Supporting life after torture

Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Editors

Reaffirming the prohibition of torture in all forms

In order to put the spotlight on the victims of torture and to eradicate the use of torture, in 1997 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world. Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being, and recovering from torture requires prompt and specialized programs. For Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU, “Listening to the victims of torture makes us understand better how to fight it”. 

This year the UN Human Rights Agency (OHCHR) and the International Bar Association organized a high-level panel discussion for the Day at King's College in London, while civil society used the occasion to reaffirm, especially on social media, the absolute prohibition of torture in these critical times.

REDRESS released its Thunderclap campaign “In their own words”, consisting of the stories behind several torture survivors that they assist. Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS, wrote that “the fight against torture should preoccupy us all” and “a strong and consistent anti-torture stance in foreign policy is vital for the government’s work to promote respect for human rights around the world”. She also took the opportunity to highlight the need to support victims.

Likewise, TRIAL International shared stories of victims, whom they help to obtain justice, compensation and rehabilitation, to show how torture can destroy lives. Rebecca Wright from the Center for International Justice published a paper on the rights of victims, including the right to redress and rehabilitation.

Amnesty International, which, “over the last five years, has reported on torture in 141 countries”, promoted its campaign “Stop Torture” with the main objective of making "torture as unthinkable as slavery”.

This Day highlighted global civil society's actions in support of victims of torture and in the fight to end its practice. As Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor, stated “torture is a serious crime under the Rome Statute and must be eradicated as an abominable practice”.

Read Five facts to know about torture

 

Tentative step towards justice in Kasai

Following multiple calls to action from civil society, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on 23 June 2017 to send a team of international experts to the Kasai provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses.

“The Human Rights Council-mandated international investigation brings hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence in the Kasai region since August, a step toward justice for thousands of victims,” said Laila Matar, UN advocate at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The UN, the Human Rights Council, and above all the Congolese authorities now need to ensure unhindered access and all the support the team needs to independently produce a robust and credible report.”

The announcement followed a decision by a Congolese military tribunal not to prosecute seven of its soldiers for crimes against humanity in relation to a video showing a group of men in uniform shooting at civilians.

Indeed, since the killing of Kamwina Nsapu leader Jean-Pierre Pandi by Congolese police in August 2016, acts of revenge such as executions, pillaging and the destruction of villages have been consistently reported. In addition, the UN has identified increasing numbers of mass graves, as well as displaced and missing persons, while a report by the Catholic Church has claimed that more than 3,300 people have been killed and 1.3 million more displaced in the central Kasai region since October. UN investigations into large-scale human rights violations by the Congolese army and militia groups in the region recently resulted in the murder of two experts.

Atrocity crimes are not a new phenomenon in the DRC, and even led to the opening of the International Criminal Court's first ever investigation in 2004, addressing mass murder, the use of child soldiers, pillage, sexual and gender based crimes, among others. In March, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated she was “deeply concerned” about violence in the Kasais and that her office was carefully monitoring the situation. The High Commissioner told the Council on June 20 that he will “remain in touch” with the ICC regarding the situation in the Kasai region.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who will be appointing members of the team,  welcomed the investigation as a "strong message to perpetrators that the international community is serious about bringing them to justice". The resolution requests that the High Commissioner provide an oral update during a March 2018 session, followed by a comprehensive report in June 2018.

 

ICC investigations

CAR: As fighting worsens in the east of the country, people with a range of disabilities are finding themselves vulnerable to attack and unable to flee, intensifying the need for the implementation of the recently signed peace accord.

Darfur, Sudan: A Sudanese civil rights organization has criticized a plan to downsize the Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) following a spate of attacks against civilians.

Mali: A Special Commission of the government has produced a Charter for National Peace, Unity and Reconciliation detailing events in the country since the 2012 armed conflict, with a view to moving towards a "united, prosperous and fraternal" Mali.

Uganda: Seven women abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army have reportedly called Dominic Ongwen's trial at the ICC unjustified, arguing that he himself was kidnapped as a child and carried out orders in fear of his life.

Ongwen — Accountability or amnesty? The arguments

 

ICC preliminary examinations

Colombia: As 7,000 Farc guerillas hand over their weapons as part of the country's historic peace deal, some warn that the country is still at risk from its second-biggest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Nigeria: Suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed at least nine civilians and left 13 wounded in the city of Maiduguri, where the university has begun building a trench around itself to stop further attacks.

Bring back our girls: 82 Nigerian women freed from Boko Haram

 

Campaign for Global Justice

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi praised Uganda for its commitment to hosting and helping the forcibly displaced, and similarly appealed to African states to address the root causes of such displacement.

ICC judges paid their respects to the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp during a retreat in Poland aiming to enhance the efficiency of the Court's proceedings.

As the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia winds down, a deputy prosecutor has called for related states to develop a comprehensive and victim-centric policy for addressing wartime sexual crimes.

 

Around the world

An appeals court in the Netherlands has ruled that Dutch peacekeepers were partly responsible for around 300 deaths during the Srebrenica massacre for allowing Bosnian Serbs to seize Muslim men sheltering at a UN safe haven.

In the lead-up to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's first year in office, his controversial "war on drugs" continues to be condemned by Human Rights Watch as a "human rights calamity."

In the face of terror attacks in Europe, civil society and the UN have warned France and the United Kingdom against responding by restraining international human rights and abusing the rule of law.

What are the modern roadblocks to international justice?

 

Which international justice news stories caught your eye this week? Let us know in the comment box below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #GlobalJustice.