Posts Tagged Brazil

2012 – A Year in Human Rights

Happy New Year! We have just returned from the year-end holiday. But before we look forward to 2013, let’s take a look back at 2012 and the events, successes, tragedies and changes in human rights around the world. This list is of course not exhaustive, so please feel free to add your own suggestions and story links in the comments section.

Click the first image to view in a slideshow.

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Beyond survivors: A psychologist’s story

Poster-vera

Brazilian psychologist and human rights activist Vera Vital Brasil knows from experience what she is talking about when she tells about her years of work with torture victims. Joining with other survivors of torture, Vera was among the founders of the anti-torture organisation Grupo Torturo Nunca Mais that, beginning in 1991, provided medical and psychological treatment for victims of torture.

As a student of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in the late ’60s, Vera participated actively in the university student movement, a major focus of resistance to Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985). Because of her activism, in December 1969, she was arrested and tortured on the premises of the notorious DOI-CODI, the Destacamento de Operações de Informações – Centro de Operações de Defesa Interna (in English: Department of Information Operations – Center for Internal Defense Operations) in Rio de Janeiro, which was the Brazilian intelligence and repression agency during the military government. After three months in prison, Vera left Rio and went into exile in Chile. Her exile lasted six years and upon her return to Brazil, in 1976, she was determined to change the course of her career to try to turn the wrongs that others done to her into something good.

“What do we do with what others have done to us? Internalize this tormenting experience or fight to stop this happening again? I chose the latter,” she says to explain her choice for psychology and clinical work and her involvement with victims of torture.

While working as a chemistry teacher and studying Psychology, Vera participated in volunteer programmes aimed at securing human rights and health care to residents of Rio de Janeiro’s slums. Years later, again as a volunteer, she worked to support people infected with HIV.

Volunteer work

This was only the beginning of a long story of work for the protection of human rights. In 1982, Vera joined other former political prisoners living in Rio de Janeiro in their reaction against the appointment to public office of people responsible for torture during the dictatorship. This initiative eventually led a group of former political prisoners, torture survivors and relatives of dead and missing people to found the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais (GTNM/RJ, which in English stands for Never More Torture Group) in 1985. The group is a non-governmental organisation that was born with a mission to fight for human rights, including the clarification of the deaths and disappearances of political activists and remembrance of past abuses, and struggle against impunity, for justice and for the denunciation of torture and all forms of violence.

The GTNM/RJ was founded at a time when the memory of the deaths, disappearances and torture that occurred during the military dictatorship in Brazil was in danger of being forgotten: silence reigned. “Deeply painful experiences were being put in ‘the trunk of forgetfulness’ and the State had a policy of silence about these events,” says Vera Brasil. The fact that survivors of torture did not talk about their experiences due to feeling unsafe also contributed to the fact that many crimes were falling into oblivion. “Some patients blame themselves for what had happened to them. They thought, for example, that they had not been agile enough to escape the repression and attributed to their own mistakes the error of being arrested. But it was the State that had committed the crimes by killing, torturing, ‘disappearing’ the bodies of opponents and decimating the forces of opposition to the regime.”

In 1991, with funding from the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, the GTNM/RJ formed a clinical team to provide medical and psychological treatment and physical rehabilitation to victims of torture. Vera was part of the team from its creation up until this year.

Justice and redress

Throughout these years, her personal experience and dedication to other victims have convinced her that the trauma caused by torture can never be completely overcome but must be addressed through clinical treatment and proper redress.

“The damage caused by torture is accentuated if it is ignored, if there is no justice, or no redress. The fact that the state, which should guarantee and protect human life, is the agent of violence has a devastating effect on people’s psychological well-being. Our clinical practice is insufficient to cure this damage. But we can try to get people who have gone through this harrowing experience to feel better and give another meaning to this suffering, shifting it from a personal and private level to the collective and historical level, “she says.

In July 1993, when street children and teenagers were murdered by police in Rio de Janeiro, in what became known as the Massacre of Candelaria, the GTNM/RJ team members realized that their area of work should be expanded. “We were taking care of those affected by the state violence that occurred during the dictatorship and realized that another segment of society was being affected by state violence during the transition to democracy” says Vera.

