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Torture victims are victims of 9/11 too

Yesterday marked 13 years since the World Trade Center attacks on 11 September 2001, one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000.

Every year 9/11 is, and will continue to be, remembered for the sadness of the day. Families lost their loved ones; the lives of many people collapsed with the towers; and the fabric of the city was changed forever.

But what should not be forgotten is the change 9/11 inspired in the realm of national security. The attacks prompted a refocus, not just on the security of airports and planes, but on the protection of a nation.

September 11th should also be remembered as the catalyst for change in national security and anti-terror thinking and practice. Efforts to stamp out terrorism across the globe escalated, not just with political rhetoric but also with military action.

An otherwise calm New York view as the World Trade Centre towers burn in the background following the impact of two hijacked commercial airliners (courtesy of  Sean Donohue, used via Flickr creative commons licence)

An otherwise calm New York view as the World Trade Center towers burn in the background following the impact of two hijacked commercial airliners (courtesy of Sean Donohue, used via Flickr creative commons licence)

All of this came as part of the so-called War on Terror, an anti-terrorist military-backed campaign primarily spearheaded by the United States and the United Kingdom in Afghanistan, initially to eliminate Al Qaeda but later becoming an umbrella term encompassing the spread of its scope across Iraq, northern Pakistan and other areas of the Middle East.

Although U.S. officials no longer use the term, this campaign still rages today. And with this comes torture. Since 9/11, terrorist attacks have risen and, as more suspects are detained, torture incidences have risen too.

The September 11 attacks and the War on Terror that followed led to the ill-treatment of many suspected terrorist detainees – something President Obama acknowledged by stating that the United States military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “crossed the line” in the post-9/11 context by torturing many suspects.

The upcoming CIA torture report, for example, details how suspects were intentionally tortured for information.

Protestors in Trafalgar Square as part of the London Guantanamo Campaign's 26 June protest against the camp

Protestors in Trafalgar Square as part of the London Guantanamo Campaign’s 26 June protest against the camp

Leaks from the report, four-years in the making, show how the CIA misled policymakers about the inhumane nature of their torture techniques primarily at CIA ‘Black Sites’ by rebranding torture as ‘enhanced interrogation’. The seriousness of the torture allegations was then routinely downplayed to the media and politicians. The CIA also relied extensively on outside contractors, such as now-infamous psychologist James Mitchell, to devise horrific torture techniques designed to simply cause harm.

The Committee concluded, as noted back in July 2014, that the torture techniques were unnecessary and yielded “no critical intelligence on terror plots”.

The practices described in the CIA torture report were banned from 2009 alongside the closing of the Black Sites. Despite this, the CIA’s rampant torture campaign inflicted pain and suffering “to the point of death” in many cases, causing long-term damage to the victims which has yet to be addressed. Some of the victims even died from the torture.

While much of the blame for the human rights abuses has been placed on the Bush administration, Obama’s presidency has ensured a culture of impunity has prevailed. The lengthy political process to release this report has meant many victims have been forced to remain silent for years as their experiences have yet to be heard or believed. The continual leaking of different pieces of the CIA report also detracts focus from the overall picture: the U.S. is flagrantly using torture in its anti-terror arsenal yet those who commissioned the torture still remain untouched.

Also impunity will always be ensured all the time figureheads leading the torture programme are still in power. For example, the current CIA director, John Brennan, is still in office and was highly complicit with the torture focus under the Bush administration. Guards – and the administration as a whole – at camps such as Guantanamo Bay remain in place and functional, albeit scaled back.

Post-9/11 torture was not restricted to the CIA though and, as noted, the U.S. military played a large part.

One of the most haunting and famous pictures from Abu Ghraib

One of the most haunting and famous pictures from Abu Ghraib

While not strictly under the War on Terror banner, from 2003 to early 2004 U.S. Military Police personnel from the U.S. Army and the CIA committed, and photographed, human rights violations against prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.

The pictures are some of the most famous of the 21st century, stirring chilling recollections of a time when vigilantism – mainly perpetrated by outside contracted soldiers from the Blackwater company – ruled the conflict.

