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Annual Report 2021
03

Seeking justice

5 landmark victories on 4 continents

2021 was a year of important victories for victims of torture and other ill-treatment at the international level, even if impunity for these crimes remains pervasive across the world. Impunity was the focus of our briefing note submitted to the Special Rapporteur on torture in May, ahead of the elaboration of a new report that highlighted key obstacles to accountability for torture.

The Inter-American Court ordered El Salvador to make full reparations to Manuela's family

El Salvador

In May, together with our SOS-Torture Litigators’ Group in Latin America (Grupo de Litigantes contra la Tortura), we submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case Manuela and relatives vs El Salvador. The brief focused on the implications of the criminalisation of a miscarriage and Manuela’s subsequent death after inhuman conditions of detention. The details of Manuela’s story can be found in this blog post.

In a landmark ruling issued on 30 November, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established, for the first time, standards against the criminalisation of women seeking reproductive health care, including abortion, across the region. The ruling held El Salvador responsible for the violation of multiple rights, including the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, through a gender perspective, and ordered the country to make full reparations to Manuela’s family.

Honduras and Guatemala

In Honduras, two military officers who tortured, including sexually, a young woman in 2019, were sentenced to a nine-year prison term in November. We supported the Centro para la Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de la Tortura (CPTRT), our network member and also a member of the SOS-Torture Litigators’ Group in Latin America, who defended the victim.

We participated in a joint amicus curiae brief on the case of Bernardo Caal, an indigenous human rights defender from Guatemala, who has been sentenced to seven years and four months in prison for leading a peaceful opposition against the construction of a hydroelectric plant on the Cahabón River.

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crimes punishable by death in Pakistan

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people on death row in Pakistan

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people executed in Pakistan since 2014

Pakistan

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled, in February, that capital punishment cannot be carried out for people with severe mental illness. The Justice Project Pakistan, a member of our Asia SOS-Torture Litigators’ Group, challenged the death sentence of three prisoners who suffer from schizophrenia. The Supreme Court commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment, and they were sent to a mental health facility. After a six-year moratorium, Pakistan resumed executions in 2014.

Our campaign for anti-torture legislation in Pakistan

Since our report on Pakistan's human rights situation, the Senate unanimously adopted the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill. This is the first step towards making torture a crime in the country.


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Moldova and Belarus

On 29 June, the European Court of Human Rights found that two members of the Moldovan human rights organisation Promo-LEX, a member of our SOS-Torture network, were victims of unlawful detention by Russian soldiers in the Transnistria region of Moldova. The case had been brought to court by the applicants themselves with our assistance. It was a landmark ruling in terms of the responsibility of peacekeeping troops for human rights violations and the protection of human rights defenders.

In November, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), together with the OMCT, filed a criminal complaint with the Attorney General of Germany against six named, high-ranking members of the security apparatus from Belarus for crimes against humanity.

Togo and Cameroon

In October, the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice condemned Togo to provide compensation to a woman, victim of gender-based violence in the context of a demonstration in September 2017, and to conduct a prompt and effective investigation. The case was litigated by the Collectif des associations contre l’impunité au Togo (CACIT) with the support of our SOS-Torture Litigators’ Group in Africa (Groupe d’intervention judiciaire, GIJ).

It is also worth noting that various complaints were brought in 2021 to United Nations experts tasked with monitoring how States respect their human rights obligations. The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and the SOS-Torture Litigators’ Group in Africa filed a complaint against Cameroon before the United Nations Committee against Torture (UNCAT). The complaint concerns an English-speaking Cameroonian citizen, who was subjected to torture by the security forces in 2019. He was wrongly accused of complicity with separatist armed groups. The case aims at leading to the first decision against Cameroon by the UNCAT. In addition, lawyers of the same Litigators’ Group brought two cases against Burundi before the UNCAT, on behalf of victims of the 2015 repression. The victims had been either arrested and tortured by intelligence services while in incommunicado detention or suffered extra-custodial use of force, including by lethal weapons, during police operations.

"I hope my country changes so that no one has to suffer like me"

Mrs. S in Togo was beaten by the police in a protest. Her case was brought to justice by our litigators group. In a historic judgement Togo was condemned to pay reparations to her.

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