The poor: today’s victims

Vera says that there has been a change in the main target of state violence. “In Brazil, there is no longer political persecution as there was during the military regime. Today the poor are the biggest victims of state violence and, unfortunately, torture and mistreatment are both serious and widespread throughout the country.”

“Every day we witness examples of grotesque brutality, execution, torture, violence and abuse in Brazil. Often the police enter the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro shooting indiscriminately, supposedly in pursuit of drug traffickers. In a prison in the state of Espirito Santo, dozens of inmates were crammed into shipping containers where the temperature reached 50 degrees centigrade. In São Paulo, a young motorcycle courier was recently tortured to death by police and who then threw his body into a city street”, she adds.

“Historically, the violence committed by the state, including torture, does not receive media attention, unlike cases of family violence or violence committed by criminals, which always gains prime time coverage on television news,” she says. “The reason is that the main victims of state violence are poor. And the poor in Brazil are invisible. It is as if there was an attempt by political and economic elites of erasing the violence that occur in this sector of the society “, she says

Despite this situation, Vera highlights the efforts of some sectors of the government and thinks that Brazilian society has gradually advanced in protecting human rights. “But it’s amazing to note the discrepancy between sincere concern for human rights from certain parts of the state and disregard from other state actors.,” she says.

Bringing crimes to justice

For her, the best example of progress in this area is the Third National Program for Human Rights, which resulted from the mobilization of civil society and was launched in December last year by President Lula da Silva. According to Vera, despite controversial changes recently made to the program, it still represents a breakthrough in efforts to protect human rights in the country.

Vera is no longer working at GTNM/RJ, but her activism against state violence continues. She participates in a group of therapists who are working on the creation of a national public policy for the care of those affected by state violence, and also in the activities of an organization that works to record and bring to justice crimes committed by the state.

Her current militancy reflects her concerns that reparation to victims of torture and other forms of state violence that should be comprehensive and not limited to financial compensation. “We need to expand our collective knowledge about what happened, send those responsible to trial and create memory of what happened,” she urges.

In recent years, thousands of people who were persecuted by the military regime have received economic compensation from the Brazilian state. Vera fears that the economic compensation ends up having a perverse effect. “The economic compensation can make people shut up and silence their cry for justice.” The 64-year-old Vera wants to continue working to prevent such silencing occurs.

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Beyond survivors: A president’s story

While gender violence is a near universal problem, there are regional challenges to addressing it. Over the 16 Days, we shall share the stories of women across all regions of the world who have been victims of torture and sexual violence.

However, while they have been victims, the experience of torture does not define who they are. These women are survivors and more. Here we share the story of Dilma Rousseff, the current president of Brazil, who was tortured in her youth for being a member of the resistance movement during the dictatorship. 

Nearly two years ago, on 1 January 2011, Ms Dilma Rousseff opened her first official speech as Brazil’s first female president by saying that she would not use the opportunity to boast about her own life story.

However, most people would agree that her story, from enduring torture and prison during the country’s 21-year military dictatorship to taking the helm of Latin America’s largest nation, is remarkable.

More than 40 years ago, in January 1970, Dilma Rousseff was arrested in São Paulo due to her participation in the resistance movement against the dictatorship. She was taken to a prison kept by the Bandeirantes Operation (OBAN), an organisation created by the Brazilian Army to investigate members of the resistance. There, Dilma Rousseff, age 22, survived 22 days of intense torture. One of the few occasions on which she spoke about what she went through during her time in prison was in an interview with the Brazilian journalist Luiz Maklouf Carvalho two years ago.

“I was beaten a lot, suspended in the ‘parrot perch’, received many, many electric-shocks”, she told. “One day, I started to bleed, had bleeding that looked like a menstrual period and was taken to the Central Army’s Hospital. There I met a very young girl from the National Liberation Action (ed.: a leftist Brazilian guerrilla that stood against the military dictatorship) who advised me: “Jump for a while in your room to continue the bleeding and they will not take you back to OBAN”.

