Category Archives: torture

Tunisia Allows Individuals and NGOs Direct Access to African Court

The President of Tunisia speaks at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Tunisia formally agreed last week to allow individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) with complaints of human rights violations against Tunisia. Tunisia joins seven other countries that also currently grant the Court the same jurisdiction. [AfCHPR Press Release] The government of Tunisia hosted a delegation of the AfCHPR in the capital city of Tunis on April 13 at which time Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi praised the Court’s work in protecting human rights. [AfCHPR Press Release] AfCHPR President Justice Sylvain Oré commended Tunisia’s decision and encouraged other African countries to follow suit. [AfCHPR Press Release] Tunisia’s acceptance of this jurisdiction comes one month after Rwanda officially withdrew from it. [AfCHPR Press Release] Additionally, in the years following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, some human rights experts have praised its commitment to human rights and others condemned its rights abuses, particularly those linked to its extended state of emergency, such as the use of torture and restrictions to freedom of movement. [Amnesty International; OHCHR Press Release: Zeid; OHCHR Press Release: Terrorism]

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UN Finds Libyan Trial Violated Rights of Gaddafi Regime Members

The United Nations Mission in Libya hosts an international meeting in London, U.K.
Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons

In a report published on February 21, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that the trial of 37 former members of the Gaddafi regime, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, failed to meet international due process standards. See UNSMIL & OHCHR, Report on the Trial of 37 Former Members of the Qadhafi Regime (Case 630/2012) (2017), at 1–5. Conducted by the Tripoli Court of Assize from March 2014 to July 2015, the trial resulted in the convictions of 32 officials from the Gaddafi regime for offenses related to the 2011 Libyan uprising, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. See id. at 1, 6, 19. Despite being “so far the most prominent effort” of Libyan authorities to seek justice for these human rights violations, according to the report, the defendants lacked sufficient opportunity to consult with their attorneys, allegations of torture went uninvestigated, and the prosecution failed to call any witnesses in court. [OHCHR Press Release] UNSMIL and OHCHR have urged the Court of Cassation, which will be reviewing the case, to consider these due process violations and, in response to these deficiencies, have encouraged Libya to review and reform its domestic laws to ensure the protection of the right to a fair trial. [OHCHR Press Release] Regional and universal human rights bodies have already highlighted violations of the rights to liberty and fair trial in the context of the defendants’ detention, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s secret incommunicado detention. See Report on the Trial of 37 Former Members of the Qadhafi Regime (Case 630/2012), at 52. [IJRC] Read more

European Court: Syrian Migrant Faces Threat to Life Upon Return

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a unanimous decision on Tuesday, February 14 preventing Russian authorities from removing a Syrian national to his home country because the security and humanitarian situation in Syria poses a threat to the rights to life and prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. [ECtHR: Press Release] In addition to finding violations of the rights to life and prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, the ECtHR held that the applicant’s detention and order for removal were also in violation of the rights to an effective remedy and to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR: Press Release] In its analysis, the ECtHR emphasized the obligation to consider available reports on the situation in Syria during removal proceedings of Syrian nationals. The Court considered documentation of indiscriminate attacks on schools and other civilian areas that have resulted in civilian harm and civilian deaths, and it reiterated its position that a general situation of violence in a country of destination may be so intense that removal to that country would entail a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment). See ECtHR, S.K. v. Russia, no. 52722/15, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 14 February 2017, paras. 45-47. The European Court’s decision that civilians in Syria face a real risk of violations to the right to life and prohibition of inhuman treatment affects all States parties in Europe assessing asylum applications; almost 900,000 Syrians applied for asylum in Europe between April 2011 and October 2016. See UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response. Read more

Following Three Decades of Isolation, Morocco Rejoins African Union

African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

After more than 30 years of separation, Morocco has officially been admitted back in to the African Union (AU), the continent’s largest intergovernmental organization. [New York Times; Reuters] Morocco quit the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, in 1984 after the regional bloc officially recognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) as a member. [BBC: Morocco] After a reported 39 to 9 vote at the 28th African leader’s summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 30, 2017, Morocco became the 55th member of the AU despite some opposition concerning its position on Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco considers part of its historic land. [Guardian; Reuters; Al Jazeera] Morocco also boasts a 110 billion-dollar economy, one of Africa’s largest, and its membership in the regional bloc could mean economic opportunity for the AU. [Reuters] Read more

Migrants Detained in Libya Face Serious Rights Abuses, UN Reports

People at Tunisia’s border attempt to leave Libya
Credit: UN Photo/UNHCR/A Duclos

A new report from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights details rights abuses against migrants held in detention in Libya. Published on December 13, 2016, “Detained and dehumanized”: Report on Human Rights Abuses Against Migrants in Libya, summarizes information gathered from migrants held in detention centers that are mostly run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) and examines issues of arbitrary detention and inhuman conditions of detention; torture and other ill-treatment; forced labor; human rights violations related to interception at sea; sexual violence; and abuses by groups pledging allegiance to ISIL. See UNSMIL & OHCHR, “Detained and dehumanized” Report on Human Rights Abuses Against Migrants in Libya (2016), 14-24. Most of the migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers detained or intercepted by Libyan authorities are en route to Italy from Egypt, Chad, and Nigeria. See id. at 6. The report emphasizes the connection between the breakdown in independent legal processes in Libya in recent years and the human rights abuses migrants face when travelling through Libya; smugglers, armed groups, and criminal gangs enjoy impunity, and migrants do not enjoy due process guarantees when detained. See id. at 12-13. The report recommends the release of vulnerable detainees, respect for due process guarantees, and assistance from other countries in educating migrants on the dangers they may face in Libya and in providing humanitarian relief. See id. at 24-27.

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