But the pictures revealed at the time were only a small batch. Now there is further pressure on the U.S. to disclose the full extent of its activities with one US judge calling on the administration to release the full batch of 2,000 pictures.

All this is the result of just one day in September 2001 – a horrifying, heartbreaking day which will forever remain in human memory as one of the worst attacks on a population.

But the activities following 9/11 gave state officials across the globe an excuse to torture. In many of these cases the perpetrators will never be brought to justice.

So while 9/11 is rightly marked by remembrance for the dead and the profound impact it had on America, take time to also remember those who suffered, and are still suffering, from torture perpetrated under the guise of national security.

Torture victims are victims of 9/11 too.

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Creating a world without torture: July in review

While July was an incredibly busy month for the anti-torture movement, one story stood out beyond the rest: the trauma experienced in Gaza amidst the current context of war.

Below we round-up our blogs from July and don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

A glimpse of the destruction in a street in Gaza following an airstrike (picture courtesy of Wikimedia commons)

War in Gaza paralyses torture rehabilitation movement

Over 1,200 people are dead in the war in Gaza, the majority of whom are civilians. Families are being torn apart by the war, cities are being destroyed and support mechanisms which typically assist rehabilitation and rebuilding are being destroyed at a ferocious rate.

The IRCT has three centres in the Palestine-Gaza territory – all have felt the effects of this war first hand.

Civillians inspects the rubble (picture courtesy of UNRAW)

Civilian inspects the rubble (picture courtesy of UNRAW)

In order to show the strain the people on the ground are under, the IRCT published a story summarising the strain the centres face and the growing problem of trauma which has spread throughout Gaza – trauma which would normally be treated but cannot be effectively in this instance due to the relentless destruction present every day.

The IRCT will continue to monitor the situation in Gaza closely and will encourage the international community to remember the importance of rehabilitation and support mechanisms which assist society in regaining strength.

The read the full story click this link.

 

Continued violence transforming eastern Ukraine into new epicentre of torture

Armed soldiers guard a border crossing in Eastern Ukraine (picture courtesy of Sasha Maksymenko, used under Flickr creative commons licence)

The situation in Ukraine has been unstable ever since anti-government protests began last year.

Yet now, with the continued battles in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, torture reports and incidences have been extremely prevalent on the radar.

In order to gather some perspective on how often these incidences of torture are reported, the IRCT spoke to its member in the region about the realities of torture in eastern Ukraine and what the international community could be doing to stop this crime.

To read more on this story click this link.

 

How European Parliament changes may affect anti-torture priorities

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France (picture courtesy of Gerry Balding, used under Flickr creative commons licence)

Still in Europe, our most popular blog this month focused on the possible fallout human rights organisations in Europe could expect with the recent changes in the European Parliament.

To give a full and fair perspective on the possible changes, we spoke with IRCT Advocacy Advisor Elena Zacharenko, based in the IRCT’s European Affairs Office, who outlined the main changes in the european political landscape and speculated how these alterations may impact on the priorities of human rights organisations.

Click this link to read the full blog.

26 June: Photo highlights

Participants and staff at BCHRD in Bangladesh take part in the human chain and rally in Mophammodpur, uniting agaisnt torture and impunity.

It seems like a long time ago already when hundreds of human rights groups united around the world to campaign for the end of torture.

However it was only last month when thousands of people across the globe voiced their support and solidarity for victims of torture and condemned the practice of torture perpetrated in a variety of contexts.

The main theme for the 26 June campaign was #NoMoreImpunity, a theme replicated across all the IRCT materials for the day – many of which are viewable in the photo blog summarising the highlights of the day.

To read this blog and to view a selection of photos from the day, just click this link.

 

IRCT Rwandan Genocide commemoration comes to an end

Since April we have been publicising ten hard-hitting, insightful, harrowing stories from female survivors of torture and sexual violence of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

Twenty years after the genocide these brave women, and many more throughout Rwandan, are still seeking therapy and justice. But it is thanks to the provision of therapy that many of these women are overcoming their past.