A more recent report that came out earlier this year detailed more incidents of torture, including a two-month stretch at a detention facility in Minas Gerais, during which the torture caused haemorrhaging of her uterus.

Dilma Rousseff was sentenced by a military court to six years in prison but was released after almost three years. When she left prison, she was 25 years old and had lost 10 kg in weight. When asked by the Brazilian journalist Luiz Maklouf Carvalho about how she felt after the time she spent in prison, Rousseff’s was brief: “No one leaves there without marks”.

She is convinced that “torture is one of the greatest evils that exist” and believes that “the deepest meaning of democracy necessarily includes putting an end to torture”.

Despite the many years that have passed, Ms Rousseff still thinks about the torture victims of the past and of the present. “Those scenes of the men imprisoned in Guantamano and Abu Ghraib cannot be justified. That is barbaric”, she said. She invited 11 women with whom she shared cells during the years she was imprisoned to her inauguration. Those who did not survive the dictatorship were also remembered in her speech: “Many of my generation fell on the march, and they cannot share the happiness of this moment. With them I share this achievement, and I pay them tribute”.

She received approximately 7,500 EUR in compensation for the torture during the dictatorship, which she pledged to donate to an anti-torture charity. Furthermore, under her leadership as president, Brazil has moved forward with a two-year Truth Commission, which began this past May, to investigate and reveal the crimes of the past. Although a 1979 amnesty that shields perpetrators from persecution for their crimes remains on the books, there has been much optimism that the commission will bring the crimes to light for the first time in a proper nationwide forum.

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The daunting job of Brazil’s truth commission

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff speaks at the inauguration of the National Truth Commission in Brazil. Photo by Agência Brasil

Early this year the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture stated in its review of Brazil that “impunity for acts of torture was pervasive” in the country.

However, following the recent conviction of a colonel for crimes of torture, a new wave of optimism and hope is sweeping the country. Paulo Vannuchi, the former minister who pushed for the establishment of the truth commission in Brazil, is spearheading the wave. He stated, “the impunity has been broken.”

And that wave is not small. The Brazilian truth commission, which began in May and has a two-year mandate, has already received hundreds of recommendations from civil society organisations around the country. These organisations are calling for the government to not only list but prosecute those responsible for the alleged crimes of torture committed during the dictatorship despite a 1979 amnesty that shelters military officials from prosecution.

Open the archives, don’t create new ones

Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais (GTNM), an IRCT member organisation based in Rio de Janeiro, has for many years been at the forefront of calls for the establishment of a truth commission in Brazil. However, the organisation, which has recently been threatened and seen its office targeted by burglars, is not being swept up in the wave of optimism about recent developments.

A little over a month after the commission’s work began, GTNM issued a statement which read: “the national truth commission has been showing their real objectives, and their perverse limitations”.

According to GTNM, the core of the matter is that the dictatorship archives have been kept hidden for years, and instead of making them public, the truth commission is creating new ones, in a measure thought to persuade the perpetrators to reveal details about the crimes of the military regime. GTNM asks whether the commission isn’t just helping to “cover the crimes and its perpetrators?”

Ultimately, the amnesty law remains untouched, and the truth commission won’t have the power to act against those involved in the crimes. Furthermore, the commission is not obliged to release its findings and an eventual list of torturers might be shared with the defence minister and the president only. To further curb the optimist, the small team of seven men and women has only two years to heal the wounds of more than 40 years and turn the page.

The dictatorship in Brazil killed an estimated 400 people; torture victims are estimated to number in the thousands, including, most notably, the nation’s president Dilma Rousseff.

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Brazil’s torture exam (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part look at Brazil’s recent review by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. For more info, please read our earlier story, published just after members of the Subcommittee visited Brazil.

 

The United Nations examination of Brazil’s detention system is over, and in the spirit of transparency, Brazil has released the report produced by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

The SPT first examined the country’s legal and institutional frameworks, healthcare system, impunity, corruption, and reprisals. It then inspected Brazil’s detention system and the conditions of penitentiary institutions.

