Mawared, Issue 22
Winter 2014

This is the 22th issue of Mawared, the human rights education magazine published by Amnesty International’s Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa in Beirut. This issue focuses on stopping torture and provides a wealth of relevant resources on the topic.



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Failing in their obligations to prevent human rights violations, torture for instance, and punish perpetrators, ensure justice and redress for victims, governments fail to the learn lessons from the Arab uprisings and fail to understand the root causes of instability in this region. Of great resemblance to governments’ shortsighted vision of stability, is focusing on "state security" or "national security" at the expense of individual and human security, thus resulting in further undermining of human rights and deterioration in the human rights situation.
The campaign focuses on all state custody contexts. This includes: ordinary criminal justice systems; people held by the military, police forces, Special Forces, secret services; situations involving emergency laws, regulations or provisions; and unofficial or secret places of detention (where risk of torture significantly increases).
Amnesty International holds governments to their international obligations to prevent and punish torture and other ill-treatment, whether committed by agents of the state or by other individuals. Amnesty International also opposes torture and other ill-treatment by armed political groups.

The crime of enforced disappearance was invented by Adolf Hitler in his Nacht und Nebel Erlass (Night and Fog Decree) issued on 7 December 1941. Since that date, hundreds of thousands of persons have been the victim of this crime. Sadly, the commission of this crime saw a resurgence in  Latin America in the 1950s and then it spread around the world. Enforced disappearance remains one of the worst human rights violations.


The prohibition of committing acts of torture and ill-treatment or punishment is embodied in a number of international and regional human rights treaties. It is essential to note at the start that torture and ill-treatment or punishment are prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, during peace and during armed conflict, and despite any reasons. So this prohibition does not apply only in relation to states that ratified the relevant treaties, it applies to all states. Prohibition of torture and ill-treatment or punishment is considered a principle of customary international law that applies to all at all times. It cannot be restricted, or derogated from in any circumstances.
The Middle East and North Africa region has convulsed with upheaval for much of this decade. Initial optimism that human rights, including the right to be free from torture, would be better respected has largely given way to despair at the lack of progress or, in the case of Syria, horror at the human rights catastrophe in which torture is being committed on an industrial scale. Elsewhere, particularly in countries which have seen the fall of long-standing rulers, there has been frustration at the pace of change.
In Iraq, there is currently a non-international armed conflict involving Shi’a militias clearly operating with the consent of the central government and in cooperation with government armed and security forces and the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS). The rules of IHL therefore apply and are binding on all parties to the conflict, including Shi’a militias. These rules and principles seek to protect anyone who is not actively participating in hostilities: notably civilians and anyone, including those who were previously participating in hostilities, who is wounded or surrenders or is otherwise captured.
Militias on all sides have carried out tit for tat abductions. Many civilians, including civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and public figures have been threatened, abducted and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment solely on account of their origin, opinion or perceived political affiliation. Those who were eventually released have gone into hiding or sought refuge outside of Libya. Others are still looking desperately for ways to leave.
Five of the 11 ACPRA members are detainees held without trial or awaiting re-trial – they have been held for periods of up to four years. Three are free pending the outcome of their trials. And another three are serving prison terms of up to 15 years to which they were sentenced, in separate trials. All of their trials were unfair. They were convicted on vague charges, such as “breaking allegiance to” Saudi Arabia’s ruler and “questioning the integrity of officials,” in connection with their peaceful activism in defence of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

“I am greatly saddened by this situation, and by what we have come to…I never imagined that the injustice would affect girls and children. First, the withdrawal of the father’s passport, getting him fired, then imprisoned, then getting the son fired and banning him from travel. And now it’s the girls and children’s turn, denying them their education… What next?! What’s the idea behind all of this?!”


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This manual for action is about the fight against torture. It brings together the ideas, the techniques, the achievements, the standards of governmental behaviour and the means of implementing those standards that have emerged from the efforts of anti-torture activists around the world over the past 25 years and more. The hope is that people and organizations around the world concerned about torture will benefit from learning what others have done, thus strengthening the fight against torture.


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This Manual seeks to provide a practical guide to the relevant human rights standards for anyone involved in examining how well a criminal trial or a justice system meets international standards of fairness. It is intended for the use of trial observers and others assessing the fairness of an individual case, as well as for anyone seeking to evaluate the extent to which a country’s criminal justice system guarantees respect for international standards of fair trial. It may also serve as a guide for law makers, judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers or as a training tool.


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This guide to international jurisprudence on the question of torture and other forms of ill-treatment aims to give both experts and those unfamiliar with international law an overview of the expanding definition of torture, the duties incurred by States, the scope of the prohibition, and international criminal law on individual responsibility for the crime of torture.


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This handbook is aimed primarily at less experienced NGOs, particular smaller NGOs working at a national and community level, who wish to develop and become more involved in torture reporting. It does not attempt to provide technical medical or legal instruction, but focuses rather on the process of reporting itself. In this way, it seeks to enable such NGOs to produce high-quality information on both individual incidents and patterns of torture, with a view to maximising the utility of the information to the international bodies, as well as assisting those NGOs to select the most appropriate procedure or procedures to which to address the information in light of their own desired result.


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This manual was developed to enable States to address one of the most fundamental concerns in protecting individuals from torture—effective documentation. Such documentation brings evidence of torture and ill-treatment to light so that perpetrators may be held accountable for their actions and the interests of justice may be served. The documentation methods contained in this manual are also applicable to other contexts, including human rights investigations and monitoring, political asylum evaluations, the defence of individuals who “confess” to crimes during torture and needs assessments for the care of torture victims, among others. In the case of health professionals who are coerced into neglect, misrepresentation or falsification of evidence of torture, this manual also provides an international point of reference for health professionals and adjudicators alike.


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This Guide aims to support and strengthen the work of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) – whether they are human rights commissions or ombudsman offices – in the prevention of torture, especially NHRIs that are fully compliant with the Paris Principles.


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The purpose of this Handbook is to give practical guidance to persons seeking redress for torture and other ill-treatment before the United Nations human rights treaty bodies. The Handbook provides an overview of the mandate and functions of the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.


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This guide aims at encouraging and assisting states parties to the Convention to take the international standards and obligations contained in the Convention seriously and to bring the international prohibition of torture home.


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This manual has been written as an information resource for judges and prosecutors throughout the world in order to assist them to prevent and investigate acts of torture. Based on international standards, it also contains check-lists of good practice and advice that should be applicable in any legal system.


I dream to empower people everywhere to stand up against torture: To have the courage, the freedom and the knowledge to stop the use of it. From the very start, my biggest motivation as an activist has been activists from MENA: You risk your life to stand up for your rights and I cannot think of anything more honourable than that. I hope that I will be able to use my own freedom to help you secure yours. I dream that we all unite in the fight against torture and that together, we can face the controversy of torture all over the world.
Sometimes people feel detached from topics like torture because it is outside of their experience and they don’t know people that have been affected by it. The purpose of this workshop is to engage participant’s emotions through creating sensitivity to the potential effects of torture. The workshop enables participants to develop empathy with those who have been tortured. Through this workshop, participants use interactive activities to explore the effect of torture on a person, family, community and country.



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