A key challenge to human rights in the world today stems from the proliferation of exceptional laws, policies and practices adopted in the name of security. Across its litigation, projects and publications work, HRiP seeks to promote a rule of law approach to security and counter-terrorism. Much of the current case work – from CIA torture and rendition to violations of freedom of expression in Turkey - addresses egregious violations and the spreading reach of the terrorism label. Earlier cases from different contexts highlight the range of violations that continue to arise recurrently around the globe.
INTERIGHTS and EIPR (on behalf of Sabah and Others) v Egypt -African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Following the terrorist attacks on the Egyptian tourist resorts of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh in October 2004, three men were convicted by the notorious Egyptian 'state security courts' following a sham trial, and the mandatory death penalty for terrorism was imposed. The Applicants had no access to lawyers prior to trial, nor access to a court or doctors during detention and interrogation, yet the evidence against them consisted of alleged ‘confessions’ extracted under torture. Their case was argued before the African Commission, on behalf of INTERIGHTS and together with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights found that the state security courts – which remain in force in Egypt – violate the basic right to trial before an independent and impartial tribunal. It set down strong legal standards on the positive obligations of African states to protect detainees from torture, including access to lawyers, medical personnel and to court upon detention. In 2012 the interim government announced it would repeal their death sentences, but the process of ensuring full implementation of this decision, and the release – or at a minimum retrial by a civilian court – of the applicants is still pending.
Maskhadovy v Russia - European Court of Human Rights
Aslan Maskhadovy, the elected president of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, was killed in 2005, allegedly by Russia's internal security services, the FSB. In accordance with Russian law, as he was labelled a 'terrorist', his family was not informed of his death – which they learned of from images of the wounded corpse displayed on state television – and the authorities refused to release his body for burial. His family challenged the 'burial law' upon which this decision was based, which is designed to punish the family of persons accused of terrorism by denying them the right to bury their dead in accordance with their religious traditions. The Court found that the Maskhadovy family's rights had been violated. Regrettably, the Court failed – without explanation – to award them any compensation. A request for a referral to the Grand Chamber in September 2013, challenging the Court’s approach, was rejected.