We focused on ten stories over the exact 100 day period of the genocide, each with a different theme and experience. All of the stories are featured in the IRCT’s latest publication of Torture Journal, which you can read in full here.

To read our blog summarising the series of stories and the end of the commemoration period, click this link.

 

New Swedish law enshrines important step against impunity

July signalled a positive step towards the global fight against impunity with Sweden adopting a new law which grants them international jurisdiction to try perpetrators of torture, no matter how historic the cases of torture may be.

The law, which is expected to be expanded upon once more in January 2015, was welcomed by the IRCT as a positive step in assuring victims of torture receive justice and redress for their torture.

The IRCT also wishes to congratulate the Swedish Red Cross who were instrumental in assuring this law was possible.

To read the full story click this link.

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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Poll shows wide Danish support for torture

‘Do you support torture if it can gather information that can protect the public?’ While the majority of people across the globe answer a resounding ‘no’, 37 per-cent of Danish men disagree and gave a resounding ‘yes’.

According to a recent Yougov poll, published in the Metroexpress, 17 per-cent of women in Denmark also supported torture. Overall the support for torture in the poll is identical to the support of torture shown in Russia and South Korea.

People wandering the streets in Copenhagen, Denmark (picture used under creative commons licence courtesy of  adrimcm)

People wandering the streets in Copenhagen, Denmark (picture used under creative commons licence courtesy of adrimcm)

It is a shocking revelation, particularly in a country with a long and pioneering history supporting the global fight against torture – a history reflected in the fact that Denmark houses the headquarters of the International Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (IRCT), a global network of more than 140 torture rehabilitation centres around the world, including three in Denmark: Dignity, OASIS and RCT Jylland.

Clearly there are deep-seated misconceptions about torture, the effectiveness of it and the effects it has on victims. Also, the time-ticking bomb scenario is still tricking the public to favour torture.

First of all the principle of using torture to gather information is wrong. We live in societies based on democratic, human principles of respect, dignity and integrity. Ensuring these principles is fundamental for a progressive, secure world.

But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the rationale for justifying torture is also wrong – simply put, the question is flawed in the first instance because it wrongly assumes that information collected from torture can protect the public. This is largely a myth. Evidence has shown that the information torture produces is, at best, unreliable.

Therefore, the use of information obtained through torture is often not admissible in legal proceedings. In fact, any use of evidence gained through torture breaks the UN Convention Against Torture, ratified by a majority of countries.

Everyone has the duty to hold states to account for their torture, not to support them in their torture. Torture is a crime with far-reaching consequences and it should be in the minds of everyone to stop this inhumane crime. This includes the Danish people.

Regardless of the differences between the genders, regardless of the apparent justifications, torture is a crime and a severe abuse of human rights. Next time you are asked a similar question, consider your answer.

 

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Creating a world without torture: June in review

June was an incredibly busy month with some fantastic and powerful events, publications and calls for action from across the globe – culminating on 26 June in the worldwide marking of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Below we round up our blogs from June and don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

Thousands mark 26 June with powerful campaigns around the world

The biggest date of the anti-torture calendar came around once more on 26 June and here at the IRCT we marked the day with a united message – no more impunity.

Thanks to a coordinated effort in the months leading up to the date, the IRCT members across the globe were able to hold their own branded events calling for an end to torture and impunity.

Also the day was marked on social media with live updated pictures from organisations marking the day and a continual stream of comments, opinions and messages of support linked to the #26June and #NoMoreImpunity hashtags.

The day was incredibly successful with not only hundreds of anti-torture organisations taking part, but with also over 100,000 mentions of the day on social media. For a summary of the day click this link – and stay tuned for an upcoming gallery of actions around the globe.

The team behind ‘The Act of Killing’ distribute the award-winning film for free on 26 June

A shot from critically-acclaimed The Act of Killing

To mark 26 June we teamed up with the team behind the incredibly successful, award-winning documentary ‘The Act of Killing’ who arranged for free public screenings of the film on the day.

