Monday News Updates

As I mentioned Friday, we at the IRCT Secretariat have been very busy the last few weeks – tomorrow is the first day of our annual Council Meeting, our governing board of representatives from 26 member centres around the world and three independent experts. Their role is to ensure the formulation and implementation of major IRCT policy, and includes the membership in the democratic process of the organisation. It is truly a gathering of the rehabilitation movement in support of torture victims.

We will be sure to provide a full report from our annual Council meeting, but until then, here are the most updated news from around the world on torture and rehabilitation.

Political changes may be under way in Burma, but we echo Amnesty International’s concern for the current political prisoners being held in horrendous conditions.

“Prison conditions in Myanmar fall far short of many international standards.  Food, water and medical care are insufficient; political prisoners are often held far away from their families; and many have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement.”

Sarah Shourd ( left) her fiance Shane Bauer (right), and their friend Josh Fattal were arrested and detained after they unknowingly crossed the Iranian border on a hike through Kurdistan. Shourd writes in the New York Times of her torture experience with solitary confinement; she spent 9,495 hours alone in an Iranian prison cell leaving her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Available via Flickr, permission under Creative Commons license.

Sarah Shourd, one of the three hikers detained in Iran when they unknowingly cross the border from Kurdistan, has written about her torture experience with solitary confinement.

“It’s impossible to exaggerate how much the company of another human being means when you’ve been cut off from the world and stripped of your rights and freedom.”

Shourd calls on reviews of prison policies of solitary confinement, describing it as a torture with long-lasting impact on her life. Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has also called for a complete ban of the practice.

The U.S. is working on a deal with Afghanistan officials for the transfer of all detention facilities to Afghan control. However, among the reported issues holding up the deal – night raids and a timeline for the transfer – a UN report issued a few weeks ago documented ‘systematic torture’ in Afghanistan run prisons.

The Zimbabwean reports that the country’s High Court has ruled that two ‘thugs’ of Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party who tortured a man who was a supporter of MDC during the 2008 political violence must pay the victim compensation for their crimes. The survivor reports he will use the funds to begin paying medical bills for his injuries. From a Zimbabwe human rights group (emphasis added by Editor):

The rights group commended the ruling by Justice Makone as a positive step towards promoting respect for human rights. “This serves to deter future violators of human rights thereby fostering a culture of accountability in the communities,” said the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in a statement.

“The order serves not only to compensate Katiyo for the ordeal he suffered but also as an expression of the shared societal outrage at the ill-treatment he experienced. This is a positive step towards promoting respect for human rights and serves to deter future violators of human rights thereby fostering a culture of accountability in the communities.”

EU sees ‘important changes’ in Myanmar (AFP)
Myanmar political prisoners held in dog cells and denied water (Amnesty International)
Tortured by Solitude (New York Times)
Night raids, prison control stymie US-Afghan deal (Reuters)
High Court rules in favour of tortured MDC member (The Zimbabwean)

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