Tunc v Turkey Hearing, European Court of Human Rights

On 12 November 2018 the ECtHR heard the case of Tunc v Turkey concerning violations of the right to life during curfews in South East Turkey. The applicants were the family members of Orhan Tunc who died from gunshot injuries when the authorities refused to allow ambulances to access the injured in parts of Cizne. The applicants made compelling arguments as to the ineffectiveness of the Turkish Constitutional Court in cases such as this, including the stark fact the Court has never decided a single case concerning right to life violations by security forces during the curfews.

Freedom of Expression in Turkey

Several current cases address the clampdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Ayşe Çelik’s case before the Turkish Constitutional Court is an extreme example. Ms Çelik was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a custodial sentence for the crime of disseminating ‘propaganda’ in favour of a terrorist organisation under Article 7/(2) of Anti-Terrorism Law no. 3713. Her alleged offence consisted of statements made concerning civilian casualties and suffering while calling in to a TV show. Helen Duffy and Philip Leach presented a joint expert opinion to the Court on behalf of the Turkish Litigation Support Project. The expert opinion examines international law standards relevant to the criminalisation and prosecution of crimes of expression.

The opinion is available here.

Abu Zubaydah Delisted

Torture victim and Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah has been delisted by UN Security Council from its 1267 sanctions list.  The delisting followed a report by the UN Ombudsperson confirming that the man once touted by the US as “the number three in al-Qaeda” is not, in fact, a member of Al Qaeda. The delisting provides further confirmation of the misinformation that has been propagated concerning Zubaydah. It underscores the arbitrariness of his situation, where he has still had no real opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of his detention, no charges or trial, after almost 17 years in custody.  

Strategic Human Rights Litigation - new book out in September 2018

Strategic human rights litigation (SHRL) is the staple area of HRP’s work. It is also a growing area of international practice around the globe, as advocates increasingly resort to national, regional and international courts and bodies 'strategically' to protect and advance human rights. A new book by Helen Duffy, written with the support of the Nuhanovic Foundation and many survivors, advocates and others, seeks to provide a framework for understanding SHRL and its contribution to change, as well as its limitations.  Several detailed case studies, drawn predominantly from the author's own experience, explore the role of SHRL in a range of contexts, such as in response to genocide in Guatemala, slavery in Niger, torture and detention in the 'war on terror' and land rights violations in Palestine. Ultimately, this book contributes to a discussion on how impact analysis might influence the development of more effective litigation strategies in the future.

The book is available here.


Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania: ECtHR judgment on CIA secret prisons

On 31 May 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) issued a unanimous judgment finding Lithuania legally responsible for violating multiple rights of our client, Abu Zubaydah, during his secret detention at a CIA-run “black site” on its soil. Lithuania’s objections, and attempts to have the ECtHR revisit the judgment, have been rejected. The judgment became final in September 2018 and is now before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for implementation.

Lithuania was the last European state to allow the CIA to operate such a centre on its territory from 2005 to 2006, as part of the notorious CIA-led extraordinary rendition and torture programme (“ERP”). As one of an estimated 57 states to have participated in the ERP, the judgment should be assessed for its relevance to other states as well as Lithuania. In a remarkably detailed judgment that pulls together the vast array of evidence of the rendition programme now in the public domain. The Court’s found that the totality of the evidence “established beyond reasonable doubt” that:

[A] CIA detention facility, codenamed Detention Site Violet according to the 2014 US Senate Committee Report, was located in Lithuania…” and that Lithuania knew of the nature and purpose of the CIA activities on its territory yet cooperated in CIA rendition secret detention and interrogation operations on its territory. The Court noted that the rationale behind ERP was specifically to “remove persons from any legal protection” and described extraordinary rendition as “anathema to the rule of law”. The Court was unequivocal in its condemnation of the state. It found the following violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR):

-       torture and ill-treatment (Article 3).

-       arbitrary detention (Article 5) as “the whole purpose of the programme was to remove persons from any legal protection”. 

-       non-refoulement (Articles 3 and 5) through his transfer from Lithuania, despite foreseeable risk of further rendition and on-going arbitrary detention in Guantanamo.

-       the right to private and family life (Article 8).

-       the right to a remedy (Art 13)

-       the failure to carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation, to satisfy the right to truth and its obligations in respect of accountability.

Lithuanian must now pay reparation to Abu Zubaydah, make representations to the US concerning the on-going violations of his rights through his arbitrary detention at Guantanamo and carry out the effective thorough investigation that is long overdue.

The judgment is available here.

The hearing can be viewed here.

Abu Zubaydah’s Drawings of his Torture Published

Art and human rights. There can be little doubt that there are times when art can convey messages about human rights that legal briefs and judgments cannot.  Our client, Abu Zubaydah’s drawings were published the same week the European Court judgment in his favour was handed down. See his own depictions of his torture here:  https://www.propublica.org/article/abu-zubaydah-drawings-pictures-from-an-interrogation



Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Human Rights: OSCE Report and Panel

A report on the multiple human rights implications of the “foreign terrorist fighter” phenomenon and responses nationally and internationally, has been prepared under the auspices the OSCE. The report was informed by stakeholder meetings at ODIHR/OSCE offices during 2017 and will be discussed at the Human Dimension Implementation meeting during 2018.

The report is available here.

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Summer Schools – 2018

The summer is a time when multiple summer schools and masters programmers are taught around the world. During 2018 Helen Duffy of HRiP participated in the following:

-        Summer schools @ the Grotius Centre: Grotius has become a centre for summer schools and I am pleased to teach on the one on IHL (IHL and human rights law), and International Criminal Law (Terror and Crime).

-        An intensive masters of laws course (Terrorism and Human Rights), taught biennially in Melbourne University.

-        The Asser Institute summer school on counter terrorism, brings students and practitioners from around the globe.

-        American University, Academy of Human Rights and IHL Summer School; summer course on International Justice.

- Lawyering in the Public Interest; pleased to deliver the keynote at this timely new initiative organised by the Asser Institute in the Hague.