Fifteen IRCT members took part in the screenings, but you can still become involved now if you are continuing your 26 June activities a little after the date.

For more information on this unique partnership click this link.

 

Twenty-years after the Rwandan Genocide, survivors tell their stories

Illustration courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

Illustration courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

Our most popular blog series is the Rwanda: 20 years on campaign which uses the voices of survivors of torture to capture the horrors of the genocide and the successes of the subsequent rehabilitation programmes which have helped them resume a life free from ill-treatment.

This month saw the publication of two stories, from Germaine and Ntakwasa, who both recount the rape, murder and torture they encountered and how one women’s survivor group helped them to overcome their past.

The campaign, which will run throughout the 100 day period of the genocide until mid-July, sees a new survivor of torture telling their story every two weeks.

To read all the stories from the campaign, click this link. And keep checking the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter for future updates to the campaign.

Syrian snapshots: a life in ruins

The sunset in Ma’arra.

We caught up with Ida, a photographer and frequent visitor to Syria, who recounted another trip to the ruined city of Ma’arrat al-Numan where she heard stories of torture, ill-treatment and death.

In her second blog for World Without Torture, Ida uses pictures to illustrate not only the destruction in Syria but also the sadness brought to the region by the frequent arrests and torture of Syrian citizens.

To read the blog in full just click this link.

 

Torture for ‘development’ in India

THE small dugout canoe that would take us to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State

The small dugout canoe that takes Marion to the centre of Loktak Lake in the mountainous Manipur State

The IRCT’s Senior Advisor for Asia, Marion Staunton, reported from her latest visit to Indian IRCT member CORE-H2H who are continuing to offer support to indigenous people in the north-east of India, people who are facing torture and homelessness as big-businesses plan to develop their rural communities into major road networks.

Those who refuse to move, or have publicly objected to the development, have become victims of torture and frequent arson attacks to the community only further increase the levels of trauma and sadness among the community.

Click this link to read the full blog.

Rape used as a routine weapon of torture in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A woman who was raped by a government soldier recovers at the Heal Africa hospital in Goma. Picture courtesy of Freedom from Torture.

A woman who was raped by a government soldier recovers at the Heal Africa hospital in Goma. Picture courtesy of Freedom from Torture.

June also saw IRCT member Freedom from Torture launching a harrowing report into the commonplace usage of rape as a form of torture in the DRC, despite pledges from the country that it is doing all it can to stop rape.

The report came as international decision-makers met in London for a global summit on preventing sexual violence. Spearheaded by actress Angelina Jolie and UK politician William Hague, the campaign aims to end sexual violence in conflict zones.

However, as the Freedom from Torture report indicates, it is not just in conflict zones where sexual violence takes place and the anti-torture organisation called on the UK government to do more to stop sexual violence in every context.

To read the news story on the report click this link (redirects to the IRCT.org website) and, to read the full report, click this link.

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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Creating a world without torture: April in review

We summarise some of the biggest news stories, statements, events and news from the World Without Torture blog, Facebook and Twitter pages over the month of April.

Don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. And click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

Audience at the event

IRCT marks 40 years of the anti-torture movement with a special Copenhagen event

On 8 April 2014, the IRCT hosted a large event – including members, donors, and staff of the IRCT – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the anti-torture movement, which began in Denmark and spread across the globe.

The event marks 40 years since human rights defender, Dr Inge Genefke, placed an advertisement requesting help from doctors willing to investigate torture in Chile, an advert which encouraged the development of the first medical group for the rehabilitation of torture victims in Denmark.

From this beginning on 8 April 1974, the first medical group under Amnesty International was created, and from this blossomed the evolution of the anti-torture movement, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

The event included music, poetry readings from two brave torture survivors, and the presentation of the prestigious Inge Genefke Award – won by IRCT’s Lilla Hardi.

To read about our role in the campaign just click this link.

Rwandan Genocide: 20 years on, we reflect on the pain caused by torture

Our most popular blog series this month has been our new Rwanda: 20 years on campaign which reflects on the horrors of the biggest genocide in recent memory by telling the stories of female victims of sexual violence.