While the legal framework in Brazil is, according to the Subcommittee, “adequate”, there is a worrying gap between the legal framework and its application in practice; the Subcommittee saw most of the rights and guarantees within the legal framework being widely ignored.

As noted by the Special Rapporteur on Torture following his visit in 2001, many of the recommendations in their report would merely require the authorities to abide by existing Brazilian law.

The SPT expressed the concern that “the current institutional framework in Brazil does not provide for sufficient protection against torture and ill-treatment.”

On the one hand, the public defence system lacks autonomy, as well as the necessary financial and human resources. On the other hand, the country’s judges aren’t asking questions about detainees’ treatment during interrogation, and continue to use evidence obtained through torture.

Furthermore, the country’s forensic doctors are subordinated to the state, undermining the independence of forensic medical documentation, a powerful source of evidence against torture.

In terms of healthcare, the situation is “extremely worrying”. The overall concerns include the lack of financial, material and human resources and the subordination of health services to the security services. All detainees should be offered a medical examination as soon as possible after their initial detention, and such examination must be independent, free of charge and conducted in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, writes the SPT.

“Impunity for acts of torture was pervasive and was evidenced by a generalized failure to bring perpetrators to justice, as well as by the persistence of a culture that accepts abuses by public officials.”

The SPT was seriously concerned about the allegations of corruption. Examples included “detainees bribing policemen 10,000 Brazilian reais (approx. 4000 Eur) to be freed; police officers stealing evidence; detainees paying bribes in order to satisfy basic needs, such as access to fresh air, relatives having to pay in order to be able to visit detainees; etc.”

 

Look for Part 2 of Brazil’s torture exam next week.

 

Fabio is a Communications Officer and Assistant Editor of Torture Journal at IRCT.

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Torture in Brazil: what changed in a decade?

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) recently visited several Brazilian penitentiary and police institutions, as well as detention facilities for children and juveniles in the states of Espírito Santo, Goiás, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Four months after the visit, its confidential preliminary observations were presented to the Brazilian government.

At the time of the visit, President Dilma Rousseff, a torture survivor herself, was being pressed to get on with a national mechanism to fight torture. This mechanism is based on the recommendations by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Sir Nigel Rodley, following his visit to Brazil in 2000. His report pointed out the need to end the Brazilian cultural tolerance to torture and highlighted the poor treatment of prisoners in “massively overcrowded” police jails.

Nearly a decade on, the 2009 UNCAT report again raised concern about the systematic practice of torture in Brazil along with “endemic overcrowding, filthy conditions of confinement, extreme heat, light deprivation and permanent lock-ups”. Earlier reports also highlighted the inefficiency of police investigations and to the extreme impunity that prevails in the country, to which judges contributed by ignoring the law defining crimes of torture. According to Conectas, a human rights organisation, the Brazilian government admits a serious problem of torture in the country and admits its own fault in failing to produce systematic data on this abuse.

Many things have changed in Brazil in the past decade. Most notably the consolidation of its status as a global economic power and the outstanding poverty reduction that came with it. While in 2003, 36% of Brazil’s population lived below the national poverty line, that rate fell to 21% in 2009. Torture is, in fact, a cause and effect of poverty. Does this mean we can hope for positive signals in the SPT report? We shall see. That is, if Brazil decides to make the SPT recommendations public.

In the spirit of transparency, which should be a cornerstone of any detention system, we call on the Brazilian government to do so.

Fabio is a Communications Officer and Assistant Editor of Torture Journal at IRCT.

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Women at the frontline in the fight against torture

Today, on International Women’s Day (8 March), we wish to join the worldwide movement to honour women as human rights defenders. Women from all over the world, including at our 140+ member centres in over 70 countries, work at the frontline in the fight against torture. These women lobby national governments, head human rights inter-governmental bodies, work in rehabilitating torture survivors, and are often survivors of torture themselves.

At World Without Torture, we would like to honour these women by providing a platform for their stories today. Please share these stories to honour not only their work, but the hundreds of thousand of women human rights defenders worldwide.

