Newsletter - February 2015




Sexual violence: the need to document those untold crime


Over the last 20 years, the international community has taken steps to promote accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. Yet in many countries, perpetrators have not faced justice.


Fear of retaliation and social stigma, inadequate legal frameworks and corruption are some of the obstacles victims face in accessing justice. Not to mention the limited will of governments to hold perpetrators accountable as well as problems of access, security and witness protection.


In order to fight those crimes and the climate of impunity that surrounds them, the international community has designed last year an International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. TRIAL is one of it's main partners.


Documenting those crimes and collecting evidence can lead to successful prosecution of criminals and bring justice to the victims. In March, TRIAL will train Nepalese human rights defenders on the documentation of rape and other forms of sexual violence. 





TRIAL begins its fight against impunity


TRIAL has set its sights on the fight against impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by launching a training cycle at Bukavu in order to train lawyers of South Kivu to defend Congolese victims.


Throughout the year, eight human rights defenders will be trained on the mechanisms for the protection of human rights. The training, which chiefly focuses on individual follow-up, will enable the participants to master all the essential weaponry required to defend Congolese victims before regional and international tribunals.


At a time when the worst violations are being perpetrated in Eastern DRC in a most distressing climate of impunity, it is of utmost urgency to institute courses which will ensure that victims have better access to justice.


The training dispensed by TRIAL is discussed on Radio Okapi. Click here to listen (in FR)



The fight against torture continues


TRIAL and ACAT submitted in January a complaint to the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) on behalf of a victim of torture.


In 1993, Rached Jaïdane, suspected to foment an attack against the Democratic Constitutional Rally, was repeatedly tortured and forced to sign a confession. He was condemned and endured 13 years of torture and ill-treatment in Tunisian prisons.


Human rights violations inflicted by Ben Ali’s regime on its opponents have been widely documented. The practice of torture was rampant. Although four years have passed since the overthrow of the authoritarian regime, impunity is still persistent and victims have not obtained justice.


Yet, by putting pressure on governments that engage in this horrendous practice, civil society and international human rights bodies have the power to reverse this trend.


TRIAL and ACAT ask Tunisia to acknowledge the violations, prosecute the perpetrators, ensure reparation to victims and modifiy its criminal code in order to comply to its obligations.




Fighting Impunity, a Regional Matter


Some perpetrators of international crimes have escaped justice by taking refuge in member state of the European Union. TRIAL and a coalition of NGOs have joined forces this month to fight this climate of impunity, which is largely due to a deficiency of European legislation.


In a letter addressed to the Ministers of Home Affairs and Justice of Latvia, country currently presiding over of the EU, the coalition has urged the leaders to seriously focus their attention on the issue of impunity during the gathering of the Justice and Home Affairs Council configuration (JHA) on 12 March.


The forthcoming meeting is a culmination of high expectations as it could give content and effect to a strategy on impunity drawn up by the EU Genocide Network last October. If the strategy were to be endorsed, the means of fighting impunity within member states would be greatly enhanced.


TRIAL exhorts the EU to adopt this strategy, so that the authors of the worst violations do not slip through the cracks of the legal system.



The Bosnian Court has stopped releasing war criminals


Finally, the Bosnian court blocked the release of authors of some of the worst international crimes pending retrial. Milorad Trbić, found guilty of genocide, was one of them.


This comes as a reassuring sight for human rights defenders worldwide and victims of serious violations in BiH. Indeed, following a highly controversial decision issued by the Court of BiH a few months ago, some war criminals had found their judgment quashed and were released from jail pending retrial.


TRIAL and local organizations had decided to react to this outrageous decision by sending a Report to the United Nations, in which they expressed their deep concern over the releases.


The UN experts raised the alarm over this issue, clearly stating that authors of international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes “should not be released pending retrial and that punishment should be consistent with the gravity of the offence".


TRIAL welcomes this decision and will continue to blow the whistle each time human rights are at threat in BiH.




Training for lawyers successfully completed


TRIAL organized this month in Kathmandu a first training session for Nepalese lawyers involved in the fight against human rights violations in the country.


During these two days of fruitful and thrilling knowledge sharing, 19 participants were provided with extensive insight on ways to defend victims of international crimes. They deepened their expertise on legal avenues for the litigation of human rights violations cases and were introduced to the UN complaint submission mechanism.


In Nepal, victims rarely obtain justice before national tribunals for crimes committed during the civil war. Knowing how to push for justice by reverting to international human rights bodies therefore remains a major defense tool in the fight against impunity.


The training was facilitated by TRIAL staff and Geeta Pathak, renowned human rights lawyer and professor at the Kathmandu School of Law. Other coaching sessions will take place throughout the year.


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