7th Session of UN Human Rights Council: March 3-28, 2008Report of AMAN Network for the
Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
Seventh session of the UN Human Rights Council: March 3-28, 2008
Presented by the Secretary-General of the Network
AMAN Network for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture participated through 15 activists, representing many of the civil non-governmental organizations operating in seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa at the seventh session of the Human Rights Council, which was held from 3 until March 28, 2008 at the United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland.
The importance of such participation comes from the fact that it formed a historic opportunity for the organizations working in the area of rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture in the region for networking and activating joint frameworks with relevant international organizations particularly the competent organs of the United Nations and within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as several international organizations concerned.
From Lebanon, the Secretary-General of the Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Mohammed Safa and member of the center, Sirine Al-Husseini and Bassam Al-Kantar, the brother of the longest held Lebanese Detainee in the Israeli Prisons, Samir Al-Kantar participated.
The activities of the delegation varied between participation in the work of the Human Rights Council and holding bilateral meetings and workshops in addition to organizing a symposium parallel to the work of the Human Rights Council under the title: "Torture in the Middle East and North Africa."
1 - The Special Rapporteur on violence against women
The delegation met on 17/3/2008 the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Mrs. Yakin Erturk, where it was a review of the fact of violence against women in various countries of the region.
The issue of female prisoners, in particular, in Israeli prisons had been raised, for that 98 women are detained including 2 with their two children, who were born in prison. Add to the suffering of mothers of the kidnapped and missing persons who live longitudinal and difficult moments waiting without any disclose of the fate of their sons.
Erturk reported that it would analyze the information provided by the delegation and she will include it in its next report to the Human Rights Council.
It is worth mentioning that the Special Rapporteur praised the progress made by the countries in the region in the field of women's education, but that was not accompanied by a rise in the labor market, and pointed to the positive steps taken by some countries to lift secrecy on the subject of violence against women and to the many initiatives to address this problem such as the national programs of protecting the family. Also she touched upon the subject of domestic employment and the violations that happen by the employment offices and restrictions imposed by some sponsors to domestic workers, which lead to the violation of their rights.
At the end of the meeting, AMAN Network stressed the need for countries in the region to develop an effective strategy to combat violence against women, including the legal framework based on international human rights standards, which should include, among other things, a law criminalizing violence against women and family law on marriage, divorce and the minimum age for marriage, the establishment of strong and independent institutions, including the national mechanism for women with powers to intervene in cases of violence against women and to coordinate the government procedures in this regard. Develop policies and affirmative action plans for the empowerment of women, through their active participation in all spheres of society including decision-making, leadership and the provision of training and raise awareness among law enforcers, the judiciary and health care providers, social workers, community leaders and the general public.
2- Association for the prevention of torture
The delegation met on 14/3/2008 Ms. Marina Narvez, the Civil Program and Judicial Affairs Director of the Association for the prevention of torture. During the meeting, a review of the efforts by the organizations of AMAN Network was done. Those efforts are to urge their governments to sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Secretary General of AMAN Network, Mohammed safa, said that any of the Arab countries have not signed the Optional Protocol since it came into force on June 22, 2006. He pointed out that this is serious and a cause for concern, especially that this protocol will encourage national dialogue on the prevention of torture in the case of adoption. It also gives the civil organizations and all defenders of the rights of persons who are deprived of their freedom, important role such as the preventive mechanisms that allow them to conduct regular visits to places of detention.
After the meeting, it was decided to strengthen the efforts to urge Arab countries to sign the Optional Protocol through organizing national and regional campaigns.
3- NordSud XXI
The delegation met on 14/3/2008 Dr. Ahmed Seweisi, the Executive Director of the NordSud XXI where it commended for the Organization's efforts in the framework of human rights in general and the promotion of the North-South relations in particular.
The delegation highly evaluated the strategic partnership between the organization and AMAN Network through organizing the parallel workshop and facilitating the procedures of entry to the United Nations and other forms of joint cooperation, and Dr. Ali Taheri President ODVV, has noted the role played by NordSud XXI.
From his part, Dr. Seweisi presented the Organization's activities in the year 2008, which focused on strengthening the dialogue mechanism with the United Nations on issues related to organizations members of the Social Economic Council, where he noted the attempts the unusual crush exercised by the United Nations against these organizations.
4- The International Committee of the Red Cross
On 17/3/2008, AMAN Network held a workshop symposium with the International Committee of the Red Cross where the following from the ICRC participated: Paul Beufer, the medical Supreme Counsel of the Commission, Ahmed Abu Rabih, the Associate Medical Health Unit, Hernan Reyes, the Associate Medical on detainees, and Alessandra Minegon the responsible for the Investigation Unit and the protection of detained persons.
