New handbook for victims of serious international crimes
17 November 2014 - REDRESS, FIDH and TRIAL have published a new handbook to help victims of serious international crimes and their families access support and justice in the European Union.
The Handbook for Victims of Serious International Crimes in the EU: Your rights to access support, advice and justice aims to serve as a guide for victims of serious international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and enforced disappearance) who are interested in filing a formal complaint within the EU as well as victims who are already seeking justice through EU courts.
The handbook may also be useful for victims that are seeking asylum as well as individuals living in another country outside the EU, but have information or evidence which suggests that persons or organisations responsible for what happened are inside the EU.
Although the handbook cannot cover each possible situation in which victims of serious international crimes may find themselves, the handbook may help victims in obtaining services within EU Member States and will allow victims to better understand what to expect in their quest for justice within the EU.
29 October 2014 - REDRESS, the International Federation for Human Rights, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and TRIAL will launch today, 29 of October, a new report, "Driving Forward Justice: Victims of Serious International Crimes in the European Union", in the margins of the 17th EU Genocide Network meeting in The Hague.
The report underscores the need for EU States to strengthen their laws and practices when dealing with victims of serious international crimes. The report argues that encouraging and assisting victims to come forward and participate in criminal proceedings would improve the prospects for successfully investigating and prosecuting serious international crimes, as well as ultimately enhance victims' ability to access justice.
The report will be presented at a seminar on the rights of victims of serious international crimes, hosted by the four organisations in The Hague.
REDRESS is among the proud recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
In 2011, REDRESS received a $500,000 grant from the American foundation for effectively addressing pressing national and international challenges and having had an impact that is disproportionate to its small size.
On 30 October the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar, have the right to sue the UK officials allegedly involved in their abduction and illegal transfer to Libya. They allege that they were tortured during their transport and while detained in Libya.
Mr Belhaj was an opposition commander during the Libyan armed conflict of 2011 and is now leader of the Libyan Al-Watan Party. He alleges that in 2004 UK officials conspired with the CIA and Libyan intelligence to abduct him and his wife and transfer them to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he says that he was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured.
The case was first brought by Mr Belhaj against UK officials in 2011. The UK Government had argued that state immunity and the “act of state” doctrine precluded British courts from hearing the case. But the Court of Appeal disagrees, finding that state immunity does not prevent claims being brought against UK officials in UK courts, simply because their actions are said to be connected to the acts of foreign states. Nor can the “act of state” doctrine bar the claim, because of the seriousness of the human rights violations allegedly suffered by Mr Belhaj.
Amnesty International, ICJ, JUSTICE and REDRESS intervened jointly in this case.
Photo courtesy of Reprieve
REDRESS pressures Cameroon to fulfil obligations to tortured political activist
On 15 October REDRESS appealed to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Rapporteur on Reprisals to put pressure on Cameroon to fulfil its obligations to Ebeneezer Akwanga, a well-known human rights defender who was tortured for his peaceful activism on behalf of Southern Cameroonians.
In 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee, one of the UN bodies who monitor states’ compliance with their human rights obligations, found unanimously in favour of Akwanga: it urged Cameroon to re-examine his conviction and compensate him, among other measures, but Cameroon has not yet complied with the Committee’s requests.
Akwanga was arrested by police officers in 1997 and for the next six years suffered serious human rights violations, including incommunicado detention and torture, like having melted plastic bags dripped onto his bare thighs. Despite being a civilian, he was tried before a military tribunal and sentenced to 20 years in prison, four of which he spent in jail. In 2003, he escaped to neighbouring Nigeria and five years later REDRESS took his case against Cameroon to the UN Human Rights Committee. He has since re-settled in the United States.