What do we do with what others have done to us?

Brazilian psychologist and human rights activist Vera Vital Brasil knows from experience what she is talking about when she tells about her years of work with torture victims.

As a student at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in the late ’60s, Vera participated actively in the student movement, a major focus of resistance to Brazil’s military dictatorship. Because of her activism, in 1969, she was arrested and tortured on the premises of the notorious DOI-CODI, the Destacamento de Operações de Informações – Centro de Operações de Defesa Interna in Rio de Janeiro. After three months in prison, Vera left Rio for exile in Chile. Her exile lasted six years and upon her return to Brazil, she was determined to try to turn the wrongs that others done to her into something good.

“What do we do with what others have done to us? Internalize this tormenting experience or fight to stop this happening again? I chose the latter,” she says about her involvement with victims of torture through clinical work.

In 1982, Vera joined other former political prisoners living in Rio de Janeiro against the appointment of people responsible for torture during the dictatorship. This initiative eventually led a group of former political prisoners, torture survivors and relatives of dead and missing people to found the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais (GTNM/RJ, which in English stands for Never More Torture Group) in 1985, which, in 1991, started providing medical and psychological treatment and physical rehabilitation to victims of torture.

Throughout these years, her personal experience and dedication to other victims have convinced her that the trauma caused by torture can never be completely overcome but must be addressed through clinical treatment and proper redress.

“The damage caused by torture is accentuated if it is ignored, if there is no justice, or no redress. The fact that the state, which should guarantee and protect human life, is the agent of violence has a devastating effect on people’s psychological well-being. Our clinical practice is insufficient to cure this damage. But we can try to get people who have gone through this harrowing experience to feel better and give another meaning to this suffering, shifting it from a personal and private level to the collective and historical level, “she says.

Read Vera Brasil’s full story here.

Giving a voice to the victims

“You try to channel revenge through peaceful channels, you know, campaigning, publishing, providing legal consultation, providing legal aid, taking the person to court, accompanying the person throughout this process,” says Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla.

Dr. Seif El Dawla, founding member, psychiatrist, and human rights defender at Egyptian centre El Nadeem, was awarded the 2011 Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders.

For nearly two decades at the El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, she has worked with countless victims of torture. When the Egyptian clinic began in 1993, Seif El Dawla and the other founders wanted to provide psychological services to the survivors of torture and their families. They sought other like-minded organisations – medically-based NGOs that served the psycho-social needs of victims of violence – to model their new clinic. Soon they realised that focusing simply on the psychological rehabilitation neglected the social and political aspects that allowed the crimes to continue – the victims’ access to justice and seeking the prevention of torture.

“Many of the people who come don’t really want to have a psychological assessment,” she says. “I realised that those people aren’t really patients in the classic sense of patients. They have responded very normally to an extremely abnormal situation.”

El-Nadim not only had to treat the psychological consequences of torture, but provide their clients with access to medical doctors to treat the physical wounds. In addition, many survivors came to the clinic with a need to channel their anger, humiliation, and helplessness into bringing their perpetrators to justice, bringing the crimes to light.

When the image of Khaled Said’s face appeared in the newspapers, bruised and beaten, Seif El Dawla had seen it all before. Said’s image ignited change. The people of Egypt have become fed up with a broken system and a police force that tortures, carries out arbitrary arrests, and falsifies forensic reports, she says.

“Already before the 25th of January people had enough of this kind of violence. They had enough. And it’s not a coincidence that the first targets of the people when they revolted were the police stations, all over, because there isn’t a governor, there isn’t a city, where there isn’t a family who has lost somebody to a police station or who has a relative who was abused or humiliated in a police station. So, it was already boiling. Now, people are not willing to take it anymore.”

Read Dr. Seif El Dawla’s full story here. And, see the short film on the Khaled Said case, which features her in an interview.

A voice for the torture victims in Ecuador

During her medicine studies in the late eighties, Yadira Narvaez was unexpectedly transferred from a neurological clinic, where she worked as an intern, to the medical department of a male prison.