During this symposium, a review was presented showing the efforts of the International Red Cross in the region in particular monitoring the conditions of detainees and assistance in the restoration of family ties and the permanent and regular visits during a state of armed conflict and the activities of relief and rehabilitation.
Mr. Hernan Reyes presented the Guide to monitor torture in the prisons, which can be used by doctors and nursing staff. This electronic guide contains all the information related to monitoring of torture. Then, there was a presentation of the health effects resulting from torture.
5- The Workshop: "Torture in the Middle East and North Africa"
Upon the invitation from NordSud XXI and AMAN Network for the rehabilitation of victims of torture, a workshop was held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva and in conjunction with the meetings of the Human Rights Council, on 18/3/2008. The workshop was attended by a large number of non-governmental organizations as well as representatives of diplomatic missions and a number of United Nations experts.
The workshop started by the Secretary General of AMAN Network, Mohammed Safa, who welcomed the attendees, presenting the objectives of the workshop and defining the role of the network and the efforts undertaken in order to lift the voice high against torture.
Abdul Karim ElManouzi, the Director of the Medical Association for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture in Casablanca - Morocco, talked about the fact of torture in Morocco, presenting historical stages that Morocco passed by, especially in terms of forced disappearances and arbitrary detention in secret prisons. ElManouzi also reviewed the efforts undertaken by his organization.
Dr. Najeeb Nagmeddine, the Director of Amel Center for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims in Khartoum - Sudan, presented the fact of torture in Sudan. Nagmeddine pointed out that approximately 120 thousand citizens were arrested in the period from 1989 to 2007 due to the political affiliation. Nagmeddine assured that his organization obtained photographs and documents confirming the death by torture of persons in Sudan and these images collected by Amel Center and documented by numerous human rights associations, doctors and lawyers, are considered conclusive evidence on the practice of torture by police and the Sudanese armed forces. Nagmeddine also presented the situations and stories documented by the center of persons who were subjected to torture in particular the rape of minors in Darfur and the arrest of militia members of a boy from Kalma camp and torturing him brutally, in addition to the brutal suppression of the demonstrations by force through beating and shooting especially in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Mr. Mohammadi Yadollah speaking on behalf of Chairman of the Society for Defending Victims of Violence and Torture in Iran, Dr. Ali Taheri, introduced to the laws and actions taken in Iran in dealing with prisoners. He pointed out that the danger does not lie in the known prisons where persons of a criminal background are arrested, but in the prisons where citizens are detained without arrest warrants, focusing on training activities carried out by the organization.
Dr. Nabil Tammam, head of Al-Karama Center for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture in the Kingdom of Bahrain presented the stages of the practice of torture in Bahrain especially in the period from the year 1994 to 2000 before releasing the reform project and amnesty for political activists. Tammam showed pictures of the fact of torture in Bahrain with a list of names of persons who died from torture and among them Ali Jassem, who was killed on December 17, 2007.
Dr. Hassan Basri, the Director of Bahjat Al-Fouad Center for the rehabilitation of torture victims in Basra - Iraq pointed out that 60% of women who received treatment at the centre had been raped during detention. He pointed out that the center operates under the auspices of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) concentrating on the physical and psychological traces of the shock, the first of its kind in Iraq to provide medical, psychological and physical rehabilitation for torture victims. Miss Serine Husseini from the Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture in Lebanon presented the KRC report on the situation of human rights and torture in Lebanon in the years 2007-2008.
She pointed out that the year 2007 was not better than the previous two years; whether for assassinations, bombings, destabilization of civil peace and spreading the poisonous fumes of sectarianism. Husseini presented to the issues of prisoners of war and missing Lebanese, cluster bombs, the continuing political assassinations, sectarian and political crisis and division between political parties that reflected violent clash in the street, prison conditions, the events of Nahr el-Bared camp, the conditions of workers and refugees, the increase in violence and suicides, discrimination against women.
In his turn, Bassam Al-Kintar, brother of the Lebanese Detainee Samir Al-Kintar, introduced the fact of torture practiced against more than 11 thousand captive in Israeli prisons. Al-Kintar pointed out that the death of the captive Fadeel Shaheen due to medical neglect is the best proof of the fact of the Israeli prisons. Kintar also introduced to the fact of the prisoners who have spent long periods in detention in particular the prisoner Samir Al-Kintar who starts his 30th year of detention on April 22, 2008. Al-Kintar pointed out that the Israeli criminal justice continues the trial of the four prisoners who belong to Hezbollah in front of the central court violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that they are to be considered as prisoners of war because they were arrested from the Lebanese territories during the aggression in July 2006.