The campaign, which will run throughout the 100 day period of the genocide until mid-July, sees a new survivor of torture telling their story every two weeks.

To kickstart the campaign, this month we heard from four women – Illuminee, Charline, Hildegarde, and Mameritha –  who have all overcome experiences of rape, and the trauma of losing loved ones, through specialist sociotherapy treatment.

To read all the stories from the campaign, click this link. And keep checking the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter for future updates to the campaign.

On the Forefront: Assuring safety for refugees in Sweden

A member of staff at the centre in Malmö treating one of their many clients

Sweden has a good record when it comes to human rights and torture prevention and rehabilitation. But problems of excessive police force, and alleged mistreatment of refugees, still echo through the country each year.

Providing support in these instances is the The Swedish Red Cross Center for Victims of Torture and War in Malmö. Primarily aimed at refugees and their families in Skåne, southern Sweden, the main mission of this Swedish IRCT member is to give support to refugees who have experienced war, imprisonment, torture and mistreatment while in exile to Sweden or in their home country.

To read more about what they are doing to assist refugees – many of whom are torture survivors - just click this link.

CIA torture architect does not regret ‘enhanced interrogation’

Our most popular story shared on Facebook this month was this piece from UK newspaper the Guardian who secured an exclusive interview with one of the architects of the CIA’s interrogation programme, which includes allowance for torture.

Dubbed ‘enhanced interrogation’, the short interview with James Mitchell shows one thing very clearly – after all of the alleged torture, there is still no remorse or regret for the effects it may have caused the victims.

Views like this only help to justify and promote the use of torture across the globe, rather than helping to stop it. And you agreed too – allowances for torture like this have to stop. Click here to read the story in the Guardian.

 

Syrian snapshots

In this blog, we hear from Ida Harriet Rump, a photographer and student in Middle Eastern studies at Lund University, Sweden, who has regularly travelled through Syria since 2006.More than 60% of the city has been destroyed

Ida spent around one year in Damascus and, after the conflict began in 2011, Ida has twice visited north-western city Idlib with grassroots solidarity network Witness Syria – an initiative connecting activists inside and outside of the country.

Throughout her travels, Ida has seen the damage of the conflict, the pain it causes families and refugees, and has heard stories of torture along the way. In her first blog for World Without Torture, Ida uses a series of pictures to capture the fear, hope and everyday life in the city of Ma’arrat al-Numan.

Click this link to view her full range of pictures.

#JusticeforVeli – An update

Veli’s story is complex, unusual, and powerful. Caught up in a prison siege in Turkey in 2000, Veli lost his arms after armed security forces stormed his prison block with a bulldozer which tore down the wall where Veli was standing, ripping off his right arm.

After years of torture rehabilitation and legal assistance from IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Veli was granted a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which specified his entitlement to compensation.

And so the compensation was paid – until the Turkish authorities overruled the payment. Now they demand that Veli pays the compensation back, at a much higher rate than it was awarded to him.

We joined the Human Rights Foundation Turkey in pressuring the state to end this case and to stop this extended miscarriage of justice by tweeting with the hashtag #JusticeforVeli.

However, despite the pressure, once again his hearing has been postponed, this time until July 2014. This continual postponement means Veli has now been fighting for justice for 14 years, which is far too long.

We shall join the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey later on in the year to campaign again. To read more on Veli’s case, and to see how we are helping fight for his rights, click this link.

Looking at Hungary’s torturous past

The torture chamber (picture courtesy of Rajmund Fekete, House of Terror museum)

And finally, over the Easter break IRCT’s Communications Officer Ashley Scrace visited the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary – a chilling museum detailing the torture inflicted upon political opponents through the regimes of the Nazis and the Soviet Union.

The museum itself is actually based in the building which acted as the secret police headquarters throughout both periods of history, a building which was renowned for its underground torture chambers (which has been reconstructed for visitors today).

You can read more about the unique museum, and can see pictures of the museum, by clicking this link.