The unwanted transfer was a punishment for her habit of wearing trousers. “My superior said that if what I wanted was to look like a male, I should be as close as possible to men”, she remembers. The experience became one of the most transformative events in Forensic Doctor Yadira Narvaez’s life. “It was a striking experience: there I learned the difference between being alive and dead”.

While working at the medical department of that prison, where approximately 1,500 men served their sentences, she discovered the real meaning of the word torture. “By then, I really didn’t know what torture meant and what it could do to people”. Dr Narvaez‘s placement at the prison ended after 18 months but has led to decades of dedication to the treatment and protection of torture survivors and prisoners.

Two years after the end of the “punishment”, Dr Narvaez decided to go back to work in the same prison, this time, of her own free will. She went on to also work in the treatment of female detainees at another penal institution. Being a witness of the suffering caused by a lack of respect for human rights made Dr Narvaez realise that she needed to do something to try to protect prisoners and to assist torture survivors.

To address the problem on a national level, Dr Narvaez helped found the Foundation for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (in short PRIVA) in 1997. In addition to denouncing torture in Ecuador, PRIVA focuses on the prevention and eradication of torture and the care of torture victims and their families.

“Like Martin Luther King, I also have a dream: that one day in my country all individuals who, for any reason come into contact with the penal system have their rights respected, have the right to be heard and the right to justice,” says the 52-year old doctor. “And torture victims need access to rehabilitation services to recover at least part of the health lost due to arbitrary practices by state agents. In addition, torture survivors need to be assured that these violations will not continue so that they can go on to live without fear”.

Read Dr. Narvaez’s full story here.

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Monday News Updates

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will post updates on ongoing cases of torture, new opinion pieces in the media, or news stories or issues that emerge.

The CIA’s impunity on ‘torture tapes’ // The Guardian.uk

What triggered this duo’s uncharacteristic accusatory outburst was the revelation that the CIA had purposely destroyed numerous videos of interrogation sessions it had conducted with al-Qaida operatives (destroyed were 92 videos, showing hundreds of hours of interrogations).
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Despite all that, there have been no legal consequences whatsoever for the crimes of these CIA officials…… And this week, a federal judge, whose own order to produce these videos had been violated by the CIA, decided that he would not even impose civil sanctions or issue a finding of contempt because, as he put it, new rules issued by the CIA “should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction”.

NEPAL: “A lot of the juveniles who have been subjected to torture see gloomy prospects for their future” // Asian Human Rights Commission

IRCT member centre in Nepal – the Centre for Victims of Torture – sat down for an interview on the topic of children and torture. Please read the full interview as it truly provides an on-the-ground description of work on the rehabilitation and prevention of torture on children.

Torture in itself is a very wrong practice; it is a gross human rights violation. When children receive the torture, it is even worse.

CIO torture offices addresses to be exposed // The Zimbabwean.uk

SW Radio Africa and The Zimbabwean will publish throughout the week a series on the  Central Intelligence Organisation regional and rural offices throughout Zimbabwe, used to abduct and torture political opponents and dissidents. 

As our series will prove, hundreds of opposition activists have been and continue to be abducted by CIO agents and taken to these offices to be tortured. Our list will also show surprising deployments of state security agents in furniture shops and at the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre in Harare.

Party worker’s photo hints at torture // India Today

Even as the Jammu and Kashmir government has been claiming that the National Conference (NC) worker, Syed Mohammed Yusuf, died of natural causes,Headlines Today has accessed a picture which shows bruises on his face indicating towards his custodial death due to police torture.
The picture taken after Yusuf died shows bruise marks on his face. The deceased’s son Talib Hussain had claimed that his father died because of the torture.
“My father was interrogated inside the chief minister’s house. IG (crime) also told me the same. The picture of him shows torture marks,” Talib said.

