al Shimari’s] neck; and having fingers inserted into [Al Shimari’s] rectum.
The Court concluded: “it is clear that the abuse suffered by plaintiffs was intended to inflict severe pain or suffering and rises to the level of torture.”
Al Shimari v. CACI was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for violations of international law committed abroad that “touch and concern” the United States. The opinion concludes that the political question doctrine is inapplicable to “cognizable claims” under the ATS.
Published on CCR on February 21, 2018
The Enough Project, which aims to end genocide and crimes against humanity in Africa, has addressed an open letter to several UN Commissioners expressing its concern over "the crackdown on peaceful protests and the wave of arbitrary arrests and continued incommunicado detentions by Sudanese government forces".
The letter also cites "the excessive use of force by Sudanese authorities".
The open letter is addressed to the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan Aristide Nononsi, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Annalisa Ciampi, and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst.
"We, the *undersigned Sudanese, African and international organisations, write to you in your capacities as Special Procedure mandate holders to draw your attention to the worrying developments concerning the excessive use of force by Sudanese authorities to disperse peaceful protests across Sudan. We urge you to call on the Government of Sudan to respect the peoples' rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as guaranteed in international standards and UN treaties ratified by Sudan and refrain from using excessive force to disperse protests," the letter states.
"We urge you to call on the Government of Sudan to respect the peoples' rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression... and refrain from using excessive force to disperse protests."
"The Sudanese authorities' reaction to the recent January 2018 protests is contrary to Sudan's commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in regional and international treaties to which it is party. Since January 7, the authorities, including the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and police have beaten peaceful protestors with sticks and batons and fired tear gas and live ammunition into crowds. On January 7, in El Geneina, West Darfur one student was killed and six other students were injured after joint forces of the National Intelligence and Security Services and Sudanese Police used live ammunition to disperse a peaceful student march. At least five people were killed and 26 others sustained gunshot wounds when joint forces of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) opened live ammunition on a crowd of protestors at Hasahisa camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Zalingei, Central Darfur, on January 20.
"From January 6 to February 6, the security forces have arrested and detained scores of Sudanese citizens including opposition political party leaders, human rights defenders/activists, journalists, student activists and others for prolonged periods without charge or trial."
The letter also expresses concern about the prolonged detention of individuals, as well as "the repeated confiscation by the Sudanese authorities of national newspapers to prevent the coverage of the nationwide January 2018 protests".
The letter calls on the government of Sudan to:
* The letter is signed by:
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment, Sudan (KACE)
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project).
Face Past for Future Foundation ( FP4F)
Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders- Uganda (NCHRD-U)
Sudan Democracy First Group
The MagkaSama Project, France
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Eltigani Hassan Mohamed Idis, Sudanese Advocate
BakriJebril Mohamed, Sudanese Advocate
Mohanad Mustafa Elnour, Sudanese Advocate
Amani Osman Hamdi, Sudanese Advocate
Published on All Africa on February 15, 2018