 

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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IRCT marks 40 years of anti-torture movement with a special event in Copenhagen

With poetry readings, musical sessions, creative writing performances from two brave torture survivors, and the presentation of the Inge Genefke Award, the IRCT’s 8 April event in Copenhagen was certainly a colourful celebration of the 40 years of the anti-torture movement initiated by Danish doctor and human rights defender Inge Genefke.

Audience at the event

The event marks 40 years since human rights defender, Dr Inge Genefke, placed an advertisement requesting help from doctors willing to investigate torture in Chile, an advert which encouraged the development of the first medical group for the rehabilitation of torture victims in Denmark.

From this beginning on 8 April 1974, the first medical group under Amnesty International was created, and from this blossomed the evolution of the anti-torture movement, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

Beginning the commemoration was IRCT Secretary-General Victor Madrigal-Borloz and IRCT President Suzanne Jabbour, who were the hosts throughout the programme. Following their lead were poetry readings from Dr Inge Genefke and author Thomas Kennedy, a touching performance from musical duo Michala Petri and Hannibal, and presentations from torture survivors Jade Amoli-Jackson from Uganda, and Yamikani NDovi from Zimbabwe.

With the help of UK torture rehabilitation group Freedom From Torture’s Sheila Hayman, Jade and Yamikani participate in the ‘Write to Life’ project – a writing groups administered by Freedom From Torture which meets twice a month to allow survivors of torture to formulate their experiences into creative texts.

The evening culminated in the presentation of the Inge Genefke Award, a prize given biennially which this year was awarded to Dr Lilla Hardi, from Hungary, for her commitment to the rehabilitation of torture victims in Hungary.

Dr Hardi began working in the field of refugee mental health and clinical treatment of torture victims in 1993, and became clinical director of IRCT member Cordelia Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Budapest, Hungary, in 1996. Since then, Dr Hardi has personally examined and treated several hundred torture victims.

To read more about the event, click this link. To see pictures from the night, simply see below and click each image for more information.

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Creating a world without torture: March in review

We summarise some of the biggest news stories, statements, events and news from the World Without Torture blog, Facebook and Twitter pages over the month of March.

Don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. And click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

Some of the refugees who will be tweeting throughout the campaign

‘Europe Act Now’ campaign changes the way Europe views Syrian refugees

For one week in March, we donated our Twitter feed to husband and wife Osama and Zaina, two Syrian refugees who fled Aleppo, Syria, to seek safety in Europe.

However, due to tough restrictions on movement and incredible bad luck, they now find themselves stuck in Greece with no possessions, following a robbery they experienced shortly after arriving in the country.

Their story is just one of many promoted by European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) who are running the ‘Europe Act Now’ Twitter campaign to pressure politicians in Europe to alter the way Syrian refugees are viewed, with the ultimate aim to make their passages to safety in Europe easier.

To read about our role in the campaign just click this link.

New video, starring IRCT patron, explains the rights of torture survivors

Manfred Nowak speaking in the film

The most popular story on our blog this month has been the release of a new video from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

The video, which features Dr. Mechthild Wenk-Ansohn from BZFO, an IRCT member, and IRCT patron and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, discusses what rights torture survivors have under the United Nations Convention.

To view the video, just click this link.

On the Forefront: Restoring justice in Bangladesh

The team at BCHRD recently campaigning for women’s rights

Each year almost 220,000 citizens in Bangladesh are tortured, mainly by the police.

That’s an incredibly high figure, and one which the Bangladesh Centre for Human Rights and Development (BCHRD) want to lower and, ultimately, eradicate.

The problem lies in the implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture, which Bangladesh became a signatory of in 1998. Despite this commitment, torture is still not punishable as a crime under domestic law, meaning perpetrators simply get away with their crimes.

To read more about what BCHRD are doing to restore justice, faith in the authorities, and equal rights, just click this link.

Egypt crackdown brings most arrests in decades (Washington Post)

One story we shared on Facebook this month received a lot of attention, which was particularly pleasing for IRCT member El Nadeem, Cairo, who were quoted in the piece.