Comitê de combate à tortura segue requisitos das Nações Unidas, diz ministra // Midiamax News, Brasil

O Comitê Nacional de Prevenção e Combate à Tortura está de acordo com os requisitos básicos da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) para o funcionamento das organizações de direitos humanos, segundo a Secretaria de Direitos Humanos (SDH). Hoje (7), representantes de movimentos sociais criticaram o governo federal por alterar projeto que cria o sistema nacional de combate à tortura, com nova forma de composição do comitê. Para eles, a composição do comitê desrespeita o Protocolo Facultativo à Convenção da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) contra a Tortura, tratado ratificado pelo Brasil em 2007.

Compiled by Tessa, communications assistant at the IRCT. If there are any articles you would like to send us that address the issue of human rights, detention abuse, or torture, please e-mail them to tem@irct.org.

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Wednesday News Updates

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will post updates on ongoing cases of torture, new opinion pieces in the media, or news stories or issues that emerge.

Protesters demonstrate outside the Syrian embassy in Cairo. Amnesty International has reported that the Syrian government is torturing relatives of overseas protesters. As such, we selected this photo that does not reveal faces. Photo credit to Maggie Osama under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

At the IRCT, we have been carefully following the situation in Syria. As such, here are some of the big developments on the human rights and political situation in that region, especially as it pertains to torture.

UN resolution on Syria is vetoed // BBC News.UK

The European-drafted resolution had been watered down to try to avoid the vetoes, dropping a direct reference to sanctions against Damascus. But Moscow and Beijing said the draft contained no provision against outside military intervention in Syria.
The US envoy to the UN said Washington was “outraged” by the vote. More than 2,700 people have been killed across Syria since the crackdown began in March, the UN estimates.

Syria accused of torturing relatives of overseas activists // TheGuardian.UK

The Syrian government has been accused of torturing the relatives of Syrians protesting overseas in an attempt to silence international criticism of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. (See PDF from Amnesty International report)
One dissident, now living in Germany, told Amnesty that his brother had been arrested, held for a month and tortured by Syrian military intelligence because of his sibling’s anti-regime stance.

We will to continue to update and monitor this situation, so please come back for further updates on Syria.

Another area in the Middle East that we are paying close attention to is Bahrain, the island nation in the Persian Gulf near Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Here are some the major new stories from Bahrain the last few days:

Dozens jailed in Bahrain for protest-related violence // France24

A court in Bahrain sentenced 36 Shiites to prison terms of up to 25 years on Monday in connection with incidents linked to anti-regime protests. Critics say the accused confessed under torture and that prosecution evidence was weak….
Matar Matar, a former opposition MP, said those convicted of killing of the Pakistani had confessed under torture and that the evidence against them was weak.
“Their lawyers had asked for a medical committee to check them for marks of torture, but their request was turned down,” Matar told AFP.

We included an article in our last News Clippings about the sentencing of doctor’s in Bahrain, but we found this Al Jazeera piece to be shocking and a comprehensive tale of the crackdown on uprisings in Bahrain in February and March of this year. And, as a medical rehabilitation organisation on torture, we, as have other NGOs, find the sentencing of medical personal for treating victims to be particularly disturbing.

Bahraini doctors speak out against torture // AlJazeera English

However, rather than sit and wait to be taken away, the doctors are now telling their stories, including what they saw when more than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured during the month of massive protests before Saudi troops entered Bahrain and martial law was declared on March 15.
This, they say, is the real reason they were targeted.
…….
“But seeing a person who died because the government decided to kill him because he happened [to be] at the line of the clash between security and protesters [was too much],” she said. “He was not even protesting for God’s sake, he was trying to help the injured people and he was killed.”
…….
In the subsequent weeks, Dr Haji saw a number of other injuries, some fatal, but never again did she break down.
After martial law was enforced, Dr Haji was suspended from the hospital in early April. On April 17  her home was raided by police and intelligence in the middle of the night and she was taken to interrogation, it was that video she was questioned about.
In the interrogation room, with her eyes mostly blindfolded and hands cuffed, Dr Haji says she was beaten by a woman who accused her of faking the scene filmed on Al Jazeera.

