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New Resources: 9-2-2012

2012 September 2

Documenting Allegations of Torture

“International bodies and mechanisms have been created to address the problem of torture, but their effectiveness depends on the information which is sent to them. A lot of the information received is wasted because it is sent to the wrong body, presented in an inappropriate way, or seems unreliable.” The very comprehensive and detailed  Torture Reporting Handbook, in English, Spanish, Turkish, and six other languages, is available online from Britain’s University of Essex. Also available are Combating Torture, a manual intended specifically for judges and prosecutors, and Reporting Killings as Human Rights Violations, “a reference guide for anyone who wishes to know how to take action in response to allegations of suspicious deaths.”

For a World Without Torture

After a bit of a slow start, World Without Torture, a blog sponsored by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims has become a frequent and reliable source of information on what’s going on in the world of torture prevention and treatment. The current post (as of 8/31) comments on the decision, announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, that the Justice Department will not pursue any criminal charges related to Bush-era torture charges: “Yet again, crimes that took place during the Bush era will be pushed aside. Whatever the reasons given for this decision, the reality remains that crimes occurred – torture – in clear violation of international law.”
            A recent post reported on the fact that South Africa, a democracy now 20 years old, has yet to make torture, including many incidents that have led to deaths, a criminal offense. A bill to remedy this is currently before the South African Parliament. Another reports the selection of Gambia’s Fatou Bensounda as the first African and first woman as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.
            Of particular interest to those working in torture treatment might be a trio of short documentaries from Sri Lanka’s Survivors Associated, sharing the stories of several survivors and the holistic rehabilitative methods used in their treatment. 

Detention as “The Second Torture”

From the British organization Medical Justice, this report from earlier in the year, The Second Torture, investigates the cases of 50 refugees who had clear medical evidence of having been tortured and, under Britain’s “Rule 35,” should therefore not have been held in detention – only one was in fact released. All of the others were held in detention for an average of 226 days. “Two of the 50 were forcibly returned to their countries of origin and endured torture for a second time. Both managed to flee again, claimed asylum for a second time, and were detained again in the UK.”
            The Guardian (UK) reports that some of those detained are launching a legal challenge for false imprisonment, following criticism by the UNHCR that “inadequate screening processes meant rape victims and torture survivors who claimed asylum in Britain could find themselves being led off to a detention center in handcuffs.” 

Other Recent Publications and Resources

Ken Pope has announced an update and expansion of his valuable website listing resources for torture victims, refugees, and asylum seekers. Documenting the forced displacement of more than 800,000 refugees in 2011 – the highest number in over a decade, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, earlier this summer released 2011 in Review, its annual evaluation of the situation of refugees worldwide.



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