The in-depth study from the Washington Post not only assesses the number of Egyptians in detention in recent months, but also looks at their treatment, their rights, and some of the stories of torture heard in recent months.

Click the link or the picture below to read the full story.

 

On the Forefront: Tackling torture in Cambodia

In June 2013, the Asian Human Rights Commission declared that torture in Cambodia is “systematic” with 141 documented cases of torture in police custody since 2010. With a population of nearly 15 million, perhaps the 141 figure seems low. However this figure is only officially documented cases – unreported instances of torture could be much higher.

And regardless of the numbers, Cambodia is a country still reeling from the terrible effects of the Khmer Rouge regime which, almost exactly 40 years ago, killed at least two-million people through the Cambodian Genocide.

The Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Cambodia (TPO Cambodia) hope to end the negative effects from this horrifying regime and assist the people of Cambodia to escape trauma.

You can read more about their work by clicking this link.

 

#JusticeforVeli – Veli deserves compensation 14yrs after losing arm to Turkish authorities

Veli’s story is complex, unusual, and powerful. Caught up in a prison siege in Turkey in 2000, Veli lost his arms after armed security forces stormed his prison block with a bulldozer which tore down the wall where Veli was standing, ripping off his right arm.

After years of torture rehabilitation and legal assistance from IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Veli was granted a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which specified his entitlement to compensation.

And so the compensation was paid – until the Turkish authorities overruled the payment. Now they demand that Veli pays the compensation back, at a much higher rate than it was awarded to him.

We joined the Human Rights Foundation Turkey in pressuring the state to end this case and to stop this extended miscarriage of justice by tweeting with the hashtag #JusticeforVeli.

To read more on Veli’s case, and to see how we are helping fight for his rights, click this link.

CVT’s transformation from a small local idea to a global, influential movement

CVT staff in Dabaab, Kenya

The final ‘On the Forefront’ blog of March focused on Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). Based in the US, this IRCT member has a global reach, assisting victims of torture in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia.

Yet CVT was not always this large and, in fact, grew from only a small conversation with the Governor of Minnesota.

Today CVT is one of the leading networks in torture rehabilitation, prevention, and justice. To read more about the team at CVT and the excellent work they carry out across the globe, simply click this link.

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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Europe Act Now: Campaign update

Over the past week, we donated the World Without Torture Twitter account to two Syrian refugees who have been telling their story of escaping the conflict in Syria, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of Syrian refugees in Europe. We look at what we have learnt about their experience.

As the Syrian conflict enters its fourth year, there is no avoiding that the conflict has created one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history. According to recent statistics from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), nine-million Syrians have been displaced by the conflict, over two-million of which have fled to neighbouring countries.

The refugees available to talk through the Europe Act Now campaign

The refugees available to talk through the Europe Act Now campaign

But to date, only 80,000 refugees have fled to Europe – a number which the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) believes is low due to tough restrictions on refugees entering the continent.

ECRE’s campaign – “Europe Act Now” – utilises social media to promote the stories of Syrian refugees who are in need of a safe passage to Europe, in an attempt to pressure European decision-makers to safeguard the rights of refugees.

Telling their story of the conflict through the World Without Torture Twitter were husband and wife Osama, 32, and Zaina, 26. From Aleppo, Osama and Zaina never anticipated the conflict would displace them and their two children. To escape, they aimed for Sweden, but instead found asylum in Greece.

Yet now, the couple are facing hardship still after being beaten and robbed in Greece.

Telling their story on Twitter, Osama and Zaina miss Syria but know they cannot return there now.

“Our daughter couldn’t sleep. She used to cover her ears to block out the sound of gunshots. Just leaving the house to buy bread was dangerous. We had to pass checkpoints to get to the bakery,” they said on Twitter.

Zaina and Osama telling their story on Twitter

Zaina and Osama telling their story on Twitter

“Getting my family from Turkey to safety in Scandinavia would cost €40,000. We didn’t have that money. European countries could take Syrian refugees who are in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or in the camps.”