Indonesia: Military tribunals ‘must not’ judge civilian torture cases // The Jakarta Post

An activist says military courts should not revue human rights abuse allegations levied against Indonesian Military (TNI) members in dozens of unresolved torture cases involving civilians.
Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that military tribunals lack independence and cannot provide fair trials.
“Kontras recorded at least eight military-involved incidents of violence in Papua between July and September, killing 23 people, and severely injuring 18 others,” Haris said in a press statement released on Sunday in advance of the TNI’s 66th anniversary.

High court rules it unlawful to put hood over suspect’s head // The Guardian.uk

Editor’s Note: We will be following up soon on a longer comment on this ruling.

Regulations permitting the hooding of detainees by intelligence officers during interrogation are unlawful and should be rewritten, the high court has ruled.
But a second, more fundamental, challenge to the policy issued to British officers attempting to obtain information from prisoners held by countries known to use torture was rejected by the court.
……
In particular, the EHRC alleged, the policy failed to prevent suspects being harmed because intelligence officers and military personnel were only prohibited from proceeding with an interrogation or intelligence-sharing operation when they “know or believe” it will lead to torture.
The commission said the instructions should prohibit any action where there was a “real risk” of torture, and that the words “know or believe” set the threshold too high.

Gaeco apresenta denúncia contra oito PM’s por tortura // Brasil

Os promotores de Justiça do Grupo Especial de Combate ao Crime Organizado (Gaeco), do Ministério Público do Paraná, propuseram denúncia criminal por tortura contra oito policiais militares lotados em Curitiba.
De acordo com o MP-PR, em uma madrugada de março de 2009, cinco policiais que faziam ronda no centro da capital abordaram um homem e duas mulheres nas proximidades do cruzamento da Alameda Doutor Carlos de Carvalho com a Rua Voluntários da Pátria. Essas pessoas foram conduzidas à força, algemadas, até o módulo da PM na Praça Osvaldo Cruz (em frente ao Shopping Curitiba), onde foram agredidas física e verbalmente para que indicassem a pensão onde o rapaz, supostamente um traficante, estaria residindo, bem como para que confessassem atuar “no comércio ilícito de drogas”.

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Monday News Updates

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will post updates on ongoing cases of torture, new opinion pieces in the media, or news stories or issues that emerge.

Protesters demonstrate at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain in February 2011, site of violent government crackdowns. The doctors, currently sentenced to 15 years, treated several injured protesters. Photo credit to Mahmood Al-Yousif from Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)


I was tortured in Bahrain police cell, says one of the doctors jailed for 15 years // The Independent / UK

Never were there more unlikely revolutionaries than the doctors and nurses, all specialists in their fields, whom the Bahraini government claims had turned the Salmaniya Hospital Complex in Manama, the capital, into a base for rebellion. “We are completely innocent,” Dr Saffar said. “All we did was to treat our patients.”

Anti-Qaddafi Fighters Are Accused of Torture // The New York Times / U.S.

First there were the blindfold, the wrist-scarring handcuffs and the death threats. Then came beatings and electric shocks. In the fog of pain, the detainee, who said he had done nothing wrong, would have confessed to anything, he later recalled.

The techniques were familiar to Libyans, but the perpetrators were not: they were former rebels, according to the detainee, a 36-year-old man who said he had worked in military intelligence for the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Tales of torture in Syria // Al-Ahram Weekly / Egypt

The recording was a reminder of other video footage showing acts of torture, including the widely-circulated footage of the corpse of Hamza Al-Khateeb, 13, who had been detained by the security forces for more than two weeks and his body returned to his family disfigured by torture.

Police has ordered an inquiry into torture of minor // Express News Service / India

On Friday, Ricky’s family had alleged that the police picked had him at 9 PM on September 24 and taken him to the Sector 61 police post on the suspicion of breaking a window pane of a house in the colony. The boy was allegedly beaten up by the cops and made to stand naked for over two hours.

Governo quer criar comissão para combater a tortura // Estado de Minas / Brasil

O projeto de lei constitui ainda o Comitê Nacional de Combate à Tortura, que será formado por integrantes de ministérios e representantes da sociedade civil.

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