Although the duration of the captive Nasim Nisr had ended on February 2, 2008, but the Prisons Department had extended a two-month period subjected to further extension because the Interior Ministry threatens to prevent his release or put him under house arrest in Jerusalem if released him and prevent him from returning to his homeland as he wishes.
It was also distributed, through the workshop, a report on the situation in Gaza prepared by the Palestinian organization Jesoor, and a report on the fact of torture in Egypt prepared by Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
Ms. Esther Schaufelberger, the responsible of the Middle East Section in Association for the prevention of torture, commended the workshop and organizing the pressuring campaigns, and there was an open discussion between the network and the audience.
6- The Counsel of the Working Group on the Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
On 19/3/2008, the delegation met Ms. Claudia Delafontai, the Counsel of the Working Group on the Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, where an in-depth discussion took place about the fact of enforced disappearance especially in Lebanon and Morocco. The Secretary-General of Aman Network, Mohammed Safa, introduced to the suffering of the families of more than 17 thousand missing Lebanese, where the successive governments have not performed a serious investigation to know their fate, and the Syrian-Lebanese Committee, which was formed in June 2005 to uncover the fate of the Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons who are estimated to number about 640, did not give till now results or indicators to solve the suffering dozens of families that refuse end their Open Sit-in since April 11, 2005 in front of the ESCWA headquarters in Beirut before they discover the fate of their sons.
During the meeting, Delafontai announced that according to the acceptability criteria of the Code of Conduct, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances received 304 cases from Lebanon, all accepted because it contained a reliable basis without political motives or offensive language or exclusively based on reports published by the media.
7- The Assistant of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
On 19/3/2008, the delegation met with Mr. Seif Sayyed Eddin, he presented all actions taken to document cases of human rights violations, particularly torture and violence. Mr. Sayyed Eddin urged all associations to keep all communications sent and received secret till the expert submit his report to the Human Rights Council on the communications sent and received from governments on specific cases. The names of the alleged victims in appear in the reports submitted to the Council, except in the cases of children or in specific circumstances. The Assistant of the Special Rapporteur was handled a comprehensive file about torture in the region.
8 - The Fund of the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture
On 19/3/2008, the delegation met the special working Team of the Fund to support the rehabilitation of victims of torture where all logistical issues related to the proposals and its acceptance as well as the terms and mechanism of the Fund were presented and discussed. The meeting was an important opportunity to many of the organizations that did not apply for funding to learn about the mechanisms of acceptance of applications from the Fund in previous years, especially Bahrain and Iraq.
9 - World Organization against Torture - OMCT
On 19/3/2008, the delegation met the Deputy Director of the World Organization against Torture, Ms. Anne- Lawrence Lacroix. The efforts exerted by the organization were presented as well as the coordination mechanism of joint work between it and members of Aman Network, which is considered the largest global alliance comprising hundreds of associations and organizations against torture.
10 - The Middle East and North Africa Unit in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
On 19/3/2008, the delegation met with Mr. Abdel Mawla Adam, the Coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the presence of Ms. Yasmin Hadjoudj where a detailed discussion of the mechanism of action and strategy for the work of the unit in the year 2008-2009 took place. Mr. Adam confirmed that UNHCR will work to strengthen its presence in the region by opening a new office for North Africa. In addition to strengthening the capacity of the Office of Palestine as well as the importance of training and documentation centre on human rights, which was opened recently in Qatar.
The delegation stressed the need to strengthen the mechanisms for joint action with Aman Network, especially on the subject of human rights training.
The meeting with Mr. Abdel Mawla turned to a dialogue to promote human rights movement and against breakout from impunity and to work for national laws to conform to international standards of human rights.
AMAN NETWORK'S APPEAL
At the end of meetings, Aman network appealed to the Arab governments to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and to form the national committees in each Arab country to mobilize the energies of civil society and organize pressuring campaigns and workshops and to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to access to all Arab prisons and uncovering the fate of the missing.
The appeal called for the closure of the file of political arrests in the Arab countries and the release of all prisoners of opinion and conscience in Arab prisons.
The appeal asked the world to break its silence to lift the siege on Gaza and the release of all Palestinian and Arab detainees in Israeli prisons.
The appeal urged all human rights activists and opponents of torture to make the June 26 Occasion, the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a qualitative solidarity spot with the victims of detention and torture in the Middle East and North Africa.
Safa thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for keepin up with the visit of the AMAN Network's delegation to Geneva, particularly the efforts made by Ms. Yasmin Hadjoudj and the regional office in Beirut, and for NordSud XXI for its efforts to ensure the success of the visit and all the network’s centers.