The reality of refugees is further complicated when we consider that health professionals and researchers commonly estimate that between 4-35% of refugees worldwide have been subjected to torture. These figures demonstrate that this is not a marginal problem of a marginal community, but a substantial problem that must be urgently addressed.

Join us in pushing for better policy and practice related to the identification and protection of refugee torture survivors and to safeguard the rights of refugees.

So far nearly 300,000 people on Twitter have been reached by the campaign, which continues until World Refugees Day on 20 June.

To read the full selection of tweets on our Twitter, please click this link.

And to find out more about the campaign, click here.

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London Guantanamo Campaign talks to highlight torture of Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr (picture courtesy of the Guardian)

Omar Khadr (picture courtesy of the Guardian)

“He’s missing a piece of his chest and I can see his heart beating,” says one unidentified US Army Officer recalling a heavy firefight in Afghanistan. But for the victim, a 15-year-old Omar Khadr, the injuries were only the start of his pain.

Held in Guantanamo Bay for 10 years, and now detained in a Canadian jail, Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is just one tragic example of human rights abuses under the watch of a country often deemed to champion human rights.

Following the bombardment on his compound in 2002, Omar was held prisoner and tortured in Bagram, Afghanistan, by the US military, suspected of killing Sergeant Christopher Speer in the battle. It is a charge human rights groups have contested ever since, particularly amidst reports the US military doctored their accounts of the battle to mask Speer’s death from friendly fire as murder by an Afghani insurgent.

And despite being a child soldier at the time of the alleged killing – by definition of the UN Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict – Omar was controversially charged as an adult for war crimes in 2012.

Omar was repatriated to Canada, a move which has since drawn criticism for its delays and alleged use of torture to gain a confession for the death of Speer ten-years previously.

Dennis Edney QC

Dennis Edney QC

Fighting for his freedom ever since is Dennis Edney QC, who is assisting Omar in overturning his sentence from his prison cell in Canada.

To highlight the case, and to illuminate the human rights abuses, the London Guantanamo Campaign has arranged a series of talks with Mr Edney from 12 March.

Held at various locations across London, and one talk in York, Mr Edney’s tour culminates with an appearance at Amnesty International on 18 March.

The talks, which are free admission, will no doubt provide a unique insight not only into the human rights abuses and torture in the case of Omar, but also the ill-treatment that exists worldwide, and the failings of governments often considered to uphold a decent standard of human rights.

For a full calendar of talks and for ticket information, please click this link.

For a full report on Omar’s case from the London Guantanamo Campaign, click this link.

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World Without Torture joins new campaign to tell the stories of Syrian refugees

A shot of the ECRE campaign website

A shot of the ECRE campaign website

To date, just 81,000 Syrians have sought protection in the EU, Norway and Switzerland; representing only 3% of the total number of people who have fled.

With a death toll of 130,000, and refugee numbers expected to escalate to 4 million by the end of 2014, the Syrian conflict is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.

To call on European leaders to protect refugees, and to alert the public to the sheer numbers of Syrians suffering from conflict, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is launching today a new campaign entitled “Europe Act Now”  which utilises social media to spread the voices of Syrian refugees throughout the globe.

Some of the refugees who will be tweeting throughout the campaign

Some of the refugees who will be tweeting throughout the campaign

The unique campaign sees human rights groups, celebrities, politicians, and anyone else who wants to help, donating their Twitter accounts to ECRE for a week. ECRE will in turn give tweeting access to a Syrian refugee who will tell his/her story over a particular number of days, determined by the person who donates the Twitter account.

We at World Without Torture are joining the campaign on 10 and 11 March 2014 from 0900hrs, so remember to check our Twitter account (available here) to read an unique insight into the life of a Syrian refugee.

ECRE hopes the campaign, which will last for four-months until World Refugee Day on 20 June, will raise awareness of the barriers that refugees face when entering Europe and what can be done to reunite families affected by the conflict.

To follow our Twitter feed simply click this link, where we shall be handing over our Twitter to hear the stories of Syrian refugees on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th March.

And for more information on ECRE and the “Europe Act Now” campaign, click this link.

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