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This Annual Review provides an overview of the activities and achievements carried out by REDRESS from April 2020 to March 2021, with coverage of developments up until the date of printing in select areas. Among our successes this year we continued our efforts to end state hostage-taking, particularly in relation to the case of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. We also joined the successful campaign to amend the Overseas Operations Act, preventing an effective amnesty for UK service personnel who commit international crimes such as torture. Additionally, we started a new project to ensure the effective use of Magnitsky Sanctions in the UK, a new tool for those challenging torture around the world. Meanwhile Sudan took historic steps to eradicate torture within the country by ratifying two major international human rights treaties, something REDRESS has long advocated for. We have challenged the use of enforced disappearance as a form of torture, as well as challenged discriminatory torture through projects on reparation for sexual violence in conflict and research on LGBT+ torture in Africa.
In a letter distributed on 28 October, REDRESS joined more than 35 Sudanese, African, and international civil society organisations in calling on the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special (emergency) session to address the ongoing political crisis in Sudan, following the 25 October military takeover of the transitional government. The signatories stress that the Human Rights Council has a responsibility to act urgently.
Early on the morning of October 25 2021, Sudanese security forces arrested at least five civilian members of Sudan’s transitional government, including the prime minister and other officials and key political leaders. The military announced the dissolution of the joint civilian-military transitional government. In response, in a briefing distributed to members of the UK Parliament on 25 October, REDRESS called on the UK Government to take several urgent steps.
Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are both British nationals who have been arbitrarily detained in Iran for four years and five years, respectively. In this briefing, Amnesty International UK and REDRESS share the deeply held concerns of Anoosheh's and Nazanin’s families that there remain crucial areas not being pursued by the UK government to secure their release and bring them home. The briefing calls on the UK government to review their current, failed strategy, to ensure that by the end of 2021, all necessary and available steps have been taken to secure the release of Anoosheh, Nazanin, Mehran Raoof and Morad Tahbaz.
In a letter released ahead of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC48), 34 Sudanese, African, and international civil society organisations highlight the need for the Council to both continue supporting human rights reforms in Sudan and maintain human rights monitoring and reporting. The signatories suggest that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continue reporting to the Council on a yearly basis, and that its reports form a basis for debates.
REDRESS and 66 other civil society organisations wrote to Sudan's transitional government, urging it to urge the government to follow through on recent commitments to deepen its cooperation with the ICC by transferring former president Omar al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, and Abdel Raheem Muhammed Hussein to The Hague.
Enforced disappearance has been used as a tool of oppression all over the world in the context of internal armed conflicts; its use in Africa can be traced back to colonial times, when many colonial governments disappeared freedom fighters. Today, many African States use enforced disappearance in a range of contexts against different groups of people, from human rights
defenders to ethnic minorities, migrants and opposition leaders.
This report considers the practice of enforced disappearance in Africa, exploring the contexts in which it takes place, the existing international and regional legal and policy frameworks in place to prevent and respond to enforced disappearances, and the gaps in those frameworks that prevent the eradication of enforced disappearance in Africa, as well as making a set of recommendations to the relevant bodies on how to eliminate the practice on the continent.
REDRESS would like to express its gratitude to the law firm Linklaters for providing invaluable pro bono support on research, drafting and editing of the report. We further thank our partners, Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, and the MENA Rights Group, for their important input in exploring the scope of enforced disappearances in Libya, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Algeria.
In this Bulletin, we draw attention to a number of successes that have been seen in the realm of accountability for perpetrators of torture, such as the significant amendments made to the original bill form of the Overseas Operations Act in the UK and the International Accountability Platform for Belarus launched in Belarus. Also highlighted are some important wins in the area of torture and women's rights, and we outline a number of projects we will be carrying out under our Solidarity programme, including a set of Practice Notes and other training materials on Holistic Strategic Litigation Against Torture. The Bulletin also provides the latest updates on our advocacy campaigns, publications, and policy work in recent months.