Amnesty International recently published a new report entitled "There is no freedom here: Silencing dissent in the United Arab Emirates" (the report can be downloaded below).
In 2011, a group of 133 people addressed a petition to the authorities, calling for political reform and for the right to vote and elect a parliament. According to Amnesty International, "more than 100 peaceful activists and government critics have been prosecuted or jailed for politically motivated national security or cybercrimes offences since then. More than 60 of them continue to languish in prison, serving sentences of up to 14 years". Dr Mohamed Al-Roken, a leading human rights lawyer and founding member of Bridging the Gulf Foundation for human security in the Gulf region, was arrested in 2012, after defending human rights activists who were released after a Presidential amnesty. The human rights lawyer is still in prison and his basic rights are denied.
The trial of this group of activists, now well known as the "UAE 94" trial, has been widely criticised for its lack of partiality and transparence. In April 2013, a coalition of several organisations denounced the "serious pre-trial violations of fair trial rights by arbitrarily denying family members, international observers, and the international media access to the mass trial of 94 critics of the government". Since then, the defendants have been systematically denied their right to a fair trial.
This new report also focuses on the acts of torture and treatment in pre-trial secret detention facilities where the defendants were held incommunicado for months, without access to their lawyers and deprived of any contact with their family.
Let's recall the United Arab Emirates has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as the Arab Charter on Human Rights.
Posted by Flavie Fuentes.
The UN General Assembly Urges The Security Council To Refer The Situation Of Human Rights In The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea To The International Criminal Court
The UN General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) recently adopted a resolution that urges the Security Council to refer the North Korea’s human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.
Let's recall that the United Nations Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea more than a year ago. This Commission aims to investigate "the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may amount to crimes against humanity".
In his statement to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, Mr Michael Kirby, Chair of the Commission, affirmed: "The gravity, scale, duration and nature of the unspeakable atrocities committed in the country reveal a totalitarian State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world"2.
On 18 November 2014, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved a resolution by a recorded vote of 111 in favor to 19 against, with 55 abstentions. By this resolution, the Third Committee "encourages the Council to consider the relevant conclusions and recommendations of the commission and take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the commission has said may constitute crimes against humanity".
The day before the resolution was adopted, Amnesty International published a press release that asked the UN General Assembly to adopt this "landmark resolution"4. Let's hope this resolution will be a step forward accountability for widespread violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The U.N Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment came into force on 26 June 1987. This convention unconditionally prohibits any form of torture. The United States ratified this instrument in October 1994.
The implementation of the Convention against torture is monitored by the UN Committee against torture (“CAT”), a body of 10 independent experts. The CAT performs its monitoring through the reporting procedure, individual complaints or individual communications, inquiries and inter-state complaints.
The 53rd session of the CAT is currently held in Geneva, until 28 November 2014. Australia, Burundi, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ukraine, the USA and Venezuela are submitting their reports.
In his 2013 speech at the National Defense University, the President Obama affirmed that the USA has “unequivocally banned torture” (US third to fifth periodic reports due in 2011, page 1. The document can be downloaded below).
Many documented and alleged cases of torture have arisen these past years in the United States. Practices of the CIA and the military officials have been seriously questioned by several NGOs, such as Human Rights First. Waterboarding, a form of torture in which “water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning”, has been widely analysed by the NGO Freedom from Torture.
In 2006, the CAT observed that there were “reliable reports of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment committed by certain members of the State’s party military or civilians personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq” (CAT Concluding observations on the US country report, 36th Session, July 2006.The document can be downloaded below).
The 53rd session is the opportunity for the US government to clarify its position on the extraterritorial application of the Convention. Does the Convention against torture apply to aliens overseas?
In 2005 and 2006, the answer provided by the US administration was either explicitly negative or ambiguous.
However, on 12 November 2014, the Representative of National Security Council said that “all US personnel are legally prohibited under international and domestic law from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment at all times, and in all places”.
Human rights activists have welcomed this new step but still ask the Government to do more to end torture. Twelve Nobel Peace Prize Laureates recently wrote to President Obama to ask him to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence summary report.
Murat Kurnaz, an ex Guantanamo detainee will be directly heard by the CAT. According to Mr Kurnaz, who was detained in Guantanamo during 6 years, the US has not only failed to comply with its obligation to prohibit torture under the UN Convention but has also failed to prosecute those responsible for these appalling acts.
Posted by Flavie Fuentes